Family Picture

Family Picture

Monday, December 22, 2014

Writing The Story

I feel like God has been putting stories on my heart a lot lately. Many times the thought has come to my mind that stories need to be shared more.  In churches, to each other, on blogs, in books.  Stories, our stories allow us to relate to each other and to grow from each other’s experiences. 

And God’s story.  Well his is the biggest, greatest most amazing one of all.  And the best part is that it is true.  The bible, HIS word is not just some book that is a great read.  It is living words that are all true. One night as I was reading Ann Voskamp’s, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, to my littles, HE whispered it to me.  The amazing beautiful truth of his story.  He said this is real.  I made you and I love you and I chased after you to reconcile you back to me.  It is my love story for YOU.  And because I made you to walk with me, I had to send my son to die for you to get you back.  It was the only way.  And it really happened. This isn’t just a great story.  It is TRUTH.  Just like your story is true and real. 

And like Ann’s book, this is truly THE GREATEST GIFT.  The story of Jesus.  I realized I wanted to share it not because I ever want to “convert” anyone but because I believe in the truth of this story.  And I am excited to see it unfold.  To see how God changes lives as he reconciles us back to himself through Jesus. 

But sometimes we want the story HE is writing to be different.  Why did Jesus have to suffer and die on the cross.  Couldn’t GOD have come up with a different way to bring us back to him?  Why the suffering, why the heartache?  What about in our own lives?  I often long for a different story or more to my story.  I am jealous of the story he is writing for others.  I want their story.  It looks easier, more joyous, more fulfilling.  And then he whispers that the story he is writing for me is perfect.  Because he is the author.  And I need to open my hands to all that he is writing for me.  And receive each piece with joy.  Even if it isn’t what I want.  His ways are higher.  His story is greater.

Just the other day I was listening to Sarah Grove’s song, Open my hands and I suddenly realized that I had sat real close to her as she taught at the orphan summit I was at last May.  And I remembered her words.  That stories are not a commodity in the kingdom.  There are enough ears to hear.  And that we need to be sharing our stories, our hearts through writing, art, song.  God was speaking again. Speaking to me about stories.  Telling me that I need to share.  That YOU all need to share.  That stories need to be shared everywhere.  And that HIS story, HIS love story needs to be spoken again and again.  Only because he loves us so so much and longs for us to receive that love. 

As God writes your story will you share? Will you bless us with what HE is doing in your life?

So crazy thankful for a GOD who writes the most perfect of stories. Always.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


**It is never easy to bare a soul, to tell a story that makes you vulnerable.  But when it is SO good, sometimes GOD quietly says, use your voice.  So as I preach MY grace story, I ask for grace upon grace poured out as well.**

You guys…I have a story to tell.  A story that I hope most of you know deep in your soul and can say ya that’s old news.  A story that I fear is not preached enough from pulpits, not told enough in homes.  A love story of God’s grace and freedom.  So I have known Jesus my whole life.  I have believed in him, known the story of the cross.  But I haven’t found true grace, life giving grace until about 2-3 months ago.  And know that God has revealed it to me, I want to shout it from the rooftops!!  I’ve read about it, I’ve read about the people who become so infatuated with the love of God that they go and tell everyone.  They just can’t hold in such good news.  I’ve heard of it, when they are told the story and they are then baptized and then they go and run and tell everyone.  I’ve heard of it happening in days like these, I’ve read it in the bible.  And now it is finally my turn.  God’s love has gotten a hold of me so fiercely that I want everyone to know.  But my heart aches, my heart aches because it’s the brother in law saying that 90% of American church preaches the negative message.  The sinner message.  Where is the saved by grace, furious love part?  I feel like it is time to start over.  Start fresh.  He has given me that opportunity and I hand it over to all of you.  To a hurting world.  To hurting souls. 

I have always knew of grace but never was really able to embrace the freedom and love that came with it. I always thought it was only if I was holy and good enough could I receive it.  It was only when I let go and could truly say to God that I would never be good enough but that I knew his grace was more than enough that I could experience true freedom, true life.  I walked around only halfway loving my kids, my husband, my family because I was only allowing myself to experience halfway love from God.  I wouldn’t allow myself to truly allow God to work in my life.  Because I surely wasn’t good enough.  I messed up every single day.  How can he really love me?  And man this is an awful place to live from, all pent up, trying harder, using your own strength.  Instead of just letting go and letting God.  But the scary part for me was that I thought I was letting go and letting God.  I just couldn’t wrap my head around his crazy love and grace and that he loved me just the way I am.  And so he has slowly and carefully and widely opened my eyes.  Opened my eyes to an incredible love that I am so thankful for. 

And so it is the woman at church who I love so dearly who came to me in her fleshly body with the words of Jesus.  I love you.  Stop being so hard on yourself.  And she wrapped me in her love and showed me just how much Jesus longed for me and loved me.  And although she came to me in the flesh, I know it was God making himself real through her to me.  To truly knock me over the head and SEE.  I am a stubborn sort and so he had to use all means to get through to me. J  And you guys this changed everything.  Everything.  How I love, how I receive love, how I experience JOY.  And man I am so so grateful.  Beyond words grateful.

And so YOU ALL need to know over and over and over that God loves you!!  More than anything in the whole wide world, HE LOVES YOU!!  With a never ending, pursuing ferocious love.  He doesn’t love you just when you are good.  He loves you always.  When you mess up, he picks up your broken pieces and hugs you.  He doesn’t even ask what you did or why, he just wants you to run full force into his arms for a HUGE hug.  He wants you close, in his arms, to be fully loved.  He wants you to know the true freedom that comes from knowing and understanding his gracious love.  People, don’t live trying to be perfect and holy and in a box, just live fully YOU!!  Live outside the box, in a huge grace filled, freedom filled GLORY story.  God has given it ALL to us.  Not just a little bit, but every single thing.  Every experience, every person, every nature beauty, every story.  It is all his GIFT!!  And he just asks us to breathe deep, to accept the gift and to walk with him through it all. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Who knew three boys could flip your world upside down in an instant?  Who knew three sweet, amazing boys could teach you so much and fill your life with miracles that you don't even have words to describe it all.  God knew.  And he knew how blessed our life would be.  And he knew that the journey would be a struggle.  But his Grace is enough.  Grace to heal wounds that are deep for all.  Grace for boys who are scared beyond words and behave in ways that turn your world upside down.  Grace for parents that are stuck in fear, stuck fighting the enemy.  Grace for the mistakes made. Grace that teaches hurting boys and hurting parents what love really looks like.  Because we can't love when we are hurting and broken.  And we ALL were.  But his LOVE covers all.  And his LOVE brings inner healing and JOY to hurting boys and parents who need to confront wounds from long ago.  The first year was filled with GRACE, LOVE and JOY.  God's provision because there was no way we could do it on our own.  We tried and failed.  But he picked us up every time, offered grace and loved us.  And he brought us through to the JOY moment!!  The moment where we ALL understood how to really LOVE.  Because we have taken on the spirit of adoption instead of the orphan spirit.  We have shouted with JOY that we are ALL sons and daughters of the king and we are all worthy!!  Thank you Jesus!!  

This was the hardest year of our life, but by far the most fruitful and the most amazing!!  Because God shows up when we depend totally on him for everything.  God shows up in our most broken desperate moments.  And he wraps us in his unfailing love and walks through the valleys with us.  And brings us to the mountaintop and opens our eyes so we can SEE!!  So we can SEE who HE really is and how deep his love is.  We love these boys with all of our hearts and all 5 of us original Bruening's are beyond blessed by three boys from the Congo.  And LOVE and JOY abound in our home and we are forever blessed and thankful for God's provision of GRACE and LOVE.  

Who knew opening your heart to God's will could bless you so fully, could produce miracles beyond measure and could bless you with unspeakable joy?

GOD KNEW.  And I am so thankful we said yes to his call for our life.  Forever changed and bountifully BLESSED!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A prayer for adoption in 2014

 I don't really WANT to blog.  I would rather just stay silent.  I don't really want the entire internet to know my heart, my story, what is going on in my life.  That makes me too vulnerable.  But God.....he wraps me in his arms and says it is ok to be vulnerable, he will protect me, and I feel the need to FIGHT for adoption and what it is these days.  And to be in constant prayer over it.  My heart for adoption in 2014:

Adoption is not a thing

Adoption is not a fad

Adoption is not a choice we make because we want a colored baby

Adoption is not closing our eyes to corruption because we feel like we need to rescue a child

Adoption is God's heart

Adoption is opening our eyes to the reality of how we can best be of help to the children and sometimes that means that ADOPTION is NOT the best option for children

Adoption is just a word, a word that is overused, that has become wordly and negative

Adoption is God's heart because adoption is caring for the least of these, the widow, the  fatherless, the poor

Adoption is about really truly listening to God, hearing his heart through prayer and scripture

Adoption is praying for wisdom in how to care for the children without parents, who have special needs, who are older, who are siblings and are many, who NEED a family

Adoption is asking God what we are supposed to do for these children, what is the best option, do we sponsor them, do we bring them into our family, do we help others bring them into their family

Adoption is begging God for wisdom and a piece of his heart to know the HONEST and TRUE answers about caring for the poor, the widow, the orphan

Adoption is an action that covers so much more than just bringing a child into your family, it is also caring for the widow, the poor, it is giving grace to the cultural stigmas that won't allow families to keep their children

Adoption IS living the gospel out loud

Adoption has become romanticized, wildly popular and has a BAD name these days

That is NOT God's heart

His word clearly states to care for the least of these

It is the WORLD that has corrupted GOD's way

We need to have open eyes and hearts as we work to care for the poor, the widow, the orphan

Let us not enter into corruption but research and pray for wisdom

Let us not say we are NOT going to adopt because of the things adoption has become

Let us study the scriptures and pray and pray and pray that he would show us CLEARLY his heart for the orphan, for these children

Let's not give up because that is what SATAN wants


We are called to make it that way

With peace, joy, love, grace, kindness, wisdom, and a fighting heart

A heart that fights to bring God's kingdom to EARTH


That is my prayer for 2014

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Story of Jesus-Matt and Vicki Style

*****Disclaimer:  This is our PERSONAL story.  I am not casting out judgement on other's lives.  Just using our experience to tell OUR story.******

This should have been the very first post I ever wrote on my blog.  I felt like it was time to share our personal journey.  Matt and I started dating in highschool.  We have been together 17 years and we are only 33 years old.  We always joke about this.  Being together over half of our lives.  It is a sweet thing!  We had lots of fun in high school.  There were many drunken parties and well nothing else, just lots of drinking and partying.  It was fun, I ain't gonna lie to ya.  Then I went to college and Matt and I hung out on the weekends.  The partying continued as we would go to bars with our older friend who bought beer for us.  Again, good times and sweet memories.  Matt and I got married in 2002 and we lived life to the fullest.  We bought new cars, hung out with friends, had a nice house, went shopping, went to parties, lived the American dream.  We went to Catholic Church every once in a while.  While we were doing this my sister had moved to Des Moines and had started going to church and falling in love with Jesus.  Whenever she would come home she would tell us about books she was reading, activities she was involved with.  We could tell her life had changed.  But we didn't want none of it.  Blah, blah blah.  Jesus stuff, whatever.  But she continued on.  And slowly I started reading some of the books she mentioned.  But still, hardcore for Jesus, no way.  In fact I was very bitter about her constant joyfullness and her no worries attitude.  I didn't get it.  I didn't understand passages like this:
"For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do-living in debauchery, lust, drunkeness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry."  1Peter Ch 4 vs 3

We were living for ourselves, solving our own problems, making our own way.  And we were doing well.  We had a good business, nice stuff, why did we need Jesus.  I remember one day I was on my way to a doctor appointment and I was praying.  I clearly remember my prayer being one of asking God why I was so blessed and what was I supposed to do about it.  I remember fervently praying because I felt an emptiness inside.  Like I had so much goodness but yet I wasn't fulfilled.  His answer was very clear, you see I was on my way to a doctor appointment because I was 16 weeks pregnant.  I had been pregnant right before this and miscarried.  So this was a hopeful thankful wonderful pregnancy.  I got to the doctor and found out the baby had died.  His answer to my prayer, DEPEND ON ME!!  YOU NEED ME TO FILL YOU!!  Not stuff, not parties, not your husband, not your job, just ME.  This happened in November, this holy spirit conviction stuff and then in February we stepped foot in our church.  And guess what 2 months later I was pregnant with my Mayzie.  God is alive, God is real, God is working!!  We started going to church and experiencing Jesus in new ways.  We started living differently.  Our lives were wrecked for Jesus.   He had gotten into our hearts!  We got very involved with everything in the church.  We were soaking up all we could. We got baptized in July and gave our lives to the one who gave his life for us.   And well, the rest is history.  It is the transforming work of the spirit.  We started to read the bible, pray, and attend church regularly.  We started to understand how Jesus gave his life for us, how he died on the cross for us to take away our sins and how this was far more important than just praying a prayer but that it required us to be ALL IN for Jesus.  And we were done, wrecked for Jesus!!  And so that led to plans for adoption and eventually 3 new kiddos in our home!  I have to say that our whole journey was in part decisions we made but mostly it was God's spirit working in us.  He works in all of us even when we don't know it.  He was working in Matt and I and we had no clue.  He is always working.  Always.  And we are SO glad that Jesus wrecked our life.  We are amazingly blessed.  We have passion, joy, faith and hope that fills us up in ways nothing else can.  We love Jesus-Matt and Vicki Style!!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Do you call yourself a Christian???

This is my heart the last four months since we have arrived home from Africa.  I can hardly stand to live here in the US in such abundance. I can barely breathe because I know the needs of the poor and the orphans, I have seen it, I live it daily with my boys, yet the selfishness of this country and of the " church" makes it hard to breathe. How can we say we love Jesus if we let a child die every 30 seconds of malaria, an easily preventable disease? How can we let there be millions of orphans?  My heart says that going to church every Sunday, praying a prayer to be saved, getting baptized and reading your bible every so often is not enough. I think Jesus describes that as being lukewarm.
"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold or hot. I wish you were either one or the other. So because you are lukewarm-neither hot nor cold-I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say I am rich, I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.  But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes so you can see." Revelation 3 15-18. My favorite part is the salve on the eyes. When you can see your life changes!!! When you see you cannot close your eyes to the poor, the orphan, the widow. I pray that more eyes would be opened, that more people would live their lives in reckless abandon to Jesus. So if being a Christian is all about getting dressed up to go to Church, driving my fancy car their, giving tons of money so my Church can have bigger and better music, bible studies, and buildings then I don't want to be a Christian. I want to be a FOLLOWER of JESUS. I truly believe in my heart that Jesus calls us to give it all for him. To give it all serving the poor, the widow, the orphan and preaching his name boldly. We are called to make disciples and love the least of these not to live selfishly in our pretty "churches." It is hard to breathe when 20% kids in the DRC do not make it to their 5th birthday. It is hard to breathe when most of the world struggles to stay alive and we are so worried about getting everything perfectly perfect that we fail to get out of ourselves and see the bigger picture. I want to be a follower of Christ who serves him with ALL of myself. I do not want to be lukewarm. I want to be ALL in. And I pray everyday that more and more people would adopt, sacrifice for the poor and go to the ends of the earth to make disciples. That they would make the radical decision to live sacrificially for our God. Because I look at the faces of three sweet boys every day and I see Jesus and I have to keep fighting!!! I don't want to be swept up in the cares of this world but to be swept up in serving Jesus with ALL I have. I want to breathe easy because people's bellies are full, there are no more orphans and everyone has heard the name of Jesus. Until that day I will keep fighting with everything I have!!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Give Your Life Away

When we started our adoption journey we had some family members who thought we were crazy, we had friends who said good for you and I'm sure talked behind our backs like we were psychos.  Now that we are home we get the stare down when we go out and about.  Mostly we get good feedback but I have been places several times where people act like I don't even have three sons.  I am on Facebook all the time because that is the only place where I can connect with other families who are as crazy as we are!!  Most people just don't get it.  I am told all the time how busy I am.  And this, all of this, is all good.  And we are busy and our life is crazy but we wouldn't have it any other way.  Because Jesus wants ALL of us!  "Still another man said, I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.  Jesus replied, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."  
Luke 9 61-62

And then today happened.  My kids woke up at 6:30 and they were crabby and loud.  And I needed more time away from them before they woke up.  They were calling each other names and screaming and I had to fold the laundry and do the dishes and pick up the house and it was just plain annoying and overwhelming.  And I love each of them to pieces but some days I wake up and I don't feel like being around them right away, I don't feel like hugging them, I just want to send them outside, away from me.  And then Kiki, my two year old comes into the bathroom where I am trying to beautify the unbeautifiable and she throws my perfume bottle on the floor and it breaks.  And I lose it and tell her to get out and that I hate her.  Awesome mom, I know!!  Because how dare my sweet innocent 2 year old break my perfume and get glass everywhere and make me be stinky for the next week and a half because I cannot drive the hour to get more perfume cuz I have six stinkin kids!!  So I lost it.  And there was a puddle of tears and perfume on the floor as I cried out to God and told him I can't do it, he's got the wrong lady, I don't have enough love, enough patience.  And then I said it, I yelled at him and said I hate my life!!!!  I hate my life!!  How dare I scream this to our God of wonders!!  So then I was reading the book Radical for 10 minutes while I made sure Little Bill was going to sleep and I came across this verse:  "If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters-yes, even their own life-such a person cannot be my disciple.  And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple."  Luke 14:26-27 
And it hit me, I think I am supposed to hate my own life.  I have always known I am in God's will, even though most days it is messy and definitely not prim and proper. But this really hit me because I realized that I AM following him, I AM his disciple, even though it is not perfect.  And this really hit me because it was such a God moment.  I don't think it was coincidence that 2 hrs after I screamed those words, I read them in that book.  No, not coincidence, but God.  I love this picture, this picture of radical obedience, carrying our cross every day.  This is why we chose to do what we did, so that we would be COMPLETELY dependent on our God every single day.  So that we would in essence hate our life and carry our cross daily!!  And I am so so grateful that God showed me this.  And I am so so thankful to be living this crazy, radical, messy life.  We will probably be making more radical choices as we live in obedience to the most amazing God EVER and we will most likely get told it's not a good idea.  People will not approve.  But I think it is clear that this is what Jesus wants from us, ALL of us, our WHOLE life.  And we love it and we will live no other way than in RADICAL obedience to our Heavenly Father!!