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Spiritual Lessons I Learned On Vacation

August 04, 2011

By Susan Baller-Shepard

I tell Lisa she's dangerous, one of the rare people in my life who can exert peer pressure over me easily. Today, she wants me to get into Jackson Lake, which is full of mountain run-off. Lisa does triathlons and swims in the Pacific Ocean; cold water is not new to her. She gives me this look, which gets me up off the warm picnic table and sticking my toe into the water. She believes we are setting an example for our kids, who range in age from 9 to 16. Lisa prevails upon me, and the older kids, to enter the water and swim to the buoys.

My girlfriends and I decided to meet up in Grand Teton National Park. We choose Colter Bay Cabins; we booked them in January, after consulting twelve calendars, band camps, swim teams, speaking engagements, work schedules. Two friends cannot make the trip, but Julie, Lisa, and I, with our crews, can make it work.

Lisa's family used to visit the Tetons when she was a child. My parents had the audacity, in 1969, to take four children in an Apache pop-up camper, from Illinois out west for three weeks. They wanted us to see the United States, the Continental Divide, the Grand Canyon, Disney World. We had already flown in jets, my father having been drafted into the Navy, and we had lived in Norfolk, Virginia for a while. No, this trip was to see the United States up close and personal, in the back of a station wagon, via campgrounds and National Parks.

Now I realize, with three children of my own, the importance of family vacations, especially as the countdown to lift-off closes in with two of our three children in high school this year. I think there's something important in the process of stepping away from life as we know it, and stepping into life as we do not know it, stepping into the sacred time that is vacation. Like water in baptism and bread in communion, being set apart from a common to a sacred use, vacation is a time when our lives get retooled, set apart from common use, to show us our sacred use. On vacation we remember our lives are really always both: common and sacred, bundled together, smushed in together, like kids in the backseat of a car on vacation.

Read the rest of this article at Patheos here.

Susan Baller-Shepard is an ordained Presbyterian minister and editor of the online Spiritual Book Club. She also blogs at Real People, Real Lives, Real Spirituality.

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