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Entries in Personal Retreat (4)


More Than a Resolution: A Personal Retreat

What I love about Letitia "Tish" Suk is her intentionality. Choices make a huge difference in our lives. In this New Year's UPGRADE, she urges us to focus less on resolutions and plan a personal retreat to begin the new year refreshed.

"What if a simple day away could transform your life?" Letitia asks.

There's something about that phrase "a simple day away" that makes me (Dawn) yearn for rest. I'd like to be intentional about that!

Letitia continues . . .

Like many of us, I love to review and sometimes re-design my schedule, my priorities, my goals all under the umbrella of “New Year’s Resolutions” or sometimes labeled, “Intentions” if I’m not sure about the resolving part. 

Lately, or probably all my adult life, while I love all the celebration events starting with Thanksgiving (or Halloween?) seems like they squish out the opportunities for rest, quiet and open spaces of time which such reflection requires. To do it right, anyway.

I sometimes resort to quickly scribbling a few lofty aspirations in my journal for the new year and call it done. Done it is but nothing really changes.

What if instead of designing resolutions, you designed a retreat?

No, not one for your church’s women’s ministry, but one just for you and God?

A chance not just for a few minutes or an hour but an actual “Getaway with God” for a chunk of time to ask him what’s HIS plans are for you for the upcoming year?

Before you reject the notion due to not enough time, money, or creativity, think of how you would respond if your spouse or BFF asked you to come along for a getaway night or weekend? Maybe with a bit more enthusiasm, right?

For the past forty years (yikes!), I have been taking getaways with God: AKA personal retreats at regular intervals.

These times away have defined the trajectory of my life.

Think of it like plugging your soul in for a long recharge just like you do with your phone each night. Taking a personal retreat is just that. Stepping aside for a day or more to deeply rest, listen to God, and plan your next steps (or years) can have the same effect on your soul as plugging your smart phone in for a long charge.

Time after time, year after year, I come away filled with:

  • a renewed sense of purpose,
  • clarity of vision,
  • trust in God’s ability to untie all the knots of my life, and
  • overwhelming sense of being loved.

There’s nothing quite like a retreat to provide that much restoration in such a relatively short amount of time. Many of us are familiar with the relationship boost a getaway with your spouse or family can provide, and a getaway with God has the same results for our souls.

Before you get lost in the disclaimers—“I don’t have time, money, energy, or inspiration for this type of thing"—consider the invitation of Jesus:

“Come away with me by yourself to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31).

The invitation still stands today.

If you are looking for details, ideas and plans for what to do there, check out my book, Getaway with God.

Let me give you a few suggestions now.

1. A personal retreat can take place just about anywhere, apart from your own home if possible. Too many distractions and to-do’s all around.

I have retreated in retreat centers, convents, public gardens, the beach, hotels, bed and breakfast inns and a friend’s home while she was at work. Sure, some of these venues had costs, others were free. Regardless, it is an investment in your spiritual life which has a direct spillover into all the other aspects of your day to day as well.

2. While you are away with God, you can rest, nap, pray, read, plan and walk.

3. Staying off social media helps with the focus.

4. Stay for as long as you can, overnight is a plus.

5. It is your retreat to design as you wish. And if you ask him to help you with the planning part, He usually does.

I know how easy it is to wait until “the perfect time” for something like this but don’t let another year get away. Trust me, you will need it after the holiday hoopla is over.

Make it your Christmas gift to yourself.

Before you get too caught up in the calendar pages of 2018, can you consider scheduling a retreat?

Letitia (Tish) Suk, invites women to create an intentional life centered in Jesus. She is a blogger at Hope for the Best: Chasing the Intentional Life, and author of Getaway with God: The Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat) and Rhythms of Renewal. She is a speaker, personal retreat guide, and life coach in the Chicago area. Contact her here.

Graphic adapted from photo at zinemo, Pixabay.


Open Your Gifts with a Personal Growth Retreat

With Christmas coming, we need fresh ways to think about what is important in life. My friend  Kathy Carlton Willis honed in on this when she started thinking about her birthday. In this special Christmas and Spiritual Life "almost 2018" UPGRADE post, she shares an interesting way she’s celebrating.

“Most people get gifts for their birthdays," Kathy says. "I'm choosing to look at my birthday ITSELF as a gift. I don’t want to waste it!”

I (Dawn) love it when people examine their lives so they can make the best possible choices going forward. Let’s see what Kathy plans to do with her birthday.

She continues . . .

On December 13th, I turn 55. That seems like a milestone. Double nickels.

It propels me to do a personal inventory of where I’ve been and where I’m going in life. Join me, if this is a process you’d like to undergo before we hit 2018.

Forty years ago, I started setting goals. Yes, even as a teen girl I sensed God’s direction in my life and wanted to make it count for something.

I knew I would fritter away the time unless I became intentional about how I spent my days.

I made big long-term goals, and divided those into smaller short-term goals. Then I split those into doable action steps, to keep me on track.

This birthday season (for me) or Christmas and end-of-year season (for you), let’s contemplate, celebrate, and motivate. I plan to inventory my life using these questions and intentions. You’re invited to have your own personal growth retreat, using my formula.


  • When I came to faith in Christ, what did I believe God had purposed for my life? Why did He leave me on earth rather than call me to His side? I plan to honor HIS plan.
  • What are some of the blessings from my years on earth? I will thank God for these.
  • What difficult moments did I go through? I know God will not waste any pain, struggle, heartache or disappointment I’ve gone through. I’m so glad they are behind me!
  • What are the personal growth moments I’ve experienced? I recognize how God used these to transform me.


  • What are some distinct highlights from my life journey? I will commemorate them.
  • What special people have come into my life (for a season or to stay)? I will delight in them.
  • What opportunities did God bring my way? I will express joy in them.
  • What victories over challenges did I experience? I will remember them.
  • What personal growth milestones have happened so far? I will observe and honor them.
  • What skills have I developed, through God’s gift in me? I will applaud them.
  • What answered prayers have I seen? I will rejoice in them.


  • Is God impressing on me any personal growth moments still to come?
  • How will I respond differently to crisis, attacks, or drama?
  • What goals are God setting before me?

Words for reflection:

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. (Philippians 3:12-14 NLT)

This Christmas season we celebrate the gift of Jesus as Savior. Because of Jesus, we rejoice in gifts such as peace, joy, and love.

May we also use this time of year as a gift to contemplate where we’ve been and let God motivate us to where we’re headed.   

Celebrate the Savior, the Season, and the Story yet to be told in you.

What direction is God impressing on your heart as you wrap up 2017 and enter 2018?

God’s Grin Gal, Kathy Carlton Willis, shines the light on what holds you back so you can grow. She’s a speaker and author with over a thousand articles online and in print, as well as her Bible study, Grin with GraceShe’s a bi-monthly columnist with CBN and a devotional writer for Todd Starnes. She and her husband Russ live in Texas with Jazzy, their hilarious Boston Terrier.


A New Year's Resolution Makeover

Nali Hilderman is a smart, successful college professor, but she knows how to make truth practical. In this New Year's UPGRADE, she points us to seek God and allow scripture to speak to our hearts.

"As we turn our thoughts from the outgoing year and focus on the new," Nali says, "I propose we have a makeover in any resolutions we make for the New Year."

Nali's suggestion intrigues me (Dawn), because I've made many resolutions over my lifetime, and so few of them lasted. Maybe a "makeover" is exactly what I need.

Nali continues . . .

As women most of us tend to enjoy the idea of a makeover. Be it a make-up facial, a weight-loss plan, or someone cleaning or organizing our house, we love the idea of a new, fresh perspective on something ordinary. 

I don’t know where the tradition of New Year’s resolutions began, but it seems that most of the time they tend to focus on us and what we want out of life. 

I do not necessarily think that is a bad thing, but as believers, we don’t live life solely for ourselves— WE live life for the Lord! 

What if, this year, you turn your focus to Christ and ask Him for His resolutions for your life instead of your own resolutions! 

I have been doing this for about five years now and it’s been amazing to see how each year has had a God-ordained theme to it. 

For 2016, the word that kept coming to my heart and mind in prayer was “rest.” For the first several months, I assumed that it meant I needed to rest physically and emotionally from a very busy and fulfilling job as a professor. 

Yet, as the months of the year progressed and God walked me through some painful personal and family issues, I realized His notion of rest was much deeper than I thought. Over the past several months, I was invited into a deep, soul-level rest of the knowledge of who Christ has made me to be and to find my identity in Him. 

This theme has challenged and guided me as I’ve navigated things this year. I know I am different now for it, and am grateful to see His hand at work.

I am excited for YOU to try this New Year’s Resolution plan. Here are a couple of simple suggestions on how to do this:

1. Remember God as your "Ebenezer."

In the Old Testament, God was Israel’s Ebenezer. Ebenezer means "stone of help." 

God commanded the leaders of Israel, through Samuel, to set up memorial stones in public places to commemorate how God had provided for and rescued the children of Israel (see 1 Samuel 7, especially verse 12). 

Take time to think about and write down how God provided for and blessed you LAST year.

A joyful and grateful heart for God’s blessings in 2016 will go a long way towards seeing Him as protector and provider in the New Year. 

2. Make time for a Retreat and ask the Lord for goals for the New Year.

This does not have to be a “long” retreat; even just a few hours of concentrated time will suffice. But think through and ask what things the Lord might have for you in the coming months and year. 

Ask if there are any passages of Scripture that might serve as a guide. This can provide a clear vision for how you are to invest your time, finances, resources and energy—and is usually far more exciting than “spend two hours at the gym every day”!  

You can do this for yourself personally, but you might also want to try doing this with your spouse and/or children. One year, my friend and her family decided they were going to focus on "being generous." That was their focus word for the year. So they set aside a part of their earnings each month and looked for people that God wanted them to provide for.

Note: if you need further help on how to do this check out a simple book called One Word. It teaches how just one word can impact you. 

3. Enjoy the New Year!

The best part about the New Year is that is a chance to restart, refresh and realign. 

Taking time to examine your life can be an exciting thing, especially if you walk into the new season with a renewed sense of purpose from the Lord. God is at work in you, my friends!

"For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10, ESV).

The Lord has work for you to do—exciting work, faith-building work, challenging work, difficult work.

Will you make a goal to remember Him as He worked in 2016, and join in asking Him to guide you purposefully in 2017?

Nali Hilderman is a professor of American history at San Diego Christian College and Director of the college’s Dr. Henry Morris Leadership Program. She studies women’s history and Christian theology, trying to make sense of how to be a confident, successful Christian woman who does not buy into the secular feminist mentality. She attends Journey Community Church in La Mesa, CA.


Back to the Future: Retreat to Plan the New Year

Kathy Carlton Willis is an encourager to the max! She knows how to motivate women to upgrade their lives. In this New Year’s UPGRADE, she suggests we all go on a “retreat.”

Kathy told me, “As a career coach I often hear the excuse, ‘I’m just too busy.’ I’m sorry, but I’m not buying it. Each person is given the same number of hours in the day.”

I (Dawn) do think there is a “too busy” level for all of us, but I’ve discovered better planning, delegating, and eliminating the non-essential and what God says “has to go” suddenly can free up a lot of time I didn’t know I had! So I am shouting a hearty “Amen” to Kathy’s words.

Kathy continues. . .

Sure, we all have different energy levels and abilities, but I’m positive we have exactly the resources we need to fulfill the purposes God has for each of us.

The next time you’re tempted to offer up the excuse, “I’m just too busy,” instead I challenge you to say what is the real reason: “It’s simply not a priority for me.”

We get to choose what is important in our lives.

One way I adjust my priorities is to have a yearly personal retreat, either at home or a remote location.

A familiar Psalm indicates what happens during a personal retreat.

“He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still and quiet waters. He  refreshes and restores my soul (life); He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23: 2-3 AMP).

Here are some pointers for your retreat:

1. Start and end with God.

Put your agenda aside. Focus on His strengths and skills. Fall in love with Him again. Be wowed by His power and wisdom. Worship Him, not for what He has done for you, but for who He is.

If you find your mind trailing off, use the alphabet to stay fixed on Him. Come up with a word that describes God from every letter in the alphabet.

2. Use a variety of worship techniques.

  • Walk with Him in nature.
  • Take photos of His creation.
  • Sing along to praise music.
  • Dance to the tune.
  • Draw.
  • Invent your own sign-language to symbolize the lyrics.
  • Personalize Scripture.

3. Get filled up.

Surrender your life to God again. 100% God and 0% you.

Once you are filled up and yielded, then you are ready to proceed.

4. Evaluate the year just ending.

  • What surprised you?
  • What exceeded your goals?
  • What derailed or disappointed you?
  • What is still left undone?
  • What desires and direction did God plant in you that indicates the New Year will look different?
  • What was within your control to do that you procrastinated?
  • What was not within your power that changed your plans?

Give the old year to God. Leave it behind without regrets as you move into the New Year.

Clean slate: either a second chance to get your current goals accomplished or brand new goals for a brand new year.

5. Ask God to show you His plans for your New Year.

Don’t merely ask Him to bless your agenda.

Be willing to follow God’s lead wherever it takes you—out of your comfort zone and into the faith-zone.

People ask my secret to getting so much done, and goal-setting is the root of my productivity. It’s not about success as the world sees it, or achievement. I’m focused on being and doing everything God has designed for my life.

Here’s a sample template for my goal-setting session. It varies depending on the year, so feel free to alter it to fit your needs.

  • My spiritual growth goals for 2017 include:
  • My mental/emotional growth goals for 2017 include:
  • My physical goals for 2017 include:
  • I will use my ability of ______ by doing:
  • I will work on a relationship with:
  • Finances will improve when:
  • I will read ___ books.
  • To be healthier, I will:
  • I have a problem procrastinating. This year I will improve in the area of:

Fill out your goal worksheet, then sign it as an indication you will give 100% to God’s agenda.

Does God have a surprise for you in the New Year? Put on your eyes of faith so you can see it when it arrives.

Kathy Carlton Willis shines for God, reflecting His light as a speaker at writer's conferences and women's retreats, and as an author - contributing to three books and writing hundreds of columns and articles online and in print publications. She wrote Grin with Gracewith AMG Publishers and has several books releasing over the next few years. She and her husband Russ live in Texas with Jazzy, their hilarious Boston Terrier.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of depaulus, Pixabay