My writing friends are on our annual retreat. I call it “our” retreat even if I’m not with them, because I am connected to them despite the difference in miles and routines of the week.
The retreat started about a half-dozen years ago by four friends connected by ministry and proximity. I lived a bit farther away but had met a couple of them, and they graciously allowed me to join the first year. Because of my new job, I can no longer take the time off in this or future Januarys, but we’re still connected.
A few women have come and gone from the group, but the core is always involved. We don’t have a lot of connection time throughout the year, and we actually don’t even connect a lot while on the retreat, because the focus is writing, reflecting, and growing. We meet in the kitchen for dinner every night and share our progress, challenges, and life.
It’s a solitary experience within a supportive community.
I have enjoyed every year’s experience and remember each for different reasons. Last year was a deeply enriching spiritual experience. I wrote a lot, but I also read and prayed a lot. I steeped in God’s presence. Then I returned home, and my husband announced he no longer wanted to be married. The news was shocking and discombobulating. Yet I wrote my friends during those mind-numbing, heart-crushing first days: “I am so thankful for the writing retreat leading up to all this. God had me in a good place when it all hit, and while it is hard, I know I can trust God each step of the way.” I don’t know that I would ever feel prepared for what I was facing, but feeling prepared and trusting God has prepared me are two different things.
Those same women whom I didn’t see often and lived an hour and more away from me made plans to come to my house after I moved so they could fix supper and love me. They were flexible when I was overwhelmed. They met me for breakfast and gave me comfort gifts and kind words. They gave me space and laughter. They gave me their friendship.
It’s amazing how friendships can build across the miles through common bonds.
I am setting aside writing time during the retreat days. I won’t get nearly as much done as I would if I was there, but it still feels as if I am a part of the process. I think of my friends and their retreat process often. I know God is pouring into them and challenging them to grow in ways they might not know quite yet.
We often remind each other that the retreat isn’t just for setting and accomplishing goals but for trusting God to guide. We can’t pour out words for others unless we empty ourselves enough to receive whatever God wants to pour into us.
So, my friends at the retreat, remember to trust God. It’s a reminder every one of us, no matter where we are, what we’re doing, and what we’re facing, need and can embrace with humility and faith. Let’s be thankful for the friendships God gifts us across the miles or across the street.