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!

 

 

 

A Year In Review

May 28, 2017 will mark one year since Zach and I moved back to Columbia. As May 28 gets closer, I can’t help but reminisce over this past year and all the blessings God has given us and all the experiences we’ve had in one short year! I’d love to share some of my favorite highlights of our lives over the past year back in Columbia!

On May 28, 2016, as we packed up the U-Haul, I had so many emotions going through my head. I was mostly excited because I have ALWAYS loved Columbia and I knew that we were following God’s will, but while I was driving our truck towards Columbia, I had no idea that I would experience so much sadness. I was sad to leave Emmaus Church after being a part of it from the very beginning, I was sad to leave so many great friends we had made there and I was sad to leave some of the girls I worked with at Xenometrics that I’d become close to. What surprised me the most was that I was actually sad to leave Kansas City! I’ve always considered myself half “country girl” and half “city girl” because I enjoy a little bit of both, but the big city really has never fit into the lifestyle Zach and I have made for ourselves. But man, oh man, was I sad to leave Kansas City! I would miss the hustle and bustle of the city life, the innumerable activities to do and admittedly, I’d miss the shopping! I knew that we were starting a new chapter, though, and that allowed me to close that chapter as we drove out of that city and thank God for our time there. Throughout two and a half years, Zach and I really made a nice little life for ourselves in Kansas City! I still look back fondly on the time we lived there.

13322190_946700109443_339692622662871159_nJohn, a friend from Emmaus helped us move.

In June 2016, Zach and I began looking for a new church to call our home. Although we had both lived in Columbia previously and were members of a local church there at the time, we wanted to start our new chapter fresh and so we decided to find a new church altogether. Before we moved away, we discussed with a few people at Emmaus if they knew of any churches we should attend. Julie, who was originally from Iowa, had a brother who was a part of Candeo Church in Cedar Falls, IA and he had told her that they were planting a new church in Columbia called Anthem Church. She connected me with Paige through Facebook who was already committed to Anthem and she invited us to attend a BBQ that some of the core members were hosting. On one June evening, Zach and I attended that BBQ. That was one of the best nights I’ve ever had meeting new people! Zach and I got in the car that evening, looked at each other and unanimously agreed that we had found our church! I feel like it was the Holy Spirit telling the both of us that that was where we needed to be, and thus, we committed ourselves to Anthem Church before it was even a church!

At the end of July and beginning of August 2016, I was sent to Smith College in Northampton, MA to attend a Molecular Biology Bootcamp to prepare me for some of the lab work I’d be performing as a Research Technician. Two weeks was a long time to be away from Zach, but it proved to be an eye-opening experience! I got to see some of the Northeast and got to meet people from all over the country and, not to mention, got to participate in some awesome laboratory experiments. I am a science nerd!

fullsizeoutput_126a
Ford Hall, where we spent most of our time.fullsizeoutput_126f
IMG_2018
Our lab group was called the Vectors.
IMG_1877
Look, it’s DNA!IMG_1993Our phenotypically altered C. Elegens through a microscope. One of our laboratory experiments!

In November 2016, my mom came to visit us in Columbia! My mom and I are so close and are always counting down the days until we get to see each other again! After all, she lives in South Carolina, so I only get to see her once or twice a year. When we get together, we always take advantage of it by getting lots of shopping in!

IMG_2417IMG_2414
Shopping in St. Louis.IMG_2436We took my mom to the overlook at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area.

In December 2016, Zach and I were able to take a long overdue trip down to South Carolina to spend Christmas with my family. In 2015, my parents moved back to Anderson, SC where I grew up. It was bittersweet because whenever I’d get to visit them, I’d get to relive my adolescence by being back in the hometown I love, but also hard because they are 14 hours away from us, so visits are few are far between. I have learned to really enjoy and savor the moments I have with my family and so being with them on Christmas was a special treat!

fullsizeoutput_1273fullsizeoutput_1276
My sister, Jenna and her husband, Tim and my brother, Landon.IMG_2690
We visited with my friend from high school, Sydney, and her husband, Brad.fullsizeoutput_127bMy daddy at the Clemson Botanical Gardens.

In January 2017, we were given the opportunity to lead a connection group for our church. It has been a super humbling experience and an opportunity that has allowed me to draw nearer to God. When you lead a group, your weaknesses become even more apparent but it’s so nice to have people that love you regardless. I love this group of people and I’m so thankful that I get to do life with them each and every day!

fullsizeoutput_127e

One of the things I love about Columbia the most are the many conservation areas and agriculturally friendly places Zach and I can go to explore and let our dogs roam free! These are a few pictures from some of the days we walked with our dogs in January and February 2017.

DSC_1579IMG_2833IMG_2832fullsizeoutput_11d1DSC_0078

I have been so thankful to call these people some of my best and closest friends! In middle school, high school and college I had a really rough time with friends. Now, many years later, I have learned so much about what it means to truly love people and to have friendships that are intentional and meaningful. These people have vastly impacted my life and am so thankful for the friendships I’ve made since I’ve been back in Columbia!

fullsizeoutput_1287fullsizeoutput_f9fIMG_3244fullsizeoutput_1258

As we ended our chapter in Kansas City and began a new one in Columbia, I look back on some of these highlights (and even more that I haven’t mentioned) and all I can do is thank God for the immeasurable blessings he continues to pour out on Zach and I. If you had asked me a year ago when we packed up that U-Haul what I thought the next year would look like, it would have been a lot different than this. I don’t think I expected to make so many valuable friendships, to be blessed with a great job, to have an amazing church and most importantly, to have the relationship with God that I do now! There have definitely been growing pains but sometimes you have to go through them to get to the maturity you desire. Cheers to you, Columbia! Thanks for making our first year back one to remember and the perfect next chapter in our lives.

Friendship Photoshoot Made in His Image

Over the last several months, I have been wanting a Digital SLR Camera. I have always enjoyed photography and especially good quality pictures of family and nature that I could hang proudly on my wall as decor. I contemplated asking for one for Christmas, but I had a couple other things on my list that I wanted first, so I figured I’d save up my money, research which camera I wanted and ask for it for my birthday. After doing research and asking several of my photographer friends, it was recommended to invest in a Nikon D3300. Since the moment I got it, I’ve been taking it out to photograph scenery when Zach and I would take the dogs on a walk and I’ve been so desperately wanting to take photos of people and especially fashion-style looks also. Well, I finally got the opportunity to suck one of my good friends, Jennifer, into doing a photoshoot with me to practice with my camera! I had envisioned going downtown or taking them at a park, but since Jennifer has quite a few acres at her house, perfect outdoor scenery and, not to mention, two novice photographers, we opted to take them at her place.

When we started shooting pictures of each other, after several, we’d quickly review them to ensure they’d get our stamp of approval. There were times where I’d look at myself in those pictures and then look at that long legged, thinly structured, blonde bombshell that is my friend, Jen and start comparing myself to her as if I wasn’t good enough. Thoughts and lies began to flood my mind, ” I don’t have a thigh gap, I have super thick, really short legs, my arms aren’t toned like they used to be and rather large, I can see last night’s Andy’s Frozen Custard in my stomach…Man, am I really that pale?” But then, I was reminded that we are all made in God’s image!

Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female He created them.” In today’s society it is so hard to be a woman, not to mention, a woman that represents biblical truth. Women today are so easily distracted by this unrealistic idea of what our society thinks a woman should have or possess. Trust me, I’ve definitely been one of those women. I’ve been that girl who spends hours looking through Instagram and Facebook at all these beautiful women who look flawless in every picture- perfect hair, perfect smile, perfect body, perfect outfit, perfect children, perfect husband, perfect life- and then would wonder if I’d ever compare. It’s so easy to get to that place. But then, I stop myself and realize I have Jesus and His saving grace to rest in! God made us in His image so that, though we are all different in physical appearance, we could continue to become more like Him every single day spiritually. We have to come to realize that we will NEVER be perfect (much to every perfectionist’s dismay), but with Jesus in our hearts, we can strive to be more Christ-like in every part of our lives.

So, I share these photos with you all! We had such a blast experimenting and playing around with my camera. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed how these have turned out. Not to mention, when I look at them now, I am so comforted knowing that when God looks at me, he sees my beauty and my worth, not my dress size and my physical imperfections. I am beautiful. Jennifer is beautiful. These pictures of us are beautiful. God is even more beautiful. Don’t let a secular society dictate how you feel about yourself or how you look at others, remember you’re made in God’s image. Rejoice in that!

fullsizeoutput_1118fullsizeoutput_10dffullsizeoutput_10adfullsizeoutput_112cfullsizeoutput_10f1fullsizeoutput_1140fullsizeoutput_10a0fullsizeoutput_10a9fullsizeoutput_10b7fullsizeoutput_1102fullsizeoutput_1156fullsizeoutput_1122

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalms 73:26

“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” Proverbs 31:25

“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30

 

 

 

 

27th Birthday!

I am officially late in sharing this but on March 30, I turned 27. I still can’t believe that I’m already in my late 20s and only a few years away from the Big 3-0! Throughout my life, I’ve always had plans of where I thought I’d be at age 27. I always thought I’d own a house with several acres, own some horses and have a couple kids, however, God’s plans have been quite a bit different! As it turns out, Zach and I are still renting a house (while trying to pay off the rest of my student loans), we live in a neighborhood and we, unfortunately, don’t have any children yet. But, as I look at my life the way it is right now, I couldn’t imagine anything different! Needless to say, 27 has started out better than I could have imagined and I look forward to the opportunities and experiences my 27th year will hold!

Well, my birthday was nothing short of special! I woke up fairly early (5:30am) to get some Bible time in. Soon after, Zach got up and surprised me with some Cinnamon Life cereal! We’ve recently stopped buying cereal just because we have been trying to have healthier breakfasts, so getting this was a huge treat!
IMG_3102

Earlier in the week, one of my friends, Lexi, so generously gave me a Starbucks gift card. Needless to say, I gladly stopped at Starbucks on my way to work. It made my day at work just a little better!

fullsizeoutput_f9d

When you work in Oncology at the Vet Hospital and you have the co-workers I do, you can guarantee you’ll have a birthday celebration all for you! I came in to the clinic and everyone in the Oncology room sang happy birthday to me! Everyone chipped in and brought in some birthday desserts and a potluck for lunch, although, due to the generous donation of a client, we all had catered Panera instead! Yum, yum!

I worked some extra hours a couple days before so I could leave at 1:30! I spent some of that time getting my nails done. By dinner time, Zach had surprised me by taking me to Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen (one of my favorite restaurants). Little did I know that another surprise was awaiting me: two of our couple friends, Kendall and Laura, and Stephanie and Kyle, were waiting at Cheddar’s to have dinner with me! Man, what a way to make a girl feel special!

fullsizeoutput_f9f

Oh, and the guys were “too cool” to get their pictures taken, so it was just us girls! And, just to finish off a great birthday, we had to stop at Andy’s Frozen Custard! If you know me, ice cream is an obsession, especially from Andy’s!

fullsizeoutput_fa3

My birthday was so simple, but a day with absolutely no complaints! 27 started out with a bang! I’m so thankful for the friendships and experiences I acquired during my 26th year, but I’m optimistic that 27 will be my best year yet! Thank you to my friends that came and celebrated with me on my birthday, but also to those that I couldn’t be with on that day. I love you all!

How Do I Study Scripture, Anyways?

Back in 2014 when Zach and I were going through the first membership class ever of Emmaus Church, it was made embarrassingly clear to me how little I truly knew about my Christian faith. I sat there listening to our impeccably brilliant elders teaching the history of the Bible, such as, how each of the books were separated into genres, the importance of textual transmission, the belief that the scripture is inerrant and about different approaches to translation, just to name a few. I remember leaving that first membership session, almost in tears, thinking “Maren, you’re 24 years old and you know absolutely nothing about the Bible or God!” It was incredibly embarrassing as I prided myself throughout my life as being a “good Christian.” I could feel the Holy Spirit stirring within me showing me just how far off I truly was from knowing Him. It was at this time in 2014 that I knew I needed to learn more about Jesus and to start actually pursuing Him.

The hardest part about starting to pursue Jesus was figuring out where to start. I had read my Bible throughout my life but it was always in the form of reading or skimming through random books of the Bible, never actually attempting to learn about any of it. When I started wanting to learn more, I’d find myself completely overwhelmed, unsure where to even start. I asked myself multiple questions, such as, “What book should I start in?” or “Is there a devotional I should read?” or “How do I even study the Bible?” Well, thank God for my mother-in-law (because I do believe God led her to share this book with me) who gifted me the book Women of the WordThis book provided me with an easily planned guide to studying scripture and I absolutely fell in love with it as it revolutionized the way I studied.

In 2014, I would have loved it if someone would have shared with me their ways of studying scripture. So today, I’d love to share the way I study scripture with you! Below, are multiple ways that have been helpful to me in my scripture studying.  Some of these are based on the Women of the Word, but some of them are things I’ve discovered my own.

Ways to better understand a passage in scripture:
(1) First of all, I always begin studying at the beginning of a book in the Bible. It’s easier to take the book in context and understand it as a whole instead of starting somewhere in the middle.
(2) If you have a study bible, I’d suggest reading the overview of the book before starting, just to get an idea of the time the book was written and who the author of the book was.
(3) Print out a copy of the particular passage you are wanting to study. I usually copy and paste the passage from biblegateway.com into Word or Pages (on Macs) and make it double spaced. That way it’s easy to write in the margins and in between the lines.
(4) Reread the text again and again. The more a text is read, the easier it is for us to understand a main point.
(5) Make note of words, phrases or ideas that are repeated over and over. I usually make a key to help me remember what each color (pens and highlighters) represents during my studying.
(6) Compare different translations to help understand a word or sentence that might be confusing. Thank you God for the Bible App!
(7) Use a dictionary and/or Vine’s Dictionary (for people and places). I never realized how many words I skipped over that I never truly understood until I started looking up every single word I wasn’t sure about. Man, understanding a word has made a HUGE difference!
(8) Review the passage through the SOAP Acronym. If you’ve never heard of SOAP, it stands for S-scripture, O-observation, A-application, P-prayer. For Scripture, I generally just paraphrase what the passage is about; Observation, I make observations about things that stood out to me; Application, I pull out things from the passage that I can apply to my life today; and finally, I pray about what I have read over and what I have learned in the passages I’ve studied. I love this acronym because it really allows me to pull out something relatable to my life in each passage I study.

DSC_0028DSC_0031

Lastly, I believe community is the most important part of studying scripture! I believe it’s incredibly important to have someone mentoring and discipling you throughout your walk who’s further along in their faith journey than you (I didn’t realize how much this would help my growth until I had a mentor) and to also have friends that are walking right along with you in your faith journey to hold you accountable!
At the beginning of the year, my best friend, Kira and I decided to start studying the book of Acts. Every week we email or talk on the phone to discuss our revelations about the chapter(s) we’ve studied. It has been so nice to have her doing this with me and it has really made an impact in both of our lives!
Additionally, I am currently being mentored and discipled by Sarah, our pastor’s wife at our church. Every Sunday afternoon she has been sitting down with me to show me how she studies scripture (which is very different than what I have shared with you) and also just to discuss our faith journeys and any questions I have. It’s so nice to have someone further along in her faith pouring into me and discipling me as I continue to grow in my relationship with Jesus.

I encourage you all to find individuals you can share your faith journey with and to also find someone who is ahead of you in their walk with Christ to help you as you grow! Do you currently do Bible studies with friends? Have you been studying scripture? Have you found a study technique that works for you? I hope that my study techniques have helped give you more of an idea of how you can best study the Word!

First Day of Spring

When I am out in nature, I am constantly reminded of God’s hand in all of creation.
“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” -Job 12:7-10
I can learn so much from the animals and the land. I am a constant worrier, unfortunately. Even if there isn’t something to worry about, I somehow am able to find something to be anxious over. These verses are a great reminder to me that God’s hand is in all of it. I’m thankful that I can be out adventuring with my family and find peace and hope by just experiencing God’s creation! Last week, for the first day of spring, I was able to do just that!

Missouri’s weather is always so variable in the months of January through March. We can expect anything from 10-20 degrees Fahrenheit and snowing to spring-like conditions at 65 to 75 degrees! Luckily, this year, we had perfect weather on the first day of Spring! It was in the upper 70s so Zach and I took advantage of taking the dogs on a walk! We absolutely enjoy exploring all of the wonderful Conservation Areas that Missouri has to offer. One of our favorites is Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area. It is so close to Columbia and is just absolutely gorgeous! The dogs love being able to swim and run in the wide open spaces and we always enjoy the view. Here are a few pictures of our little adventure earlier this week!fullsizeoutput_f41

There’s nothing like a man and his dogs.

fullsizeoutput_f42

I love seeing the joy on Cooper’s face when we take him swimming!

IMG_3072

We have been watching my in-law’s Dachshund, Sassy. She enjoyed the adventure!

fullsizeoutput_f43

I sure love this man and all the adventures we go on together!

fullsizeoutput_f40

I just love this picture of Sassy! She is older, so it’s nice to take her on these little adventures while she is still able.

 

 

Why Start a Blog?

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

Creating a blog has been a thought in the back of my mind for several years now. I’ve always had the desire to start one but have convinced myself otherwise. Between self-doubt and lack of a “vision” for a blog, it has never seemed to come to fruition…until now.

One reason for starting this blog has been mostly in part due to my faith journey. I have grown in my faith and my spiritual journey more in the last three years then in my entire life. The multiple moves Zach and I have done in a span of 5 years have been both exciting and challenging all at the same time. We’ve moved from Columbia, Missouri to Stockton, Missouri to Kansas City, Missouri and finally back to Columbia, Missouri. In each of these cities my faith has grown a little bit more, especially since I’ve moved back to Columbia. Zach and I got connected and committed to the planting of Anthem Church. I can’t even begin to describe the love I have for this church and the people that are a part of it! The people of Anthem Church are some of the Godliest people I’ve ever known; each of them deeply committed to sharing the Gospel and discipling other Christians. Being a part of this body of believers has challenged and grown me in my faith more in the last nine months then ever in my life. I sure have a long way to go in my faith journey but the passion I have for Christ has led me to wanting to share the joy I’ve found in Him through this blog!

Another reason for starting this blog is to share some of my favorite moments in life with you! My husband, Zach, is one of the biggest hunters and outdoor enthusiasts you’ll ever meet. Besides his faith in God, I don’t think something makes up Zach more than the outdoors. Since we’ve been together, we’ve had some fun and exciting adventures in the great outdoors! I’ve always enjoyed being out in nature but Zach has definitely brought out some hidden interests in me: hunting, fishing and archery. I’d love to share with you these new-found passions and adventures that have brought me such joy over the last eight years!

The last reason for starting this blog is to share some of my clothing styles with you! I’ve always been passionate about clothes, shoes, purses and accessories and I’d love to share some of my favorite looks with you all!

I’m excited to see this vision of starting a blog become a reality. I’ve named this blog, Clothed in Strength, based on Proverbs 31 because a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. I want to be that woman. I hope that I can be a light in this dark, dark world through the hope of Jesus! Thanks for stopping by and joining me in my journey in this so-called LIFE!