The Makings of a Memory by Sandi Patty

Christian Cruise

There’s always that one moment we look forward to, isn’t there? We spend months (or longer) excited about our getaway, often imagining a cherished scene playing out before our eyes. For me, it’s usually waking up that first morning, stepping onto my balcony and breathing in the fresh ocean air. How about you?

Don and I find ourselves in a new “empty nester” season of our lives, and to be honest…we LOVE it! We’ve found ourselves reminiscing about when the kids were younger and have been surprised at how many of our favorite memories are related to travel. In fact, some of our absolute best family times came to us unexpectedly…on vacations impacted by a travel mishap that, at the time, felt like a disaster.

Italy, by way of Atlanta

About twenty years ago, our family was going on a cruise that departed from Italy. Our first leg of flying went fine until we got to Atlanta. There was a whopping storm brewing up on the East Coast and we were delayed in the Atlanta airport—one of the busiest in the world. Now just to give some context, Don and I raised eight kids between us, so this was no little family of three trying to get rebooked. As the wonderful Red Coat Delta Representative worked for hours helping us, we ended up with much time on our hands. These were before the days every child had a cellphone, iPad or even a GameBoy. All we had was good, old-fashioned conversation, silly time-consuming games, and lots and lots of playing cards.  

After a day or two (it was likely much less time than that, but it felt like a month) the airline was finally able to get all of us rebooked on flights that—if all went well—would just barely get us to Italy in time to run onto the boat. We weren’t even sure whether our luggage would make it! But all of a sudden we were on an adventure! We needed to rely on each other and had no choice but to spend time together. To this day, we still look back on “that time we were stranded in Atlanta waiting to get to Italy.”  

Well, we did make it to Italy. As soon as we touched down, we were rushed onto a water taxi that took us directly to the boat. When we finally got into our cabins, there was our luggage, waiting there for us. Many miracles had to happen in order for that outcome to take place, and we are thankful for each and every one of them. And indeed we set sail for a wonderful cruise.  

Plan to be surprised

I bet you have similar stories of vacations abroad or holidays at home in which something went terribly wrong, yet everything ended up perfectly alright. Perhaps your story, like ours, has become a family treasure. Then again, should it really surprise us that the unexpected turns in to the unforgettable? Our God is the God who uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise (I Corinthians 1:27). He turns water into wine (John 2:1-10), chaos into Creation (Genesis 1:1-3) and ashes into beauty (Isaiah 61:1-3). He most certainly can turn inconveniences into our greatest adventures and fondest memories. He is, after all, THE Redeemer!

Our kids have grown and many now have families of their own. Since those early days, we’ve enjoyed gorgeous picture-perfect travels together, but occasionally we find ourselves longing for another misadventure. Just so we have time to spend with one another and a story to share.

In his song about fatherhood, “Beautiful Boy,” John Lennon once wrote, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” It’s a beautiful lyric, but it makes me think of another message from the Bible: “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope,’” (Jeremiah 29:11).


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