– Dana Smith, Women’s Equipping Coordinator
When I thought about using the BLESS skills on vacation, I knew that it might be a challenge.
On top of all the stress of traveling with 3 small kids, how much harder would it be to add intentionally engaging the hearts of my children and husband? Maybe even my own? Daunting! But I was ready to try.
Choosing to BLESS instead of stress
About three hours into our seven hour car ride, it started. “Are we there yet?” Instead of getting exasperated (immediately), I brought out the BLESS skills. I asked the kids about things we were seeing out the window and talked about what we were going to do on our trip. We were all able to be present in the car together (in between moments of headphones – let’s be real here). I asked my older two what they were feeling about how long the car trip was and what they were excited about experiencing on our vacation. Instead of just enduring the car ride, it became part of the trip. We were able to be together.
BLESS leads to rest
While we enjoyed lots of fun moments, this trip was also very heavy in the duties of everyday life. During many of my times in the kitchen, I heard the silent whisper of lies: It’s all on you. You have to do everything. You can’t have any fun. Anger was starting to set in, because I was believing the lies. Evil knows that I like to show my love to my family by providing the things that they want and need. He knows that my heart can be vulnerable to the twisting of truth with this particular desire, making these things more of a painful chore than an act of love. But what about those BLESS skills? When I was able to step back and see the lies for what they were, I wanted to hear from those other 3 directions. I heard my husband saying to me: Ask me for help. Sit down and just rest for a while. I heard the Lord saying to me: Well done, but sometimes it’s time to enjoy your family. So what had I been telling myself? It’s all on you; you will never be good enough. Whoa! That is not what I wanted to be thinking or believing, especially on a trip that was supposed to be fun. I was listening to the lies…cooperating with the father of lies. Once I recognized that, I was able to hear the truth louder and hear what I really needed and wanted in that moment – to sit down and relax. So I joined my family in the living room and enjoyed an evening of rest and fun.
BLESSings at the table
Dinnertime on vacation is supposed to be a joyous and beautiful thing, right? Sitting down to relax with your family after a fun-filled day seems like it should be so easy. But there are the unknowns of wait times and menus and new towns and new foods.
I want memories…moments…mental snapshots that will leave an indelible mark on the hearts of those in my domain…
One dinner was especially hard for us. Of course, it was a new place, and it served crab legs. My middle child is extremely terrified of crab legs, from the grocery store in the seafood case to a restaurant piled high on a plate. When we were seated in the tiny dining room, it was right next to the only other family in the dining room, who, of course, had a huge platter of crab legs. Just seeing them was bad enough to send her into a tailspin of stress and fear. But the sound – the cracking and crunching – drove her over the edge. Part of me wanted to just scream “get over it, we are on vacation,” but I saw it in her face. I needed to listen to what she was feeling. I needed to listen to what she needed in that moment. So we went outside and talked (well, I talked and she cried). And what she needed was to leave – right then. I was very frustrated and a little angry; we were all hungry, and now we didn’t have a plan. I listened again, but to what I needed to hear at that moment. You took care of your daughter. And I will provide a place for you to eat. Take care of each other and just enjoy being together. I needed to stop believing the lies that I was hearing – lies that I was a failure as a mom – lies that I ruined dinner by being frustrated and angry. As it turned out, we ended up at an even better restaurant; we enjoyed it so much that we went back a second time during our trip.
Forecast for BLESSing
I struggle with enjoying what I am doing, when I am doing it – especially on vacation. I would love to savor moments, instead of spending so much time regretting what we didn’t do or wishing we had done something differently. Many times weather is a major factor. If only… If only we had gone to do “that” yesterday when it was sunny, then today would not be ruined. Overdramatic, yes, but a very real feeling to be dealing with while desiring to make each day the Best. Day. Ever. This trip had one morning with me gloomily staring out at the rain as it hit the pool and soaked the ground. So when I started spiraling that rainy day, I decided to find a moment to savor. I actually started with “salvage” the moment – before there was anything to savor. To my surprise, it turned out to be one of the best days of the trip. My oldest and I came up with a plan to have a special mommy daughter time shopping. The younger two were so done with the trip at this point, so this worked out well. What started out as a gray, rainy salvage mission, turned out to be a glorious, sunny, life-giving afternoon. So many moments, that were not just ok, but wonderfully beautiful – moments savored. Hearing my daughter excitedly recount our special day to her daddy made it sweeter still.
Looking through a lens of BLESSing
Another moment of blessing took place at the top of a lighthouse. From the high vantage point we could see the vastness of the ocean, the beauty of the boats and glimpses of dolphins cresting above the water. The perfect setting for the perfect family photograph! As we battled the wind and some fear of heights, we snapped a couple of family pictures and a few of the scenery. Then my camera went back in the bag. We stood and looked out – enjoying how the sunlight bounced off the waves, squealing with delight at seeing a pod of dolphins on the move and marveling at being above the treetops. I decided that making memories like these was more important than trying to struggle with unwilling children to get the perfect photograph to capture this magical moment. I can’t believe what I would have missed had I been looking through the screen, trying to capture images. I was so grateful that I chose to put the camera down and to be fully present with my family, capturing memories with my children that are more beautiful than any photo I could have taken.
My usual plan for vacations: I want everything to be perfect. It’s a one shot deal, and I’ve got one chance to create the postcard-perfect experience. No pressure! I am indeed searching for adventure, and I think that having a perfect plan will give it to me. But what I truly want is a memorable experience – in a good way. I want memories…moments…mental snapshots that will leave an indelible mark on the hearts of those in my domain – not necessarily because of what they saw, but because of the experience and how they felt when they saw it. I want to make an impact in the lives of my children – and in my own life as well. I want my time to be well spent and joy to be found spending time with each other. So instead of searching for perfection, I tried it a different way this time. Putting away expectations (as best as I could) and putting the camera down, I opened my ears and eyes and really experienced our family vacation. And it was a blessing.
One Step Further:
- What BLESS skill do you struggle with most?
- How might you practice that skill this week to strengthen those BLESS muscles?
- Pause and ask God if he would identify a lie that you are currently believing. What is the truth he wants to speak to that place?