The room was packed as the speaker began his workshop talk and I slipped to the back as inconspicuously as possible. Even though I’ve been on staff with Velvet Ashes for three years now, 2020 meant my conference attendance was slim to nothing. This past September was my first time at this particular large gathering. Arriving late to find no empty seats wasn’t exactly the ideal for this workshop newbie.
I found a spare chair and a few other late comers crowded in the back. One woman next to me leaned over to ask a question about the speaker, then her face lit up when she saw my nametag. “Oh, I have to talk to you about Velvet Ashes when this is over!” she whispered.
If you missed Danielle’s post about the start of this community, make sure you go back and read it. I love the reminder of God’s fingerprints of faithfulness all over this story. I was there in the beginning, new to the field and floundering in the crashing waves of culture shock and homesickness. It’s been the sweetest gift to build relationships in the community through these last eight years. Sometimes I have to remember that these women I call dear friends have yet to grab coffee and sit across from me in person.
We have eight years of stories, eight years of friendships and encouragement and connection. That woman from the workshop told me how much Velvet Ashes meant to her while she and her family were overseas, and the gift of this community through her re-entry journey, a story many of you could repeat in some form as well. I know it has meant the world to me too.
In the beginning, Velvet Ashes gave all of us a place to be seen and heard through blog posts from sisters on the same journey as we communed in the comments. Think about all that has been added through the years! Book club is a place for discussion and laughter and stretching us to read a variety of genres. Online Retreats draw us to sabbath rest with everything curated with us in mind. Unplugged Retreats give us space to silence the noise to just be with Jesus. Webinars provide practical tools and helpful knowledge right where we are. Connection Groups give us a seat at the table to nod over Facebook posts or Zoom screens with those “I get it too” moments. The Singles Gathering started this year as a special spot for single women to be poured into and to pour into one another.
We’ve had conversations about pandemics and loneliness, celebrations and babies. We’ve talked about short-term trips, social media woes and joys, diversity and culture, prayer and doubt.
Through it all, through the highs and lows, seasons of great growth—more than we could have ever imagined—and times when we wondered what in the world we had gotten ourselves into, through hellos and goodbyes, God has been so faithful. We see it in the comments on social media posts when a topic especially resonates. We see it as Connection Groups fill up session after session, or when survey responses give us a peek into precious retreat experiences.
With a community this big, it is easy to sit back and observe—and that’s okay. We understand that you might just need to read and soak in the stories shared, or you don’t have time and space to get involved in all the opportunities offered. But if you are needing a little nudge, let me just say that the heart of this community hasn’t changed through the years. And that is to be a place where women can find courage and hope right where they are through connection. Though there have been staff changes and shifts in roles and what is offered, this community exists to draw you deeper into friendship with Jesus and with other women around the world.
So when you comment on a blog post or on social media, register for the retreat and share your pictures of your space or your journal or the ladies you are retreating with, you give us and each other a gift. You have and continue to open up your lives and that makes Velvet Ashes truly what it is—a home for our hearts.
Is there something that Velvet Ashes offers now that has been delightful or helpful to you? How do you describe this community to friends who haven’t heard about it?