I long for the rest and refreshment that comes from quiet during a retreat, the cool water of time away filling in the dusty dry gaps in my thirsty soul. I look forward to extended time to read with no interruptions, sleeping in, lingering over the perfect cup of coffee, walking in the beauty of nature, singing aloud in praise where no one can hear me (blessedly, as no one would want to).
Doesn’t that sound idyllic? Doesn’t that sound like the perfect time away?
My retreat times are rarely that flawless and wonderful.
Usually, my brain runs off in a million different directions and I have a hard time settling in. I turn off the internet and all sources of communication, but my unfinished to-do list nags. Plans change and I can’t go to the spot outside the city that I wanted to, or my time gets cuts short because of an obligation.
I do believe we need to retreat, and we shouldn’t give up just because the circumstances are challenging. We need specific, focused time with our Father so He can tend to our hearts.
We also retreat so that we can be a healthier spouse, a healthier mom and teammate and friend (not perfect or better but a thriving version of ourselves). We take time away to be filled up so that we can pour out again. We surrender all our should and ought-tos, our long list of have-tos, and it really is a move of faith to step away for time to sit and rest and listen.
We set the weekend for the retreat so we can all be in this together but we know there’s no way we can arrange everything so that each and every person in the Velvet Ashes community gets to participate at the same time, as much as we want that to be the case. Our global situation is also creating unique challenges for you to get away, to gather with others in person, or to have the retreat you longed for.
Let’s let go of expectations, and simply ask the Father what He wants for our retreat time this year.
You might not get to take a retreat for awhile because your kids are home and there is no space in your house to be alone.
You might not be able to leave your house so gathering the supplies you want to have is not possible.
You might have planned a group retreat but you will now be meeting through a video chat or WhatsApp group.
Things will probably look very different, and that’s okay!
Does God want to stretch our understanding of retreat this year? Does He want to work in our hearts in a way that flows out to the people around us- our roommates and teammates and families? I think He does. I think He wants us to look beyond ourselves and our circumstances to come meet with Him.
I wish I could give you five steps to have the perfect retreat, or some other super wise advice. I don’t have that, but here are a few thoughts and ideas as we think about retreating and preparing our hearts, especially in this unique time of a global pandemic.
- Let yourself grieve that this is not the retreat experience you hoped to have.
- Read through the Psalms to see how David and others expressed their fear, disappointments, and praise to God. A few good ones to start with: Psalm 16, Psalm 77, Psalm 91, Psalm 94.
- Ask your spouse to take over the schooling/childcare duties for an hour or two. Do a small part of the retreat spread out over a few afternoons, a home-brewed cup of tea in hand.
- We need time alone with the Father, but maybe that’s not an option right now. How might you involve your family in your retreat this year? Think about including them in the worship time, or talking about the topics together.
- If you can’t leave your home for your retreat time, try creating a special corner to be your retreat space. Gather your favorite mug, a candle or your favorite essential oil, a soft blanket or a fan (depending on what part of the world you are in).
- Get a copy of Ruth Haley Barton’s book Invitation to Retreat: the Gift and Necessity of Time Away with God. Read some before your retreat time, maybe some during, and follow-up in the future with this book as your companion for retreat times.
- While you are retreating and letting the Father fill you, also use this space to look beyond yourself. Ask the Father for fresh ways to pray for your family, your ministry, your location. Ask Him if there are ways you are taking His role when He is asking you to trust Him and wait. Or if He has something for you to do that you haven’t said yes to yet.
I know the Father is going to have to stretch my imagination and my hope for this retreat. But I also know He can. He can do so much more than I ask or imagine because He is at work in my heart, and I believe He longs to do the same for you.
What are you doing to prepare for your retreat time? Any recommendations or ideas for how to get creative with your retreat time this year?