Redeeming the Family Vacation

As a father of four kids under nine years of age, I think of vacation as an opportunity for disaster. I know that sounds awful, but hear me out. We rarely travel farther than Branson on vacation as it is plain silliness to be in a car with four kids for longer than four hours. As I scan my memory of our many trips south, I can’t help but think of a few “highlights”. A trip to the emergency room with an unresponsive child, a forehead split open from falling into the corner of a wall, countless rained-out golf rounds, a trail of vomit along the hot pavement at Silver Dollar City waiting to be cleaned up by some guy wearing knickers and a tam-o-shanter hat, and the list goes on…

The amazing fact of the matter is that before each of the trips where aforementioned incidents occurred, I truly believed THIS was to be the trip we pull off without a crisis! Even more confounding, I continue to make plans for future vacations! What is that definition of insanity I keep hearing about? In fact, we just returned from a trip to Branson with another family of 6 (we’ve found that only those with four kids of their own are crazy enough to go with us) where my three year old made sure that clean-up guy at Silver Dollar City earned his wooden nickel.

Now, hold onto your own cookies as I inform you we are actually making a trip to Walt Disney World in June…and we are driving. Are you telling me 22 hours in a minivan, driving headlong into the hot, humid Florida summer sun with a 1 year old and her siblings doesn’t sound like fun? There have been millions of dollars made off of movies with similar plot lines! I know there is a significant chance there will be fights, fevers, fumbles and finger-pointing, but I’m still up for it. The obvious question is “why”?

My parents commonly mention a story from many years ago where our family had rented an RV and encountered on a especially miserable trip out west. My dad asked me a question dripping in sarcasm as we turned out the lights at the end of the worst of the notoriously difficult days. In a span of 24 hours my dad had broken his toe, the septic system of the RV backed up, a tire blew out and my brother and I were covered in seed ticks from exploring our campground. “Hey Jeff”, he asked, “what is your favorite thing about our trip so far?”. As the story goes, there was a pause, and then out of the silence from the overhead bed of that cursed RV, I said; “tomorrow”.

Apparently my parents about rolled off their bunk in laughter that night. “tomorrow” meant something very different to them than it did to me. I was truly excited about the adventure that the next 24 hours was sure to hold. They were simply hoping “tomorrow” meant another shot at sanity!

I am convinced there is no better microcosm of life than the family vacation. Honestly, where else can you tackle challenges, face disappointment, build teamwork, try your patience, encourage long suffering, taste pure joy and avoid disaster… and do it all together as a family… in a span of a week?

What a better way to show our kids how to live life this side of heaven. We press on, willing to accept God’s grace in our joys and in our difficulties. I’m humbled as I write this as I remember too many times I have failed to teach by example. Maybe that is why I am excited about our summer trip. I have yet another chance to teach my kids how life is messy, full of both wonder and disappointment. Hopefully, they will understand God’s purposes in both are equally good. I pray they realize God has given them their yesterday and their today, and they know He has incredible plans for their “tomorrow”, whatever it may hold.

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails”
-Proverbs 19:21

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