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Anxiety Series: Stories That Help Shape Our Journey - The Suitcase

We all have stories from the journey of others that help to guide, shape, and influence us in our lives. I have many people that are no longer alive, but I carry with me daily because of the love and influences they had in my life, as I'm sure most of us do. Today though I'm going to share about my amazing son Saul. So many aspects of his story are applicable here, he lived a life wrought with anxiety despite trying so hard to overcome it, but also my anxiety surrounding his many medical needs and ultimately, this past December 26th, 2022, when my mini me died after a short, but eventful hospital stay over the Christmas holiday.

These are the stories that drive us further and let us see God in those times that can be the most challenging. This post today is a modified version of the talk I gave at Saul's funeral. I hope that the message from his life all the way through his death, open up the same peace (shalom) it has given me. Together with a drive to remember who God is in our lives through what Saul brought to all of us in his 25 years of life.

Saul touched SO many people in 25 years. I LOVE the fact that I got to share this incredible gift that God gave me through adoption. Oh please know there were YEARS neither of us saw what God did, that "gift" took some time to settle in and get to the place it got to. But I am SO thankful that God chose ME to be his "Ma" because none of the anxiety, worry, pain, frustration.... none of that outweighed the amazing child God gave me through this kiddo who became my "mini me" as he grew up. I miss that part of my gift the most because he got me, he got and reciprocated my humor, which everyone used to laugh because of our weird sense of what was funny that we would pass back and forth and LAUGH. Oh how we would get into trouble together. Always because we were laughing and being beyond what was probably called for at the moment.

I told Saul multiple times, he was a gift from God, and what a huge blessing and gift he was.

I am so blessed and thankful to have been chosen to be his mom.

Saul came to us when he was seven. He had been to our home once before for a visit, but this time was different, he was planning to be there for quite some time.

Like most foster kiddos he came with his own baggage, literally and figuratively. This suitcase he has kept with him is a great example of his baggage.

Saul's story regarding that suitcase is where I am focusing today, less in the literal and more in the figurative.

When Saul came to us this suitcase wasn’t brand new, it wasn’t clean and fresh and shiny, it looked a lot like it does today. That suitcase, it had “seen some things” and carried with it Saul’s old life into what would become his new life with us. There was trauma and anxiety around that trauma all packed away in there and when we unpacked that suitcase in this new life he was coming into we saw that get unpacked as well and put away. It took a bit for us to see how much he had ACTUALLY brought in that suitcase he carried as a 7 year old little boy.

As Saul got older, I gave his suitcase back to him. He happily filled it with “treasures”. All important and yet not important at the same time. He would fill that suitcase with things he found at school, around the house, places we visited, a lot of papers from school (some just because he was hiding he hadn't done them), all sorts of things went in and out of that suitcase.

Many things in Saul’s life were difficult due to all he carried. Like his suitcase, he held onto a lot. He came to us with a “heavy suitcase” and carried that through to the day he died. He added physical things to that suitcase kind of like he added to the mental things he carried daily. That suitcase got full and was a great example of how that was also happening in his life.

You guys don't we ALL carry that suitcase? As I was initially writing all this for his funeral I would look into my garage, which was still packed from a move that had happened a year prior, all sitting there like somehow ALL that is what I needed. My kiddo carried SO much baggage, and I saw that and prayed for him and yet I was no better off than him? I couldn't get rid of all that physical stuff, what was I carrying in my heart if my garage was that full of stuff? That hit me, it still does, I have since worked to get that garage purged and throwing out all those things I have been carrying from a life long past now. Ephesians 4:6-8 talk about this and going through all this really struck me as I was seeing this suitcase and all it began to represent. That verse states

"So get rid of your old self, which made you live as you used to - the old self that was being destroyed by its deceitful desires. 23 Your hearts and minds must be made completely new, 24 and you must put on the new self, which is created in God's likeness and reveals itself in the true life that is upright and holy"

We would empty things out of his suitcase every now and then, to keep it from getting too full, but always there were always things in in that suitcase. When I look at this suitcase now, and the reason it’s the one thing of his I wanted to keep, it is because it’s a reminder that Saul left this world without this suitcase.

It’s still here, filled with all those things he just couldn’t part with.

We all do that. We carry things around that we don’t even realize are there until we open it up and look at them. In the end Saul left ALL this here, it did not go with him.

This suitcase has weight, and I would imagine that if you carried it all the time there would be some muscle that would be built up to help your body counter that weight being carried. That compensation from the increased muscle would build up over time, easing the feeling of heaviness and yet the weight would still be there.

The greatest part for me as a mom is seeing this suitcase still here.

Romans 10:6-11 says:

6 But the righteousness that comes from faith speaks like this: Do not say in your heart, “Who will go up to heaven? ”that is, to bring Christ down 7 or, “Who will go down into the abyss? ”that is, to bring Christ up from the dead.8 On the contrary, what does it say? The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. This is the message of faith that we proclaim: 9 If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on him will not be put to shame,

(Just a side note, God was SO a part of this talk that I gave at his funeral that the above verse changed 3 times with this one, the most fitting one, being written in 15 minutes before I was to go up and speak. I love how God works.)

Saul and I had SO many amazing talks about God, and how Jesus had paid for his life. Saul was a thinker. He also appreciated a good conversation with his "Ma" about things like this. We didn't always agree but he knew my heart and definitely knew the heart of the Lord. He knew what I just wrote was a thing. Applying what God paid for to that weight he carried, was hard to give up.

For ANY of our lives it’s hard, and he always WANTED that, and like most of us here he fell short sometimes, but he was in good company and he knew that. Admitting brokenness doesn't make us weak, just able to see limits to who WE are without God. Taking that and giving ALL of it over to God is HARD, it's work, and at 25 that was a concept that was not easy but he also knew I felt that because of remembering where I was at 25. That's where concepts of grace, mercy and that God's son came to help carry him was a discussion had between the two of us. What a comfort as a mom to know I had these conversations because they were the important ones, not always the popular, but the best ones I got to have with my gift, my son.

He knew we all fall short, and he proudly proclaimed that he KNEW God in his life.

He was working on walking out not as a bunch of things the world saw him as, but what he knew, that he was created in the image of God and that he was a Child of the Resurrected King.

He and I laughed that we were thankful for grace, because if it was up to us, we definitely wouldn’t make it on our own works.

We talked about the fact that the stuff in that suitcase was carried from his life with us on into his life now as an adult, where new stuff got added. There was a LOT of stuff as an adult he was carrying. His anxiety was high.

But when you look at the fact he came to us with that suitcase heavy with all he carried that brought him to the place of getting a new home, then adding a new family and all that brought and now onto an adulthood he was going through not fully as himself (he struggled being who he truly was, it was easier to build a life he felt was that "right" life.). That suitcase was HEAVY, it was weighted with 25 years of stuff.

Again, as I look at this though, we all know the weight of this suitcase in our own lives.

That’s why as a mom I sit here SO thankful it’s here and he is not.

2 Corinthians 5:1-8 states:

Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is dismantled, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling,3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 So while we are in this tent, we groan under our burdens, because we do not wish to be unclothed but clothed, so that our mortality may be swallowed up by life. 5 And God has prepared us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a pledge of what is to come.

6 Therefore we are always confident, although we know that while we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, then, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

It’s hard not to have joy knowing that even God understands this burden we carry and promises hope for us here, and FREEDOM for those that know the reality that Saul does now, with God, Saul is HOME.

Because of a price we didn’t pay, we didn’t earn, and yet was paid for us through the price Jesus paid, my kiddo knows a home that is free from all that burden he's been carrying for 25 years. That brings joy to this mama’s heart.

Saul has taught me so much in such a short period of time. I am SO grateful, thankful, blessed and HONORED to have been chosen to be his mom. I would hope that his story, which was a good story, just very much filled with so much anxiety, will be a story of encouragement that it's ok to let that not be your story.

He didn’t always make loving him easy when we first became a family, I didn’t always do being a mom well, or right, but what an amazing gift he was despite all the things we didn’t do right. I praise God for the time I had, and the time to come, when it’s my turn to head home.

He is currently with God, joyful in the knowledge that this life's struggles didn't come with him. Like Paul pointed out so beautifully in that 2 Corinthian verse, "we groan under our burdens...". He doesn't leave us there but then gives "therefore", that transitional phrase that is about to lead us into a promise that we can be CONFIDENT that while we are home, in this body, we are away from the Lord. Saul can attest to the rest that once that time at home in the body is done, you LEAVE THAT ALL HERE. I loved that. I love that I get to remember my son as I work on not living so much in this world, but living the truth he knows oh so much better than me currently.

I am thank Saul is home and this suitcase is still here.

Just a little footnote; my kiddo was obviously 25, so I had not been through his suitcase in YEARS. I didn't open it until after the funeral and couldn't help but bust up laughing. My 25 year old grown son had a suitcase full of play money and beyblades. Man I love that kiddo.

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