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Returning from a vacation that didn't feel like a vacation, Michelle Hamel reflects on the grace of flexibility and the need for feeding her own soul.

I was in "try not to drown" mode all winter. After a fall and winter that had been filled to the brim with constant illnesses and my oldest daughter’s major health crisis that was finally starting to be resolved, to say I was tired and burned out was a complete understatement.  

In February, my parents invited us on a family vacation that included the majority of my family. In all, we traveled with 18 people, including my young-adult son who has autism, plus three 2-year-old grandsons and our 8-month-old granddaughter and 5-month-old grandson.  

While I was hoping and praying that this trip would allow for at least some snippets of rest and recharge, I knew that overall it was going to be very busy. I boarded the plane feeling anxious and emotionally depleted but resolved to focus on staying in the present moment. I didn't want to miss out on the joys ahead of us. I was also focused on being flexible for any hiccups that traveling with a large group of people would most likely bring.  




I pulled out my rosary beads as the plane pulled away from the gate. (Flying is not my favorite!) As I started praying, I felt God say in my heart, "Embrace the inconveniences." My first thought was, "Oh, no!" I didn't have long to ponder, though, because moments later our plane stopped as we approached the runway, the engine shut off, and the pilot informed us that we were being delayed at least 30 minutes because of too much air traffic on the East Coast. 

After 30 minutes of helping to distract one of the 2-year-olds and listening to another family's toddler completely lose it the entire time (I felt so bad for that poor mom!) we were cleared to go. The flight went great, I had handled the delay with patience, and I was tentatively hopeful that maybe we had got the inconvenience out of the way!  

I have to admit that the warning and direction God gave me came in handy. We landed in Florida to rain and chilly weather, but I was able to embrace that inconvenience and just be grateful to be on vacation. Day two’s weather was worse, but we made the best of it. Each time an inconvenience popped up, I tried to embrace it. At the same time, I felt like I was bargaining with God, "That's enough inconveniences now, right?" And yet, every.single.day we faced some pretty sizable challenges that kept me from just slipping into the carefree vacation mindset I so desperately felt I needed.  




Over the course of the week, one son’s family came down with pinkeye, my 5-month-old grandson came down with croup in the middle of the night and needed an early morning ER visit, my dad got sick and missed out on three park days, one of the 2-year-olds needed an urgent care visit for an ear infection, my special-needs son developed an awful stye, and my dad went into AFIB for part of a day. Even though it thankfully didn't rain again, the temperature was too cool to enjoy the pool except once. That was so disappointing.  

I cried in the bathroom the morning we flew out on what would have been the perfect pool day. While there were certainly many joyful moments during the trip, overall it had been disappointing and not what I had hoped it would be. There was something my heart felt it desperately needed that it just didn’t get. It wasn’t about the weather or the illnesses. It was the exhaustion and lack of peace in my heart. I needed rest … a deep soul rest that probably wasn’t possible to get on that vacation, even if it had gone perfectly. 

Sometimes the good that God brings out of hard situations is a deeper understanding of our own hearts. It can become apparent that we must address the needs that we’ve been putting off for so long that quick fixes or emotional band-aids aren’t going to manage anymore. I realized that I had to address my deep need for rest because it was affecting my daily life. Shortly after the vacation, God opened the door for a silent women’s retreat, and gave me the courage to walk through. Silence with Him and away from the many, many responsibilities of home life was the CPR my soul needed. 




If you find yourself in a place of burnout and emotional need, take that seriously. Ask God to show you how He wants to address how you’re feeling. Open up to your husband and/or a good friend. Consider speaking to a Catholic therapist or spiritual director. It’s important to care for our hearts in order to better care for our families; we can’t give what we don’t have. 


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Copyright 2024 Michelle Hamel
Images: Canva