15 June 2016

After I Do ~ Walking Through Tragedy [as one] w/ Natalie

Hello Friends ... 

Welcome to "After I Do" a series where we talk all about marriage. The good, the bad, & the happily ever after. I love writing about marriage and the lessons I've learned along the way so I decided to turn it into a series where we can discuss all kinds of topics on marriage and beyond. I'm glad you decided to join us today. I'm excited to have my friend, Natalie as my guest today. I love reading Natalie's blog, and I've been so excited and happy for everything that is going on in her life right now. I've been so uplifted and blessed to watch how the Lord has blessed them and worked through them. Natalie is such an encourager and I'm so excited to have her today. Thanks for stopping by ... you won't be disappointed by what she has to say. Take it away friend ...  :) 

walking through tragedy together
2015 was the Year of Tears for us Brenners. My husband isn't one to shed tears and I certainly am. But his eyes let drops fall more than I had ever witnessed in the short 5 years we have been together. Loren (the one my soul loves) and I have had a truly sappy marriage. Perfect? By no means. Happy? Mostly. On fire for Jesus? In the beginning, but we definitely let our joy slip during 2015, the Year of Tears and Tragedy, and are finding our way back into the in-love-ness of our Savior. December 2014 marked a little more than 1.5 years of trying to conceive. We knew it would be difficult, but never did we expect the trial to run deep grief into our hearts. We began fertility treatments that month, which failed. We attempted again in January. In the middle of that January cycle, we decided that the treatments were too taxing emotionally and physically for me and my body. We had known since dating that we wanted to adopt; we had been saving bits of each paycheck and chunks of our tax returns for an adoption. So the conversation began to bloom into reality: should we begin the process of adoption now, rather than later? We may as well, right?

You can read about how we landed on the path we chose HERE. Right before signing a contract with our consultant, I did my routine pregnancy test and discovered: TWO LINES! I couldn't believe it. I kept it a secret to myself that day and cherished every moment. The next morning I put together Loren's gifts I had been saving for over a year, set up my phone to record him opening it, and when he did, he of course let those tears of joy roll! Neither of us could believe it. We danced and laughed and he pretended to hear our baby which was the size of a sesame seed. We emailed our soon-to-be consultant and let her know, "Hey! We are pregnant and due late October/early November! We will contact you again in August to see about starting our adoption process."   Soon enough the blood came rushing and we lost that little one. Our entire life was already planned around having a little one at Christmas, 2015. We were going to announce the pregnancy while in Europe in April, possibly while standing in front of the Eiffel Tower. That summer I could take those fun bumpy photos with my best pal, Jesse, who was due in August. The loss hit us hard, and we spent hours, days, crying together in our bedroom. Our tears ran together and that was all we heard: our tears and mourning spoke loud the sadness of our hearts. empty arms pregnancy loss
The entire year was covered in grief; when I looked out over the upcoming months, all I could see was darkness. Loss. Life without my belly rounding large by Halloween and without a baby by Christmas. In September, we discovered once again that I was pregnant. The tears continued to flow: mine were from fear and fright, his from joy and jubilee. I could not imagine losing another, he could not imagine life without our newest nug. my pregnancy after loss
In October we were fired for false reasons, degraded by a man we looked up to, given an actual gag-order termination letter (which was of course replaced once read by others), and rumors flew around about us that were far from the truth. Rumors that were straight up lies. We lost the church community, the family, we had built our entire life around. I don't believe I could ever put to words the actual loss that happened. We were planning to transition out of a Youth Ministry position, but not the way it happened. Not by being fired and told how toxic and selfish we are, not by being banned from a community we sacrificed for, not by being burned by people you believed loved you like family. That tragedy resulted in not only a job and community loss, but a major identity shift, career changes, lifestyle transitions, questions about Church and God and Vocational Ministry, and major heart damage. Wounds that run deep and are still healing; burns that leave scars. december 2015 goals
Loren and I will more than likely always look back on 2015 as one of those rough years. A year of pain, loss, tragedy. The Year of Tears. But the beauty of it is this: we walked through it together. Yes, there were times we were so irritable and hurting that we responded to one another in that and hurt the other. We were not perfect while walking through it. [Heck, we are still walking through it.] But we always came back and had this raw and honest conversation together: "I am so sorry. I am not even angry with you. I am just hurting. Will you forgive me for biting at your soul? How are you? What are you processing today? We are on the same team. Let's look at this together and not be offended by one another." We always came back, by the end of the day if not sooner, and reminded one another: we are on the same team. We are one. This tragedy hurts us both in deep and fierce ways. We can add to that grief and pain, or we can team up and build one another up. We can be one another's biggest advocate for healing, biggest supporter, main prayer warrior. I believe that if we as married couples are able to continue reminding one another, "we are on the same team; this war is not between me and you, but between the evil rulers of this world (Ephesians 6)," that we are able to have raw and honest conversations without being offended when we shouldn't be. I believe that we are able to be honest with one another's soul's, caring for them tenderly, especially while walking through tragedy. We do our best to put ourselves in the other's shoes. When Loren was fired, he was told how unhealthy and toxic he is. How detrimental we are to a church. I knew from the moment I heard that that those were lies. I imagined being told that by someone I look up to greatly, and my soul was crushed. I could not imagine how much more my husband's soul was crushed. So while walking through that tragedy, instead of only focusing on my own grief and pain, I asked Jesus to give me understanding for my husband. What was he walking through? How was he feeling? Did he need to be reminded who he was? Did he need reminded by me, his wife, that he is not in fact this horrible, prideful, selfish person he was told he was? As wives, we have the power to build our men up more than anyone else. Even through tragedy. Tragedy will come your way. It is the way of this broken earth. So the question is: will you walk through it hand in hand with your spouse? Remembering you are on the same team? Or will you walk through it allowing bitterness to enter your marriage, separating you where it doesn't need or have to? My name is Natalie Brenner. I went from Youth Pastor's wife to soon-to-be Teacher's Wife. I write over at Natalie Brenner Writes about pursuing wholeness, despite the brokenness. I write honest things, things that some people cringe at and ask me to remove; but I believe that honesty is the first step to wholesome healing.

25 May 2016

Top 5 Wednesday | Characters I Defend

Happy Wednesday!!

Well blogging friends ... I've been doing Top 5 Wednesday for a little while now but I haven't been posting here. I've been adding videos to my booktube channel. However, I've decided that in addition to my booktube I'm going to start adding my thoughts here as well. So for all of my reader friends, if you are booktubers or just like to talk books like me you should check out my booktube HERE and then join the T5W goodreads group HERE! It's really fun, and we get to talk about books. Yay!! So if you are new to booktube or goodreads and don't know what I'm talking about. Top 5 Wednesday is goodreads group that was started by Lainey from GingerReadsLainey and is now hosted by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. Each  Wednesday we have a new book topic that we blog about or do a video about and then we discuss. :) All the Links are linked above. Join in the fun! 

So this weeks topic I've been DYING to do!! This week's topic is Characters we defend! I love defending my favorite characters and I plan to do a video too for youtube because of how much I love to talk about this topic but I thought I would blog about it too. The more talk about these books the better in my opinion. Let's get started shall we? I'm going to count down from 5 because my #1 I have a LOT to say and I want to keep you in suspense as long as possible. ha! 

5. Chuck Bass. 
So of course ... when I thought of characters I defend Chuck obviously came to mine. I have to admit at the beginning of the series I HATED Chuck ... with a passion. And I know there are quite a few people that would be and still are of the opinion that he is a horrible person but I can not agree anymore. Chuck grew SO much in the series I thought. When we first meet him he is a complete jerk and you are complete appalled by his behavior from his obsession with Blair, to his treatment of pretty much everyone but especially girls but he is such a complex character and I just feel that he grows leaps and bounds through the series. He goes from this arrogant piece of crap who could careless about anybody but himself to really, genuinely caring a great deal for his family, his friends, and Blair. He becomes this very loyal, dependable, loveable character and I hate that he gets all the hate he gets. Yes, he was bad in the beginning but he evolves so much. Love him!

4. Four
Is it just me or does FOUR seem to get a bad rap? I don't understand why everyone hate him! Don't get me wrong, I love Tris. I love her character development, I love the growth she has in the books {I'm not a huge fan of the movies. I watch them of course but the books are oh so much better} but I also think that she is a bit ... no, a LOT selfish. I think she does things without thinking them through and then Four is left to pick up the pieces and put everyone back together and he is SO not appreciated for that. In my opinion. Please, nobody shoot me. Case and Point in the above picture, just saying! 

3. Wolf
I so wish that I was on this bandwagon way before now because I am just now fangirling out to this series and I feel like I'm all alone!!!! I am just starting Winter and so if anyone is with me and wishes to talk about it, PLEASE lets chat! I have so many feels for this series. However, even though I love Cinder, Cress, and Winter, I LOVE Scarlet. I love her and Wolf and I feel like Wolf gets a lot of crap thrown his way. I mean, he has had it rough people, I just want to say to all the haters give the guy a break. Yes, he was on the bad side to begin with but he has more than made up for that in my opinion. He is loveable, he can be distant but he is fiercely loyal to scarlet and his friends and I feel would do anything for them. I love that about him. Btw ... has anyone noticed a pattern with me? Loyalty is a must! I just love Wolf and I defend him even though I've just started shipping. :) 

2. America Singer
So America seems to be the girl everyone loves to hate and I for the life of me don't understand why. Ok, let me back up. First off, I love this series. I just have to warn ya I could fangirl about this series all day. Mostly just the first three books because I just love America & Maxon's relationship. I mean, it was like a real relationship. They had ups and downs, there were times they hated each other but they were still completely and totally in love. I don't get all the hate for this series, and more specifically for America. I mean, first off she was 16 people. She is a teenager and yes ... a lot of her ways of doing things were stupid and if she was older I would have perhaps judged her a little harder but they were both kids. I don't know, I just love her. I love her spunkiness, I love that she could be so open and honest with Maxon, now the thing that drove me nuts was that she went back and forth a lot. I didn't want to smack her for that but I just loved the books so much. I love that she loved her family. she was very family oriented and I am very family oriented. I really identified I guess, with America. So of course I defend her. 

1. Cody Coleman
Lastly, anyone who knows me well will know that Cody was going to be on my list and was going to be my top answer for this. Why you might ask? Well, this is a character I will defend to the death. If I hear you talking about this series and this love triangle and you DON'T ship Cody, we might have a slight problem. ha! I have gotten in heated arguments over this character. I just don't understand how an author can build up a character through multiple books, make him out to be this awesome person and then just DROP HIS STORY and make it seem like all the backstory was NEVER even there??? How do you do that?? Cody TOTALLY deserved the girl, He was so perfectly flawed and he loved her. So what that he had a hard time expressing it, does that mean you just drop him? NO! See?? I don't you .. it gets bad. Have you ever had a situation where the author burned you so bad that you have had to quit them all together or had a very difficult time giving them another shot? I hope I'm not the on;y crazy person out there. Anyways, Cody had to be my top character I defend. I just loved him. He started out with a rough past and life, he really worked his way through, found a girl that he really liked and that seemed to like him. He really made something of himself, he always put everyone else first and then ... nothing. It was horrible people, just horrible. Thankfully I've never had another bad experience like this again and hope to never have another one ever. 

So there you have it folks! My beloved characters that I will defend to the death! ha! So who are your favorite characters, who would you defend to the death? Have you ever had a "Cody" experience with a character? If so, lets chat! :) Until next time! Keep Reading! 

23 May 2016

What I Read ~ May

May, oh May, where did you go? I don't know about you but May just seemed to fly by for me. However, it was a good month all around but most especially it was a good book month! I was about to finish 8 books and I am now up to 37 books read for my 100 books in 2016 Goodreads reading challenge!! I'm excited I've read so much this year so far and I'm glad I've gotten out of my reading slump. After all ... "There's no enjoyment like reading

Top 3 Most Anticipated Books for May

The Crown by Kiera Cass | ★★★☆☆
I was really looking forward to this book. I love the selection series. I loved Maxon & America and I felt that Eadlyn had grown on me in The Heir. In fact I think I gave the Heir 4 out of 5 stars. However, I didn't enjoy this book as well. I'm not going to spoil it for anyone but it didn't turn out the way I wanted it to. And although I was ok with how it ended I felt that the story was rushed and that we didn't get to see the characters develop as much as they should have. In my opinion, if she was going to have any more books after Maxon & America she should have done 3 books instead of cramming all that she did into 2 books. There just wasn't enough time to really sink your teeth into the characters, in my opinion. I still gave it 3 out of 4 stars but it could have been better. 

Her One & Only by Becky Wade | ★★★★☆
This series is a favorite for me and I'm very sad it is now over. I really enjoyed this book. I wrote a review here if you care to go and read and see what my thoughts and feelings were on the book. If you haven't picked up with series I would highly recommend it. I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars. 

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer | ★★★★☆
I can NOT say enough about this series! I love it! It's fantastic and if you haven't picked it up yet ... why haven't you??? Go! Go now and get it! I have to admit, I was late to this train so don't feel bad if you are just now getting on board. You are completely forgiven. Another confession I have to make is although I love the series, Scarlet is my FAVORITE character so far. I love her spunk, I love her love for her family and for the people she cares about and that she is willing to fight for them. I loved her & Wolf's friendship/relationship and I like how it grew with the story and how you got more and more info as the book went on. I love when I'm still surprised at the end of the book. Excellent book! I'm reading Cress now and I'm loving it too. I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.  

Honorable Mentions

Cinder by Marissa Meyer | ★★★☆☆
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes | ★★★★☆
There were things I didn't expect in this!!! I knew how it was going to end but I didn't know how it came about, that was a shocker to me. 
The Crimson Cord by Jill Eileen Smith | ★★★☆☆
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas | ★★★☆☆
It took me a while to get into the world in this book but once I did, I was hooked. I have ACMAF on my TBR list. 
The Darcys & The Bingleys by Marsha Altman | ★★☆☆☆
This was a dud, don't read it. I liked the first maybe 10 chapters but after that it was downhill and I struggled to finish. 

So what's on your TBR list? I'm always looking for new books! Let me know in the comments if there have been any really good books you just couldn't seem to put down. I want to read them!