The One Decision That Completely Changed Everything For Me.
And Can For You, Too.
Years ago, I was on my morning commute when I had this thought...
"There has got to be something more to life than this..."
It became the catalyst that started my new life quest "finding life".
As I started out, the first person I came across was a guy by the name of Chris Guillebeau. Chris has an entrepreneurial spirit and loves adventure. At the time, he was on a mission to visit every country in the world before turning age 35. And he did it. All 193 of them.
Chris has a blog and a book called, The Art of Non-Conformity. I loved his whole mindset on life.
One of Chris’ life mantras is,
“You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect.”
I loved this, too.
The second person I came across was a lady by the name of Bronnie Ware. Bronnie was a palliative care nurse who took care of people during their final days of life. During this time, she would sit and talk with her patients and ask if they had any life regrets.
There were common themes that came up over and over, but the number one most common life regret she heard was,
“I wish I’d had the courage to live life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
And this got me to thinking…
Am I living my life true to me?
And how would I know?
As I continued down this path, I was led to make one decision that completely changed everything for me. Thankfully, my wife, Bobbi, was on board too.
What was this life-altering decision?
We decided to start seeking God’s will for our lives, instead of our own.
Was this easy?
Not at all.
As you know, it just comes natural that we want to do what we want to do. We're born this way. To give this up is difficult.
But in several areas of my life, I wasn’t happy with where this way of life had led me.
I no longer liked my career, but couldn’t see a way out. I felt trapped.
I was overweight. Stressed out. Anxious. I battled bouts of depression. I had also taken a massive pay cut, which had led us into a deep pit of debt. I had those thoughts that maybe I was worth more dead than alive.
Life had become difficult and I really wasn’t enjoying it anymore.
I desperately sought life change. I desired my life to be a part of something bigger. I wanted adventure. I remember having the thought, “If I’m going to work, I want to do God’s work.”
I thought I was being called into ministry, but surprisingly, God showed me shortly after that you don’t have to be in ministry to do ministry. Even further, you don’t have to work directly in ministry to do work that matters.
Actually, what God’s Word says is, “Whatever you do [emphasis added], work at it with all your heart as working for God, not men.” —Colossians 3:23
After this, a generous dear friend of my wife gave me a book called, Every Good Endeavor, Connecting Your Work to God’s Work by Timothy Keller. This book further supported this new enlightenment. Also, besides God’s Word, this book has been the most instrumental in developing my entire worldview. I highly recommend it.
One of the many things Timothy Keller has taught me is regarding Martin Luther’s Reformation movement.
In Martin Luther’s day (1483 - 1546), there was a great sacred-secular divide regarding work. Sacred work was held to a much higher esteem. It was seen as much more important and valuable than secular work.
Martin Luther set out to reform this way of thinking. He came to the realization that all work was important. That it takes all people doing many different things to accomplish God’s work.
For example, for God to feed His people, there are farmers involved. There are workers reaping the crops. There are truck drivers delivering the crops. There are workers in the processing plants. There are workers in grocery stores, stocking and selling the food.
The world cannot function if everyone works in a sacred role. What the world needs is people doing work they were created to do with a heart and mindset that they are working for God, not people.
Unless immoral, all work matters; all work has value; all work can be done for the glory of God.
“...whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” —1 Corinthians 10:31
Once Bobbi and I made the decision to start seeking God's will for our lives, instead of our own, we started praying for God to show us a way to serve Him using our entire family. At the time it was me, Bobbi, and our two daughters, Shelby and Chloe. Shelby was eleven years old; Chloe was seven.
Not long after, we were contacted to foster a child.
It was through a ministry at our church called Jonah’s Journey. We would build a relationship with an incarcerated soon-to-be mother, and then care for her child while she served out her time.
This ministry required massive open-mindedness. We had to go into it without having any idea how long we would be involved. We could have the child for weeks, months, years, or possibly a lifetime. It was a big commitment with possible lifelong ramifications.
Several of our friends and family thought we were crazy for even entertaining the idea, but we ultimately saw this as an answer to prayer. How better for an entire family to serve God than to take in and care for a child?
Jayden was born in January of 2012.
He came into our family when he was 3 days old.
Bobbi and Brian receiving Jayden at the hospital, January 2012.
A few years after Jayden was born, Bobbi was called on her first ever mission trip.
At the time, Bobbi didn't have a good perception of missions. She had never had a desire to go. Like visiting prisons, this, too, was completely outside of her comfort zone.
She felt mission trips were a way for “church people” to go to cool places for shopping and other fun stuff with just enough good sprinkled in to call it a mission. Not that she was against fun stuff and shopping, but she felt some of the trips seemed disingenuous or had ulterior motives.
However, one day during her morning quiet time, Bobbi felt God say, “You’re going on a mission trip.” She didn’t question it; she didn’t ask me about it; she simply said, “Ok, God, I’ll go.”
Some friends of ours were moving to Uganda to start an infant orphanage. At their going away event, a local ministry had room for two more people. Bobbi had previously checked into mission trips through our church, but none of the dates had lined up. Bobbi wanted to take her first mission trip with Shelby during Shelby's Fall Break. At this point, Shelby had already been on her first mission trip, at age 14, to Haiti. She was the first person in our family to ever go on a mission trip. Shelby was leading the way at a young age.
The new dates lined up perfectly. Bobbi knew these last two spots were for her and Shelby. They were going to help our friends serve in Uganda. It was a trip to help care for orphans.
Bobbi and Shelby in Uganda, 2017.
The following year, it was my turn. Unlike Bobbi, I had always wanted to go on a mission trip, but could never see a way to afford it, nor get the time off work. This time, however, was different.
This time, I was approached and specifically asked to go due to what I did for a living. It was a medical mission trip and they needed someone who was trained in my profession. How could I say no? I had never been specifically asked to go, and they needed someone trained in my field.
I decided not to worry about the money, nor getting time off work. I chose to trust that everything would work out; that if I was being called, the way would be provided. I told the team "yes" the same day I was asked.
Turns out, I went to Uganda as well. Bobbi went through an outside organization; I went through our church. Both had the same destination…to serve the people and children in Uganda, where our friends had just moved.
My trip was a medical mission that our church did every year. We gave free medical care to over 1,800 people.
Brian with the medical mission team in Uganda, 2018.
Brian with some of the beautiful people of Uganda, 2018.
A few weeks before my trip to Uganda, we had taken a family vacation to California. This trip had been planned for years to celebrate Shelby’s 18th birthday. Bobbi and Shelby loved The Price Is Right and had planned to visit the show when Shelby turned 18.
When we needed to book our flights, Airbnbs, and rental cars, the show’s schedule for our vacation dates had not yet been posted. However, we saw that during the previous year during our dates, they were filming, so we decided to go ahead and book everything.
We later found out the show was taking a 3-month hiatus. They were not going to be filming during our visit. We had seriously been planning this trip for years.
I offered Shelby the option of rescheduling everything, but she said no, it was fine. She knew we would have a good time anyway.
We did have a great vacation. We flew into San Francisco; spent three days there; then flew south and spent eight days in Los Angeles. It was me and Bobbi’s first time in California in over 20 years.
The Bell Family Summer vacation, 2018.
Three weeks after we returned from vacation, Bobbi and I were supposed to be in the mountains for a little weekend getaway. This fell through for whatever reason, but we had already told our groups at church we would be out this day. We decided to stay home and watch church online.
Before the service started, there was a promo video for a new church plant in Los Angeles. Bobbi and I were watching from separate ends of the couch. Everything in the video, we had just been there…Griffith Observatory, Venice Beach, Santa Monica Pier. I turned to Bobbi and said, “Is there any coincidence that we were just at all these places?” Again, we hadn’t been in California in over 20 years.
At the end of the video, the church plant pastor said he wanted to ask for two things. I honestly thought he was going to ask for money. Instead, however, he asked for prayer, that God would continue stirring in the hearts of people in Los Angeles to receive the Gospel; and two, he said, “We also ask that you would consider, right now, to go with us…is God stirring within your heart to come with us?”
When he said these words “go with us”, I literally felt like I was hit in the chest with a brick. It took my breath. I looked over at Bobbi, at the opposite end of the couch, and she was in tears.
We didn’t talk about it until after the service, because Chloe was in the room too. But after it was over and Chloe left the room, I went over and knelt down in front of Bobbi and asked her what she was feeling during the church plant video.
We both could not deny that God was calling us to be a part of this new Los Angeles church plant.
The church plant video God used to call Brian and Bobbi to Los Angeles, California, 2018.
We were terrified, but we knew we had to get further information. I emailed the church plant pastor, Jason Polk, and we set up a meet and greet.
Brian's emails to and from Jason Polk, the new church plant pastor for Los Angeles.
Bobbi and I started praying for confirmation. We were a roller coaster of emotions. This was a massive surrender. This meant selling our home of over 16 years, the only home Chloe and Jayden had ever lived in, and the only home Shelby remembered. It meant Bobbi leaving her job of over 20 years. It meant leaving our church of over 17 years. It meant leaving all of our friends and family. For our kids, it meant leaving everything they had ever known.
We never told Chloe anything. Instead, we started praying, “God, if you’re calling us, please call Chloe too.”
A few months prior, we had moved Shelby into college. On the night of her move-in day, we had a very special heartfelt genuine family prayer time.
As a family, we prayed, “God, whatever you have in store for us, we are all-in.”
We had been feeling for months that something big was coming, but we had no idea what it would be. As our church family says, we put our “yes” on the table before knowing the question.
While I was in Uganda with the medical team, several of us were staying with my friend, Dan Dropp, and his family that had moved there.
One night, I started asking Dan about his call to move to Uganda. It was very interesting, because I was serving alongside Dan before they were called to move. I had the privilege to observe this calling on their lives as it developed over a few years. Dan was my first co-teacher when I started teaching middle school boys, and later, I was one of his first students in his Experience God class.
It was so awesome to witness their walk of faith through this entire process.
Brian and Dan greeting each other at Dan's home in Uganda upon Brian's arrival, sometime between 3:30 and 4:00 AM, September 2018.
When I got back from Uganda, Bobbi and Chloe picked me up at the Nashville airport. Fresh off a long flight, one of my first stops was the bathroom. When I came out, Bobbi was in tears. I asked her, “What happened?”
While I was gone, out of nowhere, Chloe said, “I really miss California. I'd like to go back sometime.”
We saw this as another answer to prayer and confirmation of our calling.
Bobbi asked Chloe, “Really? How would you feel about moving there?!?”
Chloe was over-the-moon excited.
I’ll stop here for now, but before I do, I want to share a few more, of what I feel, are remarkable tidbits of our story.
After we sold our home of 16 years, we needed a place to stay for 3 months, until our move to California.
A friend of mine had accepted a 3-month assignment in Hawaii for work. He was taking his entire family. They needed someone to watch over and care for their home, farm, and all of their animals while they were gone.
Our dates lined up perfectly.
When they returned, we had dinner together before leaving. They wanted to hear our full story about our call to California.
I started telling them about our decision to start seeking God’s will for our lives over our own, and the first thing that came from this was taking in a child from Jonah’s Journey.
Stacey, the wife and mother of the family whose home we had just lived in for our last 3 months in Tennessee, said, “I was the one who called Bobbi!!!”
I hadn’t even remembered that. Our Tennessee journey with God had come full circle.
Regarding Jayden, we had never brought up adoption to his birth mom, because she had lost all parental rights to her first child and was never able to see him again. We knew she would not want to talk about it.
We also had no way to afford it.
But during one of our visits with her and Jayden, out of nowhere, she said, “You know you can adopt him anytime you want.” We were absolutely blown away. We played it off cool, but inside, our minds were blown.
Falisha (Jayden's birth mom), Jayden, and mommy Bobbi.
Bobbi’s department at work at the time was in the process of being bought out by another company. She was going to be losing all of her benefits.
During this time, we found out her company offered $3,000 towards adoption expenses. We knew we had to take advantage of this opportunity before it was gone.
Our official adoption of Jayden, April 2018.
This was a few months before our California vacation, our call to California, and my trip to Uganda.
Turns out though, Bobbi’s department buyout fell through. It never happened.
But if we had never been prompted to take advantage of the adoption benefit before she thought she was going to lose it, we would not have been able to move Jayden out-of-state the very next year.
We left Tennessee for California the year after my trip to Uganda.
When we left Tennessee, we had no idea where we would be living. We also had no idea where I would be working. Bobbi had secured a job, but that was it.
Thankfully, we secured a place to live while driving through Texas.
An emotional morning...Bobbi saying goodbye to her mom and sister.
Our last stop for gas, leaving the area of our hometown.
Two hours West, the morning the Bell family left Tennessee. Brian saying goodbye to his mom; one of the hardest days of his life, July 2019.
A year later, I was lying in bed one night when I received a message from one of the students in Uganda. It inspired me to look back through my pictures from the trip. When I came across a picture of me and Noe, my primary assistant there, I couldn’t believe my eyes.
When I was in Uganda, I lived over 2,000 miles from California. We were still seeking confirmation of the call at that point. We weren’t even sure we were moving yet. We definitely didn’t have any idea what city we would live in, if we did move.
Yet there I was, standing with a young lady on the other side of the world, in Uganda, a year before we moved, not even knowing at this time if we would move, and of all the things in the world she could be wearing, she was wearing a baseball cap representing the city of Anaheim, California; the city that I now live and work in, and the city that is the current home of our Los Angeles church plant.
God is amazing.
Brian and Noelyn Grace, Uganda, 2018.
By the way, the name of the Los Angeles church plant?
It was named long before I was ever even a part of it.
My profession before being called to help start this new Los Angeles church plant?
And part of what I did in Uganda on my medical mission trip in 2018?
Short for echocardiography.
Our Finding Life Timeline (So Far)
- Brian has the thought, "There has got to be something more to life than this..."
- Brian starts his quest called "Finding Life"
- Brian and Bobbi decide to start seeking God's will for their lives, over their own
- Brian and Bobbi start praying for God to show them a way to serve Him using their entire family
- Bobbi is contacted by Jonah's Journey to take in a child
- Jayden is born and received by the Bell family
- Bobbi is called on her first mission trip
- The Bell family officially adopts Jayden
- Shelby moves off to college
- The Bell family prays a heartfelt, genuine prayer at Shelby's new school, "God, whatever you have in store for us, we are all-in."
- The Bell family Summer vacation to California
- Brian and Bobbi are called to the Los Angeles church plant
- Brian's first mission trip
- Brian and Bobbi receive confirmation of the call through Chloe
- Brian and Bobbi sell their home, quit their jobs, and move the family to California to help start Echo Church
- Brian launches Finding Life publicly with the goal of helping others find life as well
- Brian and Bobbi continue seeking God's will for their lives over their own
"To Infinity and Beyond!" - Buzz Lightyear
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