Immanuel: God With Us

Merry Christmas! I love Christmas time. The traditions. Decorations. Music. Parties. Even the gift buying. It’s a joyful time. Every year, the day after Christmas, I purchase the next year’s holiday clothing for my grandkids and look forward to handing them out at Thanksgiving.  They are still young enough to let me pick out something for them to wear. Kate and Haddie are beginning to express personal opinions about clothing however but here they are frolicking happily in the dresses they received. So fun. Christmas feels precious to me this year.  More so than previously. I think it’s because my perspective is changing. This year, as I ponder the familiar biblical accounts of the birth of Jesus, I am seeing it in a different light.  I am seeing Jesus as Immanuel-  God WITH us. “He will bear a son and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.  All this took place to fulfill what the LORD had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.” (Matthew 1:21-23) Immanuel is an amazing word – It’s three words put together into one: “GOD WITH US”. This speaks deeply to my heart. What a gift.  Not only did Jesus come to earth as our Savior but He came to be with us and His spirit remains with us forever. “You know him, for he dwells WITH you and will be IN you.” (John 14: 15-17) No matter what our circumstances may be, God’s presence is WITH us in the midst of them.  Stressful...

He is Always Reachable

The sound of a quick afternoon nap sounded so refreshing but just as I buried my head into the pillow, my iPhone beeped. It was the memory care facility calling to inform me that my mom had bitten a nurse.  Ouch.  I was embarrassed and worried that they would terminate her stay but at least the nurse was OK, the woman on the phone was assuring me. Before I could end the conversation, my youngest daughter ran in frantically looking for her dad, who had let our large, chocolate labradoodle loose (again)  – and he was harassing a friend who had just pulled up in his truck to return our cement mixer. Knowing how scary Rufus looks and frightening his growling bark sounds, I ended the phone call abruptly and rushed outside.  “I can’t reach Glen,” our friend said, “Is there someone around who can help me unload this?” Fortunately he seemed less concerned about Rufus than I was. “Of course, he couldn’t reach Glen,” I grumbled silently to myself, “he doesn’t carry his phone with him.”  I ran down the hill and around our guest house calling for my husband. With his truck in the driveway, I knew he was around somewhere. I crisscrossed the property calling for him in vain. “Was he lying somewhere hurt and unable to respond?” I wondered.  My worry turned to anger however when I found Glen chatting peacefully with Cam and Erin inside their home next door. “You let Rufus out again unsupervised,” I complained rather angrily, “and there are times – like now – when you really need to be reached.”...

Blog by Tim Elmore: Do Smart Phones Make Us Smarter?

Earlier this week, I asked Joey, my oldest grandchild if he thought the presence of an iphone, even if merely set down and unused, would distract him from doing well on a math assignment.  Unlike many students, who insisted that they are immune to any affect, I was surprised and delighted with his emphatic response, “it would definitely distract me from doing good work because even seeing it is too tempting for me.” I could tell by the conversation with Joey that he had gained knowledge that helped him recognize the downside of having a smart phone.  Already this information was useful in determining better practices for himself. As guardians of our young kids hearts and minds, we must remember to share with them reliable, up-to-date information. Here’s a great blog by Tim Elmore that is well worth reading and sharing with your kids. Dr. Elmore summarizes several recent studies and shares information that is helpful and important for all of us living in this tech-driven world.   Do Smart Phones Make Us Smarter?  ...

Spiritual Heritage is Now Available

Last week I met with a sweet but very discouraged couple trying to hold on to hope for their children and family. They had grown angry and disillusioned with each other over disagreements on how to parent through difficult issues and choices their children were making. I couldn’t help but remember a similar season when Glen and I quit talking and instead allowed an icy wall to grow between us. Just like this couple, many of our disagreements rose out of how to parent our children.  Parenting is often fertile ground for conflict between two individuals who enter into this vital role from two different home environments and experiences. In writing a book together, I have thought a great deal about Glen’s and my journey as parents. We come from very different backgrounds and while we shared the same vision for our kids, we had entirely different perspectives on how to get there.  We frequently disagreed, yet neither disunity, nor mistakes, stopped God from furthering His work in all of us. In hindsight, I see it so much differently now.  I think of a cement mixer that blends cement and water together into a mixture that forms a strong foundation for a home.  With concrete, good outcomes result from the right proportions – a good mix design. Over the years, Glen and I finally grew willing to place ourselves into the “cement mixer” and blend our ideas and perspectives together. We learned that too much of Ellen wasn’t wise and neither was too much of Glen. This took humility by both of us.  This realization made a significant difference...

Mentor Confidence in Your Kids Through Mistakes

“Mom can I borrow 4 eggs?” Alisa asked as she and Asa, her five-year-old son, entered our kitchen this morning. “I brought Asa along so that we would have four hands to carry four eggs.” Asa held out both hands with a big smile on his face. Being trusted to help his mom in this way was a big deal to this little guy. “Hold them carefully because they will crack if you drop them Asa,” Alisa added as they walked out the door and headed back to their home next door. But he didn’t make it far with one egg slipping out of his small hand as he skipped down the sidewalk.  Asa stood there, frozen, looking down at the broken eggs and glancing up at me, standing in the door way. Many thoughts whirled around in my head in those few seconds… …. of how tempting it would be to say something like “You were told to be careful. Look what you did”  – to lecture him and point out how he had messed up. But I was reminded of the importance of affirming kids right when they mess up… – of being more vision driven than authoritative and that mentoring belief and confidence into my grandkids is a worthier goal than managing their behavior. So I cheerfully invited Asa back into the house and told him “Here’s another egg. This time I know you will get them both safely back to your house.”  And he did.  While it seems like a trivial issue, it was a moment when I could have easily chosen a judgmental “you-were-not-careful”...

Next Generation Faith

Writing a book is an interesting proposition. It’s both thrilling to get a book deal but also frightening because one’s thoughts and ideas go public where they can be critiqued by any reader. Without our oldest daughter’s help and encouragement, we would have lacked the courage to write a book. It’s not second-nature to us like it is to Erin who was born a writer. (We still have a few of her first “books” written at 5 years of age) As a child, she wrote creatively about presents and friends and childlike adventures. Now as an adult, Erin openly shares her honest experiences as a young mom, and advocates for warm and understanding parent/child relationships as essential in the transfer of faith. We completely agree. If there is one thing we hope readers of our book will gain, it is that parents truly are more influential than they may realize. This was reinforced for us by Vern. L. Bengston,  a presenter at last week’s D6 conference in Dallas. Bengtson is the author of Families and Faith: How Religion is Passed Down Across Generations in which he outlines the outcomes of an empirical study on religion and family that has been going on for 45 years. His study clearly demonstrates that parents, and even grandparents, have a greater influence than they think and that emotional bonds are the most important. While faith may waiver, especially in the ages between 18 and 24, many prodigals return once they become parents – especially if they were raised in a warm affirming environment. Here are Bengtson’s concluding tips, shared in his own words: How...

A Spiritual Heritage

John F. Kennedy once said that “children are the living messages we send to a time we cannot see.” What values are we imparting to our children today that will be their message to future generations? My husband and I pondered this question often while writing A Spiritual Heritage, which launches in October.  Thinking of our own children, we want them to know that they are part of something larger than the circumstances they face today – that they on a continuum of a family story that spans centuries and includes both inspiring victories and heart breaking struggles. Most importantly, we want them to comprehend that their story is linked to the greatest story – that of God’s love for, and redemption of, mankind. A study conducted by Marshall Duke at Emory University paired resiliency with how much a student knew about their family history. The researchers were surprised to discover that “the ones who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges.”  Furthermore, the more they know about their family’s history, the better they regard themselves. Knowing about my family’s history causes me to think outside myself and feel a part of something more significant than just ME. To know what life was like for my ancestors in a tiny northern village in Finland makes me more humble and grateful. To know of my grandfather’s struggles to stay alive despite being severely beaten by Russian soldiers makes me more resilient.  To know that this experience led him to become a praying man, makes me want to pray more. To know that my...

Meg’s Encouraging Word at John Diehl’s Memorial Service

I went to John Diehl’s memorial service on Saturday.  A highly-respected man of God.  Father of five.  Husband to Meg.  All week, my thoughts have turned to Meg, JR, Scott, Henry, Sarah and Grace.  I try to imagine what it’s like to wake up one morning to life as usual, then to have one’s world turned upside down a few hours later. When Meg’s kids were younger, I spent regular time with her. With five children and the demands of University-Model® schooling, she was stretched very thin back then.  It was in that season, however, that she learned of Graham Cooke who pointed her to God’s relentless love for her, and she began to experience God’s peace and rest in a revitalizing way. As Meg spoke to the very large crowd who had gathered at the service, she exuded peace and joy even as she spoke of the death of her beloved husband.   Arriving home from the memorial service, I went right to a link she had provided in the memorial program, which read: Where Meg is Rooted:  Graham Cooke’s The Nature of God. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pVyFCoKGBM&t=811s Thank you Meg!  I needed to hear this again! There is no such thing as a good day or a bad day.  Only days of grace.  Some days we enjoy what the day holds.  Other days we must simply endure.  But in each day, we can enjoy the grace that God is present in it. Meg spoke with such peace because she is at peace even as she deals with the death of her dear husband.  It’s still a day of grace for her. And...

A Firm Foundation

A close family friend came by a few days ago, with her 9-year old son and asked if I could speak to him. “Ellen, I don’t even know what to do with Caleb (name changed). He argues about everything and taunts his siblings all day long. Last night he tried to cheat when we were playing a family board game and then lied about it. What is going on with him?” I had no idea how to respond to this distraught mom, a friend I knew so well. She and her husband set high standards for their four children and held them accountable for their actions. They prayed with their kids and taught them Biblical truths. I believed that Caleb wanted to please his parents and be a positive role model for his siblings.  I knew he held great aspirations in his heart. Yet, from the sounds of things, little in his recent behavior indicated these desires. As I silently prayed, the Holy Spirit moved my thoughts in a different direction. Kids like Caleb, who are being raised in devoted Christian homes, likely know the basics of faith. But knowing does not necessarily equate to understanding or application to their daily lives. I asked Caleb if he would be willing to sit down with me and chat. Having had many honest conversations with this young boy, I didn’t mince words and got right to it.  “I understand you have been behaving poorly with your family recently.”  Caleb nodded in agreement. “How does that make you feel?” I asked him. “Bad,” he whispered. “What do you think you need to do...

Vision

God speaks to His people. He guides and plants vision into our hearts that inspires and moves us down certain paths. School Vision Veritas Academy has always been shaped by individuals who have been led by God-inspired vision.  I still remember many late-night board meetings back in the fall of 2005 when Veritas Academy first opened doors.  At one meeting, Jef Fowler spoke of seeing us on land – land with running streams and lots of trees.  Hills and rocks. Space for kids to enjoy the outdoors. Something stirred in me that evening.  I could envision what Jef was describing as well. For years, Jef diligently searched for such a school location.  Soon this dream will be a reality. I am confident that God has plans for Veritas Academy on our land that we are not even aware of yet. He has established our steps and He will not only bring the buildings to completion but all that He has in mind for us as well. Family Vision This past week, it became official that my grandkids, Asa and Alma, will be joining their sister and cousins at Veritas Academy in the fall. “How crazy is it,” I told my husband, “that ten of our grandchildren will attend Veritas together- and hopefully Beth will join them in the future as well.”  Veritas Academy, in so many ways, helps to fulfill dreams I held in my heart long ago.  Even as a child, I dreamed of being a mother to three children and doing life together with them.  I dreamed of unity and nurturing relationships, perhaps in part because these...