Sandra Petersen is a homeschooling mom and a wife of over twenty-five years. She has had several Challenge entries make it into the Top 10 and writes for various online sites. She credits God for keeping her family intact throughout many hardships in her life. As you read through this interview, I know you’ll be as impressed and inspired as I was.
LYNDA: Start by telling us a little about yourself and your Christian testimony.
SANDRA: I was born and raised in northwestern Wisconsin. My mother was a Sunday school teacher and the primary person who stressed we attend the Lutheran church each Sunday. The summer I went to Bible camp prior to my confirmation, I discovered God was real and moved in people’s lives. He wasn’t just some idea men had made up to form a moral code for their lives. An experience at that camp and another that happened one Sunday when my church’s youth singing group, “The Renewed Soul,” asked me to speak about that experience brought me to ask the Lord to forgive me for all of my sins.
But I had missed the point. I thought I had to be good and not sin for the rest of my life (as if that is possible for anyone but Jesus Himself!). The first time I stumbled, I gave up.
I went through a time of rebellion when I started college. Even my marriage was somewhat of a rebellion because my parents, especially my mother, wanted me to finish school. I did not really come back to the Lord wholeheartedly until I had been married for ten years, finished my college education, and was seeking a job as a teacher. After one hundred resumes and applications sent out and four unsuccessful job interviews, some Christian women prayed that God would point me in the direction He wanted me to go. One week later I discovered I was expecting our second daughter. I saw that as a sign from God that I was to be a stay-at-home mother.
My husband was unsaved and unemployed at that time. Seeing how my behavior had changed, noting that I no longer wanted to do some of the things he wanted to do, he asked to pray with me one time. It was a life-changing experience for him. About a month later, when our second daughter was one month old, my saved husband was blessed with both a full time and a part time job.
LYNDA: According to your FaithWriters profile, you’ve endured so many hardships in your life. Can you share one or two of those with us? And how would you encourage others who are facing extremely difficult circumstances right now?
SANDRA: The most difficult journey I have ever been on began in 1992. We were a family of five by then. We were moving into a new house, I was beginning to teach our nine-year-old daughter at home, and I was caring for a two-month-old and a fourteen-month-old. On September 18, I found our baby Samara Kaye dead in her bassinet after being put down for a nap. It took a long time for the memory of how she looked when I found her to not cause emotional pain.
In late October of that same year, my father was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. My mother stayed with us while he was in the hospice and rode back and forth with me to the hospital. I had to be brave for her. I was with my father when he took his final breath one week before Thanksgiving, a little over two months after Samara died. I never got a definitive answer from him about his salvation.
To those in extremely difficult circumstances I would say, remember always that your Heavenly Father is loving and would not willingly allow you to suffer any more than you are able to endure. He has a plan for your hardships which will outshine every dark day you are going through. He will use your gift and your experience to reach someone else who needs Him someday. Be patient.
I have also found that God does not reject you if you find yourself questioning why or if you get angry at Him for allowing the pain in your life.
LYNDA: Great advice, Sandra. When did you start writing and did you use your writing as therapy at all during the tough times?
SANDRA: I had an English composition class during my senior high school year where we were given visual prompts and had to come up with a short story or poem. My writing back then was very dark. I wrote poetry sometimes, none of which was very good, to express my feelings. I did not begin writing seriously until about 2005.
My writing has not been therapy as such but I have used my life experiences as subject matter for my writing. I have written stories about child molestation (a cousin touched me inappropriately over the course of a couple of years when I was in junior high) and the death of an infant and parents.
LYNDA: What sorts of things do you enjoy writing? Any particular genre? And where has your work been published?
SANDRA: I especially enjoy writing historical fiction because it feeds my love for doing research. The Peculiar People book “Struggle Creek” has a chapter written by me. (I am Samara Wicker, the waitress, in that novel.) Many of my short stories and poems, I’ve lost count, perhaps twenty?, have been or will be in FaithWriters books.
I also write a lot of non-fiction articles for a few on line sites including Helium, Associated Content, Demand Studios, and its affiliates Golflink, Trails.com, and eHow.
LYNDA: You’re a pretty regular Writing Challenge participant. Do you have a favorite personal entry?
SANDRA: I love all of my “literary children” but perhaps the one entry I would want to be the story for which I am remembered is “Grandma, Billy Graham, and Red Tomato Jam.” I was thinking of my Grandma Leckel who lived across the road from my house when I wrote that. She made red tomato jam and her own bread like the grandmother in the story. The grandmother and the house in the story are reflections of her and her home.
LYNDA: Tell us about your family.
SANDRA : I have been married for thirty years as of June 2010. We have one adult daughter, Leandra, who has her own apartment about three blocks from us. She works almost full time at a local Culver’s restaurant and sings with our church worship team. Our nineteen year old Paulina is a senior in high school and anticipates attending Trinity Bible College in Ellendale, North Dakota, when she graduates. Our youngest is thirteen year old Tirzah (yes, the name comes from the book of Numbers in the Bible: one of the daughters of Zelophehad). She has a goal of traveling to Japan when she is older. My husband has been a security officer for the Saint Mary’s/Duluth Clinic system for almost twenty years. My mother is still living on her own in Wisconsin. Our other parents on both sides have passed on. Oh, and we have a noisy boxer/pit bull mix dog called Holly.
LYNDA: What do you like to do for fun?
SANDRA: I love traveling when we can afford it. I don’t mind camping in a tent but now we have a popup trailer and I’m very much enjoying that. I have to confess to being a compulsive Farmtown/Farmville nut on FaceBook. When I make the time I also like to listen to music of most every kind except the hardest heavy metal, rap, and country. I love classical (Schubert, Beethoven, et al.), rock from the 60s and 70s, easy listening, blues, jazz, Southern gospel. I love to read biographies and non-fiction books about lighthouses, Victorian England, shipwrecks, travel, and the Old West.
LYNDA: If you could have lunch with one Bible character (besides Jesus), who would it be, and why?
SANDRA: I think I would enjoy having lunch and conversation with Priscilla, the wife of Aquila. I would be interested in finding out what her role was as she and her husband served the Lord together. I sometimes struggle with knowing what my place is as a married woman in the Body of Christ.
LYNDA: Where do you see yourself in ten years?
SANDRA: I tend not to look that far ahead. I know my children will all have left home by then. My husband may or may not still be working. That depends upon his health, job security, and whether I ever get a book published (he says if I did that and the money from it was enough for us to live on, he would retire in a heartbeat.) I believe I will have a book written by then which addresses the emotions mothers go through when one of their children die young. (Finding a publisher for it is a different matter.) I will also continue to write for the internet and will have thousands of non-fiction articles on various sites by then. But in ten years, we may not even be here but with the Lord. In which case, all of my plans will have been eclipsed by that.
Learn more about Sandra on her FaithWriters Profile