Looking Back

looking back over the year "Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow. Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up."

I sifted through posts from summer of 2011. Tears welled and my heart was yanked. The back of my mind held the knowledge that there were some gut ripping posts in the old archives of the Brenner Bunch blog; posts from before it was Brenner Bunch - posts from before Brenner Bunch was even a possibility.

As I scrolled through the weighted words I so easily wrote onto those pages for the world to see, I encountered thick emotions. Memories flooded of a painful and yet significant summer for a college girl who hopped couches and slept in her car, trying to find Him in the mess and brokenness of life.  As the pages of my story unfolded on that little blog for (in actuality) few to read, I somehow praised Him and sought Him and loved Him. In the midst of my most anguished time. Almost every post began with broken and weary words as these:

"Selfishness and sorrow overtook them both stripping off any righteous cloak; Respect and honor were wiped off Adultery, lust.. sin, with the same dirty cloth.

I walked in unprepared not ready to see you bare.. instead of running I simply stared.

There, where anger should appear tears began to glisten unbearable and torturous thoughts screaming through my ear.

My heart was already torn, I thought completely, I didnt think it possible to fit another thorn. But there I stood a new ache now born."

But these posts would each end with such hope, submission, declaration of His goodness:

"So here I am:

Take my heart Mold it as clay, constructing your way In my soul, sustain your stay This I pray, in your Sacred Name. Now, declaring an end to sins control God gives me everything and more He engulfs my very soul, making me whole Filling the largest gap, but also the little cracks He holds my hand when I cannot stand.. A child filled with sins A child not quite worthy And still yet, "daughter" is what He calls me.

You who created the earth in seven days You think of me in all sorts of ways. You who made the mountains form You think of me and calm my storm. You think of me and take my pain. You who made the ocean vast You think of me and clear my past. You who parted the big Red sea You, the Lord almighty, think of me, and forever I shall praise thee."

Looking back four summers invited memories that sting; but also a smile of peace. I made it. I'm breathing and I'm still here, alive and well. My trust in Him has never been more grounded. Knowing how God is redeeming my heart, understanding ways that He is restoring my tired soul, and seeing how present He was to me in that very real brokenness... it blesses me. It's comforting knowing that He is reliable even in the darkest of nights. Remembering that though I was utterly torn to shambles and feeling like a worm, I still found Him, because He was there. This thing of finding Him in our ever present brokenness isn't just a saying, isn't pretend, isn't for random people who have a strong sense of imagination - it has a genuine existence. Will you search for it with me? Will you chase His freedom and His heart? What do you have to lose?

My hope is to share this very real Truth with you; because it is a freedom we are all created to live in. The Truth that brokenness remains to exist and yet freedom is still accessible through Him.

I fell in love with this piece of scripture the moment I read it: "Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow. Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up. These events will bring great honor to the Lord's name; they will be an everlasting sign of His power and love." Isaiah 55:13

What beautiful promises of flourishing, glory, honor, worth-it-ness.

How do you find Him in your brokenness? How has He been present in the darkest of dark nights?

Learning to fall in love with His love letter,

Natalie

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

Healing during brokenness. Is it possible?

healing So enveloping, the dark covered the night. A few stars showed their shining face to mine, tear-dripping, as I glared up frustrated. First on my knees, then to my rear, rocking back and forth.

"Do others feel deep pain?"

"Why do parents hurt their kids? And not even realize it?"

"Why do people even get married?"

"Why do people have kids?"

"Why are people so selfish?"

"Why do affairs happen?"

"Why was I born?"

"Why are people so mean?"

"DOES ANYONE UNDERSTAND, are you there, God?"

pain. escape.

Five years later and I knew He was there. And as I sobbed out of this place of brokenness, begging for the answers to these questions, there was more to the story. There is always more to every story. There was depth beneath the shouted questions. These jam-packed, heavily loaded questions were shot gun shells filled with the most broken pieces of gun powder, ready to explode. They wanted to demand my will, my wants, my idea of what life on earth should look like: painless. They were questions that were more than mere questions.

Rocking back and forth, tears streamed down my face and I couldn't help but be terribly angry at my friends inside the house. My friends who so easily watched movies about things that do not matter. My friends that [seem to] ignore pain and skirt all vulnerable and terribly transparent topics. My friends that didn't understand.

What was the point of all of this?

I want to love you, Jesus. I want to love you with my life and bring glory to your name, but this pain I cannot escape. The pain is me, it makes up ME, and I cannot escape my own skin. To escape my skin is impossible while breathing, but it is all that I yearn to do.

Something happened that night. I broke. I crumbled. I was honestly hurt and seeking His face, even if it were out of anger. Angry at who? I don't believe I was angry at God. I was just...angry. At circumstances, at humans. I was angry with the fickleness of humans, though I did not know that. For possibly the first time in too long, I was honest with myself: I am weak, I am broken, I need Jesus more than I realize.

I did not know at that time that we are all deeply broken. We either are or have experienced some sort of brokenness in Our Story. But no one talked about it. It was vague; it was this far-out-there sort of idea - not a very real and tangible REALITY. I thought I was messed up and broken all by myself. But [part of the] beauty of this life on earth is that we are all broken. We have the invitation to live brokenly together. Maybe your brokenness and my brokenness are completely different. In fact, they are. As a result of this messy and selfish world, we have hurts, aches, pains. Mistakes. Consequences. MESSED UP SELFISHNESS.

deeply broken

We cannot find healing until we look Truth in the face, honestly. We cannot find healing without raw honesty. We will not move into a flourishing life until we choose to be honest and real before our Jesus King who so desperately wants to rush us forth into His marvelous freedom-life. Which can be now. On earth. This moment. And honestly, I hurt and I am in pain and it is because of the decisions others have made. And I. Am. Broken.  When we come to grips that we are in agonizing pain, a few things happen:

  • Forgiveness is now possible. Once I recognize and accept that some one has hurt me, I now can move forward into the freedom (and often, process) of forgiveness. Once I admit that I am weak and have been hurt, I can then realize that... guess what? That human is human. And possibly, just maybe, I must also forgive myself. Forgiveness is possible.
  • We can be okay with our humanity. As in, every single human who has walked the face of this earth has felt pain. It is normal. And it is good to break and be broken because brokenness is a catalyst for humility.
  • Humility is now possible. Humility is more beautiful than words can describe. Our way of life depends on being rooted in Christ Jesus which is our deliberate choice. Humility allows us to choose being rooted in Him. Recognizing that we are broken and flawed and in pain rushes forth humility, because it reveals that we cannot survive without Him. And without humility, we do not see that we too have hurt others. That we too have played a part in the story. Humility is the most beautiful Thing. It can be painful, but so freeing.
  • Healing is now possible. Healing is possible when we admit that we are hurt. Until we come to grips with the honesty of hurt, we will not heal. If we don't view ourselves as needing healing, why would healing happen? Our hearts will only harden, and pride my friends...pride will take over. Please believe me when I say: you don't want your heart full and over flowing with pride. It isn't fun for anyone.

healing. honesty

I look back on that night 5 years ago and I praise Jesus for those honest cries for help. I thank Him that He brought me through and carried me, when I allowed Him. I thank Him that I see people with a new light of love and an incredibly deeper understanding.

I continue to be flawed, broken, and also Full of all The Feely Things - emotions. I continue to break down and weep and choose self-pity parties, blowing up balloons and inviting anyone to join. {Which, if I do this, please don't join the party. Its not fun for anyone. It's also not loving me. And I am not loving you by inviting you to this Party of Pity. And honestly, I have a dang blessed life. So it is pathetic of me}. Not every day are these parties thrown. Not all of the time. But there are days, sometimes weeks, where I choose the mindset of prison. I am fickle, I am human, I am broken. However. I am still healing. I am still finding health for my heart, my soul soothed by His love and patience for me. He is always patient. My identity lies not in my brokenness, but in my chosenness. You are chosen. Ephesians 1:4 says that He chose us before the world was formed. He chose us before we were broken and sinful, but He also chose us before we decided to do good. That we are adopted into His family, standing faultless before His throne. Because of Jesus.

identities

We must choose, with our free will, to enter the process of healing. We must choose to be honest and vulnerable, even when it is scary. We must choose to reject the lies we believe, and claim His words for us as Truth. Healing begins with honesty.

Though I am broken and offered a decision of wallowing-in-pain or pursuit of freedom, I am not defined by my brokenness. Even when I choose wallowing, He does not define me in that way. He says I am royal and His.

He says that you are beloved.

He says that you are His. Even when you choose to sit in the brokenness and not move towards His freedom.

His identity for us does not waver, even when we do.

Friends. Ponder on this Truth for yourself today:

ephesians 1.4

 

These Days {the holidays} : Full of Aches & Pains.

Oh these days.These days hurt, they're filled with a lot of pain, deep aches, and the looming question, "will this ache and almost-dred of the holidays ever dissipate?" I know for a fact that I am not the only one who tends to have a bitter-sweet taste towards this time of year. Frankly, it saddens me that I am completely human and cannot push away these pains & be 100% happy. But life is not about my happiness. What I mean though, is sometimes I get down on myself, hard on myself, for feeling sad during these months. I too quickly diagnose it as selfish pride, which it very well may be. But diagnosing & labeling myself that way only makes it worse and creates more bitterness. All of today I was stuck inside my head mulling over conversations: words I should have/shouldn't have said, facial expressions I wish I did or did not make, you know, internally processing the first part of the first holiday. Then I would tell myself to quit thinking about it & move on; forget it. And then I thought, "Natalie, if you don't allow yourself to feel the pain, to process the aches, to be REAL now, then in about 20 years it will barf itself out all over the ones you love most. Your husband & children. Feel the pain & realize you're human." So together, let's be real. Let's not be constantly talking about ourselves & our situations, but in the moments of silence, let's be real with Jesus, get on our face, and cry out to Him. Let Him heal you before you make your heart messier than it needs to be.

About 35% of children are in a single-parent home = broken family. I didn't look up the stat for deaths in families, but I know that's also an aspect of depression during these days. I see that culture itself attempts to make divorce "normal." I now understand that growing up, when I "just wished my parents would divorce like Heather W's parents, because life would be so much easier" that I was believing a lie that culture has so creatively formed. No matter who you are or what age, or even the situation, there will always be a disconnect when your parents are not together. EVEN IF it is way better they are not together, say due to abuse, there will always be that brokenness. That dysfunction will remain. It will remain simply because God created it differently; and for some reason, if it's not "working" the way it was created to work, it is broken and not as good. It is not whole. So when culture tells you that your pain is invalid and that you are a puny whimp for craving what was meant to be, ignore it. Ignore that lie. It's like telling someone their toilet is normal, even when it clearly does not flush & is overflowing; bad analogy, but you get the point: if it's not working the way it was created to, it's broken & almost useless. It hurts & that is okay, because broken families equals broken hearts. And broken hearts ache. Now. Broken hearted I sit in Starbucks drinking a peppermint hot chocolate. As I prepped dinner yesterday, I was struggling all day. It was weird. Really weird. I had been having these "growing pains" days before Thursday arrived and I know Jesus was growing & molding my heart; He was definitely stretching me & I would love to tell you why someday. Face to face. BUT, as I sit here, I want to make a bigger point than the brokenness that surrounds us. We are engulfed in it! It would be so easy to allow the sadness of my broken family, and those broken around me, to become my focus. It would be so easy to shut off, shut down, and become a face in the crowd without a smile. But where in the Bible does it say life will be easy or simple? Where does it say we get to slack on self discipline, and choose the easy way, the wide road? Oh wait, it doesn't. I want to challenge you and myself to do two things: 1. in the silence, in the intimate moments with Jesus, FEEL YOUR PAIN & CRY OUT FOR HEALING, for joy; 2. in the busy, in the celebration moments, in the bulk of life, focus on Jesus and gratitude for your Savior. As a response to that gratitude of His unending & undeserving grace, look outward and pour your life out as an offering. Stop focusing on ourselves & our pains, and look outward serving this city and this world in the name of Jesus. Loving the other broken hearted people. Don't succumb to talking depressive talks with other depressed people...how is that edifying anyone? It just brings on more bitterness & who really wants to be around that? Stand tall, for the glory of God and be an encouragement. Heck, do you know what a smile can do for someone's day? Just smile & be intentional about it. Be ever grateful for the red, green, & gold everywhere; the warmth of this season. The music and lights! The joy and the coffee! I am sure we can all find something to gloom and ache for, but I am positive we can all find something to be thankful for. One thing, is the hope for salvation! Hello! We have true hope, people which brings true joy.

20131129-201423.jpg In honor of this season, I thought I would post a photo of my LOVELY inaccurate nativity scene :)

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"Choosing to Create Pain in the Hopes to Gain.."

BrokenBroken is this world I call home the only place I've really known. Where my family raised me from child to full grown. Broken and a constant battle pain rattling in my heart as I am pushed off my saddle reminded that on one another they tattle, to me. Each pained and hurt by the other for some reason or another they slander each other, calling me to explain their sides while I sit in the middle, trying not to cry, keeping each of their thoughts about one another inside of me how can I guide them to become unified? I would love to continue to provide a safe place for them to confide but if I am honest, I am merely a human whose heart is being pried.

Dear ones, Your hearts are so precious & as you slander it depresses me. I won't even pretend to imagine the bend the Father's heart is in, bringing Him grief as you allow the thief to steal any love that was once there, or so I believe.

I love them each deeper than my words will ever reach but their various needs, I simply cannot meet.

Human am I fickle & weak, while their anger towards each other is all they choose to see. Who is to blame for this and for that while we're at it, let's throw names with a spikey bat. Choosing to create pain in the hopes to gain, but really if we're honest we're throwing our own hearts in front of a freight train. Insane it all feels spinning my heart's wheels as the night spirals into disdain. The rain of their anger feels like hail upon my back simply knowing that their own flesh they're trying to attack.

Broken Broken is this earth where sin was let in bringing death to spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Through this sin many more were bore only to allow the One who adores to pour an abundance of grace galore. Grace Jesus' grace is sufficient for you & for me my deepest most desire is for you to see you do not need to be under this curse, but you can be set free. Freedom is beautiful, I promise you that you become usable in this spiritual combat. Grace will save you every day but it was bought with a price we should have each paid. I crave for you to know this I yearn for your freedom I'll do my best to show you all the while my love deepens. Although deep love brings deep aches it is worth the heartbreak for the sake of possibly watching you be remade. Oh the beauty of that day when you hand over your heart, your mind, your soul For that precisely, I'll continue to pray. Saved by faith and nothing more it's all too simple, for your salvation I will implore. To be restored and completely set free, is so much richer than what you think you want to be your pursuits in this world will only create debris I plea for you to see: His design is perfect & whole.. stop filling those holes with the lust of this world: control. A goal is to boldly tell you all these things but I'm waiting on perfect timing from my King. While I wait I will pray and and I will sing "Glory to God, the king of all kings."

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A Girl Healing from Divorce.

I want to be happy for you.But honestly, I feel so grimy. I want my smiles to be genuine, But blimey hell, it feels so slimy.

Seeing you with her is no natural thing. Bringing me an awkward ping straight through my heart A true sting. At first I would have sworn it just a fling. But the way you cling to her rings something else, as though you've made her as part of yourself. Which, I know you have.

It hurts to see you flirt with someone other than my mother, whom you were never even alert. Painful, as you talk about half of my family as though they are dirt. I love them. Exerting ill feelings towards people you once called family I divert my eyes, trying to hide the deep hurt. When you name-call "them" what you do not realize, is that part of "them," I proudly am.

You never held the one you should have. You never caressed her with love. Instead you cursed and you yelled, outside love was shoved. You left for days as we suffered your hell, breaking things but mostly our hearts. Do you care that our family has fallen apart?

I thought I got used to the brokenness. But as I see you with her, I once again, in my heart feel the atrociousness that divorce has to offer. You were her (ex)husband's friend She was my mother's... & somehow I must let my heart amend, I must not feel the need to defend what once was...but now never will be. Oh the pain it is to think of what I now see..

Someone who, in a sense, helped raise me she watched me grow, babysat me, it feels like the lowest of blows. There are a million different women... and somehow you chose the one who would cause our hearts' such division. Double dates you once had before both commitments of marriage went bad. I just can't wrap my mind around being glad..

Asking me questions that are not fair, when answering in Truth I would not dare. In front of others, I was forced to lie, because as I started to tell the truth, I saw the stare in your eye. How uncomfortable is that? How unloving too? Grace makes no sense and I'm called to offer it to you. It hurts. It downright hurts. Being selfless & true denying my flesh for the One I pursue.

The hard thing is, I know you're broken. I know you're lost & confused. And that hurts me deep too. I feel bipolar, wishing you the best & praying for your soul, while my heart is at test, raging for peace & rest. Dressed in a smile, my truest hearts cry is that you would be blessed.

I'm pained and I'm broken it has happened again My hearts cry cannot be spoken as I feel completely broken. I am at loss while I toss around what has become.

To say the least, it was uncomfortable to have her talk about our past as tho it were unsufferable. As though she was someone she was not, attempting to reminisce on memories shot. Suddenly you see someone as lovable, Why did it take so long? It now feels completely wrong.

Invite her into my home, I will. But only because of The Lord Jesus who loves us still.

As I walk around the dark night the sky is lit bright by stars so beautiful. God's lights. Trying to process what is happening my tears flow from a heart of maddening to saddening. Imagining the future, near and far, I know that, as always, Jesus will heal the soon to be scars. As bizarre as it is and always will be, I must look forward, and see the Victory. I must look up, and be reminded of Calvary. Eventually, I will be held so delicately in the arms of my Father so true; And oh, will my heart be completely soothed.

Hope is what I stand on. Grace is what I walk in. Jesus holds my heart within. Hope allows a narrow scope to see the rope that Jesus offers; Hope helps me cope while I let God form me on this earth, giving me my only worth since the day of my birth all the while He nurses my nerves, my heart on the days of worst, reminding me of the love I do not deserve, But in it I am completely immersed.

HE IS A Dad.

aches and painsbursting throughout my bones and my veins. my heart pounds as my mind hounds my mouth what to say. i want to scream i want to cry extreme daydreams fog my mind's eye. a cloud threatens my vision straining each decision as each incision cuts so deep into my aching heart. division. one cut into two. i never envisioned such derision to come from you.

i look high up above and then down below it hurts too much to let it go. i cannot let such agony consume my soul once again i cannot allow this unravel me as a whole and you i cannot control. my muscles. they complain. my bones. they break. why have you forsaken us?

denying an obvious mistake. your child's body erupts with an earthquake. her tears gush forth from deep within her soul tears of agony of strife confusion and pain. a contusion of the heart protruding from her posterior vein. unexplainable misery a depth you'll never grasp; indescribable anguish torment & torture. affliction. because of this affliction my addiction to my Father in Heaven takes flight, it amplifies.

where is the beauty? it is here: it is in the fact that i have a King who writes love letters to a broken soul just like me. his love knows no bounds abounding, around me covering me in a cloak of comfort and peace. i am drowning in such Love it is absolutely profound. i am surrounded by a playground of Words unbroken promises overwhelm and astound me unbroken promises from my King. He swings me off my feet sweetly sings to me, my soul to weep of joy. in Him I am finally complete.

He is anything good He is everything beautiful He has made himself clear and understood.

never will He defile me for He is my Father my Dad my King.

 

<made with compassion towards many hurting girls>