Farewell to the Snow
Today was a snowy day. A very cold and snowy day. As I drove around town I was careful not to slide through the crowded intersections – crowded because it takes more than an impressive snow accumulation to keep a North Dakotan from venturing out into the world.
group projects for college studentsMy first stop was to the bank where I was going to attempt to correct a disastrous error I had made in my accounting that left me with negative funds. This was an unsuccessful endeavor, and I left the bank with a heavy heart. How was I to accomplish all of the tasks set before me with less than zero dollars? I am planning to move across the country in mere weeks. I need to acquire a storage unit, take Solomon to the vet, ship items to my new destination that won’t be practical to take on the plane… not to mention needing to have food and gasoline for the duration of the time that I am here. I was bummed, man. Super-duper bummed. I got back into my car and started to head home. As I cautiously made my way through the crowded and snow-covered streets, tears streaking my vision… I had a sudden realization. It went something like this: “Nat, have you prayed about this yet?”
I pulled my car over in the nearest free parking place and laid my forehead against the cold steering wheel. I prayed to the Lord not for money or easy answers… just for peace. And He delivered me that peace. Just as He always does. I lifted my head and looked around at the beautiful snowflakes falling from the sky and blanketing everything around me. How delicate they were. How marvelous to witness such a lovely aspect of God’s creation. I was gripped with an instant desire to run and play in the snow! I pulled my car out of the tight parking spot in the bustling downtown district and pointed the vehicle toward a local park where I knew there would be plenty of space for me to kick the snow around and enjoy this beautiful winter day. As I made my way toward the park, I decided to take a shortcut down an un-plowed residential street. I made it about half way before I realized that the snow here was much deeper than I’d anticipated. Before I knew it, I was stuck. My tires were spinning but the car would not budge.
I could have looked at this moment as an insult to injury after the trauma I’d endured at the bank. However, as my wheels continued their fruitless spinning against the slippery new-fallen snow, I simply began to laugh. I thought, “Well God, I said I wanted to play in the snow. I guess I got my wish!” I reached into my backseat for a shovel and proceeded to dig my way out. As I dug, it occurred to me how much I needed to cherish this moment. Digging oneself out of the snow was a quintessential North Dakotan pastime. One that would strike fear into the hearts of many fair weather travelers, but not for us tough guys of the North! We were made for moments such as this! Refusing to be the helpless stranded woman who was too much of a ding-dong to realize that she should not have driven this way in the first place, I whistled a happy tune and kept on digging until all four wheels were cleared of any obstacle. I re-entered my car and voila! I was off!
We often take things for granted until we are faced with the prospect of missing them. For me, snow is that thing – once a burden that had to be endured until those blessed springtime months when it all went away, this winter’s snow has taken on a new meaning for me. It represents not only where I come from, but where I’m going. You see, I have lived my entire life in North Dakota. My blood is full of snowflakes and sunflowers. My heart beats to the gentle rhythm of the rolling prairie. My skin is conditioned to both hot summer breezes and subzero wind. I can survive tornado season and an Alberta clipper. My feet are calloused from decades of barefoot adventures on pavement so hot it feels like the surface of the sun, and so cold that it could be compared to the dark side of the moon. These schizophrenic weather patterns are uniquely Dakotan, and they have played a part in shaping the woman who I have become – one who has endured tremendous change and lived to tell the tale!
Lest this post begin to resemble a lament for things that will soon become a part of my past, I want to clarify that this is not a melancholy meandering down memory lane. Rather, this is a story of new beginnings, grand adventures, and trusting in the Lord that the path before me was designed by Him!
“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9
In North Dakota, the weather is unpredictable and sometimes harsh, but when we stop bemoaning it and accept it as part of a grander design, it always makes way for beauty beyond compare. This can be seen as a metaphor for the changing seasons of life. In my life I have endured poverty, abuse, addiction, illness, loss, confusion, chaos, and pain. But in the midst of it all, I had moments of pure light. I had laughter. I had swimming in the lake and sledding in the park. I had friendship. I had my precious music. I had beautiful words that created marvelous worlds. I had tiger lilies.
In my early thirties, after so many years of alternating pain and pleasure, something truly miraculous happened. I became a born again believer in Jesus Christ. To say that everything changed at that moment would be an understatement! To say that everything was easy after that point would be a falsehood. The process of coming into exactly who the Lord wants me to be has been glorious and at times grueling. It has been delightfully heart warming and dramatically heart wrenching. As I witnessed new and wonderful things being added to my existence, I also watched as things I’d expected to be permanent started to slowly slip away.
The remarkable thing about being in Christ is that we’re no longer aimless sojourners through life with no compass and no calling. We’re no longer lonesome mourners with no one to hear our cries. Indeed, we have God who guides our feet and establishes our paths. (Proverbs 16:9) We have a Lord who gathers our tears in his bottle. (Psalm 56:8) We have a Savior upon whom we can cast our cares, and He has promised that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. (Matthew 11:29-30) I surrendered all of my fears and anxieties to Him, and He truly set my heart at ease.
More than that, He filled me with hope and a promise of a new chapter in my life. He established a new destination for me and a new beginning. He is leading me from my Northern comfort zone to the South where everything will be new. Every time my human mind tried to convince my spirit that this path was too dangerous, too unpredictable, too scary, too uncertain, too good-to-be-true… the Lord stepped in and cleared all of that mental clutter away, not unlike a snowplow clearing the dangerous drifts from the pre-established roadways that are clearly marked and designed to lead us to our destination. The Lord has pointed my face and my feet toward Arkansas, and has already prepared a home there for me. A home that is designed to melt away the ice of the past and cast a new warmth upon my heart.
When I awoke this morning to an empty bank account and treacherous travel conditions, I was tempted to allow fear and doubt consume me. But a simple moment of prayer changed my perspective. I was able to trust in His provision and marvel at His creation. What an awesome God we serve!
I will miss the snow. But as I look to the future and the path that the Lord has made clear to me, I recognize that all that I have come to love about North Dakota will always be with me. I will carry it in my heart.
I am a Snowflake moving toward her Sunshine.
Thank you Jesus.