Our students are back after the holidays, and we kicked off semester two with what was supposed to be winter camping. Due to uncooperative weather, this trip for camping turned into a simple retreat spent up in cabins in the Kawartha Lakes. We were disappointed when we knew we weren’t going to be able to go out in tents, but soon realized that this was God’s hand giving us what we needed instead of what we thought we wanted.
It was a rich time of reflection, prayer, worship and time outside.
From Jamie, current student:
About two months ago now, my team and I spent a month living in Africa. During our time there, I really noticed the slow pace at which they live their lives. It struck me that they rarely rushed themselves to an appointment, they took their time in casual conversation, and they never felt the need to check their phones if they had one. It was all fine and dandy then. The challenge, I’m realizing, is keeping up that lifestyle here at home where no one else seems to grasp the concept that we don’t have to hurry and when the world just seems to spin faster and faster as the minutes pass.
Retreat. Most see it as “running away” but I was taught recently that this is not the case. Instead, it is a vital action to remove yourself for a period of time, take stock of what you have, take a moment to remember where you’ve been, and set goals for where you’re about to go.
This week was spent up north at a cottage with Coldwater Canada. Stoney Lake. Frozen all the way across so we could walk for what seemed like forever.
This intentional quiet time was nothing short of peaceful, restful and everything I didn’t know I needed. It reminded me of red sand on a far away continent.
Something hit me as I sunk into a couch, watching the snow fall outside of the cabin while the fire crackled and my Bible lay open beside me. Moments like these don’t have to prompt a profound thought. It can be plainly: enjoying watching the snow fall.
Glitter was falling from the sky! And I got to watch!
This may sound simple to many but I think we put too much pressure on ourselves to connect our experiences into reflections of “what does this mean for me” or “what can I do with this.” I’m trying to debunk this constant mindset in myself – and encourage others to do the same because sometimes beauty is found in noticing little details like circling a word that you enjoy without feeling the need to write a thought beside it. That, to me, is a form of worship I’ve been missing.
“Be still” is a command. Let me say that again: a command!
It is a skill to watch the world around you and to put your pen and paper down or close your mouth about what you witness for even half an hour. It is a skill and sometimes it is not always necessary but it is so pleasing to God, filling to the soul. Slow down.
This time at the frozen lake was carved out for us. Done on purpose. I’m anticipating that it was the calm before the busyness of this upcoming second semester. Schedules will undoubtedly become busy. Agendas will get cluttered. Meetings are arranged and conversations will need to be had. But not everything has to be fast-paced, rushed. It is a discipline to refuse letting your habits rule you. So practice: put your phone down, let yourself lay in the grass and watch the clouds. Let yourself stare out the window and think about absolutely nothing without feeling guilty about it. How beautiful is it that God gives us room for these pleasures – don’t miss them.
From Angela, current student:
Who knew a weekend away would do me so good? Not me.
I went into the weekend feeling good from the time I’d had being home since the end of Christmas; this retreat was a beautiful continuation of high mood and low stress.
Never have I ever thought of retreat as something other than weak surrender. But I learned that retreat is a necessary tactic to take stock of what’s up and envision how to move forward with that taken into account. It’s a lovely and unexpected change in perspective that really emphasizes the importance of taking time to recenter and this trip has really hit the spot for me.
I found something I’ve been longing for, but because it is not a totally learned thing, I’ve missed it for quite some time: peace. Peace that passes understanding down in my heart, no less. God came through completely for me on that front and I am quite grateful.
I feel clear. I feel happy; stresses are small and able to be overcome. Life is absolutely bonkers that way and I’m currently thriving in it.