I flew in a day early and stayed a day late, primarily to go to the beach.
Holy cow Florida beaches are so much better than Texas ones. Hate to break it to you Texans but you're not the biggest or the best when it comes to the ocean. (I suppose now they'll use the argument that their body of water is a "gulf." Whatever. Everyone knows Texas beaches suck).
The first day Kevin (the Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church resident), his wife Andrea and I went to a dog-friendly beach. Of course they brought their dog: Bug the Pug which was a blast. The waves were big, the sand was white and the dog would doggie paddle even if you just held him out over the water. Awesome.
Day two everyone began to arrive. Rachel flew in early enough to catch a few afternoon rays at the beach (not that she needed them!) and then most everyone had arrived by dinnertime. We ate at some crazy restaurant that screamed Florida. It was surrounded by water on three sides and actually had small (and one large) crocodiles swimming around with the turtles. That was awesome.
The plethora of stuffed animals (from squirrels to monkeys) displayed ALL OVER the interior of the restaurant, i could have done without though. I love animals. Alive ones. Gross.
The first day of the retreat, i showed up in the lobby to eat my breakfast at 8:45 (we were supposed to be at the church by 9), quickly scarfed down some eggs and a pastry and then left with the residents for the church. I discovered the next morning that I was supposed to have paid. Assuming it was a free continental breakfast and when the lady at the coffee counter didn't say another to me, i just walked out. Don't worry, i paid for breakfast the next two mornings...
At the church we had a morning devotional given by Rachel on beginnings and endings. Then Valerie had us each (residents and supervising pastors) choose one or two pictures from a ton she had scattered on the floor that describes our residency over the past two years. I quickly became aware that this retreat was not going to be like the others; that this was a time for reflection, for shutting doors and opening new ones, for processing, for saying goodbye and saying hello. I thought of how awkward I felt at the first resident meeting, wondering if I even wanted to work in a church while all the other residents seemed so confident, so together, so ready. I picked up a picture. And I remembered how different I felt walking into First Baptist as a member, a minister in the very traditional, high church, hymn singing, hair greying congregation and wonder if I would even fit in. I recalled that at the time, I was just so thankful to have a job. I remember mom and I wondering if the salary FBC/CBF was offering me would be split over two years or if I actually would make that much money every year. It seemed unreal. Foreign. I found another photo. Then I remembered my ordination, how everything changed. How receiving this one grant and getting this one job at this one particular church changed my life forever. I selected my third picture.
I listened to my friend talk about the photo he selected of eggs lined in a carton with one lone egg broken open. I thought about how when we first met at the first meeting in Atlanta, he had been married and returned home to his wife. After our first conference in Atlanta a few months later, he returned home to an announcement that his wife was leaving him. But he's not the only one broken, he explained. Everyone who sits in our pews has a similar story to tell, a similar paranoia of being the broken egg in a carton full of healthy white ones. I thought about an ending in my residency, something I haven't thought of in a while. I remembered Kyle's death, how it traumatized me, how I wanted to drop out of ministry because God was unreliable and I was unfit for a church. An ending. A broken egg spilling yoke and yellow into the brown recyclable cardboard carton. Broken Broken Broken.
And then I was ordained. Open. Open. Open.
That night Roger arrived from being on vacation and we all went to dinner at a lovely restraurant on the St. John River. After salads, flounder, crab, wine, creme brule, and much much more, my two "best friends" in the residency program and I walked across the split bridge to check out the nightlife in Jacksonville.
We like to keep each other updated on our love lives and latest drama, and make a habit of going out alone to chill at least once on each trip. We settled at the Twisted Martini and after our guts had been spilled, our anxieties released, and our craving for community satiated, we headed back to the hotel.
Day two of the retreat provided for much needed conversation between the residents and Valerie, our closest supportor and "boss," in addition to words of affirmation from our supervising pastors, IME mentors and each other. We received plaques for "completing the program," worshipped together again, and of course, took pictures.
August 31st, my two year Residency ends and September 1st, my new job as Minister to Young Adults and of Creative Discipleship begins. Beginnings and endings. I will pay close attention.