My husband came home one day last year jazzed about a training he had at work called “Becoming Your Best” by Rob Shallenberger. It was all about forming his company’s vision. Chad wanted to apply his learnings to our family.
I mulled over his enthusiasm and got the idea to do a family retreat. We decided the retreat would be a condensed session of family vision planning, teamwork, and fun. We did one over a long-weekend in January last year and had a great experience. We worked a lot on coming up with a family vision and deciding what is important to our family. Unfortunately, I didn’t blog about it, so this year I was determined to record all the details.
I am breaking down 2017’s retreat details into three posts– each covering one day. I’m writing first for posterity’s sake and second, to possibly inspire someone else to hold their own family retreat. I’ve included as much details as I can to make your planning easier.
So when January rolled around this year, I knew I wanted to do another retreat. I wanted to make it an annual tradition. And what better time of year to focus on family goals and unity than January? (By the way, I think September would also be a great time to do a family retreat.)
Chad and I looked at our calendar and scheduled time over Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. We planned for the retreat to go Saturday afternoon through Monday afternoon. We didn’t want it to go too long because we wanted to maintain energy and focus and still give the kids some of their own time on their weekend off.
Next, I needed some inspiration. (You guys know how I feel about theme’s right. They make any activity, reunion, party, or event better.) I had recently read President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s First Presidency Message “Aiming at the Center” and knew that would be a great point to jump from. We made “Aim for Love” our theme for 2017’s retreat.
I made an invitation on canva.com and personally delivered one to each child. Some were excited, some were confused, but all were curious.
I’d like to say that all the kids were promptly in the kitchen at 1:00 pm with bells and whistles on. But no, we were sending friends home, yelling downstairs to turn off video games, and prodding kids to show up. I kept saying to myself, “Lower your expectations, lower your expectations.” I knew I was way more excited about the weekend than anyone else.
Once everyone was gathered, my husband kicked off our retreat introducing the theme based on President Uchtdorf’s talk. Chad made targets with different centers: ballet shoes, books, a phone, a baseball glove, a video game controller, and a yoga pose. The centers represented some of our loves and lots of our focus.
We got a chance to shoot at the targets with a play bow and arrow. It was a fun, active object lesson mixed into a spiritual message. You gotta keep the kids engaged after all.
Then Chad talked about how we are aiming at the wrong things and that LOVE should be the aim. He emphasized the scripture
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
“This is the first and great commandment.
“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
We talked about how our family is our neighbor and how love should really be the bull’s-eye, not yoga, not baseball, not dance, etc.
Chad then put up a target with a heart in the center. He attached all the other targets behind it to make the point that if we hit love first then we can still hit the other ones too. The kids begged to shoot at the target with the heart center.
He ended with a quote from President Uchtdorf, “The gospel is like target practice. We need to aim for the most important things. The most important commandments are to love God and to love others. If we focus on these two things, we can hit the bull’s-eye every time!”
At the end of Chad’s message, he gave the three oldest children an assignment to prepare a devotional on LOVE that would be given over the next few days. They could use songs, scriptures, videos, stories, or quotes. We told Elle to be prepared for Saturday night, Crew for Sunday morning and Croft for Monday morning.
Next we went upstairs to make lunch together. Everyone had an assignment to help prepare lunch because working together is an essential part of any family retreat. After we ate and cleaned up together, we moved on to a family activity.
We went snowshoeing last year and wanted to do that again this year. It is the perfect activity because it is outdoors and it requires some effort. I wasn’t looking for fun here; I was looking for growth and being in nature. But fun is often a byproduct of an worthwhile activity. I think any kind of hike could offer the same rewards.
To be honest, the hour it took us to get out the door was the low point of the retreat. One child even yelled, “Your parenting sucks!” because he was so mad he had to go snowshoeing. Another child was crying because of snow gear issues, and I cried because, apparently, I didn’t lower my expectations enough.
Once we were out on the snowshoes though, we had a great time. We struggled up hills, played in the snow, fell down a lot, took lots of breaks, and we had fun!
After snowshoeing, we went out to dinner. I love being at restaurants with my kids and giving them experience with being in public, ordering for themselves and displaying manners. On the way home, we stopped at Wal-mart and let every kid pick out their own Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
When we were all settled in at home, Elle did her devotional. She started with the question “How many times is the word LOVE mentioned in the King James Bible?’ The answer is 310! It got everyone’s attention and then she read John 3:16. She discussed how love often requires some kind of sacrifice.
FAMILY MOVIE NIGHT
We ended Day 1 with a family movie night. I had researched movie options ahead of time because I was looking for a movie with a message– not just some comedy or action-packed movie.
Upon a recommendation from a friend, we watched “The Ultimate Gift.” We rented it from iTunes. It’s rated PG and has a great message.
Here is a list of ‘message movies’ that were recommended by my friends on Facebook. I’m keeping this list so that I can reference it too.
Miracles From Heaven*
Hoovie on Netflix
Facing the Giants
Akeela and the Bee*
Spirit of the Game
Once I Was a Beehive*
Queen of Katwe
On the Way to School (documentary)
Batteries Not Included
(*These are movies that I have seen and can verify that they are good movies with good messages.)
I loved ending the day with family movie night. It’s one of the rare times I sit down and relax for two hours. And despite a tantrum or two, we had a great day!
That sums up Day 1 of our 2017 Erickson Family Retreat. I’ll be recapping our Day 2 and Day 3 over the next few days. Hope you’ll stick with me.
Let me know if you have any questions.