Canada wrap up

Various titles this post could have had: Canada Wrap Up; Au-Natural Fall Decor $0; Cute Baby Boy Award; Gluten Free Thanksgiving Treats; Husband Welcomes Bride Home the Best Way Possible. SO you see? How could a girl describe this post in a small title? Has it really been only just a week since I have been back from the land of Canada? If there is one thing I do not understand in this life, it is time.

On a heart level note, I decided while in Canada that this verse from Corinthians must be my new anthem call:

IMG_7938 IMG_7941

 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

2 Corinthians 3:17-18

Monday the 13th was Canada Thanksgiving! We needed to decorate a little extra for the holiday, so on our mid morning walk to good ole Tim Horton's, we decided we would make an au-natural craft for our table piece and our door hanger. Straight from the walking path!

So this happened:

fall craft

fall craft

fall craftingWe laid out all of our goodies at home to see exactly what we snatched.

fall crafts with real leavesAnd we got to work with all that we had; we purchased nothing. For the center peace: a glass bowl, candle, leaves. That was what we used.

fall center piece with real leaves

For the door wreath, we used floss and tape. Why on God's green grass? Because that is what we had! We were obviously trying to be P31 wives.

Here is our FOUR STEP real-leaf wreath: 4 step real leaf wreath

4 step wreath

Too easy, friends. The putting-together part took us maybe 15 minutes.

Because this caramel apple crisp was so good that we ate all of it and left none for the boys, I thought I would encourage you to try it. Also, it is nothing different or special: simply Delicious.

thanksgiving desserts gluten free

Apple Crisp: 3 green apples, peeled & quartered Mix: 1 1/2 cup (gf) oats 1/2 cup dark brown sugar 2 tbsp butter 1 tbs coconut oil Put mixture over apples, drizzle caramel sauce! Bake at 350 for 30 minutes

Pumpkin Brownies: 1 box of gluten free chocolate mix 1 can of pumpkin 2 tsp pumpkin spice mix: bake: eat.

Sweet Potato Casserole: chopped sweet potatoes, bake in water for 20 minutes to soften take out, add brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, top with marshamllows! bake another 25 minutes at 350

oliver robert

welcoming wife home from trip

Though my flight was delayed and I was the only passenger with my luggage misplaced, I didn't mind. I was just happy to get home and see my husband. I was excited to be held by his arms and snuggle with him on our couch watching the Cosby Show.

I will tell you what, though. Loren has always been the best at welcoming me home. Whether it be from a birth I supported as Doula (this happened this week!), from an evening away with some girls, or from a trip of some sort...he has always been so welcoming!

He buys flowers and welcomes me with notes. I never expect it, but he always does it and it is always such a treat. It is always such a gift. He picked me up holding a rose and Cafe Yumm which was perfect. Then when we walked up to our front door, I was welcomed with a plethora of notes. Inside was a bundle of flowers in an OWL COFFEE CUP. It's a vase, but it has a handle, and its big so he thought it would be a perfect coffee cup. He also had another bouquet of flowers on the table. HUSBANDS! Learn from this man. He is amazing.

I am beyond thankful that I was able to save my "allowance" (photography, pillow making, coordinating money) to visit H in Canada. But apparently Life wanted to slam itself back into me a little harder than I was prepared for. Let's make this Canada Thanksgiving thing a tradition?

My Canada Adventure: 3 days left.


Did you know that ODFW stands for Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife and that my mug is displaying just that? True story. Also, what is a true story is that my husband made me coffee at approximately 3:15 am and once again, deserves the Best Husband Award.


When we woke up at 2:30 am and left by 3:20 on Wednesday the 8th of October, I was certain I might actually die. But then I didn't and now it is Monday the 13th and I am healthy as a bean. Loren did the fabulous servant thing of waking up with me, making me coffee, and driving me the 2 hours to Portland Airport so I could get there in time to check my bag, go through customs, and board the plane by 6:20 am. What. A. Babe!

Also, the moon. It was so bright and so bloody orange, and I could not get a better photo than that with my little iPhone.


Long hallways + a full bladder don't mix well.


So, I was completely blessed by the breathtaking sunrise. Thank you, Jesus, for creating such wonderful gifts for us to enjoy. It is calming.

Also - The Fault in Our Stars. I cried on that plane ride while reading this book. It was that good. I have decided I must make myself read fiction books again.


I made sure that the man stamped my passport this time around. It is a new passport with a new name which means I don't have my stamps from Europe!

Naturally, the first thing I did when I landed in Canada was grab a Starbucks: caramel machiotto with soy, because I am on vacation and everyone knows that we must cheat our health on vacations.


The theme of this trip should be: BABIES GALORE.


What I dearly loved about this verse was that it isn't a question, but a statement. A statement that says our Heavenly Father gives us good gifts.

we are friends

Hi, we are friends and we love to walk.


Should we talk about the absolute wonder of the photos above? I will let you soak them in. Fall. Brisk. Baby. Wagon. Pup (who is my actual nemseis, but I love her because she is my friends baby). Best Pal. Canada. Love.


my canada adventure

Because I am not sharing a bed with my husband, I literally sleep on one half while my laptop, bible, journal, and knitting utensils sleep on the other half. I then wake up in the morning, roll over, and commence my time with Jesus as the golden sun peers in the window. Yes, it is a gift. A true, gift.

IMG_1524.JPG You're welcome.


knitting a circle scarf

I started knitting again. Canada always does that to me. No, Haley always does that to me. Did I mention, it's an addiction? Almost as addicting as Tim Horton's coffee.




Who wouldn't want flying utters as decoration for a coffee-ice cream shop.

The worst $17 I ever did spend, by the way.


Scarf: finished on the drive to the beautiful lake.

the nunes family


Leaves: crunched.

Baby: swung.

Strangers: captured. Their potluck smelled delicious.

IMG_1571.JPGspending moments with the LordI am certain that if I do not spend time in His presence, I will not feel rested. He is the key to rest, as He calls me into His presence and Peace. Thankful for His word and I fall in love with it, every time I gobble it up.

IMG_1611.JPG Last night was Round One of Canada Thanksgiving. We enjoyed a huge potluck of Thanksgiving deliciousness at Haley & Marcio's friends house: the Penners. They are beautiful, have 3 girls and 1 on the way. There was a plethora of children and adults crammed into this town house and it was simply beautiful to be a part of the body of Christ in another country. I always love being reminded how big and how real and how tangible He is through His church.

Today is Canada Thanksgiving. I am thankful that God is patient with me. I am thankful for a husband who is in love with Jesus Christ, and pursuing Him at a cost. I am thankful for a husband who misses me when I am gone, and tells me. I am thankful for a perfectly imperfect church family back home that I miss when I am away. I am thankful to be a Doula and serve families during the most precious and intense moments of life. I am thankful that I am in Canada with my dear friend Haley, who literally saved my life 4 years ago, October 4th 2010. She would have woken to a cold, stiff, dead roommate had she not taken me in - true story. Traumatizing.

I am thankful for Jesus, who is ever so close to my heart, especially when I am weary and exhausted. That He loves me and gives me worth and places an identity of Belovedness on me.

Happy Thanksgiving, from Canada!

Pulling my head out & headed to Canada!

nats canada adventures I'm off to Canada.

Last year around this time, I was riding the Bolt Bus from PDX to Seattle to Bellingham to Vancouver BC for $28. I then rode Something from the train station in BC to the airport and flew to Edmonton, AB, snapped this photo(<left) along the way, and was welcomed by this stud and his stunning momma.

That chin, though.

What's in Canada? My college roommate and very dear friend Haley. She has the cutest son who will soon be blowing up my Instagram. Rumor has it, she has a possible trip to Jasper or Banff planned. This girl is the best.

I have been forsaking my Jesus. My sabbath. My day of rest. I am gaining a deeper understanding of why God made "keeping a sabbath day holy, 1 day a week," an actual commandment. It is for our sanity, for our health, for our best well-being. I don't mean resting all day before the TV screen watching television or movies; I have never left the TV screen and felt empowered and rested. My brain is exhausted and stimulated after that. I mean resting in His presence, in His word, in His very real love for me. For you.

I have gotten myself into a a place of busy. Note: I have done this. Not my job(s), not my family, not my church, not my responsibilities. I could blame my hectic and chaotic life on those things, but the reality of the matter is, I said yes. I am the one who piles on All The Things. I choose my calendar just as I choose my attitude. I choose to forsake my Sabbath Mondays and this last Monday I was deeply broken by my decision.

What I had forgotten was that, not only does my sweet time with Jesus mean so much to me and my soul, but it's special to Him too. He longs to spend time with us.

>>See how refreshed I looked after last year's trip? That's what I'm going for. I was in the same boat - coming off of a ridiculous summer, in the middle of a busy fall {HEAR THIS: allllll good things, just a lot of things}, and left for a week to spend Canada Thanksgiving (which is on a Monday in October) with one of my best friends. I needed rest. Rest in Him found in Canada. I needed to forcefully pull myself away. Here in this wonderful and charming and SO JOYOUS photo, I was sitting in the park waiting for the bus in the beautiful city of Vancouver, BC. I was knitting. KNITTING. Simply sitting and knitting. I know. So P31 of me.

My life is no different from yours, or maybe it probably is. But the reality is, you can say yes to things or you can say no. There are some things I think I can't say no to. But really, I can. For instance, it is unhealthy to fill your calendar full of 12 individual coffee dates/hikes/dinner guests/meetings in the time frame of 6 days + regular small groups + services + oh right, computer work, and photography, and studying birth. It is this thing of pride and fear that it boils down to. Every darn time. I wish that it wasn't so, but it so is.

>>I like to think of the money I make in photography and wedding coordinating and pillow making as my "allowance." We are on a very tight budget, and I don't have a steady enough income from these things to impact an area of budget, but it brings me a spending allowance that I did not have. So, I saved my allowance and I am heading to Canada. Thank you, clients! Literally wouldn't be going without you. I know that I won't always be able to simply get on a plane for a week of my choosing and peace out, leaving Loren with a few prepped meals and a long smooch goodbye. But while I can still do this, I best be taking advantage of it.

We all have things pushing at our seams, begging for our attention, filling our calendar. We all live in the world where busy seems to be the norm and what we use to give us value. And that's just the thing, it feels like it devalues me. Stretches me so thin that ME begins to be a non-existent reality. In order to serve others well, we must make time to do things we enjoy. At our leisure. Not squeezed into an hour time slot.

When I bury myself into this lifestyle of scheduling coffee dates two months out (true story, so embarrassing), I become so selfish, so centered on me = bitterness, SO not Natalie. I am not walking in the Spirit of peace that I have access to; I am not choosing to be grateful in the small things; I am not soaking in this truly beautiful and ridiculously privileged life. Because I am go-go-and going and never pausing. And that kills me. It breaks my own heart the state I can put it in -- and I desperately want to pursue His freedom. He is so full of freedom and joy and peace. These things come by slowing down. Pausing. Being still. I am forcing my head out of the calendar and placing it in Canada to breathe and pray and get on my knees. To be still and soak in His goodness.

So. To all humans everywhere:

We are not called or made to live busily.

Our identity does not lie in what we do (or do not do).

We are commanded a day of rest to truly rest in His presence. To be built up, to fight the enemy's lies with His words, to soak in His love and grace and freedom. T0 literally bask in His love for us. Not to sit in front of the computer or television screen. To rest in who He has made us to be.

The world will still go on if you slow down and enjoy life, choosing joy, living slowly. In actual fact, I have experienced it and the world exists as a place of beauty. (Shameless plug, visit my A Life of Joy category)

To the women called into a full time ministry: you cannot do it all. You cannot meet with everyone, you should not meet with everyone; in fact, you we are stealing someone else's chance to serve, love, minister. Take some time, look at your schedule, and pray about what to get rid of. Pray for ways to point people to other women. I have done this 2 times in the last week and it has been a gift to each woman involved. Find something you love, and make a day for it. For me, I love making our home. So I am finding a day of the week set apart to do solely homemaking things; and really seeing it as a priority. Rest in His presence. Every day, have those times of focus with Him. Cry in His presence, sing, dance, YOU.

>>To you women in ministry: I am carefully and prayerfully crafting a new series just for us.  My hope is that you would find encouragement in knowing you are not alone. That we can be honest and transparent and real, that we can love each other with honest vulnerability, and then go out and love our flocks.

I'm off to Canada to spend time praying and evaluating what Jesus has for me. I am discovering (over and over and over again) that selflessly denying my flesh is in the denying of my pride in trying to "do it all." It is saying no, no I cannot do that because I am incapable and I am human and I am fickle and weak. But He, He can do it. And He can do it through someone else.

Also. I already miss my church family and students and most of all my husband, so much. I am so much more a home body than I thought.

PS> on a side note, I seem to bounce between extremes of yes's and no's. If you relate, may I recommend a book? Books are great. Click on it to purchase.


Broken to Shambles. Asking the Question: "How can I Follow Jesus in this Fallen World?"

Strippers, demons, and perverted celebrities. Unnecessary profanity, hardened hearts, and the invitation of being possessed. How am I to lead young people to Jesus in such a corrupt world, where they are surrounded by this stuff? I sank into brokenness. Tuesday night, the 15th, I was a wreck. Do you ever have a sleepless night? A night passing by so slowly, full of tears and a broken heart? As I said goodnight to the Nunes family for my last night in Canada, I was tossing and turning on that lovely air-mattress. After about an hour, I decided to take the plug out of the air mattress, fold up the blankets, and head downstairs to sit by the fire.


As I poured my heart out into my journal, searching the scriptures that our good God has written us, I was broken. I was so confused and unsure of what I was doing with my life. I was scared, uncomfortable, and shattered.  Why? Because of the fallen world we live in. The day before, I heard about this whole Miley Cyrus thing that happened at the MMA awards. Call me sheltered and under a rock, I don't mind, but I had no idea about this mess. I am so behind. Later that day I watched a news clip on Beyonce and how she asks Sasha (I think that was her name) to enter her body before each performance; that she literally asks a "thing" (I believe in demons and evil forces) to possess her. I was broken for them, for their lost souls in deep need of a savior. I was broken for their fans, for the many young and old people who follow them. Who love them. Who want to be them. I was broken.

I then stumbled upon a promoted music video that was “liked” by one of my students. A student I have invested in more than any, a student I cherish & love deeply. I had time, so I clicked on it to see what they like to watch/listen to. This was when I broke in half. I mean, my heart ripped and the floodgates opened and I was in shambles. Every part of me that once held confidence was now shattering in explosion.

The entire video was of strippers, impure sex scenes, and the curse word that rhymes with duck. At least one of my precious students had watched this, and then "liked" it, which promoted it. I sank and I cried out to God. What am I doing? How have I lived under such a shelter? A rock? 24 hours earlier, I was shopping with Haley and playing with Oliver, without a heavy care in the world. I kept repeating these questions to God, "Can I just hide in the mountains and make jam? This whole being a true following disciple, leading others towards you without mediocrity, it is hard and painful. It seems impossible. How am I supposed to fearlessly lead these students in such a contaminated and corrupt world?" I know that there is good in this world. That the Holy Spirit dwells in people and that there is so much good...but in this moment, I was so confused and felt a heavy weight on my heart.

I had no answer, but around 3 am I fell asleep with peace from this promise: "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed."

As I spent the next day on the bus and airplane, I kept asking God if I should be more engrossed in this worlds corruptness - at the heart of my questioning (I now realize), I was asking if I should pursue a lifestyle that was less pure, for the sake of knowing what our students were up against. What their brains were being polluted with. I was asking this constantly for four days.

Finally, He made it clear to me this morning. No, do not pursue a life less pure. In fact, continue to pursue purity in all aspects but with more vigor. "God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God." (Matthew 5:8). When we are pure and pursue purity, we are put in the presence of the living God. James 4:8 says that when we "come close to God, and God will come close to" us. It says, "wash your hands, purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world."

In order to lead these young people closer to the feet of Jesus, I must refrain from jumping into that muck and engrossing my heart in the impurities of the world. I must stay strong in the Lord, pursuing purity, and thus being put into the presence of the Lord. For if I am in the presence of the Lord, then and only then can I lead them into that presence as well; if I am pursuing purity, with vigor and passion.

I can do this (and so can you) by the strength of the Lord. Do you have any one you are leading closer to the feet of Jesus? If not, why not? Pursue purity with all that you are. You will be put in the presence of the Lord, and I assure you, there is no where better to be. That is the best place to lead from...and to. Pursue purity and cling tightly to the strength of the Lord.

"The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights." Habakkuk 3:19

Canada Adventure

I have boarded the Bolt Bus, downed a burnt Starbucks coffee, am wearing my Ted Hoes because I am basically an elderly woman, and have said goodbye to my beloved husband. Canada Adventure has begun. 20131010-080654.jpg

For the first time in our 490 some odd days of marriage, we will be apart for 7 days. We have been pretty lucky so far! I take it for granted, really.

Since the day Haley sent me a photo of the little white stick (yep, that one) with two lines that read "positive," last October, I have been aching for a Canada Adventure. Well if we are honest, since the night of her wedding when I said our first wailing (this is actually true - my head thrown back and me sobbing towards the ceiling with fat tears streaming) & agonizing goodbye.. that was when the eagerness began. But! It subsided slowly. Until she told me that Baby Nunes #1 had been created. (I remember where I was: looking at the ridiculously priced curtains in Bed Bath & Beyond. I was screaming & jumping up and down).

March arrived and Haley's sister who is also my good friend Jesse was getting married! This beautiful ceremony brought on a unitation (let the word happen) with Hales.  Yet again, I realized the dire need to be united with her in Canada: especially once Baby Oliver arrives. So the jar saving began!


Since March, we saved enough money for me to get a passport with my new beloved name on it, buy a round trip ticket (Bolt Bus + Air <$350 roundtrip), and even a little bit of spending money to buy some maple syrup! I could never have done this without Loren. Without his encouragement, his support, his encouragement, and his sacrificial love. His sacrificial love is abnormal for our age and our short length of marriage; I am sure of it. He is so humble and always giving to me. Give give give. Because of him in addition to huge chunks of grace from God, I am currently on the Bolt Bus beginning my Canada Adventure.

Last night this hunk took me to the Cheesecake Factory for the first time. What a grace gift that was. He is such a blessing; he gives through sacrifice, more than I would have ever dared to dream.


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That place was overwhelming: loud, busy, huge, but so beautiful & completely delicious.

- - -

As we said our goodbyes, I lugged my bursting suitcase, 30 pound backpack, and honking purse onto the Bus. Can I just say that the standard size of a carry-on luggage suitcase is actually ridiculous? The amount of clothes, shoes, jackets and critical necessities one is unable to fit in there? I am going to lovely but freezing Canada and I had to find a way to fit all of this:


Plus more, into...THIS tintsy intsy little thing:


I know, I could hardly believe it. I am not the only one who must do this undesirable deed, but it happened as sure as the night sky shines stars.

As I head to Vancouver, BC, I am completely excited. I love adventures. Once I am downtown, I get to ride the Sky Tram over to the airport for about 45 minutes. Then I have a little more than 1 hour (if all goes smoothly) until my flight leaves from BC and heads towards good ole Edmonton! There, around 7:40 pm, I will be welcomed into the wonderful arms of Haley Nunes. My beloved best friend.

I pray that you have a friend like Haley. The kind of friend that, whether in another country or simply sharing a room with you, remains an amazing friend. A friend that would save your life, even if she met you 6 days prior..(this definitely happened in too much of a literal sense). A friend that helps you with more things than you could ask for or even THINK to ask for. A friend who is safe to be vulnerable with, who won't lead you into the temptation of slander or complaint. A friend who prays for & encourages you, and whether far or near, spurs you on to do good deeds for the glory of God. Someone who holds you accountable to the Truths you claim to believe, to the Faith you wear as your name. A friend who holds you accountable even when painful or corrective; a true and deep friendship, coursing on the purity of Jesus Christ's love. A friend who drives you closer to Jesus. A friend who does all of this...but you also do it in return.

I pray and yearn for the day when we live near one another once again: I dream of raising our kids together, teaching them the grace of God, serving our neighborhoods together. Exercising together. Being loving and respectful wives together. Serving our church family together. The prayers will never cease and the dreaming will never end.

Our God is bigger than I can dare to dream and I will continue to ask Him in boldness, to align our callings someday, for His glory. I pray you have a Haley in your life.

Cheers to Canada Adventure.