Saturday, August 22, 2015

Pack a spare pair

I have one rule when it comes to packing for vacation: pack a spare pair of underwear.

So, before we set out for our summer road trip to the West Coast, with stops in Cochrane, Alta., Banff, Alta. and Kelowna, BC before making to our final destination of Vancouver, BC, we counted the days we would have to go before we could do laundry in a rental suite—and I added one.

We rented bikes to ride along Stanley Park's sea wall in Vancouver BC; one of the many highlights of our trip
I'm not really sure where this impulse (or compulsion, depending on your perspective) came from. Maybe it was from my short stint as a boy scout. Maybe it was my Mom's (and every mom's) advice to always wear clean underwear because "you never know what might happen." I guess proper hygiene wasn't reason enough.

Over the years, as our family has grown, that need to pack an extra pair expanded into packing extra, well, everything, to be prepared for the "just in case." Extra diapers (which I am ecstatic we didn't need to pack this summer), extra sunscreen, extra clothes just in case there's a bathroom accident or a spill (there's always a spill of some sort, usually on a white shirt), extra wipes for sticky hands, an extra Epi-pen for the child with allergies, an extra ice-cream pail...

Yeah, that last one may need an explanation. My dear wife thinks that she needs to be prepared for the possibility that kids will get sick and throw up in the van, or trailer, or cabin, or relatives' house, or pretty much anywhere. So, we travel with an ice cream pail in the van. But, for our long summer road trip, she packed a spare. I openly mocked her for this. Well, after two kids got car sick on windy mountain roads, one mysteriously threw up twice for no obvious reason, and the fourth got the stomach flu, I have vowed to never mock my wife's packing of the pails again. Now Gravol is on the "extras" list.

It seems like second nature to pack extras and be prepared. We were going to places with beaches; pack towels, beach blankets and beach toys. We were heading to a place affectionately called the Wet Coast; pack rain gear, which we didn't need because it was unseasonably dry. We knew we were going to the Rider game in BC; pack jerseys and temporary tattoos. We knew there might be complaints about sharing beds in some places; pack an air mattress. The list goes on of how we packed to be prepared.

How about spiritual preparation? We knew we were going to be in the van for long stretches, that our rental places wouldn't offer as much room as our house, that kids would get homesick, that kids would pick fights with each other (or with us in the case of our oldest), we knew the familiarity of routine would be gone (read my thoughts on routine here). Did we pack some extra patience, fortitude, temperance, justice? Did we think bring along more mercy and forgiveness (or, more accurately, pray for the grace to be more merciful and forgiving)?

I'd like to say, "Of course!" But I have to be honest. I got caught without packing a spare. I lost my patience. My fortitude waned as the end of the trip neared. Mercy didn't go out the window, but it hid in the curtains a couple times.

Thankfully, we have a God that has an endless supply of love and mercy and forgiveness. So when I did run short, He was there to forgive me and offer me the grace I needed. God has an infinite number of spares.

From now on, I'll have two rules when it comes to packing (three if you include pails), and one of those things will be to pray for an extra dose of grace to practice virtue in out-of-the-ordinary situations.

How do you prepare spiritually for road trips or vacations?

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