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.

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!

Officially a Pastor's Wife

officially a pastors wife I am officially a Pastor's Wife. It has been almost a week since Loren's ordination.

Before this extremely special Sunday arrived, I already considered myself in the category of: pastor/ministry wife. I would meet with the other two Pastor's wives weekly in the beginning of this church plant, Loren's title was a pastor kind of sort of, but mostly a "coach" or "shepherd" or "chief servant leader." But recently, Mike asked us if he could do the honor of ordaining Loren. All we needed was to set a date and invite his parents.

Ordination: appointing a [very imperfect] man and revealing his calling of shepherd-ship/pastoring in front of the church; extremely honorable and not taken lightly. That is my own personal definition.

ordination

Pastor Mike surprised us with a little slide show of his relationship with Loren over the last 6 (?) years. They met at Camp Winema long ago. Loren was Mike's intern the summer before this beautiful church was planted. (Also the summer we met). The church launched in October 2011, Loren went to finish up his BS in Preaching at Boise Bible College, moved back here in June 2012 ready to join the staff as the Youth Coach/Leader + any other ministries we felt urged to start. We were wed in August and the following October we launched our youth ministry! Since that time, a lot has happened. We still lead  the youth ministry team, Loren and I both work part time outside of the church, and we live mainly on outside/church support (thank you, Team!!!). Loren has grown, I have grown, we Brenners have seen how terribly much we have to grow, we have grown as a church and as a ministry team. Corvallis Church is radiant and imperfect. Mike wanted to honor the time and sacrifice that Loren so willingly gives for this church; ultimately for Jesus.  I don't want to mislead: its all for Jesus. But really, it's more than Loren's decision; we feel called to the mission of Corvallis Church right now. If we weren't here, we don't know where we would be. The only reason we live in Corvallis is for the planting and caring for this church. The thing is: it isn't about us, it isn't us, we live by His strength and the Life that He seems to quite literally breathe into us. I wish I could explain it.

Friends, though I already considered myself a ministry wife, this Sunday something changed - I was hit in the heart on a whole new level. Which, I did not realize was possible.

officially a pastors wife

Just as Loren shared with the church (as I stood aside and cried because my husband has a heart of gold and when he puts words to it,  my heart is actually ripped right out out and is being buttered with joy) that morning, this is not a light title. As he spoke and I stood, I was in awe that my life was occurring this way. I didn't plan this out. This is not a label to throw around like "beardy," which is currently Loren's thing. To be given this title of "pastor" is a big deal and we pray to carry it with honor and dignity and compassion and an honest pursuit after Jesus. But my friends, what came this week...this week I was reminded even more of seriously how fickle and misfit I am. I am so completely imperfect, down to my very most personal thoughts, down to my nerves and DNA. I am so dreadfully awful that I do not understand why God Himself would invite me into such an equation as this. He must have some big and glorious renovation plans to be making something out of me, out of us, and I look forward to the day where I can say, "Ohhhh, this makes sense."

Jesus has this way of humbling us. Reminding us how deeply we each need Him and how very present He is, ready to help.

As we met with people this week, invited new friends and already-friends into our home, it was very apparent to me how deeply I need to be altered. Sometimes this mouth has a mind of its own that seems so far away from my real and true heart. Or maybe my real and true heart is quite further away from where I would hope it is. Whatever the case may be, titles are titles. They do not define us, they do not usually instantly transform us, they do not (de)value us, they are not us. I am me, Natalie. At the end of the day, and during the middle and beginning, I am just another follower of Jesus finding my way on this earth. And Loren is also just another human., so in love with Christ and wants to share Him with the world; despite his very much introverted tendencies.

I am completely, down into my core, honored to be Loren's wife. Not because of his title, but because of his heart & life. Quickly following that honor is the privilege of being in ministry with him, serving and sacrificing to build up the church before our very eyes. Corvallis Church.

The kind of stuff I live for: This week we got to sit down with our Pastoral Team and dream about ways to bless individual families and people during this holiday season. Yes. That's right. We got to spend time praying over the members of our church and plan out ways we may be able to bring them joy, the reminder that Christ is on their team. This is the very best job: bringing joy and peace and best of all Jesus, to others.

officially a pastor's wife

And right now, I have the front seat to many lives. I will do my very best to cherish it as a jewel in my crown. Sorry I am so weird and say weird things. But really, I pray I soak this time into my being, learn more than ever, and fall down onto my face because I am confronted with the very real humanity of self. And lean hard into His grace and forgiveness. Also, if you could start praying for our future babies? There is this thing about some Pastors Kids. And I just want to love them so well, I want to teach them Jesus and His saving grace, not religion and rules and laws. Those Littles are in for an adventure.

To any Corvallis Church members who may be reading this: if you have had the honor (chuckle) of practicing your patience with Loren or I, thank you for loving us so well! You get to actually raise us as babies, it seems. I am so grateful to know you; forever this group of people will be close to our hearts - you've grown us Brenners since dating. We are growing up! Almost. Also, a lot of you hold a place in my heart, a place of Heroes.

Note to self:

When Before all else fails, humble myself.

Brave.

my church is brave Divorced. Adulterer. Cheated. Widowed. Raped. Financially drowning. You name it; it's been through these doors.

In the middle sits a beautiful and fragile woman:  divorced somewhere after about 20 years of marriage. Across the row from her sits a couple who are silently fighting infertility, praying to not allow it to overtake their marriage or identity. The back row holds an older man; once wed to a woman with a severe mental illness, she has passed away. In the front sits a man and his family; they planted churches and pastored many, were burned and hurt and overchurched. Somewhere along the sides is a girl who struggles with an eating disorder; men battling an addition to pornography; many wives sitting without their husbands; young couples craving to be pure; a couple who are on their third marriage, hoping to "get it right" this time around; a family about to lose their house. Up front? An imperfect preacher man who does so much more than preach on Sunday mornings. Somewhere in the back there are exhausted mamas pacing back and forth, carrying their precious babies in hopes to keep them happy.

On any given Sunday morning, the room is filled with normal people who have normal stories who live normal lives. You are not expected to be perfect and have it all together; you're expected not to, and invited to cling to Jesus.

I see a church that is brave.church photos

Brave, because they are living in a broken world. A life of hurt and pain, a life that takes courage to face with joy. It takes courage to get up, choose joy, and cling to Jesus. It takes braveness to not allow these things to replace your identity.

We are perfectly imperfect humans, individually and collectively. Together, we meet under the same roof each Sunday; we worship Jesus, hug and high five one another, and agree on at least one thing: Jesus Christ lived a perfect life and died a painful death to bridge the impossibly large gap between us and God. Now we have access to life eternal and freedom on this broken earth; grace that can only be given by Christ. Corvallis Church, when I think of you, I think of how brave you are.

Sarah reminded me of this a week ago. She reminded me of your braveness.

When I look around on Sunday morning and catch sight of the multitudes of humans that make up Corvallis Church, I think: "these people amaze me" and it is not rare to be overtaken by emotions. You are facing life head on, reminding yourself that your circumstance does not define you, does not strip you of value. Courageously, you march into life, remembering that you are image-bearers of God himself.

It is not so much about the problems and pains we are battling, but how we respond to them. It isn't about Jesus taking away our trials and tribulations, but about Him being close to us and offering a peace that makes no sense, replacing our anxiety.

trials and jesus

Corvallis Church, you are brave.

Falling in love with Him because of your courage,

Natalie

Breaking like bread

breaking like bread Have you ever seen a mother wipe the greasy-chunky-slimy mouth of another momma's toddler with her bare hand? And about 30 seconds later eat some of the greasy-chunky-slimy food that was on the toddlers tray? Or cleaned up the messy poop that was squirted on her, straight from the rear of someone else's baby, and not have a single tone of complaint or annoyance?

Have you ever watched an aged, gray haired man help his limping wife across the street? He walks with her slowly, or maybe pushes her in her wheel chair, as cars sit and wait and stare at them.

Have you ever seen a young couple, engaged and excited, struggling to pay for the wedding of their dreams...and soon swarmed with so many gifts to complete this dream-wedding? As soon as they ask for help, help is offered and help galore, and before they know it, their wedding is better than they ever dreamed because...The Church served their engaged souls?

We are perfectly human, and I see a church that {imperfectly} serves each other. Wiping each others baby-throw-up off their shirt and continuing to smother them in kisses, because, we love each others babies. We love letting the mommas and daddies have a 5 minute break. I see a church that prays with one another when hurting, because praying and pointing to Jesus and getting on our knees is the best way we can serve our brothers and sisters. Corvallis Church is a church where young men fill fire-places with pellets for the older women, fix their shelves, and supports them with the service of Jesus himself. I see a church where newlyweds don't go hungry, but in fact eat better than they ever dreamed, and often find a bag of groceries on their doorstep. I see a church where people with the resource of wood, cut up, shares some with families without the money to purchase wood. I see a church that clothes one another. I see a church that invites the homeless in, offers a warm meal, a sleeping bag, a heater, dignity. I see a church where families give extra during the Holiday Season, where families are given a gift of extra cash to buy their children Christmas gifts that they otherwise wouldn't have the means to purchase. I see a church where people drive 30 minutes to help a family move all of their things out of their flooded shop and up onto a hill.

I see a church that share's so much with one another. Share's words, hearts, resources. I see a church that is bursting full of people who break themselves, like bread, and pours themselves out, like wine, in order to sacrificially serve one another.

I see a church that offers Hope that only Jesus can bring.

I see a church, Corvallis Church, that extravagantly and radically and so-differently-from-culture serves each other. Because we are family, and we love each other, and we are called to serve each other.

For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.

Galatians 5:13

- Are you a part of a church? What are some beautiful, simple, ordinary ways that you serve each other? -

Learning to fall in love with His church,

Natalie

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.

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!

20140613-220151-79311778.jpg

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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Being Thankful through the Pain

This morning was our first gathering for the ladies' small group that I am co-leading! It blew my expectations out of the water. Ladies Study To be transparent, leading a small group often makes me anxious, nervous, and even nauseous. But in those moments of weakness and self-doubt, I am forced to lean into grace all the more. I am brought to my knees once again, my heart seeking God's counsel, and I press into His love and guidance. My confidence, or lack of, shifts onto Jesus and I am reminded that I can be a tool for Him to use. Which means that if I am willing, He will do the work! As the ladies began filling the home, some bringing their children and some without, my heart was at peace because I knew that the morning wasn't about me - all that I did was organize and assemble! Which brings so much relief. I was excited to begin this study with women that I spend hours praying for.

I was impacted by Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts, so I felt as though it would be a fitting study for the ladies: I am passionate about it because it talks about the real & painful messiness of life and invites us into a life overflowing with joy, even through the hard and painful struggles. Let's be honest: this journey of life is difficult and often exhausting. Why join a small group and pretend our lives are perfect, and we perfectly serve our families and friends, while we perfectly give thanks in all circumstances? We are imperfect, but we know that Jesus sees us as His beloved children, and He smiles upon us with gladness as we take steps towards Him. "Small groups" are meant to be a place to safely be transparent, to honestly seek Truth, and to be real. So let's be real.

And that is exactly what happened.

I let so many tears drop from my eyes this morning. The first question of the study guide was: When you look back on the timeline of your story, tell about a moment you hit a pothole in your journey of life? Tell about a moment in your life that was hard and painful and looked nothing like a gift. That is a personally vulnerable question! I stated up front that if it was too uncomfortable to share, please don't feel pressure to - but also, share if you feel appropriate. Half of the 16 women present shared a deeply vulnerable story from their life - a moment, or many moments, when pain was present, depression was in their face, and Heaven seemed too far away. Stories shared about hurts from parenting, marriage, addictions, divorce, childhood...it was raw and it was beautiful. Most of them shared exactly how the struggle and trial ended up blessing them! I was grateful for their honesty, giving more proof that Jesus really does carry us through the fire. Living proof sat before my eyes that we can come out of the flames stronger and even more beautiful. Beauty from ashes, people. We all have those bumps and potholes in our life, we all have "soul holes" that need to be filled. I continuously thanked Jesus for the opportunity to be there, among these precious children of His.

As we moved through the discussion, many deep thoughts were shared. How do we remain thankful through the painful struggles? I would love to share with you our journey of conversation:

Grumbling, complaining, and busyness cause us to close our hands and our hearts towards God. [And the gifts He wants to give us]. Being still and surrendering to Him brings calm and helps us to open our hearts and our hands. He is our calm in the midst of chaos! Oh the sweet joy of having access to the Calm.

Receiving the grace Jesus offers AND being filled with grace to the point of overflowing means that we have no room for anything else - especially bitterness and complaining. It removes self-focus. Overflowing with grace looks like dwelling on God's goodness, even in the pain. We know who we are in Christ, because His grace tells us we are His; we are able to offer grace to anyone we come into contact with - even those who hurt us. We are not defined by anyone's opinion except the loving Jesus's!

Ladies StudyAs we give thanks in the painful moments, we are not giving thanks for the pain itself, but for the HOPE of salvation and for the trustworthiness of Jesus. We are grateful that our pain does not define us, but Jesus does as He looks upon us with grace and pure love, seeing His marvelous children!

Why is it so hard to be thankful when we are going through a time of pain, struggle, or darkness? Because all we are seeing seems dark and painful; we do not see past the struggle. We cannot see beyond our circumstance, therefore we cannot see the good in the pain. The endurance being built, the character being strengthened, the hope deepening. We must look at the gifts that surround us.

Overflowing joy, living life in the fullest way possible, happens when we see each moment as it really is. Without the blinders of self, without the focus of "me." If we can look past self and out the window at the clear blue sky, we can see the good gifts that only a good God can lavish on us. Every moment is a gift; a gift of grace. Even in the painful times. Read the first chapter of Voskamp's book and see that even through the thick of Hell on earth, there is grace. I look forward to discovering ways to deepen my gratitude, which will only deepen my joy for life and my love for Jesus!

What are 5 things you are grateful for?

See the gifts surrounding you!

Women's Writing Group: Being Intentional.

Loren and I are enrolled in a church planting class through the CEA. This class initiates intentional activity as well as extending our thoughts on "church."  One of the assignments was to be more deliberate about relationships, which was intriguing because I had been feeling the need to create more relationships outside of the sphere of church - volunteering one hour a week at an Elementary School really is not cutting it. Last Monday, for Loren and my day off, we walked to Market of Choice to sit by the fires flame. A plethora of people passed by; some sat still and were ready for conversation and some were not. Many lovely words were exchanged between Brenners and strangers - fire amazes me in the sense that it creates a relaxed atmosphere. One of the last ladies, "Connie," to sit and visit was older, 88 to be exact. She wore red which I admired. Somehow she landed on the topic of writing; creative writing with 3 other ladies every other Saturday. I eventually invited myself to this group: it was fitting! I adore and cherish the elderly as well as enjoy writing creatively. All of my contact information was asked for and freely given (full name, phone number, address, email) to which Loren said they were plotting my death.

One day later, she called. Excited to pick me up on her way to "Barabara's" at Stoney Brook, the plan was set for Saturday - also known as today. I will be honest; I was a little nervous, unsure of what I was really doing, but confident that I needed to go through this.

It was profoundly comfortable! Each of the women were so intrigued that a young lady as myself would dare join a group of women who are 70+ years of age. I was fascinated that they allowed me! One woman lived in Japan for 12 years; another lives in Switzerland but is from Canada; another has lived here for 17 years and has a 15 year old son (I know right?!); the last is from Massachusetts. Most of their husbands have passed. It was an odd feeling - they at the end of their marriage, life in general, me right at the beginning.womens writing

We spent 45 minutes in silence writing something creative about our life, which I will be uploading later. Then read the piece out loud to one another, applauding with support. I wrote about my near death experience in Hawaii, 6 years ago. To write a memoir of that happening pushed me towards a restoration I didn't realize I needed. Etching the words into my journal, scrawling quickly every part of that memory, was a cure to the painful memory. I now look back and see grace and rescue.

Each time we meet, I will write a memoir of my life: the occurrences where my life could have been taken. (Mary - do you want to join me?). I look forward to the healing and restoration that will follow!

I had planned to bless and serve, ready to build intentional relationships and in return Jesus (once again) brought me to my knees in humble adoration. Grateful for this life, thankful for the random connection I made at Market of Choice, excited for the future. "Connie" invited me to stop by her home anytime, seeing as she lives right down the road! Looks like Jesus has way bigger plans for my life than I have ever dared to dream.

Where can you build an intentional relationship? How can you make room to let Jesus rock your world? Joining a book club? Going to the library morning-reading for moms and kids (cant wait to do that! #notpregnant)? A coffee shop with regulars? I am sure that wherever that part of your journey begins, the building will be a blessing and even healing in unexpected ways.20140125-182211

Above: pottery made by host, "Barbara"