Saturday, May 14, 2011

Counting the Cost

"“For who of you, wishing to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid the foundation, and is unable to finish it, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was unable to finish.’"   Luke 14:28-30

When Yeshua taught this lesson to HIS talmidin, it was easy to see the wisdom of HIS Words.  Applying that wisdom to a life devoted wholly to following after HIM isn't always as easy as one might like to think.  There are many other Scriptures that come into consideration in such matters.  

This was truly the case in our deliberations of traveling north to Alaska.  Our resources appeared to fall far short of such a huge undertaking and we were forced to look to HIM as our SOURCE and our PROVIDER.  We firmly believe that HE is able to do far more than we can ask or imagine and that anything that HE asks us to do comes with the provision necessary to carry out the task to it's completion.  Walking out that belief so far out of our "comfort zone" wasn't going to be easy.

In our efforts to calculate the costs involved (and these costs went far beyond the obvious monetary concerns), we were overwhelmed and discouraged right at the beginning.  While HE reveals the "end from the beginning" in Scripture, (see DannyLee's blog for his posts on this subject), life doesn't always work that way as we struggle to deal with things on a much smaller scale - as in, day by day.  Traveling to Alaska would take us far beyond the world we knew and the people we care about.  We would have to face the unknown and the unknowable as we trusted in HIM to walk us through each day.  

Perhaps this was HIS intent from the beginning as we prayed for HIM to teach us to live with "right now" faith.  As Mike Clayton teaches, Biblical prosperity is more about having what you need for each day than it is about being rich in worldly goods.  Faith only grows when we are forced to lean on HIM for our daily needs and we are able to see HIS provision.  One thing we've learned about receiving answers to prayers is that the answer that comes isn't generally going to be on our terms, but on HIS.  We could see the need for growth even as we determined to do HIS Will above ours.  The "tests" were about to begin.

In the end, the costs were daunting, but we made it and HIS provision was good throughout our journey.  After more than 5,000 miles and $3,000 in gas, we were amazed that we had made it at all.  We spent about $250 on repairs and several nights in "Wally World" parking lots to make ends meet and I did a lot of cooking on the road as "fast food" just wasn't an option. 
Our journey took nearly a month and much of that time was basically spent driving so the wear and tear on us and our rig was a real consideration.  The emotional costs also came into play at times as we worked through our personal fears and doubts along the road.  We struggled with the very human desire to question as to whether we had truly heard from HIM despite the many, many confirmations that HE gave us, even as we traveled on our way.  

One belief that upheld us all the way to Alaska is that "HIS timing is always perfect".  As we dodged the tornadoes that decimated Alabama and the surrounding states, and drove through the high winds and hail that plagued us through Arkansas and Oklahoma, we praised HIS timing.  

Driving across the Mississippi River on I-40 in Arkansas and later learning how close that juncture came to being closed due to flooding was another reason for praise.  The flooded plains that surrounded us all the way to the detour around Winnipeg were a constant reminder that a day later or a day sooner on this trip could have found us stranded many times along the way.  

Being no more than a day ahead or a day behind every winter storm watch that hit the towns around us with heavy snowfalls left us feeling as if somehow we were walking a "weather tightrope" with no room for errors.  The culmination of all these disasters came as we crossed Alberta and the news reported 84 forest fires throughout the province, including one that drove our friends in Red Earth Creek from their home only a couple of days after we left them.  That fire passed right through the middle of their property leaving both of their houses intact and a huge cleanup job behind.  We dared not think of how close we came to being caught up in all of these events.  

Our final test was the snow that began in Haines Junction and spanned the distance to our destination in Tok.  While we traveled safely through the storm, our praise and thanks was once more directed Heavenward as only HE had the power to bring us to the place HE wanted us to be.  

I will be uploading all of our travel pictures into a photo album that you can find on the Lijit link on the left side here.  This will take some time as I must both sort and label the many pictures that came our way on this long journey.  I do hope that somehow our journey will provide a measure of encouragement to all those that read this blog as you face the task that HE has placed front of you.

Looking South towards Anchorage

Looking North towards Fairbanks

Friday, May 13, 2011

Journey's "End" or Another "New" Beginning?

291 miles stand between us at Haines Junction and our intended destination of Tok, Alaska.  After all the miles we'd gone, it didn't seem like all that much to worry about.  However, it was in what we faced that day that would bring into focus all the things that had given us the shivers when we first considered what it would take to get us to Alaska.  We were about to redefine the meaning of "bad roads" and hazardous driving conditions.  We were also about to learn a very valuable lesson about life in general - a lesson that I hope we can apply to all of our "todays".  

We woke up in Haines Junction to snow and the dregs of winter that had not yet fully passed in this far northern land.  Our original plan was to spend the night as close to the border as we dared to drive in these conditions.  That plan eventually fell by the wayside as we entered into an even "wilder"-ness than we had ever seen before.  It seemed there was nothing but road, trees, mountains and us.  Our initial start was with a hint of trepidation as the snow fluctuated between flurries and "furies".  The road ahead of us was the focus of all of our attention as we strained to see what lay ahead. 

Sometimes the view wasn't too encouraging!
We don't talk about much as we focus all of our energy on what's in front of us.  The road offers little to consider beyond moving forward and thoughts of all the things that might go wrong are pushed far to the back of our minds.  Survival has moved far beyond our limited experience in such conditions and our trust in HIM becomes paramount to maintaining an internal peace.  To say that we're a bit intimidated at this point is clearly an understatement.  

We passed Destruction Bay and missed a reasonable chance to top off the gas tank there.  Taking the warning sign about this being the last stop for the next 108 miles at Burwash Landing seriously, we decided to stop at a little station there.  Big mistake!  It took a very long time just to get the gas pump working at this little roadside stop and the quarter of tank of gas we bought there cost us nearly $50.  Take this as a warning and stop in Destruction Bay to top off your gas tank!  From there you'll have enough to make the border.  

While waiting for the gas pump to be repaired, these little critters drove Ariela nearly mad with their little chirps and chitters.  She would have loved to get out and have a run with them!  Unfortunately, there was no time for such a romp and she had to leave them to their own play.

The road was about to get very interesting and life was about to take on a whole new perspective.  All those warnings about bad pavement, no pavement, frost heaves and frost "ho"les were about to turn this leg of our journey into something else.  Tires, shocks, struts, and air lift systems as well as, comfy bucket seats, cushions and all the other amenities we love in our nice vehicles would be brought down closer to the level of riding on a buckboard wagon than most of us have ever experienced.  It was time to "SLOW IT DOWN"!

Now DannyLee is a pretty safe driver and he prides himself on his efforts to maintain his fuel efficiency while minimizing the wear and tear on our rig.  However, his driving habits are also influenced by his many years of driving taxis in the Denver and Phoenix areas.  Oftentimes, he's driving with his eye on the far horizon while what's directly in front of him has a lesser interest.  Frost heave/"ho"les don't lend themselves to this kind of driving technique.  He was about to learn some valuable lessons about "living in the moment".  

Herein lies the message that we've been struggling with concerning our faith in our Heavenly FATHER.  As we went through Monte Judah's study on the Book of John, one of the challenges that we accepted was to grow in our "right now" faith.  As we see in the Book of John, Yeshua is constantly challenging the people around HIM as to what do they really believe and is their belief in the here and now.  

Many people declare belief in what HE has done and are willing to confess belief on what HE will do, but rarely does anyone make a commitment to believing that HE can and will do something for them today.  HIS talmidin and friends fall into this trap of looking back or looking ahead while missing what HE is able to do while standing right there in front of them.  We found this message to be very relevant to us and have resolved to deal with this directly in our own lives.  

When YHVH reveals HIMSELF to Moses, HE reveals HIS Name as YHVH which loosely translates into "I AM".  HIS Name is not "I was" or "I will be" and with that understanding, it's my belief that to truly be in HIS Presence, we must learn to live "in the moment" or "in the now" of life.  Our busy lives filled with constant hustle and bustle leave us little time to truly enter into the moment.  We struggle with wondering how we can even try.  

The "lights" actually went on as we entered the last 100 miles before the Alaskan border.  While DannyLee was trying to maintain his speed on the ups and downs of the road, his focus caused him to go way too fast over some bone rattling bumps and threatened to tear the very wheels off of our truck and RV.  He kept trying to explain to me that he needed to keep the speed up to make it up the hill that lay on the other side of this unpaved area that we were struggling to drive through.  I kept trying to explain that his efforts to keep the speed up were about to fall prey to broken shocks and springs and if he didn't slow down, I was going to keep on explaining in an even louder voice.  Things weren't looking real good at that point.  

After several spine jarring jolts and frightening complaints from the fifth wheel hitch and frame, he finally realized that he had to slow down and deal with the here and now and let what's in front of him come at it's own time.  That realization was a BIG step in the right direction!  We found that while we were still moving forward, albeit at a much slower pace, we were still making progress towards our destination.  We finally knew the "secret" of "living in the moment" and it was simple ----  SLOW DOWN!

While that may not seem to be all that exciting as a revelation, it seems to be a lesson that we need to be reminded of a lot more often.  It's far too easy to race through our days looking ahead or to get bogged down in the mistakes of the past and totally miss what HE's doing in our lives today.  Let's hope we can carry this lesson with us into the days that lie ahead!

We made it!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Onward! Crossing the Yukon River.

It seems pretty safe to say that while Ariela loves riding in the truck, the fun wears off quickly.  You can almost hear her say, "Are we there yet?!?!" as we settle in for another 209 mile jaunt.  We would travel from Teslin to Haines Junction without much to distract us in between.  

The road continues to amaze us as we ponder the constant warnings of broken and missing pavement, frost heaves and potholes.  The best part about these roads is that such things are often clearly marked with orange cones, signs and flags.  How often do you see such warnings alongside the broken pavements, potholes and such that are a regular feature of the roads throughout the U.S.?  Little did we realize what we would face in our last 100+ miles to the Alaskan border, but that's a story for another day.  

 Today, we crossed the Yukon River!  As you can see the banks are still lined with snow and the mountains that surround us still wear their beautiful snowcaps.  The air is crisp and cold and we hold our jackets tightly as the wind whips around us.  Ariela loves to stand "nose to the wind" as she considers all of the interesting "smells" that come her way.  

Crossing this iconic river brings Alaska clearly into focus finally and we find ourselves a day and a night away from our destination.  As we settled in for the night at a Fas Gas RV stop, it started to snow.  At first it was light and pretty, but soon it got clear that this was going to be our new "reality" for the last leg of our trip.  The biggest problem is that once we hit the road, there aren't many options for pulling off to let the weather pass.  This was a good time to slow down and make some prayerful considerations.  In the end, we felt confident that we could continue on the next day and so we did. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Backwards in Time?

more "animal butts"
After a night's rest in Coal River, it was time to hit the road again.  The weather has been slipping over to the "cool side" and as you can see in the pictures there is more and more snow alongside the road as we travel.  So far there hasn't been any on the road, but that was about to change as we added another 256 miles to our journey north.  

We continue to drive very long distances without seeing much in the way of "civilization".  Again, many of the few places we pass along the way are still boarded up for the winter.  It occurred to me today that this is very much like taking a trip backwards in time.  

In Georgia, we'd already gone through the "joys" of Spring with budding trees, lots of flowers and a ton of sneezing on DannyLee's part as he dealt with the overwhelming amount of pollen that was produced by the pecan trees that surrounded us.  He threatened more than once that he was going to write a song about the miseries of Spring allergies as he was forced more than once to take breaks between songs to clear his sinuses.  

However, as it always goes, summer weather had already come to Georgia with temperatures in the 90's, and yet, here we were looking at the earliest start of Spring again with melting snow and barely a bud on the trees around us.  Purple crocuses poked through here and there, but nary a leaf was in sight on the many trees and the only green was in the endless miles of pine on every side of us.  

Backing up into the seasons combined with the rawness of the wilderness that surrounded us combined into a surreal feeling of traveling back to a time when life was simpler and the world wasn't so full of people, cities and the hustle and bustle of mini-malls and "Wally Worlds".  Hmmm...................that left us to wonder what would life be like without such things?

It was time to take a break for Shabbat and rest from our travels.  We opted for two nights at the Yukon Motel and Campground in Teslin.  In the Yukon Territory, there aren't many options for dry camping and the cold weather made for some rough sleeping without an electric hook-up.  Having seen all of these bison alongside the road made us curious about "bison burgers" so we decided it was time to try one for ourselves.  While it's good to try new things, not every new thing will find it's way into our list of favorites.  The bison are free to roam about as "photo ops" in my opinion.  I'll stick with beef! 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Into the "Wild"-erness!

Today we would travel 228 miles from Fort Nelson to Coal River.  The road is still good when we consider all the bad roads we've traveled in the lower 48.  I've been keeping the camera close at hand in hopes of "capturing" some animal shots.  We haven't seen any animals up until this point.  That was about to change dramatically.

Now, I freely confess that I'm not all that proficient at photography or at identifying animals.  Sure, I can tell a bear from a deer and a porcupine from a rabbit, but I'm not sure I can clearly catch the difference between a caribou and a moose or a bison and a buffalo.  The task is made even more difficult as most of my pictures turn out to be "animal butts"!  

 I'm pretty sure that these are stone sheep here as that's what my Mileposts said I would see in this area.  I originally thought that the animal above here was a young moose, but I can't swear to that and as we saw more and more caribou, I lost all confidence.  Someone told me that the way to identify a moose was to look at the face and think of "Bullwinkle".  The problem was that I rarely got to see any faces long enough to think much of anything at all.
Just before we got to Coal River, I spotted a bear down in a gully alongside the road.  It appeared to be a very young black bear, and my reaction was totally useless.  I had the camera in hand, but in my excitement, I was just waving my arms around like a crazy person and I was nearly speechless leaving DannyLee to wonder if I'd totally lost my mind.  He did get to see it, but there was no chance of taking a picture at all.  The same thing happened with the next bear we saw a few days later and the pair of gray wolves that crossed the road in front of us.  You'll just have to take our word for it.  We did see lots of animals on our way north.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Alaskan Highway!

Having spent the night less than 500 yards from the Alaskan Highway, today would be our very first time to drive on this road of great legend.  In my limited "traveler's view", it holds a place right up there with the infamous "Route 66" - definitely on the list of "must-drive" roads.  The funny thing was that there wasn't all that much to distinguish this road from all the other miles we'd driven across Canada already.  We see trees - LOTS of trees, mountains, FROZEN-over lakes, marshes.........and not too much in the way of "civilization".  Nice to look at, but it can get a little overwhelming at times as we feel small and alone under this great big sky.

Our first gas stop would be in Pink Mountain.  Now one might wonder at the name "Pink Mountain", but if you have a "Mileposts" you'd be able to read all about it.  I was more intrigued with the sign on the front of the building.  (If you click on the picture, you can see a larger version.)

It's our habit to make our "fuel stops" into "FULL stops" where everyone gets a walk, a potty break and at least, a snack, if not a full meal.  The Mileposts warned of some stops along the way that weren't all that inclined to welcome your "furry friends".  Ariela and I sat in the truck and watched two large dogs wander through the area as she was banned from leaving our truck.  While they may have their reasons and concerns, we don't feel welcome at places that have clearly posted an "UNWELCOME" for a part of our family.  

We got some gas and headed on down the road in search of a friendlier place for our "FULL-stop".  Pink Mountain wasn't the place for us.  

We drove 239 miles today for a night's rest in Fort Nelson.  Arriving early, we took a stroll along the parkway and a quick visit to the famous "Fort Nelson Hotel" before pulling into the Triple G Hideway at the north end of town for a night's rest.  

The most memorable part of this stop was a sign at the edge of town as we were leaving in the morning.  The sign said:

"Those who hate speeding tickets, 
raise your right foot!"

'Nuff said!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Rearview Mirrors

One of the hardest challenges of our gypsy lifestyle is in learning not to let what's in the rearview mirror hold us back from going forward.  The Children of Israel stumbled many times in the wilderness as they looked back with "rear-view" vision at the life they had left behind in Egypt. 

It cost them 40 years in the end to recover from that mistake.  The view from the windshield is very different from the view we have in our rearview mirrors.  

Sometimes we see things that are just plain hard to leave behind and other times we see things as being far better than what they actually were.  The truth is that rearview mirrors serve the more important purpose of helping us to see what might be coming along so that we can avoid a collision or to help us to keep an eye on "The Nest".  They're not intended to be a place to dwell on overly long or an accident could well be in our near future.  

Today we would drive 287 miles to Fort St. John where we would finally be joining up to the Alaskan Highway.  Our Mileposts guidebook would become our mapbook, our tour guide and more importantly, our step by step instructions to help us find food, gas, and campgrounds.  It also became a major source of encouragement to us as we were finally able to see the "end" of this journey in "drive-able increments".  

DannyLee was able to work out the driving for the rest of our trip into reasonable 200-250 mile days.  We were able to use the Mileposts to plan our fuel stops, night stops and "things to see along the way". This book gives detailed information on every pull-out, pull-off and special sights along the Alaskan Highway.  The challenge was to read enough to know what's coming up without spending too much time with my head stuck in a book.  I didn't want to miss the chance to see a bear, a bison or a caribou!

This would also be our last night in a "Wally World" parking lot on this journey.  It's funny.  As the "Wally World" stores have gotten smaller, it seems their parking lots have gotten bigger.  This night would find us sharing a huge lot with only one other camper.  

Because we're early in the season, we find ourselves driving long distances with barely another car or RV in sight.  There aren't many houses or roadside establishments and if there is something, it's more often than not, still closed for the season.  We don't think about what "could happen" in all of this wilderness.  We keep our eyes on the horizon and our focus on HIS promises to watch over us as HE has gone before us to prepare the way. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Friends in High Places!

How far is too far when it comes to making a detour to visit friends?  

What if the detour wasn't just about "friends" but "family"?  
Does that alter the question?  

Over the last couple of years we've been on the road, we've made lots of strange "detours" to visit people that were in reality nearly strangers when we arrived and left their homes with the very real sense that we were actually leaving family -- Spiritual "family".  

"While He was yet speaking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and His brothers stood outside, seeking to speak to Him. One said to Him, "Behold, Your mother and Your brothers stand outside, seeking to speak to You." But He answered him who spoke to Him, "Who is My mother? Who are My brothers?" He stretched out His hand towards His talmidim, and said, "Behold, My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father Who is in heaven, he is My brother, and sister, and mother.""             Matthew 12:46-50  

One of the very real lessons that we have been faced with over and over again is regarding the question of "Who is your family?"  "Who are your friends?"  Many of those that choose to follow HIM with all of their hearts, all of their minds and all of their strength find themselves ostracized and cast apart from their natural families and lifelong friends.  It's very hard to see those you love turn away from you because of your love for HIM and HIS Word.  We know this pain very well.  

Our FATHER in Heaven knows this pain also and HIS heart breaks for the pain in HIS childrens' hearts.  One way that HE gives us to ease this pain is connecting us to others in HIS Family.  We've had the pleasure of meeting many that are very dear to us by HIS particular leading.  Each of them are HIS special treasures and we look forward to the day when we are all re-joined together in HIS Kingdom.  Until then, we'll keep them in our hearts!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Crossing Over - Manitoba to Alberta

Welcome to Alberta
Today is "Day Fifteen" of our trip and the "Eighth Day" of our omer count.  We drove 320 miles from Saskatoon to Edmonton.  Our drive was not very interesting through the vast farmlands as we left the flood waters of Manitoba behind us. 

We still can't get our heads around the vast distance that still lies between us and our destination.  The farther north we go, the weather becomes less like the late spring/early summer we left behind and more like winter.  Dirty snow is still lingering alongside the roads in many places and the wind can be very blustery and cold.  

Our thoughts jump from Abraham and Sara going forth into the unknown and the Israelites as they traveled through the wilderness.  At least some among the Israelites had traveled from distant lands to live in Egypt and the Promised Land wasn't a complete unknown as it was to Abraham and Sara.  We have the benefit of traveling roads that are well-traveled and well-documented by maps and mileposts along the way.  Somehow, all of this gives us little comfort as we consider the journey before us into the unknown.  At times, only our faith in HIM stands between us and the very human desire to say, "Enough, this is too much for us!".