Monday, April 4, 2011

The Incredible Journey (and the luggage required)

Preparing a family for an overseas move is pivotal, emotional and in many ways, life changing. Five and a half years ago, our then "little" family consisting of only 3 young children made the move to live in Asia for a school year.

First we had to deal with the issue of storage - what to keep and what to sell, give away or throw away. We would only have a small amount of storage while we were away, and to be honest, we had no clue if or when we would return to Canada. I learned a lot about myself as I pared down our belongings to just a few dozen boxes, many consisting of kitchen paraphernalia and photo albums. It opened my eyes to what really matters in life - and that so much of what we hold onto and try to acquire is just "stuff".

Then, as our travel date drew closer, I was trapped in a paranoid frenzy of activity; feeling completely ill-equipped with the ability to pack all the necessary items for our family's journey (and did I mention that I was now 4 months pregnant?).

When our journey of epic proportions at long last arrived, we were outnumbered by suitcases and backpacks. We made the most of the lax (compared to today's stringent standards) rules of how much baggage each paying passenger could bring on the trans-Pacific flight. Somehow, when our 6am check-in time began in Calgary where we departed, we managed to maneuver our 3 small children, 8 suitcases and 4 carry-on bags through the lines and past security. We were on our way!

There was a sigh of relief when we completed the first leg of our trip and arrived at LAX. The airport was teeming with a colorful kaleidoscope of people, speaking languages from all over the globe. We grabbed a quick bite to eat - neither breakfast nor lunch, for we were already jet-lagged and disoriented from our 4am rising and precious little sleep the night before from the sense of anticipation and panic over the idea of missing our flight.

Soon enough, it was time to line up for the international security check before boarding our flight to Asia. Something was wrong though. The doors leading through to security were blocked off, and a speedily growing chain of travelers was snaking through the cavernous room full of airline ticket booths and small shopping nooks. We knew we had to get through the customs and security doors in order to check-in for our flight, so we begrudgingly lined up behind a hundred or more other passengers. Whispers of a security threat soon made their way back to us, and we began to fret, wondering if we would indeed make this momentous flight!

At long last, the line began to move - with a speed that challenged our laden down family that now consisted of tiring, grumpy little children! We had a couple trolleys loaded with our luggage, but as soon as we arrived at the security doors, we were condescendingly informed that we must leave the trolleys behind, and physically transport our suitcases, carry-on and children through the switchback line-up to security without any further mechanical assistance! My husband, ever the dependable, determined and assertive type, creatively managed to load himself up like a pack-mule with 2 suitcases on his back while pulling 3 of the other suitcases. We put backpacks on our oldest kids (who were 3 and 5, respectively) and also instructed them to pull their little suitcases (the mini-sized ones that they make for kids with cartoon characters on them). I was loaded with our toddler in a backpack on my back, and several suitcases being pulled with both hands, along with another carry-on back-pack hanging in the crook of my elbow (and, of course the balancing effect of my 4 1/2 month pregnant belly in the front!) Really, as I look back to that day and try to procure the memory of that specific event, I'm not exactly sure how we managed to transport so many items through that 200 meter stretch!

At one point, the line ahead of us had broken far ahead of us, and there was now a large gap between us and the other passengers going through security. It seemed like a daunting task, just to reach the security personnel, and now we were holding up other travellers as we hobbled along, trying in vain to verbally quicken our children with their own heavy loads while we were loaded down nearly beyond our capabilities. I remember catching the wheel of a suitcase as I made a hairpin turn in the switchback, and it made the suitcase wobble off balance so it was twisted backwards. I was exasperated and sweaty, and nearly in tears and my husband was now quite a distance ahead of me! Our daughter was quickly catching up to her daddy, and I managed to right the suitcase and get back on track amid the huffs and grumbling of disgruntled passengers behind me. I took off at breakneck speed (or at least at a tortoises' pace) and tried to catch up. Suddenly I realized I had a little son behind me, and I saw my poor little guy struggling with his bags. "Let's go, Ethan!!!" I exclaimed in frustration.

He was doing his best, but at that moment, one of the nicest security guards I have ever seen in this lifetime let out an encouraging cheer to my wee almost-four-year-old. "Come on, Ethan! You can do it!" he belted out with a big smile. Ethan moved his little legs as quickly as he could and caught up to the rest of the family.

Well, we made it through security, and proceeded to our 14 hour flight across the ocean on a trip of a lifetime. I look back at that scurrying and panic with a smile because of one man's kind encouragement that quickened the steps of my child and brightened my day.

When I started thinking about this post, my thoughts were focused on the idea of baggage and the stuff we carry around in life. The way my family travelled to Thailand a few years ago was not the ideal travelling situation, although we made it work. Nowadays, with the stringent flight restrictions, if you can travel with just a carry-on bag, most people will do so to avoid hassle and extra costs. Obviously, the incredible amount of endurance and ingenuity that it took for us to transport our family is not easy or without challenges!

As we travel through our lives, we all carry a certain amount of baggage. Sometimes memories afford us a sense of comfort and satisfaction, and give us meaning as we embark on life's journey. Other times, the excess baggage holds us back, weighs us down and threatens our ability to meet life's challenges and see the amazing destinations we would like to reach.

I wanted to introduce the image of baggage in life as I begin this next series of blogs. I feel like God has been speaking to me about letting go of some things in my life, so I can better reach for the future.

Philippians 3:13 talks about "forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead." As we walk through life, we collect many ideas, mindsets and memories which affect the way we think, feel and interact with others. I feel like I am coming into a season of letting go, and I am prayerfully considering how to let go of the baggage that weighs me down.

One last thought, and a preview of what I will be sharing on a little more in the next couple of blogs - Isaiah 43:18, 19 gives us these instructions:

"Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert.

Welcome to my journey... I hope you'll join me in seeking God for something new!

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