Hi all! It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog, but always hoping to get back on the grind and pump out more Friday content regularly.

The last two weeks, Lauren (my wife), Maverick (my son), and I were on vacation and we got back at 3:30am on Wednesday morning. Fun to do with a baby. What a trip though! We flew into Orlando (FL) on July 4th and did two days at Disney, then went to Clearwater for five days at the beach. We finished our time in Orlando visiting and learning from the team at The Action Church while relaxing with my folks at their home. My goal is that this blog will help anyone taking a vacation, especially because there are lessons for ministers or managers/business owners that that will help you utilize your time most efficiently. Check out my favorite video from the trip — IMG_0603-2

Here we go: 

Lesson #1 — Take the Stairs 

I have this internal motto in life to do harder things when easier things are presented. What I mean by that is when I’m at a hotel, instead of taking the elevator, I’ll take the stairs to get some extra steps in. Or instead of driving to my local coffee shop, I’ll walk instead. Regarding vacation, especially as a pastor, I have to plan and prepare ALL year long for time away. I have to prepare the team, my church, and my finances. Lauren and I try to get away twice a year to recover and reconnect. We go away in the summer and in the winter, likely December. So what I do all year long is stash extra cash whenever I can. For example, when the long lost aunt sends $25 in the mail, instead of going out to eat, I’ll go to the bank and put it in the vacation savings. Take the stairs. In the back of my mind, all year long, I’m scrapping dollars, miles, and points. Another thing I do is use my credit card(s) for as many purchases as possible and immediately pay it off. Every time I go away, I grab the cash I’ve racked up from one credit cards rewards and then use points from the other. It might only be $100, but you can make it go a long way, especially with valet, tips, doormen, and pina coladas (virgin, duh). Point is, like Dave Ramsey says, “If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.” Take the stairs.

Lesson #2 — Slow Down before you Go Down 

Sorry for the title but it was the only thing I could thing of that rhymed. Here’s what I did before we left that helped me significantly: Four weeks before vacation, I started to zero in on completing tasks at a faster pace than usual and have conversations to hand off my weekly assignments. I prayed very hard that a few God-miracles would take place as well (like landing our Northeast venue) before I left. Sure enough, we did. God is so good. Anyway, about a week and a half before we left, I had delegated so many projects and sped up my assignment completion process that I was almost out of things to do. Now, for clarity, there’s always things to do. However, the immediate needs were done and I had essentially little to worry about while gone. Also, while we have other communicators, we wanted to try something unique and continue preparing our church for video sermons. So I pre-recorded a video-sermon that was played on my first Sunday away. It was weird and cool to know I was preaching while I was relaxing. Moral of the story, I really slowed down before I went down (south) and it helped my brain significantly. One more thing, I slept in a few days before we left and was off the day before we went. That helped me go into vacation slightly more rested and I was not completely zonked or irritable the first couple days. That may not be possible for you, but worth attempting to build in to your vacation plans. Ps. I also recommend one day at home when you return to unpack and recover before going back to work. Slow down before you go down.

Lesson #3 — Set Clear Expectations with ALL Parties 

Depending on who you’re going on vacation with, if there are different expectations or unspoken wishes unmet, what was meant to be fun could quickly become frustrating. On the front end of our trip while we were at Disney, Lauren and I had some friction because I had some expectations for the day that were different than her expectations. It all turned out fine and we had a “magical” moment at the end watching fireworks with our son. That said, any friction or frustration could have been avoided had I communicated sooner. One thing we did do well that helped Lauren and I connect further is to invite my parents to join us, get different rooms, and help watch Maverick (our ten month old). Lauren and I communicated to my mother (who is a BOSS) before the trip and set clear boundaries on our hopes for vacation. I have to say, mom and dad were simply amazing and made us go out for dinners alone, sleep in, and they even held him during family dinners. Mom also went SUPERGRANDMA and bought toys and stuff for the beach and pool. Thanks G-Pat! One more thing, I set pretty clear expectations for my staff and gave my wife permission to “yell” at me when I did things against my pre-vacation plans. I’ll get to this later, but when I would check an email or our church’s social page, Lauren would remind me the purpose of shutting down. I also told my staff that if it wasn’t an emergency, don’t reach out. I’m grateful. They wouldn’t have reached out anyway, because they wanted me to rest even more than I wanted to. However, setting clear expectations is absolutely essential for an optimal resting experience.

Lesson #4 — Delete or Deplete 

No doubt, the internet is both our greatest gift and biggest curse. We can work from wherever, handle issues immediately, be connected across the planet, spread the Gospel at speeds never before reached, and even build a platform when you have no credentials. Anyway, it’s a curse too because we are addicted to our phones/computers and it almost feels impossible to shut down. What to do? I was gone for two Sundays in a row for the first time in our church planting journey. We turn four in September. Imagine being enthralled in a start-up for five years (pre-launch) and not shutting down for more than ten whole consecutive days in almost five years. It’s hard to get away, especially when you are grinding as hard as possible to reach people and grow this community. At four years old, two locations in Philly, launching our third in October and 800 people from scratch (in a very challenging urban setting), this work has been ALL-CONSUMING. Even still, self-care is first-care or caring for others will have its limits. Here’s a few tips for shutting down: 1) I deleted apps — instagram, church metrics, group me, and planning center. If it’s not there, I’m not tempted. Sure, I can be sneaky and grab my wife’s phone to look, but that’s borderline looney. But when you’re addicted to winning, you’ll do what it takes. I told my wife I might be coming and she guarded. 2) I wouldn’t charge my phone and left it by itself for significant amounts of time. I checked it a couple times a day for emergencies, but at the end of the day, I was with everyone who mattered most. 3) I read physical copies of books. I didn’t want the temptation or distraction of technology, so I highlighted and read. I can honestly say, the less technology, the less anxiety. The more I had my phone, the more anxious I was. The less I had my technology, the more engaged and happy I became. Simple, but difficult. Delete or deplete.

Lesson #5 — Reflection and Connection 

Finally, the most valuable lesson I learned and was reminded of was how I recover. I have to get alone time to think, reflect, and dream. I had to get up earlier or ask my wife to pull away, but those were the most fruitful days of my vacation. I needed time on the beach with God or to walk around the neighborhood pushing Mav in his stroller and praying. I know myself. When I get alone, I am reinvigorated and start to dream again. I don’t think I realized how hard we had been working and how empty I may have been. I wasn’t necessarily tired physically, but I was depleted spiritually. I experienced a myriad of emotions on the trip that were painful, anxious, happy, thankful, gloomy, concerning, glorious, and necessary. It was long and more space than I wished, but necessary for me to reflect on where I was at personally. I can’t say I have come back to Philly in perfect shape, but I have returned better than I left. And to that, I celebrate the win. Oh yeah, one more thing … I prayed specifically for God-relationships on the trip. I asked God for strategic relationships to form without effort. On our last Sunday, the church and team we visited turned into an unexpected time of encouragement, blessing, resource, and favor. We made a partner in more ways than one and some new friends that we can look to for support. God is good. All the time. Reconnect with Him but make room for it.

Lesson #6 — Bonus Points

Here’s a PS. on the blog, a quick helper for those with kids and those with limited budgets. Lauren is smart and she knows I get anxious when we travel. The more bags we have the more anxious I get. I don’t like to fly, isn’t that funny? She ordered things like diapers and wipes to my parents house so we could bring less items. Thank you Amazon. She ordered food packets, even small clothing items to my parents home as well. Personally, I had one of my team members order a book I wanted to read on the beach to my parents  so I could try and finish my other book on the plane (I pride myself on efficiency). It didn’t work out like that with the book because I held Mav the entire flight, but it was a good plan. lol! Also, we live in Philly so American Airlines is our main carrier. I have a bunch of miles with them and an AA credit card. This is essential for saving cost on bags. It seems like Maverick needs more things than my wife and I combined, but with our AA card, we didn’t pay for much, if anything at all. And I booked a one-way there, because Southwest had a great one-way deal on the way home with their two free bags. Bam! Our twenty-five bags only amounted to a few dollars. Ps. You’re welcome.

There you have it. Now, comment and give me some of your vacation tips! I hope this helps.