Monday, July 30, 2012

Retreat Day: Why and How

For the past few summers, when I go to Colorado - I have made a retreat day part of my time there. And, I've shared about those days here - but as I was thinking about it this year, I wanted to pursue the idea of why have a retreat day and maybe a few ideas on how to make it happen.

First, the why. Why retreat? {These are just my thoughts, add your own?}

* Being still.
This year on my retreat, I probably spent the first hour doing nothing but just being still. I shared this the other day - but I didn't really think about anything or do anything other than just sit. I was outside and enjoying God's Creation and listening to small sounds that are usually overcrowded with noise to hear. I am reminded of these thoughts on being still.

Psalm 46:10,
"Be still and know that I am God."

* We are invited.
By example, Jesus invites us to get away and alone and spend time with our Heavenly Father. No this isn't saved for a once-a-year-retreat! But, it is the perfect model for us of leaving the noise and moving ourselves to a "solitary" place to be with Him.

Mark 1:35,
"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed."

* It is refreshing.
I know we aren't all wired the same, but isn't time to just sit quietly rejuvenating even if it is only once in a while? Our lives are so noisy and busy. Time to just think is precious and rare. I love the picture of the water fountain above when I think of this idea of refreshing. Quiet and stillness are refreshing and life giving. The Sabbath itself was established for rest and refreshment.

Exodus 31:17,
"It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed."

* It is a great way to re-focus.
I can get tunnel vision sometimes. I'm too close to a situation or too immersed in it that stepping back and widening my view can be very helpful and bring some great perspective. Summer has been a great time for me to have these retreat days because with a new school year starting, it is a good time to evaluate many things.

2 Corinthians 5:7,
"For we live by faith, not by sight."

How do you make a retreat day a reality?

* Make it a priority.
 If it is important to you to make it happen, you will make it a priority! Schedule a day, put it on your calendar and look forward to it! Jot down ideas or thoughts that continue to surface in your mind and heart and plan to spend time pursuing those thoughts more and seeking God's Word for insight into these areas.

* Plan for your family.
Obviously this will only be a success if you have adequate care for your family! My personal opinion is that this retreat is such a blessing to my own heart that it is a blessing to my family as well. Arrange child care, make plans for what they will eat while you are away, think ahead for dinner when you get home. Spending your time away worrying about what your family is doing or what you will serve for dinner when you return will not be of any benefit! Do all that you can to see to these things ahead of time.

* Plan for your retreat.
 Not only do you need to have your family cared for, but I have found it helpful to do some planning for my retreat as well. As I mentioned above, I jot down words or thoughts that are consistent in my thinking near the time of the retreat. Or, if I have any specific things I am wanting to process, pray about or implement in our home - I might write these thoughts down as well.

Before I go, I usually take one-three words or thoughts and look them up in the Bible or a concordance. I will write down the references of passages that mention that word or idea - I don't look them up yet, just make a quick list of places to start when I get to my retreat. Sometimes one of those thoughts emerges higher than the others or sometimes a whole new passage comes to light - but it is a place to start.

If I don't have some kind of place to start, I think it puts pressure on myself to have a great spiritually invigorating day that I have done no planning for. It is not a recipe for success.

Think ahead about what you will eat - do you need to bring lunch or can you find a nice lunch spot to enjoy? If you are planning to be outside, is there a back up for bad weather?

* Be flexible.
 I sort of over-plan. I have my list of passages I want to look up and thoughts I want to study. I also bring a journal, my Bible of course and even one or two books to just read. This way, I can sort of go with what works for me that day - and be flexible with myself.

Two years in a row now, it has rained in the afternoon on my retreat day - one time I found a spot inside and this year under a covered bench. If I decide I want to go for a walk - I do! I allow myself not to be rigid about a specific schedule but to go with what feels right and refreshing.

 I readily admit that my retreat days are spent in ideal circumstances. My Dad watches my children, my Mom plans dinner, I have lunch out with a friend typically on my retreat day and I have an amazing place to go.

But, I hope you will be encouraged to consider the idea of how to make this a reality where you are as well. Find a park or garden where you feel at peace and will be undisturbed. How about a friends home who is on vacation or even in their back yard? A church prayer room or prayer garden would be a great place too. Ask God to help you if this is a desire in your heart.

What are your thoughts and experiences on having a retreat day?


Wendi said...

I have been thinking about some retreat time. I am thinking maybe a Sunday after church. I leave church feeling recharged and I know that Chuck would be there to take Megan and have some afternoon fun.

Life has been overwhelming me and I know that I need to slow down and just be.

Thank for the encouragement to just do it! Enjoy your day!

~katie~ said...

I first read of "retreat days" on your sister's blog several years ago and was so intrigued! I remember asking her about them from time to time. =)

Thanks for all these practical tips also! I appreciate reading about all the preparation that goes into it. That's so special that loved ones help out to make this happen ~ what a gift!

Blessings to you~

Lauren (in Savannah) said...

I love the idea of a retreat day! Having 4 kids at home and homeschooling the house is rarely quiet and I am rarely alone. I love the idea of you clearing your mind. I would have to work on that-lol
This will probably sound ridiculous but once I had to take my van across town to have it fixed and I had to sit and wait hours. I decided to go have breakfast so I walked to a little diner and then on the way back saw some patio furniture for a store sitting on the other side of the parking lot in a grassy area so I sat down and relaxed and read a magazine and sipped on a sweet tea. I found it funny that people who drove past probably thought I looked ridiculous but I felt so relaxed. I thanked God for that day of unplanned peace.

*carrie* said...

Thanks for sharing this, Monica. I have not taken a retreat in a very long time, and it has been on my mind for awhile now to make it happen. I appreciate your encouragement in this area. Taking monthly retreats was a lot more do-able before 3 kids!

Aimee said...

I have started a "Mother Sabbath" hiking group. Going with other moms four or so times a year to hike for a day in the mountains, see waterfalls...quiet, restful, rejuvenating.

Kimberly said...

I took a personal retreat last fall. It was my first time away alone for myself since my first was born six years before.
It was wonderful and I recommend it highly.

Anonymous said...

What a excellent post. I love this and I grow so much in these special times I set aside for retreat with the Lord. I do take a few days a year to do this and it refreshes me. Thank you for sharing this. As mothers (women in general) we need this time to sit still, listen to the sounds of the nature..often the Lord whispers through it. Your tips are great. Blessings.

As always I am always refreshed when visiting. :0)

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post, Monica.
So glad you were able to do this again this summer.

It was SO good to see you and your littles recently.

Love you, Grandma

Mother of Many said...

Before we were going to hear for certain about my cancer diagnosis, Jason and I went to your same retreat spot for the night. It was just what we needed. We read, sat in the grass, prayed, and cried. We also went on a very long hike. Jason enjoyed quiet, I played my iPod as loud as I could. Lovely idea. We all need refreshing.

angie said...

It is amazing how much more clearly I can think out of doors. Also, when I only have what I want to do in my bag, I am much less likely to get distracted by the daily minutia.
There are some decisions I need to make. I think a time of retreat would be so helpful.

Nykiah said...

Just reading about your retreat in 2014. This is an amazing thing to do. I love the journaling that you have put together and it inspires me to put one together for myself and my family. I have said it before and can't say it enough but God has blessed you beyond measure to be able to inspire so many women on your blog. I hope that you will continue to share here!

Nykiah @