retreating {spiritual discipline}


i've been retreating for years.

it's a practice that i called "having a quiet time" as a teen and into my college years. then i'm not sure what i called it when i had babies! but for the past few years, i've been retreating.

but let me warn you from thinking this: don’t look at this 35 year old, married for 12.3 years with 3 kids, almost 4, gal and say, “i’m not there yet,” and then just get comfy and simply listen to my story.

As you listen, make note of changes you can make, of shifts that can happen in your schedule, of priorities that need to be rearranged.

what I do is based on Scripture, but lots of it has developed over the years.

“I cannot add one more hour to your day, but I can help you change the minutes and the moments you already have.” [Janet Pope, author of His Word in my Heart]

i want to paint you a visual:

James 1:23-24 says, “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.”

it would be like going to a restaurant,

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taking a break from your meal and conversation by going to the bathroom. while at the mirror, you see food in your teeth and leave it there and return to the table with friends. knowing you need to do something, but refusing to do it.

i want to open my life a little more to you, by showing you how i exercise some of these disciplines: retreating, fasting, guidance/accountability/sharpening. these will be a series of blog posts.

Let's start with retreating.

spiritual growth through spiritual discipline is individual, but is held accountable in community.

Retreating and fasting = INDIVIDUAL

Retreating and sharpening = COMMUNITY

Definition of Retreat: (according to

an act or process of withdrawing especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable

a place of privacy or safety (refuge)

a period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study, or instruction under a director

definition of spiritual retreating: (according to me)

the act of withdrawing to one intentional place to pray, meditate, study, and receive instruction from God.

here's how i retreat:


begins the night before by setting my tools out on the couch

alarm set for 550 am (one snooze) {welcome to how i'm wired!}

coffee brewing at 6 am

This gives me a solid 30 minutes...sometimes a little more. {welcome to a season with school-aged kids!}

my morning time includes some or all of these:

Scripture Memory System [see post & video: memorizing {spiritual discipline}]

Gratitude Journal

Read through Psalms

Bible Study (Esther, Read Through the Bible, Ephesians, the Gospels, Ezekiel)

Journal Bible

Prayer Journal

Praise music (headphones and pandora and itunes)

choosing what study to do:


Book of the Bible (If you’ve never read through the Bible, this is a must!)

Written Bible Study with motivation, examination and application

Someone’s recommendation

Studies on areas I want to grow in

Favorite Bible Study teachers


keep notepad nearby for random thoughts that are distracting you or that the Holy Spirit said to you concerning action or reminders.

remind yourself that getting out of bed is an act of worship.

know what you’re going to study next while working on current. for example, during my study of Esther, i discovered something about Ezekiel that I wanted to study. so i got an inductive study of Ezekiel on hand.

regarding where and when you retreat, “That place will probably be a place in your home, but at your retreat time it becomes sacred. part of your ceremony (retreat rituals) might be sipping a cup of your favorite tea or lighting the fire in your fireplace....I retreat early in the morning, so part of my ceremony begins before I go to bed at night. I clear out my retreat space and make sure it’s inviting. I put out my favorite old quilt to wrap up in when I get there. I program the coffee pot to have my coffee ready when I get up. I make sure my Bible and prayer journal are there. Even setting my alarm for my retreat hour is part of the ceremony. All of this puts me in the frame of mind that, without question, I will be up and retreating in the morning....The act of getting out of bed for no other reason but to spend time listening to the Spirit is, in itself, worship. It is a statement of priority.” [Jennifer Kennedy Dean, He Restores My Soul] There have been days when I go straight to my retreat place just to sit and be still - I needed His presence that much; was hurting or burdened that much.

“I take it for granted that every Christian that is in health is up early in the morning, for it is much more reasonable to suppose a person is up early because he is a Christian than because he is a labourer, or a servant, or has business that wants him....For if he is to be blamed as a slothful drone that rather chooses the lazy indulgences of sleep than to perform his proper share of worldly business, how much is he to be reproached that had rather lie folded up in bed than be raising up his heart to God in acts of praise and adoration.” [William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life]

how i retreat when time is very limited:

maybe you’re on a tight schedule while traveling. maybe you’re a parent with small children who aren’t sleeping through the night. maybe there’s a sickness or a season of life that restricts retreating.

the Scripture Memory System goes with you. {that sounds like an infomercial, doesn't it? not my intent! i firmly believe in it though!} putting His Word in your heart on the airplane, while rocking the baby does not return void. it never does.

put prayer journal and gratitude journal in a notepad on your phone.

pray through photos on your phone or around the house.

listen to praise music while on your lunch break or cleaning house

i describe this spiritual discipline in seasons:

“Our rhythm of spiritual practices also needs to be ruthlessly realistic in view of our stage of life....If we do not take into account a realistic assessment of our stage of life, we are doomed to fail.” [Sacred Rhythms, Ruth Haley Barton]

the practice was shown me by my mom and dad. mostly my mom as i would see her going over verses in the school carpool line. i’d see her Bible out when we got home from school. the older i got, i would see her “retreat items” beside the recliner. Scripture hanging on the walls throughout the house, even the bathroom!


as a teen, i put into practice what i was taught. short devotionals with Scripture. the more I learned who God was and His character, the more i learned to communicate to Him and listen to Him.

in college, my faith became my own as i was away from my spiritual leaders who had instilled in me to lean on Jesus. so i became a sponge and soaked in all i could. learned from others. allowed those older than me to speak into me. surrounded myself with spiritual mentors. learned spiritual leadership: who are we learning from? who are we pouring into? this could have been catastrophic though, had i chosen another path and different voices. there is power in prayerful & intentional parenting.

in young married years, i allowed church, my husband, my teaching at a Christian school, to fill me. there’s validity to having these in my life. but God desires to speak directly to my heart through meditation and His Word. my best growth spurts happen when i am directly tapped into the Source. the disconnect here...hurt me in the next season.

in early motherhood years, i was the most neediest for God. it was the most isolated i have ever been. i was so dependent upon others for spiritual growth that i sat paralyzed for a while. it took will power to pick up the Bible, to pray by myself. it was relearning the discipline. eventually, any minute I could grab my Bible while catching my breath from feeding one to clothing the other to potty training another was a boost in my faith!

during the summer ben and I were engaged, a spiritual mentor shared this practice with me, the practice of the presence of God, where you live aware that God is near. find Him the the car, in the streets, in the workplace, with your friends.

Here’s what was said of Brother Lawerence:

“We find him worshipping more in his kitchen than in his cathedral; he could pray, with another:

Lord of all pots and pans, make me a saint by getting meals and washing up the plates!” and he could say, “The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.” [Brother Lawerence, The Practice of the Presence of God]

i believe in faith that when we train ourselves in godliness, it "is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." 1 Timothy 4.7-8

this discipline, like any other physical or spiritual discipline doesn't happen overnight. yet each day it is practiced builds upon the other, giving strength and creating a foundation.

retreating with our Savior changes you and me from the inside out.
resources that have helped shape this discipline of retreating:

Why I write in a prayer journal: Circle Maker, Mark Batterson

How I structured my retreat time: He Restores My Soul, Jennifer Kennedy Dean

Why I record what I’m grateful for: One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp

How I retreat throughout the day: The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence

Why I memorize Scripture, particularly chapters in the Bible: His Word in My Heart, Janet Pope