How to Host Your Own Personal Retreat

This past weekend I took off for a quick 24 hours to get some rest, space, and time to look forward into the new year. It's something I try to do a couple times a year if possible to pause, reset, and get what I need to keep going and saying yes to what's in front of me. 

Once my roommate and I arrived at her family's homey sweet little lake house, I immediately breathed deep and realized there was finally a sacred space for all the thoughts rolling around in my head to fall away or find some place to land. I didn't have anywhere to be or anything to do - it was just me and that little lake house in the middle of East Texas.

This time I did go along with a friend, but we intentionally separated for most of our time (me upstairs and her down). We did get some time together during dinner and breakfast the next morning, but it was important to both of us to carve out some time by ourselves and with God. Typically I go alone, but I didn't mind having a friend to make the drive or eat meals with. And I'm not too fond of sleeping all alone, either. 

There's something about getting out of town away from all the responsibilities of everyday life to allow yourself to let go for a little while. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or as if there's a billion thoughts running wild in your brain and you need some space, take a personal retreat. I promise you won't regret any time you intentionally set aside to keep your mind and heart healthy. 

I've put together a list of some packing tips as well as ways to prepare and spend your time. In the end, don't stress about making your personal retreat the perfect experience. Set some expectations on the front end, but allow your mind to wander and your heart to settle. This takes time and I almost always come home with something different than I originally imagined. 

  1. Pack comfortable clothes. No one wants to relax in a pair of tight jeans. 
  2. Pack a book that you've been wanting to read or some sort of activity that refreshes you (i.e. not the 1,000 page biography that's been sitting on your shelf for years). Sometimes I'll pack a small puzzle in my bag or the ingredients for a recipe I've been wanting to bake. 
  3. Throw in an extra notebook or two. If you're like me, and you have a short term memory, you'll want some extra paper to be able to write down all the thoughts coming to mind during your time away. I also like to visually see how the thoughts come together, so the bigger the paper, the better. 
  4. Bring a portable speaker. This has been a game changer for me - music is both soothing and empowering to me and oftentimes a little background music tends to our souls in a way words or thoughts never could. 
  5. Make a list of what you want to reflect on or think about before you leave. You may not get to everything on your list, but at least you've got an idea of where you want to go. (If you need help, take a look at my previous blog post with 20 questions for the New Year). 
  6. Turn off your phone. You won't regret taking time away from your friends and social media networks for a day or two. I actually found this quite freeing. 
  7. Let yourself sleep in (or go to bed early). The point of taking a personal retreat is to come back rested and refreshed. 
  8. Drink lots of water. This may sound funny, but drinking water makes me think more clearly and also helps flush my body of any unnecessary toxins. I'm not a health expert, but there are so many benefits to drinking more water. Do yourself a favor and pack a water bottle or two. 
  9. Set aside some time at the beginning to process emotion. There's almost always emotions lurking beneath the surface of our hearts, and if ignored, they begin to take root as much deeper issues. A wise friend once told me to carve out time in my schedule to grieve the disappointments in my life and to celebrate the happy moments. When I intentionally pause to allow the raw emotion to surface, it frees my heart to be itself and to release whatever I've been stuffing or holding onto. I'm an emotional person, so this may be harder for you, but try to give yourself some time to think through your current circumstances and check in with your heart. 
  10. Do something active. I wholeheartedly believe there's a deep connection from our physical bodies to our hearts and minds, and whenever we engage one, we must engage the others. Sometimes I have to do something physical in order for what's in my head to safely deposit deep down into my heart. 

This is not an exhaustive list, but I do hope these ten tips are helpful to you as you plan your own personal retreat. My retreat will likely look very different than yours, simply because we are different people with different needs. Be free. Do what you need to do to get refreshed. Happy retreating!

Little Pockets Full of Space (And Cookies)

When I returned from my overseas adventure last June, transition and unexpected circumstances hit me pretty hard and I quickly realized that I needed to intentionally release, make space and get refreshed if I was going to avoid crashing and completely falling apart. After spending the first few days alone in my bedroom, I decided to embrace something familiar and hit the kitchen. Baking is nostalgic and also refreshing to me; it's become both a creative outlet and go-to coping mechanism when things feel hard or I just need a little extra time to myself. 

As a child I remember my mom nearly always had homemade cookie dough in the freezer in the event a guest were to come over announced, one of my siblings or I needed to bring treats to school or we were simply craving something sweet. One of my favorite places to be with my mom was the kitchen and I always admired the confidence with which she created and tried new things. I guess that's one of the things that just stuck with me and now I enjoy baking, concocting, testing and tasting in the kitchen myself.

So when life seemed overwhelming and I felt the need to do something useful yet mindless, I started to bake. I baked cookies and biscuits, cakes and tarts, experimented with new ingredients and then taste tested them all. And it was exactly what I needed.

There are times when I simply experiment with my own creative (or weird) ideas and other times I like to try something I found while perusing the feeds of my favorite food / baker bloggers. (If you need some inspiration, follow Joy the Baker (obsessed with her insta-stories lately), Izzy Hossack (author of Top with Cinnamon), Dana Eats and Broma Bakery). 

To me, part of living wholeheartedly is finding what refreshes you and then creating little pockets of space to do it. When I plan out my week during my Sunday night meetings, I'll typically reserve a spot or two in my schedule and block it off as if I have an appointment with myself. And then when stress arrives, I remember that I already put something in my pocket to pull out and enjoy, like a little surprise. 

What refreshes me may not refresh you and what I find inspiring may be pretty boring to you. And that’s ok. The process of finding refreshment requires self discovery and self awareness, both of which take time and are quickly stifled by comparison. 

I heard once that “comparison is the thief of joy”. And I think that’s true - when I start comparing my season, rhythms, pace or need for refreshment with someone else, I put unnecessary pressure on myself and forfeit my chance to find joy in the things I love doing.

Join me in devoting some time to what's most refreshing to you this week - ask yourself what makes you breath deep and exhale a sigh of relief. Is it writing? Baking? Playing basketball with some friends? Whatever it is for you, carve out some space and protect it, like a treasure in your pocket. Then resist the urge to look over your neighbor's shoulder while you let yourself sink in and just enjoy. And then when life feels overwhelming, you reach for something familiar - something you've practiced getting refreshed and refueled by so that it's mindless and simple and easy to pick back up again. 

How are you intentionally creating rhythms of refreshment in this season? As for me, I’m going to keep baking. And maybe I'll get around to posting a recipe or two up on my blog in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!