Vacation – Why We Can’t Afford Not To

$824.00 for Disneyland.

I thought $90 a week for a kick in the nuts (counseling) was a rough go… But to shell out $824 for a three-day family pass just to have close proximity to a Galactic Gobbler or the not-sure-why-it’s-famous cheesesteak…?

Grandma SnyderI don’t know if it’s mentoring from Dave Ramsey or my old Jewish Grandma, Claire Snyder, (yes, her real picture)…but I pride myself in not paying full retail for anything but a wedding ring, a honeymoon, and a microbrew.

It was a mentor, Reese, who brought the disruption to my category of “Vacation” and the eventual rescue.  When I turned thirty and began to ask questions of older men, he brought this counsel that would forever alter my assumptions:

“I would’ve spent more money and taken more two-week vacations.” – Reese

As an idea, it’s great.  But as a reality, it felt like a near impossibility.  Thankfully, we’re in a season of a bit of margin beyond living “month to month,” but still—with trying to build up an emergency fund, put some extra toward the mortgage and prepare for braces, luxurious vacations aren’t exactly in the budget, especially the emotional budget.

When I find myself at an intersection between what I am pulled to do (by culture or by fear) and what my heart believes (barely) is life, I need to risk and I need to listen: to my Father in Heaven and to the counsel of those who have gone before me and whose wholeness and impact is a light upon my way (Psalm 119:105).

So we rolled the dice.

We chose to listen to Reese’s counsel and risk taking a longer vacation than felt “reasonable.” We chose to spend the money. We shipped it.  A few days at Disneyland and beyond. Two weeks off the grid.  Thirteen years before, Cherie and I planned a seven-day honeymoon because we had never even heard of taking a “vacation” for more than seven days. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had developed the rigorous assumption that a seven-day vacation was the max for a “responsible human being.”

And yet here we were, so different now through a decade of spiritual and emotional formation by God’s spirit, our mentors and friends, heading out for a two-week vacation. By way of confession, it was the first “vacation” we had taken with just our little family in three years. We were pulling the tubes of the IV-technology-drip out of our bruised forearms, pulling the kids out of school, throwing up the wheels and taking off…

And what do you know? Reese was right. The very spaciousness of this vacation became the sacred container for some of the best moments of my life.

Vacation threeThe name we spoke over our vacation was “Operation Soil Replenishment” (Aaron: thanks for your intervention in my downward spiral last fall; you helped me believe that Jesus makes the impossible possible). We prayed as a family every morning for FAVOR, declaring that we were all the sons and daughters of God and that our Father delights in bringing gifts for His kids. And He did, oh did He ever… I wish I could sit with you around a campfire and share my stories with you and listen as you share yours with me…

Vacation two

I found myself in tears of gratitude so many times over the course of the two weeks. Father snuck up on me again and again and again with His goodness, playfulness, nearness, beauty, and joy.  It was not without battle; everything from sickness to warfare to threatening weather. And yet, deeper still, it was soil replenishment.  It was intimacy with my children.  Spontaneous play. Hours without a schedule and with all kinds of room to follow the nudging of the Holy Spirit.  No agenda except to be present to ourselves, each other, and our God. It was lingering conversations with Cherie.  Flowing Laughter.  Questions back and forth with our kids, prayers, worship, playing, fasting, and feasting.

It was a context that facilitated limitless connection as a family that simply isn’t available in this degree of concentration in our day-to-day life.

“Context is everything.”

The Colonel used to tell me this in just about every other session. And it has finally sunk in. It is. If we take the proverb to heart: “Above all, guard your heart, for from it flows the wellspring of life,” then we must ask what context lends itself to a heart overflowing with abundant life, life we can then offer back to our God, to our families, and to our world. And God seems to entrust a big part of that “context” to our care and discretion. We get to shape the context to facilitate our own intimate connection with God and His life and then in turn help actively shape a context for our family’s intimate connection with Him as well.

What if “Vacation” is an essential context to the narrow road?

Especially in this decade.

The kids change every day. “The days are long but the years are short.”  A dear friend said it too well.

Vacations can provide a taste of the Kingdom of God much differently from what we taste in the daily context of our forty-hour (fifty? sixty?) work week and the often conflicting schedules of each member of our family.

And “visits” with family can be remarkable… we’re blessed to have many of those on our calendar. But I want to suggest that “vacation” is different. A chance to simply be with your little family unit in a lifegiving location, “doing life together” with no other goal than to connect, refresh, and rest with each other and with God.

Decisions have consequences.  And vacations aren’t free.

It’s easy to list the reasons why I can’t afford a vacation.

But it’s holy to list the reasons why I can’t afford not to.

Father, I give the category of Vacation to you.  Expose what stands in the way of my risking that the very thing I need—and my family needs—is the very thing You love and are longing to provide. I choose to lean into Your counsel through older mentors who have offered it….

Where would You have us go? What is it our hearts most deeply need as a family this year?  How will You provide that? I open my heart up to the possibility.  I agree that Jesus makes the impossible possible. And that You love to lavish gifts on Your sons and daughters.  I stand against the thief, the accuser, and everything of the kingdom of darkness that is set against the vacations You have intended for me and my family.  I give You my Yes.  I ask that You would come and show us what You have.