New chapters are often thrilling, filled with much anticipation and new beginnings. Dan, Mazy, and I now find ourselves at the end of a chapter of the story of our life, but are eager to open another chapter in the book God has already written for our life.
We will be moving to Zeeland, Michigan in June.
This may come as a complete shock to some and maybe not a surprise to others. Dan’s old college roommate approached Dan about an opening at a church in Zeeland. At the time, we were not interested because we were not looking to move nor had a desire to at the time. It was one of those scenarios when you wonder “okay God, you know the desires of our hearts, so what are you thinking here?”
Let me back up a second. The Christmas prior, we were driving through Zeeland admiring all of the old historical houses and just how beautiful a town it was, as the snow gently coated the grasses and pines. We jokingly said it would be a great place to live. Not to mention, I grew up in Borculo, not 10 minutes north. But it was a fleeting comment as we knew God had called us to Minnesota and THAT was home.
When we moved out to Minnesota, we weren’t sure it would be a forever home for us, but we knew that Minnesota was where we were supposed to be. Dan had accepted a job offer out in MN after a time of deep loss and grief, and we were looking for a new chapter and new beginnings. What we didn’t realize was the healing and restoration that would occur. We came to Minnesota broken and with a love for youth. Little did we know that one day God would call us from Minnesota to a place of new beginnings and new chapters, in a way we could not have ever orchestrated more perfectly ourselves.
Back to the job opportunity in Zeeland. After finding out about the position, we just started to pray. A novel idea, right? We knew we were not ready to move yet and knew God wasn’t done with us in Minnesota. Though the more we prayed, the more we felt this blanket of peace fall on our hearts and home. Not that we knew the answer and that yes, we were supposed to move, but a peace that said “Sterks, I’ve got this. Let me take this one.”
When we were home for Thanksgiving, we met with the pastor and his wife from the church. No expectations, no pressure, but just time to talk about life, the church, and connect. Again, he was Dan’s old roommate. This is where God works throughout history to bring about His plans. Back then, Dan and the pastor had jokingly (but not jokingly) talked about how awesome it would be to minister in the same church. To be partners in furthering the gospel, but in different ways. That was 12 years ago. A lot happens in 12 years. We all went our separate ways and then there was now.
We traveled back to Michigan for Christmas and drove around the town, asking ourselves, could we live here? Of course for me, that answer was a bit easier because my family is all within 10 or so minutes of the church. I have not lived by my family since we got married, but for years, were only 1 hr. and 15 minutes away. Not bad. Though, living that close to family was always something my heart desired. Not enough though that I would want to go against what God was trying to do in our life. Right after I had Mazy, I was struggling and all I wanted was my family. One of the most beautiful times of our life, I couldn’t share it intimately with my family. I begged Dan to move. I pleaded with him. But it was out of a broken heart (literally) and not out of what I felt God telling me. After I started to heal and realized that I just had to let people into my life, that I just couldn’t live life like everything was okay, I realized that we had family. A BIG family. And I was choosing to look past them. Friends that became family, stood by our side through some of our toughest times.
Now it’s January. At this point, we had been praying about this possible opportunity, and though we weren’t sure what to pray for, we just wanted God’s will to be done and His name furthered. That is our mission in life, for God’s glory to be made known and so if that meant moving, then we would move. If that meant staying in Minnesota, that meant we would stay.
Dan received an email stating that the search committee reviewed his resume and they were interested in our family coming out for an interview. It was a bit surreal because for so long, all we were was just praying for God’s leading. Now there were actually plans and an opportunity ahead. Meanwhile, for the past year or so, we had considered selling our home in St. Joseph, MI. We have been renting it out for the past 4 years and just felt that “now” was the right time. With Spring approaching, we knew it would be a good time to sell, so we put it on the market through our property manager/realtor. We had an offer on it in less than 24 hours and that offer ended up being the one we took. Not to mention, we close on it at the end of the month.
We knew that if God was calling us to move, that to swing a new home, we had to sell our’s first. God was pretty clear.
Between finding out about Dan getting an interview and the actual interview, we started to do some research on the church, read and re-read the job description, their mission, praying over the little details, and asking God to make it abundantly clear. We knew that if we were going to move from Minnesota at some point in our life, we wanted to do it before Mazy was in school where it would make it harder on her. In fact, when we were driving around Zeeland that one Christmas almost 1 1/2 years ago, Dan said he didn’t even want to consider moving until summer of 2017. On the way home that Christmas, Dan prayed that if we were meant to move, that God would have to literally lay something in his lap because Dan was not going to pursue. He asked God to take the lead and again, make it abundantly clear.
On Friday, March 10, we flew out to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Mazy went on her first plane ride and was a complete champ. We were concerned that it would not go well because the flight was during her naptime, but thanks to melatonin, she slept the entire 45 minute flight (thanks to a tailwind that cut our flight time in half). Then a few short hours later, we were sitting in a room with the search committee of North Street CRC. At that point, it all became very real. Our months and months of praying were being answered. As we sat and talked with the members of the committee, our nerves were quickly put as ease, as hours later, we were still sharing stories, sharing our lives with each other, and wondering if “THIS” was what God had planned all along?
We walked away from the interview knowing that North Street was where we belonged. We felt that blanket of peace that I had mentioned earlier. Not that something was wrong in Minnesota, but we knew this was right. We spent that Saturday celebrating Mazy’s birthday with both sides of our family, which was an incredible blessing. We had not planned on coming out to Michigan for her birthday, but this too, was all part of the bigger plan – a plan like I said, that no human could perfectly orchestrate.
Even though the interview went well, we wanted to see what a Sunday morning felt like for us. As much as Dan would be an employee of the church, it would also be our church home where weekly we would be spiritually fed and call them our spiritual family. And it felt like family. They are preaching the gospel and we knew that was where we were meant to be. Unfortunately Mazy could not join us at that service because she came down with a nasty cough and we didn’t want to be known as those people who brought their sick kid to nursery! My mom offered to stay home with her (benefits of family, right?) and Dan and I were able to talk with all the wonderful people who had no idea who or why we were there, but introduced themselves and made us feel right at home. A day we will not soon forget.
We flew home Sunday night, which that is a story in and of itself. Minnesota had a huge snowstorm come through, that delayed our plane from 6:15 to 7:45. We boarded the plane and not 5 minutes later, the pilot came over the intercom saying the Minneapolis Airport stopped all arrivals into the airport. That meant for the next 2 hours, we had to sit on the plane with Mazy, who had a terrible cough and ended up throwing up on the plane during that time. By 9:30 we finally got off the ground. Mazy was a TROOPER, I must say! It was FAR past her bedtime, she was sick, and we did not get home until 1:00 Minnesota time (2:00 Michigan time). Not to mention, the time changed that weekend, so when I say Mazy was a trooper, she was a TROOPER.
That Tuesday, Dan received a call that he was offered the position. Then reality hit. Tears started to flow as we realized what we would be leaving. Minnesota had become a place of healing and rebirth for us. But as one of our pastor’s said, we had been reborn for something. God had done an incredible amount of healing in our life. He healed my heart enough to the point where I could have my own child. He healed the brokenness and pain we felt from our previous church. He was mending together the holes we felt in our family as we said goodbye to two little babies through our carrier. But then He graciously gave us Mazy Grace. He graciously gave us new beginnings and a new chapter in Minnesota.
And now it’s time for our chapter in Minnesota to close and a new chapter to begin in Zeeland, Michigan. We know without a doubt that Zeeland is where we are meant to be and we are excited. God has made that more than clear. We are eager to work with the youth there, get to know the wonderful family of God there, and settle into a new life. Though it was far from easy telling our youth group kids, as we both were succumbed to tears because they are the kids we have poured into for the past 4 years and we have incredible “family” and friends here. Yet we know that God has that waiting for us just around the corner too. We are being brought TO something. There is something beautiful about being in the will of God. A peace and faith that He so freely gives in the midst of the unknown. We already feel a connection to the few people we met at North Street which speaks volumes to the community there is at that church. They have been incredible encouraging, patient, and caring.
God is NEVER done working. God is always working to advance HIS purposes and it is clear that God has a specific purpose for us in Michigan, just like He did for us in Minnesota. We believe with confidence that God is working mightily and has paved the path to lead us to this new opportunity. And Minnesota will be a place where we cast memorial stones as the Bible talks about. Memorial stones wet with tears of thankfulness and humbleness. Some of us may have memorial stones piled all over the world and some in our backyards. We will cast stones in Minnesota, as we start a new chapter in Zeeland.
As Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart,” I have no doubt that God continues to prove this promise to be true. Delight in God’s plan, His will, and His purposes, and He will make life clear.
We do not know the exact day we will be moving or where we will be living, but God knows. I don’t say that flippantly, but in confidence knowing God will once again, make it known what He wants for our life. It will come together, just like this whole plan has.
To GOD be the glory.