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)