#TellHisStory: How To Get the Most out of Your Summer Vacation

June 12, 2013 | 24 comments

I prop my feet on the rim of the boat, with a fishing pole resting between bare toes — even though Dad has told me since I was ten years old that no one’s ever going to catch a fish with her feet.

If Dad sees me trying to achieve the impossible with my toes, he doesn’t say so. Maybe it’s because he’s hypnotized by the lulling voice of creation–these hands of nature clapping their praise.

Night is marching in here. To the west, the sun sinks below pine, streaking a reflection like orange sherbet melting atop the water.

We’ve spent hours out here, and that’s what we ought to do with our time: spend hours. It’s not wasting time; it’s spending it, investing really.

It’s true: I get the most out of my summer vacation by “doing” the least. I get the most of my summer vacation by simply being — by simply “spending” hours.

“Spend the afternoon, you can’t take it with you.” That’s what Annie Dillard said.

* * *

This is the magic of vacation, the reason we all need to get away: we find ourselves by losing ourselves completely.

Yes, This is how the lost get found. I look up at the sky, now dressing itself in twinkling jewels. The moon rises — a perfect circle cutting a hole in the navy.

I breathe it in deep — this moment. I’m spending time.


Something tugs the line, so I reel, but the only thing dangling from my hook is a wad of weeds. And I’m okay with that. Because I’ve been hooked myself. I’ve been caught and captured by the Creator.

I flip open the bail and flick my tipped hook back onto a reflecting monastery that carries a quiet peace on the ripples. With a “plop,” the lure sinks under the surface. I catch a few crappie, but I wouldn’t have cared if I hooked even one.

For I’m perfectly smitten. And by the sound of things, the rest of the world is, too.

Jesus said as much: He said that if his followers fell silent, the stones would cry out.

And on a Lund boat, 200 feet from shore, I’m pretty sure the stones were a-singin’, along with the rest of us.

“Listen to that!” Dad says. “Those loons work pretty hard to get airborne.”

Over his left shoulder, a loon is beating its wings on the water, lifting its body and feathered praise higher. To me, it sounds like applause for Heaven.

I hear it in the ripples, too, as they clap, clap, clap against the boat — polite applause from tea-party ladies.

Earlier that day, on shore, we’d spotted three woodpeckers, drumming on a wizened, hollowed tree like hard-hatted men with jackhammers. At Mom’s ruby-filled feeder, a hummingbird beat his wings. (I read that they flap their little wings something like 53 times per second.) I couldn’t hear the sound, but oh, imagine the cacophony if you could magnify it!

When the breeze picked up that day, I heard a stadium of crisp praise, roaring through leaves and limbs.

The Good Book says the mountains and hills will burst into song, and that the trees of the field will clap their hands.

So, I’ll join with the earth and sing my praises, too. Can you hear us smiling here?

This is what our happy sounds like:

Three ways that we get the most out of our summer vacations:


This is how we find ourselves again … by getting lost. We don’t wear watches, or carry schedules, or use cell-phones, if we can help it. In this way, we slow down enough to experience the beauty around us. We lose track of time, and we lose track of worry, and no one has ever fussed if someone wants to sleep in.


We often have a list of things we want to do on vacation, but we don’t worry if we miss some of them. Rather, we make sure we don’t rush through the moment we’re in. If we are so harried in taking in all the sights, we won’t really see any of them. Plus, it gives us a reason to come back again!


We love our vacations Up North, at a lake where my parents spend their summers. I sit outside, on the end of the dock, with my eyes close, and count the sounds … the whispers in the oaks and pines, the rustling birch, the loon’s cry, and the rippling cathedral of a quiet lake. And I join the chorus, feeling praise rise up in the heart.


Links for you as you plan your summer:

Tsh at SimpleMom.net is looking to strike a balance between structure and fun. “Our summer: a little chaos, a little structure.”

Check out The Happy Family Movement’s fun and inspiring ideas to make summer extra-fun for the whole family. Maybe you would like to join the site’s “2013 Summer Bucket List Challenge.”

Breathe in the beautiful prose over here, by Laura Boggess, who encourages us to slow down. ” … the only way to catch our breath is this sitting together—this quiet vigil we keep. I close my eyes and listen to the crickets; lean my head back and let the cool of night settle on my skin.”

And don’t miss Lisa-Jo’s annual “You’re More Than Your Swimsuit” post. “This body knows what it is. And it is much, much more than a swim suit.”


WHERE’S YOUR FAVORITE SUMMER VACATION SPOT? Do you have any tips to share, on how to get the most out of vacation?



So, what’s your Story? A #TellHisStory is any story that connects your story into the story of God.

For details on the #TellHisStory linkup, click here: https://jenniferdukeslee.com/tell-his-story/. Be sure to find someone (or two) in the link-up to encourage with a comment. Come back on Friday to visit our Featured #TellHisStory, in the sidebar.

Your words matter to God. They matter to people. And they matter to me!


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by | June 12, 2013 | 24 comments


  1. Elizabeth Stewart

    Beautiful post Jennifer, but the photo with the campfire and the moon, that stopped me and held me. Gorgeous.

  2. Kris Camealy

    I needed this today, Jennifer. I am wanting to slow down, to get a little lost, and yet I’m struggling, as I have irons in the fire that need tending. Praying for better balance, for Him to steady me, for the space to just breathe. Love the joy and beauty of the images. Spectacular!

  3. joanneviola

    Beautiful post. The camp fire stopped me in my tracks for a few minutes. It was breathtaking! This post made me so anticipate our family vacation coming at Lake Winnepausaukee, N.H. Thank you for sharing!

    • dukeslee

      Enjoy your trip, Joanne!

  4. Lisa notes...

    My favorite summer vacation spot is the beach of St George Island, Florida. But instead we’re doing a trip to New York City this summer instead. Yikes! Quite a difference. ha. But it’ll be good too, even though different. Maybe the beach will be in my future later in the year…

    Love this:
    “It’s not wasting time; it’s spending it, investing really.”
    I need to cling to that thought and erase some things off my to-do list. Thanks, Jennifer!

    • dukeslee

      Lisa, I’ve never been to New York City. But have been dreaming of going. And, it looks like we’ll be going there next year to celebrate my mom-in-law’s birthday. Just her and her daughter and daughter-in-laws. Midwest Girls in the City. 🙂

      Enjoy your trip.

  5. Michelle DeRusha

    I wrote about our summer vacation today, too! This is beautiful, Jennifer – your trip sounds much more relaxing than ours!

  6. Diane W. Bailey

    I wrote about my beach week on Monday. I love getting lost in the children and the waves lapping at the shore. Hope you are having a wonderful time, Jennifer…it sounds like you are!

  7. Dolly@Soulstops

    So glad you and your family can get away and enjoy each other and God’s magnificent creation…no better way to spend time 🙂 Blessings to you, my friend 🙂

  8. Deanne Moore

    Last year Minnesota isolation, off the cell grid, no TV, outhouse! This year beach house with the grandbabies coming— crowded beaches, sand castles, people watching, shaved ice and bicycles. The key for me is grand babies! Packing my bags right now.

  9. Alicia Bruxvoort

    Perfect words for me as we begin to plan our get-away with the kids. We’re heading for the mountains and hoping to soak up His majesty for seven quiet days. Love your advice here, friend. Enjoy the gift of time. And rest. And summer!

  10. Alecia

    The beach!! There is nothing like toes in the sand and hearing the waves crashing against the shore. When I look out at the vastness of the ocean I am truly amazed at it’s creation and how awesome God is! There is no end, it just goes on forever…kinda how I feel when I’m at the beach, that I didn’t ever have to come back to reality 🙂 Enjoy the rest of your summer!

  11. Matt Appling

    Yes! Isn’t it funny that when we aren’t on vacation, “doing nothing” feels like “wasting time,” but when we do nothing on vacation, we are “spending” it? 🙂 I think it goes to show that you don’t have to be busy all the time to be using your time effectively.

  12. Mia

    Dear Jennifer
    Yesterday as I was looking after my niece, I saw a woodpecker pecking away high in a tree. It was such a holy time looking at this little bird doing what little birds do! I just love spending my time looking at my sweet little niece for she teaches me so many lessons in childlikeness. I can walk with her for hours on end just watching how she inspects a leaf, or stone, or twig, or bug or whatever she finds interesting. She started singing a song in her two year old language. I could make out two words: Akuna Matata (Lion King) and Jesus. It was so sweet.
    Much love

  13. Deidra Riggs

    Oh, I like it. I need a vacation. Complete with a leaf person, holding a giant popsicle. Or not. I may just head outside to my back yard right now, and vacate this house so I can hear that Cardinal shouting praise the way she does every night. Thanks for this break, Jennifer.

  14. Elise Daly Parker

    You managed to transport me for a few minutes. Thank you! Looks and sounds like a little bit of heaven to me!!

  15. Beth

    Looks and sounds lovely! Thanks for sharing a piece with us. Enjoy! Much love. Beth

  16. Alene Snodgrass

    Oh girl – you always capture my heart. Thank you!!!

  17. kazzeo

    So cool, my kinda summer, doing nothing at all. Just basking. Lovely.

  18. S. Etole

    Looks like a perfectly lovely time.

  19. RinaPeru

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful vacation photos, Jennifer. Last summer, I planned a family vacation in a nearby “forest” with a lake, but school has already opened and I’m not yet able to leave the house. Oh well, there will be other times, summer or not :).

  20. Lyli @ 3dLessons4Life

    Love this advice and the picture of your girls made me smile — such unadulterated joy on their faces. Sweet 🙂

    When I was growing up, summers were always spent on the beach with a good book. Now that I am married, my husband is not much of a “sitter,” so we tend to pick a spot and just go exploring. I manage to get him to the beach for a couple of hours…. he is slowly learning to relax.

    Thanks for the links… I am off to explore.

  21. Laura Lee Groves

    LOVE those three tips — I’m going to be sending my readers over here!! And your pictures of your family downtime made me b-r-e-a-t-h-e. Looking forward to our time doing the same.



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