My lovely friend Lucy, alias http://desertmum1.wordpress.com/, has suggested I blog about going on retreat. Seeing as I a) have been on retreat recently and b) am grateful for someone else to have my bloggy inspiration for me, I shall oblige! But, because 2013 has also been the year of the Pysanczyn clan’s Canadian adventure, any post about holidays would have to include that too. So what follows is a general post on this year’s getaways, and the refreshment that they have brought…
So, in June I spent a weekend on retreatwith the lovely Women of Worth group – a large, church-wide group of St Michael le Belfrey, the church I belong to in York. (They also blog at http://belfreywomen.wordpress.com/. Let’s see how many other blogsI can link to in a single post, hey!) The group organise thisweekend away as part of their annual pattern of events and socials, encouraging all women who already go to St Mike’s to invite a friend along. I invited my mum, cheerfully leaving Freddie in Daddy Daycare to motor off to the Jonas Centre (jonascentre.org) in thepicturesque Yorkshire Dales in search of refreshment, inspiration and cake. We found all three in full measure!
View over Wensleydale from the Jonas Centre
A retreat is defined as a temporary withdrawal from daily life – like any holiday, but with a spiritual dimension. Retreat has its roots in the Bible – Moses retreated to Mount Sinai to meet God, and Jesus went into the desert. Although retreat is not a new idea, the fast pace of modern life does, I believe, make retreat very relevant today. People go on retreat for a variety of reasons: the above-mentioned friend who inspired this blog post had been blogging herself about the need to go on retreat when facing an important decision. She had something specific to pray into, and retreat can help with that. I pray she gets the chance! In my case, there was nothing major on my mind, but I was looking forward to getting away from the mountains of laundry and responsibility at home, and to making space for God to move in my life. It later transpired though that God was using the retreat to steel me for a challenge that lay ahead…!
Anyway, having landed at the Jonas Centre and settled into our comfy log cabins, it wasn’t long before both laundry and responsibility were just a distant memory. Activities such as ceramic painting, hand massage, gentle walking around Swaledale and enjoying the cuisine of the best cook in the world (yes, amazingly enough, the best cook in the world actually goes to our church! And no, you can’t take her away from us!) have little to do with stress. We were blessed with good company, a bit of more overtly Christian-y stuff, and buckets of time to simply pause and reflect.
Although the weekend sped by and we were sorry to leave on Sunday, we felt well equipped to return to everyday life with more peace and prayerfulness than before. And by Monday morning, I was glad that I’d spent the previous weekend drawing closer to God: a trip to the GP to discuss a strange rash and swelling on Freddie’s face and neck landed us straight in hospital. Where we stayed for the rest of the week! Freddie was diagnosed with impetigo, which had spread to his glands, requiring intravenous antibiotics and two ultrasounds to check the swelling had not formed into an abscess (it didn’t). It’s very, very hard to see your child feeling sad and uncomfortable. But at least I didn’t have to be sad and uncomfortable myself. God had strengthened me the previous weekend – he has good timing! Both our families were totally self-sacrificing and just amazing as they rushed to our aid. And one thing was very different from the last time we went through a scary-Freddie-health thing (back when he was a newborn). Last time, I didn’t belong to a church community whose members stand by one another in prayer and drop everything to visit each other’s children in hospital, but I do now. And through all this prayer, and the expertise of some very awesome NHS staff, Freddie made a speedy recovery. He even warmed to the hospital environment when his Auntie Rosie showed him that pressing the buttons on his bed was a great way to kill time and bamboozle his parents. Win! (I told you my family was self-sacrificing).
Now the only thing left for me to worry about (I do tend to always have at least one thing!) was our forthcoming Holiday Of A Lifetime to Canada for my brother’s wedding. Would Freddie be fit to fly? Would we?! Another prayer was answered when, four days before take-off, a follow-up appointment at the hospital confirmed that Freddie was indeed well enough to spend a seven-hour flight doing what three-year-olds do best – climbing seats, pressing buttons, crying dramatically, and generally keeping us on our toes lest we should be found off-duty. Thankfully, regardless of what happened on the plane, it did transport us to Toronto, and thence to seriously stunning Lake Buckhorn:
This is the summer home of our wonderful new family of Canadians, whom my brother married into halfway through our holidays. They’re the most hospitable and generous people, and where they live is beautiful. Switch off your computer and go there now! That’s an order. Yes, we are uber-grateful to Patrick and his beautiful wife Amber for giving us a reason to discover Canadian cottage living. Now I just need to find a man from Paris for my sister, and we’ll be all set for holidays!
Tomorrow Freddie and I are scooting down to Worcester to stay with my mum and enjoy not having to cook for a week (holiday tip emerging from this post: find good cooks and go on holiday with them. It doesn’t matter where). And finally, given that the hubby and I are at that age, there’s been the usual good crop of weddings to give us excuses to get away this year. Norfolk, Sarf London, York and of course Canada feature on this year’s wedding-influenced holiday brochure for famille P. (OK, OK, so we already live in York. But, you know, for the wedding in question, we had to walk to the other side of the River Ouse. Big deal if you’re a Yorkie.)
So this year, I’ve been blessed with holidays incorporating a wonderful range of locations and a balance of fun activities. As much as I complain about nursery and toddler groups stopping for six weeks, I will go back to normal life in September feeling restored, rested and ready to serve God again through Tuesday Tots and general mum stuff. I hope you’re all enjoying the holidays too!
Note on retreat: retreat can involve periods of silence and fasting. As you will have gathered from my waxing lyrical about food, our weekend didn’t involve either of these (as far as I was aware. If anyone else was fasting, I had got to that point with the Eton Mess where I wouldn’t have noticed). However, silence and fasting have a part to play in retreat and indeed in Christian living, and could fuel future blog posts!