8 Family Members, 1 Cruise Ship, 1 Oil Spill, and 1 Lesson Learned

When you travel and everything goes right, it is just a trip. When things go wrong, it becomes an adventure. Vacation stories are boring. I love adventures.

A year or so ago my extended family began planning to take a spring break cruise together. I’m thankful for the chance to do this. Some people dream for a lifetime of taking a cruise and never get to do it.

Our trip was last week. We cruised in Texas, mostly. While we walked the gangway up to the ship, out in the Houston channel two barges were busy colliding in the fog. They spilled thousands of barrels of oil, closed the channel, caused environmental damage, created headaches for a hundred ships or so, and forced us cruise in the unseasonably foggy and chilly Houston port instead of in the Caribbean sun.

Eight quirky people in one family all thrown together on a boat in Texas is not really enough adventure to make a good hardship story, even when you take into account the fact that after we did finally leave the port I spent the first full day in my cabin seasick. Though I took a day off to throw up, I ate enough food to force dieting for months, narrowly lost too many trivia games to count, and still got to sail for 3 ½ days. Not bad, really. So why do I feel like whining? Whining from people who just finished a week on a cruise ship is unjustified and obnoxious. Why do I feel wilted instead of rejuvenated? There is no excuse for my threadbare patience and hypersensitive nerves.

Here is my theory. At home I am learning to live in a running conversation with God. His Spirit enlivens me in mysterious ways I don’t understand and can’t explain. But, when I was taken out of my rhythm, only for a few days, I forgot. I didn’t talk to him very much and I listened even less. I didn’t pause to admire the reflection of his image in the family members I love, or the crew members who cheerfully served us though I’m sure they needed a vacation more than we did. I wasn’t as grateful as I should have been for the abundant, beautiful food. The leaves of my houseplants hung limp when I got home because they went a few too many days without water. Like them, I quickly begin to die if I am not constantly drawing strength and nourishment from my source of life.

Maybe this is my personal example of what Jesus meant when he said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5, ESV) Nothing. Not even take a special vacation, much less do something that matters.

I am kind of disappointed in myself. I expect myself to be mature enough to continue to practice God’s presence when I am out of my normal rhythm. On the other hand, I do miss him, and that is a good sign. People who stop eating for more than 3 days stop feeling hungry even though their bodies are not getting nourishment. People who don’t cultivate their relationship with God don’t miss him when the relationship is distant.

I obviously still have much to learn about being a branch on the vine. For today, I am just going to go water my houseplants and take a long cool drink myself too.


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One Response to 8 Family Members, 1 Cruise Ship, 1 Oil Spill, and 1 Lesson Learned

  1. Katie Sturm April 2, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

    I loved this! Your website is amazing. I love the pictures and want one for my dresser at home. I haven’t forgotten about you my friend. Life’s been beyond busy…
    Praying for you!

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