I guess you could say I have become a pro at "backpacking". No, I do not mean "backpacking" as in traveling throughout Europe. I mean, backpacking as in this whole summer I seemed to have never stayed in one place for longer than a week at a time. It's made for a lot of quick lessons that I'll pull out my backpack any time I travel.
This lesson is to travel light. There's no quirky story to go a long with this lesson but there are quite a few reasons and reminders as to why I shouldn't over pack...
5 Reasons for not overpacking:
1. You'll get back problems if you don't travel light. Your body wasn't meant to carry another body around at all times. So don't pack a duffle bag that weighs more than a human -- otherwise you'll be rubbing your neck and shoulder out for a week.
2. You will look like a tourist. Maybe that's what you want. But if you're trying to get somewhere in a timely manner, its best to blend in and walk with the crowd moving in one direction. A big bag doesn't allow you to do that very efficiently without being that tourist hitting everyone a long the way.
3. You will get places faster. Believe me, this one is true. Let's begin with the time saved from not packing so much -- you can spend more time with people before you leave. Now let's talk about the time you save from trying to fit through doors because your bag is so awkwardly overlarge. Lastly lets talk about the time saved from taking escalators and/or elevators because your bag is too heavy to run up stairs with. Not only are you wasting time but you're wasting precious physical activity -- Hello obese epidemic in America!
4. You will do the world a favor. And by "world" I mean the countless people you run into on public transportation. If you're that one person with the big bag, you become that one person that is taking an old ladies seat. And why? Because the bag is too big to put in your lap. So you take the old ladie's seat. The business man has to get up to let her sit down. He gets grumpy and doesn't care to let people pass him. Then everyone gets backed up. And they're all staring at you. Because of your big bag. Don't be that person.
5. You never know what's going to change. With carrying too much stuff, you cannot as quickly go if a plan changes or give of yourself if someone calls. If I was too worried about getting my stuff put together or weighed down by my belongings, I wouldn't have been able to meet with a friend in need. I wouldn't have made it to spend extra time with my grandparents when my great-grandfather passed. There wouldn't be room in my car to give a friend a lift to work so she didn't have to walk in the rain. This past summer I've learned that packing light doesn't only have to do with my belongings, but has a lot more to do with a willingness to pack less of myself so that I can go where God calls. My home is in heaven and the treasures are being stored up there. The less things I pack around as I roam this earth, by God's grace alone, the more treasures may be stored for eternity's sake.
In a world so obsessed with stuff that defines an identity of a person, my prayer is that I may hold virtues that affect eternity more closely than I hold my possessions. My prayer is that I may trust in Him for daily guidance, clothing, and food instead of depending on my own strength. And the greatest thing of all? I am only beginning to understand how to pack light.
The Bible will always say it better...
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 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."
Due to all the life changes going on, I have found the little things to teach me significant truths. This post is the first of many lessons I've learned while being engaged, attending college, and splitting my life in the city and the suburbs. Some of these lessons may seem pretty musing, but I'm sure most of them will have some significant point. So, may be we begin. Lesson number one: Don't forget about your random college animals.
1. Feed your fish
While nannying this past Spring I decided to buy a fish for a few reasons: the beta was purple, the kids thought it was the coolest fish ever, I couldn’t have a kitty, and I wanted to name something "Princess Anna" due to Frozen fever. AKA, a list of unnecessary excuses to want a live thing in a dorm room.
Any way, a few months went by and every time I went into the grocery store, I mean every grocery store, I found that Chicago only seems to supply cat and dog food. Well, I guess cats are the most important animals after all, ignore the dog part. Due to the importance of cats, feeding my fish got put on the back side.
That poor fishy, poor princess Anna. The water level dropped, the tank got dirty, yet princess Anna lived on. I would walk in to my apartment after being gone for four days and cringe as I walked up to the fish tank and tap hoping to see signs of life. Then all of a sudden, there she was. Slightly hard to see through the murky water but she wasn’t floating. That fishy toughed it out every time.
Side note: Now don't think I'm an animal killer. In fact, I love animals very much. And my lack of feeding my fish really isn't the point of the story, so don't get horrified by the fish part and keep reading in order to get the point.
Thanks to an intelligent mother who told me to go to Target, (oh yeah! duuuhh), I was able to find some nourishment for Princess Anna. I was so anxious to feed my fishy that instead of what I thought was tapping on the can of food dumped in a pile of red-produced-nourishment-leafy-stuff that cover the whole top of the tank. My mom warned me that the fish would probably kill itself by over eating because it was starved. Heading her warning, I knew I had to get the Princess Anna out of there before she ate herself to obesity which would lead to death. I quickly went to the bathroom for a much over-do water change and life saving procedure.
Thus unfolded a catastrophic life event for Anna: getting her out of the tank. Honestly, I'm surprised that Princess Anna didn't die from simply the excitement of the water change because she's been sitting there so lifeless for so long. She had probably gotten very used to her circumstances and forgot what life was like, you know, a normal happy life of normal water and regular feeding. The fish was determined to stay in the nastry tank but I forced her into the white cup because I was only doing what was best. I'm pretty sure she thought her life was over after sitting in the white disposable cup for so long while I scrubbed the tank. But I was only doing what was needed to be done.
After the tank was entirely clean and her buddy Squirt-the-Statue was put back in place, Anna was able to leave the white surroundings and enter into what seemed like a whole new tank. The fishy that I thought may be dying from lack of food, poor water, and excitement of events all of a sudden began to dance around in clean water, and I imagine, singing beautiful songs. Even more, soon after she was transported to her spot in the living room she was given food. The right amount of food this time. Her dancing stopped and she slowly swam to the top of the tank, starring. In my mind Anna's reaction was a mini replication of the moment the Israelites received manna -- such bewilderment. She inched closer and closer to the food then mustered up the courage to take the smallest bite, then another, then the dancing began once again coupled by taking dives from the bottom of the tank to the top for another bite of heavenly food. Princess Anna had entered paradise.
What's the point of all of this mumble jumble, insignificant life of a fish that I endearingly call Princess Anna? You see, it's the small things that God uses to make Biblical truth's and theology come to life.
In the middle of a chaotic life, I have often felt I was sitting in a tank that was engulfed by dirty water just trying to find air. I have felt like I am swimming in the messiness of what I started but may never be able to finish, or at least not finish well. I feel as though wedding planning may never end. That maybe relationships will always be murky and that there is nothing I can do about it. Possibly there is no point to what I am studying at school and God can't really use it to bring him glory - what am I wasting my time for?!
However the Lord showed me something through this insignificant moment in the life of a fish. As a human trapped in the tank of life I need to react as if I was a fish trapped in the messiness of my tank, like Princess Anna. Although she wasn't really given a choice, Princess Anna trudged on. As far as I know, there was no complaining. That fish didn't kill itself over anxiety. She didn't bang herself against the tank walls trying to get her owners attention. She simply waited with patience trusting that I was going to take care of her.
The question begs, is that the way I react when I feel as though life is too disorganized and too messy to understand what God is doing? Do I wait patiently in the murk, knowing that he will see me through? You see, Princess Anna waited and was in turn overjoyed when her tank was clean and was given food. She was blessed beyond what I'm sure was her comprehension (I know its just a fish, but go with me here).
And as I washed the insignificant fish's tank and watched her dance, the Lord quietly whispered to my spirit, be patient, my Ashlyn. If I take care of the animals of this earth, how much more do I care for you? Wait on me. Find joy in me. And know that I am right here watching you trying to find life in your murk. Come to me, I will take care of you and your water will be made clean, my son already did that for you on the cross. You are my daughter in this tank of life that I created for you. Trust in me, I will make you full of life with with nourishment each day.
Thank you Lord, for the life of a fish. You have "...used the foolish things to confound the wise..." 1 Corinthians 1:27. If a fish can trust in me, how much more should I trust in you? Also, as you take care of me, I'll take care of Anna. I'll feed my fish, I promise.
Finishing assignments, running from one event to the next, meeting new people virtually everyday while trying to maintain those that truly matter, learning to take care of your mind, body, soul, and spirit...
The list goes on and on. And breathing, yeah, that's important.
Anyways, in between all those things, this morning I had a few moments to just sit and think, wherever my brain took me (now how often does that happen?!). I became increasingly aware of where I had been, where I have come from, where I am now, and trusting where the Lord is taking me. And then it dawned on me, this is life for every college student- you know, the "Um, I am kind of an adult with lots of responsibilities, but am I really trusted with them yet? Yeah...let's just go with it..." This time of life is i-n-s-a-n-e and it's already flashing by with each chaotic day of successes and failures.
But God reminded me something today while sitting in his presence: breath and be. Simple, eh? Breath and be. At first I was like, "Ok, Lord, I think I learned that in my first screeching moment of breath as an infant..." But no, the Lord gave me this overwhelming amount of peace to just relax, reminisce, dream, and love. He reminded me to enjoy these small moments in life. I get so caught up in my to-do list and deadlines that it's easy to forget to be overwhelmingly joyful and grateful for where the Lord has brought me.
So for every other overwhelmed college student that is scraping by your assignments and to-do lists, just a few words from what I am learning: Take time to do what you enjoy today. Go do something crazy and create those memories. Try something new and don't be afraid of failure. Reminisce and be thankful for the joys and pains that brought you to where you are now. And dream, dream big. Do something that will make a difference in other's lives. Go after those hopes for the future and walk down a path that only you could carve out. These moments are precious. Don't let the world steal them away from you, but instead live fully in them and claim them as your own. This life is too short to let the pressures of the world weigh us down. Reclaim the life God gave us and thank Him for it. Don't let this life fly by, but, instead soar in this life that was given to you.
I like to talk.