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 cement, 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 different...

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...

What a Year!

Last May, my life took on a whole new feel.  Not only did we move my mom in to live with us, but I learned of two pending book contracts:  one with my daughter Erin and one with my husband.  How exciting it felt to be extended the opportunity to write for publishing companies along side Erin and Glen. But the timing felt overwhelming and I found myself thinking, “This is great news but I won’t have any time to write now that I am taking care of my mom.” As many of you know, I struggled with all sorts of emotions this past year.  But as I look back, I do so with a sense of joy and even accomplishment.  I am so grateful for prayers and the many notes of support many of you sent my way. Just yesterday, a very dear friend send me an excerpt from May 10th in Jesus Calling: “DO NOT RESIST OR RUN from the difficulties in your life. These problems are not random mistakes; they are hand-tailored blessings designed for your benefit and growth. Embrace all the circumstances that I allow in your life, trusting Me to bring good out of them. View problems as opportunities to rely more fully on me.  When you start to feel stress, let those feelings alert you to your need for Me.” This May:  Our book – Put the Disciple into Discipline –  is about to be published. God is good. And His timing is ALWAYS right. What I could not envision a year ago was that unique insights would surface for the books merely...

The Time Has Come

The time has come. In just a few days, I will move my mom to a memory care facility.  It’s something I prayed would not have to happen. My emotions are all over the map.  One minute I feel relief to be getting some of my life back. The next minute I feel guilty for putting her into the care of strangers.  It  feels like “I give up – I can’t look after you.”  She will be hurt and angry at me. She won’t understand it.  She may even give up wanting to live. I feel joy over having cared for her well but also sorrow over those times that I lost my patience with her.  In all of it, God has graciously carried me.  He has wrapped me in His compassionate arms even when I have fallen short. This journey is filled with memories. As I take her through old photo albums, I too remember her before Alzheimer’s began to destroy her brain.  I remember her vitality and her charm.  I remember her “never give up” mindset and drive. I remember a time when she would have laid down her life for me rather than now expecting all of my life for her.  I remember when we were close. Now she needs daily reminders that I am her daughter and not merely a caregiver who prevents her from being independent and doing what she wants. I know it’s the right decision.  I love my mom and I will still spend regular time with her – but as her daughter and not her caregiver. That will be better for both...

13 Reasons

Dear Readers, I was recently made aware of the Netflix series sensation “13 Reasons Why, ”  which takes the viewer through thirteen recorded messages left behind by a teenage girl who commits suicide.  I have not watched an episode.  I did not even know this series existed.  However, I gained important insights from Kat Cannon, who watched the series, with its very mature content, with her teenage son. Below are her 13 reasons why she joined him in watching “13 Reasons Why.”  I encourage all parents, especially those of you with middle and high school age kids, to become aware of the content in this series.  If you kids are watching it, make sure to stick around and watch it with them. Thank you Kat, for sharing this important information and for being a guest blogger on my site.  I have included your full blog below.  You can find Kat at blog.katcannon.com.  She is the Director of Small Groups and Women’s Ministry at Austin Oaks Church. 13 Reasons Why I Watched “13 Reasons Why” April 26, 2017 My teenage son asked me a few weeks ago to let him watch the Netflix series sensation “13 Reasons Why”.  All his friends watch it, he says, but with a “mature content” rating, he needs my permission – and my passcode. After a quick consultation with my husband, I agree to sit down with the boy and screen the show with him. The series walks through thirteen recorded messages left behind by a high school junior girl who commits suicide.  And when the ratings police label this content for mature audiences only, they...