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

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.

Camp Recap: He never grows weary

  camp recap

When Loren and I decided that we were taking our kids to this particular week of camp, I knew it would not come easy for my heart. I knew that there would more than likely be some awkwardness and some pain; but I also knew more than anything, that Jesus would be with me and that He would sustain me and keep my heart pointed towards Him. He would give me strength and focus and grace to serve the students under my care, my little flock of girls who called me counselor.

What I did not expect was for Him to crack open my heart wider than it already was, to expose broken bits that I believed were healed and never to be touched again. He revealed to me that there is so much more to me, He has so much to do with my tattered heart, and He is more into the healing business than I could have guessed.

I have so far to go in knowing Him and understanding Him and loving Him. I have barely scratched the surface of who He is and what He has for me. I hunger for Him.

Halfway through camp, aka Tuesday evening and into Wednesday morning, Jesus and I started this conversation over and over again, "You had so much more for me here than what I expected. You always do. You had more in mind than for me to wear the title Cabin Counselor." In years past, I have had the privilege and honor and strength to serve the girls in my cabin with full availability. My heart strong, my mind clear, my focus driven solely for them. I was able to sit down and listen to girls individually, every single day, one-on-ones and hear what is going on in their life. We prayed and called Jesus to come and we cried on behalf of whatever brokenness they were walking through. But this year was different.

I knew that I was letting some of them down, and a couple even told me so, asking for forgiveness.

While God was doing intense heart surgery on me, my hands were forced to be open and trusting, knowing that He is big enough to care for the girls when I am in no shape to. I wanted to swallow what I was processing, to push the fragile and breaking parts of me aside, burying them to ignore for another four years, so that I could be present with the girls..but I knew that course was a course filled with more pain, less healing, and isn't honest. During musical worship one evening, my eyes closed and hands cupped, a picture of my heart sitting in the cup of my hands as an offering appeared: it was not beautiful. It was gushing blood, seeping thick red all over my hands, holes covering the entirety, and I was holding it up for Him to take. Please, Jesus, take this heart, give me grace, give me strength, make me beautiful; make this tattered filthy broken heart beautiful. I felt like a giant wound, walking around, sore to the eye. But I knew He was with me.

Tired. So empty. So worn and torn and ragged, unable to give of myself. Weary. I happened to be in Isaiah 40. Verse 11 says that "He will feed His flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in His arms, holding them close to His heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young." He was and is carrying my fragile, vulnerable, lamb-like self in His arms, close to His heart. He doesn't replace us when we are broken; He pulls us in close to His heart. Verse 28 says that "He never grows faint or weary." He never grows faint or weary. So while I was off, breaking and weeping, often times alone in the staff bathroom, Jesus was covering for me. He was stepping in and working in those girls' lives more than I could ever dream to. He was sifting through their hearts, revealing Himself to them, reminding them that He is so much bigger and more reliable and wise and with-us than any human being. Though I was disappointing a few, I found this immense peace and comfort, knowing that He never grows weary; knowing that He had work to do in them too, that they must learn to rely on Him. I can trust Him with the girls I cherish dearly, He will always and forever be with them, and I cannot.

Jesus is so big. He is so big and so beautiful and so lovely. He is delightful. I never regret chasing Him.

Camp had plenty of laughter and joy and silly weirdness. So much fun and goodness, so much beauty and delight. We giggled from our bellies, celebrated with our laughter.

Camp brings out the best in us: broken and joyful and honest, all in one.

 

Cheers to week one and the multiple ways He moved. Welcome, week two.

PS. A little personal tooting of the horn: I have not had coffee since July 30. Go caffeine free and decreasing inflammation of this body!

 

 

 

 

 


My friend Ashten is kicking off a brand new blog today!  "Just Go Left" is a passion project of sorts, and the idea has been cooking in her heart since her dog Warner was diagnosed with Protein Losing Nephropathy in early 2014.  "Choose joy" became the battle cry of #TeamWarner, and although they lost their long and painful fight on February 4, 2015, Ashten's desire to find the joys in life no matter the circumstances, has remained. "Just Go Left" will chronicle her journey of finding joy and balance, inspiring others to do the same. Her mission is to encourage her readers to choose joy, to find bravery and strength to thrive despite life's obstacles. Ashten aims to help others find balance in their lives so the joy can seep in.

Click on the button below and visit her new space! It's gorgeous and full of encouragement. 

just go left

[I could tell you]

blog post Four different draft posts have been started and ditched in the last two days. I typed words with enthusiasm, made sentences that I agreed with, and then didn't like where the post was going. Bland, bleck, blah. One was about responding to hurt in love, seeing others in the light of their very fragile and broken selves. One was a letter to "you" with a marriage that is crumbling and breaking and you have no idea if God can glue it back together. One was about waiting. Another about adoption.

I am currently at a loss for condensed words to share on this sweet space.

[I could tell you] I feel tides of transition, that I don't know what it looks like exactly, that I am trying to hold my hands open in surrender and let my heart be His, all His.

[I could tell you] our [adoption] home study paperwork was finally submitted along with our certified ten hours of education courses. That almost all of our reference letters have been sent in by lovelies, that we will soon be scheduling our in-home-interview, and therefore the intense cleaning will begin inviting more cracked finger-skin and bleached clothes and not enough fresh air.

[I could tell you] we bough a box fan. It isn't quite cutting it, but then I think about how blessed we are. How incredibly much we have. How we have a home, a bed, clothes, and so. many. things. to make us comfortable. And then the fan is suddenly more than enough.

[I could tell you] my heart for the homeless has reopened, nice and wide. That I see them again, more than I had been, and they are precious human beings. That though they have made decisions to be where they are at, though they are surely responsible for some of the misfortune handed to them, they are still just as human as you and me. And though our wallets feel tighter than ever, Jesus has reawakened my heart to give more and give freely. To be reminded that our money is His and that He asks us to feed His people. His people have names, so I do my best to ask their names and shake their hands or hug their bodies, if they're female, and ask why they are on the streets. It is always interesting to hear their stories. I feel so rich when talking to them and not in a good sort of way. Me in my clean clothes, fresh hair, and pearly teeth. I feel that my appearance puts up walls of misunderstanding, exclaiming that I think I am better than them. I don't want them to think that I think that, but maybe I do. And I really don't want to see them as less than, because I know that if anything, they have the opportunity to know Jesus far more than I do. But here I am, they and me, me and they. I have so far to go.

[I could tell you] yesterday I prayed this prayer: "Jesus open my heart wide open for your love." I wonder if I have closed myself off to Him more ways than one, out of a fickle attempt to protect myself. But if I have learned anything, it is that He protects me and I will only hurt myself by closing myself off to Him.

[I could tell you] my lunch with Allan yesterday was a blessing. That he teaches me so much about humility. The way he doesn't expect anything from anyone, the way he doesn't expect special treatment, the way he remains and resides in His presence and holds steadfast to His word. Allan teaches me so much about humility and Jesus and I can't help but wonder how I am so blessed to have him in my life.

[I could tell you] I don't know how to handle high school dating relationships delicately. I don't know how to balance grace and truth and honesty and loving gentleness. I don't know what I am doing or how to do it. But what I do know is that I want so desperately to love them, to point them to Jesus.

[I could tell you] I am learning more about waiting than I want to. That waiting patiently will not be a skill set I ever place on a resume. I would share with you this well-rehearsed verse: "Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not grow weary; they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:31. That I so badly desire Jesus to renew my strength through waiting. I am beginning to see patience as the illusive virtue which corresponds to the dreaded condition of waiting. I read somewhere that "it is not patience when I am gloriously unaware of the waiting."

[I could tell you] my heart aches for families with marriages crumbling to pieces. Snippets of my soul begin to snap when I see human beings walking under the weight of such agony, such heaviness hurling their hearts to the pits.

[I could tell you] we wrote a letter to our potential birth mom and we closed it off with letting her know that if she chose us, we give her our word that we will do our best to raise a child she would be proud of.We told her that growing up in our family, he will be taught to dream big. That we will protect him with our lives, love him with our entire selves, and reveal to him the grace of Jesus Christ.

[I could tell you] I am falling more in love with Jesus. I am praying more, a lot more, and in those bold and courageous prayers, I find Him beckoning me to keep asking. To keep submitting. To keep dreaming big. To keep believing that He is bigger than any resources I currently have or see; He likes big dreams. Big dreams reveal my faith in Him, not in myself. Because we all know that there is no way I could do all of these big things swarming around in my head; not without Him.

"But the Lord still waits for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for him to help them." Isaiah 30:18

I could tell you all of these things. And I guess I did. What could you tell me?

Dear Supporters: ministry update 

dear supporters Dear You, who have supported us for up to three years, Dear You, who may be supporting us for the first or second time,

Thank you.

Loren and I have found ourselves occupied every moment of the day, from literal sun up until after sun down. I think of you so often, nearly daily, wanting to thank you for supporting us so well. Faithfully sending in your checks or cash or online giving, you guys make. things. happen. Thank you for investing in us.

I hadn't checked our financial support update in what seemed ages (though it really wasn't that long), and I was blown away with tears of joy to see that you are all giving more than faithfully. For that, we are forever grateful to Jesus and to you. THANK YOU.

Loren and I just finished our very first premarital session (8 weeks worth)! It was such a humbling and honoring thing to lead two wonderful people through hard and beautiful conversations as they prepare for marriage. We definitely don't know everything there is to know about marriage, communication, or being a human...BUT what we do know is that when Jesus is our everything, we thrive. And so do others.

The summer has made its definite appearance, as I'm sure you're very aware. Summer is always such a good-crazy time; students are out of school and some pause on sports, which makes them more available and able to spend time with one another (and us). We kicked off the summer together this last Tuesday by caravaning 20+ people in four cars to the beach! That was a memory-filled 8 hour day.

We have sent out invites to our incoming 6th graders and are so ready to have them join us in a couple weeks for our Summer Fun BBQ at Danny's! Danny is the all-time-faithful-been-here-since-the-start youth leader.

We also have the privilege of welcoming three new youth leaders to our team this summer. Our grand total is 6 leaders in addition to Loren and I; we are thrilled to see our team growing as the students number also increases.

We recently baptized Payton! He is a genuine, Jesus-seeking young man and we are honored to have a front row seat to his life, as he asks hard questions and looks to Jesus for the very first times in His life.

As we move into the heat of summer, we are planning to spend a lot time outside! We have a couple BBQ's, Loren's taking the guys camping, I'm doing a Disney Movie Night with the girls, Saturday market strolls, and lots of water games, because why not?

This next week, Loren is the main speaker at Camp Tadmor for the Juniors, grades 3-6. We also have two weeks at Winema this year which is, hello sandy beds!

Basically, over all, we love these kids (that aren't really kid) so much it sometimes even hurts and we are honored to play a small role in their life. We pray and hope that we serve them well throughout this summer, bringing them closer to who Jesus is and the life He has for them here.

And again: THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT.  It is not in vain, not wasted. I firmly believe your dollars are being invested eternally in the lives of so many people.

youth ministry

 

Visit our church's website HERE.

In the trenches of grief

finding christ in grief Trudging through grief is like trudging through mud. Mud as waves: powerful and thick, vast and unknown, mysterious and dangerous, dominant.

[My eyes are red with weeping; darkness covers my eyes. -JOB 16:16]

[Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. -KING DAVID Psalm 30:5]

As the waves of sorrow billow onto the shore of where you once stood, you wonder when and how and why you are now in the middle of the gushing water that threatens to crush your fragile and frail body.

trudging through grief

[I too have been assigned months of futility, long and weary nights of misery. When I go to bed, I think, 'When will it be morning?' But the night drags on and I toss til dawn. -JOB 7:3-4]

You catch glimpses of rocks, boulders, in the distance and wonder how they remain so faithfully strong up against the wall of the earth. They bolster the dirt that turns into mountains and you wonder how they do that? How do stones enlarge themselves to be strong and mighty, so much so that they hold up the earth as hills to hike and we walk above and below and beside them? How do those stones and those rocks abide on the shore and never leave land, continuing to exist safely ashore? Sure, high tide kicks in and the swelling waves sink their splashes onto the rock's surface; but never are the rocks, boulders, hurled into the depths of those surging masses of water in danger. The rocks do not toss around among the towering surges of ocean, they are not fickle and weak, bending beneath the strength of...water. They dwell in the sand upon the shore at the very base of the mountain. If only you could stand on that rock.

[The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. -KIND DAVID Psalm 18:2]

Grief is dreadful and distressing, often dislocating you into the dwelling of depression. Pressed deep within yourself, that is how depression feels. Pressed-deep within yourself. Trapped, entangled, imprisoned by self and sorrow and sadness and suffering.

[I cannot keep from speaking. I must express my anguish. I must complain in my bitterness. -JOB 7:11]

Some sit with you in silence, not forcing words or furthering hurt. Some hug you as you sob and pray with you when you have no words. And it is no wonder God gave us the church - to find a few close friends who offer grace instead of shame.

Some say [out of love] they understand but they don't. How could they? They are not you; they do not feel your feels or know your heart or know your time with Him. They may understand to an extent but this was not given to them to process, this was given to you and only He fully understands. They assume incorrectly and offer formulas that mean nothing but agony and guilt to you. Formulas that sound righteous and right, holy and honorable, devoted and devout. But formulas are just that: formulas. And He does not work with formulas. There is no formulating your way out of the trenches of grief and despair and into His place of peace and refuge. There is no one formula to march out from the waves with your very own strength to stand upon the Rock. I know this so well, because often I am placed in the category of "they," in my self-righteous state of thinking I know. And for that I am terribly and awfully sorry. Gravely, I apologize for thinking that I know where you are, because surely I do not. I am not Him. I am both culprit and critic. I am guilty as charged.

formula for grief

[People who are at ease mock those in trouble. They give a push to people who are stumbling...Please be quiet! That is the smartest thing you could do. -JOB 12:5, 13:5]

I have something for you, dear Reader, who may reads these words and may [or may not] nod with each syllable. I have something for you that was given to me today, as I was stuck in the depths of despair, unsure that I could be pulled out. As I drove from point A to point B in my shiny vehicle-car, I sobbed into the wheel that steers and I had no will and no discipline to speak Truth to combat the dark cloud that looms all the days and all the nights, stringing together in darkness. But I have a friend that is dear, dear to me and dear to you, now, because I will share the Truth words she sent to me while I was out in the waves being tossed around much like a rag doll. Brace yourself now, for tears will ensue if you are needing a stony hard and angry heart to be broken and crumbled at the cross in humility. Ready? Commence reading and read aloud:

I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Your plans are to bring me good and not to harm me.

You will never leave or forsake me.

You have loved me with an everlasting love.

Nothing can separate me from the love of God.

I am made in your image.

In you, I am new.

You are faithful.

As I obey you, you will give me the desires of my heart.

Even the birds are beautifully clothed and fed, you care for me.

You clothe me in strength and dignity.

You uphold  the weak and comfort the broken hearted.

Sorrow is for a short while but your joy will come in the morning. Your joy is my strength.

combatting depression

My dear Readers, many whom I know and many I do not, I pray hopeful prayers that your eyes can be wide open for the healing balm of beauty of this earth, ears open to the morning sounds of bird's praises, and your senses open to the gifts of tastes and smells that delight you. It is in the small and minute that we can find grace to get through the long and low days. I am beginning to believe that it is in the trenches of grief that we can find Him more than we ever have, among the pain and the aches and the agony and they heart-breaks. In the trenches of grief, He is there, still and quiet, but there. May your heart be touched with the duplicity of love reaching out to you through your sorrow. I pray these things would be written on your heart as He relentlessly pursues you with His overwhelmingly beautiful love.

The story of our Fundraised Income

fundraised income missionaries Many of you know that Loren and I fundraise most of our income. A multitude of you support us financially, emotionally, and prayerfully. You are our team and without you, we would not be where we are now. We would not have the capability of serving others to the capacity that we are currently able, we would not be able to spend hours with new believers, old believers, and unbelievers; __believers of Jesus and His word, that is. We would still be able to do a portion of these things as all Christians are called to do, but not to the full extent that we have been given the opportunity and privilege to now. For that, I cannot thank you enough. But I also know that this is bigger than us little Brenners...this is eternal and for Him.

To start off our marriage, Loren worked 21 hours a week at Trillium Farm Home - the securest safe unit for troubled mentally-ailed teens in the state - and I worked 21 hours at US BANK in Monmouth. Our schedules were exactly opposite of each other, which was painful on our precious little fragile brand new marriage. Every lunch break at the Bank I would walk to the nearest coffee shop, whip out my computer, and do my computer tasks for the church. Oh how deeply I craved to be in the office or downtown at Starbucks working for Corvallis Church, rather than in another city on my lunch break of a Bank job. But that was what we had to do; I know it could have been a lot more difficult. Eventually a full time position for Trillium opened up and I was able to quit my Bank job in order to spend more time with young women and also building more structure to the "program" [I would hardly call it that] part of the Youth Ministry. Our income was a beautiful $1200-1600/month.

In order for both of us to have the capacity and availability to serve the church the way we dreamed, the way we felt called, we needed more income. We needed to fundraise.

When Loren and I first began fundraising in December of 2012, I was scared to my wits end. Fears loomed and the reality that I had to be confident in this calling was frightening. THE THOUGHTS YELLED AT ME: You mean, we are going to ask people to send us money...every month...for...years? What a request to ask of others. Who was I to say I was called to this? Who was I to say that I am equipped? All we had were willing hearts and a confidence in this calling. When in High School, I did my fair share of fundraising for sports teams and mission trips - but those were easier and less daunting because they were one time events. We asked for a certain amount, one time. Not a recurring amount for years. There are many foreign missionaries that live solely off of fundraised support - but we were not moving to Europe or Africa or Haiti. We were remaining in Corvallis, exactly where we were, for the purpose of training and equipping the growing church plant right before our eyes, working to save lives eternally.  The individuals that Jesus was bringing to Corvallis Church were our mission - the humans of this city.

Mike (our Pastor/Mentor/Boss/Friend) walked us through what it meant to fundraise and how to do it. He taught us things like creating a pitch, reviewing the pitch, praying about the pitch. What is our story, how were we drawn to CC? What is the need here in Benton County --> statistics show that this exact county has the least percentage of church goers in the entire US. What is our bigger mission? What is our role in this mission? Mike taught us how to ask as specifically as possible. The need is monthly support - he reminded us not to be deceitful, be honest in humility. And let me tell you, it was humbling. It is still humbling. Mike spent so much time preparing us and walking us through fundraising - he trained us, he equipped us, he empowered us. I will be forever thankful for the hours, years, of investment Mike Miller has given us.

That first year we began receiving about $200/month of outside support in addition to Loren's second job. By the end of the year almost $600/month was being donated. As God faithfully continued to grow us and the church steadily and yet so faithfully, He also provided more income. Little by little, we saw that there was hope for Loren to possibly cut back on hours at Trillium to spend more time serving this church community. By December 2013, our faith had been built by mountains that were moved - though we were not quite half-way supported financially, it was possible. We saw that we could get there and were nudged deep within our hearts to make the leap. A part time position at Trillium opened back up and Loren went back down to 21 hours. By paper, that was the stupidest thing we could have done. But my heart was so inspired by my husband's faith. I was brought so much closer to Jesus by his act of faith, in leading our small family towards God's heart. We sent out more letters letting our Support Team And More know that we had experienced what God can do with willing hearts, and we craved more of it. We were hungry for more of His goodness. THESE WORDS WERE SENT SO FRIGHTENINGLY AND YET SO HONESTLY: So Loren is cutting his hours in half at Trillium, which removes all of his benefits and half of our income, and we need you! We need your support, so please continue, if not add to it.

 

matthew 6 11 daily bread

How scary this was! There were so many feelings of fear, excitement, and uncertainty. I knew that God had never let us go hungry - He always showed up in miraculous ways. Food on our doorstep, potlucks with left overs, random unexpected cash/checks/getaways, etc. But this was a big step for us little Brenners. We decided to lean in to God's mission rather than seek comfort on our own efforts. There is much more comfort in knowing that your 9-5 job will always bring you a paycheck, no matter what. There is so much comfort in having benefits and paid vacation time and promised raises. Hourly wages. An hourly wage and set hours = comfort, as we know what to do, we know when we can clock in and clock out, and we know with confidence that we will receive a certain amount of pay. But as we talked and dreamed and vision casted, we knew that God' mission was bigger than those comforts.

January 2014, my goal was to have Loren done with Trillium by July. Oh how earnestly I prayed for this to happen! It did not happen. August however, Loren took the entire month off to travel around for camps and retreats and all of that good Youth Ministry stuff. That was kind of a trial month to see how we would survive without the Trillium paycheck. Things were tight, but things have always been tight, and that is okay. We have learned to accept the tightness, pick ourselves up and say, "We have never gone without. We live extremely rich and blessed lives. Nothing we have is ours, everything a gift from Him." November was another month he had to take a lot of time off of Trillium. Tons of conversations and hopeful, terrifying prayers later...we decided to make the biggest leap yet at the end of 2014: Loren put his 2 weeks in. Officially quit. Be done. No more paychecks from a 9-5 job...but no more days and hours spent there, no more Trillium. This was a blender of scary and thrilling and trusting. It was here! Finally, we were at a place to leap into the unknowns of full time ministry and fundraised income. More letters written and sent out, letting our faithful and so generous supporters know that we are indeed leaping into a big pool of something and were trusting that He would be there to catch us. Our supporters are His hands - we needed His provision through them.

beautiful girls at camp

January 3, 2015 was Loren's last day at Trillium. Oh the praises were mighty and loud that day!

We had made the decision to lean in to God's mission rather than seek comfort on our own efforts. "And that always starts with being ready and willing to sacrifice and God having room to show up." [<<Mike shared that with us the other day]. Mike, among other Corvallisites, continuously confirmed our calling and reminded us not to doubt it. So did every single person who has supported us in one way or another - they have said with their sacrificial generosity, "You are called to this mission and we are here to support you. We've got your back. We believe in you, we believe in God in you."

"Then Nebuchadnezzar said, 'Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in Him and defied the king's command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any God except their own God.'" [Daniel 3:28]

God has never let us go hungry. He has never failed us, He has never abandoned us. I cannot tell you the depths of trust He has won me over to.

- - -

"The king asked, “Well, how can I help you?” With a prayer to the God of heaven, I replied, “If it pleases the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.” The king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked, “How long will you be gone? When will you return?” After I told him how long I would be gone, the king agreed to my request." [Nehemiah 2:4-6].

With this piece of scripture, which has been so helpful with fundraising, we are reminded that the provider isn't Artaxerxes [humans], but God. They key to fundraising is our attitude, our heart, our humility. The results are God's - it is not about getting money, but being shaped into a godly you, transformed into a trusting, faithful, good steward.

I cannot begin to share the depths of transformation that has occurred through this huge thing of fundraising. It is one small and yet vastly significant way the Lord has been working in us over the last three years. Reminding us that all of our things are not ours at all. The cars we own were literally given to us, the home we rent is used for so much more than housing us (currently we have an extra loved roommate), the money we receive is to pay our bills and bless others, and the community we live in is a gift. Nothing we deserve. Everything, I learn again and again, is simply a gift bound up in love by God's faithful provision.

The other day I was telling Loren that I am learning to grasp this verse in a whole new light: "For we live by believing and not by seeing." [2 Corinthians 5:7]. When I look at the numbers and the budget and the income and outflow...when I SEE the numbers, it hits me that we should be panicking and having anxiety attacks and one of us needs to go get a 9-5 pm. But...never have we felt this angst as deeply as the numbers try to tell us. [Don't worry, we don't rack up the credit card]. We have always attempted to swallow our fear and entitlement - key word here: attempt - and Jesus always shows up. He always provides, whether through a random check given to us, a meal dropped off, someone purchasing a car for us and then offering to support us by paying for our car insurance [WHAT], and so many more things. So Many Things that make me say, "God, I never need to worry. Why would I? You have never failed us. You always always always come through, when I am seeking your way."

We have had many [young] couples share with us that they wouldn't want to put the financial burden on others. Also that they would never be able to live with such uncertainty when it comes to income. That they would never, "put their family through that." To those words I want to encourage you to really put those fears down and place them in His hands. If He is calling you to something bigger than yourself, you have no room to throw "buts" into the equation. If your ministry and calling is bigger than yourself, which it is, then everything that encompasses it will be bigger than you can handle. And that is where He comes in and rescues and assures and builds trust.

My friends, I share all of this to encourage you: do not doubt your calling. Do not doubt what has been laid upon your heart. If you are called into anything but money feels like the show stopper...don't listen to that. Don't see money as a show stopper. I have experienced that this is far easier said than done. But please, take this story and let it be another confirmation to the faithfulness of God. Let it be empowering.

And Support Team, from my heart, thank you.

My church: I cherish you oh so much. I still cannot believe that we get paid to spend time with you, to love you, to write letters to you, to plan events for you, and all the things.

Millers: thank you...Thank you.

fundraised income

[ If you have any questions, please email me. I am mainly an open book. Also, this post was already so jam packed, I figured I should stop before I kept going.]

Also- oddly, I enjoy spreadsheets, excel, and budgeting. We have quite the system down that helps us remain flexible but not go under. We save for things like adoption, Christmas, Germany, and gifts for others. If you would like some help, I would love to see what I can do for you!

When waves come crashing at your feet

a blog post about trials and Jesus Dear girls-

It has been so long since we have met on this space. The days and weeks that have passed since I last wrote to you have held so much life.

Girls. [My whole heart and desire is to show you more of Christ.] I yearn into my bones and back out through my entire existence to point you towards Him, to reveal that He is in fact the very best thing for you, and that you need Him. I don't know how else to put it: without Him, life sucks. Without the Life Source, the Hope, the Joy, the Freedom that only Jesus can give, life isn't all that it can be.

With or without Jesus, you will have trials and troubles, worries and concerns, fears and temptations. Life will still throw itself at you like a whirlwind attempting to drown the joy in your heart, forcing it to disintegrate like sand in your hands. The waves of the ocean may crash and tumble, twisting you all around, banging your precious body on the sandy bottom of the sea. The storms will still show up, tossing your hair up and around, tangling it into a mess of knots attempting to frustrate you.

Without Jesus, crumbling to bits and pieces has never felt so lonely, so desperate, so hopeless.

take heart for i have overcome

With Jesus, crumbling to bits and pieces reminds you that there is Hope for tomorrow, Hope for forever, and Joy amidst the strongest of waves. Amidst whatever waves crashing against your flesh, Jesus is more present than I could ever attempt to explain. Jesus is there and He is close and He is holding your heart. He is safe and secure, He is trustworthy, and He co-suffers with you. Jesus knows, He sees, He loves. He is patient and kind, He understands all, He believes the best for you. Jesus gives you freedom when you accept the Truth that your circumstances do not define you. The truth that when a situation stirs up your world, weighs your soul so heavy you cannot stand, Jesus still defines you as beloved, as His. Jesus gives you worth and meaning and purpose. Jesus remains.

My girls. You may or may not have waves crashing at your feet, threatening the very life you desire, attempting to steal you away into despair. But there will [more than likely] be a day when the waves are too strong for you, too scary, too big. They may not seem fair. And when those waves are threatening your joy and your hope, I pray that you cling to Jesus. I pray you remember that Jesus sees the biggest picture, is piecing together the picture for all of humanity. I pray that you see Him there and you believe that He is for you. I pray and I hope with earnest that you let Him be near you. That you accept the gift of grace and freedom that He so earnestly offers you.

I love you girls. You know that.

But He loves you more than I could ever dream to.

With so much hope,

Natalie

when waves come crashing

Why I Love You, Church.

why i love you, church Church. Some cringe at the word.

Church. Some squeal with authentic joy at the word.

Church. Some change the subject immediately, skirting any and all awkwardness, hoping to protect their opinions and not step on toes.

Church. Some know it for what it is and hate it. Some know it for what it is and love it.

Church is messy and broken, full of a bunch of misfits. Misfits wandering this earth just like every other human. Church is full of broken stories.

But what I love about Corvallis Church and The Church and the Bride of Christ -- the people who make up the church -- I love that that is the place where those messy-misfits {much like myself} and those broken stories meets beautiful redemption. Painful forgiveness. Authenticity and genuine love meeting the most crumbled-to-pieces parts of humanity. I love that I can walk through the doors on Sunday morning to the place we gather for worship and know in my bones that I am deeply loved, wholly accepted, and completely covered in His grace. I love that I can waltz through the doors overwhelmed with joy because I am forgiven, though I do not deserve it. I am loved though I am terrifyingly unlovable. I love that the humans I get to call "my church" are confronted with the same Truth: we are all broken and messy-misfits, yet we are all identified as God's beloved children and that is the one thing that brings us worth. That is our common ground. That is where our identities lie and our strength is found. Together, our redemption lies in the Truth that we are not enough and He is more than enough.

We hurt each other, too often. We say stupid things, yes. We aren't as committed as we should be, correct. We get on each others nerves, all the time. We are horrifically imperfect, absolutely. We are human.

--> We are unified by His blood and His grace, reminded that we are each broken carrying baggage from this messed up world, and we are covered under His wings of Love. Love. Love that is so patient with us, forever kind, and completely un-rude. Love that hopes the best for us, believes the best, and endures all things. Love that is selfless and even jealous of our love. We are unified by Love, and Love only comes from God Himself.

Corvallis Church, baptism Sunday April 2014

Corvallis Church. Imperfectly, we love each other so well. We share in one another's burdens. We pursue friendship through honesty. We enjoy just hanging out together. We love each other so selflessly and so sacrificially and it is only by the power of His grace. Church family, you ask hard questions, you embrace the mysterious God we serve, you seek His Truth and you desire to love this city well. It is beautiful to see you sharing your resources, your homes, your hearts with one another, and then pointing to Jesus.

I am missing my beautiful church family this morning. They are even celebrating a few EXCITING baptisms today. Though I am beyond blessed, humbled even, to be in Canada, there is nothing quite like a Sunday morning with Corvallis Church. You guys amaze me. The adventure this church plant has taken me on has been one that I'll forever remember. The healing that has happened through the adventure of this church plant is unexplainable, and the growth I have experienced has been painful in the best ways possible. You love each other intentionally, and Jesus is so obvious. Corvallis Church, I love you. I miss you. I look forward to worshiping with you next week.

A book review for Jen Hatmaker's Interrupted: in the making

I have said about 18 times that I will soon be posting a book review for Jen Hatmaker's revised & expanded edition of Interrupted. This is because I don't even know the beginning of writing this book review; I will call upon my 3rd grade book reports. Thank you, Mrs. Hinkle. In my dire attempt to share that I'll be reviewing this book, I had this secret and silent longing that someone would do it for me -- apparently no one caught the memo. This is how I landed myself in this awkward scenario: I saw a post on Facebook to email her publishing co my info, and if I were in the first 250 bloggers, I would receive a hard copy and an e-copy of her book. I simply was asked to write a book review! Naturally I jumped at the opportunity for this free book --> an expanded edition of the book I have shared with so many.

I first read Interrupted 2 years ago; I was in the first year of life through the church plant. {Side note: Best year of my life}. At that time, my heart was being completely transformed. I was nodding at every word she had etched into those pages; agreeing with it whole heartedly, I continued my pursuit of Christ by loving His people scandalously. Things like quitting nursing school to volunteer my time in serving through Corvallis Church -- a church that didn't exist, but would soon and is now 3 years old. Celebrate! Oh how many times I was told I was crazy - though the things aren't crazy when you're actually just living life and seeing humans for humans. Example: loving the outcasts and marginalized; like inviting homeless men into our home for dinners and desserts {and setting our table as though the King were our guest}, driving them places, helping write a resume, inviting them for Thanksgiving dinner, bringing our new friends into Sunday morning services all smelly and in their full glory - even if they only came for free coffee and left. Interrupted put a beat to the song in my heart. And might I add that the only reason this song existed was because of the deep and unending grace that Jesus has shown me?

Without realizing it, I fell into an unhealthy pattern which led my fresh and new spirit to stray, often leaving me confused, frustrated, and questioning. But this book has Interrupted my threatening-dry tired soul.

Friends, I'll soon be writing this review. And let me tell you...this time around, I was convicted and moved and inspired more than I was ready for. But it was delicious and just what I needed. It was the luring back into Jesus where I have strayed; it was the newness in the Spirit that I needed. As I've shared recently, I am in this odd season (can a year and a half be a season?) of being wrecked within, searching and seeking and exhausted all in one. The pure fact of how un-incredible I am seems to be the theme of my life. Rest has been around, but not the deep within rest that my soul craves and I know exists in His presence. I feel bi-polar as I go from deeply refreshed in His love to desperate and dry within hours - I get frustrated at myself, and there I am back at the center of self. The constant attempt to "uphold my reputation" (oh the irony -- writing that brings me fear) has been wearing me out and my own fear of man has been the pressure behind my actions too often. I was so, so, so refreshed and wrecked and reminded why it's not even supposed to be a THING through Interrupted. As I began this book, second time around, I asked Jesus to keep my heart open and to point out my arrogance and ignorance. A dangerous prayer.

Jen Hatmaker addresses these questions and many more: •What does it mean to live at the bottom, to descend rather than ascend, to be the least of these? •Who was Jesus broken & poured out for? •Do I care about the impoverished and starving in the world? •Am I even concerned about the homeless guy on the corner? •Am I willing to take the Bible at face value? •Why do I spend all my time blessing blessed people?

Jen asks these questions after a long list of reasons she qualifies as awesome. She is much like Paul: her credentials are listed long, and yet she is humbled to her knees by her Father and breathes by His grace.

Probably one of my favorite things about Jen is that, though she is in your-face-extreme-honest, she reminds us of Gods grace and that He isn't here to guilt trip us all into feeding the homeless. She isn't here to put us in a place of fear, but to rip legalism out of the way. She raises necessary questions we should all be asking ourselves as Christians. She doesn't condemn the church - Jen isnt anti-church. She is very pro-church, believing in the Bride Jesus died for. Which is just fabulous because the Bride is beautiful and radiant in all of it's messy brokenness. Also, love her blog. She is witty and crazy and all sorts of honest. Her humor is much like my mother-by-law's.

Her most popular book, 7, would not exist if Jesus hadn't Interrupted her comfortable consumerism Christianity.

Purchase a copy for 20% off by July 31! That's TWO DAYS PEOPLE. Move move move! Men. Women. All ya'll.

Click Here.

Does anyone else love to just be raw and honest? Hang around; be moved, convicted, and inspired with me. Sign up for email notifications & click the FB like button.

"In all our efforts, if we are not about people, our labors aren't really about Jesus but about us." -Brandon Hatmaker

Cheers.

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5 Lessons from the "Old Burn Outs."

It is often that we spend time with couples that are older than us. We do this for many reasons, the main reason being they tend to be full of experience and stories and lessons learned. Lessons we may glean from, wisdom we don't yet hold, adventures that inspire and excite us. They remind us that we are young and we have plenty of life ahead, but also that it passes faster than we realize. They share with us ways to connect as friends and spouses, and offer us rest in knowing they are here for us. BBQ

Sadly, one of these couples is moving. They have been an integral part of our community here in Corvallis, and though we are bummed to see them go, we are excited for their new adventure. I am all for adventures, friends, so I salute you as you venture towards central Oregon.

This particular couple invited us to their home many times for dinners and desserts and a multitude of bonfires. They built their house on the Willamette River, and can I say it is extravagant? Absolutely beautiful. At one point, they offered us to live in their guest home. For free. Because they are just that generous. A beautiful characteristic within itself {generosity}. For some reason they enjoyed calling themselves the Old Burn Outs - but if we are honest, they are nothing near old and they are definitely far from burnt out!

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Peoria, OR  unnamed

Peoria, OR

Peoria, OR

5 Lessons from The Old Burn Outs

1.Don't waste time worrying or being anxious. "I look back and wonder why I wasted so much time and energy on worry and anxiety. It got me no where. It fixed nothing. It only made me sick; I didn't enjoy life when I worried. It got me no where. Whatever adventure you're on, whatever problem you're facing, DON'T WORRY. It will work out, because it always does. And worrying doesn't fix a thing. I promise."

2. When you can't sleep, call out to Jesus, out loud. "You know at night when I can't sleep, I sing out to Jesus and I am immediately covered with peace. You call upon His name, out loud, and the enemy will flee. It's a miracle."

3. Don't be afraid of change. This is just the beginning of your life! You won't be here, in this particular season, forever. "You guys are so young, you're this generation, and we are extremely excited to watch you flourish in your ministry. This is just the beginning! You never know where The Lord will take you. Could be Canada or Europe or the East Coast. Could be just down the road and over to Bend. Just keep your hands open and your heart willing. This is simply a journey on Earth full of lots of chapters. We want to support you til we die, we love you guys like our own kids."

4. You can be on your honeymoon until death do you part. "You know, our first 6 years of marriage were hard and not so great. But then we found Jesus and realized we could be on our honeymoon again. For the last 31 years, we've been on our honeymoon. Stay on it, keep it alive, and always serve each other. Don't yell or call names, remind each other why you're married and always pray together. Keep it fun and stay friends."

5. Believe in those younger than you. Every time we see the Zounes, they tell us how much they believe in us. They remind us why they invest their time and their love and their energy into us. "You are this generation, you are the next big leaders. You are changing this world. Always invest in the next generation." They have told us many times how much they believe in us - every time, I am encouraged and empowered. It would be doing a disservice to them and to others if we held those words and truths to ourselves - Loren and I have both told others how much we believe in them. We want to share that with our students as much as possible: how much we believe in them. How much they can change this world, through the strength and by the blood of Jesus Christ. They are the next generation and we want to invest as much as we can into them. It means so much that those before us are investing in us; we don't want that to stop.

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Peoria, OR

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Peoria, OR

99% of these lessons have been learned by this very fire pit, on this very river. We will miss these moments but are so grateful to have the memories made and the wisdom gained.

Thank you, John & Tracy.

We will miss being near you, but you won't be too far from us.

We love you.

 

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Using His People to Keep His Promises.

You know those months where the money and the food run out a little too early? Don't be embarrassed. It happens to a lot of us. Unplanned events occur, it's part of life. You try not to focus on it, you don't make a big deal, you thank Jesus for the roof over your head and the friends you live life with. You know payday is in a few days and you have some almonds & a little birthday cake left over.

Then someone randomly brings you some eggs from their chickens. Like 2 dozen maybe. And you just are so grateful and you let them know how deeply blessed you are by these eggs because this is a reminder that Jehovah always Jirehs! That when you seek the kingdom of God first, ALL your needs will be met! And you can't wait to get home to scramble 9 eggs.

Then 2 hours later, youth group ends. You see $12 on your seat, and are so grateful and think, "Wow God!!! You did it twice in one night! I can even go buy some more food to go with those eggs!"

... And then you see on the other side of your car, a MASSIVE BAG OF GROCERIES. No shopping necessary tonight! And a gift card. And then you cry everywhere. And you eat cherry tomatoes faster than you have ever eaten cherry tomatoes before. And you blubber to Jesus,

"Why do you love me so much? How do you do this? How do you make such beautiful and generous and thoughtful people?! How did you think up the church?! Why do you love me so much? You never fail me."

Friends, He never fails us. Seek the kingdom of God first, and all your needs will be met. It's a promise.

His promises don't fail. He keeps His word. Trust in His name and let peace be your ruler. You are so loved, you are Beloved.

Thank you, Shiedlers {and any else involved}. You have reminded me once again, that I am loved and that I am part of the greatest community yet.

Thank you, Jesus, for your radiant and beautiful bride.

{Yes, I am scrambling 9 eggs & making potatoes right now! The tomatoes are almost gone!}

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Walking to Church

unnamedMost of the world walks to be with their church family. Loren and I have never walked to be with church community on a Sunday morning, until this morning. Corvallis Church cancelled services for today, along with the rest of the city, and were encouraged to join with any neighbors and have house church (Pastor Mike sent an email with an entire e-service listed! It was awesome). The power went out again last night and our friends invited us over for breakfast and church this morning. They have a wood stove. Us Brenners aren't fond of driving in this slushy snow, so we decided to walk the short mile. In doing so, I found myself complaining way too much:

I was splashed by cars driving by on multiple occasions, I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was tired, I was hot, my calves hurt...seriously, as I list all that I whined about it is embarrassing. Loren, fearlessly leading the way through the sidewalk snow mounds, stopped in his tracks and turned around. He bent to kiss me (because I am a foot shorter than him) and he said, "Most people do this every Sunday. Most of the world walks to be with their church unnamedfamily. And not just in the snow, but in conditions which are just as harsh if not worse. Not with the right shoes or clothing, but either barefoot or with sandals. Can't we make this a memory? Can't this be a funny story we someday tell our kids?" I know what you're thinking: he is amazing. He leads me closer to the heart of Jesus every day. He reminded me that I should do everything without arguing or complaining, like who is this guy? He is my husband and I am so honored to have such a leader that loves me.

As we finished the trek to our friends house, we laughed and we slipped in the slush and we held hands. We talked about what a groovy day it already was, and were excited to hang out with this couple and their three crazy kids. When we arrived, we were greeted with faces plastered against the window and hands waving frantically. The mama was making eggs while the dad was throwing his kids around and making them giggle. The crazy baby sat there slobbering and smiling with his two teeth. The entire time I could not help but be completely joyed observing this family interact: they wrestled, they tickled, they laughed, and they were real.

Our worship music was that of children's laughter. We read through 1 Corinthians chapter 4 (chosen by their 7 year old). We closed with prayer and communion, which was a piece of Chex cereal and some sort of juice in a shot glass, remembering Jesus and the sacrifice He gave for us. It was truly one of the most real "church gatherings" I have ever been a part of. I definitely missed the other 120 people, though - the entire body. There is something to be said about a mass of people gathering to use their gifts and talents to build one another up, all to bring Jesus glory. I decided I would walk to be with church community again, even if it meant through the snow. I decided it was well worth it.

It hit me later that we have a few people who walk to be a part of our church service on any given Sunday morning. These few walk a lot further than I did today, and they usually have each slept in a much less comfortable place than I do.

I am honored to be part of this church community.

 

 

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