When Your Soul Gets Sucker Punched {Book Club, Special Announcement and a Give Away}

Before we dive into book club, the Velvet Ashes Team has to say how incredibly touched we are by all of the responses to the Retreat this past weekend.  The freedom and renewal that you all have expressed is a vision come true, and an absolute answer prayer.

One of the many amazing parts of the retreat was the fact that we had 92 countries represented in the retreat.  92 countries!

We’ve been planning and scheming behind the scenes at Velvet Ashes for months to create a way to connect the lives of women in their different regions of the world.  That was the heart of Velvet Ashes when we began.  We just didn’t know back then how it would happen.  Now we do…

Today we proudly unveil our brand new Community Map.


Want to know other women who are serving in your area of the world?  Want to connect with kindred hearts around the globe?  Then come put yourself on the map!

You can share just the information that you want to. You can enter your location as either a city, or a country, or a region of the world. If needed, you can even have it be “undisclosed.” You have the option to share your own website and social media links as well.

We’re picturing ladies discovering friendships they never would have otherwise. We’re imagining ladies brand new to the field finding a lifeline to ask their questions to.  We’re hoping returning ladies find each other back in home countries.  We’re envisioning “local gatherings” during future Velvet Ashes Retreats.

Are you catching the vision?

We’re giving away $50 Amazon gift cards to TWO of the first 200 ladies to join our Community Map.   So head on over and join the Map!

With joy,

The Velvet Ashes Team

Now turning it back over to book club!


Do you expect me (Amy) to make mistakes?

Well, I’m not one to disappoint in that area 🙂 … meaning if you expected a mistake, you’re right. At the end of last week’s book club I only mentioned chapter 8 of Expectations and Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission (by Robynn Bliss and Sue Eenigenburg). When really the plan was 8 and 9; I forgot to check with the plan. So, if you haven’t read chapter 9, you’re in for a life altering metaphor. I’ll mention it later, go read now. And, I’m sorry!



Finally someone has shared the truth about the work and how it tends to be laced with stories of disappointment instead of miracle after miracle. I do hope this is changing with more blogs being willing to challenge “using” people in newsletters (and in using them, only presenting half truths) and about the mundaness of much of our daily lives.

But I realize change often comes slowly and we’re still under the pressure of supporters unrealistic expectations.

As you read through chapter 8 I bet you could relate to the themes: health, infertility, local friends in our daily life (house help, landlords, language tutors), local beliefs, our own families. I’ll be curious to hear what stood out to you, but in rereading this chapter I had forgotten Shivraj had aplastic anemia.

Talk about confusion with God and his timing. My dad had aplastic anemia in the early 80s and also nearly died. He was kept alive by over 100 blood and platelet transfusions. Being the early 80s there was still much we didn’t know about diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C (actually called Hep Non-A/B at the time). During his treatment of aplastic anemia he contracted Hepatitis C, which ended up costing him is life 30 years later at the young age of 74.

We are grateful for the extra 30 years. Grateful. He died on a Wednesday. The headline one month later, on a Wednesday morning? Cure for Hepatitis C FOUND!

Really? One month. Why couldn’t the news (which quoted my dad’s doctor) have come in five weeks? or 42 days? Why didn’t it come when we weren’t still having little punches in the soul every Wednesday? He missed it by one month.

I imagine I skipped over little details that might have felt like a punch in your soul. If you’re comfortable, we’d love to hear in the comments.

The list of questions at the end of chapter 8 are ones to be pulled out regularly and work through. Here are a few to wet your appetite if you haven’t gotten to read the chapter yet. Do we go into cross-cultural ministry not expecting anything of ourselves or God? Do we take any and all expectations and water them down until we can merely survive overseas and think we are successful?  Bottom line: How do we embrace a sometimes harsh and below-our-expectations reality and still expect that our awesome, powerful, almighty God will work in and through us? Let’s talk in the comments about these questions and not just gloss over them.

Tip #8 had this amazing thought: “Yes, I can pray. But when my prayers become cajoling, manipulative, magic-invoking, plea bargaining, or demanding, I’ve crossed the line. Those are not Spirit led prayers. Those are prayers where Robynn thinks she knows best.” Isn’t that a helpful distinction?

And then chapter 9. Wow. The sermon Lowell preached with the metaphor of a swimming pool versus the ocean is one to keep. I have used that one over and over since I first read it. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, that chapter right there is worth the price of the book. 

This is topic of God and expectations is one I hope we don’t rush through because of the complexities and confusion. We started it a little bit talking about idols and marriage. How do we hold in tension that God is trustworthy but not predictable?

In light of the retreat and what God released you from, how will is influence your expectations of God? Or his of you? So much to digest. Feel free to do it in small bites and to come back to the comments throughout the week. No pressure for well thought out comments. What stirred in you this week?



P.S. Next week we discuss chapters 10 and 11: Burnout — symptoms and causes. Then we have ask an author, get your questions ready! And the in two weeks we’ll have a wrap up week since so much has been going on, we need time to process.

Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 


  1. Amy Young April 20, 2015

    This is a picture of the headline. Happy and sad and annoyed all at once 🙂

    1. Ellie April 21, 2015

      so sorry Amy – yes, happy and sad and annoyed.. Frustration at God and His timing.. How do we trust in the middle of this..?

      I found the metaphor about the sea and the swimming pool powerful but hard. I liked the way that she used the word “strange” to describe God. I have substituted it in my head with the word “weird” this week when talking about this passage to people and I realised it’s really helped me – God’s way are not our ways.. sometimes they look “weird or strange or wrong”….. Let’s just say it?! 😉

      “Our God is wild and untamable. He is expansive and unpredictable. When we say he is holy we mean he is strange and we do well to take our shoes off.”

      1. Elizabeth April 21, 2015

        “When we say He is holy we mean He is strange and we do well to take our shoes off” — I loved that sentence too.

      2. Amy Young April 21, 2015

        Weird or strange, yes, that resonated with me too. Most of the time I intellectually get the relationship between the consequences of giving us choice and so much of the evil around us. But intellectually getting it and grasping it on a heart level are two different things. And then I think, “oh my, God loves far more than I do, can you imagine what all of this does to him?”

  2. Kay Bruner April 20, 2015

    Trigger Warning — child abuse

    This passage from the Frederick Buechner Facebook page somehow helped me a little bit this week with all the terrifying, horrible mystery of the world and my expectations of a loving God–that somehow ALL the truth holds together with Love.  In a way that is beyond my comprehension.
     “DRIVING HOME FROM church one morning full of Christ, I thought, giddy in the head almost and if not speaking in tongues at least singing in tongues some kind of witless, wordless psalm, I turned on on the radio for the twelve o’clock news and heard how a four year old had died that morning somewhere. The child had kept his parents awake all night with his crying and carrying on, and the parents to punish him filled the tub with scalding water and put him in. These parents filled the scalding water with their child to punish him and, scalding and scalded, he died crying out in tongues as I heard it reported on the radio on my way back from of all places church and prayed to almighty God to kick to pieces such a world or to kick to pieces Himself and His Son and His Holy Ghost world without end standing there by the side of that screaming tub and doing nothing while with his scrawny little buttocks bare, the hopeless little four-year-old whistle, the child was lowered in his mother’s arms. I am acquainted with the reasons that theologians give and that I have given myself for why God does not, in the name of human freedom must not, by the very nature of things as he has himself established that nature cannot and will not, interfere in these sordid matters, but I prayed nonetheless for his interference.

    “You were going to explain why you believe,” the interlocutor says, not unkindly.
    I believe without the miracles I have prayed for then; that is what I am explaining. I believe because certain uncertain things have happened, dim half-miracles, sermons and silences and what not. Perhaps it is my believing itself that is the miracle I believe by. Perhaps it is the miracle of my own life: that I, who might so easily not have been, am; who might so easily at any moment, even now, give the whole thing up, nonetheless by God’s grace do not give it up and am not given up by it. There is maybe no such thing, old friend and adversary, as a genuine, self-authenticating experience of anything, let alone God. Maybe at the latter day my redeemer shall stand upon the earth and mine eyes shall behold him and not as a stranger, but in the meantime I behold him on the earth as a name which when I write it wakes me up weeping, as a joke too rich to tell on certain silent faces, occasionally even my own face; as a hand which I am able sometimes to believe that only the thin glove of night I wear keeps me from touching.”
    – originally from The Alphabet of Grace

    1. Elizabeth April 20, 2015

      This year going through Lent I was struck by Jesus telling the people they would not get the signs they were asking for, only the sign of Jonah. I realized anew that it is the very story of Jesus dying, taking on EVERYTHING for us, and then being resurrected, that is the sign we are needing. Miracles and answered prayers are helpful, so helpful, but it is the Story of Redemption itself that inspires the belief, being so different from any other belief system. It is what keeps me coming back to Jesus. I think that’s why Buechner can say “without the miracles I prayed for, I still believe.”

    2. Amy Young April 20, 2015

      Kay — Buechner wades right into the deep end, doesn’t he? Yesterday I watched 12 Years a Slave. And if I tell you the truth, I didn’t go to early service because I went to a church yesterday that didn’t start until 10:30 — so I watched the movie and then went to church. After watching the movie, I thought, “I’ve been to church.” I can’t say it as eloquently as Buechner (and that’s okay!), but what profoundly struck me as I watched the movie was, “Amy, don’t be so smug as to think that might not be you. You need to foster your humanity every day. Every day you need to look for the ways the Kingdom of God are around you and join in, stand near, tip your hat, whatever.” And then just yes to what Elizabeth wrote below (or above, not sure how this will publish).

    3. Ellie April 21, 2015

      Kay that’s a powerful quote and I’m glad it helped you but I have to say that this morning from a place of extreme vulnerability at the moment coming to Velvet ashes and feeling it was a safe place that word picture has given me a terrible time for the last hour and I can’t get the child’s screaming out of my head so I do wonder if it’s possible to put a warming up in advance of the quote?

      1. Ellie April 21, 2015

        *warning! not warming

      2. Amy Young April 21, 2015

        Thank you for the suggestion … I added one.

        1. Ellie April 27, 2015

          Thanks Amy

  3. Elizabeth April 20, 2015

    Both times I read this book (last year, and again this spring), Robynn’s chapter on disappointment in God was the most moving part for me. I’m still young and new here, and I haven’t had those kinds of disappointments yet. It was a real eye opener to read Robynn’s story and realize that may happen to me in the future. I think this chapter was the most explanatory for how burnout happened for her: the pain of these disappointments was just so great. Being too busy and over-committed will require rest and saying “no,” but disappointments such as these dig much deeper into the soul.  And yet, she still has faith that God is God. At the same time, I think the way she suffered through these things is the reason her writing at Marilyn’s site is always so wise and profound, so comforting and compassionate.

    On a side note, I loved hearing your voice over the weekend Amy! Both in the closing video and the live chat. Hearing someone’s voice is so powerful and helps you get to know them so much better. 🙂

    1. Amy Young April 20, 2015

      There is such a depth to Robynn’s writing, isn’t there?! She’s such a wise soul. And I think you’re on to something — not all disappointments are the same. Some go soul deep. This is a good word to me/us to ask God to keep giving us eyes to really see each other and to see what kind of disappointment people are experiencing. In the workshop I presented this past weekend on how to offer comfort, I share three scenarios I’ve experienced. One thing I’ve learned is that the surface/face value doesn’t always determine how the person experiencing may view it.

      And I hope to hear your voice some day :)! I enjoyed the Live Chat too and getting to hear people’s voices!

  4. Kristi April 20, 2015

    Right now I am struggling with this.  I make hard decisions.  Circumstances change and my decision is undone.  I trust He is leading one way and then –  BAM – a complete turn around.  Today I fear.  Today I fight. Today I choose to believe.

    1. Amy Young April 20, 2015

      Oh Kristi, I don’t want to jump in with quick simplistic answers. I’m sorry for the BAM! I’m also wondering (here I’m talking to myself, feel free to listen in :)) — I’m wondering if I get too focused on the wrong things and that’s why those BAMs hit so hard. What does it mean to focus only on Jesus — or focus first on Jesus — and less on the things I can’t control (housing, visas, a parent’s health, whether a child lives or dies). I can tell I’m tired and I’m not formulated my thoughts the way I want :). I’ll come back when my brain is working better.

      1. Kristi April 21, 2015

        Yep.  Probably tied myself to the wrong anchor again.  Maybe a BAM is just

        Being brought back home

        After depending on


        1. Amy Young April 21, 2015

          I’m tucking that one away :). It’s a nugget.

        2. Shelly April 27, 2015

          Oooh, this is a good one. It brings me back a couple of years when I felt “BAM” though I called it “being hit by a Mac truck.” The time since then has been a “bringing me back home [as I find myself] depending on me.” Thanks for sharing, Kristi.

  5. Kristi April 20, 2015

    Guess I’ll share this too..


    The Future

    I stand

    but not firm

    I fight

    but lacking faith

    I hope

    but the flame is low


    The Sword of the Lord

    is drawn

    Is it against or for me?

    My shield of faith is raised

    who assails?

    The Deceiver is at work


    The ground

    beneath is carpeted

    with His faithfulness

    fringed in peace

    Will faith be yanked away?

    Will peace unravel?


    The path

    twists and turns

    the way

    is rough and rocky

    the journey

    is dark and demanding



    I fear


    I fight


    I choose to believe



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