By John Dorroh
“Where are you taking the family for vacation?” I heard a friend ask his brother.
“Disney World,” he replied.
Fred stood there shaking his head from side to side as if to say, “That’s a terrible plan, Dan.”
“Why? What’s wrong with Disney World?” Dan asked.
Fred proceeded to help Dan analyze the situation. He pointed out the fact that Dan’s job was one of the most stressful jobs on the planet, and his three children were connoisseurs of their own agendas. Such a trip would be a lot of planning, a lot of people to navigate, and a lot of activity with little down time.
“It won’t be a true vacation,” Fred summarized. “You’ll be stressed to the max. Come on, man . . . . you need to reevaluate. Really.”
They both looked at me. Considering Dan’s particular family dynamic, I agreed. “He’s right, Dan. Let’s talk about this in-depth. I’m very good at helping people find ways to relax.”
Although I loved teaching high school students, the job often became so stressful that I went home with an excruciating migraine, unable to get out of the bed for hours. One day my two older friends, Irma and Anne, invited me to join them after school and get some iced tea cut with a splash of cranberry juice.
“Put your feet up,” said Irma after giving me a big hug. “Tell me something good that happened today,” she coaxed. Up until that point, I had not thought about my school day as having any positive event.
“Well,” I began slowly, “One of my students found out that she was selected to go to Washington, D.C., to be a page. And my colleague Bill found out that he does not have cancer.”
I immediately felt the stress in my neck and shoulders subside. I began to practice intentional relaxing every day, even for as little as 10 minutes, and I began to realize how important it is to slow down and decompress.
We all deal with stress in this fast-paced, high-tech world. Stress caused by worry takes its toll on our bodies, minds, and souls. It makes us physically ill, contributing to the development of ulcers, skin problems, heart disease, obesity, gastrointestinal issues, and diabetes. Stress has the ability to “mess with the entire human experience,” reported the Annual Review of Clinical Psychology. That’s powerful stuff, wouldn’t you say?
Jesus said not to worry. We might think that Jesus was trying to help us to alleviate our worries, but his words are more than simple reminders. It’s actually a commandment to not worry because it shows a lack of trust in God: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on . . . And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:25-27, English Standard Version).
All of that being said, we begin to get a feel for the importance of taking breaks, having a daily respite, and planning a vacation that does our soul and body good: “That everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to men” (Ecclesiastes 3:13).
The Bible doesn’t specifically mention taking a vacation, especially in the way that most of us envision a vacation in our minds. However, Scripture does indeed address the concepts of rest and stewardship. A vacation is a time of rest, and God set an example of rest in Genesis 2:2, 3 when he rested on the Sabbath—a mini vacation, of sorts. In Exodus 20:8-11, God told his people that they were to take a rest from their work on the seventh day.
Vacations aren’t only for Christians to take for fun and relaxation, but they are necessary. What all should a vacation entail? That’s a difficult question to answer and depends on one’s resources, conscience, and the desired level of simplicity or sophistication. However, one thing we know to be true: “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).
And one last word, which has become part of our evolving language: staycation. Who says that a family has to leave their house? This could be one of the best kinds of vacations ever. You get to skip the airport security lines and the high prices of entertainment and eating out. Pitch a couple of inexpensive tents in the backyard, make s’mores, and play badminton or volleyball. Turn on the garden hose and have an old-fashioned water war. I’m certain that there are still versions of Slip ’N Slide on the market.
Create Quality Time
Here are a few other ways that families can de-stress and have a mini vacation every day:
• Family dinner time. Have everyone contribute. Even younger children can add the precut veggies into the salad bowl, help decide the menu, and begin to learn how to make the meal come together. If they make a mess, big deal. Everyone helps clean up. Oh, one sure fast rule: Everyone stays unplugged!
• Game night. Pull out those ancient game boards that were popular before the advent of digital entertainment: Monopoly, backgammon, checkers, Clue, etc. Card games such as Uno, Rook, and Go Fish can provide the setting for hours of inexpensive fun.
• After-dinner stroll. It doesn’t always have to be a power walk. Slow down and turn your walk into a game. Maybe take a list of things to look for like a scavenger hunt. Talk with the neighbors. Take the family dog. The health benefits are numerous.
• Worship together. This does not necessarily have to be at church. There is probably some truth to the old saying that “the family that prays together, stays together.”
The value of spending quality time with our friends and family cannot be overstressed (pardon the pun). I find it refreshing that doing these things are actually Scripture based. What can we learn by slowing down? Surprise yourself by engaging in intentional relaxing every day, just as my friends Irma and Anne taught me to do. And if you feel the need to leave your house for a vacation, make sure it offers you time to relax rather than adding to your stress. Either way, spend your time by thanking and honoring God for the opportunities.
John Dorroh splits his time between Highland, Illinois, and Columbus, Mississippi, working with school districts as a part-time writing and reading consultant.