Gardens and Suitcases

Ah, the blessings of an other-paced life.  I loved getting to see another new city last week as part of my “Tag Along with James on Business Trips Tour 2016.”  Oklahoma City was beautiful, lots to see and do, and the people were warm and friendly. One of the things I enjoy about these trips is being able to set my own (chronic fatigue syndrome-friendly) pace and organize my docket of activities during the day as my wonderful husband works hard.
Taking advantage of just such an opportunity on a warm and somewhat humid late spring morning, I strolled in (and sat in) the beautiful Myriad Botanical Gardens where I saw a most curious person.  A woman, probably slightly younger than I, was pulling 4 roller suitcases of varying sizes through the garden which occupies an entire city block downtown.  This  struck me as, well, unusual.
Most other people visiting the gardens that day (myself included) had a backpack at most, a handbag perhaps, not a full compliment of airport-worthy luggage.  But upon closer examination from my covert bench-in-the-shade vantage point I could see clearly that she was not a tourist, not a visitor admiring the amazing plantings and landscaping, but was in fact one encumbered by all her worldly possessions on this very warm June day, pulling them with her with great effort under the sunny sky.
We were both surrounded by this incredible beauty, yet she hardly seemed to notice it, so focused she was on the weight she carried, on making sure no one touched her things, on not letting go of a single item.  It was crucial to her, this baggage of hers, because it was hers.  It gave her security, knowing she had her stuff.  It was, I imagine, familiar and comforting to have all of these things, just in case. She would sometimes set one of the larger bags aside, seemingly weary of dragging it along, but would be back to retrieve it within minutes, having never let it out of her sight.
In so many ways I recognized myself in that woman, my own soul hauling behind me everywhere I go roller bags filled with not only my “stuff,” the material things I find to be so very important, but also the heart-burdens I bear, the things I JUST won’t let go of, the grudges or sadness or sickness, the things I allow to climb aboard for the ride that were never mine to pick up in the first place.
I’ve grown used to them.  They’re familiar, and oddly, comforting.  I don’t want anyone touching with them or interfering.  Because they’re mine.  But they weigh me down and make my trek through life so much harder and more laborious than it needs to be.  So much.
They keep me focused on maintaining my “stuff” rather than seeing all the good and beauty around me, nursing the familiar instead of taking awe in the spectacular.
“When we’re familiar with lugging our life around – a la living as a Soul Sherpa- it’s hard to trust in a lighter way.  It’s hard to trust God’s promises to us that might be able to change us if we do the disciplines of listening and letting go.”  Apt words from Leeana Tankersley in her latest book, Brazen.  You should order it now.  It’s great.  I’ll wait…
Glad you’re back.  I love the image of a Soul Sherpa; I read this passage from Brazen just hours after seeing the woman with her suitcases and it fell heavy on my mind and heart.  I needed this message, this image in many ways.  Jesus wants us to live in a lighter way, not weighed down with our past, our pain, all the thing we choose to carry because they’re ours, because they’re familiar, because we don’t realize we have a choice.  But, as Leeana writes, takes the discipline of listening and letting go. Which reminded me of a verse written thousands of years ago:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw of everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles us.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”   -Hebrews 12:1-2a
Let that roll through your mind again.
Throw off everything that hinders.  I have to ask myself: What am I carrying that is holding me back?  What weight could I just drop that would make going forward better? Easier?  Lighter?  That’s where the discipline of listening and letting go and start to take hold.  If you’re not honest with yourself, if you don’t really seek God about what needs to leave your suitcase, you will keep on carrying it.  And it will weigh you down, making you sweaty and tired without even breaking into a run. Throwing off what hinders is decisive.  It is an action.  A choice.
Sin that so easily entangles us.  Oh my.  It is too easy for me to get caught in the loop of past habits and past things (or for that matter new things) that pull me in a direction that is not God’s best.  Can I get an amen?  That keeps us from going forward. I picture these things wrapping themselves around my legs and tripping me up.  It takes time and, again, decisive action to unwrap these things so I can again set off on my forward track.
Run with perseverance.  Could I have run a race pulling 4 suitcases through the park?  No.  For many reasons.  Chief among them (even before joining the ranks of the chronically ill): I don’t run.  Not even in case of a zombie apocalypse.  But that’s another story.  The point is we keep going forward.  You don’t give up, you move on with determination.  You show up.  You give it your best.  And this is markedly easier when we lay down the burden we are carrying.  Again, decisive action.  You’re choosing to run.  Then to run some more.
The race marked out for us.  Ah.  I will not be running the same race as you.  And yours will not look like mine.  We are different, we are individual, we have different assignments, different gifts, and different challenges from God.  Just as I don’t need to be picking up and carrying roller bag suitcases that aren’t mine or soul burdens that don’t belong to me, I shouldn’t be swerving into your lane of the racetrack and trying to run your race.  It will cause nothing but trouble for us both.
Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  I. LOVE. THIS. VERSE. One of my favorites over the past few years when I’ve walked (not run) through some really hard things.  Like the woman with her suitcases, I tend to keep my eyes focused on what I think I can control.  My baggage.  When that’s all I look at I miss what’s beautiful around me.  And I can miss the help that’s only a breath away.  But if my eyes are fixed on Jesus, the pioneer (who goes before me, blazing a trail) and perfecter (who fixes it when I blow it yet again) of faith, I don’t have to be so attached to my Soul Sherpa roller bags and I can indeed learn to live (and complete my race) lighter.
I wonder if the woman in the garden would just take a moment to take her eyes off the things she is determined to preserve, lay down that burden she is carrying, if she would be able to catch a glimpse of the gorgeous she’s meant to see.  I wonder if I would.
Kathleen Tysinger
I’m a Christian girl on the journey through an adventure-filled life, a blogger, writer, speaker, and mom to two college students. I am blessed to be married to my high school sweetheart and we make our home near Sacramento, California. While I spent years as an English teacher and in the business world, I was given the gift of a “different-paced” life through the onset of a chronic illness in 2015, and my adventure continues…

5 Comments

  1. Hi Kathleen, Dawn send me a wonderful chapter from your book. God has a way of making us all listen. With you, it was a physical illness, for me it was loosing a million dollars of net worth. All this to say, “How’ or “What” he uses for us to pay attention is different for everyone. But in the end, slowing down TOO LISTEN is important. I just read a quote that is simple and to the point. “You will count the days, when the days count!” We all feel somewhat assured that we will wake up tomorrow morning, but when I look for my contract, or ask to someone if they have read there contract from GOD we all agree, we can find it.
    So count today as a good day, for tomorrow cannot yet be counted!

    1. Thanks, Lino! I’m amazed at how God works in each of us individually to get our attention. Love your insight. It’s good to be conscious, as you are, of the blessing that can be found in every single day. Have a great week, my friend!

  2. Wow Kathleen! I truly loved this post in so many ways! First I relate because I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for several years. I could not walk across a room without sitting down to catch my breath. I am cured of that illness now, but I have Graves now (hyper-thyroid).
    I also am a 3-time cancer survivor. So I do relate to the chronic illness stuff. Also, I LOVE visiting gardens! My absolute favorite is Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis! Anyone who enjoys gardens should make this a full-day stop.
    I also, relate to your description of the Hebrews 12 Scripture. My One Word for this year is “forward”, which you use several times. I am keeping a copy of this post to re-read and further encourage me.
    Then finally I can’t help thinking that I wish I could give this woman a huge suitcase that sits in my closet. It was part of a set, and all of her suitcases would likely fit inside it. Then she could wheel the one suitcase instead of trying to wrangle 4 of them! HaHa! But of course it would be better if she could let go of them, but if they are truly all she has, then my big suitcase would come in very handy. Thank you for sharing this post in #FearFightingBook launch team.

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