Category Archives: Personal

Reflections on 10 years

Yesterday, June 1, marked my 10 year anniversary of serving Salem Lutheran Church as pastor and I continue to be amazed and thankful for what God has been doing.

On May 2, 2004 I received a phone call from the council president that the congregation voted to call me (which I later accepted, obviously).  Three weeks later on May 23 I graduated from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN.  The following weekend (Memorial Day weekend) we moved into the parsonage (with the help of many people from Salem) and then on Tuesday, June 1 I sat in this very office for the first time as the pastor (in waiting ~ I was ordained on July 2) of Salem.

10 years…Wow…

…and I am still a first call pastor (I kind of like that description; it makes me feel like a young’in).

I am still trying to wrap my brain around this fact, though; that I have been here for 10 years.  Where did the time go?  To be honest, I never thought I would be here this long. A lot off first call pastors move on after 3 to 5 years but God has had different plans for me.  And I am grateful because Connie and I have enjoyed living and serving here.  And now we are grateful to be raising our daughter here.  What a blessing, but one we don’t take for granted because we know that at any time God could issue the call to go somewhere else.  In the mean time, we continue to joyfully serve and minister as directed by God.

So just for fun, I took a look back at some news stories from 2004 and included them here for your reading pleasure:
~ According to AAA, Gasoline prices set a record with an average price per gallon of $1.738. (Oh the horror of it all)
~ Janet Jackson’s infamous halftime show “wardrobe malfunction” occurs at Super Bowl XXXVIII; where the New England Patriots beat the Carolina Panthers 32-29.
~ Ken Jennings begins his 74-game winning streak on Jeopardy (the day after I began at Salem).
~ Terry Nichols is convicted of state murder charges and being an accomplice to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
~ The corner stone of the Freedom Tower is laid on the site of the World Trade Center in New York.
~ Ronald Reagan’s funeral is held at the Washington National Cathedral.
~ The Boston Red Sox complete an historic comeback from a 0-3 deficit to beat the New York Yankees in the ALCS and then goes on to win their first World Series title in 86 years.
~ War in Iraq: U.S. forces storm the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah.

And…a lot has happened in my life as well (personally and professionally).
~ Salem has done some minor building projects and upgrades.
~ I started serving at Belmont Lutheran Church 1 1/2 years into my call here.
~ I have seen people return to the Lord and new disciples enter the community.
~ I have met some great friends and colleagues.
~ Dealt with conflicts.
~ Grown in my faith.
~ Welcomed my little girl into the family.
~ And God willing, planted some seeds.

I never could have imagined what God was going to do with me here and I can hardly wait to see what else God has in store.  I hope it is here at Salem and Belmont for many more years but everything is in God’s hands.

Thank you to the Salem and Belmont for your love and willingness to serve.

Thank you to the community of Jackson for making this a great place to live.

Thank you to my colleagues in the Jackson Ministerial Association for being great servants to serve with.

And thank you, God, for your faithfulness and grace.  You are an awesome God and I am excited to being serving you in the body of Christ here in Jackson.

All Praise and glory be to God forever and ever!

The pastor -|—

The force

I was glancing over my calendar for the week and noticed that on this day, 8 years ago, “The Heart of a Pastor” was birthed.  Yes, I actually wrote that in my calendar and yes, I am a nerd.

But 8 years, though…8.  The big 0-8.  A second grader.

Wow!

I can’t believe I have been writing that long.  So many times I thought I was going to give up writing on this blog but then something clicks and off I go again.  But then again, as a “second grader” I get distracted easily with other things.

Now I am approaching the 10 year anniversary of my ordination and my ministry here in Jackson.

10 years…10. The big 1-0. A fourth grader.

I can’t believe that one either. And what makes that number more amazing is that this is still my first call. But maybe I should be more impressed that my congregations haven’t run me out of town yet.

Or maybe my longevity in Jackson and in this little corner of cyberspace is because the force is strong with this pastor.  I mean, it can’t be a coincidence that I started this blog on this day 8 years ago; on Star Wars Day.  You know what I am talking about, right.

May the fourth be with you :-)

I guess the fourth (I mean the force) is strong in this one.

Happy “The Heart of a Pastor” Day AND Star Wars Day.

The pastor (a.k.a. ~ A nerd who needs more sleep) -|—

Give1Save1

What in the world is Give1Save1?

The concept is simple:

It is an adoption website/blog that helps families raise money to help fund adoptions.  Give (at least) $1 and “Your dollar will be saving and restoring lives in all kinds of ways…

My wife and I were encouraged to check this site out.  Couples submit an application to be a featured family of the week; they make a short video talking about their adoption journey and that’s it.

Well…

…last week I got an email saying that we were selected to be a featured family.  Their web address is:   http://www.give1save1.com

Once there click on the United States and that will take you to the domestic adoption section.  We are the Hullstrom Family.  The “donate” button, below our video, connects directly to my PayPal account.

The other thing about this site is that there is no cost to us (except the time put in to create our video). And with the video we were blessed by many people bringing their gifts together to help us. I tell you…when God wants something done God doesn’t hold back.

Praise be to God!

But don’t get me wrong here though…I am not trying to solicit money from you; that’s not what I am doing.  If you feel called to help us…great…but more than anything I ask for your prayers for my wife and I. I also want to continue to raise awareness for adoption. There are so many couples out there called to adopt but adoption is an expense process; something that is difficult to do on your own.  My hope is that you will visit this site, read and watch the stories of other couples and decide if you are called to assist couples in bring a child(ren) into their homes.

Thank you for indulging me with all my adoption related posts recently.  I guess it is no secret that I am pretty excited and fired up about this topic.

God bless!

The pastor -|—

Grieving — My adoption story

Last Sunday (March 3) I mentioned that I hope to have some good news to share with you soon.  Well…

No good news (at least not yet).

We did travel to Florida on Sunday and Monday.
We did meet a baby girl that was born on Monday.
We did spend quality time with the birth mother and her family.

But…

We did not come home with a baby girl :(

The birth mother, at the last second, decided she couldn’t sign off and decided to parent the baby.  Needless to say my wife and I were devastated.  I told people before we left that nothing was final yet; that the birth mother still could change her mind.  I knew this, but a large part of me still fully expected to come home with a baby girl. I think a lot of people did.

The drive home from Florida was extremely long.
Lots of tears were shed.
Lots of questions were asked.
Lots of quiet moments were experienced.
But through it all, the one thing that gave and continues to give my wife and I hope and strength is the love and grace of our awesome God.  We have seen this through the love of our family and friends.  We have heard this through scripture and prayer.  We have felt this in the warm embrace of a hug.  God is good…all the time…even though we do experience heartache from time to time.

I don’t blame God for any of this.  I am not angry with God for the heartache my wife and I are experiencing.  Rather…I am joyful that we are not going through this alone.  We know that God will bring healing…AND…that God will use this to bring Him glory.  And THAT is exciting.

My hope and prayer is that I can grow stronger through this experience so I can better help people who are grieving in any way.  I have experienced heartache and grieving before but nothing like this.

I still believe there is a child out there…somewhere…waiting for us.
I still believe that I will be a father someday. So in the mean time we will move forward and continue to pursue our dream to be parents someday.  We pray for the birth mother as she parents this little baby girl. We pray for healing and wisdom. We pray for strength. Satan will not use this to drive a wedge between me and God.

And…hopefully, soon, I will have good news to share with you. Thank you for your love, prayers and support.

Praise be to God!

The pastor -|—

13-year-long winding road

Thirteen years ago today; at 8:30 in the morning; a Tuesday, God used my dad to utter these words:

“Eric, it is time for you to go to seminary.”

I was totally blown away by this and didn’t know how to respond.  My dad went on to say some other words but I can’t remember those…only that call from God.  The rest of the day was a blur as I spent the morning with my two pastors trying to discern what was going on.  They were quick to affirm this call and the rest is history.

Now…13 years later…I am sitting in a church parsonage reflecting on the past 13 years.  What a winding road God has lead me down.

There were times in seminary when I doubted I could do this.  I questioned God and wondered if this really was the road I was supposed to be on.  I nearly got off the road a couple times but God used various people in my life to keep me going. And I thank God for them because as I reflect back on these 13 years it is clear to me that God was indeed leading me along a winding road to bring me here; to Jackson, MN.  I still wonder sometimes why I am here but then God does something and I smile.

Sometimes it is hard to see or imagine that God has a plan.
Sometimes it is tempting to think we know better what we are supposed to do.  Sometimes it is hard to hold the course when the road does wind and bend.

But God has been and always will be faithful.  And it is so much fun to look back and see those moments.  In those times when I thought God was crazy, confused, oblivious, God was working out something wonderful. God sees the whole and complete picture…and…God is working out something wonderful in your life as well.  Listen to God; listen carefully.  Trust Him…for God will not lead you down the wrong road.  Let God be your guide because in the end you will indeed experience something wonderful as you see God being glorified in your life.

So I sit here today; in this church parsonage; reflecting on that call 13 years ago. It’s been an interesting ride and I look forward to seeing what else God will do through me.

God is awesome!
God is faithful!

Praise be to God!

The pastor -|—

Community — My adoption story

As I reflect on my adoption journey I find myself feeling very thankful for the community of people around us.

Monday night we had an adoption fundraiser at the Pizza Ranch here in Jackson.  The event was called “Tip Night”.  How it works is that my wife and I received a percentage of the proceeds from dine in meals, deliveries and carry out orders starting at 4 pm…and the community turned out.  My wife and I (along with a crew of wonderful friends), cleared off and cleaned tables, visited with people and provided adoption information.  Our case worker was also in attendance helping us.  A huge thank you to everyone who attended and helped us.  Also…a huge thank you to the Pizza Ranch for doing this for us :)

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Pizza Ranch manager, Jeff, handing me a check from the sales proceeds.

We received just over $900 from proceeds and “tips” that people gave.  That doesn’t included the money people gave us in the weeks proceeding this event.  In a word…my wife and I were –> Overwhelmed.

Praise be to God!

Ever since we started this adoption process we have received so many well wishes, prayers, financial support and other displays of love.  We have said over and over how blessed we feel to live in such a caring community with such wonderful friends.  The saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child“.  Well…we are blessed to be living in this “village”.

And now…we anxiously await the birth of our daughter.

That’s right…a girl…due March 1.  The call could come at any time.  But we also know a lot can happen.  Nothing is final right now.  The one thing we do know is that God is faithful and that God is in control.  If this adoption falls through we will be sad, disappointed, etc…but…we know God will continue to guide us in this process.  In the mean time we pray for this birth mother and her baby.  We pray for her family.  But most of all we pray that God’s will be done and that we may have the eyes of faith to see that because in the end, glorying God is what matters.

Loving God, you have blessed my wife and I with a wonderful family; caring and supportive friends, and a caring and supportive “village”.  Thank you for showing love through all these avenues.  In Jesus name, Amen!

The pastor -|—

Goose bumps — My adoption story

When instances of God’s faithfulness humbles you to the point of tears welling up in your eyes you just have to share the story…and that’s what I am doing here.

A couple weeks ago friends suggested a fundraiser idea to us: Tip Night at the Pizza Ranch.  What happens is that the indivdual(s)/organization schedules a night with the Pizza Ranch (usually a Monday or Wednesday) and they receive 15% of the sales from 4 to 8pm plus any tips.  The people bus tables, clean up and talk to the customers.  Basically anything that doesn’t involve working in the kitchen or running the till.  So Connie and I scheduled a Tip Night for Monday, Feb 18.

Now the advertising begins.

I created a Facebook event and invited people; a friend offered to create a poster for us and I emailed the local churches about a bulletin announcement.  Yesterday (Thursday) I decided to email the editor of our local newspaper (Jackson County Pilot).  I told him about the fundraiser and wondered if they would be interested in helping us promote it and/or do a story about adoption.  I mentioned that I have encountered a number of people touched by adoption since we announced to the community we were adopting; stories we probably would not have heard otherwise.

Today I got an email back from the editor and I was…
Blown away
Humbled
Embraced with God’s love

The editor told me that my email was uncanny as they were discussing on Thursday about doing a story about adoption.

[Cue the goose bumps]

I told my wife this and tears started to well up in her eyes.  She said, “Guess who was involved with that?

GOD

…and Praise be to God!

Through out this process I have felt God’s gentle touch on my shoulder as we deal with preparations and decisions.  God continues to assure us that we are on the right path.  But more importantly, God continues to show us His faithfulness that leads us to glorify God.  Because you know, in the end, that is what matters; glorifying God.

My prayer now is that any story that is published, whether in the Pilot or not; or through our testimony, that people see God’s glory and run to God in worship.  I continue to pray for the child God has chosen for us.  I continue to pray for that birth mother and family.  And I pray that God may strengthen, encourage and guide us as we raise this child.  In all we do, may God be praised and glorified.

————————–

Thank you, God, for your gentle touch this morning and for your continued messages of love through supernatural acts in our lives.  This was no coincidence but your hand was and is involved.  Thank you for the wonderful reminder. May you always be praised. Amen!

The pastor -|—

Resources – My adoption story

Just in case I haven’t communicated this yet:
The adoption process can be overwhelming.

Surprise, surprise, I know.  But it is only overwhelming if you attempt to do this alone.

As our adoption process moves along I am finding myself exploring a number of resources: websites and blogs.  I am also talking with others who have adopted.  Those conversations have proved to be extremely valuable and I will continue to seek people out.  Just yesterday I was speaking with a good friend/colleague/mentor about our adoption process.  He had gone through the adoption process a while back.  I was sharing some feelings I was (and was not) experiencing and listened to this wise man share what he went through.  I found a sense of peace come over me as I realized that I wasn’t abnormal; that my feelings were not necessarily wrong.  It was like God had ordained this conversation for that particular moment.  After I hung up the phone I prayed and thanked God for His faithfulness.

Wow…God is amazing.

The websites and blogs I have come across have also proved to be valuable.  I recently came across a blog from a family in our area who is adopting ~ for the third time.  I am thinking I will be in touch with them eventually.  Recently, my wife and I were given a website that contained a number of adoption fundraising ideas.  Some of them were so simple and brilliant.  Ideas, support, prayers, etc are out there…you just need to look and access them.

So as I come across some of these sites I am going to be adding them to my new blog roll on the right hand side of the screen called “Adoption”.  My hope is that people who stumble across my blog will find comfort, as I have, in knowing that they are not alone.  And…if you are reading this and are in the adoption process, please feel free to share your resources here.

God is so amazing.  I praise Him for those “little” moments when He reminds me of His presence.  I am thankful for the people He has brought in our lives.  And I hope that some day soon I can be a resource to someone going through this process; that God can use me to give someone what He has given me.

Praise be to God!

The pastor -|—

The heart of a potential father – My adoption story

I tell you…this adoption journey has been an incredible faith journey.  The longer we wait the more fervent my prayers become. The more money we spend the more I turn to God for the faith to be patient and to trust. The more we prepare our home for a child the more excited I become.  The more I talk about this the more I wonder what kind of father I will be.

In my last post about my adoption story I mentioned that I was a little hesitant about diving in; which was the complete opposite of how my wife felt.  I worried about this or that.  I had a hard time with trying to figure out how we were going to pay for this.  I was nervous about some of the logistics. Now…I can hardly wait until the day that I can be referred to as dad.  Even to type that word, “dad”, seems strange when it refers to me.  There’s a part of me that thought that it would never happen.  And even though that part of me was saddened by that potential future I was starting to grow accustomed to it.  But now…I can’t imagine traveling another road; I can’t image a future where I am not called dad.

And that feeling; that confidence that God has chosen a child for us out there…somewhere…makes this an incredible faith journey.  I keep praying and asking God “When?“; “How long, O Lord? How long?“; “How will this be?”  I lift up my fears, questions, concerns; and eventually I feel this sense that God understands and gives me that comforting embrace that says, “Be patient my child; be patient“. It is something that I can’t adequately describe but maybe you know what I am talking about.

And maybe this wait is part of God’s plan in shaping me; in refining me; in preparing me for fatherhood (Wow…really strange to type “fatherhood”). Whatever the case, I can’t imagine going through this process without my relationship with God through Jesus.  I can’t imagine trying to navigate the plethora of paperwork and phone calls and planning and applications without God.  I can’t imagine trying to plan and figure out every last detail without the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  I can’t imagine not having God to lift my voice to.

So the waiting continues and this potential father is super excited.  My life will change in countless ways but I am so ready to face those countless changes.  As scary as it is going to be I am so ready to be called, “Dad”.

Praise be to God!

The pastor (and potential father) -|—

Fear and faithfulness – My adoption story

When my wife and I started the adoption process back  on June 28, 2012, I was scared silly as we were entering a world of unknowns.  My wife was ready to start this process a long time before I was.  I remember many times when she would bring it up but I wouldn’t give it much time in conversation.  I would find ways to divert the topic and hope it would end.

I knew it was expensive and that scared me.
I knew we didn’t have the money.
I knew it would be hard.
I knew it would forever change our lives.

But…

I also knew that I wanted to be a father.  I was caught between my fear and my dream.  I didn’t know what to do or how to proceed.  I was praying but I don’t think I was listening very well.

I don’t remember specifically what the turning point was but we finally dove in.  We decided on an agency that my wife found (God’s Children Adoption Agency) and off we went.  We met with one of the case workers and got the information we needed.  My wife immediately started the paper work and I started feeling more overwhelmed.

What have I gotten myself into? [I was still worried about money.]

The home study process started and things seemed to fall into place.  It wasn’t too long into the process that we received our first financial contribution from a friend.  Then our parents pledged support.  At the outset of this we had friends praying for us.  There were times when we would talk with these friends and they would end up gathering around my wife and I to pray.

It was overwhelming…but this time in a good way.

Now we are 6 months in and I am feeling like this has been God’s plan all along.  I still know that this will be a lot of money but I don’t worry about that anymore.  God has showed me over and over again that He has us covered.  Various financial gifts have come in; showing me that God is not going to leave us hanging.  God is faithful and always has been faithful.  There are still a lot of question marks but feeling that my hand is firmly in the grip of God’s hand is comforting.  We are not walking alone.  And I am so thankful for our wonderful family and our wonderful friends.  There is no way we could have gotten this far without them.  They are indeed a gift from God.

So we continue waiting; knowing that God has a little one out there waiting for us.  And when that child enters our home they are going to be so loved; not just by my wife and me but by our wonderful and supportive family and friends (including the congregations I serve).

Despite my fear God was faithful.  What an awesome God we have.

Thank you, God, for walking with us in this process.  Thank you for your faithfulness.  Thank you for calming my fears.  Thank you for your love.  In Jesus name, Amen.

The pastor -|—