An email from “B”

Happy Thursday, everybody! We wanted to take a minute and share an email with you.

A little background on this…We are having the guys from Adam’s Road come to our house on Monday along with Lynn Wilder, author of Unveiling Grace. The dinner and dessert is designed to allow some of our previous Transitions class attendees to have an opportunity to meet them personally and ask questions. One of the previous Transitioners sent us back this email. Unfortunately, he will not be able to join us on Monday. Still, his email made our day!

This is why we are in Utah. This is why God has called us here. This is how God is moving.

Praise-him

“Barry and Jennifer,

I really appreciate you including me on the invite to come and meet the Wilder’s. Unfortunately I am flying to San Jose that afternoon on a business trip and will not be able to make it.

I give all glory to God, but I know with all of my heart that in the beginning of my transition it was the Wilder family that His message of hope broke through my ugly sin and pride. I was so blind and deaf to truth.

I sit here writing this and weep. I weep because as an ex-LDS member I couldn’t relate to my Lord; He who died for me. I walked away from his grace. I was trying so hard to earn His love, to be good enough, to overcome my own sin, to save myself…. I always felt shame and never could seem to find my way out of the deep dark place of bondage I had found myself in.

I found the Wilder’s story. I listened to brave Micah tell how he found Jesus on his LDS mission. I listened to his mother and father, his brothers, and sister, and somehow I also felt brave.

I am not even sure that I believed then, but I went and read from the bible, I attended church at SMCC. I won’t lie, I was scared. It all seemed so scandalous. How could I be forgiven? I don’t deserve this. I deserve my shame, my guilt, and most definitely punishment. I am a sinner and I will not hide that. Even with that said, I began to feel a love, a forgiveness, an acceptance. I accepted Jesus. I cannot save myself. I lean on Jesus for my salvation alone. I surely don’t have all the answers now (nor do I know if I ever will), but I am trying to do the will of the Father.

I will forever be grateful to the Wilder family for their brave and honest testimony. I don’t personally know them, but they feel like friends to me. A church family in Christ. I look at them and see the beautiful work that God is performing in their lives and in the lives of others, and I pray that God blesses them. Thank you again for the invitation. My apologies for the story, just felt the need to share. 

B….”

We have a brain…actually, 4 of them!

Remember the first day of school? Remember the stress and anxiety that came along with not knowing who would be in your classes or if you would have any friends to eat lunch with? What if you changed schools, like I did fairly often? The reality was that you would not know anyone in any class and the thought of the lunch table…well, that was enough to bring on real stress. The kind that after school specials were written about.

For the past two years, Barry & I have been in a “new school”. What has made that adjustment even harder is that we seem to be getting a new class schedule over and over again. Still, above all, we fully believe that God has been in control and that all of the changes have been directing us to the place we are in right now and the direction we are headed.

As we are about to start our Junior year in this new school, we see some familiar faces at the lunch table. Hank and Lori Brain, some of our most favorite people in all the world, are moving to Utah to jump into this ministry adventure with us! (Cue the tears) We are excited to watch as God has been so clear to them abut His desire to have them in Utah. He is opening doors faster than any of us had planned, still we feel very confident in His timing over our own.

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The details of what we are embarking on are still being prayed over and organized but the main idea is that we are planing to reach people that no one is reaching by going where no one is going. 

After two years in Utah, I truly believe that we are just about to be a part of why we were called here in the first place. God has BIG plans ahead. I’m sure of it.

The majority of the people in this state believe that they already know Him but the truth is that they are following a false god created by man. When I read these verses in Matthew, my heart just breaks.

Matthew 7:21-23 ~  “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’  Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’”

I am surrounded, every day, by so many LDS people for whom this verse is going to be a reality. “I never knew you!”  How can those words not break my heart? How could I sit here and not shed tears? So, Barry & I say “Lord, use us! Use us to stop even one person from following the false Mormon god. Use us to show them the ONLY way to be KNOWN by You”

Praise God, the Brain family are saying “Use us” too!

To those of you who have supported us through prayer and also financially – thank you! We literally could not be in this place without you. We could not have given a home to Ally, we could not have helped lead Transitions, we could not have reached out to our LDS neighbors…we could not have done any of this without you. Thank you for being as big a part of this mission as we are.

photo by Dominik Gwarek

We ask that you would continue to give finanically as the Lord directs you and to pray above all else! Pray that God would go before us in every step and in every decision in these next months of planning. Pray for the Brains and the transition that is ahead. Pray for all of our hearts to stay focused on His will.

The lunch table is filling up and the ride is getting exciting! Buckle up.

Praising Him in ALL things!

Hey, everybody! It’s been a long time since we’ve updated our blog. Sorry about that. Life can get so busy sometimes. It feels like we have a million things going on right now.

We are all healthy again! Praise Jesus!!! The kids have fully recovered. I have had my surgery and am back to 100%. The growth that they removed was benign and there is no reason to believe that it will cause any further issues. Yay!!!! Barry cracked his ribs about 3 weeks ago but he is healing well too. We have had a fair share of illness and injury and we are glad to be (currently) free of it.

Ally (our foster daughter through Holding out Help) finished her 1st semester of college with straight A’s! We are so very proud of her. She is also working part-time as a server at IHOP but she interviewed at another restaurant last week and is planning to change jobs soon. She will start her second semester in August and we are confident in her.

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Our big kids in Florida are doing really well too. Lance just finished his AA degree and plans to start on his BA at UCF in the fall. He also has begun sharing an apartment with some other college guys and is experiencing independent life for the first time. Kaitlyn is still working at Disney and to say that she loves it is an understatement. She is doing really well there. She is also planning to move out with some friends in the coming months. We are so proud of our Bigs and though it hurts being so far away from them on a daily basis, we are thankful to watch them spread their wings and really fly.

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God is doing AMAZING things in our lives here in Utah. Doors are really opening up in ways we did not think possible even a year ago. We cannot wait to give you all the details in the coming months. For now – Please continue to pray that we will stay focused on where God is leading and that our agendas will never get in the way. We want so desperately to be His hands and feet here in Utah.

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There are some rough patches that we are walking through that we’d like to share and ask for your prayers on.

Barry’s dad, Cliff, has a tumor on his brain. It is actually imbedded in his skull. All the tests they’ve done up to this point seem to indicate that there is no other area of concern in his body. That is a huge praise! Cliff will have surgery on Tuesday morning, 06/02/15 at 8:00 a.m. They plan to remove the tumor and the bone it is in. They will replace that bone with titanium. They will send a biopsy off then to determine if it is cancer. Will you please join us in praying that it is not cancerous, that the surgery goes well and that the recovery is minimal? Please be praying for Barry’s mom, Vicki, as well. She already has a full plate caring for both of their elderly parents but if I know anyone that can do it, she can.

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Barry will probably be flying back to Florida next week to be there with his family. We’d all love to go but it just isn’t possible right now. Four plane tickets are quite an expense. Barry is currently thinking he will just go next weekend so he doesn’t have to miss work. If he has to go earlier for some reason, please pray that his boss will be understanding.

Another issue we are dealing with is the sale of the home we are renting. We had already planned to move because of the ministry doors that God is opening for us, but we thought it would be at least a year away. That was until we learned that the owner of the house we are renting was going to list it. That will push our move date up by quite a large chunk. We were concerned about how the kids would react since they have made much amazing friendships in this neighborhood but God has really answered those prayers and both the Littles are handling the idea of moving very well. As this will be our 5th move in 2 years, none of us are really looking forward to it. I, for one, am praying it is my last move…ever!!!!

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Since our time frame got moved up by a lot, we are now in full on house hunting mode. It is exciting and scary at the same time. Please pray that we would make wise decisions and that God would go before us in this new adventure.

There is more –

  • Barry and I are teaching Bible at VBS and we are trying to get our LDS neighbor kids to come with us.
  • The guys from Adam’s Road and Mike & Lynn Wilder (Author of Unveiling Grace) will be here in our home on 06/22 for a meet and greet with former Mormons from our previous Transitions classes.
  • We are attending a major Transitions event the following weekend.
  • We have had so much fun with friends coming out to visit and we get to see more over the summer!

We are forever grateful for all of the love and support y’all give us. We are so humbled to be here and to be able to share our journey with you.

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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

thankyou

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