I have not been home in over two years. Lately, I've been thinking I might never go back, except maybe to get the things I left there. However, I seem to be drawn to the idea of homes, in general. Especially during this wonderful Christmas season, as we make our “friends and family” circuit for the third time since we set out on our great adventure.
Each time we come back into civilization, I notice more changes. In ourselves, mostly, as many of the places we visit seem to be clipping along at the same pace as when we left, with the same activities. Getting caught up in it all is much like slipping into an empty space of freeway: one must either keep up, or get run over. I don't like that part. But I don't see how one can visit those places without getting involved. I would seriously contemplate going virtual, except half the people I need to see can't operate a computer.
This year, we have had to speed up our normal routine and widen our loop, in order to accommodate family members facing some medical issues. Which led to bouncing in and out of the other homes at the rate of watching a movie on fast forward. Still, I have not missed out on the fun things of the season. With Christmas shopping in one city, tree-decorating in another, the Captain and I are now off to Texas, to enjoy the delight children take in all the little things (my absolute favorite, too). Like gingerbread creations, neighborhood lights, and holiday programs. And while each house is different, I can still feel the heartbeat of each home, as well as the love and warmth of family and friends.
God is so good to have brought us such a long way without having to miss out on any of these special family things. Hmm...
I wonder if maybe all of life isn't supposed to be something like that, too. Being on this long journey and out of touch most of that time has changed my perspective a bit. Having to leave so many things I was responsible for completely to heaven, has led me to discover how much better God can orchestrate my life than I can. Without all the worry and anxiety attached. Not to mention I suddenly have more time on my hands to do those things only I can do. More time to think and write the stories that are truly on my heart. Oh, yes, and I'm thinking a lot about home, these days, too. But not the one I left behind...
It's the one I can see just up ahead.
GLORY REPORT: The Lord has delightfully restored the computer and phone that fell into the ocean with me in Canada, and I am well on my way to being “back in business,” again. So, in the next few weeks, I'll be sharing about the many divine appointments, footsteps, and out-and-out interventions we have encountered since the last time I posted. As well as what's coming up next for the Captain and I... something that might turn into our biggest adventure of all!
There are a lot of definitions for being lost. You can be terribly lost in a strange city if you can't find the particular place you're looking for. You can be frightfully lost in a dessert if you step off the road without a compass and pass the point at which you can still see that road (people have died in similar ways). Lost also pertains to something of value that has gone missing and might never show up, again. On this trip, we have been in all three of those situations, and... guess what?
We are not dead.
Even though we could have been. Many times over.
We have also been in situations where good intentions (even REALLY good intentions) did not count. It has something to do with being relevant, which so many of our reasons for even setting out on such a voyage, were definitely not. Things like not knowing our propeller was in a state of decay even before we left, because we never looked underwater. Of course, we had every intention to. Just as soon as enough money came in to do that thing. Which didn't make one bit of difference when two blades eventually fell off in all those forceful tides and currents we kept plowing through.
At other times, we skimmed over dangerous reefs, bumped over rocks, and flew past places we were sure we couldn't possibly have reached, yet... only to end up somewhere else, instead. In short, we were lost. Really lost, when you consider we were out of radio range, and no longer had any electronics to double check, against. We did have a “red button,” however. Some satellite thing that would alert emergency services anywhere on the globe. It also kept a running account (via little dots) as to where we had been. It was a system we held in reserve for life-and-death situations.
So, why didn't we use it during life-and-death situations? To tell you the truth, we didn't even realize we were in one of those until we got ourselves out of it. As for the dots? We always knew where we were, after we got someplace. What was ahead of us, is what we couldn't always figure out.
Sort of like life.
At one point, we even thought our compass had busted (what next?), because how else could one explain getting so confused all the time? Later, we learned there were areas of “extreme magnetic disturbances” we had to pass through, but we didn't know about that then. Something that didn't make any difference, either (it was irrelevant), because our compass was still effected as we slipped by, whether we knew about those, or not.
Sort of like life.
Now, it has been a long time since I posted a blog. I could tell you it is because I have no computer, no phone, no Internet, no car, and the nearest city is seventy miles away. But that would be irrelevant. I could tell you—for all practical purposes—I am lost without all those things, except that, too, would be irrelevant. I know exactly where I am. On a remote island, in the middle of a rainforest, in a place so expensive it will take months to save up enough money to even fly out of here. Because—like Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz—we can't get back the way we came. At least, not until next summer, after some major repairs to the Glory B. And more electronics.
I might even go so far as to say my path DID actually converge with my fiction in Stella Madison's plot-line, considering I have personally experienced SeaTrials, a Pushover Plot, being Lost in the Wilderness, and having to use my very Last Resort to even get out of here. All of which could easily be pronounced “irrelevant,” too, because it's all in how you look at it. Almost like faith. There's always some logical explanation for how you could have survived something, even though it only happened after you prayed for help.
The facts are, we made it to our destination, we are not dead (thank you, God), and my Stella Madison Capers are finished (a miracle!). And even though I have sworn never to get myself into these kinds of situations ever, EVER, again, and to forget about trying to “live out” my character's scenarios before offering them up to my readers (whose idea was that?)...
I have heard of an incredible place I could call home (just a rumor, really), that bears looking into before we leave. The only way to get there is by boat, but it isn't too far from here. And considering it might possibly be the next piece in this puzzle of why we ever set off on such a crazy journey in the first place, just to maybe prove (to ourselves) that not only do our dreams actually exist “out there” somewhere, but they have been created especially for us by a loving God... One who might really have that wonderful plan for our life He promised to give us, if only we will trust Him to get us there... Now, I'm thinking, what could it hurt just to look?
We came a long way to look, so we might as well. It's only logical.
Sort of like life.
We came to this town because it seemed a perfect fit for us (according to the guidebooks). When you come in from the water, across a space of wilderness that takes at least two days to get to the nearest place that would commonly be recognized as civilization, you have to make sure of these things. Because nothing is more disappointing than facing cantankerous seas, scouting out anchorages at some wild half-way spot (that aren't harboring dangerous rocks just beneath the surface), then finally pulling into a destination that absolutely couldn't be the one you were looking for. But it is.
By the time we finally got here, I had a mountain of deadlines looming, and some that had already toppled over. A few people even thought I might be dead. Internet at the docks? Well, it was in the works, but the committee voted the cell tower down, again, because of the expense. However there was a library “just up the hill,” where—even if they weren't open—you could still get reception outside the building. Grocery store? Other than a sort of mini-mart, the closest was about eighty miles away.
Considering it would take a two-week camping trip to hike that far—and the return trip with groceries would be as good as a sign on our backs in bear language that read, “VICTIM HERE”... walking it was not an option. Neither was hitch-hiking (although it was tempting), since when we finally did make that trip, we did not meet a single other vehicle on the way, and only a couple returning. So, we reluctantly decided we would have to spend the extra hundred and fifty dollars to rent a car for the day (only suburbans, vans, or trucks available because most roads were only gravel logging roads), and buy an entire winter's worth of food all at once. But, alas... none of them were available. Even though there were five agencies listed in those guidebooks.
The local company was run by a man who also worked for the ferries (everyone does two, or three, jobs to make ends meet around here), so he was gone every other week. We called several times to make a reservation, until someone informed us that his wife was visiting family off-island for a couple of weeks, so there would be no one to answer the phone. And while the other businesses were scattered around the island, our best bet was probably in that town we were trying so hard to get to. But what about that “Rainforest Ferry,” the guidebooks (Who wrote that thing?) said left from here, and ran between Ketchikan, Wrangell, and Petersburg? A new dock was ready and waiting, but they hadn't found the right kind of ferry boat, yet.
All of which was getting frustrating, since we were planning on making a few repairs (something about a leaky shaft seal and a busted motor-mount), before setting out over the big water, again. And why hadn't we been able to find that town fifty miles before this one, that was bigger? We searched over an hour for it, before we had to give up and catch a tide that was favorable, or stay another night “out of touch” after so many. What's up with that? Not only could we not find the town, we couldn't find any “divine footsteps” around there, either. Not then.
Because they were in this town.
So it was, that as the Captain and I were in the middle of our morning prayers (telling the good Lord how much we needed a car, that day), a pastor from Forks, Washington (who had brought a work team up for a week to do Vacation Bible School, or anything else they could help the churches around here with) came down to the boat. He said he needed to go to town, and did we want to ride along? Did we ever! And while it brought us dangerously close to our “choking point” to have to buy so many groceries all at one time, there happened to be an extra ten percent off your whole bill at the grocery store—that day only (What? Whoever heard of such a thing?)—which saved us a considerable heap.
Wonderful fellowship and beautiful scenery, all the way (thank you, Pastor Bob!), and a comforting peace that comes from knowing God is still in control of this “expedition of the Glory B,” even when we doubt it. Somewhere along the line I got the sense I should quit fussing about who wrote the guidebooks, too. Because we were brought here to see something. Not the fact that places might be closed, even though posted hours said they weren't. Shh... be still. Watch, and listen. They are on “island time,” here.
And maybe there's something I need to know about that.
We have been traveling through wilderness places for about two weeks, now. Until somewhere in the middle of our last dangerous stretch of big water (known as the Dixon Entrance), we crossed over the boundary line of the U.S. border, again, and were finally in Alaska! Our long-time dream turned to reality. But there was no time for celebrations, just then, other than a very heart-felt, “Praise the Lord!”
Because we were on a time schedule relegated by the tide and winds, moving over a sea that could change from beauty to beast within minutes. We also had a gauntlet to run at the end, which we had no idea about. But it was better that way, since the added stress would have probably been too much at that point. Something about the Lord protecting us from more than we could handle at any given time. At any rate, he had us covered (thank you, God).
It was day two of the commercial salmon season. And while we were picking our way along the coast of many islands, moving in and out of fog patches, and praying the “chop” didn't get any higher than two-to-three feet before we could scurry back into another piece of the Inside Passage, again...there suddenly seemed to be fishing boats spread out from one end of the horizon to the other.
Trying to decide the least crowded place to slip past, we finally got close enough to see that those “blank spaces” were not blank—they were nearly two thousand feet of net spread out behind the back of each boat. So, there really were no blank spaces. Only narrow paths signified by bright orange balls (that disappeared into the chop if it was much over a foot) that one could only pass on the right. Should you fail to notice where that was, there were smaller runner boats that would zoom up in front of you, manned by one, or two crew-members hollering for you to turn back, or go around. And should you come close to actually crossing over the net, the air would turn blue as they clarified themselves more distinctly. We didn't run over any nets (thank heavens!) but we were turned away more than once, in no uncertain terms.
Coming into Ketchikan—our first Alaskan city—was only slightly less mortifying. It was situated on a long narrow channel crowded with cruise ships coming and going, sea planes landing and taking off from every direction, a few tugboats hauling huge barges, and more fishing boats. Oh, yes, and the ferry. Our only consolation was that these northwest people could drive and park boats, no matter what size, with about the same ease as we ordinary folk slip into a parking place at our local shopping centers. But it was still nerve-wracking because we didn't know where to go.
The guidebooks said to call ahead and customs would tell you where (there were at least four different docking areas in view, all full-to-bursting with commerce). But we didn't have a phone. Because I, um... dropped it into the harbor back in Canada. We did have a VHF radio turned to the appropriate channel, but the officials on the other end weren't answering theirs.
In the end, we tied up at the first empty place we could fit in, and the customs agent came to us. Everyone was friendly, more than helpful, and incredibly laid-back. It took two days to catch our breath and figure out the next step. Because a phone call to the Wrangell harbor (which had been our goal), placed from the local grocery store, revealed there was no place for us there (for at least two years), and no place to anchor out, either. So, back to the guidebooks, to devise a “plan B.”
Which is how we came to discover a little (very little, only 165 people here) town on a very huge Prince of Wales Island (fourth largest in the U.S.), where they not only had room for us, but it was even affordable. It was only about seventy-five miles away, across the notorious Clarence Strait, where a good day means anything under three feet of chop, less than twenty knots of wind, and visibility at least half a mile (due to the persistent “patchy” fog that lives there). A good day just happened to be coming up for us, the very next morning.
So it was that we scurried into Coffman Cove, two days later, mere minutes ahead of yet another patch of fog and changing currents, to finally tie up at a lovely little marina for some much-needed rest, relaxation, and repairs, after our very long voyage over hundreds of miles. Which I will tell you more about during the next couple of weeks, as we start to explore this island. But considering I just heard there are old gold mines here (one of which is under speculation to be commercially reactivated)...
Good heavens, I'm feeling better, already.
So, let the adventures begin.
When I first started talking about taking Stella Madison along on this trip, it was sort of a tongue-in-cheek way of explaining that I would have to bring one of my “works in progress” with me in order to keep up with my writing schedule. This because our plans of going up and back to Alaska one summer, stretched into two years. Little did we know the Glory B was about as unprepared for such an enormous undertaking as we were.
Like us, she had been sitting in one place too long. The stresses and strains on moving parts that had not moved in years, brought a lot of things to the breaking point. But she was the perfect boat for us, we loved her, and it was no small thing that God had brought her to us in such a miraculous way*. So—as is the case in similar situations—we kept fixing things, and fixing things, in order to just carry on. Most of our money went in that direction, too. Because when you love something, it doesn't matter so much what it costs, you simply don't want to lose it.
Not to mention, there was a dream attached to the Glory B that we might experience something of a resurrection, ourselves. One that would allow us to fulfill some “divine assignment” the Lord was still holding open for us. If only we were brave enough to step out, and fully put our trust in Him. There was a lot at stake. And the harder we worked at it, the more valuable the whole idea became. So—necessity being the mother of invention—I came up with an interesting (I thought) way of breaking an entire novel into parts, and literally “living out” the background and research as I went along. It would be fun. And just as much fun (I hoped) for readers to share in those experiences along the way.
I was going to mingle some truth with my fiction. Goodness—had that ever been done before? Yes. Of course it had. About as much as when I thought I had personally invented the genre of Inspirational Adventure Fiction, before I realized how many other authors had been turning out similar stuff for years. Anyway, it was new to me. What I had no idea of (or I would have thought twice about attempting such a thing), was that there are many worlds other than our own individual spheres, co-existing all around us. Which is fine if you stay where you belong, and don't make any unnecessary waves in the great sea of shared atmosphere we all live in. However, if you do...
You sometimes get a reaction similar to splitting an atom.
At least, that's my theory for why things began happening to us that were way off our charts. In bunches. As if we had unknowingly stepped out from under our umbrella and got drenched beneath some deluge we didn't even realize was going on out there. It reminded me of that old movie, Back To The Future, when the Delorean reached enough speed to intersect with enough electricity to crack the time barrier. What in the world had just happened to us? More importantly... where had we ended up?
It was a lovely little cove where I had just about finished with my next Stella Madison Caper. I was getting ready to head over to the local library and put the finishing touches on, connect up to Internet, and send it safely to myself until publishing day. I climbed into the dinghy and sat down (as I have hundreds of times over the last two years), and was waiting for the Captain to hand over the things we were taking with us before he got in. All of a sudden, I was in the water. The dinghy had tipped, as if by some giant hand (we weren't even in rough water), and I rolled out like a fried egg being slid out of a pan.
Oddly enough, the water (which is supposed to be frigid in these northern latitudes) was not cold. And I remember thinking I had forgotten how wonderful it felt to swim in salt water. But then the Captain, who was now leaning over from the deck of the Glory B, said, “The briefcase—get the briefcase!” At which point I realized it was floating right next to me, having flown off the deck of the bigger boat at the very same time. I grabbed hold and handed it up. But even though it had been in the water less than a minute, my computer, my smart-phone, passport and other important papers, were all drenched. And while the passport and papers eventually dried out, all those state-of-the-art electronics were never to rise, again.
Which is why we are halfway through this journey, and you haven't seen any videos, yet. It is also why I had to write that Stella Madison Caper over, again, from scratch, with the help of the Captain's little Dell mini, and an old fashioned notebook and pen (during the times we were without power). However, the worst part of all was the discovery that Apple Care (which I switched over to specifically for this trip, in case I ran into any problems) does not cover accidents. Why didn't I know that? Let's just say I come from a different era, when the word insurance meant it covered everything except an act of God. So, all that new equipment my wonderful husband sold his last truck to get me, was not only gone, it was good and gone. A sobering thought that took days for the shock to wear off, even to sink in.
Meanwhile, we were being stretched at every turn, physically, mentally, spiritually, and monetarily. Not only that, we seemed stuck in place like a perpetual rerun of the movie, Ground Hog Day, as week after week continued to pass by. And I don't mind saying I was even beginning to have some hesitations at writing the next Stella Madison Caper, too. Because I suddenly didn't like the name of it one bit. Lost In The Wilderness. If the cover hadn't been done, already, I'd have changed it. Which was probably just a result of having to travel past places with map names like Raging Rapids, Whirlpool Rapids, and Desolation Sound. But I still felt that way.
So, have we caught up with Stella? Let's just say we are perfectly in-sync at the moment, as both of us travel the same territory on our respective paths. The PushoverPlot is about maneuvering one's way past the darker side of supernatural. Whether, or not, we have actually “converged”...
I will leave for readers to decide.
* The miraculous story of how we got the Glory B is in the ebook 21 Stories of Faith—which is FREE TODAY over at Amazon. It will cheer you up in 21 different ways!
“After the uproar had ceased... they sailed on... and sailed on...and sailed on...”
Taken from somewhere in Acts, when we flipped open our Bible for a bit of encouragement, during a particularly despairing moment. It was a moment that we couldn't imagine how we could ever “sail on” from there. And, yet...
Today, we had the most perfect day of traveling since we replaced the propeller. There have been others, but they were heaped with hazards. Strong winds (blowing right on our nose, so we couldn't make use of them in such narrow places), choppy seas, and swift-running currents that mixed and swirled, and felt something like slipping on a patch of ice in a car—only in slow motion—when you ran over them. A couple times, we had to pull off into some cove and wait for things to change, as we were making no headway, at all. Once, when the weather reports were bad, we waited two days before moving on.
It was in a lovely place called Beaver Cove, where we were tucked in behind a little island, surrounded by mountains and pine trees just before the end of Vancouver Island (which is around 300 miles long). We anchored there, in about a hundred feet of water, and listened to the wind roar through the trees above us, but felt little of it snuggled into our protected place. A few other boats found their way there, as well. From here on, the towns will get fewer and farther between, giving us the sense we are finally at the door of the wilderness.
Today, it was a special blessing to find the water of that notorious Johnstone Strait, smooth as a pond (just for us?), all the way to the end (thank you, Lord!). So, it was a nice reprieve from the stress and disasters of the last few weeks. And, at last, we are “sailing on,” just as the scriptures implied. Even though we couldn't see how it could be done before. Another miracle the Captain can write down in the log of the Glory B. Along with what we like to call our “miracle of the tools.” People have been literally coming down to the boat with tools for us to use, just when we needed them.
Like when we were on that remote grid, hours away from any town, and the two men who were with us (who knew a lot about boats) said the propeller wasn't going to fit. That we would have to get another one (at a cost of $400) and have it flown out to us by sea plane (I can't even imagine how much that would be). Because our propeller didn't need to just be widened, it needed to be tapered. So, the Captain and I said a prayer. Not long after that, a man who lived in a boat across the bay, drove over in his dinghy with an assortment of tools we might be able to use. One of which was a rat-tail file... with a taper! And it worked.
Or, on the next grid, when the man who owned the marine store, came down with a special pulling tool to get it off, again. Then there was the matter of a certain L-n wrench that we dropped in the water at the worst possible time, and another man brought one over from his shop. All of which makes me think of Noah and the Ark, when the Lord brought in the animals, because it would have been almost impossible for him to go out and get them, himself, at that particular time. But it especially encourages me that God has no problem getting anyone from point A to point B. He actually specializes in that sort of thing.
Now, tomorrow, we will head for a place called Port Hardy, where we will say good-bye to the lovely and amazing Vancouver Island, and get ready to cross a stretch of “big water” before catching the next set of inside passageways north, again. We will wait for favorable conditions, and get across in one day. But they aren't quite as scary as they used to be, considering some of the things we've been through, already. Probably the effects of that extra training we were in need of before we took this gigantic project on. Even so...
Getting all the way to the end will be a miracle.
NOTE: Today is publication day (finally!) for THE PUSHOVER PLOT, Stella Madison Caper #4. Another miracle (I lost the files and had to write it all over again), which I will tell you about next time. However, I will say that our paths have definitely converged...
We have gotten into a lot of trouble in our lives, simply because of the things we have chosen to do. Up to now, our philosophy has been that there are troubles to deal with everywhere, so we might as well be doing what we enjoy as we go along, rather than something we don't. And—after many years—we still feel that way.
In the early days, our troubles were mostly self-induced. Inexperience here, a wrong choice there... and suddenly we would end up in a rainstorm we had created all by ourselves. But as we got older, the storms got fewer and farther between, and we even learned a great many “survival ticks” along the way. The most important being that God will always do what He says. Always.
Walking around in the Kingdom of God on earth (which is really what we Christians are doing here) is like being an ambassador in a foreign country. You live in that country, but are paid by your own, and are not subject to the laws of their land. In fact, your embassy (the place where you live) is even considered the soil of your own native country. According to international law, it becomes a place of protection that the host country may not violate. Occasionally, there are wars and casualties, and—depending on political relationships—you might even be asked to leave. But that's how it works.
All that to say our “currencies of exchange” are vastly different. In the Kingdom of God, it is promises. Not that we don't use money (you need to exchange your currency for theirs in order to do business, here), we just get it a different way. We get it by having faith (or trust) that God will do what He says. He will keep His promises. That's how it's worked for us all these years. People look at our lives and think we are either very smart, or total idiots. But the thing about living in the Kingdom of God is that it doesn't matter which of those you are. You are still a citizen, covered by all the rights and privileges that go along with it. At least, that's how I look at it. It helps me to have something I can relate to in order to hang my faith on.
However, I can't tell you the “whys and hows” of exactly how God does all this. Which is why I have resorted to simply making a list (or, an account) of everything He has done for us, and let people decide for themselves. When catastrophes began to happen on this trip (they came in bunches), we did not see a way out. We were in spots we simply couldn't get out of by ourselves. Yet, I knew God would show up, eventually, and straighten things out, and promised to tell you all about it when He did. So, here's the current list:
At our third stop after the border, where we were going to restock and refuel, there were no funds waiting for us because our renters skipped out without telling us, and left the place a disaster. To go back and fix it up would have taken all the funds we needed to get to Alaska. So, we turned that situation over to the Lord. Answer: Within two weeks, it was rented to someone who didn't have enough funds for a deposit, but was willing to clean it up for a fully refundable one. Everyone was happy. Extra Blessing: The neighbor who was showing the house for us discovered the new lady was a woman she had prayed with and taken care of in the hospital where she worked, and the two were overjoyed at the thought of being neighbors.
While we were waiting for the above situation to resolve, the Captain discovered two blades missing off our prop. Oddly enough, the repair for that was going to cost... the amount of funds we needed to get to Alaska. We turned that situation over to the Lord. Answer: There happened to be a usable propeller in the corner of a shed at the local boatworks, at a price of $75 instead of $400.
An islander the Captain made friends with knew of a grid (a place with a cement slab and pier to tie up to that leaves you “high and dry” to work on the boat between tides) we could use for free instead of another $400. It was four hours away and we had no engine, but he towed us behind his boat, stayed overnight, and helped us work on ours (thank you, Dave!).
Extra Blessing: It was the cutest little ghost town of a community, with boardwalks between the buildings, of the sort I was looking for (but couldn't imagine) for a certain group of people I am writing about who are on their way to one of those. I would have missed it if we hadn't gone there specifically, as it was not on the same route we were originally taking.
There's more, but this post is getting too long, so I will add to the list on the end of the next one. And the next one, and the next one, until there aren't any more “divine interventions” to report. But something tells me that will never happen.