Mary was tired from traveling. Her thoughts were tumultuous as the waves at sea. She hastened as she walked down the final path to her cousin’s home. She was alone, and her heart was a storm of many emotions. Excited to have finally arrived, she called out her greeting. Would she be welcome here?
She was pregnant and unmarried, a disgrace in their culture. Her friends and family did not believe her story, and even Joseph had his doubts. It wasn’t that she couldn’t talk to anyone, but it just seemed like no one really understood. A community of people surrounded her but her heart walked this path alone.
The door stood open to her cousin’s home. Mary entered the house and called out her greeting. Surprise filled Elizabeth, and the child she had waited so long to conceive leapt in her womb. An unexpected visitor after so many months of isolation. Her loneliness had grown constant. She had often been ridiculed openly because of her years of barrenness. A few of her friends had scoffed at her when she announced her pregnancy. A miracle that so many of her community had rejected.
Mary and Elizabeth – an unlikely pairing. Two different women caught in the currents of life. Their circumstances were pushing them both into loneliness, while their hearts were longing for connection. They were both seeking shelter from the storms brewing around them, a place to feel welcome, a safe harbor. It is no coincidence that God provided it for them as they gathered together in Elizabeth’s home that day. Their souls bonding as the details of their stories flowed. Their unique circumstances anchored them together in a time when others did not seem to understand.
We were an unlikely pairing of women as well. Five ladies of different backgrounds meeting for the first time over Skype in a Connection Group. All of us were looking for a safe place to anchor our hearts. The Lord’s calling had brought us away from our own cultures. The loneliness silently creeping into our lives. We gathered together to share our stories and struggles on Tuesday nights. Our desire was to find a place of encouragement and welcome. The conversations flowed as we retold details from our ministries: the beautiful and the ordinary. Our connection grew.
I have to admit, I was a little intimidated at first—so many times before I had felt misunderstood, out of touch. My life had been different than most. Could anyone relate? Yet, I needed this place, and God knew it before I had even asked. He had already been providing for me through the women of my Connection Group, just like He had done for Mary and Elizabeth.
A few clicks with my mouse and I hit submit. I was now officially signed up for my first Connection Group. The group soon became my safe harbor, my shelter in the storm of re-entry. A welcoming place where I replaced the loneliness of my life with connection. It was my one constant in the week where I did not feel alone with my mixed-up emotions of culture shock and transition. It was in the safety of these women that I could laugh about my cultural inadequacies and cry about my grief and loneliness. I needed this time where other women understood—a place where I belonged. A safe harbor where our hearts met, gathered together and connected.
The path we have chosen in this overseas life is by far the one that is less traveled. I am reminded of Mary, who we know never had anyone else walk in her shoes. I wonder how many times she must have cried out to God to be a shelter for her heart.
I think of my journey. I am encouraged as I remember that I have not walked alone. God provided for me all along the way and continues to provide for me through the Velvet Ashes Connection Groups. He replaced the feelings of loneliness with a safe place to grow and be welcomed, a community of women who share in my life and who anchor my soul back to God. A blessing, the gift of connection.
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