Let’s go camping!
It sounded like a great idea. It always sounds like a great idea when we’re several months away from the event.
It was early Fall, the leaves were just beginning to change, and our popup camper sat stored in the garage.
“Let’s camp this Fall...in the mountains!”
“Sounds like a great idea! I’ll find a campsite and book it!”
And so, on Thursday, November 11th, we pulled out of our driveway, kids in the backseat, camper in tow, on our way to the North Carolina mountains.
Why Vacation Sounds Good
-Vacation always sounds promising. The word itself communicates something to us: Rest. Relaxation.
Websters defines Vacation as: “A period of time spent away from home for recreation and respite/rest.”
When I was younger, that idea of recreation is what dominated my idea of vacation. It was a time to take a trip and do things! Now that I’m older and into my adult life, vacation tends to make me think of the second part of that definition...REST!
So, when someone recommends that we plan a vacation, the ideas of rest and relaxation come flooding into my mind. With this trip, in particular, I started thinking of the crisp mountain air, the leaves, the smell of a campfire, cooking at the campsite, and long periods of sitting and reading.
They were good thoughts...and we decided to make it happen!
The Realities of Vacation
We told the kids about a week before, and everyone was excited. We all pitched in packing and loading up. There was excitement to get going. The vacation awaited! We were all ready for a fun, relaxing time.
And as we pulled out of the neighborhood, a few hundred yards from our driveway, the happiness came to an end. One of our kids got angry about something meaningless (as kids do). And that made me angry.
“How could this child be so selfish as to ruin my vacation already! We’re literally just leaving!”
So, I did what any good dad does...I turned around and made a threat I had no intention of keeping: “If you don’t quit, I'm going to take us home.”
Needless to say, the trip continued, the crying and complaining continued, the bathroom stops were many, and when we finally made it to our campsite, it started raining!
This was not the restful and peaceful vacation I had planned in my head a few months back.
The plan was good...the reality was not lining up with the plan.
-The kids were super excited to get there and get to playing. “Don’t get wet, it's cold and we only have limited clothes” we told them...and that didn’t last. Haddon spent the rest of the trip with grocery bags on his feet because he not only got his clothes wet, but also the inside of his boots...his only pair of shoes.
The kids didn’t sleep well. Late to bed, early to rise, etc.
And, needless to say, my plans for sitting and reading uninterrupted were flawed from the start…
-It was all too easy to get upset and angry with so many things not going to plan...and I did, at times, get angry.
The Unseen Blessings of Vacation
I have learned, and am still learning, that the true blessings of vacation...especially during this stage of our lives, are not found in that coveted peace and quiet I so long for. It is found in the togetherness it affords our family.
Now, I am writing this after we have returned from the trip. I’ve gotten back into my routine (which I really do love), and I’ve had time to think about and process the weekend.
A lot of my struggles with vacation—and I imagine the same is true for some of you as well—come from false hopes and expectations. I expect too much from vacation in some ways, and not enough in others. Plain and simple.
This is one of the areas where my wife is outpacing me in sanctification. She knows better than to expect peace, quiet, and perfection on these trips. And she faithfully tells me before we leave, while we’re there, and reminds me on the backend.
The truth is, our family had a great time. The kids enjoyed most of the trip. We had a great campsite nestled between two mountains and flanked by a small stream.
We had meals together around the fire, and shared laughs.
And had some fun adventures.
The False Promises…
The false promises of vacation are really just poor expectations in my own heart. And the Bible helps me here…
James 4:1-6 reads, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But He gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
The Bible knows me through and through. It is God’s living and active word. Jesus uses His Word to speak directly to me in my sin.
This passage helps me understand why I get easily disappointed with vacation...because I’m not getting what I want! In my mind, I imagine and expect vacation to be something it never can be. I set up unrealistic expectations. And James tells me, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” When it comes to vacation, I’m not usually thinking of how this trip might make me more godly. I’m usually just thinking, “How can this trip and everyone on it serve me?”
Thankfully, as James also says, there is grace for people like me with problems like this. “God gives more grace.”
A Good Trip
After all the dust settled, the trip ended up being good. Not all of it was happy (is any trip with small children?), but we will certainly remember the good aspects of it. We already have some fun family memories from it...like when the kids opened an entire box of cheez-its into my truck.
And the memories are why we’ll go back…
All of this is why I needed to reflect on this...because it will happen again.