I have looked forward to write this blog for such a very long time, now that I sit at my computer and type I may start crying. So I warn all who read this now, it’s with great excitement, nervousness, faith, assurance, and churning emotions that I finally get to make this announcement.
I am originally from Ohio and my husband is from Canada. After Dan and I were married and moved back to Ohio from Pittsburgh we prayed fervently where God wanted to send us. When God spoke clearly to me that we’d go to Orlando, FL and Dan would work at one particular job, I truly believed we’d only be in Florida for about five years. This job didn’t open up for him until several months later so he worked in something that we knew would be temporary at first. Dan and I knew that we weren’t just moving for a job, but we were moving to prepare us for ministry. When I left Ohio I never thought I would return. Within a day of our move, God led us to Freedom Life Church (FLC). We’ve been members there for over 13 years. We’ve been honored to grow up under this ministry. We’ve watched God faithfully open doors for us, and continue to bring to pass His plans. We always knew that Florida wasn’t our final destination. I think we often felt like square pegs trying to fit into a round hole. We stayed here through the storms (literally the hurricane season of 2004) and stayed persistent to what we knew that God had spoken. I want to take a brief moment there to thank Pastor Greg Squires. He has always stayed stable and consistent as our pastor. When Pastor Arthur (our spiritual mentor/father) passed away, we needed someone to pick up the banner and believe in us. Pastor Greg has prayed for us, encouraged us, and stood with us. We have truly grown to love him and value his input in our lives.
Where God would send us was something that was always near to my heart. It really started hitting home to me in 2012 when I was blessed to be a part of the God Day movement. When I watched people from all over Orlando begin to believe God for change and cry out for the land of FL, I began to ask God “Ok, where is my land?” I mean I loved the people of Orlando/Kissimmee, but it was never my land. It had always felt as if I was in the wilderness or a sojourner in a foreign land. I even shared this feeling with others. Many times they would ask me “Where do you think God will send you? Back to Ohio?” I’d always laugh at that response and answer with an emphatic “No.” Dan and I began to pray with more and more tenacity that God would lead us to our land.
I have always had a burden and a heart for America so for a long time we kept looking at moving to the DC area, and while I do believe one day I will minister in that area that didn’t seem like where God was sending us either.
In the winter months of 2013, I opened up my Bible one day (I didn’t do a word search, or use a concordance) and God led me to this scripture.
Jeremiah 30:3 (ESV)3 For behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will restore the fortunes of my people, Israel and Judah, says the Lord, and I will bring them back to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall take possession of it.”
Truthfully it didn’t occur to me at first what God was trying to say to me. I just thought “Oh how nice.” But as the months continued, I kept getting this scripture rising on the inside of me.
It was about that same time that Dan and I took a closer look at Faith Life Church (FLC) in New Albany/Johnstown, OH. It is pastored by Pastor Gary and Drenda Keesee. The side story about their ministry is about 4 years ago a friend of mine told me to go check their church out because it was about an hour drive from where my parents live and I was in and out of the area. Truthfully when my friend said this to me I only took a glance at their website, but suddenly the more and more Dan and I found out about their ministry the more and more we knew this was where God was sending us. Eventually we partnered with their ministry. It was the next step for us in our lives and ministry. As the days progressed Dan and I both started having various dreams relating to us returning to the area, as well as suddenly all sorts of prophetic words and instances began to fit. Just a few days ago I found a magazine that I was featured in from my publisher in 2012 and Pastor Gary Keesee was also there on the page in front of me. Dan and I found it very funny that we’d never noticed that before now. It seemed like yet another confirmation to us. All this time God knew what He was doing even if we didn’t.
In the midst of all of this, is when Dan and I decided to put our house on the market. It was one of those grownup decisions that was very hard for both of us. We had loved that house. We’d poured our heart into that house, but we knew in order for us to start making plans to move forward we had to let it go. The circumstance with the market and the money wasn’t ideal. We figured by the time the house sold we would have more of a clear picture about where we were to move. Instead of this taking the time we thought it would our house sold in record time. It was only on the market for two days really, and though the paperwork took time, we didn’t figure out where to move until the day before we were set to do so. We got a rental in the area and knowing we’d be moving somewhere else soon. We barely unpacked. However we still weren’t sure where we’d be moving when the time came.
I kept hearing the Lord tell me “Johnstown”. But I still wasn’t convinced. Perhaps call me a tad stubborn, but I just wanted a very clear picture of what God was doing. I just wanted to know that I know what God’s will was in this situation. So I began to ask God, “Ok you keep giving me Jeremiah 30:3, but my family isn’t from Johnstown. My family is from either an hour north or two hours south from there. So will you God please explain this to me?”
It’s amazing how God knows so much more than we do isn’t it? In January of this year I went to a family reunion that my mother wanted to go to but couldn’t. It was with a few members of my extended family that I didn’t really know and have only met a few times. They were ones that were from Ohio but were in FL now. When asked, I began telling people we were going to move to Johnstown. While I was still struggling with all of this, Dan and I knew that this was God that we start going to FLC under the Keesee’s. I didn’t tell them about the scripture or the family connection of the verse until later. When hearing the town of Johnstown my great aunt responded, “Oh did you know there was a family farm there? And there are probably a lot of relatives that you don’t even know that live there?” I was shocked by this. I hadn’t even known Johnstown existed until we found out about the Keesee’s church. My great aunt didn’t know what God had already been speaking to me. When I called home to my mother that night she laughed and said she didn’t remember the family farm was there either but did remember going somewhere as a child. She can only assume now it was in Johnstown.
The months have continued. We thought we’d be gone by now. We spent months waiting and waiting. We were believing for certain situations to come into place, but as of yet they haven’t. A few weeks ago, Dan had an encounter with the Lord and finally felt that it was time. Our pastor is in agreement. On June 8th Pastor Greg will be releasing and launching us from the FLC in Florida so that we can be launched forward to the FLC in Ohio. (The churches really aren’t related but I find it a funny coincidence that they are both FLC) On June 14th Dan and I will be packing up, and driving to Ohio. Temporarily, we will be staying in Marion until a door opens up for us to move to Johnstown. We’ll be close enough that we can drive to our new church without too much of a commute.
As I said, I have a whirlwind of emotions about this. The circumstances are not ideal. We need doors to open up once we get there. This is requiring Dan to end his position he’s held onto for 11 years at Tupperware. While my flesh wants to freak out a bit, honestly my spirit is so at peace. We know this is God. While personally I think that snowbirds have the right idea, I will try not to complain this winter. It will be really nice being so close to my family and a lot closer to my in-laws once again. We’ve been so far away for so long, the whole idea seems unbelievable. We’ll say goodbye to gators, beaches, and fire ants; we’ll be saying hello to the beauty in the changing of seasons, gray snow boogers and ice scrapers.
While this has been a long time coming for us, I find myself at an impasse of emotions that the term ‘bittersweet’ really seems the best way to describe it. We are so very grateful for the Florida season that God gave us in our lives. It forced us to grow up. It matured us in ways I can’t explain, and I believe was foundational for us in both life and in ministry. As we close this chapter, I realize that my years in Florida will always be dear to my heart. Saying goodbye is never easy, but over on the horizon there is a new season brewing and we are so excited to be moving forward. Please keep us in prayer. Transition is never easy and there are still some doors we need to open once we get to Ohio. We love you and appreciate you all.
God has awesome plans for your life. Get excited!