African outfits

African outfits
Our crazy family

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Traditions

Last night we had a house full of my relatives for our annual Wige Christmas.  In years past our family got together every year on Christmas Eve.  Now we switch it up every other year in a way to compromise.  It gets difficult when people get married into other families and their traditions.  My Mom was the one to start this tradition for our family, hosting it at my parent’s house each year.  She would put on a huge spread of food and the rest of us would bring desserts or appetizers.  Mom loved to buy gifts for everyone, starting months in advance.  She would have a budget and took great delight in finding the perfect gift for the lowest price.  In fact, she passed away in May of 2007, the day before she died she was shopping for Christmas gifts, to the delight of those who received gifts that year.  All of us adult “kids” would exchange names and buy gifts for our person.  With the economy turn we have switched to doing a “white elephant” gift exchange.  The kids in years past would be overindulged with gifts from everyone, now they get one or 2 gifts.  My Dad no longer spends Christmas in Minnesota so it is up to my generation to keep the tradition going.

  Even since a few years before my Mom passed away, our family started meeting at my house.  It stresses me out to have the whole big fancy meal so we started doing just the desserts and appetizers.  This year we had all Chinese food and it was fantastic.  It seems like we are finally making something of our own for our family get together.  It has taken a few years to let go of the expectations we had, because of how my Mom had made Christmas so special for all of us.  We laughed and ate way too much, enjoying each other’s company. 

Today is Christmas Eve and I actually have no stress, it’s lovely.  I spent some time wrapping presents and being leisurely.  Our church met for a beautiful Christmas Eve service in the afternoon.  Upon returning home we all raided the leftover food from last night’s party, put on our jammies and watched “The Nativity Story”.  The kids will bug us until we relent to letting them open one present tonight.  We’ll wake early tomorrow morning and wait while Drew makes our latte’s .  We’ll take our time opening gifts one by one.  Sometime during the gift opening, I will put some cinnamon rolls in the oven and we’ll take a break to eat a healthy breakfast including that and some Captain Crunch cereal.  With nowhere to go, we’ll see how long we can make it staying in our pjs.  Silly little things but these are the traditions that we love.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Birthday Celebrations

Yesterday we celebrated the 14th birthday of our daughter Ellie.  Our family has a tradition where the birthday person chooses the birthday supper.  Ellie chose lasagna (which is her usual choice).  Another part of our family birthday celebration is playing the praise game.  Each person takes a turn telling something they like about the birthday person or something kind they have done for them.  As we all took turns telling our favorite things about Ellie, I was thinking about how easy it is to find things about her to praise.  Ellie is an unusual young lady.  She isn't anything that I thought a teenage girl would be like - no drama, tears,extreme hormones, or attitude.  She is not perfect by any means but she is very quick to work through her sins and weaknesses.  She is consistently working at her relationships with her brothers, friends, us parents and with the Lord.  Even as a small child, I would look at her and she would well up with tears if she knew she was doing something wrong.  She is definitely what I would call a "heart" person.  She loves little children and adults alike.  Her compassion and empathy for people is very obvious to those of us who have the privilege of living with her.  On the other hand, Ellie is fearless.  Kaley shared last night that she appreciates how Ellie will kill bugs for her - they both live in our basement and bugs show up occasionally.  Ellie also has shown strength of character with her recent scoliosis diagnosis.  It's not that she is not afraid of anything, but she really understands that she has a Father in heaven that she can trust no matter what life throws her way.  I believe she has such a strong understanding of God because her Earthly Father is so strong, trustworthy and kind.  Even at 14, Ellie still loves to run and jump into her Daddy's arms.

This morning I was reading in Luke, just after Mary had given birth, then shepherds and wise men came, angels were singing and praising God.  Luke 2:19 says "But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart."    Jesus was but a baby and Mary could not possible know all that would happen with his life and death.  She couldn't have understood that he would take on the sins of the world in his tragic death but be resurrected to life again, giving the world hope.  That this little baby would still be changing peoples lives mores than 2000 years later.  I wonder if at each of Jesus's birthdays his family would take turns sharing their favorite things about him.  How could they even imagine that He was God's plan of salvation.  That all of us would fall short of ever being good enough and would need the sacrifice of the blood of Jesus to wash us clean as snow.  This gift that is free but which so many choose not to accept.  As the celebration of Jesus's birth draws near, these are the things that I appreciate and want to acknowledge and praise Jesus for:  his extravagant love for me, the home He is preparing in heaven for me, his unconditional love and example He is to me, and most of all, that He would willing leave the glory of heaven to come down to Earth to "dwell among us".  It is a privilege to be an adopted child in His family and be a witness of His amazing character.  Happy Birthday Jesus!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Heaven Calling

Today Drew and I attended the Celebration of Life of Heidi Swenson.  I had mentioned her in a previous blog (Keeping Balance).  I didn't know Heidi well, her family moved to New Mexico several years ago, just as I was getting to know her.  I had every excuse imaginable why I didn't need to attend this funeral today, but all of them fell short of what I knew I needed to do.  I felt compelled to go because I am friends with Heidi's sister-in-law Wendy and I wanted to show her my support.  I also felt a connection with Heidi because she too was following the call to homeschool her children.  I remember years ago when my children were young, talking briefly in the fellowship hall at Evergreen Community Church with Heidi.  What struck me was how different she is than me.  She is meek, humble and mild.  I am not.  As I listened today to those close to her, sharing about the Mom, wife, sister, friend and child of God that Heidi was, I was struck with 2 completely different thoughts.  My first thought was one of wishing that I had known Heidi better.  She really was a remarkable woman and I would have loved to have had her for a friend.  She kept journals and wrote the most beautiful thoughts to leave for her family.  She would have been an incredible blogger and I would have enjoyed following her on the web.  My second thought was the joy that was evident in Heidi's life even as she was facing the end of her days here on Earth.  She saw the day to day caring for her 7 children as a ministry and a calling.  She understood that it was because of God's amazing grace that she had all these people to love around her.  She didn't demand her right to continue on living but accepted the days God had given her as a gift.  She looked forward with JOY to being in the presence of her Savior, even while mourning the fact that she would not be there in flesh to watch her children grow older.  She understood that this world is not our home, and implored those who are left behind to pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Heidi had every reason to be bitter and yet her last words were encouraging those around her that God is faithful, loving and full of mercy.

I walked away from that joyful but sorrowful event today touched by the hand of God.  It was as if I was given a gift just by being there today.  In all the running around from event to event in this busy Christmas season, I was not finding joy in the simple everyday moments with my family.  I want to live each day in a way that will count for eternity.  I want to be remembered as a Mom that is connected to my kids and my husband.  I want to inspire others to grow deeper in their faith and to live for a higher purpose.  Help me Lord to make my days count as Heidi has done.

Below I have included a song that was sung at the funeral.  Come to Jesus, won't you?

Chris Rice - Untitled Hymn (Come To Jesus) Lyrics

Weak and wounded sinner
Lost and left to die
O, raise your head, for love is passing by
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus and live!

Now your burden's lifted
And carried far away
And precious blood has washed away the stain, so
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus and live!

And like a newborn baby
Don't be afraid to crawl
And remember when you walk
Sometimes we
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus and live!

Sometimes the way is lonely
And steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain, then
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus and live!

O, and when the love spills over
And music fills the night
And when you can't contain your joy inside, then
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus and live!

And with your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye
Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory's side, and
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live!


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Petersen Christmas Letter 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Dear Friends and Family,
 I’m sitting here thinking about our past year and marveling at God’s hand in it all.  At the beginning of the year, God put it on my heart to go to Africa as a family.  This is something Drew and I had thought about doing years ago and the time seemed perfect with the ages of our kids.  We knew that the only way this could happen would be for God to intervene because we just did not have an extra $15,000 lying around.  After much prayer we pursued this adventure and found out there was a need for construction work through Wycliffe Associates in Cameroon, West Africa.  Wycliffe Associates is near and dear to our hearts, not only do we have friends that work for them, but we love how they come along other missions groups and offer support to those in Bible translations.  If you want to know more details about God’s provision please check out our blog (

 Despite our busy work schedule over the summer, we were able to make some awesome memories.  Drew’s parents brought us all (including Drew’s sister Deb and her son Parker) out to South Dakota, first to Mount Rushmore, where Drew was able to join us.  After a long weekend camping in the Black Hills, Drew headed home and the rest of us went further north to a ranch near Lemmon, SD.  We spent a week on a dinosaur dig.  Waking up early every morning to the most beautiful sunrise, we would be out to the dig site most mornings by 7am.  We found some enormous toe bones, vertebra, hip bone, jaw bone and leg bones of the Edmontosauras dinosaurs.  It was an amazing experience.   Afternoons were spent swimming in the Grand River, visiting the museum in Lemmon or just hanging out with our new friends.  Right after a quick supper we would all head out once again for more digging until the sun started setting.  It really gave us all a greater appreciation for God’s awesome creation.  Thank you Harlan and Rosie for the memories!

 While Drew was working hard, the kids and I went up to Story Book Lodge for a week.  Ellie and Levi were campers, Kyle was a junior camp counselor and I went to do some cleaning.  It ended up being like a retreat for me, since I stayed in a little cottage by myself and had time for reading once I was finished with my tasks.   It’s a beautiful camp; I can see why my kids love going up there each year.

 Kyle turned 15 this past summer but still loves climbing trees and going off jumps with his bike.  His passion is in music, he is still taking piano lessons, plays guitar, ukulele and is quickly learning drums.  He has been writing songs like crazy but is hoping someone else will add the words to them.  They are actually very good, he has quite a talent.  Kyle and I spent 4 days at a High School Leadership Training at St. Olaf College this past summer.   It’s been wonderful seeing Kyle grow to be a young man that loves the Lord.  Kyle was baptized in April; this was a huge step of faith because he had to share his testimony in front of our whole church congregation.  Kyle also auditioned and started playing guitar and piano in our churches band on the same rotation as his Dad.  He is definitely following in his Dad’s footsteps.  Kyle has become quite the hard worker this year, doing yard work to help raise money for our trip as well as buying more musical equipment.

Ellie turns 14 this week and is still as sweet as ever.  She is a very hard worker, in addition to her regular babysitting jobs; she has been cleaning a house with me to help raise money for Africa.  The 2 of us have also done some volunteer cleaning through Love Inc.   Earlier this year, she started a girls Bible study after church (called Girls Growing in God – or GIG).  These girls had a bake sale to raise money for Kids Against Hunger and raised nearly $1400!  We recently found out that Ellie has scoliosis and her attitude about this amazes me.  She has a very strong faith that I admire.  Ellie was in a musical this past spring at Faith Baptist Church.  This is definitely her passion and she hopes to do more in this area.  She is still taking piano and we have seen a big jump in her abilities – I love to listen to her play.  Ellie has loved having her cousin Kaley right next door to her bedroom; this is almost like having a sister!

 Levi is now 12 years old and continues on his quest to be the comic relief in our family.  Between him and his Uncle Al (who also lives with us), we get our fair share of laughter around here, that must be why we are so healthy.  Levi went to the emergency room twice this year, once because he couldn’t breathe due to his tonsils swelling so big.  The second time was when he dove into a friend’s garden while playing night games and a metal stake went into his neck.  We are thankful that even though it was quite deep it missed his vocal chords and larynx by ¼ inch.  He is my child that loves to sing and has a beautiful voice – that truly would have been tragic.  Levi used his voice in a musical this spring (the same one Ellie and his Dad were in), and did a wonderful job.  This year was Levi’s turn to go on a vacation with Grandma and Grandpa Petersen.  They went to Duluth and saw all the sites, camping on the end of a pier, and then headed over to camp at the headwaters to the Mississippi River.   Levi has been working hard on his French, hoping to use it while in Cameroon.  We laughed though when he called the peninsula where they were camped a “Pierre”.

Chris is 24 now and is renting a house just around the corner from us in our neighborhood.  He has been working doing cement and pavers and often working with Drew.  He will be snow plowing again this winter if it ever snow.  He just recently broke his wrist while snow boarding.  We will miss him while we are in Africa but he'll have Uncle Al here to visit if he gets lonely.

Drew and I have been married 18 years now and were able to spend a weekend at a friend’s cabin to celebrate.  We are blessed with the most wonderful people around us.  This year we have been humbled and thankful for all the gifts given to us towards our trip.  It blows our mind how so many of you have been excited for us and want to be a part of this adventure by praying for us as well as all the money people have invested in us.  Thank you for believing in what we are doing and encouraging us in our faith.  We leave for Cameroon January 5th for 10.5 weeks, please keep us in your prayers.  Have a blessed New Year! 

Love, Marie and Drew Petersen (Kyle, Ellie and Levi)

2 Thessalonians 1:11 -12a  “We keep on praying that our God will make us worthy of the life to which He called us.  We pray that God, by His power, will fulfill all our good intentions and faithful deeds.  Then everyone will give honor to the name of our Lord Jesus because of us.”

Teen House Church

Last night we had a whole bunch of teens in the house for Teen House Church (THC).  As I looked around our crowded basement I was so impressed with the people involved in my kids lives.  Our THC rotates between homes and is lead by the Dads of the teens who attend.  We also have a young couple that lead THC as a whole, getting to know the kids, challenging them, praying for them and being consistent role models in the lives of the youth of our church.  Joe is an amazing man, he recently finished law school and is now a lawyer.  He is an extremely intelligent man.  I admire the fact that despite having to study hard while he was in school, he put memorizing the Bible as a higher priority.  I love how he shows these kids that God honors and blesses us when we put Him first.  Joe's wife Katie is as sweet as they come and makes everyone feel as if they were her best friend.  She is so quick to share her story of straying off the straight and narrow path, and the fact that God rescued her.  They are both so real and transparent, not sugar coating life in any way.  I'm so thankful my kids have a chance to see up close and personal the results of living for Christ in people outside of our immediate family.

The other thing that struck me last night was the fact that 8 Dads gave up their Saturday evening to spend with a bunch of teens.  The Dads rotate who is teaching, if you are hosting the teen group then you are teaching.  All of these men have so much to offer in the way of their unique experiences.  It would be easy to just opt out of coming to THC when it isn't your turn to share, but rarely do they choose not to come.  Besides teaching when it is their turn, they help prepare the communion cups, play bongo drums during worship, serve by cleaning, lead in prayer or just hang out and have fun getting to know the friends of their children.   The kids don't seem embarrassed or annoyed that their parents are here with them.  To most of the teens it's quite normal to have a conversation with any of the parents in attendance.  It's encouraging to me as a Mom to know that my kids have a safe environment with many caring adults that they could talk to if they wanted or needed.

One other important feature that makes the THC a success is the fact that the teens really do own this time.  Each week 2 different teens will share from their own personal quiet times about what God is showing them.  Ellie shared this week about reading a verse that said to pray 7 times a day because that is more important than the law.  This challenged her to put God first and to pause several times a day to pray, also to read her Bible even before tackling her school work.  Kyle shared about reading in Revelation where it's talking about things to expect in heaven, like getting a new name.  He thought this was really cool and looked forward to these benefits of heaven, but as he was reading he noticed that all these things came to those who were "conquerors".  To be a conqueror requires more that just sitting around letting life go by, it requires action.  He shared how this challenged him and hopefully that challenged others who were listening to his thoughts.  There are quite a few kids that show up so after worshiping and breaking bread together they have a chance to go into "tiny" groups to share prayer requests on a more intimate level.  These smaller groups are lead by some of the older teens, girls in separate groups from the boys.  I love that the relationships built here are across all ages.

Relationships is really the key feature in the THC and how it is structured.  A meal is served each time they meet,  what better way to fellowship then over food.  There is a time for worship, with a few of the teens leading singing and playing guitar.   There are 30 + teens crammed into a small space, singing praises, sharing communion and reminding us of the ultimate relationship we are needing with God.  The families are in relationship with each other and have an interest in encouraging each others kids in their walk with the Lord.  When the "official" youth group time is over, it's not uncommon for everyone to just stick around and play games or watch a movie.  These are the people we do life with, and what a blessing they are.