Well, we are here. We arrived 1 week ago today. The social media blackout that accompanied our move was not all that bad; I learned to live without the internet and my cell phone. It has given me time to ponder and muse over the various experiences and people we met, as we made our way to Alaska; the Last Frontier. We’ve taken a leap of faith coming here, going off to find ourselves and a life we hope for. We missed being among family and it is so good to know my son and his family are about a mile away; we can actually walk to one another’s homes. We’ve enjoyed meals, cups of coffee, pizza, and just being with each other since we arrived. What a joy to have my grandson discover grandma’s pots and pans! What a racket he makes, but what joy it brings to me. His smile and his laughter light up my life. Grandchildren are truly a blessing in our older years; God is smiling on us!
Our journey here was an arduous one. The AlCan Highway, or Alaskan Highway, is a treacherous drive and not for the unprepared or feint of heart! (If you try it, use Milepost Magazine and do it during warm weather!!). We often drove for hours without seeing another vehicle or sign of life, other than the vast forests we were driving through, on roads covered in feet of snow and ice. I think this old California girl did pretty good, driving 2400+ miles on some of the roughest roads she’s ever experienced! My 14-year-old glanced up now and then from his X-Box to enjoy the scenery, but was totally oblivious to the dangers around us (which was actually a good thing). We had Bison cross the highway in front of us and walk alongside us…what a sight! They are massively huge and their shoulders came well above the top of my windshield. We saw Red Fox scatter across the roadway and into the treeline as they saw us approach; saw Bald Eagles fighting Ravens over a kill; and saw Moose, casually walking through a small town we happened upon. It was humbling, to be sure. This is a land where nature is still very much in charge. We have not tamed the northern Canadian wilderness, nor most of Alaska. It is un-nerving and exciting, all mixed together. And it is exhausting! This Grandma is pooped out!
When we happened upon the Canadian border crossing, so much of what we thought we knew and what we believed was radically challenged. It was a 5+ hour ordeal (the whole process of crossing into Canada) that I would not wish upon anyone. And from that experience I learned so very much. We have mindsets we have developed through our experience of life and the world we live in; the mores and values of the country we are raised in. We learn lessons that are given to us by our environment and our perspective is developed from our collective histories, as well as the input we receive at the knee of our parents. I come from a family of immigrants. And I was taught to love America and the ideals espoused here. I think many in other cultures, especially our Canadian neighbors, dislike Americans because they think that we think that Canada is just an extension of the USA. They are ‘so much like us’ that we ASSUME our cultures are the same. They are not. The basic freedoms we take for granted are not extended to us when we cross an international border. We have NO rights and are at the mercy of the Country we are visiting. I learned that the hard way. Aspects of being an American were totally wiped away at that border crossing. I won’t go into detail because this is not the forum for that, but just know our freedom was challenged and my world was turned upside down. It worked out, as we were finally allowed into Canada and through Canada to Alaska. We met many wonderful Canadians along the way and they made the experience at the border lessen in its severity a little bit, but I cannot fully express to you the joy and relaxation I felt at driving over that line in Alaska!! God Bless America.
A portion of that experience is, however, germane to my blog and I wanted to post about it. As things were spiraling out of control at the immigration office in Canada, I sat with my head between my knees (partially because I thought I was going to pass out or throw up or both) and I prayed. I pleaded with Our Lord; I asked for the intercession of St. Joseph, the foster-father of Our Lord, and patron of families. I asked the Lord for His Presence in that place. I asked for the softening of the hearts of the people around us, and those dealing with us. I prayed the Jesus Prayer over and over again, throwing in a few Hail Marys along the way. The Lord’s Prayer was recited over and over again, becoming more and more real to me. And I found myself so lost in prayer, the world around me disappeared. I was completely transported and I found God, sitting in a detaining area at the Canada border. He was with me and He pressed down His peace upon my fluttering heart, and I KNEW, totally KNEW, everything would be okay. And I believe that the place I found within my heart is that place of the soul, the place where Our Lord dwells, and where my heart is at peace. And He dwells there at ALL times and through ALL things. I truly discovered the reality of that, sitting there, hoping I did not pass out or throw up. I learned a lesson that my faith in God is the thing that flutters, but God does not. I come close to Him at times, and at times I find myself not as close to Him. It is all within ME…He is constant. He is always there; my pains, my trials, my woes…those are all MINE.
I listened to a CD recording a dear friend of mine has been asking me to listen to for a couple of years now, this morning. My husband and I listened to it together. We prayed and we wept together. It was a sublime moment in our marriage. This CD summed up this realization that I came to, that God is always present in our lives. The theme of the talk on the CD was that God is testing us, but His tests are given to us after He has thoroughly prepared us (“I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD. They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope.” Jer 29:11) and that His tests are open book (our thorough knowledge of the Bible) with our tutor (the Holy Spirit) whispering in our ears the answers. His goal is for us to pass these tests and through the passing of them, we have our test-imony. I love that. We are tested each and every day, but only after He has thoroughly prepared us. We were tested in our national beliefs and we came to appreciate what we have here in the USA. We were tested in our faith and the peace that came from deep prayer was amazing. We are being tested right now, because our pathway is so unclear and we have no idea what tomorrow will bring. But God did promise us a “future filled with hope” and one that is filled with “peace and not disaster.” All He asks of us is to be faithful to His word and His promises. We are the ones dancing around the May Pole; He is standing upright and firm and is present in all days, in all ways, with His children. Thanks be to God.