Recently, I was flipping through a magazine and stumbled upon a picture of four women. These ladies were posing as best friends — walking barefoot down a picturesque beach while holding goblets of wine, kicking up sand and laughing. Each woman had beautiful mermaid hair and was wearing a (coordinating) maxi dress. Basically, they were doing whatever they could to make me jealous. And OK, it was a little obvious. But it worked.
My girlfriends and I have been trying to plan a trip like that for the past 10 years. When our first babies were born, we began saying, “When the kids get older, we need to take a girls getaway.” But baby one turned into baby two, which turned into baby three (and in some cases, baby four and more!). Needless to say, we are still planning that trip. When it finally happens, I know we’ll sigh, “Why didn’t we do this sooner?”
Until we can find the time and money to whisk ourselves away to that sunny paradise, my friends and I have chosen to be kind to ourselves by taking mini-retreats throughout the year.
We choose one day each month and take turns planning a “getaway.” The one caveat is that our plan has to involve one of the five senses. These monthly minis don’t replace a barefoot stroll on the beach while wearing fabulous flowy dresses, but they help us tend to our friendship and to our own souls. They are a gift of kindness that we give to one another.
If your group of friends happens to need some creativity, consider these “sensible” ideas:
Treat yourselves to a night at your local chocolate café. Take a cooking class together. Attend a wine tasting seminar. Eat out at a great breakfast place. If budgets are tight, take turns making dinner for each other. Those ideas may not be totally out of the box, but here’s the trick: When you’re eating together, don’t just consume your food. Savor it. Slow down. Talk to each other about the way the salted chocolate melts in your mouth. Pay attention to the spices in your red wine. You’ll probably burst into sidesplitting laughter, or make fun of the process while you’re doing it, but even if you are giggling hilariously, you are actually taking the time to enjoy God’s good gift of taste – and each other.
My friends and I are always on the prowl for the perfect coffee cup; the one that fits perfectly in our hands (and ideally, says something amazing like #LadyBoss). Go to your favorite home store together and browse the mugs, or walk through the textiles touching blankets and pillows. (It sounds silly, I know.) But touch the items, cradle them in your hands, and notice how things feel against your skin. Again, you’ll probably giggle like school girls while you’re doing this, but the point is to practice gratefulness for tangible and tactile things with your besties in tow.
Sometimes mini-retreats aren’t about going out; they’re about small gifts. One of my girlfriends is always gifting her favorite beachy candles or a new stress-relief lotion to the rest of us. She taught me to keep lemon-scented hand cream in my kitchen and — when I am feeling anxious — to lotion up my hands, cup my nose, and inhale the scent deeply. I’m sure I look like a crazy person when my children and husband catch me in the act, but this technique really helps me relax! Gifts of lotions, essential oils or linen sprays can remind you and your friends to stop momentarily, exhale the stress of the day, and breathe in thankfulness.
I often tell people that I’m “indoorsy.” But I do love getting together with my friends and taking a walk at our local arboretum or forest preserve. I notice things I don’t usually pay much attention to – the variety of trees, the colors of their leaves, the sun’s rays through the branches. This is also a great time to pay attention to things about your friends you might have never noticed before – this one’s great skin, that one’s welcoming smile, another’s inappropriate sense of humor – things you love deeply. Use this time to tell your gal-tribe about the fabulous things you see in them.
I know I don’t need to tell you a darn thing about this one. A little Meghan Trainor or some old school Jackson Five never hurt anybody. Get with your girls, turn up your tunes and act like tweens again. Or get those concert tickets to Rend Collective, soak up the thrum of live music and dance your faces off.
You get the idea: If you can’t get that beach house vacay, you can have mini-getaways that aren’t expensive or even super time-consuming. The important thing to remember is that these “mini-retreats” aren’t about self-centeredness; they are about showing kindness to your friends and to yourself. These moments have the potential to fuel each other for the ongoing work of motherhood.
And most of all, they can remind you and your friends to be thankful, which is always sensible for the soul.
Aubrey Sampson is the mom of three crazy-hilarious sons, which is also to say that she spends most days in her pajamas drinking entirely too much coffee. On the days she manages to get dressed, Aubrey is an event and retreat speaker, a blogger, and the author of Overcomer: Breaking Down the Walls of Shame and Rebuilding Your Soul (Zondervan, 2015). She and her husband, Kevin, just planted their first church in the Chicagoland area. You can find and follow Aubrey at aubreysampson.com and @aubsamp.
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of Hello, Dearest. If you didn’t get a copy and would like your own, you can subscribe to get Hello, Dearest in your mailbox every season. If you subscribe, forward your receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll shoot a copy of the current issue in the mail to you for free … just because we like you.