What’s in Your Backpack?

As the time grew closer for my JMT trip I battled with what to take. I knew I needed to stay ultralight (which sometimes comes at an ultra-cost) I knew I would need certain things to survive. I knew everything I needed would need to fit into my backpack and be of manageable weight for 3 weeks over pretty rugged, steep, rocky, high altitude terrain.  I studied blogs and websites. I visited REI and Mountain Gear more times that I’d like to admit.  I wanted to be smart.  I was really trying NOT to have a bunch of stuff to send home part way through the trip at one of our resupply stops.  I didn’t want to haul unnecessary things. The day I left, I had to pack for both the John Muir Trail and a small side trip to Los Angeles to visit for a few days with our kiddos. I packed the backpack into a huge duffel (minus my fuel) so that when I got to LA my pack was not missing straps etc from some sort of mishap with TSA.  I packed my sun-fun-lovin’ clothes for LA into another small pack that our son could send back home, only for my husband to turn around and bring back for me when I walked off the trail. (At least that was the plan)

Here are my BIG three (actually four) to start my list:

Gregory Deva 60L backpack size small 5lbs 9.6oz

Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 with BA footprint 1lb 15oz PLUS 5oz for footprint

Big Agnes Juniper SL Women’s 25 degree sleeping bag 2lbs 7oz

Therm-a-Rest ProLite sleeping pad 16oz

This set my base weight at roughly a little over 11lbs. I loved each of these items and trust me put a lot of thought into each item. The Gregory pack for it’s great fit, comfort and rocker system in the waist belt and shoulder straps. This saved me from any rubbing along my hips and lower back that cause chafing and blisters.  It also works as a top load as well as having a zipper across the whole front of the pack so you don’t have to dig only from the top to get at stuff on the bottom.  It has a great sleeping bag (inside) and tent (outside) area at the bottom as well as a ton of pockets and one waterproof pocket on the waist belt that fits your phone in perfectly. (not that we had ANY service, but did use my iPhone for pictures) it can also hold a water bladder (I didn’t do this) and came with a slack pack, that I DID use for our Mt Whitney summit, plus a rain cover, that DID come in very handy and kept everything perfectly dry during the stormy weather.  The BA tent…well because it is ultra light and the perfect size for 2 people or a girl and her gear in the rain. It held up great, kept the rain and wind out and I loved being able to have the fly off for a “moon roof” to watch the sunset and the starts rise each night.  The BA sleeping bag was AMAZING!  Super warm mummy type but fit to a woman’s body. I had a lot of foot room in this bag, which is unusual for a mummy-type bag.  I never felt the confines of a typical mummy.  It has a great little neck collar thats super soft and really holds the heat in if needed.  At a 25 degree rating on this bag it was about perfect, although I did have about 4 nights on the JMT that I got a little cold.  Nothing that putting on my beanie and snuggling and “mummy-ing” down didn’t solve.  Most nights I got warm and had to have my upper body outside the bag until the early mornings when I would snuggle back down in because of the cold. The Therm-a Rest was great.  Flat enough that it rolled up super small and I was able to fit it into the upper “brain” side pocket in my pack.  It inflates fast, and has a 2.4 R-Value which kept me plenty warm and off of the ground. Some nights I did wish I had a little extra padding underneath me, but sleeping for 3 weeks on the ground in the Sierras will do that to a girl!

As I packed my backpack (this took a while, which is NOT normal for me as I am typically a 10-20 hour in advance packer for ANY trip) I knew God was speaking to me about things unnecessary.  Extra baggage.  Extra weight (and I’m not talking scale weight) The excess things we allow to cloud our life. To get in the way of happiness. To get in our way of hearing from Him. All that extra stuff. The junk we pack along every day, that we allow to weigh us down.  He was already working on my heart….. Already whispering things that He would continue to bring forth to me along the trail. Things that honestly I’ve shelved but for some reason, every-so-often I pull down, dust off and look at.  Things that on occasion, although I know are things of the past, I feel I need to shove into the backpack to drag behind me for a while. Why was God asking me to look at these things again?  To unpack. Again.  THIS I KNOW Romans 8:28 says, He uses all thing for the good of those who love him.  ALL things. Not things, here and there.  Not only good things but messy things, sad things, hard things.  Abuse, neglect, health issues, mental illness, death, life, depression, anxiety, despair, shame.  He uses ALL of it. This is one of my favorite verses promises, and it has always brought me a great deal of healing and comfort.  I know that God’s promises are true and that brings me a lot of peace.  One of the notes in my Bible says, “he is not working to make us happy but to to fulfill his purpose” So, as I’m packing and He’s unpacking I feel a sense of relief, because I know that even though I feel that maybe we are going to head into the wild to upheave and hash things out, things that sometimes I would just rather forget, HE has a plan. He has a use for things that I may think are irrelevant. I know that through the things I’ve lived out in my life, HE is in control and will use me as a conduit of his love and compassion for others traveling through the same things.  Have you ever felt despair? Because I know I have.  Have you ever felt alone or ashamed? Maybe SO broken that you feel hopeless? Unwanted? Not enough?  I have too. But I also know that God is a healer of the broken and the shameful. He’s a wanter of the unwanted and a hope to the hopeless.  He can and will use that.  Through Him all things are possible.  There is healing on the other side.  You see, we are not meant to live apart from Him. 

Obviously there were more items added to my pack. Here is the entirety after the big four. (And yes I mean ENTIRETY) 

Clothing: 2 wicking tank tops. One REI Screeline tank, one Asics running tank. One long sleeved Columbia Sun Goddess blouse with SPF (saved my skin) 2 pair Exofficio ultralight washable undies. 2 pairs of shorts; REI and Lululemon Speed Shorts 2 pair Darn Tough socks. One pair long REI hiking zipoff pants. One pair medium weight REI wool leggings (for camp pants and sleeping) One medium weight, long sleeved, winter running top (for camp, chilly mornings and sleeping) a beanie, gloves, sunglasses, Nike sport sandals (camp shoes/water crossing) my favorite Peace Within cap. Marmot down jacket . One pair of wool socks (for camp and sleeping) Black Diamond head lamp. REI rain jacket and rain pants. REI small absorbent, quick dry towel, soap leaves (for washing dishes and washing dirty bodies) All of this fit inside a Sea to Summit compressible 13 liter dry bag.  

A Bear Vault 500 with 6 days of meals. We reaupplied food 3 times on this trip. We can talk food at another time. 

Black Diamond carbon fiber trekking poles. La Sportiva Synthesis Surround GTX hiking boots, Sugar Skull/Day of the Dirt Dirty Girl Gaiters Lucy solar charged lantern (used one time) First Aid kit (thank goodness) 1-1/4 piece of yellow bandana attached with a grommet as a “pee rag” a ultralight Cat Hole Trowel (yep) 1-turquoise bandana attached to the outside of my pack identifying me as a Lady of the JMT (and WOW were there a lot of us out there! Fun to meet each one of you)  Jet Boil Flash with 1-100 gram fuel tank and 1-230 gram tank. Gravity Works water filtration system. Small foldable bowl, retractable spork and stainless mug (that ended up somewhere at 11,924 ft on Glen Pass. 

In total my overall FULL pack was around 35-36lbs. 

I have had the JMT in my heart for so long. Thanks be to God for the courage it took to take the leap. To not look back. To not be timid and allow fear to grip me. To walk forward and not backwards. To not settle for status quo. To not allow people or society or my own “self” to get in the way. To not walk back into situations that are toxic only because it’s convenient. I have been down some pretty pitiful, lonely roads. I am thankful to a God that redeems. Who takes a timid bird and changes her into a lion chaser. Who knows the desires of my heart so well and has given me the roar for adventure. 

Come along with me as I continue this walk along 220-miles of the John Muir Trail. 

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Dump-Teguciglapa Honduras

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The dump day is so hard. I wake early, knowing that this will be the day for the visit. Praying to God that he protect and surround the hearts of our team with a supernatural force. That he allow us each to see exactly what we need to see.

For me, breakfast is quiet. Being in Honduras last year; I know. I understand what’s coming. It’s hard not to try and explain to our new team members what’s going to happen. I want to prepare them for the ambush to the heart that’s going to happen as we drive up to and visit the dump, but I cannot. They need to take it in the way God sees fit for them, and not some prewritten script from those of us that have prior experience.

As we turn onto the road, my heart seizes. What will it be like this time? I have been here. Will it be less impactful? Will it seem old hat?

As we climb the bumpy hill, I start to smell what’s ahead of us. That thick, rancid smell of rot and decomposition. I pray silently and tears sting my eyes. “Spirit lead me where my trust is without boarders. You’ve called me here. You’ve prepared me for this. Be here with us. Open my eyes even wider on this journey. Allow me to have the heart and eyes to see these people as Jesus sees them. I have prayed so many times “Send Me.” and here I am in the middle of this, thank you.”

~Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8

Unknown-1We step out of the truck into a war zone. Ravaged ground teaming with busyness. The buzzards and dogs swarm around heaping piles of decay. I pan out as the smell lands thick and rancid on my tongue. My eyes burn. My heart heaves in my chest as I see them appearing. Sepia-toned people.  Dirty and broken as if they came from underground.  They head towards us, knowing that we have come to feed them. They surround us fifteen, maybe twenty deep or more with hands reached out. I stand back from the line taking it all in with my bag of tortillas and rice. It’ s brand new to me again. Not the same as I remember it being. I hear the Holy Spirit speak to my heart “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” These are the least of these.

The line in front of me runs out of tortillas and it’s my turn to step up. I feel my heart quicken and a sob starting to climb up my throat. I step forward and look at outstretched hands. My eyes continue to travel down disheveled arms to faces. Women and children surrounded in meagerness. It’s a need so profound it’s undescribeable. I reach into my bag and we touch hands. I think “this could’ve been any of us” Had we been born of a different country. Smiles emerge on the faces of these sweet, women and children. I just want to grab them and hug them. I want to scoop them up, and bring them with us. The passion I feel runs so deep for them it burns my stomach. I stare into their eyes. They are grateful and genuine. A meal today. They have one meal today. I think of my own children. As a mother this stings me. Had I been born in any other place; this could’ve been me. Us. It’s hard to hand out only one pack to each women and child. They ask for more. “Dos por favor?” as they hide one behind their back. I wonder if they have more children back in their home made of plastic and parts that the dump has given up to them. My heart lurches thinking about this. What would I have done for my children in this situation?

I am down to water now as the team walks and spreads out a little. We still stay somewhat close as this area is not safe to wander far. I smile and talk to people. Are they thirsty? Do they need agua? The hands continue to stretch out and I continue to see their eyes crease in smiles. How much we take for granted every single day in our country. Our abundance. Our taps that run gallon after gallon of fresh water at our disposal at any second. Water is something I don’t even feel we are really grateful for; but they are. This small plastic bladder of water I hold could mean life or death for them today. I think about waking every day to a restart. That’s life for them. It’s a do-over every day. They wake to scour the dump for recycleables or the scrap food left behind. The possibility of an old bottle of hot, coke with one sip that was left. That’s their day. Every day.

People begin to surround us asking for prayer. Their needs run so much deeper than their poverty. You would think that this would be their first need. I think too immediate. Our culture has done that to me. They need prayer for sick family members. A son that is dying. Here in the disintegration and rot, a son is dying and this mother is weeping. Our team surrounds her and prays for her in our English language. God hears us. She hears us, and knows what we are saying even though she doesn’t speak the language. She hugs us and is so grateful. As this mother leaves another approaches; this time, pregnant. She will give birth to and raise her baby right here.

As we climb back into the truck I allow my tears to fall. I continue my prayers for these people as we drive away. My emotions run wild and I feel that twinge of guilt. We can leave. It seems unfair.

It’s hard for me to see that type of need and not be able to change it in an instant. I think about the impact we have partnering with AFE to build homes for these people, and for the children to have the opportunity for education through AFE. God is good. It may not happen in a spilt second, but it is making a difference. One family at a time.

I am reminded of the verses we studied over the week. The parable of the talents in Matthew 25. Everyone got something, but no one got everything.

As we come back home and acclimate to being back into a wealthy country; a first world country, I need to keep reminding myself of this: Why God put us here and not there. And even though I feel like a refugee coming back into my own home, I don’t allow guilt to swallow me. I thank God for the compassion he has put in my heart. Without that I would walk around in such abundance and only crave more. My job is to feel a burden, not guilt. God gave us what we have knowing he can trust us with the recources. It’s not an issue of fairness, but of what we can handle and how we are going to use it. Partnering together to do kingdom work. images

Our next trip is already in the works. Dates are already being set. I thank God for giving me eyes to see beyond my four walls. To be witness to what real need is and what genuine thankfulness is.

For more information on AFE and their impact on the people of the Tegucigalpa trash dump click here: http://www.afehonduras.org

Leaving-Tegucigalpa Honduras

Our Lake City Chruch team ready to go

Tears drop even before the bus loads.  For those that are staying, whispers of prayers begin.  Red-cheeked, we hug.  Grateful for our Pastor’s prayer before we leave for Honduras.  Emotions run high.  Some of us; we know.  We know the smell of rot and stench that will permeate every fiber of us.  We know the heat and  blisters that will torment us as we build.  We know that our hearts will be ripped.  Shredded into sinew that only the Lord himself can heal, over time.  I can feel that twinge of excitement mixed with bittersweet, raw emotion. images

I am catapulted back in time to just over a year ago; fresh-eyed, ready to step off of firm soil into the unknown.  A smile forms on my face remembering the laughter of brown-skinned kids, climbing all over me.  Their laughter blows like wind through my ears. They are searching for the sweets they know I have tucked safely inside my pockets and the warmth of my arms wrapped tightly.

UnknownMy hands ache with the memory of swinging hammers.

This starts our day and our plane boards.

My continuous prayer is that we are used in insurmountable ways by the Lord.  That when we hit ground we ARE the hands and feet of our Savior.  His hands, how they were pierced, sore and blistered.  May we remember this as we tire.  Allow us all to  thrust our eyes Heavenward to see how tired and broken He was carrying the weight of the world.  Allow His love to flow through us.

Language barriers will cease to exist where a smile can creep into its place.images-1

FullSizeRenderHe is here and ahead of us.

He is I am.  Ever present.

For information on AFE our partner in Honduras: http://www.afehonduras.org

(This is my first journal entry the day we left for Tegucigalpa, Honduras Oct 17,2014)