Surrendering My Will

fullsizeoutput_17bdSurrendering.  Often times, whenever I’ve thought about that word, it’s made me think of  people surrendering in a time of war (essentially losing the battle) or sacrificing something for the sake of someone or something else. It never seemed like good things came from surrendering. Until recently, I always thought of it with a negative stigma but in the last few days, that word has completely changed the way I’ve understood it.

This season of life has not only been a time of spiritual growth but it’s also been some of the toughest times I’ve had in a long time. It’s a known fact that the more work we do for Christ, the more the Enemy will try to cause us to stumble.  I’m a control freak by nature. I’ve had my life planned out, sometimes weeks or years in advance, for as long as I can remember. I can even remember back in high school when I’d call my best friend on a Tuesday and schedule time to hang out for the following Saturday. I liked to know my schedule ahead of time so I’d know what to expect and could have control over the situation.

Well,  I’ve been learning that even though I want to have control, I’m not the operator of my life…God is! But, instead of rejoicing for all the things God has done this year to bring me closer to Him, I sit here, teary-eyed, wondering why God won’t grant me a few things that I have deeply desired. I continually ask, “Why not me, God?” or “Why do you cause me this pain?” The fear of my desires never being fulfilled is terrifying and painful. It’s like I’m stuck in a jail that I can’t escape and yet, all I need to do to escape is to just surrender my will, my lack of control, and my desires at the feet of Jesus. Just one simple thing to receive the keys of freedom…surrender my will.

All these things became apparent to me last week, when a friend in our connection group read a quote, that talked about surrendering your will to God. These words have resonated with me ever since. Then, this morning, during my short quiet time, I read Psalm 18:30-31, “This God-His way is perfect, the word of the Lord proves true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him. For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?” Did you notice those words? It says His way is perfect. The word of the Lord proves true. He is a shield for those that take refuge in Him. The beauty of surrendering my will to God is beginning to sink in with me! God’s way is so perfect and He wants to protect me from trials, sufferings and any strife that may occur! He doesn’t want me to fear or suffer alone, rather, He wants me to experience freedom! That freedom comes from surrendering! I am definitely not close to mastering the discipline of surrendering my will, but this realization is helping me to take one step in escaping from my prison and desiring His will above all else!

fullsizeoutput_17bc

 

Advertisements

10k At Last

Labor Day weekend definitely did not disappoint! It was a great weekend, full of many “firsts!” Back in the beginning of June, I was ready to tackle a new challenge. I had asked a couple friends of mine, Ally and Laura, if they’d be willing to train for and run a race with me. They agreed and we decided upon a 10k (6.2 miles). We chose a 10k as our distance because a 5k (3.1 miles) was far too easy of a goal. If I ran for just a couple of weeks, I could run a 5k with no problem. We wanted something that would be challenging, but not too challenging like a half marathon…so, alas, 10k it was!

Ally’s co-worker is an avid runner, so he graciously wrote down a training plan for us to follow over the course of the next 12 weeks. At the beginning, we were all excited to run this race. The temperatures were unusually cool in June and we were holding each other accountable weekly with our distance. Before training for this race, the most I had ever run was 3 miles. Each day, I was able to push myself a little bit more. I loved working toward a goal and pushing myself to get there and not only that, but being able to do it alongside some great girls was even better!

July was hot, humid, steamy…miserable, to say the least. I quickly learned that if I didn’t get an early morning run in then I wouldn’t be running that day. I just couldn’t handle the humidity as I’d run in the evenings. In mid-July, Alyson (goes by Aly, but for the sake of preventing confusion, we’ll go by her full name) decided to join us! I was excited to add one more girl to the mix! Throughout the entire 12 weeks of training, it was interesting to see the dynamic of how each of us encouraged each other on our more difficult running days. On a day my body was telling me “no, please slow down,” Alyson would continue to push me farther. On the days Laura started to fall behind, we’d help her get her mind back into it. On the days our legs would cramp in weird places, Alyson would stretch us out. On the days we needed good conversation, Ally was there to talk through things. We all had different characteristics that helped each of us continue to press onward in our training together!

Fast forward to September 2nd. It was race day! Our race was in Blue Springs, MO which was about an hour and a half away from Columbia. We stayed in a hotel room together and were able to bond over dinner prior to our race. I was surprised with how many jitters and butterflies I had that day as I pulled into the parking lot. The competitor in me wasn’t dead after all! On one hand, I was super nervous for what I was about to do, but on the other hand, I was raring to go! The girls also had their own reservations for what was in store. Before we knew it, the race had begun. The race was easy and difficult for me at the same time. Alyson and I kept a pretty good pace together while Ally and Laura ran together, too. The rough patch came at the end of the run….a series of hills. Alyson and I kept pressing onward. The goal I had made with myself was to finish the race in around an hour (within a minute or two). At the last 100 feet, Alyson and I sprinted as fast as we could to the finish line! I finished within my goal of 1:01:44! I can’t begin to tell you how accomplished I felt not only completing my first race and 10k, but also finishing within my goal! I was on a high because I knew that if I could train for and complete a 10k, I could complete anything else I set my mind to! I used to be that girl that would make excuses for everything (I sometimes still struggle with that) but after completing this race, I’ve realized that I must throw those excuses out the window!

The real MVPs, though, goes to both Ally and Laura! Despite some discouraging runs they had prior to the race and the difficulty they experienced during the race, they both hung on, pushed themselves, even to the point of vomiting, and still finished the race! I can’t even begin to explain how excited and proud I was of them! I’m so thankful that all three of these girls were able to be a part of this experience with me!

As I look back at this past weekend, I’m thankful for the FIRSTS that I experienced: running a race, completing a race within my goal, placing 3rd in my age division and doing all of this with some really great girls! I’m looking forward to what challenges are ahead!

IMG_4083Aly-Maren RunningLaura RunningAlly RunningIMG_4088IMG_4092IMG_4094IMG_4093

Our Day of Rest

This summer, Zach’s work schedule has been ridiculously busy in that almost every other week he has been out of town traveling. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster in that at the end of each period that he’s gone, he comes home emotionally and physically drained from long 12-16 hour work days with little time to decompress. At the beginning of our marriage, Zach would return home and I’d be anxious to continue our busy lives going out with friends and being active in church activities that I would forget what we both really needed-to slow down and to be still.

After being married six years, I’m starting to learn how important it is for the both of us to remove ourselves from our busy lives. It allows us to not only draw nearer to each other but also to draw nearer to God. It says in Exodus 20:8-11 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. In today’s society, we have become used to working every single day of our lives that we forget that our bodies, our souls and our minds need rest. We need a day to dedicate to slowing down and to draw nearer to the Lord.

Zach and I decided at the beginning of summer that we would dedicate one Saturday a month as our “Sabbath” day. So, this past Friday night and Saturday, Zach and I decided to go camping. We both love camping because we are able to spend time outdoors, experience nature and to just slow down. We disconnected from our cell phones and electronics and lived “primitively” for a short time. It was just what we needed!

We went camping at Rudolf Bennit Conservation Area. They have some camping sites right along the lake. With lows in the 50s and highs in the low 70s, the weather was perfect! We took our canoe out and fished briefly and then just enjoyed an evening by the fire. It was a perfect way to decompress and be still. “Be still and know that I am God.” -Psalm 46:10

fullsizeoutput_1606fullsizeoutput_1607fullsizeoutput_1609fullsizeoutput_160afullsizeoutput_160b

fullsizeoutput_162dfullsizeoutput_162efullsizeoutput_1630fullsizeoutput_1631

Protecting My Heart

 The other day when I read through Genesis 39, I was in awe of how much scriptural truth the Holy Spirit was laying on my heart. The chapter is about Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. After Joseph had been sold to some Ishmaelite traders by his brothers, he later was purchased by Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh in Egypt, who soon assigned Joseph as overseer of his household. Now, Joseph was very handsome, so Potiphar’s wife wanted to lie with him. Multiple times she tried and Joseph said, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” The last time this occurred, Joseph refused and instead, Potiphar’s wife went to her husband and blamed Joseph saying he tried to rape her. Joseph was thrown into prison, however, since the Lord showed him steadfast love, He gave Joseph favor with the guard in the prison and soon was put in charge of all the prisoners. “The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.”

As I read through this chapter, I couldn’t help but think about the temptation Joseph must have gone through refusing to have sexual relations with Potiphar’s wife. Men tend to be easily tempted by sexual things, so for Joseph to refuse this multiple times is significant. When he refused, he responded to her with “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” I absolutely love that! To sin against God was much worse than His desire to satisfy his humanly temptations. Joseph protected his heart, his purity and his relationship with God by removing himself from that situation multiple times. He did not stay in that situation in hopes that it would magically work itself out. Instead, he removed himself from any temptation.

IMG_5516

This got me thinking. How often is it that I forget to remove myself from tempting situations? Frequently. How often is it that I value my worldly and fleshly desires more than I desire my relationship with God? Frequently. How often do I try to protect my heart from things that may cause me to stumble and sin? Not enough. If anything I place my heart in these situations more than I should.

Because Joseph protected His heart, his purity and his relationship with God, the Lord allowed him to succeed. Romans 8:31 says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” If we protect our hearts from temptations of this world and we desire our relationship with God more than our worldly desires, who then, could be against us? Like it said in Genesis, “And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.” If we trust in God and not ourselves, we will succeed.

Lately, I have really struggled with trusting in God’s will for my life and believing that His will is unfathomably better than my own. I haven’t protected my heart like I should have been. Instead of removing myself from situations that cause me to sin, I stay right smack dab in the middle of it and expect to see different results (that’s the definition of Insanity, by the way). I’ve caused myself to sin by desiring others’ lives and feeling like my life is not worthy if I don’t have ___________ in my life. Whatever it may be that I’m desiring that day, I have done a terrible job with protecting my heart and desiring my relationship with God more than my humanly desires.

So, how do I prevail over temptation and sin?

  1. Rest in God’s plans for my life. God has my best interest in mind. He “remembers” me and loves me and, like a parent, wants what is best for me despite me not understanding why at the time. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” His plans always end up being better than the plans I had.
  2. Desire God above all else. If I desire God above all else and truly, truly want to follow Him, why would I want to sin against him? Genesis 39:9 “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” God should be the center of my universe, nothing else. He deserves all the glory.
  3. Remove myself from situations that could cause me to sin.  I must realize the areas in my life where I start to stumble and remove myself from them so I am not tempted to sin. Protecting my heart is crucial because after all, I’m human, I’m a sinner, I’m evil and I will never choose the more Christ-like path if I’m left to my own devices. That’s why I must not allow myself to falter but to succeed. God always provides you with an escape. 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

I love how the more I draw nearer to Him, the more I desire Him and less I desire worldly things. What has God revealed to you lately? Have you been in any situations that have caused you to stumble? Have you done everything in your power to protect your heart? I’m learning that He is better than all else and once we realize that, all these human desires can’t compare! Trust in Him, my friends!

 

 

 

 

You Aren’t Good Enough…

“You aren’t good enough…” That has been a recurring thought in the back of my mind for the majority of my life. A perfectionist to the core, I’ve often idolized being perfect and would do everything in my power to attain perfection, but then, when I’d fall short, I’d remind myself, “Maren, you aren’t good enough.” My inward reflecting was debilitating and discouraging to my overall self-esteem. Regardless of what it was specifically, I’d tell myself that I wasn’t adequate. Whatever it may be: body image, intelligence, cleanliness, work ethic, friendliness-I wasn’t adequate. I did this over and over for years but it wasn’t until within the last few months that God allowed me to realize that these things were pure lies.

A friend of mine had recently answered God’s calling to her life by taking a step in obedience to do ministry. She shared with me her struggle of trusting God daily with His plans for her and because of that, she often believed in lies that were not from God. However, since the day she took this courageous step, she planned to overcome her struggle with replacing those lies with scriptural truth. She had plastered her bedroom walls with bible verses, one specifically I remember distinctly:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just,             whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
-Philippians 4:8

Then, finally, it hit me. All those years I had been believing lies from the devil. They weren’t true. I finally realized that I had been in a spiritual battle…one with that of Satan. The more I follow Christ’s will for my life, the more Satan will attempt to lead me astray. The only way I could win that battle was to fight it with scriptural truth. So now that I realize what I need to fight, I can take action by looking up verses for specific topics that I struggle with. For instance, if I’m struggling with worry, I go to Matthew 6:25-34, Luke 12:24-34 and Philippians 4:6-7; if I’m struggling with body image, I go to Psalm 139:14, Genesis 1:27 and Romans 12:6; if I’m struggling with patience, I go to Psalm 27:14, Lamentations 3:25-27 and Romans 12:12. The Word of God is my armor for this battle and since I had this realization, I’ve never felt stronger or more confident in truth!

IMG_3519The more I’ve learned to replace those deceptive lies with truth, the more I’ve seen the beauty of the Gospel displayed. Case in point, my title. “You’re not good enough…” That’s a true statement. We aren’t good enough! The way we live our lives are proof that we are living train wrecks! Our sinful nature has done nothing to declare our lives worthy of being good. No matter how perfect we try to be, we will NEVER reach perfection. Our sins make sure of that. BUT, that is where the beauty of the Gospel comes into play! Because God loves us unconditionally, He sent Jesus, who IS PERFECT to atone for all of our sinfulness…the sinfulness we deserve to die for! So, when I look at that statement, “You aren’t good enough,” it’s true, I’m not good enough, BUT because Jesus died for my sins and I have accepted Him as my Lord and Savior, I am now “good enough” in God’s eyes! That lie has been replaced with truth and I could’t imagine any other more perfect truth than the Gospel alone!

Lessons from 6 Years of Marriage

On June 11, Zach and I will celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary! To say that it has flown by is an understatement. There are days I can’t believe that we’ve been married six years and then there are others where I am amazed how much life we have crammed into these six years. As I reminisce back to June 11, 2011, I not only think about how perfect a day it was but also how much I’ve changed and matured since then. I was just 21 when Zach and I tied the knot and though I was more mature than the majority of 21 year olds, I still had a lot of growing up to do. I’m so thankful that God provided me with a loving and nurturing husband that was willing to give me grace through the times where the growing pains not only affected me but him as well.

Wedding 1

Six years later, I can say that I am even more in love with my wonderful Zach than the day I said “I Do” and that could only be possible because of my relationship with God. The more I get to know Him, the more I see how a successful marriage should mirror that of God’s bride… the church. The more I’ve matured in my faith journey and relationship with God, the more lessons I’ve learned about how to love Zach just as Jesus intended.

The following are some lessons that I’ve learned over the years on what has made a successful, biblical marriage for Zach and I.

Love each other. Not everyday is going to be rainbows and butterflies in marriage but loving each other despite our sinful ways has allowed us to overcome conflicts in our marriage. Since we are sinners, it’s guaranteed that we will hurt each other but I’ve chosen to love Zach daily no matter how he may make me feel.
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”- 1 Peter 4:8

Respect. Although submitting to Zach hasn’t ever been much of a struggle for me, I’ve always tried to be intentional about respecting the opinions and decisions he’s made about our life. Zach is my spiritual leader and I trust that his decisions are based fully on his biblical wisdom and knowledge.
Ephesians 5:22-23 “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.”

Becoming our own “Family.” This was probably one of the toughest things for me to learn as a wife. Growing up, I’ve always been super close to my family. I even moved to Missouri to go to college here even though I was accepted to a university in South Carolina to be closer to my family when they moved. Even after a few years of marriage, I’d cry every single time I left my parents house. For some reason, I could never seem to let go of the attachment I had with my parents. Zach used to say, “Maren, I’m your family now.” Growing in my faith, I began to be convicted by Matthew 19:5-6 but it wasn’t until after my parents moved 14 hours away that I began to detach and wholeheartedly become a “family” with Zach which has strengthened our relationship significantly.
Matthew 19:5-6 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Being Modest. I grew up in a home with a mother that dressed very flamboyantly. My mom has always been stylish in her dress and I’ve closely followed her suit. However, I have been guilty of taking my flamboyant dress a little too far in that it may have not reflected how a godly wife should dress and present herself. Zach has brought that to my attention multiple times throughout our marriage but I hadn’t really felt convicted of it until recently when I studied through 1 Timothy. God has changed my heart to see that dressing modestly is respectful to my husband and that I should respect his opinion of the way I dress.
1 Timothy 2:9-10 “Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments..”

Communication. I have a husband who is painfully quiet. He thinks about things internally for quite sometime before ever bringing them up and may sometimes forget to share important information with me. I used to get frustrated and would allow it to lead to lots of unnecessary arguments. The longer I’ve been married, the longer I’ve realized that communication is extremely important. Over six years, our communication has improved quite a bit.
Proverbs 18:21 “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

Be slow to anger. One characteristic I am not proud of is that I can have a bit of a temper. When I was younger it was much worse. Nothing used to separate Zach and I more than when I allowed my temper to overcome me. I still struggle with this issue, but the Bible reminds me to be slow to anger. I’ve learned that whenever I become frustrated, I should calm down before I actually speak and show grace to Zach during times he may cause me to get angry.
James 1:19 “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger”

Pursue God together. The most important thing I’ve learned about marriage is that pursuing the Lord together allows us to become more sanctified. This has been a beautiful lesson to learn together. Since we’ve been members of Anthem, we have both grown in our faith drastically and have been given the opportunity to pursue ministry together. What a blessing it has been to do this together!
Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” 

IMG_2578

That is just a small list of some of the lessons that have allowed Zach and I to have a wonderful six years but it’s definitely not all of them. I’m still a work in progress. God is still molding me into the godly wife he designed me to be. I’m so thankful for Zach and I’m looking forward to many more happy years together! Happy 6th Anniversary, Zacharias! I love you!

Fashion on a Budget

Happy Friday, friends! When I wrote my first blog post, I shared with you my love for fashion and style in hopes that I would share some style ideas, tips and inspiration on this blog at some point. So today I’m going to share what I do to have good style on a budget!

I have always enjoyed clothes and accessories because they’ve allowed me to express myself and be who I want to be. “Dress for Success” has always been a phrase that I’ve taken to heart. I’ve come to find that the days that I dress well are days that I am much more productive. My style is always evolving but typically you’ll find me wearing jeans with a dressy top, a leather handbag and some killer shoes (lately it’s been booties, cowboy boots or flats). Jeans are what I am most comfortable in so I like to dress up the look as much as possible. This look below was taken by a friend of mine at the Columns in the heart of University of Missouri’s campus. MIZ! What I love about styles like this are that I can do virtually anything in it! I love how casual and laid back it is but yet it was dressy and perfect for walking downtown (which is what we did that night)!

Columns

When I graduated college, I graduated with a ridiculous amount of student debt. Over the last five years, Zach and I have been trying to pay off my student loans as quickly as possible. Recently, we both reevaluated our budget and made some tweaks so that we could be more conscientious with the way we spent our money. Unfortunately, that changes the way I shop. I’ve always liked to shop for a bargain, but since we’ve tightened up the reins on our budget, it’s really caused me to be more careful with what I spend money on. My desire to be debt-free has been greater than the desire to invest in current fashion fads that will soon fade, so I’ve been doing these following things to ensure I have great style while still on a budget.

Thrift Stores & Consignment Shops: Like I said previously, thrift stores and consignment shops are the perfect places to find awesome pieces for cheap! I do like name-brand things, but there are tons of items in my closet that are brands I have never heard of before! Also, shopping at thrift stores in big cities is a great way to get expensive items for cheap! I once found a pair of brand new Birkenstock clogs for Zach at a Goodwill in St. Louis for $0.75! Talk about a bargain when they retail for $100-120!

Closet Rotations with Friends: I have recently started to rotate some of my unwanted clothes and accessories with friends in exchange for some of their unwanted items! My friend, Laura and I discovered that we basically wear the same size jeans and the same size tops, so we decided that whenever we are ready for some new clothes, we exchange with each other. It’s so fun to look in my closet the next day and have new things to wear that didn’t cost me a penny!

Discovering New Outfits with Clothes I Already Own: Some days I look in my closet and think to myself, “You have nothing to wear” but that is absolutely not true! Taking the time to mix and match some of the pieces I have and pairing them with something I’ve never worn with it gives my clothes new life. When I dig deep into my drawers and find things I haven’t worn in months and then make a new outfit with it, it allows me to get the most out of my wardrobe for cheap!

Saving for What I Really Want: I love to have great quality pieces!  I’ve learned that I’d rather spend more money on purses and shoes that are good quality then to have to purchase new every year. But, since I am on a budget, I have been teaching myself to save up to buy what I really want or ask for it for my birthday or for Christmas. This gives me the opportunity to still get the item I really want but also prevent myself from being a victim of “buyer’s remorse” and living outside of my budget. The purse pictured above is from Coach and it’s one of my absolute favorites. It was also my Christmas present from my parents last year! So, again, I saved money!

Those are just a few things that I’ve been doing lately that have helped curb my appetite for shopping and allowed me to pay down more debt. I hope those are helpful for you, too, and will allow you to reinvent the closet you already have! Hope you have a great weekend!