As we settled into our new life in Mariposa, the road to recovery was rocky. Our finances had been severely depleted, and we had credit card debt stacked up all around us. Our turn around on clients also seemed to wildly fluctuate.
For the first few months, we would gain dozens of clients, and then we would lose maybe half of them in the first few weeks due to various reasons. Some of it was because of our learning curve on how to please each customer. Some of it was because some clients, after hiring us to clean a few times, realized they could not afford us every week. This forced us to constantly advertise in the paper.
In fact, one of our favorite worship songs on the radio repeated the lyrics over and over again: “He gives and takes away, He gives and takes away. My heart will always say -- blessed be the Lord.”
That first winter taught me a harsh lesson. Dark grey clouds covered the sky one afternoon as we drove back up into the mountains.
I was complaining to Annika, “I don’t understand why Yah keeps giving us clients, and then taking them away. How are we ever supposed to climb out of our debt?”
Continuing on in my muttering and complaining, I failed to take heed of the snow that began to quickly dust the roads. Only a quarter mile from our home, the van hit a patch of ice, and suddenly we were careening.
Everything seemed to go in slow motion. I lost control of the wheel. Frosted trees, grey sky, and powdered asphalt spun around us. Out of nowhere, a county snow plough surged toward us. Then a loud bump!
A moment later it was over. We were in a ditch facing the opposite way we had come. I looked over at the boys and they were blinking tiredly. Isaiah yawned. They hadn’t even noticed we had just been in an accident.
“Are you okay, honey?” I reached over to Annika.
She nodded and swallowed. “Yes. What happened?”
“I think we must have hit some ice or something,” I answered as a man walked over to our van.
I lowered the window. “How badly did we damage your snow plough?”
The man grinned. “No damage at all. You bounced off my tire!”
I breathed a sigh of relief. Thank Yah.
“I’ll get a tow truck out here as soon as I can,” the man said. “You guys sit tight.”
As he headed back to his snow plough, I realized that in just a few more minutes it would be completely dark.
“I’m going to see if there’s any damage to the van,” I said as I opened the door.
The front left light where we had evidently hit the oncoming snow plough’s tire was completely smashed. Bits of broken metal and plastic lay in the snow. I walked around the van, but found no other damage. As I was standing in the rising snow, leaning down to inspect the undercarriage of the vehicle, the blue and red strobe lights of a police car approached.
I jogged over to the police man who parked on the road just behind where our van was stuck in a ditch.
“Is everyone okay?” The officer asked.
“Yes, we’re fine. And a tow truck is on its way.”
“Well, it’s probably going to be at least a few hours before any tow truck can get up here. We’ve got accidents going on all through the mountains.”
I looked back at the van. “Well, we’re only about a quarter mile from our home. Could you drive my wife and children back to the house?”
“No problem,” the officer said.
It would take another three hours before the tow truck finally arrived. In the shivering darkness, the winch and pulley groaned as it pulled the van from the ditch onto the road. I quickly jumped in, turned the key, and breathed a sigh of relief when the engine purred to life and tires started to roll.
“Thank you very much!” I said to the tow guy as I paid him from my car window.
“Make sure to drive very slowly the rest of the way home. Don’t go over ten miles an hour,” he warned.
Tired, soaked, and cold, I stumbled into our home, ready to put this day behind me.
“Dada!” Isaiah and Elijah ran up to hug me.
“Hey guys!” I scooped them up into my arms. “Where’s Mama?”
Annika stepped out of the bedroom, concern in her eyes, “Oh, hey, is everything okay?”
I nodded, putting the children down. “The van runs fine. I’m just tired.”
Reaching into my jacket to take out my keys and wallet, I realized there was no cell phone in my pocket.
“Oh, no,” I groaned.
“What is it?”
“My cell phone. It’s gone. Must have dropped out of my jacket when I was inspecting the van.”
Our cell phone was the one link we had to making money, as it was the only phone number we advertised in the paper.
“It’s okay, Daniel. I’m sure it will still be there in the morning.”
Sure enough the next day, cloudless and cold sun, I drove back to the scene of the accident and started feeling my way through thick underbrush still covered in snow. I found the cell phone, and thankfully, it still worked!
But that night I noticed a strange rash covering my arms, hands and face.
I was probably the only person that now had an impressive rash of poison ivy in the middle of winter.
“Okay -- I get it Yah,” I sighed as we cleaned a house a few days later. “I need to stop complaining.”
The poison ivy finally left a few days after that.
But our financial troubles were still far from over. Just after Passover, as we were headed into the valley to work, I got a call from Toyota Financial Services. “We have not gotten your latest payment on the van.”
“I know, but we can only afford half. We’re in the process of building our own business, and it’s taking some time to establish a solid client base.”
“We cannot accept partial payments, sir. Either you pay us the full amount, or we will have to repossess the car.”
I handed the phone to Annika. Maybe she could handle this better. She tried explaining our situation as well, again offering to pay half, but they refused. She handed the phone back to me.
“Look, I don’t know what to tell you. We can send half and we should be able to make up for this, next month.” I explained. “We are doing the best we can.”
“Then we will have to take the car!” He yelled at me. I hung up the phone in disgust.
“Daniel, I think we need some help. We’re not going to get out of this pile of debt on our own,” Annika said.
I knew she was right. As with any business, it was going to take time to really start making some serious money. We could manage our day to day bills just fine on the income we had, but the credit card debts and now this financed van would crush us if we didn’t find a solution soon.
Just before Pentecost that year, Annika’s grandparents came to visit us from Oregon. We enjoyed a beautiful day at Yosemite National Park. That evening, after we finished dinner, Annika’s grandfather wanted to speak with me.
“Daniel, we know about the financial problems you guys have been having. We’re going to suggest that you file for bankruptcy, and we’ll help you guys get another car.”
It’s hard to describe the feelings that pulled at each other in opposite directions inside me. On the one hand, I was extremely grateful and relieved that Annika’s grandparents wanted to help us out. On the other, I felt a supreme weight of shame that we were unable to work our way out of this mess. But I knew my failure to totally trust in Yah almost a year ago in Portland had led to this inevitable consequence.
The next day, we sat down with a lawyer, and learned that declaring bankruptcy would not have any negative ramifications on our business. But we would have to return the van, and stay away from credit cards.
We found a 1997 Mercury Sable, which was not as big as the van, but still large enough for the children and our house cleaning supplies.
“We’re investing in your family,” Annika’s grandfather said. “But you can’t just hit the road and go preaching full time. That just won’t work.”
I nodded and slumped my shoulders in defeat. If I had kept my eyes on YahShua, not concentrating on the wind and waves around me a year previously, I think we could have continued on in the full time ministry. But our choices have consequences, and my consequence was, no more ministry. In fact, I would not do any more street preaching until the following year. Right now, it was time to center on the business and make sure the family was financially secure.
As the feelings of shame gradually lifted that summer, we began to anticipate a blessing that would arrive in the early fall -- a new baby. It had been three years since Elijah’s birth, but it might as well have been a million years ago. We had moved from Oregon to California, started our own business, and been through a dramatic series of events, and it literally seemed as if it had been a lifetime ago since our second born had come into this world.
We had prayed that Yah would bless us with a baby girl, and a few days before the Feast of Trumpets, that’s exactly what Yah did.
On that warm September afternoon, Annika started going into labor. I called the midwife we had been working with, and she assured me she would be there in about an hour. Unlike in Portland, the mountains of California offered the unique challenge of making even short distances very long.
But the baby was not going to wait another hour. Annika’s previous two labors had taken several hours, but not this time.
“I see the head!” I cried in a strange mixture of joy and complete terror, as I realized we would be delivering this baby all alone, with no midwife to help us.
As Isaiah and Elijah napped, and Annika groaned on our bed, Miriam Abigail Lee dropped into my hands. A perfect, beautiful, precious little girl.
As we wept with joy, wrapping the baby in a fresh, warm blanket, our midwife arrived. She quickly snipped the umbilical cord and worked out the placenta from my wife’s womb, as I introduced Isaiah and Elijah to their brand new baby sister.
After a year of living in the spectacular mountain town of Mariposa, our new beginning was complete. Our debts were gone, our business was actually starting to stabilize with consistent house cleaning customers, and our desire for a daughter had been granted.
Whatever failures I had committed in Portland were now being smoothed away, bit by bit, and YahShua’s new wave of blessings had covered our lives like a beautiful blanket of fresh snow.
What had once been a mere verse now burned itself deep into my heart and mind -- He that keepeth Yisrael neither slumbers nor sleeps.
He was keeping us in His hands, never failing to watch over us for good.