Saying “Yes!” to the unknown

“Fear will take you places you were never meant to be.” ~ Dr. Barbara Sorrells

Dr. Sorrells is a family friend and her words 4 years ago stick with me today. She spoke those words a couple months before Chris unexpectedly stepped away from a very stable, very loved job and into the unknown of ‘what could be.’ Though the jump was not planned at the time, it proved to be exactly what we didn’t know we needed.

We learned to turn our back to fear and look to the unknown with great anticipation and excitement. Embracing the unknown has almost become a mantra for adventure in our family. It is slowly not just what we do, but who we are.

Chris and I try to take advantage of any and every opportunity to say “Yes!” to the unknown with our kids…for us is more practical and effective to actually do it with them than to tell them it is a great idea with our words.

Last week we received an invitation to go camping with a large group of Chinese families. There are a ton of reasons we could have said “Thank you, but we will pass.”

  • Language barrier
  • Didn’t know where we were going
  • Where, how would we sleep?
  • What would we eat?
  • 100+ strangers and us
  • What would we be doing?
  • Most likely there would be no cell coverage
  • Different languages and culture means moments of being uncomfortable

We were friends with one family and they offered to reserve a cabin for us since getting a tent and gear would be difficult for us. All we knew was we were headed to the mountains to camp with a bunch of people we didn’t know, but we were invited and a gracious invitation is usually a pretty good thing to accept.

Aside from saying “Yes!” to the unknown, in all our travels we have also learned it is pretty much always a good idea to accept an invitation from a local to go somewhere. Go with a local and you go places you could never go or find on your own.

After 4+ hours on a bus, we arrived at the campgrounds….not what I was picturing!

5.17unknown-1The boys immediately joined in a basketball game. Language barriers can be difficult, but thankfully words are only one way to communicate.5.17unknown-25.17unknown-3My oldest daughter and I followed a big group up the mountain to a ropes course. Based on what we could tell no one was paying (I’m really observant and was watching closely for all the cues on this). Using hand motions I asked if we could have a turn. We had so much fun together up there. The next day someone came to gather $$. Had I realized there was a fee, I probably wouldn’t have done it and would have missed out on a great moment with her because I don’t like spending money. Sometimes the language barrier is gift.

A sweet lady showed us to our cabin. We climbed stairs and she opened the door to a tiny room with one bed. We told her thank you and chalked the small space (for 7 people) up to language barriers. When she left I laughed and told the kids, “Well, we’ll figure it out! It’s part of the adventure.” One boy offered to sleep in the stand-up shower and another said he’d sleep on the dresser. Soon she came back, recognized the mistake and took us to our room – with 2 beds and an incredible view of the valley.

As we began settling in for the night a thunderstorm rolled in and took out the electricity. To the sound of rain, we sat on a covered porch with new friends and listened to stories about what their lives were like growing up in China. That morning I did not wake up thinking I’d be in a valley in China with no electricity and hearing life stories of strangers, who became friends.

I wanted to gather my kids close and whisper, “Guys! This is why we say “Yes!” to the unknown. This. Breath it in. Remember it. Let it sink deep in your bones.”
5.17unknown-85.17unknown-9The next morning the group headed to hike a nearby section of the Great Wall. I mean, of course, we were going to hike the Great Wall. Totally normal on a camping trip, right?!5.17unknown-10The pic below shows the view from our porch (Great Wall in the distance) and the view of our cabin from that spot on the Great Wall. We walked/hiked/climbed that entire distance. It was awesome!5.17unknown-12Find the dancing girl on the wall…5.17unknown-145.17unknown-155.17unknown-16We don’t do normal very well…
5.17unknown-17(right pic) Her face when I was trying to explain where our cabin was at…she makes this face at least once a day to me. “Huh?”5.17unknown-18When you ask a 7 year old to take a picture of you. I kinda love it though.5.17unknown-20All my people on the Great Wall. As we walked along the Wall, I saw this tower in the distance and thought it would make a cool shot to show off the size of part of the wall. I had Chris and the kids go on and I stayed back to get a photo of them. Maybe one day I’ll own a drone and can join them in these kinds of shots.


When we returned to our apartment, we did gather the kids. We talked about the weekend. I had them each list their top 3 things from the weekend and then asked them if they knew they were going to do those things when we said “Yes” to the trip. Of course, nothing they listed was something they knew ahead of time.

We reminded them that life as a Christian involves a lot of saying “Yes!” to the unknown, too. Goodness, I want them to know that a life lived with Jesus has a lot of unknowns, but on the other side of their “Yes!” is more adventure than their mind can conceive.

Sure, they will get hurt and scarred up, but sometimes the risk is worth it. A life guided by hope instead of fear is worth any bumps and bruises on the way.

Fear can be a relentless thief often joined by partners Doubt and Worry. Together they keep people going through the motions of life, unaware of what could be. I hope my kids see in Chris and I that we weren’t afraid to take risks and say, “Yes!”

They have a front row seat to when we fail and how the risk sometimes hurts, but more often they see us laughing at how good the unknown turned out to be. I hope will all our “Yes!” answers they learn to crush their own fears, doubts and worries. If they do, we’ll be a soft place for them to land when they fall and the first to laugh with them with the unknown is far better than they imagined.


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