Once upon a time I said I’d never homeschool my kids. Once upon a time I said I’d never serve overseas. Once upon a time I said, “And absolutely not in Africa.” Once upon a time I did all of those things.
Do you ever think of your life in terms of the story being written? I used to dream about the story I would tell my kids of how I met their dad. Honestly… it’s a good one. The story of how I met my husband is so charming it was even featured in Woman’s World Magazine. My one claim to fame! Our wedding picture and story were nestled right smack dab under a picture of Antonio Banderas. Do you want to hear it? It’s never as good as when my husband tells it but here goes.
I was a junior in high school when I noticed a guy playing basketball for the opposing team at an away game. I mean, of course I thought he was cute but what caught my eye was his character as he helped the guys up and talked with the opposing coaches. I promptly declared to my best friend at the time that I would marry #40. Yes, quite bold, but when you know, you know!
I had no idea what his name was and as this was before the age of social media, I had to do some digging to find out. I decided to write him a letter and mail it to his school to let him know I appreciated his character. (Yes, I promise that is what the letter said.) He, being the great guy he is, received my letter and began writing me back. This continued for 3 months. Letters flying back and forth as we got to know each other. Long story short: the first time we met face to face is when he showed up in a tux at my door to take me to my senior prom. And we lived happily ever after as they say.
Some of the stories that have been written into my life are planned and pretty. But some, were definitely not my plan, and when I was living them, I had no idea how the “happily ever after” would ever play out. Stories that took me to S. Sudan. Stories of war and kids dealing with uncertainty. Stories of urgent phone calls to doctors, unplanned goodbyes to national friends, packing in a fury, hospitals and confusion. That chapter would have definitely been on my “NEVER” once upon a time list.
And still, the chapter that I never wanted written somehow became a part of my story. And one day, God asked me to loosen my grip on that chapter I was protecting because he wanted to use it. So, I told the story He had written. Somehow in the telling of the story, His fingerprints became evident all over it. And in hearing my story, I prayed others would be given courage and hope.
The stories God is writing in each of our lives are powerful. And the power doesn’t stop with us. Every time it is told it has the power to give courage to others. To give hope to those who feel hopeless, and to make loneliness melt away.
Each year, Velvet Ashes brings an opportunity for stories to bring courage to women all over the world. The testimonies told during the Velvet Ashes Retreat create some of the most powerful moments of the entire experience. As brave women release the grip on their hardest chapters, healing, courage, and community flow out. There is no greater way to transfer hope than through sharing our stories. This beautiful transfer happens every year inside the sacred walls of the Velvet Ashes Retreat.
This year is no exception. Through the strength of women who have a heart to be used by God, we bring you another round of inspiring stories. As we all face chapters in our stories we never dreamed would be written, stories we don’t know the happily ever after for, there are some things we can know. He is in each paragraph being written. He is shining from the paragraphs that we’ve finished. And He is waiting from the paragraphs we have yet to write.
Join us this year to experience the hope, to see the fingerprints of God in their story, and to have the courage to maybe see Him in ours as well. This year’s retreat is coming up! Early download starts April 9th and retreat weekend is April 23-26. For more information and to register head to velvetashes.com. I know you will be blessed. Who knows, you may even begin to look at your hard chapter with anticipation of a “Happily Ever After”.
Have you been impacted by a testimony in a Velvet Ashes Retreat? We would love to hear about it!