One of the greatest perks of working in a school is that you still get a summer break as an adult. You’re free to spend the day at the pool, stay out late at night, have breakfast, lunch and dinner on the deck, leave town as you please — and still get a paid for it. Hal-le-lu-jah.
So you can imagine my disappointment when my husband suddenly got orders to deploy, and would be gone the entire summer. We had already been planning for that upcoming summer (potentially our last summer in St. Louis). This is not how it is suppose to go. What in the world am I going to do by myself all summer?
But shortly after William received those unexpected orders, I received an equally unexpected invitation to travel with a family as their nanny… on their 40 day summer vacation to California and Utah. Yes, you might want to read that last sentence again. I didn’t even know vacations like this existed until this one literally fell into my lap. And Lord knows, I had never been on one.
Of course, everyone important in my life was saying, “You have to do it!“, “This is an once in a lifetime opportunity!“, but… I stayed skeptical.
I’m a homebody. I love to travel… but I also love coming home to my bed at the end of the week. I love St. Louis in the summer. There is so much to do and so much I would miss out on. I’ve loved being a nanny in the past, but 5
spoiled kids is a lot. Besides, summer is suppose to be my break, I’m not sure I want to be working triple the amount of hours I normally work. These were just a few of my arguments against this once in a lifetime opportunity.
But after a lot of prayer, research, and encouragement from others, I accepted the job. Anddd then immediately regretted my decision. I started losing sleep at night while playing the dangerous “what if” game. What if the kids are terrible? What if I’m not available to talk to William during the windows of time he is available? What if I get lonely? What if I don’t have enough time off?!
That last question seemed to stick with me. And honestly, began to scare me.
I’ve never been a nanny for a family where I didn’t get to go home at the end of the day. Where I didn’t have weekends to myself and my own life outside of theirs. This was clearly going to be different. And when I began to envision myself living with a family of 7 for a month and a half, I didn’t see much room for rest and relaxation. Which is something I need… Something Jesus says we all need.
So I decided to ask more questions. And I’m glad I did.
I found out a typical day would be 7:00 AM – 9:00 PM with 3 hours off a day. I, and the other nanny, would be the meal cooking, room cleaning, bed making, diaper changing, laundry doing, grocery shopping, barbie playing, sunscreen applying, errand running, bath giving, teeth brushing, bedtime enforcing, women of the hour. I had essentially signed up to become a real life mom of 5 for 45 days. Holy smokes. I’m not sure I’m ready or capable of all this responsibility… without a day of rest.
Knowing my physical and spiritual needs, I got up the courage to negotiate for an entire day off, instead of just 3 hours. Although she said it was something they have never done, it was eventually decided that I could work 5.5 full days and then have 1.5 days all to myself. Which was equivalent to the 3 hours a day. Deal.
Well, I’m happy to report that I’ve been in California a week and a half now — and it’s been wonderful. Really, it has.
When I was getting ready for my first day off, everyone was asking what I was going to do and it made the planner inside of me feel self-conscious for not having a thought-out answer or itinerary.
I slept in, or at least tried. Got out of bed on my own time and ate breakfast at my own pace. Simply enjoyed my morning without any mouths to feed or butts to wipe. But when it came time for me to actually leave the house, I felt a bit paralyzed. It felt weird to not be taking care of the children and (a small, unhealthy) part of me began to wonder what they would be doing without me.
Without any real plans, I decided it was best to just leave the house. To get out and explore. I got in the car, opened the gate, and drove away from the only people that know me in this town. Within a few minutes of navigating the Santa Barbara roads, I felt loneliness creeping in. What’s wrong with me? This is what I wanted. What I negotiated for months ago. What has been motivating me all week. I was so looking forward to this day off and now I don’t even know what to do with it.
I was finally free to do whatever I wanted. No children to take care of. No errands to run, no appointments to attend to. A true day off. A true day of rest. But for some reason, it didn’t feel free or easy.
As I continued to aimlessly drive around, it hit me that I had never spent a day alone, exploring a new city. Which is probably why it was so uncomfortable for me to quickly embrace the idea.
So I decided to start slow and walk around Sterns Wharf — taking in the scenes, watching the other tourists, and of course, taking pictures. It was beautiful. And refreshing to be outside.
Once I felt myself becoming more comfortable with this whole exploring alone thing, I decided to take on the beach for a bit. Something I had definitely never done alone.
I made my way to Butterfly Beach and picked a cozy spot on the sand. I’ve never been a big beach reader, but it felt like the ideal activity if I had no one to talk to. So I pulled out my school’s summer reading book, Crazy Busy, and dove in. Just a few pages in, I looked up and around to make sure no one was playing a trick on me. It was as if the book knew exactly what had been going on in my head (and heart) that day. And it was speaking directly to it.
At this point, I couldn’t put it down. What I expected to be hour at the beach, turned into 6 hours and a book read from cover to cover.
Towards the end of the book, the author speaks on social media and how it has increased our desire to never be alone. He quotes Peter Kreeft…
“We want to complexify our lives . We don’t have to, we want to. We want to be harried and hassled and busy. Unconsciously, we want the very things we complain about. For if we had leisure, we would look at ourselves and listen to our hearts and see the great gaping hole in our hearts and be terrified, because that hole is so big that nothing but God can fill it”.
This was my exact problem. I had been afraid of being alone. I didn’t know it, but I was afraid to let my heart become vulnerable before the Lord in the silence of the day, in fear of what He might reveal to me. I was afraid to spend time alone, in fear that I would miss out on something greater. As if being alone, couldn’t be the greatest.
The exact thing I thought I wanted all week, became the thing I feared when the time came, and then the thing I wanted again when my lens and heart adjusted. Phew, sometimes it’s exhausting being human.
Before long, my loneliness shifted. I began to feel lonely in a good way. A lonely I hadn’t felt in a while. A lonely where it hits you that no one knows where you are, except for God. And yet, that’s enough.
There’s something humbling and rewarding about spending time alone, with our Father. Who thankfully, makes it impossible to truly be alone. I’m ashamed that it took Him bringing me all the way to California to remember that He deserves more than just minutes of my day. And that there’s nothing He won’t do to pursue me.
It seems foolish, but my day off reminded me that resting is a good thing. Because if I’m being truthful, I’m not always quick to use it for that purpose.
But in the midst of movement and chaos, stillness is needed. For our hearts can’t work well without it.
I ended that day on East Beach in Montecito, California — admiring the sunset, with a bottle of local, red wine. Bliss, I tell ya. Pure bliss. As the tide was rolling in, I couldn’t hide my smile as I looked up to Heaven. Isn’t it amazing that the Lord planned for this day before I even existed on earth? I like to think He even looked forward to it.
Because we know the Lord delights in His children finding true rest in Him. And satisfaction in His creation. And joy in His lessons. And that’s exactly what my day off came to be.
Long story short, I wasn’t crazy busy for once. And although it wasn’t easy for me to get to this conclusion, there’s absolutely nothing I regret about it.
Give it a try. I dare you.