Why brave-making?

It’s infinitely more comfortable to wrap the security blanket of my routine around me — with stacks of books and pots of tea nearby — than it is to travel alone without my best friend/tour director/husband.

And so, I booked a cruise to the last frontier as a brave-making venture. Alone.


All photos by Marlys unless otherwise noted


My husband’s cancer, and eventually widowhood, stole my audacity.

Here’s what I learned as time passed:

1. Courage doesn’t magically re-materialize by itself.

2. I have to practice brave-making; it’s not a once-and-done thing.

Hence, the solo trip to Alaska.

The highlights of this particular adventure are what you might expect: Canoeing across a lake and around a point to view Mendenhall Glacier up close and personal.


Mendenhall Lake


Steaming into Hubbard Glacier Bay to observe the calving.


Blue ice of Hubbard Glacier (photo by shipmate)


Visiting Fortress of the Bear, a safe haven for orphaned bears.



And boarding a catamaran into Sitka Sound to spot otters and eagles, and chance upon a pod of whales cavorting in the Sound. The captain shut off the engine so we could hear the mammals breath in and then exhale through their blow holes before launching into a beautifully-choreographed dance, flipping their tails to awe us.

Whale after whale after whale.

The catamaran crew said they’d never seen anything like it.



But there was another highlight of the cruise I hadn’t anticipated.

That first dinner onboard ship, I opted to eat alone. But the next day was a scheduled lunch for “solo travelers,” which I’m guessing is a nice way of saying, “People with no friends onboard.”

Why not? I thought. Which took a bit of courage.

And after that lunch, I was hooked.

I wanted to eat the rest of my meals with as many different people as possible. And I wanted to hear their stories: What was your favorite place in the world to visit? How did you two meet and fall in love? Where would you like to travel next?

I recently came across this thought from H. Jackson Brown, Jr.:

Be brave. Even if you’re not, pretend to be. No one can tell the difference.

This describes me. I have to pretend I have courage until … well, until I actually have courage.

Because I want a heart that is audacious; I want to live my remaining days honoring God, and with an unruly and holy resoluteness in order to make a difference in my corner of the world.

Which begs the question: What have you done lately that made you braver? I’d love to hear about it.


P.S. If know someone who needs to take a brave-making venture, please share, tweet or pin!


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  1. Sharon Brorson

    Marlys, I always love your posts and thank you for sharing your insights and experiences. The Alaska photos are fabulous and you will have “to frame” at least one for your wall. I am guessing you may have made plans with “your new friends” to travel together sometime. As they were certainly blessed to have you join their table and “interview” them. You are a “light” that people are drawn too and your kindness and sparkly personality is what we all are drawn too. God Bless you for your gift with words and for your heart for people.

    Love, Sharon Brorson

    • Interestingly, Sharon, one new friend invited me to travel with her on a 3-month, around-the-world cruise. Her husband doesn’t want to be gone that long, and believe me, I’m tempted. How fabulous would that be?!

      YOU are the one with the kindness and sparkly personality, which is why we all love you.

  2. Marlys Keenan

    My brave adventure was after 53 years to go to a reunion of my high school classmates. I had never been to any before. I’m glad I went for I had a great time.

  3. Good for you, Marlys. Good. For. You. Poignant reminder to me today that I don’t have to feel courage to act on it. Thank you again, for your life-drenched words!

  4. Fawn Pratt

    Good morning Marly, I appreciate your thoughts on being brave. I needed this, thank you. Frank and I just got back from our Alaskan cruise, celebrating our 50th! Glad you had a great trip, we so enjoyed meeting different people too.
    Blessings, Fawn

  5. Roxanne Olson

    What an awesome trip! You are so honest and vulnerable in sharing your life and even your struggles. Many of us can certainly identify and relate them to our own situations. And with your gifted writing you somehow turn those battles into adventures that always end with victories or at the very least, a positive perspective which is always insightful, encouraging, helpful and motivating. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Roxanne. I want to live (and write) honestly and vulnerably. Always. I love that you said this: “Many of us can certainly identify and relate them to our own situations.” Thank you!

  6. John Moran III

    Hi Marlys!
    All these 35 years since I met you & Gary, and you still inspire me.
    I too have to make-brave. I am getting remarried in 5 days, and there is fear. I cannot go through again, what I experienced last time.
    I do not like the way my first marriage turned out/ended. There is no Christian excuse for it. But people are allowed to choose to stay and make their marriage the best they can make it, or they can choose to abandon it and ‘jump ship’ when the seas get rough. I don’t believe in divorce, and I don’t believe it should be in a Christian marriage’s vocabulary or actions. If we truly believe that God is Who He says He is, He can fix anything, save anyone, redeem lost time, use what satan intended for evil and turn it into good, and BETTER!
    So here I am, just 3 days after my 7 year anniversary-of-divorce date.
    I am scared to re-engage into a one-flesh relationship… but my bride Kathy has assured me that we will be a team that overcomes difficulties and challenges, and will reap the rewards thereof.
    She is an awesome gal, and we are amazingly well-fitted for each other.
    I choose to move ahead into matrimony with her. I choose to drop my adage of ‘once bitten twice shy’.
    I choose to let God actually be the 3-fold cord He wants to be with us. I choose to be (to make) brave, even if I don’t always feel it. Kathy seems convinced that I am the awesome and ‘perfect’ one for her… So I will choose to be that person as much as God will allow me to be.
    We have sought counsel, we have friends (and our combined total of 7 kids) that support us in this endeavor.
    We have prayed, and we are not the naive youngsters we were the first time around. We know the work and bravery marriage takes to make it work.
    Kathy reminds me of you… She is an Encourager. She encourages me to be the leader God intends me to be. And I am encouraged to continue to cherish her as she has never experienced or felt before (her words 🙂 )
    I say all this to say, we too, are choosing to brave-make. We both have past marriages of hurt and betrayal, but we both also believe God has great plans for us, a future and a hope! We are intending to allow Him to use our pasts to be able to encourage and give hope to other couples in weak or struggling marriages.
    We intend to be an asset in God’s economy to keep married people married. God NEVER leads a couple into a place where divorce is the answer. I think of Joseph, and Ruth, and Esther, and how they had to brave-make in the face of almost certain calamity, and God showed up and wrote their bravery into the greatest of history books, our beloved Bible. They and stories like theirs (and yours) continue to amaze and encourage ‘the rest of us’.
    Thank you for all the decades of encouragement.
    Kathy looks forward to meeting you… perhaps on one of your adventures someday soon. 🙂
    Your friend always,
    John Moran

    • John, I certainly understand the need for brave-making in remarrying. I look forward to meeting your Kathy – she sounds perfect for you! Praying God’s blessings upon your union, and that you two will realize the desires of your hearts in wanting to “encourage and give hope to other couples in weak or struggling marriages.”

  7. Gayle Hughes

    Wow, wow, wow. First wow was the whale’s tail photo. Great shot! Second is all the comments and your replies. And third is, you were invited around the world? Tell me more. And go go go. I had the best time. We’ll talk. Gayle

    • It was so lovely meeting you on the cruise, Gayle. And don’t you know I’d love to go around the world on a cruise ship – particularly on the “Amsterdam.” But I kind of think it’s not in my price range!

  8. Lori Conn

    Marlys, you continue to amaze me and this time you made me cry. God bless you.

  9. Your story resonated within me. I could feel the love & your growth from the experience. My travel alone on a cruise to the Panama Canal that my late husband never got to see Covey Club will publish soon. I can only hope it reaches others the way yours reached me.

    • I look forward to reading about your widow adventure, Angie. I’m going to assume it was a life-stretching, courage-producing, faith-growing venture. Please let me know when it’s published!

  10. Rita Weick

    Hi, Marlys,
    I’m turning 70 next year and have thought about celebrating by going on an Alaska cruise that is more about Alaska than food/drink, etc. – your kind of cruise, it seems. Which one did you take and why? Would you choose differently or recommend one? Thank-you! Your site is quite lovely, by the way. –Rita

    • Congratulations on approaching 70, Rita, and what a great way to celebrate! I chose one of the smaller Holland America ships (the Amsterdam) and would do it all over again. Holland America does a class act when it comes to service, food, entertainment, staffing, etc. Enjoy!

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