Lessons from Family Vacation

There is something about vacationing together that lifts the spirit of my family. It feels like a reward for making it through the long months of winter. It's a time to focus on reconnecting with family. It's also like the sound of a starting gun signaling the start of a race through summer.  There are so many reasons family vacations give us a boost of energy and joy. However, if we’re not mindful, it can also lead us right into burnout.

That’s how I was feeling the last couple of days of our family vacation this year. I was exhausted. I was overwhelmed. My mind was full of anxious and depressive thoughts all at once. I just wanted to find a hole to hide in. What was going on with me?

Rewind to the beginning of our time together. I was coming off of a busy season at work; I needed a break and I knew it. So, as I finished my last sermon before my vacation, I began to think of all the fun I was going to have with my wife and my kids that week. We had plans to go to the zoo, the beach, and an art museum. I was so excited! And we did have so much fun. Every day was filled with laughter, good food, and connection with each other.

However, I made a big mistake that led to burnout by the end of the week. I spent so much time with my family, that I didn’t make any time to spend with God in prayer or checking in with how I was feeling. I neglected my usual routines of prayer, journaling, and meditation. I was so caught up in the fun of vacationing with my kids, that I completely forgot about my own needs for connection with God and myself. As a result, as days wore on, I felt resentment building towards my family because I wanted my alone time.

Jesus Prioritized Spiritual Connection

When Jesus finished a busy season of ministry, he may have wanted to just unplug and relax, and no doubt he did that at times, but he prioritized connecting with his true source of life first. He’d get up before any of his disciples to pray. While it was still dark out, he’d slide out the door and quietly make his way to a secluded place. Remember, these were the days before electricity, so it was darker than most of us can imagine. In that dark place, just after wiping the sleep out of his eyes, he’d begin to open up to his Father in heaven. Don’t believe me? Check out Mark 1:45. Jesus had just called his first disciples, cast out demons, and healed the sick. No wonder he was exhausted! Yet, he didn’t turn to entertainment, instead, he turned to heaven.

Your Kids Need you at Your Best

You may not be healing the sick and casting out demons, but you are doing the taxing work of raising children and earning a living. Therefore, like Jesus, you need to find rest that connects you with God, so that you can be a faithful parent. Just because Jesus got up early enough that it was still dark out to go and pray, doesn’t mean you have to. Early mornings don’t work for everyone. I know that in the season of life that I’m in with two young kids at home, waking up early would just be torture, but ten years ago, when I didn’t have any kids waking me up in the night, I loved to get up early for connection with God. Now, I try to look for moments when I know I’ll feel awake and have a few minutes of uninterrupted time. Usually, that looks like sitting at my desk for half an hour after my kids are in bed. I’m always tired, but I’m not usually sleepy then. I can pull out my journal, reflect on how my day has gone, and spend some time reading a psalm and praying. I also try to use that time to think of friends or family I might want to connect with. I’ll send them a text or find a time to get on a call with them.

Combine Exercise with Spiritual Connection

Another way to connect with God in the midst of a busy season is to pray on the go. You may not be someone who likes to sit down and journal. That’s fine! Try going for a walk or a jog through your neighborhood and meditate on a passage of Scripture you’ve memorized. I tend to go to Psalm 23 and the Lord’s Prayer. Let the neighbors' houses and the kids playing at the local park be cues to pray for other people in your life. If you don’t have someone else to watch your kids, then bring them with you. Have your kids ride their own bikes or ride in the stroller. The main thing is not to put your spiritual practices in a box. What God ultimately wants is a robust relationship with you. Find ways to make that happen.

Connection with God helps us Connect with Others

As I neared the end of our family vacation, I was confronted with exhaustion, but when I took time to reconnect with God and myself through journaling and prayer, I felt a renewed sense of God’s presence in my life. It allowed me to finish off the vacation well. It didn’t mean I could return to doing one thing after another. I still had to slow down, but that spiritual connection helped me better understand my needs and limits and how to stay present with my wife and kids amid the tiredness. I was able to practice gentleness and patience instead of becoming snappy and frustrated. My connection with God is key to my ability to parent with grace. If I’m not feeding spiritual life, then my kids will feel it in my parenting. They deserve my best, so I need to go back to the source of Life time and again.

Are you feeling tired, exhausted, or even burnt out? Take a cue from Jesus and reconnect with your heavenly Father. He’s waiting for you with arms wide open. He’s ready to hear your voice so that you can hear him.

About the author — Rev. Travis Jamieson

Travis Jamieson pastors a church in the heart of Silicon Valley and hosts The Faith (In)Forming Podcast. He’s married to Annie and they have two beautiful red-headed children

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