The older you get, the wiser you get, and you learn a few things. One thing I’ve learned is take the vacation days you’re given.
With the tyranny of the urgent and the reality Sunday is always coming no matter what else the week brings (whether the preacher is ready or not), I haven’t always taken my entire vacation every year. Life happens, and it’s hard to hit the pause button on ministry.
This year, I’m taking every day. My summer started with my mom, three brothers and their families gathering for the first time since Christmas, 2019. They joined us in Fayetteville before travelling to Pine Mountain for a few days.
Then, in June, we carried my in-laws to their homeplace in upstate New York. At this season of life, they’ll probably never fly nor drive the nearly 1,000 miles to visit their homeplace, so we drove them.
We travelled to Athens on Friday night, and left Saturday morning for our 15-hour, 40-minute journey (with stops). We drove up Interstate 81 to Binghamton, New York, where we caught Interstate 88 to New York Highway 9. We travelled north through Sidney, Rockdale, Mount Upton, South New Berlin and New Berlin. We turned east in New Berlin and travelled through Pittsfield to our bed and breakfast.
The countryside’s beauty is stunning. Dairy and cattle farms, barns and silos, and small villages dot the landscape surrounded by mountains and lush, green pasturelands. In the mid-1700s this area was the western edge of civilization. Going west meant crossing the Unadilla River, encountering the Iroquois nation, and penetrating the thick forests filled with hardwoods, white pines and hemlocks.
Our “little house” was located on a horse farm owned by former missionaries to Africa. The Heglers bought their place in 1998 and settled there upon returning to the states permanently in 2001. Their property included this little house probably built in the late 1700’s. The house, tiny but more than adequate, may have been servants’ quarters.
On Sunday, we visited the First Baptist Church, South New Berlin, where my in-laws attended and got married. Then we popped in on Norm’s 97-year-old brother, whom he had not seen in years.
Everyday presented a different adventure with no schedule, but lots of miles, smiles and memory making. After breakfast, we’d venture to find cemeteries and relative’s graves, drive by childhood homes and farm places, and enjoy the lovely rolling scenery. On Monday, we drove to Cooperstown, 25 miles away, where Amy, Norm and Joan researched genealogy records while I visited the Baseball Hall of Fame.
One day, we covered part of the Route 20 Antique Trail, known as the Cherry Valley Turnpike, where shop after shop lines US 20 in Madison County. US 20 is longest road in the USA stretching 3,365 miles from Boston to Newport, Oregon, and crossing twelve states.
We purchased several jugs of Pure Maple Syrup and visited Weavers Store in Morris, an Amish business selling fresh local produce, jellies, jams, candies, meats, breads, and handmade furniture.
A surprise birthday party for my mother-in-law’s sister finished off the week. All five Nelson siblings came together for the first time in years. The drive home was long but uneventful, and we are thankful we could have this time and experience with Amy’s parents.
July brought the beach trip. For three decades, my family has joined my wife’s side of the family in North Litchfield, South Carolina. Roughly 20 miles south of Myrtle Beach, this area is less commercialized, more laid back and family oriented. One can always find room on this beach. We’ve grown to five beach houses and 61 people. This year, 57 members from five states made it, including my four children and nine grands.
Each family does its own thing and sees each other on the beach. Usually, we plan one family meal to gather the entire crew. This year’s meal was a surprise birthday dinner for my father-in-law, who turns 90 in September. It was a special time.
Capping off the summer, Amy and I briefly slipped away to Northeast Georgia, enjoying one last outing in the mountains.
Someone said, “The best things in life are the people we love, the places we’ve been, and the memories we’ve made along the way.” We certainly covered some ground and made some wonderful memories this summer.
[David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church, 352 McDonough Road, Fayetteville, GA. Join them Sunday for worship at 10 a.m. and Bible study at 11 a.m. or online at www.mcdonoughroad.org. Check out Chancey’s writings at www.davidchancey.com.]