I went on a three day spiritual retreat where I stayed at a Franciscan Monastery in Kennybunk, ME. It was birthday gift from Brad, but it is something that both of us have talked about individually doing. And he made it happen.
I cannot accurately express what these last few days have been for me. Not truly. The gratefulness in my heart for my Father reaches to the depths of my soul. The ceasing of activity, but most of all the ceasing of my frantic thoughts - my mind is in a state of peace that is quite rare. Time spent with God, hearing His voice, receiving wisdom, building awareness of my struggles...it's been so rewarding. I never have fully realized how much I truly enjoy being alone, and how I am actually quite comfortable with it. It's no wonder I am so independent. I yearn to find a balance between my gift of marriage and motherhood and my innate, weighty need for solitude and quiet. I long to release - once and for all - the shame and guilt that comes from desperately needing to step away from everything and everyone.
Retreating away - it is appropriate, it is responsible, and it is loving. It is loving to myself and those in my care. And, it is a lifeblood for me.
Everyone needs to cease noise and activity regularly. It is there you not only find rest, but through reflection and searching, you discover struggles, pain, disappointments. You discover what's necessary to finding peace and freedom. God reveals the depth of your struggle while simultaneously reminding you of the magnitude of your need for Him. It's only in identifying your weaknesses, the disappointments of your heart, the buried anger in your soul that you find true freedom. It is certainly not found in the ignorance or avoidance of those things.
It's priceless, really. This gift, a treasure. Unhurried, unbound by a schedule - just free to sit and enjoy my Father, enjoy His creation and find value in myself again.
Detaching from this world, even the good things of this world like family and friends, it forces you to take serious look at where your reliance lies. I find that I quite heavily rely on this world and al l the good gifts in it to feed desire, my need for peace, and more. Where, now in this moment, I am more at peace and filled with more joy than I have been in a very long time. It isn't the absence of those things that cause the peace and joy, it's the full reliance on and abiding in my Heavenly Father. Sweet peace and content joy has been found as I have rested in the arms of my Father, and we have communed and He has sang over me in pleasure and joy. My unhealthy ways of self fulfillment have been discovered as I have invited him to search me and find those anxious thoughts. Where do they originate from? What are they rooted in? What lies have I come to believe?
He has so graciously brought light to those dark and hidden places. The darkness that just not long ago threatened to undo me...it has been dispelled as He has caused the sun to rise again and He cleanses me as the ocean tide cleanses the shore.
I have been reminded once again who I am and whose I am. I am cherished by a God who loves me so wholly and completely. One who is working tirelessly to redeem me and make me whole. Never has one offered themselves so completely and whole. There are no fragmented pieces to His love, no reservations, no conditions. Time and time again he pours out love - wave after wave. There are no strategies of defense, no lack of trust, no doubts, no insecure thoughts to our God. He has given everything and He says everything is enough. I choose over and over life with Him. No matter my propensity to stray, over and over again, I will say yes. God-you are my home.
I am fully confident that this discipline - this art - of silence and solitude is necessary for us all. Brad and I believe so much in the benefits of this that we require all three of our children to have this time every day. The younger two still take full naps. Although our 7 year old no longer has to take a "nap", we insist that he take an hour rest. For the first 30 minutes he is to rest quietly, cease activity and just rest. (sometimes he actually falls asleep). The latter 30 minutes can be spent doing a quiet activity like writing, drawing, or reading. We explain that this is necessary and beneficial to his health - his body, soul, mind, and spirit.
My time away fed my body, my soul, and my spirit. I implore others to find a way to incorporate this discipline daily, yes. But, if at all possible, also find a way to remove yourself from your world of relationships and demands and go away for a day or more. You can read more about silence and solitude here.