I recently shared the frog pillows I made for my writing retreat friends. Mine wasn’t the only thoughtful, creative gift given to commemorate our tenth year together. One created photo books with our group photos, goals, and highlights through the years. One made personalized aprons. Another designed a pack of greeting cards for each of us. Another gave us a motivating message that “Every journey begins with a single hop,” and yet another put together a journal, bookmark, and more. Oh, and I can’t forget the squishy gel frog!
Our gifts were a bit grander than usual this year to mark a decade together, but we’ve always had some kind of gift bag. The first year was simple: sticky notes, chocolate, and fun items to motivate us. We took turns a few years later, either putting together a small bag or gifting one writing-themed item. Then we started putting out bags with each person’s name on them and placing items in as we arrived. Some of the gifts come back to the retreat year after year, like tshirts or personalized door hangers so we remember who is in which room. I think the one I’ve used the most is the personalized, frog-themed insulated cup. It was a 2020 gift—the year we delayed our retreat due to COVID, kept our distance once we were able to get together, but savored the time together with renewed appreciation.
The retreat is obviously not about the gifts. The gift is being able to get away from our everyday routines and press the reset button. It’s a check-in pause to consider where we are, emotionally and spiritually, and intentionally invest in the areas that have been depleted. That often involves us creatively pouring out through writing, journaling, quilting, painting, and organizing. The gifts through the years remind me of our growth and process through the years. We each contribute what we can. We each give from our own strengths and interests. We each bring value to one another’s lives.
And it all started with a hop. After all, every journey begins with a single hop.