Ahhhh….summer vacation. The time of year when I get to hang up my ‘work hat’ and put on my ‘play hat.’
I can feel the stress of life begin to lift the further away I drive from the city. As I make my way toward my oasis, a care free attitude sets in, and a different mindset takes over. It is freeing to let go of the regular demands of life, to exhale the exhaust of the schedules and deadlines, and to inhale invaluable time of rest and rejuvenation.
My recipe for the best summer vacation is quite simple….An equal ratio. 2 parts ‘fun and frolic’ with 2 parts ‘reflect and renew’’. Mix together and enjoy!
They say that “laughter is the best medicine,” and I tend to agree with that. There is nothing more satisfying than a deep, long belly laugh that leaves your sides hurting and your cheeks aching. I like to make sure I include a lot of laughter on my vacations. Give yourself the opportunity to live on the lighter side of life. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Do a running cannon ball jump off the end of the dock…you’re kids will die laughing, trust me 😉 Have an impromptu karaoke contest with your friends, worst singer wins! Tell jokes around the campfire, yes, even the corny ones. Throw your head back and let the laughter burst out. Let it ring through the forest and trees, let it lift your heart and feed your soul.
I like the word ‘frolic.’ It has an airy, breezy sound to it. That’s how we need to spend our vacation times, with a lot of space, free flow, and breeze. We have to put away the crisp, rigid, and narrow way of doing things and stretch ourselves, be flexible and allow for frolic and fun.The definition of frolic is ‘to gambol merrily; to play in a frisky, light spirited-manner; to romp.” We can take some pointers from the kids around us. Follow their lead. They know how to do frolic well. Get in the game, dig a sandcastle, go for adventure, and why not skip along the way? Let go of fretting and focus on frolic. Play hard and rest easy!
I believe God has a sense of humor and without sounding irreverent, dare I say, a playful side? We often don’t appreciate the gift he’s given us through laughter and play. I have a picture in our summer house that says, “Live well, laugh often, love much.” Give it a try!
To complete my recipe for the best summer we can’t forget to add some of the most important ingredients. Reflect and renew. There is a time for everything, scripture says and after you’ve put in a good day of fun and frolic, it’s time to slow it down and add these essentials.
We live in a fast food, gotta have it now, society, not to mention the overwhelming pressure to always push ahead and build our future. It is good to have goals, and to invest time, energy and resources into the future. We are told to be good stewards of what we have. But, every now and then I get a sense that we can’t wait to get out of today, let alone look back at yesterday. Yet, reflection is crucial to the Christian journey and there’s no better time to it develop this practice than on vacation.
One of the easiest ways to look back from year to year is to keep a journal. I know, some of you would never claim yourself to be a ‘writer’ but here’s the good news, you don’t have to be a writer to journal, you just need to know how to put letters together to make words. Here’s the secret, no one ever needs to look at your entries, just you, and there’s no editor!
This habit creates the perfect setting for you to be able to reflect. If you journal, you are able to capture your feelings, events, dreams, fears, to mention a few. We like to think we will remember lessons learned, special moments or feelings, but the fact is we forget. Journaling helps us to encapsulate them, so that when the time is right, we can open it again and feel the exact sentiment that was there the moment we experienced them.
I can’t tell you how much this practice has helped my spiritual journey. The times I have spent journaling and reflecting on what I previously wrote (TRUE FACT: it doesn’t take THAT much time to write, and it doesn’t have to be pages and pages, or everyday either) have allowed me to see God at work, around me and in me. This has increased my faith, and has brought me closer to God.
As I just alluded to, I don’t just journal, but I reflect on what I wrote. Vacation time is great for making new entries, but it’s also a fantastic time to read some of the old entries. This is where the “magic” happens. From your current vantage point you now have hindsight and perspective from the time you wrote those words. That’s powerful. You can begin to remember, ponder, meditate on what you have learned about God, yourself and others. You can see how you’ve changed and where you still need to. You can recount the blessings in amongst the thorns even, and deepen your gratitude attitude. You can relive the special moments that you’ve experienced with loved ones.
Word to the wise, reflection does take effort and some time, but that’s why it’s a perfect opportunity for you to do this on vacation. Slow down, sit down, write down, and you will see yourself from a different point of view. Begin to see your life through the rear view mirror and experience the beauty of reflection.
To complete the recipe, we need the often overlooked ingredient of renewal.
Once you have had sufficient time to reflect, you can begin to ask God to renew you. Essentially the process of reflection allows you to lay open your heart and mind and the process of renewing allows you to realign yourself with God’s plan. With the help of the Holy Spirit you will be able to see parts of your life, behavior, attitudes that need to be recentered, refocused or renewed. Sometimes, we lose our way with one huge mistake, but often it happens bit by bit.
Take this interesting fact about flying, for instance. “For every single degree you fly off course, you will miss your target landing spot by 92 feet for every mile you fly. That amounts to about one mile off target for every sixty miles flown. If you decided to start at the equator and fly around the earth, one degree off would land you almost 500 miles off target.”
Just like this story shows, it doesn’t have to be major decisions that get us off course. They can be subtle, slight changes, small compromises, all of which push us adrift. The beauty of reflection allows us to get on track again, to renew our hearts and minds according to God’s purposes. Romans 12:2, tells us transformation will happen when we renew our minds.
Ephesians gives us a process for change in chapter 4 teaching us to:1) put off your old self. 2) be made new in the attitudes of your minds. 3) put on the new self.
Even our beloved King David knew this practice of renewal. After he reflected on the personal sin that had enslaved leaving him tangled in a web of lies, murder, and denial, he journals his heart’s plea. It reads,”…renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
Sometimes we need God to create something new in our hearts, giving us a fresh vision or direction. Other times we need him to renew something that has overtime faded into the background. Still, there are times when we need him to restore something that has been broken, perhaps a dream or a relationship. Nonetheless, all of these things will not happen on their own. There’s no magic pill. Sorry no fast food menu for this gourmet dish.
As I was recently reflecting and reading my previous journal entries, I came across this. “Reflection takes time. We can’t ever begin to have a fast food, hurried approach to reflection. Think about how calm the water has to be before you can see yourself in it. The waves are not crashing this way and that. A real ‘pause’ needs to be put on one’s life before they can reflect, a clearing of the desk, so to speak. The canvas has to be clean to allow your heart and mind to pause. Get rid of the clutter. Still the voices and listen to the silence for a while. They will draw you to a place of reflection where you can hear the inner dialogue between yourself and the Spirit of the living God.”
How will you make the most of your vacation this year? I hope that beside the scrapbook of pictures and memories that you capture with your family and friends will be a journal, full of God moments. Don’t leave God behind when you take your vacation this summer. Bring him into the fun and frolic and allow him to help you reflect and renew your life.