5 Tips for an Effective Personal Retreat

For several years, I was privileged to take time away to read, journal, reflect, and plan.  This time has proven to be invaluable to me and I make sure to plan it early and as often as necessary.

When I was younger, I captured this time during naps (the kids, not mine), before school got out, and an occasional day when grandma was spoiling our children.  Working shifts at the hospital allowed me some flexibility in finding this time on a somewhat regular basis.  As time went on, I used quiet times during women’s retreats and intentional DAWG days (Day Alone With God). Now that my nest is empty, my wonderful husband allows me to take an entire week by myself at least annually.

Whether I had a couple of hours or an entire week, I have learned some secrets for making this time productive.

  1. Get away someplace neutral or special.  When I stayed home, it was too tempting to catch up on laundry, suddenly become consumed with cleaning grout, or take a nap.  Other possibilities include a park, library, or church.  I have gone to a coffee shop which automatically includes my love of coffee.  If your finances and schedule permits, hotels or retreat centers are possible locations.  My favorite locations involve trees and quiet, peaceful nature views…especially in the fall.
  2. Don’t forget your bible.  Depending upon where you  get alone with God, your own Bible is a must.  I have forgotten and used a Gideon bible or borrowed one.  But I like to write notes in the margin and underline passages so I need my own.
  3. Remember your Journal or a blank notebook and pen.  For this time to be fruitful, I have found it essential to journal prayers, comment on verses God has led me to read and meditate on, and write goals or plans that God impresses upon my heart.  Over the years, I have gained much insight from rereading these dated entries.  I have been able to see where God was clearly leading and laugh at some that were clearly my wishful thinking (or lack of coffee).
  4. Mix it up.  Engage God in a variety of means to enhance your ability to listen.  Avoid limiting your time to one activity unless God guides you to do so.  I have used worship music, reading scripture, meditating on passages or studying a particular topic in a number of verses (grace, love, etc.), prayer (silent, spoken, written).  journaling, art, silence, observing nature, taking walks…the list is endless.  I have also benefited from readings from a Christian classic or devotional book.
  5. DO NOT TAKE EXTRA PROJECTS.  I have lost a lot of valuable time over the years catching up on things that didn’t enhance my God-time.  These can, and should, be scheduled into your calendar but not overlap intentional time alone with your Lord and Savior.  This is especially important if your time is limited to a few hours or so.

BONUS TIP.  If you are taking a longer time away, be sure to plan some down time for leisure or fun activities.  For example, swimming or reading quality fiction can be relaxing.  However, you must be diligent to guard your schedule or they will consume your time.

As I write this, I am ending my annual fall getaway.  My journal is filled with my hopes, dreams, confessions, and God’s encouragement to me.  I have laughed, cried, repented, worshiped, and am leaving with more peace than I had when I arrived.  I was reminded that no experience is wasted…even my failures and blunders can be redeemed.  God’s grace and mercy overwhelmed me and I was reminded how much God loves me as the unique and quirky individual that resulted from nature and nurture.

Having reconnected and reaffirmed my relationship with God, I am ready to re-enter my everyday world more equipped for ministry.  And isn’t that the point of time spent with our Savior?

2 thoughts on “5 Tips for an Effective Personal Retreat

  1. I just realized that I need this quiet time also. I never knew it was permissable to do so until just recently. I always wanted to get all my chores done first and then spend the DAWG time, like a treat for myself. Never happened. When I use the DAWG time first the chores finish more quickly.

    • It is a lesson that many women have learned the hard way. God always rewards the time we give to Him, and greater productivity is proof positive of one benefit. Thanks for sharing.

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