So, we’re digging out and through our mile-high and -wide stack of moving boxes. Every other minute I’ve asked myself, “Why did we bring this? Why did we keep that?” Newly motivated (i.e. overwhelmed) by this sea of cardboard, I’ve re-homed or chucked things I originally thought I couldn’t live without, such as:
- Old paper bags I saved to make puppets we never designed because I don’t like crafts
- The plastic cord that connects a telephone I no longer have, to an obsolete telephone jack we left behind
- A size-six lime green pantsuit I wore to Crusader’s first birthday party
- Clocks that have needed new batteries for ten years
All manner of ridiculousness.
Some trash looks awfully like treasure to me—Moleskine journals, outdated Franklin Planners, and ancient address books. I’ve also held onto a floppy disk and several printouts of the original version of my first book and fourteen-year-old sandals I bought on a family trip to Paris. What can I say? The shoes remind me of a pair Mama used to wear, and they’re still in good shape—unlike Maven’s hot pink cast cut from her four-year-old arm I can’t bear to part with, and the wrinkled My First Potty book Songbird tossed into the bathtub when she was eighteen months old.
Outwardly, we are as well-worn as Songbird’s much-abused board book, but our inward man clings to our daily fresh supply of joy, an ever-present, plucky hope that refuses to roll over and play dead. Despite real estate deals that have fallen through, going and coming, we’ve relocated nine folks and a dog more than five hundred miles from a three-story house to a four-bedroom apartment to a two-bedroom hotel suite to a property we now share with a family of deer, squirrels, an army of ants, and a spider or two. I’ve nursed fevers, wiped noses, worried over concussions, treated bug bites, comforted homesickness, and soothed ill tempers; every doctor in a ten-mile radius knows our name. We’ve soaked up flood water, collected tree branches, withstood tropical storm winds, and rescued a misplaced frog and a waterlogged turtle. Our financial resources have receded and bills have ballooned, yet our spirit man leans on Habakkuk 3:17-18:
“Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.”
And what of my precious flock and my fruit? Hubby is cute unpacking boxes and killing creepy crawlies. The many hands of my little people make light—if not messy—work. I have a whole stack of Bibles to turn to, and extended family and friends ready to pitch in at our faintest cry. Yet these alone have failed to get me through this move that just won’t quit because I’m too distracted fussing, unpacking, crying, and checking math homework. Only God can “fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)
All joy and peace…not the temporary satisfaction gained from emptying boxes and arranging (and rearranging) furniture, smelling fresh paint, listening to pencils scrape against paper, helping TD recognize “t-h-e,” and swaying to praise and worship songs. Little people break stuff. Spiders materialize out of nowhere. The washing machine leaks. Hubby goes rogue at the grocery store. Colleges charge tuition. Friends develop cancer. Parents fall ill. My fears awake as darkness falls. And it’s at these very moments that the psalmist’s words call out to me:
“Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You hold me by my right hand.
You will guide me with Your counsel,
And afterward receive me to glory.”
Knowing that I am continually with God—that He is continually with me—is the source of this inexplicable, nevertheless kind of joy that sheds light on a move shrouded in darkness and doubt. Though I’m pressed by our quest for stability in these ever-changing surroundings, I am not crushed. Daily, I’m hit with perplexing situations like ratio word problems, real estate laws, and the location of our winter clothes. Yet I don’t despair. I’ve felt misunderstood, forgotten, and abandoned by loved ones we left behind, but I’m not forsaken. Anxiety over our decision to relocate frequently assails me; however, it doesn’t destroy my faith in the God of our future heavenly home. My life of late feels like our backyard: hard-packed, resistant to growth, fenced in. But my joy is like the sunlight that breaks through the canopy and strikes the ground. It brings life where there was only frustration, heartache, worry…death. (2 Corinthians 4:7-12)
Our move has taught me that depending on my family, circumstances, or my neighborhood sends me looking for joy in all the wrong places. Yet the roots of true joy run deep as a vein of precious, unmined gold because the Holy Spirit planted this fruit in my soul. (Galatians 5:22-23) His joy fits better than my fourteen-year-old sandals because it grows with me. I don’t have to search for it like that missing circular saw because God is always with me, no matter how much I rant and rave, worry and wonder at His plan, question my own decisions, and stay up too late catching up on “This Is Us.”
Well, this is me—a poor planner who brought bins marked “Emotional Baggage” and necessities like paper clips and dusty artificial plants. Yet God! Packing smart is beyond me, but it’s not beyond Him. He provided all the joy I need in my faintly beating heart-shaped box.
Robin W. Pearson’s career started 20+ years ago with Houghton Mifflin Company. Today, she writes for her site, RobinWPearson.com, while working on her fiction and homeschooling. Her husband, their seven little people, and their dog, Oscar, provide Robin lots of writing material, prayer requests, heart palpitations, and laugh lines.