2016, as we finish turning the page and ending the chapter that you were, the emotions run their high course.
You, 2016, were our favorite and most blessed year in so many ways. You were a sad and depressing year in a lot of ways too. Immense joy and deep grief, immeasurable gain and tremendous loss, intertwined themselves into the year that was 2016.
2016 was a year that will make it into history books of education and every-day lives alike.
I touched on the chaos that it was and how I don't know how to process it or write about it, but how I am confident that the brokenness isn't His plan and He is not in fact controlling it...but that He is indeed using the broken bits that make up all of us, this earth, and bringing glory through it. I shared how I'm doing my best to believe that He will take the senselessness, the death, the pain, the ashes...and sit with us in the ashes, using them to bring Him glory. Glory that brings us joy and peace and calm and freedom.
And so this space here, this page, is to share the goodness and the graciousness of Jesus in our lives in 2016. Even as I typed those words into a string making a sentence, tears welled in my eyes and I sit at my desk in awe. Two baby boys, so precious and wanted and cherished, sleep in a room resembling a nursery.
Our recap of 2016 and the absolute goodness that existed is as follows:
January 6th I hit the wonder mark of 20 weeks of pregnancy and felt a freedom I hadn't yet experienced in pregnancy - a freedom in embracing joy in pregnancy, despite the many reasons I was fearing losing the life in my womb. I was also gripped with fear, uncertain that any expectant/birth mom would choose us to parent their newborn, though so certain we were supposed to find our baby via adoption as soon as possible. That Wednesday, I snapped this picture in celebration of embracing the joy and expectancy, holding onto hope that we would grow by four feet in the next five months:
Little did I know that as I was embracing all of the unknowns and doing my best to open my hands in surrender, our son had been born hundreds of miles away and his birth mama was searching for us. [Read about Our Stork Drop Adoption].
January 7th we received The Call that changed our family's legacy forever and for always - we had a son waiting for us a few states over and when can we get there?
January 8th we met our first born son and his brave first mama. We became mama and daddy.
The first hours, days, weeks, and months of being an official mama and daddy were the very best moments we had ever lived. With tummy baby growing well, my medication keeping us alive and well, and our new son added...life couldn't get any better.
There were some hard nights, days, weeks spent in the hospital but we knew that God had written this story so far and that He loves our son more than we could...and that knowledge blew us away and right into trusting Him. Trusting that no matter what, He was with us. He was so faithful so far, He hadn't failed us yet with His presence, and He was constantly equipping us for the twists and turns of the journey. So we kept on with hope and joy and gratitude.
We went to Arizona in March so Sage could meet his Great Grandparents.
In May I was able to experience getting maternity photos done; but not just maternity photos...maternity FAMILY photos with the 3 (well..4) of us. That is a gift and a day, a photo album, I will cherish forever. Who knows if we will ever experience such documentation again?
[Thank you Angie at Heartstrings Photography]
A few weeks later, we were privileged to experience what the onset of labor feels like. We experienced the intensity of excitement and fear: HERE HE COMES. ARE WE READY FOR TWO UNDER 5 MONTHS?
Early Tuesday, May 31, my contractions began with a pounding intensity that rocked me but it did not stop me. I was strong, I was ready, I had anticipated and dreamed of this for years as I served and documented laboring women. I had all of my essential oils, our fan, my yoga ball, my water bottle, and Call The Midwife playing. I snuggled and smooched Sage too many times to count, praying he knew the special place he held in my heart as our first born.
His only-baby spot was being changed and I needed him to know my fierce mama love wasn;t going to change. While we snuggled and spent our last JUST-US hours together, with my contracting uterus squeezing my body, daddy cleaned the house and called our midwife and doula. HERE HE COMES. I was excited and enthralled, anticipating being mama to two...but nervous at how much one mama could spread herself to the dependent babes. How could I be enough?
Thursday night, June 2nd, at 7:59 PM our little Ira Man entered the world and we became a visible family of 4, raising an official set of virtual twins: two babies, less than 5 months apart. Our hands were fuller than they'd ever been, but so were our hearts.
July 8th, Sage became recognized by the courts and law as an official Brenner. Of course, we already knew he was a Brenner and would forever be our son, but having a piece of paper and a phone call declaring the finality and certainty of this was an undeserved gift.
The summer was full of Loren starting grad school and continuing his full time job, us learning how to operate on less sleep than we were already operating on, and deepening our friendship with the Kings. It was a blessed time intermingled with some grief and sadness. Overall, the graciousness of our family growth constantly caught me off guard and I was frequently crying about the goodness of it all.
We went camping with a 2 and 7 month old, we visited the ocean quite a few times, we went to Sisters, and explored downtown Portland. We ate a lot of pizza and too much ice cream.
Our baby boys flew from Portland to Portland (oops...storms made us turn around and not land in San Diego..missing a memorial for a very special man), and to Boise and back for Thanksgiving. They rocked the flying as always.
I [and the babes] joined gospel choir.
Ira started inch-worm crawling at 5 months old.
We wore the babies a lot and it was wonderful. We were asked a million and infinity times, "are they twins?"
We went to Sunriver for one of our Christmases - the boys experienced sledding.
Sage rode on an ATV with one of his grandpas.
Sage started toddling more than 2 steps last night, 12.30.16 (see video here).
The only debt we currently have is Loren's brand new school loans.
We did the math [on our date night] and have changed approximately 4,900 diapers this year.
I feel as though I have uncovered layers of Jesus and His scandalous, beautiful heart that I didn't know existed. But the layers of Him are soul-delicious.
My photography business and writing are growing more than I dared to imagine they could in the same year we grew by four feet, I get to sell our Live Out Love and Love Makes A Family shirts, our marriage isn't perfect but we sure do like one another, and Loren is working so hard to earn his Masters. We love our church community so much and can't imagine where we'd be without our village.
And now we are here, staring 2017 in the face with full hands and full hearts. I'm trying to find a nice chinese-food-take-out option.
2016 was weird on many levels but we became parents and that is something you cannot beat. So many dreams and prayers fulfilled, grief and loss redeemed, hope birthed grace.
This life I live feels wholly undeserved and I am ready to take 2017 one day at a time as I continue to learn how to cherish and exist in all of the moments: the big and beautiful, the mundane and boring, the hard and pain filled. All of it.
That's a wrap.