July 14, 2022

by Barbara Lane Geistfeld, DVM

The Lutherans For Life 2022 Texas State Essay Contest was another remarkable success! The theme was Blessed For Life and was based on the scripture verse Psalm 41:2: “The Lord protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; you do not give him up to the will of his enemies.” We had some great essays, and I am so proud to present the four incredible essay winners for all to see. The contest had two divisions: Grades 6-8 and Grades 9-12. A first and second place essay was selected from each division. The first-place essays have advanced to the national contest.

Annika Peterson is our first-place winner in the 9-12 grade division. Annika will be a high school junior this fall and is an active member of St. John Lutheran Church in Mansfield, Texas. Her biggest passions are music, children, and the sanctity of life. Her little brother had Trisomy 18 and was expected to be miscarried or stillborn but lived for thirty-one days after his miraculous live birth in the summer of 2008. Between that experience, and getting to adopt her little sister in 2012, she has many reasons to be grateful for the miracle of life! This past year, she founded and became the first president of a Students for Life chapter at her public high school and has enjoyed being involved in this national organization. She always loves to write for Lutherans For Life because writing is one of her main pro-life outlets.

Annika’s essay is titled Blessed to Bless.

“At the small Lutheran school I grew up at, my first grade teacher read us Tacky the Penguin books quite often. While our whole class got a big kick out of Tacky’s shenanigans, no laugh could beat that of one classmate, who I’ll call Stephen (*not his real name*). He was our class’s Tacky—unique, funny, creative, outgoing, special, and always a pleasure to have around. Stephen was such a goofball of a little dude and was hence loved by all … He was a rare combination of charismatic class clown and sweet friend who wanted everyone to be included and loved. His family moved away the summer following our second-grade year … Last November, my mom told me that Stephen had taken his life the previous week. My heavy and broken heart took the news very hard … It was hard to feel like the Lord was blessing and keeping me when a dear friend had committed suicide. My friend Stephen was blessed with the contagious gifts of joy, laughter, love, innovation, and curiosity so he could bless others with them. His life certainly made an impact on many of ours because Jesus’ life made an impact on his … it was for a divine purpose God set Stephen apart for His glory, and He set us apart too.”

Annika’s story reminds us that, even as Christians, we don’t have all the answers to life’s sorrows. What we do have, however, is the great truth that God loves us, He keeps us, and that eternal life is ours through His Son Jesus, our Lord. Annika’s final thought is one that we should all ponder. “I’m ready to live out the reason for which God created and sanctified me. Are you?”

Greta Hamre is the second-place winner in the 9-12 grade division. Greta is entering her junior year at Birdville High School in North Richland Hills, Texas, where she plays soccer, runs track, and studies for UIL Academic competitions (University Interscholastic League). She also participates in youth events at her church, Crown of Life, in Colleyville, Texas. Greta lives with her mom, dad, and two sisters who are always up to shenanigans. [BLG note: look at this face. You think she might be the leader of these shenanigans?] She’s excited for the year ahead of her and prays that God may use her to shine a light for others.

Greta’s essay was titled Though Depressed, Deeply Blessed. One of the most common mental health issues facing people in the United States is depression (National Institute of Mental Health). As Greta so thoughtfully writes:

“Although the world weighs on the hearts of God’s children, the Lord protects, strengthens, and blesses those strained by the pains of depression … God provides protection in the form of treatments for mental illness such as support groups, prescribed drugs, and therapists. Friends and family also spread God’s love to those strained by depression or suicidal thoughts, so they may discover God’s purpose in their lives … The gifts of God are within faithful servants who wrestle with depression, and He wants his servants to share His blessings with the world. People are blessed to be a blessing for friends, family, and those they have not yet met.”

The final thought in Greta’s essay should resonate within all of us and give us hope.

“Throughout all of man’s mental health struggles, the Lord protects, supports, and blesses His people. Even when a person is at their lowest moment, God will deliver them, so they may begin to rescue others as well. Everyone should place their trust in Jesus Christ, so they, too, may find the blessings of God.”

Laila Childers is the first-place winner in the sixth to eighth grade division. Laila is going into seventh grade at Crown of Life Lutheran School in Colleyville, Texas. She plays on the school junior high basketball team, and she also enjoys playing on a select softball team outside of school. Laila lives with her mom, dad, and two younger, loving, sisters. She wanted to author the paper about her little cousin because she wanted to show how God turns every bad thing into a great one. She is super excited for what God has in store for her this year.

Laila’s essay is titled Miracle Child. The mother of this child was Laila’s cousin, and her pregnancy was a big surprise. It was a situation made worse by the fact that the mom was addicted to drugs throughout her pregnancy. Laila writes of their concern:

“… before he was born there was a high chance for a miscarriage or death. When he was born, he was extremely small and addicted to drugs … At that point, the doctors shared the news that he was most likely going to die. They would try their best.”

Laila doesn’t mention this, but I know everyone was praying for this mother and child. God in His great love and mercy answered their prayers, and “… a few days later, we received news that he was thriving and was completely unaddicted to drugs.” The state gave custody to his grandparents, and he is now doing well. This story affirms what God promises in our theme verse. “The Lord protects him and keeps him alive.” Another of God’s promises lies deep in Laila’s heart: “Jeremiah 29:11 also reminds me of him. It says, ‘For I know the plans I have for you.’ God will keep him safe, and he did. Psalm 66: 9 reads, ‘… he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping.’ He will always be with William and me.” Indeed, He will be, Laila. Thank you for reminding us of God’s great gifts to those He loves.

Carley Elizabeth Ward was the second-place winner in the 6-8 grade division. She tells us, “I will be in the seventh grade this fall at Crown of Life Lutheran School in
Colleyville, Texas. I am 12 years old and the youngest of three daughters of Stefan and Valery Ward. I may be the youngest, but I am the tallest! I was born in southern California and moved to the great state of Texas when I was four years old. I love to play many different sports. My favorite sports include club volleyball, club softball, middle school basketball, wakeboarding, and snowboarding. I am also very passionate about animals. Our family pet, Buddy, is a rescued English Pointer. We love to walk the neighborhood together, go to the dog park, and run in the field in the evenings. I am a Cadette Girl Scout and have been in my local troop for seven years. Selling cookies each year has always been a favorite part of Girl Scouts for me. I am grateful this year to have earned the title of Cookie Diva, helping my troop raise money to support our community, frontline heroes, military troops, local DFW veterans, and the humane society.”

Carley’s essay, titled Blessed With Challenges, is about her experience as a young person with ADHD: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. She already realizes that God made her this way for a purpose!

“I have had ADHD all my life. I was not fully diagnosed until around 12 years of age. When I was little, I felt different and left out. When I got older, I realized that being different is amazing and wonderful in its own way. I realized that I think differently; I see things and feel things differently … There are a lot of famous and successful people … who have been successful because they have ADHD. It makes them think differently and see things differently like it does for me. One not so famous person, but someone who has learned to work with his ADHD, is my dad. He has found that his scatterbrained approach to problem solving helps him see problems differently than those around him. This helps him come up with unique out-of-the-box solutions to difficult problems … I want every child in the world to feel amazing about who they are … [knowing] that God made everyone different and special … I was blessed with my life because I have gone through so many ups, downs, twists, and turns before I was diagnosed and understood who I am.”

Carley knows who she is because she recognizes that, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above …” (James 1:17). Thank you, Carley, for this wonderful affirmation of the value of every life, no matter what “differences” life may bring our way.