The Perfect Vacation for an Imperfect Family

We arrived at our campsite well after dark.  The rodeo had been a much-anticipated highlight of our cross-country trip, and no one was in a hurry to stop talking about it — or to crawl into our sleeping bags.

It’s a good thing, too, because standing where our tent should have been was a small gathering of fellow campers.  One was setting up our lawn chairs and three others were headed in our direction, dragging a pile of fabric that looked like . . . our tent.

The six of us piled out of the mini-van into the glow of our headlights.  My eight-year-old took my hand.

Kind neighbors informed us that while we were gone a tornado had swept through the campground throwing tents and camping equipment in every direction.  Our tent had been completely uprooted, leaving behind all its stabilizing ropes and anchoring pegs, and landing in a heap several sites away.

Beside me, a small voice quavered, “Does this mean we have to go home?”

Cobbling together a plan on the fly, my husband and I tag-teamed a way forward:

“We’re going to gather our sleeping bags . . .”

“We’ll pack up all our gear . . .”

“And we’ll find a hotel in town, back where we watched the rodeo!”

“Tomorrow we’ll buy a new tent, first thing.”

By the time we had loaded the last cooler, everyone was visualizing the luxury of a hotel shower.  (Especially me!)

Apparently when you show up in a hotel lobby at 1 a.m. with four dusty kids, they’re willing to bend the rules about maximum occupancy.  We arranged ourselves somewhere on or around two king-sized beds and, amazingly, we slept.

Fortified by a quick breakfast of yogurt and bagels, we bought a tent at a big box store and hit the road, because now we were not merely travelers.  We were tent-tornado survivors, and we would persevere.

Earlier in the trip, teenage squabbles might have derailed us.  Slow-drying beach towels twirling in tired campsite laundromats might have dampened our spirits.  The perennially squashed hot dog buns in our crowded mini-van might have seemed like an impossible hardship before, but post-tornado, we began to see ourselves as adventurers on the open road.  For this privilege, we could eat the odd squashed bun.

We had started our vacation behaving as if there was a “right way” to do this cross-country journey, a perfect itinerary to follow, and a “correct approach” to the family road trip.  We read every word of the historical markers, looked in every corner of every museum, and collected brochures for future school projects.  Please understand that this was not a matter of capturing teachable moments – this was a case of ambushing them and wrestling them to the ground.

Sometimes it takes a tornado to make you realize that you are driving your kids (and yourselves) crazy.  Intentionally, we backed away from perfect.  We began to get off the highway more often.  As our mini-van devoured the miles, we spotted our first cactus on the way up Scott’s Bluff.  We stalked cicadas that sounded like artillery fire in the muggy southeastern darkness, and we marveled at mockingbirds that apparently spend every waking moment fine-tuning their repertoire.

We made crazy Hail Mary phone calls to camp sites, hoping at the last minute to be able to pitch our tent near a place we had fallen in love with.  After all, if Mt. Rushmore is stunning at sunset, what will it look like in early morning light?

The unclenching of my fists around the idea of the perfect vacation signaled the opening of my hands to The Given.  Designed by a wild, incomprehensible, and totally-other God, we are, nonetheless, a family of imperfection – and delight!

We are museums, and we are rodeos.
We are McDonald’s hamburgers, and we are fresh Washington state cherries eaten alongside the road.
We are wild, whirling winds; and we are dark, peaceful night skies announcing that God really did “hang the earth on nothing.”

Our vacation was not perfect, but neither are we.

We had brought ourselves along for the journey.
And we were glad to have us.


Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash


If you are planning to read Wendell Berry’s  Jayber Crow  and to join us in the discussion, we’ll begin tackling chapters 1-3 on September 7th.  I’ll be sharing the full schedule on August 31 in my end-of-month musings post.

One of the prevailing themes of the book seems to be the nature of calling.  Jayber’s life takes some unexpected twists and turns, but even so, he had this to say:

“I have been unable to shake off the feeling that I have been led — make of that what you will.”


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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 30 years, and together they have four sons, two daughters-in-love, two grandchildren, and one lazy St. Bernard. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

80 thoughts on “The Perfect Vacation for an Imperfect Family”

  1. I loved this Michele! When our kids were little, we camped out and did a lot of things on the fly. It makes you stop and think of what is most important: being perfect or making wild and crazy memories. We often laugh at those years. You brought me back to them. Just as the Lord changes our life, we change things accordingly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes – and lately we are sniffing evening air and saying to each other, “This would be a good night to sleep in the tent.” So who knows? We may get that thing out and set it up in the yard one of these days!


  2. Michele,
    I admire your family’s perseverance to press onward even though your vacation was taking on a Grizwoldian flair lol. Often it’s in the detours and the roads we weren’t expecting to travel that we meet up with God. Life is imperfect. We are imperfect. Why should we expect our vacation to be perfect?? Good thought as we get ready to head on ours. I will keep an open mind….thank you!
    Bev xx

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Well . . . the tent ended up in the dumpster, but fortunately everything stayed in it as it was tossed, so we made a messy pile of it all in the back of the minivan and sorted it out in the morning in daylight while the boys slept.


  3. Michele, you’re such a good writer. And good woman. Loved this. Makes me wish our family could do a cross-country trip…but, two are already grown. Hoping to take a special trip with our youngest in the next year, though. It’s fun having one still at home alone, he’s become our little side kick (even though he’s taller than we are!) I’m sure you know the feeling. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, friend. ((xoxo))

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I sure do! We will have just one at home starting next week, and I’m happy to hear you talking about your experience of this with such positive thoughts — I’m hoping our “little side kick” is going to be ok with hanging out with his mum and dad so much of the time. And the timing on the cross country trip was all gift. Our youngest had just graduated from a booster seat in the car, our oldest did not yet have a job that tied him down, and the two middle guys were up for anything, so we carpe’ed the glorious deum and hit the road.


    2. The grandkids come along and then you get to do the road-trips again, with them! Have just been to Yellowstone with kids and grands. It was incredible to be sharing our family memories with the next generation. Hang on to your tents!


  4. Oh, I LOVED this post!! It is so liberating to let go of “perfection”, or our visions of it. Life is so much better-lived to just take it moment by moment…just like Jesus taught by His example how to live. I think often of the many times He was “interrupted” while on His way to do something for someone. He treated each interruption as exactly what it was…a Divine interception, God having His perfect way in a day in the life of His Son on earth. If only we lived our lives this way…in total acceptance of His ordering of our every circumstance…we would never complain, and stress would be non-existent. Thank you for this wonderful food for thought!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Michele, I always love hearing your personal adventure stories! Along with all the memories that get stirred up in my own heart, those gifts of God’s Grace seep over all the cracks too! And, while I was hoping that I might find energy to join in for some of the upcoming book study, today’s quote clinched it for sure: I think I am being led to come along again! 🙂 Enjoy your last few days of summer my friend! xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow! That sounds like quite a vacation! I have been trying to be more intentional about just letting our vacations happen instead of planning the heck out of them in the hopes of having a “perfect vacation.” I’m finding that flexibility helps make for a less stressful vacation; which makes it pretty perfect in my book.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh, my friend, I LOVE this story!! Someday I will tell you a funny vacation story of our first trip West. You and I appear to plan vacations similarly, but by the time we took the trip I recall so well we had already decided tent camping would not work for the long trek. (Yes, we had tried it on two previous shorter trips😂.)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I loved this! I’ve never met a tornado tent survivor! It does remind me of one very stormy camping night for me and my husband before we had children. It may be the reason I never really went camping after that! Loved your imperfect vacation story. It warmed my heart!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Loved this! The story filled me with joy. And this: “The unclenching of my fists around the idea of the perfect vacation signaled the opening of my hands to The Given.” I need to remember this constantly. As we load our moving truck and leave California behind, these lessons will remind me to open my hands and heart to God’s plan instead of my own.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Having never camped or slept in a tent, Michele, I loved this post for several reasons. Amazing to read of God’s hand of protection upon you all. But then, to take this imperfect moment and make it perfect by persevering … I bet a life lesson was learned by you all. Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I think this might be my favorite thing you’ve ever written, from the squashed hotdog buns to the kind-sized beds, you are a gifted writer and a gracious woman. This is how I function too, it takes the big catastrophes to make me get over the little ones. The metaphorical tornadoes to shake my grip off the days.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Michele, another soul-riveting post. Amazing story and love these two thoughts: We backed away from perfect; The unclenching of my fists around the idea of the perfect vacation signaled the opening of my hands to The Given. Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Great post!

    Once when we were camping we had a torrential downpour.
    We had a camper, but our neighbors had a tent.
    Their suitcases actually were floating outside their tent.
    The next morning those same people went and bout a camper.
    No more wet sleeping bags or suitcases.


  14. It’s in the interruptions where we truly find the gems, isn’t it? I think we all need to “back away from perfect” some! Love this story and the principle you weaved out of it. Thank you for sharing, Michele!!


  15. What a story! And I love the idea of backing away from the perfect ideal in our head to embrace (step-by-step) the perfect of the moment!


  16. Michele, you are a beautiful writer. I’m so glad I found you on the #gritup writers collective. We recently became empty-nester glampers. I’ve never been very good with tents, but a tiny house on wheels I love! We also drove across the country. We had no tornado tangos, but we did have a fight with a dumpster and lost. Perspective is everything. Camping will teach you that! I will be back. Thank you for the soul reading today. ~ andy lee


  17. Love THIS: ‘We had brought ourselves along for the journey.
    And we were glad to have us.’ How often do we let out expectations foul our fellowship! If a journey doesn’t engender growth, it’s just a trip.


  18. We have had many of those not “perfect vacations” that had problems cropping up rather regularly, but oh, what wonderful fun and memories. 🙂 The funny thing is that now, as we look back on them, they seem “perfect”…… probably because we shared those experiences and we made it… and we laugh together about them now. The kids keep asking when can we go on a trip again. 🙂


  19. As someone who spent her youth venturing cross country with my family in a car and then in RVs, I’m so glad you let your hair down and relaxed. I’ve spent more time finding places to tour than I even knew existed. And it’s such a treat to be able to spend a few more or less nights somewhere unexpected. #GlobalBlogging


    1. That was the best part of the trip! And, truly, some of our best memories are of doings that were completely unplanned and unexpected.
      Thanks, Heather, for adding your thoughts to the conversation! What a great childhood experience!

      Liked by 1 person

  20. I’m a planner at heart and my hubby is much better at the spontaneity of and imperfect vacation! Great words to ponder! Blessings!


  21. You have been gifted in the art of story-telling, of making the real that you lived become a lesson that teaches more than just yourself. I love that about your love for words and stringing them together. I love that you share them with me each week!
    Thank you!


  22. This sounds like a fantastic adventure! I’m in the planning stages of some extended family travel and with 5 kids I’m sure there’ll be no shortage of stories like yours! Thanks for sharing! ❤️


    1. We get questions all the time along the lines of , “How did you DO that with four kids?” And to tell you the truth, it would not have been nearly as much fun or as memorable without those four whirling dervishes that share our DNA!
      Blessings to you as you plan and prepare.

      Liked by 1 person

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