Be a Part of Something Bigger Than Yourself

I had a packed (and pleasant) few days as I witnessed my youngest brother marry his beautiful bride in northern Virginia and then I headed south into the mountains with my family for a retreat / vacation. I needed that so badly!

Isn’t it true that you don’t realize how desperate you are for some time off until you’re actually taking the time off? My wife, naturally, knew that I needed to get away so she planned most of it and was able to tack it on to the back-end of the wedding trip – she’s so wise and strategic!

We stayed at an incredible Bed and Breakfast owned by an older French couple, Bernard and Tessa, who took good care of us every single day, especially the mornings with some delightful food and fresh-pressed coffee that had me wanting to never go back to proper civilization.

Ahhhh. With my lungs experiencing crisp, clean mountain air I realized that for far too long I’ve grown accustomed to processed (and re-processed) industrial air.

I took the family to visit a number of parks and attractions while spending enough time just napping around the house. We even grabbed a rocket and a foam airplane to just toss around one lazy afternoon!

What a joy to just hang with the girls! They are growing up faster than anything else in my life (definitely faster than my startups!) and it’s moments like these that allow me to slow down a bit and cherish every single moment that I have with them.

I hope you’re doing the same with your loved ones – we don’t give them the time and attention that they need and deserve!

Soon they will be managing real homes with real families of their own – I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to that idea!

I’d much rather picture them struggling with the small things like putting on a hat because I know how to fix that challenge!

But one of the neatest things we did was visit a spot called Blowing Rock, which is apparently NC’s oldest attraction with a 3,000 foot drop over the Johns River Gorge.

Needless to say, it’s a bit scary.

But my oldest daughter’s reaction was not of fear but rather sheer delight! She loved seeing the incredible expanse before her – as she called it, “lots of trees!”

I could tell that there were a number of thoughts streaming through her little 5 and a half year old brain but what struck me was our conversation about how “big” everything was – it’s as if for the first time she realized she was a part of something much larger than herself.

Naturally she wanted to check it all out:

And go to the very edge…

And like any responsible parent I said “Sure, why not?

We (safely) explored the small park area and found even greater (and higher) places to check out:

Snagged a few family shots too:

But what was most satisfying was near the end of our stay there Roenne came up to me and said this:

I want to be a photographer now. I want to take pictures of the big place. tweet

So, again, like any responsible adult, I handed my 5.5 year old our DSLR. She did a fantastic job and captured these pics:

I was so impressed! I let her take a look at what she had done with that silly piece of metal and plastic and she proudly announced that she was now a true photographer.

I had no idea she even knew that that profession even existed!

But I made sure to capture the moment so she would always have a digital reminder of that experience. This wasn’t her first time handling a device that captured images but it was the first time she had handled a real camera and more importantly called herself a photographer.

Who knows what will happen and if she pursues it any farther but it doesn’t matter – what did matter to me was the transformation I saw before my eyes as she felt a part of a larger picture, a larger framework of understanding, even if it was just mother nature at this moment in time.

I personally believe that I am a part of a much larger story – it’s a greater purpose that drives much of what I do and I believe it’s a fundamental part of not only being human but also achieving joy and satisfaction in what we do with our limited time here on planet earth.

Being connected to a much larger vision, a mission perhaps, is fuel to the fire that enables us to go further than we thought we could. That’s why the things that really matter to you, those things that you have a lot of energy around, passion perhaps, that you may not be compensated for, those things are the things that really drive you and make your existence matter.

I think my 5 year old experienced that. She felt it. She liked it, and she wanted to document it and capture it so that she wouldn’t forget it. I loved witnessing that and it put this vacation at the top of the list for our “family” vacations together!

And, of course, I can’t wait to witness the same type of thing with our second daughter – if history proves a pattern then she’ll get to it sooner than our first.

I just need to be ready and available to see it happen.

  • pilar arsenec

    Beautiful family! Glad you got some much needed R&R. Love this post with the beautiful photos.

  • Meghan

    Absolutely precious. What a special memory. Thanks for sharing! I am impressed with Roenne’s skill too! Good eye!

  • Brett

    Awesome! My fam hit NC mountains this past week and stopped by Tallulah Gorge in North GA. I had the opposite response to getting close to a mountain edge… I was absolutely freaked to get close to even the railing (much less my sons and daughter). I need to grow a pair at some point in my life.

    Beautiful pictures and make sure to schedule some time off more often! You can take your laptop anywhere. :-)

  • Kari Scare

    You so perfectly capture why I love family vacations and just relaxing family time in general. It’s why I’m writing a post on family vacations (for 5 Wednesdays starting last week), but you get at the point much better than I have. I’m inspired by your story to do some things differently with my kids.

  • jbledsoejr

    Great post and beautiful family!

  • Kellie

    Absolutely love this post!

  • Benny

    Wow your daughter took some great photos! If you didn’t say she took them, I would have thought you did or someone else. Amazing!!

  • Gina Burgess (@ginaNpicayune)

    Jon, I usually don’t reply to your posts although I enjoy them almost everyday, and have learned a great deal from you. Thank you. But especially thank you for this post. It reminds me so much of how Great is our God, and how great is His creation. We must stop occasionally to enjoy Him and it. Refreshing look at your adorable family, too! Thank you :)

    Engraved in His palm,
    Gina Burgess

  • Brian

    Great stuff here … the real stuff … weaving our Story with the Larger Story is where the music starts …

  • Stuart

    I visited Blowing Rock shortly after attending the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games with my old work in July 2009. Please tell you took your family to the ice cream store to sample the most amazingly delicious ice cream I’ve EVER had!