J.Jay’s Visit was Grand… and so was that Grand Canyon!

I have to confess that just the simple act of typing that title made the tears start pouring.  I did not expect that.  As I write these words, J.Jay has already left me.  Greg and Elijah are en route to Phoenix already.  J.Jay’s flight leaves early tomorrow morning (Tuesday, July 19th) and since it’s almost a three hour drive to the Phoenix Airport from our current campground, we decided they should leave tonight and get  a room near the hotel to make sure he doesn’t miss the flight.  I stayed home with Popeye, which seemed the smart thing to do at the time, but I am already questioning my decision and they only left an hour ago!  I miss J.Jay already and wish I could have just one more day.  I don’t think I fully realized it until he left, but life simply felt more “normal” when he was here with us.  I guess when it comes right down to it, I am still not used to him being a grown-up.  Okay…  gotta go wipe the tears and get on with this blog!

As some of you already know, our trip down to Phoenix to pick J.Jay up was quite an eventful one, to say the least.  Greg dropped Elijah and I off at the terminal and was going to circle around until we came out.  He only got one terminal away when our trusty Moses (our 2008 Ford F350 turbo diesel dually) apparently decided (without running it by us first) that he was overdue for a vacation of his own.  He stalled and refused to start back up again.  The temperature was already up to 104 degrees and the high forecasted for the day was a sweltering 112 degrees! We had brought Popeye (our miniature goldendoodle) along with us for the trip, so after several attempts at starting Moses to no avail, Greg called me in a frenzy, needing me to come get Popeye.  Remember I said he was one terminal over now?  Well… it just so happens that the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport  is one of the largest and busiest international airports in the U.S. and getting from one terminal to the next is not a fast or easy process.  That said, I heard the need in Greg’s voice for me to come get Popeye NOW so I knew I needed to get there quickly.  I had to leave Elijah all alone (who’s only 14) at the terminal where J.Jay (who’s never flown before) was supposed to arrive.  We had seen his plane flying overhead when we pulled up to the airport, but he hadn’t even gotten off the plane yet, much less arrived at the security checkpoint where Elijah and I were waiting for him.  So, I gave Elijah instructions and texted J.Jay instructions and then I ran…  yes, did you read that correctly.  I RAN!  (I honestly didn’t realize that I even could actually run as I don’t think I have even attempted anything more than a slow jog once or twice since I was paralyzed 9 years ago.)  Funny thing is, through all the stress, as I was running I felt an overwhelming euphoria simply due to the fact that I was RUNNING and pride knowing that I actually could run when the need arises.)  I ran to the SkyTrain and had to ride it to the next terminal, which  honestly left me a bit anxious.  I didn’t like the idea of leaving Elijah (and J.Jay) and entire train ride away from me… especially when I hadn’t even been able to see J.Jay before this all happened.  After running (yes, literally, cool… I know) through the next terminal I found Greg and Popeye.  Greg was stressed about the truck and Popeye was being a bit rambunctious, which he tends to do in when in unusual circumstances.  After confirming with airline personnel that dogs are allowed in airports (yes, they are allowed throughout airports!  Who knew?!?!) I took Popeye and went to try to find/meet the boys while Greg stayed near the truck to call AAA .  Before I tell you the rest of the story…  check out the pictures:

It turns out to have been a major blessing that Moses decided to croak at the airport.  We were all in the air conditioned terminal until the tow truck arrived only an unbelievably fast 20 minutes or less after Greg called them.   We thought the boys and I would have to wait at the airport while Greg had the truck towed, etc and then he’d have to come back to get us, but “it just so happened” that the tow truck was huge and had a backseat big enough to fit us all, and was fine with Popeye riding in it.  (Our last towing experience when we had Popeye was with our car before we bought Moses.  That tow truck driver said it was against policy to allow a dog to ride in the tow truck, so we had to put him in the car with the windows partially down.  That was not cool.) The truck driver was very nice and friendly and first towed us to the location that AAA recommended.  Greg had specifically told the AAA representative that our truck is a diesel so we need a place that can fix diesel engines.  Still, she sent us to a shop that couldn’t.  Greg went in and checked before letting him unload the truck, so after realizing, the driver found another AAA Car Care Center about another 20 minutes away and towed us all there.  When we arrived, we saw that there was a Hertz rental car agency right inside the AAA office!  They were super busy and didn’t know when they would be able to even look at the truck (after quoting $250 for diagnostics) so we rented a car.  I dealt with the rental car agency while Greg dealt with the auto shop side and again, the man who worked there was exceptionally nice.  He not only gave us a great deal on the car, he even upgraded us to a brand new Nissan Altima at the cheaper economy price so that we could more easily fit four adult sized people for no extra charge.   I think he felt sorry for us after hearing our story.

It is now two weeks later and we ended up having the rental car during J.Jay’s entire visit.  The truck needed a new wiring harness which is located deep down in the engine and they said would require 15 hours of labor.  It took forever for them to get it repaired as they had to order the part, and then they couldn’t get some of the bolts off and ended up having to remove the cab of the entire truck to get down into it.  Once it was actually finished and ready to be picked up, it was only a few days before J.Jay’s flight back.  It would have cost more in time and gas to drive down there and back to get truck, then do it again when we had to take J.Jay than it did just to keep the rental car for a few more days.  Speaking of cost, the entire amount just for the repairs (not including rental car) that Greg will have to pay when he picks the truck up is almost $2,300.  I have no words…  wow!  This is not only our only vehicle for daily stuff, but we depend on Moses to pull Exodus, our 41 ft. 5th wheel, so it’s imperative that it is fixed with expertise and all issues are resolved.  We are praying that will be the case when we pick him up tomorrow.

Back to the “fun” part of the past two weeks…  Not only have we taken J.Jay to the Grand Canyon…  twice, but we have taken J.Jay all over this area.  We’ve been to Sedona, Sycamore Canyon, Flagstaff, and Williams.  We’ve hiked Mount Humphreys and Greg drove him up and did some hiking on Bill Williams Mountain as well.  I think it’s safe to say that we have had a very full two weeks!

First though, when in Phoenix we saw some saguaro cacti which is what Elijah has been waiting for!  He was so thrilled when we finally got to see some.  Check them out…

Now…  on to the best…  the GRAND CANYON!

Here are some pictures from around Sedona.  The day we went there the colors weren’t as bright/red as our previous visit.  It was beautiful nonetheless.

While Greg was working J.Jay, Elijah and I took a very long non paved (gravel) road following a hand drawn map we picked up at the visitors office (after I requested it) on a treasure hunt to find the elusive Sycamore Canyon.  Let’s just say this place is not easily accessible and not on your typical tourist maps. There are NO paved roads that even lead to it.  This is a very wild area with no indication that it’s federal land except for this sign when we finally arrived.  The vista that we were able to access (we were told we’d need the truck to drive to the best vista which shows you the middle of the canyon) was at one end of the canyon, so although it was not super spectacular, it was certainly pretty and worth the drive…  and hike!

During one of our weekend day trips, we drove up to the highest mountain in Arizona, Mount Humphreys.  Just below the parking lot for their ski resort called Arizona Snowbowl  is a parking lot for the trail to hike all the way up to the peak of Mount Humphreys.  We did NOT go all the way to the top for two reasons.  First of all, I am incapable of that hike.  It is 3 hours each way! (Frankly, all of us are incapable at this point as this would require some pre-conditioning.)  Secondly, we didn’t go there until fairly late in the day.  The hikers that go all the way up start super early in the morning so they can easily be back down before dark.  That said, Greg and I did about 1 mile each way (I totalled 2 miles according to my health app) and Elijah and J.Jay hiked up even farther by themselves before turning back.  All in all, it was a very good day.

The RV park where we are staying is within walking distance to downtown Williams.  Here are some goings on from around this touristy town:

Right in Williams is Bill Williams Mountain.   Both the town and the mountain are named after Bill Williams, who was a mountain man often called, “Old Bill”.  There is a fire tower on top of the mountain which Greg and I climbed up and even met the Ranger who was on duty watching for fires.  We went up there before we got J.Jay, and then Greg took J.Jay up there again and they did some hiking.  The mountain peak is just over 9,200 feet high and the road to get up there is the roughest road we’ve taken Moses on yet.  The final four switchbacks we had to back-up, go forward, back up, go forward several times just to make the turn in Moses.  When Greg took J.Jay there, they didn’t go up.  They hiked from the base.  I’m sure we will be returning there again before we leave.

Finally, here we are just hanging out at home.

Speaking of home, I met a wonderful old man a few days ago who’s name is “Bud” who lives full-time in his little trailer just two spots down from us.  I would like to ask you all to please take a minute or two and pray for Bud.  Let me explain…  I had waved at him several times the past couple of weeks, and a few days ago I walked over closer to him and asked him how he was doing.  He said, “I’m just sitting here waiting to die.”  Needless to say, I went straight over there and asked him why and got into a long conversation with him.  That first day I spoke with him, I didn’t share the gospel with him. I didn’t feel the timing was right so I just let him talk.  Which he did.  He said his wife died 14 months ago (14 months and 10 days to be exact) and he doesn’t understand why he’s still alive.  I listened quite a bit and offered him my ear, my prayers as well as a slice of my homemade key lime pie (which he declined, he said he’d get mad at me if I brought him food.)  He reminded me a great deal of my Dad, as he’s from that same generation.  Very proud and didn’t want pie as that probably felt like charity to him.  Anyway, to say that he was heavy on my  heart is an understatement and as soon as I got back inside my own home I burst out crying.  I’ve been praying for him fervently ever since.

Yesterday he was out there again, just sitting there in front of his trailer, so I took the opportunity to go over and talk to him.  I said, “How are you today, Bud?”  He said, “Not good.  I woke up and I’m still here.”  I took that as a sign to ask him if he knew for sure if he would go to heaven when he does die.  He said, “I think so.  I’ve never done anybody no harm.  I’ve lived a good life.”  So, I asked him how good is good?  Did he ever get so mad at someone he wanted to kill them in his thoughts?  I explained nobody is good in God’s eyes.  The ten commandments just point out to us God’s perfect standard and how far we all fall short.  He then said he didn’t want to talk about religion or politics!  He said the couple in the trailer next to him (we have met them, very nice older couple) are Jehovah’s Witnesses and they already tried to “talk religion” to him.  I told him I totally agree.  That religion is just man’s attempt to reach God.  Jehovah’s witness, Buddhism, all of it.  I told him I didn’t care for religion either.  I asked him if he believed in God and he said, “Yes, something clearly created all this.” pointing to the beautiful mountain scenery in front of us.  I asked what he thought about Jesus and he said he didn’t know.  He said he didn’t even know if he wanted to go to heaven to be with a God that made him and his wife suffer so much.  He then told me all about her last days.  She had Alzheimer’s and “turned into a little baby” in the end, he said.  He said he had to feed her like a baby and that she drooled, and he had to wipe the poop off her bottom.  At this point he was crying under his glasses and trying to hide his tears from me.  He said that on the day she died she was lying in bed and was breathing loudly and drooling and couldn’t talk or anything.  He said he laid down in bed with her and said, “You can let go now.  I know I told you not to die before me, but it’s okay.  You can die.”  He said she immediately stopped breathing and died lying right there next to him.  He then just started crying uncontrollably and said, “I feel like I killed her!  I told her to die!”  At this point, I was tearing up too, but trying to not totally lose it.  I asked how old he was and he is 87.  I told him the entire gospel and how God is a loving God and about the fall and how sin entered the world.  I told him that now we all suffer as we live in a fallen world and that’s where the suffering comes from. That’s not God’s fault, I told him that God wants us as his children, not as puppets that can’t choose Him on their own.   I then told him about the gift of Jesus, but he didn’t get it.  He said if that’s the case I’ll go to heaven then.  I said, only if you open the gift!  What if someone gives you a present for Christmas and you put it under the tree, but never open it?  I said, that’s how it is with the gift that God gave you.  He gave you his only Son who died on a cross for your sins.  You can never be good enough to earn it, so he earned it for you by going to the cross.  I said, but if you never open the gift, it’s not really yours, is it?  You have to claim it!  He said again he didn’t want to talk about religion or politics, although his countenance had softened up quite a bit.  Then he said jokingly, “So what do you think of Trump?”  lol  That wonderful old man still has a sense of humor!   After chit chatting some more I asked if they had any children and he said that they had been married for 56 years, but never had any kids.  He said his wife did have a son from a first marriage but that he had died of cancer at age 28.  In his eyes, he has nobody.  I finally said to him, if you are right and I am wrong, no big deal for either one of us.  But…  what if I am right and you are wrong?  To which he replied, “Then I’m screwed.”  I said you don’t have to be screwed.  Please just do me a favor and ask God to show himself to you.  He said, “I have” so I said, well do it again. Okay?  And he promised with a big smile and told me I was a crazy lady.  I told him that if he really wants to die, he should talk to God first, because that’s probably why God hasn’t taken him yet.  I said, I don’t know this for sure, but I’m guessing that God wanted him to meet this crazy lady so that she could share with him about the gift of Jesus that he needs to claim before he dies.  He smiled at that and said he would.  So, all this to say, please, please join me in praying for the salvation of Bud.   Pray that God speaks to him loud and clear…  before he dies!  I am not going to give up on that precious old man and I know that God’s plan for him is salvation.  I am also so heartbroken to know that in his 87 years, he has never clearly heard the gospel.  Not the full, complete, true gospel.  So sad.  This fact alone really convicts me to share it more and not be so hesitant and to not worry about how others will react.

We have officially been full-timing for 5 months as of today.  It’s been a wild ride, but not one that I want to get off of anytime soon, if ever.  It’s busier than I expected, it’s more stressful than I expected, it’s more expensive than I expected, it’s lonelier than I expected, and it’s just downright more exhausting than I expected.  It’s also more fun than I expected, God’s creation is way more beautiful than I expected (or remembered), it’s more adventurous and exciting than I expected, it’s way more educational for Elijah than I expected, it’s more comfortable and homey than I expected, and it’s way more rewarding than I ever expected.  My prayer of late has been for God to provide me with opportunities to witness to and somehow impact others and the more I pray, the more opportunities He provides.  Sometimes I feel very lonely and wonder what in the world I’m doing out here away from most of my family and all of my friends, but every single time I think those thoughts and start to get down, God shows me that I am wherever I am because this is exactly where He wants me.  There is no place I’d rather be.

Happy Trails and Sunny Sails!!!