“As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way.”
-Mary Anne Radmacher
Faith in Daily Life – Peter Leppa
By Joni Sutton
A writer, a woodworker, a musician, a husband, and a dad: this month’s Peace member who is living his vocation is Peter Leppa. Read on to learn more about this multi-talented man. One of six children, Peter was raised in Plymouth and attended Wayzata High School. His family has a strong cultural tie to Finland, and he grew up as a member of a Finnish Lutheran church. He speaks Finnish as a second language (perhaps he pushed himself to learn it when he realized that, at home, all of the Christmas secrets were being discussed by the grown-ups in Finnish!). He attended the University of Minnesota, where he earned a degree in English. When Peter and his wife, Janelle, were first married, they lived for a bit in Minneapolis, then Hopkins. Eventually, they moved back to Plymouth, into a home where a childhood friend had once lived.
Peter enjoyed woodworking and worked as a cabinet maker when he and Janelle were first married. He gives credit to his great-grandfather for his interest in woodworking. As a boy, he would dig through the older gentleman’s antique tool chest, finding various planes and saws. Peter continued to use his skills in this area by building some of the beautiful “faith chests” given to families at Peace when a child is baptized. A tradition begun by Bob Tauring, Peter worked with Bob and then took on the craft, using Bob’s plans. He has also done many woodworking projects around his home.
Peter eventually left professional cabinet making and went to work as a copywriter for a local woodworking retailer. Peter and Janelle have two daughters, Sylvi and Sonja, and when Sylvi was born, Peter decided to work part-time on a freelance basis. He kept the home fires burning while the girls were young, and as the girls grew older, he gradually took on more and more paid work.
Regarding hobbies, Peter loves to go out biking, hiking, and birdwatching. He has practiced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for seven years, which has taught him a lot about “sticking it out when the pressure mounts, the pain sets in, and you start to feel like quitting.” Peter enjoys playing guitar and other instruments, and we at Peace have benefitted from his musical skills on many Sunday mornings.
When asked about his vocation, Peter shares that he sees his primary vocation as being a father. “Being a father to our girls has been tremendously meaningful to me,” he says. “Seeing their various interests take root and blossom, and their personalities take shape has been nothing short of awe-inspiring, an experience that sometimes feels like watching God at work.” He admits that challenges are in no short supply as a parent, but he also finds that these more difficult moments can point the way toward personal growth opportunities. He shares that such challenges can “force a person to confront one’s own shortcomings in some area.” Living his vocation in the world starts, he says, by lacing up his boots every day. “In other words,” he explains, “just showing up. Being there. Offering an ear. An encouraging word. And sometimes, just getting out of the way.” Peter shares that it is hard to think of anything that has strengthened his faith more than watching his daughters blossom before his eyes. “It is very humbling,” he says, “when you realize that you aren’t really in the driver’s seat anymore if you ever really were.” When speaking of his faith, he also mentions that he is grateful for the welcoming environment at Peace.
Every individual who has been featured in this series of articles has been asked what thriving looks like to them. Peter’s response was such that this writer couldn’t think of a better way to end this piece than to close with Peter’s lovely reply. Thank you, Peter, for all you do for your family and Church and these profound words: “Thriving to me is when all the candles God has given you are burning bright. It’s when you’re firing on all cylinders, and the cylinders aren’t just firing to show off their flame. They’re firing in the dark in order to move the engine forward toward some greater good. It might be when you’ve somehow given the right words to say to someone going through a difficult time. It might be when you somehow find yourself taking the high road in a conflict, even though you’ve taken the low road so many times before. Thriving is, I think, when you become the most efficient conduit for the love that God puts in your heart.”