Reflection on Four Years: Keep Climbing

2016-07-04 12.40.42Note: This week marks four years since we first moved to Slovakia!  Jon’s earlier posts, along with this post by Tanya, are some of our reflections on the things we’ve learned and experienced along the way.
Because we believe that the foundation to a healthy ministry and a healthy family is a healthy marriage, Jon and I decided to take a few days away from “normal life” while the girls are away at camp this first week after the end of school. One of the things that we love to do together is hike. We spend a lot of our days “working” together – it’s joyful work, but it’s still work.  We’ve found that we are able to put those things aside and really be together when we get out in nature and exercise. Slovakia is an amazing country when it comes to hiking!

As we were packing to leave, I got a notice from Facebook that this week is the fourth anniversary of our arrival in Slovakia. I’m ashamed to say that FB had to notify me of this, but it’s been a busy few weeks! As I often do, I switched into nostalgia mode and started thinking about all the amazing things that have happened in these last four years. But, I’ll get to that…

Back to our trip in the Tatras: Jon had mentioned that he wanted us to try a new hike that might be harder than some we’ve done in the past, and I was up for it! So, we packed a few extra things like long sleeves, rain gear, and hiking poles – you should come prepared when you want to hike to 2495 meters (8186 feet) above sea level!  Kriváň is Slovakia’s most famous peak – it’s even on our currency – so I was pretty pumped to try it out.

Jon had done the hike last year, so he knew what to expect.  I, on the other hand, did not have a clue!

Kriváň, Slovakia's national peak.
Kriváň, Slovakia’s national peak.

We woke up early on Monday morning. It was a little cool and cloudy, but seemed like the perfect weather for a difficult hike. Let me tell you, “difficult” was a truly accurate word for this hike. It is probably the hardest hike I’ve done in my life. Not that I’ve hiked Everest or spent weeks on the Appalachian Trail, but I’ve done some good-sized hikes in Slovakia, the US, Africa, and even Hawaii. But, this one was a kicker. We did it, and did it well, but it was really hard. Steep inclines, places where we had to use the hiking poles to keep from falling, and then some put-the-poles-away-and-start-pulling-yourself-up-by-your-hands climbing. We stopped to rest some, we pushed ourselves some, our feet hurt (more than some), and we got cold (even with the long sleeves). But, we did it. And the view from the top was beyond words and pictures (even though we’ll show you a few here).  There we were at over 8000 feet, up in the clouds, looking around at God’s amazing creation. And I was overwhelmed. It was breathtaking (not that I had any breath left to be taken). I am crying now just thinking of how BIG and awesome our God is, and how greatly he shows us his splendor!
The hike pushed us to the limit physically.  It took us about 8 total hours, and we logged a little more than 13 miles.  I really didn’t know what I was getting into when we started, and it was harder than I could have imagined.  But, it was worth every minute of the hard parts to stand in awe of God at the top.

2016-07-05 11.49.09On our second hiking day we wanted to take it a little easier.  With the help of the internet, Jon found a nice hike that was supposed to have great views without a difficult climb. Well, evidently the internet LIES.  It’s true that the views were unbelievable – really unbelievable. But, we also had a very steep climb that we weren’t expecting. As I sit here writing, I have swollen feet, blisters on a few toes, and sore legs.  But I wouldn’t trade this day for anything.  Again, God’s amazing splendor was on display for us to experience. 14 miles today, over 8 hours of hiking, and we are spent. But, it’s a good kind of spent. If I’d known this morning what I know now about that hike, I don’t know if I would have had the courage to tackle another difficult hike a second day in a row. But we did it!

Back to the fourth anniversary… when you are hiking for over 15 hours you have a lot of time to talk together, to be silent together, to dream, and to reminisce.  We talked about all the things that have happened over these past four years.  We talked about the difficult times and the joys.  We talked about all the things we’ve gotten to experience, and the things we still want to do.  And the people we love, oh the beautiful people who show us grace and love and acceptance every day.

But, here’s the connection.  If I knew then what I know now, would I have had the courage to come?  If I had known how hard learning language would be, how many nights I would ache to be near my parents, how hard it would be to help the girls with their homework… Would I have had the courage to try?  I’ll never know.  But, that’s the thing: We don’t have to.  There’s a reason we walk by faith and not by sight.  If we knew how hard that rock was going to be to scale, we might just wimp out.  But, we don’t know.  We trust God and walk in faith.  And step by step God gives us the strength to make it up the mountain.

There was one point in the really difficult part of the first day that I couldn’t see the peak because of the clouds.  I just had to take it one step at a time. That made it easier.  I had to trust that I could do that next 10 feet, and then the next, and then the next.  I didn’t need to see the top.  I knew it was there.  And then, the view from the top… Wow.

And the view from the top of four years… Wow.

2016-06-29 18.50.50eWorshiping with people who I adore and who adore God; watching the faces of beautiful children as they see us come in their school building; sitting with a friend after the first night in his new house (“MY house” he says with a smile); watching a team work alongside Roma believers; relationships that teach me something new every day; and a tough hike with my husband in an amazing country.  This is the glory of God’s creation. This is the prize at the top of the mountain. God’s glory revealed in God’s creation – ALL of God’s creation!  We don’t know what’s coming, and that’s okay.  We know the summit is up there, and we just keep climbing.

So, I urge you: Keep climbing friends. Take time to look around and see all that God has given you. May we all walk by faith, and not by sight.

Pictures cannot completely express the beauty of God’s creation that we got to experience these past couple of days, but I’ve posted a few here and on my facebook page – follow this link to go to that photo album.

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