By Haley Burress
I love vacations. I know, I know – who doesn’t? But, I really do. I love all aspects of the vacation, from the idea to the planning to getting there to coming home. There’s something about taking time to go see what else God has made that isn’t in your backyard. One of my favorite residents, Mary Ellen, told me once, “It’s good for the soul to just look at something different for awhile.” And she is completely correct. It doesn’t matter if a vacation is across an ocean, a few states away, or even just an hour from home – a vacation is a change in view. A new perspective. Something different to look at for awhile.
But my favorite part about vacations isn’t a fancy hotel (we live modestly and when we’re on vacation, we’re certainly not living it up at the Four Seasons), or the new and exciting adventures. Sure, I love the adventures and trying out new roads, sampling new food, spending time just relaxing. But when I look closely at my heart, what I most look forward to on vacations, by far, is the evening time.
When my family of three goes on vacation, we are going from morning to evening – hiking, biking, eating, laughing, talking, exploring. But, after dinner out, we return to our hotel room and kick off our flip flops. I wrangle our toddler son into a bubble bath, which always lasts a little longer because hotel tubs are new and exciting to him, and wrap him up in a small white hotel towel. Everyone gets in their jammies and we settle into our beds to watch a movie together on the television or our ipad. The best part, though, is still coming. Then, we throw all caution to the wind and break every rule that I follow about where it is appropriate to eat snacks…we slide under the covers and eat M&Ms. It’s a fun memory of my childhood and now my son’s childhood that going away from home means that you get to break rules every once in awhile and you get to do something really special, like eat M&Ms in bed.
There’s something about that evening vacation time that makes my heart swell in gratitude. In fact, I pray some really great prayers during vacation time, before I fall asleep. It’s an adventure to be away from home and it’s a privilege to enjoy quiet moments in a hotel room with my family snuggled close in around me. And in those evenings together, I’m able to look back at the day and praise God for the hiking, biking and exploring. I’m able to look at my son’s wet-from-the-bath hair and thank God for the opportunity He gave me to be a Mama. I’m able to watch my husband find the perfect Cars movie for us to watch and celebrate the fact that I married a man that is meant to lead this family. On vacation, those evenings mean so much to me, that the hotel bed we are in almost becomes a holy space. My cup runneth over with thanks (and with M&Ms).
And then the vacation is over and that’s where the challenge comes in. Because once we’re back to reality and back to a schedule of work and babysitters and pot roasts and responsibilities, it is sometimes hard for me to keep that same level of thanksgiving. But, I’ve been getting better – with God’s help, of course. He’s opened my eyes to the blessings that I’ve been missing, blessings that I had forgotten were there in the first place. I’ve been making a point and a practice over the past few years to daily count my blessings, especially the small ones. The more I’ve taken the time to notice them, the more joy is in my heart and the more praise I have for God. My ordinary life of crockpot dinners and loads of laundry is full of extraordinary blessings from God. Knowing that makes my heart beat faster and me want to be a better Christian, a better wife, a better Mama, a better friend, a better servant to others – because life is full of extraordinary things.
Every day is full of something beautiful to look at, a new view, a different path to take. God gave us a capacity to see every single day as a vacation day. That’s one of his gifts to us. He wants us to enjoy M&Ms in bed and kiss the tops of our still-wet-from-the-bath heads of our toddlers. He wants life to be a joyful vacation from the ordinary.
You just have to accept the gift and see what life is really about – a trip chock full of reasons to celebrate.