Sunday, July 8, 2012

Keeping the Peace on Family Road Trips


Warm transparent lake water lapped over my shoulders, smelling of summer and snails. Sand slipped up my toes. Family camp at Camp Jim looked like red lifeguards on floating docks, life-jacketed preschoolers squealing from yellow water slides, Bible songs and stories ringing within wooden chapels, and families holding hands to pray around cafeteria tables.


Our family just arrived home from five days in northern MN, where we met the great staff and volunteers of Camp Jim, and ate meals, swam, and studied God’s word alongside families from throughout MN and Iowa. Mark was the keynote speaker, and I was thrilled to speak with the women on two occasions also.

Three thousand fifty-two mosquito bites later, we drove home, crammed into a muggy vehicle beside fast-food cartons and a new hognose snake. As the sweat beaded up and traffic slowed to a one-lane crawl, we determined to stay kind and patient with each other. Knowing how easy it would be to end the trip crabby with each other, we made concentrated efforts to avoid that.

“Shhh, only the four year old is allowed to have verbal meltdowns,” we declared. “We can do this. We can use God’s help and strength to be patient with each other.”

We told jokes, laughing at our inane humor. The quips mounted and built on each other, mingling jokes in a way that was funny only to our sweaty, tired family of five. “If a zebra laid an egg…”

We played the alphabet game. We dozed off, and accidentally released the snake in the car. It didn’t get far. We worked at more jokes, and danced along to music, wiping sweat from our foreheads.

Eventually familiar sights raced by our windows, and we pulled into our driveway. “We’re home!” Bulging suitcases and sleeping bags ascended the stairs, mail slipped around my fingers, and the phone blinked at us.

Thank you, Abba, for a great week at family camp, and for speaking through us. Thanks for helping us get home cheerfully and kindly too. What a joy to laugh together.

Hi you, sorry for my absence the last five days. What have you been up to? What fun road-trip strategies does your family have?

11 comments:

Pam said...

You carried me right along with you in this story... :) Makes me remember how sometimes those family trips can erupt into impatient crankiness... I love how God helped you determine and keep your plan! Glad you had a good time, and welcome home!

Lolita said...

I was carried the way Pam is referring to also, Jen.

This is no longer summer for us but the weather is between wet and hot here. We call school vacation time summer but that does not usually point at the weather. As I said weather here in the Philippines is only wet and hot or too hot and too wet.

Anyway, we had a beach outing yesterday for a reunion of my husband's side of the family. I was crabby but decided to just be silent..... well I want to confess, there was this hot liquid inside of me wanting to spill out. I was not so joke inclined. Even not showing it was still not good.

thanks for this, Jen. I will try to be cheerful tonight when I get home.

Anonymous said...

Trying to leave a message, like Rachel did.

Jennifer Dougan said...

Hi Pam,

I'm glad other people can relate to a road trip's easy propensity to frustration. :) We were glad to do this one right, knowing how often we bomb it too, sadly.

Have a great week.

Jennifer
www.jenniferdougan.com

Jennifer Dougan said...

Lolita,

Hot and wet reminds me of West Africa.

I love your honesty and the way you express the "hot liquid inside of you wanting to spill out" --yes, I understand and have had that at times too. I am thankful for God's strength to help with that, and his forgiveness for the many times I fail to take him up on his help in controlling that too.

Have a great day.

Jennifer
www.jenniferdougan.com

Denise said...

Sounds like such fun.

Laura Hodges Poole said...

Family traveling was stressful for us when our children were younger. Now that our youngest is a teenager, traveling is easier. I enjoyed reading your strategies. It helps to have a plan!

Jennifer Dougan said...

Hi Denise,

Road trips and family times together are always worth it, aren't they?
How is your week going?

Jennifer
www.jenniferdougan.com

AmyAlves said...

Jennifer girl, that was beautiful and fun too! There's so much joy found in His presence... great job praying away the distraction of tiredness, and joining in with smiles and laughter instead. I was so blessed by this sister! Thank you! :) ~ Blessings back out, Amy

Jennifer Dougan said...

Hi Laura,

Parenting teens is such a good adventure, isn't it? The good conversations, the easy laughter, the camaraderie... !

Thanks for stopping by.

Jennifer
www.jenniferdougan.com

Jennifer Dougan said...

Thank you, Amy. That choosing joy thing... sometimes I obey, others I don't and bomb it. He is good though.

Have a great week!

Jennifer
www.jenniferdougan.com