great-grandfather Noach Swenson immigrated
from Sweden to Minnesota in 1869. His dream was to own his own land and
farm (in Sweden only the oldest son inherited land.) He was only
nineteen years old when he made the trip, and he had to work for others
until he was twenty-one, when he could homestead. His farms prospered,
his son George eventually took over.
George was my grandfather. My
mother (now, ninety) grew up on those farms.
Imagine Minnesota in 1869: The
land was prime farm land, without the
rocks that grew from Swedish soil like weeds. If you stood in the
middle of a field of native grasses, you could turn in a circle and see
the sky as an inverted bowl above you. The land fell away in gently
rolling hills, with few trees except for those that grew naturally
along the banks of streams and rivers. Surely to stand in such a place
would make a farmer’s throat tighten, his heart beat strongly in his
chest, and his thoughts soar. The possibilities were endless. The world
was his and others like him for the taking.
In his later years after he’d
retired and moved to town (he died in
1935), Noach still loved to ride out to the farms. He marveled at the
gravel roads, for when he’d come to Minnesota, there’d been no roads.
When asked how they found their way without roads, he answered: “We’d
get to the top of a ridge, look around, make a plan of action, and go
to the next ridge, where we’d make a new plan.”
Simple, yet also quite profound.
A good philosophy for life in general.
And perhaps that’s how our
pioneer ancestors got by, how they kept
going amid all the hardships and challenges. They’d go to a high place
and look for a new way to go.
their way can become our way—should
become our way—for life is still hard, and we face new challenges every
day. The way to persevere and find victory is to go to a high place and
take a look. Make a plan. And when we need more direction, go to a high
place again, and look and plan . . .
The good news is that we can
find that high place wherever we are,
whether we’re standing in the middle of New York City, in a desert in
New Mexico, in the mossy woods of the northwest, or along the Gulf
shore. To get to our high place, all we have to do is look up to the
heavens, to God, the Lord Most High. “I will give thanks to the LORD
because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of
the LORD Most High” (Ps. 7:17 NIV).
He is always there to help us
make a plan of action that will take
us to the next ridge of our lives, and the next. And the next. “In his
heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps” (Prov.