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images7SXM6CQUI recently returned from a 12 day motorcycle trip that encompassed over 4,500 miles and a full range of sights and weather. Since it was in the upper 90’s when we left Yakima, I almost considered leaving my electric jacket home. But – praise the Lord, I changed my mind.

We hit rain as soon as we hit Montana. Our plan was to spend three or four days in that state but, after two solid days of drizzly, chilly rain we changed our plans and headed south. I’ve never seen the Utah National Parks and have always wanted to. My brother-in-law was riding with us and he is a great travel companion as well as a wonderful tour guide. He’s spent a lot of time in Zion, Bryce, Arches and the rest of that area so I knew it would be a great experience.

I also counted on better weather. After all it was the desert. Warm and dry had to happen, right? Wrong. We spent three days touring the parks and those three days racked up record rainfall for that part of the country. Just my luck.
Instead of looking like a cute biker chick, I looked like the Pillsbury doughboy in my multi-layered attire (undershirt, long sleeved shirt, sweatshirt, vest, electric jacket, leather jacket and rain gear).

Not that we didn’t see some beautiful sights. There were sun breaks now and then but very little clear sky and plenty of storm clouds moving in and moving out. On our third day we were in Moab, Utah and we woke to an absolute downpour. Water was running in rivers down the street and the sky was very dark with no sign of clearing any time soon.

I was not happy. I had been praying for better weather and I’d even elicited the prayers of friends back home. But God hadn’t answered – at least not in the way I wanted Him to. I was more than a little disappointed in His response In fact, I caught myself being a little ‘gritchy’ with Him, reminding Him I only get one real vacation in a year and I needed it to fill my expectations which were relaxing and staying warm and dry. Was that too much to ask?

We had to rebook the hotel for one more night because it was too dangerous to travel on a bike. By mid-afternoon we were tired of sitting around and my brother-in-law consulted his trusty weather app, noting that a clearing was forecast for a few hours before another storm moved in. We decided to leather up, throw in the rain gear and take our chances. The weather did improve and we actually had sunshine by the time we reached Arches National Park. We pulled into a viewpoint, pulled off our coats because the temperature was rising rapidly, and began to explore.

That rainbow of reds and golds is truly beautiful in the sunlight and we were met with breathtaking sights at every turn. There’s something thrilling about climbing around on those huge sandstone rocks and peering into crevices and arches. I was itching to follow a trail of rock cairns and talked my brother-in-law into accompanying me. He kept reminding me that the farther down into the hole we climbed the more difficult the trip back would be. But I couldn’t stop. Those markers just drew me.

Thank goodness they did because after about 15 minutes of hiking we rounded a corner and were met with a most astounding sight – a waterfall. Now how rare is that – finding a waterfall in the desert? And it wasn’t just a waterfall. Evidently it was an area that collects any kind of moisture that comes along because it was a real life oasis with a tree and some grass and some blooming plants. Surrounded by dry sandstone for as far as you could see, it stood out in brilliant shades of green and just took your breath away.

I had to sit down on a rock and admire the miracle. The thought came to me that a waterfall in the desert doesn’t happen without rainfall in the desert. In fact, I never would have experienced such an amazing sight had I not suffered through three days of wet riding!

And isn’t that just like God to answer your prayer in a completely unexpected, refreshing, soul stirring way with a not so subtle reminder that He always comes through, the storm always passes, the sun always comes out and the reward of staying the course is worth the painful journey.

My desert encounter made me thankful for God’s wisdom and for the way He plans surprises for me around every turn. It touched me so much that I almost didn’t complain a bit when the last two mornings on our trip the temperature registered only 20 degrees as we hit the road. (Even an electric jacket has a hard time counter balancing that!)

I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs. Isaiah 41:18:

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Business jetI’ve missed a few weeks of blogging due to travel, both business and pleasure. It has been a whirlwind and I’m like most everyone else, wondering if taking a vacation is really worth it.

Piles on my desk, emails to answer, phone calls to return, laundry to catch up on – you know the routine I’m sure. It’s nice to know you were missed and nice to know your services are appreciated but not so nice to be reminded that just because you stopped coming into the office for three weeks doesn’t mean the work did.

But – what a three weeks it was, the first two spent on our Harley Davidson Ultra Classic traveling with our good friends. I think we saw it all.

I’ve been on the top of mountains, in the depth of valleys, flying along freeways, secondary roads, scenic routes and some not so scenic routes. I saw ancient fossil deposits and Pueblo Indian ruins, high class ski areas and small poverty stricken towns, wildlife and no life.  You name it and I’m pretty sure we saw it.

Our weather was great interrupted now and then by a little rain, a lot of heat and a bit of wind. We traveled in eight different states, stayed in ten different hotels, covered approximately 4,200 miles and laughed a lot.

My return from vacation was quickly followed by a three day business trip to Billings Montana which turned out to be as eventful as my vacation.  My return flights were cancelled shortly after I arrived and my only option was to miss half the conference in order to rebook a flight that would get me home in time for important meetings at the office. But, talk about customer service! My conference host did not want me to miss out so they offered to fly me home on their private jet.

If you’ve never had that experience, which I hadn’t, wow! It’s the only way to fly. No airport crowds, standing in line, taking off your shoes and whatever else might set off the alarm, having your bag searched, waiting to board, squeezing in next to a complete stranger, having to settle for a teenie tiny bag of peanuts and then arriving to stand around and wait for luggage.

I was transported to the airport, dropped off at the private hanger, walked right onto the plane, given a one minute safety briefing by the co-pilot which included pointing out the fully stocked beverage bar and abundant snack supply. I settled into a most comfortable seat, relaxed and experienced the smoothest flight ever.  On arrival at another private hanger I was met and transported to the auto rental counter which was low on cars so I ended up with a brand new, super shiny black Camero to drive myself home.

At the conference I was immersed in the latest information and technology for administering benefits and on the social excursion I experienced a step back in time exploring part of the Lewis and Clark journey. It was a vivid contrast in cultures but a sure reminder that life changes quickly.

The best part of it all – In those miles of travel, through the exposure to the old and the new, in and out of hotels and restaurants, with friends or strangers, seeing glorious panoramas from the top of a mountain or out the window of a jet and miles of changing scenery from the back seat of a motorcycle – in all of those places I was never out of God’s loving care.

One constant, never changing, solid, unshakable presence in the ever changing landscape of life –  my precious Savior. How blessed I am.

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8

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MP900441048[1]All my complaining about the chilly, rainy weather has paid off. In abundance. The weather forecast is now predicting temperatures that were in the low 70’s earlier this week to be over 100 in the next few days.

Amazing how differently people react to such news. Me, I am excited. I can’t wait to strip off my sweater and enjoy some warm days. Of course, after a few miles on the bike in that kind of heat I will be cooked and panting. But I’m not thinking about that now.

My daughter, who does not do heat well, is having anxiety attacks. It hasn’t happened yet and she’s praying for a freak snowstorm.

My grandgirls have visions of hours in the other grandma’s swimming pool. My husband is rescheduling the automatic sprinklers to compensate. Stores are stocking up on ice and selling out on sunscreen. Barbecue grills are firing up. Air conditioners will soon be working overtime.

In a world that tries to control everything, all we can do is cope when it comes to weather. You can’t wish it away or plan it according to your schedule. It’s one of the few things that still remind us God is in charge.

It brings to mind Psalm 148.  Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens! Praise him from the skies! 2 Praise him, all his angels! Praise him, all the armies of heaven! 3 Praise him, sun and moon! Praise him, all you twinkling stars! 4 Praise him, skies above! Praise him, vapors high above the clouds! 5 Let every created thing give praise to the LORD, for he issued his command, and they came into being. 6 He established them forever and forever. His orders will never be revoked. 7 Praise the LORD from the earth, you creatures of the ocean depths, 8 fire and hail, snow and storm, wind and weather that obey him, 9 mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, 10 wild animals and all livestock, reptiles and birds, 11 kings of the earth and all people, rulers and judges of the earth, 12 young men and maidens, old men and children. 13 Let them all praise the name of the LORD. For his name is very great; his glory towers over the earth and heaven! 14 He has made his people strong, honoring his godly ones — the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the LORD!

Have you ever considered that when the sun blazes extra hot it is actually praising God at the top of its voice? When the moon is full, is it bursting with the need to proclaim His holy name? When the sky is cloudless and blindingly blue, is it expressing unblemished adoration for the Creator?  Is the soaring of a bird in the air its resounding worship song and the flash of a fish leaping from the water its attempt to get closer to God? Does the snow fall in soft, silent whispers and the wind whip in roaring triumph just to call out the name of the Lord to all who will listen.

Praising God is what we are called to do – even when our natural instinct is to complain. Nature is God’s way of assuring us that “kings of the earth and all people, rulers and judges” are absolutely equal in their stand before the Almighty, whose “glory towers over the earth and the heavens”.  When it comes to the cry in the depth of our soul, the need in the farthest corners of our heart, the aching desire of our very being – every created thing can only find fulfillment in the same response – praising God.   

As the temperature rises in the next few days, I’m challenging you to turn up your worship and adoration meter by the same degree. Don’t let the sun or the moon, the rocks or the hills, the creatures of the earth or sea outdo you.

Tape the words of this Psalm on the door to your ice maker, on the dial of your air conditioner, on the jar of barbecue sauce you’ll be using, on the bottle of sunscreen, on the drawer with your shorts and tank tops, and wherever else you can think of to remind you that no weather condition or any other condition should keep you from throwing out your arms, lifting your face to heaven and proclaiming the greatness of God.

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MB900386362[1]I can’t believe I’ve missed two weeks of blogging. But then again, with end of the school year activities for the grand girls, a grandson’s graduation in Spokane, working full time, teaching and leading music for Vacation Bible School and all the other stuff I can cram into the open spots I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

Now I’m looking at my calendar and realize I have less than two weeks to prepare for our motorcycle trip back to the Colorado Rockies. In blunt terms, that means the dreaded packing decisions are upon me.

A Harley Davidson touring bike is big on fun but small on trunk space. You have to pack light and sparse. At the same time, you have to be prepared for anything from 100 degree heat to rain to snow to cold and windy. T-shirts and tanks are a given so I’ll throw in six or seven. They weigh nothing and take up little space. Over the years I’ve conditioned myself to one extra pair of jeans. I know – horrors – that means wearing them several days in a row but it is what it is. A couple of sweatshirts are a must to put on over the t-shirt. A turtleneck or two to put on under the t-shirt. A wool sweater just in case. Heavy gloves, light gloves, neck scarf, underwear, socks, sandals and a nightgown and I’m already over capacity. There’s still the curling iron and hair dryer. (I know most hotels have hair dryers. But, my hubby has a knack for ferreting out the ones that don’t. This post is not long enough for me to go there!) My makeup bag, small but still a space consumer and of course my Nook and writing materials are must haves.

I’m looking at the small bag that fits in the bike trunk and the big pile that doesn’t fit in the bag and realizing I’m in trouble. Plus, I haven’t begun to include any of the frivolous things my husband will want to take along like a shirt or two and maybe maps and tools to be used in case of a breakdown.

For the next few days I’ll be taking out, adding back, rolling my eyes, and starting over. I will be frustrated beyond measure and ready to bag the whole trip.

But departure day will dawn and somehow I’ll have managed. We’ll be mounted up and headed down the road to meet the couple who is going along with us. As we join up, I’ll see the huge grin on my friend’s face and I’ll remember that the next two weeks will be completely filled with laughter, most of it over nothing but the sheer fact that we enjoy each other’s company.

Together, she and I are like two giddy young girls that find everything funny and never run out of interesting things to talk about. I can’t tell you how many times our guys will tell us to cut the conversation and get on the bike. We will talk until we take off. Each time we roll up to a stop sign we’ll pick up where the latest conversation ended.

The most serious situations – flat tires, spilled coffee, antenna up the nose (that’s for another post), heavy traffic, grumpy husbands, missed turns, road construction, animals crossing the road, near empty gas tanks, minor bike repairs, sudden weather changes – you name it, we will find it funny.

She won’t care that my jeans are on their fourth day. I won’t care that she didn’t get her make up on. Neither one of us will care that we’re lost and the guys are studying maps and pulling out the GPS.

There’s the stress of getting ready to go and the pressure of catching up when you get back, but being on the road with good friends, ever changing scenery, my great love at my side and our day to day cares left behind is worth every minute of the rest.

Eleven days and counting down!

Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them. Psalm 126.2

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MP900313893[1]April in the Pacific Northwest – a season where every day is a surprise package to be opened while doing early spring gardening in a short sleeved shirt or huddled in flannels around the fire.

Since there’s no snow on the ground, April is also Harley riding weather for my bike addicted husband. And, because six days of my week are crazy busy coming and going while trying to catch quick conversations and hugs with him along the way, Saturday is togetherness day. And you can’t get much more together than paired up on a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

We’ve been out a few times this year and come home exhilarated though chilled to the bone. But this past Saturday topped them all.

The weather forecast was not promising, but who trusts the weatherman? Standing in the driveway and doing a 360 degree scan was a bit disheartening. Dark clouds pretty much defined the landscape in every direction.  But dark clouds don’t always produce rain, right? Things can change, right?

Change they did. Within the first fifteen miles of the ride I accepted that the several layers of clothing I had on were not going to be enough to keep me warm.

The wind picked up a few miles after that, building from strong gusts to gale force.

The rain hit shortly after that. Not a deluge thank goodness, just the miserable drizzle that collects on your collar and drips down your neck. Oh the glory.

And the crowning jewel of the day – a stinging hail storm. Is there anything worse than hail hitting you in the face as you fly down the road with no choice but to keep going until you can outrun it?

To add insult to injury, we couldn’t take our normal route home, meandering along the river where you might at least see an eagle, a herd of bighorn sheep or a graceful doe sheltering under an evergreen. That route was closed for an annual marathon. Instead, we were forced to take the freeway.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before how much I hate traveling the freeway on a motorcycle. I don’t like the speed, the traffic, or the fact that you can’t see much because you are going too fast and paying too much attention to that traffic. I will always choose a slower, winding route if I have a choicem which I didn’t.

As rides go, this one had everything – everything I dislike anyway. In fact, on a scale of one to ten, this one was too far below the line to register. Somewhere in the last half hour of that ride I promised myself a new Saturday entertainment activity. I said to myself I would never climb aboard again unless the stars came together in perfect alignment and guaranteed 80 degree weather and a cloudless sky. I decided then and there to sell my backseat to some other woman with the fortitude and tolerance to take my place.

But once home and ensconced in front of the pellet stove, a hot cup of coffee in my hand  and blood finally flowing again, I started to remember things like:

  • Landscapes seen from the back of a bike where the colors are more vivid because of the overdose of fresh air coursing through my veins
  • Surprises like spotting a wide eyed fawn peeking out from behind a tall stand of grass, an osprey dive bombing a trout and flapping its wings in victory, sunbreaks through clouds, swaying grain fields, …
  • The euphoric feel of sunshine on bare arms that are wrapped around my one constant in life – a man who loves more than anything just having me there with him
  • Laughter and experiences shared with traveling buddies that are retold and elaborated upon year after year
  • New roads we’ve never traveled and old roads that hold familiarity like long time friends  

We’ve had so many great experiences from the back of that bike that far outshine the few wet, cold, miserable rides which I’m sure are thrown in to help me appreciate the others.

Here’s to another season of road miles and smiles, sunshine and shadows, good friends, long days and lots and lots of memory making.

“On a good day, enjoy yourself; On a bad day, examine your conscience. God arranges for both kinds of days so that we won’t take anything for granted.” Ecclesiastes 7:14 (msg)

 

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I promise this will be the last post dedicated to my vacation on the Harley but this was too good not to share.

On the next to the last day of our trip we were in Dubose Wyoming, a quaint little town with a mining history, a definite country flavor and a great little restaurant called the Cowboy Café.  We woke to a temperature of about 34 degrees.  In case I haven’t told you , I am a fair weather rider.  I hate to be cold and anything less than 70 degrees on a motorcycle is cold, at least to me.  I suggested we wait awhile before pulling out to let it warm up a little (or preferably a lot) .  Of course, the boys scoffed at that idea. We needed to get on the road even if we had to brush the frost off our leather seats.

Imagine my glee when we discovered neither bike would start.  I was told not to hurry to check out of the nice warm motel room. I disguised my bitter disappointment.  

I was also asked to pull out my tablet and research possible reasons for a motorcycle not starting in 30 degree weather.  (Now, I could have told them the reason without the help of the world wide web – it was too darn cold!  But I kept that wisdom to myself.)

In my search for information I stumbled on a Harley Davidson chat room.  A rider from Alaska had asked if anyone had advice for getting a bike to start on a cold morning.  The first response from a sympathetic fellow biker was, “Move to Californy.”  I knew right then I was going to love this research.

I started reading the responses aloud, getting more and more tickled as I went. One guy said to use a blow torch.  We didn’t have one so I offered my hair dryer.  They didn’t bite.  Another very wise Harley owner said “try again next spring”, sage advice if you ask me.  There were more, but better than the suggestions were some of the slogans the bikers had added to their responses.   Here are just a few:

“I have taken a vow of poverty.  If you really want to irritate me, send money now.”

“Everyone has to believe in something.  I believe I’ll have another beer. “

And the one that had me rolling on the motel bed, “I asked God for a motorcycle but then I realized that’s not how God works.  So I stole a motorcycle and asked for forgiveness.”

Now that one did get a bit of a smirk from my husband and an actual chuckle from my brother in law but they both decided I could turn off the computer at that point.  I guess they weren’t finding my research helpful.

In the end they pushed the bikes out into the sunshine and we waited half an hour.  They started right up on the next try.  That half hour gave me plenty of time to build up my layers (seven in all counting the camisole all the way out to the leather jacket), to wrap a scarf around my throat three times and to double up on my socks. Of course, within three hours I was stripping off layers at every stop until I was finally down to a t-shirt. 

The comments on that chat room site may not have helped a lot with troubleshooting the problem, but they sure raised my spirits.  I was still chuckling a few hundred miles down the road.  In fact, just thinking about it brings a smile to my face today.

It was a great trip.  I loved the changing landscapes, the special time with my husband and my brother in law, the relief for a while from the pressures of home and work, and the freedom of sailing along in the sunshine and the fresh air.  But, in the end I loved that final leg up our driveway, being greeted by the dog who leaped and barked a welcome, the family who raced across the field to give hugs and hear all about the trip, and the sweet tug of home.

Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, LORD Almighty, my King and my God. Psalm 84:3

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Ever had a glimpse of heaven that lasted just a few seconds but stayed with you long after?  On our recent motorcycle trip I did.

It is ironic that it happened the same day as our flat tire (see my previous post).  After the tire replacement we were back on the road and trying to make up time.  It was hard for me to relax. When something scary happens I have a hard time not thinking about how it could have been worse or how it could happen again.  So every little perceived wobble of the bike brought a fresh flush of fear into my stomach and my chest.  I would talk myself down but before long it would flare again.

Those little fears flashed and faded over and over until late afternoon when we arrived in Grand Junction, Colorado and my brother-in-law led us into Monument National Park on what he called the Rim Ride.  Wow!  Miles of red rock canyons with glorious views and lots of pull off points for pictures. It’s one of those places you see on calendars and wonder if it could really be that beautiful.  Believe me, it is.

We took advantage of the pull offs and got off the bikes to walk around, snapping more pictures than we would ever really want. You couldn’t stop though, because every slight rotation of the head brought a new gasp of delight.

At one of the pull offs I walked down a well worn path and stood on a ledge, quietly surveying the landscape.  I was completely alone.  No other tourist was in sight.  I closed my eyes for just a moment and the most amazing thing happened.  I experienced perfect peace.  It came in a silence that was deafening – no birds chirping, no people talking, no motors humming, nothing.  It only lasted for a fraction of a second but I do not remember ever, ever experiencing such a phenomena before.  Perfect silence – perfect peace.  It was followed by the soft whistle of a breeze that lightly stirred the branches of the stubby pine and whispered a message to me that could only have come from the God who assures me He is in control.

For those few seconds I was standing in the palm of His hand and the worries of this world were nonexistent.  It was a beautiful moment I wanted to hold on to forever.  But that’s not the way it works, is it?  Life is what we live every day and perfect peace is what God gives us when He needs to break through. 

Just like I had to take a few steps down that rocky path and stop long enough for Him to give me the gift of silence, real life is a series of challenging events that only a conscious pause and a needy heart can overcome.

I sensed heaven on a red rock ledge in Grand Junction, Colorado.  I climbed back on the bike and my fear flashes were gone, at least for the day.  God always knows what we need.  He always gives it to us when we ask.  He always leaves us with a memory so vivid we have no trouble pulling it out again and again when we need it.  I praise Him for that.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.  Isaiah 26:3

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