by Ann Zilka

“Be good to yourself,” was written on the sympathy card.

I appreciated the sentiment, but thought to myself in dismay, “I have no idea what that means. Be good to myself? Yeah, right.” I held the card in my tired hand, re-reading the gentle cursive handwriting, and contemplating the words. Someone else had said those exact same words to me the previous day. Maybe it was time to heed their advice. Maybe it was time to begin to discover how to be good to myself.

Being a busy wife and mother, while also caring for my aging parents, and managing a career, had exhausted me. Actually, that is not the whole truth. I had played a big hand in exhausting myself. I had chosen to perpetually place the needs of so many others ahead of myself. And I was tired. My mother had just died, and my father had passed away one year earlier. They needed me, and I cared for them. Sometimes the seasons of life demand that other’s needs come before our own. Life has seasons, just as nature does. And if we are aware of the changing seasons of our lives, we will realize that God provides opportunities in each season for us to be good to ourselves. And we are wise to accept his provision.

The upcoming fall women’s retreat (September 27-28, 2014) is the perfect time for you to be good to yourself.  I know that life is full, and day-to-day demands are real. I know that money can be tight, and leaving a husband in charge of everything and everyone for the weekend can be a scary thing. But, if you can find a way to make it happen, the effort will be worthwhile.

retreat-image

I remember going away on a women’s retreat many years ago, when my girls were young. At the time, I had 3 daughters, and was pregnant with my 4th. My oldest girl was five. I needed a retreat like nobody’s business, and my husband knew it. The man who told me to “hurry back” whenever I ran to the grocery store, was encouraging me to go away and enjoy some peace and quiet. We did not have much for disposable income, but I signed up anyway.  When I walked out the door, I thought I detected a wave of fear pass over Paul’s face. But, I was confident all would be well, and I made sure that he had the list of every possible phone number necessary in case of emergency.

I am happy to report that there were no major emergencies that weekend.  I enjoyed a wonderful retreat, and returned refreshed and encouraged in the things of God. However, I do need to report one minor emergency, which was not brought to my attention until the following Sunday. According to my friends who had not gone on the retreat, they had to come to Paul’s rescue that morning. He had walked into the church foyer, with a look of desperation on his face, a hairbrush in one hand, and a handful of hair ties and ribbons in the other. Would another mother please help him with his daughters’ hair? The girls were adamant that their father would not be allowed to touch their tresses. That was a mom’s job. So, when snarls were brushed out and ponytails in place, Paul entered the service with relief.

After that weekend years ago, my life became even busier. With two boys coming along after the girls, it seemed that I was all in, all the time. Looking back, I can see that I did not take enough time for myself. I wish that I had known sooner the value of personal time, for me, and for my family. Developing regard for my own needs is a journey of small steps along a path that I am glad I discovered.

Dunrovin Retreat Center, the site of this year's Women's Retreat.

Dunrovin Retreat Center, the site of this year’s Women’s Retreat.

I still remember that retreat, so many years ago. I remember who was there. I remember how we laughed. I recall the autumn trees, and the fresh air. The memories remain with me. Recently, I read that memories are feelings. If that is true, I can still feel the refreshment of that weekend away; still grateful that I took the time to be good to myself. And I hope that you will be good to yourself too.

See you in September.

 To learn more about the retreat, or to register, click here.