Remember that “simultaneously tired but exhilarated by the experience and sad it’s over” feeling of getting home from summer camp? The end of camp blues are exactly how I felt about my Spring connection group coming to an end. I’ve mentored two Facebook groups, and both times I’ve come away from them awed by the way Jesus showed up and walked with us…on Facebook. These days so many love to hate social media, but I’m convinced Velvet Ashes connection groups are one way to redeem it.
I’ve had the privilege of getting to know women serving in Central America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia through connection groups. We’ve encouraged each other in ways that still surprise me because I didn’t expect to be able to connect that deeply that quickly with women in such different geographical locations (and through a Facebook group nonetheless). As it turns out, even though we’re on different continents, we have many of the same struggles. I had a vague sense of the sisterhood spirit of Velvet Ashes that is able to span the globe as I’ve participated in Velvet Ashes retreats, posts, and book clubs, but plugging into a connection group sharpened that sense of solidarity for me.
When we’re not communicating across regional boundaries, it’s so easy for us to divide up into the continents we’re called to and think, “Oh…those people over there…they’ve got it so good they’d never understand my problems here…woe is me!”
Connection groups help in battling this “Grass is Greener Syndrome”:
- A woman serving in China looks at the one in Europe and thinks, “There’s plenty of gourmet cheese and fresh baked goods that don’t contain red bean paste or pork floss, and everything is made of butter so everyday life can’t possibly be hard there.”
- Someone else living in a land-locked Eastern European country and sees a woman serving in Costa Rica and thinks, “There’s a beach nearby and she’s probably there every day and she doesn’t even own a winter coat, so she’s got a sweet deal.”
- Another sister immersed in a densely populated concrete jungle in Asia thinks about the one in Africa, “There’s mesmerizing wilderness in Africa so the woman serving there must be so happy to be surrounded by God’s beautiful creation. She can’t possibly wrestle to feel his presence there like I do here.”
What I’ve found is no matter where we’re living, we’re all fighting the good fight to follow hard after our Jesus. As each of us bring our individual trials to the group, the hardships seem to lose their power to overwhelm us as we all chime in and say “Yikes. That’s hard!” or “Me, too!!” Of course we always have a safe space to run to Jesus in prayer, but there are times when we need to have a place void of pretense and judgment where we can lay our burdens bare in the presence of other believers so they can pray and inspire us. Enter Velvet Ashes Connection Groups.
I remember one day this past Spring when the electricity had been out for a few days (and although the end of the outage was near, I didn’t know it at the time) and I was trying very hard not to whine about it on social media. However, I did tell my connection group about it. And they were able to cheer for me from the hard-earned place of “I’ve been there, too!” In connection groups, we don’t have to edit our attitudes and censor our troubles for fear the general public of Facebook will shame us. We come as we are to encourage and pray. And oh, how I’ve coveted the prayers of the dear women who’ve joined my groups!
While geographical locations have been the most intriguing to me, I’ve also loved the life-stage diversity in my groups. Each time there has been a mix of singles, married with young kids, married with no kids, married with grown kids–a life-giving mix of ages and stages that’s blessed me in different ways:
- The single gal who says “I’m so glad there are moms with kids here because I miss my mom friends from home.”
- The toddler mom who says “Guys, I’m pulling my hair out every day.”
- The mom of teens who chimes in and says “You’ll get through this…but let me tell you it does not get easier.”
- The empty-nester mom who says, “Oh send more photos and stories of that dear toddler of yours because I miss my grandchildren so much!”
It’s all fresh air for my soul. And just to note: we have groups for everyone and we don’t always talk about motherhood. This is just one example of how we’ve related and there are so many more. The crazy travel stories, heartbreaks from our cultural mishaps, visa/paperwork/foreigner merry-go-round, housing issues, daily life demands–all of it makes our discussions rich and meaningful.
If you’re considering signing up for a Facebook group but don’t think you have much to offer, I challenge you to give it a try! I’m here to tell you that every single person in both groups I’ve been a part of have brought something unique and valuable to the table. The space created by Velvet Ashes connection groups is a sacred space. If everyone approaches ready to engage, share, listen, pray, support , grow and learn, the group will benefit. So sign up and let’s see what happens.
Have you participated in a Velvet Ashes Connection Group on Facebook? What advice do you have for someone who’s not sure they’ve got much to contribute? Connection Group registration will open the day after tomorrow (Tuesday) at 6 p.m. EST. You can see the Connection Groups available this year here.