- the possibility of getting pregnant, again;
- welcoming a new pastor to my church and fostering a new friendship;
- renewing my own body and spirit this summer with exercise, right eating, and spiritual disciplines;
- working on my relationship with my wife that the experience of this season would help us to deepen our relationship for the next.
My wife and I have been wanting to get pregnant since late last summer. It was frustrating month after month without the results for which we yearned. One morning in February my wife woke me up with the exclamation that she was pregnant. I was glad, but it didn’t seem real. The only indication was a stick with a symbol on it. I waited for it to ‘feel real,’ but the feeling didn’t come, at least right away. I went with my wife to see our OB doctor a few weeks later but wasn’t expecting too much. I had seen many people post those black and white sonogram pictures on Facebook and I have never been able to make out anything that resembles a life-form. My lack of excitement had been a let-down and I expected to be equally underwhelmed by that visit.
My experience at the doctor’s office was very different from what I expected. As the baby became visible on the screen, I was mesmerized. I could actually see the little heart beating! My heart leapt. The doctor put the heartbeat on speaker while she measured it. I could hear and see the incredibly fast thumping of that little heart. My eyes were glued to that screen and when the doctor told us that our baby looked very healthy, so far, and that its heartbeat was very strong, I felt pride and joy all at once: It flooded over me in a totally unexpected way.
New life comes to us in very unexpected ways and seldom on our terms. When we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit we can experience a newness of life: we can experience God in all new ways. But it can be frustrating when it doesn’t happen right away: there have been times that I prayed…fervently…yet I didn’t feel God in the way I expected. But, experiencing God requires us to learn about ourselves and practice faith. Much like those months of trying to become pregnant, It can take some time to experience God more closely way, but, once we are open enough to God it will just happen. And when it happens, you will feel it.
For me, I didn’t experience the joy of new life when I expected to: at that first moment of finding out about the pregnancy. No, I experienced overwhelming joy much later in front of an ultrasound machine. Yes, the joy of new life often catches us unaware. Week after week and month after month I pray that you will go to scripture, join together with other people of faith, worship God, and be in prayer. When we become committed to these practices we will eventually and unexpectedly experience a new life for ourselves and grow in faith and with God.
What does it mean to start over? When it comes to a cake, you have to trash the whole burnt mess and start with all new ingredients. Luckily starting fresh in life doesn’t have to be so violent (or messy), but it can be. Sometimes we have to lose our lives in order to start over. Jesus said something about that in the Bible, in fact….
For me, starting over wasn’t an obvious thing. I didn’t even realize it was happening nor did I have that intent. Yet, over the last few weeks I’ve come to realize that I look at certain things differently. My worldview has shifted ever-so slightly.
I notice it in things as simple as my sleep schedule. Over the last few months I’ve been going to bed earlier and getting my day started sooner. Is it because I look forward to what tomorrow holds?
I notice it in my attentiveness to my wife. I don’t know if she notices, but I’m a little more aware of what is happening for her, although a new church appointment has kept me from investing more time in my marriage.
I notice it in my outlook on issues and, even, moments of “crisis” around me. I think the experiences of a brain tumor, two neuro-surgeries, and a near-death experience in my hospital bed have changed my world in ways I didn’t even realize… somehow for the better.
I don’t think you will notice the changes I have experienced. I don’t think it is in overt ways, necessarily, but it happened all the same. As a pastor, I look around at the world and wonder…is that what faith does? When we begin to see that there is hope and love in this world, does it change us? I think so. We don’t always notice the change right away, but when we see the world through the lens of possibility instead of impossibility…when we see that this world is more filled with love than hate…when we recognize that God can give us hope for a brighter tomorrow…I think it changes our world and us a little at a time.
Well, enough rambling for now!
|The view of Santa Cruz de la Palma from our stateroom.|
Last night we enjoyed dinner at the Pollo Grill up on Deck 14 at 8pm. It is the steakhouse onboard and I had a Lobster Bisque, salad, and Veal chop with potatoes. Carrie had a goat cheese & beet starter, lobster bisque and a local Madeiran fish dish for her entrée. After dinner we had intended to join Andrew and Katie for drinks, but time and energy caught up with us and we found ourselves very tired and in bed and asleep by midnight.
Today was an unplanned day. We weren’t signed up for a cruise-line excursion and we hadn’t made detailed plans. It was a nice relaxing day at a port of Santa Cruz (a small town) on the Island of Palma. Santa Cruz de la Plama is a Spanish port (and, therefore, Island) of the Canary Islands. Without major palaces, forts or Cathedrals to tour, AND since it was only a five minute (if that) walk to the city center: It was the perfect day to be unscripted and relax!
|The municipal market at Santa Cruz de la Palma|
Each couple: Ken & Trish, Bob & June, Andrew & Katie, and Carrie & I went our own ways to spend our time, today. Carrie and I were looking for scenic streets, alleys and lookouts for photos and found ourselves climbing steps (photo left) and going up steep streets to find photo opportunities, stopping by the municipal market along the way. When we came back down to the city center we ran into Katie & Andrew who were sitting at a café. Katie pointed Carrie towards a jewelry store. We did our part to keep this island and its local jewelry maker prospering. When we left the quaint little jewelry shop, we ran into Katie and Andrew, again, at another restaurant so we had lunch with them. By now it was 1pm, or so, and Andrew headed back to the ship.
Moments later, while we still sat at the café, Bob and June happened upon us and we all enjoyed food and drink together. Carrie, Katie and June went on for more shopping and Bob and I headed back to the ship.
And, now, we are all safe and sound on the ship and headed back out to sea.
Leaving port yesterday we were able to witness a tug pulling the cruise ship, although I don’t think we had a tug any of the other times we left port. I suspect it was because we were so tight in at the port.
I also learned something that I didn’t know: The captain of a cruiseship, apparently, does not take the ship in or out of port. A boat from the port authority comes out and meets the ship and then a captain comes aboard who specializes in “parking” cruiseships. Huh. Who would have thought. We saw a small boat come up the other night and someone came aboard. I didn’t think they were Somali pirates, but I guess I was curious who was jumping aboard before we got to port. Now I guess I know. Here is a video of…we’ll call him a valet…the guy leaving our ship after he got us out of port last night.
Last night was a bit choppier at sea. We were late leaving port, but I think we left by 5:30pm or so and were at sea until sometime this morning. For the most part, it is so smooth you hardly know the difference, but last night we could feel a bit more movement. It was actually funny, because the first time I felt it, it felt like the disorientation I’d been feeling with my medicines since surgery (that just went away before the cruise) so I had to ask my wife if it was in my head or if the boat was moving.
|Lunch in Granada (the arab quarter)|
I had a restful night, but still had great difficulty getting up this morning. My wife, I suspect, was quite irritated that we were leaving the ship later than intended, but she didn’t say a word. Katie and Andrew joined with Carrie and I and we took a taxi from the port at Motril to Granada. We really made the right choice in going on our own. Katie and Carrie had both been there before and both feel that it is in their top 3 cities worldwide. We only had a few hours so without the hustle and bustle of a tour group, we were able to relax and enjoy a long lunch off the beaten path (well, not really as far off the path as we would have liked).
After lunch Katie and Andrew and Carrie and I split up and went our own ways. Andrew was on the hunt for some good local wines and Carrie and I really wanted to just enjoy the streets and get some interesting photos. Since we didn’t have the time to go see Alhambra, we tried to find a scenic overlook from some tourist information, but to no avail. We gave up and enjoyed our limited view.
We ran into Katie and Andrew just in front of a little café/bar. How convenient. We had drinks and relaxed in the shade before heading back down to the taxi.
The taxi to Granada was the only real way to go for us, but it was pricy. We thought it would be about 80€ (somewhere around $100 or so) each way and would have had to started back a bit sooner (in order to find a new cab), but in the end we were able to hire a driver to wait for us and it was a bit cheaper.
When we got back to the ship we were exhausted. It had been a good day, but we had tried to cover a lot of ground in a very limited amount of time. Carrie and I couldn’t think of doing another thing. I ordered room service treats (i’m working on a diet coke and fruit plate, right now) and I am working on this blog out on the balcony and Carrie has passed out into our bed. We should be getting underway, soon. Tomorrow, I think, is a day at sea, so no stops. That means time by the pool and cooking classes in the Bon Apetit Culinary Center.
Hope this note finds you all doing very well!
Update: Well, internet was down earlier, so I have more to say, now 🙂 Our cruise director came on earlier to let us know to expect a bit more motion today / tonight as we leave port and head to the Atlantic. It is nothing to worry about, but the wind has, apparently, picked up and we’re in for rougher waters. He wasn’t kidding! It’s not enough to feel sick, but enough to know you’re on a ship.
Well, That really is enough, I think. I’m going to get back to the fun of vacation!
|Gardens at the Ciudad de las artes y las ciencias|
|A church tower at Plaza Lope De Vega|
|The Cathedral (above) and streets nearby (below)|
|A view of the museum campus in Valencia|
There was briefly an alarm going off on-shore…I hope they didn’t mistake us for pirates 😉 Actually, it was a perfect and uneventful morning, but now we are bustling around a bit to get ready and be in the lounge where we are expected for our first excursion of the cruise. It is called “Panaramic Valldemosa”
We couldn’t remember exactly what it was we signed up for (a month ago), but it turned out to be a relaxing trip up into the mountains just seeing the sights. This is different than past Bob & June Berry vacations. They usually have a car and more freedom to get away from the crowds, so Carrie and I were a little worried about this trip. Even though we rushed past several sites (and leisurely walks) we would have liked to take in, our destination was a great, old, monastery that sat in a picturesque village.
On the way out of Palma we passed a seemingly amazing cathedral, which would make a great stop in Palmas on another trip and saw a very enjoyable path along the ocean, should we ever get back here.
Anyway- Once we toured the monastery, Carrie and I got away and walked around the village on our own and ended up back near the monastery at a little Café. The highlight of my trip so far was being able to order for Carrie and I (Carrie was en los banos) in decent-enough Spanish. Alright, the waitress knew English perfectly well, I’m sure, but I still accomplished something. Go Me!
I was wearing out. Carrie, June, Andrew & Katie all went on into Palmas de Mallorca to have lunch at a renowned Michelin-Star Tapas restaurant, but I was too tired. I knew I was going to hit my wall and ever-since my surgeries…when I hit it, I’m done. I wanted to be sure to be in the comfort of the ship when I got to that point, so here I am writing this blog and then heading up for lunch with Bob, Ken & Tricia.
Well, for now, Buenos Tardes, Amigos!!!
|my beautiful wife at breakfast with me.|
Well, we made it across ‘the pond’ and let me tell you something…it was my most pleasant trans-atlantic flight, yet! You see, the upside of having had two brain surgeries this spring? Pain relievers. There is no reason to fly uncomfortably if you can help it and, this time, I could. A couple of Somas was probably the most helpful part of my trip 🙂
|Heathrow Airport in London|
The only snag we had, was right away in St. Louis at the airport. Carrie and I were in the last group of passengers to board and they ran out of room for over-head carry-ons…so one of our bags had to be checked plane-side. Except, it never showed back up. Luckily there wasn’t much in it, but the biggest loss are my tennis shoes. so sad. The good news is that they have found the bag and it’s on-route to Barcelona…but we’re leaving Barcelona, so we hope it ‘catches up’ soon!
|La Boqueria, a market in Barcelona|
|The plaza near La Boqueria|
Our first day of the trip, once we made it to Barcelona, was very nice. We went to La Boqueria which is a famous market and we enjoyed appetizers and drinks in a lovely plaza nearby. The crowds were too much for me (ever-since my surgeries I can’t handle that sort of noise and crowds).
|our hotel lobby|
After a restful night our bags are in the hall with their tags and we are down in the restaurant. We’re on our way!
|This is the dressing and where the lumbar drain enters my spine.
You can also see a white (and red) safety valve just below my waist.