December 5, 2016

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This Is Us.

You guys, the show is wrecking me.

It’s wrecking me on so many levels of myself. Every single episode I come undone at the seams and the tears fall and I feel so many different feelings for so many different people and reasons and I hate when the episodes end.

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December 3, 2016

#nataliebrennerwrites #mjdbrandrep

#nataliebrennerwrites #mjdbrandrep

#nataliebrennerwrites #mjdbrandrep

I’m sitting here quickly editing some images of my boys that I snapped the other morning while they were playing together. Candle is lit, Christmas lights are strung, the vinyl record is playing, my coffee in hand.. I cannot help but tear up with so much sweet joy.

A few nights ago I cried myself to sleep fighting the belief that I am a big failure in all the things of life. I know this is a lie I am always trying to ignore and rebuke. My gut says many people fight that lie. But it’s hard when everything I am doing seems to be falling short, you know?

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December 1, 2016

we are adopting

It was a cold January morning when we sat across the Starbucks table from a local pregnancy-adoption counselor. This meeting was the culmination of an adoption-dream first conceived together via a skype date while dating, a couple years of trying to conceive biologically without success, and an eagerness to grow our family.

Her talk of openness in adoption frightened us and made our nerves tingly in an uncomfortable sort of way. We didn’t know that we agreed with her. How could that be best for our child? Wouldn’t he or she be confused? We have to help support this lady who kay not even go through with an adoption plan?

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November 29, 2016

a-letter-to-expectant-mamas-and-adoptive-parents-as-you-wait-text

Dear Expectant Mama

The pregnancy test confirmed a heart wrenching reality to you: positive.

There in your womb resides a precious, so cherished, tender life. You love the life growing inside of you, no matter how unexpected and unplanned he or she was. Just as any mama, you crave to your core the very best for your baby.

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November 23, 2016

As I give thanks for the things both big and small, the giving becomes easy and natural.

print from manda julaine design

pretty prints from: http://www.mandajulainedesigns.com/

print from manda julaine design

The boys skipped their evening nap, ate dinner early, soaked in the tub with dad, and went into their cribs early tonight. Alarms are set for 3:30 am and a courageous friend is waking early to drive us to the airport: here we come, Boise!

Every time we lay them down in their cribs at the same time, we pause and stare at them for a few minutes. It’s an awe-thing, you know? We just stare at two sleeping little babies who are growing so fast and developing so quickly, two babies we prayed for and hoped for and longed for.

It seems as though it’s too good to be our actual life. He is too good to us. He has lavished grace and gifts and goodness upon us.

Despite the treasures these tiny people are, today was a long, hard day. Not all days are hard and not all days are long.

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November 17, 2016

promptly journals #promptlyadoptionjournals promptly journals #promptlyadoptionjournals



I was beyond thrilled to see  Promptly Journals announce that they were releasing an adoption journal.

I knew they had an awesome 0-18 years old journal for biological children, but they recently added an adoption-18 years old journal and I cannot be more thrilled with it.

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November 3, 2016

youth pastors wife

To the guys and girls we had the privilege of knowing:

It’s been 385 days since we wore the titles Youth Pastor + Pastor’s Wife. The thing about those titles is that they were so much more than labels, our job as your pastors felt so much more than a job.

It was an honor.

Most of you were rightfully hurting when we stepped out of that role and city.

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November 1, 2016

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So you’re in the valley.

It seems dark and gloomy, often resembling the back alley where piles of trash and old cats make their home.

It’s lonely.

You are certain you are the one and only, here venturing through or sitting in the pit of the deep, dark valley. It is anything but homey or cozy, it feels wholly cold and coldly empty. Clouds cover and winds smother.

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October 23, 2016


We quickly learned that humility is an absolutely essential component in all adoptions. Anytime we chose pride, fear, or entitlement, we found ourselves in a place of anger or deep devastation. We found ourselves feeling as though something was taken from us; the problem with that was: it wasn’t ours to begin with. Every time we chose humility, we found ourselves in a place of selflessness and love. It is easy to love others when you are walking in humility. And if you are not striving to love others through adoption, whether it be the birth family or child, maybe it is time to reevaluate your beliefs surrounding adoption.

CONTINUE READING MY ARTICLE ON ADOPTION.COM HERE. 

October 14, 2016

love makes family, adoption is beautiful

If I have learned anything in the last year and a half, it is that Love Makes a Family.

I knew this before, but now I know it more than ever. I know it to the core of my whole self that blood and DNA, genetic ties and biology, are not what make a family. Sure, those are ties that create families, but so does love. Love runs thick.

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October 5, 2016

adoption

We’ve been asked by quite a few people about the route we chose to grow our family through adoption. There are a few ways to adopt babies and children, but this was the route we chose. It’s not better or worse than the other ways, it is simply an avenue and it is the direction we chose to go.

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October 2, 2016

i-miss-my-sons-birth-mom

She is forever a part of our family, no matter what, and we hope to hug her once again.

“I do not want an open adoption, that seems weird and unhealthy.”

We said those words in agreement two years before our first son was born and adopted. It was after we first met with a local adoption/pregnancy counselor, wondering what a local adoption would look like, and all she did was rave and enthuse over how “healthy,” “beautiful,” and “good” open adoption was.

We left that meeting at our local downtown Starbucks shaking our heads, saying how crazy that counselor was. We could not see ourselves opening our family and life to “some lady.”

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October 1, 2016

#pregnancyloss #pregnancylossawareness

October 1.

It is one of my favorite months, if not my absolute favorite. The leaves have been falling, coating the sidewalks crispy colors of orange and brown and red and yellow. The mornings are brisk and fog filled, skies blue by noon, evenings cool and clear to the stars. Walks with warm coffee in hand? Yes please. Walks pushing a stroller of two babes? All the yeses. The privilege is not lost on me.

October is also Baby Loss Awareness month. Whether it be through miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death…we are invited to take a moment and remember the little ones gone too soon.

Last October I should have been 8 months round, nearing my due date in November. But we said goodbye to that little one, so wanted and so loved, so precious and so cherished. It felt so undeserved, losing that little baby we tried so hard for.

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September 21, 2016

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Last week wore me thin in all the places that were hanging onto thickness.

If you’re unsure of what that means, so am I. If you think that means I’ve lost weight, that’s not what I was implying and also we don’t have a scale so I wouldn’t know.

I’m averaging 4 pints of ice cream a week, so there’s that. We’re all in different places. This is my place.

What I am trying to say is this: I am tired.

I experienced more frustration last week altogether than I have in my short 9 months of being a mama to babies out of the womb. So many cries, constantly being poured from sweet little mouths, making my heart crumble.

 I don’t know if the lack of sleep is weighing on me, if the imbalance of my hormones is wrecking me, or if I have a lot going on with keeping up with writing/photography/wife-ing/mothering.. or all of the above ..but I cried a whole lot and said a whole lot of times: I can’t do this.

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September 19, 2016

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A year ago I woke up ready to run 22 miles as we prepared for our first marathon, the Portland Marathon. It was just weeks away, less than a month, and we had been training for the bulk of the year.

Earlier that year I had watched a second line turn pink, parallel to the first litmus line of the pregnancy test. It was the culmination of months-turned-to-years of trying to conceive a biological baby in my womb, the culmination of doctor’s appointments and fertility medications and cycle-tracking and finally making the decision to begin the adoption journey earlier rather than later. I watched that second line show up, not on just one test but a second and then a third and then a fourth and a fifth. Pregnant for sure, we were thrilled and put our not-yet-official adoption journey on pause to “spread the babies out.”

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September 17, 2016

A letter to my son's birth dad

To My Son’s Birth Dad:

We have not met yet. I add the word “yet” with caution for my heart as well as my son’s: what if we never have the privilege of meeting you? The sadness that wells in my soul when I recognize the possibility that we may never meet you, in flesh or virtually, grieves me in a way I never saw coming.

I cannot imagine my son one day having to process that reality.

You see, you are a missing puzzle piece to my son’s identity.

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September 12, 2016

adopting-org-logo

I have a lot of people emailing and messaging me questions about adoption which is SO COOL. I have had an array of questions like: which route do you recommend?, how did you go about finding Sage?, why do you like open adoption?, do you have anything you would recommend me to read?

It is always such an honor to receive these questions and inquiries. Of course I am always learning and reading and there is SO much more to know and so many resources to discover and I feel I barely know anything.

Today I am sharing an amazing resource! If you are hoping to adopt, if you have adopted, if you think about adoption or have friends/family who have adopted, this website is worth taking a few minutes to poke around. 

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September 2, 2016

virtual twins \\ almost twins \\ twiblings

My bath tub has never been so repulsive.

There is actual mildew and mold growing in the window sill (who puts an old crappy window with split wood inside a shower?) and the ceramic lining of the tub where there should be caulking. I posted what I thought to be a super cute picture of tub-time with my boys and was later mortified that you could see so much of my nasty bath tub.

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August 31, 2016

celebrating race

With what seems to be a perpetual battle of “Black Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter” filling my social media feeds, my small family of four has stepped up its game ten fold to celebrate my son’s race.

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August 23, 2016

george fox university grad student

My husband, Loren, had his grad school orientation this evening. Last fall when we left our Youth Pastor position in Corvallis, Loren made the scary decision that he wanted to pursue his Masters of Arts in Teaching. This was scary for a lot of reasons: the first big reason was that we were confident we would always be employed by a church, pursuing careers in vocational ministry. Identity shift. It quickly became scary again because he has a full time job, two new babies, is now a transracial-family dad,  is married to a big-feeling exhausted wife who needs help doing laundry and eating.. and well, if that isn’t already a lot of things, he has officially began his 20 month grad school program.

After he got home tonight we talked again about how hard this is going to be. Life is already hard. Raising two babies is hard. Juggling his work with my writing deadlines with photography sessions and editing those images with community that we adore while figuring out how to be parents — adoptive, biologically and transracially — is a lot of things. 

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August 15, 2016

Will-My-Child-Resent-Me-1

“When you were deciding to place me for adoption, did you wonder if I would resent you?” Samantha asks her biological mother while visiting her across the country.

 “Yes. I still do.” Debbie responded with honesty.

Samantha, now 27 with four kids and an amazing husband, shares pieces of her story as an adoptee. Her adoption was closed with zero contact until the age of 14 when she and her biological mother set a date to meet. Sam was excited, to say the least. It is an honor and privilege to have her share pieces of her story.

Natalie: When and how did your closed adoption transform into an open adoption?

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August 11, 2016

The Journey to Here [on our anniversary]

I shaved my legs, as well as my pits, in the shower today while our littlest of the littles screamed his lungs dry. I have been telling myself all week that I would shower today and even shave because it is our anniversary. So I did. I set him down while he screamed and let me know that he wanted to traumatize me so I would never shower again. But I did it. I showered. [And I might shower again one day, but only time will tell].

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August 8, 2016

virtual twins

“Are they twins?” is a question we are frequently asked. “No,” we kindly respond while attempting to move on before the gauntlet of questions begins. Inevitably, the prying questions are hurled at us in conjunction with puzzled facial expressions: “Are they both yours?” (Yes). “How far apart are they?” (About five months). “How is that possible?” (Adoption. One was adopted).

Once the first onslaught of prying questions have been thrown at us and we think the conversation has come to a close, a slue of hurt is hurled in the form of more ignorant questions: “Was his real mom young and on drugs?” “Did you get pregnant after you adopted?” “Did you adopt because you couldn’t get pregnant?” “How much did he cost?” And so-on the hurtful, misinformed, and poorly worded questions are asked.

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July 27, 2016

Dare to Love Deeply

Dare to allow love to be stronger in you than the fear of the pain that comes with truly caring. You will unravel a radiant freedom within yourself.

My body miscarried and rejected our first baby.

We wanted that baby. We hoped for that baby. We prayed for that baby. We celebrated that baby. We cried tears of joy and danced celebration for that baby. That baby, Blake, left my womb too soon and we had to say goodbye before we really said hello. That baby, so precious, so loved, so wanted…I believe will one day introduce his family to Jesus.

The amount of times my wounds were washed over with the words, “It wasn’t meant to be,” “At least you know you can get pregnant,” “Maybe something was wrong with that baby,” “You were barely pregnant,” “Jesus is all you need,” etcetera etcetera befuddles me.

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July 18, 2016

powells bookstore

We were scouring the children’s book section as we usually do at Powell’s Book Store, searching for adoptive family and different-race books when a thought occurred to me. My phone holds an ongoing list of wanted-books to add to our little children’s library, and if we are lucky, we find one each time we visit Powell’s. Today we found FOUR. Our quest to build our children’s library is an adventurous one, as our eyes have been opened to how white our home has always been. Our home, our community, our books, our art.

It has been a top priority to bring art and books and toys/dolls into our home that display people of color, people wearing brown skin that matches our son’s, so that he doesn’t grow up completely immersed in whiteness, wondering what is “wrong” with him or wishing his skin was void of the beauty of color. We want brown and black to be just as normal as white, which is a much easier task said than done. We want to celebrate his blackness and read books with brown kids as the main character, as the hero.We want him to know that there is no mold for family. We want him to know that to us, his skin color can be celebrated and beautiful, just as his white brother’s.

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July 15, 2016

virtual twins, adoption and pregnancy

“How do you do it?” The question is posed often with curiosity but sometimes with pity and other times with humor, as though our life is some sort of silly joke. But let’s be real: there is a lot of laughter happening in our life, so we don’t mind greeting this question with a smile and a shrug of the shoulders.

Life with two babies who are not twins and are at two different developmental stages is certainly a little crazier than life with one baby.

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July 13, 2016
Our adoption of Sage was officially finalized July 8, 2016 at 2:58 pm Mountain Time! We could not be more in love with this little man; we are honored to be his, officially and legally.
Quite a few people have asked to purchase a Live Out Love shirt, which is so exciting and fun! There are t shirts, long sleeves, and tanks in multiple colors. We sold these in January when in Utah meeting our little Sage man and attempting to fundraise an impossible-seeming amount for the stork drop adoption [which we raised most of!]. You can read up on our journey in the Adoption category.

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July 9, 2016

martin-luther-king-jr-quotes-silence

The tragedies of this week have burned themselves deep into my heart for a lot of reasons. I won’t forget this week.

I am beyond heart broken over the lost lives in Dallas. As my husband and I read through and watched videos, the tears didn’t stop coming, the anger didn’t stop fuming. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” The deaths in Dallas were evil, violent, unjustifiable, and not okay. The deaths of Alton and Philando were evil, violent, unjustifiable, and not okay. Hear that, will you? I cried and I wept over the deaths of those officers late into my already sleepless night. I have been praying for officers I know and their families. I do not hate officers, nor do I wish harm upon any of them. I am pro-human.
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But to wake up yesterday and scroll through posts and posts of friends who are justifiably angry and outraged over the Dallas shooting who were extremely silent the day before when two black men were unjustifiably murdered? That has hit me on a layer of my heart that I did not see coming.

Our son is part of this community and we will celebrate his blackness. My friend Eva posted this and it was exactly what I am processing: “Over the past 24 hours, a few of you have reached out to personally send some love and for that I am grateful. A few of you, through comments, expressed sentiments that I don’t agree with, and I am grateful for you as well. I feel like it is better to at least engage, have conversation, than to keep silent. A lot of you, many of whom I consider close friends, have been eerily silent. It is interesting and telling. I am not claiming to know what is in your heart, but sometimes silence is not the answer, and can appear as neutrality.”

It’s hard not to take it personal: Mama Bear is fierce. I know it’s only been 6 months of really learning, but it’s 6 months of my eyes being opened wider than ever.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

Stacy Curtis, white mama of black children, said: “The issue is so big, so complicated, intricate and deep. The topic so sensitive, where does one even begin? This is what has held me back for the last year and a half. This issue is so incredibly divisive you can’t speak on the topic without ruffling someone’s feathers. And yet, there comes a time when standing up for the truth and speaking out becomes more important than not rocking the boat or upsetting people you care about.” (Read her post here

I don’t know what to do most of the time. I post too much, I post too little, I post the wrong things, I offend people here, I’m hurt by others…social media is a mess and it has never brought out such an ugly, angry side of me as it did Thursday. But the more people of color I ask about how to respond to these things, the more I hear, “Keep talking, keep asking, keep educating, keep learning, keep diversifying your friendships & community…” to do those things is to love deeper. To recognize that white privilege is indeed very real is heart breaking and humbling, but means we are opening my eyes and heart to others reality. It doesn’t mean white people are bad – it simply means there are a lot of things we don’t have to think or worry about, while people of color do. Small simple example? The color of most bandaids is classified as nude. Nude does not equal white/beige. Nude is an array of colors. One more very subtle to us white folk and simple example: there were zero people of color on the cakes at Costco when I went to find a cake for our sons adoption finalization party. Just a bunch of white boys and girls. Sage is brown with curly hair, not white with light straight hair. 

White privilege is being able to live in oblivion to race, to be invisible to even yourself, to have the space to not even think about your skin color. 

My other close friend posted this; it is spot on where my heart is at: “I’ll explain real quick…if you or I had a family member fall victim to Cancer and you or I wrote #‎CancerSucks‬…nobody would counter that and say#‎AllDiseasesSuck‬. If I said ‪#‎HappyMothersDay on Mothers Day, it’d be a little strange to say #‎AllParentsMatter‬ as a response. If I say Cancer Sucks…it isn’t saying other diseases don’t suck. It is bringing awareness to a specific disease that is affecting me that I need help and/or attention with. If I say Happy Mother’s Day…it doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate Fathers…it is me showing appreciation specifically for my mom or mother’s in general.#‎BlackLivesMatter isn’t saying your life or any other life doesn’t matter. It is saying this Cancer Sucks!! And I/We need help and/or attention!! It is bringing attention to what is hurting. If you have multiple kids, and a child felt forgotten or neglected, it is OK and EXPECTED to single them out and let them know they matter, that you LOVE them. That doesn’t mean you don’t care about the others. We are all God’s children, so when your brothers and sisters are telling you ‪#‎WeMatter….it’d be better to say yes you do and I LOVE YOU instead of countering it.”

Friends, can we put down our defenses and vulnerably try to place ourselves in the shoes of others?  It’s heart-risky imagining being a cop in the US: how freaking scary right now. It’s also heart-risky imagining being [specifically] a black male in the US: how freaking scary. Its uncomfortable to admit there is racism, injustice, cruel meaningless violence. I do not know what it is like to send my husband off fearing for his life day after day, when his job and duty and heart is to protect others. I also can’t begin to imagine or understand how emotionally exhausting it must be to wear color on my skin.

But I will keep learning, keep asking ignorant questions, and keep talking. I will pursue more friendships with people of color. I will mess up, a lot. I will and have said stupid things. I so want to learn to love well, especially in the face of tragedy: if I do not love well, what purpose and meaning does my life have?

 

 

July 8, 2016

View More: http://samanthashortphotography.pass.us/ira

Just received a beautiful phone call with beautiful news: Sage’s adoption is finalized. He is an official Brenner.

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June 26, 2016

Last night our almost-6 month little man woke up ready to party at 11 pm. Husband had just gotten home from a 10+ hour day of work. I was feeding our 3 week little man so it was up to Daddy, like it has been for 3 weeks, to care for and comfort our first born.

Essential oils, gripe water, 6 ounces of milk, yoga ball bounces, and two+ hours later our first born was out cold in Daddy’s arms and the two of them crawled into bed sometime after 1 am. 

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