Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Week Off

 We returned last Sunday from a cruise with our church – no, we weren't on the one that was stranded…here’s some thoughts I wrote the last days at sea….

Friday on the cruise:

Sitting on the pool deck enjoying the late afternoon sun. Shortly it will be time to get ready for our formal dinner. As much as I enjoy the dining with our friends from church I truly dislike having to cut the afternoon relaxation short to have time to prepare for early dining at 5:45 – this time of year, that’s the sunset hour…However this has been the only regrets on this most relaxing of all the cruises I've been blessed to sail.

We left Galveston Sunday in a rush. True to my habit I was still packing just hours before we were to leave. Fortunately the only item I forgot was sunscreen - actually I didn't forget it - we just ran out of time to make that last minute shopping trip on the way south . No worries, sunscreen is readily available in all the cruise shops for a simple swipe your "sea pass" to purchase ANYTHING on board! (Day of reckoning comes later!)

Sunday was the discovery day - discover your cabin, discover the location of the main dining, and most importantly the where’bouts of the free frozen yogurt machine  as well as the free pizza.  Yes, some things in life are truly free (or at least included with the price of admission!)

Monday morning we joined our fellow Calvary Chapel couples for a time of worship and morning devotions. Then it was on to continue exploring the ship and spending a little time on the deck poolside enjoying the Reggie band. Again, the afternoon was cut short as we donned our best clothes for the formal fine dining followed by evening entertainment.  With the exception of dinner and show times we were on "island time."

Tuesday we docked in Cozumel. We always enjoy returning here as its sorta our roots. April 1980 we honeymooned in Cozumel and each cruise year we like to scan the horizon to search for "our" hotel. (It’s the small one in the center with the tiki huts – maybe that’s what began my love for a tiki hut) 

A lot has changed in 33 years - hurricanes  as well as tourist industry growth. Yet the downtown shops still have the same allure.

 I love the colors of Mexico. In years past I've come home with a collection of bags/purses or items to decorate our tiki hut. This year I had no theme, no quest, no agenda for my shopping. I reminded myself that I'd just bought a bike therefore forfeited my shopping budget for something more lasting than bags or trinkets. I was doing pretty good too until I saw it....the colors spoke to me, the price was right, But just to be sure I passed it up not once but twice. If it was still there at the end of the day it was "meant to be."  

Yes. I'm going home with a sink! Not a kitchen sink, but one that I plan to have in my bathroom. Someday. The challenge is transporting it home! Pottery is fragile - and heavy!

Wednesday  our port of call was Georgetown Grand Cayman. Again, no agenda - just enjoy the island. 

While walking down the city streets I spied a sign that said "artist here today - second story". We were at Guy Harvey's studio! I've always admired his work, but have not been privileged to own any, not even a T-shirt with his art. And there he was in his studio surrounded by his legacy of fabulous nature paintings graciously signing autographs. I quickly found a small 5x7 print for him to sign. My plans are to frame this to hang in the bathroom.

As exciting as this was I believe the highlight of the day was finding a small cove where we could actually see the water and stand on the shoreline. To say that the water is breathtaking would be an understatement. We observed with wonder a local fisherman skillfully preparing his catch – then throwing the discarded parts in the ocean where a school of sharks were feasting. I'm not an expert on sharks but they reminded me of the small nurse shark variety. Obviously they were more interested in being feed fish parts than to be concerned with the snorkelers who happened upon them. I was content to be on dry land! 

The evenings on board are a blur of fine dining, fabulous shows and evenings visiting the various nooks and crannies with wonderful live bands, sometimes joined by new friends . Oh the joys of not setting an alarm in the mornings!

Thursday's destination was Jamaica. I have to admit I didn't have a lot of expectations for Jamaica. In fact we were a little late in leaving the ship (as previously  mentioned, no alarms).  However, Jamaica stole my heart.

Upon deporting at each of the destinations we are herded through what I call the "tourist trap" – the cruise line sponsored shops. This is a good thing as it allows those going on excursions to still shop some of the local fair. This was the plan for the day, just shop the tourist trap and perhaps go back to the ship and hang around the uncrowded pool deck. Well, through the years I've learned the word "flexible" ... Upon impulse we decided to take a trolley ride to tour the city.

This was the real Jamaica . We drove through streets that would definitely be considered third world as well very colorful homes with wrap around verandas, windows open with flowing curtains dancing in the wind. Our tour guide enlightened us about local sayings such as explaining "here in Jamaica we have no problems - only situations". She also shared history of the island's plantations growing sugar cane for export and the import of slaves to work the plantations. One such plantation owner was known for treating his slaves with dignity and respect so much so that after the emancipation his slaves chose to remain with him and to continue to work the plantation. In my thoughts I concurred that this man must have been a Christian and followed the teachings of Christ in treating your slaves well and even more so if they were a brother in Christ. True of this man or not it was interesting to learn that Jamaica has more churches per square mile than anywhere else in the world. Of course the term “church”, I think, was used rather loosely because she also mentioned that there were all faiths represented on the island ... And not all Christian.

Part of the tour included a stop at one of the historical churches where we were allowed to disembark to go inside as we did our best to shuffle past the street vendors. It's difficult sometimes to be in a strange country and discern if you are being taken for a con, especially when you see poverty around you.

We went inside and learned several interesting facts about the church - viewing different relics such as a hand carved lectern from beautiful mahogany . Our guide also pointed out a painting on the side wall - from a distance it appeared to be a painting of Christ but upon closer examination the picture was made up of multicultural faces representing, perhaps, that no matter our nationality or our status in life we are one in Christ.

I have to admit viewing this was an emotional moment for me and I felt led to put a small contribution in the offering box. A middle aged woman was standing at the collection box and smiled as she nodded her thanks and "God bless" to which I whispered "I will see you again in heaven" and she said "Yes!"

Again I was a tad emotional and wanted to wipe my tears before joining my fellow tourists on the trolley. Prior to entering the church I has noticed a graveyard on the right side so I ducked that way to regain my composure.  On my path to the graveyard  I saw an old woman begging. As I quickly walked past her she pleaded "look at me, look at me” in a voice that reflected don’t ignore that you are walking past a person who needs help. I rushed past her. I wasn't being rude I just couldn't speak at the moment…

I went around the side of the church and took a picture of the goats on the grave markers as I discreetly opened my wallet for my return trip past the old woman.

She saw me coming back and pleaded once again holding out her hands. I took her hands in mine and that's when she felt the bill that I was passing into hers. Her pleads quickly turned to praise as she said "God bless you" and I replied "He already has". She continued to speak blessings over me and thanking Jesus. I began speaking to her and then offering prayers up to Jesus to bless her  as the  tears were steaming, now freely, down my cheeks .  

Then I said "I will see you in heaven one day."

Her reply, "I am working to be there, I go to church all the time."  

"No, it's not working that get you there, it is a gift from God. Do you understand that? It's a gift, you just need to reach out your hand and take Jesus."  

Yes, Jesus is free".

My concern was did she really understand?  Was she misinformed that her salvation was determined by what she did in this life (works)  or had she really accepted the free gift of salvation that only comes through  Jesus.  I will never know for sure this side of eternity - but I am hopeful that I will see her again and somehow I feel that we indeed were sisters in Christ. Just like that painting - different nationalities, different situations in life, but one in Jesus.

At that point we were both crying and hugging and I knew I had to go before the trolley left me. I looked into her sweet face with those missing teeth and thought she was the most beautiful woman.

Somehow I managed to regain my composure once again (sunglasses are wonderful things) and find my way to the trolley. As we drove 
off I searched for her near the building where I had left her, behind the street vendors. I saw her and saw that she was trying to move to a position to search the trolley for me too. Simultaneously we saw each other and waved the biggest farewell wave that continued until we were no longer in each other’s sight. 

 It was then that I was reminded of my sweet Ma-Ma, who has been with Jesus since 2009. Whenever we left her and my grandfather’s house after a visit we would wave out the car window until we were out of sight while she would stand at the carport and wave just as big and as long. It always brought tears to my eyes, as it does now.

Then it registered, this beautiful lady was perhaps someone's grandmother, and she certainly reminded me of mine! Yes, Jamaica stole my heart. Such joy, such color, such a need for the Savior.

 I think I could have just been satisfied with my morning encounter with my Jamaican Ma-Ma, but The Lord continued to bless our day. A crafts market, island music and dancers, and THE BEST souvenir ever - parrots for my own tropical paradise back home. I found the small one first and am pictured with the artist who carved it. My larger one was found later as I wandered the rows of the crafts market

Friday was a day at sea, and as mentioned, formal night:

It is now Saturday afternoon as I have attempted to continue my thoughts - it's not easy typing on the iPhone as I'm listening to the poolside Jamaican band. The past two days at sea are a blur - a time to recoup from the three days of ports of call as well as a time to reflect and be relaxed and refreshed. Throughout the week we've shared times of worship, prayer, teaching, and wonderful fellowship with our fellow Calvary Chapel couples and we've had some much needed time to ourselves. The weather has been beautiful - but the further north we are going to more I realize it’s still winter on the mainland.

I am thankful for the time away, and I am looking forward to coming back to "real life" hopefully a better person for having had this Caribbean adventure.  I’ll leave you with the song now playing poolside …Don’t worry, be happy


For those wondering how I got my parrot home (grin)


Muddling Through said...

Looks like a wonderful time. You know, Ruthie and Mary went Jamaica last fall with their brother and his wife. They loved it, too, especially Ruthie.

Vicki said...

ooo! I would love to go to those places. I am not big on cruises, but the places you went would be worth it. Happy Quilting, Vicki