For over a year now my life has been in a state of upheaval in one form or another. Exactly a year ago at this time I was planning for what I believed to be a semi-known future. Our dreams were finally being fulfilled. We were looking forward to a 10 day trip to a new country, where we would choose our home. The future looked and felt so bright.
Last August we got rid of eleven years of accumulated stuff. We gave away and sold almost all of our earthly possessions. What didn’t make it into those piles was packed into suitcases. It wasn’t much, but it was enough for a new start with a few pieces of familiarity to surround ourselves with.
A mere six months later I was packing everything I could fit into three suitcases. When I closed the door behind me that day I felt I was walking away from everything I had ever owned. It was an interesting feeling because I was so desperate to get out of there I didn’t care.
A month after arriving back stateside I stood on the porch of my parents house and stared down the eight suitcases full of my stuff that had miraculously made it back to me. I wasn’t sure how to feel about those suitcases. I didn’t know what was in them. I didn’t know if I wanted to know. I was terrified of the pain they might represent to me. They made their way into my parents foyer and eventually found a home in the garage. Every single day I would look at those suitcases. Eventually I began opening them. What I saw before me was a life I couldn’t relate to any more. What I felt was the pain of that dead dream. Ugh! So I walked away from it.
For six weeks those suitcases sat out there in semi-unpacked state. I would pass by them at least once a day. I would think about them. I would wonder what else they contained. When I finally conquered them what struck me was how little actually made it home. What struck me even more than that was how little I cared. My life and the stuff in it has been whittled down and whittled down this year. It’s gone from exploding an apartment out at the seams to fitting neatly into a small corner in the attic.
As I was beginning the process of sorting the mess that was inside those suitcases my sister suggested I go through all my stuff. The stuff that we had packed away and stored, the books, winter clothes we were sure wouldn’t ever be used again, pictures, decorations…
As those items came out to be gone through so did other boxes – boxes I hadn’t seen in years, full of stuff I had completely forgotten about. The leftovers of my life.
First, I cried. I wept over the clothes in the men’s XXL sizes that represented a life I would never have again, the life I had dreamed of, prayed about, cried over. I allowed myself to feel the pain of what letting go of those items represented. He’s gone. His choice was not the best one. The ramifications of his choice will forever be a part of my story, so I cried and grieved. Then, I tossed those leftovers of that life out. It felt good.
Then, I began to open boxes that were full of my life as a child and teenager. I sat down and looked through the folders containing notes, papers, and information on classes I hardly remember. I smiled when I realized I had saved almost every card and note I received from anyone in my short childhood. I read over and savored the words my grandma wrote to me in birthday cards. I remembered her handwriting and her smell when I hugged her. I laughed at the old dance pictures from high school. I cried when I came across a picture of my dear friend who lives in Germany, who I only had in my life for a short time. I read over all the notes written in my jr. high yearbook. I came across letters written to me from a boy I liked one summer. Letters I never remembered receiving. I laughed as I read a college letter from my sister about her college crush (he became my brother, her husband). I smiled as I looked at the folders covered in endless doodles. I remembered a man who died last year. A funny man, a good man, one who fought in WWII and somehow wound up here, in my random small town and small life. I wondered where so many of these people wound up. I remembered to be grateful for the life and experiences I had.
As I began to sort through those pieces of my life I was kind of amazed at all the stuff I forgot about. They were like the leftovers of a life I once had and a person I once was. They were good leftovers. It was a good reminder to hang on to and remember the goodness, all the simple and amazing goodness in my life.
Life is really hard right now. There is no other way to say it, but it is also so good. In the midst of pain and sorrow it was so good to be reminded of the life I have been given, the people God has placed in my life, and the hope I have for the future, all because I was handed a box of my random leftovers to go through.