This week Mike and I are in the Colorado Rockies getting a little R&R. We purposely set aside some time for a personal retreat where the focus would be solely on resting, reading, and writing.
Last summer we went to the beach for a week with no agenda in mind and by default it ended up being a week spent reading, writing and resting. We benefited from it so much that we planned another vacation for the winter specifically dubbing it our “Reading Retreat.”
I’m convinced that everyone can benefit from such a retreat. It doesn’t have to be expensive and it doesn’t have to be for a week in the mountains. Whether it is a week long, or just a day long, each of us needs time to recharge, refuel, and ruminate. We need restoration.
We need to get off the endless treadmill of life once in a while to catch our breath. This is where the resting comes in. We need to feed our minds as well as our souls. This is where the reading comes in. We need to process what we’re experiencing in life and ground ourselves. This is where the writing comes in.
How does one do this? Here are a few steps that I’ve found helpful:
- Determine how long you can be gone.
- Determine where you will go.
- Determine what needs to be done to make it a reality.
How long can you afford to be gone—both in terms of time and of finances?
- Can you be gone for a whole week
- A couple of days?
- Or even just one day?
Where can you go?
- A scenic spot out of town: the beach, the mountains, the lake?
- Is there a friend’s house you could “borrow?”
- Can you house-sit for someone who will be out of town?
- Can you stay at a hotel in town?
- Could you go to a local coffee shop or to the library?
- How about going to a beautiful park and taking a picnic lunch?
- Could you stay at your own house under the right circumstances?
It doesn’t have to be expensive. The key is getting out of your “normal” environment.
What logistics do you need to consider?
- How much will it cost? Do you need to start saving your pennies so it can become a reality?
- How will you get there? Will you fly, drive, or walk down the street?
- What arrangements will need to be made for the kids, the dog, and the house?
- What will you need to take with you—besides clothes, etc.
In order to answer this last question, you may first need to ask yourself why do you want to go? What areas in your life are being neglected? What needs to be nourished? Where do you want to grow? What do you want to learn more about? What decisions are facing you? These are just a few questions to help you get started planning for the time.
Once you’ve gotten an idea of where the focus will be, I recommend taking a stack of good books, a computer (or find access to one), a journal, a notebook, a sketch pad and pencils—or watercolors, your favorite pens, and music. Create your own soundtrack for the retreat to be played on an iPod, a portable CD player, etc.
When you begin your retreat you will have all these things, and your expectations, before you, but don’t feel bound to them. Keep your heart open. You may be surprised to find out that the “result” of the retreat will take you completely by surprise. God may take you in a direction that you could have never foreseen. Just be alert in the present moment.
So much of our lives is giving, giving, giving. We give our energy, our resources, our expertise. We give our time, our advice, and our shoulders to others. Now we must give ourselves permission to renew. If we want to have something to give—something worth giving—something we can keep on giving, we must keep our reservoirs full.
These retreats, whether major or mini, are what keep me “in the game.” I set aside days to spend at the library. I make a point to enjoy afternoons at Merridee’s Cafe, or a night at the Marriott, or even a week in the mountains. I schedule them on my calendar. This time of personal renewal is no longer optional for me. It is essential. It’s one of the many ways God speaks to me and assists me in becoming the person He has created me to be.