Planning a Personal Retreat

A final thought related to my recent “Surprise me, God” retreat

Be still, and know that I am God…Psalm 46:10

     My personality is more extroverted than introverted. I enjoy being around people. I’m energized by interpersonal interactions—especially when they include rich, meaningful conversations. But, sometimes

     like Greta Garbo said in the 1930’s movie, Grand Hotel, “I just want to be alone!”

          I crave solitude.

               I long for stillness.


Like this enchanting heron, there are times when I “just want to be alone!”


     My life is full of activity. I appreciate the work God has given me to do, and I relish opportunities to produce and serve. sometimes my work starts to feel burdensome, and I agree with Brother Lawrence, a 17th Century monk, who said, “Let us think often that our only business in this life is to please God.”[1]

     Naturally, there are many ways in which we can make our primary “business” the determination to first and foremost please God. Taking a full-blown personal spiritual retreat is only one. A Google search on personal retreats reveals numerous resources, suggestions and techniques, providing more expert suggestions than I can give. This post is my limited, non-expert perspective.

     My decision to take a personal retreat begins with restlessness in my soul. Some interior nudge suggests it’s time to get away and make God my “only business.” Sue Monk Kidd says, “Making space for God in our lives means entering special places that put us in touch with God’s love. It is deliberately returning to the center, that inner sanctuary where our life and God’s touch.”[2]

     God’s life touching the “inner sanctuary” of my life is one I desire deeply at times.

     A personal spiritual retreat reminds me of road trips I love taking with only my husband. We listen to music, often singing along with a familiar Beatles’ song, one of Garth Brooks’ catchy tunes or a favorite old hymn. (Our musical selections are quite eclectic!)

     Often, I read aloud from the Bible or a book, and we enjoy stimulating conversations at the end of a chapter. Because our relationship is filled with love and trust, we discuss not only practical plans for the future but also share longings, hopes and dreams.

     Sometimes, the motion of the car makes me feel drowsy. I lean the seat back and take a short, refreshing snooze. We may hold hands for a few minutes or reach out with a reassuring pat. When we’re hungry, we stop and get something to eat. We chat with the waitress, but our interaction is brief so we can return to the car for the purpose of heading to our intended destination.

     I’m quite content to let Ron be in control of the driving.

     These getaways strengthen our relationship and create memorable intimate moments.

     When I take a personal spiritual retreat, I want to be with God alone. I may listen to praise and worship music. I may sit quietly, enjoying the sound of silence or I may take a walk and listen to the sounds of nature—birds singing, crickets chirping, a squirrel scampering up a tree, leaves rustling in the wind.

     I always spend time reading my Bible and perhaps one other inspirational book. I never go without a journal. It is there I discuss with God practical plans for the future, share longings, hopes and dreams.

     A place deep in my spirit feels a heavenly touch. I know God holds my hand, leads me and loves me infinitely more than even my husband, whose love is limited by his humanity.

     Sometimes, the relaxed environment makes me feel sleepy, and I take a ‘holy’ nap. I may check e-mail, call home or visit with others at mealtimes, but I keep those interruptions brief in order to return to the intended purpose.

     Even though I’m rather task oriented and prone to take control, during my personal retreat time, I feel quite content to let God be in control.

     The result is building Divine relationship and enjoying sweet spiritual intimacy.

     Each retreat I’ve taken has been special in some way. My recent retreat at the Monastery of St. Gertrude was special in every way.


     Perhaps I needed to get away from the hubbub of everyday life and acquire a fresh perspective.

     Perhaps I was primed for a spiritual point of convergence. At such times, I know my human spirit intersects with God’s Spirit. I don’t doubt my encounter with the Divine. These occasions are sacred, possibly life altering.

     Perhaps—and this is the ‘perhaps’ I feel is most likely—it’s because the environment at St. Gertrude’s is permeated with prayer.

     The Monastery of St. Gertrude is part of the Benedictine Order, a monastic tradition that stresses community life with common prayer, reading and work. Their motto is:

Prayer Awakens

Justice Impels

Compassion Acts

     Each day, times are scheduled for community prayer. I was invited to join them, which I did a couple times. Their prayer tradition and style was different, but I loved joining the sisters. Each time they made petitions for retreatants. Wow! Their prayers included me. I’m convinced prayer made the difference between a “retreat special in some ways” and a “retreat special in every way.”

     There are some other practical reasons I appreciated the environment for my latest retreat, which you may want to consider if taking a personal retreat is an idea that resonates with you:

  • It felt safe and secure.
  • The facilities, while simple, were maintained beautifully and were clean and comfortable with abundant homey touches.
  • My room had a private bathroom with a deep soaking tub. (Next time, I’ll be sure to pack some nice smelling Epson salts.)
  • The meals were wholesome and delicious.
  • The coffee was good and plentiful throughout the Spirit Center.
  • It was very quiet. There were no televisions, but there was an amazing, well-stocked library.
  • I was invited, but not pressured, to participate in community prayer times and mass. Unlike most Catholic churches, I was assured by the sisters I was welcome to partake in communion.

Whether you’re able to get away or merely carve out a dedicated block of time for your own personal retreat, my prayer for you today is that you will discover that inner sanctuary when your life and God’s touch!

Blessings on the journey……

Sue Reeve






  1. Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God.
  2. Sue Monk Kidd, God’s Joyful Surprise, p. 162

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