The Retreat is Here! {The Grove – Expectations}

The Velvet Ashes Retreat is now open! Come log in here. If you haven’t yet, it’s not too late to join. For your sake, we hope and pray you’re taking a full day or half day this weekend to find renewal and refreshment. I think we all know that’s what we need.

But if life is crazy right now, we understand that too. Even if you can just log in and watch the videos, you’ll be glad you did.

This post today at The Grove is our gathering place. It’s our space to share our expectations and our need for this retreat. It’s where we are together processing our retreat experience.

If you’re anything like me, you don’t really know what an experience means until you talk it out or write it out. That’s what we get to do here.

For those yet to go through the retreat…

  • What are you most eager for as you get ready to do the retreat?
  • What are you asking God for as you head into this time?
  • What’s going on in your life right now that makes you say, “I really need this.”?

For those who’ve had your retreat experience…

  • Did God impress something on you through the Scripture meditations or prayer and journaling times?
  • What stood out to you from the video testimonies? Which stories did you resonate with? What messages did you need to hear?
  • What do you want to remember from Video 3, our session on “Release – Learning to Live Light and Free?”
  • What is it want to release or be released from?

I’ll share first, and then turn it over to all of you…


The idea of expectations and the theme of “release” has been rattling around in me for months. You all know my story of brokenness and my journey towards healing. A year ago, life felt anything but “light and free.” Layer by layer, God’s been taking me through the pile of expectations that I’ve been living under. Turns out I had a whole lot of heavy “shoulds” I was carrying.

  • I should be better at language.
  • I should have it all together and be awesome at homeschooling my kids.
  • I should be meeting all of my husband’s needs and he should be meeting all of mine.
  • I should be serving everyone more, my teammates, my relationships with locals. There are SO many needs!
  • I should be able to do ALL THE THINGS I want to do here at Velvet Ashes.

Not living up to all of these expectations and more left me feeling like “not enough” in every area. Throw in the stress of a few crisis experiences, and I was not in a good place.

I started asking myself the question, “What does God actually expect of me?” Turns out, God does not expect me to live up to expectations I have set for myself, because half of them are not healthy or realistically possible.

One step at a time, he’s been helping me to identify and release unhealthy expectations. Reading Expectations & Burnout was a big part of this. And then preparing to do the session with Patty was honestly like personal therapy. God knew I needed her to walk with me in this. If you all get something out of that video, that’s a bonus, because really it was what I needed to hear and to tell myself.

Through this whole process, I’ve sensed individual areas and expectations to release. Recently though, I read Kara Tippett’s The Hardest Peace (This book needs to fly to the top of your “To Read” list right now. Trust me on this.) Her words crystalized for me, what my “big release” is.

In her book, Kara wrote a letter to her husband saying this:

“While cleaning – let’s be honest, while looking for a reason to not clean today- I found the journal I started for us so many years ago. The journal where we were going to write down the dreams we had for our marriage and our life together. I wrote only three entries in it. Sounds like me, all ideas and little follow-through, but I like to imagine I put that journal down and walked into the beautiful horizon of our marriage and stopped trying to create idols of what life should look like, and actually just sought life and faithfulness in the living.”

Her words have haunted me in the best way ever since. I knew that’s exactly what I had been doing, creating an idol of what life should look like, not only in marriage, but in all of life.

Dreams and goals and ideals are meant to be a means to fulfillment, but if we let them warp into heavy weights of expectation, they actually become hindrances to that fulfillment.

So that’s what I’m releasing. I’m letting go of the idol I’ve made of what life should look like, both in the big picture of life and in the small dailies. I’m tossing aside the heavy living that came with the expectations that were mine, not his. I’m grabbing hold of the freedom and lightness that are the way of Jesus.

I hesitate to say this next line, because I don’t want something so sweet and precious to me to come off sounding cliché, but I’ll risk it anyway to say that I truly am finding a deeper intimacy with God. It had gotten lost somewhere along the way, in the midst of the doing and serving. But it’s here now, and it is filling me in the way I’d so been longing for.

I imagine I’ll be picking up that idol from time to time again. It has a way of sneaking back, you know. But getting a taste of freedom grows your appetite for more. When heaviness starts to weigh again, when feelings of “not enough” start to clench, I know now to look for which unhealthy expectations have latched back on.

And now I’ll be quicker to release and let them go. Because this light and free living?  I’m meant for it.


So how about you? We want to hear all about your retreat experience. Share here today, join us for the Live Chat with the editors Friday 8pm EST, and come share more at our special Retreat Reflections post coming out this weekend.

Comment below or link up your own blog posts here…


  1. Brittany April 17, 2015

    I hope to come and share more later, but for now I have a question!  I think it was in Brooke’s story, she mentioned a writer from hundreds of years ago who talked about losing a child and she said, “I’ll drink this down to the bitter dregs and also, I will worship, because I know that in the end, I’ll see the good things and my heart will be filled with wonder.”  I’m trying to find out who the author is she was talking about.  This really resonated with me and I’d like to look into more of that woman’s story.

    1. Danielle Wheeler April 17, 2015

      I will try to get an answer for you, Brittany.  I thought Brooke’s story might resonate with you…

    2. Danielle Wheeler April 18, 2015

      Ok, I got some details from Brooke! “Her name is Elizabeth Prentiss and she’s a great life to learn more about.  She was a hymnwriter in the 19th century, most well known for the hymn, More Love to Thee.  This quote is found in her book, Stepping HeavenwardStepping Heavenward is autobiographical fiction.  It closely parallels Mrs. Prentiss’ life including the loss of more than one child.  It’s written as a journal beginning on her sixteenth birthday and continuing on through adulthood, mostly chronicling her maturing walk.”  

      1. Brittany April 20, 2015

        Thank you for digging that up for me, Danielle!  OH, that hymn!!  I look forward to looking into her more.

  2. Lori April 17, 2015

    I am most eager to step out of the daily grind for a few hours and fellowship with other women with overseas ministry experience.  I am asking God for rest and healing for my weary soul, a stronger walk with Him, and that I’ll hear his voice and truth, and lay aside everything else.  I really need this as we are facing some big decisions concerning our family, health, and the timing of our return to the field.

    1. Danielle Wheeler April 17, 2015

      I’ll join you in asking God to meet you in these ways during your retreat.  May it bless your weary soul!

  3. Cecily April 17, 2015

    THANK YOU!!!!!!

    I will be honest and say that I didn’t have great expectations as I entered into the retreat, but the Lord was so ready to meet with me and to speak to me.  I said to myself part way through, “I don’t know how anyone else can be getting anything out of this retreat because it seems to be crafted just exactly for me!”

    Clearly you all put this retreat together with great love and much prayer.  Thank you for praying for me and for making this available.  In the days ahead I might figure our how to express how the Lord met me today, but right now I am just too overwhelmed.  But I wanted to be quick to say how grateful I am for all of the work that went into this and to say that it is clear that you heard from the Lord and communicated His heart.  I have been truly blessed today with an encounter with Him.

    1. Danielle Wheeler April 17, 2015

      I’m so glad it exceeded your expectations, Cecily.  It makes my heart sing to hear you had an encounter with Him.  That is the purpose, vision and desire for this retreat.  Yes, it has been a lot of work, but it has also a joy and an honor.  Whenever you are ready to share, we’d love to hear more.

      1. Cecily April 18, 2015

        Yesterday during my retreat the Lord was speaking to me all day about so many things.  I know it will take some time to process it all.  But this morning as I awoke, I realized the reasons for all the expectations.  I was trying to become more valuable.  I had expectations on myself, thinking that if I spoke the language better, if I could do this or that better, if I wasn’t so this or that, then I would be more valuable, more loved, more appreciated.

        And I had expectations on others because I thought, if they would do this or that, then I could do such and such, and then I would be more valuable.

        I had expectations on God that if He would just cooperate, then I could become more valuable.

        As I awoke, I understood that there is no value to be added–not now, not ever.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made with a plan and a purpose.  I can’t improve on that!  If I can internalize this and live this out, this will be life changing.  I know that I have believed so many lies about this.

        And this is not about self-worth.  This is about my worth to God.  The problem has been my self-worth, but that is the wrong focus!

        I remembered the song:  Touch of the Master’s Hand

  4. J April 17, 2015

    I really need a retreat but it’s very difficult to find the space or quiet at the moment. We have come to my home country about 10 days ago but it has been really busy travelling to see different people. My husband has been in a different city for a work conference the last 2 days and I will just get to see him at the airport tomorrow before he goes back to where we live and work. He can’t be away from work long. I decided to stay longer with the children to see family. I am missing my husband and home and feel quite worn out from living through uncertainties for the future. I have only watched the intro video so far and looked at the journal guide. I really need this. We are visiting my brother’s family this weekend as it is my nephew’s birthday party, as well as seeing my husband off at the airport. Please pray I can get some time and space. For some time now, even when I have had peace and quiet, I have been finding it hard to still my heart and mind and rest in God. Please pray for me.

    1. Danielle Wheeler April 17, 2015

      I can imagine how tough that is to find space or quiet with the husband away and being with family.  I pray that God will provide some time and space for you.  I know how hard it is for me to ask for help, to admit my need, so I’ll pray that you’ll even be able to express your needs to family or friends.  I pray that they will lovingly help you get the time and space you need and that the Father would meet you there in a very special way.

      1. J April 19, 2015

        Hi Danielle and team,

        I have just finished watching the videos and spent at least some time in prayer and reflection. I know there are more conversations to have with God and then with others. I just wanted to say thank you so much for putting this retreat together and especially for your prayers. It has been really helpful. There are so few resources like this and it’s great to be part of this community.

        I’ve had to do the retreat over 2 evenings after the kids have gone to sleep and both evenings one of the children have woken up crying and I’ve had to go and settle them.

        It’s late now but after some time  I hope to share what difference the retreat has made.


        May God continue to bless you

  5. Melanie April 17, 2015

    Thank you for trusting God in this endeavour. He has used you all greatly. I just returned from my overnight retreat and before I jump back into daily activities of kids, dishes and ministry I just wanted to stop and say thank you. I have been teetering on the edge of burnout for quite some time and have now felt the freedom to admit that and ask for some help. I have been so overwhelmed in my work for Him that I’ve missed Him completely. I will be processing for a while I’m sure but you encouraged at the end of the retreat to let you know how you could be praying for us… just even as I attempted to share some of what I experienced with my husband I felt these little lies creeping up of “he won’t understand, don’t bother sharing it with him, things are just going to go back to where they were before anyway.” My hope is in the Lord and that He is the Truth. We need to not listen to these lies. Thank you for hearing God and for sharing these hard lessons with so many. For His Glory.

    1. Danielle Wheeler April 19, 2015

      Thank you for taking the time to say thanks.  That’s no small thing.  And to feel the freedom to admit that you’re on the edge of burnout and to ask for help is HUGE.  Praying that you will continue to process and be able to shut those lies down.  Yes, HE is our hope and truth!

  6. Elizabeth April 18, 2015

    So far, I’ve only made it through the testimony times, but WOW, you sure did choose some tearjerkers of testimonies! This time is good because I’ve been really dry lately — dry as a consequence of being busy — and I really hate that.

  7. Kim April 18, 2015

    One thing that has been pressing on me lately is to ask for what I need so I don’t get so occupied in “doing” that I burn out or hit a wall, which is what has happened in the past.

    An area I have been lacking in and craving more of, is alone time. Living in South Asia, with five kids, in an over-crowded city, there’s just activity and people everywhere. But as an introvert, I desperately need time alone to recharge and seldom, if ever, get it naturally.

    When I first heard about the retreat I dismissed it because I was sure I’d never have the space I needed to participate. But the Lord kept bringing it to mind and so I registered, not really even sure I’d be able to watch the videos, much less journal. Then I did a brave thing for me, I asked my husband for not one or two, but four hours of alone time. He was happy to give it to me even though it meant taking our four oldest to a crowded mall on a Saturday– I just had to ask him and let my needs be known (and by they way, he did survive the mall without me, imagine that!).

    And having done the retreat this morning, I’m grateful I asked and that the Lord kept tugging at my heart to participate. I feel refreshed and excited about how the Lord used the testimonies to speak to me (still processing so much) and helped me feel like I’m not alone in the things I’ve felt and experienced on this journey. Thanks to Laura, Kara and Lauren, as their stories were exactly what I needed to hear. Thanks also to all the women who shared bravely and for the VA team for all their hard work on this. You guys have been a blessing to many!

    1. Danielle Wheeler April 19, 2015

      Yes!!  Asking husbands (and others) for help can be the hardest and bravest and best thing!  So glad you let your needs be known and that the Father met you with refreshment.

  8. Pam April 18, 2015

    Thank you so much. I just finished my retreat. I have been in such a dry spiritual place for way to long. God really spoke some truth to me. My favorite quote from Danielle was, ” our failures are opportunities to receive more of Him.” You see, I find my self-perceived failures a sign of weakness. I find I struggle most with what others expect from me. If others are disappointed in me, God must be too right?!? I’m starting to see the lies that I have believed. I realize I need to spend time asking God if what others are expecting of me is what God is expecting of me. And I need to realize that God knows I will fail at times and best of all, that He will be there with open arms help me pick up the pieces.

    Also, thank you for reminding me that what God really wants is to spend time with me. I’m not sure I truly believe that He wants that. The analogy of the little girl running ahead of her mom to finish the painting was SO good. I think if I insert myself into that story, I would have gone ahead and finished the painting because I didn’t want to bother my mom with it. I wouldn’t have realized that my mom just wanted to spend time with me. Thanks for reminding me that God wants to walk with me through my days and that I’m not “bothering” Him when I invite Him to be with me.





    1. Cecily April 18, 2015

      Pam, I am asking the Father to bring confirmation to your heart that He longs for fellowship with you.  The more I think about it, the more I see this all throughout the Bible.

      John 15 is all about us abiding with Him.  Matthew 11:28 (which we meditated on in the retreat) calls us to come to be yoked with Him, and in so doing we are connected with Him, working side by side with Him.

      Recently I have been understanding more of the humility of God, and with this understanding I have a much deeper understanding of His love.  I would urge you to read one of the gospels and look for all of the ways that Jesus walked in humility, how He came near to the people and hung out with them, how He taught them so simply and clearly, how He met them right where they were.

      In closing, I will just mention one account that really touched me.  In John 8 we read that when the woman caught in adultery was brought to Jesus, He said not a word but stooped down and wrote in the sand.  I was so touched by this account.  Jesus knew the sin of the woman (and the man who was somehow missing from the scene), but He would not join in with the accusers.  Instead, He stooped down to be at the same level as the woman, for probably her accusers had thrown her at His feet.  So now, when I am feeling so low, so dejected, or so troubled by sin, I remember that Jesus stoops down and sits with me in the dirt.  He who knew no sin comes to me in my disgrace and sits with me.  There is no greater and yet no more humble love than this.  And this is the love that waits for you and longs for your company.

    2. Danielle Wheeler April 19, 2015

      I have to say that that was Patty’s wisdom I was quoting there. 🙂

      Sounds like God met you with some amazing truth.  Rejoicing with you and praying for lots of time now to paint the picture with him, knowing he wants to be there with you.

  9. Wesley April 18, 2015

    Have barely begun the retreat, though am looking forward to it! I was tickled when I downloaded the journal guide and saw that Hosea 14:3 was in there. This whole chapter (and especially that verse) has been a theme of the current season I am in. A group of us have been praying that verse over where we work, too.


  10. Maren April 19, 2015

    Thank you so much for this breath of fresh air!  I really connected with so many women in the videos!  It was a breath of grace to hear them speak and know that we connect in similar struggles.  For the past year+ I haven’t had teammates like I used to, and although my teammates weren’t angels ;), it was a blessing to have teammates and mentors.  During the chat session, I was still in my preparation for lunch phase and so I continued to chop vegetables a bit while listening to the chat begin and it was almost like having you sit in my kitchen while I chopped vegetables… like a dear friend who walks through thick and thin with you.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve sat in many a homes watching ladies preparing food in the kitchen, sometimes sitting on the floor, sometimes sitting in chairs. 🙂  Thank you for being that friend in an isolating place. 🙂

    As for specifics, my greatest take away is grace.  It’s not about what we do or don’t do.  It’s that we are cherished.  We are loved.  He calls.  We follow.  It led me to Ephesians 2:1-10.  And I just started preaching to myself the verses of this passage.   Speaking grace into all the corners of my life.  Speaking grace into my classroom, my home, the cross-cultural work, my marriage, my family, and my life.  I plan to do a more in-depth study on grace.
    It was a beautiful retreat!  Thank you for walking us through it from all the corners of the earth.

    1. Danielle Wheeler April 19, 2015

      Maren, I love that we got to be there in the kitchen with you as you chopped!  And yes to grace, always grace.  Keep preaching that grace all over yourself, and the rest of us too.

    2. Amy Young April 19, 2015

      I love the idea of all of us gathered in your kitchen … chatting :). This just makes me happy, happy.

      1. Maren April 19, 2015

        Thanks! 🙂

  11. H April 19, 2015

    One of the thoughts I had was similar to Cecily up above.  As I was going through it, it was like someone had collected the things God has been teaching me this year, and just taken all the things he’s trying to get me to finally know and understand instead of just say and put all of them into a retreat just for me. (who has the password to my journal?)
    And then I was just overwhelmed by the Hosea passage and as I continue to finally learn what it means that God loves me (not just the God loved the world, but that God loves ME) and how incredible that is and also how much I so desperately need him.  I knew I had been stressed and worried, but it’s been a crazy couple months so I just pushed things aside until I would have time to deal with it all and unpack and work through what’s going on.  And that was today (or the beginnings of it).  I didn’t realized until I started listing worries and fears just how many they have become and how much I needed to come, slow down, and remember that God will be enough in each of those situations whichever way they turn out. And that I don’t have to be enough in each of those things.

    My notes papers are covered and I’m going to have to come back in a couple days to revisit and let some of it sink in a little more.  But one of my favorite things was about the shoulds or the coulds.  I came across that earlier this year and it blew my mind away.  I am still realizing just how many ways every day I live in the shoulds.  I should have done or said this, or oh my I shouldn’t have said or done that.  Or my life should look different; or others should be doing this.  Or God should be doing this. And I knew exactly how everything should be and what i should be and what I thought others thought I should be.  And it would never work.  And slowly after a couple months I see little bits or the shoulds being lifted

    1. Danielle Wheeler April 19, 2015

      It’s so cool to hear that the retreat felt like it was just for you.  And that it was a time for you to unpack all that you’ve been going through.

      And, yes, it’s crazy how powerful those “shoulds” are in our lives, right?

  12. lisa April 20, 2015

    I started the retreat a day late, and it’s been sooo good! I was really moved by the Hosea passage. Some of the exact hopes I’d written in the first blank showed up in that passage and it just floored me.

    I think what I needed to hear from session one was that it’s good to have passion for the work. My passion was good. But I too very quickly began leaving God out of the work and doing it myself. God wants to be with me.

    On a technical note, I thought I had downloaded all the videos, because today was my free day (even though it’s not within the retreat bounds). But, two of the videos failed to download. Is there anyway to get access to the last two videos, or at least session two?

    1. Amy Young April 21, 2015

      Lisa, I’ll email you a link for them 🙂 (and I think the message Laura had is one we’ll all need again and again :))

  13. lisa April 21, 2015

    Just wanted to add–I really felt your prayers. There’s such a difference between answering questions on paper out of your brain and feeling like God is right there, in conversation. A lot of things broke open that were locked up.

    I thought I’d share five things that came to me to help fight for rest. I thought of them on my walk (and I skipped rocks at the end, even before I read the part of enacting things physically! that was cool).

    -Be confident in God! He knows what I need. Stop all the fears that are rooted in, “Can he be trusted? For me personally?”
    -He wants me. It’s really true. No caviats. He wants to be with me.
    -He’ll run interference for me with other people’s expectations. Cause he’s my husband and my boss. (Like Jesus did to Martha for Mary)
    -It’s his work, that he does. He really has a handle on it all.
    -I have one job, and that’s ok. One job: to be with him. To walk with him. He will work through me. He will put me on purpose.

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