On the 2nd of July, 2002, I heaved my burgundy Jansport backpack over my shoulders, hugged my family goodbye, and boarded a plane en route to Cape Town, South Africa.
My plan was to stay for six months.
But you know what Proverbs 16:9 says – “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”
As it turned out, the steps determined for me in South Africa did not fit concisely into the second half of the calendar.
Ten and a half years later, on a January afternoon in the Cape Town airport, I heaved that same burgundy Jansport backpack over my eldest son’s shoulders. Then I slipped a pink princess backpack onto my daughter’s back before securing my youngest son’s bag squarely onto his six-year-old shoulders. Two more laptop backpacks for my husband and I to account for, plus twelve stuffed-to-the-brim suitcases, and we were a sight to be seen.
We were making the great trek across the Atlantic, and we were that family that everybody else prayed they wouldn’t get behind in the queue.
That day, our lives were packed into seventeen snugly zipped bags. We were used to it. Backpacks, boxes, black bags … we were experienced veterans in the packing war.
This airport scene? It wasn’t the first time we’d moved. Not even the second or the third, in fact. No, the day we zipped those bags marked my tenth move in ten years.
Granted, a handful of those include my bachelorette days and the early months of our marriage before the kids started crawling out of the woodwork.
Many of you can relate. You know exactly what that feels like.
And to be honest, it can be more than just physically draining, can’t it?
At first, all I wanted was to hang pictures on the walls without fear of our landlord inspecting the drywall at the end of our lease. To pound a nail into fresh paint and transform a bland house into my signature flavor.
But after bouncing from lily pad to lily pad of rented apartments and long-term house-sitting stints, I soon lost interest in making any effort. Eventually, just knowing that we would soon be uprooted again stifled my desire to till the soil or plant the seeds.
Sometimes I didn’t even bother to unwrap the scented candles from their swaths of monochromatic newspaper. In the last few rentals, I even left the framed family photos tucked away in their bubble wrapped boxes, knowing that I would just have to re-wrap them soon again anyway.
We’ve been in our current abode for eight months now, and after a full decade of seemingly continuous moves, I finally feel like my hesitant and lax attitude toward ‘settling’ is gradually improving.
Regardless of how long or short our stay might be, this place is one of the steps that the Lord has determined for us. Even if there may be several pit stops and a vast array of camping sites while we remain in our earthly tents, where we ‘camp’ now is one more step determined for us in the steady walk towards home.
May He teach us to number our days aright, to make the most of every opportunity, and — whether we’re packing or unpacking — to acknowledge that “this is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).
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