December’s Treat Yo’Self Retreat

This month’s time away almost did not happen again. But so thankful to my hubby who advocates for it and urges me to still go. So this month I felt like I wanted a place among God’s creation. So I reserved a cottage at a local retreat center. But a couple of days ago I started to feel yucky and now have a COVID test scheduled just in case it is more than just allergies or a cold. So I cancelled the cottage and am staying at the church building.

This time my retreat started after lunch @1:00. Lunch to next day’s lunchtime seems to be a good time to do this. This time frame allows me to sleep in if needed and also helps our youngest not be waiting all day to see me once he wakes up the following day. He still feels attached via “umbilical cord”. Even though he is not biological, he has still been so very attached from the beginning. I was the 4th maternal figure in his first 2 years of life. So even when this attachment makes it hard to pee in peace ;), I try to remember why he is likely so attached and am thankful that he finds safety in my presence.

Naturally started my time with ice cream. I packed some remaining Haagen Daaz. It’s hard to have mid- day ice cream with so many sets of eyes and so many sets of ears that are finely tuned to the sound of the freezer opening. I need my next freezer to be silent. Or if we just have a garage with an extra freezer then I have hide out. I am so like my dad who stashed coffee Haagen Daaz ice cream and candy.

I spent some time texting with a dear friend who was asking for prayer since she just found out that she has COVID. If I do have it, it is a mild round. I am guessing due to being vaccinated. Last night we were watching Apple TV’s The Morning Show (spoiler alert) and it was the episode called Fever with Jennifer Anniston struggling through COVID. I was reminded just how bad it was for people early on. True it is still bad for people now but the cases are often less severe.

I enjoyed some guac and chips and chocolate (from my stocking- my husband knows me well). I think I could live off guac and chocolate. I am noticing patterns of the food I pack for these times away.

Next took a nap. I woke to a text from hubby saying, “Special delivery outside the door” with a hilarious GIF of Forest Gump running. I love his sense of humor. What a good man! He went and got a mocha for me from Caribou. I forgot how key these mochas are to my silent retreats. Definitely necessary for writing. I thanked him and he said, “Most of your blog posts mention it, so I assumed they only get written under the influence”.

Thankful for the wake up text because I did not set an alarm and I could have easily missed the rest of daylight. πŸ˜‰ I decided to walk 2 miles around our church property. We have so many lovely trees. I can’t walk this place without welling up with so much gratitude. This place has been such a gift. I am reminded of Jeremy and I’s Sunday morning pre-service tradition of lapping the building in prayer. I think on all the prayers we prayed in this space. Prayers that this land, building, and our community would be a refuge to others. Prayers that at risk youth would be mentored. Prayers that single moms would be supported. Prayers that lives would be changed. Prayers that hope would be found. Prayers that all who came onto to this land would sense God’s peaceful presence. Prayers that freedom from addictions would be found. Prayers that this space would far out live us and our dreams. Man, I can’t type this without tears.

We know that we are being invited into a new season, a new adventure. But with all change there comes loss. The grief still hangs heavy on us not pastoring and leading this local body of Christ. There is grief in knowing that we will not be present to see the dreams we prayed over this place. I believe prayers do not have expiration dates. I now see our work as planting prayer seeds for the harvest to come. Our part in the process was to till and prepare the land and to plant. I guess as “church planters” that work should have seemed obvious. But when we prayed these prayers and wrote these prayers on the stage and door frames and floor (during renovation) we never imagined that we would not be here to watch them be answered. We certainly saw many prayers answered. We asked for dreams bigger than we could have accomplished on our own. And God has answered that. We were just a piece of a much larger puzzle. Many months ago when I began to feel the slight nudge/a shifting- I had mentioned to Jeremy that I wondered if our story was going to be like King David. David desperately wanted to build the temple for God but it was his son who was to carry out the actual building and completion of the temple. Even the verbal mention of that to Jeremy choked me up. Choked him up as well. These beautiful dreams that we assumed we would see them come to pass. But I believe we will see a harvest through another ministry on this land and with this building. Just like we received this space on the shoulders of a former faith community, it is our time to pass it on.

As I walked our property I was reminded how this space has been a refuge to our own family. I remember during the beginning of the pandemic when everything/everywhere was shut down- we had a fun sleepover here. We had always talked about doing this with the kids when we bought the building but it took a pandemic to make it happen. We ordered Chick- Fil-A. We had dance party, karaoke on the stage, light saber battles, ping pong, and made beds by putting the padded chairs together.

This was also the location of many, many date nights for Jeremy and I. We would get food and sit in our green room and enjoy the refuge it was during a pandemic. We would talk about how to do church in a pandemic. We dreamed of our future. We planned vacations and remembered old ones. This space has been such a refuge.

Then I think how it has been a refuge for my own heart. I think of all the miles I have logged here just walking, praising and thanking God for the opportunity to love people for a living. At the beginning of 2020 I started a book called Ruthlessly Eliminate Hurry. The author recommends a monthly 24 hr. retreat of silence and solitude. I had heard others recommend this practice. But this book was the final nudge to make it happen. I think my first one was some months after reading it. I am thankful that the practice has been going strong the last year and a half. It is by far one of the most life-giving spiritual disciplines I have ever done. As I was heading out the door, I thanked Jeremy for supporting my mental, spiritual and physical health by staying with the kids so I can get away each month.

I am noticing that at least one long walk is often apart of these retreats. The practice of walking is amazing for my mental health. The quiet allows my mind to think and ponder. It is like my legs go on autopilot as I “write” in my mind. I used to joke with Jeremy that I blog all the time, in my mind. πŸ˜‰ It was Jeremy that encouraged me and equipped me to start blogging in the real world and not just in my mind. He set up this blog because that is way out of my techie skills range. True, I could figure it out but it was not likely that I would have taken the time to learn how to. We make a good team. I praise God he is good at this stuff and it does not suck the life out of him like it does to me.

I wrote the first part of this post on a picnic table at our playground area at the church. I went inside as it started to get colder. I think next time I will really try to unplug more. Being plugged in is not bad but I want to lean more into the silence part of this time. Silence is so rare in my daily life and I want to create the space to hear God on a deeper level. I am so quick to check my phone for messages. I am quick to look for entertainment or distraction. I know those who know me may say otherwise since I have deleted all social media etc. But I do find myself picking up my phone an average of 78 times a day!!! And spending an average of almost 4 hours a day on it. True that does include time using exercise apps, listening to books and messaging people. These all feel very worthwhile things. I guess it is still shocking that I can still use my phone for hours a day even without social media and trying not to do internet on there. I think what bothers me is the frequency I turn to it. I recognize the dopamine that is being released with each use thus why I pick it up 78 times. I have it on do not disturb but I still pick up to see if I missed a message which makes the do not disturb pointless because my attention is still being divided. I enjoy messaging with family and friends but I want it to have a place, like set times I check messages. I think back to landline days and communication was limited to actual phone calls. Texting is a gift but it also can be a hindrance and distraction to being fully present to loved ones and to the work that we are doing right before us. There is no doubt, I am old-fashioned and would be happy in the 1950s (of course minus the disfunctional things like overt racism, sexism etc.) with more simple technology.

I found after sitting and writing I felt stiff. So I decided to do 30 minutes of relaxation yoga. Next time I will bring my mat. Doing more and more of these retreats I am beginning to pay attention to what I often want and need.

After writing and yoga I wandered around Youtube watching some Jimmy Fallon and The 10 item Wardobe Ted Talk. Both good and worthy things of my time and likely way harder to watch while at home with a busy 5 year old. It is good to laugh and be entertained. So in watching these I am not having a silent time in that sense. It is relaxing not having to talk. But I think next time I will rent a place like a hermitage at a prayer center and be more unplugged. Silence may seem scary but it is such a gift. I think back to a centering prayer retreat I did one year. By the end of the weekend I felt so much clarity, peace and capacity for love and patience. I believe it was because I spent so much time resting in God’s love. I think over the weekend we practiced 6-8 times of centering prayer. It was glorious.

I found myself searching the internet for centering/contemplative prayer retreats. After searching for 20 minutes I realized what I needed was to just practice contemplative prayer instead of reading and researching on it. I am reminded of something I read of Henri Nouwen. He said he can often get caught up in writing and researching about prayer more than actually practicing it.

So I used my contemplative outreach app to do 20 minutes of contemplative prayer. It’s now almost 10:00p.m. I realized I’d like to see the sun come up so I should hit the hay.

So I ended up going home to sleep. I was too chicken butt to stay. Once while staying here I heard a loud thud at 11:00pm. I just went back to sleep thinking nothing of it. The next day Jeremy saw on our video cameras that a car crashed through out front lawn and nearly missed the building by a foot before the car pooped out. He then saw the driver wander around the building peaking into our glass doors until 1:00 a.m until someone came to help them with his car. I would have pooped my pants if while walking to the bathroom in the middle of the night and seeing a strange man peering into the glass front doors.

And a few days ago on our videos we saw a Uhaul truck lap our building at 4:00a.m and a guy running back into his van. Jeremy discovered they unsuccessfully tried to break into our storage container. We reported it to the sheriff and since then they have regularly been driving and stopping at our church. So last night at 10:00pm I hear a car on our gravel driveway. I peak out and see it is a police car. I am relieved but in the moment as I sit in a silent room and hear a car drive up- I don’t know if it is a sheriff or a thief. I realized I also don’t want to cause the police any alarm by seeing a car parked at the church all night. So I went home, slept in my bed and woke at 6am to escape the house before our youngest woke and would protest my leaving again.

I wanted to wake early enough to watch the sunrise. It is rare that I sit and savor anything. These monthly retreats are like a reset button. I am reminded to slow down. I am reminded to listen to my body and nap, go to bed early, walk or do yoga. Last night while wandering the internet I found a short workbook that was written as a guide for Ruthlessly Eliminate Hurry. I was reminded of the pace of life that Jesus lived. He was never in a hurry. He was mindful and intentional. He valued time with people by sharing meals. I want to learn and live the unhurried rhythms of peace that He demonstrated.

I have been fascinated lately with the Danish concept of “hygge”. It has been my Christmas reading as I have checked out several library books on it. Many books and studies have been done on this concept because Danes have been voted year after year as the happiest people in the world. It’s this idea of coziness, togetherness, peace, safety and being present. 3 key words in the concept of hygee are loved, warm and safe. I recently realized why I am so drawn to this concept – it is because it reminds me of a life lived in Christ. It reminds me what one’s life could look like if they walked in the way of Jesus and lived out how Jesus taught us to live. Life is about relationships and not things or accomplishments. It is about simplicity, enjoying and being grateful for the gifts he has given us. It is about peace and harmony and not about competition and status. It is about pausing and savoring the breath in our lungs and the beauty of a sunrise.

Before watching the sunrise I wanted to spend sometime practicing lectio divina (https://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/catholic/2000/08/how-to-practice-lectio-divina.aspx). I love this slow, meditative practice of reading the Bible. The 2 verses that stood out to me were:

Psalms 23:1-3 (Message paraphrase)- “God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction”.

Psalms 23:6 – “Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life”.

Perfect verses to reflect on during this retreat day.

After watching the sunrise I came back inside to write more and now plan to read a book that came in the mail just in time, The Music of Silence: Entering the Sacred Space of Monastic Experience. “One of the reasons we feel so ill at ease in our daily lives is that we are either ruminating about the past, or worrying ahead into the future, and thus we are not present in the hear and now, which is where our real selves reside”.

Another nap πŸ™‚

Then walked and talked with a friend that called for an hour.

There is so much freedom with these retreats. Follow what feels peaceful and if that is talking to a friend on the phone that is ok. The purpose of these times is to restore and rejuvenate. I find for me that it is the one sure time that I get the quiet and space to write. And for that I am very thankful.

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