Packing What’s Important

I hate packing. But I love travel. So, I pack.

I’ve long been of the opinion that the way people pack for vacations tells you a lot about the person. The old relationship wisdom says to go on vacation with someone to truly get to know them. And while I think that’s true, you can learn even more by observing how they prepare for that trip.

Exhibit A, my friend

Her method for packing is to wait until the last minute, which of course varies depending on the person, but in her case, it is literally the last minute. A couple hours before the airplane begins taxiing down the runway, she opens her suitcase and dumps the contents of her dresser drawers directly into the luggage. Packing done.

Exhibit B, Me

I make a list. Or several lists. And I begin weeks before the trip, sometimes months, gathering the appropriate gear, making shopping trips to get the items needed, write more lists, and generally dedicate a lot of thought to it. And I always pack WAAAAAAAAAAY too much. The day the airlines began charging for checked luggage was a dark day for me. I can’t fathom fitting my gear into a carry-on, even for an overnight trip.

Exhibit C, my college buddy

He joined me, Dan, and 30 or so other students on a semester long trip around Europe and Israel. I packed the largest suitcase possible. He fit everything into a small carry-on bag, and most of it was packed with books. And he saw just as much as I did and probably had a heck of a lot more fun.

You can imagine how both friends challenge me. I love them, despite their different packing styles, but I also shudder when I consider letting them pack for me.

Now that we have Lizzy, the packing went to a whole new level. All the baby gear far outweighs anything Dan and I pack. And the lists. My goodness, the lists.

Last week, we went on a mini-getaway to the University District of Seattle while Dan attended a conference. I had the cushion of knowing I could drive back home if I forgot something important. Plus, I had two cars to pack, instead of one. But I was still stressed out about the packing (and I barely fit everything into both cars. Sad, but true).

The night before, we prayed that I wouldn’t stress out as much about the packing (this is a recurring issue). That we wouldn’t forget anything important. And God answered our prayer. Not like I wanted, though.

Boy did I forget stuff. I thought my last vacation had a colossal mistake, since I forgot to pack underwear. But this time, the quantity of things I forgot was quite embarrassing, especially considering the amount of lists I made.

And I was tempted, hours after arriving, to drive back home to pick up the stuff I forgot. But I didn’t. And I’m glad I didn’t.

Because I had everything I needed. God didn’t let me forget anything “important” (be careful what you pray for, and choose your terms precisely).

I forgot Lizzy’s placemat, something I rarely leave home without since it lets her eat at a table with us and allows me to scrape the food into a pocket instead of littering the floor with all her leftovers. Instead, I worked on teaching Lizzy to eat off a plate without throwing it and all the food across the room. We had some trying meals, but she’s gotten the hang of it, so much that by the end of the trip, we could trust her to eat off a breakable plate, in a restaurant with white linen table cloths! We were so proud of her.

I also forgot Lizzy’s baby spoons. So now, she’s eating off our spoons quite well, as long as we heap the food on the end of the spoon.

And I forgot my laptop stand. I get carpal tunnel pains when I write without my laptop at an angle, so I have this little collapsible stand for on the road. But I saw a student propping up her computer with its cover and realized that I was an idiot and could use just about anything to keep my computer at an angle.

As I write these examples, I realize how petty I was in worrying about them. It seems silly, now.

But I feel God’s grace, as he’s teaching me, in small ways, how little I “need.” But also, how much he gives me what I truly need. In the end, my lists won’t cover my needs…he will.

I won’t be giving up on my packing lists. If anything, I’m planning a more detailed system for the next trip.

But the anxiety level is going down because I realize that the lilies of the field don’t pack suitcases, but they look great each day with one outfit, without a truckload of beauty products, and none of the baby lily gear.

And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:28-34)

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The sad thing about baby packing, you have to pack as much for ONE night as you do for ONE week, just a few more diapers and clothes. The years I traveled with kids, I kept my packing lists on the computer. When the kids were old enough to pack themselves, they would print out a list, head to their room, then bring it to me for inspection.

    I LOVED your attitude of learning how to live without. Being able to “cope” with the kids will give you more stamina to keep traveling and enjoying life.

    AL: I’m very much looking forward to the day when I can “send Lizzy packing” with her own list.

  2. I always love how God uses imperfect vessels (like me) to teach others how to handle the stresses of daily lives. Thanks for your humility in sharing this with us.

    AL: We jars of clay need to stick together.

  3. Oh boy did thus bring back memories of missionary friends who had come back to America for the birth of their first child. The age six week old baby and parents were boarding the air craft for the return flight to So. America when Mom asked Dad for the diaper bag.
    Dad had forgot to grab it for the trip.

    Amazingly, they managed somehow to fly back to their mission field sans bag and diapers and amazingly without murder or divorce.

    Still not sure what was the greater miracle…

    The baby is now 33 years old and none the worse for that packing mishap.

    AL: Thanks for sharing the story! I think I need to write another packing list with “Lizzy and Dan” as the only items. It might make me feel better about getting everything else in.”


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