The Grove – Breathe

Two days after I shared my fear at The Grove last week, I heard a crash from my kids’ bedroom.  The kind of crash that makes you sprint towards it.  I found my three-year-old son on the floor.  I picked him up to find blood gushing, and I mean gushing, from the back of his head.  I’m not a screamer, but I screamed like I’ve never screamed before.

That makes for the second time in a month that I thought my kid was dying.

We finally got the bleeding to stop, but not before our home looked like a murder scene.  A trip to the hospital and a few staples later, and he happily went back to playing with his toys.

But I went to my room, closed the door, curled up in bed and said to myself, “I’m not sure how much more I can handle.”

This isn’t the first time I’ve whispered or muttered that to myself.  Over the years and especially in life overseas, I get to the point where the extremes of life push me to the edges of myself.  Or the daily grind weighs so heavy and full, I feel like a twig trying to hold it all up.

I remember in the training we did before we left to move to China, they told us this:

“You have to figure out what is life-giving to you.  You must commit to giving rest to your soul, or you won’t survive life overseas.”

Living in a foreign place is like having a hole in your reserve energy tank.  At first the hole is gaping.  Time and experience can make the hole smaller, but still it’s always there.  If we don’t intentionally pump life into our tanks, we’ll all be left sputtering.

I’ve learned what is life-giving to me, what makes my soul breathe.  So I thought I would share my list with you.  And honestly, I need to write it out for me.  To remind myself what I need, because I’m running on low.  I can keep pressing on, or I can stop and do that which I know will renew me.

I breathe when…

1.  I read.  Nothing is quite as relaxing or refueling to me as losing myself (or perhaps finding myself) in a good book.

2.  I write.  I write to know what I think.  My thoughts swirl jumbled until I can straighten them out on paper.  And then, then my mind can rest.  It’s how I best pray, how I best hear what He has to say to me.

3.  I’m outside.  You can take the girl out of Colorado, but you can’t take the Colorado out of a girl.  Nature renews me.  That’s why I loved Kimberly’s post yesterday.  There are ways to do it even in a monstrous city like Beijing.  But also, I’ve realized we need to schedule intentional time in our calendar year away from city.  Because my soul needs to connect with God in nature.

4.  I have time with my husband.  This year, for the first time in our marriage since kids, we have thrown all the excuses out the window, and have just made it happen.  We’re having a weekly time away from kids, just for us.  And wow.  Just wow.

5. I have weekly time to connect with other women.  I don’t mean the casual, “Hey, how’s it going?” five minutes before a meeting.  I’m talking about a weekly time to share, really share my heart, my life, and to hear other women do the same.  This is incredibly life-giving to me.  There are times and seasons when this happens for me, and there are times when for a variety of reasons, it just hasn’t been possible.  And I’ve noticed a huge difference in my overall well being when it IS a part of my life.

I know #5 can be a tough one for ladies like us.  We’re hungry for that kind of connection, but our lives, our isolation, make it so, so hard.

So we’ve been dreaming behind the scenes at Velvet Ashes for a way to make it possible.  Because we believe in what God does when women meet together.  And I think there’s a way to do this without us having to leave our homes.

Would you be interested in being a part of a Connection Group with ladies from Velvet Ashes that meets via skype conference call once a week?  And then connects further in a private Facebook group?  The idea is for there to be two co-mentors leading a group of 4 (ish) women.  We’re trying to make a plan for a six week Spring session to happen, but we need you to do something.

Would you fill out this quick and simple survey?

Click here to take survey

This is not to register for a group, it’s to help us gage interest and plan accordingly. Because we want to make this happen for those that are wanting this kind of life-giving connection.

And now I turn it over to you.  I want to hear your stories, your thoughts on our prompt “Breathe.”  And artists?  I think this one has your name on it.

Here’s how to share:

  • You can share with us in the comments, if you don’t have a blog of your own. We have the amazing ability to post images in our comments! So post images of your art and/or share your words there.
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  • If you have a blog, write or make art based on the prompt and join the link-up!
  • Be sure to add the Velvet Ashes link ( to your blog post.
  • Please select the permalink from your post (so not your blog’s url, but your post url:
  • Click on the blue “Add your link” button below to add your blog post to this page.
  • It will walk you through selecting which image you want to show up in the linky.
  • Then your picture and link will show up below!
  • Then be sure to go visit other’s sites and share some comment love! It’s the rule. We applaud brave hearts!

photo credit WanderingtheWorld ( via Compfight cc


  1. Jennifer March 13, 2014

    There are several things which especially in the “challenges” of the last  couple of years have proven to be truly life giving to me, especially at particular times.

    1. Reading. Like Danielle, reading is simply one of those things which can be truly both relaxing and refreshing to me. However, because I can engage with it so relatively strongly at times, and because well as being a very positive thing, it can also be a great “escape” for me in a negative way, I have found that I do need to be careful what I do read, be careful what I choose to take in. I notice a difference depending on what I read, as well as on simply doing it.

    2. Writing. Writing at a deep, heart level especially, can truly be living giving to me. At several times in the last couple of years I have recognized that for me simply beginning to write, and in a sense writing my thoughts, an express things at a level I simply cannot do any other way. It can be a very powerful thing, especially when I end up writing what God seems to be speaking to me. I know I probably should do it more that I actually do. I know just how good it is for me. Velvet Ashes has proven to be good for me in that, because it encourages me each day to look what people are saying, both in the main message of the day, and responding to it, and to reflect upon what my response to it is, and sit down for a few minutes and choose to respond. Other time I have been in the middle of something else, and a thought prompted by what I read earlier in the day will come to me, and I simply need to write it down.

    3. Time and Space Alone. I am a relatively strong introvert, and know that time and space alone is truly life giving to me. It very simply gives me energy to go back on out into the world. When I truly am stressed or overwhelmed it is often because I have not had that time. It doesn’t always have to even be really long either.  I am learning to recognize that when I do feel overwhelmed that often the very best thing I can do, is one way or another simply find a way to get that space , even just for a few minutes.

    4. Strong Biblical Spiritual Input.  What has proven to be one of the most challenging things for me in China has been in good strong, biblical spiritual input in English.  I have come to recognize that one way or another I really do find that this is more than just an optional extra for me, but is something that I really do strongly need, and find life-giving. July, two years ago now, I began listening a lot over the Internet to a Christian radio station in the US and to watch a live service streamed from a church in the US. While, how that happened is a story in itself, I cannot deny that in particular the service has truly been life-giving to me. It truly engages my heart. The fact that I can recognize now that for almost two years I have been watching that service in the middle of Sunday night for me here in China perhaps does show just how much it both challenges and encourages me, but more than that simply seems to give me life.

    Right at this point in time, that is my top 4. I very much look forward to the input that we will all receive today from each other, on the things which help us most in getting the life giving that we need, and in finding time simply to breathe.


    1. Jennifer March 13, 2014

      Stop to Breathe
      Stop to Breathe
      Come before Him
      Stop to Breathe
      Open Heart
      Stop to Breathe
      Outstretched Hands
      Stop to Breathe
      Refreshing Spirit
      Bringing all we need.


    2. Danielle Wheeler March 14, 2014

      Such a good list, Jennifer.  Love that you have a life-giving source of spiritual input!

      1. Danielle Wheeler March 14, 2014

        The last line of your poem is so powerful.  We so often don’t stop to breathe because we aren’t trusting Him to bring all we need.

  2. Amy Young March 13, 2014

    Danielle, I know you asked about what helps us breath, but after reading about your week (oh and the “murder scene” analogy — been with a family member who I thought had died because of the amount of blood and not moving. Turned out it was a broken nose and he was too mad to move! I asked that if it ever happened again to give me some kind of sign so I’d know he was alive. Off topic to what I wanted to say.) What I wanted to say was — I’m sorry and I wish I could do more to “make it better.” But I live far away from you and I can’t pop in with a meal or a loaf of bread I made or watch your kids for a couple of hours. I can’t physically be the body to you and I hate that!!! But, I can comment and say, I’m sorry for the times that life takes your breath away and the emergency oxygen is slow to drop from the overhead compartment. May this week offer you more space to breathe!

    1. Danielle Wheeler March 14, 2014

      Ah, a broken nose – another source of crazy amounts of blood!

      And I felt the same longing to BE there for you a month ago, friend.  Thanks for your words.  Was very refreshed by our editors meeting today.  Always love dreaming and planning with you!

  3. Elizabeth March 14, 2014

    Life-giving rhythms? I need regular worship music. I need regular time with my husband, who is my best friend and never fails to make me laugh. Also time with my girlfriends, which, since I don’t live with them, is not quite as regular as I’d like, but it is always, always refreshing. I need to read (but I’ve let it fall by the wayside in the brain-drain of living overseas), and I need to write (which I haven’t let fall). I also need enough sleep and enough physical exercise — which takes precedence over reading — because if I don’t get it, I am not a nice person to my family! And although I rarely take the time to appreciate the outdoors, I love the tropical trees of this place. I love fluffy white clouds in a blue sky, and wet, green rice fields. But I also love and miss the millions of stars suspended above Iowa cornfields, so clear, so bright, so many. Those things fill me with awe at my creator, and I don’t admire His beauty nearly often enough.

    And confession: I really have hijacked my old childbirth breathing exercises for use in stressful situations. Slow breath in, slow breath out, purposely release muscle tension, ask God to calm me. I sing certain songs in those times. The hymn “Be with me Lord,” Amy Grant’s Christmas song “Breath of Heaven,” “Be Still and Know,” “Lord Give me Peace,” “Jesus Let us Come to Know You,” “Holy and Anointed One,” “Be Still My Soul,” “Peace, Perfect Peace.” Some of those aren’t very well known, but they mean a lot to me. I also sing a song I learned in middle school that was set to the lyrics of an inscription found in a Holocaust hiding place:

    “I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining,

    And I believe in love, even when there’s no one there.

    And I believe in God, even when He is silent,

    I believe through any trial, there is always a way.

    But sometimes in this suffering, and hopeless despair,

    My heart cries out for shelter, to know someone’s there.

    But a voice rises within me, saying ‘Hold on, my child,’

    I’ll give you strength, I’ll give you hope, just stay a little while.”

    I don’t know who put that to music, but it’s life-giving for me.

    1. Danielle Wheeler March 14, 2014

      Wow, to know those words were written in a Holocaust hiding place…

      I love that you tapped into the power of song.  I am not musical…at all.  But somehow  it became a bedtime ritual that I sing (off-key!) a song to each kid.  And at the end of the day, old words of truth put to music, are indeed life-giving.

  4. Kimberly Todd March 14, 2014

    I don’t think I knew you were from CO or if I did, it didn’t stick. I feel another link to you. And I like your number 4 a lot. My heart is heavy that there has been so much parenting trauma for you lately. I know, Danielle, and I’m just with you.

    1. Danielle Wheeler March 14, 2014

      How have we not shared our Colorado connection??  Yes, it is another link.  And thank you.  Thank you for being with me, friend.  Means so much…

  5. Danielle Wheeler March 14, 2014

    I found myself a spot to breathe.  A spot by an ancient pagoda, passed by countless times.  But today I stop.  I stop and breathe.

    I sit and still my thoughts.  I listen.

    The always nearby traffic, sounds today like the swishing of a river.  Music from the dancing groups floats though the air.  The fan dancers snap their fans behind me.  A grandpa walks by with a radio singing from his pocket.  A man nearby bends over and repeatedly pats his rear end.  This surprises me not at all.

    An old couple walks together clapping their hands in time with each other.  How long have their rhythms flowed together, side by side?

    I stop and feel.  If I am still I can feel the vibrations of the subway below flowing up through my bench.  I feel the sun on my cheeks, the sky bright and blue and cloudlessly crisp.  The wind that rattled our apartment last night breathed clean life into the city today.

    I feel this place in which I live.  I feel the wonder of it again.  I breathe deep and full and quiet.

    And then, then I pray…

    1. Jennifer March 14, 2014

      I love your descriptions of finding the rhythm of God in the everyday, in the commonplace and tapping into it, and finding rest in it. It is deeper than just taking the time to stop and to notice what is around you, and yet at the same time that is where it begins. I have had places in the past where simply being in them was enough to bring peace and calm to a stressed me.  One of those places used to have a clock that ticked. In the quiet that was what I could hear.  Today stopping and listening to the sound of a ticking clock can help me to breathe.

      1. Danielle Wheeler March 14, 2014

        Yes, the rhythm of God in the everyday, tapping into the wonder of the commonplace.  Exactly this.

  6. Amanda March 14, 2014

    LOVE this list! I so needed this reminder today. Just sent an email to friends to have some fellowship.

  7. Laura March 14, 2014

    Danielle, I love the advice you were given to “commit to giving rest to your soul.” I don’t remember hearing that advice before moving overseas (although it’s extremely possible that I did), but I have learned the necessity of it. 

    1. Danielle Wheeler March 14, 2014

      Yes, hearing it is one thing.  Learning it in the trenches is quite another.  It truly is necessity!

  8. Kristi March 14, 2014

    1. walking/running/driving – Sometimes a need to get away from the familiar and the tasks that the familiar often calls me to.  I need a change of scenery.  I also think that moving allows the two hemispheres of my brain to talk to each other.

    2. listening to music – I often need the breath of the Spirit to blow things out of mind that are hindering my spiritual growth.

    3. reading – It’s a safe place to live a different life.  You can learn from experience without suffering consequences.

    4. verbal processing – This can be writing or talking through things with a trusted friend.  This helps me to clear away fears and confusion so that the breath of the Spirit can freely move through my thoughts and actions.

    And now some “verbal processing:”


    Layers of lies




    My heart

    Stifling joy

    Banishing hope

    Overshadowing love

    Rocks o responsibility


    Weigh down


    My mind

    Clouding decisions

    Anchoring action

    Fettering feelings


    Gifts of grace




    My heart

    Stimulating joy

    Embracing hope

    Enlightening love

    Immutable mercy




    My mind

    Clarifying decisions


    Encouraging feelings


    My spirit



    1. Danielle Wheeler March 14, 2014

      Ah, the power of lies and the glory of grace.  Such a moving comparison.

      So glad to hear that decisions are being clarified, Kristi.

  9. Sarah Moulding March 15, 2014

    This word brought a smile to my face when I first read it as with living at an altitude of 3650 meters there are times when it is hard to just do the physical act of breathing. It takes focus and concentration to literally breath.

    In terms of everyday life rhythms it needs to a part of the rhythm of my whole day, the process of breathing in and receiving so that I can breath out and be giving to others. Routine goes a long way in helping it happen, but even then the reality of life doesn’t often result in a day like this, by 2pm i’m uually done in, but its something i’m aiming for.

    Breath in
    Wake up and read Gods word and pray for the day (would be good to get at least half an hour but realistically its more like 10-15 minutes)

    Breath out
    Hit the ground running with meal prep, washing, and beginning school before hubby sets off to work.

    Breath in
    Take middly to kindergarten, our morning bit of fresh air.

    Breath out
    School with biggy, often lots of deep breaths required here, particularly when we are covering maths!

    Breath in
    Finish school and try to hide in the kitchen to get lunch ready

    Breath out
    After lunch flurry, tidying up and gearing up for the afternoons activities

    Breath in
    An hours quiet time where everybody does their own thing quietly. (OK so this is still in the dream stage, not the reality I hope for..yet!)

    Breath out
    Play with the children, build things together, often in the role of referee, pulling children apart

    Breath in
    Calm time to focus on getting tea ready (another pipeline dream – the reality is normally 3 little ones screaming and fighting with each other)

    Breath out
    Tea time, closely followed by bed time routine and, yes bed time at last.

    Breath in
    And collapse in a heap – trying to muster up some energy to do something constructive before falling into bed.

    P.s. would really appreciate prayers for this week as my husband is going to be away all week so I’m home alone with 3 littlies, one of whom often suffers from a bad case of ‘daddyitis’! Thanks

  10. Danielle Wheeler March 15, 2014

    A week with three little ones and no daddy is no joke!  Will be praying for you, Sarah.  As a fellow mom to three littles I also have dreams for schedules that crash and burn in reality.  Someday, right?? In the meantime, we breathe…


  11. Tammy March 16, 2014









    1. Danielle Wheeler March 16, 2014

      Tammy, this is lovely!  And yes, all these verbs are wrapped into “Breathe”!

  12. Alex King March 16, 2014

    I just discovered this community and this post was deeply encouraging to me. My husband and I have been on the field for a little over 7 months now and learning how to nourish my soul in new ways has been so challenging! I’ve learned that I need to read, both things that challenge me and things that are just light and fun. I need to have deep conversations and that I need to hear stories of God’s faithfulness. I need to create and I need to listen to music that means something to me. I actually blogged about this in December, so I added my link!


    1. Danielle Wheeler March 16, 2014

      So glad you found us, Alex!  Love that you were encouraged by this. Heading over to read your blog now…

  13. Shelly Page March 17, 2014

    When I need space to breathe, I make it by keeping Sabbath and even saying “no” to friends heading out for a meal.  (Last Sabbath I joined a teammate to a new shopping place and then women from the city gathered at my teammate’s apartment for crafts. I would have enjoyed dinner with the ladies, but I had not yet had the kind of time I long to have with Jesus on Sabbath days. So, I stayed home with Him. It was definitely the better choice for me!)  Saying “no” to such things can be hard, but I am learning the rhythm of my heart and the times/places when I need to be with Jesus, who always helps me breathe. Other things I do include walking, reading a book to relax my mind that can even turn the Word in to work, and listening to music. I have a playlist titled “Be Still.”  Time with a trusted friend can help. I also meditate on Psalm 23: He is MY shepherd…He cares for me…even in difficult and scary places He is with me, protecting me…and His love and mercy will be with me FOREVER.

    1. Shelly March 17, 2014

      Not sure why all that formatting information showed up. I did cut and paste from a Word doc…

      1. Danielle Wheeler March 17, 2014

        And I edited out the formatting code so we can all appreciate your comment.  Yes, cutting and pasting unfortunately causes that.  No worries though.

    2. Danielle Wheeler March 17, 2014

      Knowing the rhythm of your heart lets you know when to say “no.”  Such a good point, Shelly.

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