There is something qualitatively different about life on vacation. Do you think it might be possible to bring some of that back home, too?
We recently returned from a week at beautiful Cedar Campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Jon and I have loved going to this InterVarsity retreat center for decades, and we are so glad to now be able to share its beauty and peace with our girls. Life at this week of Family Camp had a pleasant rhythm, with children’s programs, daily hikes with Jon, meals served on schedule, and plenty of time to read.
There is a quality of single-mindedness that I really appreciate on vacation. Some of it comes from the lack of stuff — with only a few clothes, books, and games on hand, our options are limited, and therefore focused. Some of it comes through the freedom from daily chores. But I believe there is an element of it that might be transferable to normal life, a combination of simplicity and appreciation of the present moment that could possibly be enjoyed in our day-to-day existence. I’ve always loved Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s thoughts on this topic in her book Gift from the Sea , a reflective work composed during a quiet beach vacation. In one delightful passage, she talks about the constant pull on women’s lives, tugging us in many different directions — “the problem of multiplicity.” As she spends time in quiet retreat, she considers her own life:
The problem is…basically how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life; how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off center…. I must find a balance somewhere, or an alternating rhythm between these two extremes; a swinging of the pendulum between solitude and communion, between retreat and return. In my periods of retreat, perhaps I can learn something to carry back into my worldly life. I can at least practice for these two weeks the simplification of outward life, as a beginning. I can follow this superficial clue, and see where it leads. Here, in beach living, I can try.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42. I am so often like Martha, distracted by my many tasks and missing the opportunity to sit down, release my grip on the to-do list, and pay attention to the now. How does Mary do it? I think she has a special gift: the ability to set aside the urgent and focus on the important. Martha isn’t gifted like this, but don’t you think she maybe learned along the way? (John 11 makes me think so.) Neither do I have the gift, but I’m ready to learn — clumsy as the process may be — to simplify our lives so that I can see the need to sit and listen.
I am grateful for that week at Cedar Campus. I’m also grateful to be home in our familiar house with civilized kitchen tools, unlimited access to washing machines, and normal levels of humidity. I’m eager to see if we can bring a little more Cedar Campus into our family life, replete though it may be with mail to sort and meals to cook. Here, in everyday living, I can try.