Professional sports teams have training camp before the season starts. Corporations take their executives on teambuilding retreats. So, we discerned that our "house family," as my oldest daughter would say, needed to do the same.
Our crew was bllessed that a family from the parish had generously offered us a week in their beach house in Greenbackville, Virginia. It is the perfect place to spend time in reflection and ponder the weeks and months ahead. Having travelled so much this summer, we decided that our retreat would be four days long.
This is a big transition year for us as a family. Besides having a new baby on the way in just over eight weeks, we will encounter the first and last years of middle school, a rising kindergartener, and the first foray into competitive gymnastics. The paperwork alone can be overwhelming.
Sometimes we spend so much time and energy just going from place to place that we don't take adequate time to process what we feel about all of this. What makes us anxious? What do we hope to see happen this year? How can we pray for and with each other?
A perennial question is what kind of systems and order do we need to cultivate in our home for healthy spiritual lives? What kinds of help do we need? ( I still long to have Alice from "The Brady Bunch" living with us.)There is just so much to consider.
There is no more breathing room between seasons like when I was a kid, so we just have to take the time away whenever it works best for the family regardless of what is going on. Since we already have dates on the calendar into 2017, waiting for the stars to align for a free slot isn't practical. We just had to pick the week we wanted.
The idea of a retreat was not exactly met with unanimous enthusiasm. "This is supposed to be a vacation," was a common refrain early on. But, I have found surprises along the way. And, as with anything, kids transition better when they are brought up to speed and know what to anticipate.
The format for the retreat is pretty simple. At breakfast, John and I share a passage of Scripture and some questions. Then, we have all day to reflect. Everybody got a blank book for journaling, an agenda for writing important calendar dates for the older kids, plus plenty of markers and crayons to be creative. There was no rule about how we had to answer the questions of the morning.
We spent the day reading, playing games, going to the beach, napping, building stuff with blocks and knocking it down: whatever we felt like doing. We had conversations with each other about all the things we have going on and what we hope to accomplish in the coming year. When we take vacation, we are deliberate about not checking e-mail or discussing work as much as possible, but for the retreat our 30,000 feet planning for the coming year in the parish was also an important topic.
After dinner, we shared our insights from the day. In subsequent posts, I will share the themes. But, I leave this entry with two questions:
When does your family come together to think about the big picture for the coming year? How do you sort through the obligations of school and activities and take time to reflect on where it is all going?
"Just as water reflects a face, so one human heart reflects another." (Proverbs 27:19, NRSV)