Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall
to the ground apart from the will of your Father.
And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
As I watch online the Iditarod winners pass under the famous Burled Arch in Nome, Alaska after a long cold race for man and beast alike, I feel some of the satisfaction of the mushers. Like they have endured so much from nature and their endurance and trust in their animals, I had to endure a lot of unemployment and financial hell and trusting the Lord through it all.
The last I heard, one of the hardships the mushers faced were 65 mph winds. These are frigid Arctic temperatures off the Bering Sea and many mountains blowing around a little toboggan, a few tired dogs and a weary human for each team. They were driving straight through it, on frozen water, trails with rocks and trees, frozen bloody paws and all kinds of wildlife and hypothermic dangers. The mushers kept calling, “On By!” (meaning ‘go straight ahead!’)
What’s the goal through all that extreme endurance? A prize of money and a new truck awaits the winner, but I’m sure most of them would be happy for it to just be over, where everyone is safe, warm, clean and have a very big dinner waiting! Making it to Nome alive with all your dogs is a huge accomplishment.
Just like making it through that financial and spiritual mess alive and with a roof to live under, a job, a running vehicle, my health and bunches of loved ones was my reward.
Some of the most famous contemporary Iditarod racers have ‘scratched’ this year, meaning pulling out of the race for whatever necessary reason. It was sad to see their names on that list, Jeff King and DeeDee Jonrowee being two of my favorites, and another four-time winner did not even race this year, Lance Mackey. Really? I was very surprised and disappointed but hope they are all well.
I think back on the race I have been forced to run these last four years and marvel at the things I somehow made it through. In reality, I was fully aware of the WHO, not the HOW, I made it through with barely a scratch in His Care – yes, God’s. But honestly, that was not always easy to believe.
There were rounds of mass layoffs; debt; a teenage daughter running full tilt into her senior high school then college; some health issues; the unemployment and COBRA health coverage running out; her child support money stopped right before her graduation; near eviction from my apartment; older vehicles breaking down; and keeping food on the table and the utilities on. I’m sure I forgot a few things. All this was straining a new relationship, our health, and I even suffered a crisis of faith.
Yes, the Lord provided every single thing when needed, including continued decent health, a job when it was crucial (I endured the temp jobs), a payment plan to catch up on the rent, generous church food pantries, helpful church friends and family at really rough times with prayer, time and some small loans or gifts, and (at the time) a generous boyfriend who did help out when he could. I’m working hard to pay them all back the best I can.
I don’t want to find myself on that ‘Scratched’ list again for any reason. I’m a doer by nature, and I get positively frustrated when I can’t move and do what I’m made to do. I even felt like I could not do the right thing, like work and support myself because there was not any work most of the time, despite my best efforts. I could not move far with my daughter finishing high school, moving to New York with the boyfriend was out of the question for obvious reasons, and I had no money to relocate with anyway. I really was stuck in the deepest valley I had ever descended into and still don’t know why it all happened.
It’s not too late for me to have a midlife crisis and become a long-haired barefoot hippy and grow organic popcorn or hemp in Colorado……is it? Sometimes that really seems like an easy way out – a profitable lifestyle.
Many have asked why I did not just go on welfare & food stamps. That’s a fair enough question and the motives were meant to remind me those benefits are there for hard times. To me that would have been throwing in the towel and giving up. I just can’t. Call it pride or sheer will, or whatever you want. I kept applying, interviewing, searching, calling, and taking on temporary jobs (even some I hated). I did not give up and jump off a bridge or accept welfare as my fated vocation. I have too much I want and need to do in life.
RED LANTERN AWARD
For mushers, finding a cabin with a glowing lantern outside is a guiding light during dark nights and inclement weather, and sometimes a welcoming stop over as well. I have that every day in the Lord. I need to remind myself of that a lot more often and not worry so much because He always takes care of all things, like He did this time.
Don’t believe me? Let me tell you about the job that started the DAY AFTER I dropped my baby off at college! That was the Lord’s timing, to get used to the empty nest and a perfectly easy and close by job to pay the bills with the same salary from when I had been laid off. Though it was a temporary job with that contract extended only two months instead of six, the Lord had already arranged for another opportunity to immediately start the following week after that ended! This is not only a job but a project to organize and dig into. I had been praying for medical benefits and He provided them! Though the initial change was nerve-wracking news, my needs were met – again.
It’s so true that whatever I may plan to do or want to do, the Lord still has ultimate control and directs my steps according to His will. He truly does hear our deepest wishes and knows our secret dreams and expressed aspirations. I can’t fall if I keep my eyes on Him, but I certainly may if I try to do it myself. I learned that a long time ago – the hard way.
The Red Lantern, also known as the Widow’s Lamp, is an oil lantern lit at the race’s start and hung on the Burled Arch. This Red Lantern Award is extinguished and given to the last musher who crosses the finish line at the end of the race to symbolize and celebrate perseverance. I may have been made to feel ‘scratched’ by the professional rat race, but not on the Lord’s checklist.
The prize at Home still waits, with the Lord’s Light guiding the way, and the race is far from over.
A man’s heart devises his way: but the LORD directs his steps.