Guest post by JoAnn Bastien
The road wound passed cornfields and barns set far back from the road. Maybe a nice scenic route for some but I was a city girl and the narrow, rural roads with no middle lines painted on the pavement made me nervous.
My friend had suggested a retreat center and I was in desperate need for quiet. It was certainly quiet, and it was getting dark. New, unknown places make me anxious, especially when I am arriving at dusk. Yet when I pulled into the drive, peace descended upon me like a mist.
I parked in space #3, turned off the engine, and covered my face with my hands. I felt God’s presence inviting me to stay and rest. With my head in my hands and tears flowing down, for the first time I understood what it meant to have a covenant with the land.
I have been on several retreats over the years. Some I attended as a lay leader and some as a minister. But this was my first retreat of solitude; a DIY retreat. The year had been filled with so much loss. I was tired and ready to quit, but my spirit knew I needed rest and time alone with God.
My structure for the week was simple:
- Daily walks in the meadow
- Silence and meditation
- Journaling and prayer
I began each morning with a walk at dawn. As I wandered through the meadow, I was mindful to listen. I listened for birds calling, the wind rustling the leaves, and anything God might say to my soul. It was time to listen, not to speak.
The morning light of the rising sun bathed the front of a small, white chapel that stood at the edge of the meadow. I sat there in silence tucked among a few wooden benches, an altar with an open Bible, and the sunlight that filtered through the stained-glass windows.
I wrote in my journal of my fears, grief, and pain.
I told God about my desires for the future and all the questions that kept me from taking a step forward. And God simply listened. It seemed He was sitting on the bench beside me, letting me wring out my heart and He did not want to interrupt. I felt He took in every word and held them close to His heart for safe keeping.
My experience that week was cathartic. I felt refined like silver. As I sat before God, the dross (waste materials that separate from pure metal when exposed to intense heat) would rise to the top and He would skim it off. Then a little more would surface, and He would skim it again. On the last day, I felt something new arise. Something pure. It was hope and creativity.
I have continued the practice of a DIY Retreat for several years now. Sometimes every six months. Each time the experience has been slightly different. Sometimes I laugh and other times I weep. This last year was a time of planning and preparation. God helped me to create a sustainable pace to carry me through the pandemic. Then He gave me insight for planning a “new normal.”
I knew I was closing in on burnout if I didn’t stop to take this time away. Maybe you feel similar, today? I encourage you, my sisters, to find time and space for your own DIY retreat. I commend you to make time for your soul. God has faithfully used my semi-annual retreats to renew my mind and refresh my creative spirit. Each year I am reminded of the power of His transforming and healing presence during this precious week alone.
We live in a world that rarely stops to rest and we need you here for as long as God will allow!
Reflection Question: What would be the most important thing God could do for you during a personal retreat? Pull out your calendar and prayerfully choose a date and begin asking God to make a way.