One of the best things I’ve ever done for myself was to take a personal retreat.
Just before the end of the year, I spent two nights at Prayer Lake, a retreat center a little over an hour’s drive from Baton Rouge. I was assigned to the cozy, quiet Harvest Cabin.
From their website:
Prayer Lake is a non-profit Retreat Center designed and purposed specifically for PRAYER. Our focus and vision is to provide the Body of Christ an oasis away from busy schedules, a quiet, anointed place to pray and enter into spiritual rest. This facility is used for prayer, restoration and communion with God.
Many major transitions were happening simultaneously in my life: I was leaving a steady job and stepping into the unpredictable world of self-employment; I was returning to school; my husband and I were moving from our home of five years; and I was marking a milestone birthday. I wanted to spend some time away from both the pressure of my “old” life and the adventure of my “new” one, and I sought a quiet place to think, pray, review, and plan. I had expected all these changes and knew that I would want some time away, so I set aside a bit of money out of each paycheck for months in advance to use for this purpose.
Besides food, clothing, and toiletries, I packed very little. I brought along my Bible, my Nook e-reader, a couple of journals, a calendar, and a folder of blank paper.
The only music I brought was my collection of CDs by John Michael Talbot. I had the discs playing near continuously and found them to contribute much to the experience. His music never fails to soothe, comfort, uplift, and instruct me.
On my Nook was Michael Hyatt’s e-book, Creating Your Personal Life Plan. I worked through it over two days, spending several large chunks of time in focused evaluation and planning.
For those who, like I initially was, might be concerned that creating a “life plan” could be perilously self-centered and involve the refusal to allow God’s leading in different ways– don’t be troubled.
This was not an exercise in manifesting my own destiny or setting in place inflexible plans, but rather in scrutinizing specific areas of my life, critically evaluating the current reality, comparing it to an envisioned future, and sorting out how to realistically get from Point A to Point B. I examined my professional life, my education, my marriage, and several other areas of my life; one I don’t mind sharing publicly concerns self-care and health.
Having a written description of the kind of health scenario I’d like to experience enables me to make deliberate choices that clearly either advance those purposes, or don’t. It’s helpful for me to remove ambiguity and replace it with more specific options; not just a vague “I’m so tired, I should really get more rest”, but a plan to “Develop calming evening routines” and “Implement a weekly Sabbath”. Another plus is that I can refer back at regular intervals to confirm progress and make adjustments. Having this kind of plan recorded for about seven different areas of my life will give me a boost toward making the “envisioned future” (where I am routinely well-rested!) a reality.
I was glad to stay at Harvest Cabin because the name itself prompted me to think seriously about what I was “sowing” with my life, and the “harvest” I hoped to receive. It’s sobering to think about the inevitable sad harvest of common habits such as wasted time, junk food, and poor spending choices, but the good news is that, though cumulative, none of those things are permanent traps. The harvest in those areas can be changed completely and become much richer if I simply choose, over and over and over, to behave differently: to invest my time, eat for health, and carefully manage my money. I’m taking harvest as my theme for 2013 and am excited to anticipate the results of conscious sowing in significant areas of my life.
If you’re looking for some help with creating order in your life, I can heartily recommend a personal retreat, Prayer Lake in particular, and the Life Plan e-book as excellent tools to advance that goal.
Have you ever undertaken a personal retreat, or worked on a life plan? What tools did you find helpful?