Adoption Auction #BringHomeBabyBrenner Recap

natalie brenner photography Last Monday and Tuesday we held an online adoption auction with the hopes of raising at least $1,000 to add to our adoption fund. If you have read any of the previous posts, you will know that our lives have been a whirlwind of beauty and excitement, mixed with anxiety and wondering if we could come up with a large sum of funds to pay for this stork drop adoption. One way we pulled some quick funds together was by holding this online adoption auction; one of Instagram and one on Facebook. We first started pulling together vendors and baskets the first week of January, planning to do the auction early to mid February. WELL! Am I glad we started getting to work on the auction early, because our son was born January 6th and we needed funds fast!

Our vendors were so completely generous and did everything they could to help this auction be successful. They each were more than generous and we would not have raised any dime of this money without them. Be sure to check out each and every shop/vendor and make them a new favorite. Not only are their items adorable, creative, beautiful, and straight up awesome, but the people behind the shops and businesses are some of the most generous and well-meaning people. Friends. True friendships have been birthed, dear ones.

Here were our outstanding Facebook auction items & vendors:

auction items 21. A night out with Gregory and the Oregon Symphony. Two tickets to Gregory Alan Isakov with the Oregon Symphony. Seats are Middle Orchestra Side D R11 and R12; Retail Value: $80

2. $100 off your next stay at Columbia Cliff Villas. Good for any Sunday-Thursday stay. We stayed here about a year ago. Such an amazing place. Absolutely fantastic. Great place for a getaway in Hood Riverhttp://www.columbiacliffvillas.com/

3. Spa Day in Lebanon, Oregon:  Deluxe Manicure; Brow, Lip, and Chin Wax; and 20% off any Facial or Massage Service. Retail Value: $71

4. $100 Gift Certificate to Lighten Up Bleach Art Designs by Benjamin Peterson. One custom piece of bleach art design; can be on hat, sweatshirt, t shirt, etc. See more of his amazing work here: https://www.facebook.com/benjamin.peterson.56/media_set Contact him via his Facebook (Benjamin Peterson)

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5. Homemade Jambalaya with rice, salad and bread rolls.  Will feed 6-8 easy. Its dairy free, lots of meats and veggies and tomato sauce base. Her bread is a simple white roll recipe. Located: anywhere in Lebanon or Albany. Made by Alexandria Smith

6. Two Private Swim Lessons. Location: Athletic Club of Bend, OR. Description: 30 minutes each lesson for any age/swim level (must be at least 6 months). Retail Value: $60 About the Instructor: Amanda Wolf is a Certified Swim Instructor at the Athletic Club of Bend her email is swimminginbend@gmail.com. Whoever needs will schedule the lessons with her in advance, but she is very flexible is she has enough warning. The pool at the athletic club is 92 degrees and perfect for babies/young kids. No one will get cold feet around these parts! Amanda stresses fun while teaching water safety.

7. Natural Childbirth Class in Albany, OR with Melissa Gayle Meyer $50 off Class or $25 off Online Class http://www.naturaloregonbirth.com/

8. Used Exercise Bike. Location: Corvallis, OR. Winner Picks up Item; View details here http://www.fitnessblowout.com/equi…/recumbent-bike/SFEX13809

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9. Pioneer Woman Basket:  1 signed Pioneer Woman Holiday book; 1 linen serving bowl; 1 12 piece Paige dinnerware set; 4 teal tumblers; 1 slotted turner; 1 10 inch skillet; 1 12 inch skillet; & 1 grill pan; Retail value: $215

10. One 60 Minute Photography Session by: Heartstrings Photography. Located in Corvallis, OR Retail Value: $150; Website: loveheartstringsphotography.com ; www.facebook.com/heartstringspics - Families, Seniors, Engagements, Kids/Babies -

11. Newborn Bonnet. This bonnet is perfect for going home, newborn photography pictures or everyday wear. This newborn bonnet is especially made to fit newborns 0-1 month. Made to fit true newborn size. This bonnet will be gray. This bonnet is made when ordered. It will be shipped in 2-3 weeks. Retail Value: $19. Will be shipped by Rebekah Soriano, Shop Owner. Photo By: Dulce Baby Studio Contact info: www.facebook.com/bekscreations IG handle is Bek_Soriano Shop is www.beksoriano.etsy.com

12.  Sweet Mary Kay Basket: Travel Bag- $35, Skinvigorate Brush- $50, Mint Bliss Energizing lotion for feet and legs and plush socks- $11, Makeup Remover- $15; Microdermabrasion Set- $50, Satin Hand Set- $35, Satin Lip Set- $18 TOTAL Retail Value: $229 Shipping $9. "Everything is 100% satisfaction guarantee so if they don't love something then they can switch it out for something they do love for completely free!" - Hannah Mathers. Hannah Mathers, Mary Kay Independent Sales Director in Qualification; marykay.com/hmathers5; 541-844-9377; Located in Monmouth, OR available to travel

13. Stella & Dot Aurora Necklace. Retails value: $29 http://stelladot.com/allisonramsing

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14. One Full Photography Session by Samantha Short Photography; Located in Lebanon, OR Retail Value: Newborn/Graduate $350 OR Children/Family $250 Website: www.samanthashortphotography.com IG Handle: @samanthashortphotograph
We had two people who really wanted this package. Someone bid right at the 10 pm mark, closing off the bidding, and we received a message from the other bidder who really wanted this package. He asked if we would maybe see if Sam would offer a second package if they matched the winning bid: she said yes! She donated not one, but two full photography sessions!
Here were our amazing Instagram auction items and vendors:
auction items 4

1. One pair of moccasins from @wildblackberrymoccs. Winner chooses size and color. Shipping included. Retail: $39.

2. One caramel brown snap closure leather bracelet - customized up to 10 letters. Retail: $12. Free shipping . IG handle is @tatefamilyadoption

3. Six months of Be Spoken Coffee Roasters! A pound/bag of coffee will be sent to winner the first Thursday of every month. Retail Value: $140; IG Handle: @bespokencoffeeroasters Website: www.bespokencoffeeroasters.com/shop

4. Psalm 25 Printed size: 5 x 5” Paper type: Mohawk Superfine Eggshell, 120lb; Retail: $20 IG Handle is @mrslaurabeth

5.  Sweet and Simple PDF Patterns for Babies and Kids (Gift Card); Retail: $50 Gift Card to North Patterns; IG Handle: @northpatterns Website: northpatterns.co

6. Chunky Cowl; Retail: $29; IG Handle: @happyeverafter.knits Webiste: happyeverafterknits.bigcartel.com

7. 6-12 month Baby Slouchy Hat. I; Retail:$16. IG Handle: @happyeverafter.knits Webiste: happyeverafterknits.bigcartel.com

8. As For Me And My House - 10 x 8 Premium Giclee Paper Print - Retail: $20 Shipping included IG handle is @mrslauarabeth

9.  Be Brave Little One Knot Hat; Soft Modern Jersey Knit.  Size: 0 to 3 months. Retail: $13 IG Handle: @hazelandholly Etsy Shop: www.hazelandholly.etsy.com

10. Wildland Horse Harems and Matching Knot Hat; Organic knit;  Size: 0 to 3 months Retail: $38 IG Handle: @hazelandholly Etsy Shop: www.hazelandholly.etsy.com

Holly from HazelandHolly donated 50% of her entire profit to our adoption fund on Thursday! She also has been the dearest friend; she has a little one from AZ they are in the process of adopting. Her shop was created to help fund their Ethiopian adoption as well. Holly sent Loren and I a Starbucks gift card Friday because she knows that adoption, though beautiful and lovely, is also very messy and hard.

Be sure to check out each of these vendors/shops/businesses. Show them some love after all the unbelievable generosity they have shown us! We would not have made a dime with out them.

Sooo...the total for this online Adoption Auction #BringHomeBabyBrenner was... dun dun dun: $1,905!!!

Thank you vendors! We could not have done this without you and we are forever grateful. You have seriously helped us more than we would have dreamed.

natalie brenner photography

Adoption Auction Preview!

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We are so excited to launch our Adoption Auction tomorrow! We are doing our best to raise as much funds as possible to pay our adoption agency and be cleared to head home from Utah as soon as our ICPC (UT and OR laws are a go) is cleared.

We have had so many amazing people, shops, and businesses donate goods and services for us to auction off! 100% of the profit goes straight into our adoption fund, bringing us one giant step closer to bringing out baby boy Sage home!

Here is a sneak peek (not everything!!) preview of what will be up for auction tomorrow through Tuesday evening:

Mary Kay Basket Travel Bag- $35 Skinvigorate Brush- $50 Mint Bliss Energizing lotion for feet and legs and plush socks- $11 Makeup Remover- $15 Microdermabrasion Set- $50 Satin Hand Set- $35 Satin Lip Set- $18 Retail Value: $229 Shipping $9 Auctioned on FB

This bonnet is perfect for going home, newborn photography pictures or everyday wear. This newborn bonnet is especially made to fit newborns 0-1 month. Made to fit true newborn size. This bonnet will be gray. This bonnet is made when ordered. It will be shipped in 2-3 weeks. Retail Value: $19 Auctioned on FB

One Full Photography Session by Samantha Short Photography Located in Lebanon, OR Retail Value: Newborn/Graduate $350 OR Children/Family $250 Auctioned on FB

Auction Item: one caramel brown snap closure leather bracelet - customized up to 10 letters Retail: $12 Free shipping IG handle is @tatefamilyadoption Auctioned on IG

Auction Item: 6-12 month Baby Slouchy Hat. I Retail:$16. IG Handle: @happyeverafter.knits Webiste: happyeverafterknits.bigcartel.com Auctioned on IG

Auction Item: Wildland Horse Harems and Matching Knot Hat; Organic knit; Size: 0 to 3 months Retail: $38 IG Handle: @hazelandholly Etsy Shop: www.hazelandholly.etsy.com Auctioned on IG

Auction Item: As For Me And My House - 10 x 8 Premium Giclee Paper Print - Retail: $20 Shipping included IG handle is @mrslauarabeth Auctioned on IG

I in no way chose these previews for any reason except for the fact that they were the most recent ones I downloaded! There are a ton more that will be up for auction, these are simple some of them :)

Tomorrow, Monday January 11, these will go live! Auctions will close Tuesday January 12 at 10 pm Mountain Time. At that time, the highest bidder will have one! If you want to leave your email address in the same comment as your bid you can, or we can contact you with private/direct messages and ask for your email. We will send you the information Wednesday how to go about paying and if you decide not to, the next highest bidder will win. Ask away if you have any questions! I will do my best to get back to you.

Be sure to find me on Instagram, @nataliekbrenner and find our Facebook Group: Adoption Auction #BringHomeBabyBrenner.

Please tag and invite your friends. We hope to make this a pretty broadcasted auction to raise as much as possible!!

Thank you so much for everything!! Stay tuned for a little bit more of our story: we are working on a blog post together between phone calls and snuggles and Facetimes and skin to skin and appointments and feeding and legal tasks to be done and more snuggling, oh and trying to sleep. We hope to share a bit more of the last weeks amazing miracles tomorrow.

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To support our adoption immediately, you can use these options:

PAYPAL: To cut down on Paypal costs, we are asking that supporters send payment via PayPal as a "gift to friends and family".
1. Log into Paypal
2. Choose "send money" (if you're on the phone app, there is a "transfer" option at the bottom)
3. Send the money to:  nataliekbrenner@gmail.com
ADOPTION SHIRTS: Click on each one for the various campaigns Onesies Kids shirts & crewneck sweaters Adult long sleeves, short sleeves, tanks
Please be sure to post a photo wearing your shirt and use the hashtag #bringhomebabybrenner, unless he is home with us, then use the #broughthomebabybrenner :) We will print these and make the most beautiful album!

Hope: birthed at the dawn of the New Year

happy new year, #2015bestnine I'm parked by the fire place at my in-laws house in Boise, feeling the warmth of the fire wrap around me like a cozy blanky. Except its better than a blanky because I don't have to put forth any effort to keep the heat in.

It's a weird thing, this turning of the years like a leaf. Somehow our brains can compartmentalize time and box up the adventures, experiences, trials, and joys of 12 months, stick them into a filing cabinet drawer of our memories, and enter a year with fresh hope and goals and ideas. But as you and I also know, those same adventures, experiences, trials, and joys from each passing year still stick with us. They still phase us, scar us, boost us, and help make up who we are as individual humans. As cultures and countries. As humanity. But still, though the experiences of each year stick to us like glue, becoming a part of us, we are still somehow able to look into the next year, literally as the hours count down, and as soon as that ball drops or that whistle is blown or those lips are kissed, something special happens.

Hope is birthed at the dawn of the New Year.

I am very much ready for 2016.

There were many moments, stringing into days and weeks, and even months that I could not help but think, "I am ready for 2015 to be done." "I do not like 2015." "2015 marks itself as pain-filled, wound-induced, and heart breaking." My heart felt like it broke in half more than I thought it could. And the slightly terrifying thing is this: I am young; I potentially have decades ahead of me. Decades that could very well hold years more pain, loss, betrayal, and broken-heartedness.

And let's be real: 2015 wasn't constantly darkened from what seemed to be the pits of hell. I can just be a drama queen. If my sister[by law, by also by friendship] Emily is reading this, she would give me her look that says, "Nat, don't be such a debbie-downer, you had some really good moments." And she is right. >Though we lost our first baby, we experienced a positive pregnancy test that was not phased by loss and fear. It was the most joyful of moments, full of laughter and dreams and name-games and dancing; full of nursery plans and Christmas dreams of snuggling our newborn close near the tree; full of love and excitement without a hint of fear. >We found joy amidst the mourning every time we visited our nieces. Nieces are gifts from heaven. >Our best friendships deepened, solidified themselves all the more. >We explored 5 countries over 3 weeks in Europe, sipped wine in Paris, ate frites in Germany and Netherlands, we climbed the Eiffel Tower and said prayers in ancient churches and rode trains through Austria. >We spent countless hours with the best of youth; a few tears are falling now as I think over those sweet memories. >We began our incredible journey towards adopting our baby. The #bringhomebabyBrenner hashtag was birthed and I ache for the day it changes it #broughhomebabyBrenner. >We discovered another baby [boy] in my tummy, who is still residing there today at 19 weeks 1 day. >And, we moved to the Portland area.

Maybe it will be #theyearofBrennerbabies. #wecravecrazy.

Loren and I were looking at my "2015 Instagram Best Nine," the most liked photos on my little account, and we were like, "almost all of these were from the last three months!" Every single one except our adopting announcement. What's ironic is that the most liked photos were from some of the absolutely most painful and difficult time.

I don't want to spit on 2015. I spent many days and nights on my knees crying prayers into carpet fibers, but in those moments I knew more than ever that He was with me. I can look back on 2015 and find more grace in the broken pieces of it than in the whole and pretty pieces of it.  So instead of burying the ugly we wore last year and instead of pretending that it didn't happen, let's remember that the messy fragments often serve as the avenues to grace. Let's clothe ourselves with dignity. It is in the messiness and the brokenness, the dirt of this world, that we often find Jesus. We find Him when we are raw, stripped down, and at the bottom of the pit because there is nothing else to experience but His tender grace and presence.

Gah, He is so good and so hope-filled and so joy-importing.

As we approach 2016 tonight, I feel the tingling of Hope in my heart.

I feel the budding of Hope for a joy more profound than I have ever known. Hope for experiencing love and loving deeper than ever. The budding Hope is beautiful and bright, vibrant and radiant. It brings freedom, Hope does.

Hope that we would be better kids to our parents, better siblings, better grandkids, better spouses.

Hope for my heart, that it would find more healing. Deeper healing than I have ever experienced.

Hope for my husband's heart, that it would also find healing.

Hope for Tummy Baby, that we will meet this little boy and kiss him and smooch him and begin the years of parenting.

Hope for Heart Baby, that we will raise enough funds to adopt our baby, that we will meet our birth mama and have a relationship with her. That our family would embrace this baby, no matter what, as their own; that they would acknowledge the baby growing in our hearts and understand that adoption is not charity or a metaphor, but the very heart of God. Adoption is redemption. Family is so much more than blood.

Hope for our marriage to continue thriving, our friendship to develop powerfully, our love to strengthen and deepen.

Hope for writing; that I would finish my [fifth draft of a] manuscript, that I would continue writing as a freelancer and ghost writer, that I would grow and learn.

I want more than anything for my Hope to fully reside in Jesus. And for all other hope to flow out of that. My hope is that I would see Him in the mess and the beauty, that I would see the mountains and remember that our Creator crafted them carefully, that I would see Him in people...the messy, toothless, smelly people. But also in the people I {unrightly} deem as snobby and too-good-for-you. I want to see Jesus in all the things, even when I may only see splinters of Him.

He is my security and my safety, my home, and He shall [more than ever] be my Hope.

Happy New Year, team.

Thank you for joining us on this wild ride.

PS. Did you see our adoption shirt fundraiser was kicked off tonight? The shirts (3 styles) will only be available until January 21, so be sure to order one and support our adoption!

Adoption Update: a financial conversation

adoption, waiting for you We have been in the Adoption Waiting Phase since May 11 [when we hired Susan through Christian Adoption Consultants].

I am going to invite you a little deeper into the process, into what we are talking about and praying for and looking at in the way of adoption costs.

We presented to 3 different birth moms through private attorneys, early on in our process, before even being home study ready. Had any of these brave mamas chosen us to parent their baby, our adoption would have cost as low as $8,000 or as high as $12,000, including travel fees.

Once home study approved, we presented to two more birth moms through agencies. Had either of these two mamas chosen us to parent their baby, our adoption would have cost as low as $38,000 and as high as $48,000, not including travel fees.

VOCAB RECAP: "presenting to a birth mom" = having an attorney or agency show your Family Profile book to an expectant mom, who has {courageously} made an adoption plan for her baby.

Since announcing our adoption in May, we have fundraised and saved about $14,000 but spent $3,000ish on the home study and agency applications, leaving us at around $11,000 in the adoption fund. Any money ever donated or put into that account from our own paychecks stays there unless spent on adoption expenses. We are extremely disciplined in that way. There is no way we would use this money as an emergency fund or for anything other than our adoption. Our adoption means too much to us and the people who are generously donating are trusting us.

I have spent countless hours applying to grants. I mean, countless. I believe we have applied to 9 adoption grants, received 3 denial letters, and are in the Waiting Phase for the other 6, praying big prayers of provision. Why they would deny us, I have no idea - except that there are so many applicants. One of them even said, "Don't bother applying if you make more than $150,000." I thought, "Oh we've got this grant in the bag! We make like 2% of that!" Wrong. Denied. Too many applicants. Not matched yet. The other day I asked our adoption facebook group who received grants and how many they applied to -- I think 3 people out of the couple hundred commented. One family received $14,000 in grants, and explained how abnormal that is. The other two explained that they each got matching grants (your fundraising through them will be matched up to a certain point) for $2500 and $8000. To say I was a little discouraged is an understatement.

I cannot tell you the amount of nervousness I have had in the last few weeks regarding our fund and its lack of growth. Don't get me wrong, we have been blown away by people's sacrifice and generosity and courage. The support we have had so far has encouraged us and completely deepened our faith in humans. Every day though, Tummy Baby and I pray for Heart Baby and we beg God, "Lord, please provide us with grants. Please, Jesus, we ask for $15,000 in grants. Or God, we pray and we ask for a private adoption. Lord, your will be done. Help me trust your provision."

I also applied to about 5 different adoption, interest free, loans. Due to our extreme lack of credit (our score is great! we just haven't had a lot of debt), we were only approved for one and it was a really low loan.

Currently, we are reading this book that I will forever recommend to anyone considering adoption. I wish we had read it before beginning the process, but that's okay! Better now than never. It is called: Adopt Without Debt. The other night I read this: "There is not one example in the Bible of God calling someone to do something and then using debt as a tool to accomplish it." I don't believe that taking out a loan for our adoption is a sin or wrong. Not even 1%. I believe that the heart behind taking a loan out to bring a baby into your home is beautiful and pure and good...not sinful or selfish or materialistic. But that quote stopped me to think, do I believe God called us to this? I do. Do I believe He can provide for us without a huge $20,000 loan? I do. Will I walk in that freedom and trust that the funds will be available when they need to be? Not always, but I am working on it one day at a time.

 A COMMITMENT: TIME TO GET TIGHT AGAIN, and I don't mean our bods.

Before our big job/life/career transition, we were operating on a very strict budget and have been pretty disciplined our entire marriage (thank you Jesus!). Since May we were putting $100/paycheck towards our adoption, plus most of my photography money. Our life was sort of thrown up and tossed around, and so was our budget. God always, always, provides whatever we need, and reminds us what is a need versus a want. Oh my, our needs are slim if we are honest. But we were less than disciplined in the last two months, and we are at that point where it is time to get tight again! Once we have Loren's first paycheck in January (and when my job gets to rolling we will re-assess) we will be able to set up a budget again. We will be going back to using only cash for spending, aside from paying bills. This adoption means so much to us and we know that it starts and continues with sacrificeOur goals for our budget beginning in 2016:

FIRST, OUR PRIORITIES AT THE BEGINNING OF JANUARY PAYCHECK: >Tithe >Bills paid >$80/month total allotment for gas for both cars >$300/month total allotment for groceries >$100/month to adoption (plus any photography sessions)

If able, we will have these additional Budget Envelope Goals as well as, and here are ways we are cutting back and beginning to save again:

>Grocery spending is going from $400-$450/month to $300/month ($75/week). Included in our grocery budget: cleaning supplies, paper goods, toiletries, etc. Back into meal planning. I will find 30 meals that we like and put them in an easy rotation system. I will re-discover my "maximum spend" list, meaning I will not pay more than $1/lb for apples.

>We have gone back and forth about getting internet. We have never had internet/netflix/tv/hulu in our marriage. I have been doing a bit of freelance writing which requires internet so I either use the hot spot our parents gave us or spend a few dollars at the coffee shop. But it adds up. So we are still debating which is more cost effective:we are leaning towards no internet. Budgeting a couple drip coffees a month, $10/month towards coffee shop internet & dates. (This is low priority and may not end up making the cut, or be lowered).

>Gifts for others envelope will go from $40/month to $5/month and I will have to become crafty. Gulp. I could also resort to not having friends?

>Eating Out will go from the current loosey goosey to being budgeted into Dates. Instead of what we had as $30/week for dates, we will go back down to $5/week for dates ($20/month). This means we get to be creative again about date night! If we want to see a movie or go to a nice restaurant, we will save the months worth of dates and compile them into one date.

>We will plant another garden this spring. We will raise 3 chickens this spring

>No clothes buying (we really only buy clothes this time of year for Christmas gifts, anyways! Or we consign)

>No more 3D Crest White toothpaste. We are going generic and coupon-savy, friends. This is the real deal. I LOVE MY TOOTHPASTE. Anyone who knows me, knows I love to brush my teeth. This was a big decision for me. (I know, pity). Generic household & baby items, here we come.

>Cloth diapers. (Please don't debate me. I hate debates. I research.) We have purchased some second hand and also have a dear love who has offered to donate theirs to us! Bless

>Tax return: if we get one this year, a percentage of this will go straight into our adoption fund as we have done with every return.

There you have it, friends. We are on the road to saving and paying for this adoption. Go ahead and feel free to ask us how we are doing with our budget and if we are being disciplined or not - accountability is always good. With everything, we are trying to remember that grace is good and covers every bit of this. We will fail and miss it. But we will pick ourselves back up again and remember the goal: bringing home our baby. So, little Baby, wherever you are: we are still waiting for you. We are making sacrifices for you and will work hard to continue putting money into your fund. If you are waiting through an agency, Lord will provide one way or another. If you are waiting through a private attorney, Lord will connect us. We love you.

we will begin writing names on the back NEXT WEEK!

Able to donate towards our adoption? We are still working on this puzzle! This is a photo I took in Austria and a quote that means a lot to us. We are writing names on the back of each piece that is purchased, and show casing the puzzle in our nursery in a double sided frame. That way, we can forever remember and thank Jesus for the many people who helped bring our baby home. We are over halfway finished with the puzzle! We have 403 of 720 pieces sponsored. Are you able to sponsor a piece?

How it works:

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

1 puzzle piece = $25 

2)  VenMo nataliekbrenner@gmail.com and write in the memo "Baby Brenner"

- OR -

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!

However many you decide on, stick the name(s) you want written on pieces in the memo.

3)  Watch the adoption puzzle come together on our blog and see your name be recognized.

This puzzle, when finished, will get us to $18,000 - about half of our adoption financial goal.

Follow along: >Instagram: @nataliekbrenner or #brenneradoptionjourney >Facebook: Natalie Brenner >THIS BLOG!

 

A Wreck to Delight-Filled

It has been two months and one day since our world blew up in our face and then our hearts were crapped on. I sat for about five minutes after typing those words and simply stared out the Starbucks wall-of-window at Sparky's Pizza's sign. There is a piece of the window-pane covering part of the r and it looks like "Spanky's Pizza" and all I can picture is a pig while I think over the last two months and all of the broken pieces of our heart. So there is that.

I am sipping out of an extremely lovely red cup while my abdominal muscles lose their strength and my tummy grows rounder by the week and I cannot believe that there is a tiny and precious and so loved human growing inside of my very broken body. Still. Today. At 16 weeks.

baby pregnancy announcement, coupled with adoption

All I want to do is write and process all. the. things. that has become "us," but all I seem to do instead is unpack the boxes that seem to signify what life was and prepare for a home study update. Oh and also I keep driving to Costco and Target because they are so close to our new life and they have all the things we need want.

Being honest is sort of one of my things. Part of why I haven't been posting on my blog is because what I see blaring loudly in my face as the honest truth is flat out ugly right now. And not honoring. And just yuck and sad. And who wants to read about that? What happens when being honest is ugly and full of really uncomfortable truths and realities? Truths people don't usually want to hear because, it hurts too bad. It doesn't make you feel happy inside. It bursts your bubble of what was. What happens when being honest, I mean to-the-bone gut wrenching honest, means that you acknowledge and come to grips with the fact that every single human being has great capacity to hurt, burn, and wound deeper than we should, in order to save face and keep a perception. Even pastors and mentors. Even friends. Even the "best" of friends. Even you. And me. Do we put up our guards and not let anyone near our hearts? Do we continue to risk being burned because in risking our own hearts we learn what real Love is? Will we whole heartedly see where we fell short and burned someone? Will we be truly repentant or always be justifying it here and there? These are questions that may not even matter. Or they may make the world of a difference. I don't know. I am just me, writing words, and looking for Him in the chaos that has become my heart.

We humans are a big mess of a wreck sometimes. This is a little honest glimpse into where my heart has been the last two months:

>Angry. Fuming with hot red anger. Anger that could punch holes in walls and faces.

>Fear. Fear of the false things people have been told about us and fear of the false things they may choose to believe. Fear of being pregnant again; fear of losing the human our bodies entwined to create; fear of mourning another loss; fear of not being chosen by an expectant birth mother; fear of agencies suspending our adoption; fear of people deciding not to support our adoption now that we are pregnant again; fear of people saying, "You got pregnant after adopting, it happens all the time!" please stop. We became pregnant after the first time of beginning adoption and lost that one. So please, its not a formula.

>If only's. If only people knew our hearts; how we sought wise and trusted counsel; how we spent hours in prayer crying out to God about big and painful decisions. [If only's change nothing. They only change your heart from being in one place to being in a worse place]

>Questioning. Where did we go wrong? Certain strings of days play themselves on repeat in my head and I continuously ask Jesus, "Where did we go wrong?" I can see little bits here and there, but the big stuff, the big decisions? Questioning God and will He be our defender? He has been, in many ways. He is so faithful. Questioning our identity and our careers - are we terrible if we decide not to pursue vocational ministry at this time, if ever again? What are we if we are not Youth Pastors and church staffers? Could we even begin to dare to enter a ministry under our heart's conditions right now? No. We couldn't. So we didn't. We were honest with ourselves and decided to breathe and pray about what "calling" means to us and is it a career or is it character or is it the way we walk about life daily.

>Confused. I am in a weird group that seems to be population me + my friend Shelley who I've never actually met. We tried to conceive and carry for almost 2.5 years. We endured fertility treatments and then loss. We decided to pursue adoption, knowing full well and also expecting, we may conceive again. So I walked the road of infertility for a short couple of years that felt like forever, joined the adoptive parent community, and now am pregnant at 16 weeks and still won't know until June if my body will come through. It just feels weird. Who are my people? My infertile friends are like, "Yeah you make me sad," and that makes sense; my friends who never really endured infertility and loss are like, "ISNT THIS THE WORST THING BEING PREGNANT" and I'm like, "I love you friend, I do. But actually, I feel like I am actually doing something right for the first time and I am thankful for my pain-filled boobs. But yes, being nauseous all the time and vomiting isn't my favorite. But it means my body is doing it right, right?!" I am weird.

>Frustration. Frustrated at dear friends for selfish reasons. This is because, guess what world? I am so much a human.

>Sadness. Sad to say goodbye to so many people that mean so much to us. Our Dinner Club pals. Our older generation pals. Our same-age pals. Our young pals. Our youth groupers. Our baristas and credit union peeps. So. Many. Pals. These are people we built our life around for four years, people we love and people who love us and believe in us. Who have built us up and walked through tough stuff with. A real loss bringing layers of grief. 

But I have also been:

>Hopeful. Hopeful for the life created within me. For our adoption. For 2016 to bring fresh life and healing. Healing that we need deeper than our bones and ligaments. Hopeful for growth and healthy relationships. Hope is good for the soul. Hope brings laughter.

>Laughing. My husband makes me laugh so incredibly hard.

>Thankful. I am so incredibly thankful for the baby in my belly. One day at a time, I am grateful that I see signs of life continue. I am also deeply grateful to be on the journey that is adoption. I am honored and humbled and so grateful that our hearts have opened wide open for God to do crazy things. I am thankful for Costco.

>Joy. Joy for a new chapter. The next chapter. This chapter. Joy for the little belly bean, nugget, peanut, baby with a beating heart within me. One day at a time. Joy to breathe in a new city and not feel trapped. Joy that adoption has grown only deeper within our hearts.

adoption, waiting for you, and pregnancy 

pregnancy & adoption announcementSo as you have read, I have sort of been a wreck of feelings and thoughts. Until about a week ago, I have done a terrible job of keeping my thoughts captive. I have allowed my head to run rampant with anger and scenes and words and lies about my identity and value. Why is taking our thoughts captive so difficult? Why is pushing out the dark and inviting in the light so much work? The answer is: it isn't. I just make it difficult and exhausting.

I am a truth teller and I will continue to be until the day I do not breathe oxygen. The truth is, I am extremely unpredictable. I have good days and I have bad days. I have amazing moments and I have extremely embarrassing moments. I have moments, just like you probably do. But for the last few days, minus a few hours yesterday, I was delight-filled.

Delight-filled because I decided to turn off the radio and instead spend drive-time praying, spend cooking and shopping and teeth brushing praying. Delight-filled because I have been opening the pages of my Bible again, day after day, letting His word comfort and lead me, reveal His unending and ever faithful love for me. Delight-filled because I have been choosing to fill my head and my heart with prayers for our baby in my tummy and our baby in our hearts, for my family members, for my husband, for our adoption finances, for the presidential campaign, for the so valuable humans who are being completely degraded right now, for refugees, for the amazing people who are walking down the street.

I mean filling my head and heart. Not just small little whispers here and there, but reforming a habit that I unraveled too long ago.

It is delightful to be delight-filled.

Henri Nouwen says, "If you want to follow Jesus you [must] control what you take in every day. When you are on the bus or subway, or in your car, why busy your mind with all the garbage of advertisements? Why fill your mind with television and radio? ... I don't mean you shouldn't ever go to movies or watch television, but control what enters your mind and heart. It's not just a question of pushing bad things out but a question of holding on to something really good. It is good to have a prayer on your lips wherever you go. There are so many moments in life when you are free to pray..."

I want to transform this December from a wreck to delight-filled. I consider myself a Realist and my friend Kathleen says that is code for Pessimistic. I don't think its too late to change that part of me, to transform it, to will change and overcome that heavy weight.

I crave for the Lord to renew my broken spirit.

I yearn for moments to turn into days strung into weeks and then months where I am not walking in fear of anything but the mighty God I put my trust in.

I ache for His presence to bring me peace, moment after moment, day after day. Grace abounding, because He can and He will and He does. He brings the grace, my friends.

"When your past memories are bigger than your present dreams your life is in trouble." I saw that today and I am taking one day at a time to breathe and dream about today and about tomorrow. To not dwell. To hold in good things, future things, present things.

I hope to find His heart in the dailiness of my healing. Even when I take one step forward and three steps back.

Join me this December, and pursue a delight-filled spirit?

december 2015 goals

ADOPTION UPDATE: we are presenting!

adoption Loren and I have so much happening all at once, I am thankful that God is bigger than both of us.

Tuesday morning we woke up to an email from our consultant letting us know of a potential situation [expectant mama looking for adoptive parents]. I stayed seated while he heated his burrito and I read the email word for word out loud with so much excitement and hope, I couldn't even pretend to contain it. My heart was beating so fast. Loren was smiling. We knew we wanted to present [have the attorney show the expectant mama our family profile book as an option].

This expectant mama is expected to deliver sometime this winter, anytime between December and February. Why is the due period so spread out?, you may ask.. let's just say she is carrying a double load. A "double load" has been on our hearts for years, and only became heavier when we officially began the adoption journey.

We asked to be presented, prayed that we would trust whatever He allows or doesn't, and waited for the email back. Our consultant let us know that "Yes! We get to present! This Thursday." TOMORROW. If she chooses us, we need another $4000-5000 dollars (half of the total fee is due up front). I have been working on finding some quick loans to access in the case that we need to, but we are really hoping not to use loans yet. We are more than confident that if God has chosen these two babies to be ours to raise and to parent and to kiss and to lose so much sleep over, that He will provide the funds. He will work through you, your family, our family, our friends, He will use a village. It will take a village. Please people, be our village, we are going to need it.

So what do you say? Will you purchase a puzzle piece? One for each family member?

This puzzle will be hanging in a double sided glass frame in our nursery, displaying all of your so important and necessary names!

adoption puzzle fundraiser

How it works:

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

1 puzzle piece = $25 

2)  VenMo nataliekbrenner@gmail.com and write in the memo "Baby Brenner"

- OR -

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!

However many you decide on, stick the name(s) you want written on pieces in the memo.

3)  Watch the adoption puzzle come together on our blog and see your name be recognized.

This puzzle, when finished, will get us to $18,000 - about half of our adoption financial goal.

Follow along: >Instagram: @nataliekbrenner or #brenneradoptionjourney >Facebook: Natalie Brenner >THIS BLOG!

home is where the heart is