Retreat by the Sea

Today begins my annual week retreat by the sea. It is a time of relaxation following the (for me, beloved) frenzy of Christmas. It follows a week of seeing and talking to beloved family and friends, the one week where I am the primary cook (God was with me), and the end of Advent, a season I cherish.

It also caps a year of serious changes. I love to say that I love change. That’s only partially true, however. What I love is the idea of change. Actual change is really hard. This year brought still-new city living, a new church community after 19 years in another, a new job with myself as the boss, an old passion (writing) with a new focus, and new and changing family dynamics. It’s enough to make a body tired. Usually in a good way.

I do some goal setting this week of retreat, but nothing set in absolute stone. If the past four years have taught me anything, it’s that nothing stays the same. Your community can change, your health can change, your family can change. So goal setting is fun for an Enneagram 1 like myself but things must be flexible, a truth this Enneagram 1 does not entirely love.

As we tool down Route 64 in Virginia, my immediate family quiet with tasks of driving or sleeping, I am struck with gratitude, something I’ve tried hard to cultivate this year. Not a natural at being gracious, I have had to work hard at this. I am so grateful for a wonderful husband and terrific daughters. Those are a given, even if not expressed enough to them (and it hasn’t been expressed enough). But I am also grateful for a forgiving and patient God who dragged me into situations I did not want to be in (“Thank you, but no,” is what I wish I said to God, but it was a bit more graphic than that).

We can all do without health challenges, heartbreak, or a volatile political climates that explode relationships like a high school science lab gone wrong. But they come all the same.

Like Christmas. It comes all the same. I think a famous theologian said that, or perhaps Dr. Seuss. Jesus comes all the same and life comes in unexpected ways with unexpected blessings.

Here’s what I’ve learned this year:

-I have no choice but to lean into relationships, even though I really don’t want to. I am someone whose motto is “I know enough people–thanks anyway!” But there has been no escaping a growing number of (and intensity in) relationships. When I lean into them, it is inevitably better. This means still setting boundaries, and that fine line is a hard one. Prayer helps me establish the right ones.

-Being my own boss is amazing and also annoying. The boss is moody and it’s hard to please her. But she lets you work in your jammies.

-Swimming at a leisurely pace is actually fun. It’s no longer a swim meet against yourself anymore, Kathleen.

-Daily prayer time does get easier. And then harder. Repeat.

-Having a spiritual mentor or director is amazing. Who knew? Mine is a terrific retired Jesuit brother who asks me hard questions. If you are spiritual, I suggest you get someone who helps you in accountability. But be ready when they call you on your spiritual crap. Because a good one will.

-Small groups (of the spiritual variety) are still hard for me, mostly due to my judgy nature. But showing up makes me less judgy. But I still don’t want to show up.

-You can’t set up your own website. It was dumb of you to try. Let professionals do professional work (I know a lot of lawyers who need to hear this).

-And once again, a lesson I still haven’t learned, baking soda is no substitute for baking powder. Write it down!

Happy new year, all. Blessings to you. Live well.

-Kathleen

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