Broke Not Poor

Poverty, poor, welfare class.  I grew up that way.  I lived that way for a while until at 25 I decided that I wasn’t going to cooperate with poverty any more.  I broke free.

There was that time in ’08.  I was technically homeless.  I blamed it on my divorce, which I blamed on me.  I was unemployed. I blamed that on the recession.  It was a short time, relatively speaking, but seemed to last forever.  On the other side of that brief period of time I was no longer unemployed or homeless. I was a successful craftsman and business owner.  My family was well cared for and we even went out of town for long weekends at Great Wolf Lodge. Life was good.

I married my best friend.  I guess I am lucky that way.  She too had been through financial hard times. She told me that being poor was a state of mind, while being broke was a state of finances.  That made sense to me.  I let those words sink into my brain. I embraced all that it meant.  I can point to both in my past, poor and broke. Sometimes they  came at the same time. Other times I may have had money and been poor, or been broke and been rich.

Perhaps it is because I was forgetting where I came from.  Maybe it was the human tendency to judge others.  At some point, though I had compassion, i became aloof from those who were broke or poor.  I felt that somehow it was always their choices that led them into that state. I felt as if it was always somehow their own fault.

I left a very successful business to move to an area that was financially disadvantaged. Maybe even poor in some regards.  People thought I had lost my mind. I couldn’t tell why I was led, but I can point to several markers that indicated it was Divine leading that brought me to this place. Then it happened. I became broke. It brought me back to some realities. My financial difficulties were largely brought on by the choices of other people, and not necessarily honest ones. I had not protected myself or my family from such events. Does that mean it was my fault?

To be honest, I have placed several things in motion that will prevent me from being broke.  I thought they would activate before things got to this point, but there is a 90% likelihood that they will activate and I will stop being broke.  I see an end.  But in the middle it is hard to see the end. At least it’s that way for me. And, I may be broke, but I am rich in so many ways.  If you want to know how, read some more of my blog.

Leaving my business and moving to the mountains brought a great deal of relief. There was relief from the long work weeks, the relief from dealing with contractors that all had some problem or another preventing them from doing what they agreed to do, and relief from the stress that comes with handling large sums of money and being responsible for so many lives.

Being broke comes with stress too.  I guess I forgot that.  There is the stress of having to count the items in your grocery cart and putting things back in order to fit into your tiny budget.  There is the stress of phone call after phone call from people wanting their money.  There is the stress of letter after letter threatening legal action. There is the stress of looking at a wife who has been used to having enough to not have to count to see if there was enough.  There are the late fees that add up that if you could afford you wouldn’t have been late in the first place.  All of that stress is real.  I don’t get to go home and try to forget it in the evening like I used to.  It never leaves me or goes to sleep.It is awake every moment that I am.

My time of being broke will come to an end.  I am looking forward to it. It was and is very painful. I don’t know about you, but I  really prefer pain free.  That said, however, I am committed to never wasting a pain.  If I have to feel it I want some advantage from it, so I am letting it teach me.  I think that the lessons here are not how to never be broke, or how to protect yourself from unscrupulous dealings.  I am pretty sure the lesson is more on how I look at others who are going through it. Maybe some of them cannot see an end like I can.  What keeps them going? How can I add hope to their lives.  I think the lesson is more about who I am than what I have.

I think that going forward I am going to be more likely to pay for the groceries of the mom in front of me who is counting out her change.  I think I am going to be more patient with that guy who is yelling at people for no apparent reason, but is carrying a load on his back invisible to the human eye.  I think I am going to try to love even more, and even better, those who cannot ever return the blessing. I can probably think of a number of ways my pain is going to instruct my future.

So please don’t send money.  I am, in some odd way, grateful that I am broke.  It reminded me to be more like Jesus.  We are, after all, His hands and feet here and now. It reminded me that God is my source, even during those times when it seems like I am.  It reminds me that faith is an easy word to say, harder to live.  It reminded me of what it means to love well.

Revelations

Winter fest was fun. Warm, a bit above freezing, but cold enough to keep it wintery. Because of the recent warm weather the city went to where they had all the snow stacked that they had removed from the streets previous and placed it strategically on the main street as needed for the events. They hauled it all away, then hauled it back for the occasion.  Job security.

Our event was the snow sculpture competition. We had some friends who were recent additions to our tribe make the trip down from their mountain nest to help out. Being the local barber, I made the plan for a giant mustache with curved up ends. Our two families had a great time grooming the stack of snow into a reasonable facsimile of a handlebar mustache.

I had only recently moved to this small hamlet tucked deep in the gold filled mountains of Eastern Washington. I felt had become overwhelmed in our previous life on the coast. I had opened several businesses, managed a growing staff, and was busy building my status as a motivational speaker and trainer.  One day we just sort of bagged it all and moved to a small, dare I say minuscule, little town in the mountains.  Being away from the busy crowds and lifestyle of the coast had been refreshing. In fact, I felt better than I had in years.

This was the first time I had ever seen our little town busy. Where there were seldom more than a handful of folk walking the main drag at any given time.  I ha d a small shop on the street and spent days there doing my work in front of the big picture windows looking out and down the main drag in town.  Even at it’s busiest there were hardly more people out there than could fit in a large van.  Now there were a few hundred. As my wife, kids, and a friend walked the sidewalks looking at the booths I felt uncomfortable. At first it was a mild anxiety, but over the next fifteen minutes or so it grew into an inner rage that I was having to fight down. There were too many people. They were too close. They were close behind me, which was the worst of all. I began to panic.

The center of the blocked off street had only a few folk milling around and I escaped to there, breathing, almost panting with relief.  My wife looked at me a little funny but it didn’t look like a big deal so she went right back to enjoying the day. Inside, it was more than a big deal, it was huge!

We managed to enjoy all that Winterfest had to offer. We didn’t win with our gargantuan cookie duster, but we got a lot of encouraging comments. We went on to share a delightful dinner with our friends, family, and extended family, later that evening, but my response to the crowds left me questioning.

In the next couple of weeks I did some inner searching as well as some internet searching. It was then I discovered my secret, I had enochophobia. Enochophobia is what they call a fear of crowds.

Enochophobia made sense. I thought about my life, the things that made me think I was somehow abnormal and defective. I loved live music but I hated concerts. I loved faith teaching, but hated going to church. I could wait patiently for hours but I hated being in line. People, crowds of them, made me miserable.

Enochophobia. Enoch was an Old Testament fellow who had so much love for God that he never died. Enochophobia makes me die a thousand times over when I am around too many people.

I think I am a rare version of extroverted enochophobe. I really like, care for, even love folk. I love having people over for dinner, small groups, and jam sessions. The more there are, though, the more uncomfortable I become. There is a tipping point where my extroverted energy becomes overtaken with my crowd anxiety. Trouble is it changes from situation to situation.

It took me moving away from the crowds to realize those very crowds were a great cause of misery. I couldn’t be happy because I was almost always either uncomfortable or on the verge of it.  I am a little perturbed that I wasn’t aware before. Maybe I could have done something about it. Maybe counseling, acupuncture or electric shock therapy could have helped. My nature opened doors for me that my anxiety would never allow me to enter through, or if I did it would not allow me to remain.

Without really knowing why, I was given the cure, or at least the medication. At the urging of The Spirit I moved away from the crowds and the press. I was planted in a community stuck in the 1950’s. I was told to become faithfully rooted in this little hamlet where crowds are rare, community is common, and where love is the cure.

I don’t know if my mountainside medicating will ever cure my enochophobia.  I don’t even know at this point that I am interested in a cure.  Like I said, I feel better than I have in years.  I suppose the occasional crowd that springs up can be managed.  Maybe I can pray or ask for prayer.  Maybe I will just be, and enjoy being, and let things be as they are.  Maybe, just maybe, that little phobia was put there for a reason, to mold me, to make me, or even to send me.  Who knows, I may have just been born for such a time and such a place as this.20190119_1234365379708117099613349.jpg

Bread Crumbs, Cookie Crumbs

When I wrote about our Jurassic Journey, I talked about following the crumbs.  Following the crumbs is the way my wife and I describe how we go through life.  We believe that the Holy Spirit leaves little trails of cookie crumbs for us to follow.  We enjoy the taste along the way and find some pretty neat places in the process.

We felt we were on a different crumb trail than the one that we had been on for quite a while.  Who knows, perhaps it was the same trail, just a different type of cookie.  We felt it when we began to plan for our first real breaking away, a vacation from our home network and our two businesses.  At first we thought we were going to look at an old motel we could have possibly purchased in the desert.  On the way there it didn’t feel like it, but it did before and it got us moving and solidified our resolve to explore.

We went along the trip, looking for those thin places where you could actually be in heaven and on earth at the same time.  We found a few and we found clarity in the lack of definition.  We were on a journey, not a trip.  A trip has a starting point, an apex point, and a return.  A journey leads you wherever, and the point is not in the points but in the serendipity of the path.  We didn’t get the motel.

If you have followed along on Facebook you will know that the last few months have been, interesting.

Usually I have visions.  They aren’t all inspired.  In fact most of them are not.  I like seeing them and running them to ground.  Often they are more ghost like, or like a mirage in the desert.  I am energized by them, nonetheless.

In our recent case, the reality is unfolding long before the vision.  Oh, my brain keeps trying to catch up.  Usually it is the other way around.  First you see the vision then you shape the reality.  Oh no! That would be too normal.  Right now it seems that we are seeing the reality and it is shaping the vision.  The reality is changing, and I mean changing really quickly.  The vision thing is just catching up.

I don’t really know what was going through the minds of the early Christ Followers.  You know, Jesus said all that stuff about going in all the world and to share this good news of God’s kingdom, then with a puff of smoke they saw him head up into the clouds.  Dramatic. What did they do?  They stayed in Jerusalem and shared the good news of God’s kingdom.  Half right.

When things got really tough in Jerusalem and the church was being persecuted, I kind of doubt they thought of that as a commissioning service. You know, the cool church thing where we pray for our missionaries and send them off with our blessings.  I think that reality happened.  It happened quick and the vision of the missionary call sort of caught up  with them along the way.

Long story, short version, within a few short weeks we visited a community in another part of the state, felt that we were supposed to become a part of that community, got financed for a house in that community and began packing.  Actually it only took 3 weeks.  In the mean time we are living, doing, and going about what we have been for almost a decade.

We carry with us some cool good news.  It is that the Kingdom of God is here!  Jesus grants us access to a great way of living, heavenly, you might say.  We also carry with us some stuff that we have learned about how we as a family do that best.  We do it best through hospitality, love, and acceptance.  How simple is that?

Our mission, in our current community or the one that we are moving to, is to create sustainable rhythms of hospitality that reflect the same love, acceptance and forgiveness that Christ offers us.  I’ve been trying this for a few years.  I have failed at it more times than I can count, but I am doing better.

I live my life out open.  If you happen to come close you will get to see me in all my un-glory.  I get some of it right, some of it not so much, but it is out there.  I put it out there because I am trying to be real.  I was good at a contrived version of who I thought I should be.  Too good, actually.  I don’t want to be anything other than what I am, each version an improvement on the last.

If you are interested, I would love for you to follow along.  If you aren’t, you can always follow along anyway just to do a guy a solid.  The more people who follow the better my blog looks and the more people who will follow.  OK, so that may be too much to ask.  Well, at least pray for me, ok?  I need the blessing and we all need the practice.

Eastern Washington

40501026_341212819785571_3961651286883517682_nWe were only back for a week.  Our time on vacation had stoked my longings for a little more elbow room to roam.  I turned my attention toward Eastern Washington.  I had not spent much time there, but it was hotter in the summer, colder in the winter, and a lot roomier than the area of Western Washington where we lived.

I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with the western part of the state.  Land and home prices there were a fraction of what they are in the areas we have lived on the west side.  I had sent my wife link after link to so sites with houses and land near towns with names like, Tonasket, Wakunda, Republic and Kettle Falls.  I told her I would love to at least have some vacation land there.  Her reply was always an encouraging, “Look me up when you get back.”

Before our vacation to Colorado and Utah, we had begun to explore more of Washington than we had before.  It had been nearly 9 years since we had done any real adventuring.  We started by going to the Olympic Peninsula.  I had lived in Washington nearly 30 years and had never been to the rain forest.  My wife grew up here and she hadn’t either.  So we went.  It was great.  It was sort of the primer to our next trip. The long one.

After a day or two of resting up from our vacation in Colorado, I suggested that we continue to explore Washington by going to Winthrop and Republic.  These were both well known as old western type towns, set in the wide open of Eastern Washington along Hwy 20.  Hwy 20 was well known as a lovely drive through the high Cascades, and was also known for being closed half the year due to snowfall. Instead of her usually dismissal of all things eastern, my lovely bride agreed with an almost disturbing amount of enthusiasm.  What was going on here? Such a turn around from one known for being quite consistent can chill the blood.

Whether it was her unsuspected survival of the desert heat in Utah and Colorado, or something else, Angie was as interested in our trip east as I was. We both had the spirit of adventure coursing through our veins.  We also had this shared sense that we were still in the process of following some Divine cookie crumbs that were leading to somewhere we hadn’t even imagined.

The following weekend we headed east on Hwy 20 from our rental home on Whidbey Island.  We stopped in the town of Newhalem, just at the western base of the Cascade Mountain Range.  They had a small park with an old steam train engine in it.  It was amazing and refreshing that this engine was open to the public to climb on, in, and over.  All the levers and valves still moved and the bell could still be rung from the cab.  Rather than allowing the fear of liability to keep people away, the local government let the warmth of personal responsibility free people to touch and experience this rare artifact of a bygone age up close and personal.  The boys loved it.

The drive over the Cascades was breathtaking.  There were lakes and waterfalls everywhere.  One could easily see why the road was closed for much of the year.  There were steep sides and rock avalanches all along the roadway.  At one point there was a pull out on the side of the road littered with rocks and a few small boulders that had recently fallen from the hillside above the road.

The road wound down the steep mountain range into a valley much like the ones I had grown up in.  There was a bit of hazy smoke from wildfires in the Canadian wilderness, and a large firefighter camp on the side of the road.  The road ran along a swiftly flowing crystal clear river and into the town of Winthrop.  Winthrop is what everyone sees in their mind when they think of Old West.  The sidewalks were wooden and most of the buildings constructed back in the mid 1800s.  We had coffee and the boys had their lunch sitting on stools made from real horseback saddles.  Old west style.

We left Winthrop and went to the town of Omak, where we rented a motel room.  In Omak was an amazing western store. It was like a farm and ranch, tractor supply and sporting goods store all rolled into one giant supermarket of cowboy coolness. I am not a store person, or a shopper, but even I enjoyed being in there.

We drove over to Republic.  We only had a few hours to spend before we needed to head back west.  It was odd. It wasn’t as old westey as Winthrop, but it was definitely from the same mold.  The entire downtown was 1890s.  While hot and desert like the surrounding hills and up to the edge of town was thick with Ponderosa pines.  The highway went right through the center of town. It was wide with plenty of parking on each side.  Being Sunday, it was nearly deserted, which was a big change from the west side where everything is expected to be available 24 X 7.

Republic in the year 2018 reminded me of a town I had lived in growing up in the 1960s, called Rifle Colorado.  Rifle is now much bigger and quite modernized.  Republic, not so much.  Oddly I felt like I was coming home.  Everyone we met was friendly, welcoming, and very hospitable.

When we stopped to eat, Angie was using her phone and some local publications to see what house and land prices were like in the area.  I was excited to see her looking with great interest and joy at the seemingly affordable land prices.  While I still had a bit of a longing to own some land, I had felt the imperative for the last couple of years to buy a home.  While not quite ready to be put out to pasture, I am getting a little long in the tooth to be renting.  Social Security and my small pension would never be enough as a renter, but as home owners we could live quite comfortably if I got to the place where I couldn’t work.

We had been turned down in all of our recent attempts to get financing to buy a home.  I really didn’t want he to get her hopes up, but I was so very pleased that I wouldn’t be alone if one day I was able to acquire land east of the Cascades. It would take a miracle to be able to get a home, but it was a miracle that my Norwegian descended wife actually liked it here, 85 degrees and all.

Finding the Dinosaurs

It was an epic journey, in so many different ways.

When we finally escaped the gravitational pull that had kept us in orbit around our business for 8 years straight, we headed due east.  We pulled out of the driveway at 8 AM and I was so enraptured by the escape that I drove through the night while my family slept.

The sun came up over Idaho.  We stopped for a while to buy a pillow and seek out the mandatory Starbucks, then headed out with Utah in our sights.  We stopped in Ogden for lunch an

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d saw a sign, “Dinosaur Park”. Well, we came to Utah to see dinosaurs. Not these, but some others. Since there was a sign and since we were already stopped, why not?

The Dinosaur Park in Ogden is on a winding drive up an attractive desert canyon.  While it was wasn’t exactly what we expected, it was pretty awesome.  Inside the building were exhibits and castings of fossils.  There were mineral and rock displays as well as animatronics.

Outside was a grassy, well treed park with life size replicas of the most well known dinosaur species.  We even fed Jurassic sized rainbow trout in the stream that led through the park.

That night, after checking into one hotel and promptly checking out (with some stressful moments in between) we ended up in Salt Lake City. We swam in the chilly indoor pool and I slept for the first time in 38 hours.

The next morning we ate breakfast at the hotel.  It was somewhat difficult to find food that Angie and I could eat, as we are committed to eating on the ketogenic plan.  I will write more about that in another blog.

We left Salt Lake and headed toward Vernal Utah and Dinosaur National Monument.  DNM is a location I had visited as a little boy and as a grown man. When I visited about 25 years ago it seemed like the first time I saw it as a wide eyed 7 year old.  I wanted to see if it held the same magic 51 years later and to see if my two youngest, 8 and 3, would feel like I did.  I was also very interested in seeing if my lovely bride, an avowed enemy of the desert heat, would enjoy it as well.

We headed into the mountains past Park City and the Olympic village.  I remember when I used to drive truck over that road and all that we there were a few fences and a scattered cow or two.  It was so impressive we had to stop and find some espresso there as well.

We got to Vernal in the early afternoon.  It was hot, but not desert hot.  Even the lovely Angie of The North seemed OK in the dry 86 degree heat.  I was surprised at the town.  Vernal was far larger than I remembered it to be, but it seemed that half of it was abandoned.  Being on a road that really leads nowhere of much importance to the masses, it was like many other towns we were to pass through and at the mercy and whim of a fickle energy industry.

When we got to the Monument it took my breath away.  Not just the magnitude of what it is, but that I saw my family stare in amazement at the stone cliff, littered with hundreds of dinosaur bones, fossilized and immortalized in stone for us to see.  Even Kian, only three years old, seemed to be transfixed in looking at the display before him.  Perhaps he didn’t fully understand what he was seeing, but it was like entering a massive cathedral for the first time.  The feeling that it is so much bigger than just its size is overwhelming as well as uplifting.

The visitor center, the building that protects visitors from the elements (as well as the bones, I imagine) had been rebuilt since I had last visited.  The new design allowed visitors to actually step up to the wall and lay hands upon the real fossilized remains of an animal that had died there 145 million years earlier.

Never, until this moment, had I ever experienced a first time feeling on second visit.  This was actually my 6th visit and each time, especially this last one, was as good or better than the first.

We spent the evening splashing in the pool at the hotel in Vernal.  We had dinner, a great steak and salad, in town and spent the night full of what we had experienced.  I am taking my kids back.  I  hope that they do the same.

The next day we drove into Colorado and over Douglas Pass.  Just outside of Rangely we saw a badger.  I never saw one outside of a zoo so we turned around and came back to see him again.  He looked a bit annoyed at that, bared his teeth, and took off into the bush at high speed.

We stopped at a lone Douglas fir, all adorned with Christmas ornaments, near the summit. We gathered some rocks for painting back home (see yondesea rocks on Facebook) and headed to Fruita Colorado.

9 years earlier, Angie and I had passed by the Dinosaur Museum in Fruita and had opted not to stop.  This time we took the boys and had a great time inside.  Most of the exhibits were cast, but inside you could see an actual lab where fossilized dinosaur remains, mostly from the Rabbit Valley dig, were being classified and labeled.  I think our little guys were so dino crazed that they ate it up.  It was a bit of a step down from the last two dino sites, but it was fun anyway.

For the rest of the day I took the family around the town of Grand Junction.  It was where I had spent most of my youth.  I took pictures of Cavan in front of the house we lived in as well as my Grandparents home.  We had dinner and spent the evening visiting with my highschool friend, Mike.

The next day was a bit tough.  I took the family for a drive over the Colorado National Monument.  Its a place a bit like the Grand Canyon on a much smaller, but in my opinion much more colorful scale.  Everyone was road weary and I don’t think anyone really enjoyed the trip.  That was too bad.

We spent a second night in Grand Junction, making full use of the swimming pool at the hotel.  It also gave us a second evening to spend with Mike.

The following morning we headed to Rifle Colorado.  I had lived there for a time when I was growing up as well.  We went to Rifle Falls and had an amazing time exploring the falls and the limestone caves.  As a side note, as a result of our ketogenic way of eating, my wife led us on a hike.  Not just a walk around the falls and pools, but up steep and winding trails leading to the top of the falls and around the rim of the canyon.  The boys were huffing and puffing, but Angie led out with the grace of mountain goat.

We reluctantly left Rifle Falls and headed north through Meeker and Craig, stopping for a while in Meeker at the old original Cavalry garrison which was now a museum.  I have never seen a more impressive collection of Americana and I got to sit with the boys inside the original Rifle to Meeker Stage Coach.

The rest of the trip back toward home was more of a chore than a joy.  There is a lot of nothing out there.  I was being renewed by the nothing, but the family was just tired of hours in the car.  We spent a night again in Vernal, then Next in Nampa Idaho, and then finally back home to Whidbey Island.

When we left, Angie and I had the feeling that we were actually being led by the Spirit.  We made no plans and set no agendas.  We just went. We came back feeling that simply going was all that was needed.  I felt renewed, somehow.  The wide expanses of desert and mountains, rocks and canyons, healed some raw spots on my soul.  The boys had a grand adventure and a few tokens to remember it by.  Angie and I felt even closer, if that were at all possible.  We somehow didn’t feel like the adventure was over, even though we were back.  All the joys and pains of owning a couple of barber shops, the intricate relationships, and the unpredictability of humankind reminded us we weren’t on vacation any more.  Even so, we both felt it.  We felt like the adventure wasn’t over.  Guess what.  It wasn’t!