Retreat, Before You Move Forward

retreat- {ree treet}
vb 1. to treat  again
 2. to withdraw or retire in the face of or from action with an enemy, either due to defeat or in order to adopt a more favourable position.
3. an asylum, as for the insane.
4. a retirement or a period of retirement for religious exercises and meditation.

Many of us seek retreat.  An escape, an out, a pause or intermission on the regular ticking of the clock as our days march on ahead, dragging us with them.  Whether it’s a women’s retreat, a couple’s retreat, a solo retreat.    Looking on these are a few of  the definitions offered for the word retreat, and in my 3 days away from my family and home, I found all of them to be true.

Most of the responses to my plans for a retreat seemed based on an assumption of the first definition. That I owed it to myself and needed the escape.  It’s true that we need to keep balance, and we have to care for ourselves to care for others. But let us get something straight.
We don’t deserve time off.
Never in history were mothers promised  a break. Nowhere is it written  that mothers we are entitled to a full nights sleep . It’s not that we can’t have them and that they can’t be needed or wonderful.  But we are not owed them and we can endure the cadence of our days without them.   It’s the mindset that we deserve them and are owed anything that is damaging, not the taking them when the opportunity arises.

But yes, I was being treated, for my birthday to 3 very quiet days away.  Which is so not me. Completely unheard of… ((as half my readers snicker at the idea of ME being silent for more than 5 minutes…)
It started a few years ago, in a fit of tears and exhaustion.  With a 5, 3 and 1 year old and suffering from 24/7 nausea with my 4th, one day I told my husband I needed a break.  My birthday was a few months away and he valiantly offered that I should get a few friends and go have a girls weekend like other moms seem to do.  The offer threw me off guard.  I’m not the kind of woman that goes to girls night out on the town, not to mention weekends away. I’d never done anything like that!!   It sounded like the perfect answer, logically… except that I couldn’t do it.  So then I shocked my poor husband right back.  My immediate response was No! That isn’t it at all!  I knew there was something deeper that I needed. I longed for seclusion, silence and peace; time alone to reconnect with the beauty in life, and my Maker.  I know… it surprised me, too.

I decided that I wanted to go on a silent retreat. I googled and found the nearest options to Atlanta, but knew that it wasn’t time. Leaving my babes was too much work. So for the past 3+ years I have been lying in wait until the time was right for me to fall back.  Last year I tried. I knew that there was a women’s silent retreat right around my birthday and hoped to go. As the time grew closer I knew it wouldn’t work.  Eden wasn’t sleeping through the night (yes, almost 2 years old then) and was still nursing.   She just wasn’t ready for 3 nights away from me not to mention that Lucas was still not fully potty trained.  I would have spent the whole time nerve wracked over giving my dear husband such a long coldhearted dose of my reality.
This year when the new retreat calendar went up, the December retreat actually started ON my birthday. I knew it was my time. So I reserved my spot and blocked off my calendar.  I was going to be alone and silent.

It was a wickedly crazy day, full of ironic twists of fate that made it the most un-birthday-like day possible.  All four of my children behaved like rotten, wild hyenas.   They trashed my house and I didn’t even get time for breakfast, which is traditionally served to me in bed on my birthday but somehow was forgotten.   They wailed and moaned all morning as the poor heating and air guys tried to work around the drama to install the new HVAC.  We locked my keys in the house and I missed my own birthday lunch with my mom.   It went on and on, baffling me at every step. Craziest. Day. Ever.
When I finally arrived at the retreat house I was shaking from low blood sugar and traumatized by the 1+ hour in suburbian traffic that my  intown sensibilities were completely unaccustomed to. This is where definition #3 above comes in.  I was really feeling ready to be admitted for observation…sedation even sounded nice.

But I knew the truth.  I knew that I was facing an attack on my time and my spirit.  When I looked back over my day I was amazed that I even made it there. And I knew that definition #2 was a reality and very much played out in my life that day.  There I sat, with a glass of wine in my hand trying to relax; retreating from the fray, certainly ready to adopt a more favorable position.

That first night was rough. I had to really adjust and slough off some tension to be able to dig into myself and accept the peace and quiet.  I was so wired that I couldn’t sleep so I read the entire book, Letters To Malcolm by C. S. Lewis before the sun rose.

I spent the next three days in peace, slumber, beauty, reading, nature, prayer, strength, meditation, sunlight, confession, quiet, solitude ,tears, awe, dancing, pain, laughter, love, and growth…most definitely growth.  The nuns who lead the retreat were amazing and in those few days they impacted me as much as any other spiritual mentor I’ve had my entire life.  Amazing women.

So, in the end my retreat was what it should be, And that would be definition #4. It brought me back to my beginning.  A retirement.  An exercising of the spiritual muscles that atrophied from lack of use. To where He meets me;  where He waits, patiently, to give all good things.  The retreat gave me the chance to chose again. To chose my family and  my life.  My man and my children. My home and my God. All that he has for me, all of the unknown.

All photos in this post were taken by me while on retreat. Here is a slideshow with a few more.  If you are looking for a silent retreat, I absolutely recommend  Ignatius House in Atlanta.

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1 Comment

Filed under Family, Inner Sessions, Uncategorized

One response to “Retreat, Before You Move Forward

  1. Lisa

    Thanks for sharing, T! i love that this was part of His plan and that you were able to participate, be fed, and become. I love you.

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