Things I’ve Learned After Miscarriage

Well, we’re barely in to February and it’s all ready been a crazy 2018 for us! On January 23, my life changed forever! I remember standing in the bathroom, shaking, researching on my phone whether or not you could have a false positive on a pregnancy test…nope, you can’t! I looked at that faint positive band in amazement and thanksgiving! God had finally blessed me with the one thing I had prayed for over the last year and a half! I was in shock, as I spent the evening before with my discipleship mentor telling her how I knew for certain I wasn’t pregnant, even though I was several days late. God sure has a sense of humor! I’m sure He was up there laughing saying, “Ha, Maren, if only you knew what you’d find out tomorrow! Never say never. Well, congratulations, Maren, you’re pregnant!” I was so overjoyed! I spent that entire week praying and thanking God for the immeasurable blessing He had just given to me. I prayed for that little baby’s health and future salvation repeatedly. I couldn’t wait to be a mother!!!

99FC4BB5-E981-42C6-A90F-33466A31612DLittle did I know that one week later, that joy, excitement, thanksgiving and happiness would soon come crashing down. Two days before my 6 week mark, I had a miscarriage. It all started on that Sunday after church. I was having lunch with Zach when I started cramping a lot more severely then I had previously. It was enough to cause me concern. After calling a 24 hour triage nurse, she recommended that I head to the ER for further testing. At the ER, I had multiple ultrasounds, a pelvic exam and blood drawn and the results were inconclusive. Basically, one of three things could be the issue: I had already miscarried, I am having an ectopic pregnancy or I have a completely viable pregnancy but it was too early to tell on the ultrasound. Zach and I left that evening with more questions than we had going into the ER. We were told to return in 48 hours to get my blood drawn to check my beta hCG levels, but I knew before that 48 hours came that I would never get to meet my little baby. The bleeding continued to get worse and worse. I knew it was over! I had lost my baby. The emotional pain was excruciating. The thing I had prayed for and desired so deeply for so long came and was taken in the blink of an eye.

That week was a blur, full of tears and sadness, but I made a choice that week to allow this experience to grow me, challenge me, make me stronger and to use it for good. I definitely learned more through the trial of miscarriage then I ever did in my year and a half of waiting on a pregnancy. So, today, I share with you the things I’ve learned through this and hopefully it will help one of you who has struggled with this or will struggle with this in the future.

1. We can get pregnant!
Over the last year and a half, I worried and doubted that Zach and I would be able to conceive. Zach kept trusting that God had a plan and that it was in His timing and not ours, but I doubted. I started to wonder if there was something wrong with one of us. Zach told me to stop tracking my cycle and to stop taking ovulation kits. So, I stopped tracking, but the entire time I felt like I was stuck in a hole I couldn’t get out of. I felt like I needed to be proactive and taking steps toward the end goal of getting pregnant. So, I scheduled a doctor’s appointment with a fertility specialist. A week before my appointment is when I found out I was pregnant! God made it clear that we can get pregnant without the help of a fertility specialist and that it would be in HIS TIMING. I’m trying to hold on to this truth until we get pregnant again.

2. God is still good.
Despite going through a loss or a painful situation of any kind, always remember that God is still good. I had to remind myself of this over and over again. No matter what would happen, God was in control and nothing would happen that He didn’t all ready know about or have control over. He is righteous and All-knowing. Even though this experience has made me question a lot of things, I have no doubt that this will be used for God’s glory and He intends this to be used for the furthering of His Kingdom. God is still good and He wants what is best for me!

3. Believe Biblical truth and not your emotions.
I’m a “feeler.” For those of you that have no idea what I’m talking about, it means that I process things based on my emotions instead of logically. I spent so many of my younger years leading by the way I felt instead of trusting biblical truth. It wasn’t until I began to grow in my faith that I learned that emotions lie. God gave us emotions, however, we were meant to be able to control emotions instead of our emotions controlling us. During this experience, I’ve so wanted to wallow in my sadness and pity and anger but the devil uses my emotions to pull me away from God. It’s normal for us to mourn and grieve, but when those feelings turn into anger or jealousy, that’s when I need to check myself at the door and remember that those emotions can lead to sin.

4. Cleave to your husband in times of sadness.
This experience definitely brought Zach and I closer in a way only someone who’s gone through a loss can understand. Going through this experience has allowed us to draw nearer to God, mourn together and to learn how to be sensitive to each other while we’re hurting. We understand each other better now than we did before and I’m thankful that we have been able to be there for each other in this time.

5. Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.
This is probably THE toughest lesson I’m learning and I definitely haven’t mastered it yet. I’ve always struggled with jealousy and this season of life has shown me how sinful my heart truly is and how much I need Christ because of it. This season has been even more difficult for me because almost all of my closest friends have gotten pregnant so I’m constantly surrounded by the reminder of how I’m not pregnant. Romans 12:15 says, “rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.” That verse has been a hard pill for me to swallow because my struggle with jealousy has embarrassingly taken over while seeing other girls get what I so desire. I’m learning that I have to change my perspective by rejoicing with them in their pregnancies instead of mourning because they’re pregnant. Just because I’m not pregnant right now doesn’t mean that my life isn’t as important as my friends’ who are pregnant. God has different plans for me and though that’s hard for me to understand, I’m thankful that He’s providing the miracle of pregnancy to my friends who have prayed for this as well. I’m really working on 100% whole-heartedly rejoicing with them and praying that my heart continues to change in that regard.

6. God is not done with you. He is refining you.
James 1:2-3 “Count it all joy, brothers when you meet trials of various kinds for you know the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”
I should count this experience as a joy and a blessing because God counts me as worthy to suffer for His namesake. In the middle of this struggle, it’s hard to understand why God would allow this to happen, but like a parent disciplines a child, God does it to refine me and draw me nearer to Himself. I’m learning to embrace the pain and suffering I’m enduring because God is worth it! Every trial I face allows me the opportunity to be one step closer to Christ.

7. Let go of your plans and trust His.
The other week I listened to a podcast of Chuck Swindoll preaching on Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22. The premise of the sermon was that even though God told Abraham to sacrifice his only promised son, Isaac, Abraham trusted God and His plans. Abraham knew that God would fulfill His promise of making his offspring as numerous as the stars in the sky and that God would provide him something other than Isaac to sacrifice. Even though Abraham wasn’t sure what God’s plans looked like, he trusted God above all else and was willing to even sacrifice his only son because he feared God most. I’m not sure exactly why I had to lose my baby, but I’m learning to let go of my plans and my ideas of what my life should look like and to just trust God. God’s plans are infinitely better than my own and I know that He will provide a life for me that is better than I could ever imagine if I just allow Him to lead me. I’m hopeful that Zach and I will get pregnant again and that God will one day answer our prayers of having a family! I just need to let go of my own plans and trust His.

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How Pain Can Bring Hope and A Change in Perspective

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I feel that I am suffering alone. I feel that I am screaming and nobody can hear me. I feel like my tears may never stop. I feel like no one cares. Behind all of my pictures on social media of smiles and happiness lies a girl that is surviving a silent pain that no one can see in my physical being. This pain is a pain that not many women talk about. It’s a pain that no woman wants to admit struggling with for a fear of inferiority or loss of self worth. It’s a fear because we, as women, were designed by God for this and if we struggle with this or are unable to achieve this, then there is something wrong with us. What is this infamous pain that I so struggle with? It is the pain of infertility or struggling to conceive a child.

For months I have considered writing about this but every single time I have, I have stopped myself. I’ve stopped myself for many reasons- feelings of inferiority,  not wanting everyone to know Zach and I have been trying to conceive, feeling that this isn’t everyone’s business anyways, feeling like I’m a failure as a woman and a wife for not producing a child and the list goes on and on. However, I have finally come to a point where I should be open to the world because 1 in 4 women will experience miscarriages in their lifetime and 7.4 million women struggle with getting or staying pregnant. Those statistics are a lot more common than most people think and not many seem to talk about it. I’m struggling with this very issue and it seems that I can’t hide my feelings anymore.

While I haven’t ever been pregnant nor experienced a miscarriage, I have struggled over the past year getting pregnant. I never once thought in my adolescence that I’d struggle to get pregnant in the future. I always thought that it would be my decision (and my husband’s decision) to get pregnant and that it would happen when we planned it. Boy, was I wrong. In November 2016, Zach and I decided that we were both ready to start a family. I was so excited because my desire to be a mother went from being non-existent in my early 20s to deeply desiring it at age 25. Then, one month led to three months and three months led to nine months and before I knew it, we were at a year of trying to conceive with no success. Each month we’ve come up empty handed, those pains that I’ve felt have become almost unbearable. Over the last year, I’ve had several very close friends share with me that they’re expecting. These were friends that I once talked about getting pregnant at the same time with and friends that used to fantasize with me about what their future child would look like. Now, they’ve either gotten to experience that or are currently experiencing the miracle of pregnancy. And here I am, 27, only 3 years away from 30, been married longer than most of my friends with kids already, and I’m still childless. The thought of that alone brings tears to my eyes. These are thoughts I’ve embarrassingly been struggling with over the last year.

People have told me that I should just go and see a fertility doctor so that I can get answers. And while I’ve seriously considered it, my faith remains in God. His timing is perfect (I’m still struggling to get my heart to believe this sometimes). No matter what I try to do (go to a fertility doctor, take ovulation kits, take my temperature, etc.) this miracle lies in the hands of our Wonderful Counselor only. If it’s in His will, then it will happen.  Although, I still have many days of doubting that I will ever experience this miracle, I still remain hopeful that one day God will answer this prayer. I’ve been struggling with those feelings I mentioned above but as I’ve discussed on my blog before, emotions lie. It’s easy to believe those emotions as truth but they are just things that Satan uses to get in between me and God. Through this trial, I’m learning that life isn’t about me, but God. Thanks to my sweet husband, who never ceases to amaze me with his unfailing faith, consistently feeds me this truth daily. I must take my focus off of myself and put it on God. I may one day head to the doctor to get some answers, but for now, I’m waiting on God to give me clarity and wisdom in this struggle.  The pain is still there. With every friend that shares their exciting news with me, it still is hard to chose God over this desire, but I know He is the right choice. I share all of this with you, not for a pity party of my own gratification but to be real and raw about something that I am truly struggling with. My hope is that if you are struggling with this same thing (or something similar), you will know that you are not alone. Other people are struggling with this too. There is hope in Jesus and His plans for you are greater than any plans you and I can fathom. He mourns with me through this trial and He mourns with you. I’m not sure what the future will hold for Zach and I, but I’m learning to remain steadfast and faithful to God. I’m definitely not close to mastering this but my hope is that one day I will be able to master it and see God’s hand in all of it.
“When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” -Psalms 34

As I continue through this trial, instead of praying for God to remove this situation from my life, I’m going to pray that He changes my perspective. A friend of mine shared with me the song “Different” by Micah Tyler. If you haven’t heard it, I recommend that you check it out because it’s so powerful and there’s so much truth if you are down in a valley like I am, struggling. The chorus says this, “I wanna be different, I wanna be changed, that all of me is gone and all that remains is a fire so bright that the whole world can see that there’s something different, so come and be different in me.” My prayer is that the Lord can set a fire in my heart so that I no longer see what I don’t have in this world but I see what I do have in eternity. What Jesus gave to me no one or anything else can even come close to in this world. I hope that you can take these truths to heart also. If you’re struggling, I’d love to hear from you so that I can pray with you and walk with you during this time. Remember, God is there with His arms wide open, mourning with you and through Him we can find healing.

 

 

 

Thanksgiving: A Season to be Thankful

Well, I blinked and now the end of November is upon me! I can’t believe that Thanksgiving has come and gone in a blink of an eye! I love the Thanksgiving holiday because it allows me to slow down and to reflect on the many blessings God has bestowed upon me. I have so much to be thankful for and I want to share some of the things that I am thankful for this year.
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(1) I am thankful that Zach has been given a new job opportunity that is located in Columbia. After a year and a half of Zach working from home and having to travel out of town every other week, it will be nice to have him home constantly. Since we lead a connection group and are very active in our church, it will be so nice to pursue ministry together again. Not only that, but I enjoy my husband doing life with me every single day! Looking forward to this new chapter!
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(2) I am thankful for our connection group! Zach and I began leading a connection group in January of this year! Since then, our connection group has almost doubled in size and we have all grown closer together. We celebrated a Friendsgiving with our connection group this past Tuesday and it was just such a wonderful time to bond and to enjoy each other’s company. I prayed and desired to live in an area where we could have great community for quite some time and it’s been such a blessing to see God’s hand in all of it! I love every single one of these people and am so thankful I get to call them “family.”
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(3) I am thankful for my own family! My parents and brother live in South Carolina and my sister and her husband live in Alabama. I only see them about once or twice a year so any time I’m able to have the opportunity to see them is a blessing! Zach and I traveled down to South Carolina for Thanksgiving and, though it was only a couple days, it was so worth it and such a blessing!
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(4) I am thankful to have such wonderful in-laws. Some people always make jokes about their difficult relationships with their in-laws, but not mine. I see them at least once a month and I honestly feel as if they are my own parents! I couldn’t have asked for better “second parents!”
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(5) I am extremely thankful for Anthem Church! One of these days, I will need to share my testimony on my blog and how Anthem Church has helped me grow closer to Jesus! If it wasn’t for this church and these people, not sure I’d be where I am in my faith today! I love the teaching, I love the people and I love being a part of this church family! God is doing so many wonderful things in this place and I’m so blessed to be a part of it!
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While I could go on and on about how much God has blessed me, I will spare you the novel and instead end it with these five big things I’m thankful for! Thank you God for blessing me and for allowing me to spend time reflecting and thanking you for your goodness! Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving too! How did you spend your Thanksgiving?! Share your stories with me in the comments! Below are a few photos that I took over my Thanksgiving!

IMG_4860 2A few people at our Friends-giving. Mind you, we had a whole other table for the rest of our group!fullsizeoutput_1bc2 The Ritterling patriarch and matriarch, complete with the Fleer and Marquardt familiesfullsizeoutput_1bbfMy lovefullsizeoutput_1bca‘Merica!

Jen’s Baby Shower

On November 5th, I hosted a Woodland themed baby shower for my dear friend, Jennifer. Jen and I have been friends for close to 6 1/2 years. If you are a consistent reader of my blog, you’ll probably remember Jennifer from my Friendship Photoshoot post. As soon as I found out that Jen was expecting, I knew instantly that I wanted to throw her a baby shower! This baby has been prayed for for quite a long time so all I could do was celebrate with her!

Jen and I have very similar styles, so when I found out she was having a boy, I knew I wanted the theme of the baby shower to be an outdoorsy and woodland style. I wanted to go “above and beyond” with this shower but I didn’t want to break the bank either. Thankfully, I was able to keep the costs minimal by using much of my own home decor! It was such a joy, not only to see Jen’s excitement, but also because I’ve had these ideas in my head for the last couple months and it was finally able to come to fruition! There was a great turn out and everyone seemed to have a fun time, especially the “Momma-to-Be.”

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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!

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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!

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.” 

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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!