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Planning a Summer Retreat

And just like that it is summer.  The weather has changed, kids of all ages are graduating, school is out and a new season has begun.  Many of us will plan some kind of vacation over the next couple of months.  My social media feed has already been full of friends in Hawaii and other beautiful places.  Of course, most of us will plan something closer to home.  When my girls were small, our plans were less about getting away and more about filling our days with activities to keep boredom at bay.  We typically had one camping trip each summer, but did not do much travel.  Vacation has also been a great time to accomplish do-it-yourself projects around the house, refreshing my outlook while improving everyday life as well.  In more recent years, I have been much more focused on retreat than vacation, and I wonder if that might be a good option for you too.

The difference to me is twofold.  First, a vacation is typically about a destination in which you want to see and do all that place has to offer.  Consider my friends in Hawaii who bustle about the islands seeing different parks and beaches, hiking waterfall trails, and eating their fill of local cuisine.  Or perhaps an amusement park where a thoughtful strategy and schedule will ensure you are able to see every attraction and ride every ride on your list.  These are fun and build great memories, but often wear us out physically and financially.  On the other hand, a retreat is about becoming less hurried, embracing simplicity and often even frugality.

The second difference is that, on vacation, our focus can be on any number of things: extended family, exotic locations, new adventures, etc.  A retreat, however, has a narrow focus on relationship with the Lord: understanding God more, our place in the family of God, experiencing the presence of God, and thereby also understanding ourselves more clearly.  Again, both are worthwhile and enjoyable, just with a different focus.  This year I am planning several retreat days and some vacation as well; time with family, projects around the house, a change of scenery, and critical hours alone with the Lord.

If you have not planned a retreat before, here is a peek at my schedule and checklist as I plan my own summer retreat.  

to bring along:
  • book(s) that ask or answer a question on my heart
  • passage of scripture to inspire and refocus (see below)
  • journal and art supplies for creative expression (I like paint)
  • Bible for listening to God
  • simple snacks so hunger does not become a distraction
  • eye mask and earplugs for good rest

daily routine:
  • sleep until waking naturally
  • note any dreams or initial impressions of the day
  • read scripture passage
  • breakfast
  • read book(s) and/or Bible
  • get outside (hike, birdwatch, stargaze, read in a hammock)
  • nap or daydream (permission not to be productive)
  • do something creative
  • enjoy a meal (or fast, if it is a fasting retreat)
  • repeat if possible

My inspirational passage for this trip comes from Paul's second letter to the Corinthians where he is encouraging them to take hold of what they believe and allow it to change how they live.  Specifically, Paul is talking about the unprecedented access that we have to the Spirit of God.  With all the ways I feel tugged to move and change this year, I want to press into the transformation that comes from God to become more like Jesus, one layer at a time, so that is the theme of my retreat this month.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18

When we set aside this time to know God and to learn about who God created us to be, there is always growth and change.  God loves us, and loves when we choose to spend time in this way.  I do not think you can go wrong when you set aside some retreat time with Jesus, however that looks for you and whatever you seek.  Here are a few more passages that have made for meaningful retreats over the years.  I hope one will inspire you to take a few hours or a few days alone in the presence of the Holy Spirit this summer!

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."
Mark 6:31

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.
Psalm 23:1-3

He says, "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
Psalm 46:10

I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.
Hosea 2:14

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