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

On Journals

on journals, journaling for husband I love journals.

Leather, pleather, plastic-covered, paper-covered, home made, store bought, etsy shopped, spiral-bound, not-spiral-bound, big, small, thick, thin, pocket, notebook...you name it, I'll write in it.

If I were out of my mind and gave you my journals to sift through, you would find: prayers, letters, day-recaps, tear stains, mascara spots, goals, dreams, secrets, victories, verses.

A lot of my [youth] girls, who are less like kids and more like young ladies, are in the stage of first-boyfriends or dreaming-of-first-boyfriends and thinking of marriage and men and all the things that 15 and 16 year old girls think about. If you know me, you know this makes my heart race and my palms sweat and my head swim with anxious thoughts and BUT WHAT IF's. I did my fair share [read: way too much] of boyfriending and kissing in High School and don't fall for the "gotta try it before you commit" thing.

For four years now I have been sharing with these girls how not-worth-it [I think] it is to date when you think you're ready at 16, how not-worth-it it is to spend your first hand holding with a boy you just met, to not let your lips fall on a guy who you just started dating in high school yesterday. I have been sharing honestly and vulnerable, but also doing my very best to hold my hands open and trust that Jesus is working through them [no matter what] just as He worked and is working through me. My heart and my hope is that I do not come across as a 100-year-old Grama that doesn't know anything [which in my mind, I now know to listen to these 100 year olds] and instead come across as someone that loves them so much that I share what I have learned over these short years of the life I have lived. And what I have learned is this: boyfriending before you leave high school isn't worth the heart ache and distraction. Even if you end up marrying the man, you are going to have to wait years...and if you are choosing to wait to enjoy the thing of sex until marriage, that is a painfully difficult long time to wait. It only gets harder, year by year, month my month, day by day. I promise.

Today I was in TJ MAX looking for a planner for Loren. We decided that if I could find one that he likes, he would start trying to use it and organize his work and meetings better, seeing it all laid out before him, rather than in the tiny glass screen that is his phone. While sifting through the precious things of journals and planners [which were all too girly for my manly husband] a woman, maybe 75, asked me what I do with journals. I said to her, "You know, last week I bought 15 journals and I picked them out so delicately. My husband is a Youth Pastor and I cherish and adore the girls, so I wrote them a little letter inviting them to use the journal specifically to pray for and write letters to their future husband. You know, to try and keep their eyes on Jesus and what He has, rather than chasing around what looks good now." Her eyes started welling with tears, something too familiar to me, so mine did too. She told me that she had lost hope for our kids these days and that this meant so much to her.  She said that she loves journaling, that writing is her thing, that she would be praying for those girls when she journals.

I am wondering if maybe journaling for our future husbands, our current husbands, and maybe even our passed husbands should be more of a norm? And maybe it is, but maybe it isn't. Maybe you have three little ones to chase around and feel overwhelmed at the thought of it. Maybe you aren't married and are nervous to let your heart go there, to hope. 

Maybe if I journaled and prayed and wrote more letters to my Future Husband when I was in high school, I would not have gotten so wrapped up in the midst of numbing one pain with another thing that didn't look like pain [boyfriending and thus, things that follow]. But it is also possible that you are not married or do not plan to ever get married, and that is just as much okay as the former. I told the girls, my girls that are not my girls, that they didn't have to use the journal for that reason, but that was why I had purchased them. I told them that there may be times where they don't want to ever get married, and that is beautifully okay, and they can spend time studying God's word and praying their hearts closer to His, becoming His beloved, regardless. But if they do choose to study what marriage looks like, what their Future Husbands character should reveal, praying for their dailyness and everything...how cool of a gift would it be to give him? How much of a treasure would it be to look back through it with him and see how God worked through your prayers? The prayers you prayed, for him?

If you are part of any sort of youth ministry, I wonder if you might pray about doing this for your girls too? Or something similar, something that fits your girls. I didn't know it was actually that cool until a flood of texts came through the next day sharing that some of them had already written letters and prayed for their Future Husband and how excited they are about them.

I love journals. We have some going for future kids.

Do you journal?

 

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.

You are captivating: a letter

a letter to my girls My dear girls,

"You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you." [Song of Solomon 4:7]

Did you look in the mirror this morning and know in your bones how captivating you are? Did you stare into the glass square, see past the surface of your flesh and into your soul, through your eyes, and experience the truth that you are altogether beautiful? That you are flawless?

Your magnificent beauty is much more than your face and your limbs and your torso. Your marvelous complexities run deeper than your flesh, though your flesh is used as the overflow of your Spirit, so wonderful.

"clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God." [1 Peter 3:4]

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Oh girls, if only you could see yourself with His eyes. More captivating than the flowers, you are.

You are more precious than rubies, nothing one desire can compare with you. You offers one long life in your right hand, and riches and honor in your left. You will guide one down delightful paths; all your ways are satisfying. [Proverbs 3:15-17]

What makes you beautiful, radiant, breathtaking...is the mere evidence of you. I am not making this up, I am not fluffing you - this is real stuff, Truth is what they call it. The sheer evidence that you exist is what makes you captivating and precious and delightful.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;     but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. [Proverbs 31:30]

As you grow in body and grow in spirit, I pray and I hope and I earnestly desire for you to revere the Lord. Jesus, the most High, our King, and our Life source. When you fall in love with Him and let Him be your motivation, your identity, your reason to live and breathe and exist...it is then that you are at your most radiant. It is in the moments of submission to His way that you are absolutely and completely delightful.

Captivating.

From Germany to you, NM

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

You are enough.

you are enough Dearest Girls-

Good morning & good day. Another week has already passed and my soul can hardly believe it.

As I prayed through what this letter would contain for you, I felt pressure behind the wings of my thumbs to type what I am constantly reminding myself:

you are enough.

you are not expected to be perfect.

you are allowed to be human.

you are beautiful.

you are beloved.

you are in made in the image of God himself.

So often I place a measuring stick above my head and it is impossible to reach it's height. I may place a standard that I believe I should live up to, but not put it on others. I may place a standard that I believe others have placed on me. I wonder if you do this too. Do you place an impossibly tall measuring stick above your very own head, whether it be your standard or someone else's, and live life with this impossible standard looming and taunting you?

Whatever the standard is, it is crap. It is false. It is a lie.

You are not called to live out perfection, and instead you are invited to pursue a life of freedom. Freedom where Jesus gives you value because you exist and for no other reason. Freedom where the Truth is our friend, and offers Hope, even when we are awake during the darkest nights. Freedom where your identity belongs to Him, as His child, as His image bearer. Yes you will mess up, hurt others and yourself, reflect Him poorly...but there is grace and this grace will drive you to want more of Him. This grace will inspire you to love others deeper, to offer forgiveness more often, to share this grace that has been showered upon you.

This grace is life saving.

And you are okay.

Messed up, selfish, wholly-unincredible and all. You are okay. And your neighbor, your friend, your sister, your cousin, your mom? They're okay too. They're messed up, wholly unincredible, and broken as well...but He still loves them. He still made them in His image. And in your failings and in their weaknesses, He is stronger - His power is revealed through our misgivings. As we begin to see ourselves the way He sees us, we will also begin to see others in that way.

My girls, this is where redemption for the world plays in. This is where hope is birthed. When we see one another as He sees us, so we go and we offer grace and we invite others into this miraculous way of life that only Jesus offers.

And remember: you are okay. You are enough, right now.

Go about your day in a way that reflects the Truth that you are wholly beloved. With joy, Natalie Brenner

My girls, your value stems from Him, not him.

letters to my girls - value My Dear Girls-

Wednesday has not arrived yet. But Tuesday has! I have the unending gift, the truest pleasure, of spending time with some of you tonight. My goodness do you shed so much hope and light into this world. He is radiating through you, more than you could possible know.

Did you wake up this morning, and remember His heart for you? It is okay if you didn't - I forget too often, too. But we miss out so much when we do not listen to His call for us. His call to place our true identity on: His Beloved Daughter. Oh how much worth He brings us.

As I was in Canada last week, I spent many moments shedding tears. Tears that had been hidden for years, pain that I had buried because it is just that: painful. Pain and aches and memories from the very years you are in: teenage years. As I lay in bed, I prayed for you. I prayed protection over your sweet and precious hearts, your beautiful bodies. Girls, you are so much more than you think. If there is one thing I want to share with you today, it is this truth:

your value stems from Jesus Christ alone.

Your worth and dignity comes from Him, and no one else. Not "him": not your dad, not your brother, not the boy you are begging for attention. So often "he" strips us of our value and dignity - maybe because dad is absent, maybe because you feel forced to do something, maybe because you feel so darn ugly, unwanted. Whether "he" is giving you no attention or a lot of attention, his attention does not define you. Sweet human being, you are so much more and you are valuable because of the precious and perfect blood that was shed for you on the cross. He erases the (de)value "(s)he" gives and places a stamp on you: a stamp of freedom, of unending worth, and of belovedness.

Today, I pray that you walk in that Truth: that He is yours and you are His and He smiles upon you and claims you as valuable.

With so much love and a big heart of hugs,

Natalie

isaiah 6015

I hope you'll hippity-hop on over to Light The Lie's post: A (not so) Love Story.

To My Girls: Your Tongue...use it with care

letters-to-my-girls1 My dearest girls,

YOU ARE SO STUNNING! I can hardly believe how beautiful you are. Though, that is silly, because the Creator God Himself made you. He makes nothing but beauty.

I am praying for you today. Praying that you start this day off right: recognizing that you are deeply loved by your Father in heaven. I pray that when you looked in the mirror this morning you saw what He sees: a beautiful and beloved masterpiece.

As you go to school today, I pray that you would see others with these same eyes. As you know that you yourself are beautiful and beloved, that you would see others with eyes of grace. Girls, do not be fooled by the way of gossip and slander. It is not fulfilling, it is not satisfying. I give you my word that it will leave you feeling dry. The adrenaline rush in the moment may feel great, but I assure you, dear girl, that it is not worth the emptiness and hurt that follows. I have hurt so many with the words from my mouth. How I desperately want to encourage you away from that. It is not worth it. I want to pound that into your souls.

Your peers face (relatively) the same battles that you do. The battle of not feeling good enough. The battle of feeling unworthy. The battle of being self conscious in their own beautiful skin. The truth is, we all battle that. It is the way of the enemy. So don't join the enemy's side and slander others, proving to them that the lies they believe are true. Because they are not true, they are lies.

I pray that today you will go to school and you will see others with eyes of grace. And that when the opportunity to gossip arises, you would snip it in the bud. You would not allow it to go forth into its sly and evil ways. I pray that you would be built up and know that it is more satisfying to talk highly of others, to build them up. That is what you were created to do.

I'm praying for you today dear girls.

Look in the mirror and see what he sees: a beautiful and beloved masterpiece.

Always sincerely, Natalie

Don't speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God's law. James 4:11

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Visit Light The Lie. I recommend: What They Really Taught Us In School

Letters To My Girls

letters to my girls I am so excited to be writing letters to my girls each week. Wednesdays usually. I have a number of them in middle and high school. They weigh heavy on my heart and I love them deeply. I will write them letters on my blog, and email them the link each week. My hope is that they would be encouraged, and maybe you would find encouragement too.

Cheers to the beginning of letters to my girls.

What's with the pig? Right. One of the girls has a pet pig, Jo-Boo. How can you not love these girls?!

My Dear Girls,

How are you today? Wait, I mean really, how are you? I don't want the, "I'm great, fine, good." I want you to pause and ask yourself how you are. Flustered? Tired? Overwhelmed? Bummed? Super over joyed and excited for life? Jumping off walls?

Did you know that you are loved? I don't say that in a vague way. I mean that you, your humor or lack of, your hair crazy or straight,  your quirks, your smile, and even your obnoxious laughs. Wholly, you are loved. As in, Jesus likes to just hang out with you. Thought I would remind you of that.

I know that often the weight of this world bogs you down. You carry more weight than us adults seem to recognize. The weight of school, the pressure from your peers, unending pushing for better grades, better sports, better better better. Everything feels like a competition. A competition to be the best and measure up and somehow all at once never make a single mistake. You must not disappoint your parents with your grade or performance, and your friends can't have any reason to think you're anything less-than. Even though you feel their jealousy.

Oh my sweet girls, you are already enough. You are already so loved, so perfectly cherished. The weight of this world is heavy and you are not called to carry it. So my girls, today, release the need to compete, release the pressure to measure up, and pick up the freedom to simply exist. To exist and view the world, your school, as a place to offer Love. The Love of Jesus, the Love of the One who gives you the freedom to be who you are and exist imperfectly. You. Are. Beautiful.

I'm praying for you today dear girls. I'm praying that you would see that you are enough. You are more than what you wear, more than how your hair frizzes or doesn't, more than the obnoxious laughs that escape your mouth. I am praying that you would know deep down that you are so wonderfully loved. And like I said earlier, not loved in this vague out-of-reach sense. But loved as a whole, right now. That your entire self is loved, and is brought value, because of Jesus Christ.  He sees you, and He likes you.

I am praying for you today, dear girls.

With so much love, Natalie

1 peter 29

 

Had to take a picture in front of these amazing purple flowers! #grandmasgarden #summerinoctober #pnwblogger #thesimplethings #Heisgood #beautyfromashes #love

 

 

Visit Light The Lie's post "What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?"

A Letter To an Old Friend: I Now Grieve Your Loss.

a letter to an old friend I think of you often. You've been heavy on my heart, these past 5 months. We have seen each other 3 times since walking down the aisle to graduate High School 4 years ago, and friend, I have learned so much since our days together.

Harrisburg High School Graduation, June 10, 2010

You were the first 5th grader to truly acknowledge me as human when I began the life changing adventure of public school in the small grass-seed town of Harrisburg. I had the honor of sitting next to you in Mr. Bower's class room. You told me to study and learn and challenge my brain, which was never my forte. And still isnt. But thank you for trying in those past times.

Since that first day in Mr. Bowers class room all those years ago, we have shared many memories. We have walked through many darknesses together, celebrated many victories, too. Through the awkward years of middle school and on into the daunting years of high school. It wasn't until this January when the weight of influence we had in one another's life hit me.

Friend; You were my closest ally. Not only did you fully embrace me and my unrendered style, always mismatched and trying to be "different", you also remained my friend when I chose to wear zip off short-pants. Thank you. You were there for me through the thickness of the dark nights, when no one else seemed to be. You let me sleep on your floor when home seemed too uncomfortable, you let me eat your food when I had none, and when you got your license before me, you drove me to work a few times when my parent flaked on me was unable to. You rooted me on in school and sports, we were softball buddies. You invited me to parties, to which some I went to via lying {gasp}, but never did you make me feel bad about not choosing to smoke or drink or sleep with a boy. You never shamed me for that, even when all others did. You simply invited me to be with me, to experience life with me. And you were loyal. The most loyal of all.

You avoided all topics regarding Jesus. Many times you abrasively told me not to invite you to my "church crap." It was cool for me, but not for you. You made that clear. Looking back, I pray earnestly that I somehow revealed Jesus in a beautiful way that He should have been. He is so real, so worth it, so necessary for a full life. He is so in love with you and with me and He wants to cover us in His graces.

I remember when we were 15. Neither of us had our license yet and I had moved 20 miles out of town. Late into the school night, you called me crying, asking if I could find a way into town to be with you. I did, I found a way, despite my mom's belief that we were up to mischief. I remember so clearly being dropped off behind the middle school under the shelter of the cement basketball court. I remember seeing you perched up against the wall, knees drawn to your chest. I felt nervous because I was normally the broken, fragile, "weak" girl in the equation. This was so out of your seemingly-confident character. But as your loyal friend, I sat with you.

There, sitting on that cement ground, you shared with me through a shaky voice that you had had sex with your secret 18 year old boyfriend, who happened to be your brothers best friend. There, you sat ashamed and broken and confused and lost...neither of us knew that sex is so much more than a mere physical act. Why did this feel so confusing? Why did you feel like you had lost something? You love him and you want to be with him, but you feel so shameful for giving yourself to him...I remember you needing to find a way into Eugene to get the day after pill.

I remember holding you. And we cried together.

I remember the shame I had heard from other Christians about sex-before-marriage. I didn't want to shame you because it didn't feel natural, it didn't feel right. I am so grateful I stuck to my God-given-instincts.

Friend. So many years ago, all I knew was to hold you in those moments of brokenness. I knew that's what I wanted in my times of brokenness - not correction or rebuke, simply a gentle love. I am so grateful you offered that to me on many occasions - never did you condemn or rebuke me. Never did I try to tell you "you weren't following rules or living right," and I am so thankful.

Looking back, I realize that though our hearts were not on the same path towards Jesus, we do share a few similarities in our hearts:

To hug and love and quietly hold someone in their brokenness and shame and mistakes is much more powerful and much more useful than a hard rebuke of not "living right." I thank you for modeling Jesus in that way, even when you didn't mean to nor would you admit that. But surely, I tell you, that is His heart too.

Our bodies are holy, and sex is intimate, so precious, the fully-giving of ourselves. And when not seen as sacred, but as a mere form of simple affection for anyone, we experience a deep loss. And it's confusing, especially to those who were never told of it's sacred power.

Friend, I am so deeply grieved at the loss you felt that night and for the many months to follow. I remember a few conversations we had subsequently. I remember the deep emptiness that shouted from your core, the deep emptiness you tried to ignore and cover and deny. I am sad and grieved that your first moments of fully giving your body {and your soul..so much more} to a man boy wasn't in a covenant relationship that would remain forever, and wasn't precious or sacred as it was made to be. You joined a boy in the deepest way humanly, spiritually, possible, in a way that doesn't line up with the way you were created to. I now {slightly} understand a little deeper the loss you endured.. But not fully. And I grieve.

A part of you was literally torn from yourself and resides outside of you, and you no longer get to be a part of it.. it is an odd thing. It's like you're forever naked to him, not just physically, but to your core. It is a broken experience. I wish I could fix it. But I can't.You are more, Friend. You are so much more than he and many others have made you out to be. You are more then flesh, despite what your hardened heart may tell you to believe.I want to tell you that it's okay to break and cry and hurt and grieve, it is okay to admit the very real-ness of agony. And that we had no idea what a deep, intimate thing sex was at the age of 15. I want to tell you that you can't heal alone, you can't become whole by yourself or by burying this deeper into yourself.

Friend, there is always hope for redemption. There is always hope for restoration. There is ALWAYS hope for wholeness. But none of those things will happen except through Jesus Christ as Savior, and Lord. When we choose to stand on His truth, we get to shake off all shame and condemnation (Romans 8:1). And how deeply I yearn that for you. How much I wish I had known and experienced the healing power of Jesus that I have since. How deeply I yearn to share with you miraculous stories of people's redemption. Beauty from the darkest ashes. But I will trust the Holy Spirit I carried in those days and trust that God is doing His own work within you.

Thank you for being loyal through the thickness of my darkest years, where I was real ugly. Thank you for being honest even when I preferred you weren't - what are true friends for? Thank you for always offering a floor to sleep on. Thank you for modeling Jesus in ways that you would never have tried or meant to... You haven't claimed Him and accepted His offer of grace yet, but I still pray for you. I still think of you, hoping and claiming that I will share in the fullness of His life with you.

Love you always and through all of our mistakes,

Natalie

--- Listen to a message from Mike Miller on sex that really lines up with my heart. Click HERE and find Once Upon A Marriage 3/9/2014. You won't regret it.

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The 14 Year Old who loves Jesus

people inspre me People inspire me.

Rachel, a 14 year old high school student, is out to change this world. We meet for coffee-lunch every now & again, and we talk. We talk about how God is forming our heart, how He is changing the way we see people, how He is molding us more into His image. We talk about memorizing scripture with the assurance that it isn't a waste of time. We talk about how we can serve others. Many words are always exchanged when we meet. I always go into our time praying that I may encourage her more towards Jesus, that I might be able to lead her a little closer to His feet. What is so amazing is that every time we meet, she does that for me (and probably doesnt even realize it).

We talk a lot, yes. But do you want to know what the best part about all of this is? It's not just talk. The ideas and suggestions and thoughts don't start and end and remain at the Coffee Culture table. We leave the building encouraged and empowered to go do what we just conversed about. She memorizes scripture, serves her friends & family, and earnestly looks for ways to purely love those around her. She is part of the CHS dance team - that is a tough place to be a follower of Jesus. But she doesn't hide it. She doesn't live "two different lives," but loves the girls on her dance team purely and honestly illustrates a life of love. A life that follows Jesus. And it's all out of a response to the understanding of who she is. How loved she is.

Rachel impresses me, she inspires me. She reminds me that Jesus is bigger. She reminds me that the next generation will have leaders that run towards Jesus.

People inspire me.

Do you have anyone inspiring you towards the best kind of life? The full life?