Packing for the Journey

I am, right now, on a beach in the Cayman Islands.

Recently, I was packing for this trip and I put a tremendous amount of thought into what I would need. I pride myself on being a light packer—a low maintenance, easy going traveler. Therefore, planning the suitcase requires significant forethought. What’s the weather going to be, how many times will we eat out, phone charger, medications? It takes a lot of planning to be a low maintenance traveler! Oh, the irony.

“At times, my life has felt like I have been on a long journey and someone else packed my suitcase.”

But imagine if someone else packed your suitcase? What if, rather than a swimsuit and shorts, you opened it up to find mittens and gloves? At times, my life has felt like this. Like I have been on a long journey and someone else packed my suitcase. I look and see things I didn’t expect or know I had. And as I have been traveling, raising kids, working, and doing life, things have been added along the way. I didn’t plan it. It just showed up. Death, disappointment, job loss, strained relationships. You’re undoubtedly familiar with the list. How I react to these things has something to do with what I have in my suitcase to pull from. As I’m unpacking and pulling out things, some of which I didn’t know I had, many of them are exactly what I need. At other times, my reactions reveal some things that have only added more weight to my journey. They have made it more complicated. Most commonly known as “baggage.”

A real-life example for me was the birth of our third child, Ryan. Due to complications at the delivery, he was born with severe brain damage. Several months after his birth, a friend gave me a poem called “Welcome to Holland,” by Emily Perl Kingsley. It was all about the expectations you have when you’re pregnant. You dream about your new baby and the wonderful things they will add to your family. You imagine the relationships with their siblings and even think about their life and how they will grow up or what they may be. Will they be creative, smart, athletic? It’s an exciting anticipation. The purpose of the poem was to put a common circumstance, packing for a trip to Italy, with an unexpected reality, arriving in Holland. It’s specifically talking about having a child with special needs, but it could certainly apply to any area of our lives where we place expectations. You packed for Italy but landed in Holland. Unprepared. Disoriented.

“We will encounter hardships and the unexpected. Those are the things we can’t control. What we can control is how we are actively packing our own suitcase.”

So you didn’t pack for it or plan it but it’s here. You thought you’d have kids or a husband or a bigger house. You didn’t plan for the financial hurdles or the depression, the rebellious child or cancer. We all know this is part of our life’s journey. We will encounter hardships and the unexpected. Those are the things we can’t control. What we can control is how we are actively packing our own suitcase. Being aware of the learned behaviors we already have that are not helpful at best and self-destructive at worst. Seeking the truth from others wiser and who have gone before you in this journey.

Are you spending time with God and learning His promises for you or are you relying only on yourself and your ability to manage your life?

Have you put yourself in a community of people who will not only walk through life with you but tell you the truth, even when it’s not easy to hear?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

Amy Fletcher

Originally from Ohio, the warmth of South Carolina is now happily called home. She and her husband Mike have 2 married children, 3 grandchildren and are enjoying life with their soon to be teenager, Sydney. She loves adventure and has more interests and ideas than the time or energy to explore them! Amy attends the Greer campus.