“And seeing the multitudes, he ascended the mountain…” – Matthew 5:1
My family and I just returned from a week long vacation in Paradise (also known as the island of Aruba). It was glorious and adventurous and perfectly wonderful in every way. I wish a week didn’t fly by so quickly when you’re having so much fun!
We went to Aruba to celebrate my husband completing three years of work at Georgetown University for his MBA. Commencement is next week, and we can hardly believe it’s finally here. It’s been a tough journey for our whole family: the kids missing Daddy, the wife really missing Daddy, and Daddy working hard on classwork after his busy full time workday is over…and missing everyone back home too.
Halfway through our celebratory trip, I was struck by how important it is to make time away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life to find rest and relaxation and refreshment together as a family.
Yes, a week in Aruba is an extravagant way to achieve this departure from everyday life, and it was probably a once in a lifetime trip there, but it wasn’t the fact we were on a gorgeous island that made the trip so special. [Even though the oceanfront views from our balcony sure didn’t hurt].
It was the disconnectedness from the workaday world. From our cell phones. From our mailbox full of bills to pay and stuff to do. From the dishwasher and the laundry machine and the trips to the grocery store. From the lawn that is growing faster than our kids, if that’s even possible. From the bookshelves that need dusting, the sheets that need changing, the cars that need washing. From the work cubicle and to do lists and graduate school final exams.
A family vacation gave us a chance to remove ourselves from all of the normal time-consuming to-do’s and replace that with time fully focused on each other and God’s beautiful creation.
We had some of the best conversations we’ve had in a long time with our two children. We laughed, we giggled, we tickled. My 17-month old learned the “ABCs song” from his brother and we gleefully sang it in rounds on our balcony every morning while we watched the sun come up.
We had time to read (I read two whole books on vacation! For a mom who gets to read an average of two pages a day without interruption this was monumental!), time to pray, time to talk. The Hubs and I had some of the best conversations about our marriage and our family that we’ve had in ages.
And the result was we walked off our plane back home in Northern Virginia feeling refreshed, refocused, and ready to re-tackle the tasks of family life.
Shortly before we left on vacation, I spoke with a girlfriend who is reading a book on the biggest major stresses in life. She half-jokingly said to me “As I was going through the major life stresses I was thinking of you and Pete and mentally saying “check, check, check, yep they pretty much have all of them covered in their lives right now except death and divorce.”
Slightly sickening but fairly true: we’re pregnant. We parent toddlers and babies. My husband works an intense job with lots of deadlines and major deliverables. He’s finishing graduate school. We just bought our first house so we’re packing up the current one for a move later this month. The list goes on but you get the picture – we’re in the throws of family life, just like most of you are too.
Another friend made the comment to me shortly before we left on vacation “I can’t believe you guys of all people are taking a week vacation right now – you two are busier than anyone I know!”
But what I now realize is that it’s because we’re busy, because we’re stressed, because life is so full, that we needed a chance to unwind and refocus on the important things in life.
This concept of taking a break to regroup physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually is a very biblical concept.
St. Paul often talks in the Epistles of his gratefulness for times to relax and refresh:
“I appeal to you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf…that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.” – Romans 15:30-32
“I rejoice at the coming of Steph′anas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence; for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such men.” – 1 Corinthians 16:18
And Jesus Christ himself is our model for taking a break. We read throughout the Gospels how He made the “ascent” to a quiet, uninhabited place to pray and refresh:
“After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.” – Matthew 14:23
“After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.” – Mark 6:46
All families need “time out” to make the Ascent. No, it doesn’t have to be toes in the sand in Aruba to have the healing, restoring effect on a family. The same can be achieved at a KOA campground down the road with tents pitched next to an open fire (more likely location for our next family ascent).
It’s the ascent that matters – rising above the stress and to-do lists and clutter and chaos and taking time to refresh each soul in the family.
I hope for this same blessed refreshment for each of my readers. In the busy workaday world we live in, I think we all desperately need it.
“For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.” – Jeremiah 31:25