Dec 4 2017

Kyliesha Selah

by andrew

The strong, virtuous woman trusts in the refuge of her Rock (Yahushua the King Messiah).

Well, I was too slow, and the telling of our adventurous journey from Colorado back to Canada has been quite completely upstaged by the birth of our daughter Kylie. This post is hard for me to write because so many thoughts are trying to be put down all at once. So, let me work on it methodically.

3 Days ago (December 1, 2017) at 3:42 pm our 4th daughter and 8th child Kylie was born at home near Winkler, MB in the house of dear friends where they raised ten children themselves. She was 8 lbs 10 oz and 21 inches long. The raw essence of every detail of this pregnancy and birth-journey is captured in Kylie’s name – both as a testimony to Yah’s faithfulness throughout the process, and Renee’s diligent strength, as well as Kylie’s identity and destiny.

With each pregnancy we’ve had various levels of confidence about the gender of the baby growing inside Renee. Some we knew ahead of time from the ultrasound. Some we had a very strong notion (like with Joy who was the promised girl arriving later than we thought after Jaiden surprised us by being a boy). And with others we had no idea. Kylie was unique in that, not only did we lack all sense of who she might be, but we also had no consensus on name candidates for boys or girls. We had name ideas, but nothing that felt right – nothing that resonated spiritually with the life YHWH had knit in Renee’s womb.

Other new factors with this pregnancy were the additional concerns of higher risk with Renee’s age (the medical community is a little confused and thinks Renee is getting older for some reason), the fact that she was carrying Kylie in a breech position, and abnormal antibodies present in her repeated blood work which meant baby’s blood was mingling with hers. The breech factor was particularly bothersome because we really wanted to have another home birth and if Renee went into labor with Kylie breech, our midwife could not attend us at home. On top of that, they wouldn’t even deliver at the hospital near our friends. We’d have to relocate to the Winnipeg hospital over an hour away… not a fun idea while in labor.

We also had an initial 5-hour drive to our friends’ house to factor in. They live in the same area as our midwife and had graciously and excitedly agreed with the idea of us spending a few days here around the due date. But planning the timing was going to be a little like jumping out of a plane with only a rough map of the landing zone and hoping the winds were favorable for touching down in the right spot. Should we wait until labor started (great thing we DIDN’T do that in retrospect)? Do we pick a date and be there way too early? All those kinds of questions were in play.

So, about a week before the due date, with the impending necessity of finding a name in the background of our brains, and wanting it to be connected with the core theme of trusting Yah with all the details (including logistics, timing, breech, age, risk factors, travel, antibodies, etc.) I came across Psalm 18:2:

YHWH is my ROCK and my fortress and my deliverer, my God is my ROCK and I take refuge in Him; My shield and the horn of my salvation (yeshua), and my high tower.

I would have likely just breezed past this verse normally, but it perfectly resonated with the experience of our need in this season, which stirred additional curiosity. I wondered – why was ROCK repeated twice, and what was the Hebrew word behind it? I’ve often found the Scriptures to use repetition when something is being emphasized and/or hinting at a deeper meaning. I was surprised to discover that although the translators used the same word “ROCK” twice, there were actually 2 different Hebrew words behind them. One of those was:

Selah – literally or figuratively a ROCK, a fortress, a stronghold

Up until then I had only thought of “selah” in the musical sense found throughout the Psalms which indicates a pause for meditation or pondering. These two variants of the root have a different last letter. The musical pause “selah” is SLH whereas the rock and fortress “selah” is SLA – the final ayin (A) having the thematic meaning of eye or “to see” which makes sense because a ROCK and it’s defense and deliverance is something that is witnessed. Kylie is a witness to her Creator.

Then, a day or two later I was reading Proverbs 31 again as it happened to fall into my reading schedule with a new translation, and I read verse 10 with eyes that were constantly, subconsciously searching for name ideas: “Who can find a virtuous woman?” Hmmm, I thought, I wonder what the Hebrew word for “virtuous” is in this case. I was floored to discover it was one of my favorite Hebrew words of all time:

Khayil – a force whether of human or supernatural means, an army, virtue, valor, STRENGTH, able, activity, valiant, worthy.

In fact, this word was the original basis for a character’s name in a series of books I’ve been slowly writing for nearly 25 years now. And with the Hebrew word for “woman” / “wife” in that verse being “isha” (“eesha”) I immediately knew in my spirit – if we were having a girl, her name was Kyliesha (“Kylie” for short). When I presented the idea to everyone else it was it was unanimous (a rare thing in a family of 9). Everyone loved it. And a sense of peace settled into me that we had finally stumbled upon the first truly accurate name-reflection of who this little unborn person was to be… and with that sense of identity I tried coming up with a couple boy variations on the same theme, but I was almost completely convinced from that point forward that it was going to be a girl.

With the strong potential for a complicated breech birth, Renee diligently learned and applied new stretches and exercises to help adjust her body and turn Kylie. She was trusting Yah, but also doing everything she could to act on that belief.

As for the timing… Renee and I both separately asked Father to give us a birth date so that we could plan our drive down to our friends. She got Dec 2 and I got Dec 5 (with a low degree of self-confidence whether or not I was hearing clearly or just making something up in my own mind). Dec 11 was the full 40-week count from conception, but the due date calculator (also based on the conception date) said the due date was Nov 30. So, we had a few data points to work with and decided that the right course of action would be to drive down on Nov 30 (unless labor started sooner of course). We also debated whether or not to just stay put and have the baby in our own home. But in asking Father about that, we felt with great confidence that He wanted the bigger story to include the time with our friends.

As it turned out, that ended up meaning we got to meet another dear sister in the area who came over for Shabbat for the first time in two years since having known our friends from a previous church, which was really special. But I digress.

The rest unfolded like miraculous clockwork:

  • We drove down in (relatively) warm and sunny weather on Thurs Nov 30th (the official due date). Some contraction activity started during the trip and I made sure to take the bumpiest gravel-road route for the last 10 miles.
  • We settled in with our friends at their house and had a wonderful meal and time of catching up together.
  • After a profound, restful sleep (everyone in the house – even out friends – reported sleeping better than they had for a really long time), Renee’s water broke at 8:30am. It doesn’t get much more precise than that 🙂 Thank you Abba!
  • There wasn’t really any contraction activity at that point, but after Renee finished leaking we headed out for our ultrasound appointment at 10:15am to go confirm Kylie was head down (and maybe see if we could tell for sure that she was a she). At that point the breech status was still in question (but we knew she was going to be head down, and the chiropractor Renee had visited on Tues had said as much too).
  • More bumpy roads, the ultrasound-revealed position was perfect (although we couldn’t catch a glimpse of the gender), and our midwife wanted to run a non-stress test while we were at the hospital just to make sure everything was good; especially since there had been a little meconium in Renee’s water. Vitals were perfect.
  • We spent a couple hours doing errands including picking up some new sweet games for the kids from an amazing hobby store.
  • Renee was having regular contractions at this point and Cara (our midwife) said to let her know when they were consistently 4 minutes apart.
  • We headed back just before 2pm and as we were pulling up to the house the contractions had been settling in to every 4 minutes.
  • We sat down for some lunch and Renee almost finished a bowl of “Kate’s Chicken Noodle Delight” soup while the contractions increased intensity before finally having to retire to upstairs around 2:15pm.
  • I called Cara and she was on her way. Later we learned that en route Cara had called the other midwives to come (because she’s not allowed to attend a home birth by herself). When she told one of the other midwives about the meconium in Renee’s water, the other midwife said that she wouldn’t come here and that “they need to go to the hospital” for the delivery. So, Cara was actually planning to let us know we had to move to the hospital for the rest of the labor and delivery.
  • In the meantime, Renee transitioned from the medium hard part of labor to the hard hard part and the contractions were coming on top of each other and getting longer. She asked me to keep praying because she did not at all feel mentally ready for this. With all our previous experiences, each stage of difficulty had gradually progressed into the next so that getting through the levels helped mentally tackle the next ones. And, at that point, we still thought we had a long way to go in terms of total time.
  • In addition to asking Father to fill Renee with strength and energy, I asked Him to accelerate the process and allow us to go into Shabbat with the baby born and entering into His rest with us.
  • Cara arrived around 2:30pm and after checking Kylie’s heart rate (which was great) and evaluating Renee’s progression, she started setting up.
  • While she was setting up, Renee hit the shaking and moaning phase … the hard hard hard intense hard hard hard stage and Cara decided she had better call the other midwives and tell them to come here anyway – there would not be time to make it to the hospital.
  • About an hour later I was catching Kyliesha Selah and Renee’s mom arrived very shortly after that.
  • We watched the epic Sabbath-starting sunset from our upstairs room window and held a miracle in our arms.

We couldn’t have planned it better ourselves. YHWH had all the details orchestrated and in motion, and Kylie gave Zach a run for his money on his record for fastest birth. It might have been a tie. Or maybe Kylie edged him out for the title. In any case, this home has been a refuge of peace for us. It has been a blessing to share the experience with our friends and to enjoy their fellowship.

Renee has been healing well and resting. The biggest difficulty so far (aside from the math related to 1 baby and 7 siblings who all want to hold her at the same time) has been Kylie’s extremely tight lip-tie. It has made nursing her extremely painful for Renee. One option would be to have it cut (which is apparently something they do frequently around here). But 1 hospital visit was enough, and more importantly we felt no peace about force-altering the way YHWH made her. If Kylie wasn’t able to nurse at all, or not getting enough, we’d be seriously considering that option. But in our case, Father has provided an electric breastpump that we can borrow and a soft shield that helps dramatically reduce the pain for Renee. We’re confident Kylie’s lip-tie is going to naturally grow and stretch and become a non-issue.

It was once again such an incalculable blessing to have the whole family in one place – the same place that the birth was happening. Joy and Ellie got to observe the whole thing and meet their baby sister first hand, seconds after she drew her first breath. Joy was a hurricane of delight and excitement – I don’t know how the stairs survived – as she stormed down them shouting “It’s a girl! It’s a girl! It’s a girl!” When Joy introduced herself to her new sister, Kylie looked at her with big bright eyes and cooed intently and wisely back at her. She hardly seems like a newborn. We’re already noticing she’s an amazing and peaceful communicator. She recognizes all our voices and listens intently. Even her crying is filled with meaning; not just “i want something” or “i don’t like something” but it carries tones and inflection and deeper senses of communication in a way that none of our other 7 had (at least that we remember).

I had mentally remembered but emotionally forgotten how awe-inspiring and life-giving it is to hold and snuggle and watch over such a little beautiful one. Right now, she is sleeping peacefully amidst a constant background of the noise and activity of the big brothers who will defend and protect her and the big sisters who will tend and spoil her. Many many thanks and blessings to the Elias family for their generous hospitality and joyful help and participation in this part of our journey. YHWH is GOOD. Blessed be His Name for ever and ever.

May 4 2013

Day 1484: Shabbat Shalom

by andrew

From blessing to blessing, the seasons have changed and with them we have followed the pillar of cloud and fire into a new plunge of our journey. It was very hard to leave the amazing house upon which YHWH’s favor rested to provide our home for the winter months. How we enjoyed that place: the sunrise view of the river, the adventures in the woods, the cozy fireplace, the room to host friends and spread out, the dedicated and quiet office space, the trampoline, the in-house washer and dryer :), the forests of driftwood that formed Fort Superior, the large kitchen, the big table we could all fit at, the budding relationship with dear neighbors, and so much more.

A big part of me didn’t want to leave at all… wanted to plant and take root and grow more comfortable and stay forever. But a blessing can turn to bitterness if we disobediently refuse to let go of it, and a few weeks ago Father provided clarity to the question about which we had been seeking Him through prayer for many months: what next? Even in asking the question we were torn. We wanted the answer to be to stay right there in PA; and we wanted the answer to be Denver where my family and company Never Settle are; and we wanted the answer to be Winnipegosis which has also felt like home to us in so many ways. And honestly, I think I wanted those answers in that order – not that I wanted any of them more or less than any other, but each successive option presented additional layers of logistical challenges and complexities. In fact, in the moment YHWH made the answer clear in my heart I started asking all the “but what abouts” and He just said, “I will take care of all those – don’t worry about them.” The answer was Winnipegosis and independently confirmed to Renee and I both.

That eventually launched us into the crazy blur that was this past week as the first step towards making our next northward voyage was to move out of the house and back into the trailer. Renee and the kids, especially the oldest, performed a lion’s share of the packing, carrying everything back into the trailer, and cleaning the house. I had a typical over-full work week and took care of all the dad-jobs related to moving. We had planned to pull away on Wed and were pretty much at the point where we could have, but the day was so beautiful and perfect for taking our neighbors up on their standing boat ride invitation. So we decided to have a break and spend a couple hours taking turns on the river. What a glorious decision and the kids had an absolute blast!

So, we finally pulled away Thurs and made the long and arduous 🙂 15 minute drive over to our dear friends’ farm where we have quickly settled in for a month or so of transition before hitting the road again come June: dewinterizing the trailer, testing everything out, learning how to live in 250 square feet again now with 9 of us, working from my bed office, preparing meals with almost no counter space, making hard decisions about what to keep or throw out in attempt to limit overall weight, and so on.

If any of those items on my list of adjustments sound at all like complaining please don’t take it that way. These are glorious challenges and merely the very small costs involved in gaining the far more massive rewards of adventuring with our King into all His plans for us. And in our opinion the challenges of this mobile lifestyle are far outweighed by the benefits: being so close to the night sounds and patter of the spring rains, being free to roam wherever with everything we own (which still often feels like too much), getting confronted with tests that stretch and teach and refine us, spending time in so many different environments, eating fresh produce from our friend’s gardens like the amazing asparagus we had today, catching frogs, making dandelion root coffee, basking in the outdoors, and on and on.

(clean zone decontamination sector before re-entry into the living quarters)

(dandelion root coffee)

Even so, we’ve been slowing down and have spent a lot longer in each place. In fact we have spent the last two years in primarily 3 places – the same places that were on our heart in our question about what (really where to) next. And it isn’t 100% certain as YHWH’s spirit is constantly flowing, but perhaps out next destination will usher in a much longer season of planting and growing and extending roots and contributing to an expression of our Messiah Yahushua’s Kingdom community in the beautiful north.

We will discover what He provides as we go and how He directs along the way.

I personally have come to terms with new profound glimpses of how Father uses and wants to use our large family. We are such unfit vessels but He seems to do amazing things around us when we just BE (doing our best to live in His ways and obey his loving instructions to us). It is humbling and sobering at the same time. A great example of this happened several weeks ago. On the sunday after Renee’s birthday we went out for a rare family celebration meal. Sitting down at a restaurant as a family can be an epic undertaking and we talked to the kids ahead of time about shining our lights and being a witness with our behavior. Well, they were all amazing and did a fantastic job, and several people came up in rounds to compliment our family as they were leaving, which led to a few neat micro conversations. These encounters were quite unexpected, and I wished we had better words in the moment for turning each one in the direction of bringing the direct honor to our King.

But the most incredibly humbling aspect of the experience was yet to unfold. After we were done we divided and conquered as we often do – Renee taking most of the kids on ahead to the truck while I handle the checkout. I went up to pay and the manager said, “sir, it’s already been taken care of. A gentlemen said he was really impressed with you and your family and wanted to cover your meal.” Wow. That was not a cheap meal. And a flood of emotions immediately penetrated my heart. I knew on one hand it was a wink from YHWH reminding us how effortless it is for Him to provide for us under any circumstances. It also cut deeply into my soul because because it was such a big blessing for what felt like such a small thing. We were just being what we think of as normal with the added element of being out for a special sunday meal.

What I realized in that moment by the generosity of that anonymous gift was that our “normal” – that ideal for which we aspire in Scriptural obedience to our Creator – has become very abnormal in the world at large. Where it once used to be much more common it is now so rare that it shines brightly with a deep impact on people who find it very strange and unusual because they are inundated daily with mostly opposite cultural influences and messages. The new normal is darkness, and Renee touched on this in her last post in a different context. Our mission is to be bearers of the Old Normal – the Original Normal – the Creator’s Normal; to invade darkness as vessels of the King’s Light. How eye-opening and thought provoking that the darkness in our society is so pervasive and encompassing that it can be noticeably cracked by a simple large family peacefully eating a meal together at Perkins.

We rejoiced in the gift while grieving for what is being lost all around us all the time. But it also renewed our hope in what will be completely restored when our Messiah returns to the earth and inspired us to do more to testify to that coming restoration with our daily lives. This is a big piece of what we hope to carry with us wherever we go, knowing we have so much more to learn to fully walk in it. And we rest in how that fits into our answer – even as we rest in the delights of Shabbat on the exact same farm that provided a transition point between our old life in DC and our new life on the road exactly 4 years ago.

(Our amazing Elie Poof Ball)

(Reayah’s evening knitting)

Jan 21 2013

Elianna Yireh

by andrew

My El (God Most High) has answered with Favor (Grace) and Provision.

Our beautiful baby girl, Elianna Yireh (aka Punkin Seven), was born at 1:43pm EST this afternoon in an amazing house our Father YHWH provided for this event and season surrounded by dear friends and family after 19 hours of labor while the snow fell softly outside. My beloved Renee was once again a champion shining example and the epitome of enduring, authentic womanhood. Baby Elie is a pink miracle of perfection and a self-contained testimony of our Creator’s awesome artistry. At birth she was 7 lbs 11 oz (same as her oldest brother Bennah) and 21″ (we think this is also the same as Bennah was but can’t remember for sure), sporting a full head of black hair (also like Bennah and Reayah had). She resembles her oldest sister quite a bit, actually. We were assisted by an amazing midwife from the area and her assistant.

Part of the story behind Elie’s name comes from our current situation and its testimony to the Provision of our King. I covered it extensively in a previous post – the story of our present rental house. But, as if that wasn’t enough, there remained one more fingerprint from our Father placed upon the story to imprint itself on the destiny and identity of Elianna Yireh. We met our midwife through an incidental acquaintance. She is the sister of a lady we have bought fresh goat’s milk from in the past. As confirmation would have it, that we are exactly where Father wants us for this season and that our King is gracious, on the second visit / checkup a week ago, Renee discovered that the other midwife who works with the one to whom we were referred knew exactly of this house. In fact, she specifically used to clean it 2 days per week during her high school years for the previous owners. This was more than 20 years ago. What are the odds? Well, pretty good when the Supreme Storyteller is at work!

Without further, inadequate words:


Sep 17 2012

Day 1255: Land Ahoy

by andrew

Nearly 3 weeks, 1800 miles, descending 5000 feet, climbing 2000 feet, 107 F degree days, 50 F degree nights, twice stranded, 3 unplanned days at a campground, 12unplanned but blessed days with friends, 1 crankshaft position sensor, 2 fuel injection pumps, 4 new tires + alignment, new fuel tank, new fuel sender, new hydrolic brake booster, and 2 new brake lines later… WE MADE IT TO PENNSYLVANIA!!!!

Again, a HUGE THANK YOU to all you brothers and sisters and family in Messiah out there praying for us and following our epic quest. More specific details for the mechanically curious below, but the short version is that – among other things – we needed a new fuel tank and it originally looked like the parts would not get in until this morning. However, they arrived Friday morning ahead of schedule and the shop was able to complete the work by the next morning. So, Matt drove us out there, backtracking west again, on Saturday afternoon and we were reunited with our home after almost two weeks. We had been really curious how all the food and everything would fare. The only casualties were some books that had received the life blood of a couple tomatoes that we left in a fruit basket on top of them, creating the perfect breeding nest for fruit flies. But even the milk in the fridge was still good!

I wish I could adequately recap our time with Matt and Sara and their beautiful family. Their incredible hospitality in our time of need was such a blessing; words cannot quite convey! Throughout the entire time both sets of children kept asking if we could stay longer – a sure sign that new buddies had formed over night. There were a few minor community pressures (what do you expect trying to throw a family of 9 and a family of 8 in the same house, unplanned, for an uncertain duration) but they walked with us through challenges with grace and humility. And quite honestly, it worked remarkably well all things considered. It sounds like the makings for a disaster reality show, but for the most part it was really peaceful and smooth – even with logistics like meals, beds, work, etc. – which is really a testimony to how well things work when there is generosity through genuine, mutual love of Messiah present. How many people would think it’s “normal” for 2 families and 17 total people to share a house and every day life (inconveniences and all) for 12 days and still be really sad when the time was over? THAT is something that only the love of our Heavenly Father can accomplish.

We are now on the property of our wonderful friends in Pennsylvania where we will be taking care of some animals and chores for them while they are traveling. It is beautiful country here, and fascinating to see what has changed and what is exactly the same after a two year absence.

Report: Day 1 on the Farm

  1. Woke up to fog and dew heavy spiderwebs around the yard. Ventured out with the kids to grab the pics above and several others as well as get re-acquainted with one of our very favorite places (after all, it was well after dark when we arrived late last night).
  2. Renee and the kids walked around the property and reviewed all the chores we’ll be making part of our new routine, while I started to get organized with my work for the day including conference calls and whatnot
  3. A big UPS truck and trailer showed up with a few pallets for the shop and our friend’s worker (a very nice Amish gentlemen who is keeping things running and I will from now on refer to as Mr. S.) asked if I could help unload by driving the skid steer (with forklift attachment). So, I jumped into that and figured it out pretty quickly; it all came back to me from the time I used it to move a temporary fridge from the shop to outside the trailer when ours had died a long time ago.
  4. Killed the internet at the house trying to get it to be more stable, and got help from the provider to bring it back up (honestly, what kind of modem wants you to setup the whole connection again just by pulling the power when it’s acting up?) 🙂
  5. Had our first official Never Settle meeting and started to collect our thoughts after travels, honeymoons, and house moves; while the kids had a fun time finding 11 eggs, discovering kittens, riding scooters down the lane hill, and so on.
  6. Ate the eggs for lunch
  7. Drove Mr. S. to one of the rental properties to measure part of the roof for replacement
  8. Looked for a mini trampoline we left here long ago (maybe it’s no longer here, or very cleverly stored) but instead found and dealt with a rogue bag of bad apples in the house basement that were fermenting and squishy and leaking their juice all over the place.
  9. Got some more work done, while Renee was finishing school with the kids and starting supper
  10. Closed the day as a family by sighting the sliver new moon just above the horizon, which – behind a thin veil of clouds – looked like a faint vertical column of light erupting from the earth; and brought in the High Sabbath of the Biblical Yom Teruah (Day of Shouting, Feast of Trumpets) by blowing our shofar (rams horn) and yelling on top of the highest mound in the yard and singing praises to our King for His victory, looking forward to Messiah’s return ON THIS FESTIVAL in some future year, His faithfulness to bring us safely here even in this timing to be able to celebrate the Festival in this place, and all His goodness towards us of which we have written only a fraction.

For the Mechanically Curious:

Describing it somewhat backwards from the order in which everything was finally solved: I knew I had a steering fluid leak. But it went from once a month top-offs to empty between fill-ups in the short time after leaving Colorado. Turns out there was a leaky seal in our hydro booster (I learned that the brake booster increases braking pressure hydrolically using the power steering fluid). New booster busted a rusty break line when they were bleeding the system. Another brake line blew out over night sitting there before we picked it up the next day. So thankful that happened in the shop and not bouncing up and down the Appalachian Mountains the next day. Ok, so for the real kicker; a vacuum had been created in our metal fuel tank and literally sucked it in on itself to the point where it creased in spots and cracked along a rust line. The final sign of the issue was a leak that probably didn’t develop until right around the time we broke down the second time – at least it certainly wasn’t there on our last fuel stop. On top of that, the tube on the fuel sender had been slowly bent and pinched off by the compression. To some extent it was maybe not getting enough fuel. But what’s weird is that it ran strong until right before it died that second time. So maybe the vacuum finally caused the crease, the leak, and bent the sender all at once which starved the pump. The shop owner (Wesley) said he’d never seen anything like it in 31 years. His brother who also works there – never in 40 years.

When I was getting the final run-down from Wesley, he said it should run better than it ever has before. And he was right. We pulled through the mountains along I-80 (admittedly nothing massive, but still) with more power than the other couple times we’ve tackled that same route. It was almost a joy to tow with it. But that was a LONG day. I realized it was only 500 miles from Cincinnati (where we stopped the night before to spend a few albeit way too short hours with dear friends there) to the farm. Before, I was thinking it was 600, but maybe that was from Louisville. Anyway, we made a family-unanimous decision to push through and get here from Cincinnati in one day. The kids especially. And they did great – even voluntarily foregoing run-around stops at rest areas to pull it off. We’re all so glad we did too!

It is so peaceful here and such a wonderful blessing to be back. The only thing that would make it better would be if our friends were here too. But we’re glad that they are having a special family trip and look forward to their return.

Sep 12 2012

Day 1250: Adrift

by andrew

Thank you! – all of you who have been praying for us and carrying us in your hearts and wondering how we are doing. Here’s how I am doing (delayed by about a day from when this all actually unfolded):

During the last couple days as we approached the 1 week mark (longer than anticipated or intended) of staying with our wonderful and gracious friends in Kentucky while trying to navigate a labyrinth of contacts and delays on the truck repairs, I have been growing increasingly restless. I have felt the expanding sensation of floating in a life raft in the middle of the ocean: safe for the moment but powerless to affect my situation with no land in sight. Despite a firm faith in YHWH having distinct purposes for this sequence of events as they began to unfold a week ago, my grip on that trust grew weary especially last night and this morning.

Regardless, His peace has been ever present – even as my own frustrations mounted. Finally this morning in a bit of calm, desperate reflection, a light bulb went on in my spirit, and the switch had been flipped at least partly by the title of this article: what if one of the main reasons Father allowed this breakdown and subsequent extended strandedness was to throw the breaks on my busy-ness so that I would slow down enough (complete stop) to catch up to Him… In my opinion it would have been much cleaner if He had waited until we got to PA to throw the breaks, but He didn’t ask me my opinion and I probably would have easily missed His cues once we got to PA with the busy-ness that would have ensued there anyway.

The truck should be finally getting some attention in the shop today. I am not sure how long or what all it will need for parts, etc. They asked me this morning if I was aware of a fuel leak in the rear. That’s new and I have no idea what that’s about.

But more importantly, once I had some idea of what it would take to regain my bearings this morning, I started to finally let some things go, to slow down, to push less important things aside, and to return focus and attention and time to my King. In that process this article was an amazing reminder and challenge. It articulates areas in which I need so much growth, but it also inspires me to chase that overcoming with renewed perspective and energy.

Sometimes… Often even… The truest answers are the ones to the questions that haven’t been asked and seem completely unrelated to what we think a problem is or where we will find a solution.

Sep 5 2012

Day 1243: UN-Self-Reliance 101

by andrew

Apparently, we need more stretching / training in this area. And/or Father just wants us to spend longer in Kentucky than the quick overnight we had originally planned. And/or maybe these are just mandatory practice runs – like fire drills – of trailer evac with our grab-and-go gear. It’s so funny how the mission (in this case getting to Pennsylvania) can be so quickly reduced (or complicated) into other really important side-quests.

So here we were yesterday, broken down yet again (over something that is probably very trivial as I explain below) at mile marker 83 along I-64 in Indiana:


Again, YHWH had prepared everything ahead of time and we were miraculously provided for and well taken care of, despite the “inconveniences” and emotional battles to guard our peace and trust. In fact, we are feeling extremely blessed right now, even if our truck and trailer are still 70 miles away in another state at the moment with an uncertain resurrection timeline. Our dear friends who also have 7 children (and hence a 12 passenger van) came out and picked us up an hour and 20 minutes away from their home south of Louisville, KY. Even though our roadside assistance wasn’t able to find a provider to come tow us (it was the middle of nowhere) I found a shop – Small Brothers Truck and Auto – 10 miles away in Leavenworth, IN that was able to come out and pick up the trailer and the truck (what would we do without internet and maps on our phones?).

Wesley (the shop owner) was amazing. He came out at the end of a hectic day with one of his guys and pulled our trailer back to the shop while the other drove the flatbed with our suburban on it. He was also gracious enough to let us plug in at the shop to keep our fridge running so that we didn’t have to worry about that (at least for a couple days). Near the end of our trip back to the shop we instantly connected spiritually when I said, “really appreciate everything – you’re a life saver,” and he humbly responded, “well I don’t know about all that,” so I probed further by saying, “well, I believe everything happens for a purpose,” and he responded with something close to: “absolutely, the Good Lord has His reasons for everything.” In the exact same way that all these events are challenging us to maintain peace in the middle of turmoil, it sounds like he’s going through the exact same challenges with his shop business. Please remember Wesley in your prayers as well – that YHWH will give him strength to guard his peace and find favor with and bless him!

So, how did we go from the top of the world with 4 new tires and a fresh alignment (the previous evening and morning adventures) cruising toward our destination with reasonable hope to still see our friends near Louisville and Cincinnati AND still make a Friday landfall in PA; to winding up once again completely dependent on our Creator’s provision and the generous assistance of others? Well, as I try to reconstruct a fraction of the purposes together in my mind so that it makes some kind of coherent picture I’ve stumbled across a few connections whose strands are worth following – at least with some speculative deduction.

But first a quick digression on the new tires adventure. Feeling like I still had plenty of time on our front passenger side tire, although it was wearing badly from being out of alignment for a while now without any rotations, I thought it would suck worse than the expense of new tires to have a blowout and be stranded again or worse. So, we pulled into a Wal-Mart a couple of evenings ago in time to get a new set of 4 right there (the rear ones were close to done anyways too, at least as far as tread goes). I was planning to just put it on our emergency credit card and sort it out with everything else later, but the over-aggressive fraud monitoring blocked the transaction and I would have been totally stuck if it hadn’t been for the generous gifts from some of our friends sitting in our paypal account that I was able to access with our paypal credit/debit card. That’s how the tires got taken care of. Then of course I wanted to get an alignment done right away so as not to chew up the new tires prematurely and found a place across the street that got me in nice and early and on the road in good time yesterday. Back to the reconstruction:

Perhaps part of the purpose for the original breakdown in Seibert, CO was to set the timing for the second breakdown. In my humble opinion, it should have waited another 70 miles, but that certainly would not have been as interesting. Following the trail of fallen dominoes backwards: the new injection pump installed in Colorado came with the PMD (pump mounted driver – basically an electronic circuit box) mounted directly on the pump itself which sits on top of the engine in probably the hottest place possible. This is an idiotic design and one of the reasons the duramax 6.5L earned a questionable reputation. What happens is that the normal heat from engine operation under loads like towing through mountains – even with all gauges in safe ranges, which I am anal about – fries the electronics which control fuel injection and without fuel the truck dies and of course steering and breaks die with it. Super dangerous, and when I felt it starting to die, I slowed way down and prayed for a safe place to pull over because I didn’t see anywhere immediately available. It lasted long enough to cool down a bit, and then I lost brakes and steering at a place that worked out be be safe enough to stop.

The solution to this whole bad engineering induced mess is remarkably easy – replace the PMD with an FSD (Fuel Solenoid Driver) relocated outside the center of the heat and attach it to an adequate heatsink. In fact, this was our exact configuration before the original pump died. Even so, the original pump had nearly 225,000 miles on it which is pretty good (a typical lifespan for those pumps under normal average-to-heavy conditions is 100,000 miles). However, when the first shop put in the new pump, they left our pump-protecting FSD disconnected and just wired in the attached PMD in it’s factory failure prone location for warranty reasons. The new pump supposedly has a 3 year / 36,000 mile warranty. Of course the ironic thing is that because of the design it failed in under 1000 miles of conservative towing.

The maddening thing is that I have the solution sitting right there under my hood – the FSD which should still be OK, since the first shop tested with another FSD connected to the bad pump to eliminate my FSD as the cause of the original issue. To add additional frustration: the wiring connections and the pump itself are buried under the turbo plenum and the intake manifold, on top of which I don’t know for sure whether or not the FSD harness to connect it is still down there since they just used the standard PMD. Well, sitting there on the side of I-64 I got about half-way into the project of pulling it all apart to look for the harness – battery cables disconnected, connectors detached from the turbo plenum, plenum off, upper coolant hose off and a couple liters of coolant dropped, and a couple bolts out of the intake manifold before I came to the following conclusions: 1) there was the possibility that the harness I needed for the FSD wasn’t even still down there ; 2) even if I was successful reconnecting the FSD it wasn’t a 100% fix (although very likely) and regardless would mean sending my family on ahead with our friends and sacrificing that time with them together plus pushing past dark on the side of the interstate with the re-assembly effort.

Matching that against my experience with the time I spent on the failed attempt to fix the last problem with the crankshaft sensor replacement, and admitting to myself that although I could definitely tackle this in my own garage without a deadline, I am not yet the kind of ninja mechanic that could pull it off within the constraints of that scenario, I resigned to get everything put back together, try to start it again, and if that didn’t get us anywhere, call in the support. As you know, the support became the solution. And I’m confident that the priority time staying together with my family and our friends was the right decision whatever the dollar costs end up being.

It’s fascinating to me… basically 3 years of problem-free towing for 50,000 miles and it seems like everything decides to go all at once – of course at the most inopportune time 🙂 Is there a message there? Or are we simply hitting the attrition caps on some of our equipment at the same time? Or is Father weaving a grander story through it all? Definitely that with probably substantial portions of the other reasons mixed in as well.

So, our current condition: massively grateful that we’re with our dear friends who have graciously opened their home wide to us. The kids have a whole new set of buddies, and aside from some enthusiastic (i.e. loud) play going on, they are otherwise the very absolute opposite of bored and I might not even see much of them while we’re here, which is perfect for catching up with Matt and Sara and making progress on some work. To a small family unit, 13 children in 1 house for more than an hour or two at a time might sound like insanity, never mind consecutive sleepovers. But all things considered the chaos is actually quite minimal. In fact, it is extremely peaceful here. And consistent with the entire moral to this part of our story unfolding: True Peace does not depend on external circumstances but internal, unshakable trust in our Deliverer and Redeemer – Yahushua the Son of God. Only He can provide the Peace that surpasses all understanding.

Aug 31 2012

Day 1238: Technically, Officially Stranded (but it’s OK)

by andrew

Sitting here sipping a beer and thinking how funny it is that I used to day dream about one potential outcome of our throw everything to the road (and YHWH’s loving care) life on the edge, traveling with minimal resources… and I used to wonder if we’d ever break down in a tiny little community that Father had a purpose for us invading, with no money to fix the truck and get stuck indefinitely. Well, things aren’t quite that desperate, but it’s kind of starting to take on some of that flavor. And although I’m confident our stay here will be temporary (well, at least exactly as long as YHWH desires), it certainly is starting to stretch on longer than I had hoped.

My diagnosis and efforts to swap the crankshaft position sensor this morning (though the procedure itself was a success) turned out to be quite ineffective. But like every good story, the replacement sensor itself – as the next piece in my attempt to solve the puzzle – led to the next piece of the plot. It turns out that the parts place I bought it from – 10 miles back west along I-70 in Flagler, CO – also has a full-blown shop and a couple diesel mechanics. They also have their own wrecker, and Shane came out to pick up our truck. I turned it on for him and let him see what it was doing. He just shook his head and smiled. I could tell he shared my appreciation for the magnitude of the puzzle. Here it is getting loaded up:

So, I guess at this point our plans are on hold and we’re having Sabbath here. We always say that our Father’s plans are far better than ours, and I guess we’re getting to walk that out in this tangible way. With labor day approaching I’m hoping they figure it out quickly and that it’s something simple / easy and they can get it done before the holiday. But no guarantees. And it would be really nice if they could even tackle the leak in the steering system (hopefully it’s not the gearbox) as well as the alignment + 4 tires that we’ve been overdue procrastinating on with such limited resources available. Shane was looking at our front passenger tire (you can kind of see it in the pic) and thinking it’s a blowout waiting to happen. I’m pretty sure it would get us at least to PA, but maybe better safe than sorry.

I feel completely tacky doing this, but I’m just going to throw myself out there and slap a donation button on this post. If you know me at all you know how self-reliant I like to be and how hard it is for me to ask anyone for help. I’d much rather be on the giving end than the receiving end, and so maybe Father is also using this situation to kill more of my pride. Oh yay 🙂 I still want to figure out a way to ask without asking 🙂 but I will say it this way: if our heavenly Father puts it on your heart, any tiny amount towards our truck repair fund would be a massive blessing. We still have other repairs sitting on our credit card from before. But please do not feel obligated in any respect. Father will provide, and your prayers are even more valuable.

Even in the midst of all this I’ve been realizing how much we have to be thankful for. We have electric and A/C keeping the inside of the trailer about 79 F (26 C) while it reads 102 F (39 C) outside – YIKES! So – shelter: check. We have water. We have food. We have internet so I can post this and work and stay connected to find out about things like crazy Hurricane Isaac hitting seven years to the exact day that Katrina struck (if that isn’t a wake up call I don’t know what is, but how many will notice?). There’s a playground close by. Jim (the Shady Grove Campground owner) has been super helpful: he gave me a ride to Flagler this morning to pick up the sensor, provided a tour of the town, said he’d just open up a tab and we could settle before leaving when the time comes, and told me to ask if we needed anything). And the kids finished school today in really good moods. Even though it’s hard work, homeschooling our children is a bigger blessing than we normally pay attention to.

For example: I was talking with Shane and Jim after Shane had the truck all loaded up on the wrecker. They were briefly comparing notes about changes that have been happening in the school system here. I’m not sure if this is Colorado-wide or maybe even the whole country, but among other things the government has capped calorie consumption for children at school and it is a fixed number for all kids regardless of build, metabolism, athletics, etc. This is enforced primarily through the lunch portions, which are now very small. Shane and Jim said their kids always come home really hungry. Of course, some parents don’t do enough to manage healthy amounts of the right kind of calories for their kids. But government stepping in and regulating it is an entirely different thing. And the more sinister aspects of this that come immediately to mind:

  • How closely is this related to the current food shortages and famine in this country (which you probably won’t hear about on mainstream news nor get an impression of by walking into a grocery store)?
  • What are the impacts of caloric shortages on a child’s learning capacity? This will
  • What about other implications like a child’s energy level, vulnerability to suggestion, etc. when they aren’t getting enough / proper nutrition throughout the day?

There’s probably more thoughts that should be probed there, but this is really just another area where we see the erosion of all things as we used to know them. I shudder to consider what my children’s generation is facing, but I also get excited to think about and anticipate what their Creator will do in their days!

Well, here’s to the adventure! Looking forward to continuing the exploration of WHY we are here and posting updates about what we discover as well as (hopefully shortly) recording our epic departure.

Aug 30 2012

Day 1236: Adventures Already, Really?

by andrew

Not even 150 miles into our trip east of Denver the following unfolded, and I record this as a testimony to our heavenly Father’s incredible attention to detail in protecting, providing, and caring for us (read through the highlights with the thought in mind that the trigger event could have occurred with us in the middle of nowhere, without help or lodging options).

  • Rolling down I-70 it was hot (high 90s) but we were cruising
  • Around 4pm on a steep climb I was watching my exhaust temp closely as it started to climb
  • I backed off the throttle to keep the gauges happy as I always do, but the gauges didn’t get happy this time. All of the sudden I lost all power (the accelerator pedal had no effect) and the engine started revving wildly up and down on it’s own.
  • Bummer. But we were also really aware that it was just part of the story, and like all good stories there were purposes yet to be realized and explored.
  • Threw it in neutral and pulled over with flashers going and rolled to a stop on the side of the road, part way onto the exit ramp at mile marker 405. Blessing #1: exit ramp, gas station not too far ahead, close to the tiny town of Seibert, CO.
  • Thinking it might be heat related we prayed and let it cool down a bit. Tried to start it and it was acting the same: wild idle all over the place and no impact from gas pedal.
  • Called Ray. Blessing #2: Ray is the manager of the diesel shop I referenced in my last post and he’s a brilliant man and excellent diesel mechanic. He gave me some things to try.
  • Preparing to disconnect battery cables Blessing #3 enters stage right in the form of a man named Leeroy who stopped and offered to pull us off the exit ramp and down into the gas station parking lot where it would be much safer. We gladly took him up on it.
  • Ice cream sandwiches and bags of fancy rocks later, I was trying to get the truck to run normally again with no success.
  • In the meantime another man by the name of Craig pulls into the same parking lot as us and I find out that his truck (also a chevy) is also basically broken down too. Blessing #4: New acquaintance and someone to commiserate and swap war stories with.
  • I call a diesel repair place at the largest / closest town (30 miles away) hoping they’ll be able to help us out. Guy says it would be next week before he could even look at it. Ugh. He also didn’t know of anyone else who would be able to look at it soon.
  • Blessing #5: I discover that there’s a campground less than a mile away.
  • I call our roadside assistance and they hook up towing for the suburban. We ride in the truck on top of the flatbed to the campground. Blessing #6: the driver takes me back for the trailer and tows it to the campground for only $20 (roadside wouldn’t include that in the coverage)
  • We spot Blessing #7 on the way in: an amazing playground that Renee took the kids to while we went back for the trailer and I got all set up in our site.
  • Blessing #8: Craig offers me a cold beer while I’m getting everything set up.
  • Blessing #9: We have a nice full-hookup site for as long as we need to get the truck fixed
  • Blessing #10: There’s also internet here
  • Blessing #11: Found out from the campground owner that there’s a NAPA Auto parts only  about 10 miles away and they deliver (at this point we’re still completely stuck as the truck is simply not drivable.

So, for the last several hours after supper I’ve been going through the shop manual and testing / trying / taking apart various things. Some of the potential problem parts are under or blocked by everything, so I will either have to take a bunch of stuff apart or find someone who is already good at this and knows where to start.

This will likely throw our whole trip off, which has ripple implications, but we’re mindful that there’s a reason this happened, and are still focused on getting to PA in time. So tired. Falling asleep typing this so I better lie down and…