Saturday, March 5, 2016

Gift from the Sea (in the Form of a Cruise)

Have you ever had your heart so overflowing with good things, that you struggle to find the words to express it?

That's how I've felt this week about our cruise.

It was everything I hoped for. Sunshine. Warmth. Rest. Quality time with my  husband. Quality time with family. 

Sunsets. Sunrises. 

Many pictures taken. Though none of the husband and I by ourselves. Sigh. I have no recent pictures of the two of us together, and I am getting rather bummed by that. Of course, the cruise line was taking pictures all the time, but I didn't particularly like the ones they took. And I never asked someone to take one of the two of us. It seems more awkward even than it used to (the asking of someone to take your picture) in this day of selfies and selfie sticks. 

As a social media culture, I think we've gotten into the habit of sharing a lot more things than we would have shared even 10 years ago. Which is not necessarily bad. We share photos of where we've been, what we've done, who we've been with, what we've eaten. 

But, sometimes it is nice to not share the picture. Sometimes it is nice to not even take the picture, but to treasure up the memory in your heart. A special moment just for you. Or just for the 2 of you. Or the group of you-who are right there.

One morning I had taken my coffee out to our balcony. The sky was colorful in that predawn way. I was reading my Bible. And I heard a thwap! It was a different sound than the waves rolling or hitting the ship. I paid it no particular attention until I heard that thwap a second time. That is when I stood up, and saw 3 dolphins in the wake of the ship, jumping, and swimming, and racing along. 

I was tempted for the space of a breath to grab my camera. To take a picture. But, I squelched that urge. I knew that if I turned my back, I might miss the moment. So, I hollered for Brian to come and I kept my eyes on the dolphins. It was an amazing sight. It felt like a special gift. It may just have been the best moment of my cruise. 

(Honestly it made me teary behind my sunglasses as I watched, and is making me a bit teary as I write about it right now.)

When the ship had out run the dolphins, and they were no longer visible, I looked around. There were several balconies with people on them. Strangers who had shared this moment of wonder. We grinned at each other, and gave thumbs up, and all went back to our quiet morning.

A highlight of the cruise was watching my brother get married on a beach in Cozumel. It was a close runner up to the dolphin moment...

It has been a long journey, fraught with rough waters...this journey that culminated in them together. I think of that country song...God bless the broken road that led me straight to you.

We've waited many years for Nate to find a girl who loves him with everything she has. And Jenny loves my brother. And that also makes me a bit teary-eyed. 

(and I'm sitting here writing in the library, which probably has people wondering what is wrong with that crazy woman!?!)

Jenny was a gorgeous bride. The setting was gorgeous. The blues and greens of the Caribbean, the white sand. Also, the shrimp and fajitas were amazing. Some of the best food we ate on the cruise. They got married, and then we hung out at a resort for the afternoon. Swimming, laughing, eating, talking, relaxing.

Another favorite memory of the cruise was hanging with my sister and her husband. There is always much to talk about, and they are on the same page as we are. It's a meeting of brilliant minds...Snort.

We've always said that Bek and Aaron would be people we could and would vacation with. This was our first vacation together, and I am glad to say that we still feel like we would vacation with them...Hopefully they feel the same...

In Belize, after a long bus and river "cruise", we made it to the Mayan ruins. Which were phenomenal! Historians and archeologists talk about advanced cultures, but it really blows your mind when you see the ruins for yourself.

My only regret with the ruins was that the travel took so long, leaving us only about an hour (on a 7+ hour excursion) to explore the ruins.

My pre-cruise hope was that I'd have lots of time to relax. To read and to soak up the sunshine. I am pleased to say that hope was fulfilled. We had three "at sea" days, which allowed ample time to do as little as I wanted.

We camped up on the quiet deck quite a lot. Armed with sun block, water, beach towels and books. It was wonderful!

I brought along All the Light We Cannot See and Gift from the Sea.  Several guests on the What Should I Read Next podcast had mentioned All the Light We Cannot See. It was absolutely worth the hype. I'm even having Brian read it now. Very good WWII historical fiction. That's all I'll say about it.

I've read Gift from the Sea before. It's been a few years. But, when I read it the first time, I wanted to buy dozens of copies to give it to every woman I know. It has to be one of my most favorite books ever.

Gift from the Sea is written by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Charles Lindbergh's wife. She is famous in her own right in both the aviation world and as an author.

Gift from the Sea rather reminds me of a devotional. The chapters are short, and each is based on a seashell which is then linked to a season in a woman's life. I think it is brilliant.

There were just enough chapters to read and ponder one on each day of the cruise. What a gift to let the wisdom of these words flow over and into my soul each day. They were life giving and refreshing. Challenging and encouraging. Soothing and succoring. (again, I am tempted to purchase a copy of the book for every woman I know.)

How fitting to read a book about seashells and the ocean, as I was sitting ensconced on the deck of a cruise ship, listening to the waves.

Last time, when I read the book, I identified with a certain life season that she outlined. But, the passage of just a few short years had me identifying with another life season. I love her frank voice. Anne wrote this book in 1955, and it still seems so applicable today. I wonder what she would write if she knew our world of today. Our hectic pace. The progress of woman's liberty and responsibility. The prominence of social media.

Some gems that I am still remembering...

And for the most part, we, who could choose simplicity, choose complication.

For life today in America is based on the premise of ever-widening circles of contact and communication. (remember, she wrote in 1955. What would she say of 2016?) It involves not only family demands (home schooling! meals! clothes!), but community demands (church! sports!), national demands (politics! voting!), international demands (water for Africa! trafficking!) on the good citizen, through social and cultural pressures, through newspapers, magazines, radio programs, political drives, charitable appeals, (podcasts!) and so on. My mind reels with it. (mine too!) What a circus act we women preform every day of our lives. It puts a trapeze artist to shame. Look at us. We run a tight rope daily, balancing a pile of books on the head. Baby carriage, parasol, kitchen chair, still under control. Steady now! This is not the life of simplicity, but the life of multiplicity that the wise men warn us of.

My life in Connecticut, I begin to realize, lacks this quality of significance, and therefore of beauty, because there is so little empty space. The space is scribbled on; the time has been filled. There are so few empty pages in my engagement pad, or empty hours in the day, or empty rooms in my life in which to stand alone and find myself. Too many worthy activities, valuable things and interesting people. For it is not merely the trivial which clutters our lives but the important as well.

I like Gift from the Sea, because it is filled with these nuggets, these gems, which make me say, "Yes! Me too!" I like it more because Anne presents the needs of our hearts, souls, and lives, but she also practically points out the demands on our time and resources that each woman faces. The push and the pull that we feel on a daily basis. To give out and to be renewed.

Like the ocean. Like a fountain.

Questions are asked, but no concrete solution is given. Hope is given, but not a step by step formula. I love this. So much of life can't be figured out with a formula. And what works today may not work tomorrow.

I really can't say why I love this book. But I do. It makes me want to carry the pace and reflection of a true vacation (most recently, my cruise) back into daily life.

And while that isn't exactly possible, it is possible to say no to good and important activities and people. Like I did in January with BSF. I feel like that decision has given the breathing room my life needed. It gave me some free space, the empty room to find myself on a weekly basis.

Time to laugh with my family, and bake cookies. Time to enjoy the process of cooking dinner. Time to play with my kids in this very finite season that they are kids.

It's been a week back in the real world. A week of reeling (post cruise vertigo is a real thing-who knew?!). A week of being with my kids, getting back into routine, catching up on life. A week of naps every afternoon, and early bedtimes (vacation wore me out. Or vertigo is wearing me out!). It's been a week of choosing the simple over the complicated, because I couldn't do more than the simple.

It's been a week of finding our land legs again-figuratively and physically. Discovering how to relate as a family of six again. A family not on vacation, but a family who desires to live life with as few regrets as possible.

On the cruise, I got to spend a lot of time with my mom. Which was a blessing. The most notable instance, was the evening we bumped into each other-me picking up coffee and a scone, and her getting water and a cookie. We took the time to sit with each other and just talk, for almost 2 hours.

My mom was fine on the cruise but ended up in the hospital on Wednesday with shortness of breath and a racing heart. She had fluid on her heart and was looking in the direction of congestive heart failure. A heart catheterization showed no blockage, for which we are very thankful. But, it is a reminder that time with her is limited and precious.

Anyway, this all is why my heart has been so full of thoughts. It takes time to sift and sort them. To tuck away what needs to be tucked, and let overflow what also needs to overflow.

Simply put, it's been complicated....=)