Have You Seen? {December 29th, 2019}

Last Week’s Theme: The Gift

What the Halflings Knew All Along by Maria Mullet—”Last year, I traveled to see friends for Christmas. The cool thing is, my travels cost me nary a penny. My boarding pass was a bookmark, my mode of transportation words on a page. Our final destination was the same as our departure: The Shire, but my friends and I trekked high and low all over Middle Earth until we finally found its green once more. The hairy-toed halflings joined me for the holidays. I had the time, and once more, my favorite literary nomads invited me along for the ride, a ride that took us far, far from home. (For all non-Tolkien nerds reading this, basically I’m saying I reread the Lord of the Rings trilogy last Christmas.) I’ve heard their story many times, but last Christmas I felt a special affinity to Bilbo and Sam. I was deeply drawn to them, even more than normal. They were nomads, and so was I. Their courageous, and admittedly sometimes foolish, tales felt deeply comforting to me. Christmas reminds us how far from home we really are. When Bing Crosby croons out that ‘there’s no place like home for the holidays’, well, at that moment, the world beyond my gate feels a bit like Mordor. Notes of “I’ll be home for Christmas” make the far away rolling foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains (my USA home) look every bit as perfect as The Shire.”

Sarah’s Top Five Books of 2019 {Book Club} by Sarah Hilkemann—”I generally love any book by Annie F. Downs that I read, but this one scared me before I sat down to read it. She talked specifically about God’s kindness, a concept I’ve wrestled with in my own life as I’ve dealt with a lot of disappointments and broken dreams this year. Her vulnerability and raw hope pointed me back to the truth of our gracious God, and for that I’m so grateful. What I’m currently reading: I scored two excellent books from my local library and am wrapping up the year on a good note! I’m almost finished with Synapse by Steven James, a Christian science fiction thriller (did you know all those categories could be in one book?). It’s been fascinating and a really great fiction book to end the year. I’m slowly working my way through the book Accidental Presidents: Eight Men Who Changed America by Jared Cohen, describing the eight vice-presidents who succeeded a president who was assassinated or died in office. It’s a big, fat book chock full of interesting history and I’m loving it!”

Merry Christmas, Velvet Ashes by Velvet Ashes Team—”Luke 1:78-79 Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace. We pray for joy today as you celebrate our Savior Jesus! May His light fill the dark places and give you peace.”

Real Talk and Red Carpets {Choose to Lose} by Denise Beck—”Can we be real for a minute? I hope so. Raising money is not my favorite. Are any of you feeling that too? And to be REALLY HONEST, I could not push through the knots in my stomach if I didn’t believe it was totally worth it. If I didn’t believe that this organization is making a difference and if I didn’t TRULY SEE so many possibilities to be a bigger blessing to women tucked around the globe in 2020, I wouldn’t even ask. I got a message asking what we would be using the money for. Great question. While many of the things we create only require brain power and hours of time, there are things that we create that we haven’t found a way around the cost that comes with it. The Velvet Ashes Retreat is a great example of that. My personal deep heart feeling is this: for years, overseas workers have sometimes been given the leftovers. The story of used tea bags sent to one global worker comes to mind. There are so few places where we look at global workers and think, “Let’s roll out the red carpet! Let’s offer them the best of what we have”. BUT that is how I look at Velvet Ashes. If we can…then we should. Pulling off a top of the line retreat is our heart for them.”

May You Receive the Gift of Jesus {The Grove: The Gift} by Sarah Hilkemann—”Perhaps this Christmas you are not looking at the presents under the tree, but instead thinking that this year you received the gifts you didn’t ask for. Illness, prayers that felt like they were met with silence, broken dreams, struggles in ministry. These don’t feel like gifts at all and you would much rather toss them aside, reaching instead for anything with glittery wrapping paper and answers tied up with pretty ribbon. I don’t know what part of your story feels painful this Christmas, or if this felt like the most amazing year of your life. I don’t know what you are celebrating or grieving. But I do know this: no matter what, Jesus is near to the Father’s heart and you are near to His heart. He reveals the Father to us, drawing near right where we are around the world. His gifts are good, no matter what. This Christmas season, may you receive the gift of Jesus Christ Himself.”

From Around the Web

It is Well With My Soul: Hugh Bonneville Christmas Concert Narration

A Modern Day Christmas Eve Miracle

O Holy Night

Finally, Tasting Humility

And Now For Next Week

The theme is…

It’s time to party! You are all invited to our end-of-the-year bash as we celebrate the Father’s faithfulness, the highlights of 2019, and all you are looking forward to in 2020.

What are the spaces in your life where you’ve had to fight for hope?

Where have you been delighted by the smallest gifts?

What is currently making you grin?

Share with us this week, and tell us all about your New Year’s parties, your gratefulness celebrations and what has brought you joy this year. Use the hashtag #VelvetAshesParty in your Instagram stories and posts! We can’t wait to party with you!


  1. Kat Jakobson December 28, 2019

    This Christmas we moved back to our passport country. It’s still raw but “fighting for hope” is a great way to put what’s going through my mind. HE is our hope!
    Psalm 42 says “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him. My Savior and my God.”
    Right now, I fight for that hope- but I will yet praise Him !
    With everyone else starting a new year in a an unplanned way, I pray for God’s wisdom in next steps, and his peace to accept our new circumstances, and for his provision of new friends.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann December 29, 2019

      Thank you so much for sharing, Kat! Fighting for hope along with you.

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