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.


What We've Learned in 2 Years of Marriage - couldn't have done it without you -

IMG_4732 I remember the moment I realized I was married. It went a little something like this:

Loren & I were bickering like cats and dogs and that was abnormal. We had just come off a long two weeks of go-go-go and something little had set us off. One of those moments where one of us was very right, we both knew it, but both wanted to be right. The pride was thick, the frustration fuming, and we were blazing tired. It's too easy to be selfish and irritable when these things are mixed in a pot of together-ness.

I remember throwing my towel in annoyed, "whatever, if that's how it's going to be, fine." And stomped off to the bedroom like a 12 year old angry at my mother. I couldn't leave home like I once watched; I couldn't punch a hole in the wall like my younger days; I couldn't scream and bang my fist into the pillow like an angry 5 year old. I was quite dramatic in my younger days, I am now never dramatic or expressive. I was flustered that we weren't talking to one another like usual, and instead just being hard hearted jerks.

I remember sitting on our bed, knowing I needed to pray and ask Jesus to soften both of our hearts; but I didn't want to - that's when I know my heart is real hard and real self-centered. The wrestling in my mind began and it hit me: "no matter how frustrating he can be, how hurtful, how childish, I am married to him. No matter how ridiculous and bratty and prideful I can be...he married me. There is no walking out and leaving for anytime whatsoever. There is no end; this is just the beginning and this isn't even a big deal. I don't want to dig deep wells of hurt within him. Danget Jesus, would you just soften our hearts?" And I meant it; the wave of softened rawness flushed over me. The raw vulnerability that is scary, because if his heart isn't yet softened, I could be wounded deeper than before.

But it was worth the softening. It's always worth it.

Within 10 minutes of the start of our pathetic rage, we were both apologizing for specific things and asking forgiveness. We prayed together and went on a long boarding date walk to Red Box. All is well and we obviously haven't bickered one time since.

But really, we are blessed to say those times of irritable angry pride where we are big fat jerks to each other are very few. We are happy to say, "our first year and our second didn't suck, but were in fact the two most adventurous and beautiful years of our lives." And we couldn't have done it without the other - we need two willing parties, two people chasing the same Thing (Jesus), two always cooperative human beings. We could not have done this without the other - we could not have fought and bickered without the other OR enjoyed and celebrated life together without the other.

If there is one thing I'm learning time and time again, it's this:

When all else fails, humble myself.

Or better yet:

Before all else fails, humble myself.

I am learning that humility is at the core of a strong and healthy marriage. Humility says, "Your heart is way more important than my need to be right or proven." Humility says, "I will not build walls around my heart to keep you from growing closer to me. I will not throw swords and daggers at you. I will not protect myself at the expense of you or our closeness. I will work to remain soft hearted, open hearted, and welcoming to you. I will think of you before myself. I will serve you and love you and share myself with you at the risk of being hurt." Humility is difficult and scary. Humility is a risk.

Humility will build and strengthen your marriage.

I have learned these two quick years that humility along with [spiritual] friendship are the two most knitting things for our hearts.

The Reveal: Wedding Day It is in the fore front of my mind that we are uniquely placed in each others life to spur one another on in greatness. We are here to uniquely build each other up, helping to mold the other more into the image of Christ. What that means in every day life is: we pray together in the morning, submitting our hearts to Jesus and asking Him to be in charge; we bring up different ways we can serve the community and this church as a couple; we are completely un-incredible and full of failures all day long [WE ARE HOT MESSES] and we have the number one opportunity to extend unlimited grace to one another {just as Christ does, as our example}; we work to yield toward each other, giving and taking, always finding ways to serve and humbly accepting the others acts of service; we smile at each other a lot -- Loren is so much better than me at this! He is always smiling at me, reminding me to serve him with something as simple as my smile.

You guys. We are so un-awesome. We are such a mess. But we both try and remember that the goal is not to have some one here to make ME happy, to be perfect for ME, so I can live MY life. The goal is to sharpen each other and join Jesus in preparing one another for seeing Him someday. The goal is to serve in humility, to bless others with our marriage, to model Jesus.

The goal is not our happiness.

But I tell you what: happiness and deep joy is the direct result of all of Those Things. Joy is evident and it is very, very real. Spiritual friendship brings more than a beautiful joy, but ushers in a deep richness to our marriage.

I am forever grateful for His spirit that is within me and Loren both, giving us the power and strength to love through the ugly hot mess of one another. To humble ourselves when pride seems easiest. To soften those hard hearts.


Friends who are married: Remind each other how special it is to be married. Kiss each other goodbye and hello. Pray together. Pray together. Pray together. Dream together. Serve each other. Remember that you're not there to be made happy, but to grow and flourish into your fullness. And you cannot do that without your spouse. And before all else fails, humble yourself.

With so much love and 17 tons of joy, Team Brenner


O my child.

O my childI love you so. From above the highest of skies to the brightest of sunrises and throughout the silence of night I see you. I watch you as you work so hard to make My scarred Son famous. He was marred in hopes to save all hearts, taking the charge for many.. even you, which you cannot forget. But there is just one thing, for now, we need to address. Do you disregard my words? I warned you, "people will be boastful and proud" which I do not want to allow My salvation is no reward for what you have done so please stop boasting, for who can boast? Not one.

O my child Do you not see? We have been through this before You are to boast for nothing except the cross that Jesus Christ bore. Your arrogance is a disgrace that I crave to erase and completely shatter with My grace. Please do not hide your face. This grace already covers you. The grace that brought you into this place of undeserved privilege. The grace that will replace your flesh's trace with Mine, a pure love so divine.. the grace that embraces all even through the arrogance you display that betrays My sacred praise.

O my child I accept you, completely imperfect even when you think you're near perfect. Correct you, I will, with patience as we slowly do small operations on your heart; you will admire Me again inspired by the humility of those around you. Their love for you will never expire, and I say that with a proud smile.

O my child please note I was proud of you the moment you said "yes" to me I was pleased the day you admitted your heart's mess. You need not strive to please man but instead thrive to be alive, living according to My plan.

O my child I know what is best for you and that is what I yearn for. I want to bless you as you learn to discern how to live this life. At times I will be firm, but that is out of a pure concern, and desire for you to return to the way My creation was purposed to be, which is exactly why I purchased your heart at Calvary.

O my child Your life has been reconciled So arise and go forth forget the lies about needing to prove your worth, do not blind yourself with self-glory but remember that that is My territory. I love you. I love you.


FinallyI am shedding the shell that has clung to my soul all too well. Farewell to you, unwanted layer of pride.

The layers are deep but I have the Slayer of all sin who is committed to making me clean.

No longer do I feel the obligation to meet everyone's needs upon immediate observation; the realization hit me hard when I concluded that my heart was becoming charred. I was selfish in taking no regard to the fact that I cannot meet everyone's need. The urgency of friendship, indeed is important and essential, yes. But to expect myself to befriend all is completely mental. I was not made to stretch my heart so thin that I become resentful. No, my Creator has plans for my heart and I was getting in the way, tearing it apart. Yes, I am to love all. As a Christian, that is my call. But to view myself as the one to crawl through this city, joining every single committee, lending myself as the ultimate assistant, is severely unhealthy. It is mere pride, clearly.

I now can see that the people of utmost beauty are those who are gentle and quiet, the ones who are not constantly making a riot. So I pray for a Spirit, character of such that I would be able to touch the lives of many, for His glory, not mine, through gentle love, quiet & divine. To trust my God accept His authority and know in my heart that His people are His priority. That it is His role to do the redeeming & through the people He is deeming. I crave to be purely reverent before my King, so that through me He may restore a score of stings. But only if He chooses to use me: no more of this forced jubilee. I must learn to be honest with myself just as I promised to be honest to others; for if I cannot be authentic to myself or my God, how can I expect to be honest to my brothers? Oh, to uncover this mystery! This mystery of dishonesty towards self.. but trust me, people, we can have victory! "Overwhelming victory through Christ is ours" if we are willing to let Christ empower.

- - - - - - -

It is freeing to learn that until it is my turn, I am not called to burn my heart by running without concern, until the Lord Himself affirms "yes, go." It is prideful to assume I must be one to help all, consuming a monsoon. I was growing immune to humility, carrying this inability to say "no," and ultimately cultivating a heart of instability.

I have no choice but to rely on my God not myself, to deny the voice of my flesh and compose a noise of rejoicing to the King, who will enjoy such praise. Such reliance, as I gain Him as my alliance oh there will be triumph! To be a team on a mission rather than oneself running on selfish ambition, the condition of my heart is not one of opposition, as my position progresses from resistance to total submission, I note that the disposition of my salvation is based off of Christ's remission.

"Victory Over Pride" for bonfire @ winema

A thorn in your sidemy rights as a human denied, I cry because you so easily throw me aside. I have decided to believe I am worth nothing, just as you have implied.

To your life I am an ongoing hassle while I wallow here, in my sorrow filled castle.

Anytime I speak all I hear is critique making my knees so weak my heart is becoming bleak.

Genetically pathetic I was born into this mess told I am nothing less than anything you possess. as I obsess and repress over this depressing mess I wallow in self pity creating my own selfish city. Letting the world tell me Just who I was going to be: My very own enemy.

A compliment never accepted a favor never requested Rejection I always expected.

As I look back, I see: I lived as though the Son never resurrected I acted as though my life was unaffected Because I saw myself as completely wretched. Saying that everyone could have a whole heart thru Him, But mine was to remain dissected.

Prideful is that to act like I am a thorn to everyone born, to see myself as such a big deal reveals my view of self as unreal.. Bubbling with pride I craved to think outside of myself. I once relied on my own pitiful being but now I am seeing I am a daughter of the King. And without him I am nothing. Oh how freeing.

To depend on Someone greater than I who made the stars, the sun, the great blue sky. I now can accept a well-meant compliment I now can accept The fact that I am blessed. The difference between then and now, Jesus as the lover of my soul, I do allow.

My identity belongs to Christ For He has paid quite the price.

Your value & mine are defined By a loving Savior so kind, so gentle and true, And this loving Savior is waiting for you.

The ugly thing of pride

To trust in my own abilitiesrather than depend upon the One who made me a mere possibility is complete debility. To think we have the nobility to walk around with invisible crowns & pronounce that we own the ground ...is pride. It creates a spiritual blindness, an attitude of spiritual rightness birthing in us an inherent unknindness while we assume we carry the brightness of the day.. and in reality, we are nothing near righteous.

All our lives we have been taught: our goal is to accomplish and attain anything we want, as long as we put our minds to it, believing in ourselves is where we will find our strength becoming defined. Oh the lies we live by. Bring myself glory as I create a small, unimportant story where the category is "me" and I am failing to see who I really am.

We are frail and we are helpless full of so much selfishness as we strut around with this arrogance subconsciously stating that we are excellent. I am limited and prideful, removed from the reality of my blind fried dried heart.

Shall I decide, once again, to abide in my Father who has supplied all that I am and ever will be? To override my pride and confide in myself that I am a simple human in need of a grace-filled Solution? That the illusion of myself is literally an illusion, and come back to the conclusion that the execution of His Son covers it all and I gave no contribution. No contribution. Without Him I am nothing, not even loving: I am nothing. He loves me as is simply because I am His: pride, you are dismissed.

<I am currently preparing to teach a class on pride and so..I was inspired.>