Jenn Beard bounces into Lakeland with a positive energy that inspires a smile you can’t keep from spreading across your face. In a pink, green and red striped sundress and tan sandals, she defines summer and doesn’t let the heat of the day slow her down.

She takes a seat on the couch, red hair grazing her shoulders as she grins.

Marta Gillilan, Pastor and the interviewer for the Humans of Lakeland series, begins by asking a popular question: Why are you a part of Lakeland and what makes it stand out?

Jenn leans forward, her infectious smile ever present as she begins to share her story.

“Originally I grew up Southern Baptist or whatever was on the military base. Very hellfire and brimstone. When Brian and I got married and moved here, since he was friends with lots of people who had been with Lakeland since the beginning we decided once we moved we would just go here. We moved here from southern California. I remember when we pulled up in front of the duplex we were renting, there were a bunch of people.”


Jenn pauses and while a smile still lingers on her lips, her eyes glisten with tears. “I’m not normally a crier, I’m just remembering.” Her voice has grown thick. “We pulled up in a minivan. I didn’t want to be in the Midwest, I’m an ocean girl. But there were a lot of people from Lakeland there to help us move in, it felt like an instant family and it felt like coming home.”

She pauses and sucks in a deep breath. “For someone who has moved a lot, and I didn’t know anyone here, for me over the years people have come and gone and there’s been times I thought I wasn’t sure, but for me it’s the people. I just feel like these our my relatives that I picked.”



Her hand drifts up, a silver ring glinting on her hand, and she wipes tears away. Pickle bullfrog face, as my mother says.” Laughter bubbles up as she rocks forward, once more animated with happiness. It’s easy to see that while Jenn has experienced challenges in her life, it hasn’t dimmed her zest for life or her passion for her Lakeland family.

“Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

-Psalm 37:4

Join us next week to learn more about Jenn’s story.

About My Stories

Every month Pastor Marta Gillilan and members of the Lakeland Social Media Team interview an individual, couple or family. From struggles in faith to joyful events, Lakelanders are sharing their stories through the “Humans of Lakeland” blog series. Get to know the people who call Lakeland home.