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Your Tewksbury Today

What’s in Your Backpack?

Aug 26, 2018 06:07AM ● By Bonnie Lyn Smith
Those yellow school buses are gearing up to start rolling down the street. Ready or not, summer schedules—even if not the temperatures—are about to shift gears into full reverse: Earlier bedtime. Earlier wake time. And at least six hours of the day accounted for with school routines.

In my house we are starting to make the adjustment in installments. Twenty minutes here and there. Rise and shine. Reading in bed to unwind, and oh, yeah, did you finish your reading assignments over the summer?

It also means that for my sons (one college-bound), backpacks, school supplies, and even standard-issue track pants and t-shirts are ordered in bland colors by me. For my daughter? Yeah, that’s another story altogether. Target, Famous Footwear, Kohls, and Staples have all seen more of me than my own house in the past two weeks. Really, I’d be ashamed to tell you how many hours. One trip for school supplies. Another for checking out new clothing trends. Oh, there are some neat gym shoes, and while we’re at it, let’s redecorate our bedroom as we get organized.

It isn’t about spending for her. It’s about the process. She needs to do this to prepare herself for the coming drastic change in routine. And most important of all? Her backpack. It was time for a new one to last her through the rest of high school. Many different factors were at play in this decision: laptop sleeve, padded shoulders, measurements to accommodate several binders and textbooks, a place for a water bottle, and yes, color and fashion.

You see, she knew what she’d be carrying around, and she wanted to make sure it would be fully functional. Being prepared, for her, is half the battle of waking up next Wednesday and doing this whole high school thing all over again.

I have to admit: I got the bug myself. It’s been five years since I received my slim laptop bag. I love it, but I tend to carry around many other items in my arms, and that gets old after a while. I knew this year I would have several client files and multiple books (that I read for teaching Sunday School, keeping up with the publishing industry, and the rare fiction book I pet for months before getting to open it). As I was narrowing down my options, I thought how weather-proof, size, and compartments were my key criteria. I found one I loved, and zoomed payment away. Thanks to Prime, within two days it will go from warehouse to my home.

Here are some of the other family members’ backpack contents. I bet you can read some personality into these particulars. We’re a fun bunch, for sure!

Oldest son: “Just the basics, Ma’am. I don’t need a planner. I have Apple Calendar.” A few college-rule single-subject notebooks. Staples Optiflow liquid rollerball pens of various colors (heaven help me if they stop making those!). A scientific calculator. Headphones (not ear buds). Sheets of music, both his own compositions and those written by others. Mechanical pencils. Note cards. Graph paper. Wallet. Phone. Laptop.

Younger son: Hand sanitizer (this is the first in order of importance; I’m not kidding). A huge Case-It binder with four classes’ worth of folders, dividers, and paper. Boring lunch box. Epi pen. Joker cards from several card decks (I can’t even explain this one). A medicine ball for extra weight (sensory). Pencil case. Raincoat. A spoon, but not for eating (Doctor Who reference).

Daughter: Bento box for lunch. Home-Cube pencil case with multiple compartments. A separate monthly and weekly planner because we can never have enough of those. A notebook clipboard. A sweater in case she gets cold. Several pastel folders (that match her room, ahem). Brand-new special marker pens because different colors help her organize her studying. A fidget ball in case Chemistry is a bore. A jacket, extra socks, maybe another pair of shoes for after gym class. Her phone. Epi pen. Oh, and that dysfunctional school-issued chromebook that makes me spit nails every time we have to print from home.

Developmentally, I see some progression here. My oldest son has become a minimalist. This has a wonderful effect on my wallet. My younger son (middle school) doesn’t care much for the process as long as it’s functional, just please make sure there is hand sanitizer so he can offer it to everyone around him as well as use it himself. No longer do we have to find just the right Pokemon binder. My daughter? She has figured out which products and systems keep her executive functioning at its optimal level and motivate her. Nice colors that match one’s room certainly help. (Smile.)

So when we think about us and all we carry around each day, what does it say about us? What should we keep? What should we discard? What is causing us extra weight that we don’t need? What is taking up real estate that shouldn’t be?

Here are some of the items I carry around that are not productive:

  • Do I really need five highlighters and six books at a time? Um, no.
  • What about all those printouts of Pinterest recipes I’ll never make?
  • Business cards I grabbed in some office but have no personal connection to or use for?
  • How many notes to myself do I really need?
  • Power cords are awesome, but three lightning cords, not so much.
  • A granola bar I never ate from two years ago and never will? Don’t need.
  • Crumpled up receipts? Shred them.

Those are just some examples.

In my personal life they may look more like this:

  • Responsibility for the other person’s end of a soured relationship. I only need to take my part. I don’t need to carry around hers. Toss.
  • Unkind or critical words spoken to me without the proper relationship in place or authority to do so. Toss.
  • Guilt for old sin that God has already forgiven me for. Toss.
  • A defeatist attitude, one that says: “I can’t do this.” Toss.
  • Lies about my self worth….spoken to me by others or myself. Toss.
  • Fear of the future. Toss.
  • Allowing past experiences to completely inform future decisions. Toss.
  • Resentment, bitterness, or a grudge. Toss.
  • Jealousy or envy. Toss.

And those are just a few.

What about you?

Is it time to purge the nonproductive, even destructive, baggage and contents you are lugging around and start fresh? Repack? 

Here’s how to pack effectively for the best potential, the greatest perseverance, and the absolute peace:

Philippians 4:8, ESV

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.








Take each item out of your backpack and ask yourself that. Is what that person said about you or that situation true? What does God say?

There are a few key people in my life who like to rewrite my personal history to fit their need to not take responsibility. It’s not true. It’s not lovely. By far, it’s not just. So I have learned to ask God to help me take it out of my backpack and keep it out.

On the other hand, others have offered me feedback or counsel that passes the Philippians 4:8 test. It was God-breathed, and I need to store it in one of my compartments for safe keeping and future reference.

God can show you how to understand the difference between the two.

Here are some verses to put in your backpack as you strive to focus on what is essential, edifying, helpful, and important. Ask God to help you understand the value of each of these in your life and where to best put them so they can help you carry the weight of life and protect you. They are always accessible to you when you believe in the name of Christ and what He has done for you!

Proverbs 31:25, NLT

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.

Psalm 103:12, NLT

He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.

Philippians 4:7, ESV

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:13, ESV

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

I can’t wait to hear how your unpacking and packing went! Feel free to share with me!


Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.

She is the author of Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day and the founder and editor-in-chief of Ground Truth Press, a book publishing company.



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