If I Could: a letter to those walking through miscarriage

empty arms october pregnancy loss awareness october pregnancy infant loss awareness You may or may not know this: October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month. I didn't know until March of this year. I didn't have a reason to know. For the month of October, Natalie Brenner Writes will be hosting a few precious and ever so tender stories about families who have lost babies, whether through pregnancy loss or infant death. My heart and hope is to shed light on the reality, to let others know that they are not alone, and to also *hopefully* reveal some tips on ways to support someone who has lost their so loved and so wanted baby.

Meet my friend, Josie. She is wife to Danny and momma to many. She loves netflix and is one of the best friends you could ever ask for. She is honest and she is true. They have lost two babies through miscarriage. Be blessed as she shares her heart through a letter titled, If I Could.

pregnancy loss awareness

My very dearest friend, I was crushed to hear your news:

I lost the baby.

I never would want anyone to face what you are going through now and will continue to go through for some time. I have been there. To be 100% honest I had forgotten some of the things I went through in the midst of my loss. Time has done a lot of healing to that wound, but I was amazed at the vividness of remembrance of the pain as you described to me your pain, so it will probably always be there with you, but changed and morphed hopefully into a less constant drip of a wound.

If I could I would run ahead of you and silence all those who will say things to you that make your heart squeeze and flip. You know they love you. You know they mean well. They honestly just don’t know. They have no idea what to say and feel they must say something. We know they don’t need to, but they will. If I could I would run ahead and whisper in their ear “Just say ‘I’m sorry and I love you’ and nothing else”.

If I could I would take away the pain you feel when you see other pregnant women and babies. Then it wouldn’t be necessary to also take away the guilt that comes immediately after this pain. The guilt is worse than the pain when the woman is a friend, or a sister or a relative. I would take it away so you never felt terrible about the person you are becoming on the inside. The twist of envy and sadness. If I could I would take it away if for no other reason than because people won’t understand it, and it will hurt them, but there is no control over it no matter how much you wish there was.

pregnancy loss awareness

If I could I would wipe away that date from the calendar. That due date. The one that was supposed to bring you all the joy but instead it brings all the hurt. I would just take that date right out of the week, the month and even the year. Even 9 years later mine echoes in my mind. If I could I’d save you from that.

If I could I would take away that anxiety of the next two pink or blue lines. I would fill you only with joy over the prospect of seeing those positive results. I would make that joy grow and bloom and overflow you, pushing out the anxiety of even breathing lest it trigger round two of your worst nightmare.

If I could I would tell all those around you that this process takes time. Much more time than you or anyone else wants it to. That somedays you will be fine and others not so much. That no amount of pushing you to “get over it” will in fact make you get over it. I’m not sure there is a getting totally over it. You may have other babies, and as those babies grow you will think of the ones that are not growing. You will think of them less, but they will be with you always. If I could I would help people understand that, because to be honest, most won’t.

If I could I would tell you how the father of this baby will handle this. Maybe he will not be affected as much as you, which at times will sting. Maybe he will be deeply affected but not willing to accept that or own it, that also might sting. You have to give him Grace, it wasn’t his body but it was his baby. He may not understand how you grieve because it is so different than how he does.

If I could I would be there to stroke your hair and hold you while you suffer the loss of something so precious. I would tell you to not be so hard on yourself. I would tell you to let yourself feel those feelings because bottling them will just lead to an explosion later. I would say it’s okay to be angry, but don’t let it grow into bitterness. It’s okay to be sad, but ask for Peace from the only One who gives Peace that passes understanding.

Here is what I can do. I can tell you that I know that pain. I have walked this road. I can tell you that for me the fact that I get to share in your pain makes me feel a sense that my pain is helping us both, and while that is not the reason for the pain it can be the good part of it. I can tell you that experiencing pain can make us much stronger, but it requires you to lean on The Bearer of our Burdens and to look for ways to express your gratitude to Him even while in the throes. For me this pain has lessened, became distant.

I don’t know what your story will be, but I will be here to hear it whenever you need.

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!

Upheld in the Deep Waters

trials and tribulations and jesus

“He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters. He delivered me from my powerful enemies, from those who hated me and were too strong for me. They attacked me at a moment when I was weakest, but the Lord upheld me. He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me.” Psalm 18:16-19

It is possible that your heart is residing in a place that does not seem to reflect the picture these words are painting. Safety. Deliverance. Rescued. Delightful.

You may be slumping and sagging in a sea of crashing waves that feels so desperately isolated, feeling anything but delightful and rescued; others say they understand and it is possible that they do. Despite their pure-hearted and loving attempts to bring comfort, what may instead be brought forth is discouragement as they attempt to pull you out of the water themsleves. But don't be upset with them; they only love you. You may feel as though life itself, maybe God, is attacking you and you are at your weakest. How can the Lord be upholding me when He is busy dragging me down? You may wonder.

when i am weak then i am strong

[The crazy thing about being at your weakest is that there is so much room to see Christ.]

In those moments of weak, in the days of trials and sorrows and weary dreary aches, Christ is near. He is present. He may not seem like it, but may I assure you and let you know that He is? That doesn’t mean you have to get up and DO. That doesn’t mean you have to say things you do not mean or reside where you are not. But it means you can recognize that He is there in the midst. Recognize that God is not life and life is not God – circumstances are not God. We can yell at God and blame God and ask God why, but He is not our circumstance. He is not to blame, even if He could have prevented. He is not here to serve us, to prevent suffering and pain, He is here to be just that: HERE. Present. With us. God with us. He sees our everything, He sees our naked souls bare and vulnerable. He, above all, is trustworthy with the preciousness of them.

[And oh how He loves.]

When we are weak we have room and reason to call out to Him. When we are weak, we cannot depend upon ourselves. When we are weak, we have no where to turn but to Him. It is possible that you feel you are avoiding Him, you are turning away from Him. It is possible that you are. But as you recognize those things and hear the still small voice, “Fear not, for I am with you,” you know He is there.

I encourage you to let Him reach down and rescue you, to allow His strong hand to draw you out of deep waters. Just because He draws you out of the deep waters doesn’t mean you don’t have shark bites and coral cuts to deal with. But He will be there to heal those too. When your enemies are too strong, allow Him to deliver you, let Him protect and stand to comfort you - use His word, the Bible, to be a source of strength and comfort and protection. When you are weak and lying in the sticky muck, uncertain of what to do or where to go, lacking any ounce of the will-power you once contained…let Him uphold you. Let Him draw you out of the deep and dangerous waters. In broken and empty times you must simply exist and recognize that He is there. Lean into His chest. Hear His heartbeat.

Can you rest in the peace that He is there, with you? Imagine your weak fragile self lying so carefully in His mighty strong and safe hands. Head upon His chest, listening to His wildly beating heart; much like a Father should safely love His child.

Let Him uphold you, because He delights in you.

the safety of His arms

 

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

Learning that Life Doesn't Go as Planned.

It is June of 2014 and I should be graduating with a degree in Nursing today. I should be wearing a cap and a gown, preparing to walk down a grassy aisle to receive a piece of paper that cost a lot of money, and looking forward to an after party filled with nothing but the best of snacks and iced lemonade. I should be looking back over the last 4 years and remembering mostly studying late into the night, the early morning, along with way too many sugary Dutch Bros drinks. I should be applying to Hospitals all over Oregon, but hoping to get one in Eugene. I should be getting married this year to a man I have known since elementary school; he will work in the same hospital as me and it will be a jolly good time. I should be preparing to live The American Dream. This is the year, 2014, where my life was going to begin. Here is that picture again... too good.

I remember in 2010 when I worked my fanny off to apply for the many scholarships I received, thankfully. I can envision myself in Nancy Hay's office with Stephanie Lilly, talking about Nursing and pre-nursing and the different classes I would need. I remember having a picture in my head: a big chunk of space filled with studying & coffee {the next 4 years) and then the glorious June 2014, which was the mere beginning of the life I planned to live. I wrote June 2014 on so many lines for my graduation date, with a BS in Nursing; it was the day I would base my life around it seemed.

Funny how life lives itself out.

I remember so clearly, 2 and a half years ago when I took the plunge of "retiring" from school early. Declared finished? Withdrew maybe? Alright, let's be real: I dropped out. Currently, I carry no shame with that. I discovered that school and nursing was not what defined me, is not who I am, nor is it what gave me value. Or removes my value. I can recall walking around outside of a Starbucks in Boise when a member of my life called me to let me know of my stupidity in this decision. They clearly stated, "This is the stupidest decision you have ever made. I guarantee you that Loren does not want to marry a woman who puts her brain on a shelf. Are you really letting God get in the way? I am so disappointed."

I pray to always be wise enough to "let God get in the way."

I remember a lot more words that came through the ear-speaker of my cell phone and landed themselves into my heart like daggers. I also recall the clarity of the calling on my life that resulted in this decision to drop out of the OSU/LBCC pre-nursing program. I was working full time to 60 hours/week at Park Place Assisted Living {night shift might I add, and then some} as well as 15 credits between OSU and LBCC. It was too much and I cried a lot and I consumed so much caffeine that when I stopped cold turkey, I threw up and had the shakes and the sweats. Real bad, folks. Not a life style I recommend. These two life-consuming things took a back seat to where my heart was invested: a tiny little thriving church plant with the name of Corvallis Church. With every moment I could {plus more moments}, I would spend my energy living with the Evans and Millers and Petersons. I would volunteer my heart and energy to serve this city and live and enjoy life with them. I desired so deeply to let Jesus burst out of my being that I started meeting with 3 middle school girls at Imagine Coffee.

 

I was on fire and I was ready to jump into the great unknown of church plant-ness. I was thriving and flourishing and growing and crying and stretching and learning and thriving some more..I was craving to make disciples and reach lost souls and follow Jesus in all ways available.

There was just one small glaring issue: time. The pressure for good grades to get into nursing school was unreal. I had my CNA license, I was in my 3rd Anatomy & Physiology class and receiving a B. You need A's to get into the nursing program. My online biology class slowly tapered to a D. I was losing all interest in the Dream I once held so dearly, the dream that was mainly to achieve what I wanted in life, "helping others along the way," via nursing. I enjoyed my job as a Caregiver at Park Place and had an opportunity to take on the am/day Power Float shift. Allowing me to sleep at night. After much prayer and many conversations with humans I respect, admire, and look up to, I decided to drop out of school. I needed more time to serve this city in bigger ways than I was, only for and only because of Jesus Christ and the radical ways He was transforming my world. I craved this transformed life for others.

I am learning that life doesn't go as planned.

I am not engaged or married to the man I was sure to marry.

I am not anywhere near graduating with a Bachelors in Nursing.

I am not looking to move to Eugene.

I am not desiring to work in the hospital and go to church on weekends.

Not once did I think I would drop my American Dream {which I didn't realize was my American Dream} to volunteer and serve full time through a church plant. Not once did I dream to fund-raise my paycheck (click here to learn more about that). Not once did I think I would actually be married to a Pastor man; [though I had hoped when I was younger].

As I fell more in love with who Jesus is and His heart for me, my plans changed. My day to day plans were slowly changed as I let God take the reigns of my heart. Self-pursuit was becoming less and less and as my day to day plans changed, my "future plans" and my American Dream were completely altered.

All glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:20

None of these things were in my playbook, none of them existed within the boundaries of my wildest dreams or ever crossed my mind. And from where I stand, my life couldn't be better. You see, I now spend my early mornings reading my Bible and talking intimate prayers with Jesus, so that I can know who I am, which results in knowing who others are, which moves me to lead with grace. I wake up to pray for many people, by name, asking Jesus how I can be used in their life to bring them closer to Him. Spending time at His feet keeps me in-tune with His Spirit while I spend the rest of my day building up His people. I now invite anyone into my life at the mere possibility that they may experience the deep and unending love of Jesus Christ. I get to spend time hiking and talking about Jesus. I get to spend time drinking tea or coffee and praying with others. I get to spend time doing laundry with beautiful humans. I get to do things like scheme different ways we can bless this city, our church individuals, and our neighbors, with young girls. And trust me, those girls have wild and beautiful ideas. Yes, this life comes with its baggage and great emotional toll - spiritual battles are real and I believe 1,000%  in them. I constantly battle the fear of not pleasing everyone; but we are not called to do that - we are called to please & revere Jesus. There is great joy in loving many and so deeply, but it does not come without great pain and heavy burdens. But the worth it part is real. I wouldn't trade it for a BSN or career making big bucks. I feel spoiled.

I am not saying nursing is bad; it is needed - I have had many nurses save me and treat me and do good things for me. I need nurses you need nurses, this world needs nurses. My sister in law is a nurse and she provides well for her baby girls and takes care of patients while doing so. My friends who are graduating today with a BSN are some of my heroes. They have worked so hard and are changing this world. School isn't bad. Humans who love school or hate school but remain in school are crazy and I am proud of them. They amaze me. Both of those things are callings for people, and I am learning that I am not one of those people. At least, not right now. My heart in my pursuit of those things were off. And quite self-based. Either journey would have been blessed and adventurous for me. Neither are bad, but boy am I grateful I took a turn at the Y onto the path I did.

I am learning that when you decide to follow Jesus no matter what, even into the unknown & out upon the waters, even when (not if) it means you decline the American Dream and you go against the popular norm of self-pursuit, you grow and you thrive and you learn to trust. You learn the dance, the dance of grace. You learn to trust in Jesus who is your provider and guide and your everything. I am learning to see things differently, live life differently. It is happening, as grace transforms me by the renewing of my mind.

Am I sad that I won't be graduating with a Bachelors? Am I bummed I didn't stay in school for the 2 short years that seemed to have fly past me? Sometimes. But then I look back and am convinced this is what I should have done with my life. At times I revisit the idea and pray about school, asking Jesus if this is the best place for me. I ask Him if I would be more useful in a classroom and work force, or what I am doing right now. Every time, so far, He says, "Stay. Persevere. Trust. Lean hard into me." So I will. Ephesians 3:14-19 has been so sweet to me:

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will EMPOWER you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.

Ephesians 3:16-17

When I look back over the last 2 years and what I could have done with my time in school and career pursuit, I know I would have loved to walk down the aisle to graduate. Starting with a salary of $60-$80k. To even think that as possible explodes my mind. It is dangerous to begin thinking about that.

When I look back over the last 2 years and what I did do {only because of and through Jesus - I cannot emphasize this enough} and how Jesus truly has been transforming me, I see VICTORY. Baptisms, bibles being studied, small groups upon small groups forming into communities where people live life together, navigating through healing and forgiveness with people, planned retreats and trips and a mini-Oregon-mission trip, so many prayers, so many hours spent with so many people it implodes my brain even thinking about it. What a blessed life I have been given so far. I am learning that I would never have quit school and laid down my dream of making BANK, unless Jesus didn't interrupt my life. I am learning that I wouldn't live this life the way I live it, if it weren't for Jesus. If He didn't give me strength, I would be mush and I would be dead. I would be dead in a ditch, I am sure of it. Or I would be graduating today. But friends, I cannot tell you enough, the life He is giving me, offering YOU, is beautiful and glorious and rich and free.

>ALL FOR + because of JESUS<

Bible Study: Youth Ministry @ Coffee Culture, PNW Coffee Culture PNW Bible Study

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I am learning that where Jesus takes us isn't always easy, it doesn't let you sit idle. Jesus grows you and stretches you and uses you. And it is far better than pursuing your own interests. The fruit is far tastier. Far sweeter. Oh goodness, believe me.

I am learning to hold things in an open palm, rather than a clenched fist, so that if they are taken away or modified, it doesn't hurt - my heart can be light. I have ideas and dreams, but ultimately I want to yield to where God leads me, daily. Daily, He leads me to love those around me even when I am tired and cranky and hangry. Thursday, I woke up cranky and in a funk. But that doesn't mean I have the GO AHEAD to be a sour-puss to everyone that crosses my path. No, it means I lay down my funk and my yuck and I praise God. I thank Him out loud and CHOOSE TO FIGHT FOR JOY. He teaches me to trust Him for even the smallest things and to lean into His grace even when all else says I should be drowning.

I am learning alot these days. I hope to always be learning, always be ready to jump into the unknown and adventure with Jesus. I am seeing that following Jesus means doing things like going to the Library on Wednesday mornings to be with new and young moms OR joining a writing group with 70-88 year old women OR inviting others in your home for a meal OR moving to a new state and planting a church. His call for us is daily and we have the choice to accept or decline.

Today, I salute you graduates! I have a ton of friends graduating today and seriously, you amaze me and you inspire me. I mean, a couple of you are MOMS and you are the strongest most amazing creature humans to have done what you have just done. I could not have done that. I want to make it clear that I STAND IN AWE AT YOU. You have accomplished a HUGE awesome thing. I stand proud and applaud you.

There are no words that will describe my deep gratitude and joy, to be an intricate part of what Jesus is doing here in and through Corvallis Church - I am so overwhelmed with joy that I took the plunge and leap of faith, which was completely different from what I had planned.

There is no better satisfaction in this life, no more fulfilling purpose and job, than answering the call of Jesus Christ.

All glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:20

Still adventuring & so grateful, Natalie

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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?