Farewell, Corvallis [Brenners Hit Refresh]

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Dear Corvallis, You housed me on an August summer night in 2010 for the very first time, when I drove the 33 minutes from Harrisburg to you, visiting my brother who lived on Tyler Street. I had no sleeping arrangements, only my '92 Tercel and a debit card connected to a couple dollars, so I found my way to the local Fred Meyers getting lost along the way and purchased a soft blue blanket with the word "relax" etched into it everywhere. I thought, "If this blanket doesn't remind me to relax, I don't know what will." That summer was a rough one for me, but it was transitional too. I was soon to be Corvallis's, House of Charis's to be exact, next resident.

Oh Corvallis, I met two of my best friends within your limits. Actually, as my roommates. One married a man from far away and moved to Canada and the other became my sister-in-law, birthing babies who will forever hold pieces of my heart. For those two roommates birthed into best friendships, I will forever be grateful for you.

Corvallis, Corvallis, Corvallis, I walked the campus streets lined with vibrant colors and beautiful trees through the fall and then again in the spring. Oh yes, the winter too. Those were some cold nights. I will never forget the many days and nights, the strolling, the classes, the hours studying. You helped me get through full time school as well as full time night shift as a caregiver...until you didn't and I quit school. That was a good time.

Dear Corvallis, Loren and I dated long distance while I lived within your city. I wrote letter after letter and delivered them into your blue drop boxes over and over and over again. We married in one of your beautiful parks, and that day I will never forget. It is one of my favorite days.  You are where we began our family of two, and then expected a third, but then lost that precious little baby. You are where we officially began our adoption journey, and for that, I cherish you: babies and family embedded into our hearts and story.

Our apartment complex housed us for more than three years. We had best friends as neighbors across the hall and across the street. It is times like these that are so sweet, you will never forget.

Corvallis is where we built lifelong friendships with people our age, like the Listers and Hayes and Nelsons, people we imagined raising babies with and calling when we are sick. Friends we play weekly Catan with, rotate hosting Dinner Clubs, and help one another move. Friends who celebrate one another's new babies and mourn another's loss of theirs. These are friendships we will cherish forever. 

Corvallis, You housed Loren and my newlywed years. You were the grounds on which we became staff of a small church plant, the budding of a community that would change our life in so many ways, both painfully and beautifully. Your streets and buildings and coffee shops grew friendships that will last a life time. Corvallis, you were the city Loren and I spent countless hours with students and youth, young adults and married couples, elderly and sick, homeless and dying. I became a doula and a photographer, a pastor's wife and a wear-many-hats staffer. Oh Corvallis. The memories run deep.

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It seems as though it is time to just say "we moved" out loud; we have had many questions asked about where we are and can we have lunch soon, and the thing is: we moved already. It was between four cities, two states, and here we are finally settling and moved.

It has been time for us to say goodbye to Corvallis for awhile now. But who ever knows how to say goodbye to precious people, students to be exact, that have weaved themselves into your very souls? Goodness, we adore those kids. I think about them nearly every day and pray they seek Jesus above all else; especially above man. Man is so fickle. Jesus is so faithful and secure. We want nothing else for them but Him. 

And here we are, almost entirely unpacked, our address officially changed and our titles completely different. Our identity has shifted more than I guessed it ever would, and yet still we are at the mere beginning of our journey. But a few things remain and that is Jesus and our togetherness. We have never been more together, it seems.

It has been quite the two months, my friends. Words will never explain the depths of feelings and emotions and experiences we have been walking through. Now comes for a time of immense heart-healing and seeking Jesus in very honest and raw ways.

It is with many emotions, but mainly hope and relief, that we say farewell to Corvallis, we hit refresh, and we say hello to new chapter. Or perhaps we are entering chapter one, and the 3.5 years in Corvallis was an intense prologue - we won't really see the whole picture until we look back from a distance, I hear. We have now been moved into a cozy duplex in the greater Portland area for just over a week. Loren has a full time job starting in a couple weeks at another residential treatment facility for kids ages 7-11; he is praying about and very much considering pursuing his masters of arts in teaching come 2016. Because he is awesome. I will be finding a job in January - most likely at a retirement village, because let's be real: I love them. Those are my people.

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We discovered the cutest little coffee shop just a couple blocks from our place. It has a play area for kids, arts and crafts, and gluten free/vegan baked goods. Oh, and wifi! Boom boom boom. So naturally we woke up yesterday and walked hand in hand for a breakfast date.

What did this do to our adoption? many have asked. Not much! We simply are in the makings of a home study update and will forward those to the agencies we are working with. Also, many of you knew that we presented to a 5th birth mama on Friday...we still have not heard back! If she were to choose us, we need about $9,000 more dollars up front, so feel free to sponsor some puzzle pieces ;).

Well folks, if you have any questions, feel free to email me. We are very much thankful for this transition, for this refresh button. Jesus is real as ever to us and we are trusting Him, loving Him, and leaning into His tender healing arms of mercy.

Brenner Marriage Q&A

brenner adoption  

Today I am being featured on the beautiful Faith Golden's space, Life w/ Mrs G and the Artist

When Faith invited me to share on marriage, my heart was so happy! I love marriage and have not done a very good job of blogging all about just how much I love it. Loren is my best mate (and only, heyo!). I listed the questions she asked me below and you'll have to hop on over to her space to read them! Click HERE. Thank you, Faith.

1. How long have you been married?
3. What has being married taught you?
4. What are some of the biggest hot buttons in your marriage?
5. How do resolve issues? Do you ever go to bed angry?
6. How do you keep the romance alive?
7. What is the secret to a happy marriage?
8. What advice would you give a newly engaged girl/couple?

So..we aren't moving

home sweet home We aren't moving.

One week ago I posted a sentimental raw post about the apartment we have made home for the past/first three years of our marriage. It was a tribute to the small place we call home, the apartment that has etched itself into our hearts and been the space for many foundational moments of our marriage and family building.

I don't feel the need to explain every last detail, so I won't. But what you can know is this: it was confusing and painful and frustrating and I shed so many tears. Its the year of tears and I have accepted that. Jesus is in tears just as much as He is in laughter. As we unpacked the entirety of our treasures and belongings late Saturday night, silent drops fell from my eyes and I pathetically said over and over again, "I have to go to the laundromat next week."  OOOOh Pity.

Sunday, nearly every person and their mom asked, "When is moving day? Don't you get the keys tomorrow?!" Sometimes I answered and explained and other times I simply said, "We're not moving. I don't want to talk about it," and then I didn't. Defeat and embarrassment barely scratches the surface of what I was feeling.

I had began to question if we even heard Him right with adoption: are we crazy? Did we make this all up? Right when I was feeling all of this for the first time, regarding adoption, an article popped into my head. I had read it a week prior and it was written by an adoptive momma. She and her husband questioned time and time again if they had followed God into the adoption journey, or if they made it up. And time and time again, she was reminded that there was no possible way she would be where she was at without Him. That there is no way she and her husband would have been there, without the leading and grace of Jesus. They wouldn't have their babies, their children, hadn't they followed Him into it. Had they quit and given up during the pain of waiting, of every single step along the way, they wouldn't have their kids.

Our dearest pals, my brother and sister [in-law] and their two babies, drove down from Portland right after church to spend the day with us as we melted and put our apartment back together. They helped patch up the holes in the walls and paint over the scrapes and scratches, the bruises from living in this place. They helped scrub base boards and windows and window tracks. They helped take down curtain rods that weren't curtain rods and hang up new ones. We talked and we shed a few tears and we laughed and we sweat and we watched their wild child be a gift of joy. Those four people are salve to my soul and I hope to love like them.

niece love

niece love

My friend and I met for coffee yesterday morning. She is the type of person that is trustworthy and safe, healthy and healthy again. She loves Jesus and prays for you when she is with you and when she is not. She is a writer and a feeler and a melancholy all in one, and so much more. She asked me how I was and I teared up and told her I feel so confused. How could something as simple and huge as a move across town feel so right, so right, so right and then suddenly WHAM feel so incredibly wrong all at once? How could we go from being excited and at peace to suddenly unpacking our entire home in the same home we started in? We had nearly everything packed. Everything. Every.Thing. I even had a little laundry bag all set up for my first wash.

My friend told me she thought of Abraham and Isaac. "When I left Sunday after church, I couldn't help but think of Abraham and how God asked Him to sacrifice His son. How Abraham obeyed and went through every last step of preparation and at the last minute, God stopped Him. But Abraham obeyed like a crazy man, because He was asked to." Inside something crumbled and melted into a pile of mush, a sigh of relief for my soul. I had felt so crazy, so humiliated, so dumb. We were confident that this was the place for us, this small tiny home of a duplex with a garage and a yard and a washer and dryer...and then suddenly and all at once a turn of many hearts told us to stop. I didn't feel so crazy or stupid after she shared that with me.

There is so much faith in the obedience. In the following and halting even when it doesn't make sense. In trusting amidst the insurmountable uncertainties. I draw strength knowing that He knows.

Right now I feel I don't know anything about our life. It feels like nothing is certain; I want to be back to the heart-space that gets excited for uncertainties and unknowns. This year has been hard and painful. But this adoption journey has ushered joy and hope along side the hard and painful. I know this will all be used - all of this hands-open, tug-of-war with my heart between God and I, this entire year of pain and joy intermingled into one long, lonely-feeling, conjoined experience.

I want to fall back in love with the journey of the unknowingness, of the beauty of being in a completely open and ready space. I don't know how ready I am, but I know that God is doing a whole lot more than I can see. I know that because it wouldn't make sense if He wasn't. And that Truth gives me peace when I allow myself to think about it.

The day we halted the move and unpacked our home, our social worker emailed us and we scheduled our first couple home study visits. Our first visit is today - we are on our way to Beaverton to sit an her office for three-ish hours. We will be interviewed so that she can get to know us and our family, why we are adopting, how we hope to operate as a family; they ask about finances, infertility and miscarriage, plans, your marriage, discipline goals. All sorts of really good, possibly painful but good, things to talk about and process.

We are not anxious and for that I am grateful. We are ready to get this show on the road and find our baby and his or her birth momma.

If you would take a moment to pray for our Birth Momma, wherever she is, please do. Pray that she is overcome by the grace of Jesus, that she knows she is loved, and that she is confident in her decision. Pray for health and healing. Pray for freedom. When I think of her, I am overcome by joy and love and hope. I am amazed and I cannot imagine her level of courage and sacrifice.

We got our coffees and we are on our way! [mine is decaf...placebo effect?]

home study interview

a tribute to our first home

home is where the heart is Loren and I are doing this crazy thing where we are putting all of our stuff in boxes made of card board, taping them up tight, and renting a U-HAUL for a day to cart all of the things that we treasure to a different place, a small square, a dwelling we will soon call HOME.

This home, this apartment, that we are packing into boxes and preparing to say goodbye to has been our home for a little over three years. It has nestled into my heart so intensely, burrowing itself deeper than I ever thought an apartment could. I know now that we can make home wherever we are, because we did so in a building shared by many, in a complex made for temporary housing. We let our hearts grow wide and together here.

This is the place Loren and I found on Craigslist, unsure if it was a scam or not [spoiler alert: it wasnt]. We signed the lease July 2012, unsure how long we would be here, neighboring with a couple who we believed were cousins. Loren carried me over the threshold, we laughed and we giggled and we made lots of things here. Every year we would pause and say something like, "We really like this place. Should we look for somewhere bigger and with a washer and dryer tho? We don't want to have a baby here without a washer and dryer." I didn't ever think I could go another month at the laundromat...and yet, here I am, more than 3 years later and surviving.

home is where the heart is

home is where the heart is

This is where my cooking went from all things gluten and butter to gluten free, dairy free, soy free, red meat free, bean free..and I have had to learn to be creative. This is the place we came home to after our honeymoon and again after a three week trip to Europe. This is where I began learning what it means to be a wife and a home maker, a youth pastor's wife, a disciple maker, a woman to my core. This is where we had our first real arguments and disagreements and make ups and loving conversations. It's the place we praised Jesus for countless reasons, the place we celebrated Loren quitting his second job and launching into full time youth ministry. We grew 4 summers of gardens in the back patio; built garden boxes, unloaded dirt, we even brought in a rototiller.

home is where the heart is

home is where the heart is

home is where the heart is

A 25 year old man-friend lived with us for three and half months to save money to buy his lady-friend an engagement ring. A 16 year old student lived with us. This is the place we started our youth ministry, in the tight space that is our living room that once hosted four couches to seat plenty of students. We had a young marrieds small group here that grew to 20, a young adult small group that grew to 18, bible studies galore, movie nights and popcorn shared. Our walls have holes from hanging photo frames and verses and word art and beautiful creations all over, noting that this is home.

home is where the heart is

 

home is where the heart is

home is where the heart is

This is where we began our adoption process; where we googled and searched and called friends who have gone before us. We landed on the route we knew in our souls was best for us. We started clearing out our second bedroom, knowing that soon we would be actively pursuing this thing of adoption.

we are adopting, for this child i have prayed

home is where the heart is

This is where got pregnant and celebrated and danced and laughed and planned and created. Our nursery clean up and renovation was on full speed by this point. We created so many gifts to reveal to so many people the precious life that had been created.

This is where we lost that baby and we mourned and we sobbed for hours that turned to days and then weeks and now months.

miscarriage and baby loss

home is where the heart is

We are in the thick of the beginning of the adoption journey. The longer-than-expected-wait of scheduling our in home study interview has given us a brief window of opportunity to move into a duplex and make a new home, ready for new memories, new family moments and hopefully, family growth.

home is where the heart is

home is where the heart is

home is where the heart is

This space has held spirit filled joys, and deep wails of grief; both from the pits of our actual souls. This apartment has ebbed its way into my heart over the years, making its mark as our first home together. It is so much more than an apartment.

And now we pack up and move 4.6 miles south to a small duplex with a garage and a huge back yard and the best neighbors one could dream of.  Also, a washer and drying machine. Even as I pack and scrub the tub and the toilet and the floor boards, it isn't quite sinking in that we will be moved out of this place next week.

This is my tribute to the first space our little family called home.

3 years married: I like you 

11850802_10153572570144243_1041658068_n Three years married is looking a lot different than either Loren or I had imagined, but I believe it is all being used to help us become beautiful.

A lot of life has happened for us young newlyweds...we have fundraised most of our income, I was diagnosed with endometriosis, both of my parents were remarried and extremely quickly without much warning, we built/are building a youth ministry from scratch [only because of and through Jesus and with the help of many], we were gifted a second car [I call it my sexy momma car], we pursued low cost fertility treatments, we started the adoption process, we paused the adoption process, we experienced irrevocable loss, we traveled to Europe for three weeks, we re-started the adoption process, we had a 16 year old live with us, we had a 25 year old live with us, we have lost two grandparents. One can never fold up the entirety of years experience in words, but small glimpses are fun to look back on.

It amazes me that this is merely the prologue of our life together. If anything, the very first chapter.

It is a unique thing, navigating what it means to be a family, to sew new legacies into the quilt that is your life, to turn tides, love well. To pursue Jesus with all that we are and more, together. We have wept from the depths of who we are and we have rejoiced and laughed in celebration. We have learned that I am not so much a morning person, but I am also not a night person, so am I a person at all? We have learned that Loren needs to fall asleep to a podcast and I enjoy the silence and solitude, quiet for the soul, to slip into sleep so deep and uninterrupted by noise. We have spent hours on end with people who slurp us dry, but been so filled up full from Jesus that we know we can do it again.

Jesus is so good.

Jesus is so present, so real, so here.

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 We closed off our third year of marriage at the very place we met four years ago: Camp Winema. This week of camp always brings memories of the fluttery first eye-contact, the very few words exchanged, the awkward number request, the unfolding of our story becoming a family. We have spent all three anniversaries here in this sandy place. Sometimes I am a little sad not driving to some new place to stay for a night or two, just the two of us, dreaming together and tasting new foods and sipping red wine and celebrating the year together. But most of the times I am thankful for the place that He has us: here, at camp, where we met, where He introduced us to one another. Today the director let us steal away into town to eat out and walk on the beach together; the sunset kissed our souls. He knows it is important for his marriage, and encouraged us to do the same. Bless. I love his soul.

I am finding more and more that I simply like Loren. I like who he is. I like his laugh, his corny jokes, his bible knowledge, his greek love, his heritage and story. I like his quirks and the way he enjoys his curly beard. I like the way he tries not to smile after a joke but cannot help but let the corner of his lips curl up. I like the way he cannot match his outfit without my help, that he doesn't care what people think of his goofy ridiculousness, that he loves Jesus with all that he is. I like him a lot. A lot. A lot. A lot.

Cheers to three full years of marriage. Cheers to welcoming in the fourth. I have high hopes for this year, but am doing my best to hold my hands open and my hope loosely, wrapped entirely around Jesus.

Loren, I adore you.

I am beyond grateful I get to spend my life with you. That's the plan.

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Amidst the Wait

The other night, Loren and I drove to the tallest peak around, Mary's, parked the car and hiked to the tippiest part of the mountain. From there we could see the ocean, which is a good 50 miles of windy roads west. We played this weird game that he loves, gifted to him by his momma, and we packed a picnic basket full of treats to keep us happy until the sun said goodbye. The horizon was clear, the sky painted colorfully, our hearts were happy.

We sat and we talked about this thing of adoption, this tragically beautiful thing that has been cracked open in our hearts and our life, a door that will never be closed again. A door that is no longer a door, but now a lifestyle, a thing, a part of us. We sat in silence some of the time, my head on his shoulder, pants dirtied by the grass we were planted in, eyes over the valley and coastal mountains, watching the ocean ripple as the last round of the sun tucked itself behind the curvature of the globe that is our world. While we waited, the view was breathtaking - the wait was not agonizing, but full of beauty. The destination was not exactly the sun setting behind the world; the goal was to enjoy the wait while it set into its place. The wait was full of beauty.

Life with this guy is only getting better. As we spend the days apart and together, living life and working and doing what people do, I cannot help but see my love for him grow imperfectly deeper. But deeper. SO much deeper than it ever has been. He is sweet and tender, oh so tender with me, he is thoughtful and genuine, one of the most genuine humans I know. We have never had the issue of yelling or screaming at one another; we set the tone for disagreements early on, knowing we wanted to leave a legacy, a legacy of loving communication, honest and not passive, honest and not abrasive, honest and not harsh, honest and gentle, kind and patient. We fail at this, but we get back up and we try again. We apologize and we smooch our lips, the four coming together as one, we hug and we pray.

Prayer knits hearts together.

This is my favorite mug and I have been wary to post it here, for months now, but here it is. Here it is, loud and proud. It was a gift from the dearest of friends. I carry books and a small notebook with me everywhere. Going to acupuncture? Grabbing my book, just in case I can't sleep. Heading to the doctor? Got my book, waiting rooms can be full of waiting. Driving to a meeting? Don't worry! My book will keep me company until you arrive. Or my notepad full of notes and thoughts and little things I don't want to forget, like the way my tea tastes or the way that lady smiled just right or something I overhead that hit the spot of my soul or that quote or verse that I cannot stop thinking about.

Words are important to me. And while I wait for whatever I am doing, I tend to fill my head and my heart with them.

At the laundromat, all I could do was pray. We have now heard of four different moms, through the grapevines of Washington and Idaho, who have discovered themselves pregnant on accident. I want all of their babies, but this is not God's plan; so I will pray for them, by name, daily. All teens, the same ages as the teens that I love and spend so much time with and so many moments praying and planning for. Two of these precious ones are going back and forth between the ginormous decisions of adoption versus abortion; these things are not black and white for these girls, as it so easily is for, say, me. All I can do is pray life over these babies, but also over these girls; not choosing abortion seems like an easy choice for me, I can see all of the negatives, but for them, it feels like the only option. What they are not seeing is the years of carrying that, the years of wondering what their decision did, the years of guilt that I want to remove and displace and shed from their precious hearts. What I know with all of my soul is that I can do my job of praying endless prayers of life and grace and showers of joy over these lives, all of them, mommas and babies. If that is all that my job is in their life, then so be it, I will get on my knees and I will pray.

The process of getting our homestudy going is taking an entire month longer than what we had planned and worked so hard for. We finished the gobs of paperwork, the education hours and training, all within three weeks of receiving the application. Hoping to have our in-home-study and interviews completed by the end of July and applying to agencies by August. Here we are, encroaching on August, ending July, and still not even scheduled for the interviews and visits. But what I know in all of my heart is that I can trust the process. I can do everything in my power to do what I think needs to get done and by when, but after that, I have to trust with hands open wide, surrendered heart, knowing that He is stalling or quickening whatever part of the process is needing those things.

What is crazy is that we have been presented to two moms already -- that part of this adoption process has been quickened and surpassed the few expectations that I had. So though our home study is delaying and taking what seems, forever, I can see that He is already working. He is slowing and delaying one area but quickening in another, and He must know the turn tables better than I, and I must trust.

 We were given this beautiful rocking chair. Sunday. I have now spent a solid "insert number here" amount of hours in this chair. It's a lot less organized than in that image - I have books and journals and mugs and cards and pens sprawled out all over at my feet. I sat in it for an hour and a half Sunday, an hour Monday, an hour Tuesday, and now three hours today [Wednesday]. I woke up with a full day of good things planned: cross fit and running [training for that marathon!], bible study with my high school girls, a meeting with a youth leader, acupuncture, meeting with a photography client...anyways, good things, beautiful things, necessary things. But I woke up and my endometriosis is kicking me in the uterus, so I called it a day. I decided that it was okay to stay home some of the day and rest my aching body. I wish I could explain the ache that has become me. I am learning that it is okay to sit, and instead of wallowing in self-pity and pain, I am trying to pray and to read and to write. Forcibly turning my eyes from my pain to others, lifting them up and writing to them encouragements. Because He is good, and He is always always always doing that same thing: encouraging. But as the day progresses, it is becoming more and more difficult. This wait feels emptied of any and all beauty.

He is here amidst all of the chaos that is completely unknown and uncertain. He is here amidst the prayers and the unfinished-scrambled-eggs, the raspberry leaf tea, the journals and the books and the cards. He is here amidst my endometriosis, amidst my cancelled good-things and plans, amidst all of the waiting.

He is here while we wait, and while we wait, I am learning the dance of grace and prayer. Graceful prayer, the dance of wait. I am wondering if there is more beauty to the painful waits that we want to see? Than I am able to see? I hope to someday look back on these waits and see the canvas painted with so much beauty, I wonder how I had missed it.

PS. Adoption Puzzle Update coming soon: It is almost all put together so is impossible to turn around. Karen at Michaels and I have been playing phone tag with the customized frame! But you should know that we have about 420 pieces needing purchased! If you have not yet sponsored a piece, we hope you will! Visit this post here.

[No longer] A confused introvert

take your personality test

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for – and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing. It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool – for love – for your dreams – for the adventure of being alive.

Oriah Mountain Dreamer

For the longest time, I was so confused by my entire self. Growing up, I was labeled an extravert. I accepted it and moved on, certain that that is what I am and how I have been made. But as I have gotten older and grown more into myself, I have found myself wondering if that was a big fat lie. I used to go to movies by myself and a few of my friends wondered if I was depressed or crazy, when in reality, I simply wanted to see a movie and didn't think to invite anyone.

I love people. I love humans. I love people. So when in a group of people, my heart aches to show people that by talking with them. I ask questions or answer theirs, I engage in conversations and do my best to let whoever is in front of me that they are worth my time.

And then I am drained and ready for a three year nap.

 

here's a fun scooter from Germ to look at

If given the opportunity, I would jump to be paid to read and write for the rest of my life. In a cabin in the woods? Pick me, pick me! [But there is this mission I am so committed to..] I decided I would place myself in the category I created "Confused Introvert" long ago.  I was certain this was the place for me, because don't we just need labels and categories? It makes life so much easier [scofff]. My friends are convinced I am an extravert, so I let them believe what they want. Bliss.

My sister-in-law sent me one of those little freebie online tests to take, so duh, I took it in between editing two sessions of photos. LOW AND BEHOLD. I am no longer a confused introvert! My test results made my heart happy. I am a ISFJ-A whatever that even means, I already forgot what the letters stand for, and this is a snippet of what the authorities said:

"Naturally social, an odd quality for Introverts, ISFJs utilize excellent memories not to retain data and trivia, but to remember people, and details about their lives. ... ISFJs' ability to connect with others on an intimate level is unrivaled among Introverts... Oftentimes they don't actually enjoy managing others, but this can be one of their greatest strengths.."

My life has been forever altered and I feel so cured of my confusion.  Obviously these people are professionals because they stated to me nearly all that I believe of myself. I think that you must go and take this test. Emily and I read up on each other's because, well, we are true friends that love knowing one another better. She is a gem.

So here it is! The personality test. It takes a good 10 minutes. Will you tell me what you are in the comments?!

HAVE A HAPPY TUESDAY.

A letter: A lesson you've taught me

loren My dear Pastor Man Husband;

When you pick up children and swing them around and around to make their giggles squeeze out of their smiles, my heart swoons and pauses and gives thanks. When you dance around, moving and flailing in IMG_0900-16ways that people would normally be too embarrassed to, I melt. When you live and love without abandon, relentlessly pursuing ways to value others, I am inspired. When you choose to sacrifice comfort and money in order to chase Jesus and His crazy calling, I yearn to be more like you. When you laugh in the face of trial, when your heart is light in the chaos of unknown circumstances, when you are hopeful when all seems lost... I praise Jesus for the spirit He has placed inside of you. Your spirit is free and honest, light and appealing.

My dear, my knees go limp when you run around with middle and high school students, telling them they are worth your time, by spending so much of your life with them, planning so many events for them, desiring to make space for them to encounter Jesus. My heart is bowed to its knees before Jesus when I witness you waking up at 6 am to take one of your guys to coffee before he needs to be at school, or when you go to the middle school talent shows, or when you stay up late in the evening on the phone with a student whose parents marriage is crumbling before his eyes.

Oh my heart, you have taught me so much in these four short years that I have loved you.

The way you laugh in the face of trial. The way you find light and joy in the midst of darkness. The way you focus on the good, the beauty, the goodness of Jesus, rather than the hard things that life throws at this world.

Above all, you have taught me to remember Jesus. To remember Him and know Him and find Him and love Him, because He makes life worth living.

Thank you for teaching me good things. Worthwhile things. Life changing things.

Yours forever,

NB

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This letter is part of The Letter Link-Up. They are written to remember mundane moments that would otherwise slip away, to hold tight to him, and to remember how life looks right now at this very moment with the chance to shed light on your heart.

 

The Last Month of Pregnancy…or as I refer to it…The Last Billion Years Before Your Baby is Born…

I am pausing my birth business (Doula + Birth Photography) and my Brenner Birth Care website is expiring soon. SO I thought I would save this hit-of-a-post and share it with you too!

It is my complete honor to introduce to you Josie Corliss. She is...one of the most hilarious human beings I have ever known. Also, she is wonderful at this thing called getting pregnant. She discovered that even though you have a vasectomy scheduled...you can still actually get pregnant. Free tip for ya. I on the other hand, have never been pregnant and have no way of possibly understanding what it is like to be at week 35 and wish your baby would just walk itself out of your body while asleep...she on the other (now we have two other hands...3 hands) hand has plenty of experience with this. So I asked her to share. You're welcome.

the last month of pregnancy

The Last Month of Pregnancy…or as I refer to it…The Last Billion Years Before Your Baby is Born…

There is, in my opinion, a very specific design to the last month of pregnancy. Having now been to the end of pregnancy four times I am convinced of this. That design is to make you miserable. You thought pregnancy wasn’t that great before? It’s about to get even more un-greater (yes I’m aware that’s not a word). This is on purpose. You are about to face one of the most mentally, physically, and emotionally challenging moments of your life (delivering a child through yourself), and the best way to make you ready? Make you so miserable that you will literally beg for it to happen to you.

Here’s a little bit what the last month of pregnancy is like:

Sleep: You can no longer sleep. Any sleeping you may be able to get is achieved through a pile of pillows bigger than a mountain and most likely involving a couch or recliner. You had heard from all your friends about how babies never sleep. Why did no one say anything about the last month of pregnancy? You were counting on this time to stay caught up on sleep to be ready to care for your infant. What gives? Training my friend, training. As mentioned before I am about to have my FOURTH child. What this means is I haven’t slept well since 2006. I was (maybe still am) a person that loves sleep. I am here to tell you, if this is your first child, that this last month is the beginning of a very long period of time when you long for sleep like you long for the weekend on Mondays.

Eating: Remember how eating used to be easy? Now most likely you get either heartburn or acid reflux just looking at tomato sauce. Or any other food that is flavorful in any way shape or form. What little sleep you may have been able to get will quickly disappear with a poorly timed slice of pizza. You are alternately starving or full after what feels like one bite. If it wasn’t for the starving part you are pretty sure you would just give up eating.

Dressing: Putting your underwear and pants on becomes some Cirque du Soleil-esq contortion act. Sometimes requiring more than one try. And shoes? Don’t even try to wear shoes that require a tie or a buckle, it’s not worth it.

Feeling the baby: Those cute little fluttery kicks you felt in the early part of pregnancy, take a sudden turn in the last month. It begins to feel like something out of the movie Alien and you are convinced your baby is in fact going to claw its way out of your belly.

Cleaning: It seems that every.single.blessed. house chore requires you to bend down. With your increased back pain and stretchy front ligament burn, these chores begin to sound like some form of torture. Once again though you are going to get a help from that design because you will suddenly be compelled to clean every nook and cranny of your house that you swear you’ve never even seen before. You will be on your hands and knees scrubbing your kitchen floor which suddenly can’t get clean enough with a mop. You will pay for this, and most likely regret it sometime in the next hour to day when you suddenly feel as if you have done 400 jumping jacks followed by a 10 mile run. Your waddle becomes extremely pronounced to where even the grocery store checkout lady looks at you sympathetically.

Speaking of grocery store checkers…somewhere in your last trimester random strangers will start saying things like “Oh looks like you will have that baby soon!” with increasing frequency and fervor. If you are like me, you start getting these comments about month seven, nowhere close to your actual due date, so by the time you’ve made it to two or three weeks away from your due date you have heard these comments approximately 700 times and have given up on the perfect witty comeback you were hoping would come to you in month seven.

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All these things, one at a time, really aren’t that big of a deal. Together though they build and work together to make you feel willing to Google every possible wives tale about how to naturally induce at home hoping to get that baby out SOON. Here’s the deal though: remember that design? These things are here to push you to be absolutely ready to endure labor. Mostly because you are pretty sure labor doesn’t last forever. You may change your mind in labor, but at this point you are sure it seems like a short period of time. Getting though that last month of pregnancy is hard, but it’s supposed to be. You are embarking on one of the hardest journeys in life. Parenting requires so much selflessness, this last month that you spend being uncomfortable in your body almost every moment, will be your last few moments before you spend the next lifetime being uncomfortable in your heart, trying to balance the struggle of parenthood. This process begins the transition you will endure in more mental ways than physical when you do have that baby and while YOUR body is no longer keeping you from sleeping or eating what you want, your baby will. It’s painful in a new and different way. If this is your first time around let me give you some advice. Don’t be in a hurry. Easier said than done I well know, but seriously you are about to find out what hard really is.

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Instead of Googling every symptom you are having, that you are sure means you will be or are currently in labor, take a nap. Go to the movie. Take a long, really long, shower. Get a pedicure. Read a book, oh for goodness sake read several books! Go out to a really quiet restaurant and eat your meal slower than you ever have, I mean I know at this point you can only eat about five bites, but take those five bites really.really.slow. Take a walk and appreciate the sounds of nature, pretty soon you’ll be taking those walks to the sound of a baby increasingly getting fussier and making you regret your decision to spend thirty minutes getting ready for a ten minute walk.

It’s okay to not love these moments. It’s okay to wish you weren’t pregnant anymore. However, try to be patient, try to understand that what your body is enduring is by design. Those aches and pains and Braxton Hicks are your body preparing, getting ready to do the most miraculous thing it ever has. You probably won’t enjoy it, but be present with it and let it change you in the ways it was designed to do.

 

The machine of busyness-exhaustion

the machine of busyness exhaustion I want to be a Mom.

So badly, I want to kiss little toes, blow raspberries on chubby bellies, smooch thunder thighs, and pour orange juice into my coffee as creamer because, well oops, I'm a tired zombie. I know, we are young and we have years and we have all of this life ahead of us, and please stop telling me 18 things to do before we have kids...my heart is called to Wifery and Momma, and that is that.

For me, saying those six words is scary. To write them is terrifying. To admit them is horrifying.

There was a day when I didn't think I would want to be a mom, for fear of messing them up so bad that I would have to pay for counseling rather than a college education.

I fear the day I wake up and realize I have been a busy-mother, filling our family's life up with so many things that we cannot see clearly or think clearly or live clearly. That our purpose and mission shifts from a pure heart to a busy heart ending in bitterness. I do not want to wake up and realize I have created more monsters of busyness, that I have perpetuated the machine of false-satisfaction.

I want to pull myself out of that machine. I'm tired of passing out my time like Halloween candy.

Loren is nearly 25, I am just 23. We ourselves are babies in the grand scheme of life, but time isn't slowing. Ghandi said that there is more to life than merely increasing its speed. But as we stepped our little lives into this big journey of adoption, I see that I have increased our life's speed ten fold. That I have taken on job after job (I counted and I have 6 part time jobs, SIX), filling every inch of my calendar with tasks and to do's and meetings and lists and things and things. Our society and culture perpetuates the deceit that the busier we are, the more important we are. The more stress we can handle, the better character we must have. The more responsibilities on our shoulders, the better the world is.

I call its bluff.

That is just as much deceit as the false notion that money is happiness.

Busyness is not success.

Busyness is not importance.

Monday, Loren and I drove to Newport. We set aside Mondays as our "Sabbath," our day off, nearly three years ago. But one of the part time jobs I have taken on has been stealing hours on Mondays. AKA: I have allowed it to. So we skipped town and said, "SORRY, we're not home. Out of service." Our drive to the beach was quiet, without many words spoken. My mind was prayerful and processing, trying to figure out what I have done to our life.

How do I keep getting caught in this cycle? Why am I so addicted to DOING? Why do I still believe I have to earn my salvation, my status (whatever that is...I'm a college-drop out, an ex-CNA that barely used her license, a house cleaner, an apartment dweller, a crazy plant lady)?

The instant we are filled, our first impulse is to be useful, to be kind, to give something away (Sabbath, Wayne Muller). But the moment we empty that fullness, pour it out unto others, and do not decide to fill ourselves back up..we cling to ourself, we hoard our love and our kindness, we frantically attempt to hold onto anything we can grasp. When we are running on empty, we become bitter and exhausted.

Bitter and exhausted and always fighting for more time is not who I want to be; its not the kind of mom I want to be, its not the kind of wife I want to be, its not the kind of human Jesus calls me to be. 

So as Loren and I continue to take steps through this journey we all call life, we have decided to keep talking about this. To keep trying to cut ourselves from the addiction-machine-of-busyness, no matter how painful it is. Relearning to say no, to pray before accepting heavy responsibilities, to cutting back on stress. We must not feel guilty or shameful for spending an evening at home, without someone over. Or for saying "no."

I don't want to be someone who is so busy that she is deceived about her importance. [Embarrassing].

I don't want to be someone who checks her email instead of simply sitting with her husband, her family.

I don't want to be someone whose home is never clean because she is never there to tend to it.

I don't want to pretend that I am more important than I am. That the world will stop if I say "no." That my worth is derived from how full my calendar is.

I want to be a woman of peace, joy, freedom. To me, those women are the most beautiful, life-giving, Jesus-like women. I crave to live freely, laugh more than every now and then, to spend time in my home creating a safe place for others. My hope is to build new life-giving habits before our family tangibly grows from 2 to 3 or 4; I know we can't possibly have it altogether by that time, but can we have goals? I crave to give of my heart out of abundance, not emptiness, not out of bitter-exhaustion. To give of myself from being filled up by Him; in the quiet intimate moments of the morning light and through the afternoon slump of the day.

This isn't news, nothing we haven't known. Can we figure out how to dance this dance of life? How to work, pay the bills, live without busyness, and yet still be generous with who we are and our time and our gifts and our hearts, giving of who we are? How can we live life with a margin?

I am convinced we must make our way back to the true Sabbath. Sabbath isn't just one day off...but time set apart multiple times a week, daily, maybe for a few moments or for an entire day. Resting our hearts and entire self into His hands. Filling our selves up full of Him.

Rest was a precious ointment to Jesus, is a gift from Him. He made disciples, healed, taught and spent time with people...but just as often He sent people away, disappeared without warning, dismissed those in need without explanation, retreated to a place of rest and prayer. [See: Matthew 14:23, Luke 5:15-16, Mark 1:32-33, 35-36].

Jesus didn't wait for work to be finished or for everyone to be cared for. He paused in the middle of work and retreated to pray, to rest, to be filled by his Father. Jesus's wisdom wasn't muddied with busyness.

I want to learn from Jesus. I am certain we will find rest for our souls in Him.

Join me?

WE'RE ADOPTING!

adoption announcement  I remember sitting on my bed on 28th street when I lived with my now sister-in-law and talking with Loren on the phone about adopting. We were in the simple phase of dating long distance and talking about our potential future and we both agreed that we would adopt a few babies to raise and love and learn from; we would build our family via adoption. We knew we weren't the saviors in the matter.

Since the day we said "I DO" in front of 200+ people almost three years ago, the conversation of adoption has continued and grown and become something so much more than a conversation - it is our current reality. We are so many things right now from thrilled to nervous to anxious to bouncing up and down to selling everything we don't "need" to scared to praying on our knees...all in the last 30 seconds. As we called our immediate family members over the last week to let them know that THIS IS HAPPENING, a few of them were brave and courageous and asked us really good questions.

Questions that you may have and that we will lay out flatly and plainly and as honest as possible right here for you. Because we know its often uncomfortable to ask, and when we don't ask what we want to know, we let our minds run and assume things that are often so far from the truth. That being said, I will answer some frequently asked questions at the very bottom of this post for those of you who want to know our deepest and not so dark secrets.

In January we began scouring the internet for the million and one ways we could go about this journey of adoption. THERE ARE SO MANY DIFFERENT ROUTES. But we landed on one and we are excited to take you along for the journey!

 

adoption journey 

May 11, 2015 we hired Susan. Susan is an adoption consultant through Christian Adoption Consultants. She has already been well worth the investment and we are barely two weeks into the official process. Susan is very important to this journey and you will most likely see her name here and there throughout the process. She is our guide, our advocate, our cheerleader, and our legal-master. AKA, she assures us that we are not doing anything illegal on accident and she assures that we are taking all of the right steps, as well as noting any precautions or major risks. Susan is a gift.

We have chosen to go the route of US Domestic Infant Adoption. This means that the baby we have the privilege of raising will be born somewhere in the United States and will be 6 months or under. This route will cost us around and up to $35,000. Yes. The cost of 3 really nice cars. And it will be so worth it. Fees regarding adoption are big and real, but we are not purchasing a child, we are paying legal fees just as you pay fees via a hospital/midwife if adding biologically.

There are a multitude of grants that are specific towards adoption which we will be applying for as soon as our home study is finished. Speaking of our home study, that is the very first big step! That process has officially begun and it is many things frightening and nerve wracking and exciting. We have sold so much of our random things that are unnecessary, clearing out our second bedroom (which is our actual nursery), and reorganized all of our storage! Talk about refreshing.

YOU GUYS. We need your help! And your neighbors help and your great aunt's help and your cousin's help. This is a miraculous thing we are joining God in, walking this road of adoption, and we cannot do it alone. We need you, you are important to this Team. We are kicking off our fundraising with what we call The Puzzle Fundraiser. It is personally a favorite idea I have ever seen, mainly because your name will be plastered all over our puzzle for us to remember forever.

You are the pieces of this puzzle!

And we need every single piece to make this puzzle complete. As you purchase pieces of the puzzles, you are integrating yourselves deeper into our story than we could ever understand. You are leaving marks on our history and family, building yourself into our baby's life.

adoption puzzle

We ordered this 720 piece puzzle of a photo I took in Austria and a favorite lyric that is from a song that is our heart's anthem during this process; this will be hung in our nursery. We are "selling" each piece for $25. Your name will be written on the back of each piece that you purchase (how cool would it be if there was an entire corner with your name on it?!) and once the puzzle is complete, we will put it in a double sided glass frame to showcase all of the people who made this adoption possible.

We know this is HUGE and giant and asking a lot. But we thought why not kick off this fundraiser with big goals and trusting in His ultimate provision?

How it works:

1)   Decide how many puzzle pieces you want to purchase to financially support our adoption fund.

1 puzzle piece = $25 

2)  Click on the donate button below to give securely through PayPal

-OR-

Donate via check. Email us at nataliekbrenner@gmail.com and we will send your our address to mail in a check.

3)  Watch the adoption puzzle come together on our blog and see your name be recognized. We will build the puzzle as you donate the pieces.

Lord willing, when we finish this puzzle, we will be just over half way funded. Anyway you support us matters and counts.

QUESTIONS TO BE ANSWERED

Q: Are you adopting internationally or domestically?

A: Domestic infant adoption is the route we have chosen! We are pursuing this through Christian Adoption Consultants.

Q: Girl or boy?

A: We are wondering the same thing and dreaming of both! Maybe one of each? #winkyface

 Q: Are you sure you don't want to go through the state? It's free.

A: Yes. We have done extensive research and are choosing this route. It is quicker and smoother, less risk in having a child taken out of our home once placed, and there is a greater chance of receiving a newborn - honestly, mainly because of selfish reasons.

Q: Is your only reason for adopting because of infertility?

A: No. Since we were dating we have dreamed of adopting. When we began our marriage, though we knew the possibility that my body would be a struggling one to conceive and carry life, we still believe that one day it will. And if it doesn't, that is a separate issue for us. Adoption is not a second option, or our back up, it is simply part of the journey we have hoped for. It hurts our hearts to know that this has been and may be some people's perception.   We wish we could go out for coffee with each one of you and share our sheer excitement.

Q: Are you giving up on having biological children?

A: Absolutely not. We still hope to create Baby Brenners with our DNA. But like we said, adoption is not a second option, it is becoming a part of our life.  Both biological and adopted children are our desires an will be "our own real children."

Q: Do you have a bunch of money saved up? Are you worried you won't have enough?

A: No we do not have a bunch of money saved up - we had the exact amount down to the penny to hire a consultant. From there, we sold a lot of unnecessary things in our home to apply for the home study; the amount for that was exact. Everything so far has been down to the exact penny provided for, no more and no less. So no, we are not worried that we won't be provided for -- God is bigger and clearly leading this.

Q: Are you too young for this? Why not wait a few years?

A: We have one life to live and we are not promised how many days are given to us. We are confident in our love for Christ as the foundation of our marriage and family. We believe we have a healthy marriage (joke's on us if we dont) despite how incredibly messed up we are. We both desire children, we both want to grow our family, we both feel called to step into this, no matter how unknowledgeable we are in parenting. You can't possibly be ready to parent, so let's just go for it. We have peace.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and join us in this journey! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to email us.

 

Brenner Blood: Germany, vol. 4

Sweaty and heaving air in and out of my lungs, I write this update while sitting on a nearly empty bus to Paris. Its raining, which I currently love because I am not getting soaked. We nearly missed this bus; lets just say we probably gave many people the idea that Americans are idiots that run back and forth through an entirely large train station- oops. But I did stand in front of this large bus with my hands in the air as it drove down the street; we now sit safely on our bus. It was like a movie - I could star in some crazy dangerous movie. The passengers include Loren, one lady, and myself on a bus that seats 40. We sat somewhere near the middle, more towards the front. I plan to start and finish Paper Towns by John Green on this silent six hour trip.

Brenner blood : a certain type of blood that runs thick in veins and straight through hearts. It is undeniable and gives permission such as emailing perfectly seeming strangers and making them into dear friends with memories made. Brenner blood, the more I familiarize with it, is wholly generous and completely hospitable. All of the Brenners that I meet are those beautiful things.

Our time in Berlin was short but long lasting in memory. Loren and his cousin Stephan met for the first real memorable time in 12 years - the last time they glanced at each other was briefly across the yard at a huge Brenner reunion in San Jose. Stephan gave us the first story of his home as our space; the hospitality in Germany is top notch, friends. I have learned so much.

Stephan rented us bikes for the two days and gave us a bike tour of All The Important Things, including one of the bunkers used in WWII. It happened to also be Mai Fest (May Day) so we celebrated the night into May with 50,000+ other people.

  Bike riding all the day long.

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Part of the Berlin Wall.

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One of the (precisely) 3 prayers that I lit a candle for in the old churches that offered such moments.

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Standing in the middle of the Holocaust memorial which consisted of a multitude of large cement stone blocks varying in size.

 

Brandenburg Gate

Pommes at the Brandenburg Gate

 These images were captured at the top of Sony Tower -- it contains the fasted elevator in Europe. It takes exactly 5 seconds to go from floor 0 to floor 24.

An old train station that was bombed during WWII.

We stepped into the scene of a post-apocalyptic movie, Loren expecting to see zombies. But instead we found a seat and ate some overpriced sweet potato.

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This little square of bean bag chairs and bookshelves is the memorial for where the books were burned

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Check Point Charlie

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There stands the last of the oldest German traffic lights over yonder!

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We stepped off the train and into platform 5 of Duisburg unsure what face we were looking for.

Loren's dad (Ralph) has a cousin living in north western Germany, Moers, and we connected with the family via the great World Wide Web. We slowly walked towards the stairwell leading to the underground breezeway, hoping we would somehow recognize a human we had never met or laid eyes on. We weren't even Facebook friends. But Brenner blood runs thick with love.

Suddenly through a mass of travelers, submerges a quick woman, smiling and obviously recognizing us. Embracing us in the warmest and most sincere hug ever, she kissed our cheeks and I thought, "This must be Andrea. I like Andrea."

Moers is a small town similar to the size of Corvallis. Andrea and Franz have lived here all of their life, currently raising two beautiful kids (Christopher, 18 and Anika, 12). This family is nothing short of a gift. Their hospitality exceeds many I have experienced and their hearts are inviting. Just as quickly as they welcomed us into their home, they welcomed us into their hearts. They even read up on this blog here and purchased me gluten/dairy free bread! The love is for real, folks. What an honor to claim such people as family.

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Andrea and Franz decided to take us the 18 minute drive to Venlo, Netherlands. They said, "it's not everyday you can take a day trip to the Netherlands for their pommes and shopping!" Down the autobahn we went, entering a fourth foreign country (the third unplanned), ready to devour pommes. They were some dang good pommes.

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Also, we went to the best shopping store ever; I got 3 scarves, shoes, a purse, socks and Loren got 3 shirts and a sweater...all for just $35. So obviously next time I want a cheap shopping trip, I will head to the Netherlands. Their coffee is also ridiculously low priced. On our way back to Moers, Germany, we stopped to meet more family. Loren's Opa's brother, aka Ralph's uncle, among other wonderful humans who share their blood. The barrier of language hardly held us at bay; with Loren's broken German and a few of their broken English and a whole lot of smiles and hand movements, we communicated. It was a unique moment for me as I watched generations of Brenners meet and talk and share stories of loved ones. I couldn't help but think how blessed I am to now be a Brenner.

Brenner blood runs thick and apparently there are tons of them spread throughout Germany.

Here's something crazy: this man Edmund was in a coma for 10 days, his heart stopped beating for something like 14 minutes, declared dead. The doctors shocked him with those iron-like equipments and now, 2 months later, he walks around no problem. Amazing. He said that while he was out of commission, he was walking around and asked God, "Where am I?" And God said, "Time to go back."

I had the pleasure of staring these down for two hours.

Our time in Moers will forever be cherished. We do hope to return. (Also, Franz and Andrea, if you are reading this, be sure to let Annika and Chris know they should come stay with us).

It is difficult to recap quickly what life beholds, yeah?

Did you know that in Germany the traffic lights blink red to yellow then to green? And white asparagus is huge and widely known here, also tastes nothing like green asparagus. Interesting, I know.

Revoir mes, petits amis!