When God Says, “It’s Time to Get Away.”

May 9, 2018 by

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Nathan called it my nerd weekend.

Julie and I called it a writing retreat.

In 20 years of writing I’d never taken one before—a getaway specifically for making headway on a book or plotting the next one. This seemed like an odd time to plan such a trip considering that lately my response to, “What are you working on now?” has been, “I have no idea.” But none of my usual methods for sparking creativity were working, so I mentioned the idea to my friend Julie and the next thing I knew we had a reservation near Half Moon Bay.

I felt so Bay Area-frivolous, like when I bought a pair of earrings not marked 25-50% off.

When I realized how hard I had to think before recalling the last time I went away without Nathan and my parents for something that wouldn’t include me teaching or attending workshops, I wondered if I’d found the answer to why I couldn’t think of anything good to write about.

As soon as Julie showed me the pictures of our Air-bnb I knew God had pointed us toward the perfect place (My bedroom had an armoire, which is almost the same as a wardrobe! If I wanted to be really weird I could step inside it and see if it transported me to Narnia!), so I decided to trust that this must also be the right time.

Even if it turned out to be more of a personal retreat than a writing marathon, I knew my heart needed it.

All I asked of the Lord was that I leave with a solid idea for a book. I didn’t care if it was fiction on non-fiction.

[bctt tweet=”All I asked of the Lord was that I leave with a solid idea for a book. ” username=”JHanscomeWriter”]

I left armed with Post-its, my laptop, three journals (trust me, each one has a purpose for a journal junkie), fountain pens and markers for creativity breaks, my Bible and devotional book, and the knowledge that many friends were praying that I would be inspired and refreshed.

Both happened, for me and for Julie.

Maybe it was the shelf filled with old books that met us in the entryway.

Or the bedrooms that looked like they’d been designed with us in mind.

Or the welcome bottle of wine and snack that also looked like it had been purchased especially for us (we both LOVE dill Havarti).

Or the fact that we had so much space to spread out (Julie lives in someone else’s house too).

And a great kitchen where we could cook whatever we wanted, including things that those we lived with would hate.

And lovely-scented products in the bathroom.

We felt sure that the sea air helped and completely understood why, in the old days, doctors sent sick people to the sea shore.

We wrote, journaled, and organized our ideas on the tri-fold project board that Julie brought and divided in half. We took time to get out and play each day, and watched movies based on books in the evening.

I had long quiet times with God in the big comfy chair in my bedroom. No, I didn’t try to find Narnia. That would have been strange even for a writer. Besides, I was too tall to fit inside the armoire.

Thanks to that shelf of old books in the entryway and a quick break from the phone fast I’d declared, I finally solved a mystery that had been nagging me for years: What was the Lady of Shallot’s curse anyway? (Long story short, too much isolation is really bad for a girl, especially if she spends her days weaving images of a life she never gets to experience. I think I’d be “half sick of shadows” too.)

Characters started showing up in my mind and sticking around long enough for me to figure out what they wanted to do. Lessons I’d learned from life started looking like useable material. At one point, the flow of ideas felt like too much, until Julie finally reassured me, “Not all of it need to be written right now.”

Oh. Yeah.

So I picked one story to outline. Now that I’m home I don’t even know if it’s the one, but I have the others as backup.

I understand that the weekend was about more than the next book. We needed it for many reasons.

It wasn’t frivolous; it was a gift to two daughters of God who are learning to be content with singleness and are seeking Him for the next step. It reminded us that we all need to get away from our routine once in a while, to hear Him more clearly and unclutter our minds. When we feel stuck in the old story (which I know I have been), we need to go out and start writing a new one. Sometimes this means giving ourselves permission to spend some of the money we’ve earned, and remembering that we don’t always need to justify time away by teaching a workshop or growing in our craft. Sometimes God wants to be the one to speak, and show us where we need to grow, or let us see the ways we’re already growing, or say, “It’s okay to rest today.”

[bctt tweet=”When we feel stuck in the old story, we need to go out and start writing a new one. ” username=”JHanscomeWriter”]

Sometimes we just need to play!

When was the last time you got away… for a writing retreat, a girls’ weekend, anything? How did God use it to refresh you or draw you closer to Him?


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  1. Awww! This gave me happy chills! It WAS great, wasn’t it?

  2. Good for you! I can’t wait to read the next wonderful book you’ll write and have published.

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