Updated: Sep 13
Packing. I am very good at packing. While I have some degrees and certificates to my name (that I worked very hard for), I think I must be better at packing than anything else. I know how to pack for an overnight trip, a move across town, across countries, and even across continents. I know what boxes work best in which scenario, which tape to use, and how to pack fragile items so there is less chance of them breaking. The more I pack, the fewer
moving casualties I incur – but they still happen. Moving and traveling are not for the faint of heart.
My first big move overseas was in 1987. I had a big black trunk that I had painstakingly packed before leaving for Palm Beach International Airport. Back then, suitcases were allowed to weigh up to 70 pounds and passengers were able to carry two cases per ticket before paying overweight on anything. As our family grew, that large allowance for luggage was nice – until it wasn’t when policies changed allowing us only 50 pounds per suitcase. That change kept me from hoarding ridiculous amounts of peanut butter in my luggage (I used the excuse that the kids loved the peanut butter but I was equally guilty of having many midnight peanut butter spoons). It also forced me to pack more of what we needed, not so much of what I wanted.
That day in 1987 at the airport, my trunk got loaded onto the scale. My husband Jamie remarked it felt “too heavy.” It was overweight and I felt guilty for causing a fuss as we had to open it and figure out what to do with several pounds of items so that it wouldn’t be overweight and cost us more money that we didn’t have.
Our arrangement from then until now is that I pack and Jamie does the heavy lifting. Since
those days, we’ve gotten wiser and carry around a special hand-held scale to help us weigh our luggage before going to the airport, but those didn’t exist back then. Thankfully, we were traveling with a team of people who were escorting us to our first assignment in Kalemie, Zaire. Things were shifted quickly into the suitcases of others who had some room to spare and we embarked on a lifetime of packing.
When we arrived and I unpacked the trunk and our few suitcases in what was to be our home, I realized how little fit into that trunk. There were no nick-nacks, tablecloths, or decorative wall hangings in that trunk (or in any of our suitcases for that matter). It was filled with toys for our son Tommy (he was only one year old then, you can do the math and figure his age out now), some makeup, Kool-Aid (this was back before we were told not to give Kool-Aid to our kids), and clothes. The house was bare and I wondered how we managed to move what appeared to be so much stuff only to unpack it and feel as if the house were empty.
When everyone who accompanied us left, the house felt even emptier. The trunk served as a toy box for Tommy’s toys. Every day when we opened it for playtime, my thoughts sent me back to the day that it was overpacked at the airport. That first year was full of lessons about what was important and what wasn’t. In time, the toys it carried on that first trip began to break, I ran out of makeup, and our clothes began to show signs of wear. Bit by bit, items that were so “needed” when we moved, found their way to the trash bin as they were no longer useable.
The baggage we carry in life from day to day can be just as heavy and laborious to carry as that big black trunk. Whenever I moved the trunk to rearrange the room it was in, rearranging rooms is a weakness that I have, I would inevitably bruise my shins and sometimes scratch the walls if I wasn’t careful in setting it down. Whenever I got into one of my moods to change things, I thought it would be easier to fill the trunk and move it around full. That would have worked well if I were stronger. My legs, in multicolor bruised fashion, often told tales of my moving escapades. I was too impatient to wait for Jamie to do the heavy lifting for me.
One day, when one of my “shift stuff in the house” moods hit, it dawned on the horizon of my cluttered brain that I could avoid the pain of bruising my shins if I would just unload the trunk first. This meant I would have to take everything out first and then pack it all back in when I was satisfied with where I decided to place the trunk. There was an added side benefit to unloading that trunk besides leaving bruised legs behind. Things that had been stuffed into the trunk that had broken and become excess weight that I had unnecessarily lifted and hurt myself and surroundings with, were discarded. They were broken, unusable things that just took up space.
Our hearts are very similar; they are often full of things we don’t need any longer. Broken pieces of life often clutter the spaces of our hearts that should be filled with God-things that are eternal and don’t break with time and use. When we allow our hearts to get cluttered with brokenness, we will likely end up hurt and bruised as many of us are today.
Acts 42:3 NKJ “A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench…”
I have read about recent trends of de-cluttering. There are people who are “expert” at de-cluttering. I think I could be one of those experts (see my recent blog where I describe another tendency I have when I deep clean) as decluttering and organizing make me feel accomplished. My family has to watch out for me when these moods of mine for rearranging and decluttering hit.
Jamie, I am sure, would like for me to tell the story of when we were first married when I had a mood to clean and shift things in the house and I threw away (accidentally of course) our new credit cards. He was the hero that day and went dumpster diving and found the aforementioned cards. I could add more detail here but I digress and will wait for the perfect opportunity to arise so I can color in the details of that story.
God is much more mindful than I am when He works with us as a Master decluttering professional. Those things we hold onto in the hidden recesses of our hearts that broke us only work against, not for, us. When we gather the courage to open the trunk of our hearts and pour out the contents, if we allow Him, God will help us discard what is hurting us.
Last week, I had to move another trunk. This time, the trunk wasn’t a mass-produced conveyor belt item. It was a wooden trunk my husband bought for me in Malawi some years ago. He got it for me because I had to give up a similar trunk in another previous move. I was eager to see the trunk when it arrived at my house this last week. Inside, I had packed some fragile family Christmas ornaments including a small hand-carved nativity set from Malawi. While the monetary value of the trunk and its contents wasn’t much, it was (and is) special. I’ve learned to “live lean” in the almost 37 years we’ve been moving around Africa and can do without many creature comforts, but there are a few special things. I am very grateful that God made a way to get those items to us.
Together with the trunk, we shipped a wooden rocking chair that has moved around the world with me. I had it made when our daughter was born in 1990. It’s simple and beautiful but I wondered if it could withstand another flight in the cargo hold of an airplane. I’ve found no matter how many “fragile” signs you put on a box, no one pays attention. This is where my mad packing skills come into play. I think that if a Ph.D. was offered in packing, I would have earned it years ago.
The trunk and rocking chair arrived with some other boxes the other day. My first concern as
the truck was pulling into the driveway was the rocking chair. The box was oddly shaped and easy to spot among the mass of other boxes surrounding it. My heart beat a bit faster, I remembered it being delivered to our house in Zaire just in time for me to rock our newborn to sleep. I didn’t have the money then to add cushions to its wooden frame, so I just cushioned it with extra pillows. That chair has rocked many hours for many nights, it holds deep meaning to me.
I breathed deeply with relief when the box holding the chair was opened and all appeared to
be well. All the original screws were there and it was put back together in minutes, I’ve been rocking in that chair all week long since it arrived!
We then found the cardboard-wrapped trunk and gently removed its covering. I quickly took notice of a large crack on one of the corners, it likely was dropped at some point during the trip. It is cracked and a bit fragile, but it now sits in our little living room. Before moving it to its spot, I knew I had to empty it first. The added weight of the items in the box could have caused it to break further when moving it. Emptying it will also make it easier to repair (when we finally find someone).
When life drops us and cracks or bruises or breaks us, we have to be careful not to allow the contents of our hearts to remain broken and create clutter inside us. Fixing the brokenness begins with emptying ourselves of the broken pieces of ourselves so the Repairman has ease of movement. He may have to use a clamp, some glue, and even pressure, to repair the damage. But when the process is done, we will be ready to carry precious items to those waiting to receive them.
2 Corinthians 4:6-8 NKJ “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair…”
Maybe if I don’t make it in missions, I can get a job with a moving company. I have lots of experience.