August’s Monthly Retreat

This is from last August, almost 9 months ago.

Long exhale… I am finally away for my monthly silence/solitude retreat for 24 hours.  I missed June and July’s retreat due to packing/moving/unpacking and our fam getting Covid once we moved back home to California.  So to say I am overdue for this time away is an understatement.

This is my first AirBnB experience for these retreats. Most the time I swap spaces with my mother-in-law and I use her 1 bedroom apartment for my reprieve.  A few times I drove out to a local retreat center and rented a small hermitage and also a few times rented a room at a Catholic retreat center/former convent.  For me these times need to have access to the outdoors, a place for me to walk and also just sit in creation.

I ended up going the AirBnB route because I was striking out finding a local retreat center that was able to accomodate me for 1 night. My hubby suggested I could try a hotel but a hotel does not feel private enough for me and does not often have the nearby outdoor spaces I long for.  

I found this AirBnB that advertised glamping in a storage container turned tiny house with mountain views on 30 acres.  This place was only 25 minutes from the city where I grew up and I had NO IDEA the epic beauty of Banning, California.  Once I got off the freeway and drive a couple miles I was up in the hills which then opened up to this surreal landscape.  There was mountains everywhere I looked.  It felt like wide open country you’d see in a western movie.  I wanted to drive slowly as I traveled through these hills to take it all in. I arrived at a driveway with an iconic looking Ponderosa ranch entrance.  I opened the gate and there was this storage container set back off the property.  On 2 sides of it there is a lovely deck as well as a stone patio with welcoming chairs and pillows.  

What a brilliant use of land and materials!!! I hope more people share their peaceful retreats and create these treasures for others to experience.  I also hope tiny house living grows like crazy because it is such a better way to live then drowning under a mortage and being “house poor.”  I also like this simplified life because it creates the space and margin in a budget to explore as a family and it also keeps first things first.  Smaller spaces limit the amount of stuff we own and more time is spent together because there is less distractions to keep us in our own worlds.  These metal containers are also fabulous for the dry, fire prone areas of California. I am inspired and intrigued with this AirBnB.  

Before bringing my stuff in I know like to check for bed bugs since I have known friends who brought home bed bugs from even the nicest establishments.  The place was immaculate and zero signs of the unwelcome bed guests. 

I pulled a chair into the shade of a nearby ecalyptus tree and sat there for the first 1.5 hours staring at the insane mountain views.  It was delight to see the various colors of the mountains, brilliant white puffy clouds and to watch the shade shift on the mountains from the clouds.  As my eyelids felt heavy I would close them while enjoying the continual breeze.  You would have never guessed it was 91 degrees.  Spending the last 14 years in North Carolina, there is no such thing as enjoying 91 degrees because when it gets that hot, it is also so very humid and the outdoors are no longer a joy.  I have definitlely missed the dry heat of Southern California.  And when I would feel too warm, I’d walk around to the back and duck my head under the outdoor shower for instant relief.  

Sometimes there would be a few seconds of hushed stillness as the wind paused and the only things I could hear was a distant cow or a few birds.  

I always love to bring some fav foods when I get away for these times. So naturally mid-afternoon is a fabulous time for caramel cone ice cream. I bring the ice cream out with me on the deck.  

Already so many words fill my brain about this place so next I go inside, open both sliding glass doors and enjoy the refreshing breeze as I sit at the bar height table and write.  These retreats are meant to restore me so I pay attention to what my heart and body need.  I have discovered that writing is a standard staple on these retreat menus.  It probably has only been in the last 10-15 years that I have found out that writing is so very cathartic for me.  I think it first started when my hubby one Valentines created my blog for me.  He did this after I joked with him that I blog all the time, but in my head. ;).  He is my techie guru as I am the epitome of those Progressive Insurance “Becoming Your Parents” commercials. He has always believed I have something to say and that I encourage others with my words.  

My blog has never had more than a couple dozen followers but to me that did not matter.  Writing was a gift to my heart.  It was a way I was able to express my heart.  I have always felt that I would just write and if it blessed others as it blessed myself then that was a bonus. My thought was that I would keep showing up and writing and if it grew in readership and influence then that was meant to be.  I also find great value in documenting life for my kids and future generations.  My writing whether it be on my blog or social media (which I ditched a couple years ago for peace and quiet) is a window to my soul.  

I pause my writing for dinner. I am absolutely smitten by this place as I sit at the quaint bar height table, eat my Panera brocoli cheese soup with both sliding doors open letting in a glorious breeze.   After dinner I head back outside for more sitting and staring at this view.  The shade is gone on the deck so I carry my light plastic andorondeck chair to the back of the house where the outdoor shower is.  I find plenty of shade there. I enjoy journaling some dreams for the future.  I also journal my lectio divina time using the Hallow app.  The part of scripture that stands out to me is a passage in Luke.  “Jesus took Peter, John, and James  and went up a mountain to pray… while he was praying his face changed in appearances and his clothing became dazzling white.”  I write in my journal, “Lord this relates to me now. I love how you have taken me here. The views of the mountains are miraculous. I feel I am changed when in God’s creation.  I feel it is soooo good for my prayer time. I think these views change me. I think being in your creation helps us to reflect Your dazzling nature. ”  

Today I have litearlly taken hours to just sit, be quiet and stare.  I realize I love places like this because 

  • it invites me heart to rest
  • it invites my heart to stand in awe and wonder
  • it invites my heart to dream
  • it invites my heart to ponder what is most important to me
  • it invites my heart to slow down and heal from the busy, the frustrations, the disappointments, the distractions …
  • it invites my heart to unplug and be present to the beauty around me

It is places like this that I realize all the beauty I miss out on regularly.  At home I would never sit outdoors for hours.  I would feel like I could not afford that.  I would feel like I ought to be doing something like folding laudry, unpacking boxes or a billion other tasks.  Some days I feel victorious if I just took 5 minutes to sit outside and be quiet and still.  I can think back to seasons when I took 5-20 minutes every few hours to rest in God’s love outdoors. I think of those seasons with fondness because I remember the peace that I cultivated in my heart.  I was more present to God and thus more present to those he has blessed my life with.  Our lives are not set up to be contemplative and peace-filled. Instead of cultivating this peace we fill our lives with distractions, numbing images and noise. That discipline of retreating and sitting in His presence was born out of desperation and paralyzing anxiety. I would sit under the pines as I noticed I was starting to feel the anxiety/overwhelm in my limbs. It was born out of trial but like most beneficial things in life – it was a treasure I unearthed due to the struggle.

I love places like this because I experience the enormity of God more easily.  I am filled with gratitude when almost everywhere I look I see untamed nature. The sprawling hills and big sky demand quiet attention far more than a parking lot lined with shopping outlets. I am reminded of one of my favorite verses. “…We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand – out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.” (Romans 5:2) 


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