Ellen’s Blog

What You Can Bring


Oh . . . Thanksgiving! It’s one of my favorite holidays! Whether I host our friends and family for the feast or come as a guest, the question that is either posed to me or I ask (of our daughter who will be hosting this year) is: “What can I bring?” Our typical answer is, “Whatever you want.”

Thanksgiving, like most holidays, is often burdened by expectations. Something as small and seemingly insignificant as a specific dish, can leave some “wanting” on the day of plenty. Let’s face it. It’s just not Thanksgiving for a subset of our population if there’s not a green bean casserole or a dish of marsh mellowed yams on the table! Really? Will their Thanksgiving world actually crash and burn without them? Unfortunately, it might. Expectations based on tradition are important to many which is why I’m open to the dish de jour on this important day.

However, there are a few things we all do need to pull off the perfect day of gratitude and fellowship. If you’re hosting this year, I made a list for you. Please feel free to forward this to the fam:

Mom, you can bring a non-judgmental spirit. Prepare yourself now that the dressing might be dry or the bird not cooked to perfection. Be grateful that you didn’t have to work a 50-hour work week, wrangle three kids and manage to get all fourteen side dishes on the table piping hot.

Dad, you can bring a measure of empathy and a pound of patience. I warn you now that the kids will be loud, excited and will likely eat the turkey (or something) with their hands. No, their table manners are not ideal (though we try). Rather than be frustrated, I hope you will be grateful that all six of your precious grandchildren are healthy, courageous and some of the kindest human beings on earth.

Bro, you can bring topics for conversation that are edifying. Whether our guests are pro Trump or against him, I really don’t care; the President does not get a seat at our Thanksgiving table. I would be so grateful if you’d help steer our conversation to happy family memories, the Dallas Cowboys, or what’s on sale at Amazon—anything instead of politics.

Sis, I could really use your grace for the snarky comment I made to you last week and will ask in advance for your forgiveness for seating you next to our obnoxious Uncle Joe. I’ve seated you there because it is your sweet attitude and good humor that keeps the man from going off the rails.

For the rest of our friends and family, I hope you will bring recognition that we’re all blessed beyond measure to just be sitting in the company of those we love and who love us. Let’s not allow ourselves to become immune to the tragedies that we’ve watched play out in the news this year; there will be a lot of empty chairs around family tables across the country this Thanksgiving.

What can you bring? Maybe some peace. A little joy. And a whole lot of love.

Everything else, I think I have covered.


Are We There Yet?


As I stepped to the edge of the southern rim of the Grand Canyon and peered into that vast vessel carved out by nature and time, I was in awe. The grandeur of God’s creation and the gratitude I felt to stand on her rim brought me to tears. Actually, I stood there and openly wept.

After driving 1,334 miles, Steve and I had arrived at our ultimate destination. Our first official road trip of the summer that I titled Desert Road Tour 2017 had been meticulously planned. In addition to the sight-seeing wonders of the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon, I researched where we would stay along the way, where we might find gas in the middle of the desert and what “fine dining” establishments awaited us in towns with a population of less than 300. What I couldn’t have planned for was God’s surprises along the way.

As we drove along a looong flat highway in the middle of Arizona, Steve and I laughed out loud at the hilariously hokey billboard signs (that went on for miles and miles and miles) marketing an upcoming truck stop and market. In the Texas plains, we marveled at man’s ability to harness the wind and create windmill farms that moved so gracefully they looked like works of art. We traveled with the sun, from early morning to late afternoon, and watched her shadows dance over the desert sand and finally rest behind red rock mountains still capped with snow, in early June. The two-week journey to and from the canyons was indeed as magnificent, as inspiring and as entertaining as the final destination itself. Which got me to thinking about the road trip of life. When our trek is long, we get some great surprises along the way because God values our journey.

We all have dreams or a “final destination” for ourselves or our family. It’s that place of utopia where we long to be. For some it’s a new job that provides both purpose and stability. For others it’s a new home where everyone feels safe and can thrive. Some dream of a rekindled love with their spouse or a renewed relationship with a family member. I know some of you pray for a life-saving drug or treatment for yourself or someone you love. Our final destinations are critical to us and they’re critical to God. But we can’t discount or miss the lessons and blessings he allows us to experience along the way.

If you’re on a difficult and frustrating stretch of road right now and wondering, ‘When will we ever get there?’ remember that God cares about where you are right now. Difficult journeys are seldom scenic but they’re definitely enlightening when we look out our window for the miracles and surprises he is providing in each and every moment.

Keep moving toward that final destination. You’re likely not there yet—but you when arrive—you will be in awe.