A Chat With Ellen
"A few years ago, I listened to Ellen give a presentation at a Women's Leadership Conference. She talked about the intimacy and power of prayer. Today, Ellen has more to share from her personal life and love of our Savior.
Welcome to Holy Hen House, Ellen! Tell us more about yourself, what is a regular day like for you?"
"Each day is an adventure in God’s amazing grace, worthy of thanks and praise. At 55 years-of-age, I remain parent to 3 grown children. Our oldest son currently lives with us, works full time, and cares regularly for his daughter from a previous marriage. This one-and-only grandchild receives full-time Grammie-care every Tuesday. Our middle daughter teaches in California and our youngest is in college. We are currently hosting our fifth Asian International student, providing plenty to pray about upon waking!
After coffee and devotions, I check e-mail and social media. Some form of exercise follows. Household chores perpetually beckon (I consider bending and stretching involved therein additional “exercise”). My in-home work studio receives attention for the duration of day-light hours. There, I have designed and fabricated window treatments as “VEC Workrooms” for 21 years. The luxury of an in-home business is not something I take for granted. Over the years, about 12 part-time helpers have been mentored under my tutelage, enabling VEC to manage a load that would otherwise overwhelm one person. This system fully illuminates Ecclesiastes 4:9 “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor…” I press on until 3:30 pm when everyone comes home. A parent pow-wow precedes the evening meal, followed by supper-table devotion and family talk - continued during a husband-wife walk, weather permitting. As a couple, we enjoy watching TV mysteries but often tend our in-home “flock” or complete home-chores in lieu of sitting. I fall into bed around 10; praying and bible-reading as a couple: our best sleep-aid. While this “day” is ideal, I get easily distracted by phone conversations, shopping excursions or tending elderly parent’s needs."
"How do you balance home and your own business?"
"Balance is a perpetual “work in progress.” Struggling to give 100% to all the places to which God has called me never works. I usually short change somewhere, and too often it’s ME. To refresh, I’ve learned to embrace 10-minute vacations with a good book (THE Good Book) or cup of coffee/ tea. I love being busy but appreciate “laying down beside quiet waters” more and more with advancing age. Jesus went to a quiet place to pray – or to fish. A recent presentation was based on Psalm 46 – “Be still and know I am God.” I really NEEDED that reminder then as now. God regularly reminds me that HE ALONE fulfills our purpose. The bottom line for balance is discipline (the root word of “disciple” follower of Jesus). It’s becoming less surprising how God enables us to “see” him in every facet of life. Only with his help can one enjoy life’s “facets” without becoming “fragmented.”"
"Who is your strongest Christian mentor?"
"My high-school sweetheart led me spiritually throughout our 6-year courtship and continues his Christian love and support to me as his wife of 34 years! For this, I am especially grateful to God. His incredible Christian parents remain models for both of us. Dedicated Christian friends are INVALUABLE; continuously being used by God to focus me on eternal matters over the temporal. My dearest Christian friend, Ruth would humbly decline recognition as my primary spiritual friend-mentor but deserves it fully. Ruth ministers to me with that gentle and quiet spirit, deliberately sending meaningful sermon texts and spiritual body-building books like no personal trainer I know. Her conversations are seasoned heavily with praises to God and encouragement for me. She invited me to join her Christian book club, Skyping her friends and former pastor in Denver. I love and respect her dearly. Her positive Christian joy radiates to multitudes with whom she interfaces. Ruth coined this acronym: M.O.H.O: Ministry of Helping Others. I love this succinct focus."
"I like it! M.O.H.O! Easy to remember and discern our intentions by. Thanks!
How would you describe your unique calling as a woman?"
"God’s spectrum of service opportunities has changed me spiritually at each season of my life. The Holy Spirit has led me to a growing diligence; considering each “calling” prayerfully, seeking God’s will to be done through me. My past impulsiveness made me a “yes,” person, which actually eroded my health for a time (a warning for all you young gals striving to be everything to everyone else…). I still wrestle with choices and priorities, leaning toward an “A” personality, but God’s Word daily provides focus to straighten out my path. Whatever I do for the least of these…is borne out as I provide friendship to my Mormon neighbor just as readily as to my bible-study buddies or offer God-pleasing encouragement to our Asian or biological children. Loving and honoring one’s spouse sounds ridiculously ideal in print but remains a constant challenge to execute in the busy-ness of everyday life urgencies, especially since passing the mid-century mark! Only by grace, am I able to press on, ministering to others as if serving the Lord. My unique “calling” is less gender-based than it is spiritually-focused. And it must be spiritually-focused if my faith is to grow, making me an effective ambassador to the gospel’s Good News. THAT calling supersedes any other. God’s Spirit alone provides the constant “filter” through which I serve my Savior in my home, at work, in the community and on the various boards and committees on which I serve."
"What bible passage is your personal favorite?"
"My current favorite is Psalm 27:1: “The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?”
Psalm 27 drives me to “seek the Lord [in His Word”] (v. 8). Having experienced clinical anxiety and debilitating symptoms therefrom, God’s Word provides soul-searing impact, with comfort and assurance found nowhere else. My home is filled with meaningful bible verses on which to meditate or which drive me to my knees. Favorite passages are painted along soffits and imbedded in plagues, posters and Post-it’s everywhere you look. (You can now purchase rub-on phrases for your walls.) Whatever is displayed in your home speaks volumes about what defines you (I am keenly aware of this as I measure windows for draperies in client homes). Each room in our home loudly declares in bold words surrounding family and guests: YOU’RE IN A CHRISTIAN HOME. GOD IS PRESENT HERE."
"How did you get started glorifying God through public speaking?"
"Teaching Sunday school and Vacation Bible School taught me boldness about proclaiming the gospel message to others, and kids are so receptive (and forgiving)! Reciprocating youthful enthusiasm through singing or telling God’s Good News is especially rewarding. Our own children reaped the benefits of Christian education in parochial schools. Initially, I was a bit envious of that (I attended public schools). However, their knowledge and ease in reciting scripture drove me to study likewise. Here’s great news: YOU CAN CATCH UP! As the Holy Spirit grew my confidence, opportunities came along to speak corporately; first, in my own then at other churches and eventually at women’s retreats. I established a Quilt Group at my home congregation and participated in Advent-by-Candlelight presentations. As a member of the Acclimation Committee, I help orient new members who join our church. I never underestimate the value of one-on-one ministering - that intimate “public speaking” of God’s goodness to a broken soul. On the basis of M.O.H. O.; comfort becomes more meaningful when delivered personally through gestures like grasping a friend’s hand to share God’s truth or to pray. Benefits are multiplied (where two or more are gathered together in His name…). Crying with empathy and praying with friends occurs not because I am so gifted at identifying or filling needs, but because God strategically places me in circumstances, opening my eyes and ears to sharing his love as a natural thing to do. The Holy Spirit whispers, “what if this person doesn’t hear of God’s assuring promises, except through YOU?” and I just start talking. God calls us, then he equips us to use whatever gifts we have received …as faithful stewards of God’s grace…”1 Peter 4:10.
I still get nervous preparing for “big presentations” – but anxiety dissolves as family and friends encourage and I am led to key scriptures doing my research. The Holy Spirit does the most work- just takes over – especially on “the day” when I am standing in front of that crowd! God assures me that each face is a friend-in-need – just as I am so often in need. I pray that my words cradle each face, just as God cradles me in His hand– as I share what the Lord has taught me through experiences and through his Word. And yes, experiences include adversity that provide benefits in sharing; “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33"
"Is there anything specific from Titus 2:3-5, our blog’s mission that you would like to comment on?
Titus 2:3-5, “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”"
"The wine thing is a huge part of our culture (and German heritage!). Things like excess drinking and gossiping should be addressed frankly in life as they are in scripture. I appreciate friends who are honest about encouraging my good habits. Also, busy/active bodies can become busy-bodies. Being too busy is not always good. No-one applauds excess “doing” – they wonder if your head is on straight! Balance is a key for servant-leaders: and Christian women are designed for servant-leadership throughout their lifetime. Refreshment and purity are essential components of meaningful leadership.
Proverbs 31:10-29 offers excellent guidance as does many bible- women biographies in Old and New Testaments. God’s promises are encapsulated neatly in St. Paul’s 3rd chapter of Titus verses 7 and 8: “…having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone."
"What do you feel is a threat to a woman’s faithfulness in her home? How can we be alert against it?"
1. Drinking the cup of idleness” versus being “driven to distraction” (i.e., balance). 2. Pushing away regular study of God’s Word and prayer as the highest daily priority. 3. Feeling self-pity as we compare our circumstances to another – one of Satan’s favorite tactics. There often SEEMS someone/something “better” on the outside – but remember: there are hidden flaws (sin) too. Be on guard against envy and unfair comparison. Jesus alone is our example. 4. Watch the tongue (others are listening); watch your actions (others are looking on). 5. Be bold about truly living the Christian life as God sets forth in his Word.
"Can you share an event in your life that was difficult and God strengthened you?"
"Our son’s divorce and the fall-out demanded that our family lean on God’s promises in ALL THINGS. Knowing He is constantly by our side (Deuteronomy 31:6) and witnessing God work things out without my running interference to His plans (Romans 12:18). Faith can be built through adversity; running away from problems (think: Jonah) is not as beneficial as running into the arms of a loving Savior who always has our best interest in mind."
"Share a moment when you saw God's hand so clearly guiding or providing for you."
"Several mid-life adjustments (like letting go of adult children) took a brutal toll on this mommy at first, but also brought many changes and blessings! I started an “empty nest” support group. I was invited to write a devotional book on the subject (NPH). Clinging to God’s promises in his Word guided my path to meaningful ministry work. It is true – God has a WONDERFUL plan for his children’s lives AT EVERY STAGE, leading to fulfillment in ways we that could never comprehend or orchestrate on our own. 1 Corinthians 2:9 hangs in my workroom: “… as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him."
"What’s next for you in ministry?"
"To remain alert and available to God’s plan. When our youngest son graduated from KML (June 2012), we were surprised that the Lord led us to continue sharing the gospel with International high school students as host-parents, delaying our empty nest. In early marriage, getting pregnant was impossible without fertility intervention. Now, like the Old Woman in a Shoe – we have so many children - but, we know what to do: SHOW THEM JESUS! My husband and I also treasure feeding the precious soul of our 4-year-old granddaughter living nearby."
"Thank you for sharing such depth of wisdom with us, Ellen. Keeping God's Word as the focus in our homes fills them with His presence. The reminder to rest while trusting the Lord's will for our lives is essential to maintaining a healthy servant attitude. Blessings to you and your (continually growing!) family!