Last month, we went to the beach with a number of my husband’s family. It was a similar vacation plan to others that we’ve had: head to the beach soon after Labor Day (when rates are cheaper) and share a house with friends or family. But this year was an especially good one. . . . I’d say the best we’ve ever had.
What made it so great? There are many reasons, but not the kind that is suitable for a “how to” post on what you can do for your next vacation. Rather, it’s mainly a list of reasons I’m thankful for how God worked things out.
But first, for those who may not relish the idea of reading about how fun someone else’s vacation was: I understand. We’ve had our fair share of vacation disappointments. Last year my husband and I went on a trip by ourselves in lieu of a family vacation, but he ended up feeling physically awful. This set off a cascade of negative emotions and made the trip pretty miserable for both of us. Earlier this summer, a family trip was preceded by the news that our unborn baby had no heartbeat, and I miscarried before we returned home. We’ve also had multiple family vacations in the past that have probably caused more stress than they relieved. So if you’ve experienced difficult “vacations”—or find yourself wishing you could actually have a vacation—my hope is you’ll be encouraged that sometimes things do turn out even better than expected.
So, why am I especially thankful for this vacation?
Reason 1: We almost didn’t get to go.
Two words: Hurricane Florence. Our trip was planned for the northern Outer Banks of North Carolina, and for several days no one knew where or how badly the storm was going to hit. Four days before the trip, the rental company called and asked us not to come due to evacuations. Emails flew thick and fast as we scrambled to come up with an alternative plan, but nothing was working out. After what seemed like an eternity (really only 2 days), the rental company called back to say we could come after all. It was a frustrating and stressful few days, but I think the prospect of not going at all made everyone very thankful when we ended up with the best-case scenario instead of the worst!
Reason 2: Lowered expectations.
Obviously, getting to go to the beach at all surpassed our expectation at certain points! But over the years, I have had to learn to lower my general expectations of what a vacation looks like. On our very first family vacation, we had two children age 2 and under and another baby on the way. I had been looking forward to a chance to escape my responsibilities for a while, but I quickly realized that my little responsibilities came with me. Further, they had to be monitored near the water, kept from eating sand, and have sand rinsed constantly from every nook and cranny of their bodies. Not very relaxing to say the least. But . . . I learned to adjust my expectations. Also, the children grew! This year the older two were almost completely self-sufficient, and even the youngest (who turned 5 while there) was not difficult to manage. So, hang in there, moms of multiple littles. . . . The easier days are coming!
Reason 3: The company.
We find vacations much more fun with family or friends! We’ve had some pretty big trips before, but this time we had a total of 24 people between our family, my husband’s siblings, and their families. Not only did this crowd make it affordable to rent a very nice house, but we had plenty of time to spend with relatives we don’t get to see very often. This time of fellowship is what I look forward to most, and it did not disappoint!
Reason 4: Conflicts managed before the vacation.
One of the potential problems with spending a lot of time with family is that unresolved conflicts can easily surface during a week spent in close quarters. What I have felt most keenly on previous trips, however, has not been conflict with extended family, but with my husband. Unfortunately, we have made some fairly bad memories on certain vacations together. This year, yet again, a conflict arose just a few days before the trip. But by God’s grace (and with the help of communication skills that I feel we are finally learning), we were able to come to a peaceful resolution beforehand, rather than having arguments during our vacation. Of course, many of the issues plaguing previous trips were not the kind that could be sorted out in a few conversations. Some things take years of processing and patience and growth. So what this year’s peace really symbolizes is not that we have found a secret trick to improve our vacations, but that the years of work we’ve put into our relationship are paying off. Dealing with conflicts in marriage can certainly be trying, but it is so worth it!
Reasons 5 & 6: Good weather and good health.
These last two are more of a pure blessing. After all the worry about the hurricane and a forecast that was originally predicted to be somewhat rainy, we did not have ONE day of bad weather. There was no rain, every day was at least partly sunny, and the temperature was pleasantly warm without being roasting.
But the health point is even more significant in my book. Remember the trip when my husband was feeling awful? Although that one was especially bad, his health struggles have been a big part of our life for the past three years and affected multiple trips and vacations. His health seems to have turned a corner this year, though, and for the first time in a long time, he felt good enough to participate in all the fun and truly enjoy himself. This point alone made my vacation 1000% happier.
I’m not sure whether our children will remember this vacation as significantly different from others, or whether it will leave the same impression on them as it has me. But I’m thankful—thankful for the chance to enjoy a week of fun, but now that I think about it, thankful for the work God has done in our lives to bring us to this point. His plans for us are good, friends.
Photo Credit: First three pictures courtesy of author. Last two pictures courtesy of Brett Moist, Joanna & Brett Photography, https://www.facebook.com/pg/JoannaandBrett, with edits by author.