Retreats are my jam. Here’s why. Recently I stole away for 3 days to a little retreat center just 30 minutes from my house with writers from Five Minute Friday. Our aim was to do three things: rejuvenate our souls, make in-person connections with online friends, and invigorate our writing lives with more Jesus.
Getting away for that long is a sacrifice. Days before the gathering, one retreat member asked us to pray. Plan A for childcare had fallen through. There were day-long plane trips and sweaty arrivals (thank you, 100 degree outdoor sauna!) The pre-prep hustle is actual, but a retreat from the real world is essential.Tweet This
Some of arrived struggling with major transitions: moves, job changes, and life choices. Some of us were exhausted and stuck. A few of us needed God to help us to trust ourselves, Him, and other people. I desired to step into the unknown of sharing my story in creative ways. I also felt the push to listen more than I talked.
We talked and wrote, sang and napped, learned from each other’s experiences and ate chocolate. Most importantly, we were ourselves. Maybe it was the anticipation of an inspiring experience or because we already knew each other as virtual blogging acquaintances, but we felt safe. We were comfortable enough to show our scared, excited, over-achieving, under-achieving, amped up, and slightly task-addicted hearts. In this space of honest longing for connection, our caring, goofy, adventurous, shy, and lovely selves shown through.
It was beautiful, my friends.
That’s what retreating does: away from the busy world beckoning us to do it all and be everything to everyone, we have freedom to wipe off the makeup of self-protection and be our true selves.
Shutting out the world is such a healthy practice. Sometimes we need to think a whole uninterrupted thought for more than two minutes! It’s also good to stop trying so hard to be understood and listen attentively. I always fight this in myself: the urge to talk to everyone (extrovert) versus my introspective listening self which loves to observe and take it all in. I did both. Not overthinking it was bliss. I was simply me. I said what I thought and felt in the moment, and it was good.
From this rooted place, I was able to serve, listen, and receive. Beautiful conversations bloomed. My roommate and I encouraged one another with deep, honest struggles of faith and family. Over pizza at my favorite restaurant, a fellow poet and I shared how we fight and fail to be intentional in our communities. The last night a few of us sat in a gazebo and watched a lightning storm. I love what my new friend Alice William wrote on her Instagram,
“…We watched the heavens declare
The magnificent handiwork of God
One spark here. One spark there
The lightning filled the sky
And left a fragment of it’s spark in our hearts
The heavens declared the glory of God
And under the gazebo
Our hearts ignited with love for Him
And for each other….”
We all came needing something: a place to be heard, a passion reignited, or renewed trust in fellow sisters. We opened ourselves wide to one another. Lightning hit ground all around us, metaphorically and physically, catching fire to a remembrance burning in our bones: we are women with One Voice.
The retreat attendee with childcare issues? As a group, we prayed. She found a sitter and came. Next to me, she snapped photos of the lightning too. Before she drove home across Kansas, she asked me to pray for calm skies. Later she texted, “I am about 90 minutes from home. And definitely looking forward to a quiet morning tomorrow…P.S. The drive has been storm free!” I imagine her sitting the next morning, retreating in the quiet of her home to pray, just a few moments before the kid chaos ensues. She gets up from her seat with Strength and Peace, her true self.
This too is my story, and retreats are my jam.