Things don’t always work out like you planned. That is a truism that I realized recently.

My wedding anniversary is December 28. This past year was the 50th. A year or so ago my wife and I told our children that we did not want a party to celebrate the milestone. After all, no one needs another party sandwiched between Christmas and New Year’s. We decided that we just wanted all of our family to be together doing something fun. So we planned a family trip to Peru over the holidays.

After a year of planning the time came and we all arrived in Lima on December 22. After a short visit to this beautiful coastal city we made our way to visit historical sites of the ancient Pre-Inca and Inca civilizations in the majestic Andes Mountains.

Our itinerary would have us in Machu Picchu on Christmas Day. The Incas built this estate for the Inca ruler Pachacutec around 1450. It sits about 8,000 feet above sea level and is nestled on a small hilltop of the Andean Mountain Range above the Urabamba Valley. It was abandoned a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. This majestic city was unknown to most of the world until an American historian and explorer, Hiram Bingham, “discovered” it in 1911 and brought it international attention.

Everything was going as planned until Christmas Eve when I began to experience altitude sickness caused by low levels of oxygen at high elevations. Severe stomach cramps, headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and weakness prompted a visit by a doctor to my hotel room. Medication helped enough to have a cursory visit to Machu Picchu the next day.

The next day after our visit to Machu Picchu we traveled to Cusco, the historic capital of the Inca Empire from the 13th until the 16th-century. The city is about 11,000 feet above sea level and this caused my wife to suffer from altitude sickness as well. Another doctor’s “house call” to treat her prompted us to change plans because the next stop was on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the “highest navigable lake” in the world at 12,500 feet above sea level.

Initially we planned to have a 50th Anniversary Dinner at Lake Titicaca. Instead we sent the rest of the family on and my wife and I returned to the lower altitude of Lima where we “celebrated” our anniversary as we began our marriage- just the two of us.

While this was not what we planned, it really worked out alright.

We were happy that our children, their spouses, and our grandchildren were having a wonderful time exploring the Uros islands of Lake Titicaca that are inhabited by the Uru people who have lived on the lake for hundreds of years. The islands are made almost entirely from dried totora reeds which grow naturally and abundantly in the lake.

At the same time my wife and I, both of whom were feeling much better at the lower altitude, had some really good time together- just the two of us. We reflected on our life together and remembered many of the experiences of that half-century. We laughed and cried as we shared stories of good time and “not so good’ times.

Those couple of days of “down time” really helped to realize that we had much to celebrate. In sharing this time together we both were acutely aware of our blessings and felt the strength of our love for each other. In a couple of days our family returned to Lima and all of us celebrated God’s gifts to us- all together.

I am glad that our plans fell through because something better occurred. Thanks be to God!

Jamie Jenkins