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Hidden Suitcase

It isn't Spring, but I confess I need to tackle some Spring cleaning in the worst way! The last couple of days, I was involved in removing our family business's inventory from a venue we had been set up in for the last three months. It took us two days, but we finally got it all loaded up, packed up, brought home and unloaded again. Some of the items went back to my parents' home where the wood shop is located, and other items were scattered around my dining room. Those who know me, know I am slightly O.C.D. and simply can't stand clutter or things being out of place! I was too dog tired (as we say down South) last night to do anything about it, but after a nap, dinner and then a night's rest, I had to do something about the chaos that had invaded my pretty little dining room.

I found enough space beside my desk to store the lamps, bowls and baskets without it looking too disheveled. Then, I took the candles and sorted them out by style and put them in the decorative baskets we had used for display. I placed the baskets on a corner plant table in my dining room like it was a store display! (For the record, I also have our private label jams and butters on display on a cart in my kitchen. Oh the joys of working from home!) I stored away our booth decorations and string lighting in my "Christmas closet." So far, so good.

Lastly, were the vintage paintings we had taken to sell along with our signature creations and collections. I knew every closet was packed to the ceiling pretty much and also knew I had taken advantage of every inch of space under my beds. Still, I went for a hopeful glance under my king-sized bed. Already under there, were old papers and documents that needed filing, two broken printers, empty electronics boxes with the instruction manuals and even my piano keyboard covered up and shoved out of sight. To my surprise, I also found two of my suitcases that I had forgotten about. I don't know how, but I managed to stack every one of those paintings on top of the other storage items with only a couple of inches to spare!

As I thought about those suitcases under the bed as well as all of the packing and moving, it triggered much more in me than my O.C.D. tendencies. You see, those suitcases as well as the packing and moving out of that venue reminded me of the dozens of times I had packed and moved, as well as the times I had unpacked and started over. Through each of those endings, transitions and new beginnings there were steadfast, devoted and loyal people by my side helping me along the way from place to place, experience to experience and challenge to challenge. This time was no different. The first day, my petite caring mom helped me take down the decorations and pack the smaller items to bring home... candles, lamps and paintings. The second day, my hero of a dad, my amazing son Josh, and R. J. a close family friend, carried out the beautiful hand-carved tables, benches, wagon wheel and shelf and worked tirelessly in the heat figuring out the puzzles of pick-up trucks as we loaded each item carefully. Miraculously, everything barely fit!

The one thing about these amazing people in my life is that my mom has a pacemaker, she's had neck/spine surgery and still has chronic back pain, arthritis and other issues. My dad has had multiple back surgeries, quadruple heart surgery, beat cancer, and deals daily with painful arthritis. Our friend R. J. is a diabetic and has serious health issues as well. My son Josh, the youngest of the bunch, is much stronger than his small frame should allow and never complains but carries the load for all of us at times! I've had a few other people in my life that have stood by my side from place to place, packing, moving, carrying my baggage and then staying there to help me unpack. My brother and sister-in-law have hauled furniture and driven moving trucks. My cousin Cathy has given me a place to hide, a bed to sleep in and a shoulder to cry on during moves that took me by surprise and were deeply painful. Then there's Laura, Tim, Hank, Billie, Al and a few other of my long-term friends who have cried with me, laughed with me, straightened my halo and kicked my butt as needed. They've encouraged me and listened hours on end no matter how repetitive my complaints, fears and stories were. My sweet friend Clint has driven me to the hospital for surgery, helped me laugh through my sadness, rubbed my head through my pain, repaired toilets, trinkets and even more poured love and friendship into the broken areas of a wounded soul and heart.

Seeing those suitcases under the bed reminded me of all the baggage I had carried over the years - some of the same kinds of baggage that most of us carry to some degree. Often, we think we have put down that baggage or at the very least unpacked it, but then while on our knees we discover a hidden suitcase or two "under the bed," so to speak.

While drinking my coffee this morning, I was doing my routine browsing for interesting articles, news and posts online. I love to read uplifting news, quotes and stories, but invariably there is always that one article that jumps out at you, leaving you compelled to click on and read even though you know it is going to tug at your heart. I have to be honest, I was not prepared for the one story that I came across. It was a news account of a woman who had been found face down in her front yard. Neighbors had called the police and when they arrived, they discovered a shockingly gruesome scene. Testimony from one of her children and a neighborhood teen stated that the woman's estranged companion had shown up and was attacking her. He sat down on top of her and literally ripped her eyeballs out of their sockets. The police said that one of them was laying on the ground beside her. After being rushed to the hospital and treated, the prognosis was that she would recover, but had some broken bones, bruises and worst of all, would be permanently blind.

As I read the horrific story this morning, I began to sob - partly because of the terrible act against this woman, but partly because I understood it only too well. Wow... it has been twenty-four years since I escaped the emotional and physical pains of domestic abuse in my marriage, and seven years from a subsequent time of abuse from reconnecting with a high school "friend." I thought I had worked through the pain. I am not afraid or ashamed of the scars left and actually wear them like a badge of honor. It took awhile, but I overcame being a victim and have been standing strong as a survivor. If you know me, you know my passion is to be voice of hope and encouragement for others who have experienced the pains of abuse.

Writing this today, I find myself surprised that I had such a strong emotional response to this story. It was like finding that hidden suitcase under my bed. I had baggage I had shoved away and hidden and forgotten. Another misunderstanding this week had dug up other baggage from those circumstances that I went through a life-time ago. If you carry any baggage from the past, then you know what I mean. Some little something will trigger it, spark a memory and then before you know it, you are either in tears, clamming up in silence, retreating, yelling at the top of your lungs, or nursing hurtful wounds you thought were simply scars all healed up.

I wish I could tell you that you can discard baggage once and for all from the past, but the truth is even when we find healing, there is always the possibility of a scar on the surface being scratched in some way opening an old wound. Scars, cover and protect, but they are also just a bit weaker than the skin and muscles surrounding it. It's just the nature of wounds and healing.

Before you think this post is despairing, let me set the record straight! Even when old hurts surface, there is cleansing of those wounds! The tears I've cried and the prayers I've prayed have flushed out hurts that I didn't know where still there. That is because the ONE who created this heart knows about those pains and hurts. To put it simply, I am never alone because God is there and He is faithful. In addition, the late night chats from friends, the hugs and encouraging words and constant support from my incredible son, the prayers of my parents and the "hands on help" they give me daily while moving and unpacking all of this "baggage," has given me the courage again to not give up and to take better care of myself as I heal. The surprise smiles from my "smile-maker," the unexpected messages, the sharing of deep thoughts and feelings of the heart through marathon phone calls until wee hours of the morning have lightened my load, soothed my heart , calmed my fears and given me a quiet place of refuge and a soft spot to land.

No matter the baggage I carry, even the "hidden suitcases," I am blessed and I have no regrets over any of those things that were packed into my bags along my journey. You see, I am stronger! What used to be hard to lift, doesn't seem heavy at all! I also am more grateful because I've come to understand love - real unconditional love. The people who caused the pain in my life did not show me that. Love doesn't hurt, but the absence and rejection of love does. Having people in my life, not only willing to walk along with me to carry part of the heavy load from place to place, but committed to staying there and helping me unpack is what unconditional love is all about.

Should you find a hidden suitcase in your "move" through life, don't be afraid to pick it up, ask for help carrying it if needed, and especially don't be afraid to take the time to unpack it! You might realize that the very thing that was heavy or unsightly that you wanted to hide away or get rid of, has become a gift to you and no longer a burden.

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