How To Have A Great Vacation 101

Last week we went on vacation.  It's the first Real vacation we've had since our honeymoon two years ago.  We combined our anniversary with a bi-annual conference in Florida.  My goals were:

1. to rest: be still and think
2. to know God: learn and soak in His sovereignty and love
3. to bond with my husband: celebrate each other and our marriage
4. to relax: (the hard one) don't have big ole agendas/expectations for every second of the day- go with the flow
5. to connect:: being in a large church, I only know one person from our leadership well: meet other people from our church at the conference

We landed in Orlando, it was cool and sunny.  We checked in and marked up our little program books for the pre-conference, the conference it's self, and the post-conference.  We chose times to skip the conference so we could individually sit still before the Lord and bask in what we were learning.  We chose times to skip the jam-packed schedule to have dates together.  We marked out what workshops. We planned when we would eat at a restaurant instead of the picnic food we got at a neighborhood grocery store.  Everything was set.

The first day was just lovely.  Full of learning.  Really good stuff.  That evening we walked along "the beginning of the Everglades".  I screamed when a jogger passed us, mistaking him for an alligator.  We laughed a long time over that one.  We picnicked on the softest grass that I've ever felt.  We swam laps.  A very sweet day.

The second day was more of the same.  I had prayed (and repented) that I would be more excited to hear from God than to hear from John Piper.  And God granted my request.  My husband sat under his mental mentor, D.A. Carson, for a few hours.  Noel Piper said one sentence in her workshop that encouraged me toward sanctification in a marked way.

And that night, we swam more.  We talked more.  We laughed more.  My dear, dear husband and I.

The next morning we split up.  He was going to spend the morning in the Word.  I was going to piddle around.  The pre-conference was over and the main conference started at 1.  So, the morning was free for me to deep condition my hair, write post-cards, journal, pray, be still.  I met him around 11:15 to walk through the makeshift book store and all the display booths.

An hour later, a pain hit my upper rib cage.  I had had a little one on Saturday, a little one again on Sunday.  But this one was big.  And it wouldn't go away.  I thought I might be having a heart attack. I could barely breathe, and the pain was beyond miserable.  I knew I needed to go to the hospital.  Dave stood by me, rubbing my back, whispering in my ear, while a doctor who was at the conference asked me questions.  Then the emergency personal of the hotel.  Finally the EMTs.  A stretcher.  A tour of the back halls of the conference center.  An EKG.  And my first ambulance ride.

A minute after the ambulance started driving, the pain went away.  Not lessened.  But went away.  My husband heard my adrenaline driven chit-chat with the medic, and knew I was OK.  I knew it was the doctor's prayer and God's grace that made my pain go away.

And then other misery set in.  Four hours in the Emergency Room Waiting Area.  I am not kidding - this place was horrible.  Unwelcoming, unkind and what seemed unorganized.  And finally, I got to go back to see a nurse.

Nurse Amy.

And so began our love affair with the Dr. P. Phillips Hospital.  Once past those ER doors, very person we encountered was kind and compassionate, cheerful and reassuring.  They were gentle in voice and in touch, competent and never complacent.  Our first impression of the hospital was the opposite of the warmth of our care.  We were in very capable hands.

After they came in to tell us, yes, I did need gallbladder surgery the next day, I cried on my husband's shoulders.  The next day was our anniversary.  I said, "I'm sorry."  He held me and said, "This is marriage... not sitting in a hot-tub."

And so, for the next couple of days, my husband lived out those words.  He skipped meals, sleep, an amazing conference... his vacation... to stay by my side.  He played music and Scripture for me.  He held my hand, helped me do those embarrassing things, made me laugh.  He never acted as if any of this was an inconvenience or as if he was even tired.  

And that continued as three days later, we returned to the hotel right as the post-conference was finishing.  My orders were to walk and to rest.  So, we would walk to one sitting area where I would take a nap.  We'd walk to another sitting area where I would take another nap.  We had to extend our vacation time and my husband not once complained of the extra cost.  By Saturday, I was ready to fly, well, to nap, while we flew home.

And our vacation was over.

And in the end... this was the best vacation I've ever had.  And I don't know if anything will ever compare.  My 5 things?  The things I had wanted from this week were all fulfilled.  

1.  Oh, did we have time to rest.  Dave and I had long hours to be still and study or just sit and people watch.  My drugged mind could not come up with wordy thoughts and prayers; I couldn't even journal.  So my simple mind just enjoyed being well... still.  Even being "stuck" in a hotel for recuperation, was a gift.  There were no tasks that needed to be done, no projects that could be imagined.  

2.  Although I was hoping for this Mountain Top Experience of getting to sit under some of my favorite preachers and authors, God met me in the simple.  His provision of this amazing hospital.  Even the fact that because I was on vacation, I had a sub and my lesson plans were laid out.  David was close when it happened, not an hour and a half away (he works in another city).  He even mentioned that this was a good first emergency - not life threatening - for us to have together.  God's hands left all kinds of fingerprints.

3.  My husband's love for me was so bold and so overwhelming.  I resit it often.  I buck under his protection and leadership.  I fight against letting him take care of me, because I don't want to be weak and because I want to be in control  And here I was, desperate for him.   I felt bonded to David's love, to his care for me, to his protection over me. I could do nothing for myself, and he sacrificially served me.  It's how Christ loves the Church.  It was as if God unveiled my eyes to first see my husband... and then to see through him to Jesus.  

A little aside note, here.  One that combines my prayer of knowing God's sovereignty and growing closer to my husband.  Had all this happened when we were in Austin, our families would have wrapped themselves around us.  Friends would have come relieved David of the 24/7 care.  And we would have been grateful.  But, the absolute "he's all I got" was another whole lesson in it's self: first, of the two becoming one flesh, and then of my relationship with Jesus... who have I in heaven but Him?  What a surprise as these dear two truths wash over me even now.

4.  The tough one... not to be so dawgone controlling all the time... I want to control everything.  Time.  Emotions.  Agenda.  My husband.  I have these amazingly unrealistic expectations for everything.  Everything.  I had specifically asked a friend to pray that I would just go-with-the flow.  Well, God gave me no choice.  And even, after surgery, when I was so weak, David would say, "Let's go sit over there..." Sure. Anything.  My opinionated self was exhausted with drugs and one less body part.  And it was good.  Really good.

5.  I didn't see many people from our church.  But, I met many lovely people who calmed my fears, told me what I needed to know, assured me, comforted me, cheered me.  The nurses and staff at the hospital took good care of me.  Really good care of me.  They saw everything embarrassing about me and didn't care.  To them, it was normal.  To them, it went along with the job.  And isn't that what the Church is about. Helping people heal?  Pointing them to the One who heals all?  

I will never-ever-ever forget this week.  It was the best vacation ever.



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