Day 6: Planning a Personal Retreat {7 Days of Soul Rest}

Today, I have asked my wise friend with 4 children under the age of 8 to share her experience going on a yearly personal retreat.

Jesus was busy.  Crowds to feed, people to heal, multitudes to teach, the dead to raise, angry mobs to dodge, disciples to reprimand/encourage and religious leaders to baffle, not to mention a world to save.  Jesus always had something going on.

And yet.

Have you ever done a study in Mark on the amount of times Jesus steals away to secluded areas to be with His Father? 

So why should we be any different?

Today, I have asked my wise friend with 4 children under the age of 8 to share her experience going on a yearly personal retreat.  Though you may think it is impossible at this stage of life (whatever stage you are in), this friend is proof that it is not only possible, but necessary to get away.  She usually went away when she was no longer nursing, but pregnant with her next child, leaving her other children home for the weekend with her husband. 

Here are some of her reflections on having a personal retreat:


The two most important factors for me in planning a retreat are location and reading material.

My husband did some research and found a retreat center run by Franciscans not far from our home. The accommodations are comfortable, food good, price right, and the chapel is open 24 hours a day. I schedule a two night, private, silent retreat, which basically means that I do my own thing and no one bothers me.  

I think in Evangelical/Protestant circles, it is probably more difficult to find a place that understands the private, silent retreat concept. Usually a retreat means going with a group of people for speakers, fellowship, and fun. So for those really intent on retreating alone with God, it is worth looking into Catholic retreat centers where they are used to individuals coming by themselves, to be left alone with God. 

For my reading material, I usually bring something light but uplifting to read (a recent choice was Hannah Coulter by Wendell Barry, for example) and then a substantive book about the spiritual life (something by Henri Nouwen or Jean Vanier are some recognizable names) and my Bible. And then a journal. I try to keep it at that so I don't get distracted, and my spiritual reading choice aligns with what I want to focus my retreat on.

There are some rigorous ways to retreat, but for me, part of the beauty lies in the physical rest I experience, which then feeds the spiritual work I do. 

In college I was lamenting to my dad once that sometimes I fall asleep during prayer. His simple response was to shrug and say, "Well, I guess God thinks you needed to rest!" 

I don't follow a set schedule aside from attending Mass, confession, and meals. I just alternate between sleeping, reading, praying, journaling, light exercise, and sitting in the presence of God quietly. Very simple indeed! 

And out of that cycle of activity/non-activity comes new resolutions, Scripture to take home and continue to meditate on, things I need to fix or people I need to apologize to, and incredible soul rest. There is nothing quite like it. 

To experience sustained silence in an otherwise frenetic life, to create space for God to speak and to listen, it's like stripping off all the layers I build up all year long.

Layers of what?

I can't even's like going outside your home after a snowfall and feeling that intense quiet as the snow absorbs the noise, and then at the same time looking around and seeing everything sparkling white. You don't see the bush that needs trimming or the deck that needs repainting, just the clarity that the beauty brings to your senses. You know that the driveway will have to be shoveled and that in a minute you will be searching for that missing mitten, but for a moment all is in perfect perspective.

Interestingly, I often feel anxious before I go on retreat. I don't look forward to being "alone" for that long, as if I have forgotten how to be by myself, or I am anxious about leaving the kids, etc. 

I am sometimes afraid of what God will uncover. 

And I am anxious about re-integration to life after those two days at the oasis because the adjustment is so abrupt.  But my husband pushes me out the door and I go. 

Because I know that I can't recreate the soul rest at home (nor should I) and it benefits me and also my entire family.


I'm so thankful to have my friend share today. Though most of our days will be straining to hear God's voice in the noise, if Jesus even in His busyness prioritized getting away from the crowds to pray, then we do not need to feel guilty for doing the same. 

"We may rest fully assured of this: a man's influence in the world can be gauged not by his eloquence or his zeal or his orthodoxy or his energy, but by his be little with God in prayer is to be little for God in service.  Much secret prayer means much public power"  (The Kneeling Christian by Anonymous, p. 25).

Have you ever done a personal retreat?  What was your experience like?

What is keeping you from planning a retreat this year?

Retreat Finder A great international directory to find Catholic retreat centers (but most of them you don't have to be Catholic to have a personal retreat there).

If this is your first visit to 7 Days of Soul Rest, be sure to read through the previous posts listed below.  Please introduce yourself in the comments--I'd love to hear your story!

Introduction to the Series

       Day 1: Three Secrets of Soul Rest

       Day 2: Moms Are Not Monks

       Day 3: Permission for Self Care

       Day 4: Ordinary Moments

       Day 5: Creative Spirituality for Busy Times

       Day 6: Planning a Personal Retreat

       Day 7: Sabbath Rhythms

Linking up with Velvet Ashes

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