I am about 8 hours into my retreat and it’s the first time it has been silent. Often with these retreats my goal is adding more silence and solitude to my life. Both of these experiences are very restorative but these times are meant to be flexible to what my needs are. I certainly needed retreat. I did not need it from my family (this time;). As my kids age I don’t feel the same depletion, desperation, and exhaustion that I used to when I felt like I was needed in 3 directions 24/7. I certainly did not feel that way all of the time but it was enough that my heart goes out to young mamas because I remember those days. As I have aged I am slowly learning the gift of creating a rule of life that puts restorative disciplines/practices into regular practice so that I can function more from a place of peace instead of a place of surviving.
Anyways back to what my needs are for this particular retreat. I needed set aside time to retreat and unplug from my phone. I have a toxic situation I am trying to navigate and I am learning one of the best ways to deal with it is prune the continual access to my heart. I am allowing my husband to do the necessary communication and I am choosing not to receive or listen to toxic/hurtful words sent our way. I have discovered that I ABSOLUTELY love to prune plants. Last spring I discovered my love of hacking away dead stuff. There was even a point on our CA vacation and I was outside in a friends backyard and I asked if she’d mind if I pruned her fruit tree. I am certain that was the first and last time anyone will ask her that. 😉 But I just missed the satisfying work of pruning . Who knew that yard work and working in a garden could be restorative. I will tell you who knew- old people. I have mental image of a sweet elderly person with giant protective sun slowly meandering in and out their various bushes and shrubs with an observant, careful eye to what needs attention. I have had a delightful time cutting back what is dead and just visiting with the Lord. Through our epic oasis of a yard He has been teaching the need to prune what is not producing fruit/blooms. Dead or rotten must be cut away in order for a plant to best flourish and radiate its intended beauty and glory. But an unattended plant grows wild bearing minimal gifts to offer the world. Not only does an uncultivated plant have limited beauty to show it also can be damaging to the life around it. I had a grape vine that has never bore fruit in our 3 years of living at this house. We have also never given it an ounce of attention. But this spring I had noticed that this fruitless grape vine had also taken over 2 of my giant rhododendron bushes. I can never pronounce that word. It has too many “d”s and “r”s. I love these bushes because they create these pre-made bouquets. You just clip one stem and you have this magical, perfectly spherical bouquet. I fill our house with these adorable bouquets. We have so many that Isaac and I create vases to share with the many widows on our street. Ok so I adore this epic plant God created and to see this wild grape vine dare to threaten my soon to arrive flower delivery- I was not going to tolerate this. I asked my mother in law to help me cut this vine away. This plant seemed to lunge forward a foot once it has been freed. It was like it had sprung forward once released this bondage. And this is the imagery of what happens in our lives when we prune what is not life-giving. We are able to move forward into the destiny we are created for. May we be people who are free from what binds us.
Ok so I needed time to purposely shelf this situation for 24 hours. I love this following formula that author Mark Batterson shared in one of his books (literally I can’t remember which book but some of my favs are Chasing the Wild Goose, Circle Maker, and Draw the Circle):
Change of place + change of pace = change of perspective
This is a huge reason why these retreats are so restorative. We need a change of scenery once in awhile even if we love and adore our current view. And we certainly need a change in pace because too often we are in go mode and act like there is no off switch. So I take these 24 hr retreats monthly but weekly our family practices something called Sabbath which comes from a Hebrew word that means “to rest.” We take 24 hrs (for us it is usually Friday dinner to Saturday dinner) and ditch chores/work related stuff like email etc and just chillax. We eat good food and do what restores us. For me lately that is creating this botanical “secret garden” over the grave site of our beloved fur baby that we lost the same week we shut down our church of the last 13 years. I have always loved visiting botanical gardens to my husband’s dismay. He is not the biggest fan but he is my first choice to bring with. So it makes sense that I would find so much delight in creating our own beautiful refuge.
During this retreat I needed to listen to voices that uplift me instead of the toxic/untrue words that have plagued me the last few days. So I started my retreat with lunch with my mother in law at her place since we swap places for the next 24 hrs. She left to go pick up our youngest from school. It was almost immediate- I just felt exhausted. It was like the fatigue of carrying someone’s heavy/hurtful words hit me and I needed to listen to my body and take a nap.
I slept an hour then got up to meet my sister for coffee and a walk. This plan was already in place before this impromptu retreat. I had this retreat planned for next week but I realized with everything going on that I could use the time away this week. It was restorative to walk 3 miles with her.
After that I ran a few errands that I had needed to do. It is also fun to shop without a feeling of hurry or time restraint. I found some things to create imaginative play for our youngest. I bought a pretty wooden box for my family to start putting in our treasured memories of NC before moving to CA in 3 months. I had fun wandering the garden section picking up flowers for our new garden space. I am the crazy plant lady now. I enjoy talking to them. 😉 “Oh you are so cute. You will look perfect in our space.” I was the only one there but even if not, I am confident in being a crazy plant lady. God’s creation is too cool to stay silent on it.
I got back to my mother in law’s apartment and enjoyed my vegetable soba leftovers from lunch and enjoyed some mini kitkats. I took a lava bath and used a washcloth to put over my face pretending I am flying first class. So very relaxing. How do I know about first class? 😉 Once when flying to my dad’s funeral we were bumped up to first class for free. Those heated towels are magical. Why have I not incorporated the hot towel in my daily life before?
I went to bed at my normal time and slept in for about 12 hours of sleep. These retreats are all about paying attention to what I need and doing so without feeling guilt or oughts/shoulds.
I took a hot shower to loosen up the creeky body. We once saw a comedian who joked that after 40 yrs. old you wake feeling sore like you just worked out but all you did was sleep. 😉 I had a healthy breakfast of greek yogurt with almonds. I am now trying to eat like I did when I had gestational diabetes. I have a 60% higher chance of getting full on diabetes because of the gestational diabetes. I also just want to pursue being my strongest, healthiest self and eating like this helps me not go overboard with sugar/carbs.
Next I wrote in my gratitude journal then moved onto the practice of lectio divina. And as always God encourages me right where I need it. A phrase stood out that perfectly ministered to the toxic situation I am dealing with. Normally I focus on one word/phrase but today 2 stood out. The 2nd phrase being, “Yet at the first whiff of water it sprouts”. The passage is about a tree. I just love this. I have seen this to be true in my new garden. I had planted my roses but did not water them the first few days. Their leaves began to look wilty and the flowers sad. But after a rain storm there was new leaves and the existing ones looked perky and new buds were forming. This is so true for my own life. When I water my life with what is life giving I grow and am vibrant. I also think of our youngest son and how we have watched him flourish as we have fostered him. Lord may I continue to allow myself to be watered by You and the disciplines you have taught me and may I also be a source of life giving water to others.
My time is up and I will head home to plant my new plant babies. 😉
Cost of this retreat:
- Lodging: free
- lunch/dinner: $10
- mocha: $5
Total cost: $15
soul maintenance retreat: priceless