Saint Valentine's Day was just around the corner when we left a grey, dismal Nashville for the beautiful, paradisal weather of Florida. Blue skies, green grass, blossoming trees, and warm winds welcomed us as we passed over the Georgian border. We were heading to a town called Winter Haven, and the title seemed quite proper for the effect of the weather on our spirits. Many good friends made our time in Winter Haven utterly pleasant. Thank you all for the generous hospitality, for the fun concert, and for the twelve baskets full of personalized, delicious goodies. We were very blessed by you all! Saturday night, after our concert, we drove to Fort Myers, where we played a Sunday night concert and were met again with such kindness by the church and the good people there. Thank you all!
The next day was the celebration of Saint Valentine, and we celebrated the love-ly occasion by boarding The Monarch of the Seas for a marriage cruise hosted by FamilyLife. What a wonderful time we had over the next four days! We joined with many like-minded artists to provide the musical and dramatic entertainment, and enjoyed the extremely motivational and inspiring seminars led by many kindred speakers.
On Tuesday we enjoyed a day at Coco Cay, a beautiful Carribean island where we got a great deal of sunshine as we walked along the clean white beaches, napped in the hammocks hanging from coconut and palm trees, and swam in the clear ocean waters. A group of us found a long stretch of shallows, carpeted with soft seaweed and inhabited with a great assortment of sea-life. Bright orange, maroon, and red starfish caught our eyes while sea-sponges shrunk up at our approach and clams with glinting stones inside resisted our prying fingers. Quite beautiful!
On Wednesday we docked in Nassau, Bahamas, and found ourselves through the middle part of the day exploring the city. We enjoyed looking at the work of local artists in several curiosity shops, visiting a store very reminiscent of Caribbean pirate legends with some delicious coconut flavored pound cake. After wandering around the busy streets and observing the Bahaman people and their customs, we rested in the more familiar luxury of a Dunkin' Donuts while a couple of the men tasted the local delicacy, fried conk.
The next day was a great day of performing and listening, of enjoying the ship and the delicious cuisine of the boat, and doing all the things that we had not yet had time for, like rock-climbing with the sun bearing down and the sea surrounding.
But the most incredible time of all was after nightfall, when I would step away from the social life and activities, and, walking alone to the bow of the ship, gaze out upon the ocean. I reveled in the great silence, the quiet, smothering sea, harboring so many secrets and so much history, mirroring the moon that directed its movements and the stars that were so plentiful in the loneliness of the scene. The wind blew powerfully, uninhibited by any mass, sweeping against me and around me, taking away my breath, whipping back my hair. I recognized the strength of this invisible force, and meditated on the knowledge that we know not from whence it blows or whither it blows. I remembered the beginning of Genesis, where it speaks of the 'darkness over the deep, with a divine wind sweeping over the waters.' I marveled at this mysterious miracle.
The cruise came to a close, and, after disembarking, we drove to Naples as the last stop before coming home. The city was gorgeous, the weather splendid, the church exciting, the people energetic, the mission leadership so very kind and generous. We had a great time with you all!
Monday we drove home, and were filled with a peaceful awareness of how God guides and shapes and blesses our lives. He is indeed wonder-full.