It’s Time to Commune {The Grove}

I moved around my house picking up toys and sweeping crumbs.  My students were coming over soon for class.  Outwardly, I tried to keep calm, even as I tossed toys in the closet with more force that was needed.  My heart pounded.  My mind swirled.

We had just received news that to me was writing on the wall.  Our dream was crumbling.  I was afraid and confused.

An inner debate raged:

I have every right to be freaking out right now.

What about what God has been revealing to you about fear and communing with him, you know, the whole theme for the Velvet Ashes Retreat?

But I have real reason to be upset and afraid.

Reason or not, you know what you should do.

But I don’t want to do that right now.  I’m on this fear train, and it has already departed.  Plus, I have a house to clean.

What good is it to learn truth if you don’t live it out?  What you’ve been learning is exactly for such a time as this.  It’s now a matter of obedience.

Gah… well, fine then.

I tell Aaron I really need a moment and can he put the kids to bed?  I turn my back on my still-not-clean house and I lock myself in my room.  I strike a match, light a candle, and turn some music on.

I breathe in.

And then the tears and the prayers gush out.

I hold nothing back.  I tell God exactly how I’m feeling.  I lob big “why” questions at him.

What happens next is one of the most intimate experiences I’ve ever had with God.  I’m still struggling to put it into words.  Maybe someday I can.  What I can say now is this – God met me.  He spoke clearly to my heart and I’ll forever hold that moment as an altar in my heart.

I patted my face dry.  I gently blew out the candle.  I breathed in with a lightness in my chest now.  A lightness that doesn’t exist when fear consumes.  A lightness that comes only from communion with Christ.

No answers were given.  No circumstances changed.  But I had met with Jesus and that changed it all.

Friends, this communing with God thing is real.  It’s not a nice religious idea.  It’s a reality we choose to experience or an opportunity we turn away from.

This getting away to be with God, to be real and raw before him?  It’s a matter of life-changing obedience.

You might be wrestling big heavy fears right now, or you may be dragging the daily fear-stresses.

Whatever it is, do you believe God cares?  Do you believe he really, truly actually cares and is involved in the little big fears of your little life?

Do you believe he will actually meet and change and heal and redeem…you?  Do you?

Dear ones, this Velvet Ashes Retreat is an invitation to intimacy.  It’s an offering up of our fears and struggles that pull us away from Christ.  It’s a digging in to identify those fears and to find the glorious freedom that awaits us.  It’s a sisterhood of support for the journey.

Can you believe that over 1,100 women in 112 countries are participating in the Retreat?  The Velvet Ashes Team has specifically been praying for the last minute people, the ones who have been debating whether or not to join, or the ones who have just found out and think they can’t make it happen.  If this is you, can I nudge you to simply show up and see what God does?  Show up, offer whatever time you have, and see how God meets you.  It’s not too late to join.

Today at The Grove, we’re here to share and process our retreat experiences.

If you’re heading into your retreat time…
–    How is your heart?
–    What are you longing for from this retreat?

If you’ve had your retreat, or are in the middle of it…
–    What has the experience been like for you?
–    How has God met and spoken to you?

We invite you to share in the comments and/or link up your own blog posts.  Share on Instagram with #velvetashesretreat.

Join us Saturday as we process all the different elements of the retreat in our Retreat Reflections.  And don’t miss out on the Live Conversation with the Velvet Ashes Leadership Team Saturday April 16, 9am EST. Register for the Live Conversation here.

Let’s mark what God is doing here in us, in you.


Share your #velvetashesretreat images on Instagram!

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  1. Monica F April 15, 2016

    I call those ‘holy ground’ moments Danielle.  Those are such intimate moments- every wall is broken down, it’s raw, and indescribable…just like you said.  When I feel afraid, confused, or angry, I have to choose to look back on those ‘communion’ experiences to remind me of how very real His Love is for me…and I can feel my anxiety and fears melt away.

    I have just begun the retreat, and will have to spread it over a few days, as I unfortunately don’t have a big chunk of time do it all at once.  Thank you to you and the VA team for blessing us all with the opportunity to commune with the Lover of our Souls in such a neat way!  I am so grateful for this community!  Be encouraged!

    1. Danielle Wheeler April 15, 2016

      Yes, “holy ground moments” is a perfect way to describe it.  They are such a gift…

      So glad you are still doing the retreat spread out over a few days!  Praying it provides holy ground moments for you!

  2. Elizabeth April 15, 2016

    This is beautiful Danielle — sometimes, to quote Sarah from Sarah, Plain and Tall, there aren’t any words, sometimes words aren’t good enough. So thankful God met you in that moment.

    1. Danielle Wheeler April 15, 2016

      I haven’t thought of that movie in a while.  You just brought back a warm flood of memories.  Love, love that story/movie.


  3. Sarah H April 15, 2016

    My teammate and I went through retreat time today, savoring our time in the Word and in the air conditioning. 🙂 Thank you first of all for all of the work that went into putting together the videos and materials for this time! I loved sooo many different parts of the time. I was really blessed by the stories each woman shared during the testimonies. One theme that seemed to stick out and resonate with me was Remembering- going back in the times of fear or doubt or struggle and remembering God’s faithfulness, the ways He has answered prayer, the ways He has called and provided. I feel like David and the other Psalm writers did that often, saying, “Okay, God, everything seems pretty rotten right now, but here’s how I’ve seen you work before, here’s how I’ve heard of your greatness in the stories passed down through history” (my version). Jesus helped the two disciples on the Emmaus road to do this, as he went back through the Scriptures to help them understand. Instead of complaining about the current struggles, or when I can’t find something to thank God for in the moment, I can go back and thank Him for this past faithfulness and remind myself of His goodness.

    Many people probably have heard this song, but during my art time this afternoon the song “I Shall Not Want” by Audrey Assad popped up. It so seemed to fit with our meditation on Psalm 23 and the idea of fears and God fulfilling our desires.

    One last thing. 🙂 My teammate Kristin and I were doing the holy yoga session and when the instructor Anna said towards the beginning, “Kristin breathes differently than Sarah..” we sort of lost it and had to breathe deeply a lot to reorient ourselves again since those are our names. We wondered if God was trying to speak directly to us! 🙂

    1. Monica F April 15, 2016

      Thank you for the song recommendation, I just listened to it…and it was just what I needed.

    2. Emily Smith April 15, 2016

      Sarah, I loved the song. You are probably talking to a lot of people who are behind/ out of the loop when it comes to music. (me!) I know I’m always happy when people make song recommendations here even when the songs aren’t necessarily new.

    3. Jodie April 15, 2016

      I love this song too, Sarah! Thanks for sharing the link. Having a personal retreat yesterday was so refreshing and encouraging to me. Thanks to the VA leadership team for putting all of this together. Each of the women who shared in the testimony videos did an amazing job. So touched by the message and lessons in each of their stories. Thank you.

      I especially liked the meditation questions related to Luke 24. But I had hoped… was an insightful exercise for me to name some disappointments that I hadn’t put into words before. And then the challenge to look at those disappointments, asking God if they are “intended to make room in you for more of Him and a truer revelation of who He is.” I love that. Such a blessing to look for His invitation in what I wished could have been different and also to see where His invitation is in the midst of my fears and desires. Feeling uplifted from this rich time of communion.

    4. Elizabeth April 16, 2016

      I LOVE that Audrey Assad song! I’ve been singing it for months.

      And your yoga story was funny, thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. Danielle Wheeler April 15, 2016

    That song/video is amazing!  Thank you for sharing.  And yay for air conditioning for your retreat time!  So good to hear your thoughts/reflections on “Remembering.”  Love how that ties in with the Emmaus Road passage.  And so funny/amazing about your yoga moment.  🙂

  5. Emily Smith April 15, 2016

    “The tears and the prayers gush out”

    In short, that could describe my time during the retreat. Right now, this is all I can say. Thank you. Thank you for your honesty. Vulnerability. For the time and effort and everything you and so many have poured in to make this community possible.

    I’m leaving my overnight with hope. Still small. Still with a long road ahead of me. Yet hope is growing.

    1. Danielle Wheeler April 16, 2016

      It was wonderful to hear from you at the Live Conversation, Emily.  Hope for the long road ahead – clinging to that for you, with you.

  6. Aimee April 15, 2016

    I’m just a little ways into the retreat. I am in my bedroom, door closed, communing with God while I hear my husband wonderfully taking care of my six kids. God has brought us through so much, especially during the last two years. This retreat is exactly what my soul needs. We have been through a deep valley for the last couple of years and a new chapter is right around the corner. My husband and I have battled many fears during this dark time, and because of that, we have recognized the extreme importance of true commune with the Lord. I am so thankful that my husband is 100% supportive of me getting away (even if it’s just in my bedroom for now–due to a nursing baby!) to be with the Lord. I continue to be amazed daily at how God is working in my family. He is so near, and he cares for us so much. He truly is my Shepherd, and I there is nothing that I need apart from Him.

    1. Danielle Wheeler April 16, 2016

      Yes, so thankful for supportive husbands that make it possible for us to get away to commune.  So glad this time is what your soul needs.  Praying it is/was a precious time of renewal for you, as He shepherds your soul.

  7. Spring April 16, 2016

    Thank you so much for sharing this intimate moment with us. I especially appreciate your honesty.. the situation didn’t change but your outlook did.  Thank you for this encouragment.

    1. Danielle Wheeler April 16, 2016

      We so often want the change to be external, don’t we?  But so often there is a change he wants to bring within us.  Glad this resonated for you, Spring.

  8. Cecily April 16, 2016

    I started out the retreat thinking, “I don’t know what is in this for me.  I am not fearful.”  So, I just started in.  Not very many minutes passed before the Lord put His finger on one, huge, flaming fear.  And, I actually finished the day with way more fear than I started the day with. But the Lord put His finger on it so that He can draw me to Himself and show me the way of faith.  His Word is full of promises that address this fear, but I haven’t gotten there yet.  But now He sets the challenge before me.  Will I let this fear send me to Him?  Will I seek until I find?  I have been reading a Bible translation that uses Yahweh instead of LORD, and I did a little research on Yahweh, and I found that it is God’s name and that it conveys the idea of God’s closeness to mankind.  So, now as I am reading through the Bible, I am considering His closeness to me.  This really ministers to me as far as the fear is concerned.  (Does that make any sense?)

  9. Sarah April 16, 2016

    I haven’t done the retreat yet… my husband just told me last night that we should do whatever it takes to make it happen, so I’m joining in late!  But, I did want to write and say that I am eager to do this because I feel like it is so needed right now.  We recently returned unexpectedly to the States because of complications in a high risk pregnancy and my heart has been, well, a huge mess.  So many fears, so many doubts, so many worries.  Will our baby be ok?  Will our finances be ok?  Will our older kids be ok away from their school and friends?  What about our work and community back in Costa Rica?  There has definitely been many gushes of tears in recent weeks, but almost a paralysis to a gush of prayer.  So, I’m hoping that this retreat could be a time that I could really commune with God about all that is happening and hopefully gain a perspective as we face these unexpected months of uncertainty and waiting in the States.  Thank you for organizing this for us!

  10. Michele Womble April 20, 2016

    I haven’t done the retreat yet, either – (AND I’m very late to the grove…) – while I desperately need a retreat right now, the timing isn’t right for me  – it seems like I’ve been saying that about everything for the last 6 months or so – and is probably one of the reasons that I need the/a retreat right now….but that is the season we are in.  Praying for the retreat, though….and for my future retreat – whenever it is. 🙂

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