Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Are You Crazy?

It's been good for me to write about these things over the past few months, as they stir in me the longing to go back. After reading all these posts, you're probably asking the question, "Are you people certifiably nuts? Why on earth would you do that? And especially why would you ever take your kids there?"

Honestly, I struggled with that question a lot because everyone I knew, with the exception of a few, basically told us we were crazy for even considering it. We truly believed, though, that He would not have called us into this if it weren't meant for our family to do it together. We asked a lot concerning when and how we could do this as a family.

In the weeks preceding the trip, I began to doubt. Then one day I heard the song Oceans from Hillsong United. The lyrics spoke straight to my heart. These are just a few of the ones that really touched me at my point of doubt:

You call me out upon the water
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find you in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your Sovereign hand will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

I think it's very possible for feet to fail on a trip like this. Fear literally can surround you--I mean, have you ever heard wolves howling in the woods outside your tent?! After hearing the song the one time, I asked the Lord, "Would you use this song to speak to me about this trip and whether it's what we're supposed to be doing?" I couldn't remember the lyrics or tune so I left it at that. I even tried to remember it and couldn't. Then, one night three days later, I woke up in the middle of the night with the bridge playing as a loud as a radio in my head. It filled me with such a sense of peace.

Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders,
Let me walk upon the water,
Wherever you would call me,
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger,
In the presence of my Savior.

And that is exactly what He did. You get to the point where you say, "Okay, Lord. I'm okay with this since you want me to do it." But what if it doesn't turn out okay even though He called you to it? What if it costs you dearly? Can you be okay with even then? I'm still wrestling with that question, especially when it comes to my family, but I have a peace that if ________, then God. That's how Beth Moore put it, and I think it pretty much sums it up.

Thanks for listening over these months, and I hope you'll enjoy snippets from P.J.'s current trip soon, too.

The Road Home

These are just some photos from the way down. When we reached the lower areas, we began to see beautiful trees, delicious rosehips, and seabuckthorn berries. They were definite sweet rewards for all that hard work! It took us two and a half more days from the town we reached after the pass to reach the town where the airstrip was. One of the days, the trail was mostly gone so we had to make new paths along with hundreds of sheep, but He got us through it. And we got to spend our last night in a tent inside that cool cave! Guaranteed to not get wet as our tent's plastic window in the fly disappeared about halfway through the trip so it was no longer waterproof.

This water just screams, "Please swim in me! I'm so clear!"

Some of the trail is just broken rock crumbles.

That's how we do it!

The Last Pass: Part 2

This was perhaps one of my most difficult days--almost too difficult for me to describe in words. The wind was bone chilling, the kids were exhausted, and they literally cried all the way up and down the pass. It was hours. It distressed everyone, but there was nothing we could do. They were dressed very warmly so I think not sleeping well and the irritating wind were mostly to blame. I told the horse guy, "We need to get out of here. If we stop, they will only get colder. We need to go no matter how much they cry!" Eventually, it got so difficult that when I saw P.J. coming up over the pass behind me, I burst into tears and walked away, hoping that maybe their dad could fix something that I couldn't. Again, it was not one of my finest mothering moments, but it just broke me to have them absolutely inconsolable, mostly because they were tired and irritated by the wind. I felt that day that my daughter would never forgive me for how impatient I was with her, that she'd hate me forever, but I'm happy to say that she loves to snuggle me still.

Eventually, we reached the point where she just couldn't ride the horse any longer, and that man who had proudly led her horse for 4 weeks, put my little girl on his back, covered her with a blanket, and carried her fast asleep that way for several hours. He was exhausted, but I will be forever grateful for how he made things better when I couldn't. She was much more pleasant that evening after all that napping, too!

The Last Pass

When we began our descent from the more northern valleys, we were in pretty good shape. The walking had become easier, the complaining less. We were in for a very difficult walk. First we walked through a canyon like this, with markhor and blue sheep scrambling along the edges high over head. The grass is more of a thorny brush than anything.

Then the number of small stream and river crossing increased. I fought with anything to always find a route that did not involve me walking through those icy waters with my bare feet, though I did once or twice. Walking sticks can go a long way in keeping you from falling in!

Yep! That's me!!
When we finally reached our campsite near the bottom of our final pass, the craziest thing happened. Suddenly a kind of pellet snow began to fall, almost as hard as hail, and the ground/tents/animals/baggage were a blanket of white within 15 minutes. We were so grateful for the kitchen tent we had brought out of storage so those walking with us who didn't have tents could huddle inside it for the night. It was frigid that night. Little Girl woke up so many times because she was cold.

Our tent covered with snow at the far right

Then it got worse because the next morning was icy cold and windy, and we had to climb up a mess of a hill covered in ice, snow, and mud. For every step forward, your feet slid back about 2 in the muck. We worried about the horse slipping down with the kids, but her 4 legs seemed much safer than our two carrying the kids.

And then we reached the top and saw this. It was one of the most glorious sights you can ever imagine, though the wind did not let up one second for us to really enjoy it. By the time I was there, my fingers could barely move. But wow, what a Creator we have! Look at His handiwork!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

General Cuteness

We interrupt the chronology to share a few photos of just pure cuteness.

Aunt Jemima?
Mad at Sissy
Kids on horseback together
Training in the first days: "Now what do you do when a yak comes on the trail?"

Sometimes You Stumble

Some trails are easy to walk. Some are just downright annoying. Often we ran into trails made of tiny little rocks. You have to sort of experiment here and there to figure out what walking techniques best fit what trail. And sometimes you're just going to fall on your butt--repeatedly. Sometimes due to these mule fellows with giant bags tied to them, too. At least that's what I did on the way to the next village.

This was the area we spent the most time in, and the people at this school were incredibly kind toward us. Their school even had wood planks on the floor so it was warmer to sleep on. Here the kids made lots of friends, as the school was still in session, and we got to poke a LOT of fingers. I determined I just wasn't cut out for poking kids' fingers.

New sweet friends, baby cows who love trail mix and let you ride them -- what's not to love?

A Happy Occasion

When we left the last area that I posted about, we walked about a half day along some snaking trails and reached a school where we were graciously welcomed to stay. It was the weekend, and no kids would be needing the classrooms so we were grateful for a place out of the wind to sleep and a kitchen with a warm stove we could sit by. Their stoves are very similar to a wood burning stove you might get in the West. If you're wondering at all what the trail here would be like, think grey and like snake lines in the dirt. Looking from afar, the trails look so small you think, "We can't possibly be getting ready to walk there!"

And yet there you find yourself a few hours later. Notice the fields in the lower part of the picture and the light white horizontal-ish line near the middle. That's a trail!

Then sometimes, as a sweet reward for hard work climbing, you get to enjoy a Snickers bar on top of the world with those blue skies staring at you. That's no Photoshop folks!


In that village, we got to celebrate the fifth birthday of our baby girl. Thanks to a little advanced packing, we had candles and chocolate frosting for the pancake tower. Pretty impressive, right?! 

Bits and Pieces

Hope you've enjoyed the posts from our fall trip. Now that I'm nearly done, P.J. will be back with new stories and things to post in the coming months. To finish up my journey, seeing as I stopped at 17/18 of 35 days, I'll be posting pictures and little snippets with them. I pray that these will give you a real glimpse into what life can be like for these people and for us when we're there on a trip.