IVP - Strangely Dim - Retreat! Retreat!

March 10, 2008

Retreat! Retreat!

Last weekend I attended the annual winter retreat for my church's high school youth group. It was my fifth winter retreat with this group, and while the kids are fantastic, the snow beautiful and the options for activity numerous, to be perfectly honest this retreat usually makes me want to--well, retreat. A long winter weekend in northern Wisconsin with a couple hundred high-energy people does not a happy space-heater-loving introvert make. In years past, the goodness of being away and the fun of being with students were somewhat overridden by coldness, lack of sleep and a desperate desire at some point in the weekend to find some place--inside--besides a small shower or bathroom stall to be alone.

After all that, I get back Sunday night, almost too tired to drag my poor suitcase--overstuffed as it is with almost everything warm I own--through the church parking lot to my car. Then I try to decide if an overpowering need for personal space can constitute a sick day on Monday. I always decide it can't, so I drag myself to work Monday morning after emerging from a sleep so sound that I'm pretty sure not even the arrival of firefighters to put out a fire in my own bedroom would wake me up. (I probably would just enjoy the extra warmth a fire brings.) Needless to say, I approached this year's retreat with some trepidation.

But, even with trepidation intact, the retreat last weekend was a good one--maybe my favorite of the five years I've attended. The senior girls, my coleader and I had a cabin all to ourselves, and therefore lots of time to talk and laugh and eat chocolate. And I actually got to play in the snow--as opposed to just scraping it off my car and driving around in it like I've been doing at home. And the camp has peanut butter and bread set out the entire weekend, day and night, for the snacking. You can hardly complain about a camp that is hospitable enough to provide peanut butter round the clock. Not to mention the fact that the youth group I help with won the extraordinarily competitive broomball tournament, my fellow youth leaders and I successfully snuck the speaker's car onto the broomball court during the final large-group worship session, and I learned that high school students still like to be read to.

In the midst of the fun and the stress and exhaustion of a retreat that was not exactly a retreat, I was tired enough, quiet enough, still enough, open enough to listen to God and watch for God and hear God and see God. I was also reminded what an amazing privilege it is to walk alongside others--especially this small group of fantastic senior girls whom I've watched grow and learn for the past three-and-a-half years--and help them look for and see God too.

I'll admit that the following weekend I thought a couple of times how grateful I was to be in my own bed and apartment, to be warm, to not have to be constantly social. But I've also been even more grateful for the girls I lead, and for the ways and places God speaks. Extraordinary Tiredness met God and had to depend on God in new ways. And God answered--like he does here, in the midst of my everyday life when I'm still enough, quiet enough, open enough to go to him.

While you ponder that, I'm going to go fix something hot to drink and turn up my space heater. I'm still making up for lost time.

Posted by Lisa Rieck at March 10, 2008 1:20 PM Bookmark and Share


I enjoyed that, having had similar experiences long ago, except for the cold.I've just realised my remarks the last few times never got to you as I didn't see the POST sign! I had a lot to say about Lent, from my pre-Christian, dead church beginnings

Comment by: Gran at March 10, 2008 3:06 PM

It is nice to be warm again, isn't it? A week and a half ago, I thought I would never again be warm!

Comment by: Linda at March 10, 2008 7:33 PM

I am really grateful for Winterfest with you and our girls this year...and appreciate/understand/relate to so much of what you wrote. :)

Thanks for hiking around in the snow with me, even without snowshoes!

Comment by: Tanya Thomas at March 10, 2008 8:48 PM

Sounds like SBR. Always a good time, broomball. 'cept when you fall down. ouch!

Comment by: helen at March 11, 2008 7:44 AM

Nice post. Having served with youth and children's ministries, I surely can identify. These wonderful and exhilarating weekends inspire me. Yet, by the time I return home, I am ready to retreat from the retreat.

Maybe I am just getting older. ;-)



Comment by: Linda N at March 17, 2008 9:02 AM

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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