Stay-Cation Anytime

I rise early, even on holidays. With a fresh cup of coffee in one hand and my prayer book in the other, I sneak outside barefoot, with a blanket if needed. I say hello to the birds who greet me with their morning serenade. I bow to the apple tree swelling with life in the little green balls on its branches. With a smile I nod to the parsley, mint and basil, delighting in their fresh new growth. The beans and cukes remind me of their thirst for more moisture. But the flowers — lilies, lupines, dahlias, marigolds, black-eyed susans and poppies — don’t seem to mind the scarcity of water as they throw me their morning beauty.  The radiant canopy of the summer morning sky welcomes and enfolds me. My spirit opens wide to receive creation’s offering in this holy opening rite of a virgin day … in my own backyard.

I have lost the travel bug. Not that I miss it much — I have done my fair share of traveling in past years. Maybe it’s the aging season, but there’s something irresistible about home these days as my number one holiday destination. Sleeping in my own bed, dressing when I feel like it, resting in my own space, sipping ice tea in my backyard, watching the garden grow and helping it along with watering and weeding; just puttering around and breathing in my familiar surroundings is an elixir of peace and rejuvenation I can’t find anywhere else. Living out of a suitcase, meeting travel deadlines, dealing with car trouble or detours on the road (or flight delays), eating commercial food, sleeping in strange and sometimes uncomfortable beds — I don’t miss any of it.

Grant you, I know that’s not all there is to traveling. There is the excitement of new encounters in people and places, the change that is as good as a rest (although I need to rest after almost every trip), and the rich soul-food served up by the beauty and splendor of the natural world, especially when enjoying the luxury of camping or a cabin at the lake, hiking in the mountains or letting the northern wilderness of our vast country overtake our heart. But maybe there is a season for each type of holiday, and I am certainly into the stay-cation type at this time in my life.

Now this stay-cation spa is made possible by a number of factors of course. There are at least five that come to mind.

No more young children at home who need daily care contributes significantly to making my home a sanctuary. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly enjoy the grandchildren when they stay with us. But I breathe deeply again when the house falls silent after their departure. Moreover, my depleted energy reservoir is a sober reminder that my active parenting season has long past. Love those little charmers to pieces, but my, they exhaust me!

Another, equally important factor, is the fact that my family home is a modest but safe and comfortable place, a luxury not enough people can claim anymore in this unsafe world. The stability and safety in the relational climate of love and appreciation with my husband contribute in no small measure to the sacredness of home. If I was living in constant relational strain and even in danger of abuse and neglect in intimate encounters I would not only be stressed out and insecure, but I would want to flee to the rest and safety that a holiday away could provide.

Third, when it comes to “breathing in the clean air of God’s abundant creation” as a necessary form of refueling, I only have to go into my backyard. Our house is located in a quiet neighbourhood on the edge of town. The trees across the back alley (not to mention our backyard neighbour’s glorious garden!) and the farmer’s field less than a block away are daily sources of joy and contemplation, play and rest. With a keen gardener for a husband, the space behind our house is growing all kinds of plants that nourish in more ways than only the bodily kind. How would I feel about a stay-cation if I lived in an apartment along a busy city street? How would I feel in a hospital bed or if I lived in a small room of a seniors’ care home, a sure possibility in the future? My soul would crave the green and the earth and the fresh air, essentials of life that would only be available by going away.

Fourth, I don’t need to “get away” from work in order to rest and re-energize. In fact, my pastoral ministry work seems to function like an artesian well of life and blessing and joy that never runs dry. I know well the danger of overworking and overextending oneself, but that is not what I am experiencing at the moment. While I have learnt to bathe my spirit in be-ing over doing, to welcome unscheduled days and open calendars, I am fortunate to engage in work that is meaningful and fruitful, joy-filled and energizing. Again, sad to say, but even this is a luxury. Many (most?) people find themselves in less than satisfying jobs with little prospects of further learning and growing and advancing themselves. That in itself drains rather than generates energy. Holidays away then become the much needed fueling station in order to supply the refreshment and energy that work fails to deliver.

The final factor which makes a stay-cation more attractive than a holiday away is of a rather different nature than the previous ones. I confess my mixed feelings about this, but I am living into a limiting physical ability (whoever said the “joys of aging”?!) which shows up in varying and sobering ways. It’s just plain easier to keep the sleep apnea machine set up at my own bedside, to nap on my own couch when the day is too strenuous and to deal with my creaking knees in familiar surroundings. It is a humbling experience to live into physical limitations with some grace and humour.

Writing this reflection followed an intriguing trajectory. At first I could only think of two factors that make a stay-cation desirable. The more I delved into this reflection, however, the more factors revealed themselves. The process of intentional reflecting bears fruit every time; who was it again who said “the unexamined life is not worth living“?

A healthy and re-energizing stay-cation indeed comes with a price-tag, one that should not be taken for granted. Resentfully staying home as the only option is not a stay-cation. In fact, stay-cations, while easy on the pocket-book, might be more costly in other ways if they are to provide the refreshment of mind and spirit we all need. They can only be rejuvenating holidays with the luxuries of privacy, stable and safe relational space, ready access to nature’s energy source, and life-giving work, while the sobering aging process adds a practical allure to staying home.

So I am counting abundant blessings in choosing a stay-cation, enjoying it immensely with thanks to God for so much goodness. Let these blessings never become a source of entitlement, pride or arrogance, O God. Rather, let me grow ever more mindful and compassionate towards those who deserve equal measures of these essential nutrients for the human spirit but are prevented from accessing these through no fault of their own. I pray that more and more people can say:

“Home, the spot of earth supremely blest,
A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest.”
~ Robert Montgomery

“Stay, stay at home, my heart, and rest;
Home-keeping hearts are happiest.”
Henry W. Longfellow

Would you choose a stay-cation? Why or why not?

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Rain down, rain down

While I’m enjoying the lushness, lightness and warmth of summer, along with creative challenges in a new job, others suffer because of summer. It’s been bone dry here and the forest fires are raging up north, devouring enormous territories with their fiery flames. I find myself praying for the wildlife who, even if they seek protection in the lakes, may well suffocate from the thick smoke in the air. I’m praying for the 13,000 evacuees displaced from their homes and for the countless firefighters risking their own lives. I’m praying for farmers seeing their crops wither in soil cracked by drought.

I’m praying for my new immigrant friends from various French-speaking African countries who have settled in our community. They have left everything, many have spent their savings coming here, and now after less than two years they too are victims of a the parched prairie fields  — most of them have just been laid off and only have 45 days to find other work in the category for which they were recruited. My heart goes out to them — I so don’t want them to have to leave us. Rain down, O God, rain down a shower of work opportunities close to us.

I’m praying for friends facing serious health issues who need a good rainfall of blessings to lift drooping spirits. It seems that even conscientious healthy living is no longer adequate protection against cancer.  In the past few months 3 people have died in my circle of friends. I’m praying for others facing losses of a different nature, some of them more hidden in their own spirits. Rain down, O God, rain down, showers of comforting love on those who long for what once was and for those who mourn loved ones.

Besides all my own loved ones, there are all the other loved ones in the world: the millions of refugees, the women and children exploited through human trafficking, the Greek people facing severe austerity measures,  kids bullying kids, etc. etc. There is no end to parched spirits and lives — rain down, O God, rain down.

Now in all fairness, we did have a good dump of rain here in the past few days — how precious and life-giving those drops from heaven can feel after a time of parched fields and throats. Our daughter Rachelle, who’s gardening on our farm for the first time this summer, was delirious with joy as her Facebook posting reveals:  4cm/1.5 inches of rain!!! What a joyous feeling! I could even hear the plants jumping for joy!! No rain since June 13th and before that had been about a monthish too I think so has been really dry here at the farm. Really makes you appreciate the rain when it does come!! Excited to see the gardens response to the rain over the next week especially!  I was also running and dancing in the rain!! Even went swimming in the lake in the rain! Felt so awesome! And yup gardens are looking pretty nice despite the dry conditions and already look nicer this morning as I just took a garden walk around the edges of a few of the gardens out here! Happy plants, happy people!

Rejoicing with my daughter in this life-giving water on dry gardens and crops, I sing for all parched fields and throats, spirits and lives:Waterfall2

Rain down, rain down,
rain down your love on your people.
Rain down, rain down,
rain down your love, God of life.

Faithful and true is the word of our God.
All of God’s works are so worthy of trust.
God’s mercy falls on the just and the right;
full of God’s love is the earth.

We who revere and find hope in our God
Live in the kindness and joy of God’s wing.
God will protect us from darkness and death;
God will not leave us to starve.

God of creation, we long for your truth;
You are the water of life that we thirst.
Grant that your love and your peace touch our hearts,
All of our hope lies in you.
(lyrics by Jamie Cortez, 1991)

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