Hey, my friends. Welcome back to Let’s Encourage One Another.
We have been in a bit of an informal series about journaling and reflection. In episode 54, I shared four ways you can start (or keep) journaling. These methods addressed two of the most common questions I get when it comes to journaling: I don’t know what to write about and I don’t have the time to journal.
Then, last week, in episode 55, website designer and podcast host Elizabeth McCravy talked with me about her own practices of journaling and reflection, both in the everyday moments of life as well as the bigger seasons, like the birth of her son and the loss of her dad.
Today I want to conclude that series with a reflection of my own, and it’s going to center around a personal retreat I took a couple of weeks ago. One of my favorite verses is Psalm 27:8 (NLT), which says, “My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘Lord, I am coming.’” And to me, that speaks of an invitation from God and spend time with Him, to talk with Him about what’s weighing on my heart, and to hear what He might have to say back to me.
So I want to share about my retreat with you, and then I’m going to take a few moments to reflect on it with you.
But I want to do more than share about my own experience. I want to help you create a retreat experience of your own.
As someone who is going through a difficult season, or as someone who is helping someone else through their difficult season, it is so incredibly important that we take extended time with God when we can. We need to be able to press pause, sort to speak, and linger with Him. To seek Him. To share our heart with Him. And to allow Him to share His heart with us.
So let me start by walking you through my personal retreat day and offering some reflections on it, and then I’ll provide you with some tips for creating a spiritual retreat of your own.
My Personal Retreat
As I think about my own retreat day, I can tell you that I had felt a desire to have some extended time alone for a while. Time to just relax and rest in the quiet space and not feel like I needed to rush to be somewhere.
Now, it’s hard for me to get away in this season of my life, but I knew that I didn’t have to get away for an entire day or two in order to get some of that extended time with God. I could set aside one day as my personal retreat. And that’s exactly what I did.
I took what would be a normal work day for me and turned it into a retreat day. This meant I knew I would have the house to myself. It also meant I needed to do a little planning ahead to make sure I didn’t have any work that had to be accomplished that day.
I knew in my mind kind of what I wanted the day to look like. For example, I would have extra time to spend with God in His Word and maybe reading some other books. But I didn’t have a detailed plan for how I would spend each hour. I really wanted to try to be present with what I was doing and listen for God’s guidance as to what to do next.
So this is what my schedule for the day ended up looking like.
I started by going to Walmart. I know what you’re thinking. Walmart? On a retreat day? But, my friends, it was a chance to go into a store by myself, which doesn’t happen all that much anymore. I could go in, grab a few things that we needed at home, and go back out. Or I could take my time and look at whatever I wanted to look at without having the pressure of having someone else there.
I chose just to grab a few simple things we needed and then I headed home. Once I was back home, I decided to do something that involved my body, because sometimes I feel like I leave my body out of my faith. Can you relate? I wanted a way to connect with God through my body and honor Him with it. So I found a Christian yoga video from Caroline Williams and went through that.
Now, I’ll be honest. I’m not always great with exercise and listening to what my body tells me. So going through this yoga video was great at helping me recognize that and be aware of my body, but also, she did such a great job reminding me of God’s truth as we were moving our bodies. She read Scriptures and invited me to remember what God has declared. And I have to confess, by the end of the video, I had tears in my eyes because I could just sense His presence with me.
After yoga, I headed to the couch for some time in the Word. Knowing this was a retreat day, I didn’t feel the pressure to get done in a certain amount of time or to finish a certain amount of my Bible study. I just went until I felt like it was a good place to stop. For me, that meant I did the last two lessons in my 2 Corinthians study from Kelly Minter.
I also reviewed the book of 2 Corinthians, looking to see what passages I had underlined, what had caught my attention from the study, and what God might be speaking to me that day. And one of the verses that caught my eye was from 2 Corinthians 13, at the end of verse 5, where it says (NLT), “Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you.” And that just reinforced how I had been feeling His presence earlier that morning.
When I finished that time in His Word, I decided to read for a little while. Reading is something that is pleasurable to me, something I really enjoy, and, again, I don’t always have time to sit and linger with a book. So I opened up the book The Well-Watered Woman and read until I was finished with that.
After that, I sent an email to a friend of mine who I knew had a big day ahead of her, and then I ate some lunch. Now, another thing that I struggle with sometimes is actually sitting down to eat a decent meal at lunch time. Usually, I grab a bowl of cereal or something like that and then dive back into what I was doing.
So for my retreat day, I intentionally warmed up some leftovers and sat on the couch and ate lunch together with God. I didn’t turn on the TV or a podcast episode to listen to, but sat in the silence with Him, eating and lifting up various friends, family members, and clients who are going through difficult seasons. I didn’t rush; instead, I took my time.
After lunch, I went back to God’s Word and read through the first six chapters of the book of Ezra. Ezra and Nehemiah are some of my favorite books of the Bible and they speak to me so deeply of how the people worshipped and held firm in their faith even when they were facing opposition from the people around them.
Now, I am currently part of a mastermind group, and on this particular day, I had a group call scheduled, and while I could have skipped it in honor of my retreat day, I decided to show up and be there with the other ladies who joined the call, as well. It was an intentional community time—even though we were each doing our own work. I used this quiet time to prayerfully respond to some emails from spiritual direction clients of mine.
Following the call, I continued to rest in the quiet and made some Tear Bottles, which we sell in our online shop. Even though I was creating something for work, it was still very much with a prayerful attitude—praying for those who would receive these as sympathy gifts.
I ended my retreat day with a devotional from Celia Miller, whom I’ve gotten to know a bit through Instagram, and I just so admire her heart for Jesus.
My retreat day ended about mid-afternoon when it was time to get the kids.
Reflections On My Personal Retreat
Okay, so that is a rundown of my retreat day. Is it what you expected? As I look back on what I did and why, here are a few things that are standing out to me.
First, I mentioned that at the end of the yoga practice, I had tears in my eyes because I could sense His presence with me. And I wish I would have lingered after the yoga a little longer, just resting in His presence and being with Him. I could have just sat in the silence or I could have gone to a different yoga video. But I feel like I missed that opportunity there, that I moved on too quickly to something else.
Second, I was reminded of just how much my soul needs quiet. A lot of it. So often these days, it feels like there is always something turned “on,” something to listen to. In fact, I had turned on a worship song when I started to make the Tear Bottles, but felt the need to turn the music back off once it was over. I just needed more silence. And it was an invitation for me to find ways to weave those moments into a more regular rhythm. Now, I get some of this naturally at the end of the day once everyone has fallen asleep, but is there a way I can bring more quiet into my everyday life, even if there are others around, too?
Third, while I know I could have just sat with God and the Bible all day, I am thankful I brought in other tools or resources that helped me come close to Him. For example, the yoga video. It wasn’t something I normally do, but having someone guide me in that and speak His truths over me was so life-giving. So that, too, might need to be something I begin to incorporate in a regular routine. Now, this doesn’t mean I always have to bring other books and resources in, but for this particular retreat day, I am glad I did.
Finally, I made intentional choices based on what I needed that day and what I felt God was inviting me to do. For example, I could have fasted for the day. Fasting and seeking God tend to go together. But since I often have a hard time pausing for lunch, choosing to intentionally slow down and share that meal with Him was what I felt led to do. And so going forward, it’s important that I recognize those little invitations and what I might need on that particular day.
How You Can Create a Spiritual Retreat
So that’s what my personal retreat looked like and what I learned from it. But I don’t want that to be prescriptive. I don’t want you to think that’s what a personal retreat for you has to look like.
Retreats can come in all shapes and sizes. So how do you figure out what might work well for you?
When it comes to creating a spiritual retreat of your own, here are a few things you can consider.
One, what does your soul need? Take some time to pray through that and then design your retreat to honor that need.
For example, I needed a quiet space. So I wove a lot of quiet throughout the day. Besides the yoga video, saying hi to the gals on the mastermind call, and the one worship song I listened to, I didn’t really have any other noise that day.
What does your soul need? Do you need community? Do you need words of truth spoken or sung to you? Do you need to time and space to process something you’re going through? Do you need something fun?
Two, what time do you have available? Some of you are able to take a day or two or even a whole week away. Some of you might only have a few hours. Whatever time you have, take it. Don’t let yourself think that because it’s only an hour or two, it’s not worth it. It totally is.
I set my retreat to be during a typical work day. Maybe you trade childcare with a friend one day so that you get a day to yourself and then the next day, she gets a day to herself. Maybe there’s something you normally do, but just this once, you’re going to skip it and take a couple of hours for yourself. Just look at your schedule and see what might work well for you.
If you need to plan ahead a little bit to make it work, do it. Get it on the calendar. Make sure you have time and space available that day to be with God.
Three, consider what, if any, resources would be helpful for you. Again, I used a yoga video and a book as part of my retreat.
Maybe you want your time to include prayer with a good friend, or some journal prompts, or a Bible study. Maybe you want to set a time to meet with your spiritual director or pastor or small group leader that day and include that as part of your retreat. Maybe you want to try a retreat guide, something that helps you focus throughout the day and hold a particular topic in prayer. Maybe you want a playlist of worship songs to listen to throughout the day. Or maybe you just want it to be you and God and your Bible. That’s perfectly fine, too. Brainstorm things that might be helpful and then work on gathering them together.
Once you figure out what your soul needs, what time you have available, and what resources you might want to use, you can start on creating a map of what your time might look like. But I do encourage you to hold that map loosely and follow God’s leading. You might not have expected to want to meet up with someone that day, but if God brings someone to mind, don’t worry about messing up your retreat day. Reach out and ask if they can meet or talk for a bit. Trust Him to lead you.
And one final reminder: a retreat isn’t about accomplishing a goal. Not really. It’s not just about rest, either. (Although it is perfectly acceptable to take a nap during your retreat!)
A retreat is really just extended time with God. Time in His presence. Looking for Him and listening for Him, sharing your heart with Him and letting Him share His with you. Create a retreat for no other purpose than just to be with God.
As Ruth Haley Barton writes, “Retreat in the context of the spiritual life is an extended time apart for the purpose of being with God and giving God our full and undivided attention; it is, as Emilie Griffin puts it, ‘a generous commitment to our friendship with God.’” Don’t you love that?
So my invitation for you this week is to create this extended time apart for you to be with God. Whether it’s two hours, eight hours, or several days… Again, this is so incredibly important in seasons of grief or anxiety or caregiving, to be able to take some time and simply “be” with God.
And it’s important for us to try to help our friends in these difficult seasons be able to create their own retreats, as well. So perhaps as an additional challenge, I would invite you to consider if you have any friends or family members who might be in desperate need of a retreat right now, and if so, is there anything you can do to help them create that?
Okay, that’s all for today, my friends. If you found this episode helpful, would you share it with a friend who might also be in need of a retreat? Also, I have a small retreat guide available in the shop at lovedoesthat.org/shop, and I’m planning to lead an online retreat in May. So stay tuned for more details about that.
Until next time…
- Episode 54: 4 Simple Ways to Start (or Keep) Journaling
- Episode 55: Reflection and Journaling as a Lifelong Practice with Business Strategist Elizabeth McCravy
- Caroline Williams Yoga: “Day 1: 30 Days of Yoga video”
- Kelly Minter’s Bible Study on 2 Corinthians: “All Things New”
- Book: “The Well-Watered Woman” by Gretchen Saffles
- Shop: Tear Bottle
- Devotional from Celia Miller: “You Are Beloved”
- Shop: Retreat Guide: “When God Says No”
QUOTES AND BIBLE VERSES:
- “My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘Lord, I am coming.’” (Psalm 27:8 NLT)
- “Retreat in the context of the spiritual life is an extended time apart for the purpose of being with God and giving God our full and undivided attention; it is, as Emilie Griffin puts it, ‘a generous commitment to our friendship with God.’” (Ruth Haley Barton)
INTERESTED IN WRITTEN SPIRITUAL DIRECTION?
I’d be honored to walk with you through a difficult season and help you discover God’s presence and work in your life.