The First Time I Ever Prayed THAT Before Vacation

His long toes and foot stretched out slowly from the backseat of the car to settle on my armrest.

“Is this okay, Mom?” John asked. Reflected in my sun-visor, his broad shoulders spilled past his third of the backseat, brushing against my daughter’s. His leg slid up to the front seat’s armrest, flexing out stiffness.

“No problem, John.” I kissed the top of his foot.

The five of us bounced across the western half of the United States in our blue Oldsmobile on an eleven-day road trip to see relatives in Washington state. We passed crumbling wooden barns whose caving in was silent and imperceptible. Grasses and trees grew tangled through vacant windows and floorboards and, in a blink, the scene was gone. Wind turbines stood tall on hilltops, capturing the air around them in precise, non-hurried arms. Silver oil rigs bent low, faces to the soil, bobbing and drinking greedily. My daughter snapped photographs out the window of North Dakota’s green foothills and up its winding caramel and navy-colored badlands. Placards boasted “the world’s largest buffalo” and red and green rivers snaked among the bison.

Montana’s disproportionate horizon screamed for attention. In a rancher’s world with rattlesnakes and miles of brown sandy land between towns, the sky took center stage. Five-sixths of the world was sky, a massive blue ocean of air where wispy cirrus clouds curled and sketched before hiding away behind stony ranges. Clumped white cumulus clouds came next, throwing grey shadows onto the land around us. The highway carved through and over, around and under. My daughter snapped and clicked the camera feature of her dad’s phone.

“Isn’t there a silent option for the camera?” wondered my son, as his sister leaned across all angles of the car to capture the beauty she saw.

In Idaho and Washington, my six year old noticed his ears. “There’s something wrong with my ears,” he said.

“Oh, that’s called popping. It’s because we’re driving up the mountains. Pretend you are swallowing food, or drink lots of water. It will help,” I advised, swiveling to look over my left shoulder at him.

“Daniel, isn’t God cool to make mountains? Wow, he’s a good artist.” We nodded together, my six year old and I, and the phrase appeared often in his meal and bedtime prayers that week. He thanked God for mountains and oceans, memories of splashing waves soon his most poignant.

Wet fog and mist clung to the bottom of ever-growing mountains, and we swallowed and gasped at the beauty.

We arrived eventually, of course, at my aunt and uncle’s home, pulling into their yellow dirt driveway and crunching pebbles with our tires. Fresh peaches grew from their tree in the backyard, and the Yakima sun poured desert heat onto us as we hugged and exclaimed, getting re-acquainted again. The wooden screen door clapped shut behind us as we lugged suitcases and backpacks into the cool interior, and our voices disappeared inside.

And the prayer I uttered before leaving on this trip? The prayer I whispered on winding roads, and after late-nights… God, please make us delightful to each other and a delight to be around. Help us be kind, patient, and humble. Help us reflect you, your love filling us and coming out from us. 

Our Artist God coated mountains in greens, tans, and silvery blues, directed ocean tides, and granted that small prayer too. We pulled into our Minnesota driveway, eleven days later, after sixteen- and twelve-hour days of driving, still liking each other and thankful for the trip.

Hello, friends. I have missed you, and this time here with you. Thank you for your patience as I have been packing boxes, preparing for a move, and racing across country on a road-trip. 

How has your August been going? What adventures or savored moments are you collecting and holding onto carefully? Have you ever prayed any odd prayers before trips? 

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  1. Brandee Shafer on August 19, 2014 at 3:46 am

    You're such a word artist that you don't need a camera. I saw it all in my mind's eye based upon your descriptions! 🙂

    What a busy season for you! Are you moving far away?

  2. Brian Miller on August 19, 2014 at 4:04 am

    ha. nice. what a road trip eh? 11 days…oh my…there has to be plenty of stories the came out of that one…

    august is back to school…and busy enough with that…my oldest started middle school…i am on my final leg of grad school…

  3. Bill (cycleguy) on August 19, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Thanks for taking us on your vacation Jennifer. Back in '93 our family took a two week vacation out west. Far too short. But also saw snow in July. Loved the mountain picture. Brought back memories. Glad you had a great time. Missed connecting with you and it is good to have you back.

  4. Floyd on August 19, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    That's a great and wise prayer, Jennifer. Glad you enjoyed your time. The memories made will last a lifetime in the hearts of you and your family.

  5. Lisa notes... on August 19, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    "God, please make us delightful to each other and a delight to be around."

    Oh, such a sweet prayer for house guests to make! I'm sure God answered them. What a blessing you must have been to your aunt and uncle. Glad you're home, and praying for a smooth transition to wherever you head next.

  6. Zoe Elmore on August 19, 2014 at 10:44 pm

    Hi Jennifer, Thanks ever so much for stopping by my blog today and posting.
    How wonderful to read your post here and your prayer. You are a blessing where ever you go.

  7. Ceil on August 19, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    Hi Jennifer! You have been really busy!
    I really enjoyed your descriptions out the window of your car. It felt like I was right there with you.
    I have prayed a prayer that is much like yours, but I say "Help me to be a perfect guest, a helpful one…and a loving one."
    I think I like yours better…

  8. Dolly@Soulstops on August 20, 2014 at 4:15 am

    What a wonderful prayer …you've inspired me to pray the same for our next vacation…what gorgeous beauty…thanks for sharing some of it with us 🙂 Glad you and your family had a delightful time 🙂

  9. Cheryl Barker on August 21, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    Jennifer, sounds and looks like you had an amazing trip. Loved the photos. Didn't make it to the mountains this year for vacation, but we did get to see one of the Great Lakes (Erie) and visit the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Also spent some precious time with loved ones. So thankful for God's beauty and blessings!

  10. Alecia Simersky on August 21, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    You've been one busy lady! 16 and 12 hr road trips?! Oh man. That's a long time to be in a car. August has been busy for us. We moved too! Again 🙂
    Good luck on your moving!

  11. Jennifer Dougan on August 22, 2014 at 5:07 pm


    Thank you. I'm so glad you "came" along with me in your mind's eye! 🙂

    No, the move is really local, just a few blocks away. It is due to land developmental changes in this spot.

    Have a great week,
    Jennifer Dougan

  12. Jennifer Dougan on August 22, 2014 at 6:44 pm


    Road trips are great fodder for writing and speaking material, huh? 🙂 And so beautiful too.

    Back to school this week for you, huh? Wow, ours starts soon too, after Labor day and I'm savoring each last sip of summer now. Oldest in middle school! Fun! I love raising teens… the conversations, laughter, depth is so good.

    May this last leg of grad school go smoothly, and may the learning inspire and challenge you wonderfully.

    Jennifer Dougan

  13. Jennifer Dougan on August 22, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    Thanks, Bill. Those times away and with family are always so worth it.

    It's good to be back too, 🙂
    Jennifer Dougan

  14. Jennifer Dougan on August 22, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    Hi Floyd,

    Thank you. Yes, memories of road trips and time with relatives is always such a special thing.

    Jennifer Dougan

  15. Jennifer Dougan on August 22, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    Lisa Notes,

    Thank you. It was such a delight to be able to spend time with family out there.

    Your prayers for a smooth transition? Thank you!

    Jennifer Dougan

  16. Jennifer Dougan on August 22, 2014 at 7:06 pm


    Thank you for your kind encouragement. It's nice to have you stop in here.

    Jennifer Dougan

  17. Jennifer Dougan on August 22, 2014 at 7:36 pm


    Glad to have you riding along in your mind's eye. 🙂 Thank you!

    I like your guest prayer as well. The sentiment of wanting to be a blessing, a gift, is so true, huh?

    Have a great week, Ceil,
    Jennifer Dougan

  18. Jennifer Dougan on August 22, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    Thank you, Dolly. Always nice to have you here.

    Jennifer Dougan

  19. Jennifer Dougan on August 22, 2014 at 7:58 pm


    How neat that you got to see Lake Erie, and spend time in the national park. Isn't it refreshing to have time in the beautiful outdoors? Ahh… 🙂

    I have been noticing the birds in my backyard this summer, and it makes me think of you too.

    Have a great week,
    Jennifer Dougan

  20. Jennifer Dougan on August 22, 2014 at 8:09 pm


    Wow, you've moved too? Whew, such a lot of work, isn't it? Was your move nearby or further away from your current home? Are you feeling more settled yet?

    Ours is a nearby move, scheduled to close this next week and the move that week too.

    Blessings to you,
    Jennifer Dougan

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