Announcing a Change

announcing a change

I just said a prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to write this post for me. I know I can’t do it. I can’t communicate to you, dear community, all that I want to say in this post.

Those of you who are subscribers received an update email from me last month in which I shared the story of how God gave me an invitation many months ago. It was an invitation to a season of rest, a sabbatical year. 

I could leave it at that and simply announce that I’m now heading into a sabbatical year. But I thought I would share some of the process with you.

The thing about God’s invitations is they often don’t make sense. In fact, they seem to go against all common sense. Common sense said to me, “Don’t take a year off from a ministry you love and believe in and have spent six years pouring your life into.”  Common sense said, “You’re crazy to make a major change in an organization when it is thriving.” 

When I thought about going against common sense, fear raised its loud voice and pelted me with all the questions I didn’t have answers to. Who will replace me? What will this mean for the ministry? What will this mean for me? 

God’s response? “I am in this, and it will be beautiful.” 

And it has been, already more beautiful than I dared to hope. Common sense doesn’t have Holy Spirit perspective. 

As I shared my desire with the Velvet Ashes Board to take a year of rest in obedience to God’s invitation, we discussed a replacement plan. As we did, we all agreed that the executive director position has grown into a full time job. I knew that even after a year of sabbatical, a full time job with four young kids was not His particular calling for me. I could clearly see that what was best for both the ministry of Velvet Ashes and for myself and my family was to have someone else in that full-time position. 

So over a period of months, God revealed who He was calling to be the next executive director of Velvet Ashes. I honestly could not be more thrilled. I have only joy and confidence in the future of Velvet Ashes. I am so excited for you to be introduced to the new executive director in the coming weeks. I truly trust that God will continue to steward and grow Velvet Ashes through her and the Board. You are in good, good hands.

This post is for me an official ending of my role as executive director and the beginning of a season of rest, a year to cease from producing and to let the soil of my heart lie fallow. 

It’s been six years of planting and producing. It’s been six years of watching God grow this seed-sized vision into more than I ever asked or imagined. Six years of getting to know the most incredible women and becoming a community with you. 

You came together and rallied around this idea that we need each other. Together we said, “We need a space to connect and share with other women living this cross-cultural life.” We all put our hands and words and pennies together to make that possible, and look what He has done with our collective offering! 

He is in this space, and it is beautiful. It is beautiful to see how God meets us and ministers to us through each other. I know I am forever changed because of how God has challenged, encouraged, and grown me through you. 

After this year of rest, I plan to be back, so this is not goodbye. I’ll be back in a different role, doing some of what I have been doing. 

But in the meantime, in this coming year, can I ask you to pray for me? 

Will you pray that I will truly rest and listen to His voice? 

Will you ask that I move fully into His invitation for me, into new depths of intimacy? 

Thank you. 

I wonder if any of you are currently wrestling with an invitation that you know is from Him, but you feel fear’s voice pelting you. I think He wants me to tell you what He’s been telling me:

Trust. Move forward. He is in this, and it will be beautiful. 

Love you, friends. 

Danielle Wheeler 

A Word to the Velvet Ashes Community from the Velvet Ashes Board

Aren’t you grateful the seed of Velvet Ashes found a place to nestle in the heart of Danielle? Through her courageous obedience, our Father planted a rich, nurturing, tenderhearted, authentic community for His daughters.

When God has something in mind that so clearly expresses His heart, He doesn’t entrust it to just anyone. He chose Danielle to establish, cultivate, and steward Velvet Ashes. And He did so knowing that one day, He would invite Danielle into a new season that would release her from the role she steps away from today.

How very pleased He must be with Danielle for the way she has tended Velvet Ashes. She has led out of her values of inclusiveness and trust, inviting others into shaping and growing Velvet Ashes. She has created space for others to expand and invest into this community. She has led the way with a bold trust in God’s faithfulness.

We hear His whisper to you, Danielle, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You stewarded well what I gave you. Now enter into this season of joy and rest, knowing I’ve got this!”

We anticipate God to do what He’s done all along – to provide the people and resources to continue to grow the influence and reach of Velvet Ashes to enfold and nourish the women He adores.

A couple years ago, the Board was asked by a consultant if we were in a season of growth or pruning. We pushed back at that either/or question because pruning is such a critical stage of growth. The Gardener will sometimes prune what is healthy and thriving because He envisions what He wants the tree look like in the next season. We absolutely can trust Him with the future of Velvet Ashes!

As Danielle steps into this season of rest, we bless and honor her for her good work, her tender heart, and her visionary leadership over the last 6+ years. Velvet Ashes is thriving because of her careful and obedient stewardship.

Thank you, Danielle.

With love and affection,

The Velvet Ashes Board of Directors


  1. Elissa Picconatto July 7, 2019

    I just realized that VA started soon after I moved overseas. It’s been a sweet encouragement to me for almost my entire time in international ministry. Thank you for sharing your time, skills and resources with me and so many others. God bless you as you take time to rest and continue to grow in your love for Him and others.

    1. Danielle Wheeler July 7, 2019

      Thank you, Elissa. It’s amazing to think about all of us who came together in the beginning, acknowledging that we needed a space to connect and share. Thank you for your blessing. That is my prayer.

  2. IstanJules July 7, 2019

    In the year that God called us to leave our field, the vision of our fellowship there was “the year of the Lord’s favor.” They celebrated their 7th birthday.. the week after we said goodbye. And we have watched from afar as they have bloomed. May you feel the same favor in your Sabbath rest.
    Thank you.

    1. Danielle Wheeler July 9, 2019

      Thank you for that sweet story. So grateful we serve a God who invites us into Sabbath! I can only wonder what would happen if all fellowships practiced His rhythms of rest.

  3. Lauren Pinkston July 7, 2019

    All our best to you, Danielle! We are behind this decision completely, and can’t thank you enough for allowing God to use you to build this community out for us. Grateful for you and for your vision and your stewardship! All my love. ❤️

    1. Danielle Wheeler July 9, 2019

      Thank you, friend. So thankful for you. It doesn’t seem like all that long ago that this space began. But then I think about how much our families and lives have changed since then!! It’s a joy to have witnessed your story all these years and to resonate so deeply with you and your heart. Thank you for your support. Love you!

  4. Carolyn July 7, 2019

    Thank you, Danielle, for your faithfulness. I will ask the Father to speak peace to your heart and mind as you move into this year of sabbath rest. (No need to respond!)

  5. Ashley Felder July 7, 2019

    “Common sense doesn’t have Holy Spirit perspective. ” Amen, sister! But somehow we think our common sense is better. Oy, when will I learn that one?! Excited to hear how He speaks to you this year! <3

    1. Danielle Wheeler July 9, 2019

      Yes! Such a battle to let go of our common sense (a.k.a. our own will!!) and surrender to His ways. Why do we do that when His ways are always so.much.better?! Love you, friend, and am so excited for what the coming year holds for you too!

  6. Amy Young July 7, 2019

    Oh Danielle, you know I know what this type of invitation from God looks like! 🙂 I know you how much love you have for VA! From the beginning, we sensed how much VA was never ours 🙂 . . . remember how the first year we had more people sign up during Sabbath week than any other? Once again, God showing how he would use this space in ways that went beyond common wisdom :)! I am sure that God will use this upcoming year in ways that surprise and delight you. May God continue to bless you, Aaron, and the kids. I join with the Board and the rest of VA of thanking you for all you have POURED into Velvet Ashes. “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Amen and love :), Amy

    1. Danielle Wheeler July 9, 2019

      Yes, I remember that powerful lesson from our first Sabbath week! Love learning to live deeper into His invitations one step at a time. Thank you for you words and blessings. I’m excited for what He has in store.

  7. Leah Highfill July 8, 2019

    I have a thriving ministry of encouragement fir pastors’ wives. I had our annual retreat on the docket. But this year we moved overseas for the second time, and my team and I came to understand that even though my ministey is thriving, I needed to take a year off and focus on helping my family adjust. As the days pass I know more and more that I made the right decision. It was tough and people were disappointed, but it was the right thing. God works while we rest- I believe this with all of my being…and I learned it on our own sabbatical. Rest well, friend!

    1. Danielle Wheeler July 9, 2019

      Thank you, Leah, for sharing your story. You understand what it means to wrestle with this kind of decision. “God works while we rest” – Yes and Amen! Blessings to you as you continue to adjust and settle and live into His invitations too.

  8. Karen Carlson July 8, 2019

    Thank you, Danielle, for your faithful example to following the leading of the Holy Spirit and for your passionate service for those of us overseas. I think more of us in overseas [or even stateside] ministry would be wise to follow times of sabbatical. May God bless and refresh you.

    1. Danielle Wheeler July 9, 2019

      Karen, as I’ve looked for resources on sabbatical, I’m surprised by how few there are. Here’s hoping that one day it won’t be so counter-cultural to ministry life! Thank you for your kind words and blessing.

  9. Kevin July 8, 2019

    Amen, sister. Ruth and I just returned to China a few months ago after a much-needed year back in the States. We need these extended seasons of rest. I know how much Ruth loves this community you’ve shepherded (we were just watching a Ray Vanderlaan video in which he was talking about how most shepherds in the middle east today are young women – interesting thought). And while Velvet Ashes wasn’t created for me, specifically, I benefit from it as well, so thank you for this.

    1. Danielle Wheeler July 9, 2019

      I’m so glad you and Ruth and your girls had a season of rest. And I didn’t know that about women shepherds! That’s fascinating. Thanks, Kevin, for being such an encourager. Velvet Ashes wouldn’t be possible without supportive men. And your one of them.

  10. Anna Smit July 8, 2019

    Thank you so much for all you have given, Danielle. Velvet Ashes has been such a blessing to me and also to a number of friends I have shared things with around the world. May God bless your obedience and bring such refreshment to you and your family this coming year.

    1. Spring July 8, 2019

      Thank you Danielle for stepping out in obedience both 6 years ago and now. What a blessing you have been. May God continue to bless the calling that you have. Thank you for serving faithfully

      1. Danielle Wheeler July 9, 2019

        Thank you, Spring. Velvet Ashes would not be possible (or be what it is!) without our amazing teams that pour out into the community. Thank you for being such a faithful and life-giving servant to this community.

    2. Danielle Wheeler July 9, 2019

      Thank you for your sweet words and blessing, Anna. Thank you for journeying with Velvet Ashes all these years.

  11. Karen Huber July 8, 2019

    We know in those fallow seasons and sabbaths how God is at work behind the scenes and under the soil. Can’t wait to see how he blesses and moves you and your family in the coming year! And, of course, thanking you always. xx

    1. Danielle Wheeler July 9, 2019

      Soil analogies are my jam! 🙂 That’s been such a powerful image that God has called me to through this season of decision. Thanks for always being there, Karen, for breathing life and beauty into this community. That day I clicked over to your blog and saw your stunning work… that was a good day! Thanks for saying yes. You’re a pillar of this community.

  12. Sarah Hilkemann July 8, 2019

    Danielle, thank you for modeling obedience even when it doesn’t make “sense”. That’s a sweet gift to me- even though I’m sad that I won’t get to Skype weekly with you! 🙂 It has been a joy seeing God work in the last six years in and through Velvet Ashes and a huge gift to see that up close the last 8 months. Praying for hard and sweet and beautiful things to come out of this year of rest for you!!

    1. Danielle Wheeler July 9, 2019

      Oh, Sarah! I’m going to miss our times too!! You’ve been God’s gift to me and to this community. Thank you for being strong, tender, beautiful you. Thank you for moving forward in faith when we didn’t know what was ahead. One of the reasons I have so much confidence in the future of VA is because of what I see Him doing in and through you. Thank you for your prayers. Know that mine are with you in the year ahead.

  13. Rachel Pieh Jones July 9, 2019

    Oh Danielle, thank you. For so much, for cultivating this space, for sharing your dream and heart and hard, hard work. Many blessings on the next season.

    1. Danielle Wheeler July 9, 2019

      Rachel, your writing gets me every time! Your short comment here makes me feel understood and valued. Thank you.

  14. Ruth Felt July 9, 2019

    Danielle, bravo for stepping out in faith – both in dreaming up this wonderful community that has blessed so many, and now in following God’s call in this season. Thank you for your encouragement too, to let go of fear and move forward into what God is calling us to. When I read this just the other day I was thinking, “Yeah I can’t really think of anything like that right now.” Aaaaand now two days later I am thinking, “Oh. Okay actually this is a really good encouragement that I need right now.”

    1. Danielle Wheeler July 9, 2019

      Oh Ruth! I sensed there was a specific person that needed that closing word of encouragement. So glad to know it was you! Thanks for coming back and sharing. It’s hard/scary/wonderful all at the same time when you have that moment of KNOWING an invitation is from Him. Love and prayers for what He has ahead for you. “Jia you” to us both! 😉

  15. Elise Paty July 15, 2019

    Danielle, thank you for sharing this news and giving us a glimpse into the ways that God is leading you in this transition. It’s beautiful! Thank you for all that you have done behind the scenes to lead VA to invite so many women like myself to connect and receive encouragement from one another. The VA community has been life-giving to me time and time again, whether through retreats, joining a connection group, or soaking up the rich articles and blog posts. Thank you for being an integral part of fostering such a rich community. I admit that I was a bit skeptical how connected I would feel to other women serving abroad if we don’t have the opportunity to meet in person; but I’ve been blown away by the friendships I have made and the way that my heart has deeply resonated with other women, and been encouraged through their writing and sharing. Thank you for your faithfulness in these past years of leading VA. You have been a tremendous blessing to me, and many other women around the world!

  16. Abigail Zhao July 20, 2019

    Thank you for sharing this and welcoming this invitation from Father, Danielle! Huge affirmations to you in this sabbatical stepping back from outside activity that might not seem like common sense. I strongly support your decisions for your family to thrive. Looking forward to hearing who Father brings for this next season as Velvet Ashes has been so encouraging to me through the years. I’m learning that people won’t always understand when we make such decisions for our family. Not everyone realizes that our family is our first and highest priority even over ministry, because it is the deepest ministry. If it is suffering, we can’t be truly fruitful in other “ministry”. (SO thankful for a husband who really understands this!!)

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