Last month I took my 2nd annual silent retreat. Last year I realized that I needed (not necessarily wanted) a day alone – 24 hours – to not text or help or insta or talk to anyone but me and God. It’s often hard for me to figure out my own needs and feelings because I spend so much of my emotional energy taking care of others and thinking about their needs. So, in an effort to listen to the Spirit and take a minute – or 24 hours – to see what God was trying to tell me, and let myself (with a nudge from Derek) take a day off.
Derek and I work hard to give each other days off throughout the year, but this one is different. My silent retreat is a very intentional time to pray through a vision of where I am and what I want for my near future. I listen to God best on a trail. I need trees and a map and comfortable hiking clothes. I need to get tired and breathe deeply. I feel most connected to God when in nature.
I also got to stay at a hotel. My tendency is to check instagram, facebook, check in on my people, binge watch my current TV show, call someone I haven’t talked to in a while, or at least watch a good hallmark movie. It takes a lot of intentionality for me to not do these things for 24 hours. I have to give myself permission to play. Permission to not get anything accomplished. Permission to let expectations, even my own expectations go. I have to waste a little time away from technology and spend several hours just being still or walking around. It was painful to not reach for my phone and fill empty minutes scrolling through social media. It hurts a little bit. Honestly, I didn’t sleep very well either. It is hard for me to be really still. Detoxing is never easy.
I was aching for my feet to hit the trail, but in the hours before my hike, I felt God giving me permission to waste time and relax and just open myself up to what he wanted me to hear. Each time I would hear a message I would stop briefly, write it down, and continue to walk and process what that means for me and for my life. The holidays are such a busy time, and I have gone back to this list several times to remind myself the truth that exists even (and especially) in the middle of high expectations, travel, to-do lists a mile long, taking kids from one thing to the next, decorating, and trying to squeeze perfection into every second of each day.
With that in mind, this is the message that God put on my heart:
Don’t take yourself so seriously.
Waste a little more.
Play a little more.
It’s ok to forget things.
It’s ok to let some things go.
Make a mess.
Go the wrong way.
Take a nap.
Roll the windows down.
Don’t be in a rush.
Let people go in front of me.
It’s ok to be wrong.
Let other people make mistakes too.
Give lots of Grace.
Be kind even if it means letting someone else win.
Take the longer route.
Take time to look people in the eyes.
Give away more.
Take time to enjoy this life that you are working so hard to build.
I sat in the middle of the leaves for a while on the trail and looked for a verse that would help me go a little deeper into what the Spirit was placing on my heart. I have read this verse so many times. We have prayed this verse over our kids since before they were born. Reading it in The Message though made it come to life in a completely new way.
“But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what GOD is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.” Micah 6:8 MSG
Learning to let more things go and that grace is way more important than perfection has freed me so much these last couple weeks to remember that God is God and I am not. As the holidays continue to just get busier and full of chaos, let this be a reminder to you too. It’s not about getting it all done correctly, or even getting it all done. Advent is a season of sitting and waiting and remembering. I pray that we all find some space for stillness in this Holiday season and that above all we accept the Grace that the birth of Jesus brings us.