Who has time to read? Well, we all do--it's just that we sometimes have to choose it over other things. I'll turn on Netflix or Facebook, instead of opening a book. Funny thing is, is that when I do read, I love it. I feel so much better. It truly refreshes me. All types of books do this for me. To encourage each other to read, I am going to share some book reviews with you of my recent reads on Youtube--I'll try to keep it under 5 minutes. If you've read this book, let me know what you thought of it.
For me, vacation is often, well, exhausting. I usually need a vacation after my vacation to rest up. And with a family with little ones sleeping in unfamiliar settings and following unusual schedules, this is to be expected. Even as my family has gotten older, working as travel agent to make sure everyone is well-fed and “entertained” is equally exhausting.
But despite coming home exhausted, it is still possible to come away from a vacation “re-created.”
And vacation should be a time of recreation, of being “re-created.” We need this. It’s a time to be refreshed and renewed in all of our relationships. One reason going away works so well is because we are away from our regular surroundings. We can take a step away from the “normal” to look at the world in a different way. And to look at each other in a different light. Some of us need this to force us to spend that time together that our regular busy world does not allow.
The word “re-create” is exactly what God wants for our lives.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, yet our inner self is being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16
Vacations are a great time to intentionally work on this.
Here are some ways that our family has found to have a vacation of “re-creation.”
To remedy this, we purposely bring God with us on vacation. I have a Youtube about what this looks like for our family. Please take a look: https://youtu.be/TetxBK7W7Uo
Basically, we plan on both activities and daily reminders as we are on vacation. We start every trip in the car with the Guardian Angel prayer. We also use the car time to say rosaries, especially on those long trips. Twenty minutes to say a rosary out of an 8 hour trip seems like nothing. There will still be plenty of time for videogames and audiobooks. Another thing we do is find places of pilgrimages for our stops along the way and even at our vacation spot. There are many, many beautiful shrines and other religious historical places that you can visit all over the United States. These are often the highlights of my trips. I give some of my favorite ones in the Youtube. And finally another suggestion is to end the evening with night prayers together. This can be a wonderful moment of thankfulness and petitions as you have your family gathered at the beach or lake, on the balcony overlooking the city, at a campfire, or even the queen-sized bed at the Howard Johnson’s.
2. Don’t pack your schedule too full.
When it comes to traveling and vacationing with your family, more is not necessarily better. Pick the activities or things you want to see and allow a lot of wiggle room before and after. Unexpected pleasures and beauty can show up in these spaces that you would otherwise miss or not take the time to explore. On one vacation in Plymouth, we had some time after visiting the Mayflower and Plymouth Rock to explore the little town there. We discovered the cutest bakery and actually bought some fancy cupcakes (something I never buy), but to this day that was the best part of Plymouth for my young daughter.
3. Schedule time of inactivity.
I know this is a tough one. You are someplace spectacular and you want to see and do everything. Or you have anxious kids who will get restless and tyrannical if left too long doing “nothing.” But both of these reasons are the precise reason you need some scheduled downtime. We can only take in so much, and pushing kids with too much activity tends to make them more restless. Plan something that involves just sitting and watching. A long picnic in a park (and the kids can run around and get exercise if needed), sitting on a bench overlooking a busy dock, climbing to the top of a mountain and staying there awhile. It could be a quiet time back at the hotel room for a nap or simply reading. On one Disney vacation, we actually left the theme park in the late afternoon and headed back to our hotel room. We ate some sandwiches and fruit in the room and actually hung out by the pool just sitting in the sun. (It was too cold to swim.) After an hour or so, we were refreshed and headed back to the theme park to stay there until it closed. Although we missed 2 “precious” hours in Epcot, we easily gained them back with our fresh start at 5:00 when other park attendees were weary and ready for the day to be over.
4. Make sure to include nature.
This is especially important if you are in a city. Sometimes even beach vacations that are mostly sunning and hanging out in the beach house need some other nature besides the open sea. Look for state and national parks nearby. These make great stops as you travel, too. Studies have found that being in nature renews us and makes us feel at peace, so it makes sense that we should try to get this in on our vacations. We sometimes vacation in NYC since my daughter lives there. We love all the museums and excitement of the city, but one thing we always do is spend time in Central Park. We rest by the lake and feed ducks, or we climb on the many natural rock structures. The trees and green grass are a great respite from the dirty, gray city.
5. Eat healthy, most of the time.
I know vacation, at least for me, means a vacation from my normal way of eating. I take advantage of ice cream, fudge, fried chicken, and lots of French fries. We have more fast food than our stomachs are used to, eating from the dollar menu at a quick stop through the drive through. The kids love it. But after a few meals and days like this, our bodies begin to feel sluggish. We sometimes just assume it’s because we’ve been traveling and so busy, which may be the case, but it also may be a result of our diet. A trip to Walmart to buy apples and natural peanut butter, blueberries and nuts, or hummus and baby carrots make a far better quick snack than a Happy Meal. Take advantage of the local produce, too. Fresh from the orchard tastes better than any diet coke and hamburger. When our vacation means visiting my hometown in Pennsylvania, we like to go when it’s strawberry season so we can pick and eat at the local fields. When in Florida, eat oranges. In Georgia, peaches. In California, eat apricots and pistachios. In Texas—well. . .not sure. . . but you get the idea. Most major cities have delightful farmer’s markets that sell much more than just produce and often offer entertainment. Taking care of our bodies in this way will definitely help us feel “re-created.”
6. Make some strict electronic, TV, and social media rules.
Sure, vacation is a time to kick back and watch movies or TV, but let’s face it, this is something we can do at home. In fact, we all probably do. To feel re-created after a vacation, we need to use this precious time in real human, face-to-face interactions. I’m not saying no video games or TV, just maybe be cautious of how this time is spent. For us, we’ve found that many hours in the car is a justification of any electronic device you can find. This is the time to play hours and hours of Where’s my Water? Or Angry Birds. We usually find a book that we all can enjoy together and listen to, or lately, we’ve found one that just mom and dad can listen to together. It’s not that the rest of the car can’t hear our selection, it’s just that it’s not of interest to them. We listened to East of Eden, for example, on our last trip.
However, when the long drive is over, we put these away until the long drive back. If we watch TV, it’s together. Sometimes we’ll go see a movie together. But these usually are the exceptions and not the rules. Instead of TV, we play games. Instead of video games, we are at the beach, or hiking, or visiting a museum. Mom and Dad (and the kids, too) kiss social media and Youtube good bye for the entire vacation. We even request that texting be kept to a minimum.
And as you can imagine, this simple fast from the media is extremely “re-creative.”
7. Finally, vacation with extended family and friends.
This doesn’t have to be every vacation. I’m kind of selfish in that I want my kids and spouse all to myself, but vacationing with family and friends can be very re-creative, especially if you apply my 6 suggestions from above. All the benefits of getting away with family happen when we spread this joy of fellowship with others. Moms get more time than usual for “mom” talk. Dads get time together, too, which doesn’t happen as often as it should. Men also need this fellowship. And the kids! Well, I don’t need to say how much they love being with other kids. There are endless games indoors and out. Teens have someone to “hang with,” and often join in on the fun with the younger kids. Everyone is happy! This is the kind of vacation you definitely may come home feeling tired, but completely refreshed and “re-created!”
Does vacation exhaust you? Is it a good kind of tired that comes from a fulfilling time away with family, viewing beauty, and building relationships? Or is it tiredness from activity, or even inactivity, which seems hollow? Is it exhaust from laughter and exercise and fresh air? Or exhaust from sitting in front of screens or battling with kids who are sitting in front of screens? For most of us, it’s probably a mixture of these. As I’ve gotten older and hopefully, wiser, I’ve learned to rely on these 7 ideas to make our vacations nourishing and fruitful.
What makes your vacations so exhausting and tiring? What have you found that helps make your vacations “re-creative?”
We all know that we are supposed to "Pray without ceasing." But this is very difficult to say the least. I simply can't remember to keep that dialogue going with God. Some days are better than others. One thing I've managed to do, only by the grace of God, is to establish some habits that put prayer throughout my day. With these times that I do turn to God in prayer, I am more likely to continue the conversation or pick the conversation up again.
Here are 4 of those ways that I sneak in prayer in this 5 minute Youtube.
I didn't realize I was such a pack rat. It was very difficult sorting through old files and other stashes of "treasures." I knew it was going to be difficult, but not this emotionally stressful!
I didn't feel the need to scan everything and save it digitally. I just needed to let it go. Here are files of past Smart Martha seminars that I combined into one photo and one Excel file with all of the information stored in all of these folders. I tried this for lots of other files--but when I could find the strength---I pitched as much as I could!
but yes, after lots of sorting and clever reductions, I finished.
For someone who is an “expert” on clutter and home management, I am currently a failure in my home. Did you ever notice how few pictures of my home I’ve posted on Instagram lately? That’s because I just don’t have my act together in my house. ( Also, I despise those folks who are always showing their “perfectly neat and stylish” living quarters along with their “perfectly neat and stylish” children. I wouldn’t want to be in that category, not that I ever could.)
So my house is a mess along with my messy life. The latter, I really can’t do anything about--these are God-given messes in my life. The first one, I probably can.
I keep saying to myself, “when this is over” (like my daughter’s wedding) or “when I get this project done” (like painting the kitchen) or “when the weather gets nicer” --”I’ll get my home in order again!”
But it just hasn’t happened.
With my recent purchase of the Homemaking Bundle--there were several courses and ebooks in there about decluttering, cleaning the house, and even organizing your life. I probably spent a couple hours pouring over all of them--and really, there was nothing new. This was all the stuff I’ve written about and blogged about in the past. I thought the fresh reminders might be helpful, but what I found out was that reading about decluttering and cleaning, doesn’t get it done.
Also, neither does writing about it. (Darn!)
I just need the discipline and final push to start.
This is where I need your help.
I need some commiserating.
And I need some accountability.
I am going to do my own 16 week challenge to declutter my home!
If you want to join me and want some accountability, I’d love to have you.
It’s not a complicated or difficult plan. I am simple going to declutter one area of my home per week.
My goal for that area will be that every single item follows this criterion: (And if possible--cut everything down by ⅓. In some cases, even more.Yikes.)
My process simple: take everything out, put only those things back in a specific place that are wanted and used. Everything else is either tossed, given to charity, or put in another place.
It’s really not simple, yet it is. Decisions have to be made. This can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. I’ll need that virtue of detachment and wisdom.
And I’ve got one week for each area.
By August, my house will be decluttered and simplified. I’ve got to keep that end vision in mind.
Along the way, I will post some pictures, some motivational sayings, etc. I will also talk about my failures, I’m sure, like things I just can’t throw away or closets too full to even begin.
Right now in writing this, I’m having some signs of anxiety and a panic attack. My heart rate has increased as I think about the spaces in my house that are just too much--of everything--to declutter.
But now that this is in writing--like a formal contract or something, I hopefully will be able to complete it.
Follow along on Facebook! I will post some on my website, but will definitely be more up to date on my SmartMartha Facebook page. Just follow me there. https://www.facebook.com/SmartMarthaMinistry
One area per week!
Like I mentioned, join me!! You don’t have to do all of the areas that I do at the same time, but maybe do some of the rooms/areas that I am doing. I’ve posted my schedule below.
Perhaps if you need this kind of Spring/Summer Cleaning Out, you can make a similar chart. I’ve taken into account our vacations and other summer events and put “easier” rooms in those weeks. I hope it’s not too much or overwhelming--as a Smart Martha, I must always keep my priorities smart. This means that my relationship with God and with others comes first. In most cases, this shouldn’t have to be an either/or.
But sometimes things come up. . .
I’m starting with my home office. Ugh! For example, this is my desk drawer.
I also have lots of files, too many books, dozens of pens, etc, that I have to sort through and pitch.
Is this something you feel you need to do? Is it hard to get motivated? Do you feel like you just don’t know where to start? Come over to my Facebook page and we can cry together: https://www.facebook.com/SmartMarthaMinistry
As always, I’ll put this whole project to prayer (because it’s going to take a miracle to pull this off!)
St. Martha, pray for us!
St. Mary of Bethany, pray for us!
St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us!
St. Frances of Rome, pray for us!
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