Vacation Brain

vacation brainWhen I came back from my first cruise, I literally felt like I was still on the cruise ship at times with its constant swaying. This lasted a few weeks after the cruise. I even woke up in the middle of the night from what I can only describe as my brain trying to connect with my shipless reality.

Having this swaying sensation in the absence of being on a boat led me to realize that sometimes our minds can get stuck cruising while the rest of our bodies struggle to go through the motions of life. This creates and out-of-balance state that I call “vacation brain.”

Defining Vacation Brain

The Urban Dictionary offers two definitions for “vacation brain.”

“The 1-2 days before vacation when you can’t get much work done because your brain is already on vacation.”

“When you feel like you’re on vacation but you actually aren’t.”

Those definitions make sense, and I’ve experienced both, but allow me to offer a third definition. Vacation brain is…

“Failure to live your life in a deliberate way that leads toward balance physically, mentally and spiritually.”

Let’s face it, if we live our daily lives the same way we live when we on vacation, we’d all be in serious trouble.

The Symptoms of Vacation Brain

The symptoms of “vacation brain” exist within what I call a “cruise ship lifestyle.” Here are the ones that stand out most to me.

  • Increased comparisons
  • God neglect
  • Flesh focus

The posts, Understanding the Symptoms of Vacation Brain and Are You Living a Cruise Ship Lifestyle? delve deeper into how this topic relates to the influence of culture and also discuss the application to our everyday lives. For this post, let’s discuss some ideas to remedy this unhealthy state of existence.

The Remedy for Vacation Brain

The best remedy that I know of for “vacation brain” comes from Romans 12:2.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

When I came home from my first cruise vacation and started feeling the shipless swaying sensations, I knew that concentration and focus would be a struggle for me until the sensations went away. (On a side note, Mal de Debarquement Syndrome does not go away for some people.)

We must stay keenly aware that vacation brain can easily become a part of our everyday lifestyles if we don’t deliberately choose to not let that happen. Consider the following for helping keep vacation brain from becoming a lifestyle.

  1. Renew. Renew the routines and habits that work well and discard or revamp what doesn’t.
  2. Read. I need to get as much positive input as possible, so I read God-focused blogs in addition to my Bible. Reading is one of the best ways to renew your thinking.
  3. Reconnect. While my husband and I connected a great deal on our cruise, I missed my friends and the rest of my family. Reconnecting help to refocus.
  4. Review. Review your priorities. Checking your calendar and your checkbook can help with doing this.
  5. Refuse. Vacations should be relaxing. They should help create new perspectives or reestablish old, helpful ones. Refuse to let the benefits of vacation be erased.

Almost immediately upon our return from our first cruise vacation, we had to deal with some significant life issues. I found myself wondering if the relaxation of vacation would dissipate more quickly than it came. Then I realized that vacations don’t create a state of peace that will live on indefinitely; instead, they should hit a reset button that helps us re-balance in a way to better deal with life’s coming challenges.

DISCUSSION: What other suggestions do you have for remedying vacation brain? Why do you think vacations are so important, maybe even crucially essential, for our lives?

Making Room for Christ

nativityThe Christmas Story

Since about 47% of Americans attend Christmas Eve church services, almost half the people living in the United States are familiar with the Christmas story (found in Matthew 1-2 and in Luke 1-2). Many likely know it by heart.

I’ve heard the Christmas story from every possible perspective — the shepherds, Mary, Joseph, the wise men, the innkeeper, even the stars in the sky and the animals in the stable. Uncountable modern tellings focus on the meaning of Christmas from every point of view.

One version delves into the idea of “no room” at the inn in Jerusalem. For whatever reason, the inn could not accommodate a pregnant Mary and her husband Joseph.

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in clothes and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” (Luke 2:6-7)

This physical circumstance connects to the spiritual reality that even before Jesus’ birth, people failed in making room for Him amidst busyness and rush.

No Room

The hurry and bustle of the holiday season distracts so many from making room for Christ. Really, busyness prevents a focus on Him year round. From before His birth to Christmas today, there seems to be the all-to-common state of “no room” for Jesus.

The solution lies with a new perspective and deliberate effort. He won’t force His way into our lives, but He certainly provides ample opportunity for us to welcome Him of our own accord.

Make Room

Making room for Christ in a busy life starts with hearing the voice of the Lord through the holiday noise. It involves deliberately seeking His peace amidst the all-consuming busyness during the holidays and beyond.

This approach begins with a change of focus as we ask God to speak to us and then as we add intentional effort to hear his voice. That requires stopping physically, mentally, spiritually and, especially in our modern culture, electronically.

Consider the words of Psalm 46:10 in several versions to understand how this best happens:

“Be still and know that I am God.” (NIV)

“Cease striving and know that I am God.” (NASB)

“Stop your fighting — and know that I am God.” (Holman)

“Let go of your concerns! Then you will know that I am God.” (God’s Word Translation)

“Desist and know that I am God.” (Young’s Literal Translation)

Making room for Jesus involves removing ourselves from the intense volume of the world. It means reorganizing our lives and making room by de-cluttering to get rid of distractions.

God does still speak to us. He still offers peace. And He still provides wisdom. Our part in the equation requires enabling ourselves to hear Him. In doing so, we not only “know” He is God, we understand the perspective of many on that first Christmas — the shepherds, the wisemen, Mary & Joseph — who rearranged their lives to usher in the Christ child.

What do you need to remove or rearrange to make room for Christ now and in the coming year?


Battling Boredom: My Struggle with a Flat Faith – Part IV

4-11-13 path 2My propensity for boredom exists as a built-in barometer for many areas of my life, including my faith. When boredom starts to abide, especially within relationships or church or studying, I know that some area of my life is misaligned.

Sometimes, though, I get so wrapped up in feelings of boredom or depression or whatever and fail to realize that I am off track. That’s usually when the Holy Spirit steps up His game to get my attention. This happened recently during a significant battle with boredom (Part I) that ended up being an indication of a flat faith caused by lack of connection (Part II) and a focus on comparisons (Part III).

The Path to a Plan

When I thought of examples of boredom in scripture, David came to mind. One reason I think David was led to pursue Bathsheba was boredom. He wasn’t where he was supposed to be. He couldn’t sleep. He seemed restless and bored in the middle of the night with no late night television to distract him. (See 2 Samuel 11.)

Thinking about David’s boredom along with my own, four realizations came to mind.4-11-13 path 1

  1. Boredom can be from selfishness. Though God desires for us to enjoy life, the enjoyment of life is not to be our primary concern. The kingdom of God, not our own lives, is to be our main concern (Matthew 6:31-34). But when we focus on enjoying life, self gratification becomes the focus instead, the attainment of which is impossible.
  2. Boredom can lead to sin. Idleness, which often happens when we are bored, can lead to wrong choices, including sowing discord (creating disunity) among others (1 Timothy 5:13). In other words, boredom can be infectious if it’s caused by someone not doing what he is supposed to be doing. The result? Drama and sinful choices.
  3. Boredom leads to discontentment. Learning contentment is the key to curing boredom. How do we learn contentment? Rely on God’s strength, which he gives generously to lead us to a place where we aren’t disquieted and disturbed (Philippians 4:11).
  4. Boredom can be used by the Holy Spirit. Had David questioned why he was restless, perhaps he could have corrected the behavior that led to his restlessness. David did not lack resources, nor did he lack things to do. He simply lost his focus. I know when I lose my focus, the Holy Spirit uses boredom (restlessness) to get me back on track.

“At a time when kings go to battle,” King David stayed home. As a result, he discovered himself in a place of boredom that led to discontentment and sin. What might David’s story be like had he been executing his battle plan as was expected of the king?

4-11-13 Flat FaithA New Perspective

I used to believe avoiding boredom was all about simply having something to do, with occupying myself. I even insist that my kids occupy themselves regularly. Through this journey, I’ve realized that boredom is directly related to contentment.

Contentment involves being able to just be without having to work on a “to do” item. It’s about connecting with Christ, with my family, with friends and even with people I don’t know. Contentment is about cultivating relationship.

Contentment means I don’t have to constantly evaluate my day and only count it as successful if tangible items were accomplished. It’s about realizing that sometimes the best way to manage my time is by doing nothing except just being with Jesus.

Contentment means staying attached to the vine (John 15:5). As Kathy Howard says in “Fed Up with Flat Faith,” contentment comes “when we maintain an intimate relationship with Jesus” because “He will guide us to the works He has planned for us and empower us to do them.”

This journey through my battle with boredom is almost complete. Part V lays out a battle plan that will allow me to move forward in victory having defeated my boredom caused by lack of connection and a focus on comparisons. Thank you for sticking with me!

DISCUSSION: What other Bible stories relate to this series on Battling Boredom that we have not yet covered?

Note: Unless otherwise noted, all quotes are taken from Fed Up with Flat Faith by Kathy Howard. Also, be sure to heck out Kathy’s guest posts Flat Spots Here and There – Part I and Flat Spots Here and There – Part II.

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