This post has my name on it because a blog post isn’t able to list multiple authors. But as you will see, this truly was a group effort.
I wanted to be part of a Velvet Ashes Connection Group, but not THAT one. Registration had opened a couple of days before, and the only group left that worked for my schedule and time zone was one for women with long-term pain. I told my husband I didn’t want to join that group. “Why not?” he wondered “you have long-term pain.” (20 years, to be exact.) I told him that wasn’t what I wanted to focus on. But I wanted to join a connection group badly enough that I signed up for it.
In our very first group call, I felt such a connection to these women. It was not from our countries of service, as all were different. In fact we were very different in many ways. Two married, two single. Quite an age range. But we were sisters, involved in global work, sharing the reality of life with chronic pain. What made the group precious was sharing deeply from our hearts what Jesus has taught us through and in our pain. Lessons learned in the fire.
With every call, I had pen and paper handy to write down the nuggets that spoke so deeply to my heart. After several calls, I admitted to them that I hadn’t wanted to join the group in the first place and why, but how glad I was now and what a blessing they were. They laughed and understood, as I knew they would.
Now, when I need to share what is on my heart, when I need prayer right away, when I am overwhelmed, or when I am in a place of more pain than usual, this group is one of the first places I turn to.
Recently, one of our group entered a troubled war-torn country via a land crossing due to the closure of airports at their targeted location. She kept us posted during their journey, and I cried when I heard they had made it safely across the border. Again, I realized how deeply I feel for these women and how the connection is a heart one. (Debbie)
I’m in my early 30s and I’ve been dealing with chronic pain for the last 7 years, along with frequent headaches and migraines all my life. I found out about the chronic pain connection group through my mom. I jumped on the opportunity because at the time, I was longing for connection with someone who could understand at a deeper level what I was going through. The group has proven to be exactly that and more for me. I have gained deep friendships with amazing ladies who encourage me in ways no one else can.
I have matured in my walk with the Lord and learned so much from each member of our group. They inspire me and I’m so thankful for them. They help me respond to the pain I experience in better ways. At one point, my pain was worse than ever and one of the ladies invited me to come visit her for two weeks and see one of her specialists. I ended up doing it and it was a lifesaver for me at the time.
We stay connected as a group and we pray for each other. It means so much to me to have a community like this even though we’re each in a different country. We know that the Lord is worthy. Jesus understands pain more than anyone. We can trust Him and grow closer to Him in the midst and even through the pain.
This group is truly an incredible gift. (Nicole)
I had considered joining a VA Connection Group several times but never followed through. However, this time I was in great need of friendship, fellowship, and encouragement but limited in my ability to find it around me.
My situation was one of in-between—no longer on the field but not yet sure if returning would be possible. I recognized I didn’t really fit in any one category but picked the one that resonated most clearly—chronic pain. Little did I know just how common my previously thought ‘uncommon’ situation really was.
At that first meeting an atmosphere of safety was born. Our personal testimonies, heartfelt sharing, and vulnerability built a strong foundation of trust amongst us that has only grown over time. What started out as an experiment on my part has grown in to a group of sisters who lavish me with prayer, encouragement, and perspective in the everyday happenings of life.
We continue to shore each other up in times of trouble, encourage through the impossible, cheer through the improbable, offer a virtual shoulder to lean or cry when the world is just too heavy, and above all—pray, pray, pray!
Now, almost two years later, I find myself in the midst of another large transition and these women remain a wealth of wisdom and a strong line of defense on my behalf. They continue to teach me of His character and I in return, am able to strengthen and utilize the gifts He has given me in support of them.
As our lives move forward and circumstances change, our bond remains. (Christine)
I wasn’t sure if it was God who planted the seed in my heart of facilitating a chronic pain connection group, or if it was just a crazy idea. I was in the midst of a bad stretch with migraines and doubted that I would be able to make a weekly commitment. Looking back now, I’m so glad I said yes.
I never could have imagined what an ongoing blessing this group would be.
I still remember our skype discussion on the theme of Power. We talked about the ways pain has affected our capacities, but that we always have a choice in how we respond. Whatever we can do that day based on pain limitations, we can choose to find reasons to be grateful. As a group we discovered that one of the blessings we’ve gained through pain is empathy for others. One sister exclaimed, “It’s our super power!” There’s so much we would miss in our relationships with others if we didn’t look at life through the lens of pain.
One sister shared, “There are layers of His goodness and glory that I don’t think we are even able to reach without the experience of pain. There’s no glory in resurrection without death and there’s no victory without a battle. I don’t understand it but I think I’m learning to accept and appreciate His ways more and more.”
I am so thankful for the insights of this special group of women and for their ongoing encouragement and support in the midst of pain that doesn’t go away. I love the way that technology enables us, through our long-running facebook messenger chat, to rejoice with each other in our victories and hurt with each other in our pain and setbacks.
One recent response to an apology for temporarily being out of our communication loop as a result of health and team challenges: “I think we are a group for good. For the long haul. We’ll stick with you.”
A group for good–committed to sticking with each other.
Connection through pain. (Jodie)
What unlikely connection points have you experienced with others? Where has a point of pain also been a place of connection for you?
How have you been blessed by connection groups?