“I think we need to cancel our summer vacation,” I said to H, surprised by what I heard myself saying.

Saturday arrived without fanfare and we missed the morning hours by sleeping through them. Sipping coffee and reading from a warm spot in bed, he looks up at me, makes eye contact and replies with words that bring relief.

“I agree.”

We’d been planning to tick boxes off on a bucket list of places we longed to visit in Europe. But the more we planned the details – travel, site seeing, and accommodations — the more the trip began making us feel tired. As we talked through corporate uneasiness about our imminent dream vacation, we realized the time away we’d been planning wasn’t what we really needed. We needed rest over more activity.

And Sabbath isn’t the same thing as a vacation.

Summer vacations are often associated with a spirit of ease and togetherness but the season can also provide a challenge when it comes to making rest realistic.

While vacation provides a break from routines, we often fill the whitespace with more doing than being. Time set apart for rest can quickly become an UnSabbath — time for leaving God at home.

Away from home with loved ones, we may not open the laptop, cull an inbox, or set an alarm clock, but we are busy in a million different ways.

How many times have you experienced a rush of weariness assault mind, body and soul while slowing down from a non-stop, hurry up pace?  

If we haven’t practiced pausing during weeks prior to a planned escape, a vacation becomes a hospital for the soul; a hospitable place that allows you to recover from tiredness and return to your true self.

As we pack up for home, we begin feeling refreshed. And maybe a little cheated that we didn’t have as much time for rest as we hoped.

So, how do we find the spirit of Sabbath on vacation when there are people with needs, meals to prepare, activities to plan and messes to clean up? How do we meet with God when our spiritual rhythms are all out of whack?  How do we get away for fun and return home feeling more like ourselves?

Give Yourself Permission

Let go of vacation ideals and the guilt associated with not meeting up to them. Rest and guilt cannot co-exist. Adopt “I don’t do guilt” as your vacation mantra.

Ask For Help

All the little details make a vacation sweet but if you are the only one thinking about them, they can become a bitter resentment. Allow guests to make their own breakfast and lunch. Ask kids to clean up dishes after dinner. Share beach clean-up and tidying responsibilities among those who are traveling with you.

Remember This!

The way you rest is unique to how God created you. If solitude is required for inner peace but you abide in a house full of people, find a few minutes to distance yourself from noise. Without guilt! Sit on a park bench or beach chair while children play. Read a chapter before dinner – in the bathroom if you must. Take a nap while kids nap. Plan time periods for being alone a couple of times throughout the week.


Adjust quiet time routines with Lectio Divina. From reading chapters of scripture to focusing on a few short verses. Pick a portion of text and savor the words slowly. Listen to what God is saying instead of forming your next sentence. Meditate, memorize, repeat and rest in God’s embrace.

Practice Breathing

While waiting in lines at Disney World, sitting in the back seat of a taxi or navigating the tube to your next destination, practice breath prayers. Choose a simple phrase or brief sentence to pray as you inhale and exhale. For example: Inhale — In returning and rest you shall be saved. Exhale — In quietness and confidence shall be your strength. (Isaiah 30:15) You may not be able to stop in a church, kneel or close your eyes but you can pray anywhere and at any time.

Enjoy God

Practice being over doing by remembering what it means to be one of God’s children. Eat ice cream. Read a novel. Explore a new place. Watch birds. Avoid the mirror and cell phone . . . for days, not hours.

Mostly, bring God with you every day and converse with him often. While you play and relax he’ll remind you of his big, unceasing love that never changes. Because Sabbath is a sign of God’s covenant between us.

Summer vacation is a good time to make eye contact with God and remember why he made the Sabbath.

I gave them laws for living, showed them how to live well and obediently before me. I also gave them my weekly holy rest days, my “Sabbaths,” a kind of signpost erected between me and them to show them that I, God, am in the business of making them holy. Ezekiel 20:11-12

Shelly Miller / Posts / Blog
Shelly Miller is a veteran ministry leader and sought-after mentor on Sabbath-keeping. She leads the Sabbath Society, an online community of people who want to make rest a priority, and her writing has been featured in multiple national publications. Her first book, Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World, will release with Bethany House Publishers in the fall of 2016 with a second launching in 2017 with Lion Hudson. Find more of Shelly’s writing on her blog, Redemptions Beauty, and connect on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where she loves to share photos of the beautiful places she visits while living as a committed immigrant in London.
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    Lynn D. Morrissey

    I really appreciate this message, Shelly, because I’ve spent vacations like the ones you and H *didn’t* take, and came home wearier for having taken them, only to have to face 50-to-60-hour work weeks wearily, when I was gainfully employed. “He who gains the world’s way of vacationing, just might lose his sole chance to rest,” huh? Michael and I found what they now call staycations to be one way to enjoy time off from work. We would spend lots of time at home being together, walking through the neighborhood or in a park, and doing little fun things like attending outdoor concerts or taking a day trip (say, to Hannibal, not far from where we live in St. Louis). And now one of our favorite things to do is to go to our cabin and just hole up for a week or two. I read, he and our daughter “boat” and fish, and we all love walking in the woods and eating meals together. And quite often, Mike reads to Sheridan and me in the evening or we play Scrabble or Scategories. And yes, we have still traveled abroad (and absolutely loved it), but we have not jammed our schedules with the usual mad-dash touristy things. Michael rents a car and we see the sights (often natural ones) at our own pace. I love your Sabbath-vacation suggestions, and I hope that you two are having some downtime this summer to enjoy them yourselves.

    July 19th, 2017 14:11
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      Shelly Miller

      Oh! Your reminded me of board games. Playing Monopoly for days is a family tradition. Thanks for being here Lynn.

      July 21st, 2017 5:22
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    Jennifer Camp

    This is so wonderful and wise and needed, Shelly. I appreciate you so much.

    July 20th, 2017 0:38
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      Shelly Miller

      Thanks for being here Jennifer, I’m honored.

      July 21st, 2017 5:22
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    Nancy Ruegg

    My husband and I just returned from a vacation with friends. Without realizing it, we enjoyed Sabbath moments throughout the six days: 1) Taking in mountain vistas with worshipful awe, 2) Relaxing in rockers on a restaurant veranda for an hour, sipping cold soda while awaiting our dinner reservation, 3) Enjoying delightful fellowship with friends-of-friends over a leisurely dinner, 4) Much conversation and catching up; a great deal of laughter. Each of these activities and more were enhanced by the restful presence of God. You are so right, Shelly. A vacation without rest, especially soul-rest, is no vacation at all.

    July 22nd, 2017 17:57
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    Thank you Shelly for those thoughts. I wish I had been able to read them before I went on our holiday in Portugal recently and then I may have been more proactive about using the time. Holidays for us now are very relaxing, with just the two of us. Up for breakfast, down to the pool/beachside to read, crosswords, sudukos, swim; back to the room for a sandwich lunch and some time in the aircon; back down to the pool for another while, then back up to get ready to go out for dinner at a little local restaurant along the seafront and finish up with an icecream on the way back to the hotel. Even just writing it out reminds me how privileged I am and how grateful I should be, but … and isn’t there often a BUT! … I love my times of uninterrupted solitude, not necessarily long times. My husband is a chatterer (I realise many women would really like their husbands to say a bit more sometimes lol. We are never happy.) and just loves spending 24/7 time with me, and I am just not used to having someone in my space full time for 11 days. There we have it, my confession, which probably sounds really terrible. Something I can try to work on before next year! X

    August 2nd, 2017 11:11

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