Unlikely Places

Unlikely Places

They had trained for this.

In circles where they could speak freely, they listened to women share fears about their upcoming births. With calming tones, they spoke words of wisdom that were passed on to them from the midwives that had gone before. They loaned and borrowed strength from each other. Each time it passed back and forth, it connected them a little more. The relief of joys and the hollowing of sorrows they witnessed in the birth rooms caused them to lean into each other as they closed the doors and walked home. These were the midwives of the Israelites in Egypt.

I don’t think that Pharaoh had any idea of the steel resolve that made up this little group of women, the bonds that had been born in this season of slavery along with the children. It is in this oversight that his decree to kill all of the baby boys born to Israel tumbles down the chain of command. These overlooked women felt the weight of this decree as it landed on them to execute this sentence of murder.

In Pharaoh’s haste, however, he underestimated the power of women who support each other. He overlooked the strength that comes from shared trials and disregarded the world-changing ramifications of bonds forged in suffering. The courage of women who thrived in an unlikely place brought freedom for an entire nation as they drew strength from each other to defy a king and choose life over death.

Have you ever wondered why we are called Velvet Ashes? I can’t retell this story without being reminded of the roots of our name. Those roots grow deep and intertwine with the same roots of these nameless women.

We are named for the Velvet Ash tree, because it lives in the seeming emptiness of the desert. In this unlikely place to find life and hardiness, it’s roots run deep. Like the extremes of cross-cultural living, the Velvet Ash grows through both the extreme heat and the extreme cold. Our lives, like theirs, call for this kind of hardiness, this ability to thrive amidst the array of environments and situations we find ourselves in.

Finding courage from the deep roots of their community with each other and their faith in God, I imagine these midwives stood firmly shoulder to shoulder; their hands clasped tightly together as they supported each other.

Don’t we all long for those kinds of friendships? The ones that infuse you with hope over a cup of coffee. The ones that make you brave enough to try one more time. The friends we will let into our homes no matter how many days it’s been since we saw the couch under the laundry. The ones who will say the hard things, and we will listen, because we trust them with our hearts, our pride, and our hopes.

As women who go overseas, some of us may have counted meaningful friendships in the cost of going. The number of women who truly “get you” drops significantly when you shuffle in the door of “home” in a galaxy far away. But that isn’t how women were designed to live, hoarding their experiences, withering from the drought of relationships.

At Velvet Ashes, we work every day to create a place for those friendships to grow. Although some of us may live far removed from each other and we may never know each other’s names, we can still lean on each other. Although we may never meet in person, we can still clasp hands through our shared experiences. You can borrow my strength and I will lean on yours. And through our shared circumstances we will discover the courage to protect something sacred… and we may just find we can change someone’s world.

From your unlikely place, we invite you to thrive. From your unlikely place, we invite you to take courage. From your unlikely place we invite you to change the world. Welcome to the Velvet Ashes community.

Because connecting you to each other and great resources is what we do, we have a special welcome week gift for you!  We have created “31 days: An Expat Guide to Loving and Growing Where You Are”. No matter if you consider yourself a newbie or a long ranger, this checklist can help you grow more connected wherever you are.

Now, we realize your ability to execute everything on this checklist may be affected by the limitations of Covid in your area. However, we believe it is still a beneficial tool that can be adapted to invite growth and give encouragement right now.

So, take the 31-day challenge and let us know how it’s going! #VelvetAshes31days

We are so grateful you are here!

31 Days Checklist (A4 size)

31 Days Checklist (Letter size)


  1. Elizabeth August 6, 2020

    I love this take on the midwives! Thanks for a new perspective, Denise.

  2. Danielle Wheeler August 7, 2020

    Love this! And you. And this community of uniquely bonded women. ❤️

  3. Jenny August 10, 2020

    This was a beautiful read. Thank you for sharing this perspective and reminder.

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