My Canada Adventure: 3 days left.

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Did you know that ODFW stands for Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife and that my mug is displaying just that? True story. Also, what is a true story is that my husband made me coffee at approximately 3:15 am and once again, deserves the Best Husband Award.

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When we woke up at 2:30 am and left by 3:20 on Wednesday the 8th of October, I was certain I might actually die. But then I didn't and now it is Monday the 13th and I am healthy as a bean. Loren did the fabulous servant thing of waking up with me, making me coffee, and driving me the 2 hours to Portland Airport so I could get there in time to check my bag, go through customs, and board the plane by 6:20 am. What. A. Babe!

Also, the moon. It was so bright and so bloody orange, and I could not get a better photo than that with my little iPhone.

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Long hallways + a full bladder don't mix well.

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So, I was completely blessed by the breathtaking sunrise. Thank you, Jesus, for creating such wonderful gifts for us to enjoy. It is calming.

Also - The Fault in Our Stars. I cried on that plane ride while reading this book. It was that good. I have decided I must make myself read fiction books again.

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I made sure that the man stamped my passport this time around. It is a new passport with a new name which means I don't have my stamps from Europe!

Naturally, the first thing I did when I landed in Canada was grab a Starbucks: caramel machiotto with soy, because I am on vacation and everyone knows that we must cheat our health on vacations.

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The theme of this trip should be: BABIES GALORE.

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What I dearly loved about this verse was that it isn't a question, but a statement. A statement that says our Heavenly Father gives us good gifts.

we are friends

Hi, we are friends and we love to walk.

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Should we talk about the absolute wonder of the photos above? I will let you soak them in. Fall. Brisk. Baby. Wagon. Pup (who is my actual nemseis, but I love her because she is my friends baby). Best Pal. Canada. Love.

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my canada adventure

Because I am not sharing a bed with my husband, I literally sleep on one half while my laptop, bible, journal, and knitting utensils sleep on the other half. I then wake up in the morning, roll over, and commence my time with Jesus as the golden sun peers in the window. Yes, it is a gift. A true, gift.

IMG_1524.JPG You're welcome.

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knitting a circle scarf

I started knitting again. Canada always does that to me. No, Haley always does that to me. Did I mention, it's an addiction? Almost as addicting as Tim Horton's coffee.

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Who wouldn't want flying utters as decoration for a coffee-ice cream shop.

The worst $17 I ever did spend, by the way.

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Scarf: finished on the drive to the beautiful lake.

the nunes family

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Leaves: crunched.

Baby: swung.

Strangers: captured. Their potluck smelled delicious.

IMG_1571.JPGspending moments with the LordI am certain that if I do not spend time in His presence, I will not feel rested. He is the key to rest, as He calls me into His presence and Peace. Thankful for His word and I fall in love with it, every time I gobble it up.

IMG_1611.JPG Last night was Round One of Canada Thanksgiving. We enjoyed a huge potluck of Thanksgiving deliciousness at Haley & Marcio's friends house: the Penners. They are beautiful, have 3 girls and 1 on the way. There was a plethora of children and adults crammed into this town house and it was simply beautiful to be a part of the body of Christ in another country. I always love being reminded how big and how real and how tangible He is through His church.

Today is Canada Thanksgiving. I am thankful that God is patient with me. I am thankful for a husband who is in love with Jesus Christ, and pursuing Him at a cost. I am thankful for a husband who misses me when I am gone, and tells me. I am thankful for a perfectly imperfect church family back home that I miss when I am away. I am thankful to be a Doula and serve families during the most precious and intense moments of life. I am thankful that I am in Canada with my dear friend Haley, who literally saved my life 4 years ago, October 4th 2010. She would have woken to a cold, stiff, dead roommate had she not taken me in - true story. Traumatizing.

I am thankful for Jesus, who is ever so close to my heart, especially when I am weary and exhausted. That He loves me and gives me worth and places an identity of Belovedness on me.

Happy Thanksgiving, from Canada!

Dating my husband

IMG_6813 Remember before we were married, we lived separately, and you never saw my crusty morning face topped with a birds nest of hair on the top of my head? Remember when you saw me mainly dressed cute and fun, hair at least combed, and my teeth were sparkly clean all. the. time.? The worst you saw me was when I was wearing someone else's feces on my scrub top - true story - but even at that, I felt dazzling because my face was still awake. No crusty sleep face.

You would pick me up for dates, me all dressed up in heels, hair done right with a few touches of extra make up. You didn't watch me get ready in my running shorts and too-big-of-tank-top, applying the foundation first, next the shadow, and oh I look like a ghost really. You never walked into the restroom to see me with eyeliner half on and apparently no eyelashes to count. In our short 11 months of dating and engagement, simply, you picked me up for dates and it was as if I was always groomed ever so nicely.

And now. Now we are married and you see me in way too many sweat pants, big t shirts, and a birds nest show cased on my head. Many times you've come to kiss my lips while one eye has eye liner and the other empty. And you still say I'm beautiful.

Gathering Together Farms - Dating my husband

My dear man, I went on a date with you the other day. I got all dressed up for you again, wearing heels and put time into my hair. You put palmade in your hair and wore a button up shirt. I looked my best so you could sport me as your charm, fingers laced together, proudly we went on a date. A date where the phones were put away, red wine was served, and we paused the craziness of the day. A date in which we stared at one another, remembering the deep gratitude that is welled up within us. We are each other's. He is no other's, but mine. And I am his.

Gathering Together Farms - Dating my husband

We dreamed about Our Future: talked of the many possibilities and countless unknowns it holds so tightly in it's palm. Our Future, not revealing so many unanswered questions, is a mystery to us. Which is part of the fun in dreaming. We shared what Jesus was teaching us today and yesterday, the various ways He is so mysteriously fabricating our hearts together, and how He is so, so good. We shared decaf coffee with our desserts so different- mine gluten free, yours gluten laced. We left a good tip because money is money and the waitress was so patient as we sat there slowly enjoying our 3 courses over 2 hours.

Gathering Together Farms - Dating my husband

I don't have any words of wisdom or great and exciting revelations. Simply:

Sometimes you just need to date your spouse.

You need to go to where the pretty pumpkins line the side walk and lanterns hang from the ceiling and candles are lit on your table while the waitress brings you lamb and fresh veggies from the garden out back. Sometimes you need to stop and let the world pause exactly at the moment it feels it may crumble. Relax when you feel you can't and know that everything is going to be O.KAY.

 

 

date night september 2014date your spouse

If you enjoyed this, try 10 Prayers For Your Spouse.

Pulling my head out & headed to Canada!

nats canada adventures I'm off to Canada.

Last year around this time, I was riding the Bolt Bus from PDX to Seattle to Bellingham to Vancouver BC for $28. I then rode Something from the train station in BC to the airport and flew to Edmonton, AB, snapped this photo(<left) along the way, and was welcomed by this stud and his stunning momma.

That chin, though.

What's in Canada? My college roommate and very dear friend Haley. She has the cutest son who will soon be blowing up my Instagram. Rumor has it, she has a possible trip to Jasper or Banff planned. This girl is the best.

I have been forsaking my Jesus. My sabbath. My day of rest. I am gaining a deeper understanding of why God made "keeping a sabbath day holy, 1 day a week," an actual commandment. It is for our sanity, for our health, for our best well-being. I don't mean resting all day before the TV screen watching television or movies; I have never left the TV screen and felt empowered and rested. My brain is exhausted and stimulated after that. I mean resting in His presence, in His word, in His very real love for me. For you.

I have gotten myself into a a place of busy. Note: I have done this. Not my job(s), not my family, not my church, not my responsibilities. I could blame my hectic and chaotic life on those things, but the reality of the matter is, I said yes. I am the one who piles on All The Things. I choose my calendar just as I choose my attitude. I choose to forsake my Sabbath Mondays and this last Monday I was deeply broken by my decision.

What I had forgotten was that, not only does my sweet time with Jesus mean so much to me and my soul, but it's special to Him too. He longs to spend time with us.

>>See how refreshed I looked after last year's trip? That's what I'm going for. I was in the same boat - coming off of a ridiculous summer, in the middle of a busy fall {HEAR THIS: allllll good things, just a lot of things}, and left for a week to spend Canada Thanksgiving (which is on a Monday in October) with one of my best friends. I needed rest. Rest in Him found in Canada. I needed to forcefully pull myself away. Here in this wonderful and charming and SO JOYOUS photo, I was sitting in the park waiting for the bus in the beautiful city of Vancouver, BC. I was knitting. KNITTING. Simply sitting and knitting. I know. So P31 of me.

My life is no different from yours, or maybe it probably is. But the reality is, you can say yes to things or you can say no. There are some things I think I can't say no to. But really, I can. For instance, it is unhealthy to fill your calendar full of 12 individual coffee dates/hikes/dinner guests/meetings in the time frame of 6 days + regular small groups + services + oh right, computer work, and photography, and studying birth. It is this thing of pride and fear that it boils down to. Every darn time. I wish that it wasn't so, but it so is.

>>I like to think of the money I make in photography and wedding coordinating and pillow making as my "allowance." We are on a very tight budget, and I don't have a steady enough income from these things to impact an area of budget, but it brings me a spending allowance that I did not have. So, I saved my allowance and I am heading to Canada. Thank you, clients! Literally wouldn't be going without you. I know that I won't always be able to simply get on a plane for a week of my choosing and peace out, leaving Loren with a few prepped meals and a long smooch goodbye. But while I can still do this, I best be taking advantage of it.

We all have things pushing at our seams, begging for our attention, filling our calendar. We all live in the world where busy seems to be the norm and what we use to give us value. And that's just the thing, it feels like it devalues me. Stretches me so thin that ME begins to be a non-existent reality. In order to serve others well, we must make time to do things we enjoy. At our leisure. Not squeezed into an hour time slot.

When I bury myself into this lifestyle of scheduling coffee dates two months out (true story, so embarrassing), I become so selfish, so centered on me = bitterness, SO not Natalie. I am not walking in the Spirit of peace that I have access to; I am not choosing to be grateful in the small things; I am not soaking in this truly beautiful and ridiculously privileged life. Because I am go-go-and going and never pausing. And that kills me. It breaks my own heart the state I can put it in -- and I desperately want to pursue His freedom. He is so full of freedom and joy and peace. These things come by slowing down. Pausing. Being still. I am forcing my head out of the calendar and placing it in Canada to breathe and pray and get on my knees. To be still and soak in His goodness.

So. To all humans everywhere:

We are not called or made to live busily.

Our identity does not lie in what we do (or do not do).

We are commanded a day of rest to truly rest in His presence. To be built up, to fight the enemy's lies with His words, to soak in His love and grace and freedom. T0 literally bask in His love for us. Not to sit in front of the computer or television screen. To rest in who He has made us to be.

The world will still go on if you slow down and enjoy life, choosing joy, living slowly. In actual fact, I have experienced it and the world exists as a place of beauty. (Shameless plug, visit my A Life of Joy category)

To the women called into a full time ministry: you cannot do it all. You cannot meet with everyone, you should not meet with everyone; in fact, you we are stealing someone else's chance to serve, love, minister. Take some time, look at your schedule, and pray about what to get rid of. Pray for ways to point people to other women. I have done this 2 times in the last week and it has been a gift to each woman involved. Find something you love, and make a day for it. For me, I love making our home. So I am finding a day of the week set apart to do solely homemaking things; and really seeing it as a priority. Rest in His presence. Every day, have those times of focus with Him. Cry in His presence, sing, dance, rejoice...be YOU.

>>To you women in ministry: I am carefully and prayerfully crafting a new series just for us.  My hope is that you would find encouragement in knowing you are not alone. That we can be honest and transparent and real, that we can love each other with honest vulnerability, and then go out and love our flocks.

I'm off to Canada to spend time praying and evaluating what Jesus has for me. I am discovering (over and over and over again) that selflessly denying my flesh is in the denying of my pride in trying to "do it all." It is saying no, no I cannot do that because I am incapable and I am human and I am fickle and weak. But He, He can do it. And He can do it through someone else.

Also. I already miss my church family and students and most of all my husband, so much. I am so much more a home body than I thought.

PS> on a side note, I seem to bounce between extremes of yes's and no's. If you relate, may I recommend a book? Books are great. Click on it to purchase.

 

Dinner Menu & Meal Planning & BUDGET

meal planning on a budget This is about as creative as we get for a week's dinner menu:

this weeks menu, gluten free this weeks menu, gluten free this weeks menu, gluten free

We encourage art in our family. I would bend over backwards for the little girl that drew those beautiful pieces of art. Can you see the transformation in her drawing? They are almost in the shape of a real human! Getting there, people. Marks of a true artist.

weekly dinner menu

Our allotted weekly budget for meals is $100. We usually spend around $80 but once in awhile a girl needs some cider and ice cream. And dairy free ice cream is $5 for a tiny little scoop.

Now that we are getting back into a routine, we are able to eat our weekly dose of fish. Because Mondays are usually a day off, we use them to make dinner together. We have this recipe engrained into our brains because, well, its delicious. The chicken chili and quinoa with zucchini and chicken sausage can be found here. The chicken chili was amazing, though I added some cayenne pepper. Neither Loren nor I were a huge fan of the slow cooked quinoa; it tasted a little bland.

I eat gluten free. I skip milk and cheese. I most definitely add half and half to my coffee, but that's about all this body can handle before it stops up like a dam. I find it a lot easier on my life and my wallet and my hopes and dreams to simply omit things. I have stopped trying to find substitutes for cheese and bread. To me, it isn't worth it. Cheese that is everything-delicious-free isn't good. Bread that isn't made with wheat is not fluffy and soft and like heaven in your mouth.

How Do We Eat On A Budget?

The answer: Meal plans.

They are wonderful whether you want to admit it or not. They organize your brain and your food, they provide a structure for grocery shopping, and guess what? If you don't get to the meal you had planned, hopefully you have eggs and bacon you can eat. Or cereal. Every Monday, as the start of our week, I make our dinner meal plans. Our lunches and breakfasts aren't so creative or exciting, as they remain the same quite often. >Breakfast Groceries for the week: -1 box cereal, Loren's choosing -5 dozen eggs (its only $7 for 5 dozen at winco) -1 pack bacon -Potatoes -1 gallon whole milk or almond milk

>Lunches Groceries for the week: -1 loaf bread -1 package sliced cheese (we do this because it normally lasts two weeks and the only time we use cheese is for Loren's sandwiches; it's easy and cheaper than a block. I recognize you get more per capita when you buy the block, but we don't need that much) -romaine lettuce (used for his sandwiches and my salad) -1 pack of sandwich meat, which also lasts about 2 weeks worth -2 cans of shredded chicken for my salads will last me a week

>Snacks for the week: -4 cliff bars for Loren -4 kind or lara bars for Nat -1 bag of chips, Loren's choosing -dried banana chips -applesauce squeezes from Trader Joes (4 for $2) -bananas -apples or pears -hard boiled eggs

>Dinners When we shop for dinners, I simply add to my list what I don't already have. If dinner is from a Pinterest recipe, I look it up and write down any ingredients needed. With our budget, we eat a lot of chicken and ground turkey, with 1-2 nights of red meat. So far this has worked really well! The way I plan our dinner menu is by sitting down, looking at the calendar each day, and discerning about how much time I will have to make dinner. Tuesdays need quick dinners- they are usually something easy like breakfast-for-dinner (brenner) or croc pot. Wednesdays are the same. Thursdays and Fridays I can usually alot a bit more time.

Eat out? Right. We use the jar system (see our budgeting here). We put $20/week to go eat out on a date or with friends. What usually happens is every other week, creating a $40 eat-out night. Really, eating out isn't a top priority for us. It may be different in your home!

There you have it, friends. That is how we budget and meal plan and stick to the menu. It takes about 15 minutes of planning every Monday + the normal grocery shopping. Totally worth it!

How do you meal plan and budget? Give us your tips!

Where We |Team Brenner| Began

marriage - how we met Some said we were crazy, others rooted us on. We hope to leave a legacy, that loves people to the Son.

See that patch of grass between the slide and the sidewalk? That's where we began. In all of its musty and moist glory.

Really, we began 5 days earlier while locking eyes from across the cafeteria which was bursting full of middle school students. I remember feeling the butterflies swarming my stomach as I quickly looked away. Did we just lock eyes? Oh my soul; it was throbbing.

August 15th was the day we first locked eyes.

The week prior to this day, I was serving in this same cafeteria. I was on dish duty and food-serving duty. This allowed ample free time through out each day. Free time that was filled with gut wrenching tears to Jesus on the most beautiful sand dune I'll ever know. My hearts prayer that week was to fall in line and fall in love with Jesus's heart for my life. I came to grips with the fact that I was forcing my own desires, out of the deep and very real fear that His desires were withholding greatness from me. As I read the book Captivating, for the second time, I allowed the message to sink it's teeth into my heart. I allowed the words to etch into my soul: you are the daughter of The King, and the type of man I have planned for you knows that. That man will treat you that way and see you with pure eyes of grace. And you will respect him because of the way he so selflessly serves you and loves you. You will love him selflessly. Listen to me, my child. What I have planned is more thrilling than what you dare to think you want.

As I gave those Truths permission to reside within my very soul, I began to let go of my pursuit of control. This, friends, isn't easy.

I sat on the top of that sand dune. If I peered behind me (east), I could see the entire camp. If I peered straight ahead (west), I faced the great Pacific Ocean. It's violent waves crashed before me, just a couple hundred feet away. Many moments were spent there with my bible and too much coffee. Repeatedly, I was given a picture.

The beaches of Camp Winema on the Oregon Coast

"Daughter. You can continue the pursuit of your own desires which are not mine, and you will serve me well through your life. You will love those around me and when you stand before my throne in Heaven, I will welcome you in. But. If you had handed your heart over wholly, to Me, pursued my desires for you...look at how much more blessed your life would have been."

Fast forward to Sunday the 14th, 2011: the start of my 2nd week serving at WINEMA, but this time as a counselor for the middle school camp.  The week of serving in the kitchen came to a close. To say my life had been crumbling to pieces the entire previous year is a big understatement. To say I was exhausted and running ragged is also an understatement. I was broken and poured out, ready for Heaven, and craving freedom I didn't know existed. It was one of those times you look back on and say, "wow...I made it."

Monday (8/15/11): the awkward eye locking moment happened.

My heart fluttered and I moved on, knowing that I wouldn't be dating anyone for "at least 3 years." That had to be the time frame to get myself back on track and ready to date, ready for a marriage that would glorify Him. I was certain. But this tall, clean shaven man was spiking my attention. There are a lot of details I am going to spare - details about the intimate pains of my heart, details about why my heart was in such a gaping raw state of being, details about so Many More Things. Details that piece this puzzle together perfectly, but details that will {for now} remain between me, my husband, my close ones, and Jesus Himself. Some things must remain sacred and held between the hearts of few.

Winema, Oregon Coast

Thursday the students were all in their classes, which created a free time for the counselors. I was standing in the basketball courts with two other counselors when this tall handsome man with the worn out corduroys walked up. Loren. I knew he was from BBC, because that seemed to be his only shirt selection. I knew he must not have too many pants, because he wore those hideous corduroys all week long. The butt was pretty worn in, but I wasn't about to hold it against him. We were at camp. I also knew that he was passionate about Jesus and about youth ministry; as I observed him through the week, it was evident in the way he carried himself and served those around him. The last thing I really knew, was that he liked to be goofy.

THE FIRST CONVERSATION The conversation in the basketball courts was revolving around our dreams and what we wanted to do with our puny insignificant lives. When Loren walked into the conversation, I decided to be so shy and yet so bold and ask him what he wanted to do with his life. With a swooping arm movement, he motioned and said, "this." Confused, I asked, "Camp Winema? You want to work here all your life?" His steady response was, "No; ministry. I want to serve people and tell them about Christ and His grace."

Right then and there my heart dropped and my mind said, "I want to marry you." Flushing red, I mumbled something awkward about needing to go to my cabin, turned and walked off towards the golf course. Which is the opposite direction of any cabins. My heart was pounding, I was embarrassed, for what I do not know. I felt so small, so unsure, so...attracted.

Winema, Oregon

The week was coming to a close. I had the honor of baptizing a beautiful soul, my very first baptism. What an honor that was! Before baptisms, one of my friends from Harrisburg said to me: "You're going to marry that man, you know." My response was to stare at her and ask, "What man?!" Because how could she possibly know I had my eyes on Loren and was at war within myself about waiting 3 years to date anyone. His name fell out of her mouth and I stood in awe. Was it that obvious?

Baptisms finished. There we stood, Loren and I, across from one another in a circle with people I had met that week. People that were planting a church in Corvallis. People I planned to begin living life with the day we returned to this beautiful city. To keep the details precious to my heart, I will simply say we ended up exchanging numbers. Remember that photo up at the top? That green patch of grass? That was the spot. We exchanged numbers, he was on his way back to Boise and I was on mine to Corvallis.

I went straight home to Corvallis, called my best friends Haley and Maggie. We met up for sushi and I told them I met the man I would someday marry. (see photo above).

I was more than ready to jump into this new life with Corvallis Church; it wasn't yet a church but it would soon launch. Over the next few weeks, Loren and I began sending letters to one another. Hand written letters. We started with writing about as far back as we could remember -- life at age 3? OSU classes began in September, I was finishing up my CNA class, and working 40-60 hours a week at the wonderful Park Place Assisted Living. I shared a bedroom with my best friend, now my sister in law. The month of September passed by with more hand written letters than either of us can count and one skype date because, well, we are shy and nervous and wanted to go at the right pace. What is the right pace anyways? If you look back into the archives of this blog, September through October of 2011 was a time of joy for me. A time of joy, pain, healing, and the adventure of a lifetime had began.

Little did I know, I would date a man long distance, and it would be the most pure and exciting dating relationship I had ever enjoyed. He would propose 8 months later.

Little did I know, we would be wed less than one year of meeting. (see our wedding here- the details & money)

Little did I know, I would lay down so many of my own pursuits in order to pursue a life much greater -- a life lived for, not myself, but for Jesus. And this man would join me! This life has proven to be 10,000 times greater than I could have wished.

Little did I know, I would grow in knowing who I am in the Lord, because of Loren's love of Christ.

Little did I know, we would baptize many in the name of Christ and start ministries from scratch...only by the power and strength of Jesus Christ would they be fruitful, remaining His and to Him be the glory.

I could go on and on. But I shall wait.

You know what? That vision the Lord kept giving me about pursuing His heart for my life rather than my own desires? He is so faithful. Within one month of giving my desires wholly over to Him, I had been more blessed than in my entire life {it felt}. Things like being given exact amounts of cash for unexpected medical bills; my transmission being swapped for a good one for free; observing healthy marriages and families; so many more THINGS. His desires are so much better than mine.  Over the last 3 years, He has proven that to me time and time again: He knows what is best and that isn't cliche.

He is so good. He is for you, not against you. He likes you, your humor or lack of, and your personality. He is not holding your faults over your head. He wants to grow you, mold you, shape you, transform you into Beauty, by His love for you. He knows how to orchestrate your daily life, if only you would submit your hearts to Him and lean into His will.

Transitioning our home to fall

I love fall. The last two falls, I covered our home in leaves and all sorts of goodness. This year, I decided to tone it back a notch and go for a more subtle transition. Residing in small living quarters, we don't need to change much to alter the atmosphere. Here are the very few ways we transitioned our home into fall:

For starters, I purchase Trader Joe's spiced apple cider. This is a must. I then pour a glass and sip it. I keep at least on half of these in our fridge at all times. That means, sometimes there is one full and one half. Never want to run out. True story.

apartment living: affordable fall decor

I love sticking something fun in the window to wave at the neighbors. I picked this lovely mini sunflower from the garden.

apartment living: affordable fall decorautumn decor

$3 bouquet at Trader Joe's bursting with fall colors. Brings the table together.

apartment living: affordable fall decortransitioning into fall decor

My younger sister bought me these lovely leaf place mats last year from Bed, Bath, and Byond. I stitched them together to make a table runner for the center of the table.

apartment living: affordable fall decortransitioning into fall decor - leaf table runner diy

Autumn sign- $6 at Jo Anne's.

transitiong into fall decor

Pumpkin Latte mason jar cande, $3 at Ross. Fills the air with deliciousness. Basket full of pumpkins and squash; $0.69/each at Trader Joe's.

apartment living: affordable fall decorwelcome table, autumb decortransitioning into fall decor

My spiced cider candle from last year sits next to a new buttered pumpkin candle from Ross, also $3. If you can't tell already, the aroma of candles is really what does the change. :)

apartment living: affordable fall decortransitioning into fall decor

And of course: perfectly colored silk flowers! Thank you, Kathleen.

apartment living: affordable fall decor

Can't have too many pumpkins and squash around.

falltransitioning into fall decor - in the bathroomtransitioning into fall decor Our neighbors - the Alstons - have the cutest set up! She filled basket full of those scented pine cones. I am going to do that come mid-october. It smells sooooo good!

transitioning into fall - front door decorfront door decor, scented cones

Our front door decor

transitioning into fall, welcome mat

Mini pumpkins - $0.69/each at Trader Joe's. Big pumpkin - $2.99 at TJ's. Tall wooden pumpkin- $4 at Jo Anne's.

Front door decor - transitiong to fall

 

How do you transition your home into fall? Happy Fall everyone!

#brennersgoyurting

Have you ever spent a week with a couple of older-than-you folks? Your relatives don't count. Neither do camping trips with your friends and their parents. Nor do I mean older by 5-8 years. I mean you {and your spouse if you have one} and a couple whose age states they have been walking this earth for more than 70 years. They have passed us by 50 years of life. If that isn't a blessing, a gift, a privilege...I don't know what is.

"Get all the advice and instruction you can,     so you will be wise the rest of your life." Proverbs 19:20

Loren and I were invited to go yurting with the Smiths for the first week of September. Their treat! And boy was it a treat. We shared the meal loads, we sipped afternoon tea together, and chugged coffee in the mornings. We roasted marshmallows, we ate chocolate, prayed, we ate, we read, we conversed, we played scrabble and runny cube. Was that the game? We hiked along the coast, we sat on the beach, we enjoyed blazing fires each night, and we learned about a man who built a mansion on the coast. We dreamed of the future, we dreamed of now, we cast visions and talked about what we love about life. What we should grow towards. Our hopes and aspirations. Mr. Smith very much encouraged us.

We asked for some wisdom and basically the key is: lean into Jesus, read His word and study it year after year. He will not fail us. He will always teach us more. He loves us deeply.

Did I mention the rose garden? Look at those colors!

rose garden collage, sunset bay, shore acres

Oh my friends, what a treat this was! After a jam-packed summer of go-go-go, this week was filled with rest and laughter. We filled our tanks up and gleaned wisdom from the Smiths. We will never forget this week. It was memorable because it will a gift given with such generosity at just the right time.

Yurting with the Smiths was refreshing. Sometimes I need to be forced out of cell-service and social media. The sense of peace that resided with us that week is unexplainable. I know it had a lot to do with our phones being off which meant our brains were able to fully rest while still awake, and enjoying things we love: reading, sitting, running, taking photos, praying... We spent a lot of time praying and reflecting. It was a week of humble-conviction for me, revealing the many ways I am messed up. BUT coupled with my messed-up-ness is the overwhelming love of Christ and reminder that He loved me before I messed up. He loved me before I did good and did bad. Overall, the week was refreshing for our souls.

Here is our week in Coos Bay, Oregon captured by my Canon:

the drive to coos bay

yurting at sunset bay, coos bay, oregon

the rose garden at shore acres the rose garden at shore acres the rose garden at shore acresred roses at shore acres in coos bayShore Acres, Coos Bay Shore Acres, Coos Bay Shore Acres, Coos Bay Shore Acres, Coos Bay Shore Acres, Coos Bay Shore Acres, Coos Bay Shore Acres, Coos BayShore Acres TENNIS COURTS! Shore Acres, Coos Bay Shore Acres, Coos Bay Shore Acres, Coos BayShore Acres, Coos Bay Shore Acres, Coos Bay Shore Acres, Coos Bay Shore Acres, Coos Bay

Did I mention we ran? It was absolutely gorgeous! Right along the coastline for 4 miles!

Running along the Oregon coast Running along the Oregon coast Running along the Oregon coastReading...boy did we read!

#brennersgoyurting #brennersgoyurting #brennersgoyurting

Did I mention the seal and bird and wave watching?

Seal watching in Coos Bay Seal watching in Coos Bay Seal watching in Coos Bay Seal watching in Coos BaySunset bay, Coos bay, Oregon Sunset bay, Coos bay, Oregon Sunset bay, Coos bay, Oregon

#totewell this camera bag has come on so many adventures!

Sunset bay, Coos bay, Oregon

We were blessed with rest and many nuggets of wisdom. Thank you, Smiths, for being a source of encouragement and His love.

Thirfting our home with applecrates!

Our wedding was all sorts of fun. But do you know what I loved? I was able to utilize most of our decorations in our home! Suitcase-Applecrate-Mirror Side Table

This one explains itself

Suitcase-Applecrate-Mirror Side TableSuitcase-Applecrate-Mirror Side Table

Apple crates used as DVD and VHS storage. Also used as a side table!

Old applecrates used as diy for the homeOld applecrates used as diy for the home

Old applecrates used as diy for the home

2 Applecrates nailed together, back to back, for a coffee table

It has awesome storage cubbies

applecrate coffee table applecrate coffee table applecrate coffee table

That's it for my apple-crate thrifts! None of them really match in color or size. Some are pretty beaten up. We used these in Our Wedding and are so lucky to have them in our home. They were free! We used to have one out back on the patio next to our chairs, but we needed to bring it in for more VHS storage. Because...VHS!

So You're Part of a Wedding? Here are ways to serve the Bride

ways to serve the bride when you're a bridesmaid OH WEDDINGS! I love them.

I have played a few parts in weddings:

  • Attendee
  • Bridesmaid
  • Wedding Coordinator
  • Bride

Each role has taught me something new.

wedding photos bridesmaid, bride, wedding coordinator

As an attendee, I show up and bask and revel in the glorious beauty that sits before me. I don't think twice {or even once} about the few people who poured countless hours into creating this beautiful time. You arrive, you soak in the magic aura of wonder, you drop a gift or card of cash into the allotted area, and you enjoy the show. You celebrate, you dance, you have some good eats. You are much needed because they need you there to witness and hold them accountable. To encourage them and reveal your support. To help them furnish their new home!

As a Bridesmaid, it is our job and duty to serve the Bride - help with projects and preparation. It is also our job to completely love and serve the Bride. To do whatever it takes to ensure a smooth wedding day. {Side note from my soap box: brides, you are not entitled to service and slaves. To expect and demand such really removes all the joy in serving and helping...see the love and sacrifice your girls are giving you, and thank them}.

As a Wedding Coordinator...your mind fills up full until it overflows into crazy eyes. I have done some difficult things in my life. Working 40-60 hours night shift + full time school resides in the top 5 most difficult...and I think Wedding Coordinating may be up there in the top 5. My eyes rolled into the back of my head afterwards. It was one of the most exciting, thrilling, rewarding, and mind-filling things I have ever done. It was a gift disguised in stress; but I learned so much and I was so deeply honored to play such a part of the couple's day. You are to know the bride & groom's brains: their dislikes and their likes, their non-negotiables. You are to answer questions, make decisions, keep the schedule, and ensure that the bride and groom have the best day of their life [so far]. It is quite the honor.

As the Bride... this is unexplainable. It is glorious and enriching, exciting and frightening. All of the years of dreaming of your wedding day landing into the same day {your wedding day} and happening is downright indescribable. Wedding week was possibly one of the best weeks of my life. We had all of our closest friends in town, surrounding us. We had an evening of worship, we went to a local concert, we sipped coffee, we ate a lot of meals together. In my memory, it was smooth sailing and great.

Pacific Northwest Wedding Photographer; based in Oregon

|| Let's talk about ways we can serve and love the Bride & Groom during wedding week and wedding day ||

>Once you've arrived for the official wedding week, make it clear to yourself and your Bride that you are there for her. You are there to serve and help her.

>Check in with your Bride/Groom consistently. Not too much, but an honest check in to be sure they are doing well.

>Surprise the Bride with a massage. Pay for and take her to a 1/2 hour to 1 hour massage up to 3 days before the wedding.

>Pay for the Bride's toes & nails. Bridesmaids can join their $ together and pay for her to have perfect toes and finger nails.

How to serve your bride during wedding week

>Ask the groom and his mother if they would like a moment together before ceremony; ask the bride and her father if they would like a moment together before the ceremony. If yes, provide a safe and intimate moment for them to exchange letters, pray for one another, shed a tear of joy and disbelief that you are old enough to be wed!

>Take the Bride & Groom's phones from them. This is because people constantly ask questions and are bombarding them with text messages. Even encouraging messages are brain consuming and overwhelming. It is loving to take their phone the full day before the wedding and keep it until they leave. They don't need to answer questions - that is what the bridesmaids and wedding coordinator is for. Her brain will literally melt straight through her eyes if we keep asking her questions as the Big Day approaches.

>Maids of Honor and Best Men: you are in this position for a reason. Hold your Bride and Groom accountable purity-wise, loving them, aggressively if need be, until the night of their wedding!

>The night before the wedding, bridesmaids gather and each pray over the bride and her marriage. Same for the groomsmen and groom. If you're into that sort of thing! You can also each share a piece of encouragement and call out the good in them that you see. I recently asked a Bride what blessed her groom and she said, "the fellowship time he and his men had the night before was helpful and encouraging to him."

praying over the bride

>Know what the Bride & Groom wants the wedding to feel like; this way when you are asked questions, you can answer confidently. Not having to ask the bride on wedding day or wedding day eve. Leading up to the Big Day, ask questions: What do you want noticed? The atmosphere? Non-negotiables? What will ruin your wedding if you do or don't have?

>If things go wrong, they Bride doesn't need to know about you. As a team who knows her, you can fix it. I assure you that by wedding week, her brain is mush. I cannot emphasize that enough.

>As the Bride is dreaming of the Big Day in the previous months leading up to it, help keep her sane and not buy a ton of things she doesn't need. If she makes a list of non-negotiables, keep to that list. Ask, "is that on your list or is it just one of those things on Pinterest that everyone says you must have?"

>Take the Bride on a shopping day earlier in the wedding week when her brain is still functioning at a somewhat normal level. This will be fun! Make sure all of the little wedding day and honeymoon essentials are purchased. Simple things like earrings, bobby pins, sewing kit, travel tooth paste, hair spray, make up, etc.

>For whoever is doing the rehearsal: Have a game plan. Walk over the rehearsal by yourself two times. Next, meet with the Bride & Groom about an hour before the rehearsal actually begins. Walk them through what you have and let them know that they have the authority to change any of it. Their brains are melted by this point, so it is loving to take charge. Once it is hashed out exactly how they want it, you are ready to bring in the Bridesmaids and Groomsmen. You can do this so quickly. Start off by explaining you already have everything hashed out, the decisions have been made, and now you will simply walk through it.

Place each person where they will be standing during the ceremony. Then have them exit. Then start from the beginning, walking up the aisle, they know where to stand, and then they walk back out. Done. Practice twice and you are good to go!

>If it rains {and its an outside wedding} have a plan. Don't make or ask the Bride to have a plan. You make one, and pitch it to her in a controlled voice, and she will find comfort in your stability.

what do you do when it rains on your wedding day?

>Make one last date for the Bride and Groom. Possibly a breakfast or afternoon.

>Help organize their new living quarters week of, so when they return home, it is all ready!

>Coffee. Always coffee. It is so fun to have  them write on the cups too!

coffee for the bride

>Cooking the meals to relieve any pressure

>Be sure the honeymoon bags are already packed in the getaway car before the ceremony begins. Send off can be smooth and easy.

All around, your heart is to serve and love and spoil them. Knowing what each individual loves, "pull out all the tricks," as Haley says. Wedding week can be such a blast of serving two beautiful individuals who are coming together as one by the end of the week. Your sacrifice will be such a gift to them.

What other ways can we help serve the bride and groom?

wedding Collage; oregon photographer

 I had the honor capturing just a few photos from the wedding day. I hope you'll stick around to check them out!

Thrifty Nifty Thursday

Thrifty Nifty's from the summer, brought to you by yours truly! DIY frame jewelry holder- $0

--> I have about 1 million empty frames so I chose this one, painted it red with gold glitter trim, found some nails and wire

Jewelry holder DIY

Jewelry holder DIY

Wooden Coffee Mug Holder- $2.99

--> We currently have a roommate and are learning how much stuff we have! In order to create more space, we decided to search for a new way to store our mugs. We found this little beauty, all wobbly and nearly broken, at Goodwill. We purchased it, spray painted black it with some paint we already had, and Loren replaced the screws in the nobs. We already had materials necessary! It hangs above our kitchen sink. I am in search for a second.

coffee mug holder; wooden

Shelf for vases- $8

Our roommate helped us out by purchasing and putting together this nifty little storage shelf for all of our glass vases. I love vases and mugs a little too much.. this storage shelf above our coat closet in the front entry way stores them so delightfully, I must say. He and his lovely lady purchased the materials at the Habitat Humanity Restore. All under $10!

 

Storage shelf, diy

Storage shelf, diy

Storage shelf, diy

Mini ceramic vase- $1

Found at the Cat's Meow downtown Corvallis on 3rd street.

mini vase

That's it for my summer finds.

Celebrating Our #AnniversaryInSisters

Here we are.We have lived through two very exciting and adventurous years of marriage and are entering our third. If you haven't checked out our post about what we learned together in our first two years, read that here.

You guys. I can't even begin to tell you how much I enjoyed our celebration of marriage. We had one full amazing day of rest and joy and adventure.

celebrating our #anniversaryinsisters

Our spot has become this precious town of Sisters, OR. It is officially our spot because we have stayed here in this city 4 times in 2 years. Thank you Groupon, we forever love you.

I cannot tell you the smiles I have to be sandwiched between two camps. Last week we were hired by TMC to be their speaker for middle school camp. That was an honor and a half and I'm basically downright thankful. Thank you TMC! There we met many humans: young adults, old adults, and tons of wild middle schoolers. We were able to root on these students in Clue, The Forbidden Garden (what?), and other random things they enjoyed like..paintball. It was great. I heard so many stories from so many kids and let me tell you: WE LIVE IN A BROKEN AND MESSY WORLD. A world of hurt and abuse and neglect and way too much stabbing pain. But our God is bigger and no matter what the damage inflicted upon you, He has overcome. He is ready, arms open wide, for you. Yes. You. It's wonderful. So, camp - it was great and I was honored to be Team Brenner partnering with Team TMC.

Currently, we are at Camp Winema. Partnering with a number of other youth ministries and it is AWESOME. Basically, we love camp and we love loving middle school kids. They are often struggling with the darkest of days and don't even realize that ITS OKAY TO CRY. So many conversations telling kids it's okay to Feel Life. I mean wow, what are we doing that kids don't realize its okay to grieve her mothers death? Whole different post...I need to process life.

I was blessed to celebrate our marriage and anniversary between the two camps. It felt kind of right. Like, yes, this is our life.

All of the staff at the lodge we stayed at kept asking if we were on our honeymoon, because we "just seem so in love." Well my dear friends, we are "just so in love." We are IN THE LOVE and we are CHOOSING to be in the love. Plus we are newlyweds still. It's not everyday we access this beautifulness, but when our hearts are soft and selfless, submissive to what Jesus wants, well...life is great. Marriage is LOVE. Brenners are FRESHLY SQUEEZED OFF THE LOVE TREE because caps are big and important and leave an exclamation point.

Just keeping it real, kids. We are fresh in love and hoping to remain on our honeymoon for many years. Can we bypass the rough year 7? I know, I know, throw in some newborns and then we will see how "fresh in love" we are.

Anyways. We were so blessed. The lodge we stayed at has free cruiser bike rentals, mountain bikes, trails everywhere, access to the athletic club, free wine & beer reception every night, cheap $5 movies in the barn theater, and basically it's the most beautiful place ever and we just did not have time to soak in all the amenities, but that's okay. Last year we rode horses, this year we rode bikes. You could call us two young kids in love, which is what we are, kicking it poolside reading. We dressed up fancy because why not? We worked out for free because we could. I was even sore - don't tell me how out of shape I am, I already know this. We read and we slept and we disconnected and life was so good. It was a quick stay but jam packed full of laughing and smiles and rest and celebration and dreaming. I must love the word "and" and hate commas.

#anniversaryinsisters

#anniversaryinsisters #anniversaryinsisters

Do you know what's so great about these little mini vaca's? For the most part, you can pull yourself up and out of reality to dream. At lunch, we talked about future-y things and different ways we hope to impact the world we live in. We dreamed big things that may never happen but we wont count impossible. I encourage you to do that, soul. It's good.

#anniversaryinsisters #anniversaryinsisters #anniversaryinsisters #anniversaryinsisters #anniversaryinsisters

Something else we enjoy doing is writing letters to our future teenagers. We did it on our honeymoon while camping out in the Red Woods. We write to them saying that we do in fact want their life, that we in fact do not hate or want bad for them, but that we desperately want them to fall in love with Jesus. We are in this stage of shadowing other parents who seem to have "done something right," because their kids adore them and tell them everything. So I ask lots of questions because, well they are humans with experiences and they are standing right before my eyes and why would I not ask questions? You want to know what they have said their secret is? "Love your kids like Jesus. Point your kids to Jesus. Be transparent and real."

I will forever love his laughter

#anniversaryinsisters

we love us some chess

Bookstores are just our favorite and we got to ride some cruiser bikes around town. I was so in love with life I couldn't stop smiling:

celebrating our #anniversaryinsisters

celebrating our #anniversaryinsisters

celebrating our #anniversaryinsisters

#anniversaryinsisters #anniversaryinsisters #anniversaryinsisters   #anniversaryinsisters

"Madness.. If I don't write, I'll go mad"

celebrating our #anniversaryinsisters

#anniversaryinsisters #anniversaryinsisters #anniversaryinsisters #anniversaryinsisters

#anniversaryinsisters

Biggest horchata ever

celebrating our #anniversaryinsisters

always yes to COFFEE

 

celebrating our #anniversaryinsisters

We write 6 month goals (one of ours was to complete another race, half marathon or bigger); 12 month goals (one was to go backpacking 1x); and 5 year goals (one was to have our second car by 2019).

I cherish our marriage, I adore our friendship, and I hope you'll stay around awhile to learn, grow, and be inspire with us. We love life!

What We've Learned in 2 Years of Marriage - couldn't have done it without you -

IMG_4732 I remember the moment I realized I was married. It went a little something like this:

Loren & I were bickering like cats and dogs and that was abnormal. We had just come off a long two weeks of go-go-go and something little had set us off. One of those moments where one of us was very right, we both knew it, but both wanted to be right. The pride was thick, the frustration fuming, and we were blazing tired. It's too easy to be selfish and irritable when these things are mixed in a pot of together-ness.

I remember throwing my towel in annoyed, "whatever, if that's how it's going to be, fine." And stomped off to the bedroom like a 12 year old angry at my mother. I couldn't leave home like I once watched; I couldn't punch a hole in the wall like my younger days; I couldn't scream and bang my fist into the pillow like an angry 5 year old. I was quite dramatic in my younger days, I am now never dramatic or expressive. I was flustered that we weren't talking to one another like usual, and instead just being hard hearted jerks.

I remember sitting on our bed, knowing I needed to pray and ask Jesus to soften both of our hearts; but I didn't want to - that's when I know my heart is real hard and real self-centered. The wrestling in my mind began and it hit me: "no matter how frustrating he can be, how hurtful, how childish, I am married to him. No matter how ridiculous and bratty and prideful I can be...he married me. There is no walking out and leaving for anytime whatsoever. There is no end; this is just the beginning and this isn't even a big deal. I don't want to dig deep wells of hurt within him. Danget Jesus, would you just soften our hearts?" And I meant it; the wave of softened rawness flushed over me. The raw vulnerability that is scary, because if his heart isn't yet softened, I could be wounded deeper than before.

But it was worth the softening. It's always worth it.

Within 10 minutes of the start of our pathetic rage, we were both apologizing for specific things and asking forgiveness. We prayed together and went on a long boarding date walk to Red Box. All is well and we obviously haven't bickered one time since.

But really, we are blessed to say those times of irritable angry pride where we are big fat jerks to each other are very few. We are happy to say, "our first year and our second didn't suck, but were in fact the two most adventurous and beautiful years of our lives." And we couldn't have done it without the other - we need two willing parties, two people chasing the same Thing (Jesus), two always cooperative human beings. We could not have done this without the other - we could not have fought and bickered without the other OR enjoyed and celebrated life together without the other.

If there is one thing I'm learning time and time again, it's this:

When all else fails, humble myself.

Or better yet:

Before all else fails, humble myself.

I am learning that humility is at the core of a strong and healthy marriage. Humility says, "Your heart is way more important than my need to be right or proven." Humility says, "I will not build walls around my heart to keep you from growing closer to me. I will not throw swords and daggers at you. I will not protect myself at the expense of you or our closeness. I will work to remain soft hearted, open hearted, and welcoming to you. I will think of you before myself. I will serve you and love you and share myself with you at the risk of being hurt." Humility is difficult and scary. Humility is a risk.

Humility will build and strengthen your marriage.

I have learned these two quick years that humility along with [spiritual] friendship are the two most knitting things for our hearts.

The Reveal: Wedding Day It is in the fore front of my mind that we are uniquely placed in each others life to spur one another on in greatness. We are here to uniquely build each other up, helping to mold the other more into the image of Christ. What that means in every day life is: we pray together in the morning, submitting our hearts to Jesus and asking Him to be in charge; we bring up different ways we can serve the community and this church as a couple; we are completely un-incredible and full of failures all day long [WE ARE HOT MESSES] and we have the number one opportunity to extend unlimited grace to one another {just as Christ does, as our example}; we work to yield toward each other, giving and taking, always finding ways to serve and humbly accepting the others acts of service; we smile at each other a lot -- Loren is so much better than me at this! He is always smiling at me, reminding me to serve him with something as simple as my smile.

You guys. We are so un-awesome. We are such a mess. But we both try and remember that the goal is not to have some one here to make ME happy, to be perfect for ME, so I can live MY life. The goal is to sharpen each other and join Jesus in preparing one another for seeing Him someday. The goal is to serve in humility, to bless others with our marriage, to model Jesus.

The goal is not our happiness.

But I tell you what: happiness and deep joy is the direct result of all of Those Things. Joy is evident and it is very, very real. Spiritual friendship brings more than a beautiful joy, but ushers in a deep richness to our marriage.

I am forever grateful for His spirit that is within me and Loren both, giving us the power and strength to love through the ugly hot mess of one another. To humble ourselves when pride seems easiest. To soften those hard hearts.

 

Friends who are married: Remind each other how special it is to be married. Kiss each other goodbye and hello. Pray together. Pray together. Pray together. Dream together. Serve each other. Remember that you're not there to be made happy, but to grow and flourish into your fullness. And you cannot do that without your spouse. And before all else fails, humble yourself.

With so much love and 17 tons of joy, Team Brenner

 

Celebrate Your Spouse.

I have discovered the key to being excited for your spouse's birthday:

plan it. celebrate it. celebrate your spouse.

Study him, know what he is wanting or needing. Ask him for a list if you need to. Take notes. Literally, write down anything he says he likes or loves doing and plan to do this on the day to celebrate him! I now have 3 things in mind to purchase over the months for Christmas. Which leads to my next helping idea: order or purchase his gifts ahead of time.  I ordered some of Lorens gifts months before his birthday, and I could not wait for his day to come! I was antsy to celebrate his amazingness and remind him of my precious adoration for his soul.

Loren's love language is gifts. This was a perfect opportunity to cover him with love. It required time, but is well worth it, friends. Even if it's late at night, pouring time and energy into your marriage keeps it kickin.

I wrapped Loren's presents with paper bags from Trader Joes and in the corner of each gift, I wrote a small note. On the bottom of the package, I wrote the order to be given; example: 2a, 2b, 2c. I had a plan, you see. I had been purchasing these gifts over the last few months so I could spread it all out and give him a cavity (because I am so sweet, you see) by filling up his love tank. He is always cherishing me and honoring me, it was my turn to go all out. {Though, there shouldn't be turns..we should just do it, as nike says}.

Gift for husband

Lucky for me, we had guests in our home the night before who were up at 5 am. So I was able to easily wake up and get out of bed by 6 am to begin the day #celebrateLoren. I set his first present on the bed and headed to the kitchen to begin making his favorite breakfast!

Celebrating your spouses birthdayCelebrating your spouses birthday Celebrating your spouses birthday  Celebrating your spouses birthday

Celebrating your spouses birthday

I sure did sing to him. It may have been in crazy voices, because he is crazy, but I sang alright. My awkward embarrassment was worth his smile.

celebrating husbands birthday

After he ate breakfast, I gave him present 2a, 2b, 2c, 2d! It was essential to begin our day right.

celebrate your spouse

celebrate your spouse

celebrate your spouse

celebrate your spouse

celebrate your spouse

IMG_0255 celebrate your spouse celebrate your spouse

After we enjoyed the smoothest coffee of our lives, we did the normal morning routine of brushing our teeth and combing our hair like good boys and girls. Loren had a morning of preaching ahead of him, so I picked out some Psalms to read and prayed over him. What a sweet morning it was.

celebrate your spouse

He then preached and I loved every bit of it, as I usually do. He did his part two on the book of Philemon. He focused on forgiveness and how coming home to Christ is forgiving and being forgiven. My two favorite nuggets:

[If forgiveness pulls us closer to God, lack of forgiveness pushes us away from God.] [Your willingness to forgive may bring someone closer to Christ.]

You can hopefully find it HERE. He preached 7/13/14 Re:United.

celebrate your spouse

because, who doesnt love baby feet?

We had some special guests visit our church: the Conners! One of our youth students and her parents came. Claire made Loren this beautiful gift:

home made mug

home made mug

The World Cup happened to be after church; naturally the best way to love Loren was to go to Cloud & Kelley's Pub.  World Cup commence.

The World Cup ends, we go home and literally take a 2 hour nap. Preaching wipes him out, as it does any pastor. And me? I am always exhausted on Sundays. I could sleep for 17 hours straight at any given moment.

We then put on some beautiful music, sipped coffee, and read. Because those are his favorite things.

celebrate your spousecelebrate your spouse

Guess what? The Timbers were playing the Sounders, and because we don't have internet or any sort of television, we needed to go to the Pub again! Our soccer hang out. So out we went, sitting in the same seat as earlier and being served by the same wonderful waitress. It was joy and like going home. Almost. Also, I had to equip him for this game.

celebrating my spouse

I know, I know, you can't see it - well you can see a corner of it. I got him his very first Portland Timbers t shirt! He is now a real fan: sticking with them through their losing season and sporting their name.

Loren amazes me. He complains about nothing, he works hard, he is a man of integrity. He holds onto God's word tightly with confidence. He supports me in all that I do and am. He reminds me that life is an adventure and we get to live it together. God has used him in many ways to sharpen me into a better human, and for that, I am grateful to Jesus. Our adventures together have been the best this far; full of lots of prayers and tears and growing pains, and lots of joy and laughter and great memories made. I can only look into the future with hope and excitement.

I am so thankful for a spouse who wants to know me and love me. He wants to serve me even when I'm an outright brat. And hey, vice versa. Neither of us are angels by any means. I'm grateful for a man wise enough to end the day with prayer and loving enough to ask forgiveness. He is more godly than I dreamed possible at such a young age...so Jesus, to you I salute. To you, I thank. Ya done good.

- - -

What I learned from this day was the immense gratitude Loren feels when I choose to celebrate him. When I showed my care and love for him by planning out his day and purchasing gifts we wouldn't otherwise purchase, he was over joyed. He knew I loved him. He was celebrated and valued. Even if it means saving a little money each month, do it, friend. Discipline yourself and celebrate your spouse -- I have a jar that I put $5 in every paycheck. When I can, I put $10. It may not be much, but it adds up when you are wanting to love someone with their love language of gifts!

Remind your spouse why you value him/her.

Celebrate your spouse. Because they are worth celebrating.

And when all else fails, watch Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

Why Youth Pastors ROCK [& are my heroes]

I love being married to a man who loves Jesus. As a result of this love for Jesus he loves human beings, because well its what we do and who we are. He has the honor of serving as a pastor of sorts here in Corvallis, and one of the areas he focuses his heart on: YOUTH. STUDENTS. Middle & High School kids. Only the best of humans going through some of the toughest of times. Sometimes we are told how amazing we are because we "spend all that time with such horrific-aged, immature humans." What I say to that is, "You are missing out, if that is truly how you view them. We are the lucky ones to spend time with them." Some of these kids have wisdom many adults don't. Some of these kids sacrifice more for the Kingdom than some 22 0r 50 year olds. {If you want some real stories, email me and I'll gladly fill you in!} These kids teach me something new every single Tuesday evening at Youth Group. To view them as horrible, to write them off as completely and only immature, and to treat them poorly, is to do yourself [and them] a disservice. These kids are amazing.

These kids were created in the image of the Creator.

These kids are this generation, and the next.

Just saying, folks, I love these kids. I know a lot of you do too.

Claire

Corvallis Church Youth Group  #ccengage

Corvallis Church Youth Group  #ccengage

Though these kids truly bring me closer to Jesus, they are still teenage humans learning simple etiquettes. {So are some people my age, for that matter}. I mean things like, keeping their lips glued together while someone else talks.

As a ministry wife and a leader myself, I am here to write a letter to all of you Youth Pastors {because I am partial to you} who are serving these students selflessly, as a response to a calling. Serving them because there is not much in it for you. Except of course, deep satisfaction & joy in giving yourself up.

Youth Pastors, here are 10 reasons you are my heroes:

1. Contrary to popular belief, you have immense self-control. At first glance, flailing your arms and letting out loud noises, you seem to be very much lacking in the self-control department. However, after observing for years, I have come to realize how incredibly self-controlled you are -  example: you have students constantly throwing things at you even though you politely and ever so gently asked them not to. I have seen your self-control in withholding an outrage when asking a student for the gazillionth time to not talk during the short 10-15 minutes of your lesson. The lesson you prepared for all day long, praying through, and spending your heart's love preparing. You know, that lesson that seems to go in one ear and out the other? It doesn't. That lesson or message or whatever you call it - I applaud you for standing up there, week after week, bearing your soul when it feels as though no one is caring for it. You put your heart out there and are interrupted time and time again, and you never hit anyone. You don't storm out yelling. You politely wait for them to quiet themselves. You are so self-controlled. I stand in applause, truly.

Well done.

2. You are some of the most confident human beings I know. Not confident in an arrogant way; nope. In fact, you are anything but arrogant because you know that you could not possibly do this job on your own strength. You are some of the most humble humans I have ever met. You are confident in the calling Jesus has placed on your heart and you are confident in the message He has laid upon you to share. I know this because, remember up above when we talked through the interruption stage of every youth group evening? Or the evenings when the kids are so sun-beat that they are snoring through the entire thing?  If you weren't confident in who you are in Christ, you would melt of despair every time you were interrupted or your audience seemed to be dying from boredom. You would stand there with a shaky and nervous voice, ready to crack at any moment. You might even, and probably do, cry yourself to sleep. But instead, you move on in your message. You nod and you move on with confidence, knowing that Christ has your back and He loves those kids and so do you. It's all going to work out and He will settle whatever needs to be settled within their hearts.

You inspire me.

Corvallis Church Youth Group  #ccengage

3. You are selfless. Man do you give of yourself. You give so much time praying for the kids that show up to youth group every week - but you also spend time praying for the kids who only showed up once, and the kids who stopped coming once they entered high school. You pray and you pray and you spend more time praying for them, because that is the best thing you can do for them. Friend, those prayers are not in vain. You spend so much time preparing that lesson (there's that lesson again) to share more of Jesus' heart for them; you think and pray through the best possible deliverance methods and great analogies and stories. You deny evenings with your friends and/or family to take kids to Fro-Yo, on a bike ride, or scale up a mountain. {This is not to say you neglect your family; I am simply saying you spend numbers of evenings with kids. Whatever is healthy for you. A whole different blog post, because let's be honest: you tend to stretch yourself too thin, bearing the weight of every student}. You're selfless with your time because you know that spending any time with any one kid is investing in forever. You know that it is worth it, even if all you do is hike up a hill silently praying. Because, it is worth it when they know they are worth someones time.

You move me.

4. Did you say night out with the friends? What friends?. Some days you wake up and you wonder what it would be like if you had friends. You miss the old college days where all you did was study and eat frozen corn dogs and wrestle your roommates to the ground. The days you stayed up until 3 am playing video games or going to Taco Bell or sitting at Shari's with a bunch of friends. Some days you feel like friendship was a facade and you get confused with what is ministry and what isn't. Some days you aren't sure you have the capacity to even be a friend. I am not saying this is healthy - I am making an observation. Some times life is lonely. But do you know what I am learning? Every one tends to be lonely. I also am learning that you have permission to have friends. Not just a be a friend, but have one or two of them. Real friends - the ones you are completely vulnerable with, even though you feel ugly at your most transparent state. Let's be honest - we are all ugly at some point because we aren't in Heaven yet. Remind yourself to release the pressure of perfection and allow yourself a friend. A true and valuable friend will love you through it and help you process it all, pointing you to His Truths. You can be that friend to your friend. You need a friend, even if that friend lives far away from you. Skype and Facetime were created for a reason.

Dont just be a friend, have a friend.

5. You are not in this for the money. I feel like that statement speaks volumes in itself.

You encourage me to live for eternity more than temporary.

Flowers outside of the building
Flowers outside of the building

6.Your love runs deep. Contrary to what it may appear, your love runs deep and it is strong. It is that of the Father's. You seem all goofy and comedic, which you are those things, but you are also a deeply moved human being. You also feel all of the feelings, you cry tears of joy and of pain, of thanksgiving and of mourning. Your prayers for those precious lives dig deep wells into your very own soul. You invest your very own life into them, creating this massive weight of Love within yourself. It is only by God's grace that you are able to do this, and it happens without you realizing it is happening. But, once they decide to stop coming or tell you their hurting stories, you realize the depth of your love for them; your very own eyes well with tears and your heart feels their pain. Your compassion is basically tangible and it is more beautiful than a sunrise, and like I said: it is from the heart of the Father.

You are beautiful.

7. You are so patient. Too often, it may be an hour [or maybe two?] before a parent finally calls to let you know they forgot their kid and need you to take their kid across town. Instead of blowing a fuse and telling them off, because you need sleep & food and may have a family too, you kindly take their kid home. You do this without complaining or making the student feel like a burden, because it isn't their fault. And honestly, you love the kid and don't need to put that weight on him/her. The poor kid has enough going on if the parent can't remember where he is. You are beyond patient and practice grace in ways I cannot explain. You give grace when the world would tell you not to - and that is why you amaze me.

You are so full of and flowing over Jesus.

8. You get excited over everything; even if its nothing. Because there is no such thing as "nothing." Everything is something to get excited over - like pet mini-pigs, new guitar amps, and winning football games. Like new nail polish and a new pair of shoes, a brand new bike, and even a kid choosing to take his brother to the Aquatic Center. Inviting some one to play video games for the first time is a big deal and boy are we ready to applaud and celebrate this huge new step. You are excited and everything that falls out of their mouths is exciting and you celebrate with them. Even if what you're celebrating is nothing in line of what you have ever thought to enjoy, but because of them, this thing is now the coolest thing.

You give me hope.

Corvallis Church Youth Group  #ccengage

9. You are grieved over things; especially when it's real. Yes, you are bummed when they didn't win the Talent Show or their basketball game. You remind them they are worth more. But you are also given weights that are not so easy to hand back to Jesus, weights that make your heart feel in ways you didn't know possible - like when a student comes to you weeping that their fairy-tale family is splitting up. Or when your students are picked on for being followers of Jesus. Or when they tell a story of deep abuse. Or when their friends are suicidal and they are coming to you for prayer and advice. Or when they mess up sexually and carry unnecessary shame. You feel their pain and you are the one they often come to when they need to navigate through tough situations. You are often the one they come to when their world seems to be falling apart and they are facing the feeling of "failture."

You are heroic.

10. You are priceless. Though you get paid enough to just barely make it, you are priceless. Odd how this world works. You are my heroes, Youth Pastors. I pray for the few of you that I know, I pray that you would be reminded once again how valuable you are. It's not because you're a Youth Pastor, but simply because you're the beloved child of God. We're all a bunch of messed up mis-fits that don't fit the criteria; except the fact that we are willing. Did you forget the good news? The good news is that He has invited you into His freedom and you can walk in His light-hearted joy, wearing peace on your feet. He is King - I wasn't sure if you needed that reminder. Sometimes I do. You change lives. Whether it is the students, their siblings, their friends, or even their extended families...you are changing lives. You know who else is affected? Those watching you: your parents, your siblings, your elders, and your coworkers (if you are bi-vocational like us!). Did you know that I have passed along many truths given to me by a few of my own youth pastors? Truths I learned in 6th grade - thank you, Alan. You reach far, Youth Pastors - your work is not in vain, it spreads through generations. We have had many people let us know the way we have changed their life, as we serve students. To me, it is a humbling surprise and blesses me every time. But it is proof that your ministry stretches further than you would ever plan or expect or comprehend. It is a reminder that you are changing more lives than the number before your eyes.

We haven't even mentioned the creativity this position demands. I mean snacks, games, lessons, analogies, "keeping it real." I would crumble under the pressure of creating fun and exciting and new games every week.

Not only do you have all of these kids on your heart, but your Youth Leaders. You are there to lead and serve them as well. That's a whole other post, friends. But just know, God knows. He notices the time and energy and prayers that go into your work. He holds your heart and He will carry these burdens.

To Youth Pastors all around: the work you do is hard work. It is heavy and it is emotional. It is light and it is joyful. It is so many things at such extremes.

It is all for Jesus.

And I am here to applaud you to keep running the race. To keep pursuing Jesus every day. You are changing many lives. You are glorifying Jesus Christ and bringing His Kingdom to this earth with the very breath in your lungs.

You are worth His blood, you are valuable, and you are holy. Not because you rock as a Youth Pastor or anything else. Simply because you have chosen the road that is narrow and few.

"Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do and it gave Him great pleasure."

You may not be a Youth Pastor - maybe a Leader who just as selflessly chooses to serve these same kids. You may be the Pastor's wife whose heart is just as much "in," and you may spend just as much time and energy and sacrifice, digging wells within your heart just as deep. Whatever you "do" for the Kingdom, you are changing lives. You are loved, you are value, you are worth the blood of Christ only because the Father said so. You are all of those things before you were born, so nothing you have done or haven't done will earn your way into His delight. You have already been brought to that place by His grace.

Brother. Sister. You amaze me. You are my hero.

Well done. Keep running this race, by His grace.

Corvallis Church Youth Group  #ccengage

Corvallis Church Youth Group  #ccengage Corvallis Church Youth Group  #ccengage

Corvallis Church Youth Group  #ccengage

Corvallis Church Youth Group  #ccengage

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Corvallis Church Youth Group  #ccengage

Corvallis Church Youth Group  #ccengage

Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.

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Our 4th of July Weekend {a photo-journal story}

For the first time in my life, I didn't enjoy fireworks on the 4th of July. I wasn't in the city, eating elephant ears {which are not made from elephant's ears} or stealing candy from little kids during a parade with big fire trucks. For the first time since moving here, Loren didn't have to work on the fourth. It was a different sort of 4th of July; but it was great.

We traveled the 3 and a half hours to Lake Wikiup {near Sunriver, OR}. We set up camp and spent a lot of time laughing at and with our baby niece Elsy. She is almst 13 months! I can hardly believe it. Emily and Anthony have become some of Loren & my best friends. They also happen to be our siblings. Do you know what a joy it is to be best friends with your sisters and brothers? To share the same core-beliefs and encourage each other closer to Christ simply by being in close relationship? Jesus unifies powerfully as we are connected by Something so much bigger than ourselves. So cool. Such a gift.

We fished, we laid by the lake, we went in the lake, we had Angry Orchards, we ate literally tons of great food, we were dusty, and we talked about Jesus. We played Rook - have you played Rook? It's great. Also. We witnessed the BEST parade EVER! There were signs all over the campground saying there would be a parade at 7 pm, face paintings at 6:30. You could say we were well pleased.

There was so much yummy-ness: the creation surrounding us, the baby's laughter, the conversations had, the everything. Check out all of the beauty Jesus gifted us with in a photo-journalist layout:

Lake Wikiup Camping

Lake Wikiup Camping

Lake Wikiup Camping

She is intrigued by his beard

Lake Wikiup Camping

Lake Wikiup Camping

Lake Wikiup Camping  Lake Wikiup Camping

Lake Wikiup Camping

Lake Wikiup Camping

Lake Wikiup Camping

Lake Wikiup Camping Lake Wikiup Camping Lake Wikiup Camping

Lake Wikiup Camping Lake Wikiup Camping

Lake Wikiup Camping

Lake Wikiup Camping

Lake Wikiup Camping

Lake Wikiup Camping

Lake Wikiup Camping Lake Wikiup Camping Lake Wikiup Camping

Lake Wikiup Camping Lake Wikiup Camping Lake Wikiup Camping

Lake Wikiup Camping Lake Wikiup Camping Lake Wikiup Camping Lake Wikiup Camping

Lake Wikiup Camping Lake Wikiup Camping

My brother caught the only fish - but I'll tell you what, fishing casting is one of my favorite things to do.

Lake Wikiup Camping

Elsy helping Uncle Loren prep his sermon.

Lake Wikiup Camping

And now for the legendary parade:

Lake Wikiup Camping 4th of July parade

Lake Wikiup Camping 4th of July parade

One excited 1 year old.

Lake Wikiup Camping 4th of July parade

Lake Wikiup Camping 4th of July parade

Lake Wikiup Camping 4th of July parade

Lake Wikiup Camping 4th of July parade

Lake Wikiup Camping 4th of July parade

Lake Wikiup Camping 4th of July parade

The last two..laggers.

Lake Wikiup Camping Family photo

Lake Wikiup Camping 4th of July parade Lake Wikiup Camping 4th of July parade

You could say this weekend was legendary and I will never forget it. There were many moments that I looked up to the great beautiful sky to thank my Father in heaven who blessed by deeply by providing a time away, unplugged from the world, rest with friends/family, and my beloved husband. I feel refreshed and ready for the week, day by day.

I feel a possible tradition forming.

This was my goodbye to the sweet girl who holds part of my heart.

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Thank you, friends, for supporting my business!

I have been so overwhelmed with the love and support of so many as I venture into putting more time and energy into my Birth Care business. Though I have served during a number of births and taken newborn photos, I wasn't allowing myself to deeply run with this dream as a full on business, out of fear. I was allowing myself to use my gifts in this way when it was offered, but out of fear I and uncertainty of the future, I hesitated to build a full on business. As friends have shared my new website and written loving words about me, my heart has been deeply encouraged. Not in an arrogant way; in an extremely humbling and deeply moved sort of way. It is as though Jesus, through His beloved children, is whispering sweet nothings to my soul and reminding me what I'm always reminding others: You can do this, by My strength. You are more. You have many who love & support you. I have your back. Oh the sweetness of knowing He has my back.

As I have been praying over the months about launching a website and putting myself out there, I have had many debates with myself & God.

"But what if I begin to grow the work-aholic syndrome?" "But will I be able to actually supplement our income?" "What if I can't serve each mother so well that I was worth their investment?" "What if I let people down." "What if I step on other photographers & doulas toes?"

And the fears go on, because there are always reasons to fear. But the persistent Voice remains: "Child. [Natalie.] I am with you. I have gifted you. I have given you a fiery passion and desire, a love for these things. Do not fear, do not fear man and do not fear self. And really, you already fight these things, and we will continue to work through them. Lean into me, let me do the loving and the serving. Let me do the providing. I am with you."

So I did it. I spent hours building a website, praying for the right amount of professionalism mixed with welcoming-personal-ness. I prayed through it, I feared going into the unknown of putting myself out there, and then I trusted.

And I am so glad.

I am thankful to pursue my passion and love for supporting and serving expectant parents and babies. I love babies. I love mamas and daddies. I love serving them and building them up and rooting them on. They are HEROES in this world. I want to be a part of MANY people's lives, not only the few in my circle. That means I must put myself out there and build this business. I am so excited to make this part of who I am, because Jesus has given me a deep desire for these things.

Friends, thank you for supporting me. Thank you for sharing my website on your Facebook profiles. It means more than you know. It means you are helping me pursue my dreams, helping me provide for my family, and encouraging me on a deeper level than I knew possible.

Thank you. I pray I can do the same. Let me know and I'll be ready!

Be blessed. Go for your dreams and pursue your passions.

It may will be scary at first, it is unknown, but remind yourself of His truer than true promise: Do not fear, I The Lord your God am with you. You never know how Jesus will love you through it, but you can know that He will.

Live fully the adventure of life. We only have one of them.

Still adventuring,

Natalie

Visit my business website at BrennerBirthCare.com

Raspberry Picking

As we fall more in love with Oregon, we are adventuring into new places! Yesterday I had the chance to pick berries for a quick half an hour, checking out this local farm!

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I found the initial farm, and then was led on a scavenger hunt in search for the Raspberry bushes. A few signs and a 3 minute drive later, I arrived at this precious farm.

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There weren't many folks picking because it was drizzling, but I wasn't ready to give up! The cost of these u-pick berries is basically stealing if you compare it to what you pay for berries at the grocery store.

I was assigned my row and off I went!

 

 

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IMG_7995 As I picked, I was able to relax and pray out loud. No one was around, so that was great. Just a quiet morning, drizzling rain, and chats with Jesus. I prayed for my husband (10 prayers for your spouse) and for my work and my business (see that here) and for our ministry.  I am learning again how powerful prayer is - when I choose to fix my thoughts on Him, my worries and frustrations decrease. My mind is calmed and I am able to magnify Jesus, who brings all peace. What a gift.

It was heaven!

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Raspberry picking

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U-Pick raspberries, Oregon   IMG_8014

I filled my bucket, almost to the brim! I paid $6 flat. SIX DOLLARS!

I highly recommend this farm if you are in the area! It is very easy to find. You can call them morning of, listen to their voicemail & see if they're open for the day. (541) 757-7814

They are off of Highway 20 in Corvallis - turn onto Garden Ave.

I look forward to taking Loren here on Monday!

Do you have any local farms that you enjoy?

 

In Over Our Heads: 25k Trail Run

Well friends, to put it nicely, our trail run humbled us. It was the most difficult physical task Loren or I have ever accomplished. Ever. In our young 20-some years of life. And this is how it went: We found the Blodgett Elementary School - about a beautiful 40 minute drive from home - around 7:15 am. As we parked and walked up to the minuscule crowd of runners, I couldn't help but be completely self conscious. Not only were these obviously-experienced trail runners, but this particular bunch of humans were here to run the 50k. Do you know how many miles that is? 30. 30 miles and about 7,000 feet of elevation climb. These folks were the real deal. Nothing like the half-marathon road runners. It was a completely different crowd. As we waited to board the buses, I was humbled by their sweet running attire - very elite, friends. Hats, tights, sleeves, compression things...sweet camel baks, and so on. Here was Loren and I in our sweet saucony trail shoes and lovely yellow waste bands equipped with water & gummy bears. 20140623-132324-48204975.jpg

20140623-132544-48344822.jpg There are some real intense runners out there, guys. Like, we thought we knew how to run - you just run. But nope, you need compression socks and arm sleeves and sweet camel baks.

My niece's 1st birthday party was this same day, 1 pm in Willsonville, OR. Our 25k was supposed to start at 10. The 50k was to start at 8:30. We asked if we could start with the 50k'ers at 8:30 to "be done by 11". *Snicker*

The bus ride was a fairy tale - just two young kids in love and holding hands and dreaming together. Also, tiniest seats ever.

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20140623-133533-48933242.jpg We were giddy and nervous and excited to say the least. We were also eavesdropping on all of the professionals around us, 70% of them gray-headed, and were slightly intimidated by their conversations. We were just two little tadpoles surrounded by sharks.

And then the bus drove up a big mountainous road and dropped us all off. Then left. There was no way to get back but to run, literally. Spotty cell service; we would have to carry each other if someone broke an ankle.

I would love to note that I had the most lovely outhouse experience: pink, flowery, and smelled great. Much better than wiping with leaves; just being real.

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20140623-145840-53920111.jpg Team Brenner commence running @ 9:29 am. Alone. Slightly worried we won't finish the "almost 16 miles" by 12 pm, we begin in a flurry. And we run through a very thick forest filled with tons of roots sticking up, ready to trip you the fleeting second you look up. We run quickly, it seems, only to hear we are at a 10mm pace. 1 mm slower than our training. Discouraged, I insist we run faster, "we don't want to miss Elsy's ENTIRE party, do we?"

Ohhhhh me and my agenda!

Like I said in my Half Marathon post, every time my nike plus app "cheered" us from Facebook, we were given a boost. It was like we still had people on the sidelines, even though there was only nature at it's finest. So, THANK YOU TEAM! Friends, I could walk you through mile by mile. I will never forget this race. It was dreadful. But beautiful. The most beautiful. We ran through thick forest, on tiny trails, we ran through clearings of tall grass + wild flowers, we ran on mountain ridges and looked over the valley. It. Was. GORGEOUS. I was falling more in love with the Pacific NorthWest, all the while frustrated that I was missing my niece's birthday, and very humbled at how amateur we were.

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20140623-150927-54567442.jpg Before the run, I asked Loren, "what do you think God will teach me on this run?" Boy, was I in for a lesson or 7! I will share a few.

Every time we came to "the steepest hill yet," which seemed to be every 50 ft, we told each other "We made it up the last one, we can make it up this one." It didn't mean the hills got any easier. It didn't mean they caused less pain and frustration. It was simply encouraging knowing we made it through the last one, therefore we could make it through this one, together. We reminded each other that flat roads were coming, we shared our water, we cheered each other on. I can't even tell you what a blessing running has been ultimately -- it has knit our hearts together more than not.

Half the time we weren't sure we were even on the trail. We would be running through the forest unsure if we were on the right path. Jumping over rocks & ruts and dodging bushes and SLUGS (spawns of satan). Soon enough, we would see our trail-marker, noting we are indeed on the right course! Do you know how much hope those pieces of red tape dangling from tree branches were? Do you know how much relief we had every time we saw one of the red flags? So. Much. HOPE! It was like, "Glory to God, we won't be lost & eaten by the bears! We won't die of starvation! We are on the right path!"

Around mile 8 I wanted to die. That's right, I wanted to lie down under a rock and shrivel to my death. Fortunately, I had my nifty running partner who encouraged me and high-fived me and told me I could do it. He gave me a few gummy bears and said I have ran further than this, I can do this. So I kept going. Around mile 14, Loren wanted to die. He wanted to stop, drop, and roll off the cliff. I had my second wind and was ready to sprint. But I encouraged him, I prayed for him, I told him he was my hero. I cheered him on for running further than either of us ever had. And he kept going.

Interesting that both of our breaking points were at different times. Also, very helpful, because we were able to build each other up when we felt like crumbling into dust. Which I'm pretty sure we could have. But what amazing moments for our friendship.

I remember thinking through these next thoughts right after I took these photos:

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20140623-152610-55570218.jpg THIS IS A DISASTER! We thought we could run trails! I didn't sign up for this crazy steep, crazy slug doom. I signed up for 15 miles with a 2200 foot elevation climb. I didn't sign up for 17 miles with a 4,922 foot elevation climb. But I did sign up for a trail run.. I even PAID for it. I invested my own money to go through this. It's harder than I thought, it's longer than I planned, it's way more painful than I would have asked for.

Talk about whiny. Here is when my thoughts transitioned:

God, why does this happen more than we think? We sign up to follow you and we don't usually "count the cost" like you tell us to. And even if we do, we don't know what is planned. We don't know the distance you'll ask us to travel or the mountains you'll ask us to climb. We surely don't know the pain we will endure.

But we can have confidence that you will walk us through it. That you'll even carry us on your wings. And we don't have to fear. Oh Jesus, I'm so grateful for you.

God? Do you ever ask us to do things in this life and then they turn out to be a disaster? A flop?

And that is when the words of a man from our church flooded through my heart, "I asked God why he had me do that {something while Pastoring a church} - it turned into a DISASTER. A complete flop. And everyone knew it. Why would He choose that? Humans saw it as a failure. You know what He told me? He said, 'That's none of your business, and you don't ask me again.'"

Sometimes we don't know the fullness of what we are signing up for. Whether it be a race, a sport, a class, and definitely a day to day life following Jesus Christ. When Jesus asks us to walk through the suffering and the pain, and when it appears to us as a complete failure, we have to trust Him. We have to remember His promise, "Do not fear, I am with you." We must choose confidence in His spirit because He knows best. He will carry us through, He will bring us from glory to glory.

Even if it's not how we think it should look.

To you who are peering ahead at the daunting mountain-climb OR who are already clawing up it, with dirt in your nails, KEEP GOING. You can do it! Jesus victored the last one, He will help you conquer this one. Keep pressing your heels into the dirt and moving forward. Don't stop and get stuck, the best way to go is forward. Keep forgiving, keep choosing joy, keep being honest. Lean into His graces, He has strength ready to be given to you.

To you who have your own agenda, "along with God's agenda," you should probably let go of it. You should probably realize sooner than I do, how selfish you become and how self-centered you are in your pursuit of your own agenda. I didn't enjoy the run nearly as much as I could have, because I was so focused for so long on what we were missing. I was so caught up in my plans being ruined and not being able to watch my niece decline cake again. She won't even know I wasn't there -- she is 1. But I was so caught up in MY agenda, I couldn't enjoy what I had originally signed up for and even invested in. Once I did let go, I enjoyed my time with Loren and the beauty that engulfed my surroundings. I enjoyed my circumstance. Let go of your agenda and pursuit, I will always work on this to too, and we will enjoy God's life a whole lot fuller!

To you who are on the path that is empty and narrow, keep your eyes open for His landmarks. He is there and He is guiding you. Let His spirit bring you Hope & Relief, walk in the confidence of being on His path. The best path. Even when no one else is. Keep on forgiving, keep on choosing joy, keep on leaning into Him.

To you who are discouraged and tired and weary...let those around you know. Tell those who care for you and let them root you on! This is why we need the church, we need each other. Let them encourage you and remind you that you can do this, just keep seeking the face of Jesus Christ. Keep sitting at His feet to soak in His love for you and don't forget to give thanks.

To you who feel as though you obeyed God (or are obeying Him) and it feels like a disaster, a destroyed failure, be still and know that He is God. Know that HE knows, He sees the greater picture, and you are one small instrument being used. He is bringing you from glory to glory, and if your heart is obedient to His will, you can have confidence and peace.

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20140623-154058-56458016.jpg Keep forgiving, keep choosing joy, keep loving & being a light, keep being honest before Jesus.

Will we run this again? Many have asked. The answer? Probably yes.

We got our pint glasses as we finished at 3 hours and 50 minutes.

I am in desperate need for a pedicure.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race GOD has set before us. Hebrews 12:1

BY THE WAY: I got 3rd out of 25 women, 9th out of 45 total. Loren got 10th. That shocked us.

Learning that Life Doesn't Go as Planned.

It is June of 2014 and I should be graduating with a degree in Nursing today. I should be wearing a cap and a gown, preparing to walk down a grassy aisle to receive a piece of paper that cost a lot of money, and looking forward to an after party filled with nothing but the best of snacks and iced lemonade. I should be looking back over the last 4 years and remembering mostly studying late into the night, the early morning, along with way too many sugary Dutch Bros drinks. I should be applying to Hospitals all over Oregon, but hoping to get one in Eugene. I should be getting married this year to a man I have known since elementary school; he will work in the same hospital as me and it will be a jolly good time. I should be preparing to live The American Dream. This is the year, 2014, where my life was going to begin. Here is that picture again... too good.

I remember in 2010 when I worked my fanny off to apply for the many scholarships I received, thankfully. I can envision myself in Nancy Hay's office with Stephanie Lilly, talking about Nursing and pre-nursing and the different classes I would need. I remember having a picture in my head: a big chunk of space filled with studying & coffee {the next 4 years) and then the glorious June 2014, which was the mere beginning of the life I planned to live. I wrote June 2014 on so many lines for my graduation date, with a BS in Nursing; it was the day I would base my life around it seemed.

Funny how life lives itself out.

I remember so clearly, 2 and a half years ago when I took the plunge of "retiring" from school early. Declared finished? Withdrew maybe? Alright, let's be real: I dropped out. Currently, I carry no shame with that. I discovered that school and nursing was not what defined me, is not who I am, nor is it what gave me value. Or removes my value. I can recall walking around outside of a Starbucks in Boise when a member of my life called me to let me know of my stupidity in this decision. They clearly stated, "This is the stupidest decision you have ever made. I guarantee you that Loren does not want to marry a woman who puts her brain on a shelf. Are you really letting God get in the way? I am so disappointed."

I pray to always be wise enough to "let God get in the way."

I remember a lot more words that came through the ear-speaker of my cell phone and landed themselves into my heart like daggers. I also recall the clarity of the calling on my life that resulted in this decision to drop out of the OSU/LBCC pre-nursing program. I was working full time to 60 hours/week at Park Place Assisted Living {night shift might I add, and then some} as well as 15 credits between OSU and LBCC. It was too much and I cried a lot and I consumed so much caffeine that when I stopped cold turkey, I threw up and had the shakes and the sweats. Real bad, folks. Not a life style I recommend. These two life-consuming things took a back seat to where my heart was invested: a tiny little thriving church plant with the name of Corvallis Church. With every moment I could {plus more moments}, I would spend my energy living with the Evans and Millers and Petersons. I would volunteer my heart and energy to serve this city and live and enjoy life with them. I desired so deeply to let Jesus burst out of my being that I started meeting with 3 middle school girls at Imagine Coffee.

 

I was on fire and I was ready to jump into the great unknown of church plant-ness. I was thriving and flourishing and growing and crying and stretching and learning and thriving some more..I was craving to make disciples and reach lost souls and follow Jesus in all ways available.

There was just one small glaring issue: time. The pressure for good grades to get into nursing school was unreal. I had my CNA license, I was in my 3rd Anatomy & Physiology class and receiving a B. You need A's to get into the nursing program. My online biology class slowly tapered to a D. I was losing all interest in the Dream I once held so dearly, the dream that was mainly to achieve what I wanted in life, "helping others along the way," via nursing. I enjoyed my job as a Caregiver at Park Place and had an opportunity to take on the am/day Power Float shift. Allowing me to sleep at night. After much prayer and many conversations with humans I respect, admire, and look up to, I decided to drop out of school. I needed more time to serve this city in bigger ways than I was, only for and only because of Jesus Christ and the radical ways He was transforming my world. I craved this transformed life for others.

I am learning that life doesn't go as planned.

I am not engaged or married to the man I was sure to marry.

I am not anywhere near graduating with a Bachelors in Nursing.

I am not looking to move to Eugene.

I am not desiring to work in the hospital and go to church on weekends.

Not once did I think I would drop my American Dream {which I didn't realize was my American Dream} to volunteer and serve full time through a church plant. Not once did I dream to fund-raise my paycheck (click here to learn more about that). Not once did I think I would actually be married to a Pastor man; [though I had hoped when I was younger].

As I fell more in love with who Jesus is and His heart for me, my plans changed. My day to day plans were slowly changed as I let God take the reigns of my heart. Self-pursuit was becoming less and less and as my day to day plans changed, my "future plans" and my American Dream were completely altered.

All glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:20

None of these things were in my playbook, none of them existed within the boundaries of my wildest dreams or ever crossed my mind. And from where I stand, my life couldn't be better. You see, I now spend my early mornings reading my Bible and talking intimate prayers with Jesus, so that I can know who I am, which results in knowing who others are, which moves me to lead with grace. I wake up to pray for many people, by name, asking Jesus how I can be used in their life to bring them closer to Him. Spending time at His feet keeps me in-tune with His Spirit while I spend the rest of my day building up His people. I now invite anyone into my life at the mere possibility that they may experience the deep and unending love of Jesus Christ. I get to spend time hiking and talking about Jesus. I get to spend time drinking tea or coffee and praying with others. I get to spend time doing laundry with beautiful humans. I get to do things like scheme different ways we can bless this city, our church individuals, and our neighbors, with young girls. And trust me, those girls have wild and beautiful ideas. Yes, this life comes with its baggage and great emotional toll - spiritual battles are real and I believe 1,000%  in them. I constantly battle the fear of not pleasing everyone; but we are not called to do that - we are called to please & revere Jesus. There is great joy in loving many and so deeply, but it does not come without great pain and heavy burdens. But the worth it part is real. I wouldn't trade it for a BSN or career making big bucks. I feel spoiled.

I am not saying nursing is bad; it is needed - I have had many nurses save me and treat me and do good things for me. I need nurses you need nurses, this world needs nurses. My sister in law is a nurse and she provides well for her baby girls and takes care of patients while doing so. My friends who are graduating today with a BSN are some of my heroes. They have worked so hard and are changing this world. School isn't bad. Humans who love school or hate school but remain in school are crazy and I am proud of them. They amaze me. Both of those things are callings for people, and I am learning that I am not one of those people. At least, not right now. My heart in my pursuit of those things were off. And quite self-based. Either journey would have been blessed and adventurous for me. Neither are bad, but boy am I grateful I took a turn at the Y onto the path I did.

I am learning that when you decide to follow Jesus no matter what, even into the unknown & out upon the waters, even when (not if) it means you decline the American Dream and you go against the popular norm of self-pursuit, you grow and you thrive and you learn to trust. You learn the dance, the dance of grace. You learn to trust in Jesus who is your provider and guide and your everything. I am learning to see things differently, live life differently. It is happening, as grace transforms me by the renewing of my mind.

Am I sad that I won't be graduating with a Bachelors? Am I bummed I didn't stay in school for the 2 short years that seemed to have fly past me? Sometimes. But then I look back and am convinced this is what I should have done with my life. At times I revisit the idea and pray about school, asking Jesus if this is the best place for me. I ask Him if I would be more useful in a classroom and work force, or what I am doing right now. Every time, so far, He says, "Stay. Persevere. Trust. Lean hard into me." So I will. Ephesians 3:14-19 has been so sweet to me:

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will EMPOWER you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.

Ephesians 3:16-17

When I look back over the last 2 years and what I could have done with my time in school and career pursuit, I know I would have loved to walk down the aisle to graduate. Starting with a salary of $60-$80k. To even think that as possible explodes my mind. It is dangerous to begin thinking about that.

When I look back over the last 2 years and what I did do {only because of and through Jesus - I cannot emphasize this enough} and how Jesus truly has been transforming me, I see VICTORY. Baptisms, bibles being studied, small groups upon small groups forming into communities where people live life together, navigating through healing and forgiveness with people, planned retreats and trips and a mini-Oregon-mission trip, so many prayers, so many hours spent with so many people it implodes my brain even thinking about it. What a blessed life I have been given so far. I am learning that I would never have quit school and laid down my dream of making BANK, unless Jesus didn't interrupt my life. I am learning that I wouldn't live this life the way I live it, if it weren't for Jesus. If He didn't give me strength, I would be mush and I would be dead. I would be dead in a ditch, I am sure of it. Or I would be graduating today. But friends, I cannot tell you enough, the life He is giving me, offering YOU, is beautiful and glorious and rich and free.

>ALL FOR + because of JESUS<

Bible Study: Youth Ministry @ Coffee Culture, PNW Coffee Culture PNW Bible Study

20140513-205833.jpg 20140124-144935.jpg

I am learning that where Jesus takes us isn't always easy, it doesn't let you sit idle. Jesus grows you and stretches you and uses you. And it is far better than pursuing your own interests. The fruit is far tastier. Far sweeter. Oh goodness, believe me.

I am learning to hold things in an open palm, rather than a clenched fist, so that if they are taken away or modified, it doesn't hurt - my heart can be light. I have ideas and dreams, but ultimately I want to yield to where God leads me, daily. Daily, He leads me to love those around me even when I am tired and cranky and hangry. Thursday, I woke up cranky and in a funk. But that doesn't mean I have the GO AHEAD to be a sour-puss to everyone that crosses my path. No, it means I lay down my funk and my yuck and I praise God. I thank Him out loud and CHOOSE TO FIGHT FOR JOY. He teaches me to trust Him for even the smallest things and to lean into His grace even when all else says I should be drowning.

I am learning alot these days. I hope to always be learning, always be ready to jump into the unknown and adventure with Jesus. I am seeing that following Jesus means doing things like going to the Library on Wednesday mornings to be with new and young moms OR joining a writing group with 70-88 year old women OR inviting others in your home for a meal OR moving to a new state and planting a church. His call for us is daily and we have the choice to accept or decline.

Today, I salute you graduates! I have a ton of friends graduating today and seriously, you amaze me and you inspire me. I mean, a couple of you are MOMS and you are the strongest most amazing creature humans to have done what you have just done. I could not have done that. I want to make it clear that I STAND IN AWE AT YOU. You have accomplished a HUGE awesome thing. I stand proud and applaud you.

There are no words that will describe my deep gratitude and joy, to be an intricate part of what Jesus is doing here in and through Corvallis Church - I am so overwhelmed with joy that I took the plunge and leap of faith, which was completely different from what I had planned.

There is no better satisfaction in this life, no more fulfilling purpose and job, than answering the call of Jesus Christ.

All glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:20

Still adventuring & so grateful, Natalie

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Brenners Go Camping: Alsea Falls

We began our summer tenting last weekend. Since we only had one night available, we wanted to stick around the area: Alsea Falls is only 45 minutes to an hour drive. Something so sweet about the Willamette Valley is that..it's beautiful, everywhere. We are enjoying the beauty of creation and we love the 50 shades of green and sleeping under the stars is, well, great.

We love the Pacific North West. I am falling back in love with it. Maybe for the first time, I have opened my eyes and am seeing the blessing of living where I live.

Photo taken in Wilsonville, OR

I am learning a lot of things about myself, as of late. It seems as though I am always learning about myself, but these last few weeks I have been especially introspective.

I am learning that I my roots run a lot deeper than I had wished. You know, the roots that are deeply embedded into your being because you grew up with them there? I am learning that I am a lot less awesome than I wish to be. I am a lot less easy going than I want to be and I pick up old habits that I thought I was done with. I have a lot of growing to do, that I want to pursue. While packing the car to leave home, I caught myself easily irritated and frustrated for no good reason. I was flustered and annoyed at nothing in particular and it wasn't cute or adorable or attractive or fun or light hearted. Who wants to be around that? Who wants to hang around with poison itself? It isn't a norm for me to be so easily irritated, so it was throwing me off, making me more ashamed which is not a spiral I enjoy. On our drive to Alsea I kept trying to process why I was on edge - then it hit me: every single family trip or vacation began with top notch anger and angst and lots of loud voices. I always dreaded trips. I always had to gear up and harden my heart, preparing for it. As we drove, I realized it had been engrained within me to be angry and on edge and frustrated during these times. I am learning that I have to work hard to root out old ugly habits that aren't beautiful - but I am also learning that it isn't all that complex: I simply need to yield to and submit to Jesus' good and pleasing and perfect will. Simple but difficult.

After recognizing what was happening, I  told Loren exactly what I had just concluded. I apologized and asked him to forgive me, I asked him to help me grow into more like Jesus. I asked him during those moments to remember this truth about my habit, and help me grow by being patient with me. He gladly accepted and it was so good.

I am learning that it takes a lot of humility to have a good marriage - humility to apologize for being a prickly thorn {whether I have reason or not}, humility to forgive unconditionally and not hold things over each other's head {keep no record of wrongs}. It takes humility to ask someone to be the main helper in your growth as a human being, and then allowing them to do so - it takes humility to be that person and love them by encouraging growth. The humility is more than worth it.

A handsome fire prepared by a hot husband.

5 gallon water bladder, $8

For dinner we had ribs + potatoes + zucchini. It was sort of my last hooray before giving up cheese. You could say I loaded the cheese on a mile high.

Camping, ribs

His

Hers

Let's just say we learned not to buy $6 ribs at WinCo. Too much fat + gristle for us.

We hiked and tried out the timer on our new camera, which has become one of my favorite gifts of my life on this earth.

Alsea Falls

On our hike, I got a real bad cut on the bottom of my foot. I then experienced some real marriage sacrificial love. Loren carried me for about a mile and a half. He carried me on his back, on his shoulders, cradled me like a dying woman {or baby}...it was amazing and sad and inspiring and the most loving thing. I am heavy. I am dense. I am not light weight. In fact, I could feel my body growing heavier with every step. Talk about real patient and kind love, not self-seeking. He was not rude or manipulative, he did not make me feel bad about it, he simply carried me and loved me. So. Blessed.

We roasted marshmallows and put rolos in them: too tasty to explain; you must try this.

Rolo smooshed between two rolos

Rolo Marshmallows

Did you know that Mountain Clovers are editable and they are so very tasty? Here is what they look like:

Edible plants: mountain clovers Mountain clovers Alsea, OR

Basically, Oregon and the heart of the Willamette Valley is beautiful and it is capturing my heart.

We slept in until the squirrels woke us, which I was unhappy about. They were trying to eat our trash and we are just crazy hooligans who didn't walk the 25 feet to throw it away. We made french press coffee and sipped it by the fire while soaking in Jesus' heart and praying our souls to Him and resting in His presence, in His creation.

Coffee + Bible + Camping Ephesians 3:17

I am learning every day that I am blessed beyond belief with this man. When we were first married, he had never camped in a tent. He did not like the idea of going deep into woods and forests where there is no cell service or humans or gps signal, and any chance of getting eaten. But time and time again, he offers to take me on adventures and explore the unknown and to enjoy this area God has placed us. He initiates hikes and trail running. He is patient with me as I grow up and learn to be a human. He is kind to me when I don't deserve it. He is protective. Oh so protective.

I am honored to have his love, his choice to love me, every day.

Still adventuring, Team Brenner

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