How To Get The Most out of Your Summer Vacation

June 4, 2012 | 39 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 10 that no one’s ever going to catch a fish with her feet.

If Dad sees me doing it this time, he doesn’t say so. Maybe it’s because we’re both hypnotized by the lulling voice of creation–these hands of nature clapping their praise.

Night marches in. To the west, the sun sinks below pine, streaking a reflection like melted orange sherbet.

We’ve spent hours out here on this lake, and that’s what we ought to do with our time: spend it. 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 jewelry. The moon rises — a perfect circle cutting a hole in the navy.

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

Just.
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 OK 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 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.

I listen.

Jesus once 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-singing, 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 ever Higher. 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: 

LET OURSELVES GET LOST:  This is how we find ourselves again … by  getting lost. We don’t wear watches, or carry schedules, or use cell-phones. 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’RE OK WITH MISSED OPPORTUNITIES: We generally 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!

DON’T FORGET TO HEAR THE SOUNDS, WHEN YOU SEE THE SIGHTS: 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.

A LINK for you: 17 Summer Vacation Ideas for Your Kids.

WHERE’S YOUR FAVORITE SUMMER VACATION SPOT? Do you have any tips to share, on how to get the most out of vacation?
(This is an edited post from the archives, submitted for The High Calling’s writing project on vacations. You can link up until today, or head over to Charity Singleton’s blog to read the entries submitted.)

 

by | June 4, 2012 | 39 comments

39 Comments

  1. SimplyDarlene

    I’ve wonder why so many summer vacations encircle bodies of water — and found the answer right here in your post:

    “reflecting monastery that carries peace on the ripples”

    Thanks for sharing this repost…

    Blessings.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Darlene. My favorite moment on a lake is first thing in the morning. It’s like glass. And you can see little bugs zipping “Vs” through the water.

      Reply
  2. happygirl

    …and then your line gets caught in the motor of the boat and your dad has to cut the line and now his favorite lure is lost… I like your story better. 🙂

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      LOL! Oh … I’ve had my share of snags, too. In fact, I’ve dropped the whole thing in the water — rod, reel and all! 🙂

      Reply
  3. Wendy @ ECTaS!

    I’ve been on holiday from work too this past week! It’s been so fine. I have spent time going for day outings around the area we live. We’ve discovered so many beautiful places to walk and just relax and take in the surroundings. We’ve come back home each evening and have had the pleasure of witnessing some of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen… it’s been lovely to come aside and rest a while.

    Also been able to browse leisurely some pretty fantastic blogs which blog for the glory of God (including your own) and it has just been wonderful 😀

    Back to work tomorrow 😀

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Wendy,

      How wonderful. Isn’t it amazing that we can experience vacation right in our own neighborhoods? Beauty is all around, and the grass is definitely NOT always greener on the other side of the fence. We might be surprised to find beauty right under our own two feet.

      Glad you’re here, Wendy. Happy working tomorrow! 🙂

      Reply
  4. Wendy @ ECTaS!

    P.S. meant to say – wonderful photos… thank you for sharing a glimpse into your vacation… it’s been lovely to share!

    Reply
  5. Megan Willome

    I love the photo of the leaf person! One summer my daughter and her next-door neighbor made “leaf people” and sold them to poor, bewildered people who couldn’t say no.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you! Amazing what you can create with some sticks and leaves … and a little dab of glue. 🙂 Sounds like you have a little entrepreneur on your hands.

      Reply
  6. David Rupert

    I’m kinda with Simply Darlene. I’m thinking that summer vacations shouldnt be about theme parks and big travels. They should be about getting as simple and unadulterated by the world as possible.

    Margin.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Me, too, David. One of my favorite family vacations was in your great state, back in the early 80s. We went to Estes Park.

      Reply
  7. Nancy Franson

    One of the things I love about my husband–and I love so many things–is that listening to the sounds matters to him. He often organizes hikes and wilderness outings for groups, and it just drives him crazy when people are out in the beauty of God’s world with their ears stopped up listening to electronic gadgets.

    Unplug! Listen! Hear the love song of God your Father!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Agreed. Although, I do have a confession. When I was training for my half-marathons, I had to rely on music to keep me moving. 🙂

      Otherwise, unplugged all the way, baby!

      Reply
    • dukeslee

      Hi Amanda! I’m happy you’re here. Stop by anytime. 🙂

      Reply
  8. Monica Sharman

    Love, love that third photo. Is that a washer-head? Perfect!

    Your family is fabulous. Maybe I should get myself in gear and take part in Charity’s writing project, too.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      The head on the leaf-person? It’s the top of an acorn. 🙂

      Reply
  9. Deidra

    Mmmmm….

    I’m reading this in my back yard. I can hear a robin and the wind in the trees and the lifeguard’s whistle from the community pool two blocks away.

    Two weekends ago, we went camping and I left all my technology at home. I don’t know why I hadn’t done that sooner. The unplugging made all the difference.

    (Thanks for linking.)

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Deidra, I actually thought about you and your getaway while editing this post. Was it hard for you, at first, to put away the cell phone, etc? I’m so used to being connected, that I get a little antsy at first.

      Reply
  10. Shelly Miller

    the loons on a lake, there is something holy and captivating about their call. Your vacation sounds a lot like mine. Like we could sit outside star gazing together on a porch and feel like we are home. Beautiful Jennifer.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Agreed. Let’s make a date. 🙂

      Reply
  11. Linda

    I read your words, “spending time” and felt my heart dance a little. What a perfectly wonderful way to look at it. Thank you Jennifer. Your writing, your heart minister to me with joy.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Linda. I love that quote from Annie Dillard. Such a good reminder. Our culture doesn’t allow for that sort of restful experience very often.

      Reply
  12. Danelle

    I can taste my vacation as I read your words here. No cell phones. No computers. No rush. My family and I. Nature.
    Time “spent” and not “wasted”. Oh yes. 🙂

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Happy summer vacationing, Danelle. You headed someone quiet this summer?

      Reply
  13. Diana Trautwein

    Ah, this is so, so lovely, Jennifer. Thank you! We did a lot of lake vacations when the kids were smaller and they are rich with memories for all of us. Caught lots of trout, too!

    I began unplugging from radio/music about five years ago. Unplugging from a computer is MUCH harder. But I learned to really value the silence in my car – and it became a primary place of prayer for me – while driving or parked by the beach somewhere. Music was such a central part of my life for so many years – always on. Now it’s harder for me to listen to it for hours on end – it feels disruptive-and I miss hearing the birds and the neighbors, even the leaf blowers! Weird, huh?

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Oooo, I love trout fishing! We do that when we head over to the Black Hills in South Dakota. Up in Minnesota, we fish for walleye and bass mostly. But I don’t care if I catch a thing. I love those peaceful moments on the front of a Lund fishing boat, with my Dad.

      Reply
  14. Jennifer@Adam's Rib

    We’ve been casting on dry land so far this summer. With the three year old twins, we’ve also been casting without hooks because mommy doesn’t want to have to pay for stitches. I long for your peaceful lake, knowing that one day, it will be here and then, I will long for my noisy one.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Well said, Jennifer. I am reminded of that sort of thing everytime I wipe fingerprints off the kitchen window.

      Reply
  15. Michelle Eichner

    Oh Jennifer thanks for the new perspective! I love how you said that you’re not “wasting” time, you’re “spending” it by intentionally being. I so needed that as I tend to get caught up in doing. Thanks again!
    I prayed for you today – specifically with your project. 🙂
    Hugs,
    Michelle

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you for those prayers, Michelle. I so appreciate you. I hope to “spend” and “invest” some good hours in that project today, while the girls hang with their Grandma! 🙂

      Reply
  16. Laura

    “We’re okay with lost opportunities.” I LOVE this. Thank you for defining summer correctly.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      I’ve been on too many vacations with rushed agendas. It’s not fun.

      Have a great summer, Laura. Any fun trips planned?

      Reply
  17. kelli

    Just reading your perspective and drinking in your photos is a mini-vacation, I think.

    Thank you for such a refreshing post, friend.

    I’m on way to getting lost . . . so I can be found.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Hey Kelli!

      So I just want to say, “Get lost.” And I mean that in the nicest way possible. 🙂

      Love to you… Any fun summer plans with your fam?

      Reply
  18. Jason Stasyszen

    As one who is getting ready to embark on a vacation, I love this. I totally agree. It’s not wasting time. It’s choosing to spend it and invest it in the people that matter and make life so beautiful. Wonderful post and pictures! Thanks Jennifer.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Enjoy your summer, Jason! Glad you dropped by.

      Reply
  19. floyd

    Haven’t been here in a while, followed Jason over. I’ve been too busy, much the way I spend my summer with my family. Kinda regretting both… Great advice wrapped up in a beautiful setting, delivered with a kind relaxed voice…

    Thanks for the advice. I’ll do better this year…

    Reply
  20. Charity Singleton

    Jennifer – Sorry it took me a few days to get over here. Your words – your very wise words about getting the most out of a vacation – will be travel with many of us into cabins and tents and RVs and hotel rooms. We’ll think of them with our toes in the pond, the river, the lake, and the ocean. We will get lost and throw out the to-do list, and just listen. And we will come back rested indeed. Thank for linking this post up with the Vacation writing project.

    Reply

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