Giving Thanks for the Space You Call Your Home

The sound of rain hitting the tree tops and the clanging of the dryer spinning with rocks inside, thanks to my boy of course, break my concentration long enough to remind me of an important truth.

This is what I always wanted.  

A family of my own.  

And a safe-haven to dwell in together when the storms of life hit noisy and loud.

But if I was still living for my own dreams, I would have missed the reality of this blessing.

See, I’ve always wanted to own a home. And yet what I’ve wanted has not been a part of God’s plans. My husband is a boarding school teacher, and housing is a part of his package. In all our years together, we’ve lived in 7 different homes, from apartments to condos within a dorm to houses small and large. They are not all created equal, nor are the responsibilities that go with each one. And none of them have a white picket fence with an ocean view I’ve dreamed about since I was a little girl!

How we live in the spaces we're given . . .

For the first ten years of living in this place, I wrestled with God over our housing situation. I was ungrateful. Plain and simple. And I was discontent with our circumstances, until one housing fiasco led to another and I had no choice but give it all up to the Lord.

“God, from this point forward I will thank you for the place you’ve given us to live in. No matter what. No matter where.”

God took me up on that prayer. Only a few weeks after surrendering to the Lord, we moved into a beautiful, large home rented by the School. I was overwhelmed by God’s provisions. Humbled and grateful for the way that house enabled us to have an extended family member live with us for my than six months, and meet a need in her life. However, God did not plan for us to stay there long term.

A year later, we had to move again, and settled into a smaller, condo-like home in a girls dorm. I loved the responsibilities, but it wasn’t an ideal long-term commitment. Two years later, we were packing boxes again.  In a bittersweet departure from dorm life, we moved into a what seemed like a reasonable size home for a family for four, only to find out a few months later that we were having twins. Our roomy home vanished into a world of baby gear and discontentment took over my soul. I set my eyes on the larger school homes, aptly named the battleships of the fleet, convinced that the larger space would make my life better.

In God’s perfect plan, we did not move into one of those larger homes. We had no choice but to stay put for another three years, before we moved into a house with more bedrooms — a grace place where our spiritually adopted daughter would have room to live with us. We thought this was the end of the line for our moves at the school, and then we were graciously offered the opportunity to move into a home with more common space — the house we now call our home. It’s not a perfect place. It’s not without it’s little issues. It’s required creativity and flexibility to make some parts of it work for us. But it’s a home we give thanks for, as much as we did for the last three — because it’s the place we get to live together as a family and serve those who God brings in through the back door.

I’ve learned through this journey that a house isn’t a home because you’ve paid the mortgage and call it your own.

It was in the squishy, uncomfortable home in which the twins were born that I truly learned how to give thanks for the home God gave us — then and now. The Lord changed my heart and perspective, opening my eyes to see that no earthly dwelling is meant to be our forever home.

It’s the relationships and interactions and experiences lived within the walls that define our home that matter more than the decor and accessories and square footage and taxes paid.

Whether it is small or large. Whether it is newly renovated or shabby but not chic. Whether it is beautifully decorated or filled with clutter. Whether it is rented, owned, or assigned.

It’s what we do within the spaces we’re given that matter most to God. {click to tweet}

A home on this earth is only meant to be a temporary dwelling . . . a space that most likely will cause us to groan with longing for something more.

Eternity.

Humbled and grateful,

Elisa

moretobe.com & elisapulliam.com

If you would like help in shifting your mindset about your home and space,
consider using this living intentionally resource and the benefits of life coaching.

6 Summer Projects for Your Tweens & Teens

Are you a mom who dreads the summer months with your teens, fearing the unscheduled time and worrying about them being on their screens too much? Do you feel anxious about the rhythm of packing and unpacking for camp drop-offs and pick-ups in between family vacations?

Imagine being the type of mom who looks at the calendar and sees a blank canvas ready for doing life together, especially with your tweens and teens.

That’s what I’ve asked the Lord to do in me this summer, recognizing that I only have a few years left with my tween and teen at home. I’m so keenly aware that now is the time to make life-time memories, while also seizing the moment to train them up with the skills I’d like to see them take into their future.

Summer Projects for Tweens & TeensSo rather than letting a summer pass without purpose, I’ve come up with six summer projects that I can do with my tween and teen that will enable us to connect while expanding their skill set.

1.  Paint a Room {or Something}

Learning how to paint a room or a piece a furniture is a skill worth having, so look around your home — or maybe a grandparent’s place — for a small space that can be painted in a day with a gallon of paint. This is a low budget project that offers a great reward!  Work with your teen, teaching them how to pick out the paint and supplies as well as prep the space:  clearing out the room, getting the walls ready (Spackle, sand, etc), taping edges, cleaning the floor before painting, etc. And then do the job with them, showing them how to roll, cut in, etc. If painting isn’t a skill you have, watch some tutorials on YouTube and do the research together before you start.

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2.  Prepare the Food

How about having your tween or teen plan the family’s menu for a week, or for an upcoming trip, and prepare all the food? Offer them a budget as well as assistance in the shopping and food prep time. Use the process to teach about how to select produce and meat, what unit price really means, shelf life for food, how to determine quantity, measurements, etc. Depending on your son or daughter’s maturity, let them handle as many of the responsibilities as possible. You could even toss in an incentive for an older teen, such as “Here’s the amount we spend on food per week.  If you can fix our meals for less than that amount, without us eating bread and water all week, you can keep what you save.”

3.  Purge Something

I’m guessing that you have a closet, storage room, garage, or cabinets that need some purging and reorganizing. Maybe even your tween or teen has a personal area that needs some TLC — like their dressers, bedroom, or old toy room. Let them pick one space to totally purge and reorganize. Be involved in the process in the beginning, but also give them space to figure it out on their own. You can keep it simple and have them focus on “keep, give, toss” for the space. If there is enough to give away, considering letting them organize a Yard Sale and keep the proceeds for themselves.  Or, if your budget allows, you can let them redesign the area, including painting and creating organizational systems.

4.  Put on a Party or a Small Gathering

Since everyone doesn’t have the gift of hospitality, learning how to put on a party or small gathering is another skill worth developing. Consider hosting a party for a birthday, anniversary, or a milestone celebration, or put on a small “themed” gathering for your tween or teen’s friends or your own friends. Have your son or daugther organize the details, including the invitations, menu, decor, party schedule, and setting up the house as well as clean up. Offer a budget as well as working with them through each step. If you do not have the gift of hospitality, don’t fret. Here’s some help just for you, and ideas for a simple tween party here and here.

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5.  Pick a Project

Is there a project your teen would like to work on, but needs your approval, input, and budget help? Maybe it’s learning a new instrument or developing a new skill, like how to paint with watercolors or write an app for a smart phone. Take your tween or teen out for ice cream and ask them, “What is one thing you’d like to learn how to do this summer?” Help them brainstorm and offer your support in the process, making a timeline and setting attainable goals.

6.  Plan for the Future

This one is definitely the most serious of projects, but worth the investment of time. Have your tween or teen begin the process of preparing for their future — specifically their college years — by creating for themselves a College Bound Checklist & Portfolio (CBC&P).  They can do this either in a binder or notebook, or online using Google Docs, which they can share with you. Their CBC&P can be divided into sections based by grade-level, with a “to do” list for each year. We’re using the Countdown to College: 21 To Do List for High School as our guide. Your teen can also include in their CBC&P a list of college scholarship opportunities (something that can be researched throughout the summer), college picks, and a record of their volunteering, work experiences, and awards throughout high school.

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What summer projects are you doing with your tween or teen?

How are you using side-by-side experiences to connect with your teens while they are still at home and train up skills they’ll need in their future?

Shine Bright,

Elisa

moretobe.com & elisapulliam.com

 

For more ideas on how to connect with your tween or teen, especially a daughter, visit moretobe.com.

 

When that Heart on Your Sleeve Tells His Story

May I confess something to you?  I’m a heart-sleeve wearer, and always have been, although my motives have changed over the years.  As a teen, I’d share my heart hoping someone would hold my secrets tenderly, love me unconditionally, and promise to protect me forever, which was certainly a by-product of inheriting a legacy of dysfunction.

But now, I wear my heart on my sleeve, not because I’m looking for something in return, but because I have something I want to share — a story of God’s amazing, extravagant, wildly transforming work in an ordinary life.

I’m not who I was 20 years ago, when God rescued me from a life destined for destruction, and revealed to me a different way to live. My desire to travel the world and pursue a life of corporate success was laid down in favor of marrying a Christ-with-skin-on type of man who wanted to lead a simple life as a high school teacher and raise a family together.

When that Heart Tells His Story

I’m not who I was nearly 15 years ago, when God poured out His grace in the life of our firstborn daughter — a miracle considering the life I lived during my early college years.  God continues to show me evidence of His touch, as I mother all four of our children — but by His grace.

I’m not who I was seven years ago, when God took my mask-wearing, good-girl living and said enough through the words of truth-tellers speaking with love who challenged me to become more than an angry, hurting, yelling mama. It was time to deal with the guilt, shame, bitterness, and unforgiveness that had overtaken my heart and was overflowing hurt onto my family (Ezekiel 36:26).

Even as a passionate go-getter type of woman, with a whole lot of hutzpah as my Jewish grandmother would say, I couldn’t fix my issues on my own. I needed God more than ever before, even for the courage to walk into that counselor’s office.  It was there that God showed me how years of Scripture study and wet-eyed prayers were not wasted. He burst forth in me a season of radical healing, as learned how to trap my thoughts, and my memories of the past (2 Corinthians 10:5), and give them over to Him so that He could transform them — and change me — with the truth (Romans 12:2).

I’m not who I was, and I’m not yet all that God has created me to become. I’m work in progress, but that doesn’t mean I can’t yet tell of His story.

Philippians 1:6 NIV
. . . being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

God continues to move His Spirit into untouched places in my heart, as He writes His story of extravagant grace and wild transformation. That’s why I go forth with my heart on my sleeve — not to show how much better I’ve become, but to point to the One who changes lives from the inside out.

I want women to seek God for themselves and to know the impact their changed lives will have on the next generation. {click to tweet}

I’m finally becoming the wife and mom I wanted to be and that’s because of God’s work within my heart, mind, and soul.  All that I do is an overflow from what He is doing in me — whether I serve as a mom and wife, as a life coach or mentor, as a writer or speaker, as a ministry leader at More to Be or as I engage with the community right out my back door. It’s because of God’s changing work in my heart and all for Him to use His way and in His timing.

Friends, I’m hear to say it’s true:  When we give God access to our heart and surrender to living in light of the Truth, He will change our thinking and thereby change our living. He will change us from “as is” into that new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) we long to become, so that He can use us to impact this world, starting with our families, for His glory.

Because of Him,

Elisa

moretobe.com & elisapulliam.com

This post is a part of our “Who We Are” Series. For all posts visit,

“Who We Are: The Stories Behind TBM Writers”

Who We Are at The Better Mom

Embracing a Happy, Happy, Happy {and Unbalanced} Life

As a life coach and mentor, I often feel as though I ought to have my life in total balance. We seem to have become a people that strive after balance in everything…

…balanced relationships with our children and spouses.

…balanced schedules with time for work and rest.

…balanced opportunities to serve and simply have fun.

Balance. Balance. Balance.

Kind of like happy, happy, happy.

But is there such a thing as a happy balance? I thought so, until I heard a preacher passionately declare, “We’re not called to balance. We’re called to love and serve.” I must admit, I bristled at the flippant challenge. What…not pursue balance? Then why I am working so hard toward that end and encouraging other women to do the same? Should I give up on managing my schedule and start living off depleted emotional resources, all in the name of love? Maybe. Or maybe it’s a matter of perspective.

What if we pursued balance in our pursuit of balance?

What if we pursued balance {ahem, margin space} in our pursuit of balance? {click to tweet}

We need to be honest about how we’re spending our time and seek to make the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:16).  Really, how hard is it to honestly look at our schedules and make some healthy, boundary-keeping decisions?  There is value in using evaluation tools, like these, to help figure out what commitments simply need to go, since we can’t do it all and do it well.

When truth speaks to the ideal, healthy and real balance can be embraced. {click to tweet}

When truth speaks to the ideal, healthy and real balance can be embraced.

What we see on paper can help us recognize that our expectations are often not realistic. If we’re perfectly balance in our schedules, we’re likely not leaving room for margin — that blank space in which God can slide the unexpected right into our lives.

I believe that it is in the margin space that God longs to work in us and through us.

We need room in our schedules to respond to His interruptions. Yes, that will make us feel unbalanced as we bristle against Him pushing us to make room for His agenda —  moments like when our sick child requires nurturing or a grieving friend begs for a listening ear.  Yes, these needs throw our life-balance pursuits off kilter. But they also put a different kind of balance back into our souls — a balance between serving our own schedules and serving others with the love of Christ.

These divine appointments make our lives balanced even when our schedules look a mess.

Instead of trying to weigh out all we do in equal measure, maybe we should think of our regular commitments as being all in one basket, with the goal of leaving the other basket empty. This is our margin space — this is the guarded reserves, which we need so that we can respond in emotional balance to the unexpected.

My hunch is that when we live with margin space for the sake of keeping balance in our schedules, we’ll not only be able to love and serve others without feeling stressed out — we’ll find a whole lot of happy, happy, happy — which is way better than balance, balance, balance.

Real life is too messy to be scheduled all the time. It’s like forcing jello back into a mold after you served it up in a dish. It won’t work. Neither will our perfectly printed paper schedules. If our ideal for balance is a schedule that functions perfectly all the time, then it’s time to ditch the ideal for the real . . . the really messy but beautiful life God designed for us to live.

And yes, I’m preaching to myself here, sisters.

Cheers to the unbalanced life,

Elisa Pulliam

Life Coach & Mentor at elisapulliam.com and moretobe.com

This post is part of our series Finding Balance as a Busy Mom. 

Please check the series page for all of the posts! 

Finding Balance as a Busy Mom

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