This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Laura: Hey guys! Welcome to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I’m Laura Wifler, and I have my sister-in-law, Emily Jensen, here.
Laura: The first thing we want to talk about is that we have a newsletter! If you haven’t signed up yet, you definitely should. It’s edited and largely written by one of our team members, Autumn. She does a phenomenal job of rounding up great resources, articles, and music. She writes a motherhood tip every time, and it’s really helpful. I feel like I’m learning from it too. There’s insider info, like our “happies” that month. It’s a fun thing she does that’s really, really helpful. It only comes once a month, so it’s not that often and it won’t clog your inboxes. You’ll be excited to see it, I hope! We’ve heard lots of people are. [Laughter]
Emily: So sign up! You can find it in our show notes today, or you can go onto our website and scroll to the bottom for the link. Just put your email in there, and wait for your awesome newsletter.
Laura: Yeah, it’s a good one. You guys will like it.
Emily: Okay, so we’re hopefully doing a light-hearted show for you this week. We hope we’re able to laugh about this, but it may not be funny to you yet. [Laughter] But we want to apply the gospel to something that can cause true grumbling and frustration even for the most cheerful mom: the family trip.
Laura: Dun, dun, dun! [Laughter] We’re doing this around spring break, and maybe some of you are taking spring break trips, or planning for an awesome summer vacation, or maybe you’re just seeing family. First we were talking about vacations, and then we realized—no, no—this happens when you travel anytime with children. That might be visiting a grandparent or a camping trip or…
Emily: All kinds of different family weekend outings you might do. It’s just any travel with children in tow.
Laura: 100 percent. It can get hard. Traveling with kids brings out fun things in us that we never knew were there.
Emily: But first off, we want to acknowledge that having the resources and the margin to travel is a gift and a privilege. Sometimes we’re in seasons of life where that’s not possible. Maybe you have a child with significant special needs, and it’s really challenging to go places. Maybe your finances are tight. Maybe it’s hard to go see your family for a variety of reasons. All of those different life experiences and expectations can mean we view this topic really differently. Some people really want to value it and do it. Some people really value it and feel like they can’t do it in this season. We want to be sensitive to that and acknowledge up front not everyone is in a spot where they’d love to worry about this. We know that’s hard, but we want to apply the gospel to this, because there are definitely hard heart things about this that are worth thinking about.
Laura: Every time we travel, my husband and I will say, It doesn’t matter if we’re go for a nap or ten days, we pack the same amount of stuff. [Laughter]
Emily: Very true.
Laura: Especially when you have a baby or nap-er, it can feel like there’s so much gear to pack. When we travel, there are a lot of things that go into it, right? Maybe you’re trapped in the car with a screaming toddler or baby that won’t settle, and you don’t know where or if you should pull over. Or pumping at rest stops is always a fun one. Or nursing in a bathroom.
Emily: Recently, we had to give a child a wipes-bath in a parking lot because of a massive blow out that happened. We had to go “all hands on deck, everyone stop what you’re doing, pull over the car “sort of thing. So, yes, things like that hypothetically happen. [Laughter]
Laura: Food in your car that you find for the next three years or so much screen time if you have one of those little flip-down screens in your car. Oh man. There’s a lot of stuff that happens on a trip that makes you think, All these things are things I don’t want to happen right now! [Laughter]
Emily: Exactly. So today we want to ask a couple of questions. First, we want to ask, What kind of pressure are you putting on vacation or traveling with your kids? In general, a lot of us expect traveling with kids not to be as hard as it actually is.
Laura: It’s so much harder than you think.
Emily: Yes! And you’re thinking, I’m looking forward to seeing my family or resting at the beach or reading by the mountains. You think you’ll make these fun memories like exploring a museum, which you’ll remember and think about it for years. You have these great expectations, but it doesn’t really work out that way.
Laura: I think we think the cares of the home will be gone. We know there will be work—we’re moms—like food to make and diapers to change. But we know there won’t be bills, homework, school flyers, and things like that. And husband is there!
Emily: Yeah, hopefully.
Laura: Hopefully. He’s not just there for after work time; he gets to come for the entire day. So you’re only working 50 percent of the time! [Laughter]
Emily: Ha-ha. [Laughter]
Laura: So that’s kind of the idea. Every year, my family takes a trip to the lake. It’s my husband’s extended family, and it’s always so much fun. One year—as an extreme version to illustrate the point—my daughter had recently been diagnosed with special needs and my husband had broken his leg. We were debating on whether or not to go to the lake that year. I remember thinking, No, let’s go. I need a break. I need some help. I need a distraction. So we went on this trip with my husband on crutches and barely able to stand for long periods of time without passing out. I’m a wreck; I’m grieving, I’m sad. While I had a ton of help from my generous family, there were so many things only mom could do. By the end, the trip was really, really hard. I felt like I didn’t get the break, or the relief, or all the things I had put into that lake trip and hoped to get out of it. I came home exhausted and defeated, feeling like we should’ve stayed home so things would’ve been easier. While they may or may not have been true, the issue here was putting all of my stock for relief and hope into the weekend. That’s not where my hope should’ve been at all.
Emily: Right. I think a lot of us do that on the level you shared: we want a break, the help, the distraction. And then I think there’s another aspect of feeling like this vacation or trip will be the pinnacle and highlight of our year. There’s nothing wrong with this, but we’re saving money, putting things aside, and making big sacrifices to travel with our family. Maybe we take days off work or save up travel miles. We don’t say it out loud but there’s part of us that feels like this one event really needs to pull through for us. We think it’ll be what solidifies us as a family or the thing our kids talk about for the next 20 years. This trip and together time will make up for all these other things during the year that we felt a little disappointed about. Overall, we want wonderful memories—that is totally okay. That’s a good thing! But since we put so much hope, pressure, and expectation in that…
Laura: Whether that’s a lake or Disney World. But there’s still sin—even at Disney World. [Laughter] People are still affected by the fall. While we don’t necessarily verbalize it, I think we believe if we take them to Disney World, everyone will be on their best behavior, really obedient, and grateful. Everyone’s going to be saying, “Thank you!” while I’m mom-of-the-year because we put together this amazing vacation! We shouldn’t be surprised when hard things happen, or things don’t go according to our plan, or people behave in ways we do not understand. These things are natural effects of living on this broken earth. We have to focus more on our own hearts and preparing them well rather than preparing this perfect trip that will fulfill all my hopes and dreams.
Emily: Here’s a quick practical tip. Something we talked a lot about is how over the years, we’ve had to shape our minds from thinking about how this is a time we’re going to be served or how our agendas for the family are going to be served. Instead it’s a time to plan to serve and to be the servant. That might mean as I’m prepping my mind for a trip, I think about how this is a time of intensive sacrifice—more than what I normally do on a regular week at home. This is going to be for the sake of giving an experience for others or honoring others. Sometimes grandparents or family has asked you to travel or your husband wants to plan a fun trip, so you’re traveling and serving to honor them; you’re honoring the investment they’ve made. We want to go into it with the mindset of depending on God for help. He’s not withholding a good gift from us, so this is a chance to serve and love our families, laying aside some things we want to do in order to trust God and have right expectations. It’s really helpful.
Laura: We’re called to lay down our lives for others. I think on vacations we think this is the time we get to live our lives how we want—with a few interruptions. But overall, we think we’re going to get this big break. Em and I have joked our family vacations are just family trips. We don’t even use the word “vacation” anymore if the kids are coming along, because it’s a joke that helps us prepare our minds and our hearts to say, I’m going on this trip to serve others, not to be served. I want to love them well. And yes, we hope we get to read by the beach or do these other things, but being surprised by that gift is better than coming in grumbling because you felt like you didn’t get what you deserved.
Emily: And I think that’s the key right there. When I go in ready to serve and sacrifice and ask, How can I love others on this trip?, I see thing after thing to thank God for because we weren’t expecting them, and we can actually appreciate them with contentment and thank God for what they are.
Laura: We don’t deserve this amazing family vacation—
Emily: Yeah, we don’t deserve it!
Laura: Yeah, let’s just talk about that for a second! [Laughter] Next question we ask is, Who’s to blame when vacation or travel with kids goes bad? This is when your kid gets sick on vacation and you’re like, Where is patient zero? I’m going to find him! [Laughter] You’re going after the source of the cold or the flu!
Emily: Yes, when you see your responses start to come out. I know on a recent trip, my husband and I took our kids to Florida for an extended period of time. After a week, it was just my husband and I in the room, and I was frustrated because things weren’t going according to my preference. I felt like I wasn’t in control of everything, and I threw down some stuff on the bed and kind of huffed. [Laughter] It was like something one of my kids would do. My husband was like, Oh, wow! [Laughter] I was surprised at my response too. I wanted to feel like I responded that way because things were going the way I wanted them to go, so I was justified in this little huffing moment I had. But the reality was my response in these kinds of situations is not someone else’s fault. If we want to think more broadly: it’s not the terrible airline attendant’s fault, or the bad traffic, or the contagious person, or the kids’ bad sleeping arrangement, or our husband’s travel style. We’re responsible for bringing our own heart to the Lord in a way that’s Christlike—even if our circumstances are really challenging.
Laura: This goes straight back to the garden when Adam and Eve are pointing fingers at everybody. Adam’s like, Well, the woman gave it to me, and Eve’s like, Well, it was the serpent! It’s a very classic human game that we love to play. Our anger, choices, unkind words, or complaining is someone else’s fault. The truth is those circumstances or pressures reveal what’s already inside. James 4 talks about quarrels and fights. He says, What’s causing it? It’s not these other things, it’s the passions at war inside of you. I think that shows what we value. When we get something taken away from us, we see the sin in our hearts.
Emily: Exactly. What’s interesting is in daily life, we get in our routines and we go through the motions. When we go on our travel, our routine is disrupted and our kids aren’t as well-behaved as they are at home. But God is in control. I read something interesting lately about God being Lord. He has both control and authority in our lives. So when we’re experiencing something hard or uncomfortable, we have to trust he is good and he’s not surprised by the circumstances—even if they haven’t gone as we hoped. Maybe people have sinned against us or treated us poorly. But he’s still there for us. His presence is there. He wants to help us learn to follow him and go to him for wisdom in each situation. We don’t have to lose hope. We can still anchor our responses to him even when things are, in our mind, going wrong.
Laura: A practical piece for that is having a plan for difficulty in conflict. Just like we talked about with expectations earlier, I think when I’m prepared that someone is probably going to get sick, or a flight will be delayed, or the travel isn’t going to go as I want it, or there’ll be a problem at the AirBnb, or whatever, my heart is prepared ahead of time. I can say, Lord, whatever circumstances are brought into our lives, use that to grow me in holiness towards you. I want to pray God changes me on that trip. We know God uses all things for good for those who love him, and we can trust God allows circumstances into our lives to refine and grow us. Those difficult things we face, those are things that help us learn to love each other better in more Christlikeness.
Emily: So before we close out this show, we want to do a “mom’s heart check,” and ask, How might Christ transform our attitude before, during, and after a trip with the kids? So this is going to be a little bit more practical. Keep in mind: I’ve been crucified with Christ. It’s no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. That’s our mindset and frame of reference whether we’re in day-to-day life, going about our normal responsibilities or Disney World or a camping experience of a lifetime—
Laura: [Laughter] Is there a camping experience of a lifetime?! Is that a real thing? [Laughter]
Emily: I don’t know!
Laura: Emily Jensen, did you just say that? [Laughter] My husband would say, “Yes,” but you would say, “No.” [Laughter]
Emily: I’d say that’d be very sanctifying.
Laura: [Laughter] We gotta get you on one.
Emily: But it is not I who live, but Christ in me.
Laura: [So much laughter]
Emily: So, back on track here. Let’s talk about the practical outworking of what this might look like to do vacation with Christ in us.
Laura: So the first piece is preparing yourself and your kids. Jesus trained his disciples before sending them out. This something that’s really practical, but get your kids thinking: What are we going to do? How are we going to behave? What kind of challenges might we face? How should we respond when these things happen? Talking with your kids is helpful to set proper expectations and think about how to handle conflict.
Emily: I think on the trip, whenever you see them doing something that’s honoring Mommy and Daddy, or loving a neighbor, or being kind or responding to some of the training you gave them, affirm that and praise that. Talk about how that glorifies God and how it serves and helps your family. Another thing to do for you is time in the word, prayer, and anticipating giving God the cares for your travel beforehand. Ask for God’s help with the details before and on the trip. If you need to get out your Bible on the trip, that may be a great thing to do! Remember the key verses or things that will orient your heart and mind on Christ when things are getting really challenging.
Laura: To bounce off that prayer piece, I think we need to thank him for the gift of the vacation and the fun things we’re experiencing but also for the hard things that are shaping you into the image of Christ. Pray continually on the trip! Another piece is keeping your eyes open for opportunities for discipleship, or processing things with your kids, or having gospel-centered conversations. It’s not just you who might be discouraged on that trip; your whole family may go through different things at different times. They may feel discouraged, hurt, or angry. So those are great changes for you to train them and to see the need and meet your family with the gospel.
Emily: Another thing my husband and I like to talk about is how we’re going to encounter a lot of “neighbors” on this trip. So, how is our family going to show dignity to strangers? People like those in line for our tickets, the people next to us on the plane, at the hotel pool—how are we thinking about how our behavior and noise affects others around us? There are so many opportunities to display God’s kindness, even if you’re not giving someone a full presentation of the gospel. You can do it through the way you’re conducting yourself. You’re not irate you had to wait. You’re treating someone with kindness when your hotel room was messed up. That can really display the love of Christ.
Laura: And lastly, you’re going to fail and not do this perfectly. Just remember you can always turn to the Lord, repent, and ask forgiveness. You can reconcile with him and others. Ask God to help you on the trip before it, during it, and after it. Just know he’s with you; he goes with you wherever you go. I’m so thankful God is omnipresent, and he can be everywhere at once. Know that, and trust him to be faithful to you on the trip. So, that’s our tip!
Emily: And we hope you have a fun trip wherever you’re going.
Laura: Happy vacationing!
Emily: You can find more on our website risenmotherhood.com, or find us across social media @risenmotherhood on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Thanks, guys!