When Pastor Lisa asked me to tell my St. Andrew story, I didn't hesitate.
This church and community has been a part of my life for 15 years and has changed the path of my life and I wanted to share that with others.
My story here started with finding a summer camp for Steve when he was 6. I heard from a friend they ran a great camp so I signed him up. About a week before it started, Steve fell and broke his arm. I was concerned about how he would do because I heard their was a lot of crafts and sports. I called and Pastor Lisa answered and after hearing my concerns she suggested, "Would you like to come help and keep an eye on him?" The closer, I helped all week and I was hooked!
I remember at that time so badly wanting things in my life to be different but not knowing how to get there. The Sundays at church slowly led me, first through the music, (Be bold, be strong, for the Lord your God is with you). Steve and I used to sing those songs all week in the car.
The next layer for me was the newcomers program and finding your gifts...I started getting to know people through Sunday school, the food pantry and the summer camps. Calumet was another amazing gift for Steve and I spending our vacations camping and skiing with our St. Andrew family.
Steve liked coming and some Sundays when I was lazy he would tell me, "Come on Mom, we need to go sing!"
What I didn't realize at the time that was slowly happening was a strength building in me... and the knowledge that I could change things for the better. I had choices.
I started college... and got all A's... who knew?
I was always so afraid of change... change can be scary but its woven through all of our experiences... good and bad with God's help we are safely led through it to make the next right step for our lives.
My emerging faith was knocked off track when Stephen was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 8. Why my child, why us? Life is already hard.
St. Andrew was there again making the annual diabetes walk a service project for Affirm. Come to find out, their were three other St. Andrew families with children with type 1 diabetes. We were not alone and St. Andrew wrapped their arms around us. Their were so many things to learn and to teach others to keep him safe and my new strength and faith allowed me to be his voice, to advocate for him.
This faith was like a snowball rolling downhill, gathering steam. I was learning to relish my gifts (finally!) my child, my family and friends, my home, my work and my gifts.
I started to pray, ask God for help and guidance, change was rapid now... by my choice. I filed for divorce, started grad school.
I found that my faith journey that had been increased with my St. Andrew family was sustaining me through these changes.
I had learned many lessons and had one missing piece that God brought to me one amazing Sunday here in this room... Ray Boardman.
God put us together for a short time before Ray was diagnosed with cancer but he knew that the love we shared would heal us both. Ray's faith and the way he lived his life was the most important gift I needed to experience. His courage and bravery and concern about how we were all doing instead of worrying about himself, his trust in God's will for his life and his gratefulness for all God had blessed him with was life changing. He told me, "Sue God doesn't want our suffering to decrease us, he wants it to increase us."
What surprised me was that my faith didn't falter now the way it did when Steve got sick. I was strong and felt the spirit wrapped around me, carrying me, so I could ease his journey as he had eased mine. Being with him through his transition to heaven was one of the greatest gifts of my life.
I finished my Masters Degree that he supported me through and walked the stage four days after he passed.
Again, St. Andrew was waiting with open arms with support, love and the Grief Support group where my healing began with Pastor Lisa and some amazing partners who were also struggling.
What St. Andrews does here matters.
We are great about putting our faith into action outside these walls and it's nice to reflect on what is happening to all of us personally through the fellowship and magic that happens here.
I am strong, I am blessed, I am loved and it all started here.