Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Each day this month I’ve been making a mental list of all the things I’m thankful for and it is endless. Recently I was reminded of the difference between praise and thanks – we praise God for who He isand thank Him for what He does. That makes the list even longer! In this continuation of my Italian Riviera Cruise series, I want to focus especially on some important lessons I learned on this trip about balance.

Kelly and I feel very blessed to have been able to go on this trip. It took a lot of saving and planning and work, both before and after. But more than once we mentioned to each other that it is possible to have too much of a good thing.

Sumptuous food is a treat – until it’s available 24/7 in a variety of venues. After gorging ourselves for a couple of days at breakfast, still full at lunchtime, and overstuffed and sick after eating dinner, we got smart. Back to cereal, coffee, juice and milk for breakfast, a couple of pieces of fruit for lunch (and an occasional treat onshore). Then we were able to enjoy what we wanted for dinner without being miserable.

Seeing new places and exploring each one is exciting, until you deboard on eight locations in less than ten days. Each place held unique splendor, history, culture, and flavor to take in – so much, that our senses went on overload. It was always a mad rush to get off the ship, see as much as we could, and get back before they left us behind. Kelly and I began to look forward to our seven days at sea to savor and review what we had experienced and just relax a while.

But seven days at sea is a very long time. At first it was marvelous to take dance lessons, lay in the sun, play tennis on the top deck, watch movies, meet new people, eat yummy food, see a new show or movie at night, or go dancing. However, we noticed that the longer we spent at sea, the crankier people got with the staff and each other. It got tiring to have the same conversation with someone new at every meal: “So, where are you from? How many cruises have you been on? Do you have children and grandkids?”

The service onboard the ship was beyond compare. I loved the break from cooking, housekeeping, and daily worries. However, when people began vomiting and having diarrhea after our stop at Casablanca, the staff had to take every precaution to keep the sickness from spreading. Everyone who had symptoms was under constant care; the rest of us were “served” to the max. We were no longer allowed to help ourselves at the buffet, or even get our own napkins and silverware. It gets tiresome when everything is done for you, especially when you can’t even salt and pepper your own food.

tennis on the 18th level

midship plaza

movie on deck

So in the end, even though the trip was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and we will relive the memories again and again, there’s still no place like home. God knows we need balance in our lives. He gives us both work and rest, abundance and hunger, new delights and old comforts, times to be served and times to serve. I’m more thankful for that balance than ever before.

We were both eager to get home and see our family, get back to work, eat simple food, and re-enter life with all its highs and lows. One of our favorite verses during the trip was Proverbs 30:7-9: “Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die:Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”

Balance. We need it in finances, home life, food, physical activity, and just about everywhere. It keeps us humble enough to keep seeking the Lord, and grateful for all the blessings He gives us every day.