Retreat Reflections

Can you believe that nearly 700 women from 92 countries* are taking part in the Velvet Ashes Retreat this weekend?!  Women around the world are saying, “I need to retreat, to be with the Father, to find renewal in him.”  And in all our little corners of the world, we are doing just that.  The Holy Spirit is showing up, meeting us, bringing us release and freedom and rest.  Amen?

We sense a tide of change among us, friends.

We keep hearing women say, “I’m processing all that the retreat experience was for me.”

Many of us processed together during the Live Chat, and wow, it was life-giving to talk and share our experiences and thoughts.  On the retreat site, you can listen to the recording of that Live Chat.

Today is another chance to process.  These questions are an invitation for you to share the story of what God is doing in you.

  • What did you do during the retreat that was most refreshing for you?
  • What words from the video testimonies did you need to hear?


What Do I Expect of Myself?

  • Have you felt the pressure to live up to the “Proverbs 31 Ideal Cross-Cultural Woman” featured in the session video? Which of those expectations do you wrestle with the most?
  • Do you ever feel like God must be disappointed in you? Did he address this with you during the retreat time?
  • We were challenged to identify something in our life that we feel like we “should” be doing. What was your “should”? What does it mean to replace that “should” with “could”?
  • What is a decision you are wrestling with right know? If you say “yes” to this, what are you saying “no” to?

What Do I Expect of Others?

  • What expectations do you have of others that are not being met?

Patty walked me through a series of questions and strategies on how to deal with your broken expectations of others.

  1. Finding Forgiveness – the only cure to hurt and disappointment is forgiveness.
  2. Gratitude happens when we change our focus from what is lacking to what is there.
  3. Identifying and communicating your ideal vs. minimum in the situation.
  4. Asking yourself, “What if this still falls through? What then?”
  • Did you try walking through this process for yourself and your situation?

What Do I Expect of God?

  • When is a time that God has not met an expectation (perhaps a subconscious or unspoken expectation) that you have of him? How did this affect your relationship with him?
  • Have you ever felt like God… owed you something?
  • What is God’s invitation to you right now?

What Does God Expect of Me?

  • What was freeing for you to hear in this segment?
  • Do you believe yourself to be a woman of valor?
  • How is God inviting you to receive, to follow, to rest?

How do you feel as you end your retreat time? Did God meet you with a sense of release?

It is an absolute gift for all of us at Velvet Ashes to experience this retreat together. You sharing your stories and thoughts here is what makes this so real. Remember, your story matters, because it tells us who God is and reminds us all that we are not alone.

See you in the comments, friends.

Danielle Wheeler for the Velvet Ashes Team


*We still can’t get over how many countries are represented at Velvet Ashes.  How great would it be to connect with other women in your cities, countries, and regions?  This week we’ll be launching a  Community Map that will help us do exactly that.  Stay tuned!  There’s a great giveaway to go with!


  1. Amy Young April 18, 2015

    I bought this necklace today — at the end of the retreat nothing came to me immediately when we were given suggestions to do something physically. When I saw this necklace I immediately sensed this is what “light and free” looks like to me. Cheerful. And the message to “Be still” — talk about a breath prayer! When I wear it, I’ll remember our time together.

    1. Danielle Wheeler April 19, 2015

      A necklace of remembrance!

      “Light and free and cheerful” are all words I’d use to describe you.  Such a joy to partner with you in this amazing weekend.

    2. Brittany April 19, 2015

      Such a fun find!  I need to practice those breathe prayers.  That was new for me.

  2. Abby Martin April 19, 2015

    This retreat was a breath of fresh air (and you know this is the truth because I am taking the time to actually write a comment). I have spent the past year transitioning back to the U.S. from China, and I didn’t realize how rough, how stressful, how un-fine I have  has until I sat down on Friday, cracked open my journal, and took a moment to breathe and  let everything just settle. And during Danielle and Patty’s talk, I kept waiting for  them to bring up, “Others’ Expectations of You.”  What about living up to the ideals that others – my family, former supporters, friends back on the field – have of me? The burdens of being “the perfect daughter” or the “gracious (and oh, so very holy) returning cross cultural worker” have felt heavy on my shoulders this year as I have returned to life with my family and sending family. “They expect too much of me!” I have found myself crying over and over this year, and this weekend, I heard the Father say, “THEY don’t expect any of this from you. You are trying to live up to standards that no one else has.” My family and supporters have been amazingly supportive this past year and the burden of perfection that I have been carrying around was placed on my shoulders by my own two hands. What joy, then, to finally shed those expectations, place them in the hands of my Father, and finally feel free to love and receive love without conditions.

    1. Danielle Wheeler April 19, 2015

      Abby!  Love seeing you here and knowing that you were with us this weekend.  You bring up such a game-changing point.  How often are the expectations that others have of us, actually perceived expectations?  Expectations that we have placed on our own selves in the name of others?

      I’m so thankful the Father met you this weekend with a powerful shedding of burdensome expectations.  “Free to love and receive love without conditions.”  Beautiful.

  3. Sarah Hilkemann April 19, 2015

    I have been wrestling with God lately, asking Him why He is answering others’ prayers for a husband and not mine. I knew going in to the retreat that He would ask me to release that desire, that dream to Him. I’ve known it for awhile and felt like I was at the bottom of the mountain with Isaac and the firewood, but unlike Abraham I wasn’t willing to make the trek to the stop to meet with Jehovah Jireh, the God who will provide. I wanted to know what was on the other side of surrender. During the retreat time I opened up my hands, opened up my heart and said, “Yes”. Jesus, I’m giving you this dream, I’m giving you my life and if that means I will be single forever then it is okay. I’m releasing that to You. It is hard still, but I’m feeling the ‘light and free’ part of living this life now. When the doubts come, and the struggles, I can say, “I’ve let this go”. I’m taking the yoke that light and not heavy. Thank you for creating that space for meeting with Jesus!

    1. Danielle Wheeler April 19, 2015

      That right there is an answer to prayer.  We’ve been praying that we all would walk away from this weekend with a sense of lightness and freedom.  You’ve released a burden, a heart-desire into the hands of One who will hold it tenderly.  I’m so glad you met with Jesus this weekend.

  4. Kim A.. April 19, 2015

    I was blown away by how timely and amazing this retreat was. I have spent the last 2 weeks with visitors from our home country and have had some times of deep rest (away from anything work related!!), to end with this retreat was like the yummiest chocolate frosting on a great chocolate cake.  I was struck by the honesty and depth of the things shared.  I was able to walk through releasing myself and my husband and feel that there was more healing on a grief filled first year on the field!  Thank you to all who put this together, I know that God was able to speak to some specific areas in my own life and I am so grateful!  Cheers to living light and free!!

    1. Danielle Wheeler April 19, 2015

      You’re a chocolate lover after my own heart. 🙂

      Rejoicing with you for his release and healing and rest!

  5. Diane W April 19, 2015

    From the first month on the field, I began a forward and backward journey down into further and deeper layers of brokenness.  My identity in the Father’s hands for 5 years was steadily more broken.  At my lowest, He brought about life-altering, unexpected direction change – and the beginning of a slow, forward and backward journey toward healing and redemption.  My identity in His hands is now restored and I know I am cherished by Him.  And oddly enough, I still find myself a little unsure of how to live like that.  I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop (whatever that really means).  I’m waiting for the descent back to burnout and depression and grief and being a shell of myself.  I’m waiting for Him to strip me bare again – like that was phase 1.  I find myself looking more fully into the face of a very real trust of Him that has this dangerous splinter of mistrust existing at the center.  I’d like to pretend it’s reverence…in the acknowledgement that He can and has walked me through the emptying of myself…and He could allow it again.  Or is it just fear and distrust?  I feel like I am in a holding pattern, with small blips of movement forward…like He’s waiting for me to look Him in the face and admit my distrust before we go much further.  I am afraid to trust fully…while fully knowing I do…except for when I skirt on the edges of fear.  He has brought up some other good, life-giving things to release in this retreat time…and I do feel light in that.  But I think I’m finding that as I release these things that have been layered over the top of this fear, I am getting down to the thing that I don’t know what to do with.  What will He strip next?  And even as I know His faithfulness and tenderness more than ever before….I wrestle with this fear because it wasn’t until landing in this place 8 years ago that the hardest things began.  And if I were talking to a friend and they were saying all of this, I would speak to them the truth I know – about how He does not cause these things, but we are in a broken world…and He is faithful and He has been with me in all of this and I know He will continue to do so.  And oh how tender He has been and full of love!  But because I have tried to speak these things TO MYSELF for three years….and this keeps peeking its ugly head up over the edge of His truth…I push it back down and I think that by its being pushed down and not battled and thrown out, it has grown and if I do not pull it out into the light, it will weave its deceptive threads into the truths I cling to.  So here is my release….I am begging to be released from my distrust….and the shame I feel because of it.  I offer this up here…in a place where I am fairly confident no one will be shocked and appalled that after all He has taught me and how He has mended all of my broken places, I feel vulnerable and unsure in His hands while simultaneously feeling confident and safe because of how I have seen His faithfulness.  —And on a different note, today I walked into a massage place by myself and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  I am always with someone else when I get massages – and I have NEVER tried a NEW massage place on my own.  I hadn’t yet found a good place in our new city and was so longing for this treat.  It was wonderful!  So yay for that.  🙂

    1. Amy Young April 19, 2015

      Diane … I read your thoughts with weird “is she a mind-reader?” questions in my mind. By now you might have seen the theme for next week … trust. What can we follow the releasing God has done other than trust? And you reminded me of something I wrote earlier this year about trust

      And finally … you hit the nail on the head with what we’re thinking of for next year’s retreat. Neat how God confirms things 🙂

      You are in a safe place … I think God can handle our distrust, but it comes with so many layers and lies, doesn’t it? We’ll join with you in asking that you are released and free of shame. God loves you and isn’t threatened by your distrust. Thanks for the thoughts 🙂

    2. T April 20, 2015

      Hi.  Just a line to say that I’ve felt similarly before…my core thought was “What more can He take from me?  What more is He going to ask me to give up?” and was always waiting for it to happen (the other shoe to drop!).  This life on earth is tough!  Hugs from afar…

  6. Andrea K April 19, 2015

    I almost didn’t get to finish the retreat because of internet connection issues. I’m so glad I disconnected and reconnected the wifi that “one last time” so that I could watch video three and finish the release and restoration process of this weekend!

    I’m so thankful for the honest women who shared their stories and struggles and joys. I’m thankful to Laura, for admitting that not everyone on team gets along with each other well…and yet community is worth fighting for. The first part of that summary is easy for me to agree with. He is still working with me on accepting that latter half, but I’m learning to release some bitterness and better communicate my “ideals” and “minimums” in my relationships on team and with my home base.

    Oh, am I thankful that he is a much better lover than I will ever be! Thank you Jesus for extravagant love!

    1. Amy Young April 19, 2015

      Andrea, YAY for one last try and for internet that cooperates (you can only imagine how many people we had praying over the technology side of this!). And agreed, just today I was reminded in my own heart that community isn’t easy :), but it’s worth it.

  7. Ruthie H. April 19, 2015

    First off, I just want to say a big heartfelt thank you to the Velvet Ashes team!! Thank you, thank you for putting this retreat together. As I watched the videos and worked through the journal guide, I thought about how much forethought, prayer, and energy went into making this retreat possible – for me and so many women around the globe. I hope it is the first of more to come!

    Truly, the retreat went above and beyond my “expectations”! Having returned from furlough less than three months ago, I wasn’t sure I needed the retreat, but I am so glad I signed up for it because God knew I needed it. The stories and testimonies were so powerful and I found I could relate to them in many ways. God used this time to show me how very many expectations I have been burdened by – some for many years. I loved the practical suggestions given for addressing the various categories of expectations.

    Today I feel lighter and freer than I have in a long time, and I am looking forward to continuing the process of release – so I can more freely receive all that God has for me!

    1. Amy Young April 19, 2015

      Ruthie, it is a joy to know that God can meet each of us where we are in our journey, isn’t it? And whether we “think we need to retreat” or not, God knows we always need more of Him. We are so thankful to hear how God met you and get to overlap a tiny bit with your journey. Blessings sister. 🙂

  8. Kim April 19, 2015

    The timing on this retreat could not have been better! I had the house to myself (a highly unusual occurrence) and no distractions. I wasn’t able to print off the journal but I kept it open on my desktop and wrote in my personal journal.

    I cried. A lot. It was almost as good as being IRL with a group of girlfriends 🙂 I cannot tell you how thankful I am for Velvet Ashes hosting this retreat. So.Much.Good.Stuff. Words fail (another unusual occurrence). This afternoon, after a refreshing nap, I went through my notes again and I know I’ll keep referring back to them as I release some unrealistic and unhealthy expectations and “learn the unforced rhythms of grace”. Thank you Velvet Ashes team!

    1. Amy Young April 19, 2015

      What? A house to yourself! We are thankful to hear that it was (almost) like being with friend IRL and that God is helping you/us to “learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” You’re welcome :)! And thank you for letting us know how it went.

  9. Kathy April 19, 2015

    I am pretty new to the field (since November 2014) so I’m still in the good, exciting days of ministry however that doesn’t mean I didn’t need this retreat.

    I’ll be honest I was skeptical at first as to how this would actually work and would it be refreshing.  I can say proudly YES, yes it has been beneficial and encouraging. I enjoyed the easy step by step journal of what to do and followed it, not skipping over anything.  I love how God spoke to me in the quietness and made this day truly a Sabbath day.

    Thank you for doing this for us.  I hope there will be more to come in the future!

    1. Amy Young April 19, 2015

      Ha 🙂 … you’re not the only one to wonder what an online retreat would be like :)! BUT, we’re so thankful you gave it a chance and jumped in. We do plan for this to become an annual event. Thanks for letting us know it’s a good plan 🙂

  10. Laura C April 19, 2015

    We have been back stateside for a month now, and although I really wanted to participate in this retreat, I was worried it would bring up too many emotions of being sad we had to leave a life we didn’t want to leave (due to visa issues)… that it would be too hard to listen about being a “cross-cultural worker” because this isn’t my life anymore.  I’m not sure if you intentionally thought about this in putting the retreat together, but it was done in such a way that I felt it all still very much applied to me and didn’t leave me feeling less then.  So thank you 🙂  I’m so glad I took the time to participate!

    1. Amy Young April 19, 2015

      Laura, we’re so glad the retreat was a blessing to you! We did try to think of a variety of situations (knowing we couldn’t think of everything and know that no one event will be an ideal fit for everyone). Still, it’s God’s mercy to each of us that he can speak to our hearts. I’m sure this has been a very hard season for you and your family. I get the need for visas, but I really long for the day when visas won’t be part of our stories!

  11. Jewel April 19, 2015

    Thank you ladies – everyone that shared.  I had had a hard time downloading the 3rd video but finally I got it and I’m glad I did!  And then I was even able to listen to the chat.  Ladies, it was so good to ‘see you in person’!  Danielle, I love your aliveness!  Amy, how I would love to sit down and have a nice long chat with you!  I also am not married, but you seem like a person after my own heart.  And who was the single lady in the middle of the Pro 31?  I like her too. 🙂  “She finds all her satisfaction and fulfillment in being the bride of Christ alone, content if a husband never shows up in her corner of the world.” 

    My greatest heart cry through it all was to hear more of the Father’s love to me.  I know it, but do I?  And hearing the real lives of others, and trust, and confidence – it was a huge encouragement.

    1. Amy Young April 19, 2015

      Jewel … wouldn’t it be lovely to all be in the same space? And to sit down together? We are so grateful this time was an encouragement. Guess what? It was for us too :)! Go God 🙂

    2. Susan April 20, 2015

      Dear Jewel, I have the same struggle – to believe deep down inside that I am indeed loved and lovable.  I am trying to do the ‘breath prayer’ with ‘Jesus loves me’ as I go to sleep and wake up.  Only 1 day trial so no results to report, but thought I’d let you know that idea in case it sounded like something you’d like to try too.



  12. Christina Wahlen April 20, 2015

    I have been so blessed by the videos and the accompanying journal! Thank you!

    However, as I was about to listen to the 3rd video, the retreat concluded.  Is it possible to have access to the third and the closing video? My weekend was to crazy and I was only able to start today.


  13. Brittany April 20, 2015

    I don’t even know how to describe really the state I’ve been the past couple of months.  First of all, I come from Texas…sunny and warm like 360 days a year.  Where I live now…it’s been literally 6 months since it’s been “warm” and beautiful outside.  This was only our second winter to experience here and we’ve already noticed a pattern.  Come February, we are depressed.  Everything is a burden, everything makes us cringe, everything says “stay in bed and just wish this awful season away!”  So about two weeks ago, the sun started shining, which helped, but this dryness, weariness, discontentment with where we are continued.

    We leave for Texas next week and I wondered if I even would have time to do the retreat.  But my husband and I have a Sabbath every Friday and I determined that I would use my time to do as much of the retreat as I could (I ended up getting extra time, through God’s grace, and was able to do almost a full day!).  I’m so glad that I had that time!!!  I identified with most of the ladies’ stories and listening to Patty and Danielle work through each category of expectations was hugely helpful for me.

    The Lord revealed to me a particular idol that I’ve known needed to be released, but I’ve just been scared to do it.  As if holding on to it will ensure I get what I want!  I’ve released that to Him, which I’m pretty sure I’ll have to do it daily for a little while until it stops boomaranging back to me.  Every aspect of the retreat was helpful for me.  The guide helped me walk through Scripture meditation, prayer, and my journal is full of dialog with God from that time.

    During this last season, I’ve really struggled to be fully present in God’s presence.  I’ve not been able to identify all of the reasons, but I’m beginning to.  The Holy Spirit has revealed some things to me and I’m so thankful.  I feel like everyone who shared told me the same thing: just be with Jesus.  Sit at His feet.  Learn from Him, share with Him, press into Him, be filled by Him.  Nothing else matters (because that all comes together when in true fellowship with Him).

    So that was lengthy…but I guess what I’m trying to say is thanks.  🙂  This time was special for me and ministered to me in a way that I didn’t expect from an online retreat done by myself.

    1. Danielle Wheeler April 20, 2015

      So glad you had a day to Sabbath and retreat!  Winter is hard for me too, so I can really relate.  Love hearing that your journal is full of dialogue with God.  I pray that his words would sink deep and carry you through this season, through the travel ahead.

    2. M'Lynn April 20, 2015

      Brittany, I don’t know where in the world you are, but I am a fellow Texan and I FEEL deep, deep down what you’re saying about enduring winter in your new spot on the map. I’ve just endured my seventh winter in the bitter Northeast of China. It hasn’t gotten easier. Every November as I put on my huge Eskimo coat, a part of me dies inside. Just like the grass and trees outside. And, as I see the river freeze over and the snow start to fall and realize I won’t get my grass and trees and warmth back for SIX MONTHS…I can get swallowed up in the dread of it all.

      You know what, though? Those winters have allowed me to experience Spring and God’s power in bringing dead things back to life in amazing ways that I would NEVER have experienced in Texas. To see a tree that was nothing but twigs for six months explode with color and beautiful blooms is such a testament to God’s power. And, even though I’ve experienced depression every winter here, God has shown up every single Spring and blown me away! He loves to give life in abundance!

      So, random to just have to tell you all that…but I just had to tell you all that! Hoping you get to read this 🙂

      1. Brittany April 20, 2015

        M’Lynn, thank you first of all for FEELING me!  There are a couple of other foreigners here that are from Canada or the northern states, and they just don’t understand!!!

        Thanks for that encouragement and perspective.  We’re in southern Romania which certainly is not as bitterly cold as it is other places, but everything is grey and dirty with a very cold wind for 6 months.  I’m thankful that most of that time we are not knee deep in snow (only part of it), but when the sky blends in with the buildings which blend in with the trees which blend in with the ground…yeah, it’s all pretty dead.  My hubby and I have both identified what makes it such a miserable time for us and we have an action plan for next year’s winter.  I will pray specifically that God would allow me to see Him in the changing seasons and reflect on His character and grace.

  14. Erin Wang April 20, 2015

    Just came to finish the retreat…. and it’s gone!  I’m so sad…..  I released a lot so far, and as always part of my release is TIMING– my health and my husband traveling and kids makes finishing things in the “usual” time not possible…. Any way I can still continue to finish the retreat?  I had scheduled time away today but oh well…..  I will write and reflect with what I’ve done….. Just needed the conclusion video…..

  15. M'Lynn April 20, 2015

    I’m releasing perfectionism. I’ve been releasing perfectionism for over ten years now, but it just keeps creeping back in. My parents are visiting soon (Thursday!!) and I’ve been a total mess trying to get everything “just so” for them. The huge problem is that I live in China with a toddler and two boys…so nothing is ever just so. But, I sure was going to make it that way so my parents could come see how I had it all together. Then, things started falling apart. Ha! As I got one project in process (repairing the couch that’s been ripped for about eight months) another rip appeared on the duvet cover of my bed. As I got a part for a bike that’s been broken for two and a half years (we just keep putting the petal back on knowing it will fall off in about a half a mile), the other bike…the one I just finally got around to ordering a baby seat for…turned up “missing.” So, doing this retreat in the middle of my planning and preparing helped me to see all the crazy expectations I’m putting on myself and think others have of me. Like my parents are coming here expecting to see my house in perfect order?! They never said or implied that at all! Don’t get me started on the clutter. Oh, there are piles that have been there for a YEAR. And this is the month when laundry refuses to dry because the heat has been turned off and it’s just frigid and wet. There’s laundry everywhere. Dirty, clean, damp, semi-damp, folded, crumpled, creased…But in the midst of all of that, I hear God saying “I love you and I’m well pleased with you.” Sitting at his feet among my piles is the best thing I could’ve done to prepare for this upcoming visit!

    Thank you, Velvet Ashes. Much love!

    1. Ellie April 20, 2015

      I SO hear you on the piles M’Lynn!!!! I’m having the exact same battle. Well done for releasing yourself from your parent’s non-expectations! 🙂

  16. Ellie April 20, 2015

    With a busy weekend with a full training day on Saturday and my husband preaching on Sunday I was wondering how/whether the retreat would be possible for me but I signed up and thought “I’ll try and do a bit, as much as I can..” then the baby was still sick so I didn’t get my time with him in childcare on Friday morning and I was like “aargh” but I am glad to say that I did have some time on Friday night and I was so glad I did. Such a breath of fresh air. God spoke several pictures to me that have been really helpful including me going along joyfully letting seeds of a dandelion clock free into the air again and again. It was such a joyful picture and somehow confirmed to me that what I’m doing here – after the retreat feeling a little more confident in just being me being here – is like that and I can joyfully sow even if I have no idea where the seeds will go or what happens..

    And I finished up in a bit of a rush in a separate moment on Sunday evening and then felt rather down and stressed about Amy’s warning of the potential for attack this week.. as I said to my husband “we’ve just had so many things/attacks one after another for so long that I can’t face another battle this week” and was quite tearful and I realised that I was in the grip of fear and asked my husband to pray for me (which he did and it helped) and have also come down with a horrible cold overnight and have my other son off school with it today (I wondered whether he was coming down with something yesterday because he was tearful which is not like him). So I guess I’m kind of saying “it was great” and also trying to be brave to say “I’m tired”. And while I know that God has really taught me loads through lots of different types of “stripping away” and suffering in these last years I’m feeling a bit unsure somehow of some of my foundations – like I know that people praying for me makes a difference intellectually but emotionally I’m panicking that it doesn’t and I’m on my own and I panic that I can’t “do” anymore..

    (I have been “sensible” and booked in some time out next month just for me and we have a proper holiday booked in the summer but the burnout thing feels very real – just been battling on too long and trying to persuade my agency recently that we need some support in a difficult situation here. Difficult to be your own advocate. )

    I really enjoyed the idea of the “woman of valour” being the one who does all the dishes the night before OR the woman who leaves the dishes to go to bed because she needs some sleep. 🙂 (Today I am fighting feeling guilt for asking my husband to cancel somebody coming for lunch because I’m ill, but I did it, so that’s progress in a way.)

    So, while I feel still like “I should be strong” and “I’m being too self-centred/demanding – everyone else has more right to ask” also “what difference does it make if people pray anyway” I’m fighting agains that and I want to ask for prayers.

    Thank you lovely ladies for putting the retreat together!

    1. Amy Young April 20, 2015

      Ellie, I’m so sorry you’re sick! I’m praying right now for the illness to pass quickly. But I’m also praying that in this illness, you might hear the still small voice saying, “Yay! You canceled lunch and took care of yourself. And that is what I had for you today.” (That still small voice being God’s!! Not mine or anyone else’s … jut to be super clear :)!!)

      God, we pray for our sister Ellie, that amongst the piles and the to-do lists and the relentlessness of being a mom, a wife, a human, that today you’d remind her to focus and lean into what’s eternal. Dishes aren’t eternal. Being kind to family is more eternal in that calmness or crankiness is contagious. But so is forgiveness. So, God when Ellie blows it today, in anticipation we ask for your Holy Comforter to swoop in and whisper, “It’s okay, move towards each other, don’t play this over an over. Trust it was paid for and move on.”  And God, that you would help restore her joy now — and show her and her husband changes they need to make now for their family to have LIFE and not burnout. Wash her again and again in your love for her. You joy in her. Your smiles as you think of her. May she sense your presence as she’s ill and maybe even go to bed and let You care for her like her good, God Mom. Amen.

      1. Ellie April 20, 2015

        thanks Amy, you’re such an encourager and I really appreciate it.

        1. Amy Young April 21, 2015

          How’s the illness? Other ways we can be praying for you? xox

  17. Nicole Eby April 20, 2015

    Ladies, I would like to tell you what an AMAZING retreat experience I had with some of my co-workers.   We were given an amazing gift of a mountain-top “cabin” with stunning views to spend our day in the retreat.   We watched the videos together and then retreated to the cabins to spend time journaling and praying and SOAKING in our experiences.  Oh the tears and the FEELINGS and the love and the prayers!   There were foot soaks and 20 minute exercise videos and delicious “energy” balls of granola and chocolate chips and then tomato pasta.   There was the 3 of us BURSTING out laughing when Laura talked about weirdness and not getting along as a group and expectations and the two big lies.   We couldn’t agree more! It was beautiful time individually with Jesus…and also for the 3 of us to experience together with Jesus.   I left with my soul refreshed and also FULL.   FULL of knowing Jesus was with us.  FULL of the vibe that we had experienced Him together but also separately.     FULL of the feeling that I RELEASED a bunch of expectations flung into the air falling down a cliff.   My only question is….when is the next one?  This was WONDERFUL.  Thank you- thank you- thank you for doing this.   I’m sure it was tremendous work on your part and I can’t imagine how you pulled it off with the added work of your own personal ministries overseas.     It was also very meaningful to know that you will be praying for us over the next several weeks as the enemy attacks.    I feel like we are kindred…not just me and my posse…but all of you ladies who shared.   So.  Very.  Meaningful.   THANK YOU.

    1. Sally Dyck April 20, 2015

      Thanks for sharing this, Nicole. What a great idea.

    2. Amy Young April 21, 2015

      Nicole, what I love is the way you and your co-workers took this and ran with it. We’re learning from all of you who leave comments with ideas — next year / time we’ll have a better idea of how to structure things for both groups and individuals :).

  18. Sally Dyck April 20, 2015

    I came away from this retreat with two ideas:

    God is inviting me to be beautiful. I am art. I can be a beautiful fragrance for others.

    Jesus is inviting me to put my hand in His and walk with him toward the responsibilities he has given me and trust him for the results. I pray He will free me from fear of failure, discouragement, and give me a sense of hope because I am walking with Him, not alone.

    Thank you for this retreat!

    1. Ellie April 20, 2015

      Sally that’s beautiful! 🙂 Hooray!

    2. Amy Young April 21, 2015

      Agreed! That is beautiful — hand in hand. Not running ahead. Not being dragged.

  19. Sarah April 20, 2015

    Thank you for planning this retreat!  I wasn’t able to schedule an actual retreat day or afternoon, but was able to watch the first two videos while working in the kitchen, and then finally watched the third video today (Monday).  I somehow forgot to download the conclusion video; is there a way to still watch it?

    I appreciated so many things that were shared, and especially liked the idea of releasing our expectations and recognizing what lies might be governing these unmet expectations and the stress resulting from them.  It’s interesting, but I feel like it is similar to what I’ve been processing lately on another blog about finally receiving God’s gentle answers to my often stress-filled expectations and questions.

    What I am hoping to release is all of the many “should’s” I attack myself with… I can see how replacing them with “could’s” really could be life-changing for me, and, I think, a huge step toward releasing me from my constant struggle with perfectionism.

    Thank you to each woman that was involved in putting together this retreat.  You all have blessed so many!

    1. Amy Young April 21, 2015

      We’ll email you a link to the video 🙂

  20. Susan April 20, 2015

    Thanks friends for a wonderful Sabbath Retreat!  It took longer than I thought – but I did start with a nap (lovely!) and then couldn’t download journal easily (but finally did) nor videos (but finally watched the three longer ones on line).  A bit of context for those of you who didn’t retreat in the tropics as I did… Ants almost ate my chocolate pan before I did and the next morning I found my “retreat chair” was surrounded by dead mosquito carcasses.  But neither deterred me.

    I’m starting to transition from SE Asia to the states and have had a tough fight with anxiety about that.  The passage from Hosea – first thing out – was His word just for me (through you ;>).  To paraphrase a bit: HE will be like the dew for me; I will blossom like a lily… I will send down roots and young shoots will grow… People will dwell again in her (well HIS, really) shade; she will flourish like the grain, and blossom like the vine.  What a precious promise I can cling too.  Right now I can’t think that I’ll love any place, any job as much as what I have now – but it’s not up to my imagination.  It’s mine to walk forward in trust and faith bolstered by the amazing promise.

    Thanks for being the conduit for His words and love!

  21. Kim April 21, 2015

    Thank you for this retreat…I’m not overseas but live and serve cross culturally as a M urban community…being with all of you felt like home…i heard
    his voice so clearly saying “in me alone is your hope, your joy and the mercy. “he wove youneed. ” the breathe prayers were life giving something i want to keep close
    …i too didn’t get to finish the third video be cause of crazyweekend schedule
    is it possible to finish still?
    Grateful for this space. ..

    1. Amy Young April 21, 2015

      I’ve emailed you information :). Glad the breath prayers were a blessing!

  22. nancy chambers April 21, 2015

    Thank you so much for this retreat.  How is it possible for the timing to be so perfect?  I was able to spend the entire day, and my time with the breath prayer was sitting outside in the shade, watching clouds.  I must admit, though, that I left one section in the journal blank.  On page 8, the section on redefining blessings and what do I need to let go of.  I think I’m afraid to let go, or redefine blessings.  It’s like I think I know better than God what I really need.  Or want.

    So many times, when I’d hear the women talk, I actually said out loud, that could be me.  That is a huge burden lifted, knowing I am not the only one to feel that way.  And to accept that the burdens and expectations I’ve been carrying are not from God.  So I don’t have to pick them up.

    The best thing for me: Matthew 11:30  “Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and Lightly”.  So okay, I’m not there yet, but I can learn, and know how to do it: keep company with Jesus.

  23. CS April 21, 2015

    Thank you for this online retreat!! It was a blessing…. Thank you ladies for your vulnerability in sharing your stories…

    One of the things I came away with were the words of Jesus…”Come to me”….Now being one of these people who like to think in images 🙂 I imagined how it was when my kids were just learning to walk.  I would get down on my knees across from them, open my arms out wide and say “Come to Mommy, come on, you can do it”  Each toddler came in their own unique way….crawling on all fours, straightway on two feet, struggling(fall down, get back up), two steps forward and then go the opposite direction and of course the one who refused to budge 🙂

    So as these images ran through my mind, I imagined Jesus on His knees with his arms open wide saying “Cheryl,Come, Come to me. Let me take care of you, let me love you.” Sometimes I have come running. Sometimes crawling. Sometimes struggling. More often then not, I have gone the other direction. This Time I choose to come back….

    So thank you to the Velvet Ashes Team for first of all letting God speak to you first and then providing us with, not just a weekend of inspiration but with enough profound questions, thoughts, and ideas for a lifetime… Oh and for the record, I have ALWAYS disliked the Proverbs 31 woman 🙂 🙂

    Now my new friends, I wish you all

    Hebrews 13:20-21.

    Oh wait! One more thing… Is there a way to gain access to the Retreat webpage?



    1. CS April 22, 2015

      Is it possible to regain access to the Retreat website…Thanks

  24. Shan Reed April 21, 2015

    I would like to join all of the others who have said thanks for this retreat.  I wasn’t sure I would have time to do more that watch the videos.  I am glad I also had time for journaling and physically releasing some things.

    I especially identified with Laura’s words, work for God was slowly drying up my soul.  And appreciated her encouragement, “The point of the work is connection with God, not finishing the picture.”

    I have some colors in my picture that were not supposed to be there or, at least, not in the place I put them.  I am thankful for God’s patience in bringing me back to the path which will lead to His picture.

    Many more thoughts were written down in my journal!  I was thankful it was a beautiful day so that I could go to the park, where I had planned to throw stones of release into the pond.  Instead, God had a flock of birds pecking at the ground in front of my prayer bench which flew off as I said, “Amen.”

    Thank you, again.  Blessings as you continue this ministry.

  25. Marie April 21, 2015

    WOW! The retreat was incredible and very much needed. I didn’t realize I had hidden expectations and now I know what to do with the frustration I feel sometimes. Thank you so much Velvet Ashes team and thank you for being so open and vulnerable.

    1. Amy Young April 21, 2015

      We’re thankful you are indeed released :)! … here’s to more releasing from a loving father!

  26. LeAnn April 21, 2015

    Meditation on the Hosea passage started my heart churning, and the vulnerable sharing of other sisters via the retreat videos kept loosening up the hard chunks… I felt increasingly able to welcome Spirit’s work in my soul during the second and third hours of my retreat time. As the afternoon drew to an end I released my desire to control my home environment, repented of the stiffness that that control results in between my god-daughter and I. The background of soaking music was a vehicle for Father God to restore some withered folds inside my heart. Later, I shared the theme song with my cousin, and she was delighted to be ministered to as well. Thank you for this creative retreat format.


  27. MaDonna April 22, 2015

    I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do the retreat last week. The first few days it was open, the repairman was at my apt replacing water pipes and my youngest was home sick with a fever – isn’t that a fun combination. Then the kids were home for the weekend, I got sick on Sunday so slept all afternoon, which was the second option I had given myself to do the retreat. Then my husband told me to stay home Monday morning from school (I help out at the small school) and rest – so I did, but with you all. I’m SO glad I was able to get it in…it really was refreshing and got my heart and soul thinking about what God wants of me.

    I think I was touched most by Patti’s deep probing questions, especially about the two reactions of unmet expectations: anger and hurt, but that the cure to both was forgiveness. I’m a processor, so it takes it has taken a few days for all of it to sink in – but that was what I came away with. The need to walk in forgiveness – to give it and to accept it.

    Thanks again for all your work, prayers, and encouragement to all of us.

  28. Ashley April 22, 2015

    I’m late in commenting here, but yes, thank you so much VA team for putting this together. I know it was no small feat. And when the technical issues hit, I’m sure you were stressed. But He is faithful and it all worked wonderfully and look how many lives He used you to touch!!

    I, like a few others, didn’t expect much when I started in. We just returned to the field after a long time in the States, so I feel quite rejuvenated. We’ve only been back a little over a month…unpacking, making our place a home, busy busy. So the thought of sitting down and reflecting on things didn’t seem very timely for me. What could I possibly have to reflect on? Oh, how I’m sure God laughed out loud at that one!

    I’m thankful 2 of my teammates were doing it, so I obliged to the peer pressure. What excuse could I give them? They were even ready to help watch my kids!

    Our faithful, loving God met me there, despite my reserved attitude. There were testimonies and words that pierced deeply. I wrote 7 pages in my journal. I haven’t written that much combined in 6 months!

    Praising His name again today for the things he has revealed to me.

  29. Cathy April 22, 2015

    I know I missed the right time for the retreat, but are there any plans to post the videos/other content for people to use at a later date?  It sounds like it was wonderful!

  30. Abigail April 23, 2015

    Any way to get the third and closing videos? Thinking a link would be better than a download. China Internet issues!;)

  31. Monica F April 24, 2015

    I had set aside my Saturday for the retreat- then we had unexpected guests pop into town.  Anyway I can get links to the videos?

  32. J April 30, 2015

    I just wanted to say how much I appreciated the retreat, even though I wasn’t able to take as much time out as I would have liked. I appreciated the testimonies. One that was definitely for me was the young lady (I didn’t take many notes so can’t remember her name) who shared about being in the middle of a tug of war and not holding the rope too tightly, or your hands will get burned. This was a revelation for me. I have something I believe God has told me for our future. Whilst I have been trying to hold onto this there have been continual ups and downs, hopes being raised and then disappointments. It has been effecting my emotions and my marriage relationship. I have seen how I don’t need to discard this but I do need to hold it more loosely as I trust God for our future. Ultimately it is God we should be holding onto tightly rather than a particular revelation we believe is from Him. He is the solid Rock on which we stand. Only in Him can we bear the ups and downs of life.

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