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, rejoice...be 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.


Gosh Darn Fear, would you get out of here?

Fear. It cripples us as it ripples anxiety through our souls. Stress about the nearest future, worry about the what-if's, and fear shatters our hope of the unknowns. Our entire being groans as we begin to believe the lies that are thrown at us. Lies that proclaim we are entirely alone. Lies that say we are nothing but walking skin and bones, flesh. Fear. It distorts reality, removing us from the present. Unable to see past any practicality, fear ushers us into this very real insanity. I have discovered a very practical tool to fight this thing called fear.

Have you seen the movie After Earth? It features the wonderful Will Smith and his son, Jaden. It's about an alien species that took over earth, forcing what was left of humanity to live in space. Will & Jaden's space ship thing crashes onto earth and basically it's scary because there are aliens that are going to kill him and all of that crazy movie stuff.

The movie is all about fear.

Fear of what could happen, what might happen, and what probably won't happen. Loren and I were watching it and Will Smith gets all real-talk and says, "Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me, danger is very real but fear is a choice." And I'm on the couch eating popcorn just like, "Preach it, Will. That's my man." Really, he isn't my man at all. He just happens to look like my brother so I feel this connection with him. It's like we are pals.

Believe it or not, some time after watching that movie, I actually began to fear! I know, I know, you can't believe it. But really, about 6 seconds after the movie ended I caught myself worrying my way to fear about the pillows I was making for a customer and "What if they dont like them? What if they don't fit right? What if __" Then good ole Will's voice said to me: "Take a knee; root yourself in this present moment now to sight, sound, smell." So I did: I was laying on our comfortable couch, husband's arms holding me close, the house was calm and there was absolutely nothing at present to worry about. Nothing to fear. In fact, I was immensely blessed in that very moment. You would think that would have nipped my worrying in the bud, but about 13 minutes later when I was brushing my teeth my mind began rabbit trailing down the path of fearing offending people... Will Smith said to me again, "Take a knee; root yourself in this present moment now to sight, sound, smell. Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist."

I worry. I fear humans. It is an ongoing battle, a constant war over my mind. Can fear just leave already? Fear is a trap, an unwelcome prison. Maybe you aren't so different. It is often that I have to remind myself to combat those fleeting and dangerous thoughts with thanksgiving. Saying "thank you" or listing off the many reasons I have to be thankful is the cure to my {sin of} worrying and fearing. It turns my heart towards the right direction.

You know what? When I slow down enough to root myself in each present moment, my fears vanish and I am deeply grateful for my present life. When I root myself in the sight, sound, smell, the reality of the here and the now, I have absolutely nothing to fear. When we fear, we are actually racing ahead and into the what-if's of the future; we are speeding up time with worry. And when we give thanks, rooting ourselves in the present, time slows down and our heart calms into a place of peace. Will Smith knows his stuff. {I'm just going to assume he wrote the lines because I really think he is actually my brother. And my brother is amazing}.

Flower photography

Now throw this into the equation: The God of this very universe, the Lord of all creation, the Creator of the sunset and the lilies and the very body your soul resides in...He is with you. You may or likely may not know this, but its real and its true. Lord Jesus the Messiah is with you, by your side and holding your heart and carrying your current circumstance.

Can you root yourself into that reality? Please try it. Close your eyes, {I guess you should read this first then close your eyes}, root yourself in the present, imagine and see the God of the universe as your Father, holding your hand. Or maybe you're sitting in His lap crying. Or maybe you're dancing through a field or running up a mountain to race the sun or doing yoga on the top of a sand dune or fishing in the great beauty of a lake. Whatever it is, He is there, He is with you and you have no reason to fear. If you allow yourself to live the Truth of His heart for you, you will not fear. What truth? This truth:

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. 6

He has loved you since before the beginning and He identifies you as HIS. You need not fear what your boss or your friend or your pastor or even your spouse thinks of you; these are humans. You need not fear what needs to get done tomorrow. You need not fear how you are going to pay the bills and feed yourself. This is a promise: "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need," Matthew 6:33. To seek the Kingdom of God is to be in His presence, desiring what He desires - when you are in His presence, rooting yourself in that reality, there is no reason to fear.

Romans 5:1 says that we have been made righteous in God’s sight by faith.  "Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see," Hebrews 11:1.  Did you know that "to live righteously" is simply having faith in God that He will keep His promises, especially the promises we have not yet seen fulfilled? Even the promises like, "blessed are the humble and meek" - I have found time and time again that He is so right; when I am humbled, it is a blessing. I have faith that He means what He says in His bible, even when what He says tests my limits and stretches me..alot.

Friends. You are so loved. You are so well cared for. He does not have any intention to hurt you or desert you or leave you hanging high and dry. {I dont even know what that saying means}. If you are submitting your heart to Him and seeking His will {which is simply to be thankful in all circumstances}, every single need will be provided for you. It's not conditional, it just is. He has your back, He won't let you down, He has never failed us. He keeps His word, friends. He is the best of pals and the greatest of Dads. He is your Redeemer, your Savior, your sturdy foundation to stand upon.

Fear's prison is all about the future. You are not responsible for the future. You cannot control the what-if's. But you are responsible for the now, the present, and you can control your thoughts. I invite you to join me, take a knee.

When you feel fear creeping in, root yourself in the present. Take in the sight, the smell, the sounds. Remind yourself that presently your God is with you. Presently, and since before He made you, He calls you His and holy and faultless. That is the identity that you and I are both invited into. The freedom is real and invigorating. It is empowering. Root yourself in the present.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.     Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you.     I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

Thank you, friends, for supporting my business!

I have been so overwhelmed with the love and support of so many as I venture into putting more time and energy into my Birth Care business. Though I have served during a number of births and taken newborn photos, I wasn't allowing myself to deeply run with this dream as a full on business, out of fear. I was allowing myself to use my gifts in this way when it was offered, but out of fear I and uncertainty of the future, I hesitated to build a full on business. As friends have shared my new website and written loving words about me, my heart has been deeply encouraged. Not in an arrogant way; in an extremely humbling and deeply moved sort of way. It is as though Jesus, through His beloved children, is whispering sweet nothings to my soul and reminding me what I'm always reminding others: You can do this, by My strength. You are more. You have many who love & support you. I have your back. Oh the sweetness of knowing He has my back.

As I have been praying over the months about launching a website and putting myself out there, I have had many debates with myself & God.

"But what if I begin to grow the work-aholic syndrome?" "But will I be able to actually supplement our income?" "What if I can't serve each mother so well that I was worth their investment?" "What if I let people down." "What if I step on other photographers & doulas toes?"

And the fears go on, because there are always reasons to fear. But the persistent Voice remains: "Child. [Natalie.] I am with you. I have gifted you. I have given you a fiery passion and desire, a love for these things. Do not fear, do not fear man and do not fear self. And really, you already fight these things, and we will continue to work through them. Lean into me, let me do the loving and the serving. Let me do the providing. I am with you."

So I did it. I spent hours building a website, praying for the right amount of professionalism mixed with welcoming-personal-ness. I prayed through it, I feared going into the unknown of putting myself out there, and then I trusted.

And I am so glad.

I am thankful to pursue my passion and love for supporting and serving expectant parents and babies. I love babies. I love mamas and daddies. I love serving them and building them up and rooting them on. They are HEROES in this world. I want to be a part of MANY people's lives, not only the few in my circle. That means I must put myself out there and build this business. I am so excited to make this part of who I am, because Jesus has given me a deep desire for these things.

Friends, thank you for supporting me. Thank you for sharing my website on your Facebook profiles. It means more than you know. It means you are helping me pursue my dreams, helping me provide for my family, and encouraging me on a deeper level than I knew possible.

Thank you. I pray I can do the same. Let me know and I'll be ready!

Be blessed. Go for your dreams and pursue your passions.

It may will be scary at first, it is unknown, but remind yourself of His truer than true promise: Do not fear, I The Lord your God am with you. You never know how Jesus will love you through it, but you can know that He will.

Live fully the adventure of life. We only have one of them.

Still adventuring,


Visit my business website at BrennerBirthCare.com