Updated: Jan 5
The following blog post may include subjects inappropriate for younger readers.
READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
(click here to read the previous post)
In October of 2015, we reached settlement on the 20-acre Idaho property across the street from my youngest brother and sister-in-law (Anne’s sister). The house and land were a true blessing from God. There was a beautiful red original barn, a local landmark known in the area. There was also pasture land, fenced in yard, 14 acres of irrigated land growing hay. The rock-solid house was built in the 1890’s and still had original wood decor and hardwood floors. The outside walls were just under 24 inches thick made of lava rock, limestone and concrete. The house was rich with character and history, one of two nearly-identical houses in the area that still stood.
Being in horse country, I planned to get involved with horses again.
My mother planned to have all of her children and grandchildren close, so she offered to pay the down payment on the property if Anne and I would secure the financing. She could have bought the house all by herself but she didn’t want my father to know where she was living. She also had been researching ways to turn the property into a business so it would produce income.
The next 2 years included Anne and I cleaning up, repairing and beautifying the property as my mother focused on updating and beautifying the house.
After buying the house in Idaho, my mother wanted to break our current lease on the rental house in Utah. I disagreed, and insisted that it wasn’t fair to the landlord for us to duck out of our commitment until it ended in March of 2016.
My mother agreed to pay the mortgage payments on the Idaho house while Anne and I would pay the rent on the Utah house until the lease ended. She was not happy about it one bit, but I reminded her how upset she had been when she was a landlord and tenants had broken their leases.
We moved out 90% of our belongings from Utah to Idaho and took our time to clean the rental house before we moved out completely. I still had my job in Utah, so I began living on the RV at a local RV park.
There were no local Idaho jobs available within my company, so I lived on the RV during my week shift and drove to Idaho for my weeks off. Sometimes Anne and a few of the kids came back with me for my work weeks. I hated having to drive back and forth, but the money was helpful to complete some of the projects around the new property. I was only able to work on the new place for 5 days at a time, because it took half a day to drive between Idaho and Utah, and the rest of the day to recuperate and get ready for work.
It was difficult for me to juggle the challenge of getting projects done and spend time with my wife and kids. Anne (still pregnant) was even more stressed because my mother made it known that she felt she owned the house 100% - she had to approve everything we might want to do - even hang a picture on the wall.
My mother and Anne continually butted heads, and Anne got upset that my mother was taking over the discipline of our kids - because I wasn’t there to back her up (because I was working in Utah), Anne backed down and my mother took over.
Before long, our kids would comment that “Grandma doesn’t like it that way,” or “Grandma doesn’t make us do that.” They defied our rules for them and then disrespected our authority over them.
The kids were also fighting among themselves, and we saw them adopting the mindset of my mother’s values, which meant Noah, our oldest son, became very selfish. Our children would respect everyone except their own parents. When we were reprimanding our kids about their actions, my mother and middle brother would jump uninvited into the conversation and defend the kids.
Anne and I were beyond frustrated but we wanted to keep peace in the house, so we conceded that if my mother and brother were talking to our kids about God and disciplining them for their actions, let them.
Our concession completely backfired when Noah began to seem afraid of me whenever I would try to talk with him. I eventually overheard my mother telling him, “Your dad’s not very good at dealing with feelings, so maybe I can help you with it.” I was livid over what I heard her say, but overall, for the sake of the kids, I still wanted to keep peace.
I hope you can see the nasty cycle beginning again. My mother had continually complained about my grandparents getting in the way of her parenting. Here she was, doing the exact same thing with my kids. I confronted her about this parallel: she denied it, became angry, and deflected by saying that Anne and I were failing as parents by not disciplining our kids. Keep reading and you will see how much deeper this goes as God brings us to a choice in the path.…
This next time in my life is terrifying for me to share and I’m not sure how to be open about it. There are many reasons for my misgivings. Though God has brought healing to my heart about my childhood and teen years, the next part of the story is still happening. If I choose honesty here, I may lose many friends. If I choose to be less than honest, I will disappoint the Holy God I serve.
To recap: My two brothers and myself were molested by our grandparents, beginning as toddlers. I was steadily abused for 9 years, but my youngest brother was massively abused in the 2 years he was exposed to my grandparents. Without getting detailed, all three of us suffer not only emotional and mental scars, but also physical and medical repercussions of the abuse. Only two of us ever got married.
I can’t speak for my youngest brother, but I spent 14 years of marriage working through my own mental and emotional issues regarding sex. It has been a long, tough road for me, especially with the way I was introduced to anything sex-related.
Obviously, Anne and I had children, so we clearly had sex, but my shame was so entwined with anything sexual that after our intimacy I would run to the shower to wash off the “filth,” and I would get depressed and angry. I would often make excuses to avoid sex, and other times I wanted to get sex over with. In retrospect, this explains why I was still a virgin when I got married. I fought a million battles in my mind over sex, my gender, and my overall identity.
Around the time my youngest brother’s daughter was born, something snapped in him. I’m not sure if it was because he had turned 30, or that he had become a father in general, or because his child was a girl. Whatever the reason, he made it clear that he had gender issues, and he was miserable with how he saw himself. He later announced that he was struggling with his gender identity. I was very cautious on how and when I addressed the topic around him.
At first, my brother was kind, gentle and understanding toward our thoughts and feelings about the changes he was discussing. Anne and I wanted to discover more regarding his position, and over time he admitted that he had been spending a lot of time on LGBT forums. Out of curiosity, I read some of what was said on forums similar to those he was visiting, and all I saw was hate and threats against those who disagreed with their lifestyles.
My brother began to become just like those he spent so much time around, and
his attitude quickly changed - he had become hypersensitive, angry and confrontational if anyone but my mother spoke to him.
My mother began to spend all day at his house, which led her to begin speaking as my brother’s mouthpiece to us and she was adamant that it would be better if all communication with him went through her.
For my entire life, my mother ensured that she was the only person who could talk to my youngest brother - any time there was an issue, she would run to his rescue. Over time, nobody could talk to my brother because my mother was the only one who could calm him down and solve his problems.
I requested (of my mother) to talk to my youngest brother because we shared the same past, and it seemed to me that having someone who lived through it might be helpful for him. My mother replied, “No. Just tell me what you want to tell him and I will deliver the message.”
I said, “Deliver this message: I love you and I want to be there for you, without judgment, any time you want to talk.” I have no idea if she ever delivered it.
I asked my mother not to discuss my brother’s identity issues with my children because it was our place to discuss it with them. About a month later when Anne and I and Dresden were back in Utah for the week, my youngest brother came into the front door of our Idaho house completely dressed as a woman, makeup, wig and all. Averie and Noah were terrified, crying and upset. When my mother jokingly told me what had happened, I was livid.
I asked if she had spoken with our kids about the incident and she replied that yes, she had talked to them. Upset, I questioned why she had done that when I’d asked her not to, because we were going to handle it. She unapologetically excused it by saying that my brother just “dropped by.” I responded, “He doesn’t EVER ‘just drop by.’ You knew we were out of town and you knew he was coming over and you said NOTHING to warn us. You deliberately used this opportunity to ignore our wishes.” Our eyes were opening to my mother’s mental games, and to the changes in dress that my youngest brother was starting to adopt.
Our fourth child (and third boy!), Lincoln Ferris, was born in early 2016.
After the rental lease expired on the Utah house, we moved everything out completely and I began living full-time (for my weeks at work) on the RV at the Utah RV park, waiting for an opportunity to find a position in Idaho near our new property.
One day, a local horse owner stopped by our property to ask if she could leave her mare and new foal in our overgrown pasture. We were ecstatic to have horses on our property, and whole-heartedly agreed. She later sold us our first horse, a “paintaloosa” we named Liberty, and was instrumental in the acquisition of our second horse, an ex-racing dapple grey quarter horse we called Atlas.
By June 2016, I was still working in Utah and decided to attend Comic-Con in Colorado, staying with cousins while we were in town. My middle brother and I drove 8 hours, super excited to spend the entire weekend having fun. We arrived Thursday night and relaxed a bit, and Friday morning began opening day of the convention. After dinner, I, my middle brother, and our cousin waited for my youngest brother to arrive - he was driving from Idaho to join us for the weekend to attend Comic-Con.
He arrived around 8pm that night, coming up the driveway and just about hitting us as we sat outside the garage. After he parked his truck he opened the door and stumbled out, so my cousin asked if he’d been drinking. My brother admitted that he’d gone to another cousin’s house for dinner and had drunk a few beers.
His behavior clearly indicated that he was intoxicated; later we discovered that he had only drunk half a bottle of beer with dinner. He had never been drunk, but had wanted to appear that way to us. Before bed that night, he chugged down one beer and went to bed about an hour later while the rest of us hung out a bit longer.
The next morning, we all got up and went to the second day of Comic-Con with a few other friends - and of course, Saturdays are the busiest day of the weekend. We were all walking around having fun - my cousin and my middle brother went to a seminar, while the rest of us kept walking around soaking it all in. Suddenly my youngest brother leans into me and said, “If another person bumps into me or even looks at me again, I WILL PULL MY KNIFE AND STAB THEM DEAD!”
I said, “Okay, why don’t we just walk over here and wait for the others to come back.” It was the longest wait of my life. My youngest brother was eyeballing every single person that walked past the open area where we stood. I could see his hand in his pocket gripping his knife harder and harder with every flood of people who passed.
I started texting my middle brother to come meet us because we needed to leave the convention as soon as possible. After the seminar was over and we were all together again, I pulled my middle brother and cousin aside to tell them what my youngest brother was saying. My middle brother mentioned that he was aware that our youngest brother had a problem with crowds. Nobody - not my middle brother, nor my mother, nor my sister-in-law had ever told any of us going to the convention that my youngest brother might have an issue with large groups of people.
I was afraid that I was going to have to break up a fight, but I was very concerned about accidentally getting stabbed.
We left the convention early. After getting back home we hung around my cousin’s house the rest of the day.
I called my sister-in-law and asked why, if her husband had a problem with crowds, hadn’t she warned me or suggested that he not attend the convention? She answered that he had developed the phobia very recently, and she had hoped that going to the convention on the busiest day might force him to deal with it. She was unapologetic and dismissive.
The next day, Sunday, was my youngest brother’s birthday. It was also Father’s Day that year. The night before, we suggested that we not attend the last day of Comic-Con, and we offered to let my youngest brother pick what we did that day, since it was his birthday, but he declined and told us to go do what we wanted without him.
The next morning, when I went to tell my brother “Happy Birthday and Happy Father’s Day” and I asked if he had changed his mind about doing something, he told me to f*** off and to leave him alone.
He has always hated his own birthday (more than likely because he wished he was never born, even though I never heard him outright say it). I understood because I wished the same thing, on and off, for years.
We went to the convention for a few hours while my youngest brother stayed behind. When we got home that day, we found him sitting in the garage with more than a dozen beer bottles around himself while he was playing with his guns. We later figured out that he had staged the beer bottles - he had pulled them out of the recycling bin.
As we got out of the car, he lifted the gun he had in his hand and pointed it straight at us, dry firing it (pulling the trigger without a bullet in the chamber). As I got closer, I noticed that he had bag next to him with several loaded magazines. We attempted small talk with him, but he continued to point his gun at us and pull the trigger.
My heart was broken for him and I didn’t know how to help him, but I kept reminding myself that I shouldn’t get involved, that I should let my mother handle it because that was what she had trained me to believe. But what should I do now, when Mommy wasn’t here to help her precious Baby deal with things like an adult? She wasn’t around and he was a mess.
Later that night, we asked my youngest brother if he wanted to go over to the neighbor’s house and see the wicked toys he had. He declined, and we went without him. While we were out of the house, I called my mother, who was with my sister-in-law. I explained what was going on and they both insisted that we keep showing my brother love. His wife also suggested that I get in his face and shake him out of it.
I was confused - for years, I had been told to never confront him ever, and now I was being told to confront him. I asked them, “Please call him yourself and tell him to go home and deal with his problems.” I got off the phone and went to bed, but before turning in for the night, I locked the door to my room, and for the first time in my life, I placed a loaded a handgun on the nightstand - if my brother snapped in the middle of the night, I’d be able to defend myself. My brother’s behavior really scared me that weekend.
The next morning, I had no idea that my youngest brother was planning to head home that day. He had locked himself in the bathroom, so I knocked on the door and asked if he wanted to go mountain biking after breakfast. He never answered, but I heard him turn on the shower. We ate a light breakfast and got our bikes loaded up, and each of us separately checked on him, making sure he wasn’t interested in joining us because we would be leaving in 10 minutes. Since he’d originally locked himself in the bathroom, 45 minutes had elapsed with still no answer.
I was done letting my youngest brother’s tantrums hijack the rest of my weekend. We jumped into the truck and off to the hills we went. We had an epic day of biking in the mountains, and when we got back, his truck was gone.
We went in the house to eat lunch and started to discuss how much pain my youngest brother must be experiencing for him to be acting this way.
I was making excuses for my brother during the conversation, but my one cousin (who was a nurse) called me out - she was heartbroken for my brother’s pain and that nobody was standing up to him and pushing him to get help. She said, “I’ve worked with kids of all types, and a lot of them are dealing with depression and suicide attempts. Stop making excuses for your brother. Somebody needs to stand up and tell him that he has to get help. His destructive behavior will only get worse - I see how parents cover for their children every day because they’re not willing to get their kids the help they need. Can’t anyone see that your brother is screaming for help?!”
Her heartbroken outburst opened my eyes - I had been making excuses for my brother, and those excuses were keeping him from getting the help he needed. I sincerely apologized to my cousin and agreed that she was right - but if he refused to face his past, and his wife and mother refuse to push him to make a change, what else could we do?
This is when we all opened up about what each of us had experienced during his time with us that weekend. My middle brother and cousin admitted that my youngest brother had pointed a gun at them (separately from the time he’d done it to all of us) but he’d also turned the gun on himself and pulled the trigger with the muzzle pointed at his own head in front of them. This was shocking to me because they were talking about the person who had taught me gun safety - he and I had run drills at the outdoor gun range together in the past!
I called my mother immediately, wanting to warn her about his possible state of mind as he drove home toward my family. She was in her car with my sister-in-law and my two oldest children. I informed them of what I had learned during lunch and I suggested they take precautions before my brother got home. I strongly suggested that my sister-in-law bring her daughter next door to our house until they were able to assess his mindset when he got home. I reiterated that he may or may not be calm, and I pleaded with them to bring a weapon to defend themselves when they sat him down to talk, just in case. I had no idea what he might do and I was afraid for the safety of all my family back in Idaho.
My mother interrupted me and said, “I don’t believe you. Your brother called me last night and said you were mean to him, you were teasing him, you ignored him the whole time, you didn’t want to do anything he wanted to do. He said he asked to do something other than go to Comic-Con and you told him to f*** off.”
At this point - I can’t lie - I couldn’t listen to anything more, and angrily let them have a piece of my mind. I told them that my brother was too scared to try and kill himself, so why weren’t we standing up to him and his behavior? Unfortunately, by responding in such a way, in their minds I was actually proving that everything my brother lied about was actually true.
When my mother and sister-in-law ignored my concern, I called Anne and told her what happened. I didn’t realize that my mother had been telling Anne what was going on, and my own wife had started to believe I was lying too. Everyone turned against me.
My mother talked to my cousin (the nurse), but all my mother heard from that conversation was that I made my cousin cry because of what I said about my brother. That was true! But what my mother refused to hear was that my excusing his behavior was why my cousin cried for my brother. When I told my mother she was wrong, and that we should have everyone talk together on a conference call to get the facts straight, she said, “No, I’ve heard all I need to hear. Leave your brother alone from now on.”
My mother and sister-in-law said they planned to send my brother to the doctor to get him on female hormones so that he would calm down. I said that he didn’t need hormones, he needed serious help.
I got the silent treatment from my mother and sister-in-law (and obviously, my youngest brother) after that. More tension grew between Anne and I, and between our kids and ourselves.
I want to state for the record that Anne and I and our kids never treated my youngest brother any differently after he decided to pursue gender changes in his lifestyle. He was still family and we still showed him love the way we always had.
Tension from “The Colorado Incident” seemed to calm down after a month or so. My youngest brother came back around but wouldn’t ever look my direction.
In August 2016, my Utah base was ending the work contract, so I was again looking for a new base to transfer to. I applied to be hired on with the new company taking over the base, but they refused to hire me because of the damage inflicted through the 6-year-long rumor mill.
I only know of one pilot coming to my defense; I’m not sure if any medical crew defended me, or if they believed the negativity that the few had continued to spin about me. I stayed until the end of the contract, and in November I moved a few aircraft back to Colorado before collecting my things and returning to Idaho for good.
As my job ended in Utah, a position opened up in Idaho. I spent the entire month of November catching up on outside projects and spending much needed time with my wife and kids. I started my job through a smooth transition in December.
In April of 2017, my 2015 GMC dually had countless unsolvable issues, so I began looking for a replacement truck. I looked at the new 2017 Chevy trucks and I fell in love with the 2017 Midnight Edition Chevy. I looked everywhere for a Midnight Edition longbed truck, but the manufacturer had an issue sourcing parts for building them and the only ones available were with dealers that had already ordered them.
I got wind of an available Midnight Edition on the opposite side of Idaho, 8.5 hours from where we lived. The specific truck the dealer was holding had every single must-have item on my list. I worked a deal over the phone; the dealer agreed to give me an awesome deal on my trade-in. The truck was en route to the dealership and they would call me in 2 weeks to come pick it up - I immediately made sure my work schedule was clear for the week the truck would be ready. They called me 3 days earlier than expected and said, “Come get it.” I was still on shift and asked if I could come a few days later when my shift was over, but they said if I couldn’t come right away, they wouldn’t be able to give me the price they had originally agreed to because of an accidental paperwork issue; I would have to wait another two weeks to get the price deal. I was disappointed, but I conceded that “good things come to those who wait.”
I got the call a few days later that the dealership had worked around the paperwork issue, and could now give me the agreed-on price - my next work shift was set to start three days later. Anne insisted that we go immediately.
We threw clothes in a bag and jumped into the truck to start our 1,050-mile trip. On the way over, I began experiencing an awful sore throat and a cold began to emerge.
We got to dealer the next morning, and they said the original paperwork issue was causing trouble in the computer, but they would honor the agreed-on price, even sweetening the deal by throwing in the gooseneck hitch installation for free. It all worked well and we headed home with the coolest truck I have ever owned.
Before my youngest brother had started female hormone therapy, my sister-in-law persuaded him to agree to conceive one more baby. She got pregnant soon after, and my brother began taking female hormones shortly after that.
During Anne’s sister’s second pregnancy, my youngest brother had at least twice threatened to divorce her - once halfway through her pregnancy, and again after their son had been born.
Their son was born premature and had Down Syndrome; he was in the NICU for 2 months. During this time, Anne had agreed to watch their 2-year old daughter while her sister and my mother were in the NICU with the new baby - they were concerned that my youngest brother was dangerous and might neglect or deliberately hurt his daughter.
I visited my sister-in-law while she was in the hospital, and saw my youngest brother looking like he had during “The Colorado Incident,” but ten times worse. I asked if he was okay, and my sister-in-law broke down, admitting that her husband was still taking hormones, and they were making no positive impact. The OB nurses had seen his angry, depressed demeanor, like he was walking around in a world of his own; they had discussed their concerns with my sister-in-law and my mother, that he might be a danger to his wife and their son.
My mother’s solution was to blame my brother’s medications, and promised to discuss the dosage with my brother’s doctor. Nothing ever changed, and my youngest brother separated himself more and more from his wife, daughter and son. If even strangers could see this, there was a problem.
My mother spent a week appealing to her youngest son not to divorce his wife, but came to the conclusion that he was the victim and his wife was 100% at fault. Soon after, my sister-in-law was agreeing that she was entirely at fault for all his threats of divorce.
Anne and I offered a safe place for my sister-in-law and her children to come live with us, but I had stipulations: 1) make a clean break from your husband and don’t look back, 2) find some income so you can become independent, 3) stop talking to your mother-in-law (because my mother was hindering any growth), and 4) get counseling because this pattern will never stop unless you force it to.
Anne’s sister took a day to two to consider our offer (and discuss it with my mother, no doubt) and responded with a polite, “no thanks.”
I was incredulous! It was more than unfair that all her husband ever did for her was keep a roof over her head, provide food to eat and a car to drive. He rarely did anything else - I even plowed their driveway each winter and mowed their lawn because my brother refused to do it! He was continually so selfish that he spent all their money on himself and his projects and hobbies, but when important things were necessary, they “didn’t have the money.” This was an unacceptable excuse for treating his family hatefully, and for my mother to defend him for doing so.
My sister-in-law had been brainwashed, and her husband and mother-in-law had set her up and kept her controlled.
Toward the end of summer, a pilot left my base and I was working a lot of overtime to fill the open spot, which left a lot of stuff for Anne to do on our property by herself. She moved irrigation pipes for 2-3 hours every morning, fed our horses twice a day, dealt with our kids, and kept the farm running.
She was so overwhelmed most days, she would sneak out after the kids went to bed and stand with the horses, looking at the stars and talking with God. She learned so much about herself through this process, which was a daily occurrence for nearly 6 months.
Liberty, our first horse, had needed training, but Anne didn’t understand that in trying to fix Liberty, her own attitude was so extreme that it pushed the horse away. Over time, Anne learned that in order to meet the horse’s needs, she must change first. As Anne changed to meet her horse’s needs, Liberty changed in a way Anne had never expected.
It was truly inspiring for me to see how Anne gained more courage, confidence, and strength. I was so proud of how she stepped up, swallowed her pride and humbled herself to grow.
During Anne’s time of growth, I was growing too. It took 70 minutes of driving time for me to get to work, so I had a lot of time to listen to sermons, pray, worship and listen to our incredible God. I listened for a long time and got very little, but one day God began speaking to my heart - He wanted to speak to me! It was so beautiful - not an audible voice, but He was communing with my heart and soul. I learned so much about myself during this time, but I learned, more than ever before, who God is.
He reminded me of a vision He had given me when I was 18 years old, just after I made the decision to follow Jesus Christ. God had told me that I would start a ministry and it would help lead many people to Christ. It had been 20 years since I had thought about that, and I was excited to be reminded of His promise.
I began reading the Bible often again, and I couldn’t help but soak up any knowledge about God I could find. I listened to many sermons to and from work, and began listening to them at home as well.
My mother grew upset and angry that Anne and I were listening to online sermons and attending a local church, and that we stopped listening to her “wisdom.”
One day she brought up an old wound that she had used many years before: she accused me of turning into my father, and told me that just like him, I was “destined for failure.”
I ignored her cutting words and instead I asked God about sections of the Bible I kept hearing more and more often:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
- Matthew 6:19-21, 24
Reading this, I started to wonder what I would want to store up as treasure in Heaven. I came into this world with nothing and I will leave it with nothing, so I asked God what this “treasure in Heaven” would look like - I asked God what He treasured. He answered, “My son, my creation is my treasure, the ones I created in My image: the spirits of humans. You are my treasure.”
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
- Psalms 37:4
My greatest desire was to please my God, and in my quiet times I asked Him to give me what He wanted me to desire. Shortly thereafter, I began asking for His treasure to be the treasure I was storing up in Heaven. I asked, “Please use me to help others see You.” I wanted God to amass for me a treasure that He Himself considers valuable. It cannot be stolen or destroyed.
In September 2017, the family (including my youngest brother) came together for my mother’s birthday dinner. At one point, I was in the other room and overheard Anne mentioning that she didn’t understand how the government could allow him to change his name and sex on his government ID and other identifying documents if his body hadn’t ever been changed. He got angry, stood up, and walked out the door - this would be the last time he was ever in our home while we were present.
I was surprised at his attitude after this happened, and wondered why, if taking female hormones was supposed to calm him down, it wasn’t working. My mother and sister-in-law had sent me links to many online articles proving that taking hormones would help with the anger and violence, so I mentioned it to them, only to hear excuses and evasion.
They began to tell me that Anne and I were the problem because we weren’t supporting his lifestyle changes. I responded, “Yeah, we don’t, because you promised that the hormones would help his attitude and they didn’t.” They had made his attitude much more violent.
My sister-in-law then said that our kids were okay with my youngest brother’s changes, so why couldn’t we be?
I responded, “Oh, they are not ok with it! They may be telling you what you want to hear, but privately, they are telling us they hate it… and I believe them. It is completely unfair for you to put words in their mouths or to tell them how they should feel. How dare you use my children to sell your narrative! They are smart kids and they are miserable that you keep ramming this crap down their throats!”
Then, I laid into them about their refusal to let me talk to my brother about our past. I told them, “He needs help, and his past abuse is what’s causing these issues. I was there and it was gruesome what they did to him.”
My mother again demanded that I not talk to my brother, assuring me that she would handle it.
I was so livid that I off I walked out the door and let it slam as I went out to feed the horses.
I don’t know what my mother was saying to my kids, but one day, Noah came and told me that he was afraid he would be turned into a girl. Later I found out that he had been teased by my youngest brother and sister-in-law that if he ever liked pink or purple, he might really be a girl underneath, just like his uncle. After that, Noah refused to eat from pink or purple dishes, and he would break down and cry if we insisted the color of the plate didn’t matter. To him, it definitely did.
This was just a smidgen of the problems, but the tip of the iceberg was slowly growing bigger as the truth came out about what our kids were experiencing when we weren’t around. My mother had pushed to be the only one homeschooling our two oldest, which had significantly increased the amount of time they spent with her each day.
In early 2018, Anne and I stepped out in faith with God and established Brave Sky Ranch. It was a ministry to use horses and ranch life to help mentor kids with a past like mine. I wanted to establish a youth-and-family camp to help families in need of healing, like I wished my family had been able to attend in my younger years.
We stepped out in faith again when we told our families that God was calling us into full-time ministry. In February 2018, we sat down with my mother, sister-in-law and middle brother, and informed them of our intentions to follow where God was calling us to go, and that we either needed to sell our current property or my mother could buy us out of our portion. God gave us this new direction and He told us it was not a path they were allowed to join us on.
My mother came unglued and said that she felt her calling was to teach our kids, and that couldn’t happen if they weren’t with her. Yet again, my mother had made it about herself. I answered, “You think your calling in life is to teach our kids? Don’t you mean control them? All I’ve ever seen you do is make people dependent on you for answers instead of leading them to look to God for direction.”
I then informed my mother that I needed to have an answer by the upcoming weekend (in three days time) as to which of the options she preferred to pursue - sell the property or buy us out. She came to me the next day and said, “Sell the property.”
In the days and weeks after our announcement, my mother began privately discussing, with our two oldest children, her dislike of the direction Anne and I were heading and steps we were taking. She was sowing seeds of doubt and discord in the minds of our kids. Noah and Averie came to us and were heartbroken and confused as to why their grandmother wanted them, alongside her, to ask God to take all of our funding away so that we would fail. This was the final straw for us to stop trusting my mother with our children; from this point on, we were wary of leaving them alone with her, my middle brother or my sister-in-law.
We were stepping out in faith in all kinds of ways, and I realized that we needed to get another truck in order to be mobile, when needed. We would need to have a vehicle that could allow us to pull whatever we needed, whether it was our RV or a horse trailer or just general trailers around our property. At this time, we also planned a trip to the East Coast for that July - just me, Anne and the kids. It would be our first-ever vacation with just the 6 of us, and we would use the travel opportunity to promote Brave Sky Ranch and tell people about how horses had helped us.
I enlisted Noah to help me make a list of what options should be on the truck we would order. He and I then went online and digitally built a new truck to our specs to see the layout and price. We ended up needing to scratch important things off the list because of cost.
The manufacturer’s online ordering program wasn’t working, but the salesperson made a copy of our list and would place the order as soon as the program was operational again.
We didn’t need to buy a new truck, but we wanted to see God do something miraculous, and we also wanted to ensure that all appropriate safety items would be installed on the truck because our children would be in that truck often.
Noah kept our handwritten list above his Lego desk and talked to God every day about the truck we ordered.
During this time, we had begun taking the kids on outings away from the house more and more often. We drove 250 miles away to pick up another vizsla puppy in April 2018. This time we got a girl, and we named her Harlie Hope. She has been the biggest delight and the most fun canine companion (Westen is a giant bump on a log).
About the end of April, we were looking for a vehicle for Anne to drive that would fit all 6 of us. We previously hadn’t needed another vehicle because we had been sharing/borrowing my mother’s SUV since she’d moved in with us in 2014. Because we started to pull our children away from my mother’s care, we also wanted to separate our belongings from hers, and we believed that we should step out to get our own family vehicle.
Anne had happened to drive by a rather nice 2000 Ford Excursion diesel SUV for sale. We test drove it - it was older, and had 278,000 miles on it, so I wasn’t sure it was the truck we should buy. But then God told us to trust Him, that it was a solid truck. So we stepped out in faith and bought it. That vehicle never failed us or stranded us the entire time we owned it.
A few days later, I was flying during a night shift and began to feel numbness in one of my arms, with pain so strong I could no longer overlook the issue. The next morning I told the base manager that I needed to see a doctor before I flew again. I went to a chiropractor who took x-rays of my back and neck and found that my years of flying had caused scoliosis in my middle-back and had crushed a disc at my C-7 vertebrae.
My injuries were caused by a decade of wearing flight helmets with Night Vision Goggles. My pain was being caused by the crushed disc pinching the main nerve going to my arm. Doctors told me said that if I continued in my line of work, I would probably need to have my neck fused within a short period of time.
At this news, I took advantage of my company’s short term disability plan and started the healing process. If my aviation career was over, there would be much to figure out - how to earn income, support my family, and pay for a newly-ordered truck.
Anne and I spent a lot of time learning to listen to and commune with God in every aspect of our lives, trying to understand more of what He wanted for us to do in caring for our children and serving others. We submitted trademark and 501(c)(3) paperwork to establish Brave Sky Ranch as a legal nonprofit organization, and awaited a response.
Shortly thereafter, the Chevy Dealer called me, saying that the truck we had ordered had been delivered. We were expecting God to do something crazy cool to help us pay for the truck, so I asked if He wanted me to trade in my current 2017 Chevy. He said, “No! Just wait.”
Twenty-four hours before our appointment with the dealer, I was gripped by fear and worried that God wouldn’t come through. Anne said God spoke to her and said that we needed to show up at 11am Saturday morning. This got me excited again that God was going to do something really awesome.
We showed up just before 11am and I began inspecting the truck to be sure it was correct. Everything seemed fine after I test drove… and I saw Anne talking with a friend we hadn’t seen in a while - seeing him totally distracted me and we talked with him for over an hour before completing the paperwork of the truck.
We thought God was going to do something amazing in our purchase of this truck, but we were disappointed that nobody magically showed up with a check, nor did the dealer generously knock off any of the cost… but we continued to step out in faith that this was God’s truck, and He provided surprising financing for the entire amount.
We were bummed that we needed to finance the truck but we were still excited about the forward step. In Noah’s mind, God had provided that truck, even though he didn’t fully understand the payment situation.
Noah came to me 2 days after we brought the truck home and reminded me that we needed to check the truck against the list we had made.
We checked the build list and found that it had everything on it… except the airbags, which were the number one thing on our original list and the reason we chose to order a truck instead of buying one already on the lot.
I promptly called our salesperson at the dealership and told him our problem. He invited us to come speak with management in person about the issue, then asked if it was possible for us to overlook the missing airbags. I insisted that the reason we were ordering the truck at all was because of the airbags, which were an option, and not a standard item. The dealership crew were very apologetic and wanted to work with us.
Their preferred solution was to place a new order with all the options, but our East Coast trip was quickly approaching and there was no time to wait for an entirely new truck to be built.
They then suggested that we place the order for a new truck to be built, and in the meantime we keep the current truck to use for our trip. When we got home we could swap out the two trucks, and pay for the mileage we had used.
We agreed to this solution and went home, but continued thinking about it more and realized that we couldn’t afford that option - it would only further deplete our funds.
We then went to God for wisdom and again we heard Him - He told us to send an email to the dealership and then “just wait.” We sent the email He led us to write, and the dealership called us the next day, promising to find a solution and asking, “Please be patient with us.”
They called us not much later and asked us to bring the truck back to them, that they had located a newly-built truck in mid-shipment to an Oregon dealership. We needed to approve the truck change and sign new paperwork. We looked over the new build sheet, and as we compared our handwritten original list to the new truck’s build sheet, we realized that this Oregon truck had every single item we had listed; not only the “must-haves,” but also all the “wants,” the items we scratched out due to cost.
I brought this price change to the manager and he said, “We will cover the difference so you won’t have to pay more than you originally agreed. That way your payment will stay the same.”
OUR GOD HAD PROVIDED! We had listened and He had provided.
We signed all the paperwork and we waited again - about 3 weeks later, the new truck rolled in and we carefully and deliberately checked the build sheet this time. We had a friend from work wrap the truck with our logos and company name at the last minute - and it was ready to go on the morning we had planned to set out on our cross-country journey.
Through much Bible reading and listening for God’s wisdom, Anne and I decided to take another step in faith.… Because God had asked us to trust Him, we followed Him and, days before leaving town, I resigned from my full-time job. This seemed completely nuts, but we did it anyway.
We returned from our 6-week East Coast trip with significant changes in our children. We noticed that our kids threw less tantrums, fought less among themselves, and Dresden had stopped waking up with nightmares, all since we had left Idaho. Our kids asked only once about my mother while we were away.
I myself wondered what my mother was doing in our house back home - she had agreed to finish up projects in the house while we were gone….
Just before we had set out for the East Coast, Anne and I discovered that the title company had never added my mother’s name to the deed for our property when we bought it almost 3 years before. They had planned to add her name, but for some unknown reason, it had never actually happened. Once we realized this, we informed her that she had no legal right to the property, so she didn’t have any legal authority to list it.
She was livid. (I’m sure you’ve noticed that being livid happens often.) My mother was so upset that she visited a lawyer. She threatened to sue us if her name wasn’t added to the deed immediately.
I asked, “You would really do that? You would take your son to court? I didn’t even want this house or property, I did it for you! I did everything for you: moving you in with us when you were in a legal battle with my father, I helped you in your low times, I kept my family near you to comfort you, and when neither of my brothers would testify on your behalf at a Hawaii court for your divorce, I did. I agreed to buy this home in Idaho for you and now you want to take me to court? Well, you have to do what you have to do. We will not be putting your name on the deed.”
What my mother didn’t know was that God had told us not to put her name on the deed because she would have more power to stall selling the house. She would stall as long as possible to have access to our children as long as possible.
Eventually, my mother backed off and let the property be listed for sale. I think she was afraid that if she sued us, she would never see her grandkids again. Noah and Averie overheard us talking about lawsuits and asked us why their grandma would treat our dad this way. They were thinking for themselves!
After a month or so, Anne and I were talking to God and each other, as we did every day, and we made the agreement that none of our kids could be left alone with my middle brother ever again. We weren’t sure why, but something wasn’t right when we watched him interact with our children.
We enacted the “Open-Door Policy:” our kids weren’t allowed in any bedroom with closed doors. This was highly offensive to my mother, middle brother and sister-in-law, clearly obvious that we no longer trusted them. I told them the reason we were doing this was to start protecting our children from the world outside; our kids would be out in the public and would learn that being behind closed doors with anyone but their parents was dangerous.
We also started noticing that Noah was being blamed for things that were never his fault, such as the time our niece threw a toy and broke a living room window. Somehow my mother and sister-in-law blamed Noah, saying that he had been a bad example and he had enticed my 3-year-old niece to throw toys. I confronted my mother about it and she yelled at me to walk away and leave her alone.
Noah began hiding in his room and playing with his Legos. My mother had greatly increased the number of gifts she would give our daughter “just because,” but no gifts were given to any of the boys. This caused tension between Noah and Averie and further isolated Noah from everyone else. This was a pattern I recognized from my own childhood… remember that Christmas when my grandparents gave me less money than my brothers as a threat to comply?
My sister-in-law brought her kids over daily and would openly discuss completely completely inappropriate topics for children’s ears.
I politely asked one day why they chose to talk in our home instead of her home right next door? The answer they gave: they came to our house because her husband was home and they couldn’t freely talk about him when he was around.
In my head, I completely understood their problem because I felt the same way, and could never speak freely in my own home. I politely asked them to refrain from talking about adult-only issues in front of our kids. They were offended but they complied.
The next issue I happened to see was my middle brother spending more and more time with our 8-year-old daughter. He had become very touch-y with her, and I noticed that he couldn’t keep his hands off her and was always hugging her. Averie has always been very affectionate, but my brother’s behavior had become inappropriate. I told Anne that we needed to keep Averie away from my middle brother from then on.
During this time, my middle brother was also getting more and more angry and displayed violent outbursts when stubbing a toe or not getting his way. Our kids became scared of him, especially after they watched him scream in Anne’s face once when he (erroneously) accused her of stealing his food. He and Anne are the same age, and someone in their late 30s should never be acting like our 2-year-old.
Something else that gave us the creeps was the way my middle brother related to our mother - he would make a meal for the two of them and then they would go into her room, close the door and eat their dinner sitting together in bed watching TV like a married couple (as Anne and I do often!).
My middle brother also became very protective over my mother in a very unhealthy way, especially if he thought that I was going to say something that would hurt her feelings. I would stand my ground while telling my mother she needed to stop doing something, and my brother would get into my face and threaten me with a violent stare-down. My thought was, “Oooh, I’m really scared. This is my whiny toe-stubbing brother - all I’d have to do is poke him and he would be over in the corner, cussing me out and screaming in pain.” There was no strength in his violence, only foolishness and weakness.
My mother trained my middle brother well - they both had all the benefits of a marriage without the sexual relationship. I’ll be honest, as long as I’ve known her, my mother has specialized in creating massive dependency in those around her.
Meanwhile, she was attending a local church after deeply criticizing me and my family for doing so.
Brave Sky Ranch was hitting roadblocks in finding funding after our 501(c)(3) status was approved. The approval process was long and drawn out - we had previously fallen through the cracks with our lawyer and decided to do the extra work and submit the long form to the IRS with the most information they would need.
Our lawyer warned us that the application would probably not be approved without much more work, but we were confident that whatever approval God allowed us would be sufficient. On March 20, 2019, the approval letter came in the mail with no stipulations and no questions asked - our lawyer was completely surprised, and Anne and I were so thankful for this open door.
We walked through doors as God opened them; He led us to talk with others about Brave Sky, but when we reached out to local pastors and churches, they never even returned phone calls. We made it clear that we were not trying to fundraise but to offer our program for those who needed healing, and we never charge for our services!
When we stepped out in faith to follow God’s leading in this ministry, we set our hearts and minds straight: this is His ministry, not ours. We go when and where He asks us to go.
No income for almost a year left our finances extremely tight, so we decided to make hard cuts. I traded in my favorite truck (the one we drove 19 hours round trip to get) to help us keep moving forward.
You see, God had been showing me that there was a theme in the New Testament of the Bible - Hell and money were mentioned a lot. Hell wasn’t an issue for me because I already accepted the free gift that Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross offered. But money was a different subject.
I had a hard time selling the truck I drove 1000+ miles to bring home. I was concerned that I might be treating that truck as more important than God. Anne and I believe that everything we have was given to us by God, and our desire is to offer it all back to Him for His purposes, to allow Him to direct how it’s used. Even our lives.
God had provided the opportunity to own this wonderful truck, but if it was getting in the way of me fully giving me heart to God, I would drop that truck like a hot potato and never look back. I returned to the Chevy dealer who had an older Chevy pickup that cost significantly less than mine. Someone had taken the truck home that evening for a trial run, but I conceded that if the truck was still available in the morning, then it was meant to be and I would take it home. The next morning the salesman called and said, “Your truck just came back.” It clearly was meant to be.
I traded my truck in for an older and cheaper truck, walking away with $11,000 cash in hand to use for Brave Sky finances. I realized later that the truck had not come between my heart and my God, but it was a memento - an item full of memories to cherish: when Anne and I went to buy it, all the time I spent close to God on my commutes to work, the people who had been helped… saying goodbye to that truck and its memories was very emotional for me.
After many months of walk-throughs and ridiculous offers, we finally got a reasonable offer to sell our property. The buyers wanted to settle on April 12, 2019 but we needed a few extra days, so everyone agreed to extend the date a week, to April 19. Then the buyers scheduled settlement back to April 12 but that date became a problem, and settlement finally completed on April 15. Confused yet?
Anne and I and the kids needed to find a place for ourselves and our horses, and had counted on having until the 19th to find residence. The new owners agreed to let us stay in our RV (that we’d parked in the driveway) until the 19th.
So we took extra care getting things cleaned up so that they could move in. The new owners began moving their belongings onto the property 3 days before settlement with a whole lot more than they’d told us they were bringing. Their belongings were everywhere, and they didn’t even own the property yet. I verified that it was still okay with the new owners if we stayed until the 19th.
Then, on the 15th just after settlement, I was nearly finished cleaning up manure in the pastures when the new owner rudely asked Anne when we were getting our RV off their property. He agreed to allow our horses on the property until the 19th, but that was all. We began scrambling to find new place to go that day.
We called a friend who had several acres and she invited us to come on over to her place right then. So we dropped the cleaning efforts, packed up, and left.
We spent the next 4 days getting the proper panels and fencing installed and ready to contain our horses in their temporary new home.
We had first met the owner of our this property when we needed a new farrier for our horses. At the beginning of 2019, God told me to go to her property and help her 3 days a week serving her, her husband and her horses by doing whatever work was needed without any compensation. The barn stalls needed daily mucking, and that was one thing I did nearly every day I was on her property.
When we needed to move our horses and our RV, she asked us to pay $50 a month to help with the electric bill. I agreed that was fair, but when she had mentioned that she was getting low on funds, I renegotiated our deal and offered to pay her 4 times more - $200 a month. It was much more than we would ever use for utilities. She took that deal without thinking about it. I paid her the full amount for the first two weeks, and then paid her for the next full month.
Meanwhile, Anne had stepped up to help with the mucking of up to 17 stalls every day (and we continued to do so for nine months straight, not because we had to, but because through serving our friend, we were serving our God).
A few months later, our finances were squeezed again and we couldn’t afford the $200 a month (though honestly, by paying 4 times the fair amount we actually paid for a year of $50 months). I was shocked to hear her response: “Well I guess I’ll have to work you harder.” It sounds like she was joking, but she was serious. HARDER?! We were already working 7 days a week without breaks or days off, cheerfully helping however and whenever needed.
The following is a list of all the work done without complaint or compensation (and also a list of things we have become good at doing):
Plowing snow in the winter, daily cleaning 17 barn stalls, power-washing entire barn, general landscaping, general cleanup, horse training, horse grooming, horse breeding, maintenance and repairs, twice-daily feeding up to 47 animals, cleaning outside pens, rounding up runaway horses, nursing sick horses, watering outside pens, upgrading buildings on property, transporting horses & cattle, pickup/dropoff/stacking hay & straw (using our dually truck), daily arena grooming, daily arena prep for various functions, direct contact for special events, event setup/teardown, handling/gentling horses, barn management, contact for boarders’ questions and concerns, monthly tack room organizing, dump/recycling runs, helping the owners move their living quarters to the property from a previous house, rescuing the owners when vehicles broke down (happened often!), buying ponies at full price to help financially (when we had no money ourselves), donating countless free and hugely-discounted items to owners to help in building future home, buying much-needed items needed to run the barn and property (without reimbursement), paying for services even when they were offered for free, taking in a horse, transporting horses to/from clients & vet appointments, offering our hay when smaller bales were needed for travel, installing fencing, repairing gates, fueling tractor (without reimbursement)…. all without expecting compensation or anything in return. You get the point.
In May of 2019, I attended a seminar in Oregon at a horse ranch who ministers to kids and families. During the four days I was there, God moved me greatly and spoke to my heart about things I should be paying attention to. I fully dedicated everything I have and more to God and His use, right down to the very life he gave me; I asked Him to let me have a long life of service to Him, no matter where He wants me to go.
I wanted Him to use me however He saw fit. Little did I know that asking God to use me would make my life extremely difficult. My faith would be stretched further than I thought it could go.
After I left the seminar, Anne and I applied to connect with this organization and become a similar ministry, listing Brave Sky on their website.
God opened the door wide open and we were accepted into the program quickly. It was probably the easiest hurdle we encountered since starting Brave Sky.
God seemed to be doing amazing things, but nothing worked out the way we thought it would. I was very disappointed that God wasn’t constantly sending clients to us; we had many people wanting to help or be helped but they never showed up or returned our calls. Very few folks actually helped us, but we are more than grateful for those who have.
After we sold our property, my mother bought a house in the area and needed help moving into her new place. I asked why I was the only truck owner to help her, and why my younger brother wasn’t helping. She answered that he didn’t want to. What about his wife? She was busy.
I was the only one helping her 99% of the time. I had selflessly helped her move, helped her buy property, helped her feel safe, and I had also been the only son willing to testify against my father in divorce court - she didn’t trust my brothers for that.
With all the things God revealed over the last year, I asked Him if my mother and brothers and sister-in-law should stay in our lives. The answer was “NO. I want you to walk away. If you keep in contact, your kids will suffer more and this ministry will go nowhere.”
God also said, “If you allow your middle brother to stay in your childrens’ lives, because of his choices he will eventually molest your daughter.” I had no reason to doubt God’s direction in this, so Anne and I wrote a letter to all of them saying we had chosen to part ways with them, and to “Please respect our decision and do not contact us any further.”
For about 6 months, they made no attempt to contact us, then one day they talked a mutual friend into delivering 4 giant boxes of food. Our fridge and pantry were already full, and we had no need for more, but God told us to keep some and donate the rest. A local shelter got a big surprise that day! God has kept our fridge and pantry full. We have never been without food on our table, no matter how low our funds get.
My mother must have thought that we would end up on the street after quitting my job - how wrong she was! She still (to my knowledge) believes that Anne and I are sinning because we walked away from 20 acres of land, lack ministry support and funding, and have walked away from family (who were controlling us).
Remember earlier when I spoke about discovering my “treasure?” Those verses also mention serving only one master. My mother can’t serve two masters - she worships family first, then material things, and maybe God. Of all I’ve seen, my mother drops God’s name when it’s useful for her, and then she lives like He’s her slave.
But MY GOD is strongest in my weakness, and has provided what we need, sometimes not the way we expect - but He has provided all the same. He could have provided more, but he promised in His Word to provide all of our needs, not all of our greeds.…
After moving onto our RV full-time, we realized that we had enough belongings to rent two storage units. We were running low on money in July 2019 and still couldn’t find support in the area to help Brave Sky move forward, so we decided that everything in storage needed to be given away or sold.
We cleared our belongings from the storage units, asking God what we should sell, and everything He told us to list for sale sold for a fair price within 24 hours of listing. The items we tried to sell that we weren’t on His list would not sell no matter what we did. We thanked God for the blessing of the money we received from selling each item and returned it to Him to use as He directed. Because of this, our money stretched much further than any other time in our history. We asked about things needed to be purchased and followed God’s wisdom.
Late that summer, we saw no benefit to keeping all 11 of our horses. We couldn’t keep feeding all of them for too much longer, so we listed them for sale, one at a time, as God directed.
I truly believe today that we were never supposed to have a large herd of horses, but rather, that our role was to save these horses and eventually hand them off to other people so that God could use them to continue helping others beyond our reach.
So where did our herd go?
PHOENIX was a beautiful buckskin so laidback and easy be around that he would lay down on the ground and we could sit with him without him being afraid of us. He bonded with a retired single man in Utah who had suddenly lost his horse of 16 years. The man drove up to us in Idaho to meet Phoenix - the meeting was a little rocky at first. The new owner updated us on how Phoenix was doing once he got to his new home: the horse who was always a loner was suddenly following his new human around like a puppy dog, giving this man exactly the companion he needed. I love how God used a horse to give security to this man in time of need.
DANTÉ had been donated to us and had rear leg issues. We adopted him out to a really nice family with kids. This horse loved kids, and this family had lots of horse experience, especially with injured horses. God found a great home for this horse with a family who can tend to his injuries in the right way.
FINN & LEGEND were American Shetland Ponies we bought from the owner of the property we stayed on. She had needed money, so with some of the last dollars we had, we bought both of her ponies. I asked God to keep them together, and sure enough, after a month of waiting, God brought the perfect family to adopt both of them. The ponies took a liking to the kids in the new family. Finn didn’t like many people because his original owner was pretty harsh with his training, so it was tough for him to trust humans. But with this family, he loved these kids like nothing else.
WINTER was listed for sale longer than others of the herd, but every time someone came to see her she would act up and scare the potential buyers. Many people looked at her, and everyone declined… until a very nice couple came: the lady had recently been injured in an auto accident and couldn’t yet ride, but she led Winter around and had no issues. Her friend rode Winter and found her to be super calm and responsive. The lady’s significant other didn’t have much experience with horses but he rode Winter around; Winter stayed calm and carried him without any issues, so he tried riding her again bareback, and she even let him hop on and slide off without a problem. Winter went to the family God had saved just for her.
RINNAH was used and abused by many owners. When I rescued Phoenix, I couldn’t leave Rinnah there too. Like all the other horses, Rinnah went to a family I met through a mutual friend. She is currently a companion for another older horse. Little did anyone guess that the new owner’s granddaughter would bond with Rinnah, who showed up at just the right time. God used this broken horse girl to help a broken human girl. I love how my God works.
LIBERTY was originally a trail horse for her first owner, who grew older and couldn’t take care of her, so she was taken in by someone who trained and re-homed horses. Liberty was tossed around to many homes but ended up coming to ours to be rehabilitated. The poor horse had been kicked in the front left leg and this injury had never fully healed. But now, after some vet care, she is able to ride again, though only lightly. We trust that God has a family for her that is looking for a horse to love, who will be strong on her, yet gentle with her. She will help others learn to put her needs before their own.
After rehoming horses, we had exhausted all the funds from the items we sold from storage units over the summer. God stretched those funds for a long time and also provided food for us through random people, always taking care of our needs. We were never without food, clothing, warmth or shelter, but one thing God didn’t provide was the money to pay for the 2018 Chevy dually that we had bought through stepping out in faith. We had gotten three months behind on payments, but God kept saying that we weren’t going to lose the truck to voluntary surrender or to repossession. I had major doubts.
We were given a final date of October 31, 2019 to pay or the finance company would take the truck back. We were stuck, and the only thing we had left to sell was the two other vehicles we owned, but God kept telling us not to sell them yet.
I told Anne that we needed to fight for this, and then I asked God to forgive me because I was going to step out and list Anne’s Excursion for sale. “If it’s not what You want me to do, then please don’t let it sell.”
We listed the Excursion and had a deposit on it within a few hours of listing - 36 hours later, the Excursion was sold and I was depositing money in the bank. I was going to call the finance company first thing the next morning to get the payments caught up on the dually, but truthfully, I was lazy.
In the afternoon I called, feeling nudged to make a move. The finance company was very happy that I was able to make the payments but my account was locked out - the final date they had given me had been ignored and my account was mistakenly being transferred to the repossession division at just the moment I had called. The payment was made and the account was reinstated. Sometimes God comes through at just the last second. And sometimes we don’t heed the warning and move until he pushes us.
After trading in my 2017 Midnight Edition Chevy truck for a 2003 pickup, I later learned how God was going to use it. I thanked Him for the replacement truck, even if it wasn’t what I wanted, and He said it was never for me to keep - it was for me to buy, drive, fix and modify for someone else.
I soon learned that that the person I had (in advance) built it for was the husband of the owner of the property where we had been living and serving since April 2019. He was in need of a replacement truck to commute to work. The fuel pump failed before he had bought the truck, so I asked God and what price He wanted me to sell it for. His response was, “Ten thousand dollars and not a penny more or less.” So we made the deal on the truck, and the price was acceptable to the buyer. I had invested $16,000+ in the truck, including original purchase. But I followed my God’s lead and not only sold the truck for $10,000 but I also helped the new owner install the new fuel pump. After the new pump was installed, there were more issues with a few other parts and he was so frustrated that I told him to walk away and take a break for the night. After eating my dinner, I went to town and bought a tool to fix the problem, sacrificing some of my nightly family time to help him. I sent a quick text after finishing telling him the problem was fixed, and that all he had left to do was to reassemble the engine - and the truck ran great after that.
He was set to sell his house and was waiting for the funds, so he was only able to give me a deposit that week, but I told him to take the title and register the truck in his name and that I had faith his house would sell by the next week. It did, and he paid me as soon as the funds came through.
We had very little money to give our kids a Christmas, so we bought a few extra goodies to help soften the blow to their precious hearts. We could only afford a fancy meal and had no extra money to buy gifts. On Christmas Eve, we get a text asking if we were currently home. A few minutes later, there was a knock on the door and we heard some jingle bells moving away. We looked outside and there were bags of food on our porch.
My eyes begin to tear up just writing (and re-reading) this for you all to read: Not only was there food, but there were specially-wrapped gifts for each of us. The kids got at least two gifts each. The reason that I cry when I remember it is this: the folks that gave the gifts didn’t know our kids, and they had no idea that when we opened the gifts on Christmas Day, that each gift was personally and perfectly tailored to each recipient. Only God could have done that. He had told us that Christmas would be special, and very special it was!
Shortly after the holidays, we got a big surprise, but NOT a good one. We were running out of hay again, and we started lifting this situation up to God for help. He said, “Just wait: the hay will be delivered to you and your horses will have hay until you need to go.”
I am so blind sometimes, but God has provided for every need of our herd. If we needed vet care, He provided. When in need of hay, He provided. Hoof trims, He provided.
HE PROVIDED. I have never hid the fact that I follow God and step every day in faith. The owner of the property told us that we were out of hay, and I responded that God has always provided hay, and He said the hay is coming. She then responded, “God helps those who help themselves.” I never responded to that comment because God hit me with this:
But Moses told the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the LORD’s salvation, which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only be still.”
- Exodus 14:13-14
God told me to be quiet and let Him work, so I was quiet. Then she texted me saying I needed to get my priorities in order and why not take the day off. The most ironic thing about it was I was asking her for a day off because I already had my priorities in order: Follow God, care for family, serve others. He said wait, so I waited. That day just happed to be Averie’s birthday, and we got to spend the whole day with our daughter and sons. Another blessing!
We soon saw how God delivered our hay…. the property owner had just bought several tons of hay and I helped her unload and stack it. This woman owed us hay from all the times she’d borrowed bales from us, which God provided for us earlier in the year, and she had never replaced the bales - essentially, she was stealing from God, not from us.
The next day, when she discovered that we had still not bought any hay for our horses as she had demanded, she texted me and said, “Your horses aren’t going to starve on my watch. You are no longer welcome on my land after Wednesday, January 8, 2020,” or she would charge us double the reasonable rate to keep our RV and horses on her land and cover utilities.
Clearly, the time of serving her was now over… and God provided a new place for our horses on very short notice. We are currently staying in an undisclosed safe location on our RV to protect our kids from my mother and/or middle brother finding us and harassing our children.
After we moved the horses to the new pasture, God provided all the hay we have needed for the past month. Since we stepped out in faith to follow Him, He has truly been pleased. The Bible says, “It is impossible to please God without faith.” (Hebrews 11:6)
I am not sad about stepping out and following God, but I am saddened that my family didn’t want to break the chains of their past, and that there have only been a few people in this state that actually supported us in our desire to help others see God and the healing He can provide.
We want to LIVE LIDLESS… to let the love of God pour into our lives and never put a lid on the flow, but to let it spill or splash out onto the lives of others. I want God to lead others to healing because of my experiences - this is why I stepped out in faith in all kinds of ways; my faith has been reckless most of the time, but reckless faith is still faith!
I am much like Simon Peter in the Bible - reckless most of the time, getting himself into situations that no one else would. When Peter saw Jesus walking on the water in a storm, Peter never asked the other 11 disciples in the boat if they thought that jumping out of the boat might not be a good idea. He never took a poll on anyone’s opinion, but he made a decision and followed it whole-heartedly.
Peter jumped out of that boat and ran toward Jesus because He determined in a split second that it was safer to be with Jesus in the storm than to stay in the boat.
Then, when the storm became Peter’s focus instead of Jesus, Peter began to sink. This is where most pastors would say that Peter had faith but then he doubted, and "Let us learn from Peter’s mistake,” but why was Peter the only one to get out of the boat? Why didn’t any of the other 11 disciples make a move?
Peter was the only one who was reckless and impulsive in his faith, but Jesus said that His followers would have that kind of faith, and Jesus would build on the foundation of people who love Him because they can see who He truly is.
I am very much like Peter: I am reckless with my faith. I bought a $68,000 truck without a long-term plan to pay for it because I believed it was needed, and God has worked it out. We still have the truck.
This story is still playing out… I sold a truck that meant very much to me because I believed that God wanted me to part with it. By listening to God and following in blind faith, we have been painted into a corner.
God is calling us go to another state to serve and minister to those in need, but we don’t yet have the equipment we need to get there. We need our God to provide. Our RV is falling apart and we need another truck to get us to where He is calling us to next.
I completely believe in the ministry God has entrusted us with. Brave Sky has helped many people and organizations….
God used Brave Sky to help a young girl work toward healing from her past. After 12 weeks, she began experiencing peace in her life and horses had helped her greatly. She still needs to continue healing but she will always be able to look back and use this memory to keep going. She had gained confidence, held her head high, and smiled more.…
I had the pleasure of getting to know another young lady; her story was a rough one but similar to mine. She spent the month of June with my family and I, and once she came out of her shell, she was a bright and beautiful young lady, a joy to be around. We’re still not sure what was more helpful to her: the horses or our four crazy kids. She has been accepted into the fold and we still treat her as if she has been part of the family forever.
We handed out many t-shirts in our travels, which we give for free. We don’t charge for any of our services or products. Some of our shirts have our slogan on the back: “Be as Brave as the Sky is big.”
God laid on our hearts to use this phrase because of two words: BE BRAVE.
In everything, BE BRAVE. It only takes a little bravery to soar like an eagle. Bravery is not the absence of fear, but rather, it is action regardless of fear.
A few individuals who have received shirts have said that they wear their “Be Brave” shirt when they neede to be brave in tough situations. Just owning the shirt is a reminder to be brave, despite the overwhelming fear of the moment.
See, Brave Sky is not just about Anne and myself, it is about all of us: Anne, Baier, Noah, Averie, Dresden, Lincoln, our dogs Westen and Harlie, and our horses, Atlas and Cash. With God at the helm, all he requires us to do is trust and obey; we only need to have faith and follow His direction, He wants to help and heal others through us - His hands and feet.
But we are only a few, and we need others to join the team to keep Brave Sky going!
Our kids have also been instrumental in encouraging wounded kids out of their shells and representing God to them, showing them that life is hard, and it’s okay to be sad but to keep moving forward….
I believe so much in what God wants to me to do that when all the naysayers have told me I am sinning for not getting a job, or that I am neglecting the needs of my family or horses, I challenge anyone to come look at my family and horses and see what God can do with small provisions!
If my God can do this much with so little, just imagine how much more He can do with a whole lot more!
Thank you for taking the time to read my testimony, especially this post, because it’s so long - I’m so sorry about that! I just couldn’t bear to break it up into smaller parts.
There will be a Part 8, the finalé piece to this testimony coming, but God hasn’t written it yet - it hasn’t yet happened.
We are living in hiding right now because my mother won’t respect our boundaries, and honestly, we are in great need for God to provide a way out of our current position and on our way to the next location He will send us to.
Once God finishes our story and restores us to victory, I will post it. Until then, Part 8 must wait to be written.
Please remember that my testimony and all we do through Brave Sky to help others reach healing is only a tool. A tool is only as good as the master who wields it. Without the artist behind the tool, it’s just another tool in the chest.
God may not be calling you to do what we do, but I know that He is calling you to follow. DON’T IGNORE HIM. He has so much more planned for you than you ever could imagine for yourself.
After hearing about the massive struggles were are currently facing, I hope you can see that we continue to follow because we are more content now than we have ever been in our lives. There is a peace that we cannot explain that is propelling us forward, and it is Him guiding our lives.
Without Him, we can’t succeed in anything.
God places us in a position to have blessings poured out on us. He is already making plans before we begin to pray. CS Lewis said, “Prayer doesn’t change God, it changes me.” When we follow His lead, God is setting our path to come into alignment with a design He has already prepared! And when we believe that His purpose for us is something worth doing, we walk with a confident posture, knowing there is a worthwhile reason for everything He leads us to do.
So if he calls you to do something, to go somewhere, to take a step of faith - DO IT!
You will never regret that you made the step….
….But you may regret that you never took the step when you had the opportunity.
I have never regretted trusting my God and following Him. I would choose to do it all over again, even if I knew the struggles I would face.
I have learned this over the years… there is a CHAIN of development: you make a Choice, which turns into a Habit, becomes Automatic, develops into your Identity, and ultimately emerges as your Nature. Your nature is the essence of who you are.
Make your choices count, because what you choose to do today could become your future forever.
…for the continuation of this story, click here.
To read my wife’s perspective on my testimony, …for the continuation of this story, click here.