Planning for Gratitude

"Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings." - William Arthur Ward

      Back in 2009, my husband and I married; we set the date, happily wed, and planned to be off on a Mediterranean cruise as blissful honeymooners. We had booked our cruise months in advance for the day after our wedding. My husband even sold his motorcycle in order for us to afford the tickets! We planned to dance and dine with friends and family, then ride off into the sunset toward a week long European adventure as man and wife.

But sometimes our plans don't always go--as planned.

     My Matron of honor wasn't able to attend the wedding on the date we had chosen. This was a big problem for me, because the Matron of Honor was my sister. How could I get married without her by my side? so the wedding was moved up by two whole months, which meant our honeymoon was pinned on our calendar as a reminder of what almost was. Instead of cruising away the day after our marriage, we met up with some good friends and toured the local art museum. It was a nice, relaxing day after the 11-month turmoil that was wedding planning, but it wasn't the Mediterranean.

     then again, we wound up being able to spend two months really getting to know each other as husband and wife. I moved in to his house, he went to work, I had dinner ready for when he returned home, and we watched movies together before bed. It wasn't too shabby; kind of one of those American dreams in real life. It made me realize the things I should have been grateful for: my sister attended my wedding, I married the man of my dreams, and we were happy. The road to meet this end wasn't what we had planned, but the end was the same.

     After two months of marital bliss, we were finally able to go on our honeymoon; and I was reminded again about being grateful for one's blessings in the midst of hardships.

     It was a little nerve-wracking. Neither one of us had been out of the country since we had met in South Wales on a mission trip when we were fifteen; and neither one of us had been out of the country unsupervised by an adult. It suddenly came to us that we were the adults now, all we had was each other, and that this 9-hour flight over the Atlantic was happening. Today. Right now. So, we grabbed our bags, and each others' hands, and were off.

     It was an Italian-owned cruise line, and we soon discovered we were the minority. In fact, my husband and I were two out of about twelve people on the entire passenger list with English as their first language. It was rough, and suspenseful, but exciting.

     The most exciting for us was when we arrived at Santorini, Greece. We could see the blue-capped buildings towering over us through the porthole in our cabin. It was a magnificent sight to wake to. We had planned an excursion to hike the volcano in the middle of the caldera, then take a dip in natural hot springs. We arrived at the appointed time to meet our tour group only to be informed that our excursion had been canceled, due to the lack of English speaking participants. Our hearts sank. Now what? we thought. The ship was docked for only a few hours, and the clock was ticking.

     In a quick decision, we made our way to the gangplanks and boarded a ferry. We were brought to land, where we boarded the cable car which carried us up the side of the caldera. Below, we could see the line of donkeys we could have ridden up the steep terrain if we had had an extra half hour to spare. We knew that leaving our tour guide and ship behind was a risky endeavor, but who could say no to Greece?

     We wound up finding a taxi, which took us from the city of Fira to that of Oia. Our driver showed us many things, including the Black Beach and the coils of grapevines that dotted the fertile soil of the island. He gave us a good fifteen-minute tour, for a nominal price, before letting us off to venture by ourselves. It was a beautiful city! We maneuvered the stone streets at a leisurely pace, visiting storefronts and conversing with the natives. We tasted local wines and made purchases for our families back in America, and it was altogether a nice day in spite of missing out on our excursion.

     It wasn't until a few hours had passed before we realized that we didn't really know where we were. We had explored our way through the city to an area where there weren't many people at all and weren't quite sure how to get back to where we began, the cable car, and our ship. We were running out of time, and thusly, running through the streets of Oia to find our way back before we were left behind (although, admittedly, that wouldn't have been so bad). We made the last cable car ride down to the last ferry before our ship blew its last boarding call. It was exhilarating. In a matter a few hours, we had experienced anxious excitement, disappointment, great beauty, joy, and relief. After catching our breath and looking back, we concluded that we had a lot to be thankful for.

     And so it was, in the midst of all our hoping, dreaming, and planning, there were blessings abounding. Our wedding day was on a date we had not planned, but it still happened. The day after wasn't as planned either, but we spent it with our very good friends. Our honeymoon had its bad days and disappointments, but it wound up being the best experience of our lives.

     We are truly grateful for the things, and people, in our lives; and hope that you are, too. With it being a week away from Thanksgiving, we challenge you to remember that when it rains, you don't have to focus on the clouds. Rather, remember that the sunshine will surely come. For storms will always brew, but they will also always pass. God bless!