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Vacation Reflections

"We're going to need a vacation after THIS vacation." This Calvin and Hobbes comic book quote from Calvin's stuffed tiger, Hobbes, always resonated with me. In the comic strip, Calvin's parents took him tent camping and it rained the entire week. Everything was soaking wet, they couldn't keep a fire going, they couldn't heat up the food they brought and everything seemed to work against them. Sometimes you need a vacation after a vacation. Our family just got back from vacation. Fortunately, our vacation was nothing like Calvin's family vacation! We had a wonderful week but I always feel like I hit the ground running after vacation and rush back into the busyness of life's responsibilities. To give you an idea of why we need a vacation after this vacation, we just got back and immediately started packing up our house into boxes to move in a couple weeks (we're buying a house closer to church!). Needless to say, we already feel like we need another vacation.

I've always seen vacations as a welcome break from the usual routine of school and work to enjoy some other things. They are a special blessing we like to make sure our children experience too. Vacations to me were about fun adventures, recreation, and relaxation. With young children, relaxation is hard to come by--even on vacation--but I'm grateful we were able to have some fun adventures! This year, Amy and I wanted to spend our vacation reconnecting with some important people in our lives we haven't seen in years. So we packed up the camper and drove 750 miles to Michigan to visit our old church family from when I was a seminary intern. We fondly speak of some people there as our "Michigan family" so it was special for our children to see and connect with them. I got to grab coffee at Biggby with my dear friend and mentor Pastor Dale like old times. We packed up a picnic lunch to meet a family at Millennium Park where we used to spend our weekends biking. We went to Meijer to pick up groceries and our favorite potato chips (Meijer Brand Kettle-Cooked Sweet Heat if you're interested). We went swimming and fishing with some dear friends. We grabbed ice cream and dinner (in that order) with old coworkers. I preached at the church where I was first learning how to be a pastor. Our old small group had Sunday lunch for us after church. Our kids ate way too much ice cream, stayed up late every night, and developed a love for golf-cart rides. We tried our best to balance free time for adventures with intentional gatherings with people. Overall, our children got to see and experience a taste of what our lives looked like in our early married years. And most of all, it was refreshing for us to see them meet many people we love dearly.

I've been reflecting on what vacation is supposed to be for believers. One pastor encouraged seeing vacation as a mini-sabbatical where it's intentionally focused on drawing close to God. It's more than just a break from work and school; it's a chance to re-center our lives on Him. I really like this perspective. Now for many of us we're not going to spend a week just reading and praying or whatever we imagine a sabbatical being. But we can see even the break itself as a gift from God to be enjoyed. I used to try to read a spiritual formation book on vacation. Maybe one day I'll do that again. It's not realistic for me right now. But for me it's an intentional time to focus on being a dad, giving my children my undivided attention like my Heavenly Father gives to me. It's about building relationships in our walk with Jesus. It's about remembering his grace so our regular routine is shaped by his love. This is the truth that should inform our daily lives: God is good and his love equips us to live for him.

The Fall season is about to begin. Kids back in school, some ministries restarting, and for many of us life will get really busy. But whether we've had a vacation or not, whether we feel like we need a vacation after a vacation, whether we're busy or bored, I hope each one of us remembers that truth. That God is good and wants us to rest in His love. His love shapes us to live for Him, serve Him, and just be with Him.

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Our denomination, the Christian Reformed Church of North America, recently gathered in our broadest assembly called Synod. At Synod, representatives from our binational (U.S. and Canada) denomination