Month: August 2016

God, a Stranger, and My Tears – part 2


I mentioned in my last blog how getting a surprise can mean a lot. Time to share that getting a surprise can also change a bit of your life. I had received a phone call from a total stranger who heard about my illness and wanted to talk. She wanted to hear how it had affected me, as her daughter had come down with Encephalitis, too. (Read my last blog for how this phone call came about.)

That was the very first conversation I had ever had with anyone who experienced the serious illness I had gone through: Encephalitis.  Indeed, One priceless conversation. One piece of information she shared stood out.

“Marianne, you should check out this certain website,” she suggested. “It will get you contact with many others with your illness.”

My mouth dropped. “Really? Others who had what I had?”

I eagerly grabbed a pen and quickly scribbled down that website on the closest piece of paper I could find. After passing our thanks to each other for sharing our stories, I didn’t even blink before typing that website on my computer. I found it!  Encephalitis Global. (

I saw titles of different letters from different people. Titles like…

– My Hardest Encephalitis Problems

– My Family Doesn’t Understand 

– Who Else Is Feeling Alone?

– Five Years Since I got Hit With Encephalitis

The list went on and on. After clicking the first one, I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

This person knows exactly what it’s like!  (I bet I even said that out loud.) Then I checked another person’s title. I can relate to his problems, too! 

Time to fit in that saying “died and gone to heaven,” because I felt like I had. Slowly, my eyes were getting damp. I read more. Tears were accumulating.

Tears of joy, yet tears of sorrow. I guess those ten years of loneliness had piled up inside and it was time to pour them all out.  Now sure, I did have my dear husband, children, plus family and friends, but my heart still ached inside a lot, so having found people who could understand caused me to let loose many tears.

Soon, however, tears of joy took over. People understand! I’m not alone!

“I understand how you feel,” I replied to at least ten different people. I can’t even begin to describe how great it felt sharing parts of my story. I felt even better when, only a few minutes later, someone replied back.

I’m talking to someone who knows what it’s like! They understand me, I understand them, and we can chat back and forth!  That website became my new companion, and I checked it out a few times every day. It felt like God was telling me, “Marianne, I know what I’ve planned for you to bear can be tough, but I’m still with you, giving you this surprise.”

Now, years later, I’m still connected to that website and can’t even begin to explain what a treasure it’s been having gotten to know a few of those people, whom I now call dear friends.

Remember from my last blog I said how I was going to share that second fact I learned? I had even given you a clue—God has a purpose behind problems He’s put before you.

It’s time I share the second fact I learned from that call.

God wants us to pray and, when possible, comfort those in need. 

II Corinthians 1:3b-4 says …God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 

At the beginning, the website helped me immensely, talking with others who have gone through it. Well, with years behind me, I now use it as my opportunity to encourage others. When someone’s situation is similar to mine, I pass on a few words, making sure they know someone understands. I’ve even skyped with a few, watching some, as they talked, shed some tears, while giving them my ear and some advice.  Each time an e-mail soon followed saying, “Thank you, Marianne. Talking with you really helped.” Needless to say, they’ve been some of the best e-mails I’ve ever read.

About five years ago, an opportunity arrived for me to put together an annual lunch gathering for those in the Northwest. Many of us look forward to it each year now, even if a few hours of driving is needed.


Spring 2016

Question – Should you ask yourself if you can reach out to any who may be going through something you’ve experienced?  Believe me, it feels great if you do. Just keep in mind what Christ says in Luke 6:31, ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you.’ I’d love it if you could pass me a note if you’ve used your rough road you’ve been on to help others. 


God, a Stranger, and My Tears – part 1

Fast forward ten
10-years-logoyears from the snowy day in December when I had that seizure. Yes, I can share much of what went on during those years, but I can’t. I mean, I can, but before I do, I’d rather show how, about ten years later, God used a total stranger to help me.

But first I need you to do something. Imagine you went through a huge life-changing ordeal that came out of the blue, hit you hard, and altered your normal way of thinking. Now, imagine what it would be like if, for years, no one could fully understand how hard it was for you in remembering names of very common things, places, and people. What if, day in and day out, week after week, month after month, and yes, year after year, you often had to think twice as much before you said things that, for most others, were easy to remember and say? And what if that illness was rare enough that finding others with that ailment was impossible? Well, readers, that was me. For years I had not talked to one person who had the same illness, who could fully understand what I was going through. A few years after my illness hit I did meet one man who sort of had a memory problem from an accident, but still, not the same.

“I have a taste of what it’s like forgetting names,” people often said (and still say). No, you really don’t, soon became the first thought that followed (and still is).

As years went by I got used to it, thankfully, as God used family and friends to show me love and support. They cared and were patient when I couldn’t just pop so-and-so’s name out or say what the movie was called I had seen the night before, or when I used simple words in explaining things.  However, it still was hard not knowing even one like-minded (literally) individual who could truly understand what it was like.

Speaking of God, He knew it was finally time to do something on one particular day. An unforgettable phone call came from a dear friend out of town.2000px-Map_symbol_telephone_02.svg

“Marianne, I told a friend yesterday about you having had Encephalitis ten years ago. She wants to talk to you because her teenage daughter had it.”

My eyes got bigger. “Really?”

“Yes. She was wondering if she could call you. Can I give her your number?”

“REALLY? Oh, my word! You sure can!”

Later that afternoon. Ring, ri… (yes, I was patiently waiting with my phone close at hand.)


“Hi. I was wondering if I can talk to Marianne Petersen.”

Now, you might be asking why I titled this God, a Stranger, and My Tears. This post told you about God and only introduced the stranger who called, but I’ll tell you about my tears on my next blog. Right now I just want to share one of the two facts I learned that day: God just might, when He knows it’s best, use a total stranger to lift us up.

Life, as we all know it, can be tough, and for me dealing with remembering things sure was. But God knew I needed a lift, and used a total stranger to do just that. He knows that for you as well. Time is never meaningless for Him. He is not ignoring His children. He’s just waiting for that perfect time, and perhaps that perfect stranger, to show us that He does care. I tell you, that phone call sure showed me that as He often heard me pray for help and encouragement. God, our Father, loves to do that. He loves to sometime surpass anything that His children can ever think could happen.

The apostle Paul said that when we pray, God does that which goes beyond what we ask for or even think about. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Like I said earlier, my next blog will share the second fact I learned. But before I close, let me give you a clue. God has a purpose behind  problems He’s put before you.

Advice To Myself

Do you ever read something from your past that now causes you to roll your eyes while you think, ‘Was I really that way?’ Time to share a bit from my journal, but what?  I know. This one in particular being it causes my eyes to roll each time I read it a bit more than most.


August 22, 1983 (sixteen years old)                 Summer’s almost over and starting my junior year is at hand. I don’t wanna go! Oh, God, why is growing up so confusing? Why do ages matter? Why do I feel if I were eighteen, everything would be easier and better? Why do men play such a ridiculously important part in my life? Why are all my writings about the male persuasion? Why don’t I write about my run to the beach., or how important friendships are, or, better yet, how much I love Spyro Gyra (jazz band) and why I dread the school year? Why? I guess I’m just frustrated because my hair’s too short, my body’s too big, and my bank account is too small.

If you read a few entries before this date, you would surely see what was too important to me during those teen years, causing me to feel this way. I’ll give you some clues with a few other writings.

May 29, 1980 (thirteen years old -7th grade)  – – – Diary, today went so good. Edgar and I had fun. Tracy and I think the guys will love being around us at the class picnic. (I hope so.) I hope it goes good because today Edgar and I were talking, looking in each other’s eyes, jump rope couples and more.

(I’m giggling as I’m reading this.)

July 6, 1980 – – –  Today I told Robert that I wanted Jeff to call me. Then tonight on the phone Sue told Robert I didn’t like Edgar that much anymore.

Those are only two from twenty-million others like that my last few years before high school.  

Then high school – LOOK OUT

October 22, 1981 (fourteen years old – 9th grade. Excuse me. I mean freshman)   Things between Mike and me went okay today…sort of.  Marvin told me not to break up with Mike and if I do, don’t go with Greg.  Greg says to break up with Mike. I felt some waves between Greg and me starting right then.

November 18, 1981 – – – I’m so happy. Today I found out from Beth that Tom wishes I would like him. There is no holding me back now.

You get the gist of what I’m talking about. (I can’t help but laugh whenever I read these.) If I was at my current age, forty-nine, talking to me when I was thirteen, I would certainly say a few things like…

Me, now listen to Me. I look at what you are going through and want to pass on a few words of advice. Don’t waste your time! Focus on what really matters. But that means you must first learn what really matters. Focusing on who likes you and who you think you like should not be at the top of your list.

So far, God has sheltered you from so much of what other girls your age are doing with guys. Keep it that way and don’t get onto the road so many are on, putting a relationship with some guy in front of everything else. Actually, I take that back. There is one relationship which does need to come at the top of your list. That relationship with Christ. He should be your focus. If you, Marianne, could cling earlier to Him than when I, the older Me actually did, then you would write about your run to the beach, or how important friendships are, how much you love Spyro Gyra. And I bet if you did that, then you wouldn’t dread your senior year as much.

You are still young, Me. Too young to feel you are ready for a serious relationship. Now I know, Marianne, that we ladies may feel we’re ready for serious relationships early on, but no. Wait. Your mind and body are not ready. Instead, focus on talents you have. Learn now because later on, believe me, I know you’ll wish you did. Work on those weaknesses you sense you have in school. Yep, Me, I know what they are. Study more, and heck, work even harder playing that saxophone before you sell it like I know you’ll do right after you graduate.

And let me tell ya, your mom and dad need to know you are there. Not just physically there, but your heart and soul as well. They need that. Spend more time talking with them about your days. Don’t just answer ‘fine’ when they ask ‘So, how was school?’ then wander off thinking about this guy or that guy, or gossiping on the phone with friends. Spend time on what’s valuable and not just wondering if Todd, Greg, or whoever thinks you’re cute.

So, Me, I couldn’t help but pass you a little bit of mental-floss I wish I was given when I was your age. Put God first, seek to please Him, and put your efforts into what matters now. Your time to start a relationship isn’t quite here yet, Marianne, but it’s the perfect time to start one with Christ.

And, Me, one more thing I want to say. Remember what I wrote when I was sixteen?

Why do ages matter? Who do I feel if I were eighteen,  everything would be easier and better?

Here is a short piece from my very next writing, close to two years later:

May 14, 1985 – – – Well, it’s the annual look back at the journal. A quick update. I graduate from Highline High School in twenty-nine  days. I’m eighteen now and no, life is not easier at eighteen.


God Sure Can Surprise Us

Remember my blog from last week about surprising yourself. This one is being surprised at what others did. Not so much others surprising me but on how God used others to surprise me. He guided me to a certain website that would show an interest in my book, offering me to share a tidbit of it on their website. My mouth dropped when I read that request.  Yes, you shall assume this happening made it into my journal with a few exclamation points used here-and-there.

I can’t help but want to – quote – ‘share it with the world’  that God sure can surprise you if you hold to what Ecclesiastes 9:10 says. – Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.

That website is

Click here to check it out.

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Ever Surprise Yourself?

Funny how we can surprise ourselves. Have you ever done that? Yes, you might surprise others in something you’ve done or said, but have you ever done something that’s just not you, or so you thought, and surprised yourself?

About seven or so years ago I began writing a book about my unplanned pregnancy, which occurred when I was nineteen. No, starting my book isn’t the surprise I’m talking about, even though I was a bit surprised at myself when that first thought to write popped up. What surprises me was something I did shortly after I finished my book. Here, let me explain.

My unforgettable experience taking a pregnancy test, and my discovery of Planned Parenthood, are both shared in the same chapter. Yes, Planned Parenthood is in my story. Having gone through one long, windy detour in life after that pregnancy test, I now find myself more daring, gutsy, and determined. Ready to find out what I did that surprised myself? Here’s a few pictures to give you a clue.


A beautiful day the first day.  (I’m holding that tallest sign)


Pouring down rain the second.

Yep, I took part in not just one, but two protests, encouraging people to agree that the government needs to defund Planned Parenthood. I heard about this protest when those videos about Planned Parenthood were, one by one, being revealed, causing the uproar to begin.

One day I read the date of that first protest in October of 2015. Only a few days away.

Do I dare check my calendar? I can’t believe I’m actually thinking of doing this.

I checked.

I’m free as a bird Saturday morning! I then began pondering. Hmm. I wonder if I need to bring my own sign. Am I seriously thinking of doing this? 

I gathered more information about it.

I don’t know if anyone would or could go with me. I doubt it. Would I really do this alone? Chris will probably have to go into work this Saturday. Hmm. Where’s that poster board I saw in the basement the other day?

Don’t worry. I’m not one who hollers in people’s faces or sits down in front of buildings, telling people they have to pick me up and move me if they want me to leave. I knew these types of protests were simple, calm, and right up my alley, since my conviction of closing Planned Parenthood is undoubtedly strong.

Saturday arrived. When I was almost there, I was filled with curiosity.

What’s it going to be like joining tons of total strangers and just stand while holding signs on this busy sidewalk for two hours in front of all those stores? I finally found a place to park. As soon as I got out, seeing others with their signs, my eagerness multiplied. Having the same convictions as I, assuming most, if not all, were followers of Christ, I felt right at home. Instant comfort in that group. We all began getting set in where we would stand. Conversations started with those standing close by, sharing the stories and/or reasons that got us there to participate. But it wasn’t just the people I met that helped me decide to go to the next scheduled protest. It was the waving of all those who drove by with their thumbs up, some honking, showing us they agreed. Heck, I was even proud waving at those who didn’t agree. (I won’t say what hand sign they showed, letting us know they didn’t agree. You can probably guess.)

As I left that protest, I decided I’d want to be part of the next one a few months later. It also encouraged me with my book, as its primary purpose is to encourage those who are going through an unplanned pregnancy.

God has heard my thanks for His timing of opening the door to this event, because it helped show a side of me I didn’t know was there.  I’d encourage you to be a little daring and surprise yourself. It’s kinda fun. And pass me a note if you have participated. We can compare our surprising-ourselves experiences.