Why I make a yearly spiritual retreat (and you should too!)

My favorite 3 days of the year are just around the corner: during these three days I leave home, retreat from the world and spend time in silence, prayer and meditation. I get to sleep, rest and recuperate. As a mom of 4 under 4, it is essential that I MAKE time for a retreat every year. It requires a lot of planning (financial planning, childcare planning, etc), preparation, support from my family and even overcoming my own laziness in order to break out of the comfort of my daily routine and venture somewhere new. Yet I truly believe there is no better gift I can give my loved ones than a Mama who is filled with peace and joy, and knows her mission for the next 12 months.

Here are the reasons I make this retreat each year:

1. My relationship with God. Just as in any other relationship, you must spend time with a person to get to know and love them better. The same is true with God, and if He is to be the most important person in my life (you read that right: I prioritize my relationship with God first, BEFORE my relationships with my husband and kids) than I must make Him my priority. Just like dates with my husband are essential to our marriage, this yearly date with God is essential to my relationship with Him. A yearly retreat provides uninterrupted, focused time for me to spend with God; to talk to Him and to listen to Him. This period of time is pivotal in my spiritual life, and I always leave feeling more in love with Our Father than I ever have before.

2. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28). We are all weary and burdened by daily life, and God calls us to come away and rest in Him. A retreat centered on Him is more rejuvenating than any vacation, spa or self-care could ever be. On a retreat, you are allowing the Divine Physician to heal and renew you: you are drinking from supernatural waters. God also tells us it is essential to seek this supernatural nourishment from Him–He is our manna, our daily bread–lest we grow too weary to complete our Earthly pilgrimage: “Get up and eat, or the journey will be too much for you” (1 Kings 19:7). We must get up, step away from our daily routines, and consume the nourishment God is yearning to give us. He wants to walk with us on our Earthly pilgrimage, but can only do that if we make ourselves available and welcome Him to join us.

3. I need time and space to get my bearings, and to plan with God about how to live intentionally for the next 12 months. If you don’t take time to stop and reflect, you won’t have a clue where you’ve come from or where you’re going. A yearly retreat is the perfect opportunity to talk to God about how you’re doing, about any struggles or suffering you’ve experienced, about your joys, and about your dreams and hopes for the future. Through a few days of uninterrupted dialogue with God, you can make plans for how you want to tackle the year ahead, how you hope to live and what you hope to accomplish. A big lesson I’ve learned is that it is essential to include God in this planning for the future, because then you are not only aligning your will with His will, but you also have a supernatural ally to keep you on track. For God instructs us to live “not by [our] might or power, but by My Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6). All that is good, all love, finds its origin in God: we must empty ourselves in order for His beauty to shine though in our life and work. A retreat is the perfect place to unload our burdens, our sins and darkness, and to leave refreshed, ready to be, as St. Mother Teresa said, a pencil in the hand of God.

Scepter Publishers has an excellent (free!) ebook on how to make a good retreat–I highly recommend checking it out if you are planning to take a retreat this year.

If you need ideas about where to go on retreat, feel free to reach out to me! 😊 What has been the greatest blessing you have received from a spiritual retreat?

Peace be with you!

❤️Lizzie

How to Prepare for Labor and Delivery (From a mom getting ready to give birth for a 4th time)

This April I will be giving birth to our fourth child. I’ve learned a lot from my last 3 births, which I never prepared for much beyond the hospital tour and (for my first child) the birth and baby care class. Here’s how I am preparing for L&D this time around:

  1. Set up childcare. If you have any older children, plan ahead so you know who will be caring for them while you’re in the hospital. We have always had to be induced (thanks to high risk pregnancies) which has actually been super helpful in this regard! This time around my mom is taking off work to stay with my older kids, and I’m also going to set up a babysitter to help her for part of the day.
  2. Set up your support system. This time around my husband will have to work while I am in labor (though he will be there in time for the birth). Thankfully, a dear friend of mine will keep me company until he gets there. I know from experience that the L&D nurses at our hospital are also amazing–L&D nurses are some of the best nurses out there at any hospital, IMO–so while I’m disappointed my husband can’t be there the whole time, I know I’ll have lots of ladies around to offer support!
  3. Figure out your “birth plan”. I’ve never really had a birth plan before, beyond going in with the idea that I’d hold off on the epidural for as long as possible (I’ve ended up getting an epidural the past 3 times). But this time around, I am going to try to avoid the epidural for 2 reasons:
    • First, each time I’ve gotten one it’s been less and less effective. Last time around, it didn’t work AT ALL on one side (the same side that is always a problem…we think I have weird physical abnormality that prevents the pain medication from reaching that side).
    • Second, I HATE epidurals with a passion…truly, my only phobia in life is of epidurals. I’m planning to read Mary Haseltine’s Made for This: The Catholic Mom’s Guide to Birth in order to not only physically and mentally prepare, but most importantly to SPIRITUALLY prepare (something I’ve never really done before). If Haseltine’s book doesn’t go into the topic of delivering without pain medicine/epidurals, I may also look for some books with practical tips for managing pain.
  1. Pack your hospital bag. Here’s an extensive list of essentials if you’ve never gone through this before. My list below are the things that make me feel comfortable and (somewhat) put together in the hospital:
    • A GIANT water bottle with a straw (like this one). HomeGoods will also often have nice large water bottles for sale.
    • A cute bathrobe. This is what I live in (with a nursing tank and yoga pants underneath) during my hospital stay. PinkBlush has some cute robes, and this time around I was gifted a robe from MilkMaid Goods, which I like a bit better because it’s longer.
    • A L&D gown. I’ve never purchased one of these before, but this time I’m planning on it because my husband won’t be there and so I sense that I’ll want to feel a bit more put together (basically, I don’t want my butt crack hanging out when I walk to the bathroom while my friend is sitting in the room behind me 😂). I’m planning to buy one of these L&D gowns from Kindred Bravely.
    • Slippers with good traction/rubber soles. That you can also throw away when you leave the hospital (ain’t nobody wanna bring the MRSA bacteria home with them). They give you socks with traction, which are fine and cozy until you step in something wet (usually an unknown substance). Check out Target’s dollar section (they usually have slippers there in the winter season) or their website for slipper sales. I also saw some slippers on discount at my local grocery store the other day.
    • My iPad & phone (don’t forget your chargers!). Because I’m always induced, I usually have tons of time in the lead up to birth to sit and binge watch a show. My phone is essential to check in with my big kids and text with friends—it’s nice to have a support system outside the hospital too!
    • A good book. Another way to spend time, if you’re not in the mood to watch TV.
    • A thick, soft, cozy blanket. This has always been SO nice to have upon arrive in the mother-baby ward post-delivery.

So there you have it! My game plan this time around. What are you doing to prepare for L&D? Have you read any good books that have helped you with your preparation?

Peace be with you!

❤️Lizzie

Red Velvet Cake Mix Valentine’s Day cookies (w/ Cream Cheese Icing and Heart Sprinkles)

You can’t beat a 5 ingredient cookie recipe, especially when baking with kids! We made a Christmas version of these cookies back in December and my kids loved them. I secretly did too—the cookies tasted just like those thick, soft sugar cookies with the pad of icing on top that you can find in the bakery section of the grocery store.

I decided to adapt the recipe for Valentine’s Day. This time around my kids and I used red velvet cake mix and store-bought cream cheese icing. We topped it all off with some cute heart sprinkles.

Ingredients:

For the cookies:

1 box (15.25 oz) Red Velvet Cake Mix (do not prepare)

2/3 All-Purpose Flour

1/3 Cup Vegetable Oil

2 tbs Sour Cream

2 Large Eggs

Toppings:

1 container cream cheese icing

Heart shaped sprinkles.

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix cake mix, flour, oil, sour cream and eggs until blended and red color has permeated all the dough. If the dough gets too thick, you may need to use your hands to finish mixing the ingredients.

Roll into 1-inch balls.

Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet and flatten down with your fingers or with the flat base of a glass (until 1/2 inch thick).

Bake 10-12 minutes.

Let cool 20-30 minutes before removing from the cookie sheet and/or decorating.

Fill ziploc bag with icing. Cut off the tip and squeeze icing as desired over cookies. Sprinkle with hearts (and love!) and enjoy. 🥰

Recipe adapted from Together As A Family blog.