Troubles and Treasures of Travel

I have come to realize that I am a home-body.  Yet, for years my job has required travel.  A number of years ago we (my husband and I) worked with a ministry in our church that served the poor throughout numerous under-developed countries. It is impossible to do this without physically going to these places, seeing the needs and getting to know the people. That required travel.  Now, as part of a different assignment, we work with churches in various places – for strengthening and training purposes.  I am humbled and grateful to be able to serve in this way, and grateful for the experiences and training we have received which enable us to give back in some way.  However, I don’t like to travel.

As I write this I’m still about 4 hours from Boston, just below Iceland.  My computer is sliding all over my lap, as we have hit some turbulence.  Hopefully, writing will distract me more than make me sick.  My palms will sweat…they always do when in turbulence.   I so wish I was one who loves to travel.  Alas, I am not.  There are many trials in travel. Though I always try to be very careful, I’ve managed to get food poisoning in the Philippines, Mexico, India, Romania and most recently on another trip to Eastern Europe.  Those moments were quite simply – horrible. Most times when traveling I can’t sleep at night, and during the day must try to prod my body out of its deep sleep rhythm.  Given our time away is usually fairly short, we meet with people from early morning until late at night. Travel involves more than the actual time away. There is preparation before leaving and catching up when getting home.  While away from my home church family, there are responsibilities that need to be covered.

Then there is the actual transit part of travel – early mornings, traffic, taking off many items of clothing and getting x-rayed, buying a five dollar cup of coffee – and then finding your tiny little seat.  ( I am quite sure that airplane seats are made for people under 5 feet tall who weigh less than 90 pounds.)  Usually your luggage goes with you, but not always.  Once I chuckled when I saw various articles of clothing and toiletries coming across the luggage claim conveyer belt.  I thought about the poor person whose article these were and wondered what happened to their luggage – that is until I started recognizing the articles.  Yes, they were mine.  My suitcase had been run over by the loaders and was utterly destroyed.

The hardest part of travel is being away from family. When my children were still at home many arrangements had to be made for their care and needs. I tried to travel as little as possible during that time period. It was hard to be away from them and all that they were involved with.  Now that our children are grown I thought it would be much easier.  I would only need to arrange care for the dogs.

It is much easier, but it’s still hard to be away. Last fall I cut a trip short when my daughter went into the hospital with early labor, the day after her son was admitted to the hospital for a bad case of croup.  Yesterday, as I was preparing to eat dinner with friends, I got a call informing me that my newest granddaughter had been in an accident and was on her way via ambulance to Children’s Hospital.  Needless to say, I ate no dinner and many prayers were offered on her behalf.  She had a slight brain bleed, which was very scary. (She is doing fine and  home from the hospital. Thank you, God!)  It is so very hard to be away in times like these.  I feel so helpless.  Yet, I am comforted to know that wherever I go I can join hands in prayer with the Christians around me, and at any given time and place access the creator of the universe, who happens to be my Father.  And that’s just what I did.

So, why do I keep doing this travel?  I ask myself this question often and keep coming back with the same answer.

In Luke 12 Jesus tells a poignant parable about seeking God’s kingdom first, instead of going after worldly pursuits.  He tells us to be ready for his return, to care for the poor, to have faith and focus that calls us to act…and to trust that God will provide what we need.  As if I’m not already convicted enough….at  the end of this parable is a most challenging verse – Luke 12:48

    From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

God showers blessings upon us, though sometimes in our pursuit of other things we can miss the blessings.  I think of things I have been given…forgiveness of sins, a clear conscience, direction for how to live life, God’s power living in me, countless promises, and eternal life (to name just a few). I have been given years of training in learning the scriptures as well as learning how apply them. I have an amazing, Godly husband and incredible children who love God wholeheartedly and are training their children to do so as well. They are best friends to me and to each other.  I  have a son who grew up in one of these underdeveloped countries.  He has taught me a new way of thinking and understanding for which I am grateful and blessed. I have a loving church family and dear friends. I have a warm home, running hot water, plenty of food and everything I need.  I have been able to connect with and meet so many wonderful people, as well as see the many needs that exist throughout the world.   I have been given much, and deeply desire that more and more people all over the world can know these same blessings.

I’m glad I wrote this.  It reminded me again why I do what I do.  As I unpack my suitcase, I will remember these amazing blessings and next month when I pack it again strive to remember and be forever grateful for the spiritual treasures God has given me to “carry in my suitcase”.  Bon Voyage!

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About Jeanie Shaw

After retiring from forty-five years in full-time ministry, Jeanie Shaw went back to school to earn her master’s and doctorate in spiritual formation and discipleship. She also serves as a certified Christian life coach who loves helping people discover the joy, peace, and purpose that come from finding and following God’s plan for their lives. She has taught classes and workshops all over the world and has written numerous books. She has four grown children, eight grandchildren, and a golden retriever who thinks he is human. When she is not reading, writing, coaching, teaching, or enjoying her family she might be found walking along rivers, learning new lessons about life.

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