All posts by Jelise

Jelise Ballon is a communicator, educator, and writer. She has been leading bible and small group studies for youth and adults for over 15 years and is the head of women's ministry at Compass Community Church. But the two roles she is most passionate about are those of wife and mother. She has been married to her husband for 18 years and has three children, ages 15, 12, and 12.

Not just a wife and mother – a love letter to my family

I never wanted to be known as a wife and mother. I wanted to BE a wife and I wanted to BE a mom, but I didn’t want those to be my defining labels. I guess I was afraid of losing my own identity and that scared me.

From a very young age I had this idea that I was meant to be somebody. You know, make a name for myself. Maybe as a famous writer, or high-powered executive, or motivational speaker. If not famous, at least known for all I accomplished and contributed to the world.

Jelise the missionary who shaped communities and brought people to Christ.

Jelise the small business owner who brought joy to her community and served with love.

Jelise the college professor who shaped young minds and encouraged them to follow their dreams and do their best.

All things I thought I might be at some point. None of which I became.

Instead, I became David’s wife. I became Hannah, Daniel and Olivia’s mom. I became known to many as Mrs. Ballon, instead of Jelise. It’s what I was afraid of.

At 23 years old instead of heading off to join the Peace Corps, I headed down the aisle. I stood across from that handsome groom and promised myself to him forever, no matter what would come our way. And boy did stuff come our way. So much ugly, scary, knock-the-wind-right-out-of-you stuff. He needed me and I him, and we mostly clung to each other through all of it. Then one day it occurred to me that God chose me to be David’s wife because He knew.

At 25 years old instead of laying the foundation of my own business the mid-wife laid a beautiful baby on my stomach. A week late entering the world, I swear she tried to pick up her head as she stared at me with those great big chocolate-brown M&M eyes. And for nearly 16 years I have loved her, cried for and with her, and prayed so much it that if printed to paper it would make War and Peace seem like a Reader’s Digest. Then  somewhere along the way it occurred to me that God chose me to be Hannah’s mom because He knew.

At 28 years old instead of delivering a great lecture or speech, I delivered a little boy so anxious to enter the world he hadn’t even finished growing in my womb, followed quickly by the feistiest little 5 pound bundle of red faced, screaming girl you’ve ever seen. And my heart grew three sizes larger, even though the days were hard and the nights were long and I thought I would never leave the house again. But at some point over the next 13 years it occurred to me that God chose me to be Daniel’s mom and Olivia’s mom because He knew.

 

God knew that man would need me to love him when he struggled to love himself, to stand by him as he fought addiction, to care for him when he was sick, to forgive him when he fell short and to cheer him on when he felt like he couldn’t.

God knew that brown-eyed girl would need a mom who understood what it was like to dream big, to want to do it all, and try to make everyone else happy in the process. That she would need someone who could be her biggest fan, and also push her to try harder when things didn’t come easy. Someone who understands what it’s like to feel everything, and that sometimes a good cry over a bowl of ice cream just because it’s Tuesday is all that’s needed.

God knew that anxious little boy who entered the world with a larger-than-life spirit, but broken body would need an advocate. He’d need someone to hold him before and after two surgeries when he was just a baby, and years later take him to see countless doctors and specialists until there were proper diagnoses and treatments. He would need a mom who saw the absolute best in him, even when he was at his worst, and who was determined to pick up the pieces of his heart every time it broke, even while hers was quietly breaking all the while.

God knew that red-faced, screaming little bundle would need a mom to hold and cuddle her at all hours of the night when she refused to sleep. Someone strong enough to walk away as the girl screamed and cried at each goodbye, but who always came back (sometimes just 20 minutes later). And she would need someone who could listen and listen, and listen, for the little girl liked to talk a lot and needed to know there was someone there she could count on to always listen.

And God knew I needed them. I needed that man to teach me what real love looks like. Deep, in the trenches, 100% all-in, God-centered love….

…And I needed that brown-eyed girl to remind me what it was to dream-big and love fiercely, and bring people together by always seeing the best in them…

…And I needed that little boy to teach me patience and perseverance; to show me if that much strength and tenacity could come in a lanky 80 pound package, how much more did I have…

…And I needed that itty-bitty girl with the loud cry that echoed off walls so that my lap would never be cold, and so every single time I heard her sweet voice say, “mama” (she’s 13 and still calls me that) my heart would melt into a giant puddle and every bit of tension and stress from the day would be washed away.

 

I never wanted to be just a wife and a mother. But gosh dang it I needed to be his wife and their mother.

As Jelise, David’s wife, I’ve brought joy to my home and served with love.

As Jelise, Hannah, Daniel and Olivia’s mom, I’ve shaped young minds and always encouraged them to do their best and follow their dreams.

As Jelise, wife and mother, I’ve shaped our little community of five, doing my best to keep our hearts fixed on Christ.

And it is in this way that I became more myself than ever before.

 

 

“I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.” Philippians 1:9-11 (NLT)

 

Five ways to celebrate Advent with children

The Advent season officially kicks off this week. Many churches celebrate Advent every year as a fixed part of the church calendar. But if you didn’t grow up in one of these churches or aren’t sure what Advent is all about, here’s a simple definition, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Advent is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.

I love this definition because it describes the season (December 2-24) as both a time of “expectant waiting” and a time of “preparation”. What a wonderful way to view the Christmas season! Not just as a time to prepare our homes with decorations, presents, and cookies; not only as a time to wait expectantly for the big guy in the red suit. But a time to prepare our hearts for Christ and for whatever God is calling us to do, as well as a time to reflect on the glorious gift He gave us, excitedly counting down the days to when we declare “for unto us a child is born”!

If you’re like my family, sometimes the other side of Christmas can get in the way of true Christ-centered waiting and preparation. But here are five ways you and your family, no matter what age your kids are, can celebrate Advent this year:

1. With a daily Advent devotion

A few years ago I bought Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift to read with my kids. It’s a beautiful book that takes your family through the journey of God’s people leading right up to the birth of our Savior on Christmas Day. Each day’s reading includes a story and related scripture, and it was a great way for us to all come together as a family each evening and focus our attention on the reason for this season. I would recommend this for families with children 8 years and up as the readings are a bit long for little ones. However, since buying Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, Voskamp has come out with a pop-up book called The Wonder of the Greatest Gift that looks like it would be more suitable for younger children, although I personally have not seen it in person.

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Photo credit: “Reading” by Sarah Elizabeth Altendorf

2. A Jesse Tree 

I first heard about the Jesse Tree when reading Ann Voskamp’s book Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. The Jesse Tree is an interactive way to tell the stories of the Bible that lead up to the birth of Jesus. Each day there is a scripture reading and an associated ornament to represent that day’s lesson. Your family can either hang the ornaments on your Christmas Tree or have a small separate “Jesse Tree” just for this tradition. There are lots of places to buy Jesse Tree ornaments, but you can also make them yourself. I especially love this tutorial from Faith and Fabric.

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Photo credit: Weihnachtsdekoration mit Rentier-Kissen und Weihnachtsbaum by marcoverch

3. With an Advent Elf or Kindness Elf 

By now we all know about the “Elf on the Shelf”; but if incorporating that little North Pole spy and all of his crazy antics into your Christmas traditions is not for you, here are some alternative ideas that stick close to the heart of the Advent Season:

  • My friend Lauren from Blacktop to Dirt Road has the Kindness Elf show up to her house each year, beginning December 1st and staying through the Advent season. This cute little guy encourages Lauren’s family to do something kind each day, reminding them of the kindness and character Christ first exhibited for us.
  • Another friend of mine, Anne from Once Upon a Mom has introduced the Advent Elves into her family tradition. These elves help her family with their Jesse Tree by showing up each morning with that day’s ornament. So cute!

4. Intentional prayer as a family

Sometimes something as simple as time set-aside each day to pray together as a family is all you need to keep your heart focused on what’s truly special about Advent. Ask each member of the family to report on how they saw Jesus in action that day, what they did to shine His light to others, and who they saw that needs help or is hurting. Then pray together, praising God for His faithfulness and action, and lifting up those in need. This is simple and requires no pre-planning or materials.

However, if you’d like something a little more structured, check out this Advent Prayer Guide from my friend Bailey Suzio at The Thin Place.

Family hold hands around the kitchen table before their meal

5. Seek Peace Together

Let’s face it, this time of year can be one of the busiest we face, and in our rush and haste it’s easy to lose focus on the real reason for the season, coasting into December 25th exhausted, grumpy, and stressed out. A simple way to combat that is to be intentional in seeking peace. This will look different for each family. For some it may mean cutting back on extra-curricular activities and/or saying no to certain events in order to be home more in the evenings and on the weekends. For others it may mean scheduling family dinners a few nights a week. For my family it means protecting Sundays as our day of rest, as much as possible.

Take it a step further and use that down-time to read what God has to say about peace. You can download my free 31 Days of Seeking Peace scripture calendar and use it as a guide for you and your family. The readings are short, so this can easily be incorporated into prayer time, a Jesse Tree, or other Advent tradition.

 

31 Days of Seeking Peace

Whatever you do, I believe by spending a little bit of time each day to come together as a family and remember the special gift that God gave us not only keeps us focused on the reason for this season, it prepares our hearts to celebrate and accept that gift today and throughout the year.

If you or your family have other traditions for celebrating Advent, I’d love to hear about them!

 

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She needed her story told

When I was 13 I was molested by my step-father. There was no police report filed. There was no public announcement made. I never even got to confront him. When I told my mom what had happened she could not accept the truth. She said I had misunderstood. She said if I reported it to anyone it could ruin his life and his career.

Two days later I went to live with my dad and step-mom, where I could feel safe, but still no one talked about what happened. There was a lot of whispering behind closed doors. There were awkward hugs and “how are you doing?” from family members. I wasn’t sure who knew and who didn’t. If they did know, most of them never said anything to me, and I was afraid to bring it up.

I was sent to a counselor – a stranger who sat behind a large desk. This was supposed to be the place where I could talk about what happened, but it was the absolute last place I wanted to be. While no one ever said the topic was taboo, I felt it deep in my heart. I felt like it was too big, too real for anyone to handle. So I pushed down my truth and hid it in a dark corner, under a heavy rock in the pit of my stomach. There it stayed for many years.

I was embarrassed and I was scared of how my truth could tear apart my family and destroy my already estranged relationship with my mom. But hiding my truth, and avoiding true healing impacted my other relationships, it impacted my mental health, and it impacted my spiritual growth. And so, for nearly 20 years I stayed stuck. That scared, angry, hurt 13 year old continued to live inside me feeling all of those same feelings but she wasn’t given a voice.

Nearly two decades later, fed up with it all, I sought out professional counseling and finally started to speak my truth. Then I began to share with other people what had happened to me. The first few times I told my story my hands trembled, my heart raced, and I sobbed — barely able to get the words out. Then, with each telling it got easier. With each telling I healed a little bit more; I took another step towards freedom and redemption. I began to own my past, not hide from it.

This was the beginning of learning how to forgive my mom.

 

Friends, I don’t want another woman or man who has faced sexual trauma to wait 20 years to find that same kind of freedom. That’s why I’m grateful for organizations like The Voices and Faces Project They are an award-winning, non-profit storytelling initiative created to bring the names, faces, and testimonies of survivors of gender-based violence to the attention of the public. Through the power of the personal testimony they are changing minds, hearts, and laws.

The Voices and Faces Project does this through educational and advocacy trainings, their survivor story archives (housed at The Voices and Faces Project and World Without Exploitation), and their signature program, The Stories We Tell – an immersive, two-day testimonial writing workshop for survivors of sexual violence, intimate partner violence, and trafficking.

On this #givingTuesday will you consider being a part of this important work? Every $650 raised provides a full, two-day scholarship to a workshop applicant ready to take part in The Voices and Faces Project’s groundbreaking writing program. Together, let’s help another woman who needs her story told.

Click here to donate.

Click here to learn more about The Voices and Faces Project.

And don’t forget to share on social media so more people can learn about the life-changing work this organization is doing, and so those who are looking for freedom, healing, and redemption can connect with The Voices and Faces Project.

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The first half of this post is an excerpt from my forthcoming book: Forgiven and Restored, planned for release in 2019.

This blog post was written in partnership with the Blogging for Better Supporters, a collective platform to raise awareness and money for a different charity each month. #bloggingforbetter

Thirty-one days of seeking peace – A free gift for you

Most of my life I have believed that peace was something that happened based on circumstances. I thought that while I could try to create peace by eliminating unnecessary stress, noise, or chaos, more often than not, peace was something that was the result of (or not the result of) things outside of my control.

But after studying Galatians 5 earlier this year, I started to discover a different view of peace. Galatians 5:16-25 tells us peace is a fruit of the Spirit.  It explains that if we have chosen to be followers of Jesus then we should leave behind the worldly things that tempt us and distract us and live by the Spirit. Which means that these fruits are not just nice-to-have personality traits or warm, fuzzy feelings. It means we are called to live out each day practicing these fruits, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

When we consider peace in that context, then we must now recognize that peace is not just a result of our circumstances —it is a calling, a choice, and a requirement for living a life guided by the Holy Spirit.

To have real Godly peace in our life we must seek after it , not just wait for our circumstances to deliver it. In fact, Psalm 34:14 says, “Seek peace and work to maintain it.”

But how do we do that? How do we work to maintain peace in our lives? I believe that it all comes back to God’s word. His word lights our way (Psalm 119:105), and provides nourishment for our soul, the way food nourishes our bodies (Matthew 4:4, Psalm 1:2-3). If we are seeking after peace and not relying on God’s word to guide us, it is like we’re stumbling around in the dark, depleted and hungry.

I don’t know where each of you are in your walk with God. I don’t know if His word is the first thing you read each morning, or just something that you go to on occasion. I can tell you that I go through periods in my life where I am in the Word every day and others when I am not. And during those periods when I am not in God’s word every day? I do not have peace. In fact, usually I am struggling to feel joy and even to love those around me (both also fruits of the Spirit, by the way).

So I created this calendar of 31 different verses related to peace as a way to help keep me focused on seeking and maintaining peace in my life. And now, I’d like to share it with you.

This calendar is a tool to help you start on your journey to peace by relying on God’s word. Each day includes one-to-three verses to read on a specific element of peace. You can start small and just read the verses on the calendar, or you can expand your reading to include the full chapter. How long you spend reading is up to you, but try not to skip a day.

After reading and meditating on the daily scripture, spend a few minutes in prayer. Invite God into your life — messes and all — and ask Him to give you peace, instead of relying on your circumstances.

31 Days of Seeking Peace

It is my fervent hope that this calendar is just the beginning. A place for you to start, giving you the basic tools you need to actively seek peace and maintain it. At the end of the thirty-one days be sure to drop me a note and let me know how God has spoken to you through His word, and where you are on your journey to peace.

Click here to download your free 31 Days to Seeking Peace calendar.

 

photo credit: amseaman Grandma’s Bible via photopin (license)

I am qualified

Qualified.

This is my word right now. It’s the word I chose to stand under for the whole of 2018. Because the truth is most days I feel pretty unqualified. Unqualified to raise these three humans entrusted to me. Unqualified to lead by example, to teach them how to build a strong marriage rooted in love and honesty and forgiveness; teach them how to put Jesus at the center of their lives.

I struggle to claim words like “writer” and “ministry leader” because don’t you need to have a diploma with these words on them or get a paycheck for doing them before you can be them? I don’t, so I am unqualified.

I struggle to claim the words instructional designer or teacher when I’ve been developing curriculum and delivering training professionally for 2 years. Because it’s not what I went to school for, I am unqualified.

But then I realize the truth is that even with a Master’s Degree in Marketing and 15 years experience building and managing websites, I never felt completely qualified to call myself a subject matter expert in online marketing.

I could spend hours trying to figure out why I struggle to claim these things. To feel qualified. But the bottom line is we all know that God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.

So right now I’m working to claim it. To own my calling and lean on heavenly qualification.

God gave me these three children to raise and love and teach. I am qualified to be their mother.

God brought this man into my life and called us into marriage. I am qualified to be his wife.

God gave me words and a deep-seated desire to write them down and share them with others. I am qualified to be a writer.

God gave me a heart for women, for leading retreats, and speaking truth and hope and light into other’s lives. I am qualified to lead a ministry.

God led me to a second career as a training designer and manager, a job I love and work at every day. I am qualified for it.

And whatever is next. Whatever God whispers to my heart and guides me toward. I will be qualified. Not because of what I’ve done, but because of Who does the qualifying.

What’s your word?

 

photo credit: IRRphotography A Writers Desk via photopin (license)