For the last couple of years during the holiday season, my husband and I have carved out time away from our kids and normal routine for an “end-of-year retreat.” Maybe the word “retreat” conjures up visions of sleeping bags on gym floors, or team-building exercises, or passing the tissue box around a circle of weeping women. But in its most basic form, a retreat is simply a chance to get away from your usual routine, an opportunity to quiet the distractions and noise, a period of time where you withdraw from the to-do lists and iPhone notifications.
During our end-of-year retreat, we get away for a night, go out to dinner, and talk–like, really talk–about the year we’re leaving behind and the one up ahead.
Why Make an End-of-Year Retreat?
This practice has become one of my favorite parts of the holiday season. A chance to take a step back and evaluate, to celebrate the victories and talk through the hardships. To recap what the past year held for us each individually, as well as our family as a whole, and to dream about what the next 365 days might bring.
Whether you’re married or single, a college student or empty nester, I think the concept of an end-of-year retreat is really valuable. For me, it is a huge part of my desire to live with intention instead of by default. It’s a beautiful way to close the door on one year and prayerfully embrace the next.An end-of-year retreat is a beautiful way to close the door on one year and prayerfully embrace the next. #BISblog // Click To Tweet
How to Make an End-of-Year Retreat
Whether it’s a morning at home with no distractions, two hours at the coffee shop with your headphones in, or a night away with your spouse, a time of retreat is truly a gift you can give yourself. Clear the calendar and commit to giving yourself the gift of time to recap, reflect and dream, and pray! I love to have a notebook or journal, Bible, and this goal planner with me during my retreat time.
If you’re interested in doing an end-of-year retreat yourself, here are my top five tips to try!
1. Count the Fruit
We like to start our retreat by counting the fruit. What can we give thanks for? What good things grew? In the day-to-day, it can sometimes be hard to see what God is up to or how He is answering our prayers. It can start to feel like the whole year was a wash, that maybe we have nothing to show for it.
The point here is to zoom out a bit and look at the past year as a whole. Good things grew, no matter what your year looked like. Name those things. Write them in a journal, even.
We get out our wedding album and jot a few highlights down on one of the blank pages at the end. Imagine fifty years from now, having a record of all the best parts of your years. What a gift!
2. Dig into the Nuts and Bolts
Next, we talk about what’s working and what’s not. What elements of our routine are really serving us and our family well? What needs improvement? How do we feel about our kids’ school situations, or our current jobs? Does our budgeting system need work?
Because we are list people, we just write it all down on a sheet of paper. One column for things that are working, and one column for things that aren’t. This helps us know where to focus our efforts. There’s no point fixing something that isn’t broken. So making a list helps us to devote our energy to tweaking the routines, rhythms, and systems that really need to be tweaked.
3. Revisit (or Write!) Your Value Statement
We have a family value statement that helps guide all the decisions we make for our family. During our end-of-year retreat, we revisit this value statement. As we change and grow as individuals, as our family changes and grows, this value statement evolves as well. We tweak our value statement as necessary and talk about ways we can live it out in a tangible way.
For instance, our family statement might include a commitment to serving others. How can we practically live that out? Maybe it means visiting a soup kitchen one Friday a month to serve a meal with our kids, or shopping for the parish giving tree gifts together. We brainstorm about how to turn these lofty ideals into real-life experiences for our family.
The point here isn’t to necessarily make solid plans, but just to get the wheels turning on how to turn the things you value into the way you live. If you’ve never created a value statement for yourself or your family, this post has some really great tips!
4. Set Some Goals
Once we’ve revisited our value statement and brainstormed some ways to turn those values into actionable plans, we set some goals for the year ahead. They might be financial goals like saving a certain amount for a car or paying off a certain amount of debt, or parenting goals like being more present with our children. They might be small goals or God-sized goals that feel a little impossible.
We talk about all areas of our lives: our health and wellness, finances, friendships, family, marriage, jobs and faith. We chat through some goals in each area. We’ll write these down on a sheet of paper to revisit throughout the year. Writing it down also helps us be accountable to one another.
5. Offer Your Year to God
I always love when we can include Mass or Adoration (or both!) as the final part of our end-of-year retreat. To end our time of reflection and dreaming by giving it all to the One who makes it all possible. After all, you can talk, reflect, dream, and plan all you want but it’s all pretty lifeless without inviting God into it, amen?
Whether at Mass or Adoration, I envision myself laying all my dreams and plans for the coming year on the altar, my offering to Jesus in that moment. In surrender, I ask Him to take everything we’ve talked about and to make His ways clear, to close the door on the opportunities or dreams we aren’t meant to pursue and to fling wide the door to the ones we are. I pray for an abundance of blessings, as well as the strength to suffer well all the crosses that will surely come our way over the next year.I pray for an abundance of blessings, as well as the strength to suffer well all the crosses that will surely come our way over the next year. #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Taking this Retreat is Worth It
You are worth setting aside some time to reflect, pray, dream, and plan. Your goals and callings are worth it. Your marriage and family are worth it. Living with intention certainly takes effort, time, and planning. But in the end, it is so worth it.
Do you take an end-of-year retreat? What does yours look like?How to Make an End-of-Year Retreat #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Valerie Keinsley is a wife to a police officer and mama to two little ones living in central Indiana, where she and her husband are currently doing a massive renovation of their 116-year-old home. She loves WWII novels, decaf chai lattes, and trying to keep houseplants alive. She is striving to find and name beauty in the midst of the mundane, and loves to share her “good lists” on Instagram. You can find out more about her here.