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Have a Happy Heart

“A happy heart makes the face cheerful.”  Proverbs 15:13a NIV

On our first “real” family vacation, celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary, I landed in the hospital after suffering a severe allergic reaction to shellfish.

Groggy and achy the rest of our trip, I slept on a beach chair. My husband wasn’t thrilled that he had full-time kid duty. To be honest, I wasn’t really happy about it either. It wasn’t our best vacation.

On our “dream trip” to Hawaii, the hotel accidentally gave me shrimp – yep! Another allergic reaction, only this time I had an EpiPen. Crisis averted. Then, the hotel basement flooded and the fire alarms rang all night.

A day later the driveway caved in, unable to withstand the 35 inches of rain that pummeled it the week we were there, and we couldn’t get to our cars. Did you get that? 35 inches of rain! So much for that dream trip.

If it can go wrong, we’ve probably experienced it: lost luggage, forgotten tickets, missed planes, sick babies, and car trouble. God has used these “troubles” to teach me that a vacation is a blessing — no matter what!

We found ourselves in Gatlinburg, TN one year, the same exact week as the Hillbilly Festival, a weeklong celebration of all things hillbilly. Picture it: romantic getaway for two collides with the Clampetts!

At first, I was mortified, being a city girl and all. My plans and our “scenery” really didn’t line up.

I had a choice. I could grumble about the antics all around me, or I could embrace the chaos. For example: one evening, a man strolled into a store and said, “If you have a safety pin, I’ll buy this here skunk.”

Turns out the clerk had a safety pin. The man bought the stuffed animal (did you think real skunk?), pinned it to his overalls, and strode out of the store with that skunk proudly perched on his shoulder.

So, the night of the hillbilly parade — I am not making this up — I chose to embrace. The parade paused as parades are known to do. I handed my husband our camera and quipped, “Get a picture. Quick!”

I ran into the street and jumped into the hillbilly car (doors missing, fake cowhide trim everywhere, a rocking chair on the roof, and bull horns attached to the front grill) for a picture. The overall clad driver with his corncob pipe draped his arm across my shoulders. I smiled. Photo taken. Story lived.

We can prepare our minds for perfection. Adorable, well-behaved kids who smile brightly for every photo and never complain, whine or grumble. Excellent service from all hotel, restaurant and attraction staff. But really… Life is life. It’s not perfect.

Our little vacation is part of someone else’s everyday work world. Vacations disrupt our kids’ comfortable, routine home life.

We have a choice: embrace the gift of family, time and refreshing with a cheerful heart or grumble and complain and miss the moments that really matter.

By the way, on that Hawaiian trip, a serious, older gentleman complained to the hotel clerk demanding that she do something about the weather. (Really!) He tore her apart to the point I couldn’t take it anymore. I interjected, somewhat terrified I’d be punched in the mouth, “Sir, if you really think she has the power to change the weather, I would like to request a million dollars.”

He stared at me, dumbfounded, closed his mouth firmly, and walked away. I got moved to the Presidential Suite with a living room, dining room, gigantic marble bathroom, turndown service and all sorts of sweet extras. It didn’t change the weather, but I sure got a luxurious view of the rain!

What do you expect from others, including your family members, when you travel? Is it more than you would give them in return? Try vacationing with a cheerful heart. It’s tons of fun!

Dear God, Help us all remember that no matter where we go, who we see or what we do, You are with us. Help us be Your ambassadors wherever we are — loving others cheerfully, whether at the corner market or across the world. Thank You for the gifts of life, love and family. In Your Son’s precious name I pray, Amen

For more encouragement, visit Karen at https://familytravelsonabudget.com/blog/

© 2018 by Karen Dawkins. All rights reserved.

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