I was born a farmer's daughter in a small Minnesota town on a summer day. It was sunny and 70. My father had returned home from the Navy to run the family farm, marry a girl and raise a family.
My grandfather suffered a massive heart attack while milking cows in the barn with my dad. He was a tall man. My mother, pregnant with me, helped my father pick him up and carry his limp body into the farmhouse. The great strain on her body caused fear that she would miscarry. My grandfather was pronounced dead at the scene at the age of 57, only days before Christmas. But I, being knit together in my mother's womb, escaped death for the very first time.
I had more escapes. Always in winter.
My second escape was a few Christmases later, right there on the farm. I can still hear my father's voice retelling the story ... I'm grateful he shared it before he died. Because my father, like his own, died earlier than expected when his heart gave way. The only difference is that he died completely unaware, sound asleep in his striped pajamas.
Years have passed since I've been inside a barn with cows being milked, but my memory says it's noisy! Machines hum and hooves stomp while a radio blares away somewhere in the distance. On that blistery night, a winter storm advisory probably blared out through the airwaves, warning people to stay inside.
I will never know why, but I decided to venture out to find my dad.
The mere thought of a little one wandering alone in a storm with visibility near zero scares me still. I had no mittens on and was only wearing pajamas ... never a good idea when it's winter in Minnesota. No wonder my dad's eyes welled up with tears as he told me about hearing gentle pounding on the barn door and a little voice calling out "Daddy! Daddy!" over the sounds of the radio blaring and the wind howling.
We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9
Surely those steps were determined by the LORD. A few either to the right or left, and I could have veered off course and been found frozen to death the next morning. I can't help but wonder how long my father held me after finding me there.
Before my fifth birthday, we packed our belongings and left the farm. Drought and disease had devastated us. We left behind many memories and the Ford Model-T with holes in the floorboard. My father watched the house on the hill shrink to only a speck in the rearview mirror as we drove away.
We landed in a Minneapolis suburb on the west bank of the Mississippi River for a year. It was a memorable one. I started kindergarten, Santa Claus broke my heart, and I laid down in a snowbank, in a vacant lot, without my mittens, during a snowstorm. I fell fast asleep without anyone knowing. It was a mercy that I was found before freezing to death.
I felt cold and lonely most of my childhood. I never got lost in a snowstorm again, but I was lost in the world. My steps into adult life were completely without order ... I had no hopes or dreams. The depths of despair and cloud of lostness that I lived in were great.
The most beautiful thing that has ever happened in my life happened 25 Christmases after finding my Daddy at the barn door. I found my Father in heaven. I once was lost, but now I'm found.