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Grace
house on a greek island

When we lived in Turkey, we needed to leave the country every three months to renew our passports. At first it was a complete pain—we’d wake up early, take an hour-long bus ride down to the ferryboat, and then take a jostling hour-long jaunt through the Aegean Sea to one of the closer whitewashed Greek islands, usually Chios or Samos. We’d stay for a few hours, then return later that afternoon, finalizing the day with an exhausted, late-night collapse into our beds back in our Turkish apartment.

But eventually, these visa runs became a blessing. I would actually feel the tense muscles in my shoulders relax with every mile the boat inched away from Turkey, so desperate was I for a break from the culture, language, and surroundings that I loved. Even though I was glad to live there, the daily cultural pressures happily welcomed a little release in tension four times a year.

We’d exit the boat in Greece and listen to a language we didn’t understand (and didn’t need to—our language-learning brain could shut off for a day). An afternoon of lying on the beach, eating the local food, and hitting up the market for goods unsold in our host country, we’d re-board the boat and head home as refreshed people, better able to live in Turkey for another three months.

It was amazing, really, what just a few hours’ respite would do.

Now, it’s not exactly like we have a Greek island at our disposal at all times.

boats on a greek island

But as a family, we’ve taken these life experiences to heart and do our best to live them out here in the U.S. We love going on little day trips, taking weekend getaways, or even giving each other occasional days of alone time in order to stay strong and correct our focus.

I’m in the middle of my annual writing and social media break—I do this for 4-6 weeks every summer, and it’s proven vital to my health and my family’s sanity.

The summer is a great time to set aside our usual rushed routines and embrace a slower pace of life. We pare down extracurricular activities, and we just enjoy being together. Instead of saying yes to the pressures of school, church, and outside obligations, we just… live. We take time to rest, reflect, laugh, and learn for fun.

Grown-ups need a “summer break,” too. I’m not talking a full three months of eating popsicles and watching The Facts of Life reruns (or maybe that was just me)—I mean a deliberate mental break from the craziness of life. We need time to go on long walks, dig in the dirt, read a novel just for the heck of it, take a dip in the pool, and just sit on the couch and talk to our kids over ice cream. No checklists, no pressure to move on to the next thing. Just time to be yourself and be with the ones you love. An escape to our own, personal, whitewashed Greek island.

Join me in taking a breather from life’s pressures. You’ll be better able to roll up your sleeves, look at your family schedule without wincing, and smile at the day ahead because you took time to rejuvenate.

What are some of your favorite ways to rest, reflect, and find renewal?

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  1. 1

    This is just what I need–a time to be alone and to be focused with my First Love with no reason to rush at all. Just this lunch break, I almost had an emotional breakdown as I am too overwhelmed with work responsibilities, family obligations, and a three-month time-frame to plan my wedding!

    Thank you, Tsh! The Lord is using you to speak to me clearly now.

  2. 2

    I enjoy sitting on my back deck with my Bible, devotions and a cup of coffee. Sitting in nature is just so peaceful. I also enjoy taking early morning walks with my dog. I find turning off the TV helps a lot. I like to put on my Pandora and listen to All Sons and Daughters and Elevation Worship-so good.

  3. 3

    Tsh,
    Living in the great state of North Carolina, I have two of my favorite retreats within a couple hours of my home (the beach and the mountains). I recently returned from the ocean which just draws my heart into worship with it’s continuing rhythm. I’m looking forward to a trip to the mountains in the fall…to enjoy God’s magnificent color display and just “be still”. Thanks for the reminder that it is not only okay, it is good for the soul to have some down time to be with our Creator!
    Blessings,
    Bev

    • 4

      Hi Bev,
      I can so relate with your love of the ocean and the mountains! Truly I feel so close to Him in these places…I also live in NC (Charlotte) would love to connect in real life sometime if we dont live too far apart! I am hoping to visit The Cove this fall for a retreat time with The Lord. Have you ever been there?

      Kim

  4. 5

    My favorite way to refresh is to take a walk on a mountain trail or barefoot along a beach.
    But you made an interesting point, at first your excursions were a nuisance instead of a refreshing getaway. I am convinced that attitude is key. A bath can become a refreshing getaway when I make it that. Even a cup of coffee on the porch can be a refreshing retreat, when I have the right attitude. When I am intentional, did I really use that buzz word? When I am intentional in putting aside projects, worries and responsibilities long enough to allow my mind and emotions to be refreshed.
    Thank you for the reminder. Hope you find a place to “smile” today, because I will because of your post! Blessings. Keep up the reminding!

  5. 6

    Tsh, this is exactly why I find (in)courage such a vital part of my weekly reading! These kinds of reminders and encouragements to enjoy the life we have and the moments we are in right this minute… And, to read that others experience that same sense of overload.

    Reading a piece of fiction, just ‘cuz, is a tremendous sign that I am unwinding. I read so much non-fiction throughout the day and weeks, that to just breathe deeply and leisurely read through a People Magazine and some work of fiction I’ve been hearing about all year, is exactly what this mama needs during the summer!

  6. 7

    As a single mama, I don’t get to take time away very often. But once a year, I schedule a 48 hour reconnection with my college besties. More practically, I love to head to the mountains (we live close) where even for a few hours I am uninterrupted by technology, screens, even music. Just the fresh air, mountain streams and trails. My children are with me, but so happily occupied by the wide unlimited space that I get to lay back on a blanket and dream.

  7. 8

    Thank you this is so timely. I am awakening to needing to protect my family’s and my sabbath not only weekly, but maybe quarterly ;-) .
    I sometimes feel like I’m “wasting” time when I stop to just play and am seeing through this faulty thinking, learning how vital it is for an abundant life!

  8. 9

    So needed ive been unemployed so finding a job is a 48 hour task i feel guilt even taking a break..ever..i mean im unemployed so ppl look at me like what r you doing in the house. Its funny you mention greece ive never been anywhere like that tgat wasnt work mission or school related God musthave heard my heart the first time ever knew about greece was on pinterest it looked like heaven to me. Santorini to b exact i thought id like to go there it seemed impossible after all im supposed to b working and thats really expensive when so and so needs my help etc etc. Well even if i never go at least this confirms its okay for me to rest once and a while and do nothing. No achieving just be.

  9. 10

    My break includes all manner of 80′s tv shows so you are certainly not alone in that! :)

    Such a lovely reminder of how important it is to allow ourselves the space to renew!

  10. 11
    Beth Williams says:

    Tsh,

    My way to refresh is taking a “Staycation”. We just spent a lovely week at home sleeping in and doing fun things. We did take a day trip to Asheville, NC downtown. I love hiking and plan to rent a cabin in a state park later this year.

    You are “spot on” when you mentioned attitude. I believe attitude has everything to do with life. You can be miserable and hate something or see the good side of it.

    Thanks!

  11. 12

    My front porch rocker is definitely a place I go to unwind and relax, if only for a minute. Maybe someday I will be able to escape to a Greek island for real : )

  12. 13

    You are so right. I loved in Turkey for two years…Izmir. I was in NATO. It was a dark time for me. I felt this dark cloud over the country. We met in a 6th century cathedral so history was precious. I visited each of the original church locations mentioned in Revelation and went to Ladodicea ( interesting how they piped in hot water from the hot springs and cold water from the melted snow from the mountains….added a new perspective of neither hot nor cold.) I am so glad you were there to bring the Light.

  13. 14

    It is interesting how God gives us what we need even though we don’t recognize the need. Advice we were given when we first went overseas was to take a break evrry 3 months or so. It made for longevity. Sadly not many took that advice unless forced because of where they lived. Many burned out from pressure and tiredness.
    Thanks for sharing your experience.

  14. 15

    This is the third time I’ve heard this very message inside of 2 weeks. I *need* to take this break, this Sabbath rest. It is crucial. So thank you (God!) once again for that reminder. I now need to discover how to make it happen on a regular basis. I’m asking God to help me figure that out too.

    Blessings…

  15. 16

    It’s so true that a bit of a change of scenery can make such a difference. I live southeastern VA in a city environment, which I normally really like. But sometimes I have to get away…I NEED to get away. I’ve found that driving 30 minutes to an hour away from home is all I need. 30 minutes drive and I’m in Colonial Williamsburg – pretty little gardens, historic buildings, and (when the place isn’t busting with tourists) peace & quiet. 1 hour away is Richmond and although it’s another city environment things there are new – new museums, new sites, new parks, new restaurants and cafes, new stores to peruse.

  16. 17

    I love the idea of “living” instead of “saying yes” – because sometimes NOT saying yes feels like it would be NO, which would be negative. And it’s not. And I need to do it.

  17. 18

    Working for the school system, I get about 8 weeks off in the summer. The first month is so very busy, catching up on all my “urgent” errands & starting projects. The last 4 weeks? I sleep late, read the paper with my hot tea outside, and some days, I don’t even leave the house! That’s a break!

  18. 19

    We went away overnight for the first time last Oct, just my hubby and me. It was really nice to get away without the kids. We ought to do that more often. Thanks for the reminder!

  19. 20

    Wow- I am so envious! :-) The Greek Islands look so pretty.

    My husband and I have a weekly date night. This has helped us stay on the same page in our relationship as well as connect with each other without the kids.
    We also try to have a “family day” at least once a month where all of our time is focused on the kids and not on work or church stuff.

  20. 21

    I love to relax and just get outside and walk…sometimes it’s just up and down my long hillside driveway. But I burn calories, enjoy the fresh air, look at the beauty all around me in the trees, flowers, birds deer, not to mention the goats, sheep, horses and cows nearby. Sometimes I wear headphones and listen to my favorite Christian music as I walk. Other times, and the best of all is to just be alone and talk to my God.
    Some people need to be refreshed at least once a month, or once a week. I need it every day. :)
    Thanks for the great insight on how each of us can take something that may not seem so pleasant, and make it pleasant!

  21. 22

    My fav ways to rest, relax, and find renewal:
    Seeking Him in the quiet of the morning before the rest of the household comes alive. For in Him I find my rest, and that rest is c-o-m-p-l-e-t-e.
    Knowing that wherever I am, doing whatever, I can say, “Lord, take me away!” (instead of some earthly bath salts) with faith believing He will do so.
    Only God can refresh & restore my soul where I am, giving me a new perspective on the here & now, as it truly relates to eternity.
    Because I am His.

  22. 23

    I don’t think I’d survive without summer! My three kids play baseball, so spring is four full months of baseball activities every day of the week, usually in multiple places at the same time. As the season comes to an end, every year, people ask me where my boys are playing for the summer. They’re all shocked when I say we take the summer off. One dad actually berated me for allowing my son’s talent to go to waste. He’d never amount to anything as a ball player if he didn’t get good training over the summer.

    That year I got berated, we experienced one of my favorite summers ever. I love the ebb and flow and freedom to do whatever we want. The ability to do things we’d never have time to do during the school year. And the ability to do them spontaneously.

    I am definitely all about summer break!

    • 24
      Beth Williams says:

      Good for you for not backing down. I think it is good to let kids take a break from organized activities and just have fun time with family! Your children may not be professional ball players, but who cares!. They just need to be kids right now!

  23. 25
    Robin in New Jersey says:

    Honestly, my life is so full of stress and heartache right now, my to-do list is a mile long and there is no rest for the weary. Maybe someday, down the road, if I survive this season of life, I will get a chance to get away and relax and enjoy life again. For now I just hold on to the end of the rope and beg God to hold me and not let me fall. My kids need me to hang on and take care of them.

  24. 26

    Tsh,
    This post is perfect timing as my husband and I are on staycation. I needed this reminder of the importance of allowing God to refresh my heart.