I’ve been on vacation for the past week. A good, old-fashioned family road trip with my mom, sister, and her little family. We had an awesome trip, so it was only fitting that I reflect on five of my greatest blessings from the past week. This is my High5 Vacation Edition.
Sweet Wake-up Call
The whole crew of six of us stayed in a multi-room hotel suite the first few nights of our trip. My wake-up call each morning wasn’t the glaring sound of an alarm clock. It was the sweet little voice of my five-year-old nephew coming from the kitchen. He woke up chipper and ready for conversation with my mom, who was the first one up in the morning. Even though I wasn’t in the same room, I could see him smiling as I heard his cheerful conversation and it put a big smile on my face at the start of each day.
I spent last weekend revisiting my college town, friends, and went to a college football game. Being back in that space brought back a mixture of wonderful, nostalgic feelings. I was transported to another time and it almost felt like my time spent there over fifteen years ago had been a dream. The memories from being back in a place where I’ve lived but haven’t visited in awhile come back in waves. The recognition of a building where I had classes or seeing my old college apartment again led to memories of the people and moments and sites and smells that I had since forgotten. The funny thing about being in college is that, at the time, I felt like I was 100% adult, but didn’t realize how unlike real life that college experience really was until I entered the ‘real world.’ My college experiences were steps towards being fully independent, but I was still so sheltered and protected that those experiences only gave me a taste of life on my own as an adult. Last weekend was a bliss-filled, fairy tale experience to live into those memories and feelings again.
I love the new routine vacations provide. Waking up to a leisurely breakfast, walking the beach, showering up before heading out for lunch at an island cafe . . . rough life, I know. Such was our itinerary one day in the middle of our trip. After our morning beach activities, we headed to a sweet local cafe for lunch, were seated, and began looking over the menu. I glanced up and recognized a woman who had just walked in. Her mother was a tremendous positive influence on me as a teenager, so my smiles of recognition at her turned into sheer joy when her mother came in behind her. They were seated at the table right next to me and my mom. Laughs and hugs and a few happy tears were shared, along with the awe of God’s timing of this ‘chance’ reunion. This unexpected encounter will be close to my heart for a very long time.
Toes in the Water ~ Toes in the Sand
Planning with Mom
We put nearly 2,000 miles on my car on this trip (1,993 to be exact), so there were hours and hours . . . . and hours of talk time in the car as we journeyed between destinations. My mom and I are really good at bouncing ideas off of each other and capturing plans and lists and brainstorms for projects back home. There’s something about distancing myself from my everyday life that brings forth clarity and bursts of creativity. I love this time with my mom to dream and reflect and prioritize and I always look forward to returning home with renewed vigor and energy. Vacations are amazing and necessary for my soul . . . but, there’s something about coming back home that brings me new life and renews my spirit.
I’m on vacation this week. I always take time off in August. After a busy couple of months at work, I’m feeling fried and ready for some time away. This year, aside from a trip to the mountains this past weekend, I’m enjoying a “staycation” this week. No traveling out of town . . . just time for me and time with my family. I love how being on vacation breaks my routine. It offers a different pace; a different feel to the day.
Right now, I’m sitting at my favorite locally-owned coffee shop, enjoying some space to reflect. A change of location brings new perspectives. Being here allows space for insights I miss in my regular day-to-day settings. I love coffee shops. They’re like a microcosm of our lives. Serious discussions. Laughter. Business meetings. Conversations about new endeavors. Moms with kids. Singles. Couples. Working. Reading. A coffee shop provides a space for people to talk, listen, and be. It’s a shared setting that offers separate, intimate space for all. I so enjoy my time here (and, their iced skim chai latte is the best in town).
A friend and I went out to dinner last week and I told her there’s this space inside me that feels like it’s being emptied. She shared that it’s a space that’s reserved for romantic relationships. It’s one of many spaces within myself that, when taken as a whole, are the essence of who I am. Do you know those spaces I’m talking about? When relationships cease to exist, those spaces are left empty for a time. For a while now, that relationship space inside me has been held solely by one guy in my life. How easy it’s always been for me to jump right back into that space and reach out to him. He’s been the only one I’ve wanted in that romantic relationship space, so naturally, he’s the one I keep going back to when I want to pursue a relationship. Even though I decided to walk away this summer and not look back, I’ve considered breaking the spell several times by reaching out to him. At times, it would be easier just to backslide back into the familiar, even though it isn’t ideal. It fills some of that space that sometimes feels so uncomfortable being empty.
My recent shift from pursuing him to distancing myself from him is changing that space he filled. That space is being repurposed. It’s a place for God now. It’s a space that He wants to fill. It’s a space that’s no longer filled with MY wants and MY desires. The space is being filled with God and me and joy and life-giving relationships. The more that empty space is filled with God’s plan for me, the farther I walk away from that romantic relationship I pursued for so long. The less he consumes my thoughts. The less I want to reach out to him. The less I want to jump back in. It’s hard work. It’s still a struggle. It’s unbelievably freeing.
This isn’t about emptying the space only to quickly fill it up again with another romantic relationship. I don’t want that right now. I’m not looking for anyone and it feels really great. No pressure. No distractions. I canceled my online dating subscription last spring, but still get email updates of new matches who want to get in touch with me. I’m not ready for that. For now, I want God to fill that space. I want Him to show me what that space should look like. I keep jumping into that space without really knowing what He wants for me; without really knowing what should be there.
I get excited about this fresh, empty space that’s soon to be filled. I’m cleaning it out. I’m emptying the nooks and crannies. I’m reflecting and writing though the process. I’m making room for God and His will for my life. Instead of cleaning it up and tidying it up all by myself, I’m allowing God to come in and declutter it with me. He’s polishing it up and making it new. I’m opening myself up to His possibilities for me. I’m opening that space to His love and His desires for my heart. If He has someone down the road that He wants to join in that space, then I’ll know it’s His will for me. But, even if God’s love is all that ever fills that space, it will be more than enough.
August and I don’t get along. For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreaded turning the calendar after July 31. I get the ‘blahs.’ I feel sad and lonely. Year after year it’s always the same . . . I just don’t like the month of August. The person who journeys through the month of August is a sadder version of myself. I equate it with those individuals who suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) in the winter months.It may have to do with my body’s biorhythms and that I’m just naturally in a period of ‘lowness’ during this time every year. I want the days to hurry along to September when activities begin again and I see those who I’ve missed over the summer and football games are on and cooler temperatures usher in and leaves are changing.
Why August? What is it about August that turns me into a grumpy puss? At the start of the summer, I am ready for a break. It feels good to rest and take time for me. But, by August, I’m eager for my busy routine to begin and I look forward to those weekly interactions with so many special groups of people in my life. Aside from my assumption that this is just my own body’s natural ‘low time’ of the year, I’ve reflected on some additional conclusions of why the other 11 months of the year rank higher than this month:
- I’m feeling the burn-out of going through a very hectic few months at work.
- I yearn for my extracurricular activities that go on hiatus in the summer.
- I miss consistent interactions with church and social groups.
- I don’t feel productive in my personal life.
- Let’s face it, it’s just plain hot outside.
Now, I’m not one to wish time away. I strive very much to live in the present. After all, just like the seasons of our lives, each season on the calendar has ‘a time and purpose under heaven.’ (Ecclesiastes 3:1) So, a couple of years ago, I decided to embrace August, instead of wallowing for the whole month. I use the negative energy and channel it into something positive. Instead of wasting this precious time of year, I’m now more intentional about filling my calendar with summer activities I enjoy, like swimming and bike riding. Joy from my childhood comes through in these activities and I bask in my favorite summertime memories.
A few years ago, I started taking a week of vacation during the month of August. My job keeps me very busy during the summer months, so giving myself permission to be lazy and relax during these summer days does wonders for my soul. Most of my August vacations have sent me out of town for the week, but this year, I’ll be enjoying a ‘staycation.’ Time at home; time with family and friends; time for me. . . . and I can’t wait!
I’m a goal setter and a list maker. I like to be productive; it makes me feel fulfilled. The summer affords me more creative ways of filling my time since my regular weekly obligations are on break until fall. Two Augusts ago, I started the discipline of reading the Bible every day for 90 days. It’s hard to wallow when you’re in the Word everyday. Last August, I focused on home improvements and decorating around the house. Painting, shopping for accessories, and combing the Web for decorating ideas was so enjoyable and gave me an outlet in which to channel my icky feelings.
So, what would August 2013 bring? What project would bring focus and joy? I love to read and many of my fondest memories are wrapped up in books. I remember reading at the pool and reading on my bed as a kid. Visits to the public library were routine for my family and my mom always encouraged my reading choices. I may not have read the classics or the most ‘scholarly’ literature, but I’ve always found great escape and adventure tucked inside the pages of a book. This August, I’ve decided to re-read my favorite books from my childhood. I made a list, checked some books out of the library, combed my own personal bookshelves, and began this literary journey down memory lane. I’m spending my August with Margaret, Charlotte, Nancy Drew, and the Sweet Valley High Twins. I’m reliving the stories of To Kill a Mockingbird, The Phantom Tollbooth, Of Mice and Men, and The Great Gatsby. I’m rediscovering these treasures from my past and receiving tremendous blessings in the process.
I wouldn’t say that I now look forward to my Augusts, but I am thankful for them. I’m grateful for this time set apart when I can focus on something so personal and priceless.
Lastly, she pictured to herself how this same little sister of hers would, in the after-time, be herself a grown woman; and how she would keep, through all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood; and how she would gather about her other little children, and make their eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale, perhaps even with the dream of Wonderland of long ago; and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll