To Normandy and Back

Berville - Church Building

We’re back from vacation: back in Amsterdam after two full weeks in France.

I loved the opportunity to visit Normandy. It was just about everything that we could have hoped for in a vacation destination. The region had magnificent, wide beaches with fine, soft sand; yet there were also heavily-forested hills with hiking trails. The area had places of great historical significance, especially medieval and Second World War history; and yet we often felt like we were simply in the middle of nowhere. It was incredibly restful, staying in a little cottage in Berville-sur-Mer, just a five-minute walk from the River Seine: peaceful for us parents, and yet still fun for the kids, with all kinds of wide open spaces around the cottage. Such a lovely vacation destination… and just a seven hour drive from our home in Amsterdam!

Berville - Cor Attacking the Goal

But more than the stuff of Fodor’s and Frommer’s and Lonely Planet and whatnot, our vacation was especially lovely because it ended up being a genuine rest from everyday life. There’s definitely something special about a full two weeks of uninterrupted recreation. It can be very difficult, with my personality and with my line of work, for me to truly disengage from ministry — even though I theoretically endorse the idea of really resting and using all of one’s allotted vacation time in any given year. I am becoming increasingly committed to taking recreation seriously as I grow older; still, this vacation was exceptional because I felt like I was truly able to disengage from the ministry of Amsterdam50 in a way that I can’t usually manage to do. I didn’t spend too much time thinking or talking about ministry stuff. I didn’t do any ministry reading (though I managed to finish four other books that I really enjoyed!). Though internet access was still available whenever we really needed it, the signals were poor enough that I could totally ignore my e-mail. Also, because of the internet access issues, I didn’t spend much time dinking around on Facebook, blogs, sports news sites, or any of my other typical “recreational” internet activity… and *** Surprise! Surprise! *** my recreation felt more complete without these recreational diversions.

Etretat - Family Portrait

The vacation in Normandy also ended up being a great success because we just had a great time together as a family. I don’t know how my kids will remember the trip, but I know how I’ll remember it. I’ll remember the playlist of songs that we gradually built up for our listening pleasure, while we drove from place to place: Jacques Brel, John Denver, Michael Jackson, Toto, and others. I’ll remember “walks along the Seine” and “laughing in the rain” (which also happen to be more song lyrics). I’ll remember eating artichokes with lemon-butter dipping sauce, while sitting around the dining room table in our little cottage. Of course there was Paris, and Bayeaux, and Étretat, and Honfleur, and the D-Day Beaches, and the Mont St. Michel — and I hope that we’ll all treasure the memories of these unique parts of the world — but more than the places, it’s the people that made our vacation so special.

Now it’s back to “real life” here in Amsterdam. It’s always a bit challenging to ramp up again, but I’m actually looking forward to it. I have new energy and new enthusiasm.

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