In honor of Velvet Ashes’ first birthday, I asked Brittany Garrett to share about her experience in this online community. Her responses were so thoughtful and generous that I left long awkward pauses in the Skype conversation while I tried to capture her words and wisdom in my notes through my misty eyes. Here’s what she had to say:
How did you discover Velvet Ashes?
Our family is about to mark one year in Romania. We are the only ones from our organization here, so in February when the international director’s wife posted a link to Velvet Ashes on Facebook I clicked over right away. I started participating immediately. The Gifts of Imperfection book club discussion was really my initiation into the community.
What can you tell us about where you live and what took you there?
In the 90s, an aunt and uncle tried to adopt from Romania, but the family still wanted the little girl. In the process of bringing her back, my grandfather got involved and developed an organization here. I was 14 years old on my first trip and I came back every year and a half. After I got married, God called my husband and me to full-time ministry and one Sunday morning He called us to live in Romania. We work in southern Romania. We were warned that it would be hard place to live and work, and that the north is more open to the Gospel, but that’s exactly why we chose to come to the south. We are praying for more teammates.
What fills your days?
Our days are filled with language study and we plan to move to a village after we study another year.
We have two boys who are thriving. I pray to adjust to this life the way that they have. They are made for the TCK life, so when we discovered that we were expecting our third child, were certain that God was expanding our thriving family here. At our first appointment at the private hospital in the capital three hours away we were told that the baby had stopped growing. Our expectations were shattered. I lacked support for the grief and sorrow that came to dwell with me.
What posts or weeks have been most needed?
Sorrow and Grief weeks were two that initially didn’t connect, but those are the weeks that I went back to reread. I was reminded that Jesus knows sorrow, that He is a man of suffering. It didn’t protect me from feeling the feelings, but came alongside me.
I began to look for you at book club on Tuesdays because of your insights. What is something that has stuck with you from book club?
I read Cracking Up. My story is not like Kimberlee’s, but so many things that she went through I have felt. It’s hard to distinguish the difference between cultural stress and postpartum depression in my loss. I feel I’m coming out of it now. I held onto a quote from that book: “Jesus meets us in our tears, weeps with us…but I’m tired of crying. I’m tired of aching. I’m tired of being met in brokenness and need. I’d like a little resurrection.” For so many weeks, grief coexisted with joy and I was learning to be okay with that dissonance.
Are there any victories that VA has been able to celebrate with you?
To see ordinary accomplishments as victories. Seeing from other women around the world that when I didn’t burn dinner tonight, that’s victory! During Ordinary week I was still feeling how difficult it is to do simple things like pick up the mail and pay bills. I discovered that the first year is meant to figure out how to live, so being able to accomplish the mundane things are significant victories. It is so much easier to see the failures, but in this community I was able to redefine victories, to realize that I’m not making something out of nothing, that it is a real struggle when I can’t find milk that the family likes and I am comfortable with.
Our theme at VA this week is “celebrate.” How has VA helped you to celebrate in the ordinary times?
In my thinking about our circumstances. As I’ve been walking through the grief of losing a child, I’m learning and seeing what it is to celebrate. When I can’t celebrate anything else, I can celebrate that God is who He says He is.
From your vantage point, what do you see God doing in the community at VA?
First of all, I see that God is present. The fact that everything comes back to Him in every topic and His presence, provision and character. The focus and emphasis is where it should be on His glory and work. This is a community where women who have been serving for a long time, women who aren’t in the field any more, and women who are new to the field bring new perspective and questions. There is cohesiveness and unity in our discussions.
I appreciate Velvet Ashes. It is a gift to me. God knew when he called me here that I needed something. He directed me to VA and it met me and continues to meet my needs where I am. What I appreciate the most is the unique focus on God and His work and that the audience is a diverse group of women on the common ground of serving cross-culturally.
It was so meaningful for me to chat with Brittany. And that’s one of the unique characteristics of VA – that it’s not a group of women on two sides of a line, one giving and the other taking, but incarnational, being with one another and Immanuel, God with us, at the center. He has done great things for us and our hearts celebrate…together.
How did you discover Velvet Ashes?
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