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Selling the majority of your possessions, quitting your job, and embarking on a 50-state road trip may not sound like a jolly good time, but that’s exactly what Allison Vesterfelt did. Allison, a teacher turned writer, and her musician friend, Sharaya, gave up security and comfort to travel around the country for six months. They lived off of talent, prayers, and the generosity of others all in the name of “chasing dreams.”
Allison chronicles their adventure in Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage. Her narrative is an engaging memoir/travel log peppered with poignant reflections on faith, relationships, and the baggage we tend to accumulate. She is honest and funny, allowing her own experiences to speak truth and challenge. One aspect of this book that I loved the most was how Allison wove the rich young ruler‘s story in with her own, illuminating some of the baggage he must have been carrying around in his search for eternal life.
I “read” the audio version of Packing Light. The great part about listening to an audiobook is that I can do the dishes, walk on the treadmill or fold laundry while “reading.” The bad part is that I can’t underline or go back and revisit the thoughts and ideas that stuck out. While I enjoyed listening to the author narrate her own adventures, I missed having a physical book to mark up. I’m not an auditory learner; so, despite the fact that I love listening to lectures and sermons and the like, my retention is a bit stunted when I don’t have paper and pen in hand to take notes. I feel like I didn’t squeeze as much juice out of this orange as I could have had I read a physical copy, but I appreciated getting an overall gist/vibe/takeaway from the book that may have gotten lost amidst my focus on the particulars.
Just in case you’re wondering… I will probably go to Barnes and Noble with a notebook and skim for the quotes I would have written down in my journal had I read a hard copy.
My overall takeaway (as in, what I was thinking about after I read the book):
For me, packing light looks like shedding my expectations. Much of the baggage I carry around comes from expectations. It’s not that reality sometimes falls short of my expectations or that people don’t meet my expectations, it’s that expectations distract me from the present.
Christmas, for example, can be a source of distracting expectations. I have expectations about what the house should look like, what activities should happen leading up to the holiday, and what the actual day should feel like. I don’t think I’ve ever had a Christmas that met all my expectations. Even at the end of the best of Christmases (and I’ve had plenty), there’s still a niggling hint of what didn’t go quite like what I expected. Mary didn’t react to her gift the way I wanted. The grandkids stayed past their nap-time and things got a little out of control. Mom invited a lonely church member over to share dinner and now it’s not just family. As they crumble, those expectations distract from all the wonderful things about the day or the moment.
And this doesn’t just happen with celebrations or activities. Expectations weigh down relationships – with family, with friends, with spouses. I have allowed expectations to distract me from finding joy in so many relationships, even my relationship with myself. My expectations for how I look and what I do distract me from enjoying the body God gave me (which is pregnant and round right now) or maximizing the time I have to rest and recharge before our son is born.
[pullquote position=”right”]We miss out on joy when we let expectations crowd our hearts and minds.[/pullquote] Expectations weigh us down and cloud our vision with perfection when what God has set out for us is right there in front of us. He’s inviting us to leave our expectations behind and grab hold of the freedom we have in His perfect plans.