The Lord has been using the wilderness for thousands of years as a place of accelerated growth and training. Leaders are drawn and equipped, and transition from where they are to where God is calling them. The Word says, “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart.”[i] There is nothing that so quickly reveals the condition of our hearts than wilderness seasons. During these stretching times, we plead for God to transform us so that we might become more like Christ.
Jesus Himself valued experiential learning and led wilderness adventures: He brought people into creation in order to facilitate teachable moments from situations that occurred. (Consider the story of the disciples and Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat during a storm.[ii] Could they have learned the same lessons in the basement of a church?) In the New and Old Testaments we consistently see wilderness both as a way for God’s people to encounter Him, and as a setting in which God establishes covenant with His people.
Throughout scripture we see examples of God using the wilderness as a way to teach His people four key things: who He is, what He does, who we are as His people, and what we are to do as His people. From the very beginning, we see God’s original plan to be in close fellowship with His people (Adam and Eve) in His creation (the Garden of Eden) doing His work.[iii] God reveals Himself as a kind and generous Creator who designs a world full of beautifully intricate symbiotic relationships.
From the start, we see that His people are given an identity (they are made in the image of God) and a purpose (they are to steward and cultivate His creation). Even after the man and his wife sin, the Lord speaks a promise that one day the woman’s offspring will crush the head of the serpent,[iv] prophesying that the offspring of a woman will fatally injure the Tempter. Adam, trusting in this promise, names his wife “Eve,” because she is “the mother of all living.”[v] Though they have been cursed and have brought a curse upon creation, Adam understands and trusts the Lord’s promise that from this woman will come One who restores the broken relationship between Creation and Creator.
In the Old Testament, we see slaves and prophets alike encountering God in the wilderness. Abram journeys out from his father’s house in Ur and sojourns with God in the wilderness of the Negeb.[vi] Later, north of the Negeb, the Lord meets with Abram in a vision and promises that from Abram will come a great nation, and that his offspring will possess the land through which Abram is sojourning.[vii] God reveals Himself to Abram as being a God of covenant, of blessing, and of faithfulness. Abram is given a new identity as Abraham, the “father of a multitude.”[viii] God also reveals Himself as a righteous God who will use Abram’s offspring as a holy nation, set apart to do the Lord’s will in the Lord’s timing.[ix]
Hagar, maidservant to Sarai and concubine to Abraham, encounters an angel of the Lord in the Negeb wilderness after she flees from Sarai.[x] It is there that God reveals Himself to her as “a God of seeing,” and who Hagar calls “Him who looks after me.”[xi] Hagar, pregnant with Abraham’s child, is told the identity, name, and personality of the unborn boy. Later in Genesis, we see Hagar and her son Ishmael again in the wilderness after they have been driven from Abraham’s camp.[xii] Here the Lord protects and provides for them out of His faithfulness to Abraham, and the Lord promises to also make Ishmael into a great nation.
Moses, fleeing Egypt, becomes a shepherd in Midian.[xiii] It is here, as Moses tends to the flocks of his father-in-law, that the Lord draws Moses to the wilderness of Horeb to meet with Him.[xiv] God reveals Himself once again as faithful, remembering the covenant He made with Abraham. Moses, who has grown up as an Egyptian prince, is also identified by God as a Hebrew, one of His chosen people, and called a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is also in this encounter that God identifies Himself and gives Himself a name: “I am,” from which the name “Yahweh” comes.[xv] The Lord has not forgotten His people, and He calls Moses to free and lead them back to the wilderness to worship Him. Again we see that God often uses wilderness settings to meet with, speak identity over, and establish covenant with His people.
While there are certainly others in the Old Testament (Noah,[xvi] Jacob,[xvii] the Israelites in the wildernesses of Horeb and Sinai,[xviii] Elijah,[xix] David,[xx] Ezekiel exiled near the Chebar canal, King Nebuchadnezzar,[xxi] Amos as a shepherd prophet, Jonah fleeing from God’s call to Nineveh, etc.), the New Testament also provides rich examples of God’s people encountering Him in the wilderness. From reading about leaders spending formative time in the wilderness—such as John the Baptist in the wilderness of Judea,[xxii] the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness,[xxiii] and Paul’s time in Arabia, Syria, and Cilicia[xxiv]—to the many opportunities that Jesus took to teach and minister in creation[xxv] or used creation metaphors in His teachings,[xxvi] we see the wilderness consistently used as a setting for transformation, and creation as rich with metaphors for teaching. Thus in both the New and Old Testaments, we see a distinct Biblical precedent for wilderness as a setting for transformation and ministry.
If Jesus chose the wilderness as the setting to transform lives and shape young people into dynamic leaders in the early Church, then certainly wilderness is equally critical today for young people who suffer from an increasingly distant relationship with creation, and who yearn for a meaningful vision and worldview. Lives filled with video games and reality TV, and obsessions with texting and social media deepen starvation for the Bread of Life and thirst for the Living Water.
When we go into the wilderness today, we are seeking a deeper understanding of who God is, what He is doing today, the identity He gives us as His children, and what He would have us do in our spheres of influence. We also experience that which is expected and promised in scripture: we hear creation’s groans,[xxvii] see the heaven’s declarations,[xxviii] and witness the general revelation of our Creator.[xxix] And the glory in this world is but a glimpse of eternity! This is why we do what we do, and why SROM is called into this great commission with Christ. Because understanding the “why” of wilderness programming helps us to partner with you and with God in the great things He has planned for each an every one of His Children.
Melita Zuck is one of our 40/40 instructors and an all around amazing woman after God’s own heart! When not instructing for SROM, Melita lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and does a lot of fun expedition adventures all over the world. Melita first started instructing for SROM in 2015 and has been a wilderness missionary for the past 3 years. And each year, she is the hands and feet of Jesus to these students in the wilderness. And one of Melita’s trademark “must haves” in the wilderness is a skirt. Melita was kind enough to write to us from the field of this years’ 40/40 of the 20 reasons why a skirt is a “must have” on wilderness expedition travel!
20 Reasons Why a Skirt is Essential in the Backcountry
The following suggestions have been implemented using a thin, quick dry fabric to create an expedition worthy skirt. The skirt I use goes just below my knees and is wide enough to not restrict movement. I use a 7″ side zipper and a thin waste band with a small button.
Of course, the user must take into consideration which applications are most desirable for her usage. For example, you will not want to use your skirt to hold food right after drying your feet from a river crossing! Also, there are many circumstances that I do not use a skirt. Such as, when I need to wear a harness for rock climbing or mountaineering. These are simply the ways that I have used my skirt in the backcountry to make it both an effective tool for the wilderness and also one of my top essentials for any expedition.
Useful to carry objects or hold your portion of lunch or GORP.
Keeps pants or shorts cleaner and protects them from wear.
No tissue? No problem! Use your skirt!
Cleaning off or whipping down anything.
Changing out of underwear or pants? No need to find a private spot when you have a skirt!
Less privacy is needed for using the bathroom if management is good.
Wear during bathing or a solo around the waist or over the bust as a dress.
Keeps a light amount of precipitation off your pants or shorts keeping you warmer and dryer.
When kicking in steps, provides a shield so snow doesn’t hit your feet.
Keeps wearer warmer over the hips and thighs worn normally.
Can flip it above your waist over your back for an improvised shawl.
Dry feet and legs after a river crossing.
Dry body and hair after bathing.
Extremely easy to wash with limited resources.
Tie a knot in the waste and it becomes a carrying sack.
Light weight sleeping layer – a personal favorite when it’s clean!
Could easily be torn into bandage strips in an emergency situation.
Follows some religions standard’s of “modesty.”
Follows SROM’s Rule #1 (To look Good!) without fail!
Cooking gourmet in the backcountry is equal parts creativity, and science. We live in an age where we don’t have to simply eat freeze dried foods or rice and beans every meal. There are so many options and ways to make your backcountry cooking experience not only one of efficiency, but a delight.
Last summer, one of our staff brought a new recipe to the attention of the instructor pool. Gnocchi pasta!
Gnocchi are a small, potato and flour style dumpling pasta that are super filling and delicious. The word Gnocchi is thought to come from nocca, which means knuckles or from the Lombard word knohha, which means knot -like a wood knot or walnut. Many ingredients were used to make these small dumplings mostly in the northern part of Italy. But it wasn’t until the 16th century that potatoes were brought back with Spanish explorers from South America that they were added to this dumpling pasta.
Here is the recipe for backcountry Gnocchi so you too can enjoy this gourmet dish!
1 c potato flakes
1 c flour/baking mix
1 T olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
At least 1 c water to mix (possibly more)
spices of choice
Dried tomato powder or Pesto packet (follow directions on packet)
Parmesan cheese or Mozzarella
In a medium bowl, mix together potato flakes, salt, flour, and any spices you want to add to the batter. Garlic, rosemary, or oregano are good choices. Then add the oil and slowly add water to the dry mix. Keep slowly adding water until you have a slightly sticky dough enough to make small balls with. If dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour. Once dough is ready, roll into small dumplings with your hands and set aside.
In a large pot, boil water. Add rolled gnocchi to the boiled water and cook until gnocchi are floating on the top of the water. Once all the gnocchi are floating, remove from the water. If making a marinara sauce, use boiled water to make your pasta sauce. Add spices to taste.By using the “gray” water for the sauce, you are able to reduce waste and practice good Leave No Trace ethics in the backcountry. If making pesto, follow the directions on the pesto packet.
Place cooked Gnocchi in each person’s bowl and add the sauce. Sprinkle Mozzarella or Parmesan cheese on top of the pasta and sauce. Serve hot and enjoy!!
Not too long ago, a friend of mine shared with me about how God revealed to her about how her worship is louder than the lies of the enemy. I was blown away! With all the planning, stressing, and all the strong emotions I feel sometimes, I have to go to God in worship and song when I feel emotions so hard that I can’t even pray. It settles my heart and my soul in ways that sitting down and praying doesn’t do. And it got me to wondering, why do I worship
I mean, I like to worship it’s true. I love to sing and play guitar and worship our Lord. But why? Why does my heart and mind need to go there first when I feel so topsy turvy? As per usual, God gave me an answer. During my time alone with God this morning, I was reading in Matthew chapter 4 where Jesus goes into the wilderness after God has proclaimed to the world Jesus’ true identity – i.e. the identity of how God and heaven views Him, not the world.
So I’m reading, and reading, and reading all the tests that Satan puts before Jesus. I’m sure you all know the story too. But at the end, it hits me where Jesus tells Satan to beat it and quotes out of Deuteronomy,
“Worship the Lord your God and only Him. Serve Him with absolute single-mindedness.” (The Message)
Then Satan makes a hasty retreat and Angels came and took care of all of Jesus’ needs.
Ok, so Jesus faces down all these tests. And hard ones too! Just because He’s Jesus doesn’t mean it wasn’t hard for Him to resist those temptations! So Jesus has all these tests, but then goes and says to worship God and only Him. Worship. What about worship in the midst of incredible testing helps us?
Well, for me, when I’m worshiping, I’m not thinking about anything else. I’m thinking about the music, the words, and how much I love how the words of the song speak to me and how I can offer them up to God. So really, when I worship, there’s no room for anything else in my brain other than connecting with God.
But… I definitely do serve first and worship second. Which, I think is a HUGE reason why I get so agitated in the first place! I will reach out and help others simply out of my love of them and my desire to help, but then I wait to worship Him until after I feel empty and fully drained from my “single-minded” service.
See, this verse reminded me, very clearly, that I have it backwards. Dangerously backwards! Because if I’m serving and doing my thing first and worship God second, I’m committing idolatry. If I am putting anything first before God, I’m doing it out of my own pride and strength rather than being a vessel for His amazing goodness and grace.
And then after all that Jesus went through in the wilderness, Jesus chose to worship God through those trials and tribulations first before stepping into His ministry and serving the people. After all those tests, God sends the angels to take care of Jesus’ needs, and He will for me too! I can’t tell you the joy that it brings me to come to this place of, “I gotta worship” versus, “I gotta get to it.” Don’t get me wrong, I love my “to do” lists because they keep me focused and are a great tool. But I’m really excited to put Worship at the very top every time now! Because as God told my friend, my Worship is louder than the enemy’s lies.
Finding a suitable ice axe for mountaineering is easy. Choose a plain looking ice axe with a straight shaft and no rubberized grip. Avoid ultra light axes as they are often weaker and more difficult to use effectively. Avoid tools intended for ice climbing as they perform poorly for general mountaineering. These are no good substitutes for a basic ice axe. Find the proper length by gripping the top of the ice axe like a cane and holding it at your side; the tip of the shaft (aka, the spike) should be at your ankle bone. If in between sizes choose the shorter ax. You should buy a simple ice axe to begin with unless you have a specific reason to buy something else. The Black Diamond Raven is a great example of a basic mountaineering axe. I still use a Grivel I bought back in 2002 for all of my mountaineering. A good ice ax can last a lifetime.
After gaining experience many mountaineers discover their basic ice axe, while great for most things, is not best for some of their climbing. As climbers venture onto steep terrain many prefer shorter axes. A shorter ice axe provides less security in low angle terrain, less than 45°, because they are more difficult get a good self belay with but are generally easier to maneuver on steep terrain, over 60°. These more specialized axes may also have rubber grips, curved handles, and interchangeable picks that improve performance on steep terrain but the rubber grips and curved handles can make self belay more difficult and technical picks for ice climbing perform very poorly for self arrest. At the extreme end of the technical spectrum we have technical ice tools that are designed for steep ice and mixed climbing. While they excel at these tasks they tend to be poor at self belay and self arrest making them unsuitable for general mountaineering.
It can be tempting for a beginner to buy an expensive ice ax with many technical features but this is a mistake. For beginner and intermediate climbs the basic ice axe is right almost every time. A basic ice axe will take you to the summit of every state high point and far beyond. My highest ascent in the Himalayas was done with the basic ice axe I bought for my first mountaineering trip. If you are still unconvinced look at photos of climbers on Mt. Everest, they will be using a basic ice axe for their climb. This is not to say the more technical tools don’t have a place, they do, but they are for experienced climbers who know why they need the advanced features and why the performance compromises are acceptable.
Thank you for reading. If you are new to mountaineering be sure to find a good mentor or consider taking classes to gain proficiency. You will encounter many hazards in the mountains that must be appropriately managed to mitigate risk. An inexperienced mountaineer will be unable to assess many of these hazards. Stay safe and have fun out there.
It’s a good habit to get into to reflect on the many things to be thankful for in July. The freedoms many of us enjoy are not shared with all of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. So I am very grateful for the freedoms that my family and I enjoy and benefit from by living in the United States.
But one other thing that I am very grateful for is the freedom that being in Authentic Christian Community brings. This freedom to walk in the identity that God has given not just me, but all of us in a loving and authentic community. It is one of the things we emphasize for our students on our courses: how to live and grow in authentic community in the wilderness.
I am sure that many of you know this section of scripture about abiding:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. -John 15:1-11 ESV-
Jesus tells his disciples that when we abide with him and his words abide in us, we will bear much fruit and how much we are loved by both Jesus and the Father. But how does abiding in Christ give us freedom?
When we are in right relationship as a “branch” on the vine, we get all the benefits and resources from the “vine” (ie God the Father). When we have all those amazing resources, we are at peace, we can grow and thrive, we have intimate knowledge of our identity because it is being poured into us. This is the direct result of being attached and connected in authentic community to the vine! When we are connected, we have the freedom to be who we were created to be. We also have the freedom then to grow and walk in the destiny we have been called to by the “vine” or Jesus.
We have become so independent in the United States, that we have forgotten on some level that we were created to be relational and in relationships. Not just with God, but with each other too! There are other “branches” on the vine and we interact and grow with and around each other. When we are connected to the vine, we also have the freedom to love those around us well.
We have the freedom to do this, because of all the love and resources the vine is pouring into the branches. It is through this that Jesus says, “and that your joy may be full” or other translations say “complete.” Our joy is complete and absolutely full when we are abiding in the Father and in Jesus. Which gives us freedom from fear, despair, sadness, etc. It is this perfect joy and love that gives us this freedom!
And while we experience many amazing freedoms here in the United States, this freedom through abiding in Christ Jesus that frees every man, woman, and child around the world from bondage and it is His perfect love and joy that allows them to walk and thrive in that freedom. This freedom had a high price, and Jesus humbled Himself to pay it because of His love.
So I encourage you to not attempt to be a more independent “branch”, but rather to grow in co-dependence with Christ. For it is by His blood and stripes we are made free.
How you can be praying:
40/40 students & Instructors
20/20 Teen girls students & instructors
20/20 Teen boys students & instructors
10/10 Adult students & instructors
Houston Christian Academy custom course students & instructors
Food allergies are off the charts these days! It’s incredible how many people’s bodies are rejecting the basic essentials of foods that use to be staples in a backcountry kitchen. Things like peanut butter, GORP (Good Old Raisins & Peanuts), snack mixes, granola bars, powdered milk, pasta, and so on are having to be manipulated to accommodate people’s food allergies. But nothing has been harder to accomplish than gluten free.
Gluten is a family of proteins that are found in wheat, rye, barley, and spelt. Most people can handle gluten just fine. But there is a growing population of people whose bodies either cannot process these proteins or are just plain allergic to them. Being “Celiac” has a variety of levels and symptoms, but it all revolves around an inability for the body to process the proteins found in these specific grains.
But what does that mean for backcountry cooking? It means that baking mixes, pastas, and a great many pre-made freeze dried meals are unavailable for those who are Celiac. Because not only do the main ingredients have wheat products in them, but also so does the filler or the spices within those meals have some kind of gluten product in them.
So it is just to be beans and rice then for meals? I soooo reject that! I love cooking! And cooking in the backcountry already provides such a great challenge for me that adding gluten free deliciousness is just an added bonus!
See, I love food. No, I mean I LOVE good food! I’m seriously of the “camp” that if I’m not eating it in the frontcountry, there’s no reason to eat it in the backcountry. So here are a few ideas and tips to eat gluten free and gourmet in the backcountry.
1) Meal Plan
For the same reason that you plan your route in the backcountry, you also want to plan your meals. This will help with saving money, but also saving time while trying to cook your meals. Planning and measuring the correct amount for the time you are in the backcountry, and number of people will save you time, save you weight in your pack, and also help you avoid cross contamination. For help on how to plan ahead and prepare, check out the links below.
There are many Gluten Free options out there, but in my experience not everything that claims to be “gluten free” should be considered equal. Here are a couple of my favorite brands and what I use them for:
Better Batter is a company I love to use! Not just for the superior baking mixes, but also what they are about. Their batters are allergen free including some of the more rare food allergies that are out there. So it is really ideal for a bunch of food allergies in your group including lactose and celiac. I use their All Purpose Flour Mix, Pancake & Biscuit Mix, and their Fudge Brownie Mix for backcountry cooking.
Gluten Free Lava Cake
I use the All Purpose Flour Mix for making pizza dough, gnocchi pasta, alfredo sauce, and dumplings in soup. And the pancake mix for biscuits, pancakes, muffins & scones. One thing I do recommend to add to all of these mixes for backcountry use is powdered egg. Really makes them fluffier and respond like a dough with gluten still in it. *If you have someone with an egg allergy, milled flax hydrated works, although not as well.*
Thai Kitchen/Simply Asia has noodle packs that are like ramen noodles, only gluten free and in fun flavors like lemongrass, garlic & vegetable, ginger, and others. It’s a great alternative that’s quick and easy like ramen. There are also rice noodle ramen packs that are a bit more expensive, but still really good by Lotus Foods.
When looking at G-Free pasta, not all pasta is created equal. There are some that are easy enough to enjoy in the front country, but when using them in the backcountry, it is a hot mess! There are lots of great brands out there, but I have found that unless you are making a dish that purposefully uses rice noodles, stay away from them for Italian style meals. The noodles end up being slimey from the starch residue and it is not fun to clean up that gray water.
Try to stick with a quinoa noodle or something that isn’t a rice noodle like Ancient Harvest brand. It will provide your body with energy that lasts longer and is a lot friendlier to the taste buds to clean up. Again, be sure to check labels that the product is in fact manufactured in an allergen free environment!
Getting enough protein in the backcountry can be tricky. Most people use products like falafel, tvp, and similar items. Falafel, while a yummy greek variety to meals, is full of wheat! So that’s out. TVP (textured vegetable protein) can also be a good option, but again I would urge extreme caution for the gluten free cook. Wheat can be included in some brands. So what can I use then? Well, Soy Curls work really well for additional protein and getting your muscles some good stuff. They are gluten free and work well in a variety of contexts. Pro Tip: Just be sure to hydrate them enough.
Your spice kit will make or break you. Spice mixes, while they seem easy and a great option, often use wheat as a filler. So it can be a bad time if you find that out the hard way! Be sure to really research your spices or even go so far as to make your own mixes! It’s not too hard and well worth any effort you put into it. And be sure to use Gluten Free Tamari sauce instead of soy sauce.
Labeling Spice Bottles can be tedious, but well worth it.
3) Don’t Be Afraid to Be Creative
Sometimes, there just isn’t a granola bar, snack, meal mix, spices or whatever that will suit your needs. This is where the old adage “Necessity is indeed the mother of invention” comes into play. Because honestly, most of my best success were really due to thinking outside the box using the resources I had at my fingertips at that moment. That’s how I made gluten free gnocchi pasta – potato/flour pasta that look like little dumplings and are so yummy!
Gluten Free Gnocchi and sauce from scratch.
Making gourmet gluten free food in the backcountry doesn’t have to be an epic saga of woes. It can be fun, inspiring, and empowering! But taking the time to look at the ingredients you have and putting together an idea is well worth the effort and bit of time it takes to get it all set up. Your stomach may be yelling at you to get on with it, but trust me. Your taste buds and your expedition team will be singing hallelujahs the whole time you are eating!
Holly came on a 10 day climbing and backpacking trip with us last summer with her mom. Holly is an amazing woman of God with a lot of love and a lot of spunk! Wife to one, mama to six. A lover of tacos, rainbows and massive amounts of coffee. Her favorite place to be is in nature. She really digs naps and cuddling with her people. Her family was knit together by birth and by adoption. On her 10 day expedition into the Wilderness, God met her in some incredible ways that only her words, and her testimony can reveal! With Holly’s permission, we are sharing her story with you all as an encouragement that God is real, He is who He says He is, and He moves mightily in the lives of His children. Enjoy!
During the early summer of 2017, God was persistent in His invitation for me to get away with Him. I was not exactly sure where it was He wanted me to go. I was certain it was away from the noise and chaos of my daily life. Away from my responsibilities and away from the distractions of the world. I knew He wanted to speak to my quieted heart so He could begin the process of setting me free. I let my amazing Mama know about these conversations I was having with God and this desire He had ignited. That is when she suggested we research the possibility of a wilderness expedition with SROM. I was thrilled she would consider being my companion on this journey. Not only is she my mother and my dear friend but she is also a wise spiritual adviser. It did not take any convincing at all. Nature is my sanctuary, it is where the veil between Yahweh and my soul seems the thinnest. We booked our trip and set out for 10 days in the deep backcountry of Wyoming/Colorado in late July.
The first three days of our adventure were spent rock climbing in Vedauwoo. We quickly fell in love and bonded deeply with the other people in our group. The days were physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually satisfying. The evening before we were going to transition to Rocky Mountain National Park, our guides Jess and Keith asked Mom and I to sit down and have a heart to heart with them. My 63 year old mama is all kinds of amazing. She is spunky, sassy and FULL of energy.
Jess and Keith had noticed all these things about her AND had a great appreciation for her spiritual maturity and insight that she graciously shares. They had also noticed her shortness of breath during some of our treks. The altitude coupled with her asthma was affecting her more than any of us wanted to admit. But, we needed to consider what the next 7 days would entail. We would be increasing in elevation daily once we made it to RMNP and once we were on the mountain, the only way off the mountain was self-evacuation in most places where we would be hiking. The four of us took some time to pray about what should happen. It was unanimously decided Mom should not continue on to Colorado but instead stay in Wyoming and wait for us to return.
After the decision was made, I found a cleft in a rock, climbed inside and threw a fit. I cried and shouted at God. I then promptly stomped to our “kitchen” where everyone was lighting their cook stoves and prepping for dinner. I huffed and pouted as I chopped the onions and peppers for our meal. I then announced to Mama in what must have sounded much like the drama I brought to the table when I was a teen, that I refused to go up the mountain without her. I went on to say I was tired, I wanted a hamburger, a chocolate bar, coffee that did not taste like dirt and a pedicure. I concocted a most excellent plan for the two of us to spend a week in a hotel eating, sleeping and being pampered.
As only my mother can, she calmly validated my feelings but went on to say “I believe that God wants you on that mountain. I believe He has something very precious He wants to share with you. I also believe He is kind and He will reveal it in another way at another time if you do not go up the mountain. I will support you in whatever decision you make.” I let the battle continue in my head until the thoughts of a soft bed, hot shower and tacos took over. I then stood up and walked over to our guide Jess and let her know I would be leaving with Mom in the morning. She put her journal and pen down, looked directly into my eyes, smirked and then laughed in my face. She then pulled a piece of paper from her journal and handed it to me saying, “I thought God had me sitting here writing this for your mom, but now I know clearly it is for you.” It was a poem that she had literally just finished as I walked up to speak with her. I looked down and read these words…
She will rise She will fly Though her struggles are lofty and high Leave her by my side I will carry her day and night Teaching her My way, My truth, My light Upon My mountain She will stand Upon my mountain I will be found
I looked up at Jess and burst into laughter and tears at the very same moment. I then turned to my mama and handed her the poem. After she read it I shrugged and with a big grin said “I guess He really wants me on that mountain.”
The next morning we dropped mom off at a gas station with a SROM guide who met us there. I climbed into the back of the van with tears stinging my eyes. Jess tossed a chocolate bar at me and smiled. We drove a few hours to get to RMNP, during the ride I spent time talking with God and asked Him to please set me free from the lies I have been a slave to for so very long and to begin mending my shattered heart. When we arrived, we had to stop in town and get bear canisters to place all our food inside. After we repacked everything to fit into our packs, they weighed about 60-65 pounds, that meant I would be carrying more than half my body weight up a mountain.
All was well for the first hour, we were increasing in elevation with every step, we were talking and laughing, everyone was lighthearted and filled with excitement. As we continued into the second hour, the pain came on and it was intense. After five pregnancies and four live births to four BIG boys, my pelvis is pretty marred. The throbbing ache I felt each time I took a step had me wincing. When we finally stopped for a water and blister check break, I told Jess how I was feeling. I let her know that giving birth un-medicated at home was FAR more pleasant than what I was currently experiencing. I then told her I was planning to turn around, walk back down the mountain and call Bunny (my mama) to come pick me up. I had it all worked out so I would not inconvenience anyone.
She told me nope that was not happening. I argued “Fine, I will keep going today but tonight, I will sneak out of my tent and walk back down in the dark. I might be eaten by a bear but that will feel better than this.” She rolled her eyes and told me to take my pack off. She then took her pack off. This was the moment that this badass chic, (the only chic according to Bunny that has ever been able to meet my sass with greater sass) became Jesus in the flesh for me. She took out the heaviest items in my pack and traded them for the lightest items in her pack. She was literally willing to carry my burden. We trekked on for another hour or so, during that time the pain lingered but I could keep hiking. At the next break, we set up our camp chairs, took out our snacks, tossed our boots aside and stuck our feet in the cold stream. After our bellies were filled and our feet refreshed, we continued on. About half an hour later my friend Jamie realized she had left her chair by the stream. Jess offered to jog back and get it so we could continue making forward progress.
It was not long before the pain became unbearable once again. I had tears rolling quietly down my face. I knew there was absolutely no possibility I could continue on in this pain for 7 more days. I told myself that when we stopped for our next break, I was going to ask the group to pray for me. That is when the Spirit whispered “No, you are going to pray for yourself right now.” I quipped back “But, I don’t do that.” My apostasy was met with magnanimous laughter and the words, “Well, you do now.” The physical torment was so fierce that I relented but all I could muster was, “Heal me.”
It started as a trusting chant inside my heart. Then it blossomed to a melodious whisper, “Heal me.” Then it exited my mouth like a crashing wave aware of its power and strength. “HEAL ME!” After a few repetitions of this bold roar, my hips began to tingle. I kept on with my desperate call to God and after a few more steps, the pain was completely absent from my body. I felt as if I could soar, as if I was a bird who took flight for the very first time. I was so overcome with love, thankfulness, joy and wonder. I began crying and saying “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” I repeated this over and over until I caught up with the rest of the group.
They were sitting on the side of the trail and when they saw me with tears falling down my face, they jumped up to check on me. Keith questioned “Oh no, is it that bad?” I euphorically shouted, “No,It is that GOOD!” I then threw my pack off, tossed my trekking poles and laid face down in the dirt crying out over and over, “Thank you God, you are so kind to me.”
When I finally got up out of the dirt, we all gathered around to pray. That is when Jess caught up and we excitedly told her what had just happened. We were all on a spiritual high at that point. Jamie invited me to sit on a fallen tree with her so she could pray over me. When we finished our prayer time together, she said “God just told me that was your physical healing and your emotional healing is coming.” I teared up again because that is exactly what He had just put on my heart as well.
I was not certain if the pain would remain gone the rest of the time in the backcountry but I knew no matter what, God would carry me up the mountain. I suffered no more physical pain for the entirety of the hike. The pain never returned once I came back home either, none of the activities that would normally exacerbate it caused it to return. He healed me. And He has begun a gentle work on my interior castle. He is making all things new. His love is so intense. We are His beloved. May my heart always trust in His love as He restores my soul.
Being in the great outdoors can bring healing on many different levels. It can bring mental healing, spiritual healing and even physical healing to some degrees. Whether it is sitting on the porch, going for a walk, a vigorous hike, multi day backpacking or ascending to a very high peak. All of these outdoor activities can bring a sense of healing to you.
However, there are many instances in which the outdoors can hinder or hurt you if you do not plan accordingly and prepare yourself for the elements of these wild places. Regardless of activity you should always plan ahead and prepare. Perhaps not as intensively for sitting on the porch but to think ahead creates less work and possible complications later. Whether it is on the trip or years down the road in life. Caring and planning for yourself, self care is one of the most important things you can possible do.
So what is it we are getting at? Protect yourself!
What’s Killing you?
Any season of the year can kill you in some way it’s just a matter of time and exposure. Too hot with not enough water, skin protection or food to sustain you as your body is in motion.
Sun, heat, Cold, snow, wind, lack of layers, lack of food, lack of water, lack of proper foot protection.
How can you best plan for your next outing?
Be sure to pack your 3 essentials: Water, Rain gear, Sunscreen
You will always need water, you will never be able to full predict the elements you will be entering into and the weather it may bring. When planning for a day or a 14 day journey you should always plan ahead and prepare. This is deemed principle number 1 in Leave No Trace. More importantly if you don’t plan ahead and prepare for what could or WILL happen, the intentionality of self care is neglected.
Many have stepped out into the sunshine after a long winter or time in doors. The sunshine feels so great! Getting that Vitamin D that your body has been craving like it’s your job! Maybe you fall asleep or you push yourself harder because you feel good. You return home or simply come back inside and you realize you have a headache, you feel weak or your skin hurts to the touch.
Dehydration and exposure can deplete your body over time. Especially if you are on a multi-day hike or camping. The over exposure that first day or first couple of days while your body is adapting to trail life can cause your body to work harder than it would need to if you put on sunscreen and kept a conscious eye on your fluid intake to be sure all that your sweating or exercising out, you are replacing at the same time.
Some common overlooks:
Re-applying sunscreen often
Changing out of your sweaty layer after a hard day on the trail
Preemptively putting on additional layers when temperature begins to drop.
Wearing TOO many layers while sleeping (this causes prevention of body heat warming your sleeping bag)
Intentionally drinking water while moving or during short breaks.
Tending to blisters (instead of grinding it out)
On many occasions in extreme hot environments, it is easy to forget self care in this way because you are concentrating on getting through the elevation gain, loss or simply working hard to get to your destination. The same goes for extreme cold conditions. If you aren’t being conscious and listening to what your body needs it can put you and possibly others on your team in danger of exposure or possibly falling behind on itinerary.
When you Plan ahead and take care of yourself, the overall experience and impact of the journey you’re on is all the more spiritually, mentally and even physically healing. Be kind to yourself.
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-4
It was another blue sky morning in Montana. The summer air was calm and cool. My back was warmed by the sun as I sat and gazed up at the mountain range before me. The distant peaks had demanded my attention ever since I arrived a few days prior. I appreciated the mountain; its sheer size and otherly beauty placed awe in my heart, the allure of adventure a summit attempt promised, the sense of accomplishment I presumably would feel standing at the top!
All these were placed before me, yet were just out of reach. My schedule did not include a summit bid that day or even during my whole visit. I desired, but could not obtain.
As my gaze drifted from the snowcapped peak, somewhat disappointed, a glistening water droplet caught my eye. Not more than two feet in front of me was a delicate yellow wildflower covered in little dew droplets acting as perfect reflectors for the morning sun. I paused. How had this beauty escaped my notice?
Then my eyes were opened to my surroundings! Each blade of grass surrounding me was glistening, every flower pedal glowed. I was sitting in a meadow of “diamonds”! Again I asked myself, “How did you miss this?!”
The answer…I had fixed my eyes on what was distant without even taking a moment to notice what was close. How frequently I do the same thing in life!
If I lock my attention and focus on future events or things that I don’t possess, throwing all my effort toward them, I end up blowing past the simple pleasures that lay right before me. I can lie to myself thinking, “‘If I could just have a good friend…’ or ‘When I’m married…’ or ‘Once I get that job…’ or ‘I’ll shake off all responsibility and just travel the world…’ then I’ll be happy, free, and satisfied.”
I have a fixation on obtaining satisfaction. Iwant what I want.
I desire, but cannot obtain. Why? Because I am looking in the wrong place. C.S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, observes, “Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise.”1While I’m preoccupied with gratifying my fleshly desires (friends, sports, chocolate, adventures, etc.) my Heavenly Father is holding out true freedom, grace, goodness, satisfaction, and love. Far too often I choose to go my way, sin, which leads to death, instead of the way of life.
What is right in front of me, with me? As a Christian it is Jesus! “Fear not, for I am with you”(Is.41:10) YES, Jesus is with me! “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal. 2:20a) Jesus is in me! I need not look to any other, I need not long for anything greater.
My heart’sdesire will not be satisfied outside of Jesus. “For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul He fills with good things.” (Ps. 107:9) “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’” (John 6:35)
Now, consider for a moment what Paul says in Colossians, “set your mind on things above, and not on earthly things.” (Col.3:2) Are we to simply long for heaven and wait until the day we arrive? You’ve heard the saying, “So heavenly minded that you’re of no earthly good.” Well, I’m confident that the truth of the matter is just the opposite! If I am living in light of Heaven the true needs of this present world will become all the more real to me because my desire will be to see those around me saved and to glorify God with my life. I could be so heavenly minded that I am of greatest earthly good! To quote Lewis again, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.”1 And truly what is best for this present world? To be free from slavery to sin and made spiritually alive in Christ!
So to turn my opening analogy in its head, by fixing my gaze on the future reality of heaven God reveals the true beauty that is right in front of me today. It is about focus rightly placed, a heart that is so in love with Jesus that it can’t help but overflow that love to others in deep sacrificial ways. Because that’s what Jesus did for me! “And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.” (Gal. 2:20b) I have the greatest gift of Jesus and because of that I can recognize and appreciate all the good gifts my Heavenly Father gives me each and every day!
Oh Father, may I delight myself in You! Forgive me for the idols I have run to seeking satisfaction, I repent. Thank you for Your forgiveness, grace, and love. Thank you for the free salvation you have given me in Jesus Christ! Help me to gaze upon the beauty of Christ that I may serve you wholeheartedly in this life!
“You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)
1 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, Harper edition, 2001), pp. 134-135.