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Why You Should Take an Annual Spiritual Retreat

On the last weekend in September, I piled three moms, three babies, and a senior into my minivan and headed for the ferry. We were all bound for a Catholic ladies’ retreat on Vancouver Island. This was my second retreat, and I was looking forward to three days at the quiet, secluded retreat centre. My friend Anna (one of the moms who went with me) has always encouraged an annual spiritual retreat.

Here are 3 reasons why you should take an annual spiritual retreat.

Why You Should Take an Annual Spiritual Retreat

Time to Rest

We live in a fast-paced, busy world. I often feel like I’m flying multiple directions at once as I try to keep track of my own activities plus those of five kids, not to mention what my husband is doing. An annual spiritual retreat is a chance to rest, to step away from the rush for a few days. It’s good for both our brains and our bodies. While on retreat, I didn’t have to worry about what to cook or do any cleaning. I listened, read, walked, prayed, and slept.

I had a nap on both afternoons of the retreat. A few other women did that as well (one was facing first trimester exhaustion, and another suffered from a headache the entire weekend). While you may be on retreat to pray and discern God’s will in your life, sometimes you just need to lay it all down and sleep. I definitely got more out of the talks following my nap than I did while struggling to keep my eyes open and listen!

Lord, I’ve spent so long skimming over the surface of life
like one of those water skeeters
Busy busy busy
Let me throw my limbs up
stop moving
simply sink into Your great depths
slowly float underwater
embraced by grace
utterly surrounded by You

~ “Embrace” by Anna Eastland

Time to Refocus

Sometimes, you can’t see the forest for the trees. As moms, we may get buried in the stacks of laundry or the piles of dishes, and lose sight of the important things. Maybe we’re so busy just cleaning up from today that we have no time to plan for the next day. An annual spiritual retreat is a chance to get out of the forest, away from the messes, and to take a look at our lives.

One thing I’ve struggled with for a while is feeling loved. When I was in Australia, I had a beautiful, heart-changing moment where God spoke His love into my heart. It was an incredible experience that fed me for the next year, but that was over a decade ago now. On this retreat, I realized that my oldest struggles with being unworthy and unlovable have returned. Once again, God spoke to me of His love. It was a message that I couldn’t hear in the chaos of my everyday world.

Maybe God is also trying to speak some truth into your life, about His love or your purpose, about suffering or joy. A weekend away may be just what you need to stop and hear what He’s saying to you. The retreat gave us times to listen, as the priest or others spoke words of wisdom to us. It also gave us time to reflect and pray, during Mass and quiet times.

Lord, may my heart not be any empty tabernacle
—all shiny but locked shut—
Fill me with Yourself,
make me really able to love
with Your love.
Come enter my heart!
I promise You’ll fit,
not because my heart is big enough
to hold the King of the Universe,
but because You are so good
at becoming so small.

~ “Enter My Heart” by Anna Eastland

Time to Learn

I have a huge reading pile sitting beside my bed. They are great books, but they often just sit there because I’m too busy with the kids to read. For my retreat, I packed several of these books. We also had talks by the priest and another lay person, and listened to inspirational CDs during mealtimes. It was like an annual harvest—a feast upon so much spiritual food!

As moms, we need to feed ourselves. We need to be nourishing our own spiritual relationships so we can help our children develop theirs. We can’t expect them to establish healthy habits of prayer and Bible study and devotional reading if we don’t do this ourselves! An annual spiritual retreat is a good chance to deepen our faith, to learn more about virtues and Scriptures and other topics presented, and to come back with that thirst for continued knowledge.

Ocean sunset

Do you want to take an annual spiritual retreat?

Many Christian dioceses offer spiritual retreats. These can vary from silent retreats (such as the one I just did) to more interactive retreats (such as Jennifer Fulwiler talks about in One Beautiful Dream). If you’re interested in going, talk to your priest or pastor or watch your church bulletin or diocese website.

Headford Cultural Group organizes retreats for women in the lower Mainland. I’ve attended two of their retreats on Vancouver Island and benefited immensely from both. They are currently fundraising for and building a new conference and retreat centre near Britannia Bay. It is expected to be open for retreats in 2019.

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