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

20140513-205833.jpg 20140124-144935.jpg

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

Hey there friend! Have you clicked the Like button on the Facebook page? What about signed up for Brenner Bunch to your inbox?