I’d never heard of an air plant before. These amazing plants somehow grow without soil by just soaking in moisture from the air and getting their food from the sun. How cool is that. When I first heard about the Velvet Ashes retreats the theme for that year was “Sustain” built around the idea of these amazing air plants. They survive in such unique environments sustaining themselves and even thriving on hardly anything. “These people get me.” I thought. The more I learned about Velvet Ashes it felt like a cold drink of water to my very thirsty soul. Even the name Velvet Ashes comes from the Velvet Ash Tree which is able to grow in the desert providing shade in harsh environments.
Sometimes this overseas life can very much feel like a harsh environment. I love it. It is very much where I know God wants our family in this season. It is so, so good and yet is it so, so hard. Yesterday my son pointed out that there is a plant growing out of the cement step right in front of our front door. Amazing. Life growing, even thriving, in a hard place. I want to be that plant. To be honest, I wouldn’t say I am thriving at the moment, but I hope by God’s grace that I am growing. During the most recent Velvet Ashes Unplugged Retreat “Prayer and Jesus” that I was able to be part of one of the exercises asked you to picture yourself as a potted plant. My plant was a cactus. Transplanted, survives on not very much, often misunderstood, the prickles at times can make it hard to get to know. I was told once in college that missionary kids are hard to get to know. It felt sad hearing that, because don’t we all long to be known and understood. But I get it. The childhoods we had often were complicated so, yes, it can be a challenge to peel back some of those layers and there might be some prickles along the way, but cacti are actually quite fascinating. I learned recently that cactus often bloom at night and their blooms usually last just for a day. Imagine that beauty in the quite of the night, far off in the desert often not seen by a single human eye, and yet they still bloom.
I was given a desert rose last week (Thank you Jim). It had a sweet pink blossom which my two-year-old promptly proceeded to pick. Two more blossoms are about to open. I was told that desert rose plants actually do best in direct sunlight, so it should thrive at our house (I’m melting in this summer Port Moresby heat). What a special reminder that we are all learning to survive and hopefully thrive even in difficult environments.
Velvet Ashes has been such a gift to me. We are with a small organization with no member care so, for me, the retreats with Velvet Ashes have become a time to mentally access the year and see how God has grown and changed me. I love how beautiful the material Velvet Ashes creates is and how honest and relevant it is especially for cross-cultural workers like me. From blog posts to connection groups there is something so special about feeling seen, heard and encouraged. So thank you to the team at Velvet Ashes for the ways you minister to women like me. Happy Birthday to an amazing community. The ripple effects of the love you pour out on so many of us is so life giving. It probably won’t be until heaven that the many fruits of your faithful labor will be seen.