Imagine with me a great big, wooden table. I’m thinking of the farmhouse table variety, planks thick and sturdy, no flimsy card table here. The table is full of all the best food, favorites from around the world, and of course the yummiest dessert. There’s coffee and tea, flowers nestled in the center, and you can’t help but be drawn to this feast.
When I think of the word niche, I think of a place to belong, a space that feels just right. I think of a seat at this table that we’ve imagined. Maybe you know the feeling of glancing around, counting chairs, and realizing there’s not a spot for you. The loneliness rushes in, a burden heavy as you feel like you don’t fit, or maybe have been forgotten.
I’ve been reminiscing a lot lately about when I first heard about Velvet Ashes. A friend in my city posted on social media about this blog that was going to be launched soon, and it was specifically for women serving overseas. I was lonely and homesick, struggling with language study and the heat and bugs crawling out of every crevice in my apartment.
The thought of a space to connect with other women who might be dealing with some of the same things felt too good to be true. I longed for that kind of connection, to be welcomed and understood.
Velvet Ashes was like that great big table for me. I felt welcomed and invited into each blog post, into the comments as other women shared and encouraged. I found a spot in Book Club in a season when I needed to relax a little bit and just read for fun.
When the first round of Connection Groups was announced five years ago, I hesitated. It was amazing getting to read the words of other women and be a part of their stories through the blog posts, but could I open up my heart and be vulnerable on a video call? Would my internet be strong enough? What if I didn’t have a place?
But I decided to be brave and hit the registration button, though still with plenty of fear and trembling. But you know what? I did have a place. There was grace if my internet cut out, there was freedom to be me. I loved learning from the other four women in my group and looked forward to our weekly calls.
The Father has done some cool things through Connection Groups in my life. I’ve participated, facilitated and helped behind the scenes, and each time I marvel at how He can bring a diverse clan of women together and encourage my heart in the process.
As I think about this next round of Connection Groups starting up, I’m longing for you, dear sister, to pull up a seat at the table. I want you to know how much we’ve prayed for you, for the conversations that will happen over video chats and in Facebook groups, over email and through texting. This is sacred space, a place for you to feel welcomed and cared for. You are safe to share your story, you are welcome to be exactly who the Father created you to be here.
Maybe you are hesitant to sign up for a Connection Group like I was that very first time. It can be hard to be vulnerable and I know that feeling well. But I hope you will discover that it is worth it, that you will find encouragement and camaraderie.
If we could all circle around that great big farmhouse table and feast on your favorite local cuisine, some Cambodian curry, my mom’s chicken noodle soup, a plethora of fresh fruit, and of course, some kind of chocolate, my heart would be incredibly happy. But maybe, we can circle around for the next best thing? I hope you’ll think about joining a Connection Group for the fall session.
What food would you bring to our great joint feast? What picture comes to your mind when you think about a place to belong?
Connection Group registration starts today at 6:00 PM EST! Groups will open in waves so that we can give different time zones and parts of the world an opportunity to join in. The second wave will open at 2:00 AM EST and the third wave will open at 2:00 PM EST.
There are different platforms for connecting and groups with a variety of different focuses. There are also plenty of groups open for anyone serving cross-culturally. Please only register for one group to give opportunity for as many people as possible to have a place!