Do I approach them as everyone else might? No! There are lots of classes to attend, hay rides, etc., but for me, it's a weekend to rest, go walking at 6am and breath in the fresh air by the lakeside on a cool October morning and now as I've moved a couple of times, it's a weekend to see friends from my old churches and this year I will also get to spend some time with new friends as well. The first thing I do is look at the agenda, figure out what classes I really want to take and figure out what session I'm going to skip (usually the last afternoon session). This time becomes mine to sit and read my bible, read a good fiction novel, sleep or just visit and relax!
Two years ago when I went for retreat, our family had experienced three deaths in a three and a half week period and my mom had also experienced huge difficulties with her illness right in the midst of everything! I knew I needed to get away and have some time to myself, to recover from everything which had happened, to rest not only physically, but spiritually as well. At most of our retreats we get little "party favors" at the place settings of our table, etc. that we're allowed to take home. This year, the theme was on Esther and biblical times...at each place around the table there was a simple little burlap sack with a card...some of the cards talked about joy, peace, love, etc. When I picked mine up...it said, "The Salt of Long Suffering". Everyone told me to go try and find another, more uplifting one, but I chose to keep it and now have it in a place where I can read it, depending on the situation I might be going through. Everyone thought it was such a negative to get, considering where I was in life at that point, but it really wasn't. This is what it said:
Our lives are the only Bible some people read. Adversity and affliction do not come as a thief to steal our happiness or joy, but as a friend bringing the gift of long sufferings' staying power. We see little value in hardship, but God sees it differently - adversity comes to test our faith and to produce the quality of endurance.
No one wanted to even see it, as they thought it couldn't possibly have anything positive to say. I'm so glad I did keep it...I've drawn on these words a lot throughout the last couple of years, especially at points throughout this last one! I'm learning to know that most things in this life come down to having a positive, Godly-mindset. It's not always easy, because we're not perfect...but He doesn't expect perfection, He just wants our best depending on the circumstances we're in and the commitment to continue to grow in our Christian walk and different aspects of life.
The first year I did go to retreat, my current church was putting it on. I remember thinking what an awesome church that must be...the people seemed so friendly and welcoming, fun-loving and God-loving. I now know that to be so true and so much more. The item I brought home from that first retreat had these messages:
These messages sit alongside the little burlap sack...they remind me of God's constant love and protection. But most importantly, they remind me of what I need to be each and everyday to those who cross my path and what I need to live my life with...joy in all circumstances, with a strong foundation of unquestioning faith and devotion and that I need to approach all circumstances with His grace and portray Him in every minute aspect of my life!