My husband and I recently celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary with a Caribbean cruise. We love to travel and have been extremely blessed with the opportunity to visit places all over the world. Some of our travel has been for work and some for pleasure, but most of the vacations we've taken have had itineraries filled with restaurants, adventures and visits to historical sites. This vacation was a little different. We just wanted to relax on the beach and enjoy the sun. Everything started out according to plan with a bright, hot, sunny day in Fort Lauderdale. As we boarded the boat with excitement for all the beautiful beaches we would visit, we hoped that this weather would continue throughout our voyage. But God had other plans.
I have no complaints. We had an amazing trip and got in plenty of beach time, but instead of the sunshine we'd hoped for, many of the days were cloudy and overcast and we even had a couple days at the beach in the rain. We heard other travelers complaining about the weather and this thing or that thing about the ship, but I was thankful that my husband and I had this time together. Thankful that my friend Janiece was making sure everything with loved+blessed was taken care of so I could take a break. Thankful that we were able to afford the trip and that through the generosity of a friend we got a cabin upgrade. That despite the clouds and rain, there was still sunshine. My husband and I had a great time, laughing, eating way too much and relaxing on beautiful beaches, TOGETHER. (Oh, and I got to hug a sea lion.......but that's a story for another post.)
Of course I would have loved perfect weather for the whole trip, but why waste time and energy complaining about it. Clouds and rain are not within our control. Make the most out of what you can enjoy. There is always something to be thankful for!
It's times like this when I'm reminded of what Paul said in Philippians 4:11-13, "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." Now if you've ever been on a cruise, I think you'll agree with me that the experience qualifies as "living in plenty"! The huge ship we were on offered beautiful accommodations, hundreds of activities and shows to keep us entertained and an abundance of food available 24 hours a day. A few clouds and a little rain was nothing to complain about.
Sometimes God places us in the right place at the perfect time to bring a little sunshine to someone else's day. In the midst of all this "plenty," we met our room attendant who was part of the housecleaning staff. The boat accommodated thousands of people, so I'm guessing she had hundreds of rooms to clean each day. But no matter how busy she was, she would always stop what she was doing to greet us with a smile and ask us how we were enjoying our trip. And not one of those 10 second "How are you? Fine. Have a great day!" interactions, but rather genuine conversation about how we were doing. On one occasion we ran into her coming out of our room and she greeted us with that smile, but we could tell there was something behind her eyes. We asked her how she was and she shared that she had gotten some sad and disappointing news about her daughters health. Now imagine your child is sick with a serious illness at home and your stuck at work on a boat in the middle of an ocean on the other side of the world. My heart broke for her and the pain she was in while she was still trying to show a brave happy face to the outside world. My husband and I stood in the hallway with her and talked for awhile and tried to encourage her. As we walked away, we let her know we would pray for her and her daughter. Before we left the cruise, my husband and I left her a note of encouragement and a devotional I had brought along that was filled with God's promises. I don't know what her reaction was when she found the book, but I do know God meant it for her. I had packed it, for myself, but I believe He meant for me to pass it along.
I praise the Lord for the life lesson He taught me on this trip. God made us to be light in this world. Don't be so caught up in your cloudy day, that you miss the opportunity to shine light into someone else's.
P.S. I hope you'll take moment and pray this prayer with me.
Father God, I come before You thankful. Thankful that You are my God and You are always in control. Thankful that you've blessed me with plenty, because there are many people in my community and around the world, who are in much greater need. Father, I ask You to forgive those self-absorbed times when I am so caught up in what's going on with me and in 'my world,' that I don't see people hurting around me. Please open my eyes Lord, so that I might be a vessel for Your use. Use me to be a beacon for Your light. To encourage and show love to all Your children and point them towards a deeper relationship with You.