Pete and I took a vacation. We really couldn’t afford the time or the cost, but we did it anyway. This past year was intense, to say the least. It seems we went from one crisis to the next. Both Pete and I were looking a bit glassy-eyed, and we hadn’t had a decent conversation in months. We needed time with one another and time with God, so the day after Christmas we packed the car and headed east. We didn’t come back until we were ready to face life again.
So, here we are back in Colorado, substantially poorer and with almost 6,000 more miles on our car. Was it worth it? You bet!
For one thing, taking this trip was good for our marriage. Any couple who can spend 6,000 miles cooped up in a stuffed car and come back still talking to one another is going to make it! Pete and I grew closer as the miles rolled by, talking, laughing, or just being silent together. I was reminded all over again of why I chose him to be my husband.
For another, I learned that good friends are worth going out of our way for. We were heading for Florida, but we traveled by way of Virginia and North Carolina specifically so we could see some special people—people who have had a significant on our (and especially Pete’s) life. Yes, it cost us time, gas, and an extra hotel room or two, but people are important. I’m so glad we stopped in.
We traveled through a part of the United States I’m not all that familiar with. I learned fascinating facts: Kansans eat battered, deep-fried pickles, White Castle “burgers” are pretty awful but Whataburger burgers are delicious, and you can find excellent gyros in the middle of Nowhere, North Carolina.
I learned some historical facts. As we entered yet another “Lee County” I remarked to my husband that Robert E. Lee was pretty popular in these parts.
“You know,” I continued, “I’m pretty clueless about Civil War History. It just didn’t get a lot of classroom time in my school in California. I know Robert E. Lee was the president of the Confederate States of America, but that’s all I know about him. Was he a nice guy? A good dad? History books never mention that kind of stuff!”
Pete pointed out that it was Jefferson Davis who was the president of the CSA. Robert E. Lee was the commander of the southern armies. Oh. Oops.
“All I can remember from my U.S. History class is that the Civil War ‘pitted brother against brother,’ was really destructive, and that Scarlett O’Hara kept losing husbands to it.”
This is the sort of conversation that ensues after three straight twelve-hour days of driving.
Being an avid birder and photographer, I took many pictures of birds. Many, many pictures. Thousands of pictures. Sadly, a lot of them are blurry because it was dark. It was dark because there were clouds. Thick, dark clouds. Clouds that dumped lots of water on us. I should be sad about this. Who wants rain on their vacation? However, we kept getting weather reports about the record-breaking cold up north, so we were mostly grateful that it was raining and not snowing or sleeting.
I traveled a lot last year. Some trips focused on photography, so I would have more pictures to sell. We traveled to visit friends or attend conferences. I’ve written about my mission trip to Swaziland this past October. But it seemed a bit weird—selfish—to take a trip just to relax and have fun. With all the needs in the world, was that all right?
As I wandered the trails of Everglades National Park, walked the beaches of both Florida coasts, and explored the palmetto thickets and cypress swamp of Audubon’s Corkscrew Sanctuary, I had plenty of time to relax with God. I did some praying, mostly for a specific bird to show up in my viewfinder, but mostly we just enjoyed a companionable silence. Every so often I’d remark on what a good job He did making a particular plant or animal, and how much I liked it.
It finally dawned on me that God delights in having fun! He made the Everglades, the beaches, the incredibly colored Painted Bunting and the formidable alligator just so we can enjoy them. I’m convinced it makes Him happy when we stop and smell His roses—and carnations and green grass and salt spray ocean air. The important point is that we do it together with Him.
In our “do stuff for God” church culture, we sometimes forget that doing stuff for God needs to take second place to spending time with God. We can do that here at home, and on vacation too.
So, Pete and God and I took a vacation and came back refreshed, renewed, and ready to take on 2014—together.