Retreat Reflections on Commune

This week, Kimberly Todd came across this passage and shared it. Is this not beautifully fitting for the Velvet Ashes Retreat weekend, for us, the daughters of the new Israel?

Jeremiah 23:3-4

“‘Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have dispersed them, and will bring them back to their own pasture, and they will be fruitful and multiply. I will also raise up shepherds who will look after them and pasture them. They will no longer be afraid or terrified nor will any be missing,’ declares Yahweh.”

This is our prayer for you, for each of the 1,250 participants spread across 121 counties, that you all experience a safe pasture of refreshment through the retreat. That you are shepherded during this time towards communion with Christ and freedom from fear.

Today we want to open up the conversation. We want to dig in to reflect and share our retreat experiences. Each time you articulate an experience, it sinks deeper into your heart and mind. We want to honor and mark what God has done in each of us.

We also want to offer a safe place to process the hard stuff that came out during this time. It can be scary hard when we get real with God and identify what’s really going on inside of us. You don’t need to come with your story tied up in a happy bow. You might be knee deep in the mess right now. And that’s okay. We’re here to be a sisterhood for you.

We want to create space to share with each other and let these lessons and encouragement go a bit deeper into us by discussing them here.


A significant time was spent reflecting on Psalm 23. What are some of the thoughts God prompted in you?

In Luke 24 one of the key phrases was “but we had hoped.” What were some of your but I had hoped?

Can we all thank again the women who were willing to share their testimonies, stories, and hearts with us? Elizabeth, Molly, Karolyn, Heather, Elaine and Kenna, Corky, April, and Anna, what a difference you made for this retreat!

We could spend time talking about each of the testimonies, couldn’t we? The beautiful part is how God will take their words and stories and speak to you, sharing what you need to hear. Feel free to share from as many of them as you want. Where did God encourage or challenge you?

We also wanted to incorporate a variety of ways to commune with God via the music, food options, holy yoga, spa treatments, and coloring pages. How did God use those during your time?

The final piece of the retreat (not that you needed to do it in this order!) was the session with the four editors looking at the relationship between fear, desire, and God’s invitation to you. What fear did you identify? Was it easy or did you need to dig to find the desire tied to that fear? What did you sense God inviting you into as you went through the process?

What has God spoken to your heart that you want to carry with you into this coming week?


A final word about the upcoming week. We found last year that a number of rather distracting things happened to retreat participants the week after the retreat—be they health related, visa related, team related, or some other form of distraction. We understand the enemy of your soul does not want you to be farther from fear and closer to Christ. Instead, he wants you to believe that what you heard during this retreat isn’t really going to make a difference in your life. So, this week, as distracting and unexpected things happen, tell your connection group, your team, and us so that we can be praying for each other.

We love you and can’t wait to share with you in the comments what God has been up to!

If you missed the live chat, we recorded it and will get it up on the retreat site soon!


  1. Joyce Stauffer April 16, 2016

    Many aspects of the retreat touched my heart– thanks to the team for all the work and preparation. Psalm 23 touched me deeply…reminding me that the Lord, my Shepherd, is intensely and continuously involved in taking care of me. He hasn’t forgotten me even though I feel like I’m not doing anything and have been put on the shelf. And also I am His sheep, His child– my identity is in Him, and not connected to a pasture, place or job. And I need not fear anything.

    1. Amy Young April 17, 2016

      Joyce, your reflections touched me deeply. I think many can relate to what you expressed: feeling put on a shelf. I love that God assured you of your value and the joy you bring to him!

  2. Ruth April 16, 2016

    We were able to gather with a group of women in our province this weekend for a very encouraging time.  I could really resonate with the image of pasture and our Shepherd.  I’ve been feeling discouraged and frustrated by this overwhelming season of motherhood and like I am not doing anything Important and Useful and worth being here.  I felt God speaking to me about resting in this pasture he has me in now, enjoying it instead of fighting against it, and realizing he has me right here where he wants me.  Also allowing myself to be the sheep and just follow the Shepherd, allowing him to do his job instead of trying to be Super Sheep.

    I can really appreciate your “final word” because last night after we finished the retreat, I was overwhelmed with a sense of fear and darkness which was obviously NOT coincidental.  I know that the Father was speaking important truths during this time to me and others, and now we stand together to draw near the Father and reject those attempts to come against his work.

    1. Amy Young April 17, 2016

      Ruth, that is a word for us all, isn’t it? Enjoying the pasture we are in instead of fighting against it. You are in a particularly challenging pasture because of how small and repetitive it can feel. These type of retreats are so good for us because they help to create space for God to speak to us and say, “Your pasture is good, and you don’t need to be a Super Sheep.” (Love “super sheep” by the way!). Also glad the final word was helpful and your comment nudges me to be in prayer all the more for all of us this next week!

  3. Bethany J. April 17, 2016

    I more or less signed up for the retreat on a whim, but it was a very meaningful time for me. My husband graciously camped out at a coffee shop for the day so that I could have our tiny apartment to myself. 🙂

    I did spa treatments in the morning, which put my body in a relaxed state so that I could mentally and emotionally engage. Rather than do the holy yoga, I took a nap. 🙂 (I wasn’t sure yoga at 34 weeks pregnant was a good idea, but I downloaded the video and look forward to exploring it after the baby comes!) I also enjoyed the coloring pages. I’ve found coloring to be a very restful activity in the past, and having pages that are meditations on spiritual truths only added to that!

    Thank you to all of the women who shared their stories! Even the stories where I could not personally identify to the specific issue/struggle still spoke to me. You are all so brave, and I appreciate your courage!

    In the end, I discovered that I have fears that I hadn’t even recognized in myself, but watching the videos and meditating on the different passages brought those fears to light. I’m heading into a season full of unknowns–becoming a new mom, staying home from teaching in the next year–and I do worry how things will shake out in the upcoming months and how my life in northern Asia will change. However, I feel more peace heading forward than I did before the retreat.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! <3

    1. Amy Young April 17, 2016

      Bethany, huge life transitions are exciting and scary, aren’t they? The joys of becoming a mom can be so, well, joyful! But as you expressed, the wondering of the changes to your role and the ways you invest your life and time can be laced with fear. Yay for a hubby who camped at a coffee shop and a God who met you where you are, right now, and assured you :)!

  4. Rhonda April 17, 2016

    When the retreat was first announced, I thought great idea. However, as time grew closer to the time, the idea of participating grew dim as there was a scheduled event and the  workload was piling higher for the same weekend. Thanks to the encouragement of a teammate  who also pointed out to me that there was a half -a-day option, I soon realized this was the Father’s way of showing me I could do this.

    Thank you so much for creating different options for us to chose from!! It not only made it possible for me to partake in but also made it very enjoyable. The guideline was easy to follow and I enjoyed going through it while having the music selection playing in the background.  Each testimony gave me something I could take away even if I could not relate  personally with their stories (such as being a mother).  For the most part, there is very little I fear, at least on the surface but through this time of retreat and reflection on our fears/desires, I have come to acknowledge there are at least 2 fears that continue to ‘haunt’ and hinder me in my walk of faith and in my relationship with the Father.  Thanks to the questions and the guidance given (fears/desires/ invitation) in the session, there is now a peace within my heart and an awakening on how to carve a new path.

    Thank you to all of you who shared their stories and to all who organized and put this retreat together!!!! As an artist I love both the music and colouring pages. Very soothing! I am hoping to make the yoga exercises a daily part of my life.

    Thank you VA for all you do to help encourage women wherever we are in our walk with the Father and wherever we are in the world!

    1. Amy Young April 17, 2016

      We are so grateful that one of the options worked for you Rhonda :)! The yoga session seemed to be powerful for many and I’m glad that it is something you can continue to do after the retreat. Blessings, sister.

  5. Elizabeth April 17, 2016

    I appreciated all the testimonies, but there were a few I especially appreciated. I was so glad the mother/daughter duo talked about TCK grief and the need to feel it in order to move on. Such an important part of our lives!

    And I loved Karolyn’s focus on our identity in the Shepherd. I love how she drew it back to the Shepherd and not ourselves. Who we are is all because of God, not because of us, and I love that. Also her talking about God leading us through different pastures, but that’s all they are, different pastures. Not like one place we belong and one place we don’t, but just following wherever the Good Shepherd leads. It was so friendly and comforting and NOT scary the way she said that. Those images and explanations will stay with me a long time.

    And then of course Corky, the part at the end where she talks about having walked with God a long time, and where else is she going to go? So relate to that (though I’ve walked with God many fewer years). And she ended with “No matter what, Jesus, our Jesus, is going to take us all the way home.” LOVE that, super ten times over. Definitely cried there.

    I loved the part with Psalm 23. I love that song Sarah shared in the Grove, one of my favorites, so simple yet so powerful. And when Kimberly read it aloud from the Message, the part that caught me was “you let me catch my breath.” If there’s one thing I’ve been feeling lately, it’s breathless. Lots to do and I forget to breathe. Been practicing it more, but I need more practice. I so appreciated Amy’s post at A Life Overseas this week too, on breath and breathing. In fact everyone should go over there and read Amy’s post!

    Amy, same with the Emmaus stuff — I had just read that on my own this month and had wished there’d been a transcript of Jesus’s explanation of Old Testament Scriptures!

    Also appreciated the conversation between Patty and Kimberly, because you could tell it was genuine and in the moment. It made me remember how sometimes I need someone to walk me through these things verbally. I don’t actually already know all the right and good things I need to do, or the underlying reasons I think and do the things I do. I talk to God (and, let’s be honest, myself) all the time about my junk, but I rarely take the time to let someone else walk me through them verbally. Thankfully yesterday a time came up like that to talk through some things with my husband, and it was very helpful, so thanks for modeling that. 🙂

    The fear I identified is fear of “not getting it all done” (and consequently disappointing someone). That was part of what makes me so breathless and part of what I talked through with my husband/coach. I’m looking forward, after being out of town for a week and completely unplugging from technology and work (which was great, though I neglected to spend time with God, which wasn’t so great), to getting back into my daily times of communion with God, and remembering to b-r-e-a-t-h-e.

    1. Amy Young April 17, 2016

      Elizabeth, this is what I love about hearing from others after an experience . . . how God can take the same input and speak so specifically and uniquely to each person. The fear of disappointing can run so deep, can’t it! I wonder if it is one those of us in this line of work are even more susceptible to (or if it plays out in a particular way). What I’m wondering is since we are needing so many to do what we do (pray, provide when we are back in your passport country), and finically give, the stakes do feel high if we disappoint. I need to think about this some more :). Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!

  6. Malia April 17, 2016

    When I first opened up the retreat guide and saw Psalm 23, I blinked twice and thought, “Wow, God!” I feel like He’s been repeating these amazing words to me all month, and the message He’s been giving finally broke through during my time with you ladies from Velvet Ashes. (Thank you so much for the journaling sessions that guided us through both Scripture passages.)

    I’ve been worried about my future as things change and my responsibilities increase. “I won’t have enough time…” has been a theme in my prayers. A couple weeks ago, I felt God saying to me: “You don’t need more time. You need more rest.” I didn’t know what to do with that, but then this retreat came along and started piecing together “rest” with Him as a Shepherd, with flipping my fears and desires into invitations, with admitting my (broken) hopes and accepting Jesus as my all-knowing, devoted Guide and Protector.

    My hands may be full, but my heart should be resting–not anxious or flustered or fearful. More time never cured an anxious heart (for me, it usually just gives me more time to stress over details). More rest is what I need, more green pastures and quiet waters…more trusting strides with my Shepherd.

    1. Amy Young April 17, 2016

      Malia, I love the message of rest! As I was contemplating what God wanted me to fast from during Lent, I sensed him saying “busyness.” How does one fast from busyness? It was a little similar to what God said to you. As I fasted from busyness, I noticed it was more about how I talk to myself — and guess what?! I did not expect this, but I got more done during Lent than I have in almost any other 6 week period in the last year. I really do think God wants us to rest and somehow, in his perfect way, the work still gets done :). Here’s to resting and being shepherded well!

      1. Malia April 17, 2016

        Amy, thank you for sharing about your Lent experience! It helps me to see your success in choosing rest while still being (even more) productive. What a lightbulb moment–like my hypothesis was just proven–that gives me more confidence to enact this change myself. ^^

  7. Annalisa April 17, 2016

    Something tells me this probably came to a lot of you.  One thing we discussed in our group was the overseas worker tendency to need to do stuff and that we’re very resistant to stretching out and laying down.  I pray that the retreat was a time for renewal for everyone who participated!

  8. Jodie April 17, 2016

    I watched the mother daughter testimony video a second time with my 17 year old daughter. Very meaningful. I appreciated what Amy shared about the road in Luke 24 being more like the road from Jerusalem than the road to Emmaus. My oldest son spent a semester in Jerusalem last year and actually got to walk that road as a field trip (it took a whole day!).

    That passage has always spoken a lot to me about disappointment, and I was blessed to spend more time there during the retreat, looking for His invitation in my disappointments. He really met me there.

    I also appreciated what Kim shared in the webinar yesterday that Psalm 23 isn’t supposed to be a rest stop to try to find when we’re exhausted, but a lifestyle He wants us to embrace all the time.

    Thankful to be part of the Velvet Ashes community. And my heart goes out to those who are living in nature-deprived parts of the world right now. I cried to hear them share during the webinar. It is SO hard to be surrounded by traffic and concrete. I have been so ministered to by nature these past 8 months I wish I could share a piece of it with those who need it so desperately.

  9. Keri April 17, 2016

    VA Ladies,

    It is fun to read about how the Father met each one of you in similar and unique ways.  I praise Him for his personal love for each of us.  I was surprised by the “But I had hoped for” section because in the main session and journalling time the theme for me was my fear of Failure.  The great thing about this is that I did not have to stay here long before the Father Invited me to trust Him in this and that He has already given me value and a purpose.  He will not let my foot strike a stone…And Corky’s message of what if…(anything)…He will be there to bring me back.  This brought peace to my soul over and over again.  Then I thought, what if I fail at Trusting him?  Sometimes I am so stuck in my fear…He responded simply with GRACE…He will bring me back.

    I am also so thankful to have been able to walk through this with the ladies on this #epicteam.  They are beautiful and treasured by the father and I am grateful to live life with each of them.

    Blessings to all of you women all around the world as life kicks back into high gear.  May the Father’s presence be near you and protect you in special ways this week.

  10. Va Neda Perkins April 18, 2016

    I was sitting in Starbucks in Hohhot doing this retreat.  I was tucked away in the corner by the window that faced the street outside.  As I was doing this retreat the Father gave me an illustration with the weather outside.  Here it is April and when I started the retreat I had walked from our place of worship to the closest Starbucks (about a 30 minute walk).  It was bright with sunshine.  As I sat down and began the retreat about 20 minutes I looked up outside and it was actually snowing.  I was shocked.  Then about 10 minutes later the snow stopped and the sun came back out.  About thirty minutes later it got dark and again started to snow only a little harder.  After about thirty minutes it stopped and I looked up again and the sun was out again.  Later I looked up again and it was snowing while the sun was shining.  Then it stopped snowing.  When I left Starbucks about 6 hours later the sky was completely clear of all clouds and beautifully blue.  The Spirit within me welled up and I thought this is just a picture of what I was listening to and studying on, and reflecting on. All my fears that rage on the outside (just like the weather) disappear when I focus and commune with the Shepherd that never changes.  Even though the weather outside changed so quickly and was a little bizarre, I was safe inside communing with and abiding in the presence of the One that never changes.  I’m so thankful for that picture He gave me while I was sitting there doing this retreat.  Thank you so much for putting it together.  My soul is refreshed, especially in knowing that He is always leading and He will lead in the right path, all I have to do is follow.  I was so blessed and encouraged by the testimonies.  Thank you ladies for sharing from your heart and the experiences God has gifted you with.  I don’t think I have ever thought of the trials and hard things we go through as a gift from our loving Father, but they actually are when they bring us closer to Him, because we get to see Him in a new light, and our faith grows and we become more dependent on Him.  I came away with a clearer understanding of the scripture:  “Perfect love cast out fear”, because when we Fear the Lord (perfect love), all fear disappears and is cast out.  Thank you again for putting this together.  Can’t wait for next years retreat!!!!!!

  11. Andrea April 18, 2016

    It was such a blessing to me. I really loved going through the psalm 23 and working through the fears, desires, and opportunities God has for me. One woman said “fear that comes from living in scarcity, trying to hoard my time so I don’t get burned out, and not allowing God to provide for me” really touched me as a mother of soon to be 4 little boys 5 and under! I was also able to paint a picture that had been on my heart for a while about sowing seeds in our country. I loved listening to the music while I painted.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann April 19, 2016

      Wow, this is incredible, Andrea! Thank you for sharing with all of us!!

  12. Ruthie H. April 19, 2016

    The retreat came at the right time for me – at the end of a stressful and emotionally-draining week, but as I entered into the retreat, I realized those were surface problems for deeper issues and struggles. The focus on Psalm 23 really spoke to me – one of my favorite names for Jesus is  that He is my Shepherd. My word for 2016 is “focus” but I’ve realized how easy it is to take my focus off my Good Shepherd and the good pasture He has led me into, and focus on expectations and fears, etc. My focus has again been sharpened and my desire is to more fully embrace my Shepherd and the good pasture He has me in for this season.

    Thank you so much, VA team, for everything you put into this retreat! It was so, so evident that you prayed, planned, and worked very hard to put together a very special time for us. Thank you, thank you!

    1. Ruthie H. April 19, 2016

      P.S. Loved, loved the testimonies, and the new extra elements of the music, coloring pages, and exercise!

  13. Kristi April 21, 2016

    I have only taken small retreat “bites” over the past week.  I have listened to a few testimonies and reflected on Psalm 23 with the Father.  I wrote the following about what the Father has been teaching me lately about trust and fear.

    I Want

    I want to call you Daddy

    I want to be your child

    I want to breath the truth

    To feel a Love that’s mild


    I want to live in freedom

    I want to bloom and grow

    I want to show your glory

    To those who do not know


    I want to drop the shackles

    I want to walk in grace

    I want to see with confidence

    The Love that lights Your face


    I want to stand in wonder

    I want my fears to cease

    I want to claim Your promise

    To rest within Your peace


    I want to seek you fiercely

    I want to wait in calm

    I want to claim the healing

    Of  Your sacrificial balm


    I want to sing Your praises

    I want to hum Your Name

    I want to shout Your greatness

    To renounce all earthly fame


    I want to share the Treasure

    I want to cling and trust

    I went to be a daughter

    Who rises from the dust


    I want to cease from striving

    I want to sit upon Your knee

    I want to know the Joy

    Of You living life in me

  14. Kristi April 22, 2016

    Back again after listening to the rest of the testimonies.  The were all great!  I was so encouraged by each one.  Thank you, ladies, for letting us see your messiness.  The following is a reflection on Molly’s testimony:


    Am I?

    Am I a

    My Dear One, you are the One in whom

    I delight.  I know the

    Stars by name, but yours is graven upon

    The palm of my hand.  I

    Adore you. Your smile thrills My heart.  Your tears I

    Keep in a bottle.  No, You are not a mistake.

    Every part of You brings Joy to My Father’s heart


  15. Michele May 2, 2016

    I’m late in sharing, but still need to express my thanks to all who worked so hard to put this together, and a special thanks for giving me and extension to get everything downloaded when I found out the internet in the hotel I was at wasn’t going to let me get anything downloaded!

    In the end, I did manage to get the retreat guide and audio of the sessions downloaded in the Delhi airport as I was heading to Kashmir.  I have the music, testimonies and coloring pages for another time now that I’m back in Kathmandu.

    I was very blessed to escape a city where we have not seen the sky in months because of pollution to a place where I could soak in beauty and go for hours long walks without having to wear a dust mask!  Psalm 23 came alive in a new way as I sat reflecting on it in beautiful gardens built by Mughal kings 500 years ago!  Still, I kept wavering between simply enjoying it and feeling restless because I wasn’t ‘doing’ anything!  As I sat in one of these gardens and took a deep breath, I heard the Lord ask me, “Michele, what are you made for?”  I knew the answer, but I also knew if he had to ask, something must be off.  The next question was, “Are you loving me less sitting here drinking in the beauty I have made than you were praying and holding that traumatized girl for two hours last week?”

    He taught me the value of  simply communing in my first months in Asia 19 years ago, but I still have to keep coming back to it over and over.  So thankful for this community that in so many ways keeps me coming back to it!

  16. Ruth May 22, 2016

    I just wanted to say I love how the retreat “keeps giving.” When I listen to the Eine Blume music or do holy yoga I am reminded of the things I learned and the time shared together. I loved the resources!

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