Adoption + Puzzle Update [vol. 7]

adoption puzzle fundraiser

We are almost halfway puzzle-funded. Our puzzle will bring in $18,000 when completely sponsored which is about half of the cost of an agency adoption. We decided to just keep adding pieces to the puzzle and write names in as they arrive -- we don't want to lose any pieces and if we are honest, the longer we wait to put it together, the higher the chance of losing pieces.

There are more transitions than one happening in our life and we have reason to believe that God has orchestrated life as a trip. As cheesy as it is, life is a journey, a trip, a tour with stop signs and green lights and cross walks and yield signs. He just happens to be the Tour Guide, gently giving us one day at a time to breathe and to live and to pursue Him, guiding us without telling us what the next big sight is. I think He knows we are best tourists when we don't know all the answers, when we don't have an idea of where He is taking us, when we aren't in actual control. We couldn't handle life if we knew the entirety of the process, if we were in actual control. It's too much responsibility for our human selves.

adoption puzzle fundraiser

Halfway puzzle-funded and our little family profiles are currently at 3 of the 5 agencies we are praying to work with. They are active, they are ready, they are sitting in a pile awaiting the right birth family to open up and sift through the pages.

If we were to be presented to a birth family tomorrow and if they were to choose us, we would owe the money at match. This is a scary time for an adoptive couple, but its a time that each of them walks through. Will the money be provided? Will He come through? Or will He not? This is where the twists and turns in the road are so scary that I am thankful I am not the Driver.

Adoption grants are weird. A lot of them want you to be matched before you can apply for them. But the linch pin is that you have to have your money up front when matched. So how does that work? I am working my tail hiney off to fill out as much of the adoption grant paperwork as possible, have it all ready to go, and then once we are matched, send it off.

Adoption loans are another thing I am learning so much about.

I am an adult.

Wouldn't it be nice to just have $35,000 sitting in a bank account right now, ready to go for our baby? Let me answer that: yes. But that is rarely how it ever goes.

adoption puzzle fundraiser

IMG_8689

True friends are so necessary. Friends that know your character better than even yourself at times. Friends that call out your character, revealing that they believe in you, that you are strong, and you are not inherently and deeply evil. I am learning this daily.

My friend Bethany said she has had this little pink number for a couple of years and couldn't wait any longer to give it to us:

IMG_8695

It is pure preciousness because Loren is a BBC alumni and we have never seen such precious clothing. Of course he swooned and then freaked out, what if we have daughters. It sits on top of our nursery dresser, along with some little boy shoes and shorts, and a little bear hat knitted by the one and only beautiful Graice Miller - a 16 year old who has forever weaved herself into our hearts.

adoption nursery

adoption nursery

I sit near this shelf quite often, rocking in a chair that was gifted to us from Allan. The shelf itself was scrap wood given to us from Josh. Friendship makes up a home and now a nursery and I am learning already that friendship helps raise babies. You know that saying, that it takes a village to raise babies? What happens if all of your friends move away or if you move away from them? Right in the knick of time when the babies start coming. That has been one of my questions all this time, but like I said, God is big and He is the Tour Guide. He is mighty and powerful and all-with-us. I have real questions and real fears and real wonderings, and I wonder if you do too. When in the thick of something big and life changing and beautiful, what if life itself falls apart from the seams? What if the quilt that was once your life becomes unraveled and the stitches fall out? What if you become undone even more than ever before?

Every day I ask Him Big Questions and every day He reminds me, "I am with you. I am defender, I am reputation, I am Dad. I am with you."

There is no other option, really, but to trust Him fully at this point.

adoption nursery

Would you sponsor/purchase/claim a puzzle piece or two? I will etch your name or whosever you leave in the comment box, writing it forever to exclaim that you helped us grow our family through adoption. You helped us find one of our babies.

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!

-OR-

Donate via VenMo. Nataliekbrenner@gmail.com

3)  Watch the adoption puzzle come together on our blog and see your name be recognized. We will be framing this beautiful puzzle in a two-sided-clear frame for our nursery, show casing all of the names who helped bring our baby home!

On growing old: a letter

lets get wrinky  on growing old  marriage Dear Husband,

When I purchased your wedding band three short years ago, I requested them to etch a few words into the white gold that you would wear for the rest of your life. As I wrote the words I so carefully picked out to place into the ring, the lady across the cold glass counter stared at me. She asked, "Are you sure?"

"Yes." I replied plainly. "Yes, of course I am sure!"

[Let's get wrinkly]

were the words I paid to engrave into that white gold ring.

581568_10151170110369243_408443467_n

Wrinkly is not simply a goal, but a thrilling and frightening dream. A dream that seems so far and yet too near. A supreme dream that seems simple and almost easy, but discretely daunting and serious, extremely. You see my dear, I am honored to grow old with you, to be on your team. I hear that there are hard years, smoother years, sick years and healthy years. I see there is pain and I have seen there is joy - some we have experienced, deeply and unfortunately, but the key part of the beauty is the word, "we." Together. We have many years before us. We are such babies and I cannot imagine with the good Lord Jesus has in store for us.

Sometimes while I am getting my face ready to greet the day, you join me in the tiny space we call our bathroom. You pull me in close, your arms tight around me, and you place your head near my neck so that we are cheek to cheek. We stare into each others eyes through the mirror that coexists as our toothbrush cabinet. And we smile. We sit in that place of togetherness because our hearts reside there, safely. Tucked into the other. Often while we are doing this thing of sticking close and staring at the togetherness, I do my best to soak in the skin that currently protects our bodies - it is soft and smooth, nearly wrinkle-free. There are minor blemishes. I know that too soon, I will stare into that mirror and wonder when those wrinkles arrived. I know that too soon, we will be cheek to cheek and our wrinkles may be overlapping. I will do my best to be okay with this. Because with you, I am growing old.

And those wrinkles will be a trophy proclaiming, "We fought for our marriage. We worked hard and we are where we are, together. We had hard conversations and honestly painful days. We chose one another over self, day after day, we chose love even when we felt far from it. We denied our desires to flirt with others, to see what it would be like to be with someone else. We saw the big picture, instead of just what was before us. We walked through valleys and darkness...and through it all He held us together holding hands. And these wrinkles are our trophy."

love chocolate cherubs

I have agreed, vowed, that marriage is so much more than a piece of paper. I am understanding that life is fragile, even but a vapor  - over these last few months, we have learned that so much deeper. I want to learn these painfully difficult lessons with you nearest to my heart, you holding my hand [wrinkle-free or not], you pulling me close to remind me that you are here and not going anywhere.

I will not imagine growing old and wrinkly with anyone but you. 

I look forward to swallowing our vitamins every morning with each other as a life long routine. You making coffee ever so carefully; me making eggs ever so scrambly. I dare to say we may never live by the world's term of grandly, but I will gladly live plainly by your side, growing  old. Even wrinkly.

With a heart loving yours,

Natalie

button250

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. 

Pulling my head out & headed to Canada!

nats canada adventures I'm off to Canada.

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

That chin, though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So. To all humans everywhere:

We are not called or made to live busily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Purpose of Marriage.

"What is marriage for? It is for helping each other to become our future glory-selves, the new creations that God will eventually make us.... Within this Christian vision for marriage, here is what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of the person God is creating, and the say, 'I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to His throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, 'I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!'' Each spouse should see the great thing that Jesus is doing in the life of their mate through the Word, the gospel. Each spouse should give him or herself to be a vehicle for that work and envision that day that you will stand together before God, seeing each other presented in spotless beauty & glory.

In this view of marriage, each person says to the other, 'I see all your flaws, imperfections, weaknesses, dependencies. But underneath them all I see growing the person God wants you to be.'

The goal is to see something absolutely ravishing that God is making of the beloved.

When two Christians who fully understand this stand before the minister all decked out in their wedding finery, they realize they're not just playing dress up. What they're saying is that someday they are going to be standing not before the minister but before The Lord. And they will turn to see each other without spot and blemish. And they hope to hear God say, 'Well done, good and faithful servants. Over the years you have lifted one another up to me. You sacrificed for one another. You held one another up with prayer and with thanksgiving. You confronted each other. You rebuked each other. You hugged and loved each other and continually pushed each other toward Me. And now look at you. You're radiant.'

Romance, sex, laughter, and plain fun are the by-products of this process of sanctification, refinement, glorification. However, what keeps your marriage going through the years & years of ordinary life is your commitment to your spouse's holiness. You're committed to his or her beauty, greatness, perfection, honesty, and passion for the things of God. That's your job as a spouse. Any lesser goal than that, any smaller purpose, and you're just playing at being married."

--Tim Keller

This is barely a glimpse of what Keller offers in his book, The Meaning of Marriage. It is deep, profound, challenging, inspiring, and most importantly, gospel-driven. He is amazing. I encourage any and every one to read it. This is the best & only book I'll recommend on marriage (after my whole 13 months of it). But! My pastor & his lovely wife who has been married 20 years also recommends it.

Totally worth the buy.

Sometimes You Just Don't Have Money

20130828-144244.jpg Sometimes when you are living and you are alive, you only have $0.16 left over for the last 10 days of the month & that is just the reality of this life. And sometimes, all of the time, that is okay! Because you have faith that God your provider will supply all your needs and you know that you will not die. As we spent the weekend munching on the crumbs of Doritos (not really, there were some half chips), slowly sipping the last ounces of milk (I dont even like milk), and searching the freezer every five minutes, we decided we should ask someone for some food.

First, however, was Sunday. And Sundays mean free coffee and tons of home-baked yummies from our Hospitality Team at Corvallis Church. You should come check us out :). So we went to church and consumed as much as possible (this is a horrible statement), then went home and passed out for about 5 hours. Our wonderful friends Jeff & Kaitlyn were planning on coming over later that evening for our condensed-young marrieds group. They asked if we should do a potluck style evening and Loren and I had to be spitting honest and tell them, "Sure, but you would be better off eating before you come. All we can offer is tea, cold coffee, and eggs with some tomatoes." The little gems they are. See that beautifully colored photo above? That is not even the half of what they brought us!

They even made this delicious dish of deliciousness: squash, potatoes, cheese, onions, olive oil. Just imagine it in your mouth and you will be in heaven. But in all honesty, if we had not been honest in the first place, how would the blessing have come? It is quite humbling to tell your friends you cannot offer them more than an egg and a tomato from your garden (honestly, we could have baked something but we were too lazy)...but it is such a beautiful thing when that humility turns into a bountiful of food. Or better yet, when that humility reminds you that the church is still the church...that the bride of Christ is still alive.

Not only did Jesus bring us food from our friends, but two days later I was given a check for a days worth of work that I have not yet worked. I was payed in advance! Not even asking for it. Can I say provision? What in the world or what in heaven, God is good. And we have no reason to doubt His promises.

My Handsome Charming.

I never imagineda man so honest so noble so true. until I met you. cliche? yes.  but let it through. as honest as honest can be I tell you, what I can see and many would agree, I have married a rare being. handsome, noble, freeing.

the day I was let go of bondage so tightly wound around my heart, I craved God, I chose to follow never to depart. as I sat on that dune my heart cried a tune it had never cried, a tune of pure commune with our Creator God. freedom had been won my chains had been broken I was finally ready to be done. done with the lie I fought to live done with the amount of heartache I'd give done with constant pain and tears of agony I was ready to fully forgive. and let go of him..

I stared at the roaring ocean through tear-watered eyes with such deep emotion.

I wish I had words to describe this motion that was finally in notion. completely healed after two years. it was a sudden & immediate occurrence as if my heart had undergone transference. I stood with excitement at my heart's refinement. a mystery I cannot explain and to this day I strain my brain trying to figure it out, feeling insane, but once again landing on the confidence that it was purely my Creator. the only One who can surely heal the deep rooted wounds of a soul so ballooned with sorrow.

Suddenly and somehow, I got you: a man.  a godly righteous man. created for leadership built with courage walking with integrity. the sincerity of your heart the dexterity of your brain the verity of your being is so freeing.

your raw honesty is quite possibly a novelty and is surely seldom and unlikely in most people. thank you for loving God  through and through. with all that you do. I pray I never have to live without you.

for the rest of my life I wish to serve you. I vow to love God  by loving Him through you. I plan to humble myself, even when its tough I crave to be with you when life gets rough. but more than that when it is full of joy blessings and sunshine. I will be on the frontline cheering you on as we run life's marathon as partners and best friends. as long as our breath is spent I will be by your side rooting you on being more than a wife and pushing away my pride. lets risk the ocean together with complete and whole devotion.

 

-------------------------

<a href="http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/13390693/?claim=pv88yedudrv">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>