Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes, and General Mental Mayhem

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My First Personal Retreat

me timeI’ve taken several vacations by myself, but New Year’s Day marked my first personal retreat. And it was time. Actually, it was way overdue.

At the end of last year, I was exhausted in every way, and had chosen RENEW as my word/theme for the year. I really wanted to cling to that word, but needed a catalyst to help get me there. So, I used some hotel points to get away. I knew if I stayed home I’d find too many distractions.

Rome, Georgia, ended up being the destination. And I was able to check in early and check out late, to maximize my stay. I had my computer, a few books, and a ready heart. (And, of course, a change of clothes.) I’d already been collecting resources that I wanted to work through, but as I predicted, ending up following a few rabbit trails, too.

My original intent was just to spend the night and fit in all my retreat activities into that 24 hour period. But I was tired and kept stumbling upon new resources so I ended up extending the retreat through the weekend, at home. Being able to focus at the hotel proved to be a great starting point, though. It gave me the energy and determination to keep up the work . . . but there may have been a pedicure and couple Netflix breaks. I mean, come on, we’re talking about 72 hours here. I’m not a monk.

These are the primary resources that I spent time with:

They are awesome, and I’d recommend any of them. They greatly enhanced my retreat, and I believe, came to me at just the right time.

There are also a few (hopefully) regular practices that came out of this weekend, which I believe will help to keep me RENEWed during the year. The first is The Five Minute Journal, mentioned above. I hate journaling, but this one was recommended on a podcast I listen to, and it sounded like something I could do. It’s just a couple bullet points to answer each morning and evening, and there is an introduction that shows the reasoning and science behind the questions. So far, even in my most groggy morning state, I’ve been able to keep up.

The second is meditation. I’ve tried it before, and failed miserably. My mind is constantly going 90 miles an hour! But like journaling, I know the benefits and want to reap them. I need to be able to clear my mind and listen in silence. That will do me a world of good. And meditation is one of those things that kept popping up around me in various ways at the end of the year, so I knew it was time to try again. The blog post mentioned above by Rick Warren also speaks in-depth to the practice. (Funny note: I have a book called The Will Power Instinct that I started several years ago. But the first chapter says that you have to be able to meditate for 10 minutes to continue the book in order to get the most out of it—so, yep, I’ve never finished. Maybe this is the year!)

The third is, well, to borrow another Rick Warren-ism, purposeful relaxation. The second half of that blog post was what I actually went online to find, and strangely, it was paired with meditation. I’d heard him speak on the topic before at a conference, and couldn’t remember exactly how it was phrased. I love the way he puts it: divert daily, withdraw weekly and abandon annually. Honestly, it’s going to be hard. I’m a multi-tasker. But for me, one of the best ways to do this is to unplug for a while. I’m usually connected even when I travel, so there is usually a nagging feeling that something needs my attention. It’s going to be a hard lesson to learn, and hard to fit into life when there is always something pressing. However, as he notes, if Jesus felt the need to do it, I should too. So, I’m trying to weave more of this into my life.

And that’s it! That was my personal retreat. It was wonderful. Another lesson that came from this time was just how valuable it was, and that this is something I should continue however I can. I usually try and fit books and articles and podcasts into the busyness, but having this dedicated time for it, with a specific purpose in mind, was well, RENEWing.

The reality of life hit me hard just after my personal retreat. Of course it did. Of. Course. It. Did. And it was frustrating because I wanted to keep the good vibes going. Life was interrupting my zen! But I realized that I wouldn’t have been prepared for it without this retreat. So, it’s already served me well in ways I couldn’t predict, and I guess that’s just another reason I should continue.

First one down, hopefully many more to go.


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All The World’s A Stage

Been talking to a lot of people lately who are “waiting” or in “holding patterns” or “anxious” in their lives. Basically, folks looking for what’s next. I feel very much the same way…most of the time.

However, I have to continually remind myself that no matter what stage I’m in, there is always one behind me and one ahead of me. We never leave stages. They are inherently part of life, yet we always feel pressure (by ourselves or others) to get to the next one. Why is this? Maybe this is why patience is a virtue.

Now I can understand the pressure to move forward because I’m a driven sort of person. Standing still can often feel like moving backwards. I’d rather go out of my way two hours in traffic than sit still. I just want to be moving. But I can also rush into things, move ahead before I am probably ready. In the traffic scenario, which is actually the waste? What is being wasted? Time? Gas? Patience? And coming from a theater background, it seems I would love to always have a stage. I mean, I’ve got the costumes, for goodness sake. Sadly, even I grow tired of them. Stages can be no fun if you don’t know your lines.

One particular stage I’ve been in for about two years now. I didn’t see it coming and I am pretty cloudy about the end date as well. Ain’t that just the way? However, if there is one thing I’ve learned it’s that there is plenty to do while waiting. I’ve definitely been in stages where I just wasted time. I was angry or bitter or bored or something. And I saw the stage as a waste of my time, so my sharp logic just told me to stare right back and waste away with it. That’ll teach it! No PhD here, folks. But I’m happy to say that as I’ve matured, I’ve been better at utilizing the waiting time. I am more aware of the benefits of the stage, using them as preparation rather than stagnation. After all, what a shame it would be to grow to the next stage having learned nothing from the current one. That’s the real waste. And it probably means I won’t get all I can from the next one either. I’m setting up a negative chain reaction.

Recently, I started going through the workbook Experiencing God again. (TANGENT: This Bible study changed my life the first time I did it a couple years ago, and it’s currently doing it again. It’s amazing and I highly recommend it if you’d like to grow and mature in your relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.) Last night’s lesson was entitled “God Speaks with a Purpose.” In it, Henry Blackaby notes, “God develops character to match the assignment. Do not assume, however, that the moment God calls you, you are prepared for the assignment. Many of us don’t want to give attention to the development of our character; we just want God to give us a big assignment. But if you are not willing to be faithful in a little, God will not give you larger assignments.” Ok, ouch Blackaby, now it’s just getting personal! Guilty as charged, more often than I care to admit.

As I’ve gone through the workbook, though, the action step I come away with over and over again in relation to this stage is “wait and listen.” Frustrating still, because I’m a doer. I’m good at getting things done. But if my desire is to do God’s Will, I guess I’ll have to wait and listen. And that is my desire. So I’m trying my best to be an active listener. God isn’t calling me to sit and do nothing. I need to look around and see how He is working on my character in this stage. I am trying my hardest to take the small assignments and be faithful in them. Sure, like everyone, I want the big assignments. I pray repeatedly, though, that that desire is not for my own glory, but His. And I want to play my part in His story. I want the assignments He wants for me. I don’t want to waste time and miss out. Sometimes it’s those small assignments that actually stay with me the longest, affect me the most or offer a shared experience with someone close. I really do believe, just as there are no small parts in theater, there are no small assignments in God’s Kingdom. I mean, I still get to play a role in the Creator of the Universe’s story! How could there be a small assignment there? I’m a part of the plan of salvation, the ministry of reconciliation!

Blackaby also pointed out not to assume that the moment you are called, you will be prepared. Therefore, the current (and next) stage requires active listening as well. In fact, it may very well be this preparation and growth that not only elevates you to the next stage, but makes you crave it. And I think this is an encouraging thought. It would then mean that waiting is directly correlative to advancement. And what could be wasteful about that? Ironic. Counter-intuitive. Cool. That’s a stage I can play on. That’s a stage I can really live in, and love living in.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get back to my waiting. It’s a busy time for me, and I’m sure you understand. (Let me know how yours goes, too.)