Resources for a New Year: Personal Retreat.

One of the best things I’ve ever done for myself was to take a per­sonal retreat.

Harvest Cabin at Prayer Lake, Lettsworth LA

Har­vest Cabin at Prayer Lake, Lettsworth LA

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.

Harvest Cabin at Prayer Lake, Lettsworth LA

Har­vest Cabin at Prayer Lake, Lettsworth LA

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. 

ESV Bible, Nook, journals

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.

Music by John Michael Talbot

Music by John Michael Talbot

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.

porch swings at Harvest Cabin, Prayer Lake, Lettsworth LA

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.

Harvest Cabin at Prayer Lake, Lettsworth LA

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.

notes on self-care

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.

Harvest crocheted lace
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?

3 Responses to Resources for a New Year: Personal Retreat.

  1. Debbie Manthe January 25, 2013 at 10:43 am #

    Toni, I’ve been to Prayer Lake sev­eral times and stayed in Cypress Cabin. It’s at the “end of the row” as it were. The man­agers are so help­ful and the atmos­phere is won­der­ful! I’ve taken sev­eral walks, see­ing deer and lots of birds as I enjoyed the beauty of God’s cre­ation in such a serene and inspi­ra­tional set­ting. Thanks for shar­ing your won­der­ful expe­ri­ence — I hope oth­ers are encour­aged to take time for a per­sonal retreat as well, and this is just the place to be!


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