By His Side: a letter

by his side Dear Handsome Husband of mine..

You amaze me. Your heart is gold and can only get goldener (yes, goldener). Sometimes I am easily irritable, and for that, I am sorry. It is nothing you have done, but is simply one of my flaws. It is the curse of selfishness, the problem of this life. But let's move past that and celebrate something beautiful, significant...lovely.

I get to be by your side.

And you are by mine.

I am incredibly flawed, but I know that you continue to cherish me. I know that you will stand by my side as protector, friend, supporter, and husband through it all. Through sickness and weak broken bodies...through health and tickle fights. Through infertility and parenting and empty nesting, growing old and wrinkly...saggy, we will stand together. Through ministry and home making and whatever else we decide to pursue...Doula-ing and Photography. You are always rooting me on and you always will...it is who you are, it is in your nature, and I am beyond blessed to have you by my side. You are one of the most selfless beings I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Though you are imperfect (as all human beings tend to be), I will stand by your side through it all. That is what I committed when I stood before 200 some people and vowed, "I DO." Through painful days and heart wrenching months, I will stand by your side. Through poke wars (real ones, not on facebook) and weird voices and goofy toe points I will stand by you and smile. Some days I will be grouchy, and I apologize for that. Some days I will be exhausted, and I apologize for my lack of energy. But on those very same days, I will still proudly stand by your side. We are a team, Team Brenner. We are married and this is forever on earth, until death itself do us part. And that, my lovely man, is a cherish-able gift.

My husband, I am honored to be by your side. I am honored to make great leaps of faith with you; leaps like quitting your job so that you can pursue the calling God has placed on your heart to serve students with most of the time given to you. Leaps of loving others with a risk, dangerously. Leaps like welcoming a multitude of people into our home, our hearts. This thing we did, getting married, it changed us. It has taught us how deeply selfish we are and how deeply selfless we can be. It has taught us grace and patience, love and intimacy. It changed how we do life -- as we entwined our hearts together, our lives became one. Life will never be how it once was and that mystery is beautiful. Our vows were not conditional upon our feelings...but an unconditional decision. For this gift, I am thankful. I am thankful to continue growing together as we keep our eyes steady on Christ.

By your side I stand, through tough months financially, knowing we have all that we need and more. Reminding each other that money is just money. By your side I stand, through tough relationships that help us grow, knowing we are being molded more into His image, even if painful. By your side I stand, as you learn to check your email and respond. By your side I stand, as you grow this beard as long as you can and moisturize it with beard oil. By your side I stand, while you joke and joke and laugh and chuckle and joke some more. By your side I stand, when you dance around and get your groove on in the grocery store. By your side, I stand in the deep and muddy trenches, and on the tipiest of tops in the mountains. By your side I stand, literally and physically...but also when you are not around. I stand by you and want to honor you. By your side I stand, through all of the difficult parts of life and marriage and family and things, I have committed.

My husband, I adore you. I appreciate your patience with me as I grow. And I am honored to be by your side.

photo by K. Barnes Photography

Trusting is vulnerable & vulnerability is risky.

columbia-gorge-hood-river-682x1024 Refreshed and reset, yesterday was a gift.

Loren and I were given a mini getaway from some supporters; for this I am indescribably thankful. I cherish all of our little mini getaways. They offer us a chance to be me and him, and him and me, and married and have clear minds and remember that we are newlyweds.

Monday morning was spent reading and praying and sitting in His goodness while gazing across the beautiful mass of water that is named the Columbia Gorge. Our room is cozy; my favorite part is the fireplace, always the fireplace.

We love exploring mountainous terrains with no plan except to get lost in the forest. We drove around until we hit gravel and decided that would be a perfect place to park the car and start running, exploring. The path we started on was beautiful, even breathtaking. It was a wide gravel road with muddy pot holes, but was lined with green forestry.

About a half a mile in, we picked our eyes up off the ground and Loren pointed out a much skinnier path, hidden within the forest, about 20 feet to our right, with a creek running parallel. We had no way to get down to that trail except to crawl down the 15 foot mini cliff very carefully. My iphone photos don't do this place justice, but you can see the difference between the two trails, yeah?

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The path was skinnier, narrower, a lot less muddy, rockier, windier, ruttier...and the beauty did not compare. The adventure that came with this path was thrilling, exciting, even breathtaking. At one point, there was a log laying over the creek -- that was the path given: a log. Instead of turning around or climbing back up the bank to the boring, wide, easier path, we did what we had to do. On my hands and knees, I crawled over this slippery log, praying to not slip and break my ankle. This path was made for others much more skilled than us, much more equipped than us. This path was made for adventurers and risk takers. This path was designed for those who trust the builder.

In this state I have found my heart in, I could not stop thinking about my recent lack of trust in God, in my builder. As we sprinted through the forest, my heart's song was "How majestic is your name, oh God." And I spent the hour consumed by His path. His path is narrower, less traveled (Matthew 7). His path is full of blessings and beauty and radiant joy. His path is more difficult, harder even ( John 16:33). He asks us to search for peace and work to keep it (1 Peter 3:13-17). He invites us to believe the best in others, hope all things, and be patient and kind -- even when it makes no sense. He asks us to forgive those who have hurt us, to pray for those who persecute and insult us, He asks us to be selfless...He invites us into a life of grace. So yes, His path is less traveled, a little more rocky, and full of obstacles. But the obstacles don't touch the beauty, the thrilling adventure, the joy that is inevitable.

bmx courseMy expectations of life are crumbling. My expectations of self fail more than every day. This has brought me down into a place of self pity and frustration: not pretty. But the problem doesn't lie in my failing of expectations; the problem lies where my source of life and hope have been placed: in expectations of self. In circumstance. Not in Christ. My source of hope and joy should never be placed or depend upon my self, my expectations, upon my understanding. Mike reminded me of this and has pointed me in a direction of freeing navigation towards Jesus. When Proverbs states:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

I was reminded that my own understanding includes my expectations. So when I am depending on my own understanding and the expectations I have of self and life, and they fail...I then crumble. I crumble to pieces because I was depending on such fickle things. My heart cries for many things; my patience is being tested in many ways. (complaint, complaint, complaint: embarrassing, but honest) I had so many plans and many expectations that seem to have been crumbling. Subconsciously, I felt I had been failing at life. I know that these things shape me in mighty ways; I know that these things create an endurance in me that I would not otherwise have. I know that I have a deep well of compassion for many things, and this compassion would never have arrived had I not endured through...experiences this far. But that doesn't make the endurance any less stretching. Knowing that Jesus is using all of life to mold me into His image doesn't make life easy. But it sure makes life worth it, it makes life purposeful. It means that this is not in vain.

Discontentment has nothing to do with circumstances and everything to do with where my heart is placing Jesus.

A change of scenery, a new pet, a baby, purchasing a house, moving to a new city, a new job, a spouse...none of these things will truly bring contentment. They may bandaid our discontentment for awhile, but it won't be long until we are right back where we started: frustrated, uneasy, discontent.

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As I ran through the forest, I was grateful that He is my Builder. Why? Because He is trustworthy. He has proven Himself trustworthy for generations, but also to me in my individual and very insignificant life. Lungs burning, inhaling the cold winter air, feet pounding on the icy ground...I could not help but think through the risk of trust. It once came so easily, trusting in my God. Trust in God implies that I will release my grasp on entitlement. Trust in God says that I am letting go, opening my hands, releasing the need to try and control. Trust says, "God, I am going to choose your lighthearted joy. I am going to look at life one day at a time, trusting that You will use my every moment of pain and trial and testing...my choosing to trust You...You will use it for Your glory and You will use it for others." Or whatever your case may be. When suffering and trials hit is when the rubber meets the road and we must ask ourselves, "am I ready to truly follow Christ and do as He asks, even though I have an excuse to live in sin, an excuse to wallow?" But this is perhaps the most important time to trust; this is where Christ is revealed. It is scary to trust, because in trusting we let go and are vulnerable - we are a target, a target for disappointment, to be let down. But it is important to trust, because when we let go and stop trying to protect our hearts, we find peace and freedom and joy unexplainable. It is important to trust because He tells us to trust Him, He invites us into this secure place of safety: His arms.

In His arms I have experienced safety. In His arms, I see life as an adventure, not as exhaustion. In His arms, I thrive and I am beautiful and I am a radiant creation, because of Him.

Join me as I begin at the basics again, of trusting in His goodness one day at a time.

I feel like a wobbly, trembling pony learning to stand for the first time...but I am ever so confident in my Master. IMG_4692

A Christmas Tree

a christmas tree Monday, December 1st, we drove to the Blodgett Tree Farm and picked out our best tree yet!

A beautiful foggy morning of course

An old rustic saw, four hands, a lot of cheering later, and we had our $5 tree packed into Brett's truck. Praise Jesus for church community, because we don't have a truck and people in our church do...so therefore we share.

cheap christmas tree

Loren and I went home and decorated our lovely small space our hearts claim as home. (Simple decor for small spaces). We trimmed a sliver of the trunk off to make an ornament out of. Somewhere we lost our tree skirt. So I walked my body over  to Jo Anne's and purchased some plaid fabric to drape around the bottom -- this idea was most definitely inspired by my neighbor and friend, Kiley.

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Growing up, I always planned on having classic, color themed, trees of "perfection." We had crazy trees growing up, overwhelmed with ornaments of shapes, sizes, and colors galore. They were crazy and I always wondered what was so wonderful about them. I always told myself I would not have a crazy tree, but one of class and order and theme.

HA.

What I did not know was the love of each handmade ornament and what it meant for our family. That each cotton ball glued to popsicle sticks symbolized hard work, creativity, and a thought out process.

Now that I have grown a bit more and have our own trees to decorate, I love the home made ornaments. In fact, the one of Ari made me cry when we got it in the mail...she is TOO cute. We don't have kids who bring a plethora of them home, so our tree features our niece's faces and homemade ornaments.

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We also have 3 Starbucks cups from a student, Kyle. He gives us them every year - we were wondering if he realized he did that? We will see this year.

I read this post the other day about trees and how they are what we make them. But how life is also what we make it. I have been in and out of a funk (can funks last for more than a year?) so her words were a gentle nudge in the right direction. That when I am bummed and when I am looking down instead of out and up, I am making the conscious choice to stay in that place of funky-selfishness. And though I know these things, and knowing these things doesn't actually seem to help but make me feel worse, it doesn't always make it easier. But each time I have looked at our tree this week, I was reminded of that. I was reminded that instead of just staring upon it with exhausted and burning eyes, a slumping heart, I can look at our tree and be blessed by it. I can be reminded that it is a symbol of cheer, of merriness, of generosity. It is a symbol of joy, to me.

I love planning a day to drive out into the woods with a saw and my husband, pick a tree that won't fit in our tiny apartment but we make it anyways. I love watching Loren saw it to its last strand of tree bark, tipping it over and dragging its furry self to the truck. I love dreaming of bringing our kids out to do this, sipping hot chocolate, and maybe finding snow to sled in.

I know a handful of people who are skipping the Christmas decorating - they have great reasons that work for them. But for me, my soul would slouch. The mere act of bringing Christmas into our home makes my heart joyful. It isn't just for December 25th that I put these things out to enjoy; it is for the entire duration of their stay. It is the atmosphere that red, glittery gold, and green bring. Every time you look at your tree, be reminded with me: this is a simple green tree that you chopped down and literally put in your home. [Which is really weird.] But the symbol is that we are bringing life and merriness and cheer into our homes. We are bringing extra light and color and joy into our homes. I now see the love and the thought in the hand made ornaments; not the tacky crap that is glued together.

Christmas and traditions and our home are what we make them.

Our attitudes are what we choose them to be. Free or imprisoned.

Simple Christmas Decor for small apartments

simple christmas decor for small spaces I am finally allowed to listen to Christmas music! Not that I haven't been since October. But no longer am I shunned and shamed and told how horrible I am. And to that I respond: why not? Why can I not be merry and bright for more than 25 days? Why can I not associate Christmas cheer with the entirety of November and December, including Thanksgiving and how much I love that day just as well?

December 1st, we got our tree, we drove straight home, we unpacked the Christmas bin. Because we are such little toddlers when it comes to life together (just over 2 years), we have a single bin of Christmas decor and a single shoe box of ornaments. Isn't that wonderful? I think so. We also live in a cozy home that happens to be on the smaller side. Here are my nifty ways of bringing Christmas into an apartment, making it home:

DIY Picket Fence: stocking hanger $8 We bought floor boards for $0.25/foot at an old barn that is overflowing with...stuff. Loren cut the longest one into two 20'' pieces for the backing. Then we painted them with red spray paint, sand papered them, screwed together and walla!

diy stocking hangerMy writing desk as my mantel. I don't have a fun fire place or mantel to display all things cute: so I use the top of my desk! The greenery is literally from the forest ground. I made the gingerbread house for $3. The santa that looks a little...sleepy?..he is from my grandma! The candle was purchased last Christmas season on sale for $2.99 at Jo Annes :)

I also spray painted pine cones with gold glitter, and set them on old candle holders painted black.

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Window welcomes I am all about welcoming the neighbors and passer by's with warm windows! So we added lights to our two windows that face the sidewalk. I also added a strand of plastic candy canes! $1 at the good ole Dollar Store.

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Wreaths on the walls. Because space is limited, I use the white walls as much as possible! Also, thanks to Grama, this little beauty hangs above our kitchen sink and mugs.

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Jo Anne's has their seasonal sales right about two weeks before each holiday. Which is great. So last year I purchased this little beauty for a whopping $1.99. Because their mega cute decor is spendy, I hung it up to spruce up my oven. No big deal, folks. We can be cheery for inexpensive! The use of towels and pot holders is widely encouraged by this gal.

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Side table, simple decor, by the couch & blanket basket.

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And of course, MISTLETOE. Because I love to have an excuse to stand in one place waiting for my husband to kiss me. I bought this beauty for $5 from a scruffy man off the side of the road. He was great, we are friends, this was his favorite, naturally I knew Loren would appreciate it.

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Just saying, I like to decorate my bathroom. And this was the best way I could think of doing so with such a small space!

Again, tree clippings from our tree and the forest. The tins and vase I already had! Pine cones are a bag for $2.50 at Jo Annes. (I am their neighbor and current roommate). Also, towels are super cheap there, ($1.99-2.99)

simple christmas decorseasonal towels

Candles & gold accents in the walkway, on any ledge I have!

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The wrapped door...totally did this. 12 feet of ribbon (at Jo Annes) was $4. I wrapped the door on the inside, hot glued a little bow heart together, and there was Christmas! Out front I have a welcome sign, greenery and red & gold ribbons in a tin, and three tree stumps with candles. We plan to decorate the apartment walkway with lights like last year!

simple christmas decor for small spaces

As soon as you walk in or leave, you can grab (or set down) your hats and gloves! I have had this basket out for almost two months, since the cold entered our life. It sure helps when we are heading out in a flurry!

hats and gloves by the door

Well friends, the home is cozied and She and Him Holiday vinyl is almost always playing. I still need to set time aside to sit and knit and watch a few Christmas movies. Relax and soak in the cheer this holiday brings! Hopefully have some middle/high school girls over to bake and decorate some cookies!

How do you decorate for Christmas? What do you look forward to?

Officially a Pastor's Wife

officially a pastors wife I am officially a Pastor's Wife. It has been almost a week since Loren's ordination.

Before this extremely special Sunday arrived, I already considered myself in the category of: pastor/ministry wife. I would meet with the other two Pastor's wives weekly in the beginning of this church plant, Loren's title was a pastor kind of sort of, but mostly a "coach" or "shepherd" or "chief servant leader." But recently, Mike asked us if he could do the honor of ordaining Loren. All we needed was to set a date and invite his parents.

Ordination: appointing a [very imperfect] man and revealing his calling of shepherd-ship/pastoring in front of the church; extremely honorable and not taken lightly. That is my own personal definition.

ordination

Pastor Mike surprised us with a little slide show of his relationship with Loren over the last 6 (?) years. They met at Camp Winema long ago. Loren was Mike's intern the summer before this beautiful church was planted. (Also the summer we met). The church launched in October 2011, Loren went to finish up his BS in Preaching at Boise Bible College, moved back here in June 2012 ready to join the staff as the Youth Coach/Leader + any other ministries we felt urged to start. We were wed in August and the following October we launched our youth ministry! Since that time, a lot has happened. We still lead  the youth ministry team, Loren and I both work part time outside of the church, and we live mainly on outside/church support (thank you, Team!!!). Loren has grown, I have grown, we Brenners have seen how terribly much we have to grow, we have grown as a church and as a ministry team. Corvallis Church is radiant and imperfect. Mike wanted to honor the time and sacrifice that Loren so willingly gives for this church; ultimately for Jesus.  I don't want to mislead: its all for Jesus. But really, it's more than Loren's decision; we feel called to the mission of Corvallis Church right now. If we weren't here, we don't know where we would be. The only reason we live in Corvallis is for the planting and caring for this church. The thing is: it isn't about us, it isn't us, we live by His strength and the Life that He seems to quite literally breathe into us. I wish I could explain it.

Friends, though I already considered myself a ministry wife, this Sunday something changed - I was hit in the heart on a whole new level. Which, I did not realize was possible.

officially a pastors wife

Just as Loren shared with the church (as I stood aside and cried because my husband has a heart of gold and when he puts words to it,  my heart is actually ripped right out out and is being buttered with joy) that morning, this is not a light title. As he spoke and I stood, I was in awe that my life was occurring this way. I didn't plan this out. This is not a label to throw around like "beardy," which is currently Loren's thing. To be given this title of "pastor" is a big deal and we pray to carry it with honor and dignity and compassion and an honest pursuit after Jesus. But my friends, what came this week...this week I was reminded even more of seriously how fickle and misfit I am. I am so completely imperfect, down to my very most personal thoughts, down to my nerves and DNA. I am so dreadfully awful that I do not understand why God Himself would invite me into such an equation as this. He must have some big and glorious renovation plans to be making something out of me, out of us, and I look forward to the day where I can say, "Ohhhh, this makes sense."

Jesus has this way of humbling us. Reminding us how deeply we each need Him and how very present He is, ready to help.

As we met with people this week, invited new friends and already-friends into our home, it was very apparent to me how deeply I need to be altered. Sometimes this mouth has a mind of its own that seems so far away from my real and true heart. Or maybe my real and true heart is quite further away from where I would hope it is. Whatever the case may be, titles are titles. They do not define us, they do not usually instantly transform us, they do not (de)value us, they are not us. I am me, Natalie. At the end of the day, and during the middle and beginning, I am just another follower of Jesus finding my way on this earth. And Loren is also just another human., so in love with Christ and wants to share Him with the world; despite his very much introverted tendencies.

I am completely, down into my core, honored to be Loren's wife. Not because of his title, but because of his heart & life. Quickly following that honor is the privilege of being in ministry with him, serving and sacrificing to build up the church before our very eyes. Corvallis Church.

The kind of stuff I live for: This week we got to sit down with our Pastoral Team and dream about ways to bless individual families and people during this holiday season. Yes. That's right. We got to spend time praying over the members of our church and plan out ways we may be able to bring them joy, the reminder that Christ is on their team. This is the very best job: bringing joy and peace and best of all Jesus, to others.

officially a pastor's wife

And right now, I have the front seat to many lives. I will do my very best to cherish it as a jewel in my crown. Sorry I am so weird and say weird things. But really, I pray I soak this time into my being, learn more than ever, and fall down onto my face because I am confronted with the very real humanity of self. And lean hard into His grace and forgiveness. Also, if you could start praying for our future babies? There is this thing about some Pastors Kids. And I just want to love them so well, I want to teach them Jesus and His saving grace, not religion and rules and laws. Those Littles are in for an adventure.

To any Corvallis Church members who may be reading this: if you have had the honor (chuckle) of practicing your patience with Loren or I, thank you for loving us so well! You get to actually raise us as babies, it seems. I am so grateful to know you; forever this group of people will be close to our hearts - you've grown us Brenners since dating. We are growing up! Almost. Also, a lot of you hold a place in my heart, a place of Heroes.

Note to self:

When Before all else fails, humble myself.

Canada wrap up

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

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

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

2 Corinthians 3:17-18

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

So this happened:

fall craft

fall craft

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

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

fall center piece with real leaves

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

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

4 step wreath

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

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

thanksgiving desserts gluten free

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

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

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

oliver robert

welcoming wife home from trip

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

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

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

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

Come visit me! I'm talking about money

how-to-set-budget Good morning and good day to so many good friends!

Today I am talking about budgeting! A few things I am touching on: how we live on an extremely tight budget, how we still save even with a low income, and quick tips to saving money immediately! It's not all fun. It takes discipline - but it's worth it!

I have the honor of guest-posting over at A Beautiful Exchange. Come on over, read my post and be sure you visit her beautiful blog. She is pregnant with Baby #2!

Click HERE.

My Canada Adventure: 3 days left.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The theme of this trip should be: BABIES GALORE.

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

we are friends

Hi, we are friends and we love to walk.

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

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my canada adventure

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

IMG_1524.JPG You're welcome.

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knitting a circle scarf

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

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

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

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Scarf: finished on the drive to the beautiful lake.

the nunes family

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Leaves: crunched.

Baby: swung.

Strangers: captured. Their potluck smelled delicious.

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

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving, from Canada!

Dating my husband

IMG_6813 Remember before we were married, we lived separately, and you never saw my crusty morning face topped with a birds nest of hair on the top of my head? Remember when you saw me mainly dressed cute and fun, hair at least combed, and my teeth were sparkly clean all. the. time.? The worst you saw me was when I was wearing someone else's feces on my scrub top - true story - but even at that, I felt dazzling because my face was still awake. No crusty sleep face.

You would pick me up for dates, me all dressed up in heels, hair done right with a few touches of extra make up. You didn't watch me get ready in my running shorts and too-big-of-tank-top, applying the foundation first, next the shadow, and oh I look like a ghost really. You never walked into the restroom to see me with eyeliner half on and apparently no eyelashes to count. In our short 11 months of dating and engagement, simply, you picked me up for dates and it was as if I was always groomed ever so nicely.

And now. Now we are married and you see me in way too many sweat pants, big t shirts, and a birds nest show cased on my head. Many times you've come to kiss my lips while one eye has eye liner and the other empty. And you still say I'm beautiful.

Gathering Together Farms - Dating my husband

My dear man, I went on a date with you the other day. I got all dressed up for you again, wearing heels and put time into my hair. You put palmade in your hair and wore a button up shirt. I looked my best so you could sport me as your charm, fingers laced together, proudly we went on a date. A date where the phones were put away, red wine was served, and we paused the craziness of the day. A date in which we stared at one another, remembering the deep gratitude that is welled up within us. We are each other's. He is no other's, but mine. And I am his.

Gathering Together Farms - Dating my husband

We dreamed about Our Future: talked of the many possibilities and countless unknowns it holds so tightly in it's palm. Our Future, not revealing so many unanswered questions, is a mystery to us. Which is part of the fun in dreaming. We shared what Jesus was teaching us today and yesterday, the various ways He is so mysteriously fabricating our hearts together, and how He is so, so good. We shared decaf coffee with our desserts so different- mine gluten free, yours gluten laced. We left a good tip because money is money and the waitress was so patient as we sat there slowly enjoying our 3 courses over 2 hours.

Gathering Together Farms - Dating my husband

I don't have any words of wisdom or great and exciting revelations. Simply:

Sometimes you just need to date your spouse.

You need to go to where the pretty pumpkins line the side walk and lanterns hang from the ceiling and candles are lit on your table while the waitress brings you lamb and fresh veggies from the garden out back. Sometimes you need to stop and let the world pause exactly at the moment it feels it may crumble. Relax when you feel you can't and know that everything is going to be O.KAY.

 

 

date night september 2014date your spouse

If you enjoyed this, try 10 Prayers For Your Spouse.

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.

 

Dinner Menu & Meal Planning & BUDGET

meal planning on a budget This is about as creative as we get for a week's dinner menu:

this weeks menu, gluten free this weeks menu, gluten free this weeks menu, gluten free

We encourage art in our family. I would bend over backwards for the little girl that drew those beautiful pieces of art. Can you see the transformation in her drawing? They are almost in the shape of a real human! Getting there, people. Marks of a true artist.

weekly dinner menu

Our allotted weekly budget for meals is $100. We usually spend around $80 but once in awhile a girl needs some cider and ice cream. And dairy free ice cream is $5 for a tiny little scoop.

Now that we are getting back into a routine, we are able to eat our weekly dose of fish. Because Mondays are usually a day off, we use them to make dinner together. We have this recipe engrained into our brains because, well, its delicious. The chicken chili and quinoa with zucchini and chicken sausage can be found here. The chicken chili was amazing, though I added some cayenne pepper. Neither Loren nor I were a huge fan of the slow cooked quinoa; it tasted a little bland.

I eat gluten free. I skip milk and cheese. I most definitely add half and half to my coffee, but that's about all this body can handle before it stops up like a dam. I find it a lot easier on my life and my wallet and my hopes and dreams to simply omit things. I have stopped trying to find substitutes for cheese and bread. To me, it isn't worth it. Cheese that is everything-delicious-free isn't good. Bread that isn't made with wheat is not fluffy and soft and like heaven in your mouth.

How Do We Eat On A Budget?

The answer: Meal plans.

They are wonderful whether you want to admit it or not. They organize your brain and your food, they provide a structure for grocery shopping, and guess what? If you don't get to the meal you had planned, hopefully you have eggs and bacon you can eat. Or cereal. Every Monday, as the start of our week, I make our dinner meal plans. Our lunches and breakfasts aren't so creative or exciting, as they remain the same quite often. >Breakfast Groceries for the week: -1 box cereal, Loren's choosing -5 dozen eggs (its only $7 for 5 dozen at winco) -1 pack bacon -Potatoes -1 gallon whole milk or almond milk

>Lunches Groceries for the week: -1 loaf bread -1 package sliced cheese (we do this because it normally lasts two weeks and the only time we use cheese is for Loren's sandwiches; it's easy and cheaper than a block. I recognize you get more per capita when you buy the block, but we don't need that much) -romaine lettuce (used for his sandwiches and my salad) -1 pack of sandwich meat, which also lasts about 2 weeks worth -2 cans of shredded chicken for my salads will last me a week

>Snacks for the week: -4 cliff bars for Loren -4 kind or lara bars for Nat -1 bag of chips, Loren's choosing -dried banana chips -applesauce squeezes from Trader Joes (4 for $2) -bananas -apples or pears -hard boiled eggs

>Dinners When we shop for dinners, I simply add to my list what I don't already have. If dinner is from a Pinterest recipe, I look it up and write down any ingredients needed. With our budget, we eat a lot of chicken and ground turkey, with 1-2 nights of red meat. So far this has worked really well! The way I plan our dinner menu is by sitting down, looking at the calendar each day, and discerning about how much time I will have to make dinner. Tuesdays need quick dinners- they are usually something easy like breakfast-for-dinner (brenner) or croc pot. Wednesdays are the same. Thursdays and Fridays I can usually alot a bit more time.

Eat out? Right. We use the jar system (see our budgeting here). We put $20/week to go eat out on a date or with friends. What usually happens is every other week, creating a $40 eat-out night. Really, eating out isn't a top priority for us. It may be different in your home!

There you have it, friends. That is how we budget and meal plan and stick to the menu. It takes about 15 minutes of planning every Monday + the normal grocery shopping. Totally worth it!

How do you meal plan and budget? Give us your tips!

Where We |Team Brenner| Began

marriage - how we met Some said we were crazy, others rooted us on. We hope to leave a legacy, that loves people to the Son.

See that patch of grass between the slide and the sidewalk? That's where we began. In all of its musty and moist glory.

Really, we began 5 days earlier while locking eyes from across the cafeteria which was bursting full of middle school students. I remember feeling the butterflies swarming my stomach as I quickly looked away. Did we just lock eyes? Oh my soul; it was throbbing.

August 15th was the day we first locked eyes.

The week prior to this day, I was serving in this same cafeteria. I was on dish duty and food-serving duty. This allowed ample free time through out each day. Free time that was filled with gut wrenching tears to Jesus on the most beautiful sand dune I'll ever know. My hearts prayer that week was to fall in line and fall in love with Jesus's heart for my life. I came to grips with the fact that I was forcing my own desires, out of the deep and very real fear that His desires were withholding greatness from me. As I read the book Captivating, for the second time, I allowed the message to sink it's teeth into my heart. I allowed the words to etch into my soul: you are the daughter of The King, and the type of man I have planned for you knows that. That man will treat you that way and see you with pure eyes of grace. And you will respect him because of the way he so selflessly serves you and loves you. You will love him selflessly. Listen to me, my child. What I have planned is more thrilling than what you dare to think you want.

As I gave those Truths permission to reside within my very soul, I began to let go of my pursuit of control. This, friends, isn't easy.

I sat on the top of that sand dune. If I peered behind me (east), I could see the entire camp. If I peered straight ahead (west), I faced the great Pacific Ocean. It's violent waves crashed before me, just a couple hundred feet away. Many moments were spent there with my bible and too much coffee. Repeatedly, I was given a picture.

The beaches of Camp Winema on the Oregon Coast

"Daughter. You can continue the pursuit of your own desires which are not mine, and you will serve me well through your life. You will love those around me and when you stand before my throne in Heaven, I will welcome you in. But. If you had handed your heart over wholly, to Me, pursued my desires for you...look at how much more blessed your life would have been."

Fast forward to Sunday the 14th, 2011: the start of my 2nd week serving at WINEMA, but this time as a counselor for the middle school camp.  The week of serving in the kitchen came to a close. To say my life had been crumbling to pieces the entire previous year is a big understatement. To say I was exhausted and running ragged is also an understatement. I was broken and poured out, ready for Heaven, and craving freedom I didn't know existed. It was one of those times you look back on and say, "wow...I made it."

Monday (8/15/11): the awkward eye locking moment happened.

My heart fluttered and I moved on, knowing that I wouldn't be dating anyone for "at least 3 years." That had to be the time frame to get myself back on track and ready to date, ready for a marriage that would glorify Him. I was certain. But this tall, clean shaven man was spiking my attention. There are a lot of details I am going to spare - details about the intimate pains of my heart, details about why my heart was in such a gaping raw state of being, details about so Many More Things. Details that piece this puzzle together perfectly, but details that will {for now} remain between me, my husband, my close ones, and Jesus Himself. Some things must remain sacred and held between the hearts of few.

Winema, Oregon Coast

Thursday the students were all in their classes, which created a free time for the counselors. I was standing in the basketball courts with two other counselors when this tall handsome man with the worn out corduroys walked up. Loren. I knew he was from BBC, because that seemed to be his only shirt selection. I knew he must not have too many pants, because he wore those hideous corduroys all week long. The butt was pretty worn in, but I wasn't about to hold it against him. We were at camp. I also knew that he was passionate about Jesus and about youth ministry; as I observed him through the week, it was evident in the way he carried himself and served those around him. The last thing I really knew, was that he liked to be goofy.

THE FIRST CONVERSATION The conversation in the basketball courts was revolving around our dreams and what we wanted to do with our puny insignificant lives. When Loren walked into the conversation, I decided to be so shy and yet so bold and ask him what he wanted to do with his life. With a swooping arm movement, he motioned and said, "this." Confused, I asked, "Camp Winema? You want to work here all your life?" His steady response was, "No; ministry. I want to serve people and tell them about Christ and His grace."

Right then and there my heart dropped and my mind said, "I want to marry you." Flushing red, I mumbled something awkward about needing to go to my cabin, turned and walked off towards the golf course. Which is the opposite direction of any cabins. My heart was pounding, I was embarrassed, for what I do not know. I felt so small, so unsure, so...attracted.

Winema, Oregon

The week was coming to a close. I had the honor of baptizing a beautiful soul, my very first baptism. What an honor that was! Before baptisms, one of my friends from Harrisburg said to me: "You're going to marry that man, you know." My response was to stare at her and ask, "What man?!" Because how could she possibly know I had my eyes on Loren and was at war within myself about waiting 3 years to date anyone. His name fell out of her mouth and I stood in awe. Was it that obvious?

Baptisms finished. There we stood, Loren and I, across from one another in a circle with people I had met that week. People that were planting a church in Corvallis. People I planned to begin living life with the day we returned to this beautiful city. To keep the details precious to my heart, I will simply say we ended up exchanging numbers. Remember that photo up at the top? That green patch of grass? That was the spot. We exchanged numbers, he was on his way back to Boise and I was on mine to Corvallis.

I went straight home to Corvallis, called my best friends Haley and Maggie. We met up for sushi and I told them I met the man I would someday marry. (see photo above).

I was more than ready to jump into this new life with Corvallis Church; it wasn't yet a church but it would soon launch. Over the next few weeks, Loren and I began sending letters to one another. Hand written letters. We started with writing about as far back as we could remember -- life at age 3? OSU classes began in September, I was finishing up my CNA class, and working 40-60 hours a week at the wonderful Park Place Assisted Living. I shared a bedroom with my best friend, now my sister in law. The month of September passed by with more hand written letters than either of us can count and one skype date because, well, we are shy and nervous and wanted to go at the right pace. What is the right pace anyways? If you look back into the archives of this blog, September through October of 2011 was a time of joy for me. A time of joy, pain, healing, and the adventure of a lifetime had began.

Little did I know, I would date a man long distance, and it would be the most pure and exciting dating relationship I had ever enjoyed. He would propose 8 months later.

Little did I know, we would be wed less than one year of meeting. (see our wedding here- the details & money)

Little did I know, I would lay down so many of my own pursuits in order to pursue a life much greater -- a life lived for, not myself, but for Jesus. And this man would join me! This life has proven to be 10,000 times greater than I could have wished.

Little did I know, I would grow in knowing who I am in the Lord, because of Loren's love of Christ.

Little did I know, we would baptize many in the name of Christ and start ministries from scratch...only by the power and strength of Jesus Christ would they be fruitful, remaining His and to Him be the glory.

I could go on and on. But I shall wait.

You know what? That vision the Lord kept giving me about pursuing His heart for my life rather than my own desires? He is so faithful. Within one month of giving my desires wholly over to Him, I had been more blessed than in my entire life {it felt}. Things like being given exact amounts of cash for unexpected medical bills; my transmission being swapped for a good one for free; observing healthy marriages and families; so many more THINGS. His desires are so much better than mine.  Over the last 3 years, He has proven that to me time and time again: He knows what is best and that isn't cliche.

He is so good. He is for you, not against you. He likes you, your humor or lack of, and your personality. He is not holding your faults over your head. He wants to grow you, mold you, shape you, transform you into Beauty, by His love for you. He knows how to orchestrate your daily life, if only you would submit your hearts to Him and lean into His will.

Transitioning our home to fall

I love fall. The last two falls, I covered our home in leaves and all sorts of goodness. This year, I decided to tone it back a notch and go for a more subtle transition. Residing in small living quarters, we don't need to change much to alter the atmosphere. Here are the very few ways we transitioned our home into fall:

For starters, I purchase Trader Joe's spiced apple cider. This is a must. I then pour a glass and sip it. I keep at least on half of these in our fridge at all times. That means, sometimes there is one full and one half. Never want to run out. True story.

apartment living: affordable fall decor

I love sticking something fun in the window to wave at the neighbors. I picked this lovely mini sunflower from the garden.

apartment living: affordable fall decorautumn decor

$3 bouquet at Trader Joe's bursting with fall colors. Brings the table together.

apartment living: affordable fall decortransitioning into fall decor

My younger sister bought me these lovely leaf place mats last year from Bed, Bath, and Byond. I stitched them together to make a table runner for the center of the table.

apartment living: affordable fall decortransitioning into fall decor - leaf table runner diy

Autumn sign- $6 at Jo Anne's.

transitiong into fall decor

Pumpkin Latte mason jar cande, $3 at Ross. Fills the air with deliciousness. Basket full of pumpkins and squash; $0.69/each at Trader Joe's.

apartment living: affordable fall decorwelcome table, autumb decortransitioning into fall decor

My spiced cider candle from last year sits next to a new buttered pumpkin candle from Ross, also $3. If you can't tell already, the aroma of candles is really what does the change. :)

apartment living: affordable fall decortransitioning into fall decor

And of course: perfectly colored silk flowers! Thank you, Kathleen.

apartment living: affordable fall decor

Can't have too many pumpkins and squash around.

falltransitioning into fall decor - in the bathroomtransitioning into fall decor Our neighbors - the Alstons - have the cutest set up! She filled basket full of those scented pine cones. I am going to do that come mid-october. It smells sooooo good!

transitioning into fall - front door decorfront door decor, scented cones

Our front door decor

transitioning into fall, welcome mat

Mini pumpkins - $0.69/each at Trader Joe's. Big pumpkin - $2.99 at TJ's. Tall wooden pumpkin- $4 at Jo Anne's.

Front door decor - transitiong to fall

 

How do you transition your home into fall? Happy Fall everyone!

#brennersgoyurting

Have you ever spent a week with a couple of older-than-you folks? Your relatives don't count. Neither do camping trips with your friends and their parents. Nor do I mean older by 5-8 years. I mean you {and your spouse if you have one} and a couple whose age states they have been walking this earth for more than 70 years. They have passed us by 50 years of life. If that isn't a blessing, a gift, a privilege...I don't know what is.

"Get all the advice and instruction you can,     so you will be wise the rest of your life." Proverbs 19:20

Loren and I were invited to go yurting with the Smiths for the first week of September. Their treat! And boy was it a treat. We shared the meal loads, we sipped afternoon tea together, and chugged coffee in the mornings. We roasted marshmallows, we ate chocolate, prayed, we ate, we read, we conversed, we played scrabble and runny cube. Was that the game? We hiked along the coast, we sat on the beach, we enjoyed blazing fires each night, and we learned about a man who built a mansion on the coast. We dreamed of the future, we dreamed of now, we cast visions and talked about what we love about life. What we should grow towards. Our hopes and aspirations. Mr. Smith very much encouraged us.

We asked for some wisdom and basically the key is: lean into Jesus, read His word and study it year after year. He will not fail us. He will always teach us more. He loves us deeply.

Did I mention the rose garden? Look at those colors!

rose garden collage, sunset bay, shore acres

Oh my friends, what a treat this was! After a jam-packed summer of go-go-go, this week was filled with rest and laughter. We filled our tanks up and gleaned wisdom from the Smiths. We will never forget this week. It was memorable because it will a gift given with such generosity at just the right time.

Yurting with the Smiths was refreshing. Sometimes I need to be forced out of cell-service and social media. The sense of peace that resided with us that week is unexplainable. I know it had a lot to do with our phones being off which meant our brains were able to fully rest while still awake, and enjoying things we love: reading, sitting, running, taking photos, praying... We spent a lot of time praying and reflecting. It was a week of humble-conviction for me, revealing the many ways I am messed up. BUT coupled with my messed-up-ness is the overwhelming love of Christ and reminder that He loved me before I messed up. He loved me before I did good and did bad. Overall, the week was refreshing for our souls.

Here is our week in Coos Bay, Oregon captured by my Canon:

the drive to coos bay

yurting at sunset bay, coos bay, oregon

the rose garden at shore acres the rose garden at shore acres the rose garden at shore acresred roses at shore acres in coos bayShore Acres, Coos Bay Shore Acres, Coos Bay Shore Acres, Coos Bay Shore Acres, Coos Bay Shore Acres, Coos Bay Shore Acres, Coos Bay Shore Acres, Coos BayShore Acres TENNIS COURTS! Shore Acres, Coos Bay Shore Acres, Coos Bay Shore Acres, Coos BayShore Acres, Coos Bay Shore Acres, Coos Bay Shore Acres, Coos Bay Shore Acres, Coos Bay

Did I mention we ran? It was absolutely gorgeous! Right along the coastline for 4 miles!

Running along the Oregon coast Running along the Oregon coast Running along the Oregon coastReading...boy did we read!

#brennersgoyurting #brennersgoyurting #brennersgoyurting

Did I mention the seal and bird and wave watching?

Seal watching in Coos Bay Seal watching in Coos Bay Seal watching in Coos Bay Seal watching in Coos BaySunset bay, Coos bay, Oregon Sunset bay, Coos bay, Oregon Sunset bay, Coos bay, Oregon

#totewell this camera bag has come on so many adventures!

Sunset bay, Coos bay, Oregon

We were blessed with rest and many nuggets of wisdom. Thank you, Smiths, for being a source of encouragement and His love.

Thirfting our home with applecrates!

Our wedding was all sorts of fun. But do you know what I loved? I was able to utilize most of our decorations in our home! Suitcase-Applecrate-Mirror Side Table

This one explains itself

Suitcase-Applecrate-Mirror Side TableSuitcase-Applecrate-Mirror Side Table

Apple crates used as DVD and VHS storage. Also used as a side table!

Old applecrates used as diy for the homeOld applecrates used as diy for the home

Old applecrates used as diy for the home

2 Applecrates nailed together, back to back, for a coffee table

It has awesome storage cubbies

applecrate coffee table applecrate coffee table applecrate coffee table

That's it for my apple-crate thrifts! None of them really match in color or size. Some are pretty beaten up. We used these in Our Wedding and are so lucky to have them in our home. They were free! We used to have one out back on the patio next to our chairs, but we needed to bring it in for more VHS storage. Because...VHS!

So You're Part of a Wedding? Here are ways to serve the Bride

ways to serve the bride when you're a bridesmaid OH WEDDINGS! I love them.

I have played a few parts in weddings:

  • Attendee
  • Bridesmaid
  • Wedding Coordinator
  • Bride

Each role has taught me something new.

wedding photos bridesmaid, bride, wedding coordinator

As an attendee, I show up and bask and revel in the glorious beauty that sits before me. I don't think twice {or even once} about the few people who poured countless hours into creating this beautiful time. You arrive, you soak in the magic aura of wonder, you drop a gift or card of cash into the allotted area, and you enjoy the show. You celebrate, you dance, you have some good eats. You are much needed because they need you there to witness and hold them accountable. To encourage them and reveal your support. To help them furnish their new home!

As a Bridesmaid, it is our job and duty to serve the Bride - help with projects and preparation. It is also our job to completely love and serve the Bride. To do whatever it takes to ensure a smooth wedding day. {Side note from my soap box: brides, you are not entitled to service and slaves. To expect and demand such really removes all the joy in serving and helping...see the love and sacrifice your girls are giving you, and thank them}.

As a Wedding Coordinator...your mind fills up full until it overflows into crazy eyes. I have done some difficult things in my life. Working 40-60 hours night shift + full time school resides in the top 5 most difficult...and I think Wedding Coordinating may be up there in the top 5. My eyes rolled into the back of my head afterwards. It was one of the most exciting, thrilling, rewarding, and mind-filling things I have ever done. It was a gift disguised in stress; but I learned so much and I was so deeply honored to play such a part of the couple's day. You are to know the bride & groom's brains: their dislikes and their likes, their non-negotiables. You are to answer questions, make decisions, keep the schedule, and ensure that the bride and groom have the best day of their life [so far]. It is quite the honor.

As the Bride... this is unexplainable. It is glorious and enriching, exciting and frightening. All of the years of dreaming of your wedding day landing into the same day {your wedding day} and happening is downright indescribable. Wedding week was possibly one of the best weeks of my life. We had all of our closest friends in town, surrounding us. We had an evening of worship, we went to a local concert, we sipped coffee, we ate a lot of meals together. In my memory, it was smooth sailing and great.

Pacific Northwest Wedding Photographer; based in Oregon

|| Let's talk about ways we can serve and love the Bride & Groom during wedding week and wedding day ||

>Once you've arrived for the official wedding week, make it clear to yourself and your Bride that you are there for her. You are there to serve and help her.

>Check in with your Bride/Groom consistently. Not too much, but an honest check in to be sure they are doing well.

>Surprise the Bride with a massage. Pay for and take her to a 1/2 hour to 1 hour massage up to 3 days before the wedding.

>Pay for the Bride's toes & nails. Bridesmaids can join their $ together and pay for her to have perfect toes and finger nails.

How to serve your bride during wedding week

>Ask the groom and his mother if they would like a moment together before ceremony; ask the bride and her father if they would like a moment together before the ceremony. If yes, provide a safe and intimate moment for them to exchange letters, pray for one another, shed a tear of joy and disbelief that you are old enough to be wed!

>Take the Bride & Groom's phones from them. This is because people constantly ask questions and are bombarding them with text messages. Even encouraging messages are brain consuming and overwhelming. It is loving to take their phone the full day before the wedding and keep it until they leave. They don't need to answer questions - that is what the bridesmaids and wedding coordinator is for. Her brain will literally melt straight through her eyes if we keep asking her questions as the Big Day approaches.

>Maids of Honor and Best Men: you are in this position for a reason. Hold your Bride and Groom accountable purity-wise, loving them, aggressively if need be, until the night of their wedding!

>The night before the wedding, bridesmaids gather and each pray over the bride and her marriage. Same for the groomsmen and groom. If you're into that sort of thing! You can also each share a piece of encouragement and call out the good in them that you see. I recently asked a Bride what blessed her groom and she said, "the fellowship time he and his men had the night before was helpful and encouraging to him."

praying over the bride

>Know what the Bride & Groom wants the wedding to feel like; this way when you are asked questions, you can answer confidently. Not having to ask the bride on wedding day or wedding day eve. Leading up to the Big Day, ask questions: What do you want noticed? The atmosphere? Non-negotiables? What will ruin your wedding if you do or don't have?

>If things go wrong, they Bride doesn't need to know about you. As a team who knows her, you can fix it. I assure you that by wedding week, her brain is mush. I cannot emphasize that enough.

>As the Bride is dreaming of the Big Day in the previous months leading up to it, help keep her sane and not buy a ton of things she doesn't need. If she makes a list of non-negotiables, keep to that list. Ask, "is that on your list or is it just one of those things on Pinterest that everyone says you must have?"

>Take the Bride on a shopping day earlier in the wedding week when her brain is still functioning at a somewhat normal level. This will be fun! Make sure all of the little wedding day and honeymoon essentials are purchased. Simple things like earrings, bobby pins, sewing kit, travel tooth paste, hair spray, make up, etc.

>For whoever is doing the rehearsal: Have a game plan. Walk over the rehearsal by yourself two times. Next, meet with the Bride & Groom about an hour before the rehearsal actually begins. Walk them through what you have and let them know that they have the authority to change any of it. Their brains are melted by this point, so it is loving to take charge. Once it is hashed out exactly how they want it, you are ready to bring in the Bridesmaids and Groomsmen. You can do this so quickly. Start off by explaining you already have everything hashed out, the decisions have been made, and now you will simply walk through it.

Place each person where they will be standing during the ceremony. Then have them exit. Then start from the beginning, walking up the aisle, they know where to stand, and then they walk back out. Done. Practice twice and you are good to go!

>If it rains {and its an outside wedding} have a plan. Don't make or ask the Bride to have a plan. You make one, and pitch it to her in a controlled voice, and she will find comfort in your stability.

what do you do when it rains on your wedding day?

>Make one last date for the Bride and Groom. Possibly a breakfast or afternoon.

>Help organize their new living quarters week of, so when they return home, it is all ready!

>Coffee. Always coffee. It is so fun to have  them write on the cups too!

coffee for the bride

>Cooking the meals to relieve any pressure

>Be sure the honeymoon bags are already packed in the getaway car before the ceremony begins. Send off can be smooth and easy.

All around, your heart is to serve and love and spoil them. Knowing what each individual loves, "pull out all the tricks," as Haley says. Wedding week can be such a blast of serving two beautiful individuals who are coming together as one by the end of the week. Your sacrifice will be such a gift to them.

What other ways can we help serve the bride and groom?

wedding Collage; oregon photographer

 I had the honor capturing just a few photos from the wedding day. I hope you'll stick around to check them out!

Thrifty Nifty Thursday

Thrifty Nifty's from the summer, brought to you by yours truly! DIY frame jewelry holder- $0

--> I have about 1 million empty frames so I chose this one, painted it red with gold glitter trim, found some nails and wire

Jewelry holder DIY

Jewelry holder DIY

Wooden Coffee Mug Holder- $2.99

--> We currently have a roommate and are learning how much stuff we have! In order to create more space, we decided to search for a new way to store our mugs. We found this little beauty, all wobbly and nearly broken, at Goodwill. We purchased it, spray painted black it with some paint we already had, and Loren replaced the screws in the nobs. We already had materials necessary! It hangs above our kitchen sink. I am in search for a second.

coffee mug holder; wooden

Shelf for vases- $8

Our roommate helped us out by purchasing and putting together this nifty little storage shelf for all of our glass vases. I love vases and mugs a little too much.. this storage shelf above our coat closet in the front entry way stores them so delightfully, I must say. He and his lovely lady purchased the materials at the Habitat Humanity Restore. All under $10!

 

Storage shelf, diy

Storage shelf, diy

Storage shelf, diy

Mini ceramic vase- $1

Found at the Cat's Meow downtown Corvallis on 3rd street.

mini vase

That's it for my summer finds.

Celebrating Our #AnniversaryInSisters

Here we are.We have lived through two very exciting and adventurous years of marriage and are entering our third. If you haven't checked out our post about what we learned together in our first two years, read that here.

You guys. I can't even begin to tell you how much I enjoyed our celebration of marriage. We had one full amazing day of rest and joy and adventure.

celebrating our #anniversaryinsisters

Our spot has become this precious town of Sisters, OR. It is officially our spot because we have stayed here in this city 4 times in 2 years. Thank you Groupon, we forever love you.

I cannot tell you the smiles I have to be sandwiched between two camps. Last week we were hired by TMC to be their speaker for middle school camp. That was an honor and a half and I'm basically downright thankful. Thank you TMC! There we met many humans: young adults, old adults, and tons of wild middle schoolers. We were able to root on these students in Clue, The Forbidden Garden (what?), and other random things they enjoyed like..paintball. It was great. I heard so many stories from so many kids and let me tell you: WE LIVE IN A BROKEN AND MESSY WORLD. A world of hurt and abuse and neglect and way too much stabbing pain. But our God is bigger and no matter what the damage inflicted upon you, He has overcome. He is ready, arms open wide, for you. Yes. You. It's wonderful. So, camp - it was great and I was honored to be Team Brenner partnering with Team TMC.

Currently, we are at Camp Winema. Partnering with a number of other youth ministries and it is AWESOME. Basically, we love camp and we love loving middle school kids. They are often struggling with the darkest of days and don't even realize that ITS OKAY TO CRY. So many conversations telling kids it's okay to Feel Life. I mean wow, what are we doing that kids don't realize its okay to grieve her mothers death? Whole different post...I need to process life.

I was blessed to celebrate our marriage and anniversary between the two camps. It felt kind of right. Like, yes, this is our life.

All of the staff at the lodge we stayed at kept asking if we were on our honeymoon, because we "just seem so in love." Well my dear friends, we are "just so in love." We are IN THE LOVE and we are CHOOSING to be in the love. Plus we are newlyweds still. It's not everyday we access this beautifulness, but when our hearts are soft and selfless, submissive to what Jesus wants, well...life is great. Marriage is LOVE. Brenners are FRESHLY SQUEEZED OFF THE LOVE TREE because caps are big and important and leave an exclamation point.

Just keeping it real, kids. We are fresh in love and hoping to remain on our honeymoon for many years. Can we bypass the rough year 7? I know, I know, throw in some newborns and then we will see how "fresh in love" we are.

Anyways. We were so blessed. The lodge we stayed at has free cruiser bike rentals, mountain bikes, trails everywhere, access to the athletic club, free wine & beer reception every night, cheap $5 movies in the barn theater, and basically it's the most beautiful place ever and we just did not have time to soak in all the amenities, but that's okay. Last year we rode horses, this year we rode bikes. You could call us two young kids in love, which is what we are, kicking it poolside reading. We dressed up fancy because why not? We worked out for free because we could. I was even sore - don't tell me how out of shape I am, I already know this. We read and we slept and we disconnected and life was so good. It was a quick stay but jam packed full of laughing and smiles and rest and celebration and dreaming. I must love the word "and" and hate commas.

#anniversaryinsisters

#anniversaryinsisters #anniversaryinsisters

Do you know what's so great about these little mini vaca's? For the most part, you can pull yourself up and out of reality to dream. At lunch, we talked about future-y things and different ways we hope to impact the world we live in. We dreamed big things that may never happen but we wont count impossible. I encourage you to do that, soul. It's good.

#anniversaryinsisters #anniversaryinsisters #anniversaryinsisters #anniversaryinsisters #anniversaryinsisters

Something else we enjoy doing is writing letters to our future teenagers. We did it on our honeymoon while camping out in the Red Woods. We write to them saying that we do in fact want their life, that we in fact do not hate or want bad for them, but that we desperately want them to fall in love with Jesus. We are in this stage of shadowing other parents who seem to have "done something right," because their kids adore them and tell them everything. So I ask lots of questions because, well they are humans with experiences and they are standing right before my eyes and why would I not ask questions? You want to know what they have said their secret is? "Love your kids like Jesus. Point your kids to Jesus. Be transparent and real."

I will forever love his laughter

#anniversaryinsisters

we love us some chess

Bookstores are just our favorite and we got to ride some cruiser bikes around town. I was so in love with life I couldn't stop smiling:

celebrating our #anniversaryinsisters

celebrating our #anniversaryinsisters

celebrating our #anniversaryinsisters

#anniversaryinsisters #anniversaryinsisters #anniversaryinsisters   #anniversaryinsisters

"Madness.. If I don't write, I'll go mad"

celebrating our #anniversaryinsisters

#anniversaryinsisters #anniversaryinsisters #anniversaryinsisters #anniversaryinsisters

#anniversaryinsisters

Biggest horchata ever

celebrating our #anniversaryinsisters

always yes to COFFEE

 

celebrating our #anniversaryinsisters

We write 6 month goals (one of ours was to complete another race, half marathon or bigger); 12 month goals (one was to go backpacking 1x); and 5 year goals (one was to have our second car by 2019).

I cherish our marriage, I adore our friendship, and I hope you'll stay around awhile to learn, grow, and be inspire with us. We love life!

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

 

Celebrate Your Spouse.

I have discovered the key to being excited for your spouse's birthday:

plan it. celebrate it. celebrate your spouse.

Study him, know what he is wanting or needing. Ask him for a list if you need to. Take notes. Literally, write down anything he says he likes or loves doing and plan to do this on the day to celebrate him! I now have 3 things in mind to purchase over the months for Christmas. Which leads to my next helping idea: order or purchase his gifts ahead of time.  I ordered some of Lorens gifts months before his birthday, and I could not wait for his day to come! I was antsy to celebrate his amazingness and remind him of my precious adoration for his soul.

Loren's love language is gifts. This was a perfect opportunity to cover him with love. It required time, but is well worth it, friends. Even if it's late at night, pouring time and energy into your marriage keeps it kickin.

I wrapped Loren's presents with paper bags from Trader Joes and in the corner of each gift, I wrote a small note. On the bottom of the package, I wrote the order to be given; example: 2a, 2b, 2c. I had a plan, you see. I had been purchasing these gifts over the last few months so I could spread it all out and give him a cavity (because I am so sweet, you see) by filling up his love tank. He is always cherishing me and honoring me, it was my turn to go all out. {Though, there shouldn't be turns..we should just do it, as nike says}.

Gift for husband

Lucky for me, we had guests in our home the night before who were up at 5 am. So I was able to easily wake up and get out of bed by 6 am to begin the day #celebrateLoren. I set his first present on the bed and headed to the kitchen to begin making his favorite breakfast!

Celebrating your spouses birthdayCelebrating your spouses birthday Celebrating your spouses birthday  Celebrating your spouses birthday

Celebrating your spouses birthday

I sure did sing to him. It may have been in crazy voices, because he is crazy, but I sang alright. My awkward embarrassment was worth his smile.

celebrating husbands birthday

After he ate breakfast, I gave him present 2a, 2b, 2c, 2d! It was essential to begin our day right.

celebrate your spouse

celebrate your spouse

celebrate your spouse

celebrate your spouse

celebrate your spouse

IMG_0255 celebrate your spouse celebrate your spouse

After we enjoyed the smoothest coffee of our lives, we did the normal morning routine of brushing our teeth and combing our hair like good boys and girls. Loren had a morning of preaching ahead of him, so I picked out some Psalms to read and prayed over him. What a sweet morning it was.

celebrate your spouse

He then preached and I loved every bit of it, as I usually do. He did his part two on the book of Philemon. He focused on forgiveness and how coming home to Christ is forgiving and being forgiven. My two favorite nuggets:

[If forgiveness pulls us closer to God, lack of forgiveness pushes us away from God.] [Your willingness to forgive may bring someone closer to Christ.]

You can hopefully find it HERE. He preached 7/13/14 Re:United.

celebrate your spouse

because, who doesnt love baby feet?

We had some special guests visit our church: the Conners! One of our youth students and her parents came. Claire made Loren this beautiful gift:

home made mug

home made mug

The World Cup happened to be after church; naturally the best way to love Loren was to go to Cloud & Kelley's Pub.  World Cup commence.

The World Cup ends, we go home and literally take a 2 hour nap. Preaching wipes him out, as it does any pastor. And me? I am always exhausted on Sundays. I could sleep for 17 hours straight at any given moment.

We then put on some beautiful music, sipped coffee, and read. Because those are his favorite things.

celebrate your spousecelebrate your spouse

Guess what? The Timbers were playing the Sounders, and because we don't have internet or any sort of television, we needed to go to the Pub again! Our soccer hang out. So out we went, sitting in the same seat as earlier and being served by the same wonderful waitress. It was joy and like going home. Almost. Also, I had to equip him for this game.

celebrating my spouse

I know, I know, you can't see it - well you can see a corner of it. I got him his very first Portland Timbers t shirt! He is now a real fan: sticking with them through their losing season and sporting their name.

Loren amazes me. He complains about nothing, he works hard, he is a man of integrity. He holds onto God's word tightly with confidence. He supports me in all that I do and am. He reminds me that life is an adventure and we get to live it together. God has used him in many ways to sharpen me into a better human, and for that, I am grateful to Jesus. Our adventures together have been the best this far; full of lots of prayers and tears and growing pains, and lots of joy and laughter and great memories made. I can only look into the future with hope and excitement.

I am so thankful for a spouse who wants to know me and love me. He wants to serve me even when I'm an outright brat. And hey, vice versa. Neither of us are angels by any means. I'm grateful for a man wise enough to end the day with prayer and loving enough to ask forgiveness. He is more godly than I dreamed possible at such a young age...so Jesus, to you I salute. To you, I thank. Ya done good.

- - -

What I learned from this day was the immense gratitude Loren feels when I choose to celebrate him. When I showed my care and love for him by planning out his day and purchasing gifts we wouldn't otherwise purchase, he was over joyed. He knew I loved him. He was celebrated and valued. Even if it means saving a little money each month, do it, friend. Discipline yourself and celebrate your spouse -- I have a jar that I put $5 in every paycheck. When I can, I put $10. It may not be much, but it adds up when you are wanting to love someone with their love language of gifts!

Remind your spouse why you value him/her.

Celebrate your spouse. Because they are worth celebrating.

And when all else fails, watch Fresh Prince of Bel Air.