One of the most terrifying, yet ultimately funny, things happened as we arrived at the airport early one morning in Louisville, Kentucky, last January—final destination San Juan, Puerto Rico. Jim pulled the suitcases from the trunk of the car and my daughter, Chelsea (who’d driven us to the airport), set my suitcase on the sidewalk outside the curbside check-in. She gave me a funny look and said, “Wow, Mom! You sure are traveling light.”
Those words struck sudden fear in my heart. I eyed the suitcase and quickly unzipped it enough to see that it was empty. Jim had grabbed the wrong suitcase! Thankfully, the Lord has blessed me with a calm head during situations when others might panic. I immediately snapped into emergency response mode. Bless her heart, our dutiful daughter raced home in the pre-dawn hours to fetch the packed suitcase while we went inside and checked in for the flight. Long story short, she made it back to the airport (we live about 20 minutes away) with a narrow window of time to spare. Whew! Crisis averted. The photos shown here are of the beautiful, historic Old Town in San Juan.
By the time you read this, it will be a few days before my husband, Jim, and I head out of town for another cruise (a Valentine’s Cruise!). Now that the kids are older, this will be the third year in a row we’re taking a trip to a tropical destination during the colder winter months. I know one thing we’ll be taking on this upcoming cruise—bug repellent! We’re going into Mexico and Honduras, two countries hard hit with this new virus caused by insect bites. Yikes! I’d appreciate your prayers for safety and good health.
In the grand scheme of life, the empty suitcase wasn’t really a true crisis. I recently began to think about that empty suitcase as a metaphor for my life. When I arrive at my final destination of Heaven and stand before my Heavenly Father at those so-called pearly gates, I want my suitcase to be filled, not empty. In fact, I want it to be brimming—stuffed full to the point where it’s bursting at the seams and spilling out onto those streets paved with gold. Just for fun, mind you, as a hypothetical…what would I want in my suitcase? Let’s examine that idea. Note these are in no particular order and they only touch the surface…
*Personal mementos and photographs. Memories of children, parents, grandchild(ren), and other family members. A favorite photo of our kids in a casual pose that reveals their distinct personalities. A favorite early photo of our first grandbaby, Amelia. The self-portrait my father drew in pencil when he was a young boy that revealed untapped talent. A section of the roof of a long-gone dollhouse my dad and grandmother made for me. The smiley face pendant I wore for a year straight. The piece of a quilt I loved and called “Quiltie Ann” that my grandmother Ella made for me (shown in the photo, below right; well-loved, it has survived for over 50 years!). My Certificate of Baptism. My marriage certificate, our three kids’ birth certificates. The first Bible I ever truly read from cover to cover, given to me by a young, caring man named Jim Durgin (the inspiration behind Seth Barnes giving Caroline Prescott a Bible in Heart’s Design). A copy of Awakening, my debut novel and “book of my heart” since it’s very loosely based on my love story with Jim, the first of what would become my life’s ministry in writing Christian fiction. The letter I just received inviting our son, Matthew (diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome), to join Phi Theta Kappa because of his “outstanding academic achievement.” A photo of my mother and me at a recent book-signing event where she proudly hawked my books to many of her friends. My report card with straight As from my what I call the “best quarter I ever spent in college”—my time spent abroad studying in London followed by a fabulous three-week tour of the European Continent.
*Memories and sweet remembrances of special times and occasions spent with dear friends. The memory of walking forward during an altar call at church camp when I was 13 and asking the Lord to live in my heart and be my personal Savior. Going to the Broadway stage play Private Lives with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor with my mother, my best friend, and her mother. Winning a bowling trophy during an overnight youth group event, the only trophy I ever won (I was a cheerleader but that was the extent of my so-called athletic pursuits). Bible studies with friends when I lived in Dallas, California, Philadelphia, and Boston (one such study was instrumental in bringing Jim and me together in a roundabout way, yet another post for another day). Concerts, the ballet, the orchestra, and other Broadway productions. Walking the streets and touring the beautiful countryside in Switzerland, Germany, and France. Marveling at the Mona Lisa, watching the street artists work along the River Seine and Sacre Coeur, and staring in wonder at the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican in Rome, Italy.
*Music—one of the great loves of my life. Music can make my heart soar, and I’ve spent many hours listening to music of all varieties as I write. As I have grown older, I appreciate classical music, especially sweeping orchestral arrangements. Of course, not much can compare to great hymns of the faith and I have my favorites (that list alone could fill an entire post all on its own). When I write, I love to listen to Michael W. Smith’s instrumental CDs because they have inspired many scenes in my Lewis Legacy Series. Ditto a CD of Steven Curtis Chapman’s greatest hits for the same reason. Here is a random sampling of a few of the songs which always bring a smile to my lips and why:
*“Sail into September” by Earth, Wind & Fire because it was playing in a store in Venice, Italy, during the siesta.
*“Chances Are” by Johnny Mathis because of the many nights I fell asleep listening to his songs the next bedroom over from my single mother.
*“Looks Like We Made It” by Barry Manilow; “Puppy Love” by Donny Osmond; “We’ve Only Just Begun” by The Carpenters; “Celebrate Me Home” and “This Is It” from Kenny Loggins, and pretty much anything by the Bee Gees because those songs and groups represent my youthful optimism.
The best thing about Heaven is that there will be no anger, no sadness, no pain. Life is about making memories while we’re here for this short time on earth, and that includes our regrets, mistakes, and triumphs. The point is to learn and grow from our mistakes so that we eventually come to a greater understanding and appreciation of this great journey the Lord has given to us. What we make of our time here is up to each one of us. We are constantly being refined.
Ultimately, I don’t want my suitcase to be empty with regrets, mistakes, and loneliness. I’m working every day to fill that suitcase with love, laughter, family, and the blessings of working in service for the Lord. Evidence of a life well-lived.
I would encourage you to think about what special gifts you can bring to the King. What about you? Feel free to share what you’d like to put in your suitcase.
Blessings, friends! Until Next Time,