Welcome to 2019! The year is less than a week old and already I’m encountering a paradox.

Last Sunday I shared how I spent 2018 coming to terms with the continued shift in focus of my business—with less spiritual guidance and retreat leadership and more writing and editing for clients. Then, on Monday, I got an invitation to lead another retreat at St. Philips in the Hills, where I led an Advent retreat last month.

Of course, my initial reaction was pleasure that the retreat had gone well enough that they wanted me to lead another one. (I already knew from various feedback that it had been impactful and appreciated.) My next reaction was, “O God, how can I top this?” So, I took it to prayer, knowing that the Spirit would guide me, as has happened in the past—and help me let go of results!—and Friday morning I got a God-given response. At 4:30 in the morning(!), the retreat began to unfold for me, to the point that I had it planned out by the time I got out of bed at 6 am! (Yes, I did not get back to sleep….) I imagine there will be tweaks, but the basic content and structure are in place—and it’s darn good, if I do say so myself!

So I am sitting with a paradox. My business, with its implicit opportunities for ministry, is booming—and it seems God still wants me doing explicit ministry as well.

Lots of folks I know choose a word for the year. The notion is to choose an idea that will focus, guide, and shape their attention and their work for the year ahead. I somehow have ended up with two—another paradox? The first is write, and I intentionally chose that word more than a month ago because I wanted to feed my soul by continuing to explore scripture stories on Jesus through the eyes of others, even if I wasn’t creating more retreats that might use those stories. (Long-term, I think there could be a book containing those stories….)

The second word I chose was focus, as I intended to focus my attention on client work. I’ve felt scattered as I give attention to the different portions of my work-ministry life and had this idea that, by focusing on client work, the ministry would happen. It appears, however, that it’s not going to be that simple. We are complex creatures, and I’m being invited into complexity. It seems I need to shift my focus on focus!

How that might happen is still unfolding for me. However, based on past experience, I know that it will. At least part of it is releasing the idea of control and letting the Spirit guide the unfolding shape of my work life as well as my personal life. Beyond that, I’m still unclear. Over time, with patience, I trust I will live into some—enough—clarity. Meanwhile, I get to live with paradox. I also get to learn a lot along the road toward that clarity. I find, surprisingly, that I’m even looking forward to the journey!

Have you ever chosen a word, or concept, to focus your attention and intention for a year or a season? If so, how did that go? If not, what might it be like to prayerfully choose a word for 2019?