Breaking with Tradition

I was in St. Augustine a few weeks ago, celebrating yet another Thanksgiving in the place that has become my family’s tradition. 

More than 25 years ago when we were new arrivals to Florida, my mother proposed that we get away instead of staying home wishing we were gathering with family back in Pittsburgh. 

St. Augustine seemed the perfect holiday excursion to enjoy history, the beach and shopping, and was just a two-hour drive from Orlando.  

My only memory of St. Augustine was a dispute on a family vacation during my childhood when my mother was the only one of us to defy my germaphobe father and drink the murky water offered us from the Fountain of Youth.

{To this day, my mother credits this drink to her youthful-looking skin. The rest of us are on our own.}

But now after years of visiting the ancient fort, museums, historic homes, and so many of the town’s tourist sites, the itinerary for the weekend rarely changes. It could quite possibly be considered mind-numbingly repetitive. 

We eat at the same restaurants, browse the same stores, walk the same streets and stay at the same inn. We don’t even make a reservation, knowing that the innkeeper will always hold rooms for us. I even order the same salad at the Columbia Restaurant where we eat every Black Friday.

But just when I think I’ve seen it all, I discover a subtle change to enjoy or a slight nuance to appreciate.

I turn down a skinny brick street I’ve never happened upon, lined with charming homes from long ago. 

I stumble onto a newly opened shop filled with all sorts of trinkets that are just my vintage style. 

I sit in front of a gorgeous carved fireplace in a new-to-me room at the Victorian house-turned-restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner.

When something is so familiar, it’s hard to keep it from becoming a little ordinary. Fighting for a fresh angle can take some effort.

I've been thinking about this as I review my history with God. 

Because I’ve heard about him from my youngest days, the words and stories about God feel familiar to me, like a comfortable pillow or a second skin. But just when I think that what I already know might be enough, I find there's more. 

Something new. 

This verse has echoed in my heart all year long. “Can’t you see it?” Isaiah 43:19 asks me. “Forget the former things, I’m doing a new thing.” 

The new thing he is doing in me is inviting me to abandon the old habits and break long-standing traditions to forge fresh patterns. 

As I consider my history with him in my disappointments, exhilarations and life-acceptances {those things in my life that that I can’t control}, I see how he always somehow brings good from the dregs and the chaff and the scraps. 

It's this history -- my story -- that only makes me more confident to trust him. 

I’m beginning to see that circumstances that could be ripe for disappointment are just the opportunities to practice wild hope. 

The requests I bring to God in prayer that might not get answered are just the invitation I need to fight harder for them.

My usual way of preparing for the worst is to imagine every mind-numbing detail I can possibly think of and envision how I might respond so it won’t be as shocking or disruptive to me if it actually happens. 

But I feel God moving me away from that mindset so he can move me closer to him. 

To a place that's becoming familiar to me, right by his side. And it's there I'll be hovering so that when life's let-downs occur, he'll be there to cushion me and lift me back up.

Instead of assuming the same old tradition of buttoned up hopes to brace for the worst, I’m finding it harder to stay in that same old place. Even though I step back into my traditional way of thinking sometimes, the new mindset grows more familiar as I return to it time and again. 

Are there old places God is pulling you away from to invite you to experience him anew? 

Breaking free from the pessimism feels strange and risky at first but is becoming more appealing and very refreshing to me. And I think it might for you too.

Although I keep waiting for St. Augustine to grow stale, it never does. The more I think about it, our itinerary has actually been modified somewhat through the years. 

I now board the Holly Jolly Trolley, waiting hours to sing along with my fellow trolley riders as I wear 3-D glasses to view the light displays. {As you might imagine, this isn’t really my cup of tea, but I do it for my niece.}

We just discovered a new eatery of a quaint local diner for our last meal on our way out of town.

And surprisingly, before we said our goodbyes to our innkeeper and packed our bags in the car, we decided to book our rooms at the inn for next year.

I think this astonishing break with tradition could be the start of something revolutionary. I might even do something as unconventional as ordering a sandwich instead of a salad at the Columbia Restaurant on Black Friday. 

I’m feeling a little rogue and explorer-like and just a bit Ponce de Leon-esque for even considering it. 

And I'm wondering if I still have time before more wrinkles set in to stop by the Fountain of Youth and get that age-defying drink of water? I think I just might put it on the agenda for next year. 

I just won’t mention it to my dad.

I'm linking up with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. Will you join me there?


  1. Valerie, I think I told you last week that your post was my favorite. I change it. This one is. I feel like you put into words exactly what God has been doing within my heart since the summer. So many of your descriptions I could actually say were exact representations of my heart. Seriously. The pessimism. Especially this line, " My usual way of preparing for the worst is to imagine every mind-numbing detail I can possibly think of and envision how I might respond so it won’t be as shocking or disruptive to me if it actually happens.
    But I feel God moving me away from that mindset so he can move me closer to him. " I feel like this is exactly what God is calling me to do. To shed my layers of fear and past strangle holds and relax, release, and rest in Him. I loved this post. For so many points. And I have to tell you that a trip to St. Augustine in the sunshine and balmy temperatures sounds amazing. I'm already looking forward to March when Winter can roll on out (sad because its barely december) I related to everything here and enjoyed reading it! Have a beautiful week!

    1. Summer,
      You have a gift of making me feel like a kindred! So often I feel as if I'm the only one with these thoughts spinning around in my head, but I'm so encouraged to know that God is whispering to you too, and calling you to rest in him. And St. Augustine wasn't really that balmy this year -- the wind whips off the bay and it was down in the 40s! :)

  2. Your site is so lovely, and I appreciate your wise words woven with nostalgia, faith, and humor. Thanks for reminding me to appreciate the familiar but to embrace the new. Glad to meet you today from Coffee for Your Heart. Merry Christmas! ~ Renee

    1. Renee,
      Thanks so much for stopping by -- so grateful for your visit!

  3. My favorite door! Your bravery is inspiring me to search my life for little things that I can do to break the traditions that have become mundane and start new ones!

    1. Brittany,
      I knew you'd love the door! I think it's my favorite too. It was actually decked out with a red bow this year but it looked kind of goofy so I cropped it off! :)

  4. Valerie, your post is wonderful as always but your photography is even more beautiful than usual! You have an eye for what makes a gorgeous photo. I just love the different trees in each scene!

    1. Thanks so much - - glad you enjoyed the holiday cheer!

  5. For some reason this reminds me of the Japanese Gardens where my Gran lived. As a child we'd wander to the end and there was a sign that said that going back the other direction we would be viewing a whole new garden. I'm glad you found new joys in your favorite place. Loved your words on traditions as well! xx

    1. Barb,
      What a delight to have you stop by! Your online home is so incredibly beautiful, just looking at your photos takes me to a dream world. So grateful for your sweet words!

  6. We go to St Augustine in the summer with my in laws. Love the beach there, well, south at Crescent beach.
    I agree with you. We need to keep stepping out with God on the adventures HE ordains. They are better than anything we can dream up!

    1. Sarah,
      So glad you love St. Augustine too! I think even the most mundane and ordinary of places and days can hold a new adventure. :)

  7. This was such a beautiful post to read. I really enjoyed it. And I loved the photos of St. Augustine and that Christmas tree. Beautiful post

    1. Kay,
      I visited your lovely blog and so enjoyed it! Thanks for visiting me here and I'm so glad you enjoyed the post and photos!

  8. It is amazing how something can be so familiar, and one detour can change the perspective entirely. That's absolutely been the case for me lately. Thank you for the lovely post!

    1. Christy,
      Yes, a change in perspective can change everything and make all things new! :)

  9. I always wanted to go to St. Augustine but never got a chance when we lived in Florida. It is nice to be able to be there through your posts! :)

    1. Hi Amy! I think you would love St. Augustine! Thanks so much for accompanying me through the blog post


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