A personal retreat day is a day where the main focus is rest — for the emotions, mind, body, heart, and soul. Schedules are set aside and work is meant to cease. I planned a 24-hour retreat day for personal-spiritual-wilderness retreat activities.
what is a retreat day?
Hey, you! Yes, you, reader of this blog. Have you taken a retreat day? If not, have you heard of the concept or thought about taking one? In January I took my first retreat day, and it was amazing. If you’re feeling energetic, you can read about it here. If you were feeling it and didn’t click the link, well, you can’t escape because I am going to add a summary now. A personal retreat day is a day where the main focus is rest — for the emotions, mind, body, heart, and soul. Schedules are set aside, meetings are canceled, and work is meant to cease. Essentially it’s spending a day retreating for the good of your heart and soul.
Skip to the bottom of this post to see my Q & A about a 24-hour retreat!
how i learned about retreat days
I first heard about personal retreat days from the Campus Christian Fellowship (CCF) Staff. The CCF Staff describe them as a monthly sabbath, a day called to “remember it and keep it holy,” with the idea that you will do all your work for 29 days and then on the 30th day you will rest. Derrick Rohr of CCF explains it as “a way of establishing a rhythm of life and work that does not just naturally devolve into ‘everything all of the time’… and it helps keep us human, and attentive to the divine.” He goes on to say that “it’s a chance to catch our breath, to take a step back and see what our lives are like. It’s an opportunity to recenter and reorient, to listen, to delight.” The purpose of these days are necessary.
why i need retreat days
After realizing how much I needed a day of retreating in my life, I drove to a small town in Iowa where I spent most of the day in a coffee shop reading, writing, listening to podcasts, and resting. I also walked around a park and ate good food. I didn’t have a plan going into it but the goal was a day where the main focus was rest — for the emotions, mind, body, heart, and soul.
Are you intrigued? Don’t you want to figure out a way to get one in your life? If you’re not yet convinced that taking a day to personally retreat is a good idea, please keep reading with an open mind.
make retreating your own
After that January day, I was sold on the idea that everyone needs to prioritize retreating for at least one day. But please don’t be intimated by someone’s idea of retreating; it can be whatever you want and need it to be. I promise it will be good. And if it’s not good, I urge you to try retreating again. And if you still don’t like it, send your retreat day my way and I’ll use it up, please and thank you.
my first 24-hour retreat
Anyway, after realizing personally retreating is a good gift, I wanted to kick it up a notch. Fast forward to this summer where one thing on my “goals for summer” list was to take a 24-hour retreat. We’re talking pack a bag and head out without any plans to spend 24 hours in personal-spiritual-wilderness retreat fashion. I’ll be honest with you all, my soul needed some of the good stuff. My soul needed the wilderness, trees, sunshine, and fresh air. My mind needed the opportunity to read, pray, focus, and think. My body needed to rest, eat, breathe, and be still. My heart needed all of the peace, love, and joy. I needed to be.
how i planned for my retreat
Knowing this, I chose a day on a summer weekend and protected that day with all my might. No plans with other people, no traveling away, and no abandoning the mission. I started to get nervous… How would the extrovert in me be able to spend 24 hours without talking to anyone? How would the part of me that needs to be checking things off lists and accomplishing tasks be able to “take off” for 24 hours? It was uncomfortable, it was different, and it was intimidating. However as it got closer, I was honestly so excited. I sensed the state of my soul and knew the time away was exactly what I needed. I didn’t know exactly what I needed, but I knew that “retreating to be” made me feel hyped. I was thrilled to try new things and ready to be with the good stuff. So I prepared, packed my bag and headed out.
WHAT MY RETREAT CONSISTED OF:
- Opening with prayer. My opening prayer: “Lord, here I am. I am here. I am here to be. I am here to be still. I am here to sit in Your presence. I am here to focus. I am here to rest. I am here to ask You to fill my heart, mind, body, and soul with You and the fruits of the spirit – that I may be filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. I am here. Lord, please use this 24 hours. I ask this time may be whatever it needs to be. Please let my heart and mind slow down and let my eyes see the beauty of Your creation. Teach me. Fill me. Be with me. Amen.”
- Thoughts during prayer: 24 HOUR RETREAT, YAY. I’m so excited! Let’s do this! But on a serious note, because I am usually a serious person, my heart, soul, mind, and body long for rest, stillness, and to be filled and focused. I can feel it. I don’t have a plan, but I hope these upcoming hours would be whatever they need to be.
- Breakfast on a blanket. Other than prayer, my first retreat activity was eating breakfast on my blanket (and by the lake!) The sun was still making its way up into the sky, the clouds were rolling along, and the breeze was shaking all of the trees. I ate my pre-made waffles (topped with greek yogurt, berries, and almond butter), drank my many ounces of coffee, and soaked up the summer morning. The weather was out of character for July, but no complaints here because the breeze and clouds resulted for temperatures in the 70s, so I got to wear shorts and a sweatshirt, which is my favorite outfit that exists.
- Thoughts during meal: How can I make eating on a blanket (tables are overrated) something Alan and I do regularly? Is it too much to pack meals and eat them by the lake once a week? Would he wake up to eat waffles on a blanket before work? Ehh… but maybe dinner after work or lunch on a weekend? I’m not picky!
- Hiking. If a hiking trail is nearby, I will beg the people around me to come tromp along. “It can be a short hike! Or a long hike! Whatever you want, but let’s go!” I can already hear myself begging. But for the sake of retreating, this hiking was done solo. It was the kind of hike I haven’t been on in a long time – solo, leisure, and unplanned. My legs were hurting from a run (I’m still battling with injuries) so I kept it short, sweet, and a little bit sweaty.
- Thoughts during hike: I love the trees. I love the sunshine. I love the wilderness. I love the trails. I love the lake. I love the way the lake reflects the sun by those rocks. I love the way the sun peeks through the trees. I don’t like how that spider web tasks in my mouth. Are you kidding me, how is this spider web sticking to me? And how do spiders build their webs so freaking fast? If I moved as fast as spiders could build their webs, I could get so much done. I sure love hiking….. Anyway, I will spare you from the rambling mess that would be all of my thoughts during my hiking time. But jokes on you because you’re reading about life in Jordo’s World, which is essentially a bunch of rambling thoughts anyway.
- Lunch at a picnic table. I know I just said that tables were overrated, but what I really meant was eating indoors is overrated because eating at a picnic table was just as enjoyable as eating on a blanket, and the common theme between my two meals is that I was outside in the sunshine. Just me, my Tupperware, and I. I brought a cooler of meal-prepped things so lunch was already made and consisted of spinach with veggies, avocado, egg, and a banana (the banana was separate).
- Thoughts during meal: There’s something special about eating a meal and only eating a meal. So often my “time to eat meals” are shared with working in my office, responding to emails, researching something, or looking through the mail. There’s so much multi-tasking! While I think some multi-tasking is good (sharing meals with people I love and talking about the real stuff), I think there’s something holy about only focusing on my meal and fully breathing, chewing, and enjoying.” That probably sounds nuts, but if you’re a “eat and do many other things at the same time” kind of person like me, try this sometime.
- Reading in a hammock. I packed five books to read. Who am I? Did I really think I was going to be able to read FIVE books in 24 hours? I am not a wizard reader like my husband, who studies English and has read a million books this year! However I did make some hefty progress on a book written by Jen Hatmaker.
- Thoughts during reading: I love reading! Why don’t I read more? I must read more during the week. Not those academic books I have to read for school, but the good stuff. The stuff I like. The books by Jen Hatmaker, Shauna Niequish, Erin Loechener, Brene Brown, and all those other woman writers I love. Okay, new goal, start reading more before bed.
- Napping in a hammock. Really, reading and napping just switched back and forth all afternoon. I kept closing my eyes, reading a couple of pages, and then closing them again. I’m not sure if I ever actually fell asleep, but I am still going to call this napping because that is what it felt like.
- Thoughts during napping: I’m not sure how long I’ve been out. Was I even sleeping? Wow it feels like hours have gone by. This is so good. Is this what it would feel like to nap during the day? What if I could nap in my office? I work in a nook so surely I could just hide underneath my desk and nobody would know…
- Snacking in my hammock. At this point you’re probably wondering how long I spent in my hammock, and I can answer that with “many hours of the afternoon.” After reading and napping, I woke up hungry (you know, from all the energy it took to read and nap), so I followed up with the snacks. I know myself and packed options because I never know what I’ll be wanting. And it’s a good thing I packed many, because I ate them all.
- Snacks included: a peanut butter rxbar, apple, pretzels, and dark chocolate espresso beans. Also, I tried kombucha for the first time! (I’ve been wanting to try it for a while, and I saw it in the little clearance section at Aldi, and I couldn’t resist because it was on sale… and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try it) Anyway, what did I think? Let’s just leave it at I forsee the trend of “using every dollar of the food and drinks budget” trend continuing into the future.
- Talking to myself. Y’all. I am an extrovert. I’ve known this my whole life. I am always talking. Thank you to my people for letting me verbally process to them, for I am better able to answer questions, share my thoughts and know how I feel when I can actually say things out loud. BUT, what I learned is that I actually still say my thoughts out loud, even when I’m alone! I sing, I ask question, and I crack jokes. I mean it’s not everything (I’m not that crazy!) but if you hear me and I’m by myself so you think I’m talking to you, I might not be.
- Thoughts about this: Geez, I’m weird. I’m really thankful people know this and love me anyway.
- Making a fire. Of course I made a fire. Because are you really camping if you don’t make a fire? Maybe let’s use the term “baby flames” instead of fire because I brought with me one single log. I thought one log would be the perfect amount of time and would probably last around 2 hours. However, as soon as I got the single log lit I realized what a mistake I had made. One log!? It looked so pathetic just sitting there by itself. I searched around and quickly added more logs which then resulted in an actual fire. Also, who said there’s a specific time to make a fire? I made mine around 6 p.m. because I was too antsy to wait until dark. I propped open my camp chair, put on the logs, and watched those flames burn until darkness surrounded me.
- Thoughts during making a fire: Wow making a fire is so easy when you have a lighter and dry camp. I remember as a wilderness guide when I had to make fires with little matches, wed sticks, and no newspaper…. Also I love it how you can make a fire in the day and then the sun sets and your fire is the only thing making light. How cool. Also, these flames are really making me smell like smoke.
- Dinner in my camp chair. Similar to breakfast and lunch, dinner was also enjoyed in the great outdoors. The contents were similar to lunch except for it was veggies, chicken, avocado, and all topped with sriracha mayo (another Aldi sale find). Plus a side of greek yogurt.
- Thoughts during dinner: I love this combination of foods. I could eat it every day. Ha! I do eat it every day, at least once. Yum city: population me.
- Listening to podcasts. While I sat by the campfire, I listened to some podcasts. I recently discovered Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations and am slightly obsessed. I listened to an episode with Father Richard Rohr titled, “Finding Your True Self.” Listening to a contemporary theologian talk about how we can reconnect to our true self by overcoming the many ways our ego blocks our path seemed like a promising conversation to listen to while looking into a fire. Father Richard talked about how silence and meditation, deeper spiritual intuition and inherent experience of love can lead to transportation discoveries within oneself.
- Thoughts during the podcast: FATHER RICHARD IS RIGHT! I agree with him! I believe I could learn so much more about myself and the Lord if I did this “spending time in silence and mediation” thing more regularly. Dang. I want to try my best to grow into my fuller self. I want to help Alan grow into his fuller self! I hope as a unit we are able to always be growing, learning, encouraging, and loving together. Take it from my little 24-hour retreat that intentionally retreating can lead to discoveries within oneself.
- Sleeping in my hammock. That’s right, back to the hammock. I get some of my best sleeps when I’m in my hammock. There’s just something about being all snuggled up in my sleeping bag, hearing the animals, and looking at the stars. Even though in this particular instance I did not sleep super great because I woke up a couple of times, it was still so dreamy. It’s one of my favorite things in the entire world!
- Thoughts while in my hammock: Do I really have to pee? Can I hold it until morning? Oh, it’s only 1 a.m. yeah there’s no way I can hold it. DANGIT. Okay, Jordo. You can do this – it’s only getting up in the woods at night by yourself. Unzip your sleeping bag, hop out with grace, and just pee right like two steps away. There won’t be any raccoons or night animals around. No way, they’re so far from you probably. Just don’t look around. Just pee and hop back up and set a new record. Then, you can zip up your sleeping bag, lay down again, and remember that all is well and you’re safe once you’re cocooned 3 feet above the ground.
- Walking and watching the sunrise. I’m obsessed with sunrises. I’m also obsessed with walks. Getting to do both of these activities at the same time makes my heart skip a beat so it was the greatest way for me to start the day.
- Thoughts during sunrise: This sunrise is beautiful. This lake is so still. I love the way those trees reflect against the still waters. This is something everyone should regularly wake up to see. God’s creation is so beautiful.
- Wrapping it all up with prayer. My final prayer to the Lord: “Lord, thank you. Thank you for this opportunity and experience to retreat. Thank you for the time spent pursuing stillness and solitude. I think this is what our hearts need, and I pray I could remember that more. God, I get confused, distracted, fearful, and angry about many things – those are feel feelings and I anticipate them in the future, but I pray I would be able to choose differently. I pray I would choose kindness, peace, joy, and love. I don’t know a lot, but I know right now that I am filled. I am filled with rest. I am filled with peace. I am filled with joy. I am filled with love from You. I am filled with hope for the future. Lord, may be thoughts, actions, and decisions be about what is the most important – You.”
- Thoughts wrapping it up: This time was so good. Retreating is so good. It’s truly good. I need more of this. I must prioritize this. I want my people to have this! How do I share and try to convince my people to do something like this? …… I must go home and write a blog post.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
Who went on the retreat?
Me, myself, and I. I don’t chose to be alone often so I knew the solitude and stillness from being alone was what I needed.
What did I do on the retreat?
I spent 24 hours outdoors. The wilderness is my happy place and always does positive things for me. Going into the outdoors for 24 hours was my attempt to personally/spiritually retreat for the good of my heart and soul. See section titled, “Here’s what my retreat consisted of” for more details on what I actually did throughout the day.
What did I bring?
- Sustenance: a cooler of food, drinks and treats (yes treats! I filled my day with the “good stuff” and to me that means dessert and yummy drinks)
- Sleeping supplies: hammock, sleeping bag, blanket, and warm clothes
- Camping supplies: lantern, firewood, lighter, and camp chair
- Leisure activities: books, notebook, pen, speaker, and podcasts
Where did I stay?
Thousand Hills State Park! This state park is located in Kirksville and has a giant lake, hiking trails, and campsites – all I needed for a place to stay. I originally was going to have Alan drop me off and live out of my backpack for 24 hours, but he was out of town so I got to live out of my car. Maybe next time I’ll increase the challenge and live out of my backpack.
When did I go?
A weekend in July, morning to next morning. I strategically picked morning to morning because then I could enjoy two sunrises (my favorite) and one sunset!
Why did I retreat?
Because my heart and soul needed this! The goal for a retreat day is that the soul would be renewed, with the intention of pouring into and serving others. The benefits are rejuvenation – emotionally and spiritually. These benefits go beyond just a retreat day, but on and on into the weeks and months.
How? (Because you want to retreat, right!?)
Are you convinced you need a retreat in your life!? Believe me, I get that it’s not easy to commit to something like this. “I’m supposed to stop my regular programming and literally retreat so it can’t happen!?” Yeah, I get that it’s weird. It’s not normal and maybe it’s uncomfortable. If you are convinced you need to retreat, know that it can look different for everyone. Here are a couple of best practices.
- Leave the place where you do most of your living. Rent a room in a new place, camp on a trail, or maybe stay in a friend’s home. But don’t stay in your home because we both know you’re going to end up doing your laundry, scrolling on your phone, and watching Netflix.
- Fill the day with the good stuff. The “good stuff” changes. Maybe it’s hiking, being on the water, cooking, reading, writing, listening, creating, praying – whatever fills your soul. Fill it up with all of that. Don’t clean, don’t plan, and don’t put pressure on yourself.
- Challenge yourself. Don’t overthink this. I mean you want to leave this time filled in the best ways, but I think there’s benefit from choosing to move outside your comfort zone and see what happens. Are you nervous to spend a day by yourself? Is hard to think about turning off electronics for 24 hours? Have you ever camped by yourself? Can you fill your day with the good stuff but also choose solitude and stillness?
- Prepare. Kind of. Prepare what needs to be prepared. If you’re leaving for a whole day and headed into the woods, you probably want to pack some meals. If you’re going to do a lot of hammocking and camp chair sitting (welcome to my campsite), then bring some books, a notebook, pen, and whatever else. I over pack because I don’t know what I’ll be in the mood for and I love to have options. But it doesn’t need to be fancy! You do you.
- Just do it! Pick a day and protect that day with everything in you! Decline the offer to hang out with a friend, tell your husband you will call him when you’re home, and just go. The time will never just appear, and if it does, consider yourself blessed and take that as a sign that you too must go. Please just do it because I think your heart, mind, soul, and body will be thankful.
What’s next for me?
My first retreat was spent in a different town and mostly in a coffee shop. It was good but 8 hours left me wanting more. This time was 24 hours in the wilderness (but with supplies in my car). It was good, and you guessed it, now I want more. Maybe next time my retreat will be completely in the woods with just my backpack or maybe a couple of days in a cabin. I don’t really know, but what I do know is that we must make this a priority! We must create opportunities to retreat because your heart and soul are depending on it!
Are you flipping open your planner to pick a retreat day? Are you making a list of all of the things you want to include in your day? Please do it! Then come back and tell me all about it!