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.

Church: in dimes & nickles

This is church:

I sat in the corner chair, nestled between two walls and beneath a lamp, and I sifted my tired fingers through my wallet as they chit and they chatted. My brain was a fog; 8:34 pm and my mind, body, and soul were calling for bed. My fingertips swept over something and I looked down: two one dollar bills. I pinched them with my thumb and pointer, pulled them out and waved them around, "I found $2! We can get snacks!" We had just cleared both of our fridges of what was left and put it all together to eat a meal together. But snacks are fun.

It was then that we each began to turn out our pockets to see what we could muster together. Ready to dream of the salty and savory and sweet and sugary snacks that could potentially be tasted tonight, we wondered what we could purchase together. We threw all we had onto the coffee table and we counted those precious coins and dollars. $14 collected from the [what we falsely believed] empty pockets of  5 beloved human beings. The bank accounts screamed empty but Truth shouts rich and wealthy, all that we need, enough and more.

As we emptied our pockets and our wallets I silently prayed thanks, we counted coins with anticipation, I could not help but think, "this is church."

We threw on our jackets because Oregon spring air through the clear nights are unpredictably chilly. A sprinkle here and a star there, we walked our way from one parking lot to the next. Strolling the aisles and tasting with our imagination, the possibilities were endless: puffins cereal, chips and salsa, ice cream, granola, what treat do the five of us care to eat?

We settled on the sweets and the savory. Purchased together as if we were family; what we had was theirs and what they had was ours.  We shared with rejoicing, no complaints, only giving. Not one withheld their gifts and their goodies. As we sat around the coffee table that was emptied of dimes and nickles but full of snacks, we talked about things we are grateful for. Gifts bestowed by the King.

This is church.

We gather and we eat, we share what we have and we don't hold back; all because of Him. We talk about why we are thankful, because let's face it: sometimes we are so stuck in the rough tides of life that giving thanks is the last thing on our mind. So we help each other. We lend a hand, a listening ear, a prayer, our money even if it's dimes and nickels. It's times like these when the logistics shout "Panic" but He gently whispers, "I am here, do not fear; I have overcome. I am your provider." 

When I stared at those coins, those dimes and nickles, all I could think was, "This is church. Thank you, Jesus, that this is your plan, your way."

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!

Christ in Community

(null)Yesterday was refreshing.

Sun beams streaming in through the glass patio door invited me to step outside. I was welcomed with clear blue skies, fresh brisk air. And it was good.

As I slowly got ready for the day, I prayed for Loren who was at men's Bible study. Something is happening in my heart. Something that once was very normal, but something that has seemed distant this past year. I smiled in the mirror and I was overwhelmed with joy. I heard the door open, letting me know Loren was home. I could not help but ask him, "Don't you feel so blessed? So privileged to be living this life? I mean we get to live life by inviting people into community, by helping create a new normal for people. We get to meet with people and tell them they're worth it and point to Jesus. And we get to do that all day AND we get to eat. This is our life!"

I drove to the other side of town to pick up a lovely high school girl. We went to coffee and walked around downtown beneath the shining orb but through the brisk air. Our conversation held many pieces. Pieces of real life, like studying the Bible and how sometimes it's daunting and scary and yet if you don't do it, you feel guilty. Things like praying and how sometimes it feels like you're just talking to thin air, sometimes it feels awkward like Jesus is some far-off concept. We talked about why I love students and why I spend my days with many people. And it was good.

I enjoyed a liquid lunch with another amazing being. We talked about Heaven and how can we be sure we believe enough and is that a thing and where is Jesus and how can He allow people to be separated from good? And many other things were conversed about between her and I.

Loren and I played field games with students because they don't have school today. They ran around in muddy grass under the clear crisp sky while I stood on the side with my back ache and cheered them on. They were beautiful, slipping around in that mud throwing a ball and chasing it down.

(null)

We broke for hot chocolate + cookie break and decided it was time to walk to our apartment and play monopoly. So that we did and one by one they left as parents came to pick them up. These three stayed until 6:15, attempting to win all the monies.

(null)

As we dropped them off at home one at a time, I was so grateful to know them. I was honored to have their parents trust; to spend 6+ hours with them.

As we closed out the night enjoying Prime Time Crime which a student plays a part, we are blessed beyond belief. Blessed to live this life, with the ultimate hope of pointing to Jesus. We are honored to learn from Claire's graceful courage, Noah's faithfulness, Chad's humor and purity of heart. The list goes on. But I was reminded that without them, I'm not as whole. Without them, I don't gain more of Christ because they carry parts of Him that I don't. They help piece me together, they are [without realizing it] playing a major role in transforming me into Jesus's likeness. They also very much force me to dig into my Bible and ask Jesus for guidance, because without doing that, I would have absolutely no idea how to begin exiting the deep and real questions they ask. These kids push me towards Jesus and I am forever grateful.

And this is the same for you: you need the Bride of Christ, if you are in the category of Christian. You need us and we need you. Without you, we aren't as whole. Without us, you aren't as whole. Together, living life in vulnerable honesty [raw & real], we are His bride and we get a clearer picture of who Jesus is.

If you're in Corvallis and are in need of a church community, join us through Corvallis Church. If you're somewhere else, I hope and I pray you'll find a church community to join and invest in. Invest in community; don't just sit and expect to be invested in.

Imagine if every Christian pursued this life of living in raw and real community, centered around Jesus. Imagine if we loved one another, forgave, and were willing to invest in lives. Imagine if when Jesus said, "Go and make disciples," He meant it.

What are ways you invest in community and people? How do you invite others into your life?

On Discipleship

on discipleship The other day I was posed with this question:

"Natalie, how do I encourage someone who is very insecure about her body that she is beautiful?"

To be asked such a wisdom-seeking question is always an honor; it throws me off guard at times like "What? You're asking me?" But this girl was pursuing guidance in how to love a friend wholly, honestly, without regard...love her without flattery and shallow words that would point to her physical self as though that is where her value comes from. She wanted to point her friend to Jesus and she asked me for direction.

Later that same day I had the privilege of picking out a study bible with another student; she was purchasing a bible for her friend who was interested in Jesus for the first time.

These small yet valuable things didn't happen over night; I have been in relationship with both of these girls for well over a year, maybe two. These relationships are important to me - discipleship is important to me.

Discipleship was Jesus' commission to us before He left earth:

matthew 2819I have found that discipleship doesn't have to be this fearfully daunting aspect of following Jesus, feeling guilty that you aren't doing it, and avoiding all the things pertaining to it. Sometimes I wonder if we fill our schedules to the brim with other tasks and jobs and commitments because, well, then there is no time to take someone to coffee. It is risky, inviting someone into your life, and is it really as simple as inviting someone in? I mean, how does one just begin to disciple? It's not like picking up a bike and learning to ride it. Or is it?

Discipleship doesn't have to be awkward and stiff. It is impossible for you to have it all together before stepping into the world of discipleship - no one has it all together. I have experienced that discipleship can be found by doing this one thing:

inviting someone to join you in whatever you are doing.

Jesus spent a lot of time with his disciples; they simply lived in community eating together, walking together, fighting together. I see this clearly happening in and through Corvallis Church. It amazes me. Do you menu plan and grocery shop every Sunday? Intentionally invite someone with you - maybe a student who would benefit from learning how to create a menu and grocery list, purchase food, and chat while doing so. Are you living out the most important role on earth of raising babies? Invite someone much like myself who wants babies to come and join you. I want to learn from you, even as you are learning. Are you into sports and fitness? Invite someone to join you - there is nothing quite like sweating blood to bring your hearts closer. Maybe you're really good at baking or sewing or cleaning or gardening or assembling the church bulletin or going to the laundromat or preaching or writing or drawing or eating or...you name it, you can invite someone into those moments with you.

My friend Sarah decided to start up a weekly night with a few of her close friends, diverse friends I might add. They love margaritas so they are meeting to read the bible, talk about Jesus, and share what's happening in their hearts and lives. Oh and drink a margarita. This fits her and her friends; she isn't adding in some exhausting daunting thing that doesn't make sense for her life...she is inviting people to where she is at and introducing Jesus. Community.

I was invited to a few families' meal times, invited to garden, cook and volunteer in the "church office"...and out of that has flourished a few of the closest relationships I've known possible, my marriage, and even two of my jobs. I have developed a wider picture of who Jesus is. I am known and I know, and I see Jesus more and more. I have a greater understanding of who Jesus is and what He meant when He began building the church.

Those that invited me sacrificed. It takes a denial of self and comfort - you have to be willing to sacrifice alone time and possibly finishing a project as quick as possible. But it's worth it. I am sure we can all throw up a reason why we don't have time - but the point is to make time, see humanity as worthy of your time. Humans are eternal. Invite someone with the intentionality to share your gift, talent, passion...and learn from one another. And in so doing, find Jesus together. Find Him where you are, because believe me, He is there. john 1335This mysterious thing builds itself: relationship. After months of spending time with this one person, you have created a relationship of trust and confidence. She may have a sudden crisis - maybe her husband loses his job, she is diagnosed with a disease, or her car breaks down. Who will she call upon? Her trusted friend who took a risk and invited her in. And friends, this is the honor. This is beautiful. You now get to love her and point her to Jesus as her refuge and strength. You have an "in" to pray with her and find His love letter. This is where God is at: in the midst of our relationships when we are loving one another, He is there and others will see Him.

1 john 4:12

This is how we show others Jesus: by loving one another, building relationships with one another, through discipleship. We invite people into our lives and enter into others. We love one another with patience and kindness. We hope and believe the best. We mess up and fail because we are human, but then we forgive. Others see this love we have for one another and are drawn to it. Drawn to Him.

How have you been invited into someone's life?

Imagine if every follower of Jesus took a risk and invited 1-3 people into their life, developing a genuine relationship, a true culture of discipleship. Would the world around us see Jesus then?

Friendship looks like..

friendship looks like Friendship looks like a letter in the mail from someone you see maybe once a year. Growing up, you would not dare to believe that friendships could exist outside of daily viewings - aka, if you don't see someone, then obviously they are not a part of your life. But now that I am adulting, I realize that most of my closest friends are not near me at all. They may live 30 minutes away or an entire country away. But friendship doesn't have to look like coffee dates every week; it can be letters in the mail full of all the good words that inspire, warm, and clothe you with grace. Words that build you up and tell you who you are.

letters from friends

Friendship looks like being sisters and sisters-in-law. Caring for one another and rooting one another on. Listening to each other and crying with each other and sharing with each other. Friendship looks like having each others back, taking sisters to get nails done, and buying dinner together.

Friendship looks like hikes in the woods, exploring unknown territories. It looks like bike rides and tea, sitting on comfy cozy couches and dodgeball. It looks like babysitting when you could use a night off and it looks like taking pop sickles to your momma friend with sick babies; it also looks like picking berries.

Friendship looks like standing outside in the dark, after a long meeting, talking about the most feely of things within. Things like frustration about our bitter hearts that have little reason to hold such ugly prickles. Things like the fear of never carrying a child, being broken for the multitude of broken families surrounding, and hating disease. Heavy things that are not often spoken of; but here in this place of friendship, it is safe and spoken and cried out. It is prayed over and reminded that this earth is broken.

It looks like speaking Truth with grace, but honestly...it is truthful because that is loving.

Friendship looks like sending knitted squares back and forth. Imperfectly beautiful knitted squares to create two friendship blankets. True story, totally happening right now.

It looks like saving small amounts of money each month to take a trip to visit your college roommate, who is now married with a little one of her own, and lives in Canada.

It looks like seeing someone one time a year and maybe talking 3 times a year, but doggone it, you are friends.

It looks like picnic baskets filled to the brim with a perfect date night in when you're feeling sick. Because friends know what's going on in your life and friends care for you.

picnic date at home

Friendship is a plethora of things and I love it. I love friendship because they exist on so many levels, looks different with a multitude of humans. And that is okay. What is friendship to you?

"And everyone shared all that they had"

and everyone shared all that they had The weather took a sharp turn on us and has chilled us to our throbbing bones. Some people have wood stoves, but no wood. Some have pellet stoves, but not enough pellets. Others have broken heat or broken bank accounts, and therefore live without heat. Also without mini heaters.

i see a church that blesses

The last few days, I have had the joy of witnessing a large amount of people being utterly blessed.(Is it weird I just pictured a cow? Move on). There is so much more happening than the little I get to observe, but let me share a bit of what I have seen. The first evening before the cold was predicted to prance, Pastor Mike asked on our church facebook group if anyone needed a heat. A few college girls responded with a YES! So he rallied some resources and was able to take them heaters! A young man, a newlywed, with the name of Robert is basically a pellet-angel. Every few months stops by Bi-Mart, fills his truck up with wood pellets and drives it out to a wonderful woman, who happens to be our Office Administrator. She lives alone and he is an angel that does the gift of delivering these pellets and helping to keep her warm! We have shared wood and food and shelter.

Today, Allan stopped by my home to drop off a baby shower for an expectant couple in our church. We worked together to pick out what he may be able to purchase for their Little Baby on the way. When he dropped it off, he also dropped off an unexpected monetary bill into my hands. As my eyes welled with tears, his words balmed my heart, "Well, lady, I do what I can. You do what you can. You helped me figure out gifts for babies and weddings. You have skills and talents and energy that I don't have. You do your part. I do mine, I take care of who I can, and I do what I am called to do." My response was, "We sure are a good team!" And he said, "Well yeah, that's what we are supposed to be. That's the church."

If you let anything hit your heart in this post, let that be it. Let Allan's words sink. Because though we are wholly unincredible and very imperfect, we have a wholly incredible God that cares for us through one another. He inspires us and gifts us all so differently. He intends to use us in each other's lives, with the various gifts and resources we are each equipped with.

 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

Ephesians 4:16

i see a church that blesses

In the troubles, the suffering, the freezing, and the holidays... in the joyous times, Corvallis Church is proving to be church, the Bride of Christ. We do our best to share resources, let one another know needs, and hopefully no one is overlooked. The hope is that small groups of community within the church are in genuine relationship, caring for one another. And I see it happening. But really, this is what the church is called to do. This is the radiant Bride of Christ, imperfect, but beautiful and blessing one another.

Continuing to fall in love with Him,

Natalie

Officially a Pastor's Wife

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

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

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

ordination

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

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

officially a pastors wife

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

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

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

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

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

officially a pastor's wife

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

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

Note to self:

When Before all else fails, humble myself.

Brave.

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

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

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

I see a church that is brave.church photos

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

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

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

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

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

trials and jesus

Corvallis Church, you are brave.

Falling in love with Him because of your courage,

Natalie

Breaking like bread

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Galatians 5:13

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

Learning to fall in love with His church,

Natalie

A perfectly loved Bride

a perfectly loved bride We are perfectly human, and I see a church that {imperfectly} loves.

Loves through trying trials and healing hurts, humans loving humans.

I see a church, Corvallis Church, that is patient with me, though I am ever so full-of-mistakes and imperfection.

I see a church that is made up of humans, humans that struggle with pride because they live on this earth. But humans who strive to walk in humility, denying the pride of man. I see a church that is not proud, but instead points to Jesus.

I see a church that is not rude, but craves to offer grace. Offers kindness to those around us, the disheveled and the put together alike.

I see a church that is not self-centered. Individually, we battle the reality that this world says Life. Is About. Me. But I am part of and see a church that works to look outside of self and view the world as a place to offer Freedom.

I am part of a church that loves. Loves like Jesus, intentionally but like humans, imperfectly.

The world today is not only hungry for bread but hungry for love, hungry to be wanted, to be loved. They're hungry to feel the presence of Christ...It is too easy simply to talk or concern ourselves with the poor who are far away. It is much harder and, perhaps, more challenging to turn our attention and concern toward the poor who live right next door to us.

-Mother Teresa in No Greater Love

I see a church that cares for the widows and the homeless. We invite them into our homes and offer them food, yes, but also dignity. We offer love. We hug and shake hands and speak to them as if they exist as human, because they are human and that makes them a child of God.

I am so honored to be a part of Corvallis Church, a church that knows it's loved perfectly, and therefore goes and loves one another and this city. Imperfectly, but radically.

- Are you a part of a church? I read so much bashing the church. Yes. We are broken, imperfect people; but we are also the Body Of Christ, Himself. What beauty do you see in the church? -

Learning to fall in love with His bride...learning that I am part of His bride,

Natalie

Why I Love You, Church.

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

Church. Some squeal with authentic joy at the word.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corvallis Church, baptism Sunday April 2014

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

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

You never know how far you're reaching.

Church community rocks. I mean, real life community living together because of Jesus, united by His blood, is downright transforming. Last weekend (our normal weekend is Monday/Tuesday) we went backpacking with the youth group. We didn't rent any supplies; everything was lent from people within this church community. Amazing.

While we were gone, we had friends staying in our apartment as their house was being worked on. Long story made short, we came home to a completely filled kitchen. Cupboards, fruit bowl, wine, and fridge stocked with our favorites. Such a gift right? We have the best of friends. How we roped them into being our friends stumps me.

I've been hit with the reality of REACH we can have as individuals. As I think back on the life lessons I have been taught by many, I realize I am empowering others with those same truths. The REACH that they poured into me is furthering into more lives than they know. Thank you to the countless humans who have poured themselves out and into me. Your wisdom is being passed on...past me. Into more lives. It's the same with this blessing of stocking our kitchen. fruit bowl You never know how far your reach is; when you bless one human, you more than likely are blessing many. It's a ripple and it's beautiful. Pouring ourselves out for others is miraculous. It multiplies.

I ran some errands today before heading to our church camp out -- because our church is this crazy community of people where we like to spend days at a time together, getting all sweaty under the blazing heat and wearing filth in our finger nails, not showering for days. We like each other. Anyways..I'm re-reading Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker. My heart has never been hardened towards the homeless. But too often I grow numb when I see the many standing on the corner with a sign. I'll be writing a book review later this week on Interrupted, but just know she has been reminding me of the command to "feed His sheep."

I was needing to consign some clothes, because that's how I satisfy my guilty pleasure of new clothes, and I had to park two blocks away - very abnormal. As I pulled into the nearest parking spot, my eyes noticed a woman standing with her sign in front of the post office. I prayed. "Jesus, help me serve this woman how You want me to." I crawled out of our Ford Focus, back seat overflowing with clothes, and shook her hand. Susie. Sweet, sweet, tender Susie. Her hair was growing in from her last chemo treatment; her breast cancer spread to her brain. She explained that 4 treatments of chemo drained her bank; she is now living with a friend. I asked her of any immediate needs and she explained she is out of chicken, garlic, and vegetables. -pause the story- normally I would go to the store and get the needs stated; I have never handed cash over. Why? Because I have this deep rooted arrogance that I must discern what someone should spend "my" money on. Oh the arrogance; embarrassing. -play the story- I asked Jesus for guidance and immediately a picture of a $5 in my messy wallet flashed into my brain. I hesitated. But then I obeyed. I then asked her if there was anything else? She quietly and slowly said, "I could always use prayer..." OF COURSE. LET ME GIVE YOU THE LIFE SOURCE THAT I KNOW SO WELL.

So then and there I laid my hands on her and we prayed. We prayed the protection and blood of Jesus. We prayed for His companionship and closeness. We hugged and I carried my 15 bags of clothes to Second Glance (okay there were only 4 but I felt entirely consumer-American). As I walked away from Susie, my heart cried out for her. I'll never forget the glimmer of humanity I saw in her eyes -- the look of dignity, that "I" would hug her. It took maybe 7 minutes of my life. 7 minutes. Oh my soul, how far have I strayed?

She is no less human than me. How ignorant and inhumane for us to treat homeless begging people the way we do. To think of humans the way we do. I'm not pointing fingers at anyone -- I'm behind the pointed finger.

Next stop: groceries. Good ole Trader Joes. Insert Diana on the corner - I have spent many moments with her on this particular corner. Her constant needs are diapers and pull ups. Her sweet tooth likes Sweet Tea. She doesn't ask for much. She wears an army pull over jacket, is shorter, and stands at TJ's frequently when she is not working her very part time job. She has 2 kids. Today when I saw her, she smiled a friendly smile. No caution in the air as usual. When I asked her if she wanted sweet tea & diapers, she quickly said, "Not today; baby girl has been begging for chicken nuggets. She is finally in school! But all I can send in her lunch is Ramen. And she is tired of it." At the exact same time, her eyes exuded sparkly love and deep brokenness as she spoke of her baby girl. I asked what else and she listed off a few more items. Guess what's awesome? I had $50 left over from grocery money, because our friends purchased so much food for us. Their reach went further than they could have dreamed or planned. They helped feed a family of four; not only stocked our kitchen, but purchased much food for a very-much-human family: Diana and her kids and her husband. Humans. Starving, living off ramen noodles and watermelon. And the joy and dignity Diana's eyes shone when I brought her bags of food out? All for a few dollars. All for a few extra moments. All for Jesus.

The provision of food was not ultimately from Daniel & Jesse, our friends. The provision of food for this family was not from me. I am in this season of being humbled and ripped up and wrecked in many areas of life; I am learning how deeply un-incredible I am. When we give and pour out unto others, we bless, yes, but we are also being so blessed. We are being made holy. I was so filled full and completely satisfied today - I was refreshed. And here is what The Lord has reminded me today: "The provision was not from you; it was from Me. What you have is not yours. You have a lot to learn. The first thing is this: you can trust Me when I call," {excerpt from Interrupted}.

What is ours, our resources and knowledge and wisdom and life experiences...isn't ours at all. None of it. It's not ours to hoard and keep to ourselves. It is from The Lord and He intends to love his broken, poverished, starving sheep. We are His plan A, as Mike says. He calls us to this.

We can trust Him when He calls And we may never know how many He reaches through us.

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ccEngage Youth Group goes Backpacking!

Loren and I were asked if our youth group could go back packing and we thought it would be a great idea, with the help of our 3 wonderful youth leaders. It was great, my friends. We fully enjoyed ourselves as we packed 40 lbs on our back and dug our heels up and down rocky terrain. With only one sprained ankle and two foot-cuts, the trip closed with honor! Memories were made that will never be forgotten. Example: Luke, Loren, Brenden and I decided to take a "short voyage around the lake before dinner time," because Tumble Lake is maybe 1-2 miles around the entire thing! Turns out, there is absolutely no trail to do this adventure with ease so we just made our way. Wearing shorts and t shirts, we carried Luke's pet rubber-boa snake through the elder trees, swampy mud, and stinging nettles that were 6 feet high. We passed by a hornets nest and only Loren was stung. We waded through the shin-deep swamp that quickly went to high waist-deep because of the sinking sand. Our 15 minute voyage turned into 2 and a half hours and that is a couple of hours I will not soon forget.

Our weekend had no shortage of laughter. I have a six pack of abs from my two tent buddies (Graice + Delayna). Talk about goof balls and silly jokes. SO much joy. We had campfires and roasted mallows and hot dogs. Loren and I both shared the speaking load. Our theme was walking with God. Our hearts were focused on walking in the Light of God and emphasizing the importance of falling in love with the Love Letter God himself has left for us (the Bible). We talked about walking in the darkness, tripping on roots and rocks; all we need is some light to expose the danger. As soon as we shed light on sin, it is not nearly as huge as it seemed. Like Kim always says, "mushrooms only grow in the dark." We talked about walking in the muck of sin - darknesses & sins like choosing to be selfish at home, seeking only our own desires, and never looking out for others. We talked about the purity of our mind and how being in God's presence will only do us good, make us more like Christ. That when we soak our souls in Him, sunbathe in His light, we radiate His love. We glorify Him and bless others. Its all about Jesus and all about spending time with Him and letting Him love you.

Changing this world begins with us allowing Christ to transform us individually.

As we spend time with Him, dying to our desires and yielding to His, we become more beautiful, more whole, more satisfied, more like HIM. We become light as our darkness fades away. We bring hope and joy to this world, but only by the power of His spirit. We are so un-incredible and He is more than incredible. His grace is sufficient.

One of our students is now planning to be baptized at camp in August! Praise Jesus.

We prayed together, and oh how I love praying with these kids. We prayed unity and peace, we prayed joy and love, that we may each see ourselves and each other with the eyes of Christ. That we would be humans of grace, because of His transforming love. That we would be a team standing tall on His promises, and bring the Kingdom of Heaven to our cities and schools.

Oh friends, it was good. Loren and I got home Tuesday around 4:15 pm. Put away all of our things by 5:30 pm. Sat on the couch staring blankly, then tried watching Fresh Prince of Bel Air..around 8 pm we slowly crawled into bed and slept for 12 hours. TWELVE HOURS! WE SLEPT IN UNTIL 8! It was beautiful. I was so blessed and refreshed and full of smiles.

We have some amazing kids here in Corvallis. Be praying with us! Our vision for the next year is to have a weekly bible study/prayer group in every school campus by the end of June 2015. This year, our Linus Pauling Middle School students started one after CIY Believe - began with 4 and grew to 14. FOURTEEN TEENAGERS MEETING TO PRAY! Every Monday! Can you taste the goodness and see the reach? Can you do the math? There are at least 6 campuses represented in our youth group. Pray with us that we can equip these students and build them up. That they would continue to experience the deep, unending love of Jesus Christ. That as they experience His love and grace, the result is to go out and make disciples. That is our calling, friends.

More is in the making, partnering with other small churches without youth pastors. Please be praying for Loren and I and for our beautiful church community. Pray for our youth leaders and for our students. We highly value discipleship. We have so many dreams and visions of what more it could look like. Pray with us; click HERE to read more about our fundraising and paying the bills.

We are so grateful that Loren isn't working full time at Trillium anymore. Thank you, team! We could not do it without you. Truly. Your investment is reaching many lives. Jesus is so faithful.

Enjoy the photos below of our backpacking trip from start of the hill to finish of the hill; if you happen to be a parent, you can save these to your desktop or cell phone. Let me know if you need help.

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So many huckleberries were eaten!

First glimpse of Tumble Lake!

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This is the "poop talk" ... you know, go dig a hole and cover it up!

The partnering in...yeahhhh

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Filtering lake water

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Evening musical worship

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Quiet times in the mornings

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so much laughter

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so much laughter

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Luke's pet Rubber Boa, Moses #Mosesthesnake

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Oh no..

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Why Youth Pastors ROCK [& are my heroes]

I love being married to a man who loves Jesus. As a result of this love for Jesus he loves human beings, because well its what we do and who we are. He has the honor of serving as a pastor of sorts here in Corvallis, and one of the areas he focuses his heart on: YOUTH. STUDENTS. Middle & High School kids. Only the best of humans going through some of the toughest of times. Sometimes we are told how amazing we are because we "spend all that time with such horrific-aged, immature humans." What I say to that is, "You are missing out, if that is truly how you view them. We are the lucky ones to spend time with them." Some of these kids have wisdom many adults don't. Some of these kids sacrifice more for the Kingdom than some 22 0r 50 year olds. {If you want some real stories, email me and I'll gladly fill you in!} These kids teach me something new every single Tuesday evening at Youth Group. To view them as horrible, to write them off as completely and only immature, and to treat them poorly, is to do yourself [and them] a disservice. These kids are amazing.

These kids were created in the image of the Creator.

These kids are this generation, and the next.

Just saying, folks, I love these kids. I know a lot of you do too.

Claire

Corvallis Church Youth Group  #ccengage

Corvallis Church Youth Group  #ccengage

Though these kids truly bring me closer to Jesus, they are still teenage humans learning simple etiquettes. {So are some people my age, for that matter}. I mean things like, keeping their lips glued together while someone else talks.

As a ministry wife and a leader myself, I am here to write a letter to all of you Youth Pastors {because I am partial to you} who are serving these students selflessly, as a response to a calling. Serving them because there is not much in it for you. Except of course, deep satisfaction & joy in giving yourself up.

Youth Pastors, here are 10 reasons you are my heroes:

1. Contrary to popular belief, you have immense self-control. At first glance, flailing your arms and letting out loud noises, you seem to be very much lacking in the self-control department. However, after observing for years, I have come to realize how incredibly self-controlled you are -  example: you have students constantly throwing things at you even though you politely and ever so gently asked them not to. I have seen your self-control in withholding an outrage when asking a student for the gazillionth time to not talk during the short 10-15 minutes of your lesson. The lesson you prepared for all day long, praying through, and spending your heart's love preparing. You know, that lesson that seems to go in one ear and out the other? It doesn't. That lesson or message or whatever you call it - I applaud you for standing up there, week after week, bearing your soul when it feels as though no one is caring for it. You put your heart out there and are interrupted time and time again, and you never hit anyone. You don't storm out yelling. You politely wait for them to quiet themselves. You are so self-controlled. I stand in applause, truly.

Well done.

2. You are some of the most confident human beings I know. Not confident in an arrogant way; nope. In fact, you are anything but arrogant because you know that you could not possibly do this job on your own strength. You are some of the most humble humans I have ever met. You are confident in the calling Jesus has placed on your heart and you are confident in the message He has laid upon you to share. I know this because, remember up above when we talked through the interruption stage of every youth group evening? Or the evenings when the kids are so sun-beat that they are snoring through the entire thing?  If you weren't confident in who you are in Christ, you would melt of despair every time you were interrupted or your audience seemed to be dying from boredom. You would stand there with a shaky and nervous voice, ready to crack at any moment. You might even, and probably do, cry yourself to sleep. But instead, you move on in your message. You nod and you move on with confidence, knowing that Christ has your back and He loves those kids and so do you. It's all going to work out and He will settle whatever needs to be settled within their hearts.

You inspire me.

Corvallis Church Youth Group  #ccengage

3. You are selfless. Man do you give of yourself. You give so much time praying for the kids that show up to youth group every week - but you also spend time praying for the kids who only showed up once, and the kids who stopped coming once they entered high school. You pray and you pray and you spend more time praying for them, because that is the best thing you can do for them. Friend, those prayers are not in vain. You spend so much time preparing that lesson (there's that lesson again) to share more of Jesus' heart for them; you think and pray through the best possible deliverance methods and great analogies and stories. You deny evenings with your friends and/or family to take kids to Fro-Yo, on a bike ride, or scale up a mountain. {This is not to say you neglect your family; I am simply saying you spend numbers of evenings with kids. Whatever is healthy for you. A whole different blog post, because let's be honest: you tend to stretch yourself too thin, bearing the weight of every student}. You're selfless with your time because you know that spending any time with any one kid is investing in forever. You know that it is worth it, even if all you do is hike up a hill silently praying. Because, it is worth it when they know they are worth someones time.

You move me.

4. Did you say night out with the friends? What friends?. Some days you wake up and you wonder what it would be like if you had friends. You miss the old college days where all you did was study and eat frozen corn dogs and wrestle your roommates to the ground. The days you stayed up until 3 am playing video games or going to Taco Bell or sitting at Shari's with a bunch of friends. Some days you feel like friendship was a facade and you get confused with what is ministry and what isn't. Some days you aren't sure you have the capacity to even be a friend. I am not saying this is healthy - I am making an observation. Some times life is lonely. But do you know what I am learning? Every one tends to be lonely. I also am learning that you have permission to have friends. Not just a be a friend, but have one or two of them. Real friends - the ones you are completely vulnerable with, even though you feel ugly at your most transparent state. Let's be honest - we are all ugly at some point because we aren't in Heaven yet. Remind yourself to release the pressure of perfection and allow yourself a friend. A true and valuable friend will love you through it and help you process it all, pointing you to His Truths. You can be that friend to your friend. You need a friend, even if that friend lives far away from you. Skype and Facetime were created for a reason.

Dont just be a friend, have a friend.

5. You are not in this for the money. I feel like that statement speaks volumes in itself.

You encourage me to live for eternity more than temporary.

Flowers outside of the building
Flowers outside of the building

6.Your love runs deep. Contrary to what it may appear, your love runs deep and it is strong. It is that of the Father's. You seem all goofy and comedic, which you are those things, but you are also a deeply moved human being. You also feel all of the feelings, you cry tears of joy and of pain, of thanksgiving and of mourning. Your prayers for those precious lives dig deep wells into your very own soul. You invest your very own life into them, creating this massive weight of Love within yourself. It is only by God's grace that you are able to do this, and it happens without you realizing it is happening. But, once they decide to stop coming or tell you their hurting stories, you realize the depth of your love for them; your very own eyes well with tears and your heart feels their pain. Your compassion is basically tangible and it is more beautiful than a sunrise, and like I said: it is from the heart of the Father.

You are beautiful.

7. You are so patient. Too often, it may be an hour [or maybe two?] before a parent finally calls to let you know they forgot their kid and need you to take their kid across town. Instead of blowing a fuse and telling them off, because you need sleep & food and may have a family too, you kindly take their kid home. You do this without complaining or making the student feel like a burden, because it isn't their fault. And honestly, you love the kid and don't need to put that weight on him/her. The poor kid has enough going on if the parent can't remember where he is. You are beyond patient and practice grace in ways I cannot explain. You give grace when the world would tell you not to - and that is why you amaze me.

You are so full of and flowing over Jesus.

8. You get excited over everything; even if its nothing. Because there is no such thing as "nothing." Everything is something to get excited over - like pet mini-pigs, new guitar amps, and winning football games. Like new nail polish and a new pair of shoes, a brand new bike, and even a kid choosing to take his brother to the Aquatic Center. Inviting some one to play video games for the first time is a big deal and boy are we ready to applaud and celebrate this huge new step. You are excited and everything that falls out of their mouths is exciting and you celebrate with them. Even if what you're celebrating is nothing in line of what you have ever thought to enjoy, but because of them, this thing is now the coolest thing.

You give me hope.

Corvallis Church Youth Group  #ccengage

9. You are grieved over things; especially when it's real. Yes, you are bummed when they didn't win the Talent Show or their basketball game. You remind them they are worth more. But you are also given weights that are not so easy to hand back to Jesus, weights that make your heart feel in ways you didn't know possible - like when a student comes to you weeping that their fairy-tale family is splitting up. Or when your students are picked on for being followers of Jesus. Or when they tell a story of deep abuse. Or when their friends are suicidal and they are coming to you for prayer and advice. Or when they mess up sexually and carry unnecessary shame. You feel their pain and you are the one they often come to when they need to navigate through tough situations. You are often the one they come to when their world seems to be falling apart and they are facing the feeling of "failture."

You are heroic.

10. You are priceless. Though you get paid enough to just barely make it, you are priceless. Odd how this world works. You are my heroes, Youth Pastors. I pray for the few of you that I know, I pray that you would be reminded once again how valuable you are. It's not because you're a Youth Pastor, but simply because you're the beloved child of God. We're all a bunch of messed up mis-fits that don't fit the criteria; except the fact that we are willing. Did you forget the good news? The good news is that He has invited you into His freedom and you can walk in His light-hearted joy, wearing peace on your feet. He is King - I wasn't sure if you needed that reminder. Sometimes I do. You change lives. Whether it is the students, their siblings, their friends, or even their extended families...you are changing lives. You know who else is affected? Those watching you: your parents, your siblings, your elders, and your coworkers (if you are bi-vocational like us!). Did you know that I have passed along many truths given to me by a few of my own youth pastors? Truths I learned in 6th grade - thank you, Alan. You reach far, Youth Pastors - your work is not in vain, it spreads through generations. We have had many people let us know the way we have changed their life, as we serve students. To me, it is a humbling surprise and blesses me every time. But it is proof that your ministry stretches further than you would ever plan or expect or comprehend. It is a reminder that you are changing more lives than the number before your eyes.

We haven't even mentioned the creativity this position demands. I mean snacks, games, lessons, analogies, "keeping it real." I would crumble under the pressure of creating fun and exciting and new games every week.

Not only do you have all of these kids on your heart, but your Youth Leaders. You are there to lead and serve them as well. That's a whole other post, friends. But just know, God knows. He notices the time and energy and prayers that go into your work. He holds your heart and He will carry these burdens.

To Youth Pastors all around: the work you do is hard work. It is heavy and it is emotional. It is light and it is joyful. It is so many things at such extremes.

It is all for Jesus.

And I am here to applaud you to keep running the race. To keep pursuing Jesus every day. You are changing many lives. You are glorifying Jesus Christ and bringing His Kingdom to this earth with the very breath in your lungs.

You are worth His blood, you are valuable, and you are holy. Not because you rock as a Youth Pastor or anything else. Simply because you have chosen the road that is narrow and few.

"Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do and it gave Him great pleasure."

You may not be a Youth Pastor - maybe a Leader who just as selflessly chooses to serve these same kids. You may be the Pastor's wife whose heart is just as much "in," and you may spend just as much time and energy and sacrifice, digging wells within your heart just as deep. Whatever you "do" for the Kingdom, you are changing lives. You are loved, you are value, you are worth the blood of Christ only because the Father said so. You are all of those things before you were born, so nothing you have done or haven't done will earn your way into His delight. You have already been brought to that place by His grace.

Brother. Sister. You amaze me. You are my hero.

Well done. Keep running this race, by His grace.

Corvallis Church Youth Group  #ccengage

Corvallis Church Youth Group  #ccengage Corvallis Church Youth Group  #ccengage

Corvallis Church Youth Group  #ccengage

Corvallis Church Youth Group  #ccengage

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Corvallis Church Youth Group  #ccengage

Corvallis Church Youth Group  #ccengage

Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.

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5 Lessons from the "Old Burn Outs."

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

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

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

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Peoria, OR  unnamed

Peoria, OR

Peoria, OR

5 Lessons from The Old Burn Outs

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

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

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

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

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

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unnamed

Peoria, OR

unnamed

Peoria, OR

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

Thank you, John & Tracy.

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

We love you.

 

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A little encouragement for your day.

Today I met with two people, because that is part of my life. During those very real conversations, I was reminded how grateful I am to be where I'm at, I am so grateful to Jesus.

I am grateful to be in the lives of so many young girls. As I shared about my girls with two different people today, I teared up. I let one tear drop, but besides that, mostly just pooled wet eyes. I couldn't help but share encouraging stories because these girls are this generation. These girls {and guys} will speak into my kids' lives. These girls will be our governors and dentists and teachers and Jo Anne's employees and writers and church planters. These girls love Jesus. This is the real deal: we aren't playing youth group, we aren't playing Christian, we are living the Bible. I am tearing up thinking about them, friends.

Today, I shared about the girls. I got to encourage older ladies by telling real stories about younger girls who are sold out for Jesus. The 12-14 year aged girls who bring prayer requests like this to small group:

"This guy _____ in Science class is so mean. Every day he cusses and calls me names and is so insulting to the teacher. He writes bad words on the board. He makes fun of Jesus to my face. But I know that it is because he is so broken and doesn't know the love of Jesus Christ. I know that he doesnt realize how loved and valuable he is. So, I want to pray that I can have patience with him and that he would experience Jesus for real and be saved."

I sit staring at my computer screen, in awe. Every week for the last 3 years, I have witnessed these girls carry this heart.

1 Timothy 4:12 Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.

Did you know they are on fire to fight human sex slavery? I mean real life sex slavery in our neighborhoods. We had Liz from House of Engedi visit our youth group to share about it (read that post here). Since that time, we had 4 girls do research projects for their 8th grade Mock Congress on Human Trafficking. We had 3 of them represented at the Opening Celebration for House of Engedi, highlighting their goals and dreams in comparison to a victim of human slavery. We had 4 of them play a part in the House's informational video, which I will post when it comes out. These girls get angry, I mean fiery angry and broken and filled with a passion to DO SOMETHING in the name of Jesus Christ to fight for these victims. These girls know how valuable they themselves are, they walk in the light of Jesus every day, facing the struggles of Middle and High School. They want to share this same light and grace with the victims of the darkest of darknesses: sex slavery. These girls are world changers. They're heroes, but not because of what they've done - they are heroes because they have experienced the transforming love of Jesus Christ and desperately want everyone else to, too; they are passionately pursuing ways to share His love.

Yes, they get excited and worked up about pigs and dogs and cats and bad grades and new clothes and all of that. But they keep their eyes on things that matter and their hearts pursue something greater than themselves: Jesus. They are all about Jesus.

When you feel discouraged about this world's future, remember these small snippets I have shared. Remember the young girls who are chasing Jesus and fighting this battle, through Jesus. Remember that 12 year olds are on mission with you and there is hope. I know there are plenty more out there than the few I know. Remember that Jesus offers more than we can comprehend. Remember that and then chase Him.

Jesus always offers hope.

Humans. They are worth investing in. Young lives. They will change this world.

I am deeply grateful for where I am right now. All glory to God the Father, who through His mighty power can accomplish infinitely more than I can ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20). That verse has been so true in the last 3 years of my life. I believe it will only get better.

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Linus Pauling 8th grade graduation

Husband + I at 8th grade graduation. Love living on mission with him.

Linus Pauling 8th grade graduation

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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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Reason to Drown in Bitterness & Survival.

Wild flower, PNW

Do you ever go through the days, surviving? Waiting for your 5 o'clock {or whatever it is} to arrive so you can just go home to sleep? Only to wake up the next morning, again barely surviving the day and looking forward only to the end. Getting through the week, looking forward to your Friday. Oh if only we could reach the end of..the day, the week, the season, the year. I think so often, "We are all just surviving..there could be so much more to every days."

When I worked at US Bank I heard this statement of relief every afternoon: "My day is almost over." And "Just getting through the day." I also often heard, "I just can't wait for Friday."

Constantly, I saw the yearning for the next end. Just get through life. The hearts of those around me craved to be out of the now and into the future, and when the "future" arrived, the response was to keep on wishing for the next phase of the day [week/season]. I was grieved by these words - saddened that, it seemed, no one was content or happy with where they are right here, right now.

We are always rushing, always busy, always stressing to get DONE. Done with what? Where are we all going? The other day at the coffee shop, I overheard a 30+ year man say these heavy words:

"I just can't wait for retirement. Then I can slow down and enjoy life, then I can actually be with my family. I work so hard for that retirement fund."

Oh my soul. He is missing out! By that time, his family won't be around. Heck, he may not be - you never know when you will take that last breath. You never know when the soul's dearest and nearest to you may swallow up and die. To wait 20-35 more years to enjoy what little life we have left sounds like hell on earth. Literally.

I was just told that a young wife & mother of two kids, each under the age of 3..she died. She was in a long boarding accident. You never know when the soul's dearest and nearest to you may swallow up and die.

Friends. There are hard seasons, bitter seasons, rocky rough and ragged seasons. Days and seasons we want to be over - sometimes those seasons seem unending. But can we pause and rethink our view? Our outlook? Our hearts themselves? Can we see the life we have as beautiful and bright, even when all seems lost? I know without a doubt that I won't regret choosing joy in the hardest of times, when looking back in 10-15-30 years from now. I do know that I would regret looking back to remember my response to life as bitter and angry; discontent, entitled, and selfishI hope to leave such a legacy of choosing the joy of Jesus, that my Grandkids have a generational habit built into their gene pool.

A generational habit of choosing joy even when.. Even when the most precious, innocent, little children live in hell itself, on this earth, and you can't do a thing about it but pray and trust Jesus. Even when you lose dear people within close proximity of time. Even when parents hurt you because they are hurting from deep within. Even if you often live paycheck to paycheck, in a moldy apartment or a ghetto janky house that may not be "the dream." Even when..whatever your situation may be, the list goes on.  Even when we have REASON to drown in anger, becoming so self-centered, so bitter, so...darkened...we access to choose the truest of true joys and hopes. Guys. This is the stuff that leads others to Jesus - when we have all the reason in the world to suffocate in bitterness and crave the "end" of everything, but we don't. We instead choose the genuine joy and hope unending, which is offered to us at every second of the day. Offered to us in the darkest of nights while walking this earthly world. If only we would choose to drink the cup of grace and keep our eyes on things ahead: Heaven.

Bird watching pnw

Peering up and ahead at Jesus makes this life worth it, it's when we stare our circumstances straight in the face, entering mere survival mode, that we are swallowed up in them, and unable to selflessly ove those around us.

There is a difference between looking ahead at Jesus, which brings confident hope, and just getting through life, which brings dissatisfaction. I only know because it's a constant battle for me, a wrestling match between myself and Jesus.

I went bird watching with a lovely woman the other day; she is part of our church community. The entire time I could not stop thanking God for every moment given. What sweet, calm, peaceful moments. What beauty my eyes and soul held. The grass and the flowers and the water and the birds and every single thing that my being soaked in...was good. It was good and it was from God.

Make time to choosingly soak in the beauty God has surrounded you with and let it bless your inner being. Let your heart soften into thanksgiving.

"All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small, All things wise and wonderful: The Lord God made them all.

See that little guy up in the top of the tree?

Bird watching in Corvallis

Each little flower that opens, Each little bird that sings, He made their glowing colors, He made their tiny wings.

Fields of grass, Corvallis

He gave us eyes to see them, And lips that we might tell How great is God Almighty, Who has made all things well.

Duck pond at Starker Arts Park in Corvallis, OR

The male ducks literally follow the female ducks around... they follow and they wait and they follow and they wait. It's like they want something.

Starker Arts park in Corvallis

All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small, All things wise and wonderful: The Lord God made them all."

All Things Bright & Beautiful by Cecil Frances Alexander

Bird watching in PNW Binculars, bird watching in PNW PNW PNW PNW PNW

This world is broken. It is full of sin and muck and yuck and pain and selfishness. Every human has reason to choose self-entitlement and bitterness.

We each have a daily choice to make: wallow in self pity {I choose this often}, waiting for the "end" or adventure. Journeying through the day as it really is: an adventure to be lived, a gift to unfold, beauty to behold. I crave to choose this over and over again - adventuring life. I fail often, but I get to walk in the assurance of grace and start over. The good news? That same grace is not only offered to you, but is chasing you ready to set you free.

Will you adventure life with me?

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From the Heart of a 12 Year Girl

I've got about 10 minutes before my next thing in life. I really want to share with you this small story, the small glimpse of what Jesus is doing here in this small part of the world. I sit here in awe at what God is doing in my life, the young girls He has placed in my life. It is when I start to think I have been placed in THEIR life when I get in trouble.. they have definitely been placed in mine to teach me and show me more of Jesus.

This afternoon I met with 2 middle school girls who are hungry for Truth. They requested to study the book of Colossians.

Bible Study: Youth Ministry @ Coffee Culture, PNW

After we read through chapter one, Claire grabbed a notebook FULL OF NOTES,  looked up and said,

"Well I have a question about chapter 3 verse 12."

As we jumped there she shared the problem we all face: being surrounded with sarcasm. The facade of strength. The wall and barrier of the heart. The struggle with her peers always pushing others down with their words, always dehumanizing others through sarcasm, blunt words, and bold rudeness.. the discomfort of the walls we put around our hearts. The walls that have poky swords sticking out at anyone that comes near.

The heart of a 12 year old girl shared the shallowness and hurt that comes with sarcasm. I was humbled, again, at the heart and maturity of this young lady.

The heart of a 12 year old girl shared that it doesnt match up with Colossians 3:12:

"Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience."

Now that. That is strength - relying on those words, striving for those words through Jesus. Through the mighty power of a God that is bigger and can give us the miraculous power to wear and respond with those characteristics. Even when sarcasm is thrown at us.

As we talked through this I was inspired by her desire to pursue Jesus. Even though it is uncomfortable and extremely unpopular. To pursue Him not only as Savior, but as KING, as Lord.

I am confident that maturity and wisdom have little to do with age. I would dare to say these two 12 year old girls are more mature than many 30 year olds I know. They have the wisdom that only comes from the reverence of the Lord Jesus. They have the heart that strives to please their Jesus and the reminder that all they have to do is submit to His heart. To wear His love as their identity.

They have moved me to submitting myself once again to Jesus, asking Him to purify my heart. To remind me to be more real than not. To be vulnerable even when its risking comfort (which is always). To not turn to sarcasm. Will you join us in this unpopular voyage?

Here are the notes I took so that I would not forget the Truths these 12 year old girls taught me, reminded me today:

  • Sarcasm is a dangerous dehumanizing tool that cuts others down. It is not funny. It is not what pleases the heart of Jesus
  • Colossians 3:10-12 explains that we get to freely put on a NEW NATURE, a new identity. And it is freeing! We do not turn to sarcasm, but to tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentlessness, and patience because Jesus values us. He loves us. And if He loves me, then He loves you. So why would I dehumanize you, the one He loves?
  • Colossians 3:5-9 reminds me that I am human, and that sometimes, alot of times, I fail. But in Chapter 1 verse 22 I am reminded that I am made perfect because of Jesus. That I stand faultless and blameless before Him.

I learn so much from these girls. The joy and honor it is to spend time with the second half of my generation. I hope you will have the honor and privilege of doing the same thing: invest, learn, grow. You won't regret that time spent.