Family vacation. Those two words unlock a suitcase of memories packed with emotions—epic, mediocre, or never again. No matter, I still love family vacations. East Coast, West Coast, or somewhere in between, the destinations, food, and fun excite me, but it’s family that fuels the flames of fellowship. God loves to use that fellowship to take an already epic adventure to the next level.
In a family of ten - five siblings, two parents, two grandparents spending a week with cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents seems normal.
In 2007, twenty-two family members and a dog survived a week-long Christmas vacation (with no internet) on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Our ten-bedroom rental home sat on the sound front with an ocean view from the third floor. A few of us would escape the crowded family room for a warm, secluded massage in the hot tub. On the cold, windy mornings, I strolled across the island highway to explore the endless beach and splash in the refreshing waves of God’s presence.
This particular Christmas, we elected to exchange white elephant gifts. We did so in jest and were belly-laughing when the teens discovered old-fogy items in their gift bags.
As expected, though, some tense moments crept in among the laughs.
While playing Monopoly, my younger sister, influenced by the concoction in her red Solo cup, accused two brothers of bankrupting her domain. She shouted, “Y’all are out to get me. That’s it, I quit,” and stormed out.
One aunt binged reruns all week on the monstrous TV screen. When my daughter-in-law yelled, “Do you have to have it so loud?” to which the aunt defended her “rightful privileges” in regards to the TV. None of us like conflict, so quick intervention doused these sparks of discord. Spurned, she couldn’t let it go. At dinner that night, the aunt dished out mean words to my son’s wife. Had I not begged them to stay, my son and his wife would have left because of the exchange.
In families, we often experience tremendous blessings of love, as well as the cursed bitterness of unforgiven hurts; but love overcomes—especially God’s love.
We spent precious moments around the table recounting childhood memories which reminded us how much we really love, enjoy, and care for each other. Our teenage children connected with their cousins and have built lasting bonds. We even learned to love that rambunctious goldendoodle, Sammy, wet licks and all!
One highlight though, stood out among the rest.
My oldest brother (the tall, strawberry-blond reverend) spoke after our midweek supper. He recalled the family tree as he contrasted our ancestral saints with a few not-so-saintly ones, encouraging us to acknowledge our DNA that creates a propensity to become a drunkard.
Then, he nudged us way beyond our comfort zones. He placed a wooden chair in the front of the room, and said, “I want each child to come and sit here and one of you adults to stand behind them and pray over them.”
One by one, they took a turn. As God moved in our hearts, an aunt or uncle stood behind them and prayed incredible blessings of love, protection, and goodwill. I prayed for wisdom and a godly wife for my nephew. As we sent each prayer up, God sent down a wave of love, drenching us with His holy presence. Peace engulfed my soul.
What a blessing! This was the first time we had prayed together like this as a family, meals excluded.
God heard those prayers.
A few nephews and nieces are married, some have children, and many are followers of Christ. A few are not there yet, but I have faith they will make the right choices. My only son, who loved the Lord and his wife deeply, served God faithfully until He took him home in 2017.
At the end of our week without the internet, our family still loved one another and even planned more thrilling vacations together. I encourage you to reunite with your family, make some memories, and seek to love one another above all else.