It was a beautiful summer day when we packed the car with beach toys and other “necessities” and headed north for our first ever Ohio “beach vacation.” After a required stop at Starbucks, we arrived at our rented vacation house on Lake Erie. Turns out it was a gorgeously massive house—the location and the layout fit our family like a glove and enabled us to share one of our best weeks ever.
Spending a week in close quarters with seven other people, it didn’t take long to discover there isn’t much alone-time. It was busy, hectic and noisy—everything from temper tantrums to laughter and silliness. “Family time” began early when we took the little ones so their parents could sleep in and often ended late as we spent time watching the summer sunsets and enjoying time on our deck overlooking the lake.
Since there seemed to be no convenient time or private place to get alone with God at the beginning of each day, our regular routine of morning quiet time was interrupted. All good Christians start their day with a quiet time, don’t they? Not us. Not this vacation.
Now, routines are good but sometimes being part of a family means we have to be flexible. So instead of concentrating on what wasn’t happening, we decided to look at what was. In reality, the week was filled with spiritual disciplines that were just as formative and life-giving as any time spent individually in a devotional.
The interruption of our routine (aka “quiet time”) did not mean we stopped looking for God’s activity and influence in our lives, His “fingerprints.” Throughout the week, God was indeed present every time we exercised patience, serving, submission, compassion, unity, slowing, unplugging, hospitality and controlling our tongues. Recalling these valuable spiritual practices reminded us that God is always close and constantly abounds in love. As we reflect His character, we too live out our love in close proximity.
So we spent seven delightful days as a family: we talked, played games, and watched TV together; we took turns cooking and tried new restaurants. One day we drove through an African safari (yes, in Ohio!) and fed carrots to yak, giraffes and bison—the car was covered with mud and animal slobber, and we laughed until our stomachs hurt. We built and flew a huge Styrofoam airplane and attempted to make a piñata. We created roads and construction sites in the sand on the beach and searched for sea glass. Even with the unavoidable melt-downs and mishaps, we made some great memories and we grew closer to each other. In fact, as we were driving away we were already planning our return trip.
Sometimes we unnecessarily limit our experience with God when we create a dividing line between what seems sacred and what seems ordinary. God is present in both. He is there in the hush of the early morning and the rush of a jam-packed day, whether I am all alone reading my Bible in a cozy chair or I am surrounded by family talking about life around a dinner table.
We realized that a secret to “life with God” is understanding that God is near at hand in every moment, not just the ones that feel “spiritual.” Otherwise, as we focus on finding one well-defined handprint at the beginning of each day, we sometimes miss God’s countless fingerprints on each and every moment.