My Eye in the Storm

It’s snowing today, so as a matter of personal therapy, it seems like a good time to blog a little about the cruise. Warning: This post will include vacation photos mingled with deep thoughts. Proceed with caution.

So this right here…

is an actual satellite photo of Hurricane Paul. He came ashore in Cabo San Lucas the same day we were supposed to dock there. For obvious reasons, our ship itinerary took some detours, but still managed to get up close and personal with a Category 3 hurricane. (And by up close and personal, I really mean a mostly-safe distance, but still plenty too close for my own comfort.) Let’s just say that we spent a whole 24 hours in bed as to avoid being thrown back and forth while about 50% of the passengers and crew puked their guts out. Luckily, Matt and I never got sick, and if we closed our eyes and pretended we were in a baby cradle, it was actually quite relaxing.

I am NOT complaining though. It happened, and we survived, and the rest of the week was very lovely, and hello, it was a FREE prize vacation.  So I won’t dwell on the hurricane other than to say that (because I have a tendency to imagine every worst case scenario and all the possible outcomes … like me floating at sea in a life raft in a hurricane with 30 drunk, crazy people) the whole event made me quite reflective.

I am also a professional people watcher.  That’s a nicer term than gawker, which is what my mother always called it.  Anyway, there are plenty of people to observe on a ginormous cruise ship, and so I did. There is a reason that Americans have the reputation of being gluttonous and spoiled. I won’t list the poor behaviors I saw, but one example is impatiently waiting for the elevator to go down ONE flight of stairs in order to gorge one’s self at the all-you-can-eat Chocolate Buffet. Enough said. There were also people who were deeply good, like our sweet waiter who works six months at a time with no days off in order to support his wife and children back in the Philippines.

In summary:  Hurricane + People-watching + Lots of uninterrupted quiet time = New insights and some personal revelation for Stephanie

I’ll come back to that.  Let’s look at some photos, shall we?

This was my view for most of the trip (including the napping husband):

Our first stop was Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, which was tropical beauty mixed with a roadside landscape of houses and communities that reminded me so much of my mission days in Argentina.

We were accosted by a guy who threw reptiles on us and took our picture for “a tip.” That’s my fake smile, but the background is so pretty, huh?

Our taxi driver took us up into the jungle mountains to wander around at a resort area, and the scenery really was magnificent.

We also spent some time in the old colonial city center. I love to visit old cathedrals and city plazas, and there were both.

On the first day of the trip, they did a safety drill where everyone had to line up with life jackets and practice the emergency de-boarding procedures. Right next to us, there was a man who was already drunk and being rude to his family members. I watched with dismay for a while and then we were all released. That night at our first dinner seating, the host led us to our table, and guess who was seated there? I thought, Oh boy, this is going to be a long week (You share the table with the same guests the whole trip), but then they realized that we were supposed to be at table 411 instead of 311 and led us in another direction while Matt chuckled at the irony. We were seated in a booth with a nice-looking couple who we quickly learned were from Utah. Seriously? So I was relieved because we quickly fell into natural conversation and formed a friendship throughout the week.  Here they are with our rock-star waiter, too.

I’m leaving their names out on purpose so you don’t Google them and steal their children. I’m sure they wouldn’t appreciate that. (And in my defense, lest you fear my reaction was as sheltered or narrow-minded as it seems, I could have been perfectly happy to share a week-long dinner table with people from any state or religion or race or creed or whatever, but “drunk” and “belligerent” are not my first choice for dinner companions.)

This is getting too long already. Do you care? Whatever, you know how to scroll and nod.

Next on the agenda: Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, Mexico, two days post-hurricane (It was actually a tropical storm by the time it hit shore, but the locals said it was crazy).  We liked this place. Matt wants to go back and spend more time there some day with the kids.

That last photo shows our boat off in the distance. (Now you can see why this is good snow therapy.)

I’ve always loved the combination of sunshine and wind. It just feels so relaxing and warm, so I loved being on deck on the sailing ship. There wasn’t much deck space available at the front of the boat, but I made it my mission to find a spot where I could stare off into the great beyond ahead of us. I finally did find a spot atop of a fake boulder on the mini-golf course. It was perfect, and no one was there in the early morning hours, so I would go up there and do my morning “devotional,” and watch the sun coming up, and enjoy the strong breeze and natural beauty, and think about my life and my testimony and all that stuff.  When I told Matt about some of my thoughts one morning, he teased me about my Mount St. Mini-Golf, so that’s what we called it the rest of the week.  Here are some of the things I learned at Mt. St. Mini-Golf.  I realize they are random and disconnected, but that’s how revelation usually comes for me anyway.

  • When people are given so much, they often forget what matters most, and they use their prosperity to buy their way out of the kinds of experiences they were meant to have. I need to be careful to not avoid or shirk the responsibilities God has given me, even when other options seem easy or comfortable.
  • Vacations are so nice, and I promise I enjoyed every minute, but my children are what God wants me to do with my life. The break was refreshing, but my heart told me where I really belong.
  • As I stared off into the horizon, I was thinking of Elder Holland’s most recent conference talk as well as many other related gospel references. I had the clear thought that God doesn’t want cruisers; He wants fishermen. We have a work to do, and it’s not a lazy, relaxing meander through life. It’s the up-at-dawn and work-til-dusk kind of life as fishers of men. And that kind of life will make us happy.
  • I have always loved the scripture in Moses 6:62-63, which teaches that all things in, on, above, beneath the earth testify of Christ. I loved looking at my unfamiliar ocean and beach surroundings and finding the symbolism. There were so many things about wind and sun and boats and waves and even storms that teach great lessons about the role of the Savior in our lives. The hymns, “Master, the Tempest is Raging,” and “Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me,” and “Brightly Beams our Father’s Mercy,” and “Lead, Kindly Light” all came to mind. I just felt so blessed to have that kind of direction and love available to me in life, no matter what storms may come.
  • Oh, I’m coming back later to add this one more. A lady we spoke to was upset with the cruise line because they changed around the itinerary. I kept thinking, But there was a hurricane! It made me realize how often we might get upset with our Heavenly Father or the prophets for changing our plans unexpectedly or not meeting our own expectations when, in reality, they see dangers ahead that we don’t know about.  Just enjoy the ride and trust the Captain.

Well, that’s definitely more than you ever wanted to know about my vacation. Thanks again to those who voted and helped us win this break. It was much needed, and sufficiently refueling to get back to “my Father’s business” here at home. There truly is no place like home. But I’m thinking I might need to pick up my home and put it somewhere not snowing.


9 thoughts on “My Eye in the Storm

  1. “Mt. St. Mini Golf” I love it! I’m glad that you could find a place to get away. I went on a cruise once from Athens to Venice and there was no where on the boat that you could sneak away, it almost felt claustrophobic! There were pods of Dolphins that traveled with us the entire way playing in the water and racing the ship so that was awesome…Did you see any Dolphins? I’m glad that you had a wonderful time and glad that I could help you win even if it was in a small way. Kris always wants to do a cruise and I never want to, I think of all the bad possibilities…maybe I will re think it? Thanks for sharing this and welcome home!

  2. Bob and I went on our first cruise this past February on Carnival Glory to the Western Caribbeans for 7 days. We had a great time. We, too, were surprised at the amount of people that complained about what they were NOT getting when they had so much right there in front of them. I also understand the elevator thing. I saw the same thing myself. Oh, and I also ended up standing next to several drunk people during the safety drill!

    All this just let me know I was where I needed to be, doing what I needed to be doing in my life.

    We had so much fun on our cruise, we are taking another one this coming February on Carnival Valor to the Southern Caribbeans. If you ever take another cruise, wait until February…after hurricane season is over and the rainy season is done. I’m glad you had fun (for the most part) and made it home safely. I love the pictures and the post!

  3. I don’t know if I would enjoy a cruise because although I am a people watcher, I am not a people talker and would hate to be forced to share a table with strangers for a week. You lucked out.
    I love your thoughts from Mt. St. Mini Golf. I agree with hard work bringing us the happiest life. I also agree that you can’t buy happiness. And finally I agree that you should just be happy with whatever itinerary the Lord has for you and that there’s no use being unhappy about anything that you can’t change because He knows best.
    By the way, I am actually a little jealous of the snow. It means you have a good excuse to drink hot chocolate and make soup or chicken pot pie or homemade bread or something warm and yummy.

  4. So crazy you had a hurricane. We actually went on that same cruise last year and we hated Cabo and decided it was not a place we’d ever bring our kids. lol. Must have been somewhere great that we missed? I can’t imagine being near a hurricane. It was rocky one morning and I thought I was going to die and all the things I imagined up that were going to happen about drove me nuts. I’m impressed you stayed sane and non-sick.

    • That’s funny, Andrea. I liked both places and I’d take my kids pretty much anywhere because I want them to see the real world, poverty and all. Granted, we mostly did ocean and beach and port at Cabo, but Matt liked that it seemed clean and new and the coastline was gorgeous.

  5. I am glad you missed the hurricane, crazy. I went on a cruise with my family before i was married and while it was fun i found that it brought up way way more moral and social thoughts, dilemnas and conflicts for me. I felt like the cruise ship was a little microcosm of the world, and all its inequalites, shrunk down to size to examine. I enjoyed myself but i dont think i would ever do another one, at least not on the big cruise ships.

    I loved your thought about trusting the captain, i need that right now;)

  6. I would of loved the creatures you both had on you or held. Really loved it! I appreciated the comments at the end too about travel. I know a couple who has a lot of money and travel extensively all over the world and while they are so devoted to the gospel and their family, there just seems something wrong about it all.

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