Until recently I have never questioned the tradition of a summer vacation. Since I was a child, my family always took off a week or two and headed out on the open road. We primarily took destination vacations - seeing lots of sights and spending tons of hours on the road. As adults, Shawn and I have continued that tradition. We have taken the kids to Disney World and Disney Land. We have seen the Grand Canyon and the Sequoia National Forest. We have been to Sea World and multiple destinations in Arkansas, our home state.
This year, with finances a little tighter than usual and much to do with our home, school, and the church plant, I questioned that tradition of the family vacation pretty hard. Is it really that necessary for our survival as a family? I think that answer may vary from family to family, but I think for us, that answer is "YES!"
A few years ago we stopped doing the majorly busy, go, go, go vacation. A slower economy, a bigger family, and a smaller salary forced us to rethink how we vacationed. The turning point for us was 2006, the year Abby was born. Under great duress, we felt that we needed time away from the ministry, but Abby was too little to travel far. We rented an inexpensive Condo in Hot Springs, Arkansas, for a week. Our only agenda was to eat ice cream every day and go swimming. It was the best vacation of our lives. We relaxed, there was no rushing, no early mornings, no stress. I could sit and feed the baby without feeling like I was holding up the rest of the family. We returned to what was a difficult time in our ministry refreshed, renewed, and enabled to continue for another season.
Since that time we have stayed in a cabin in the Ozark mountains, road tripped to California with family, and camped in a variety of beautiful locations in Arkansas. We have amazing memories of lazily laying in cold mountain rivers and letting the water rush over us. We have great stories about the crazy stuff that happens to us when we are camping. We have spent many late nights roasting marshmallows over the campfire and laughing at our feeble attempts at ghost stories. We have hiked amazing trails to beautiful locations, using the opportunity to show our children the beauty of God's creation. We have invested long days and late nights into loving our kids and just being with them, without any distractions. Our kids love to tell our vacation stories, creating a sense of tradition for them. A tradition of magically beautiful moments.
This summer it would have been easy to stay home. We had originally planned a massive roadtrip across the West to Yellowstone, but our schedule didn't work out for the extended time away from home this year. With only two weeks left before I start back to work, I have tons to do here at the house, and many reasons why it would be more practical to just stay home.
However, I know from experience that on August 23, our lives will crank up to an entirely new level of crazy chaos with sports, school, fall church events and small group launchings. I know that I will not have a single extra minute to breathe for the next several months. So that is what this next week will be. An opportunity to breathe. We are staying in a cabin in Southern Missouri. We plan to swim, hike, lay in hammocks, read, strum the guitar, and play board games. It sounds boring - no amusement parks, no shopping trips - but it is an opportunity for our family to just breathe. It allows us to regroup, recharge, and return to ministry with the energy and focus that is necessary for success. It is possible for us to pour out our lives for others when we have spent time as a family getting filled up. We will spend this week doing lots of laughing, but we will also spend time praying together, reading God's word together, reflecting on the year past, and looking forward to the future. This week is one week that is just about us and our family and our God. I can't wait!