Vacation season is rapidly winding down for the summer. Facebook is flush with back-to-school pictures of every variety and, to my disapproval, the drive-in theater is now only open on the weekends. Not that it matters. I’m lucky if I manage to get myself out to the drive-in once a year. I just like to know it’s available to me should the stars align and I’m able to go.

Every summer I take three weeks of vacation to rest, have fun, and catch up on assorted home projects that I tend to neglect during the rest of the year. I like to take all of my vacation time for the year at once because I have the tendency to think about work for the first few days, and the last few days, of my break. The hope is that I’ll spend a few days, in the middle of my three weeks, not thinking about work. I’m not always successful.

The problem with working in ministry is that you never really clock out, at least not mentally. Sometimes you lay awake at night wondering how your going to fill the nursery volunteer holes, pay the rent, and get that darn coffee counter fixed. Imagine working a job where you’re never really off-duty, you don’t get paid much, and your nearest family is 150 miles away. Welcome to ministry! The irony is that I love it, which probably means I have a defect in my DNA, but that’s another story.

The point is, since I’ve been in ministry, I’ve discovered that I’m horrible at taking a vacation. Rest does not come naturally to me. I touched on this a bit two years ago when I burned out bad. The good news is that I’m learning (sometimes the hard way).

A funny thing happened during this year’s vacation. OK, not really funny, but excruciatingly painful, but it might seem funny to me one day. One of my biggest pet peeves, and a problem I suffer terribly from, is being stuck in-between. Let me explain. I’m supposed to be resting, but I have a sick need to always be productive, so I do some needless busy work. I end up stuck in-between. I’m neither resting, nor accomplishing anything worthwhile. It’s a sickness that ends up robbing me of truly enjoying my time off. In this instance, I was cleaning some things around my home office. (Not really working, right?) I had some DVDs that I wanted to put in storage so I went into the crawlspace to put them in a box. When I bent down to put them away, my back revolted in the most painful, relentless spasm that I’d ever experienced.

I dropped to my knees and couldn’t stand up. I had to crawl backwards out of the crawlspace, each leg movement shooting more pain through my back. When my wife found me, I was paralyzed, on all fours, trying to move, but in too much pain to do so. She practically carried me to the bed where I laid for the next several days.

I finally had no choice. Resting was my only option since I was in too much pain to do anything else. You know what? Not including the pain, it was one of my favorite parts of my vacation. I took naps, I read books (FICTION), and I watched movies, all with no feelings of guilt or the sense that there were more productive things I should have been doing. It was great!

Anyway, I’m learning a couple things as I recover from this injury and enjoy the last few days of vacation.

Rest is a discipline. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I need to remind myself. If I’m not disciplined about scheduling, and committing, to rest, then someone else, or an unplanned circumstance, will lead me to some form of draining activity. Find something that’s restorative for you, put it on the calendar, and stick to it so that you’re not sucked into the in-between.

Diligently plan out your vacation time months in advance. This is where I get into trouble. I mention the need to sit down and plan our vacation, with my wife, but I never really pull the trigger, put the planning session on our calendar, and do it, leaving us to scramble for something fun to do with the kids, and ending up playing it by ear. Playing a vacation by ear stinks.

Practice resting regularly throughout the year. Unless you’re a lazy slob, rest is an acquired skill. Practice at it, at least weekly. There’s a reason why my Instagram feed isn’t filled with holiday and fun-time photos. I’m not good at that sort of thing. Get good at resting throughout the year and you won’t need a back injury to to motivate you to stop moving!

Well, August will be over in a week. I pray you make the best of it. Now that the kids are back in school, maybe you can get some rest 😉