I dreamt of Jeanne

The Lord gives good gifts.  I’ve had many lately.  My parents’ 50th Anniversary last Saturday was amazing…celebrating with family and friends. Family Camp and the opportunity to really just share my heart with the women of MN at The Garden Coffee, hosted yearly by my dear friend and mentor, Carol Lund. But last night I received a gift from God that is rivaled by few other opportunities.  I had an amazing, very real life dream.  Some of you reading this will think I’m crazy, but I truly believe God gave me a gift last night.  I dreamt of my dear friend Jeanne.  For those of you who didn’t know this amazing woman, she was one of the dearest friends I have ever had.  I have had few people in my life that have given to me as much as this incredible woman. When we lived in Hermantown for 10 years she faithfully watched out kids and “loved them like her own”.  She and Ken would watch the youth calendar and put on their family calendar when camps and conventions were so that she’d remind herself to set those days aside to have the Peterson Kids (For years it was just “Reiderson”…Ken’s affectionate name for Reid).

Not long after we moved away from Duluth Jeanne was diagnosed with cancer.  I felt so helpless.  I finally had a way I could pay her back for all she had done for me, and I was 3+ hours away.  But I remember some very dear times God gave us during that time also. I remember going back to see her and just laying on her bed all afternoon with her…into the evening.  She got sick a few times that day (as she was in a round of treatment) but she let me stay.  She told me I was really one of the only ones she would feel that comfortable with, outside of her husband and best friend, Ken, of course.  She gave me a huge gift that day…just being together.  I also remember going back and having a bonfire with her and Ken, the kids and Chuck and our kids.  I remember that night want so amazing and relaxing, even though on that night she also got sick and had to leave the fire for a while. Another time I dropped everything and headed to Duluth when she and Ken had an overnight appointment in the cities and didn’t have anyone to watch her 7 kids. Wow, what a night!  I remember it was a Wednesday night so I took all of the kids to Hermantown Community Church for the evening programs. What an adventure just trying to get them there and in the right places and then BACK in the van and home and to bed.  My many church friends from Hermantown laughed and laughed that night at me trying to round up those kids.  I had always been the one have Jeanne and other friends helping me with my kids when I was in ministry there…so to see me in that role was hilarious for all of us!  I would finally get about 5 or 6 of them rounded up and then one would be missing.  I could have never done it without Amanda, their oldest daughter!

I also remember going to the hospital in Duluth at the end and spending those last couple of days with her, Ken, and other close friends and family.  What a treasure.  She was in so much misery, yet was still trying to talk a little.  She even joked with us a few times. So Jeanne! I remember we were all talking and getting kind of loud and then realized we better tone it down.  Jeanne had just been laying there and we didn’t know how much she was taking in.  After we settled down and got more “respectable” she tried to say something. We couldn’t make it out.  Finally I got right down by her head and said “What is it Jeanne?”  Finally I realized what she was saying…..”Jokes….more….jokes….”  THAT was Jeanne.  She was literally taking some of her final breaths, but she wanted to have fun.  So, we honored her request and started telling great “Jeanne” stories.  It wasn’t hard since she had brought so much joy and love to all of our lives.  That night, to this day, is one of the sweetest, dearest times of my life. A few short hours later she was gone.  Tears are streaming down my face even now as I recall this. What a friend, what a woman, what a treasure.

So last night I dreamt of Jeanne.  Some may find it bizarre, but I look at is as a gift God gave me.  I went to some women’s conference/retreat.  I know it was the current day because Mary Nimmo and a few other Winona gals were with me (I don’t know who…but I know they were ladies from Winona. I just  for sure remember Mary being there.)  I saw Jeanne and I couldn’t believe it!  She was there, alive and well!  It was like nothing had ever happened!  There she was, in her jeans and crew neck sweatshirt with about a 1/2 inch of roots growing out of her last home hair dye job (Oh, I loved that about her!  Being with family and being a mom was WAY more important than keeping her hair up.  Maybe that’s why I only get my hair done about 3 times a year.  Those grown out roots always remind me of Jeanne).  It was such an amazing time!  I went into our sleeping area and she had been assigned to that room also.  I found a top bunk by her, where our heads would be together so we could talk all night (though is was kind of interesting talking to her since she didn’t know she had passed on.)  She didn’t know life HAD actually gone on…even though NONE of us though it would or could without her amazing presence in our life.  She was so happy.  As always we just picked up where we left off.  It was so amazing.  I hugged her and didn’t want to let her go cuz somehow I guess I knew it couldn’t be real (though it felt SO real!). Finally I went to go find the very confused Winona gals, who were wondering why I had kind of ditched them.  I explained to them (as well as one can explain these things) that my friend I had talked of so often, Jeanne, was THERE….ALIVE and WELL and HEALTHY!  I HAD to spend every minute with her I could!  They somehow understood perfectly (as only could happen in a dream) and told me to go spend time with her.  I was walking back to be with her and I woke up.  Then I did what we all try to do when we wake up from a dream we don’t’ want to end….I tried and tried to get back to sleep and have the dream continue.  But I couldn’t.  I laid in bed form 4:45-5:25 AM crying happy tears…and missing her so so so much.  It’s 8 AM now.  After that I got up, had an amazing devotional time, went to my office and couldn’t concentrate so I went in the sanctuary at The Edge and spent time with God.  I love the way I can come in this place and be SO CLOSE to God! It is immediate when I put the music on…I feel like I am in heaven.  Poor Levi has to come up and tell me to turn the music down as He and Mike live downstairs, and though he was up for the day Mike was probably TRYING to sleep through my too loud music playing. (Jeanne would love that…the crazy Youth Director having to come tell the much older College Pastor to tone it down a bit.)

So, today I decided I needed to write about it in my “weekly” blog…that I write about every 2 months. This may only be for me, but I had to record it.

I am reminded to live my life in such a way that I put my God, husband and family first in all I do.  Jeanne was always doing that. She is still and inspiration to me even years after she is gone.  Jeanne, I miss you so much, and can’t wait to see you in heaven someday!  I know everything is perfect in heaven, but I kind hope you and I still have a bout 1/2 inch of roots growing out…for old time sake.  I love you my friend.

If I’m sleeping…dont wake me up!

I just had the most amazing evening.  So amazing that sometimes I wonder if this is really my life. Let me tell you a little about it.

Tonight I was in my office working at The Edge before my leader meeting.  My son was leading worship in the sanctuary for youth group. I love hearing him sing through the walls of my office that is tucked behind the stage.  Then, one of our new freshman girls, Cassady,  brought her friend over to meet me.  It was her friend’s first time at The Edge.  She had come over to study and hang out during Cassady’s weekly coffee bar shift she volunteers for.  We chatted for a bit at my door.  Since we were talking a while I told them to just come on in and sit down in the comfy chairs.  This young woman was very hesitant when we invited her to Chi Alpha on the following night. However, before long she really was opening up and talking about her desire to re-connect with her faith.  As her story poured out, we found common ground.  She was a birth mom.  I instantly had tears in my eyes and leaned over to her and said “I am so proud of you!”  She was a bit surprised and said “That isn’t the reaction I usually get.  Usually people say ‘What? You had a kid?'”   “You need to know”, I said “my daughter is adopted.”  I told her a little of the story of my beautiful Ellie.  I showed her pictures and we really connected at a heart level.  I was able to share with her my sincere appreciation for birth mothers and the amazing sacrifice they have done to give their child a life they could not.  I knew that I knew that God had ordered her steps to my door that night, and I told her that. This young woman was so intelligent, mature and confident that it was amazing.  This led to her telling me about the guilt she felt from not living up to the standards she had once had for herself.  She also had such guilt for the pain she had caused to her parents and other relationships.  I looked at this girl and almost could see the load of guilt and shame she carried.  I knew THIS was a critical moment in her life.  God had led her footsteps to my door and  I was not going to let her go by just saying “You should come back to Chi Alpha tomorrow”.  Tonight was her night, I just KNEW it.  So, I did something I have not yet done in my little office.  I looked into this beautiful girl’s face and said “Do you want to be free?  Do you want to pray and be free of that load of guilt you have been carrying around for so long? We can do that right now.  You don’t have to wait”.  I barely got it out of my mouth and she said “Yes!  I don’t know what to say but you can pray.  Please.”  I told her I would pray and that if it was alright she could then just repeat a few sentences so that it would be her prayer too.  She said she’d like that.  Then, there in my little office, I had the amazing experience of personally leading her to Christ.  I wish you could have seen her face when she looked up.  It was actually glowing!  And then I looked at Cassady. She was RADIATING.  You see, Cassady had been best friends with this young lady since 7th grade.  She said no one had stuck with her like Cassady.  She also said that she knew that Cassady had something she needed, and she was determined to figure that out and have that a part of her life also.  I looked at Cassady and said “I think your friend Cassady, here, has been praying for this  very moment…haven’t you Cassady?”  Cassady could hardly answer…she was BRIMMING from ear to ear..and her eyes were full!  “YES!”  she said.  “Cassady, how long have you been praying for your friend?”  Cassady looked at her and said “I have been praying for you since I met you in 7th Grade.”  It was such an amazing moment as the girls hugged and hugged each other.

In that moment I had the amazing realization that somehow, in God’s divine plan, He decided that I got to be a part of this experience.  How could this be?  Who am I that I get to walk this walk with these amazing, beautiful college students at Winona State?   I get to be there when they are searching, discovering who they are , wondering what their purpose is, wrestling through life’s greatest questions.  How is this my life?  How is this a “job”?  I absolutely cannot tell you how blessed and humbled I felt at that moment.    Once again I thought “I never saw this coming, but I also feel like this is exactly what I was created for and exactly what I want to do forever.”

Lord, who am I that you would choose to use me.  I am humbled and in awe of the way you always choose “the least of these”.  I am nothing special.  I have no great talents.  All I know is that God has put me on this campus for such a time as this, and I will continue to do what he calls me to do each day to the best of my feeble ability.  Today, it was to help a young girl have her burdens removed that she had carried for long, long time.  She is free..and I am blessed  just watching God do HIS work in her life.

Right where I need to be

I have been a part of some meetings/gatherings lately that have confirmed I am right where I need to be. I loved being at SALT with al of my college students. I feel right at home on campus at WSU…even though I supposed many my age would feel out of place. It’s funny how recently I sat in a setting that I SHOULD have felt comfortable in…and I felt like a fish out of water. It was a setting that many people my age and with my life experience should embrace….yet I felt like I couldn’t understand any of the thought processes displayed by those involved. I was with a friend who left the gathering totally jazzed and invigorated! I left totally frustrated. At first it was a maddening feeling. However, I then realized it was ok. My friend was EXACTLY where God had placed them, and I was EXACTLY where I needed to be also. It’s kind of a crazy experience, but yet by the end it was very comforting and reassuring. I am right where I am supposed to be…and it feels great.

I have everything I need…..thoughts on CONTENTMENT

Last night my husband gathered the kids into the kitchen where I was making a supper of pancakes.  He had Reid get out a paper and pencil and said “We are going Christmas shopping for you tomorrow.  What do you want for Christmas?”  Ah, the question I hear every year…and so often I don’t know what to say.  You see, I have an amazing husband that is great at teaching our kids things like giving mom a gift a Christmas.  That is an important thing.  So,I thought and thought.   Some years there is that “thing” that I really want…and sometimes even need.  But this one was one of those years I couldn’t come up with anything besides…black socks.  “Oh come on mom, there has to be something!”  I looked at them and said “I have a wonderful husband and three amazing kids.  What more do I need?”  It may sound like a “picture perfect answer”…but it’s true!  We are all serving the Lord together in a church and community we love.  We love and adore  the people we work with on The Edge staff and the people who are part of our Edge Family. I have the best “job” in the world being a mom, wife and college pastor at WSU. We have a house that is warm and more than enough for us.  Oh sure, I sometimes cringe at the 80’s floral drapes in my dining room (I think I had a dress made out of the same material in college) and I’d love one of those cool high top tables for my kitchen, but I do not NEED one thing!  I can honestly say….I am COMPLETELY content with what I have. 

Today I went to the local Hy-vee grocery store so Reid could continue the process of beginning the job he just obtained there. I decided to “pick up a few things”.  As I was shopping and older gentleman, whom I later found out was named Joe something or another-“ski” (lots of Polish people in Winona) , started to talk to me about ham prices.  He then told me the per pound price of ham all over town. Joe must have been a little lonely because he talked straight for at least 20 minutes.  I found our many interesting things about Joe.  He recently had knee surgery so he liked to go to Hy-vee to putter around and get exercise.  He recently got pork steaks for 49 cents a pound.  He served as a baker in the army in Korea.  One day in Korea when he was hauling around a gun with huge ammunition he realized he really didn’t want to be doing that.  He went by a posting board and saw there was an opening for a baker.  He applied, was accepted, and went to baking school for 6 weeks.  The night he came back he had his first assignment.  He had to make and bake and frost 1500 cinnamon rolls by 8 am the next morning.  He and his new crew under him of 9 men worked from 10 PM-8 AM…but the rolls were ready.  He then talked about 380 sugar cookies he had made the day before with his wife of many years and his daughter.  A few times while he was talking I thought “I should get going”…but it was as if the Lord said “Why?  Do you have anything that pressing to do? Can you be Me to this man for a few minutes?  Be content to just stand here and LISTEN to my faithful son, who fought for your freedom and is overlooked by so many.”.  Thank you Lord, I am going to be content to do that.  And I was.  I settled into the conversation…and thoroughly enjoyed it. Contentment.

When I got home I pulled into the garage and thought “Oh great, now I have to unload all of these groceries”.  As I sat in the drivers seat I suddenly felt silly.  Was I ACTUALLY going to complain about unloading food for my family?  I also knew that part of the reason it may be a pain is because in a couple  areas I would have to rearrange things so I could fit the newly purchased food in with the food we already had.  I thought of the families that didn’t have enough food.  The mothers that would humbly visit a food shelf this day.  Lord, forgive me, I am SO content to put away all of the $63 worth of groceries I am about to haul in my house. Contentment. 

Contentment is beautiful thing.  I was blessed to be raised by a mother that I see, as I look back, always displayed contentment.  Oh, she wasn’t perfect, but I can never remember her wishing for more.  We lived on a small (by today’s standards) 50-60 cow dairy farm.  It was a lot of work to grow up on a farm….but I wouldn’t change a thing.  I learned so much about servanthood, work ethic and contentment. My mom was a great example of living within her means and making every dollar stretch.  She was also a great example of servanthood.  She always took a huge dish (or two or three) to church fellowship dinners. She always served as a Sunday school teacher or superintendent. She and my dad were at every church work day and usually helped provide food.  My parents provided milk and often butter for the pastors that lived in the parsonage across the road from our family farm.  They “did” a lot of things…but the thing that stuck with me is the contentment.  It may have seemed a humble life to many, even in our small farming community of Pillager, but they were happy and displayed….contentment. 

Mothers have a HUGE influence in this area. I believe if a mother displays and learns to be truly content with what God has given her it will always trickle down to her children.  I believe it needs to be displayed by both parents, but the mother has an especially huge influence in this area of contentment.  

So during this season of giving and wanting and excess and debt…ask yourself “Am I content?”  “What do I REALLY NEED?”  “Do I NEED a new definition of “Need” in my life?  “Am I letting the needs and wants and standards of OTHERS determine my contentment?” 

Lord, I pray that we all learn to live in a place of contentment…cuz it’s a beautiful place to live. 

 

How seriously do we take our calling?

April 11, 2011
(Location = Sitting in my office after devotions.)
Today I turned to Isaiah 42:20- 43. I love that passage. So challenging and in your face…yet offering a way through the desert. Lots of things went through m mind as I looked at this.
I am so sick of the rationalizing of sin by leaders. God has called us to lead in HIS ways…to be an example worth following! We are not to lower our own standards so that those in sin don’t feel God breathed conviction due to the fact that they see their leaders modeling that very sin! I am sick of hearing about christian leaders doing things like swearing, drinking, watching filth and demonic shows/movies so that they can be “relevant”! I don’t get it! I am here on a public university campus where sin runs rampant…and the students that have surrendered to Christ have felt a call to a higher and higher standard. I distinctly felt God speak clearly and strongly to me in November 2008 when I was planning one of my first sermons. I am embarrassed to say that I actually was wondering if I should leave our a few words in the text I was planning to use that Thursday. It was NOT politically correct or at all “tolerant.” I remember sitting in that chair in the coffee bar, with the sun shining down on me through the stain glass window…and His voice saying to me “I am looking for one that will lead this campus in my name. Too many who have been called have sold out to politically correctness and the pressure of opinion. Others have just given up in the hard times. I have chosen you for such a time as this. Will you speak truth even when it isn’t popular? If you step into this calling, I will use you mightily as long as you continue to speak My Words..ALL of my words. But you decide right now, Steph, who you are going to be as a campus pastor. It won’t always be easy or popular, but it will be worth it.”
What a sobering moment! I knew it was a pivotal point in the development of my personal ministry and the ministry of XA at WSU. This was a huge honor…but a huge responsibility. Was I really up for this? God thought I was…but did I? Being the people pleaser I am , I knew that I had many/most cheering me on…but also had those that didn’t figure I would last a day. This was a turning point in this “people pleasing” area too. Was I going to do what God said no matter what students, friends, others in ministry thought? I had always struggled with asking peoples opinions and deep down really desiring their approval. Was I really ready to take up this calling to the degree I felt God was calling me to? How would this go over with students from a public university?
In the next moments, I made a decision that would shape many things…me as a person and as a minister, the ministry of XA @ The Edge and the future students leaders at WSU.
After all, why do things half way, why play it safe? Some “People” already thought we were nuts. Pastors told us that it was great we were doing this…but they never would. I couldn’t base things on the opinion/comments of people any longer. It’s not to say I don’t still struggle with this…but now I stop and think of what God has done in the last 3 years…and it is living testimony for me of why we follow and serve and are called by HIM. The world around us changes by the minute. WHY would we take our cues from it when that could all change again tomorrow. This generation is SICK of adults making decisions upon their feelings. They are SICK of people abandoning their principles and commitments because “It isn’t working for me…it doesn’t make me happy any more…I need to do what is right for me..it doesn’t fit in with my life/culture”. WHAT? How about “Take up your cross”. How about “We are to be in the world but NOT OF THE WORLD”.
It was right after this intense encounter with the Lord that students began to turn their lives to Christ at a very high rate. Many are growing and continually listening to that still small voice in their OWN heart…calling them to a higher calling! Many have been challenged beyond what they ever thought they could be…to LIVE the life and BE WITNESSES….to be SET APART yet able to be in the lives of fellow students that have not been reconciled to their creator…yet! They are not lowering their standards to that of the culture around then..but rather constantly living the life that God is calling them to today!
Have they all stayed with it….unfortunately not. It rips me up to see the facebook pages and hear reports of how some of our students have been enticed back by the lure of the world. I have had to really lean on scripture passages like “The Parable of the Sower” to be able to even continue on sometimes, because I feel so personally responsible when a student falls away. I try to let them all know the door will ALWAYS be open to them to come back….to The Edge, to Chi Alpha, to talk to me..and ultimately the door will ALWAYS be open to Christ!
It is my responsibility as one called by God to SPEAK TRUTH WITHOUT WATERING IT DOWN. We are His ambassadors… any ambassador that didn’t appropriately communicate the vision and message of it’s president/leader/country would be fired. This isn’t a country we represent and speak for …it’s GOD. Remember when people used to have a healthy fear of God? We need more of that to keep us on track! It IS my responsibility to live my life to the standard that God is calling and be a good model (which is why I have to work on the things that I have out of order in my life…like working on my unhealthy habits!).
It IS my responsibility to not water things down to try to please people and in effect cheapen the Gospel. He has called me to this…I have said yes! Yes, I will speak to these students in Your Name…and I will take that calling very seriously. I won’t change your words to fit my comfort level, my insecurities, my idea of what is “relevant”. You are always relevant. Your Word is always relevant. Lord, keep me close to your side and your heart…ever hearing YOUR voice. I like this life and calling you have given me…and I want to be in this place in the lives of students that want the same. Lord, make us all MORE like you!

 

No Other Gospel

Galations 1: 6-12…especially verse 10

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

“Faith” —Chi Alpha Oct.14, 2010

It amazes me how God “takes over” on Thursday nights.  Like this week…..

I was initially uncertain of the subject, not convinced I would actually end up teaching on Faith.  It seemed like a subject that could get very theological and heavy (i.e. Boring).  How would I make College Students “want” to hear about “Faith”.  It’s a word that is so generic in our culture, really more of word for your “religion” than a spiritual act.  As I delved into it further, it became more fascinating, and “do-able” as a subject.  Jesus didn’t want it to be a big, huge unattainable thing.  In fact, His advice was to go at it as a child.  This I could do…..

So, because of being able to observe the amazing amount of  faith my kids have in me, I was able to explain to the students what it means to truly have COMPLETE FAITH  in God…..for our Protection and Provision (Why do we worry and suffer with anxiety instead of having faith–Matt 6:25-24), for our healing (Matt. 17:14-20…faith the size of a mustard seed), and for our FRIENDS (Matt.9:2-8…the friends that brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus).

As usual, at XA @ The Edge, it was an amazing night!  God really spoke to the hearts of the students as they completed the sentence “By Faith in Christ I will…..”  on the “Faith Wall” us at the altar.

As I rolled down the streets of Winona on my way home at about 11:30 PM, I was again overwhelmed with the joy I get when I work with these amazing Winona State Students.  What a blessing.

I was also grieved as I saw that already the partying had begun for Homecoming Weekend at WSU….a weekend of drunkeness and bad decisions.  Lord, protect these students.  Bring them in to The Edge and in the path of Chi Alpha students when they are at the end of themselves.  We will be there, waiting with open arms.

So now, it’s off to campus I go.  We have a club fair today.  I love the opportunity to meet more students, and connect with current students, and give those current students the opportunity to share their Chi Alpha experiences with potential future “Chi Alphans” (Ya, I made that up…. I like it!)

See you on campus!  And at the Homecoming Parade and Game tomorrow!

 

 

Breakfast with Danielle

So happy I got to have breakfast with Danielle, The Edge Administrative Assistant! Yay!