I love my family. And I love spending time with them. Really. I do.
But recently, I had the opportunity to spend a weekend by myself … 100% alone time in a different city for three whole days.
I looked forward to my quiet weekend alone for weeks. It happened to fall just before I was launching a major new product. I had a lot of work to be done. Little did I know the work that God would do in me.
While I expected to be head down all weekend working, writing and creating, God began to shape a plan quite different. Oh yes, I worked, wrote and created. But there was so much more in store for me as God worked, wrote and created something new in me.
My weekend occurred in a city away from my home where I had access to a one-bedroom apartment. I had only two outside commitments all weekend … a speaking engagement Friday morning and brunch with a former co-worker on Saturday morning. Other than that, I was completely alone all weekend.
Here are ten things I learned during my personal retreat that may help you have a refreshing, re-setting time of your own.
Have a plan … but not too much of one. If your goal is just total relaxation, then maybe you don’t need a real plan. But if you have several things you want to accomplish, think about how many hours you want to spend on each one and when during the weekend you will do it. Don’t plan down to the minute, but have a basic structure to follow.
Do a good supply run at the beginning. Go to the grocery before you start to get whatever you will need during the weekend. Having to stop in the middle to pick up extra diet cokes breaks the flow of your retreat.
Make room for work, rest and play. For work, I did plenty of writing and creating. For rest, I had brunch with a friend and spend time in God’s Word. For play, I watched my favorite NFL team win a playoff game. Work, rest and play look different for everyone, but make room from all of them for maximum refreshment during your retreat.
Put some variety in each day. If you have several big things to do, it might be tempting to “batch” them and work on one til you are finished, then do another on the next day. I generally work better when I can do part of something, step away from it for awhile, then come back to it. I changed activities every couple of hours and never got bored!
Plan a reward for the end. On my supply run to the grocery, a sweet smelling bath bomb caught my eye. It came in a pretty mesh ribbon with bow. I’m not usually a bath bomb girl, but for some reason, this one was calling out to me! I put it on the bathroom counter and planned to end my retreat with a soak in the tub. Every time I walked through the bathroom and saw it sitting there, I smiled. And ending the retreat on a relaxing note instead of a working one just felt right. I slept better than i have in weeks!
Eat healthy and cook your own meals. Not only is this a time and money saver (vs. going out to eat), but I never had that foggy feeling after a heavy meal, or the sugar high and crash. Food was fuel instead of entertainment and that helped me focus.
Use some separate “spaces”. My little apartment is small, but it has four separate spaces … the dining table, the living room, the bedroom and a sunny balcony. Plus I also spent some time sitting at a table by the pool. You may want to go out to a coffee shop or library to break up your view, but staying in and rotating seats felt good to my introverted soul.
Reach out to others with meaningful thoughts. I stayed in touch with my family throughout the weekend, just to let them know I was thinking of them. My husband gave me a lounge chair for the balcony for Christmas and I made sure to let him know how much I was using and enjoying it. Even when we are disconnecting, it’s good to keep connected to the ones closest to our hearts.
Clean as you go. I did the dishes and tidied up after each meal so I didn’t have a big pile to do at the end. A small space always feels bigger when it is not cluttered and messy.
Be okay if God wrecks your plans. Oh boy did He wreck my plans! I planned to start reading Made Like Martha by Katie Reid … a chapter every morning as part of my quiet time. But it only took the first chapter to realize this book was part of God’s plan for this weekend. I ended up reading two or three chapters each day in separate sittings. Katie’s words for this doer were both encouraging and challenging. Thoughts of living a beloved daughter reality instead of a hired-help mentality rattled around in my soul all weekend. Because of the extra time I spent reading, journaling and pondering this book, there were several things left on my to-do list at the end of the weekend. But that’s okay. My plans are not God’s plans. His ways are not my ways. It was good.
My personal retreat weekend was just what I needed to kick off a new year. It’s tempting to think I need to do this once a month or every other month. I think if I did it that often, it would lose the magic. But an annual weekend away to work, pray, dream and rest? Yes, please.
Have you taken a personal retreat? Share any other ways that your retreat refreshed your spirit.