Grace. This is my word for the year ahead.  The word to which I aspire to be and show more of as I move through the days ahead.  I want to exude both the beauty and the mercy that the word grace entails.  Not just when I’m feeling good or when things are going my way, but also on those days when grace feels hard.  When I am tired, irritated, and it’s easier to lash-out at those closest to me.

Recently, I set-out with my dear friend Cheryl to spend the day at a retreat entitled Grace Moves.  Set in a former convent, turned retreat center, atop Richmond Hill, we walk through those hallowed doors, not really knowing what to expect, except for the opportunity to be in silence, as long as we wish.  Bliss for an introverted girl like me recovering after the holidays!  A kind lady greets my friend and me at the front desk, tells us where to find coffee or tea and sends us on our way to the retreat room down the hall.  I glance over the schedule, noticing a few check-in points throughout the day with large amounts of  time to do whatever it is that we need to refresh our souls – wandering through the convent, reading, writing, praying, creating art, or just laying on a blanket outside in the gardens.

Sitting amongst a small circle of participants, mostly women, I ponder just how I might spend my time, when our leader begins to lead us in a centering prayer before sending-us off on our own.  “Be still and know that I am God.”  Psalm 46:10  She quotes this scripture and we sit in silence, listening,  for the next twenty minutes.  Within just a few minutes, I feel warm tears flowing down my face.  I need a Kleenex, but I don’t want to disturb the other participants.  I guess I’ll just let them fall.  Grace moves.  Sometimes it moves us to tears.

Later that morning, I take the opportunity to talk with the retreat leader one-to-one.  I tell her how difficult it is for me to show grace to my children, at times, when the talking fills every waking moment of the day and I can’t breathe.  She gently asks me what I am thinking when the talking is taking place.  “Please, stop talking!”  “I can’t think!”  Knowingly, she suggests that I might begin to replace these irritating messages with thoughts of what I need to do to calm my own anxiety during these moments.  “Breathe.”  Breathe in grace.  Speak with more grace.

I spend more time journaling and reading after lunch and then join the others outside to walk the Jerusalem Mile – a labyrinth in the form of a circle overlooking the city.  I walk the path in silence, weaving in and out, not knowing exactly what I am supposed to be doing, but figuring I’ll end-up in the middle at some point.  Words to the an old hymn “Where He Leads Me, I Will Follow” keep finding their way into my head.  I feel a bit silly, like an old school nun walking the schoolyard.  At last, I make my way to the center of the labyrinth.  A gentle breeze blows through my hair.  The sun warms my face.  I am calm.  I look out over the city and it occurs to me that, yes, I really can find grace in the middle of all this busyness called life, even when I am standing knee-deep in the middle of a messy day.  Grace moves.

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