Home again

We had the most beautiful visit with our family in the States over the holidays.  It began with sled riding on Nana and Papa’s hill in Pennsylvania and ended with riding giant inner tubes down an airplane water slide screaming glee to Grandma and Grandpa.

Our days in America were warm.  Because of the love we received everyday from our family and friends.  And because the temperatures were well over zero degrees.  We galavanted outside with jackets and tennis shoes.  Cherishing every glimpse and touch of green grass.  Sinking toes deep into the sand.  Taking long breaths of fresh air, filling our lungs, allowing God to renew our spirits.

The kids hugged their grandparents.  And they were truly embraced.  They laughed and giggled with family who understood them, were somehow like them, and deeply, thoroughly loved them.  We loved watching the kids grow into themselves during this visit.  Their language sprouted and quickly flourished.  Personalities blossomed.  Newness that we had yet to see, came to the surface and our hearts were surprised with new joy!  Ahsa had never smiled so much and she started speaking in sentences.  Everest settled into himself and was a laid back, Daddy’s boy.  Abyala was reunited with her pea-in-the-pod cousin, Graham, and together they enjoyed life hand in hand, heart to heart.  All the kids re-discovered the joy of family love!

And for a few days we retreated.  To the ocean waves.  The soothing, healing, beauty of life on the Oregon coast.  God blessed us with the most incredible weather!  A gift, for certain.  Watching Abyala run barefoot in the sand, chasing seagulls with arms open wide, against the backdrop of dazzling, sun kissed waves was about all the joy I ever need in my life.  Time stopped.  Phil and I are still holding those days captive in our hearts, savoring every last drop of the happiness we felt on seaside with our littles.

To describe the beauty of our visit with our family would take an entire novel, so we leave it at this.  Gratefulness.  We are grateful for each and every one of you who took the time to be with us.  God used you to fill our hearts for the journey ahead.  You loved us, we felt it, and love is our fuel.  As we press on in Mongolia, we pray for you.  We don’t want to think too much of ourselves, but we know there is a gap when we leave.  We pray for God to fill your hearts with the love you so graciously poured out into us.  And abundantly more.  We know you need fuel for the road ahead as well.

With great love and thankfulness…

PS.  Sadly, we can’t add photos because we’re out of space on our site.  You may hear of a new Ewert family blog site soon to remedy our photo issue… thanks for following along with us!

Christmas at home (in Mongolia)

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Phil and I enjoyed making Christmas special for our kids this year.  We opened gifts early so that we could celebrate at home.  Abyala put out peanut butter cookies and a big glass of milk for Santa.  Everest and Ahsa went to bed without a clue of what would greet them in the morning.  Phil and I stayed up late putting presents under the tree, all giddy about the morning.  It’s the first time that we celebrated at our home with all three kids.  And we loved it!

I woke up before 5am to put the Christmas lights on so that when the kids woke up, they couldn’t miss the tree.  Everest and Ahsa woke up next.  I got out of bed again when I heard them fumbling at their door.  I opened it and one by one the cuties ambled out.  E found a chocolate granola bar in a stocking that I helped him dig in to it.  Ahsa took all of her blankets and her puppy into the living room to enjoy the festivities.  Phil peeked around the corner singing Merry Christmas, but Aby was still tucked snuggly on the top of her bunk bed.  I opened her door so she could start to hear the commotion.  When she realized it was morning, she came running and smiling and jumping.  Phil and I were probably even more excited, but she expressed it best.  She helped E & A open their gifts.  One for each of them, and then one to share.  Paper was strewn everywhere.  Phil put Thomas’ train and the space station together.  I helped Abyala understand each piece of her makeup kit.  Together, Aby, Ahsa and I opened her Mini Mouse and my little Pony.  We played and played.

Until the traditional cinnamon rolls emerged hot from the oven and then we feasted.  Ahsa reminded us that we were eating cake for breakfast.  (We’re still working on the word cinnamon so that we can feel better about our Christmas morning menu.)  Phil read Luke 2 while buttercream icing maintained the tribe’s attention.  We talked about Jesus and how special his birthday is to us.  About him being our greatest gift.  They almost heard us.  We prayed a little more.  And then off they went to their toys as we retreated to our coffee.  Two more to go… America bound in a just a few more days!  These are days to enjoy.

Enduring

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Living in Mongolia brings with it much adventure.  The winter is long.  Endurance is critical.  You wake up and go to bed to temperatures as low as -30 in December.  They dip even further in January.  As it continues to drop, we bundle.  Wrapping ourselves in yak wool, camel, cashmere, and down.   Layers upon layers.  Until it feels as if we’re impenetrable.

The beauty is the snow, particularly in October.  We lift our eyes to the glimmering hills each morning.  Thanking God for their beauty.  His beauty.  When the snow is new, it is glorious.

Because of the extreme temps, our snow doesn’t melt until Spring.  It gets old and coarse. Even grey due to the coal smoke constantly ruminating in the air.  If you’re not careful, you’ll start to feel the weight of polluted ice in your spirit.  You become cold and lackluster.  It creeps in slowly like a predator stalking.  Our layers of warmth protect us from the frigid chill.  But we find that it’s not enough.  We need healthy friendships and fresh air to warm our souls and keep us healthy.   As the days become darker we need the light of life to break through and renew our hearts and give us hope.  Prayer requests abound.  God is capable and we need him ever more.

Why do we stay?  Because we’ve seen and tasted what is truly good and beautiful in Christ and our hearts are committed to His purpose.  We know that we aren’t here simply for the joy of fresh snow, but to share the with our neighbors the gift of kingdom come.  When God asks you to go to a land that he will show you.  You go in faith.  And you press on.  Enduring the long winter. Knowing that spring will come again.

We’ve been experiencing a strong spiritual battle in our home lately. Our friends have been experiencing it too.  Through bouts of physical illness and emotional lows.  Please pray for us and our friends here as we continue to press on.  May we remain faithful.  May the Lord warm our hearts and bring His joy into our spirits.  May we experience a movement of healing over the city of Ulaanbaatar, and throughout Mongolia.  May God be glorified for this healing and may He bless this nation with the hope of salvation.  During this advent season and beyond, please pray for Mongolia.  That the Lord would be preparing their hearts for their savior and that many would accept Jesus as Lord .  May we see new snow again – His grace – falling down.

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My traveling man

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This man.  My heart is full and I smile and life seems nearly perfect with him.  He traveled to the field the week these photos were taken.  Eating wild bore fat with families.  Listening to their stories.  Playing checkers with children.  We were jealous for him.  But this is part of what we love about him.  His adventurous spirit and compassionate heart.  He comes home bearing gifts of exotic berry jam and sour milk curds.  The kids laugh all night long, yelling out his name, desperate for his attention after days apart.

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The journey was gorgeous.  Though as every 10+ hour ride on rugged Mongolian roads, it was exhausting.  Some views are more than rewarding.  Like this one at Lake Khovsgol where Phil and his team and their neighbors shared a meal, in a ger, eating horhog with their hands.

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We often wonder how we got here.  And what in the world we’re doing.  Why is Phil cutting this girl’s hair?  (Ask him someday.)  It’s easy to feel confused.  But we lean in to the ambiguity, uncertainty, and challenge.  Knowing that God is here and He sent us to this place, for a time such as this.  Trusting in his promises and goodness.  Placing our family in his hands.  Praying for His kingdom come.  It’s winter now (it was autumn in the photos.)  The days are getting shorter but feeling longer.  Please pray for endurance and resilience for our family and this nation.

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On a snowy day

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On a snowy day, in a land far away, lived my darlings, Abyala, Everest, and Ahsa

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They went sled riding with their eyes hiding, my children, Abyala, Everest, Ahsa

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They made snow angels and sang Jingle Bells, my precious Abyala, Everest, and Ahsa

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They ate snowballs as they watched the snow fall, my beloved Abyala, Everest, and Ahsa

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They were my delight seeking snowflakes into the night, my adventurous Abyala, Everest, and Ahsa

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They drank hot cocoa warming their noses from the snow, my sweet Abyala, Everest, and Ahsa

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They huddled around, Daddy and Mommy safe and sound, my blessings, Abyala, Everest, and Ahsa

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Together they read this poem before bed, my sleepy Abyala, Everest and Ahsa

 

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Daddy tucked them in tight, and Mommy kissed them goodnight, my loves, Abyala, Everest, and Ahsa

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My adventurers, goodnight; precious ones sleep tight.  My children, darlings, beloved, sweet blessings.  Night night.

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Inspired by reading The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.  Not at all perfect.  But sentimentally enough.

Enjoying normal

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Abyala started to read.  Words on a page.  Inflection in her voice.  Sounding out consonants and vowels.  Beside me in bed.  Oh my heart!  Years ago, I dreamed of the day,  realizing that living overseas would probably mean that I would get to teach her how to read.  Many days I was overwhelmed by the thought because … what if I failed her?  But God was gracious and frankly, she is a smart cookie. Neither one of them would be thwarted.

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Ahsa has a pony tail!  Such a small thing, literally and figuratively.  But wow, it changed her from baby to little girl.   That hair.  And her smile.  She’s grown a lot in confidence since she became potty trained.  I never expected it would be such a big change in her personality (mine, yes.)  These days, she loves taking care of her babies and puppies.  She puts them to sleep in blankets, pats their backs, and then shushes us – with eyes very wide open – to make sure that we don’t wake them.  She also likes to yell ‘bear!!!’ and runs around for me to catch her because her favorite book is Going on a Bear Hunt.

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Everest doesn’t like to eat.  He purses his lips, puts his chin down, and says “No” very firmly.  But he does like to give ‘two kisses’ before bed, meaning a lot, and making this Mommy so happy!  He’s a book, car, and train lover.  And is starting to put sentences together.  He loves to be chased and randomly runs up to us saying ‘gotchyou!’ so that we’ll get him in return.

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Phil has been traveling all over Mongolia, visiting his team, encouraging them in their communities.  I can’t write much about his work, but I can say that he makes me proud every day.  He’s an incredible father and husband.  He runs around this housing, chasing kids and having dance parties, making us all laugh.  I’m smiling now as I write this because he is simply hilarious!  Phil brings out the best in all of us.

Adventures come and go.  We love adventuring together.  But I want to remember normal, even mundane, life.   This is certainly a season to cherish.

Some of the greatest joy

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Family in Mongolia.  A thought I never dreamed.  Because my heart couldn’t fathom the beauty that awaited us here.  Nor that we’d get to share it with those that we love most.

My (Mel’s) parents visited us in September and it was wonderful!  Because for those three weeks we were known.  We could laugh at the same jokes and enjoy the same comforting foods.  We could savor the love of those who were willing to travel out of their comfort zone, just to be with us.  Not for the adventure, just for us.  What generous love!

Those weeks were full of walks around the pond.  Toes in the water.  Climbing rocks.  Giggling.  Ice cream.  Baking pies.  Painting nails. Family dinners.  Movie nights. Hiking.  River crossing. Camels.  Yaks.  Eagles.  Perilous taxi rides.  Counting money.  And chit chatting about life.  (I love the chit chat!  Possible my favorite part.)

We are indebted to this love they showed us.  Grateful doesn’t begin to express the emotion we feel.  You see, inside of us there is a deep desire to be with our extended family.  It’s not that God isn’t sufficient or that we don’t want to be in Mongolia.  God is sufficient.  We love Mongolia and feel certain God has planted us here for this season.  Yet, simultaneously, we want to have it all.  We want our family here too. Because time with them is some of our greatest joy.  A touch of heaven.

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