Adoption Auction #BringHomeBabyBrenner Recap

natalie brenner photography Last Monday and Tuesday we held an online adoption auction with the hopes of raising at least $1,000 to add to our adoption fund. If you have read any of the previous posts, you will know that our lives have been a whirlwind of beauty and excitement, mixed with anxiety and wondering if we could come up with a large sum of funds to pay for this stork drop adoption. One way we pulled some quick funds together was by holding this online adoption auction; one of Instagram and one on Facebook. We first started pulling together vendors and baskets the first week of January, planning to do the auction early to mid February. WELL! Am I glad we started getting to work on the auction early, because our son was born January 6th and we needed funds fast!

Our vendors were so completely generous and did everything they could to help this auction be successful. They each were more than generous and we would not have raised any dime of this money without them. Be sure to check out each and every shop/vendor and make them a new favorite. Not only are their items adorable, creative, beautiful, and straight up awesome, but the people behind the shops and businesses are some of the most generous and well-meaning people. Friends. True friendships have been birthed, dear ones.

Here were our outstanding Facebook auction items & vendors:

auction items 21. A night out with Gregory and the Oregon Symphony. Two tickets to Gregory Alan Isakov with the Oregon Symphony. Seats are Middle Orchestra Side D R11 and R12; Retail Value: $80

2. $100 off your next stay at Columbia Cliff Villas. Good for any Sunday-Thursday stay. We stayed here about a year ago. Such an amazing place. Absolutely fantastic. Great place for a getaway in Hood River

3. Spa Day in Lebanon, Oregon:  Deluxe Manicure; Brow, Lip, and Chin Wax; and 20% off any Facial or Massage Service. Retail Value: $71

4. $100 Gift Certificate to Lighten Up Bleach Art Designs by Benjamin Peterson. One custom piece of bleach art design; can be on hat, sweatshirt, t shirt, etc. See more of his amazing work here: Contact him via his Facebook (Benjamin Peterson)

auction items 1

5. Homemade Jambalaya with rice, salad and bread rolls.  Will feed 6-8 easy. Its dairy free, lots of meats and veggies and tomato sauce base. Her bread is a simple white roll recipe. Located: anywhere in Lebanon or Albany. Made by Alexandria Smith

6. Two Private Swim Lessons. Location: Athletic Club of Bend, OR. Description: 30 minutes each lesson for any age/swim level (must be at least 6 months). Retail Value: $60 About the Instructor: Amanda Wolf is a Certified Swim Instructor at the Athletic Club of Bend her email is Whoever needs will schedule the lessons with her in advance, but she is very flexible is she has enough warning. The pool at the athletic club is 92 degrees and perfect for babies/young kids. No one will get cold feet around these parts! Amanda stresses fun while teaching water safety.

7. Natural Childbirth Class in Albany, OR with Melissa Gayle Meyer $50 off Class or $25 off Online Class

8. Used Exercise Bike. Location: Corvallis, OR. Winner Picks up Item; View details here…/recumbent-bike/SFEX13809

auction items 3

9. Pioneer Woman Basket:  1 signed Pioneer Woman Holiday book; 1 linen serving bowl; 1 12 piece Paige dinnerware set; 4 teal tumblers; 1 slotted turner; 1 10 inch skillet; 1 12 inch skillet; & 1 grill pan; Retail value: $215

10. One 60 Minute Photography Session by: Heartstrings Photography. Located in Corvallis, OR Retail Value: $150; Website: ; - Families, Seniors, Engagements, Kids/Babies -

11. Newborn Bonnet. This bonnet is perfect for going home, newborn photography pictures or everyday wear. This newborn bonnet is especially made to fit newborns 0-1 month. Made to fit true newborn size. This bonnet will be gray. This bonnet is made when ordered. It will be shipped in 2-3 weeks. Retail Value: $19. Will be shipped by Rebekah Soriano, Shop Owner. Photo By: Dulce Baby Studio Contact info: IG handle is Bek_Soriano Shop is

12.  Sweet Mary Kay Basket: Travel Bag- $35, Skinvigorate Brush- $50, Mint Bliss Energizing lotion for feet and legs and plush socks- $11, Makeup Remover- $15; Microdermabrasion Set- $50, Satin Hand Set- $35, Satin Lip Set- $18 TOTAL Retail Value: $229 Shipping $9. "Everything is 100% satisfaction guarantee so if they don't love something then they can switch it out for something they do love for completely free!" - Hannah Mathers. Hannah Mathers, Mary Kay Independent Sales Director in Qualification;; 541-844-9377; Located in Monmouth, OR available to travel

13. Stella & Dot Aurora Necklace. Retails value: $29

adoption auctionadoption auction
14. One Full Photography Session by Samantha Short Photography; Located in Lebanon, OR Retail Value: Newborn/Graduate $350 OR Children/Family $250 Website: IG Handle: @samanthashortphotograph
We had two people who really wanted this package. Someone bid right at the 10 pm mark, closing off the bidding, and we received a message from the other bidder who really wanted this package. He asked if we would maybe see if Sam would offer a second package if they matched the winning bid: she said yes! She donated not one, but two full photography sessions!
Here were our amazing Instagram auction items and vendors:
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1. One pair of moccasins from @wildblackberrymoccs. Winner chooses size and color. Shipping included. Retail: $39.

2. One caramel brown snap closure leather bracelet - customized up to 10 letters. Retail: $12. Free shipping . IG handle is @tatefamilyadoption

3. Six months of Be Spoken Coffee Roasters! A pound/bag of coffee will be sent to winner the first Thursday of every month. Retail Value: $140; IG Handle: @bespokencoffeeroasters Website:

4. Psalm 25 Printed size: 5 x 5” Paper type: Mohawk Superfine Eggshell, 120lb; Retail: $20 IG Handle is @mrslaurabeth

5.  Sweet and Simple PDF Patterns for Babies and Kids (Gift Card); Retail: $50 Gift Card to North Patterns; IG Handle: @northpatterns Website:

6. Chunky Cowl; Retail: $29; IG Handle: @happyeverafter.knits Webiste:

7. 6-12 month Baby Slouchy Hat. I; Retail:$16. IG Handle: @happyeverafter.knits Webiste:

8. As For Me And My House - 10 x 8 Premium Giclee Paper Print - Retail: $20 Shipping included IG handle is @mrslauarabeth

9.  Be Brave Little One Knot Hat; Soft Modern Jersey Knit.  Size: 0 to 3 months. Retail: $13 IG Handle: @hazelandholly Etsy Shop:

10. Wildland Horse Harems and Matching Knot Hat; Organic knit;  Size: 0 to 3 months Retail: $38 IG Handle: @hazelandholly Etsy Shop:

Holly from HazelandHolly donated 50% of her entire profit to our adoption fund on Thursday! She also has been the dearest friend; she has a little one from AZ they are in the process of adopting. Her shop was created to help fund their Ethiopian adoption as well. Holly sent Loren and I a Starbucks gift card Friday because she knows that adoption, though beautiful and lovely, is also very messy and hard.

Be sure to check out each of these vendors/shops/businesses. Show them some love after all the unbelievable generosity they have shown us! We would not have made a dime with out them.

Sooo...the total for this online Adoption Auction #BringHomeBabyBrenner was... dun dun dun: $1,905!!!

Thank you vendors! We could not have done this without you and we are forever grateful. You have seriously helped us more than we would have dreamed.

natalie brenner photography

Adoption Auction Preview!

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We are so excited to launch our Adoption Auction tomorrow! We are doing our best to raise as much funds as possible to pay our adoption agency and be cleared to head home from Utah as soon as our ICPC (UT and OR laws are a go) is cleared.

We have had so many amazing people, shops, and businesses donate goods and services for us to auction off! 100% of the profit goes straight into our adoption fund, bringing us one giant step closer to bringing out baby boy Sage home!

Here is a sneak peek (not everything!!) preview of what will be up for auction tomorrow through Tuesday evening:

Mary Kay Basket Travel Bag- $35 Skinvigorate Brush- $50 Mint Bliss Energizing lotion for feet and legs and plush socks- $11 Makeup Remover- $15 Microdermabrasion Set- $50 Satin Hand Set- $35 Satin Lip Set- $18 Retail Value: $229 Shipping $9 Auctioned on FB

This bonnet is perfect for going home, newborn photography pictures or everyday wear. This newborn bonnet is especially made to fit newborns 0-1 month. Made to fit true newborn size. This bonnet will be gray. This bonnet is made when ordered. It will be shipped in 2-3 weeks. Retail Value: $19 Auctioned on FB

One Full Photography Session by Samantha Short Photography Located in Lebanon, OR Retail Value: Newborn/Graduate $350 OR Children/Family $250 Auctioned on FB

Auction Item: one caramel brown snap closure leather bracelet - customized up to 10 letters Retail: $12 Free shipping IG handle is @tatefamilyadoption Auctioned on IG

Auction Item: 6-12 month Baby Slouchy Hat. I Retail:$16. IG Handle: @happyeverafter.knits Webiste: Auctioned on IG

Auction Item: Wildland Horse Harems and Matching Knot Hat; Organic knit; Size: 0 to 3 months Retail: $38 IG Handle: @hazelandholly Etsy Shop: Auctioned on IG

Auction Item: As For Me And My House - 10 x 8 Premium Giclee Paper Print - Retail: $20 Shipping included IG handle is @mrslauarabeth Auctioned on IG

I in no way chose these previews for any reason except for the fact that they were the most recent ones I downloaded! There are a ton more that will be up for auction, these are simple some of them :)

Tomorrow, Monday January 11, these will go live! Auctions will close Tuesday January 12 at 10 pm Mountain Time. At that time, the highest bidder will have one! If you want to leave your email address in the same comment as your bid you can, or we can contact you with private/direct messages and ask for your email. We will send you the information Wednesday how to go about paying and if you decide not to, the next highest bidder will win. Ask away if you have any questions! I will do my best to get back to you.

Be sure to find me on Instagram, @nataliekbrenner and find our Facebook Group: Adoption Auction #BringHomeBabyBrenner.

Please tag and invite your friends. We hope to make this a pretty broadcasted auction to raise as much as possible!!

Thank you so much for everything!! Stay tuned for a little bit more of our story: we are working on a blog post together between phone calls and snuggles and Facetimes and skin to skin and appointments and feeding and legal tasks to be done and more snuggling, oh and trying to sleep. We hope to share a bit more of the last weeks amazing miracles tomorrow.


- - - - -

To support our adoption immediately, you can use these options:

PAYPAL: To cut down on Paypal costs, we are asking that supporters send payment via PayPal as a "gift to friends and family".
1. Log into Paypal
2. Choose "send money" (if you're on the phone app, there is a "transfer" option at the bottom)
3. Send the money to:
ADOPTION SHIRTS: Click on each one for the various campaigns Onesies Kids shirts & crewneck sweaters Adult long sleeves, short sleeves, tanks
Please be sure to post a photo wearing your shirt and use the hashtag #bringhomebabybrenner, unless he is home with us, then use the #broughthomebabybrenner :) We will print these and make the most beautiful album!

Hope: birthed at the dawn of the New Year

happy new year, #2015bestnine I'm parked by the fire place at my in-laws house in Boise, feeling the warmth of the fire wrap around me like a cozy blanky. Except its better than a blanky because I don't have to put forth any effort to keep the heat in.

It's a weird thing, this turning of the years like a leaf. Somehow our brains can compartmentalize time and box up the adventures, experiences, trials, and joys of 12 months, stick them into a filing cabinet drawer of our memories, and enter a year with fresh hope and goals and ideas. But as you and I also know, those same adventures, experiences, trials, and joys from each passing year still stick with us. They still phase us, scar us, boost us, and help make up who we are as individual humans. As cultures and countries. As humanity. But still, though the experiences of each year stick to us like glue, becoming a part of us, we are still somehow able to look into the next year, literally as the hours count down, and as soon as that ball drops or that whistle is blown or those lips are kissed, something special happens.

Hope is birthed at the dawn of the New Year.

I am very much ready for 2016.

There were many moments, stringing into days and weeks, and even months that I could not help but think, "I am ready for 2015 to be done." "I do not like 2015." "2015 marks itself as pain-filled, wound-induced, and heart breaking." My heart felt like it broke in half more than I thought it could. And the slightly terrifying thing is this: I am young; I potentially have decades ahead of me. Decades that could very well hold years more pain, loss, betrayal, and broken-heartedness.

And let's be real: 2015 wasn't constantly darkened from what seemed to be the pits of hell. I can just be a drama queen. If my sister[by law, by also by friendship] Emily is reading this, she would give me her look that says, "Nat, don't be such a debbie-downer, you had some really good moments." And she is right. >Though we lost our first baby, we experienced a positive pregnancy test that was not phased by loss and fear. It was the most joyful of moments, full of laughter and dreams and name-games and dancing; full of nursery plans and Christmas dreams of snuggling our newborn close near the tree; full of love and excitement without a hint of fear. >We found joy amidst the mourning every time we visited our nieces. Nieces are gifts from heaven. >Our best friendships deepened, solidified themselves all the more. >We explored 5 countries over 3 weeks in Europe, sipped wine in Paris, ate frites in Germany and Netherlands, we climbed the Eiffel Tower and said prayers in ancient churches and rode trains through Austria. >We spent countless hours with the best of youth; a few tears are falling now as I think over those sweet memories. >We began our incredible journey towards adopting our baby. The #bringhomebabyBrenner hashtag was birthed and I ache for the day it changes it #broughhomebabyBrenner. >We discovered another baby [boy] in my tummy, who is still residing there today at 19 weeks 1 day. >And, we moved to the Portland area.

Maybe it will be #theyearofBrennerbabies. #wecravecrazy.

Loren and I were looking at my "2015 Instagram Best Nine," the most liked photos on my little account, and we were like, "almost all of these were from the last three months!" Every single one except our adopting announcement. What's ironic is that the most liked photos were from some of the absolutely most painful and difficult time.

I don't want to spit on 2015. I spent many days and nights on my knees crying prayers into carpet fibers, but in those moments I knew more than ever that He was with me. I can look back on 2015 and find more grace in the broken pieces of it than in the whole and pretty pieces of it.  So instead of burying the ugly we wore last year and instead of pretending that it didn't happen, let's remember that the messy fragments often serve as the avenues to grace. Let's clothe ourselves with dignity. It is in the messiness and the brokenness, the dirt of this world, that we often find Jesus. We find Him when we are raw, stripped down, and at the bottom of the pit because there is nothing else to experience but His tender grace and presence.

Gah, He is so good and so hope-filled and so joy-importing.

As we approach 2016 tonight, I feel the tingling of Hope in my heart.

I feel the budding of Hope for a joy more profound than I have ever known. Hope for experiencing love and loving deeper than ever. The budding Hope is beautiful and bright, vibrant and radiant. It brings freedom, Hope does.

Hope that we would be better kids to our parents, better siblings, better grandkids, better spouses.

Hope for my heart, that it would find more healing. Deeper healing than I have ever experienced.

Hope for my husband's heart, that it would also find healing.

Hope for Tummy Baby, that we will meet this little boy and kiss him and smooch him and begin the years of parenting.

Hope for Heart Baby, that we will raise enough funds to adopt our baby, that we will meet our birth mama and have a relationship with her. That our family would embrace this baby, no matter what, as their own; that they would acknowledge the baby growing in our hearts and understand that adoption is not charity or a metaphor, but the very heart of God. Adoption is redemption. Family is so much more than blood.

Hope for our marriage to continue thriving, our friendship to develop powerfully, our love to strengthen and deepen.

Hope for writing; that I would finish my [fifth draft of a] manuscript, that I would continue writing as a freelancer and ghost writer, that I would grow and learn.

I want more than anything for my Hope to fully reside in Jesus. And for all other hope to flow out of that. My hope is that I would see Him in the mess and the beauty, that I would see the mountains and remember that our Creator crafted them carefully, that I would see Him in people...the messy, toothless, smelly people. But also in the people I {unrightly} deem as snobby and too-good-for-you. I want to see Jesus in all the things, even when I may only see splinters of Him.

He is my security and my safety, my home, and He shall [more than ever] be my Hope.

Happy New Year, team.

Thank you for joining us on this wild ride.

PS. Did you see our adoption shirt fundraiser was kicked off tonight? The shirts (3 styles) will only be available until January 21, so be sure to order one and support our adoption!

Adoption Update: a financial conversation

adoption, waiting for you We have been in the Adoption Waiting Phase since May 11 [when we hired Susan through Christian Adoption Consultants].

I am going to invite you a little deeper into the process, into what we are talking about and praying for and looking at in the way of adoption costs.

We presented to 3 different birth moms through private attorneys, early on in our process, before even being home study ready. Had any of these brave mamas chosen us to parent their baby, our adoption would have cost as low as $8,000 or as high as $12,000, including travel fees.

Once home study approved, we presented to two more birth moms through agencies. Had either of these two mamas chosen us to parent their baby, our adoption would have cost as low as $38,000 and as high as $48,000, not including travel fees.

VOCAB RECAP: "presenting to a birth mom" = having an attorney or agency show your Family Profile book to an expectant mom, who has {courageously} made an adoption plan for her baby.

Since announcing our adoption in May, we have fundraised and saved about $14,000 but spent $3,000ish on the home study and agency applications, leaving us at around $11,000 in the adoption fund. Any money ever donated or put into that account from our own paychecks stays there unless spent on adoption expenses. We are extremely disciplined in that way. There is no way we would use this money as an emergency fund or for anything other than our adoption. Our adoption means too much to us and the people who are generously donating are trusting us.

I have spent countless hours applying to grants. I mean, countless. I believe we have applied to 9 adoption grants, received 3 denial letters, and are in the Waiting Phase for the other 6, praying big prayers of provision. Why they would deny us, I have no idea - except that there are so many applicants. One of them even said, "Don't bother applying if you make more than $150,000." I thought, "Oh we've got this grant in the bag! We make like 2% of that!" Wrong. Denied. Too many applicants. Not matched yet. The other day I asked our adoption facebook group who received grants and how many they applied to -- I think 3 people out of the couple hundred commented. One family received $14,000 in grants, and explained how abnormal that is. The other two explained that they each got matching grants (your fundraising through them will be matched up to a certain point) for $2500 and $8000. To say I was a little discouraged is an understatement.

I cannot tell you the amount of nervousness I have had in the last few weeks regarding our fund and its lack of growth. Don't get me wrong, we have been blown away by people's sacrifice and generosity and courage. The support we have had so far has encouraged us and completely deepened our faith in humans. Every day though, Tummy Baby and I pray for Heart Baby and we beg God, "Lord, please provide us with grants. Please, Jesus, we ask for $15,000 in grants. Or God, we pray and we ask for a private adoption. Lord, your will be done. Help me trust your provision."

I also applied to about 5 different adoption, interest free, loans. Due to our extreme lack of credit (our score is great! we just haven't had a lot of debt), we were only approved for one and it was a really low loan.

Currently, we are reading this book that I will forever recommend to anyone considering adoption. I wish we had read it before beginning the process, but that's okay! Better now than never. It is called: Adopt Without Debt. The other night I read this: "There is not one example in the Bible of God calling someone to do something and then using debt as a tool to accomplish it." I don't believe that taking out a loan for our adoption is a sin or wrong. Not even 1%. I believe that the heart behind taking a loan out to bring a baby into your home is beautiful and pure and good...not sinful or selfish or materialistic. But that quote stopped me to think, do I believe God called us to this? I do. Do I believe He can provide for us without a huge $20,000 loan? I do. Will I walk in that freedom and trust that the funds will be available when they need to be? Not always, but I am working on it one day at a time.

 A COMMITMENT: TIME TO GET TIGHT AGAIN, and I don't mean our bods.

Before our big job/life/career transition, we were operating on a very strict budget and have been pretty disciplined our entire marriage (thank you Jesus!). Since May we were putting $100/paycheck towards our adoption, plus most of my photography money. Our life was sort of thrown up and tossed around, and so was our budget. God always, always, provides whatever we need, and reminds us what is a need versus a want. Oh my, our needs are slim if we are honest. But we were less than disciplined in the last two months, and we are at that point where it is time to get tight again! Once we have Loren's first paycheck in January (and when my job gets to rolling we will re-assess) we will be able to set up a budget again. We will be going back to using only cash for spending, aside from paying bills. This adoption means so much to us and we know that it starts and continues with sacrificeOur goals for our budget beginning in 2016:

FIRST, OUR PRIORITIES AT THE BEGINNING OF JANUARY PAYCHECK: >Tithe >Bills paid >$80/month total allotment for gas for both cars >$300/month total allotment for groceries >$100/month to adoption (plus any photography sessions)

If able, we will have these additional Budget Envelope Goals as well as, and here are ways we are cutting back and beginning to save again:

>Grocery spending is going from $400-$450/month to $300/month ($75/week). Included in our grocery budget: cleaning supplies, paper goods, toiletries, etc. Back into meal planning. I will find 30 meals that we like and put them in an easy rotation system. I will re-discover my "maximum spend" list, meaning I will not pay more than $1/lb for apples.

>We have gone back and forth about getting internet. We have never had internet/netflix/tv/hulu in our marriage. I have been doing a bit of freelance writing which requires internet so I either use the hot spot our parents gave us or spend a few dollars at the coffee shop. But it adds up. So we are still debating which is more cost effective:we are leaning towards no internet. Budgeting a couple drip coffees a month, $10/month towards coffee shop internet & dates. (This is low priority and may not end up making the cut, or be lowered).

>Gifts for others envelope will go from $40/month to $5/month and I will have to become crafty. Gulp. I could also resort to not having friends?

>Eating Out will go from the current loosey goosey to being budgeted into Dates. Instead of what we had as $30/week for dates, we will go back down to $5/week for dates ($20/month). This means we get to be creative again about date night! If we want to see a movie or go to a nice restaurant, we will save the months worth of dates and compile them into one date.

>We will plant another garden this spring. We will raise 3 chickens this spring

>No clothes buying (we really only buy clothes this time of year for Christmas gifts, anyways! Or we consign)

>No more 3D Crest White toothpaste. We are going generic and coupon-savy, friends. This is the real deal. I LOVE MY TOOTHPASTE. Anyone who knows me, knows I love to brush my teeth. This was a big decision for me. (I know, pity). Generic household & baby items, here we come.

>Cloth diapers. (Please don't debate me. I hate debates. I research.) We have purchased some second hand and also have a dear love who has offered to donate theirs to us! Bless

>Tax return: if we get one this year, a percentage of this will go straight into our adoption fund as we have done with every return.

There you have it, friends. We are on the road to saving and paying for this adoption. Go ahead and feel free to ask us how we are doing with our budget and if we are being disciplined or not - accountability is always good. With everything, we are trying to remember that grace is good and covers every bit of this. We will fail and miss it. But we will pick ourselves back up again and remember the goal: bringing home our baby. So, little Baby, wherever you are: we are still waiting for you. We are making sacrifices for you and will work hard to continue putting money into your fund. If you are waiting through an agency, Lord will provide one way or another. If you are waiting through a private attorney, Lord will connect us. We love you.

we will begin writing names on the back NEXT WEEK!

Able to donate towards our adoption? We are still working on this puzzle! This is a photo I took in Austria and a quote that means a lot to us. We are writing names on the back of each piece that is purchased, and show casing the puzzle in our nursery in a double sided frame. That way, we can forever remember and thank Jesus for the many people who helped bring our baby home. We are over halfway finished with the puzzle! We have 403 of 720 pieces sponsored. Are you able to sponsor a piece?

How it works:

1)   Decide how many puzzle pieces you want to purchase to financially support our adoption fund!

1 puzzle piece = $25 

2)  VenMo and write in the memo "Baby Brenner"

- OR -

Click on the donate button below to give securely through PayPal


Donate via check. Email us at and we will send your our address to mail in a check!

However many you decide on, stick the name(s) you want written on pieces in the memo.

3)  Watch the adoption puzzle come together on our blog and see your name be recognized.

This puzzle, when finished, will get us to $18,000 - about half of our adoption financial goal.

Follow along: >Instagram: @nataliekbrenner or #brenneradoptionjourney >Facebook: Natalie Brenner >THIS BLOG!


Finding Him [in the mess of church + holidays]

church and holiday anxiety I have never been nervous to go to a Sunday morning gathering, to be a part of a church. I have never experienced anxiety towards walking through the doors on a Sunday morning, with the knowledge that I would be sitting among fellow humans who may or may not know that they are beloved by Jesus, worshipping Him with music and songs, listening to a message about His grace and truth, meeting new people, sipping coffee, etcetera etcetera etcetera.

Until this "season" of my life.

There has not been a comfortable or "normal" Sunday morning for me since before October 8.

Today was the first Sunday we attended a church service since moving away from Corvallis. For various reasons, we have been unable to visit a church since moving here, but I knew leading up to today that we would be walking through some doors with the intention of worshipping our King among other humans. Our friends are a part of a young church up here and have been asking us to visit since before we relocated; Loren had promised weeks ago that we would attend their Christmas Service which was today. To say my palms were sweating and my heart was thumping is an understatement and I am gaining an entirely new understanding of some people's story than I would have asked to understand. We walked through the doors, hand in hand, and were greeted by nearly every human being; we were clearly new faces and we were asked the dreaded question, "What brought you to Portland?" Instead of dumping words on anyone, we stated simple and less complex things like, "a job" or "work." I found myself breaking eye contact and wanting to shout, "We are with Will & Annie, so don't worry about us! No need to ask us questions! We will move along now," but instead stood and talked and answered questions and let my palms sweat and smiled.

Who knew that the most basic and natural of questions could stir up so many feelings? The things I am learning these days.

I felt awkward. Because I am awkward.

Church has been weird for us, and that is weird in and of itself. It can be scary looking for a new community to accept you as you are, with all of the broken and whole fragments and feelings that make up you. Neither of us are mad or angry or bitter at The Church. Nor are we bitter or mad at Jesus. Neither of us have given up on The Church or negate its purpose and meaning and importance. If you were to ask us: is The Church important? We would answer, Yes, we believe it is, because Jesus calls The Church His bride - and if He deems it important and lovely and Beloved, then so do weWe may not understand much, but we are confident that He speaks Truth.

Though Sunday morning church has been weird for us, each time we have attended the last couple months, my eyes have welled up with tears and Jesus has moved in my heart and met me there. I haven't allowed myself to feel the weight of what I am processing, not while at church, but I allow bits and pieces here and there because I am afraid that if I do not, I will lock it up inside only for it to explode in years to come all over precious people who do not deserve its volcanic hot mess of an explosion.

As we stood and we sang Christmas carols and hymns in the middle of a cafeteria among human beings who are just as fragile as us, I felt Jesus near and dear, reminding me that He is here and that Christmas is about Him. I felt Him nudging me towards His cross, bowing my heart, reminding me that The Church as a whole is good and very messy and made up of imperfect humans, but it is good. It is beautifully Beloved. And He came to unite us, save us, redeem us, heal us, free us. As my tears silently streamed down my face and the words passed from heart to vocal chords to lips,

"O holy night the stars are brightly shining It is the night of our dear Savior's birth Long lay the world in sin and error pining Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices For yonder breaks a new glorious morn Fall on your knees O hear the angels' voices O night divine,"

I was reminded again how precious this time of year is. No matter what. No matter how messy our lives seem to be, no matter how dysfunctional our families are, no matter how broken we feel. No matter who is missing (I should be sitting here next to the tree snuggling and cradling a one month baby), no matter how many different family members you have to visit separately due to divorce and separation, no matter what, I want to remember how dear and how very precious Christmas is. What Christmas exclaims.

We agreed we were grateful we visited a church again, met up with some friends, and sipped coffee while worshipping our King.

baby loss, miscarriage, ornament

We humans may be fragile and feel like we are falling apart now more than any other time of year, but this is the season that we heavily acknowledge and focus on The King coming to earth in the form of a baby, the most vulnerable and defenseless and humble state of being. God, the Creator of the universe, squeezed Himself into a body. A baby's body. It is in remembering our Saviors birth that our soul can feel His coming's worth; the weary world rejoices because He brings hope.

My heart longs more than I knew it could to meet the baby that has been growing in our hearts, his or her dear and adored Birth/First Family, and know that they are safe. My heart longs to make an ornament with little baby's messy hand print as a Christmas gift for his/her Tummy Mama. It is amazing to me how deeply the seed of adoption and family growth has been rooted as a desire into my heart. But more than that, I long for Jesus so desperately, so fiercely. I long to keep Him close, so near to my heart and soul and conversations. I ache to grow more into who He has created me to be, because I am confident that who He has in mind for me to transform into is a free and beautiful me. I am confident that the same goes for you. But I am also learning to rest in who He has me as today, even with bitterness in my heart and big wounds to be healed, because He is so much bigger. I am learning that it is peaceful to cherish what He is doing today and find delight in His presence here and now, amidst the messy and unknowns, celebrating the moments I find Him in strangers and family and my new home.

So. Though we Brenners are in this awkward but exciting and joy-bringing limbo of re-settling and learning what this chapter may look like, there is hope. Hope for the weary world to rejoice and fall on our knees in humble surrender. Surrender on our knees with hands open, palms up is the most freeing posture I have discovered. I don't know where you are right now, who or what you are longing for and craving during this very emotional time of year. But whatever you are processing or grieving or missing or longing for, my prayer is that you would find Jesus all the more gracious, all the more merciful, and all the more as Healer. My prayer is that you would long for Him too, allow your soul to feel His birth's worth; that you would experience His deep and unending faithful love, which brings more security than any human being could ever offer.

ADOPTION UPDATE: we are presenting!

adoption Loren and I have so much happening all at once, I am thankful that God is bigger than both of us.

Tuesday morning we woke up to an email from our consultant letting us know of a potential situation [expectant mama looking for adoptive parents]. I stayed seated while he heated his burrito and I read the email word for word out loud with so much excitement and hope, I couldn't even pretend to contain it. My heart was beating so fast. Loren was smiling. We knew we wanted to present [have the attorney show the expectant mama our family profile book as an option].

This expectant mama is expected to deliver sometime this winter, anytime between December and February. Why is the due period so spread out?, you may ask.. let's just say she is carrying a double load. A "double load" has been on our hearts for years, and only became heavier when we officially began the adoption journey.

We asked to be presented, prayed that we would trust whatever He allows or doesn't, and waited for the email back. Our consultant let us know that "Yes! We get to present! This Thursday." TOMORROW. If she chooses us, we need another $4000-5000 dollars (half of the total fee is due up front). I have been working on finding some quick loans to access in the case that we need to, but we are really hoping not to use loans yet. We are more than confident that if God has chosen these two babies to be ours to raise and to parent and to kiss and to lose so much sleep over, that He will provide the funds. He will work through you, your family, our family, our friends, He will use a village. It will take a village. Please people, be our village, we are going to need it.

So what do you say? Will you purchase a puzzle piece? One for each family member?

This puzzle will be hanging in a double sided glass frame in our nursery, displaying all of your so important and necessary names!

adoption puzzle fundraiser

How it works:

1)   Decide how many puzzle pieces you want to purchase to financially support our adoption fund!

1 puzzle piece = $25 

2)  VenMo and write in the memo "Baby Brenner"

- OR -

Click on the donate button below to give securely through PayPal


Donate via check. Email us at and we will send your our address to mail in a check!

However many you decide on, stick the name(s) you want written on pieces in the memo.

3)  Watch the adoption puzzle come together on our blog and see your name be recognized.

This puzzle, when finished, will get us to $18,000 - about half of our adoption financial goal.

Follow along: >Instagram: @nataliekbrenner or #brenneradoptionjourney >Facebook: Natalie Brenner >THIS BLOG!

home is where the heart is