By Katy Fassler
Photography by Lisa Taylor Hall
In the midst of the sprawling pastures of Okeechobee stands a house surrounded by towering pines and oaks, open fields, and cattle. A house with a purpose beyond its walls. A house that draws you in, envelopes you in its tranquility, and sends you away refreshed
Spacious Place, a new Christian retreat center, emanated from the Covid-19 pandemic. Jennifer and Steve Palmer of Wauchula used the property primarily for cattle. The house on the property, while maintained, stood mostly unoccupied for years. In the early months of the pandemic, Jennifer and Steve retreated to the property as it was a space to be together and close to where Steve was working during the day. After weeks of daily watercolor painting and meandering the property, something changed. “Really what happened to me,” says Jennifer, “after several weeks of being away from my family and 5 grandchildren, I just finally gave in and had to slow down. God began to work on my heart. I was away from all the distraction. I think He got me still and quiet. He pursued me and I began to pursue Him. I say He relentlessly pursued me because He did not stop!”
“He refreshed my relationship with Him and restored it. The Bible verse Psalms 18:19 says, “He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.” This was my rescue.”
The property was originally purchased and built in the 1950’s by a wealthy man from Miami. After a season of hurricanes, he purchased a ranch, built a sprawling home with a tennis court, an airstrip, a hanger, and space for his maid and pilot. “When we got it, it was Miami condo furniture,” says Steve. “We are in the process of changing all of that out.” The rooms have been renovated, painted, and decorated drawing the outside in, bringing a peace and tranquility you can only find in the country.
Jennifer and Steve felt the Lord call on their heart regarding the property. One evening, after days and days of mowing pastures, Steve came home and said, “I want to talk to you about something.” This began the conversation about how to use the house as a place for ministers and their families. “We have always been a part of the church and different ministries and have seen the struggles they go through,” says Steve. “Maybe they could stay here.”
While unsure of what that meant or how to make it work, the Palmers continued to pray and seek guidance. “A friend suggested I begin prayer walking around the property. On April 29th, I started walking around the perimeter praying. I had never done that. My first prayer was for God’s will to be done and to show us what that is; that this place would make much of His great name and His renown and that He would do exceedingly and above all that we asked or imagined. That we would not box Him in or confine Him to what it is we think it should be and that His Spirit would be here in abundance.” Jennifer walked and prayed daily. The message was simple: get the property ready. She did not yet know the purpose, but she knew God had a plan.
“Over the months as I have walked with the Lord around this property, He is constantly showing me more of who He is. I am thankful for His relentless pursuit of me and for His call. God is moving and working in great ways.”
“Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long” (Psalms 25:4-5).
God is already doing incredible things at Spacious Place. “There have been 15 different people here to come help that we don’t even know,” says Steve. “These are random people that have heard and want to come.” “I chuckle because these were not my people; this was not my team,” adds Jennifer, “these are people God has brought together. These people with their heart to serve has been so humbling.”
“It is difficult to articulate all that God is doing and has allowed me to experience on this journey with Him. I am overwhelmed at seeing His glory in such a powerful way. What a priceless gift to see the body of Christ at work. Women who don’t know one another coming along side to serve so selflessly. Work didn’t seem like work because there was such joy and excitement for what the Lord is doing. I loved listening to their stories and hearing them encourage and dream alongside me.” Jennifer and Steve have countless stories of the individuals who have been touched already in the preparation of the retreat center; stories of God moving in individuals in ways only God can.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
The mission of Spacious Place is “to provide a place for people to step away from the busyness of life and be refreshed, renewed, and restored in their relationship with the Lord. Our prayer is that all who come will be still, listen to His voice, and find rest.”
Exactly one year to the day of Jennifer’s first prayer walk, Spacious Place will have its first retreat. Autumn Kerr, founder of Restoration Nation Retreat, will be leading a retreat that will be ministering to missionary women.
For more information about Spacious Place, please email Jennifer at SpaciousPlace2020@gmail.com.