Category Archives: Balanced Living

Are your core values what’s driving you?

I clicked the button to confirm my account and the first question popped up: “What are your core values?”

And I had to stop and think. I wasn’t expecting such a deep question from an app.

I was working in my new goal tracking app, Lifetick, and thinking I would just enter in my goals for 2018 and a set a few deadlines and notifications and be done with it. But before I could do that, this app wanted to know my core values.

You see the app takes a pyramid approach where you first identify core values, then set goals based on each core value, and lastly you can set-up specific tasks tied to each goal. This approach is not unfamiliar to me, as it’s very similar to how I’ve had to approach every marketing or business plan I’ve ever worked on (hello grad school, thanks for drilling that into my head!). But for some reason I had never stopped to take that same kind of tiered approach to my personal life. And as I sat there staring at that question on the screen it was a total epiphany moment for me.

Why would I spend my time doing anything or striving for any goal if I couldn’t tie it back to a core value? Or another way of putting that, if I couldn’t identify how my daily tasks and goals were supporting one of my core values, maybe it was time to rethink how I spend my time.

After some thought and reflection, here are the three core values I came up with:

  1. To pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ.
  2. To be a good steward of all that God has given me.
  3. To let the light of Jesus shine through me.

These might seem pretty altruistic or simplistic to you, but when I thought about what I valued most, what I wanted my life to look like at the core, these were it. And you know what, tying goals to these is not very hard.

For example one of my goals is to get moving for 20 minutes a day for the next 30 days. This directly aligns with core value #2 because God gave me this body, and if I don’t take care of it I’m not being a good steward of the gift He’s offered.

It also made me re-look at some of my goals and see if things were a bit imbalanced in my life or didn’t tie-back to a core value. Did I have any goals set that would directly support my core value of pursuing a relationship with Jesus? How did my work goals support my core values?

For now, I’ve only set-up four goals. I’m sure there will be more to come over time, but by keeping a focus on my core values, I was able to give myself permission to take a few things off my list. I’m making sure all of my time and energy is spent pursuing things that tie into the core of who I strive to be as a person. It’s also given me a greater sense of purpose for each of these goals because I can see the big picture. Getting fit isn’t just something I should be doing because everyone says so, or because I feel pressure to do so, it’s something I should be doing to honor God and take care of the body He gave me. That certainly lends a level of motivation I didn’t have before.

Do you know what your core values are? Do you see a direct link between your goals and daily tasks and these values? Maybe spend some time thinking about this and writing down your values. You don’t need an app to do this, but Lifetick is free and so far has been very easy to use!



photo credit: wuestenigel 2018 Goals in Notebook with a Pen via photopin (license)


90 Days of Thanks and Giving

Today is August 25th. Exactly 90 days until Thanksgiving.

I believe there are two things in this world that can do more to improve our attitude, inspire hope, create unity, and spread love more than anything else, and I’m challenging myself to be more intentional about both. They are, as you might have guessed, genuine thankfulness, and giving to others.

Two years ago I was inspired by a colleague to do a “100 Happy Days” challenge. What at first seemed like a fun exercise to focus on my blessings, turned into a real lesson on the power of positivity and living each day to its fullest. I discovered that when we challenge ourselves to find something to be happy about each day — even if it was just a pretty sunset or a few moments reading a book on my porch — it was easy to live every day in triumph and gratitude.

Intentionally seeking out joy is a sure way to find it.

My hope is this challenge will have a similar impact. Intentionally seeking opportunities to give to others, and/or find things to be thankful for will help me turn my focus away from selfish pursuits, lies from the enemy, and worldly defeat.

If you want to follow along my journey for the next 90 days, follow me on Facebook (, Twitter (@jelise) or on Instagram (@jelise4peace).

Even better — why don’t you join me? Post a photo or story each day about your moment of thanks or giving (or both) to social media and tag it with #90DaysOfThanksAndGiving .  I would love to share this journey with you. Maybe together we can help turn the conversation on social media from anger and condemnation to love and gratitude.

2 Corinthians 9:11

Do I have any regrets?

Forty will be here in a few days.

Something happens when you start approaching a milestone birthday like this one. You spend a lot of time in quiet introspection, contemplating where you’ve been and where you’re headed. True, it happens at other times, too. But as I conclude the final days of my 30’s I’ve been feeling a surge of what I can only describe as equal parts nostalgic joy and quiet anticipation.

I take great pleasure in sentimental remembrance of all I’ve experienced and witnessed in the last 40 years, knowing there’s been far more good even in the midst of pain. But I also feel a measure of satisfaction when I evaluate where I’ve fallen short and made mistakes. Because I can only regret something once I’ve learned there’s a better way.

One of the things that has never sat well with me is the idea that to live a happy and full life you need to live without regrets…that looking back and wishing we’d made some different choices somehow keeps us locked in the past and prevents us from being happy and healthy in our present. This, coupled with the sentiment that we reach a point where we’re suddenly “too old to change”, leaves me baffled. Being dissatisfied, disappointed even, in certain decisions is an essential part of the gift of life experience that shapes us and our relationships. To refuse to live with any regrets is terribly short-sighted.

Looking back on the last 39 years I can tell you without hesitation I absolutely have regrets.

I regret I spent so much time worrying about what other people thought of me.

I regret the years spent dissatisfied with my younger, stronger, more flexible body, because it did not fit into a size 8 pair of jeans.

I regret being quick to lose my temper and slow to forgive.

I regret holding myself and my loved ones to such impossibly high standards and expectations that disappointment and failure were inevitable.

I regret all the times I lost my temper with my kids, especially over the little things, instead of keeping my cool and some perspective.

I regret not spending more time actively seeking God, and instead waiting for things to fall apart before seeking comfort in His word and love.

I regret all of the time spent looking ahead to what was next instead of just being content and fully present in the here and now.

“Because I can only regret something once I’ve learned there’s a better way.”


I look back on the past 39 years and there is so much that I wish I did more or less of, did differently.  But I’m thankful for that view of the past because it has led to a much healthier, more content person in the present. One who has learned a lot about what’s most important in life and where to focus her time and energies. She’s not perfect, but I like this me more than any previous version.

Forty will be here in a few days. And I look forward to entering this next decade with a little more patience, a little more grace for myself and others, a little more content to be here and present, and little more reliant on God.

I expect that by the time I hit 60, 80, (maybe even) 100 I will look back on the previous decades and see the things I should have, could have done differently, because God’s not done with me yet.

Isaiah 64:8

No matter how old I get I hope I never close myself off to allowing Him to change and mold me into the person He’s created me to be. I know this body — this life — is not my final destination, but I’d like to make the most of it while I’m here.

Yes, forty will be here in a few days and I’m quite alright with that.


photo credit: Big Grey Mare In Love With Clay via photopin (license)

photo credit: David Grandmougin Valentine via photopin (license)

The year of living 40

I’ve never been much into New Year’s resolutions. Maybe it’s because my A-type personality means I’m always looking ahead, making a plan, and setting personal goals, so I don’t feel the need to do it every January 1st. Or maybe it’s because I know that annual resolution to exercise more and eat better will be tossed out the window within 2 weeks.

Either way, I did not feel compelled to make a list of resolutions this week just because it’s the start of a new year. However, I have been thinking about 2017 a lot lately. Actually I’ve been thinking about this year for most of 2016…because it’s going to be a bit of a milestone year for me.

This is the year I turn 40.

The gateway to middle-age.

Surprisingly, I’m not afraid of the number. I fully enjoyed my 30’s and every new life lesson and experience they brought. I did a lot of growing and discovering in my 30’s and I kind of like this 39 year old version of me…she’s definitely got a much better handle on what’s really important in life than the 29 year old version did. So I’m kinda looking forward to seeing what my 40’s will bring. However, I do see it as a milestone year and there are some things I would like to focus on as I leave one decade and pass through that gateway to the next.

So for the last month I’ve been compiling a list…a list of goals, habits, adventures, and achievements I wanted to reach by 40. It started as 10 items and quickly grew. By the time it hit 28 items I thought, “what the heck, might as well make it an even 40!” Of course, I turn 40 in May and once I finished my list I realized I can not realistically accomplish all of these things before said milestone; and I want this list to be achievable. So I’m giving myself the full year to get through the list. Making 2017 the year of living 40.

So here it is, in no particular order:

1. Get rid of 40 personal items
2. Bring total number of US states visited to 40
3. Write 40 blog posts
4. Write 40 letters/cards to friends and family
5. Lose 40 pounds
6. Read 40 books of the Bible
7. Read 40 other books
8. Serve/volunteer 40 hours
9. Run 40 miles (cumulative, not at one time)
10. Try 40 new things
11. Give up 40 minutes of TV per day
12. Add 40 minutes of sleep per night (11 and 12 go hand-in-hand)
13. Do 40 push-ups at one time
14. Make a list of my favorite 40 movies and watch them
15. Write my husband 40 love notes
16. Study scripture/pray for 40 minutes per day
17. Call my Grandma 40 times
18. Drink 40 cups of tea
19. Save $40 per week
20. Make a playlist of my favorite 40 songs and listen to it regularly
21. Limit social media to 40 minutes per week
22. Exercise for 40 minutes 3x per week
23. Take 40 naps
24. Count to 40 when I start to lose my patience
25. Do 40 nice things for myself
26. Write my kids 40 lunchbox notes
27. Hike 40 miles
28. Try 40 new recipes
29. Meet 40 new people
30. Minister to 40 different women via the women’s retreat
31. Go on 40 dates with my husband
32. Snuggle with my kids for 40 minutes every week
33. Read 40 poems
34. Spend 40 hours watching live music and/or theater
35. Get rid of another 40 items
36. Make at least 40 mistakes
37. Forgive myself at least 40 times
38. Write the first 40 pages of my book
39. Forgive others 40 times
40. Laugh, dance, and/or sing for 40 minutes per day

In addition to my list of goals/adventures/habits above, I’ve also decided to chose a Bible verse that represents where I want to keep my focus for the year. The last two years I’ve ended up with bible verses that sum up my year quite accidentally, and I’m sure God will bring a me a few this year that I don’t plan or expect. But in the meantime I’m going with “Peace I leave with you; my peace peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

I chose this verse because if there is one message God has been pursuing my heart with over the last year or so it’s that true peace comes only through Him and not the world. I’ve spent so much of my life looking for peace to come from relationships, jobs, vacations, things, etc. and always wondering why it was so fleeting. So for 2017 — and my 40’s — I plan to work on pursuing peace from my Creator and Savior, and doing so without fear or worry.

As you can see above, one of my year of living 40 goals is to write 40 blog posts — which if you do the math equates to roughly one post every nine days. So I’ll be keeping you updated on how it’s going and you can help me be accountable. I’ve already got the spreadsheet for keeping track of this stuff (remember, I did say I have an A-type personality). And no matter what age you’re turning this year, let me know what goals/habits/adventures/achievements you are pursuing in 2017.

Hello middle-age. Let’s do this.

40 photo credit: Leo Reynolds East Of India House Number 40 via photopin (license)

A new definition of success

Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. – Proverbs 3:3-4

Over the years, my view of what success would look like for me has changed many times. But one thing was certain, success always looked BIG. As in, change the world big!

As a young college freshman I decided to major in Communications and Journalism, ready to change the world by becoming the next Woodward or Bernstein. Then, as my spiritual journey went through a period of immense learning and growth in my early 20’s, I thought I was being called into ministry, specifically missions. I planned to change the world one village at a time.

By the time I graduated college I had met the love of my life and was engaged to be married. Ideas of going into ministry were put on hold and it seemed the responsible thing to do was get a “real job”. So using my Communications degree I got a job in a corporate marketing department…and I did well. Really well. I moved up quickly and had a taste of career success. Soon my plan was to crash through the glass ceiling; and as my husband and I started to discuss having kids, I was determined I would prove you could “have it all” (whatever “it all” means).

During those early years as a mother, I put much of my focus and measurement of success with my children. If they were successful, then that surely meant I was successful as a mother. But it didn’t take long before I learned (the hard way) just how much is out of my control. I realized it was unfair to both my children, and to me, if I measured my success as a mother and as a person based on their successes and failures.

By the time I was 30 I had a great marketing manager job with a global company. I was able to work from home partially and travel to places I had always dreamed about, like South Africa, Australia, and East Asia. I felt like I had arrived, this is what success must look like: balancing a family and a career, getting to travel the world.

But soon, I felt the pull for more. I took on a more senior role, one that had a lot more responsibility. At first it was great, but over time the stress began to wear on me. I started to wonder: “if this is what success looks like, why doesn’t it feel like everything I thought it would?” Simultaneous to this, God began working on my heart and re-igniting that call to go into ministry and I wondered what exactly He wanted from me. Had my pursuit of success been misguided? Had I been pursuing the wrong kind of success?

I finally decided that it was time to put it all in His hands. To stop trying to map out my career path or plan every step of my life’s journey. I knew that I needed to help people in some way and I wasn’t sure what that would look like, but I started trusting God to guide me in the right direction. I felt a push to write, to minister, and to educate. I began blogging, speaking and writing a book. I led my first women’s retreat, and led a Bible study with my husband. It felt right, like I was doing what I had always been meant to do,  but I didn’t feel successful. I thought, in order to be a success at any of these things I would have to turn them into a career and earn a living.

Meanwhile, I was feeling like a failure in my senior marketing job. Projects took longer than planned and technology issues presented daily problems. I began to feel like all I did was put out fires. Any feelings of success I had felt years earlier had dissipated.

Then an opportunity presented itself to take a different role with the same company, a role writing and teaching. It wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for, but I trusted God and accepted the job. Still, leaving my other job I felt like I had failed in my role. I wondered what was my legacy in that position where I had given so much for the last six years?

As I left one role where I felt a failure, and began to take on another that I wasn’t sure lined up with God’s calling for my life, I realized for the first time in my life I didn’t know what success looked like any more, or if I would ever achieve it.

Then in the final week of my marketing job I received an email from a colleague. He wrote: “One thing I’ve learnt from you is to always be courteous and polite – no matter what the production pressures are; because at the end of the day there’s a real person with feelings on the other end of the telephone.”

Reading that note, in that moment I realized I’d had it all wrong.

My idea of success was so misguided! It isn’t about how many projects were delivered on time and on budget; it isn’t about how many issues I had successfully resolved, or innovative solutions I’d created. It certainly isn’t about money or climbing a corporate ladder. And it isn’t even about ensuring I find some perfect job that lines up exactly with God’s call for me to be in ministry (because where did Jesus ever say we had to earn a living in ministry in order to successfully minister to people?).

It’s about love and faithfulness. And making sure I am totally and completely bound to these.



How can I touch someone’s heart with a kind word, a patient response, or an understanding ear? How can God use me to improve someone else’s day by how I treat them, how I pray for them? And most importantly, how am I modeling what it means to be a follower of Jesus by how I treat others?

This is what success looks like to me now. Whatever happens in my professional or personal life, whatever path God leads me down, or however the world defines me, my definition of success will forever be measured by the number of lives I touch by simply being kind, patient, understanding, forgiving, etc.

But I did get one thing right in my younger days. Success — this kind of success — is big. Like change the world BIG.