Adoption + Puzzle Update [vol. 7]

adoption puzzle fundraiser

We are almost halfway puzzle-funded. Our puzzle will bring in $18,000 when completely sponsored which is about half of the cost of an agency adoption. We decided to just keep adding pieces to the puzzle and write names in as they arrive -- we don't want to lose any pieces and if we are honest, the longer we wait to put it together, the higher the chance of losing pieces.

There are more transitions than one happening in our life and we have reason to believe that God has orchestrated life as a trip. As cheesy as it is, life is a journey, a trip, a tour with stop signs and green lights and cross walks and yield signs. He just happens to be the Tour Guide, gently giving us one day at a time to breathe and to live and to pursue Him, guiding us without telling us what the next big sight is. I think He knows we are best tourists when we don't know all the answers, when we don't have an idea of where He is taking us, when we aren't in actual control. We couldn't handle life if we knew the entirety of the process, if we were in actual control. It's too much responsibility for our human selves.

adoption puzzle fundraiser

Halfway puzzle-funded and our little family profiles are currently at 3 of the 5 agencies we are praying to work with. They are active, they are ready, they are sitting in a pile awaiting the right birth family to open up and sift through the pages.

If we were to be presented to a birth family tomorrow and if they were to choose us, we would owe the money at match. This is a scary time for an adoptive couple, but its a time that each of them walks through. Will the money be provided? Will He come through? Or will He not? This is where the twists and turns in the road are so scary that I am thankful I am not the Driver.

Adoption grants are weird. A lot of them want you to be matched before you can apply for them. But the linch pin is that you have to have your money up front when matched. So how does that work? I am working my tail hiney off to fill out as much of the adoption grant paperwork as possible, have it all ready to go, and then once we are matched, send it off.

Adoption loans are another thing I am learning so much about.

I am an adult.

Wouldn't it be nice to just have $35,000 sitting in a bank account right now, ready to go for our baby? Let me answer that: yes. But that is rarely how it ever goes.

adoption puzzle fundraiser

IMG_8689

True friends are so necessary. Friends that know your character better than even yourself at times. Friends that call out your character, revealing that they believe in you, that you are strong, and you are not inherently and deeply evil. I am learning this daily.

My friend Bethany said she has had this little pink number for a couple of years and couldn't wait any longer to give it to us:

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It is pure preciousness because Loren is a BBC alumni and we have never seen such precious clothing. Of course he swooned and then freaked out, what if we have daughters. It sits on top of our nursery dresser, along with some little boy shoes and shorts, and a little bear hat knitted by the one and only beautiful Graice Miller - a 16 year old who has forever weaved herself into our hearts.

adoption nursery

adoption nursery

I sit near this shelf quite often, rocking in a chair that was gifted to us from Allan. The shelf itself was scrap wood given to us from Josh. Friendship makes up a home and now a nursery and I am learning already that friendship helps raise babies. You know that saying, that it takes a village to raise babies? What happens if all of your friends move away or if you move away from them? Right in the knick of time when the babies start coming. That has been one of my questions all this time, but like I said, God is big and He is the Tour Guide. He is mighty and powerful and all-with-us. I have real questions and real fears and real wonderings, and I wonder if you do too. When in the thick of something big and life changing and beautiful, what if life itself falls apart from the seams? What if the quilt that was once your life becomes unraveled and the stitches fall out? What if you become undone even more than ever before?

Every day I ask Him Big Questions and every day He reminds me, "I am with you. I am defender, I am reputation, I am Dad. I am with you."

There is no other option, really, but to trust Him fully at this point.

adoption nursery

Would you sponsor/purchase/claim a puzzle piece or two? I will etch your name or whosever you leave in the comment box, writing it forever to exclaim that you helped us grow our family through adoption. You helped us find one of our babies.

How it works:

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

1 puzzle piece = $25 

2)  Click on the donate button below to give securely through PayPal

-OR-

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

-OR-

Donate via VenMo. Nataliekbrenner@gmail.com

3)  Watch the adoption puzzle come together on our blog and see your name be recognized. We will be framing this beautiful puzzle in a two-sided-clear frame for our nursery, show casing all of the names who helped bring our baby home!

Camp Recap: He never grows weary

  camp recap

When Loren and I decided that we were taking our kids to this particular week of camp, I knew it would not come easy for my heart. I knew that there would more than likely be some awkwardness and some pain; but I also knew more than anything, that Jesus would be with me and that He would sustain me and keep my heart pointed towards Him. He would give me strength and focus and grace to serve the students under my care, my little flock of girls who called me counselor.

What I did not expect was for Him to crack open my heart wider than it already was, to expose broken bits that I believed were healed and never to be touched again. He revealed to me that there is so much more to me, He has so much to do with my tattered heart, and He is more into the healing business than I could have guessed.

I have so far to go in knowing Him and understanding Him and loving Him. I have barely scratched the surface of who He is and what He has for me. I hunger for Him.

Halfway through camp, aka Tuesday evening and into Wednesday morning, Jesus and I started this conversation over and over again, "You had so much more for me here than what I expected. You always do. You had more in mind than for me to wear the title Cabin Counselor." In years past, I have had the privilege and honor and strength to serve the girls in my cabin with full availability. My heart strong, my mind clear, my focus driven solely for them. I was able to sit down and listen to girls individually, every single day, one-on-ones and hear what is going on in their life. We prayed and called Jesus to come and we cried on behalf of whatever brokenness they were walking through. But this year was different.

I knew that I was letting some of them down, and a couple even told me so, asking for forgiveness.

While God was doing intense heart surgery on me, my hands were forced to be open and trusting, knowing that He is big enough to care for the girls when I am in no shape to. I wanted to swallow what I was processing, to push the fragile and breaking parts of me aside, burying them to ignore for another four years, so that I could be present with the girls..but I knew that course was a course filled with more pain, less healing, and isn't honest. During musical worship one evening, my eyes closed and hands cupped, a picture of my heart sitting in the cup of my hands as an offering appeared: it was not beautiful. It was gushing blood, seeping thick red all over my hands, holes covering the entirety, and I was holding it up for Him to take. Please, Jesus, take this heart, give me grace, give me strength, make me beautiful; make this tattered filthy broken heart beautiful. I felt like a giant wound, walking around, sore to the eye. But I knew He was with me.

Tired. So empty. So worn and torn and ragged, unable to give of myself. Weary. I happened to be in Isaiah 40. Verse 11 says that "He will feed His flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in His arms, holding them close to His heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young." He was and is carrying my fragile, vulnerable, lamb-like self in His arms, close to His heart. He doesn't replace us when we are broken; He pulls us in close to His heart. Verse 28 says that "He never grows faint or weary." He never grows faint or weary. So while I was off, breaking and weeping, often times alone in the staff bathroom, Jesus was covering for me. He was stepping in and working in those girls' lives more than I could ever dream to. He was sifting through their hearts, revealing Himself to them, reminding them that He is so much bigger and more reliable and wise and with-us than any human being. Though I was disappointing a few, I found this immense peace and comfort, knowing that He never grows weary; knowing that He had work to do in them too, that they must learn to rely on Him. I can trust Him with the girls I cherish dearly, He will always and forever be with them, and I cannot.

Jesus is so big. He is so big and so beautiful and so lovely. He is delightful. I never regret chasing Him.

Camp had plenty of laughter and joy and silly weirdness. So much fun and goodness, so much beauty and delight. We giggled from our bellies, celebrated with our laughter.

Camp brings out the best in us: broken and joyful and honest, all in one.

 

Cheers to week one and the multiple ways He moved. Welcome, week two.

PS. A little personal tooting of the horn: I have not had coffee since July 30. Go caffeine free and decreasing inflammation of this body!

 

 

 

 

 


My friend Ashten is kicking off a brand new blog today!  "Just Go Left" is a passion project of sorts, and the idea has been cooking in her heart since her dog Warner was diagnosed with Protein Losing Nephropathy in early 2014.  "Choose joy" became the battle cry of #TeamWarner, and although they lost their long and painful fight on February 4, 2015, Ashten's desire to find the joys in life no matter the circumstances, has remained. "Just Go Left" will chronicle her journey of finding joy and balance, inspiring others to do the same. Her mission is to encourage her readers to choose joy, to find bravery and strength to thrive despite life's obstacles. Ashten aims to help others find balance in their lives so the joy can seep in.

Click on the button below and visit her new space! It's gorgeous and full of encouragement. 

just go left

to you, who chose abortion

Camp Tadmor, Oregon I have been thinking about you so much these last few months. Your story that I do not know bounces around in my heart and I wonder what you are doing today, right now, in this moment. I don't know much about your story, nothing at all, except one seemingly-minor decision that was made: abortion. Whether it was earlier this week or 55 years ago, you remember it like it was happening in this moment. You recount that day, that decision, that moment, and you wonder where the freedom that was promised to you went.

Where is the freedom that you were promised? The release and relief, that feeling of rightness and wholeness?

For years I have prayed for you, hoping the best, hoping His grace would engulf you day after day, letting you rest.

We are in the throws of adopting and I think of you more than ever, wondering if your decision will forever change our life too. The reality of abortion has become so much more than a vague concept in the last few years, it has become an indisputable and unavoidable truth that has invaded my heart like the sun invades the darkness, steady and sure, untouchable but visible in all the ways. The last few weeks I have seen post upon post of outrage over the horrible reality of Planned Parenthood crumbling the bodies of babies and selling them for profit. I have shared a few of these posts myself, out of complete uncertainty of what to do, feeling helpless in the way this darkness is happening. If anything, spread the word, get light shined into this darkness, someone stop this madness, is all I can seem to think. But while posting those two video links, my heart stopped and I wondered if you would see it and feel a ping of condemnation, a sting of shame. I do my very best, wording and then rewording, trying to wordsmith the post so that it is clear that I am not pointing my finger at you, at the woman who chose abortion, but at Planned Parenthood and the evil that is being conducted. 

I imagine you battling again and again the shame and guilt and regret. I imagine you walking out of that building, with a piece of you extracted from your very self and exterminated forever, wondering if what you decided was the right decision, wondering if that really was a life. I imagine you remembering that day, year after year, craving invisibility, hiddenness. I imagine Mothers Day being painful, the weeks leading up to it littered in grief. I imagine you wondering if your baby is in heaven with Jesus, imagining if your baby will introduce you to Jesus one day. I believe he or she will; I believe that your baby will be whole, no longer torn apart and crushed from forceps and instruments and tweezers, and ready to shower you in grace and love, the same love and grace that stems from Jesus.

I read these words from you, about how you were 23 when you got pregnant, fearful of what your family would do once they found out about your situation. You were scared, so scared, that you immediately thought of abortion. Remove the tissue, remove the issue - certain that would bring wholeness and healing, certain that was the decision for you, that you could move on forever and not blink. Not carry this decision around with you like a tumor on your heart. You explained that you know God can forgive you, but that you are sure you will be bearing this sin forever on this earth. That you feel shame for what you have done, that you always, every single day, ask the Lord to forgive you and heal you deeply, because you cannot forgive yourself. Oh my dear, He has forgiven you. You explained that you cry alone, so often, wishing you could undo the past, undo the decision, remake that choice, choose life for your baby. You are 28 while you write these words, five years later, and not a day goes by that you do not think of that day. You say that you look forward to the day He blesses you with another angel, but fear your body may be ruined from that one decision that felt so small and insignificant all those years ago.

I am sorry if my unknowing words deepen the caverns of the wounds you carry with you. I do my best to think about my words, but I know that I have no idea what hurts and what doesn't. I know that I do not know your grief the way I know mine, which means that I hurt you without meaning to. I am sorry for the shame that you have had to carry around like rocks on your back, for years, alone. I am sorry that you have been shunned and thrown out, rejected to your core, cast down as worthless.

But today, today I pray that you let His love invade every broken piece of your heart, that Jesus's presence would capture and gently caress the pieces of grief that have taken over parts of your soul. I pray that you allow yourself time to heal, that the healing ladder takes time, more time than we like, and that this is just as much a loss as any; I pray that these words contribute to healing and not hurting. My friend, I wish I were with you praying and holding your hand, praying freedom and peace over you now, telling you the Truths that you are beloved and so forgiven. I hope for you a joy that is impenetrable, only possible through Him.

I am sorry for the lie that was told to you, that you would be whole, that this one decision will not affect or influence or alter you. It angers me, deep inside of my bones, the fabrication, the deception, the lies, the distortion of reality. It infuriates me for you.

I am sorry for ever deepening the wound that has widened your sou, where sorrow has moved in permanently.

You are deeply loved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

finding Him: the healing ladder

healing ladder The coffee shop isn't too full today, but rather a person here and a person there. The middle tables are emptied, no one filling them up as occupied. My side of the shop has two tables which are filled full, except they're not - my table could seat four but seats one, the other only holds two, but they are as inhabited as they will be until the current renters leave. The other side of the small room that has become a second home to me is two more tables, both with one person each, doing their own thing. Computers, devices, books.

David Crowder's voice plays and repeats through my ear buds, singing about how He loves us. About how beautiful He is, how great His affections are for me, how He loves me.

I type letters forming into words translating into sentences into my Word document, I process things that are painful to think about, but need to be put to words, need to be pulled out of my head and my heart so that they can be sorted out and understood or at least known in the small world that exists as me; emptied so that my head and heart have space for more of Him.

He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy. 

The words that forever altered my life four years ago while sitting on the sand dune that stands at Winema, a camp for students to meet Jesus face to face, repeat and replay, over and over again, and my heart is weaving them in and out and in and out of itself. My heart is grabbing ahold of these words again, like an outstretched hand. Isn't it so important to be honest with where we are, what our hearts are doing and what they are processing, so that we can move forward and find healing, becoming a whole person, so we can then launch into loving others well? The whole person that we are destined to be, the wonderfilled person of glory and grace, transforming into someone so much more beautiful than we would ever have planned out for ourself? The healing ladder, becoming the whole soul we are intended to be, may take a little longer for me than it does for you, and vice versa, and I believe that is okay. I believe that we can be patient with one another.

When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, and I realize just how beautiful You are, and how great Your affections are for me.

I type words rapidly, processing hurts and aches and bruises that have made their home in the whole that is me, and suddenly as his words pass through the tiny cord into the ear buds, traveling through the canals of my ears, penetrating my heart, I am right back at that place where I realize just how beautiful He is, how great His affections are for me. His glory, His beauty, His love for me eclipses and overshadows and dims the afflictions that nag at the soul of me.

How He loves us, so, oh How He loves us. 

I think of those words, branded into my rib cage, forever and always inked into who I am.

And for a brief moment in time, I exist in the beautiful escape of His presence and His love, the grace that abounds amidst any afflictions that I may have.  His glory and His all-encompassing loveliness that is so full of peace and delightful beauty, His affections and care and gentle touch, they dim and becloud, they surpass any grievance that prevail.

It is when I turn my gaze towards Him, to listen to words that will direct and guide me to Him, when we choose to choose Him, choose His presence despite or rather especially because of the affliction, the damage, the infirmity; it is when we choose to choose Him that we encounter the reality of joy amidst the pain. Peace surpassing the understanding.

I am His child learning to play with the chalk all over again, finding delight in the little things, climbing one rung of the healing-ladder at a time.

elsy grace

coffee date [tres]

the coffee date  

 

If you and me were on a coffee date, we would be sipping some iced americanos beneath the heat of this day. This beautiful, irreplaceable day. We would be sitting on my back patio, caged in my the brown wooden fence, but it wouldn't matter because there is plenty of life growing and living within the confines of that patio place. There resides a garden, flourishing green, more than simple sprouts of life. There grows nutrients and health, good things for my and your bodies. We would be sitting in our used, weathered, green fold up chairs, sipping our coffees and chatting about honest things.

If you and me were on a coffee date, I would have you celebrate with me that we finished our adoption courses! This is a huge deal for Pastor Man and me; it was our last huge mile stone before printing out gobs of paper, using gallons of ink, and shipping our home study paperwork to our agency. But it is also more than checking off an item on a to-do list, these classes moved our hearts further and deeper into this journey of growing our family through adoption. It brought up topics we hadn't yet conversed about, opened up doors and conversations that will not soon be closed. We talked about discipline versus punishment, attachment disorders, promoting attachment and what in our histories may promote/prevent us from attaching healthily? We learned and talked together about how we will share with our children how they're adopted; what stages and ages and ways we will share with them. So many things, so many tragically beautiful conversations were cracked open, and I would share with you a few of those precious moments.

This was us the instant we finished the courses: disbelieving , relieved, scared, honored. My question is: can anyone every truly be ready to parent? I think not. Unless I am simply horrible and confused.

So. Many. Feels.

If you and me were on a coffee date, we would talk about this so called Book I am attempting to write. I would share that I have had the privilege of spending condensed hours on it the last four days; that I have changed it and edited it and morphed it into something way more beautiful than what I started with. But that I also have so. far. to go. That this book will take months, maybe a year, to be fully ready. It is a piece of me, my very own heart, gaping open for the world to see, if it ever makes it. And I would share with you, that if it doesn't make it, I am okay with that. That I am pursuing this with my hands open, trusting that He is taking care of logistics. And if the sole and only purpose of writing this book is to help me process what has unfolded over the few short years of my life, then job well done, Jesus. I am processing and pursuing healing and redemption. I would possibly share with you a chunk of the words I have written; I have already shared with three people, one being a known author/editor/speaker in the genre of this book. I need all the loving-honest-critique I can get.

If you and me were on a coffee date, I would tell you with a genuine smile that I feel free in spirit. For the first time in months, for the first time maybe this year, I have felt a weight lifted and peeled off of me. That Jesus Himself has been removing layer after layer off of who I believed I was, who I have made myself to be. That He is peeling off the scales, leaving my bare skin raw and bleeding, but raw and beautiful and real. I would remind myself, with caution, that this free-in-spirit living is a gift, not an entitlement. That it is His gift to me, to you, to His children. Hope is crawling its way back into my heart, carefully and hesitantly, but I smell it and it tastes delicious.

If you and me were on a coffee date with, I would show you this book. I would share that I have read 2/3 of it in two days and am taking the last bit slow, because I just don't want it to end. I would tell you that it has torn apart and sewn together my heart multiple times. I would ask if you know of any good memoirs, any adoption memoirs?

If you and me were on a coffee date, I would ask you if you are going camping at all this summer. I would share that I am stoked to begin camping festivities on the 4th of July and spend a week in Coos Bay with my in-laws and there is talk of nails.  NAILS. I would ask if you RV, tent, cabin, or backpack? I would ask if you use an outhouse or dig a hole? I would wonder: what is camping to you?

If you and me were on a coffee date, I would ask you if you have experienced the love of Jesus today. I would ask you if you have noticed Him, let Him wrap His arms around you, tightly in an embrace. I would ask, without condemnation or shame, if you have been able to make time to be in His sweet presence? If you have slowed down enough to take notice, to soak Him in, to breathe in His grace for you? I would share with you the chunks of Isaiah that I have been sinking into, plunging my heart deep into his word's and letting them wrap their grace all around me. I would share with you verse 18 from chapter 30, "But the Lord still waits for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for him to help." His love exclaiming loud and clear that He will wait for us. That He is faithful. That we are blessed when we wait for Him.

If you and me were on a coffee date, I would ask you if you have favorite sandals. Because Amber asked about shorts, so I ask about sandals. To my absolute disbelief, I have chacos and I have worn them every day for an entire week. In fact, I have a chaco tan line. For me, this is a big deal. But I want to know: do you have a favorite pair?

If you and me were on a coffee date, I would do my best to ask you how I can pray for you. I would ask you and then I would do it. I would do my best to lay aside all of my brokenness and fears and cares, so that I can pick up yours and shower you in His graces. I would thank you for sharing your heart with me, for trusting your preciousness with me, for being vulnerable and transparent and honest with me. Because I am certain that community and friendship are birthed through those things.

Our way back to the Sabbath

Camp Tadmor, Oregon The rhythm of camp/being-the-speaker's-wife is healing to the frantic pace of every day life. Camp never fails to teach me the best tempo of living healthily. When you are the speaker's wife (aka: not in charge of 10-15 little minions), there is no racing from one thing to the next - there is no hurry. I have already read one book and a half of another (a memoir of an adoptive momma); I have written words, because words are a way of life for me. I would bet money that Heaven is full of words. Beautiful, juicy, enriching words.

The house we are staying in is bigger than two of our apartments put together into one. It's cold, but its clean. Its a simple home to stay in, with few accessories and little flashy enticements, and I love it. The internet is spotty. Its on the lake and I want to never leave this beautiful place.

 

I couldn't wait for this week. I knew this week would force me to slow, to open my hands and remain open-handed, because there is time to do so. I knew this week would re-center the axel of my heart that has spun off into the world and chaos of anxiety and busyness and people pleasing. Because who doesn't want to be awesome for everyone? This is the facade I wear for myself, people. This is the facade we chase. 

Sunday night as the sun set and the minions were quiet, Loren introduced himself to the crowd of campers, so very young and moldable. The age range here is 3rd through 5th grade; not our typical crowd, but more precious than ever. Loren fits in better than I have ever seen, as he moves and flails around, fluctuating his vocal chords to craziness. The kids love him. His camp name is Greg. (Note: every one else's camp names are things like, Frog, Dandelion Field, Anemone, Rolo). My smile didn't leave my face as I observed this man I married, from the front row. It wouldn't fade and it was genuine and real. My spirit was free as we literally overlooked the entire valley, seeing across to the ocean mountains.

There was also a talent show. A talent show where a bunch of 9 year olds did gymnastics and beat boxed and break-dance (he was breaking alright, breaking his pride) and sang. One guys talent was "flexibility." Anothers was "lip singing." The lip singing talent is where I cam all undone and started crying. This little blond girl stands up there all shy, while Let It Go blares through the speakers and the crowd is standing and swaying and singing and she is pretending to sing into a mic. She starts throwing her hands in the air and getting into this beautiful song when I just start crying. These kids, so young and full of beautiful dreams and high hopes and Jesus. So much innocent faith here, so much fresh joy, so much preciousness. I felt free in His presence.

Camp tadmor, Oregon

The sunset? Don't even get me started. I was all about those sun flares.

Camp Tadmor, Oregon

I am learning that it is easier for me to live simply in the way of accessories, clothes, spending our money, nice things...but when it comes to living simply in the way of "busyness"? I must slay this idol in order to chase Him. I have to be forced to slow down. It's not a godly thing. When we traveled Europe, that hit me harder than it has before. This week, I have been reminded of that too. My heart and soul, my very being, yearns for a slower life. I am so embarrassed that most people's emails and texts and sentences to me are disclaimed with, "I know you're busy, but..." This isn't me - it can't be, it won't be. It's a lie, a face. We can't live at camp or on vacation in Europe forever; we cannot pull out of our work and mission and activities that accompany life, so how can we, I, cultivate and create a slower and simpler life? How can we rest and slow down, in the midst of the busiest society? Every time I ask myself that, I am also faced with: how do I also serve others and make disciples and love well? I believe there is a way to do both. Jesus did it.

I will keep pointing towards the Sabbath. Can the Sabbath mean more to us than one day off? Working hard all week, serving the Lord in whatever we do, and resting in Him? We must keep the Sabbath, but also access Sabbath rests multiple times a day. I mean...prayer.The ancients (the Benedictines, the monastics) honored 7 hours through prayer pauses every day. SEVEN HOURS. I think they were on to something. I think that in their prayer pauses, their minds refocused and reset, their hearts were placed back into the center, on the axel, and God was on the throne.

"Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath." Exodus 16:29

"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any word, neither you nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." Exodus 20:8-11

I dream of creating a holy space for the Sabbath. Of serving Jesus with such clarity and dignity and resting on the 7th day. I dream of setting the day apart, preparing a special meal for dinner, lighting candles, pausing for prayer. One of our supporting families shared with me that they would spend Saturday preparing for the Sabbath. They would bake their favorite dessert in preparation for the following day; their calendar was protected; their technology was switched to off; their hearts were recentered. I want to live like that; I want to receive the gift that God has given us through the Sabbath.

Let's make our way back to a true Sabbath.

From there, from places of rested spirits and calm hearts, knowing who we are in Jesus Christ's eyes, we will change this world with love.

You were not made for busy-ness

IMG_7100 This whole adoption thing has ripped me apart and upside down in all of the best ways possible. At least, I am hoping they turn into the best ways.

I feel my identity changing like the tides in the ocean, coming on slow enough to kind of prepare, but as soon as the wave hits its swift and powerful and knocks you right out. Like, you see it coming but nothing can quite prepare you for what it will do to your heart. Waves, pulling me down and tossing me about, giving me a beating for my own good, reminding me to hold tightly to Jesus and nothing else.

Have you had any major identity changes? Identity change: you have been living one way and pursuing a certain way of living or a career/job path or living in a specific home or suddenly becoming a stay at home momma or an empty nester, thinking and believing it is all you ever dreamed of...and then wham something happens to shake you up, change your plans, and remind you that this life is not your own.

My main role in life: exist. That's what it has been feeling like this week. I am tied between beautiful things of being Loren's helper/Youth Ministry co-pilot, cleaning other people's houses, paperwork and paperwork and emails and phone calls for this beautiful process of adoption, side jobs that I am not good or fit to do, photography, being a friend, and garage sales and getting our spare bedroom all ready to paint and add book shelves and... anyways, there is also some minor speaking engagements and writing mixed in there, as well as meeting with a few of my beloved girls and more. Always more.

My brain melted this week.

Tuesday all I did was run errands and cry. I cried so much. Over so many things.

I even snot cried on Jesse's black t shirt in her garage. What a pal.

I seriously have these sorts of days every time I am on the cusp of a speaking engagements.

Then Bethany sent me this: Dear Mom of an Adopted Child. <-- please read this, for the love of all things. It already means so much to me, and I know it can only mean more as we move deeper into this process. I wish I could share with you ALL. THE. THINGS. But soon, grasshopper, soon. ... I finished writing all of the names of the dozens of people who donated their precious pennies towards our adoption and sat down to read this. And then I sobbed some more. You know those really ugly cries, the face crinkles and big tears, mascara bleeding? I already had little mascara left on those chunky eye lashes.

My friends Jesse and Kathleen offered to take my spot at Youth Group so that I could cry and pray. We ended up making a Plan C but can we celebrate friendship at its finest? When one friend is breaking about everything, crumbling to bits as her identity is ripped to shreds (so a newer and more beautiful one can emerge), the other two pull themselves together and figure out ways to help the mess of a dear (that would be me).

As Loren and I walk through life, day by day, I find myself simply surviving and fighting for dear life; not a place I want to be. I wrote this status on my FB Blog Page Monday:

I feel that I might die in my sleep soon.

Last night Loren locked me in our room and grounded me while he did the dishes and cleaned our home. He said, "no phone, no computer, no paper work, no cleaning. Lay on that bed and either read or sleep." I fell asleep in 30 minutes and slept for 13 hours.

Busy-ness has overtaken who I am. It isn't good. It's not beautiful. It's not God-like. I wrotedown a list this morning of the million ways my brain is churning and the various tasks for this week. Here are a few for the week: •free photoshoot for students (edit them too) •speaking at a baccalaureate •posting everything for sale at a closed down restaurant •house cleaning jobs •editing & delivering last week's sessions •preparing for our garage sale •preparing & attending a birth fair •premarital session (prep and do) •puzzle fundraiser •begin home study paper work & background checks •youth group •meet with 1 girl

This week's to do's has overtakend my sanity. My well being. My marriage. It's embarrassing. Humiliating. Not what I want.

Your list may be longer or shorter, but let's not compare because our hearts may be similar.

I want to enjoy each of these things, not rush through them to get to the next. You too?

So here is what we, me and you, need to do. We need to slow down and give thanks and breathe in now. I forget how to do this. I forget how to enjoy now, this moment, this breath. And I go-go-go. And for what?

This morning I read a paragraph in Isaiah that kicked me in the gut. It was about "a day of crushing trouble" and walls coming down and a battle emerging...it described the response of the people of Jerusalem as BUSY. Running amok. Trying to frantically fix everything.

Then the words said... "But your feverish plans are to no avail because you never ask God for help. He is the one who planned this long ago."

So I stopped. And I asked, "What do you want me to do this week? How can I honor you and be a part of your plan, not mine? You see things differently than I...less frantic and time crunched. What can I do today?"

And He impressed upon my heart, "Today is the day you set apart for rest. So rest in me. Tomorrow will come and when it does, ask me again."

As my identity as a staff-member-church-leader-pastors-wife rips itself away from me shifts and morphs into a mom who is working hard to bring home our baby, who also cleans houses and photographs people, I know that He has greater plans for me than busy-ness. I know that He has it taken care of, planned out, sorted through. Not that I shouldn't be active and playing my part... but I don't believe that Jesus calls us to exhaustion and fatigue.  And in my running ragged to "make ends meet," I am proclaiming that He is not trustworthy. Yet again, taking the provision into my own hands. That is not a freedom-filled life.

He invites those who are weary to lay our burdens down at His feet. To take what He has for us, which is so free and beautiful and joyful. Filled. With. Joy.

So as my identity shifts painfully, but beautifully, I cling to the Truth that He has an identity placed on me as His daughter; He identifies me as beautiful and delightful and His -- though so often I don't feel those things. But guess what is so rad about Jesus? Our feelings do not dictate who He is. What freedom in those words I just typed.

He has not called us to busy-ness. He does call us to work as though we were working for The Lord in all we do...and I don't know that I would be frantically fighting my way through the day trying to get to bed and sleep just to get through the next day, if He were standing at my door ready to hand me the day's work.

Jesus, handing me the day's work. I think that is key in the temptation to busy-ness. Asking Him to lend us grace and insight into what needs to get done today. And breathing when it doesn't.

And always remembering: grace.

Did you read that post? Here it is again. Dear Mom of an Adopted Child.

 

Stray Cat Faithfulness

STRAY CAT FAITHFULNESS Sometimes I sign myself up for things like speaking engagements that are not huge at all but to me they are like mountains to climb, kind of like the South Sister where you need to train for months and then it sneaks up on you and here it is and you feel wholly unequipped, untrained, unready for such an event as this.

But then while preparing for said things, a little voice inside my heart pipes up and says, "You have been preparing, simply by walking with Me in honesty." And it is in those moments that the daunting and scary thing of sharing my heart with people becomes only slightly less daunting and intimidating, mainly because I am reminded that this life isn't actually about me; it is about Him and how He is in the dailyness of now and how can I share the way I have grown closer to Him over the last season of craziness, the last few bits of life lived?

While I sit down to pray and listen and ask Him questions like, "What would you have me say to these beautiful women who I love and adore and look up to and am so much younger and less experienced and less wise than?" And then I am right back to that scary phase where I wonder what in the world I am doing here; anxiety bottles up within me and I am nervous like someone is feeding me something out of a brown paper bag and I am blindfolded. Speaking and sharing (and writing) are frightening to me because its like stripping yourself bare for everyone to see. Sharing my heart is like face planting into a puddle that exists near a sewer or swamp and you aren't sure if what your lips and eyes and nose are engulfed in is mud or feces and all you see are creepy crawly things that make you nervous and feel uncomfortable, like you might vomit. Speaking and sharing and writing make me feel completely out of control and scared mainly because they make me come to grips with who I am and where I'm at in a non-physical sense and more of a heart/emotional/spiritual sense, and in order to do those big and energy-consuming things...I have to be honest.

I'm the word-thinking type, where I see and process the world and this life with words. Words upon words rather than colors or music. So that's why I am inclined to speak and write, because those things need words.

While I prepared for what I was going to unfold this last weekend I tried so hard to gather words that weren't so prickly to my heart, didn't reveal any of my grief and aches and pains and sadness and all of the things that are ugly and seemingly to me, ungodly. I wanted to share something huge and awesome and wise and knowledgeable and new and WOW-worthy. But while I prayed and asked Him what it could be, He continuously returned me to this year, to this part of my story, to my sadness and my loss and how I have grown through grief even though I feel so shrunken and small like a grain of sand among big blown up beach balls.

While coming to grips with the fact that He would not let up on this, I was reminded how utterly faithful God is. I mean, more faithful than a stray cat returning to the food that you left out on accident. He shows up over and over again, so many times, that you eventually realize He never actually left. Much like a stray cat. Instead, He has remained faithful like a long strand of clouds that blanket the sky for as far as you can see.

While I am in the midst of realizing how present and how ever faithful He is, so faithfully here that He has never left, I forget about how fickle I am. So often it seems like my fickleness writes itself on my heart to read over and over again more than His faithfulness and in studying that, I am making life so much more about me and my weaknesses and my ugliness and my yuck than about Him and His greatness and His power and mighty works and His faithfulness. Which deserves way more attention than I could ever give. But I can at least give it a shot.

So here we are: Honesty. There is so much freedom in honesty. Not mere honesty as in telling the truth rather than lying to your mom about what you and your friends did last night. But honesty as in raw, gut wrenching, cracked egg shells of hearts honesty about how you feel, about what you fear, about who you see yourself as, about your trust or lack of in Him. Honesty that isn't clever or polished or shiny or attractive; no slides or video clips or shows, but just pure honesty. Even if it means admitting that you forget that God exists, that you don't believe that He cares, or that you are so angry with Him that you don't want to acknowledge His existence.  If there is one thing I have learned in the last few months, it is that God can handle our brutal honesty so much better than we expect; He takes our honesty in the palm of His large hand and He holds it so carefully, knowing that our fragile heart resides right there with it. I believe there is freedom in honesty because, when we are honest, we are our exact selves. There is no hiding, no deception or fake residing between He and us. And He accepts us in that raw, vulnerable state of being of us-ness. 

Psalm 25:2 says that honesty and integrity protects us...

How freeing to be completely accepted and wholly loved, even while being known down to the fiber of our existence. Even when we are kicking and screaming and letting Him know that we don't see the gift of this life as a gift, but as a curse and we don't agree or like the story He is asking us to live.

That to me, is a perfect love. And perfect love casts out fear.

 

You are captivating: a letter

a letter to my girls My dear girls,

"You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you." [Song of Solomon 4:7]

Did you look in the mirror this morning and know in your bones how captivating you are? Did you stare into the glass square, see past the surface of your flesh and into your soul, through your eyes, and experience the truth that you are altogether beautiful? That you are flawless?

Your magnificent beauty is much more than your face and your limbs and your torso. Your marvelous complexities run deeper than your flesh, though your flesh is used as the overflow of your Spirit, so wonderful.

"clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God." [1 Peter 3:4]

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Oh girls, if only you could see yourself with His eyes. More captivating than the flowers, you are.

You are more precious than rubies, nothing one desire can compare with you. You offers one long life in your right hand, and riches and honor in your left. You will guide one down delightful paths; all your ways are satisfying. [Proverbs 3:15-17]

What makes you beautiful, radiant, breathtaking...is the mere evidence of you. I am not making this up, I am not fluffing you - this is real stuff, Truth is what they call it. The sheer evidence that you exist is what makes you captivating and precious and delightful.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;     but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. [Proverbs 31:30]

As you grow in body and grow in spirit, I pray and I hope and I earnestly desire for you to revere the Lord. Jesus, the most High, our King, and our Life source. When you fall in love with Him and let Him be your motivation, your identity, your reason to live and breathe and exist...it is then that you are at your most radiant. It is in the moments of submission to His way that you are absolutely and completely delightful.

Captivating.

From Germany to you, NM

When waves come crashing at your feet

a blog post about trials and Jesus Dear girls-

It has been so long since we have met on this space. The days and weeks that have passed since I last wrote to you have held so much life.

Girls. [My whole heart and desire is to show you more of Christ.] I yearn into my bones and back out through my entire existence to point you towards Him, to reveal that He is in fact the very best thing for you, and that you need Him. I don't know how else to put it: without Him, life sucks. Without the Life Source, the Hope, the Joy, the Freedom that only Jesus can give, life isn't all that it can be.

With or without Jesus, you will have trials and troubles, worries and concerns, fears and temptations. Life will still throw itself at you like a whirlwind attempting to drown the joy in your heart, forcing it to disintegrate like sand in your hands. The waves of the ocean may crash and tumble, twisting you all around, banging your precious body on the sandy bottom of the sea. The storms will still show up, tossing your hair up and around, tangling it into a mess of knots attempting to frustrate you.

Without Jesus, crumbling to bits and pieces has never felt so lonely, so desperate, so hopeless.

take heart for i have overcome

With Jesus, crumbling to bits and pieces reminds you that there is Hope for tomorrow, Hope for forever, and Joy amidst the strongest of waves. Amidst whatever waves crashing against your flesh, Jesus is more present than I could ever attempt to explain. Jesus is there and He is close and He is holding your heart. He is safe and secure, He is trustworthy, and He co-suffers with you. Jesus knows, He sees, He loves. He is patient and kind, He understands all, He believes the best for you. Jesus gives you freedom when you accept the Truth that your circumstances do not define you. The truth that when a situation stirs up your world, weighs your soul so heavy you cannot stand, Jesus still defines you as beloved, as His. Jesus gives you worth and meaning and purpose. Jesus remains.

My girls. You may or may not have waves crashing at your feet, threatening the very life you desire, attempting to steal you away into despair. But there will [more than likely] be a day when the waves are too strong for you, too scary, too big. They may not seem fair. And when those waves are threatening your joy and your hope, I pray that you cling to Jesus. I pray you remember that Jesus sees the biggest picture, is piecing together the picture for all of humanity. I pray that you see Him there and you believe that He is for you. I pray and I hope with earnest that you let Him be near you. That you accept the gift of grace and freedom that He so earnestly offers you.

I love you girls. You know that.

But He loves you more than I could ever dream to.

With so much hope,

Natalie

when waves come crashing

The Weather Blues: they're a real thing.

the weather blues are real. SAD I love fall. I always look forward to fall. I always want fall to stay.

But what I forget, every year, is the blues that tend to follow fall's arrival. I forget that it is quite normal and that our bodies are affected by the weather change. I tend to get exhausted easier, pack too much into my day, fall into a pit of feeling discouraged and depressed.

I fall into this swirling downward spiral of exhaustion, discouragement, loneliness - even though I am constantly meeting with people. It is an odd thing. Craziness threatens to overtake my mind and I wonder why I am a despaired soul.

The article linked below was posted in our church facebook group, because we care about each other and crave to remind one another that it is okay to be human on this earth: Dark Days here for folks with seasonal depression disorder.

Posted with the article were 5 additional steps to take that I have also taken and experienced true freedom as a result:

Seasonal Affective Disorder: Depression is a real thing. If you're struggling this time of year, this article has some great ideas. I would add a few...

1. Talk to someone about it. It is not scandalous that Christians struggle with depression. It is scandalous that we don't talk about it! Depression is not just a spiritual issue although it expresses itself as a troubled spirit.

2. Engage with your church family. Seek community and reminders of how valuable we are. Remember, others may be feeling the blues so don't take things personal if it takes a bit more effort than normal.

3. Serve someone else. I am convinced from my experience that if we can serve someone else, it lifts our spirits and gives us the right perspective that we are at our best when we are acting selflessly towards one another.

4. Pray and ask for prayer. This should be #1. Ask your pastor, friend, parents... for prayer. Prayer moves our hearts to be more in line with God and God did not create you to be depressed. So when you spend time in prayer with Him, your heart aligns with His and you will feel His presence.

5. Talk to someone... seek community and listen to advice. Remember, your perception of what is going on is wrong... you are the affected one. So listen to others and seek help.

That is what the strongest people in the world do. They ask for help.

seasonal affective disorder

In addition to all of these things, I encourage you to really dive into Jesus's heart for you. I have experienced this as the best thing for me. When I spend amounts of time reading His love letter and praying through the words so carefully etched into our Bibles, I find so much peace. I find that, "Hey I am okay, I am going to make it." When I am soaked in His presence, I am less offended and have a clearer head, even when discouraged and feeling the blues.

Recently, as in the last 4 days every day at least one time a day and up to 3 times, I have found myself turning to Psalms 17 and 18. There I pray through the words of David, his cries to his Father God. In his honesty, David cries out letting the Lord know that he is despaired, exhausted, beat down and attacked on all sides. He praises God because He is so worthy of our praise. He claims God as his savior, redeemer, refuge, protection. Every time I have sat down and claimed God as those things, I am overwhelmed with peace. I am reminded that I am okay and He has placed an identity of Belovedness over me.

Im here to remind you that if you experience SAD, you're not crazy. You're not a bad person. You're still youu!

My girls, your value stems from Him, not him.

letters to my girls - value My Dear Girls-

Wednesday has not arrived yet. But Tuesday has! I have the unending gift, the truest pleasure, of spending time with some of you tonight. My goodness do you shed so much hope and light into this world. He is radiating through you, more than you could possible know.

Did you wake up this morning, and remember His heart for you? It is okay if you didn't - I forget too often, too. But we miss out so much when we do not listen to His call for us. His call to place our true identity on: His Beloved Daughter. Oh how much worth He brings us.

As I was in Canada last week, I spent many moments shedding tears. Tears that had been hidden for years, pain that I had buried because it is just that: painful. Pain and aches and memories from the very years you are in: teenage years. As I lay in bed, I prayed for you. I prayed protection over your sweet and precious hearts, your beautiful bodies. Girls, you are so much more than you think. If there is one thing I want to share with you today, it is this truth:

your value stems from Jesus Christ alone.

Your worth and dignity comes from Him, and no one else. Not "him": not your dad, not your brother, not the boy you are begging for attention. So often "he" strips us of our value and dignity - maybe because dad is absent, maybe because you feel forced to do something, maybe because you feel so darn ugly, unwanted. Whether "he" is giving you no attention or a lot of attention, his attention does not define you. Sweet human being, you are so much more and you are valuable because of the precious and perfect blood that was shed for you on the cross. He erases the (de)value "(s)he" gives and places a stamp on you: a stamp of freedom, of unending worth, and of belovedness.

Today, I pray that you walk in that Truth: that He is yours and you are His and He smiles upon you and claims you as valuable.

With so much love and a big heart of hugs,

Natalie

isaiah 6015

I hope you'll hippity-hop on over to Light The Lie's post: A (not so) Love Story.