#892 - Jenny's Hope Volunteers

When Daniel first envisioned a place of ministry where people from all walks of life felt welcomed, we hoped many from FBC would get involved and adopt the ministry as their own. As always, God did more than we could ever dream or imagine. Jenny's Hope has been open for over 2.5 years now, and so many lives have been changed through the obedience of many servants who are there week in and week out. I'm thankful Daniel was able to continue preaching there every Thursday night this past fall. In mid-December, we finally came to a point when we had to say goodbye (really, "see ya later") to all of the sweet people that meet at Jenny's Hope each week. They combined a post-Thanksgiving celebration with a going-away party for us, and it was so much fun! Delicious food, fun and yummy desserts, fellowship, worship, and a challenge from Daniel made it a night to remember.
I've never had my picture on a cake before!
Delicious cakes and the most amazing peppermint punch!
Of course, our kiddos were hanging out over by the sweets :)
Part of the hard working crew that served all 90+ people in attendance
Love these people so much!
This lady - Beverly Nichols - is absolutely precious. I am so proud of her! Her sweet husband went to be with Jesus about 8 months ago, and she has jumped in serving at Jenny's Hope. I know Rickey would be elated! She planned and cooked (with help) the awesome meal. Oh, and she has a full-time job, too!

Jenny singing "Sweet Little Jesus Boy" - it wouldn't be the Christmas season without hearing this!

Mrs. Penny - words can't express how much she has meant to our family over the past 7 years. She has prayed for us, encouraged us, challenged us, laughed with us, cried with us, and the list goes on. This is a precious woman of God right here. Proud to call her friend!
And the Jenny's Hope namesake...just love her! I'm thankful for the hours we got to spend together as accountability partners. Can't imagine life without her! And I don't have to...her daughter and son-in-law live a block away from us in Bolivar :) We'll get to see her in less than 2 weeks!       

I'm not sure that everyone made it into the picture, but we sure tried!
Some of the faithful leaders
Since we left, Jenny's Hope has continued to meet every Thursday night without skipping a beat. The faithful servants are taking turns teaching/preaching, and I know God is receiving all the glory. I can't wait to meet all of the people in Heaven one day that are there as a result of Jenny's Hope. I know there will be many!


#893 - Mrs. Iylene

The other day I was trying to think back to the very first time I met Iylene Dew. I can't put my finger on it. I know it was sometime in the last 7 years, but honestly, it feels like she's always been part of our family. Mrs. Iylene (as our kids know her) is one of the gentlest, kindest women you will ever meet. She has a deep love for Jesus and serves Him in so many ways. She's very loyal and has a huge heart for sharing the truth of the Gospel around the world.

I also can't remember when she first started keeping Riley so we could go on dates, attend meetings, or do anything else that a toddler could not be a part of. What I do know is she very quickly became an adoptive grandmother to our son. My parents were 20 hours away in Maryland, and when Riley was real little, Daniel's mom was 9 hours away in Tennessee. Iylene stepped in and loved on him as if he were her own. She's the one who kept him all day on Saturday, November 26, 2011 when Ella decided it was time to make her debut. She's the one who brought him to the hospital the night of Ella's birth so he could meet his new sister. She's the one that then turned around and drove back to Hughes Springs with Riley and spent the night with him so Daniel could stay with me in the hospital. And then she enveloped Ella with the same kind of love throughout the next 5 years. When we began fostering, she jumped right in with both feet and loved all 6 babies that came through our home.

To say we miss Mrs. Iylene is a huge understatement! We jokingly said she just needed to move with us, but honestly, there are days when I really wish she had! We were able to spend some time with her before we left and attempt to thank her for everything by feeding her lunch and giving her a framed collage picture of she and the kids.

In true Iylene fashion, she turned what was supposed to be a time of celebrating her and thanking her into a time of service and focusing on helping others around the world. I failed to mention earlier that Iylene was also our own personal seamstress. I cannot tell you how many items in our home have been touched by her hands and sewing machine! She hemmed pants, sewed up holes, made us pillows, curtains, seat cushions, recovered a foot stool, and the list goes on and on. So, when Daniel was given a bunch of neckties, he immediately drafted Iylene to begin making bow ties and then tie purses as a fundraiser for Stephen's House Peru. The purses have been selling like hot cakes! So when she came over that day, she brought a bunch of ties and patterns and put Ella and Riley to work!
Riley took his job very seriously
And Ella just likes to have fun!

 Iylene worked her magic, and here's the results!

I just love how she uses her talents for the Lord. And He is definitely blessing her ministry. If you are interested in a tie purse, these have all sold, but she continues to make more. She's even making custom ones if you want to send her ties that are special to you. Email me (laurabramlett@gmail.com) if you're interested in getting one made, and I'll connect you with her. All proceeds go to support our ministry in the mountains of Peru (Stephen's House).

We love you, Mrs. Iylene, and we are ready for you to come visit! Thank you for loving us so well over the last 7 years. You will always be part of our family - we've walked through too much together already to just say goodbye. So, like it or not, you're stuck with the Bramlett's! :)


#894 - Christmas road trip to Maryland

Our kids had never been on a long road trip (that they can remember...Riley went on one at 5 months and then at 19 months), so we weren't too sure what to expect. I mean, these are the kids that on the way from H.S. to Little Rock (3-hour drive) would ask when we got to the next town from H.S. (15 minutes away) if we were there yet. We were hopeful this 20-hour trip would go well, but just not sure. Let me just say, our kids were AWESOME!! Sure, they had their moments, but I never once felt the urge to just pull over on the side of the road and let one (or both!) out. They played well together, for the most part, and let me add, thank you Lord for portable dvd players! Mom and Dad, I'm not sure what y'all did without those things! We always said we "wouldn't be those parents," but on a long road trip when you're looking at 11 straight hours of driving, popping a movie in for 2 of those hours is just amazing. By the 2nd day, they were saying "that's not bad" when I told them we had 8 hours to drive before getting to Grandma and Grandpa's. It's all about perspective...8 hours compared to 11 the day before isn't bad! :)
 Our trip began on Thursday, December 22, when we pulled out of Daniel's dad's driveway in our very packed car. We drove to Knoxville, TN that day and spent the night in a hotel. We had a late lunch east of Nashville, so dinner was popcorn and an episode of Andy Griffith before lights out.
 Our kids LOVE staying in hotels! The only place where they can jump on the beds ;)
The next morning we were Grandma and Grandpa bound! We enjoyed driving through some new territory as we drove into Virginia, a little of West Virginia, and into Western Maryland. I grew up on the East Coast, so I-95 is familiar to me. It was fun exploring the other side of the states I'm used to driving through. And of course, since our route took us through the VERY historic town of Harper's Ferry, we had to stop...so said the history buff in the car, a.k.a. Daniel. It was a really cool place, and I'm thankful we stopped. Maybe one day we can go back and really tour the area.

We made it to my parent's house in Bel Air, MD in time for dinner that night. We were all SO glad to be out of the car and staying in one place for a whole week! We did so much during that week, so I think I'll let the story tell itself through pictures. As usual, I took A LOT! I won't include them all, but hit the highlights.
Helping Grandma make a Birthday cake for Jesus

Wearing new Christmas outfits to the Christmas Eve service at my parent's church

Love my family!
This girl can be such a mess and so sweet all at the same time...my parents claim the apple fell straight off the tree :)
New Christmas pj's from Grandma and Grandpa
CHRISTMAS MORNING!!! Riley got the guitar he wanted and Ella got the doll house furniture she asked for.

Happy Birthday, Jesus!
Ella was pointing to Him as she sang :)

When Riley found out my parent's lived close to Washington, D.C., he got really excited and said he wanted to go see the White House. So, the day after Christmas we all loaded up and did just that! As I was scrolling through facebook Christmas night, I saw a picture one of my college roommates had posted of she and her daughters in front of the White House with the caption, "Merry Christmas from the White House!" I immediately texted her to find out how long they'd be in D.C. (she's from Atlanta, GA), and she said all week! It worked out for us to meet them for lunch, and I'm so thankful! I had never met her girls and she had never met Daniel or our kids. Such a fun little reunion!

After lunch it was time to do some touring of D.C...first stop: Air and Space Museum
We could have spent several days in there and still not seen everything!
Ella's new doll, Ashlyn, went everywhere she went :)

I had to get a pic with my boy here...the last time I sat on a bench on the National Mall, he was in my belly!
Here I am in 2008 about 11 weeks preggo

Riley loves history (much like his daddy), so to see the monuments in person was so exciting for him!

The National Tree
The next day we were able to have lunch with some of our dear family friends, the Carter's. Dr. Carter (next to Daniel in the picture) was our pastor when we lived in MD back in the late 80's/early 90's. His youngest daughter, Amber, was one of my closest friends. Her husband, Josh, is now a pastor in the area and they have 6 kids! It was so much fun to catch up and watch our kids play so well together.

And then it was finally time for some COUSINS FUN! My brother and his family went to Massachusetts for Christmas, so we were SO ready to see them on the 27th!

It had been 2 years since these crazies were together!

Game time!

I cannot look at this without laughing every. single. time!

Wednesday morning the boys went to a local state park to hike while the ladies went to tea! Ella and I had never been to a fancy tea room before, so this was a very fun experience!

She's a big fan of her Grandma!
Loved spending time with my sis

I enjoyed reliving some South African memories as I sipped on delicious rooibos tea
Ella wasn't a huge fan of her tea
But she tore up her plate of goodies!

Eating a chocolate chip scone
Fun morning with my favorite ladies!

On our final day, we let the kids burn off some energy at a local indoor jump place. The last time we were there it was Ella's 3rd Birthday and it was snowing outside! No snow this year, but still lots of fun!

We are so thankful for the time we were able to spend with my family in Maryland. It's never long enough, but during the short stay lots of great memories were made and we'll forever be grateful!