I had a good laugh last week as I set a mug into the microwave at my parents’ house. “I even reheat my coffee on vacation!” I said aloud, hitting the one-minute button and waiting for my drink to warm. Our circumstances or venues may change, but “wherever you go there you are” rings true for each of us.
This summer, our normal family vacation plans had taken a different turn than we were used to. After a week on the Oregon coast as a family, my husband flew home to Canada for work but I made a seven-hour road-trip with our children to Idaho to visit dear friends. After several days, we took another road trip, this time only two hours, to visit my parents in eastern Washington, where we waited for my husband to fly back and join us.
All things considered and by God’s abundant grace, we had two successful, joyful road trips. But I must confess that normally, as a mom, I’m not the very best road-tripper. Things may start out smoothly, but I tend to brace for the inevitable meltdowns and mentally prepare myself for the worst. Despite all my careful preparations, the reality is we are several humans packed into a car, meaning we will inevitably sin against one another.
I can plan aggressively, scientifically, down to the last details. I can pack efficiently and strategically. But the tendencies my family and I carry around at home don’t travel lightly. So, if I want to avoid vacation meltdown, I can’t begin preparations with my trusted packing list, the snack bags, or activities stuffed in the backpack. If I want to have a happy family vacation, the first thing I must prepare is my own heart.
Submit Our Expectations To The Lord
There’s a common satire article that circulates on Facebook every summer: Mom Spends Beach Vacation Assuming All Household Duties in Closer Proximity To Ocean. I’ve witnessed more than one woman snort and roll her eyes at it, and I remember chuckling at the title the first time I ran across it. But the truth is, this article can really betray something much deeper in each of our hearts.
When we’ve set our hopes on specifically curated vacation scenes, a perfectly restful time away from home, or constantly happy children, our hearts are in the wrong. Circumstances will not always bend to our will and the people in our families don’t stop having needs or making messes just because we’re on vacation. (In fact, they might be even messier than they are at home!)
I’m not sure what you’re planning or desiring for your family vacation, but I’m sure it’s not to be the grumpy and discontented mom who feels like her life didn’t go according to plan. But when we’re disappointed and frustrated, many times it’s because our hearts aren’t submitted to Christ and we act out of bitterness and resentment toward the people who seem to be thwarting our plans.
It‘s never too late to set our hopes securely on Christ. Whether we’re in the planning stages of our family vacation or nearing the end of it, we can choose lay everything down at Jesus’ feet, submitting our expectations to Him.
Instead of asking ourselves what kind of vacation we would enjoy most, we can ask the Lord to give us the kind of vacation that will work in our family’s lives for our good and His glory.
It might feel especially awkward when we’re on vacation, but repentance is best practiced everywhere. Whether we’re impatient with our people on the car trip, or grumpy about all the sand being tracked into the beach house, the solution isn’t to put on a DVD or grab a broom. We need to repent to our people and to the Lord, and we need to make our repentance as obvious as our sin.
It’s sometimes easy to let our sin and our kids’ sin go unchecked while we’re on vacation. But lack of routine and lack of sleep aren’t great excuses for bad attitudes. It’s vital for us to maintain hearts in fellowship with one another in order to have an enjoyable time together.
When we’re in close quarters like a car or a cabin, it’s tempting to let things slide and chock it up to fatigue and sandy shoes. But everyone benefits from witnessing repentance, especially when we’ve sinned openly. We want to keep our homes peaceful places of forgiveness, and we can take that principle with us on vacation, too.
Cultivate Faithfulness Wherever We Go
It’s so important that we don’t assume a change of circumstances will change who we are or our responsibilities. Mothers don’t stop being mothers because they’re at the beach or the pool. And we never stop being Christians who need to practice faithfulness to Christ and to our various callings. We never stop needing His word and His people. That all might look a little different a thousand miles from home, but the essential parts of the Christian life accompany us and our families wherever we go.
Friend, this may be the most difficult part of family vacation. But faithfulness is cultivated in small moments like handing out snacks, spreading sunscreen, and shaking out sandy swimsuits. It’s practiced with gratitude and cheerfulness, not entitlement and irritation. It’s grown in hearts that are devoted to the Word and don’t approach family getaways with a focus towards what we can get or get away from, but rather look for what we can give, remembering Who we were made for.
Don’t Be Afraid To Lose Yourself
The world often sneers at women who pour themselves out. Women whose bodies cheerfully welcome sticky, popsicle-stained faces and hands are not the figures the world is focused on at the beach. And if our hearts are not set on the God who gave us these bodies to use in His service, we often feel like we’re losing ourselves.
Sometimes family vacation is restful. For some of us, it really does mean a break from our ordinary routines and if that is the case, praise God! Sometimes we are refreshed and gain a renewed perspective. But the reality is, many times we come home from vacation more fatigued than we were when we left town. And we might be tempted to feel like the family getaway was a failure if we don’t feel rested the way we envisioned.
But we’re Christian women, so what if we do lose ourselves on vacation? Didn’t Jesus come, not to be served but to serve? (Matthew 20:28) Didn’t Jesus say that if we lose our life for His sake, we will find it? (Matthew 10:39) Is giving of ourselves the worst thing that could happen to us on vacation?
Gratitude and Joy in Christ
Every opportunity for family vacation is an immense gift to be received with gratitude and joy! And hearts that are truly submitted to the Lord can pray with sincerity, “God, here are our vacation plans. However this goes, please give me a heart that is deeply content with Your will for us. Bless us with a sweet time of fellowship with one another. Give me what I need to serve You by serving my people.”
Sister, pour more than lemonade this summer. Pour yourself out for Christ, look to Him to fill you, and enjoy the reward of a faithful servant of Jesus. Set your hope securely in Jesus. Trust that God will supply all of your family’s needs for rest and relaxation according to His riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).
Bethany Barendregt is wife to Alex and mama to five. She homeschools and works from home as founder/creative director for Women Encouraged. Bethany is passionate about Bible literacy and enjoys writing to share hope for everyday life, but she would love nothing more than to have a cup of coffee with you and talk about how the gospel changes everything. You can connect with her through the Women Encouraged Instagram page, at her personal blog bethanybarendregt.com, on Facebook, or on Instagram @bethanybarendregt.