We started this summer with great dreams of down time and travel and recreation.
And now, summer is quickly ticking toward fall.
And those great dreams have yet to find legs.
Competing work schedules, summer camps for several of the kids, dance performance commitments for others, then trying to coordinate all of that with seeing extended family, it’s made for a tangled trail of calendar aspirations and misfires.
But right when I’d just about accepted summer plan defeat, a small serendipitous window opened on the schedule horizon. There was a small patch of days that it might just work to jump in the car, traverse a sixteen hour road trip, and arrive at my brother’s house on a lake in the middle of the country.
Not all of my crew would be able to come and there would be days that my brother’s family would need to keep some previous commitments. But there were some pockets of time. Maybe.
But I needed to jump in the car with the handful of my tribe that could come.
And get on the road.
Like, right now.
I didn’t really think it would work. I started going through the motions of frantically getting us packed up, but was ready to bail if work emergencies or more calendar complications reared their heads. So it was with some surprise when I found myself in the midst of a one thousand mile crossing with five of my kids in tow.
For the most capricious, last minute, unplanned trip, it’s been an improv delight.
I didn’t think I’d get to see my oldest daughter and her beau. They both live about four hours away from the lake house. They had work commitments and a river float trip already bought and paid for. But at the last minute, flooding in the area caused the float trip to be rescheduled, so they were able to skedaddle down for a couple of days. Because we were skidding in so last minute, I didn’t know how my mother and grandmother would do, as they tend to like things a bit more predictable. But we had a lovely couple of visits with each of them. With my brother’s family’s busy schedule, with my niece leaving for college soon and my nephews’ athletics schedules in the thick of baseball tournament season, it was all a gamble. But it’s all worked.
In the past, I’ve been a serial planner of these kinds of trips. Previous trips of this ilk included days and days of packing, cooking and baking for healthy snacks on the road, supply shopping which, I kid you not, included the purchasing of travel sizes of paper toilet seat covers. So, for this time, to decide to go, to pile into a car with an odd assortment of clothes and a handful of DVDs for the kids to watch on the drive, all within a less than twenty-four hour decision window, it feels a little irresponsible.
I needed to bring a good bit of work with me. I emailed and texted and scheduled posts and made ministry calls all the way up as one of my teens took their turn driving. I still have some questions about why I packed some of the outfits that I did, and I’m thinking that one of my kids managed to only bring a swimsuit and a filthy shirt. And two mismatched flip flops as his shoes for the trip.
But it’s been so very sweet, this surprise Sabbath.
Here are the big takeaways:
- If you get the chance, take it. If a surprise window opens up to take a quick break, grab it. While I aspire to having all our vacation goals laid out well in advance, there are simply seasons where it doesn’t work. I’m going to remember from this surprise Sabbath that it’s worth jumping at the chance if I get it, even if it doesn’t fit neatly in the calendar.
- It doesn’t have to be perfect. Would my best case scenario have been to have made a road trip like this when all of my crew were available? Absolutely. Would I have loved to have shown up with gifts for all the extended family and a perfectly packed suitcase and a fresh haircut for one of the twins? Sure. Would any of that suffice as a reason not to come and soak up some time? Nope.
- If it means you’ve got to do some work to make it work, then work it out. Obviously, there are days that I’m needed in person to do much of the work I do. But there are also times that I can take care of a lot of responsibilities remotely. Whatever your responsibilities, from your mom game to your office, what are the things that can be managed from a phone and a computer? Can you lump enough of those things together to work remotely for a few days, away?
- Trust that a lot of details will sort themselves out. My brother reminded me of this a long time ago…and I’m starting to lean into it. “Sissy,” he told me, as I was swirling and worrying about packing and trying to think through every single travel outcome and need, “there are Wal-Marts just about everywhere.” Yep. He’s right. If I forget something at home, if some details fall through the cracks, there are resources and workarounds all around. When I keep this in mind, it makes me more open to experiencing a surprise Sabbath.
- Embrace the Sabbath moments. Yes, I’ve needed to make sure work commitments are covered. I’ve needed to respond to some emails and text and had a big deadline to hit for a project. But I’ve tried each day to make sure there are some stints of Sabbath intentionality, stretches of time where I put down the phone, shut off the computer, and focus on the kids I was able to bring with me and the extended family I’ve been able to see.
This surprise Sabbath will be wrapping up soon. I’m sure I’ll be a bit surprised again to discover myself on the road, seven hours of drive time behind me, nine more to go. I’m sure there will be some piles of things to deal with when I hit my front door. But I’m glad for the lesson that a little spontaneous respite can be just the thing to refresh, refocus, and trust.