- Relationships. Ultimately, I want to deepen my relationship with God and with my family. So we create space for those relationships to happen. Most of the time this happens with playing games and playing at the pool or the beach together. The biggest gift I can give is that all other obligations can wait. I can engage without having interruptions.
- Resourcing. Reading, catching up on movies, praying, and times of solitude are also important to me. Sometimes this resourcing is educational, visiting and learning about historic places. Those things are actually more rare on our family vacations. For solitude, I'll steal some moments in the morning or at night. I'll read a book while the kids play in the pool. I'll take the car and go get something for the family. We'll go watch a show together and see the wonder in our children's eyes.
- Rest. I sleep longer at night and take more naps during the day. We are a low impact family on vacation, so our schedules are usually fairly open and flexible. We eat at restaurants more so there's less cooking and cleanup to do. We limit sightseeing and excursions to a few hours a day. We intentionally do less.
- Expectations. When I have a list of things, they generally clash with someone else's list. This leads to the illogical parenting statements like, "We're going to have fun whether you like it or not." What-I-thought-would-happen becomes the greatest enemy of renewal and refreshment. Others want me to play more and read less. I'm disappointed in myself for not being more available to others. I look back and realized I spent less time with God this week. I wish I were more open to just embracing what is and being content with what was. And I wish I knew better ho w to cultivate that openness in my family.
- Jealousy. I did a little better this week, but sometimes Facebook is the great enemy of vacations. Our enjoyment can come from posting pictures that make people back home jealous. So we document every minute to share with others the awesomeness of our condo, the beach, the weather, and the pork sandwich. Sometimes this even happens in the planning stages as we choose exotic places just because we know people will be jealous of the destination. I'm a bargain hunter, so my bragging this time was about the deal I got on airline tickets. On the other side, the envy motivation can lead to inflating our vacation needs so we can impress others rather than just doing what makes sense for our families. Then we come home broke with experiences that could have been done for twice the fun and half the money. So we figure we can salvage the experience by at least making it look good online.
- Selfishness. What better way to bring out the worst in each other then to plan a week where it's only about doing whatever we want. With no external obligations, our spiritual shape can become very tightly wound around our own needs and desires. I become more easily frustrated about the way I wasn't taken care of by everyone else. Or I use the space to try to address things I think need to change in a relationship or in my children's behavior. I know many families that alleviate this by taking a family service trip together. This week in the hotel lobby, a father proudly told me of his adult son's week in Central America digging wells. Service opportunities are a way to see the world in new ways and move the focus off of ourselves.
- Doing too much or too little. Sometimes we come home more exhausted than when we left. We use vacations to push our bodies too hard, eat too much, and need a recovery period after the vacation ends. Less is more. Vacation is about space. We can also do the opposite. We don't do enough and we develop cabin fever and the nerves get frayed.
In the end it's about finding our way. It's about discovering God's presence in new ways, and cultivate the life with God in each other. It's not about the perfect experience, it's about a change of pace that allows us to see life in a new way. If we know what is needed, maybe this year you can spend less and live more when you take that time to get away.
-John M Troyer
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