I write this just 2 weeks into January and Tim and I have fallen under the spell of the tidying-up trend. Marie Kondo’s decluttering method has quickly spread throughout the home—T-shirts have been folded into little packages and bedroom closets now feature clothing that brings us joy. Even the family room bookshelves have undergone a rainbow transformation. It feels good to start a new year with less clutter and time to remember brights spots of joy.
Increasingly, the four kids are living life independent of Tim and me-and that’s a very good thing! In April, Lindsey accepted a new job keeping her on the East Coast for the foreseeable future. She loves work and entertains us with stories about DC life. Lauren is finishing her final year of grad school and is balancing full-time work with details important to finishing her program well. She is a good reminder to us that a robust social life can be good for the soul.
In September, Will started his freshman year at UC San Diego. He lives on campus (Thurgood Marshall College) and enjoys co-ed life. During the summer he scored several acting gigs which gave him some spending money and provided us with crazy dinner-time stories. It’s no surprise that Will has decided on a Communications major and continues to sing, dance and memorize lines in preparation for the college’s spring musical, Hairspray.
With Will off to college, Lilly gets plenty of quality time with her parents. She is a freshman at Del Lago Academy and, like her brother, enjoys theater life, spending long hours in practice after school with the drama gang. Lilly is very involved in her youth group at North Coast Church and takes any chance to meet up with friends for coffee. She keeps us current on all things social media and occasionally spends time creating art. She is looking forward to a spring trip to Costa Rica with a team from church.
As the kids grow more independent, Tim and I find ourselves together more. In September, Tim completed a year-long Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program through the VA. It was a good year of learning and he often came home from work ready to share a story. He would like to work as a Hospice Chaplain in the greater San Diego area but until then he continues to sharpen his techniques in the kitchen. He now has an InstaPot and we’ve enjoyed some creative meals. A win-win for the family.
In March, my job with Crossroads Church came to an end and this was a difficult time for our family. As we considered next steps, Tim and I leaned on the wisdom of family and friends; these conversations remind us that we have a deep network of people who support and cheer us on. Happily during this time, I was able to visit friends in North Carolina and enjoy an entertaining reunion in Dallas with high school girlfriends. In late September, I signed on part-time as a resource coach with our denomination, connecting leaders and pastors in Southern California with tools to enhance local ministry efforts. The best part about the work is listening to people share about the things that bring them great joy; it gives me hope that good is happening in the world.
In October, Tim and I packed our bags and took off for a fabulous vacation in Greece. We spent time island hopping, stopping off in Turkey to visit Ephesus and concluded our visit in Athens. Stunning architecture, fabulous food and plenty of references to ancient literature to keep us wanting more. We found Greece on the whole to be clean, easy to navigate and surprisingly affordable. And the Parthenon didn’t disappoint!
I continue to think about ways we can rally change for the common good in our local community. The homelessness crisis is at epic proportion in San Diego and I find a lot of people have opinions but no clear way to contribute to the solution. It’s encouraging to see organizations hosting “Homeless 101” sessions to support citizens in taking the first steps for change. (Permanent Supportive Housing is a good place to start) Another bright spot came during mid-term elections when our city of Escondido voted in a democratic mayor; we also gained a temporary suspension to over-development in the beautiful hillsides surrounding our neighborhood. On the national level, it’s gratifying to see diverse representation in Congress from across the US and I’m cautiously optimistic that positive (small) changes in education and immigration will come in the next 2 years.
Our family ended the year with a Christmas holiday in Seattle with Tim’s family. This family photo was snapped in a moment’s notice on Lindsey’s last day with us. It was a cozy and relaxing vacation—lots of candle light, bundled up walks in the city and plenty of Christmas carols to keep our spirits bright. Tim’s parents are wonderful hosts and didn’t miss an opportunity to gather people around the table for good food, good wine and lively conversation. For me and Tim, it was most enjoyable to see our kids reconnecting with their cousins—sharing highlights of the past year in school and comparing various jobs and hobbies. One thing is certain—the Rietkerk grandkids love to laugh and play; the louder and crazier, all the better. It’s a good kind of exhausting.
We think often of our friends and family across the globe and hope you’ve found a little breathing space to reflect on the good things in life. May you find JOY!