Spring has been slow arriving in our lakeside town this year. Snow fell several times during the month of April for goodness’ sake!
When I saw a forecast predicting sunny skies and temperatures near 60 degrees a couple weekends ago, I suggested to my hubby we ‘get out of Dodge’ for a couple days and go to the Palouse region for some springtime walks and photos.
Nice neighbors volunteered to watch our little dog. I made a motel reservation, packed a picnic lunch, and we headed out of town.
During the years of our marriage—crowding in on 40 now—Ron and I have cherished times when just the two of us can get away from our mundane, never-ending responsibilities. We both enjoy road trips. We listen to music, converse about a myriad of topics, review the past and dream about the future. Oftentimes, while Ron is driving, I read a passage of Scripture from my laptop, and we have stimulating discussions. We don’t always agree, but we listen, consider one another’s perspectives and [usually] amicably agree to disagree.
During our recent getaway, we hiked a little over a mile and one-half up Kamiak Butte with an easier-going-down mile and a half return. The next day we drove to the top of Steptoe Butte. Since I truly dislike heights, this may be a ‘one and done’ drive for me! But, there was no doubt, the view from the top, gazing down on acre upon acre of rolling farmland, was spectacular. (I’m happy to be married to a guy who loves taking photos.)
When we’re away from home, Ron likes to leave early in the morning hoping to capture some good sunrise shots. I prefer spending a little additional time in bed. I appreciate the quiet and lack of pressure. I love the luxury of extra time drinking coffee, (of course), while reading, journaling and for the past year or so, in silent, contemplative prayer.
As I was doing just that a few days ago, a not-so-profound thought crossed my mind. One doesn’t need to spend lots of money and go to an ancient cave in Spain to have a meaningful spiritual retreat. I will always treasure that experience, and in fact, hope I’ll be able to have future similar spiritual adventures. But, I want to remember I don’t need to go to an exotic land to withdraw and spend time reconnecting with God.
So, what can we do to have an occasional spiritual retreat? Here are a few thoughts:
- Keep an eye on the ‘Why?” Even as my husband and I have discovered time spent away from the ordinary, focusing intentionally on one another, refreshes and rekindles our relationship, time set aside to spend exclusively with God can do the same.
- Be intentional. Schedule whatever time you’re able to carve out. Have materials you’ll want. I always have my Bible, a journal and generally an inspirational book or two.
I have a friend who lives in a particularly toxic household environment. She withdraws to her car in her employer’s parking lot right after leaving work, setting aside a few minutes to spend with God. My friend finds peace as she retreats to this spiritual oasis, which gives her strength to deal with the chaos of home.
- Create an atmosphere of as much silence as possible. Even worship music can be a distraction. I’ve found a simple kitchen timer is a great tool for setting a specific period of silence.
- Take a little time to “pray dream.” Imagine what answered prayer might look like. One of my favorite prayers is, God, please give me the gift of ideas!
- Spend time slowly and prayerfully reading a passage of Scripture. Depending on the length of time you have, this may be only a verse or two. Consider one phrase—even one word—upon which you can meditate. Jot down thoughts in your journal.
- If possible, get away. Over the years, I’ve been able to schedule a few personal retreats at different locations. My favorite (other than Spain) is St. Gertrudes’ Monastery in Cottonwood, Idaho. The setting is beautiful and feels safe. The Benedictine sisters are warm and hospitable. After two days there, my soul feels nourished and refreshed.
If you have thoughts about this topic, please pass them along.