I feel as if I’ve done a lot of traveling lately. It’s that time of year, right? Summer vacation. We’re gone, we’re here, we’re gone again.

Definitely not complaining. I love to travel. But lately it’s got me thinking about how I pack.

Like most people (everyone?), I’m guessing I have the normal categories: clothes, toiletries, shoes. Standard, right? That’s standard.

But when it comes to packing, what really matters to me is the Carry-On.

You know the Carry-On. That’s the smallish bag you keep with you on the plane, the one you squeeze into the space under the seat in front of you. The one that holds your wallet and your chapstick, maybe your toothbrush (depending), and anything else you’ll be wanting to grab during the flight.

So the Carry-On is vital. But for me, it’s not just for planes (do you do this, too?). It’s for car-travel. And even though we don’t have to wedge it under the seat in front of us, it’s what my daughter and I have come to call it even for travel in the car. We always pack a Carry-On.

In a way, the Carry-On is the Most Important Luggage of my trip. Because while I consider the clothing, shoes, etc. to be necessary, the Carry-On sort of contains (this sounds so ridiculous) all my hopes and dreams.

Okay, granted. That definitely sounds over the top. Bear with me.

The Carry-On represents, firstly, that 1) I’m going to be away from the normal demands of my life for awhile, and 2) I’m going to Sit.

Sitting is not a normal thing for me. Even if I’m writing, I try to spend much of the time on my feet. Sitting isn’t terribly good for you; and also, I manage a household. On any given day, I am up and about Doing Things, and I am doing these things Most of the Time. Most of what I do, on any given day, does not find me doing the sorts of things that one can find in my Carry-On.

As such, my Carry-On usually contains things I Should Get To. Blank paper and envelopes for notes I need to write, a bill I need to take care of. The general flotsam of my desk, culled and reorganized (or not) into a doable, smallish stack suitable for the road.

And it contains the Dailies. My Bible, my journal. Whatever it is I’m reading at the time. My laptop and its power cord. A phone charger. The Things I Need to Do My Job(s). (Writer. Mother. Wife. Person.)

Then finally (here is where the Hopes and Dreams come in), it holds a representation of the Things I Would Like To Do. As in, if I had All the Time in the World. Which one basically does (or can imagine one does, anyway) if one is flying to Shanghai. Or riding as passenger around New York City. Or anywhere at any time ever on I-95 near Washington D.C.

Hopes and Dreams are really hard to get to, but maybe if one simply had Enough Time….

Take the trip I’ve just returned from. We were gone for exactly one week, and my Carry-On for the ride in the car to and in and from New England included the following: my journal, Bible, Psalter, notebook. Issue # 37 of Ruminate magazine and the July-August issue of Smithsonian. My mother’s journal (not my mother’s journal, but the journal I keep and write in about being a mother). My laptop, its charger. A blank thank-you note; a Compassion International letter. A new book of poetry written by Christopher Janke; a creative non-fiction book, Wake, Sleeper, by Bryan Parys. Andy Crouch’s Culture-Making. A copy of my novel (can’t quite say why) and the wonderful sci-fi, literary fiction brilliance that I’ve read once before but am So Glad to have re-read on this trip: P.D. James’ Children of Men.

That’s for one week, Saturday to Saturday.

Listing it out like this (or looking at it in its bulging bag, or swinging it over my shoulder to tote to the car) makes me feel a little bit silly. Do I truly imagine that I’ll get to it all?

And yet. It’s an interesting thing to distill it like this. To pack into a discreet container The Things One Really Loves and Hopes To Do.

This is where the moral goes, right? The application. The metaphorical point to all of this.

Truth be told, I don’t really know what to say. I could ask in a tone tinged by a Capital One advertising campaign: “What’s in your carry-on?” Or I could encourage young mothers who don’t currently have time or room for carry-ons of their own that they might, someday, have carry-ons in their futures.

Or I could comment on the truth: that we got home on Saturday night and most of the laundry was done by Sunday, but I didn’t fully unpack my carry-on until Monday night. Or was it Tuesday? Because, for the most part, I wasn’t using any of it.

In which case the point would be how hard it is, in this life, to make time for what I love. For what we love.

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And that maybe it’s vital to do so.

“Such things, I grant you, have nothing of virtue in them; but there is a sort of innocence and humility and self-forgetfulness about them,” says Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood in C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters. As such, this notorious demon suggests, delights and joys are dangerous because they very well might–horrors!–lead us to God.

I love this very much.

What is it with God and delight? What is it with Him and pleasure? The more I look for Him, the more I see Him appealing to me with precisely this: the things that truly delight me; the things I most desire (Psalm 37:4).

No matter how hard omni-media try portray Him as Kill-Joy; no matter how the Commandments are preached as prescribed misery, I have learned and am learning that the opposite is the case: that the One who declared this world Good is also the author of delight.

That yes, He has rules and laws, but these, too, when followed, are actually meant to be life-giving. To delight us.

That He Himself is actually the greatest delight we can know, and all the other delights of this world–like a cold beer, the soft fuzz of a newborn’s hair, sunlight limning a cloud or the stunning beauties of a well-crafted phrase–are the edges of the beauties of Himself.

Which amazes me.

And also makes me hope (Oh! here’s the point!) that you always pack a Carry-On. That you don’t leave it untouched at the foot of the stairs, but that you dip into it often and are repeatedly delighted. And that you find Him also (somehow) tucked miraculously inside.



One thought on “Carry-On

  1. I’m sorry, I regretfully skimmed this once before. Now, upon reading again– reading intently– I just so love this. Absolutely love it.
    Thank you.


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