Distracted but not stopped

Wow…it has been a tough couple of months. I won’t go into all of the details because many of you already heard most of it through Facebook, but here is a brief recap:

I had surgery on my mouth

Reagan was hospitalized for several days with an awful virus

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Conor was taken to the Emergency Room with the same virus and severe abdominal pain which the doctors thought was his appendix. (Fortunately, it  wasn’t. It was pulled muscles from the actions of getting sick with the virus.)

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Also, I am going to have surgery next week for a mass that is growing in my abdomen. I’ve had the growth for quite a while but it is causing some issues so it has to be removed.

All of that plus the normal issues that go along with life.

Navigating Life

As frustrating as all of that has been, and the truth is that I haven’t always handled it with grace, it has confirmed to me that we are on the right track.

As I said before, we have an opportunity that has come our way unexpectedly and we feel that God might be calling us in a new direction here in Utah. Again, I am going to have to be vague because we aren’t quite in the place we need to be to discuss details. As soon as we can, I will.

I have not been quite sure that this is the direction we need to go in. I’ve been praying and seeking Godly council but still been pretty indecisive. However, with the enemy pushing back so hard against us, I am more and more convinced that this is what God has planned for us. The enemy has definitely succeeded in distracting us, but we will not be stopped from following in God’s will.

Will you please be praying for the Smith family? Will you pray for the cloud of illness to end with the surgery I have scheduled for next week (04/22)? Will you pray that I am able to heal very quickly and that our lives can go back to “normal”? Most of all, will you pray for us as we consider and pray about this new opportunity? Pray that if God is leading us in this way, that all the doors would be opened and that we would be able to stay focused on Him?

To God be all the glory!

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Praying to be used in a mighty way to impact the Utah culture for Christ!

We love y’all!!!

Surgery Update

This won’t be long, I just wanted to give you an update on my surgery and recovery. Several of you have asked and I am so grateful that you’ve been praying and that you care so much.

The surgery went very well. Praise God! I only had to lose two teeth and that segment of bone. The dentist was able to remove all of the infection as well. It did extend pretty far up so he was forced to add stitches up into my sinuses, but again, it went well.

The recovery has been painful for sure, but I am doing SO much better. Today is day 8 and I feel pretty good. I have had a lot of swelling, bruising around my jaw area and a black eye. I am going to post a few pictures below of the outside of my face. For the sake of those who would be grossed out, I won’t post any of the inside of my mouth. You’re welcome =)

I met with the doctor today for a post-op follow up. He seemed very pleased with the healing. He removed a few of the smaller stitches in the gum line and he will remove the rest and the non-absorbable membrane in 2 weeks. I have a long way to go before we can start discussing new teeth but I am on my way!

My best friend, Thea, is still here on vacation so she was able to come with me. We both thought it was funny that I seemed like a celebrity to the staff in my doctor’s office. Apparently, my infection was the worst that many of them have ever seen. The infection seems to have a bit of a fan base happening. Everyone seemed shocked that I hadn’t been in horrible pain. One of the staff asked if I’d seen the surgery pictures yet. It appears that the pictures have made the rounds too. My doctor said he had lots of pictures from before, during and after the surgery. He’s going to email them to me. I think Barry will be so happy to be able to see it. (He’s weird like that.)

So…I am doing well. Healing well. On the road to recovery.

Thank you for all the prayers and concern. It means so very much to me. I can’t thank you enough.

Warning (meant especially for my very squeamish brother) face pictures below. Gross surgery pics available upon request =)

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Morning after. It’s so weird when only half of your face works. (Excuse the lack of make-up)

3 Days in

3 Days in

5 days in

5 days in

Taking the Good with the Bad

It has been about 6 weeks since our last blog update. 45 days to be exact. In reality, 45 days is not that long but so much can happen in just one day so when you add 45 of them together…well, you get the point. So here is what has happened in our last 45 days:

Our small group that meets in our home has really been struggling. We are not sure what the underlying issue is, but having consistent attendance has been a real problem. Of course, with people who have just left a religion of “have to’s” we don’t want to pressure them regardless of our motives. Multiple people WANT to continue attending the class but the timing isn’t right or they just don’t feel ready yet. So, we decided to suspend our class, at least for the time being. Still, that left us back at a place of “What do you want us to be doing, God?” I was disappointed and sad. I felt again like we had let people down. Luckily, as we prayed, God opened another door pretty quickly.

Shortly after Barry & I realized that we were going to need to press pause on our small group, we were approached by the guys that lead the Transitions class at our church about helping with that. As we told you before in previous posts, Transitions is a 9 week class held by our church once a quarter for people leaving Mormonism or at least questioning the religion. The class compares LDS doctrine with Biblical Christianity and explains the TRUE Gospel in such a clear and precise way. We attended the class last quarter and were blown away by it week after week. Being asked to help lead is a huge blessing! It is a perfect match for us and we love it! Barry helped lead this past Tuesday in the discussion on Grace vs Works. I took his picture but it’s kind of blurry. It’s hard to get a good shot when you’re trying to hide the fact that you are taking a picture.

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Speaking of Barry, he had his review today at work and it went really well. They are happy with his performance which is always good to hear. He has trained a couple of different new hires and his bosses like his teaching style. They plan to have him train all the new hires coming in. He also is going to be given the chance to shadow in some other areas of his department. It will give him an idea of where he may want to move forward with the company. We are so thankful for the opportunities that Barry has been given.

As for me, well my week hasn’t been the greatest. Some of you may remember that I had a ton of dental work done last year. Most of it was to fix an infection and do a root canal on the offending tooth. After what felt like forever, I thought everything was handled and over. Well…turns out it wasn’t. The infection never fully healed and now months later, I am in worse shape than I was before. So much damage has been done that I am going to have to have surgery next week. The dentist wanted it done today but scheduling wouldn’t allow it until Tuesday. I am going to lose at least two teeth; maybe four. They are also going to have to remove a pretty large section of bone and replace it with cadaver bone. When the dentist told me, I cried right in front of him. Some out of frustration, some out of fear and some out of vanity about losing my teeth. He wants to do implants in a few months once I’ve totally healed from the surgery but I am not sure what I will end up doing. Of course, none of this is cheap. We are talking thousands of dollars. Some of my tears had dollar signs in them too.

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Me at the dentist office – Before all the tears started

On a much happier note, my best friend and her husband are coming to visit us on Thursday! Yes, 2 days after the procedure. Lucky for me, she is pretty darn amazing and she won’t care if I look like a bloody chipmunk mouth or not. I am so thankful that they will be here. Looks like God knew I would need her smiling face next week.

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She is the bestest!

One last thing, Barry & I have been approached with another way to serve here in Utah. I hate to be cryptic but for right now we can’t give any details. Will you please be praying for our discernment in this area? It’s a big deal and we want to be so firmly planted in God’s will regarding this decision.

If you pray for us, and we know many of you do, can you please pray specifically:

  • That we will be used by God in this new role with Transitions
  • That we will press play on our small group if and when God would have us do so
  • That my surgery will go smoothly, the recovery will be quick & easy and that the funding will be provided.

Praise God with us for Barry’s job opportunities and for friends that show up at just the right moment!

We love you guys!

2014…that’s a wrap, y’all!

I can’t believe that another year has come and gone. As I sit here and think back on all that has happened in our lives during 2014, I can’t help the feeling of gratitude.

The year wasn’t always easy. In fact, more than half of it was filled with confusion and loneliness. Why were we in Utah again? Had we made a mistake coming here? Were we not listening to God’s direction clearly enough? How come nothing was going as planned? Why had we not found a church to call home? When were we going to make friends here? It was certainly a tough start to the year. Still, we continued to KNOW that Utah was the place for us even when we were not yet sure exactly how and where we should be serving. We may not have known, but God clearly did!

By August, God had given Barry a new job and had given us a church home.

In September, we moved to a new city and the Littles made the friends we’d been praying so desperately for.

In October, we began preparing to teach a Bible study in our home for people leaving the Mormon religion and desiring a relationship with the true Savior.

By mid November, God brought Ally to us. She is our foster daughter that has left the FLDS compound in pursuit of a life of freedom and choice.

Finally, in December, we were able to spend a couple of weeks back in Florida with our family and friends.

The last half of the year was like a shot of B12 for our souls! It was confirming and validating. It was a very clear reminder that His timing and His ways far exceed our own. We are so thankful that the pieces are finally starting to fall into place. Yet, we are equally thankful for the first half of 2014. Without those  dark times of sadness, I am not sure that I could fully appreciate what He’s given us now.

Job 1:21 – He said, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The LORD gave me what I had, and the LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD!”

I praise Him for what He’s given to us. If He should decide to take it all away tomorrow, I will praise him still.

Here are a few pictures from our trip home in December. It was Ally’s first Christmas, first plane ride, first time at a theme park, first time seeing the ocean, first time….

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Us with the guys from Adam’s Road. We have loved building a friendship with these guys and they have been such a great influence on us.

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Disney Hotel Christmas Decoration Hopping. This is the Grand Floridian.

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Christmas on 12/07. Why not? I love all of these kids SO much!

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Jonah sure took to Ally right away. The feeling was mutual <3

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I miss them already

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Yep – they’re with me

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Sea World – Shamu is kissing Conor

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The sound of the waves is something many of us take for granted. I know one girl who loved hearing that sound for the first time.

While I was in Florida, I was asked how you could give to help Ally or to help us. Here are a couple of ways you can do that.

  • You can write a check to First Baptist Church of Windermere and write “Utah Mission” in the memo line.

The check can be dropped in the offering plate or mailed to:

First Baptist Church Windermere

300 Main Street

Windermere, Florida 34786

o   Click on “GIVE”

o   Click “Click here to Give”

o   Log In

o   Choose the amount and if you want a one time or recurring gift set up

o   Put the amount you specified in “General Fund” and when the option box comes up type in “Utah Mission”

o   Finish the online instructions

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So much to say….

#1 – We have a new daughter. Praise God! Ally is her name. She is 21 years old. She’s coming to us from the Warren Jeffs compound of the FLDS. (http://www.hulu.com/watch/428223)

She is tender-hearted and kind. She is very grateful for the opportunity to be with us and we are equally as thankful that she is here. She is currently trying to get a job and her desire is to go to college. Our job will be to support her in whatever she decides to pursue and to show her what unconditional love looks like.

Through the generosity of some of you, we were able to furnish her room and buy her some clothes and shoes. We will also have the pleasure of bringing Ally to Florida with us when we come in December. To those of you who have made all of this possible, THANK YOU! We are able to love her and give her a home and a family but financially, we are not able to do what we wish we could. Praise God for those of you who have so graciously stepped in to fill in the holes that we could not.

(Pics of Ally’s Room)

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While we are in Florida, we will be having Christmas with our family. It will be Ally’s first experience with Christmas. She doesn’t know what it’s all about, she’s never heard the songs, she’s never received Christmas gifts, she’s never had a stocking, etc. I am so thankful that we get to experience this holiday season with her. I am also excited that we will have this amazing opportunity to show her who Jesus is through his birthday!

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Please be praying for this sweet girl. She is and will continue to be going through a major life change. Please pray that her heart will heal from the pain she is feeling and that she will see how much God loves her!

#2 – Our Transitions class is coming to a close and Barry and I will be picking up the teaching in a little over a week. We have been so blessed to be a part of this group of people as they leave Mormonism and search for the truth. We have watched as they are learning what the Bible says verses what they’ve been taught through the LDS church. Sometimes we see anger in their faces and sometimes we see heartbreak. It has been both moving and sad to watch. Praise God we know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel they are in! Praise God that His Word is infallible and unchanging. Praise God that we have His promise that if we seek Him, we will find Him!

Please pray that God would draw those in this class to Himself. Please also pray that He would give Barry & I the words to say in the difficult discussions ahead. We are so eager to see just how God moves in the lives of these sweet people. We are confident that He will!

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#3 – Many of you have been praying for my friend, Heather. She lives here in Utah though I met her many years ago and we became good friends during high school in Florida. She is LDS and she is very, very sick. I’ve asked that you would pray that God could use this illness to bring her to Himself.

Well, she’s been kind of MIA for the past 6 weeks or so because of her illness. No FB posts. No Instagram. No response to emails. Until yesterday. She updated the blog she keeps yesterday with information about her health. The blog is a closed blog and you can only see it through invitation. She has added me to it multiple times, but it never seems to work. Yesterday was no different. I tried several ways and still could not access the blog. So, she copied the entire thing and sent it to me via FB Messenger. What a blessing that I can’t log in the traditional way! Because it was sent to me privately, I was able to type in a prayer for Heather to read. I was able to go before the true and living God for her and with her! Praise God for the inability to access her blog. I am praying now that each blog update goes just like this one =)

Heather is, in fact, still very ill. Her condition is strange and scary. Will you please be praying for her healing? For her physically body, of course, but more importantly for her spiritually healing.

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We are so very thankful for your continued interest, prayer and support. We can not imagine doing this without you.

photo by Dominik Gwarek

For those of you that are interested in giving to help Ally or just to help us, here are a few ways you can do that.

  • You can send gift cards for Walmart, Target, etc. to us at 12448 S. Iron Sight Way, Herriman, UT 84096
  • You can write a check to First Baptist Church of Windermere and write “Utah Mission” in the memo line.

The check can be dropped in the offering plate or mailed to:

First Baptist Church Windermere

300 Main Street

Windermere, Florida 34786

o   Click on “GIVE”

o   Click “Click here to Give”

o   Log In

o   Choose the amount and if you want a one time or recurring gift set up

o   Put the amount you specified in “General Fund” and when the option box comes up type in “Utah Mission”

o   Finish the online instructions

God is moving

We meet every Tuesday with our small group of Transitioners. To say that we look forward to Tuesday nights would be such an understatement. We are so moved each and every week by just how great God is! For us, personally, just sitting in that room is the fulfillment of a calling that the Lord placed on us a couple of years ago. We are humbled and in awe of just how specific God’s plans have been for us. Even when through our eyes things seemed to be confusing, He always had this group of people in mind. It blows me away! Even more so, to listen each week as they talk about their experiences both in belonging to and leaving the LDS church truly brings me to my knees in gratitude.

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Last night was week 6 of our 9 week class. The sheer volume of information being consumed in such a short amount of time is mind blowing. Last week, we had the opportunity to explain a little to the class about who we are. We were able to give them a very short explanation of why we are here in Utah and invite them to continue to come to the Transitions class after the 9 weeks is up by joining us each week at our house.

It seems so normal to us to join a small group, but for people leaving the Mormon church, choosing (or not choosing) a group to attend is foreign. They are not given that opportunity. They are assigned their church location much like school zoning and then they are given their roles in the church as well. Not accepting the assignment isn’t really an option. Praise God, we have heard from quite a few of the people in the class that they do intend to begin meeting with us in our home starting at the end of November.

Will you please be praying that God would move in the lives of the people He wants in that class? It will not be easy to step so far out of their comfort zone. Still, they have already made the effort to attend the Transitions class. We pray that they will keep the forward momentum.

I would love to be able to share all of what we’ve heard from these precious people in the class but that would be quite the long blog. I’m not sure you really want to read that much or that I really want to type that much so I will just try to summarize and hit a few key points.

  • One gentlemen was an auditor for the LDS church while they were building the City Creek Mall in Salt Lake City. It is a beautiful shopping mall directly across from the Salt Lake Temple and it is owned by the LDS church. When this man saw some things he found questionable and approached someone about it, he was dismissed. This caused him such grief, confusion and depression that he eventually left the church. He then, in turn, lost his wife and his children along with the rest of his family.
  • One woman had two weddings to attend in the same weekend. One for her LDS father and one for an Evangelical cousin. She spoke of how at her father’s marriage in the Temple, it was just him, his bride and her. It felt cold and rehearsed. “Creepy” is how she described it. She then told of how at the Evangelical wedding, there seemed to be so much warmth and true compassion and love. That weekend, she began to search for the truth.
  • In fact, many stories we heard involved people starting to question their LDS faith after visiting the Temple. One gentlemen told his story of being in a Temple ordinance class and feeling so uncomfortable, that he got up and left in the middle of it. Ironically, he drove away and immediately went and got a tattoo that reads “I just need someone to save me!”
  • An older lady in the class told a story of spending her life trying her hardest but always knowing she fell short. After years and years of carrying this heavy burden, she decided to try to figure out if there was a way that she could just know God and be known by Him without all of the pomp and circumstance that came along with religion. She is now 64 years old and said she feels like just a child having to start all over again.

These are of course only a fraction of the stories we have heard. There are certainly others and many many more we’ve yet to hear. I know, however, that God is working in Utah. I know that there are thousands here that are following a false prophet and worshiping a false Jesus, but there are so very many that are having the veil of deceit lifted. Praise God!!!!!

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Please continue to pray that we will see a mighty revival in this place. Please pray also that God would use us in any way He sees fit to help accomplish His purposes. To those of you who will pray for us and who always have been, we cannot thank you enough.

One final prayer request, if I can be so selfish…

The Devil is a very real adversary. He knows that we are here to thwart his plans and he does not like it. He is attacking us in a place he knows will distract us. I wish I could tell you that it hasn’t worked at all, but that would be untrue. Please pray that our eyes will stay focused on Jesus Christ alone and that we will trust Him fully over all aspects of our lives.

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Full Circle

This past week Barry & I learned that we will be allowed to lead a small group. Not just any small group but one we have been hoping to teach for a long time. We will be leading a group for those who are leaving Mormonism.

Our church, South Mountain Community Church, has a 9 week class called “Transitions”. It is a course for those considering leaving their LDS roots. When the current session of Transitions is complete, Barry & I will be offering a small group in our home for those that are interested in continuing their biblical education. This class is such an answer to prayer. For us, this is coming full circle. This allows us the opportunity to do what we came to Utah for in the first place which is to help those who have been living the LDS lie to know the truth of the Gospel.

Last night, we joined the Transitions class ourselves. Generally, no one is allowed to come to this course unless you are leaving an LDS background. This exception is being made in an effort to introduce us to the class and build relationships. Our goal is that people will feel comfortable enough with us to seamlessly move from the Transitions class to our small group.

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Being in that room last night, brought me to tears. There were about 30 people attending and the class is lead by 3 Ex-Mormons who have a love of Jesus and a heart for their LDS brothers and sisters. We were so moved by the stories we heard. Stories of children disowning their parents because their parents are leaving the LDS church. Stories of friends and neighbors no longer having any contact with them because they are seeking the truth. Stories of losing a marriage and an entire family simply because they desire to know the true and living God.

People have praised us for moving to Utah. People have patted us on the back for following a call into missions and for making sacrifices to go where He told us to go. We are here to say that we do not deserve the praise or the admiration; All the glory is His! What’s more, the people in that room last night are REALLY making sacrifices. They are the ones that deserve encouragement and support. I have been a Christian from a young age. I have taken Him for granted more times than I even care to admit. He has always been there and always welcomed me back with open arms. Still, through it all, it has cost me so very little to follow Christ. It is costing the people in this class everything! They are bravely leaving a life-encompassing religion in search of a relationship with their Heavenly Father. However, I know that though their cost will be great, the reward will be SO VERY MUCH greater.

02bcf1777068079e93ec863bd5f322f0So now, we pray. Pray for the people in this class. Not all of them will continue to come. It’s just the way it is but the Holy Spirit is working in their hearts and we pray that they will answer that knock. We pray for those that will come to our small group after this session of Transitions is over. We pray that they will feel comfortable in our home and feel free to ask any question with no fear of judgement. We also pray that they will bring their friends or family that may be questioning the LDS church but are not yet ready to walk into a Christian church. We pray that they too will be immediately welcomed and comfortable. Above all, we pray that these and many more will leave the darkness they currently live in and embrace the freedom they can experience through Christ alone.

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Conor, our 10 year old son, said yesterday: “Imagine, when it’s time for Daddy and Mommy to be dead, and then Me & Reagan too…Imagine if Utah is almost all Christians and not Mormons! That sure would be awesome!” We are so grateful for those of you that continue to pray for and financially support this mission to reach the LDS people for His kingdom. We know that without you we could never have these front row seats, and believe me, the game is getting exciting!

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