When I was in elementary school, we always had this first day of school ritual of telling the class what we did on our summer vacation. One by one my classmates would rise and tell of their adventures to Disney World, the beach, or some other fascinating place. We would listen attentively and then move on to the next item on the agenda for the day. But listening to how others spent their vacation was, well, cool.
I have just returned from a vacation to Nova Scotia, if you have never does yourself a favor and go its beauty is unsurpassed. I have not traveled much outside of the US, and then it was to Romanian primarily, but there is something about Nova Scotia, and Cape Breton especially, that just draws me in. As the old song goes, home of my heart Cape Breton.
So what did I do on this vacation? Well, I did way too much although I find being busy and seeing different things to be very relaxing. I have never been one who can “power down” for any length of time. I do not like to be idle, and I am not one for sitting on the beach. The one regret I have of vacation is spending enough time on the balcony of our Inn in Iona to enjoy the view. It was awesome and awe-inspiring! I did get up early to catch the sunrise over the lake and did get to see the sunset a few times, and it was worth it. But I did not spend time just taking it all in.
The View from the Iona Heights Inn
In a recent essay, Pastor Carey Niweuwhof, who coincidently is from Canada but not Nova Scotia, wrote about the advice he received from people about what to do on vacation. He came up with three rules, if you will, about vacation. I will post a link to the article at the end of this one, and I encourage you to read it, but I will summarize the rules and put my spin on them.
- Do the things that restore you.
What restores me will be different than what restores you. You might be the person who likes to sit on the beach, I am the type that wants to check out what is going on in the area and visiting the historic site. Since I am a church geek, I also like to visit churches, all kinds of churches and see what is up there. I like to check out their bulletins and see what the community is doing, but I also like the architecture of churches.
I enjoy museums and galleries, and I like to find out of way places and monuments. One can learn a lot about a community from their monuments and what they prize about their history. Cape Breton was settled by Scots who left Scotland during the Highland Clearances. Some of those first settlers were also my relatives, so I had to visit a few cemeteries, on what I was calling the “dead relatives tour.” Knowing my history is important to me, and I get energy from finding a grave or a place where they lived.
- Do the things that energize you.
Part of the joy of vacation is doing something different and the time to recharge your batteries. Those of us who working professions of social service or helping need this time to recharge, not that others don’t, but when your life is spent giving to and living for others this is imperative. I took time, intentional time, to re-engage with Scripture and have kept it up since I have been back. I also took time, again deliberate time, to re-engage in a deeper pray life. It’s easy on vacation to do these things but are we carrying them forward when we return?
Just like the previous point, what energizes me is going to be different then what energizes you. I see these two as working hand in hand with each other, and I get energy from what restores me as the batteries recharge my energy level is restored. However, I think I need a vacation from my vacation when I return! I planned way too much, but it was still energizing and restorative.
- Avoid what drains you.
Life drains me! How can we avoid that? Those of us in the social service or helping professions, well I find this anyway, just doing what we do drain us. That is not to say that people who are not engaged in these types of professions do not also get exhausted, but I find that I get drained often. Just like a rechargeable battery, we need to be careful how many times we hook ourselves up to the charger, one of this day it might not work.
I also find that I am not able to totally disengage from my ministry life. I continued to post to the blog, write the daily Bible study email, and correspond on Facebook and Twitter. I just did a little less, and I posted vacation type stuff rather than the usual things. So y’all got a vacation from me while I was on vacation!
I did restrict my work to early morning hours. I have a practice of rising early, sometimes between 5 and 5:30 as this is when I am at my most creative. I know some folks who do better in the late hours of the day, not me, I am better in the morning. So I would rise early, make some coffee, sit on the balcony and read Scripture while the sun was coming up, and then go and write for an hour or so. For some this might be draining but for me this restores me and energizes me.
At the end of the essay, Carey talks about self-care. As a fire chaplain, we talk a lot about self-care since we are usually the worst at taking care of ourselves. However, if we do not take care of ourselves, then we will not be available to take care of others.
I used to think that vacation was selfish and that the time could better be spent on a mission trip or some other such activity then I hit the wall. Vacations are important and if you are a member of the clergy and do not take a vacation, or a day off during the week for that matter, then you need to start before it is too late. If you burn out, you will be of no use to anyone. Hey, even Jesus withdrew from time to time for a little R & R, he set the example, we need to follow it.
Some New (And Better) Rules For Your Next Vacation