Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I spent this past weekend at Shalom Hill farm. It’s a retreat center in south central Minnesota – just north and a bit west of Windom. Its main purpose is a training center for those going into rural ministry although they rent their space out to other groups as well. I technically went for a ‘scrapbooking retreat’ with a friend but if truth be told that’s simply an excuse to stay at the place. It’s set on a hill, overlooking the rolling prairie. You can watch the sun come up, play with one of the farm kittens that will follow you around if you step outdoors, or watch the chickens chase each other around the yard. You can walk the road for your morning exercise – down the hill half a mile and uphill on the way back. No need for the stairmaster, with the added benefit of being outside in the fresh air and quiet.

The sleeping rooms are simple – twin beds with homemade quilts, a small chest, a mirror, a lamp, a window. The food is simple and plentiful, home-made with ingredients produced at the farm – fresh eggs from the chickens, tomatoes from the garden. You’re asked to be conscious of the resources you use and aware of where those resources come from. The main room we were using is in a building called The Shed. It’s a lovely space, lots of windows and natural light, a fireplace, comfortable sofas to relax on, a little kitchen where you can make coffee or tea and grab a snack while working. Over at the main building, the large meeting room is full of quilters this weekend and you can wander over and take a look at what they’re working on when you need to stand up and stretch a bit.

One of the best things about this weekend is being away from your regular environment. There are none of your usual distractions. You don’t have to do the dishes or run the vacuum. You get to focus. The first time I went to Shalom Hill I went with a goal – get something done. This time, my goal was different – be. Be in the moment. It’s a valuable message to be reminded of. You don’t have to be running full-speed all the time. Slowing down and appreciating your surroundings allows you to experience things in a different way. You get to spend time in your thoughts, spend time in nature, spend time in a book, spend time in conversation. And you get to do those things without an agenda or a deadline – which allows you to experience them all in a new way.

We often get so caught up in our ‘schedule’ that we forget to actually experience the things we are doing and the people we are with. Taking a little time out to do it deliberately can hopefully help us to start doing it more in our daily life, which helps us more fully appreciate those things and people we have.

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