After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. Matthew 14:23
My three-year-old son rumbled his big rig toward me, parked in front of my toe, and opened the truck’s rear cargo doors for a delivery. He held an imaginary box between his fingers.
“Here you go, Mommy!”
“What is it?” I asked. Scrambled eggs? Teddy bear? Cup of coffee?
“It’s a vacation!”
From the mouths of babes, right? My son must have miraculous powers of intuition because, yes, mommy did need a vacation. Neatly packaged, paid for, and delivered to my feet.
When life presses in, routines drive us into a rut, relationships sputter instead of sparkle, and we’re busy but forget how to just be…we know it’s time for a vacation. A retreat. A getaway. Yet how many of us take a vacation for our spirit? A getaway with God? A retreat to restore and rest our souls?
Sometimes life presses on our spirit. Our routine morning devotions become just that. Our relationship with God sputters instead of sparkles. We’re busy doing instead of being still before Him. It’s time for a spiritual retreat.
When Jesus experienced the press and rush of ministry, He withdrew to a quiet place to rest and pray. We, too, can reap the rewards of running to God in the wilderness.
You don’t need to save your pennies for a week at a fancy retreat center or give up your summer vacation for extra time away – you can go on a retreat right in your own home. For little expense and a lot of convenience, you can get away with God without leaving your driveway. Use these 12 steps to create your own restorative spiritual retreat – right in your own home.
- Before you begin: Pray. Offer your heart, your time and your agenda to God. After all, you’ll be on this spiritual getaway together. Ask God to give you a spiritual theme to focus on, such as boundaries in relationships, forgiveness, or becoming the woman God created you to be. Just like in driving, we tend to move toward what we focus on.
- Decide if you’ll do this with a partner. Some retreats are solitary affairs and others are much more fulfilling with a like-minded partner. Decide if a solo retreat or a partnership is best for you. Iron sharpens iron and you may enjoy sharing spiritual insights, discussing study materials, and praying for each other. Choose your partner wisely, though. Your partner should be someone who is of similar spiritual maturity and whose personality is a good match for you – a too talkative, overly demanding, or withdrawn partner may leave your partnership unbalanced and unfulfilling.
- Gather your materials. If you’ve chosen a theme for your retreat, now is the time to gather books, study guides, journal, pens, and lists of Bible readings based on your topic.
You can search for Bible readings by topic at Bible Study Tools.
Here are a few ideas for books and study guides:
It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way by Lysa Terkeurst
Ecclesiastes: Wisdom For Living Well: An In-depth Bible Study by Courtney Joseph
Rest and Release: A 4-Week Bible Study by Courtney Joseph
- Set up your home retreat. A few days before you commence your retreat, start fluffing your nest. Set up a comfortable chair with pillows and a soft blanket. Place a lamp nearby for relaxing, cozy light in the evening and arrange a basket or tote bag nearby with your Bible, books, study guides, journal and pen. This is also a good time to declutter and clean your bedroom, living room or office if you’ll be using it for reading and prayer time. It’s hard to relax in a cluttered environment so kick off your retreat with a fresh space that will nurture you instead of nag you to clean.
- Practical preparation: Easy food. Free up time for your spiritual retreat by planning easy, quick meals and ordering take out on one or two evenings. Gather coffee or tea and make a hot drinks station. Stash some sweet treats and healthy snacks for recharge and just because who doesn’t want chocolate when we’re on vacation? Don’t forget to prepare easy snacks for your kids so you won’t be pulled away as much when your kids moan “Mom, I’m huuuuuuungry…” for the 17,000th time that day.
- Plan a kickoff event. Big-name retreats and conferences have kickoff events for a reason, and you should, too. A kickoff event sets your focus and encourages mindfulness so your retreat moves forward with purpose. Your event doesn’t need to be complicated: a special lunch at a favorite restaurant as you read your Bible and pray; a picnic at the park; a Christian movie night with popcorn. Regardless of what you do, begin and end with prayer. Connection, communion, and collaboration with your Father is the purpose and path of your spiritual retreat.
- Involve your family. Since you’ll be “vacationing” at home, let your spouse and children in on the action. When you’re sitting around the dinner table, talk about what you’ve learned that day. Consider centering your family devotions around the theme you’ve chosen for your retreat. Encourage your family to pray for you during your retreat, but also remind them to respect your quiet time. You could make a cute sign to hang on your bedroom/office door that kindly lets curious kids know that you’re spending time with the Lord. Recruit your spouse to corral the little ones. Then set a time when you’ll finish quiet time and rejoin your family.
- Limit social media and tv. The point of a retreat is to…retreat. Get away. Withdraw and rest. The bombardment of social media and tv can break your focus and jumble your mind with conflicting messages. Retreat is a time to quiet those messages and center your heart on God.
- Do a craft. Craft time was my favorite part of Vacation Bible School when I was a kid. Recapture the feeling with a theme-appropriate craft. Creativity opens your mind to think in new ways and helps you approach your retreat theme from a fresh perspective.
- Get outdoors. Balance quiet, meditative work with physical activity. Take a walk around a lake, hike a trail, rent a paddle boat and cruise around, enjoy a yoga class or cycle shady paths through a park. Being in the midst of God’s creation reminds of us His awesome power and nurturing touch and encourages us to get outside of ourselves – life beyond the routines of life. And exercise stimulates your brain and releases feel-good endorphins, allowing your mind to explore everything that you’re learning and growing into during your retreat. Talk to God as you move. The informality of an outdoor setting can make prayer less intimidating and more personal, like chatting with a friend. Bring a small notebook or use a recording/notes app on your phone to jot down thoughts and ideas – you’ll get ideas when you’re physically busy, I promise.
- Schedule break times. Not every minute of the day needs a scheduled activity. Plan for breaks to rest, sit and do nothing, flip through a magazine or convene with your retreat partner. Your mind needs time to process what you’ve been learning. So just be.
- Close your spiritual retreat with a meaningful event. Just like you kicked off your retreat to sharpen your focus on the retreat ahead, now you’ll close your retreat to reflect on the journey behind. Closing with an event that allows you to review and reflect on your spiritual growth with gratitude. Enjoy a candlelit meal with your family and discuss your retreat. Write a letter to God listing everything you’re grateful for from the retreat. Prepare a small communion service with your retreat partner. Bake or buy a cake and light a candle for each attribute of God that touched your during the retreat. Then pray and thank God for His grace and compassion toward you.
If life is hitting you hard right now, don’t hit back: retreat. Draw back to the comfort and rest of time with the Lord. Withdrawing from the fight is smart courage because we’re not running away from life – we’re running toward the One who gives it.
Have you tried a spiritual retreat at home? Let us know how it went by leaving a comment below.