... God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. 1 Timothy 6:17, NLT
You need a vacation. Now! Or at least regularly -- with, not from, (wink) your family!
Why? Because the clock is ticking and these are the years to make memories. Don’t let the demands of work or financial pressures rob you and your family of taking a vacation where you’ll build memories and strengthen your bonds.
When our kids were little, I was passionate about taking an annual summer vacation for at least one week with our entire family. In the early years, we didn’t have two nickels to rub together so our vacations were shoestring budget worthy -- but we made memories. We rented little cottages. We went fishing. Made a bonfire. Packed a picnic basket.
As the kids got older, the vacations changed. Maybe it was a trip out west or to Washington DC...but it often included a beach.
Now here’s the thing. Our vacations weren’t perfect. There was always chaos. Someone needed an attitude adjustment. We spilled stuff. The photos didn’t turn out. We forgot to pack important things. We got lost. We were hot and sweaty -- or freezing.
And all of those things made the memories!
Sitting around a campfire making s’mores, playing poker with candy, trying to spot a bear or a moose around the edge of the woods and talking about life -- those are the little things -- the big things everyone will remember.
On top of the memories and bonds that are built, it’s healthy to get out of the normal routine of life, to breathe fresher air, to see bigger cities, to ride down a river and learn a little history.
Need some inspiration? Here’s a trip down our memory lane (25 years ago -- whaaaat?) and perhaps you’ll be inspired in your vacation planning.
1995 - Toddler Years - Our minivan was loaded with car seats, playpens and swimmies as we made the trek “up-north” to rent a little cottage. We had just enough energy to sit on the beach with a book and pray our four little ones took long naps! Benadryl helped. (I’m just kidding…relax!)
2001 - Elementary Years - These were the high-octane vacations - full of sleeping bags, fishing poles, marshmallows, bikes, skateboards, tubing, rafting, fireworks, adrenaline - and the “are we there, yet?” question every ten minutes. We drank a lot of coffee.
2004 - Middle School Years – The kids were not too excited about the trip to see all the monuments, memorials and museums in DC. I persuaded them, “C’mon, you’re Americans! Someone paid a price for our freedom….” I saw their eyes roll back into their heads. Ok, so maybe it was overkill. After six hours at the National Air and Space Museum, I finally sat down on a bench with my kids and we prayed that dad would quit reading every plaque in the Smithsonian!
2005 - High School Years – Skiing trips up north in the winter and road trips in the summer. I remember our big road trip out west. The kids went against their will and wondered why we – a non-camping family of six - were going to a campground near Jackson Hole, Wyoming? I figured every family should try camping; so, I made a reservation for three nights in the “tent-cabins." As soon as I saw “the park,” I began to plead, “Oh dear God, please don’t let my family kill me…” Ok, so all the other families had Coleman stoves and Rubbermaid tubs filled with camping gear? We had dad’s pocket knife! Oh, the tent-cabin only sleeps four? It will be 33 degrees, tonight? Hey, it’s THE vacation the kids still talk about!
Like most families, our summer trips have been flavored with the usual - kids fighting over personal space in the car, small wars over who called “shotgun” and yes, tears over the one most important “vacation” decision: who gets to push the elevator button! Wonderful memories.
2007 - Technology Years – This year, we loaded up our four teenagers to head to Florida for a few weeks. Our goal was to do nothing. As it turned out, it was our first taste of a high-tech vacation. It started in the car - Jeff drove, followed the GPS system and listened to his iPod; the kids watched a few DVDs and I wrote part of a column on my laptop. Where were the coloring books, flying french fries and travel Yahtzee? Once we got to our destination, the first thing I noticed is that the kids didn’t run to the pool or ice cream store; they plopped down to get online and check Facebook, MySpace and AIM. (Old technology now!) It was a new era.
2012 and Beyond - College and Young Adult Years - Vacations were different in this season. The kids were busy with college, jobs and their emerging independence, so we tried to make memories when we could. Maybe it was a short "girls cruise" with me and my daughters or a day of fishing for the boys. Vacations included fiances and the our son and daughter in laws. A cookout at the house, sitting around a bonfire or a day of floating around on a pontoon were moments we cherished.
2019 - My 60th - I knew we had a very small window to take the whole family on one last vacation together before all the kids began having babies and a whole new era of fun, grand baby chaos would emerge. At that time, two of our kids and their spouses were living in Australia so we had to find a spot where all 10 of us could meet and vacation. If we could make it happen, my 60th birthday dream was to take all of our kids with us on a mediterranean cruise. As it turned out, everyone was able to meet up in Rome and we hopped on a Norwegian cruise ship for a glorious 10 days to make the best memories and fill my mom-heart to the brim! It's a time I will never forget!!
2020 and Beyond - Now that we're empty nesters, my husband and I are loving our time together and we're keeping the vacation tradition going doing fun things together! We like cruising so we make it a point to get on a few ships a year, either just the two of us or together with friends. We know a fun season of grandkids is coming and we can't wait to introduce them to fun vacation getaways with gramma and gramps! :)
Family vacations...the years tick by so fast...be sure to make time to make memories! Things don’t always go according to plan, chaos can be expected and someone might blow a gasket -- and all of that makes great memories!
If you’ve not made family vacations a priority, please for the love of God and family -- do it. Plan your next family vacation right now. (Check out vrbo.com, vacationstogo.com to jumpstart your vacation!)
“So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 8:15, NLT
I promised my family they would love camping in the tent-cabins at Colter Bay near the Grand Tetons of Wyoming — when in fact, I had never been camping there, nor had our family ever camped once in our existence.
I knew we were in trouble when my husband and I pulled our minivan, filled to the brim with four teenagers, up to our campsite and saw a small tent-cabin (yes, it’s exactly that: a tent-cabin) and a small bonfire pit. (Keywords: Everything. Was. Small. We are a giant family of six—kin to Shrek—each hovering near six feet or more.) When our campsite neighbors pulled up and began to unload their multiple tubs of Rubbermaid camping gear complete with tents, screens, a propane stove, and lanterns, my children stared at me with dagger-like eyes.
So, we didn’t have a stove, flashlight, utensils, plates, food, or matches. We had a pocketknife. But this was nothing a trip to the camp store couldn’t fix. Two packages of hot dogs later, along with stale buns and a few packets of ketchup and mustard we “stole” from the deli, and we were living like pioneers! Never mind we had to borrow matches from our professional camping neighbors to start our bonfire. The non-stop disapproving body language I felt from my loving family should have discouraged me, but I knew eventually they would love this whole experience!
Well, our three-day camping experience turned into a one night “get us the heck out of here” experience. Other than the fact that we spent the night in a World War II era tent-cabin where the wood-burning heater ran out of wood around 2 a.m., the temperature dropped to 32 degrees, and we were all freezing, it wasn’t a big deal. I hardly noticed the frostbite because of the shooting pain in my torn rotator cuff that zapped me every time I tried to roll over in my 1940s army cot.
Besides, who could sleep? I was still thinking about the “watch out for the hungry bears late at night” comment I’d heard at the camp store earlier. Not to worry, I was pretty sure the shouts from our cabin sent every bear in three counties running for cover at 2:15 a.m. when my husband woke up to stoke the woodless fire and tripped over our boys who were sleeping soundly in soccer chairs. When they collapsed under dad’s falling body, their freaked-out screams likely started a flurry of bears texting one another, “Crazy Alert: Stay away from Site 37.”
Somehow the girls slept through the chaos, but in the morning, their parsed-lip mumbles about having to pay 25 cents to take a shower in a grimy stall didn’t go unnoticed. Trying to be chipper, I reminded them, “C’mon you guys! This is how the Little House on the Prairie people did it!” Eyes were rolling. By the time we packed up our goods and pulled out of the campground, I’d had enough of the bad attitudes and forced the entire family to sing, “You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face and show the world all the love in your heart.” (Thank you Carole King, Tapestry Album, 1970s.)
Wouldn’t you know, once we saw the Grand Tetons and hiked up beautiful trails to see mountain views and waterfalls, not to mention the moose, bears, and plentiful wildlife (from a distance!), the entire family was singing my praises about what a great vacation this was!
So, here’s the punch line. I promised they would love camping and to this day, the Colter Bay camping experience is the one and only vacation our family still raves, mocks and reenacts all of these years later.
(I knew they would love it!)
And that’s why we are not campers.
(Excerpt from Beth’s book, Wealth and Generosity, published by Harrison House.)
The point? Make memories with your family -- whether in a tent-cabin in Wyoming or by sitting around the card table playing games. You will never regret the effort and expense of spending tine with family!
So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. Colossians 1:9-10, NLT
When our kids were entering middle school. I was nervous.
I remembered being in middle school -- I wasn’t a Christian and it was during that season, I started doing all the bad stuff.
I was feeling anxious as our kids entered middle school. I wondered, “How do you raise Christian teens?”
As I sought the Lord, the Holy Spirit told me two things.
First, He spoke to my heart with this: “Jesus is the only perfect Person. Everyone makes mistakes and your kids will, too.”
Second. He went on, “Pray that their mistakes are minor and they learn their lessons quickly.”
So that’s what I did.
I accepted the fact that our kids would make mistakes. It wasn’t as if they (or we) were perfect anyway -- but somehow, when I acknowledged they would make mistakes in middle school and high school, it set me at ease. When I made that simple adjustment in my heart, the fear of trying to raise perfect kids or be perfect parents (or even pastor the perfect church) lost its power.
The fact that I could pray specifically that the mistakes our kids made would be minor and that they would learn quickly, also gave me a great deal of rest. I knew I could lean on the Lord to help them in this regard and I trusted the Holy Spirit would be with them to coach and instruct them along the way.
I bet you can guess what happened?
If you’ve got middle school or high schoolers, be encouraged as you accept the fact that you’re your kids will make mistakes, but you can pray their mistakes are minor and they learn their lessons quickly too.
The best part of all of this for me was that during those teen years, my kids and I stayed close and kept the lines of communication open. Other than a few bad days, it was an enjoyable season and these days they are all married, and they all love the Lord.
Need God’s wisdom to guide your kids through their teen years? Pray the prayer above from Colossians and ask the Lord for the insights you need. (And, feel free to adopt what He led us to do!)