emily p freeman

You’ve had the dates marked on the calendar for months by now. Maybe you’ve put down a deposit, bought plane tickets, or simply reserved a shelter at a campsite. No matter how fancy or regular your vacation is, chances are you intend to take one over the next few months.

While you google your way through Disney tips and take notes on how best to pack your suitcase, here are a few good reminders for your soul as you prepare for your vacation.

1. Vacation is more mindset than destination.

You know it’s true because you’ve heard moms yell at their kids on the beach. And also you’ve been the mom yelling at your kids on the beach.

You’ve had a grumpy old man tell you off for taking his chair on the deck of a cruise ship in the middle of a Caribbean paradise. 


If all we needed was a great destination in order to take a real vacation, then everyone on vacation would be happy, peaceful, and good.

But you’ve felt the deep sadness in the sunshine. You know the worries that follow you to the shore. No matter where you go, the list-making, future-looking, failure-rehearsing whir can follow you.

It isn’t the place that brings peace. Only Jesus can do that.

This can be a relief rather than a burden, because it means we don’t need fancy to take a real rest.

2. Vacation starts on Tuesday.

We tend to think vacation is like a week-long Saturday. And it kind of is. But the best vacations start on the regular Tuesday before you leave, the one you spend at home doing laundry, the one where you are packing your bag and preparing your heart for what’s to come.

Walk outside your front door and let the sun highlight your hair today.

Let the minutes pass as you sit and watch the little ones play.



Stand with your feet in the grass and your face to the wind, close your eyes and breathe in deep. The gifts are waiting quiet in small places. Pause to see them. Pick them up and turn them over. Discover the beauty of slow right where you are.

Because if you can’t settle in to your real life, you won’t be able to settle in on vacation.

3. Maybe stop trying to take a vacation and instead, let your vacation take you.

In other words, let your vacation be what it wants to be rather than you forcing it to be something it isn’t.

Before I leave for vacation I tend to make big plans in my mind: we’ll see this, we’ll eat that, we’ll explore there. I even go beyond events and move into experience: the kids will love this, that meal will be romantic, this night we’ll connect. I will feel rested, lovely, and free!

And then I wonder why two days into vacation I’m grumpy, overly sensitive, and just want to be alone.

All vacations are not created equal. A weekend with girlfriends is different from a weekend with my extended family and all of our kids. It helps to hold all plans with an open hand and move to the relational rhythm of the group I’m with.

Low on expectations, high on love.

4. Your vacation wants you to know that rest takes courage.

Whether you are headed to the coast or if the only vacation you get this year is Saturday and Sunday at home, it’s good to remember that rest doesn’t always come easy. Sometimes it only comes after a fight. The fight isn’t against a person, but an idea — the idea you have in your head that to rest is lazy, useless, or a waste of your time.

You have to fight for rest, and sometimes the fight looks like sitting on the rug with a deck of cards or starting at the ocean for no good reason or sitting by the window without a to-do list in your hand.

Spend a little time letting the sea smooth out the jagged edges that have formed within and around you. Let the salt burn the wounds, let the sand rub off the dead skin, let the nighttime hold you still and quiet until the first light of morning shows up with all her promises.

Let your vacation be a gift, not an expectation. Open hands, light touch, kind heart.

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  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    I really liked the idea of “letting your vacation take you”. Just like I need to relinquish every day to the Lord, I also need to relinquish control of my vacation. Let it (vacation) and God take me where they want me to go. I also agree with keeping the expectations realistic. Nothing kills a vacation like unmet expectations. Thank you for some thought provoking ideas to ponder before I pack my bag.

  • Kim Garbison

    Ugh! Yes!! We leave next Saturday with my mom, my sister, and her husband plus the 4 of us. Trying my best to NOT think about it so much! Step back and stop with the plans.

  • Inspired Life

    Ive had to shift my expectations and paradigm on what a “vacation” is. For me, its now a family trip and not a vacation. On this family trip, I’m still cooking, washing clothes and the like so I don’t consider that a vacation. The children have a ball and my husband and I relish in the joy they’re having. I do take mini-mind vacations often by STOPPING to embrace the beauty right before my eyes. This mini-siestas rejuvenate and refresh. Praying your vacations are filled with love, joy and peace.

  • http://www.creeksideministries.blogspot.com/ Linda@Creekside

    And even though we might go to the same place year after year, each visit is subtly different from the one before.

    And that can be a very good thing.

    And if the ocean’s breezes really flow your way, someday you might find a little house not all that far from the sea and move there for good.

    And that is what we’re doing even as we speak …

  • Christy

    Wow! Why have I never thought of it this way before?? “Low on expectations, high on love.” Yes!! This will help shape the way I think about vacationing from now on. Thank you for writing about this!

  • JeanneTakenaka

    Oh, I NEEDED this today. In a few weeks, we leave for Hawaii to visit family. Vacation? Yes. Attached to this many-dream-to-visit location are hurts from past visits. I’ve been working to prepare my heart for this time with family who don’t know Jesus. I always end up tired from all our preparations before a big trip. I probably will this time too. But, if my heart is rested, filled up with Jesus, I think that might just make the difference in my outlook on this trip.

    And this? “Because if you can’t settle in to your real life, you won’t be able to settle in on vacation.” Oh, that spoke deep to my heart today.

    Thank you, Emily. I’m planning to re-read this post often in the next few weeks!

  • Pam Cason

    Such truth! Beautiful words! Thank you!

  • Suzy Hillegas

    Low on expectations and high on love. These are words to live by. Many people in my life have continued to say, “You need to let go of your expectations,” but I find I need something to replace them with, love is a wonderful alternative.

  • Kathleen

    Beautiful post. So very true. Thank you for reminding me our true peace is not from where we happen to be physically but where Jesus lives in our heart.

  • http://www.StephenPerryJones.com Stephen Jones

    “Vacation is more mindset than destination.” It is so easy to forget that. I often get caught
    up in my own thoughts, my own worries, and my own world. Thank you for the

  • http://annaangela.com/ Angela Sangalang

    “Vacation is more mindset than destination.” Amen to that! When I’m on vacation and want to see all and do all, I tell myself that I’ll be back one day. I don’t know if that’s true, but it helps me relax and go on vacay-mode.

  • maria


  • maria

    Your words are so healing, and they give me permission to just be! Thank you – needed this just now!

  • Susan

    “You’ve felt the deep sadness in the sunshine.” Oh goodness girl, that makes my heart skip a beat. I have a story, another time! Excellent word.

  • Trish

    Your words blessed me again!

  • http://brownsugartoast.com/ Christa Threlfall

    Low on expectations. High on love.
    Good thoughts.

  • Alissa Steverson

    Beautiful analogy between the sea of healing and rest. Truly, if you can’t settle in where are, you won’t find it elsewhere on vacation. Rest and blessings to all…

  • Beth Williams

    Rest takes courage! So very true!!! It can be hard to “rest” on vacation with family. You want to do it and see it all. A few years ago my hubby and I took a week long “staycation!” We planned a few activities for the week, but mostly we just wanted to “veg” out rest, rejuvenate and enjoy each other. I love exploring the area I live in and not having to rush around all the time. I have come to want/need more spiritual whitespace as I’ve dealt with my aging dad and work stresses for 1+ year. I believe people make a big deal out of “going” somewhere for vacation and if they stayed home for a week they might feel more rested.
    Blessings :)

  • Heather Fritzler

    Thank you for these amazing words. I have littles and we are not in a place where any kind of vacation would be restful. We haven’t had a real vacation in years. Thank you for the reminders that I can rest right where I am.

  • http://thehouseoffigs.com Bethany

    This is so good, and much needed for me. Thank you!!!

  • Paris Renae

    Emily you remind me to breathe… That’s what we need to do, just relax into His arms and breathe without being breathless…

  • Jane


    I’ve had this post sitting in my inbox, marked to get my attention, for over a month now. Yikes. It just so happens that I’m preparing to take my 4 little ones on vacation (and there is such a difference between a trip versus a vacation, isn’t there?) and I’m trying to get everything in order (laundry, packing, correspondence…a clean email inbox). How funny that you mention all of that “regular-ness” happening today – a Tuesday. Thank for all of this insight. My soul needs a vacation; and, I can sense that my children’s souls need a vacation, too. I’ll be keeping all of your words with me today while I pack, and throughout our travels. Thank you, thank you, thank you!