Learn how to design a personal Christian retreat that deepens your relationship with God, and provides a space for reflection and renewal.

THE YEAR EVERYONE SLOWED DOWN…

When the 2020 lockdown started, my family and I were in the middle of our spring break trip. All the activity caused one of my worst flare-ups. I knew when we got home I needed to take time to be still and heal.

We didn’t realize at the time that the world was shutting down as well. It wouldn’t be an extended spring break for our kids, but a year before I let them return to school.

At that moment, everyone in the world was learning how to slow down. I had already been learning this discipline with my health over the previous four years. However, this was a new kind of slow. Everyone was forced to stop and do things differently.

In this season, we learned to go back to the basics. We had endless family nights, street hangouts with neighbors, and sidewalk chalk notes of encouragement. We learned how to grocery shop from the comfort of our sofa and made a lot more meals from scratch.

…BUT WE WERE STILL STRESSED

But not all of this slowing down was less stressful. We still were washing our hands like crazy, worrying about the what-ifs, and homeschooling (even for this former teacher) was a bit of a beat down. Plus I was just making traction on my own business venture.

My husband had to work from home, which meant we needed to be quiet for his Zoom meetings. Our cycle of Groundhog Day began to wear on me.

While we had some of our sweetest family moments during this time (like adopting two kittens), we also had some of our biggest fights. We learned that getting out in nature was healing for all of us, and finally purchased some land in the country we’d had on our bucket list.

However, when we were able to get the kids back in school, I felt uneasy about my day-to-day life. It seems like we decided to go on every vacation and see every person we hadn’t in a year. We signed the kids up for sports and summer camps.

The busyness left less time for me to keep up with the meal plans and the housework, all while launching a new career. I was exhausted and anxious.

I revisited old mindfulness practices by taking up yoga, meditating, reading self-help books, and journaling. But this time those practices weren’t doing it for me. I needed something more.

CREATING A PRACTICE OF SABBATH AND SOLITUDE

In my own studies, I was starting to notice the practice of the Sabbath all over the Bible. I realized with my business, I was working every day of the week because I loved it, but it left the other things I needed to get done piling up, and I felt guilty as a mom and wife. I didn’t know how to slow down, but I wanted to.

A few months earlier, my husband’s company had rewarded its employees with a hotel stay. We had checked in so excited for the break from our kids when my father-in-law called to say my son was throwing up. Only 20 minutes after getting in our room, we packed up and returned home. They had given us a voucher for one night we could use on a future date, but it never worked out with a sitter.

Now here I was, exhausted and emotional from my overwhelming task lists, and realized I needed a Sabbath for myself. I remembered the hotel room voucher we had on hand, and asked my husband right then, on a Thursday afternoon, if I could leave and use it by myself.

He could see how ragged I was and how desperately I needed a mental break and told me to go ahead and take my time, that he would handle the kids.

It was THE BEST.

Not only was the stay free, it was on a beautiful golf course and I had the entire room to myself.

TAKING A CHRISTIAN RETREAT

When I arrived, I realized what I really needed, was not to catch up on work or my to-do list, but to rest. I literally spent the next 36 hours reading my Bible, praying, and writing in my journal. My anxiety had been crippling. It was clear as day to me at this moment that God was asking me to be present with my thoughts and give them to Him.

Every time I felt a panic attack coming on, I would pull up my Headspace App and meditate. I did that at least five times on the first day. I hadn’t realized how incredibly stressed I was. When I wrote down every thought that was in my head, I was able to see what I could let go of and what needed to be addressed. Then I recorded everything I thought God would say to me at this moment and let the words of encouragement wash over me.

I ate every meal in the sunshine of the balcony and left the sliding door open most of the day. I watched the Hallmark channel so I didn’t have to worry about questionable content upsetting me, and treated myself to a few candy bars. My laptop was never used for work and I actually used the hotel writing pad to write down an agenda for the day so that I would make sure to use the time I had for what I felt God had given it to me for.

I can’t tell you how at peace I felt the next morning and how it impacted the rest of my week at home. In this quiet reflection time, I allowed myself to feel instead of suppressing all these frustrations and was able to identify that most of the stressors were self-inflicted.

KEEPING UP THE HABIT

God is so gracious in his wisdom and he set an example for us in his commandment to rest. He gave us the Sabbath as a blessing—it’s a gift he wants us to receive.

Even Jesus taught us the importance of silence and solitude when he often would go to lonely places and pray in the gospels. I saw the goodness of how this time of retreat had blessed my life and how I treated my family when I returned. In fact, I planned another one six months later (and scheduled it around an art festival) and another six months after that (to finish up my Bible timelines).

I am going on my 4th solo retreat in a few weeks and want to use the time to slow down once again, take a break from work, and listen to what God wants for my life. I created a Prayer Walk a few years ago and plan on doing it again during this time.

PLAN YOUR OWN CHRISTIAN RETREAT!

I highly, highly recommend that you plan your own night away this year! Coordinate a night with your husband or a sitter and book something where you won’t be disturbed or distracted.

Take the time to REST and REFLECT on what you need and what God wants for you.

Here are a few things I’ve done during my retreats, but feel free to make your own list of fun activities!

  1. Browse a bookstore
  2. Walk around a local festival
  3. Meditate with Headspace App
  4. Yoga practice with DownDog App
  5. Journal your thoughts
  6. Pray or go on a prayer walk
  7. Read your Bible
  8. Take a nap
  9. Watch happy movies
  10. Eat something you’re craving
  11. Sing along to music
  12. Take a super long shower
  13. Get a pedicure or massage
  14. Enjoy your coffee outside
  15. SLEEP IN!

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