Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Now Get to Work

I can tell from the comments on my Mother's Retreat Tutorial that I do not have you fully convinced. A break would be nice, sure, but really? Not worth the expense or hassle or husband deprivation. Am I right? Is that the track that's playing in the back of your mind?

What was missing from my tutorial was what I meant by "Get to work." This is really the meat and potatoes of the retreat, the heart and soul, the thing that is going to rejuvenate you and fill your bucket with enough emotional stamina to last months (I make it about five or six).

My purpose is to sit quietly and ponder on the things facing my family and myself at the current moment. Leave the tv and radio off. Relish the silence. Besides just enjoying a moment with no one screaming at you or begging for something or destroying some priceless family heirloom, silence is a wonderful tool in hearing the promptings of the Spirit. With the right kind of effort, you can set the stage for a wonderful spiritual environment in which to be inspired on ways to best help your family.

I always start with a prayer. It sets the tone for the entire venture and helps to put me in the right mindset for what I'm hoping to accomplish. I know that much more can be done with the Lord on my side than what I can do on my own.

I have scriptures and other books on hand. Part of this is just my personal style--I love to be surrounded by my books, especially when I know no one else will touch, tear, or otherwise defile them. (Can you tell I enjoy having a break from my kids now and again?) I packed an entire suitcase filled with nothing but books. And that didn't include the ones that I shoved in the corners around my clothes in my overnight bag. Or the couple that I stashed inside my pillowcase. Or the ones in my purse... I love my books.

I had the books turned this way so the bindings wouldn't be overly damaged during transport. I took the picture, then it occurred to me that someone out there just might be interested in what books I chose to haul along. So I turned them all around and took another picture. And then unpacked them and put them back on the shelves since I didn't think to take a picture until I was already home.

Feel free to ask if you want specific information on any of these books.

I see this as a time to stock up on the tools of the trade. Putting in the time to lay out a clear and concise plan can have an amazing effect on actually accomplishing something. Even if you just write it down and only glance at it again a few times after you're home, just having the idea planted in your mind will yield surprising results. Making the decisions and formulating the plan in advance will help bring much greater success than living life just flying by the seat of your pants.

Here comes the brain work. These are just a few things that I have pondered on my retreats, a few guiding questions to get your mind going. You do not have to do all of these in one trip. Pick two or three, or one. Or don't use any of my ideas and choose your own direction. Just start somewhere and see where the Spirit guides you.

Personal Mission Statement

Who do you want to be as a person? As a mother? As a wife? Consider what traits you want to have and how to attain them. What weaknesses you have that need strengthening. What your purpose is within your family and your sphere of influence and how you are going to achieve it.

Stephen R. Covey has a wonderful free online tool for writing both personal and family mission statements, found HERE.

Five-Facet Child Review

For each child, assess their needs in each of these five areas: physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and intellectual/mental. What are they struggling with most? What can you do to help them? Not every category necessarily applies (particularly to babies) but it is still worth putting in individual time for every child.

I also find this to be an excellent time to write letters to each child. I have a journal for each that I try to write in at major milestones--birthdays, learning to walk, beginning and end of school year, etc. My retreats are a good time to write when life events are less noteworthy and I can focus more on the child as a person, especially in moments when I have put in a lot of thought already into that child's life and my present relationship with him or her.

Marriage Check-up

This was a big one on my most recent retreat. It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and lose track of what's most important in your marriage: your husband. Remind yourself why you married him and why you love him now. Make a list of his traits you admire and respect the most, then make a list of ways to show him that you love him now more than you did when you got married. Make sure you follow through with this when you get home! You may want to write him a letter, too.


Where do you want to be in five years? Ten years? Personally? With your family? Financially? Academically? Spiritually? Take the time to write down goals for what you hope to be achieving in your current season of life--remember, if you don't know your destination, you'll never know when you've arrived. Try to write SMART goals where feasible: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound (thank you Arby's for teaching me that so well. ha).

Schedules and Routines

When I'm caught up in the chaos of the day, I find it difficult to make quick decisions (this is a symptom of PPD, yes, but this is certainly not an isolated problem). In these quiet moments, I find it a very good time to lay out what my "ideal" day would look like--meals, naps, activities, play time, Mom time, housework, appointments, all that jazz. Once I have a picture of the ideal, I picture the realistic (often much more different than we want it to be!) and try to bring them as close together as possible. Determining what time we have snack gives me a basis around which to plan learning time or play time or sit-at-the-table-and-color-so-I-can-finally-get-the-dishes-done time.

This helps me a lot with sticking to what I know I want to do. It may be a great idea to only have one snack, at the table, between breakfast and lunch, but it harder to remember that wisdom when I have all the kids climbing on me begging for "just one more" cracker. If I've planned it ahead of time, I find it much easier to stick to my guns and hold my ground.

You can plan schedules and routines for anything as broad as what the entire day looks like down to how you put the baby to bed at night or what kind of manners are reasonable to expect from the toddler at the dinner table. Be as general or as specific as you feel fits your needs.


Whether or not you are a regular journal-writer, this is a great time to take stock of life as you know it. What things are going well? What do you wish would go differently? What changes would you like to see happen and how can you achieve them? (Remember, you are only in control of yourself--don't try to plan changes that require someone else to do the changing.)

Recognizing God's Hand

I like to do this at the end of my retreats, regardless of whatever else I've ended up doing. In your journal or on a piece of scratch paper or on the little notepad hotels usually have next to the phone, make a list of ways that you can see God's hand in your life. I promise that the more you try, the more you will notice. It's definitely worth the practice.


Like I said, those are just a few suggestions. Work on whatever is forefront in your mind, whatever you feel needs the most attention and will be the most beneficial to you. It is also not required that you be completely isolated at a hotel to accomplish these things. If you have a couple hours after the kids are in bed, pick one thing to put some thought into. If you can escape out to lunch, hunker down in a booth with your hamburger and your journal and see how far you can get in a hour. Your goal is to rejuvenate yourself and recommit to your roles as mother, wife, and daughter of God. Do whatever it takes!


Liz, Karl, Madison, Brooklyn and Aubrey said...

You are so good Laura. I can not BELIEVE how many books you brought with you.:) I so am not a reader so the thought of lugging all those books with me on a special night out by myself... pretty sure I couldn't do it. haha. But I admire that you do.

Brenda said...

These are great ideas even if you aren't a mother. Your goals section made me laugh because that is what they teach us in PT school. Write SMART goals. I guess it applies in every aspect of life, so it must be true.

Meghann said...

Now, I'm seriously thinking about. And Dang girl, you sure do love your books! It's a good thing and makes me feel better about my own collection. Thanks for writing this tutorial.