I spent Christmas on a cruise ship. Now, that is one statement I never thought I'd make. But now I can say I did. And I can also say that I made it through my first Christmas without Tony.
We departed on December 23rd, the 9 month mark from Tony's passing. As we left the port, I couldn't help but notice a ship at the dock with the name "Atlantic Hope" on its side. The entire ship was bright orange, it could not be missed. I wondered what it held inside, but that really did not matter, its name was enough for me...Atlantic Hope.
Peering out the window from my room on the ship, I began to ask God whether this time on the great open sea would bring just that...Hope on the Atlantic.
By dinner that evening, I started to question what in the world I was thinking when I said I wanted to go on a cruise for Christmas. Certainly, I had not considered the herds of people who would be joining us on board, herds who spent most of their time grazing at the unlimited selection and quantity of food. I mean, who really needs access to pizza and ice cream 24 hours a day?
But it was too late. I was stuck. And so was my wonderful mom, dad, and brother, who love me so much to follow me on my wish to "do something different" for Christmas. We made the best of it. We snickered at Daddy being called Santa. He finally had to take his Santa hat off when parents started asking him to explain to their kids why Santa was on a cruise when he was supposed to be making toys at the North Pole!
We spent Christmas Eve in the Bahamas. We ventured all through Atlantis until we finally made our way to the sliver of public beach access. And they call that Paradise Island? We got our white Christmas, though, complete with white sand and foam from crystal blue water. God gave me a big belly laugh when I had mom pose for a picture, and she was almost toppled over by a wave.
By this point, I had all but forgotten it was Christmas Eve, until Michael and I strolled down the streets of Nassau with Christmas music blarring all around. I was really missing Tony and really missing home. That night we got all dressed up for dinner, took a nice family photo, then attempted to endure less than stellar evening shows on board. I had enough by 10 p.m. and darted to the room. I felt as if I was a prisoner on the ship.
It was then I opened my Bible to Zechariah 9:9-12, verses on the prophecy of Christ's coming:
"Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey... He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you. "
There it was, "prisoners of hope."
I had always thought of being a prisoner as a bad thing, of being confined, of being at the mercy of another to set me free. But a prisoner of hope, that doesn't sound all that bad. And as I thought about it further, that is exactly what I was - a prisoner on this Atlantic Hope, from which I could not escape.
I spent Christmas Day laying out on the "serenity deck," a kid-free zone on the back of the ship. My view on all sides was the Atlantic Ocean, nothing else. I was surrounded by it. And I was surrounded by Hope.
What a great place to be on a day when the Ultimate Hope entered the world. And a prisoner of that Hope I will gladly be for the rest of my life. For in that Hope, I find freedom, and joy, and life abundant, and all that I could ever need to persevere under the trials of this life.
I ended Christmas day witnessing a beautiful sunset. I sat in awe as, yet again, I peered out my window. It looked as if the sun was melting into the Atlantic, like the Light of this world becoming one with the ocean of Hope.
So, Hope for the Holidays, I have found it in the "life unexpected" moments. I am so very grateful that it has carried me through these last 6 weeks.
Now I move forward to my new word, my new focus, for 2011, "Restore."
Dearly loved, with Hope,