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

Surviving 3rd trimester discomfort and fatigue

I should probably be napping right now (it’s “rest time” in our house) but this post has been on my heart all morning as I’ve STRUGGLED to [cheerfully] survive the the long stretch of hours between 6:45a – 1:30p (aka kids morning wake up to nap time). I’m midway though 26 weeks of pregnancy and third trimester symptoms are already setting in: my belly has reached the point where it’s uncomfortably large (and I accidentally bump into things because I forget to give myself enough clearance) and the physical fatigue is REAL.

One blessing of this being my 4th time surviving 3rd trimester is that I’m more aware of/expecting the changes that are setting in, so I’m better equipped to manage them. Here’s my game plan to survive these last months of pregnancy:

1.Sleep. As much as possible. For me this means going to bed at 9p and sleeping as late as I can in the morning (usually 6:45/7a). Of course this is not all high quality sleep: as any pregnant lady knows, aches and pains plus stomach and bladder issues will wake you up frequently overnight (as will your children who are already outside the womb). Hence, I also enforce mandatory rest time in our house (my 2 y/o and 1 y/o still nap, while my 3 y/o has some quiet time in the family room & watches a show) when I take a nap…and you better believe that I nap every day. This is just as important to my mental health and physical wellbeing as it is to that of my kids—we all need a break from each other, they need their rest and they also need a joyful Mama.

2.Discover rejuvenating activities to fit in throughout your day. When I’m burnt out and exhausted, my natural inclination is to waste time scrolling though Instagram and Pinterest. But this NEVER recharges me; in fact, I usually put down my phone 5-10 minutes later feeling even worse than when I sat down to “rest”. I’ve realized that I need to fight the resistance I feel to pursue activities that actually recharge me when I have a small break in my day. For me those activities are prayer (nothing like a few decades of the rosary at 10a to reset your day), reading (thanks to the #CathLit2019 challenge I have a stack of good books ready to pick up and read) and writing. For you it might be painting, crafting, cooking…the list goes on. Whatever it is that pulls your out of yourself and gives you that sense of timelessness.

3.Eat well. We made chocolate chip cookies this morning and I am too embarrassed to say how many I have eaten today. I sort of developed an eating addiction: every time I started to feel super tired, I’d eat a cookie. This resulted in a series of sugar highs and sugar crashes, and also me not feeling hungry for anything substantive. Needless to say, I felt crummy and irritable thanks to my food choices (though the cookies were supremely delicious in the moment). I know from experience that what I should be doing is focusing my food consumption on high-protein, high-fiber food groups, foods that will give me stable energy and provide me and baby with the nutrients we need (and prevent constipation, which is a nightmare when pregnant). So tomorrow that means more meat, veggies, fruit and yogurt for this Mama!

4.Drink lots of water. I’m always thirsty these days, and when I don’t stay hydrated I get super irritable and develop low blood pressure. These are not helpful conditions to function under, especially when you have small, fast, loud children at home with you.

5.Be intentional with your time and energy. Over the years I’ve come up with my list of priorities: prayer/God, my husband and my kids are the top three—the people living in my home and our relationships. Following these priorities is staying on-top of laundry, keeping the home relatively picked up/vacuumed, and making healthy meals (important ways I care for the people in my home). Right now, this is pretty much all I’m capable of doing, which brings me to my next point…

6.Ask for help. Today I told my husband that I will no longer be able to keep up with deep cleaning the bathrooms. And you know what, he was okay with that and even volunteered to take over the dirty work until after baby is born. (He’s definitely a keeper ❤️). Acknowledging my limitations has made me a more cheerful wife and mother, and has helped me do the work that still I CAN do well and with a joyful heart. Through my struggles with prenatal and postpartum depression, I’ve come to the acute realization that Mama does set the emotional tone in the house. I want my home to be life-giving and joyful, which means I need to focus on how well I’m loving the people in my house, and asking for help (or maybe even letting go for a season) of the things that aren’t as important.

If you’re pregnant or recently postpartum, what have been/were the biggest challenges for your pregnancy? What tricks did you discover for coping?

#CathLit2019

One of my Catholic mom blog heros, Haley Stewart at Carrots for Michaelmas, came up with an awesome reading challenge for 2019! She has 19 categories of Catholic books to read (as well as some great book suggestions for said categories). Here’s what I’m aiming to read for #CathLit2019!:

A Spiritual Memoir

My Sisters, the Saints by Colleen Carroll Campbell

A Classic Spiritual Work

This Tremendous Lover by DOM Eugene Boylan, O.C.R.

A Book about Mary

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Mary by Brant Pitre

Book by a Catholic Novelist 

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Book by a Pope

Amoris Laetitia by Pope Francis

Book by a Catholic Woman

Catholic All Year Compendium: Liturgical Living for Real Life by Kendra Tierney

A Book about the Liturgy

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist by Brant Pitre

Book by an Early Church Father

The Faith of the Early Fathers Vol 1 selected and translated by WIlliam A. Jurgens

A Conversion Story

Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulwiler (I listened to 3/4 of this book on my annual retreat last spring, but it was SO good that it definitely deserves a complete read (or maybe 2 or three)).

A Book about Apologetics

Why I Am Catholic by Brandon Vogt

A Book by an Orthodox Christian

1,000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp – Okay not Orthodox, but I’ve really been wanting to read this so I’m sneaking it under this category.

A Hagiography

The Mother of the Little Flower by Celine Martin

A LONG Catholic Book

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

A Book by a Catholic Philosopher

Aquinas’s Shorter Summa by St. Thomas Aquinas

A Catholic Classic

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis

Book by a Saint

Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux

A Book by a Non-Catholic that All the Catholics are Reading

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Book about a Catholic Monarch

Mary, Queen of Scots by Antonia Fraser

A Recently Published Catholic Book

The Grace of Enough: Pursuing Less and Living More in a Throwaway Culture by Haley Stewart (This is the book I’m starting off with!).

Here’s to some mind-nourishing books in 2019!