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

Can I convince you that our teens need you?

I have something I want to share with you that I think could potentially change your perspective, and more importantly, change our world. Of course, I’m no expert nor do I have a “special” degree validating what I am going to say.

I’m simply an ordinary, saved by grace woman who sees a need that is not going away.

Our teens want us to answer their real questions with more authenticity than they’ll ever find on Google or Facebook. {click to tweet}

They truly want to know what we  — their moms and mentors – think and especially about how our experiences shaped our beliefs.

Our teens want us to answer their real questions...How do I know?  Because for the last 17 years, I’ve lived at a Christian boarding and day school with teens from around the world and have witnessed their constant, growing desire to hear from the adults in their midst. But don’t misunderstand me. They aren’t walking around with signs on their chests saying, “Come tell me how to live.”  Oh no. They are average teenagers engaging in cultural curiosities, distracted by the temptations of this world, and sometimes finding themselves crumbling under the pressure.

These teens in my world are like the teens in your world who need you to step out of your comfort zone and step into their lives.

I’m convinced this is what the Lord wants from us, because the questions sitting in a box on my desk continues to grow and grow. Last month, I spent an evening with a group of 20 girls, and received 17 questions scribbled on index cards — this is the most I’ve ever received in one ETC Mentoring gathering.  Questions like…

  1. How do you mentally recover from the regret of doing things with a guy you thought you loved, but he didn’t love you?
  2. How do you talk to a friend who you know is following the wrong path?
  3. Is dating a sin?
  4. What do you do if you are afraid to love someone because of being hurt in the past?
  5. During the time when everything turns bad, how do you adjust your emotions and thoughts?

If these 20 girls represent a smattering of teens nationwide, imagine how many questions this generation is longing to have answered!

What questions might your teens have?Do we really want our teens going to their peers or online to find their answers?

I know you may not feel qualified to answer their questions, but God will equip you. I have to remember that truth every time I host an ETC Gathering. When I sat down with those 20 girls, I was trembling inside, even after doing this for years! I begged God for Him to soften their hearts and breathe life into their souls.  Even though I had the “Give Me Love” Topic & Truth resource ready to share, the Lord prompted me to start in a different direction.

“Well, girls, do you know why I’m here tonight? Do you know why I do ETC?”

You can imagine the crossed arms and darting eyes, as I went on to explain how it all began, asking,

“Would you like to hear my story about how I got to this place and why it means so much to me to be able to encourage you?”

I spent the next 25 minutes sharing about my childhood, coming to know Jesus as my Savior in college (along with the foolish decisions I made along the way), and how God’s amazing grace has marked my life. As I wrapped up my story, I reminded them to ask their questions on index cards, but wasn’t at all prepared for the number that came my way.

God reminded me that because I was willing to share my story with them (without the gory details, mind you), they were able to trust me with their hearts.

God opened the door to share with them something way more important — how His Truth matters in their life story.

This isn’t a door only opened for me. It is one God is waiting to open for you, too.

I know you’ll be stunned at how God will work in you and through you, whether He brings into your world 2 girls or 200.

Come on over to moretobe.com and I’ll give you the resources to start a mentoring group, so that you may impact the next generation for His glory.


Elisa, MoreToBe.com

When Disappointment is an Opportunity

I sat there very quietly at first, as the other moms shared their concerns about a policy direction the school ought to take in regards to the leadership selection process.  As I listened to their hearts — and not just their words — I could hear the devastation they felt when a great kid, who was totally qualified, didn’t get “the spot.”  They hurt for that student, and their peers, who didn’t know how to process the perceived injustice, and were rightly concerned over the impact on the community.

When Disappointment is an Opportunity

As I thought about what I might contribute to the conversation, I felt like I had to pick which hat I was going to wear:  Should I participate as mom of a current student, as a mentor to former ones, or as a member of this community for the the last 17 years?  It turns out I couldn’t pick one because my whole experience of walking through disappointment with teens has shaped my opinion — an opinion that has shockingly changed over the years.

A dozen years ago, I would have made waves amongst my colleagues to make changes to the policy.  But I’ve learned through navigating these waters with teens that sometimes the less-than-perfect policies and disappointing outcomes provide the canvas on which God paints His masterpieces. So even though I am a staunch advocate of improving communication and streamlining decision making, in this particular conversation, I felt a hesitation…

I don’t want to get in the way of God’s work in the messy-beautiful, just because the mess hurts my heart. {click to tweet}

Ive learned that the more valuable prize is when a soul discovers she can persevere through disappointment, and not crumble in the face of it.

Our teens will face disappointment in high school — whether it’s a student government election, getting cut from the play, losing the county championships, or not getting into the college of their choice. And as they graduate, disappointments will continue to come their way. You know them as well as I do.

Disappointment is an opportunity to prepare our teens for the ones they’ll face later on.

The reality is that our response to disappointment will inevitably shape theirs. We need to have a pulse on our God-given personalities and what has been modeled for us by our own parents and mentors. And we need to be sure that we not reacting out of our own unresolved disappointments. I know I’ve been guilty of doing this, and not recognizing it until my dear husband snaps me back to reality! We have to carefully guard our words about what we think of them, and those who are making the heart-burdening decisions, along with how we process God’s part in it all.

Romans 5:3-5 CEV

But that’s not all! We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure. And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us. All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love.

The Scriptures teach us that we will experience suffering and disappointment in this life, but not without purpose. God will use trials to strengthen our endurance and build our character. He loves us so much that He is willing for us to experience disappointment, especially if our pursuits have become our idols. God doesn’t want us “filled up” with our own achievements. He wants us filled up with His hope and wrapped in His love. And He will use disappointments as the opportunity to draw us…and our teens…closer to Him.

So what if we saw the “disappointing road” as God’s training ground for our teens? 

What if we embraced their disappointments as opportunities to learn how to grieve, grow, and surrender to God’s sovereignty?

What if we entered into the disappointment with them, not making it our own story, but being willing to stand side-by-side, praying over them and quietly, but boldly whispering reminders into their souls about God’s faithfulness? 

We need to seize the moment to walk on the suffering road together, because it’s skill and a faith-walk they’ll need for the rest of their lives.

So how will you face future disappointments with your teens?

By His Grace,

Elisa Pulliam
moretobe.com | elisapulliam.com

{Download the free resource, When God Says No, to consider more on this topic with your teen.}

But what if you’re born angry?

My mom always said that I was born angry. She would tenderly tease that I was really a Viking, because from my earliest of days I had a short fuse and sharp tongue. Of course, my teenage feelings about her perspective on my temperament was along the lines of “Whatever…it’s your problem not mine!”  That was until I came to see how my anger negatively impacted my friendships, created havoc at work, and put a strain on my marriage right from the beginning.

The Way God Made Me is Good

I entered into counseling to work through my “anger issues” and came to the conclusion that my behavior was a result of my environment and upbringing, and the solution was simply to manage my life better so that my fuse wouldn’t run short. I discovered my irritability triggers, like too little sleep, being hungry, not getting through my to-do list, last minute change of plans, and did my best to manage my lifestyle in order to avoid an explosion.

But see, while I could “control” my time, I couldn’t control others — especially when those “others” happened to be my children. Managing triggers simply wasn’t enough when it came to avoiding my anger issues with my kids. And no matter how much I prayed and read my Bible, it seemed that my desire for the “gentle and quiet spirit” escaped my grasp. While I looked like the perfect Christian wife and momma on the outside, my heart was filled with disappoint and condemnation knowing how often I fell short behind closed doors.

By God’s grace, my husband called me out on my ugly behavior at the same time the Lord was calling me to investigate the state of my heart.

That’s when I ended up in counseling and poignantly discovered the essence of what was in my heart and giving way to what was coming out of my mouth (Matthew 12:33-35).  My heart was stored up with unforgiveness toward my parents, bitterness over the dysfunction of my childhood, regret and shame over my rebellious years, fear of failure and a pursuit of perfection and people pleasing.

Yes, I was a mess and needed a spiritual heart transplant. By God’s grace, that’s exactly what He did. He healed my heart of every wound and made room for His love to fill every nook and cranny.

But was that enough to make my anger go away?

Yes. And no.  The change in my heart led to a radical transformation in my behavior over the next few years. Enough of a change that my older girls noticed the difference and would comment, “Mom, why are you getting angry now? You don’t do that any more!”   But still, there was this part of me, on the inside, that wanted to rise up and spew ugly all too often and I’ve finally figured out why.

I was born this way. I was born angry !!

Not angry, as my mom thought. It’s way more complicated than that. I believe God has wired me up like the poster-child for the Choleric personality, which means I like to get things done, I see vision, I understand how to orchestrate situations to accomplish goals. Those are the lovely strengths of the Choleric. It’s the weaknesses, however, that seem to cause the problem, such as becoming easily angered, tending to use anger to manipulate, frustrations when things don’t move along fast enough, and pre-occupation with achievement.

The way God made me is good — but if I’m not yielded to Him with my strengths and weaknesses, I’ll make a mess of my life and my relationships.Tweet: The way God made us is good! But if we're not yielded to Him, we'll make a mess of our lives. http://ctt.ec/01v3X+ @elisapulliam

The fact is that I will always have a propensity toward anger, much like Paul’s thorn in his side. But by God’s grace, anger doesn’t have to control me.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in me, I can walk in step with the Spirit — sensitive to my triggers and surrendering to God my issues and frustrations —  as I grow in trusting God with the things that seem to make me the most crazy. 

This trusting-God-thing and looking at life from an eternal-perspective really does help keep me calmer! And I know it can help you, too. I pray that if you’re a born-angry sister, you’ll find hope in knowing that God made you for a good purpose, too.  It’s time to embrace how you’re made as you seek God for any healing you need in your wounded heart and for the Holy Spirit to come alive within you, so that you may walk in His ways, especially as a mom whose kids may one day say, “Mom, you don’t get angry like that any more!”

For more encouragement on how to overcome angry, come by elisapulliam.com.

This post is part of the month-long challenge From Grouchy…To Great.  Please check the series page for all of the posts! 

From Grouchy…To Great

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