Power Up

Do you ever wonder if there’s more to life? If what you’re experiencing is really all there is to experience? You’re not alone. I’m excited to share this post today to hopefully bring you some encouragement, and also share what’s been going on with me in my writing journey. Let’s jump in!

The way I see it, there are three types of people in the world.

1.The first type of people are not Christians. They don’t know God, or if they do know him, they certainly don’t understand him, which is why they have not yet accepted him.

2. The second type of people are Christians. They have accepted God and Jesus and they try to go to church regularly and be good people.

3. The third type of people are also Christians. They have accepted God and Jesus, and have opened their lives to the workings of the Holy Spirit. They do their best to love others with the love God has shown them, and they seek and listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Think for a second…are you a 1, 2, or 3? I’d venture to guess that most people who care to read this blog identify with 2 or 3. And if you’re a 1 and you’re still reading this – thank you! I’m so glad you are!

Lots of people identify with number 2. I’d say that’s where the majority of American Christians have landed. It’s a great place to be, but if you stay at number 2 for too long, you may begin to get restless. You may find yourself wondering if there’s something that you’re missing; more to the puzzle than what you’re seeing.

Let me just say this: if you’re a Christian, and you find Christianity boring, there is more to it! It doesn’t have to be a dull life filled with potlucks and polite greetings (I’m a fan of both of those things, by the way).

The Holy Spirit is the piece of the puzzle that so many people are missing, but they don’t even realize it yet. All Christians have access to the Holy Spirit, but we have to choose to let him actively work in us and through us. We have to choose to seek him out and listen to him when he speaks to us (and he will speak to us!).

The Holy Spirit is what turns a hum-drum Christian life into a daily adventure. It brings the spiritual realm alive. And when we realize that the King of Kings has issued us a personal invitation to work with him, up close and personally, each and every day, it’s sort of mind blowing, don’t you think?

Have you ever been walking through Target or Walmart and felt a nudge from God himself to pray for a stranger passing by? That’s the Holy Spirit, and it will rock your comfortable world. Have you ever felt like God was showing you something about another person and asking you to pray for them during your own personal prayer time, when you otherwise wouldn’t have known what was going on with them? That’s the Holy Spirit. He’s like Jesus without a body, living inside us, in constant communication with us. Or as constant as we’ll allow and recognize anyway. I’m telling you, it’s an adventure!

If it sounds a little scary or unpredictable, be assured – it totally is. But it’s also incredible and life changing, and with practice, it starts to feel more normal. And anyway…lives aren’t changed inside comfort zones.

Some may think the Holy Spirit is only for adults, but that couldn’t be further from the truth!

As a mother of three kids ages ten and under, I can say with confidence that many children’s church programs don’t expect enough from kids. Our family has visited quite a few churches, and I can see that it’s becoming more and more common to provide lots of entertainment, water down the lesson to include a feel-good moral, and send kids on their way. (Let me interrupt myself to say I’m not intending to criticize – leading kids’ church is hard work and I have great admiration for those to do so.) I’m sure the leaders have good reasons for going this route, but from my view, this is producing a culture of “church kids.” Church kids are great, don’t get me wrong! But I want more for my own.

I want to raise Jesus kids. Spirit kids. Kids who know they have the power of the living God himself living inside of them, accessible at the drop of a dime. Guiding them, encouraging them, and inspiring them to love the world recklessly.

And that’s why I wrote Power Up, a novel targeted to kids age 8-12. It’s a book where readers will follow an eleven-year-old girl named Lexi on a journey of transforming from a “church kid” to a “Spirit kid.” It’s an entertaining, messy, grace-filled journey of doubt and trust and empowerment.

You see, two years ago I was looking for Christian fiction books for my daughter. Everything I found was floofy (aka non-substantive). “Be a good kid and say your prayers while living your otherwise secular life” type stuff. All well and good, but my kids wanted something meatier. Something that painted a picture of what an active Christian life could look like. Something that inspired them to greater depths. And I couldn’t find it.

So I wrote it. Power Up is scheduled to release from Elk Lake Publishing around May 2019.

If you believe it’s a worthy goal to help 8-12 year olds transition from “church kids” to “Spirit kids,” would you pray with me? Pray that Power Up will make it into the hands of those who need it most. Pray that eyes are opened and lives are changed. Pray that God is glorified and the Spirit empowered. And pray that I can handle all that is asked of me when it comes to marketing and such, as it’s a bit overwhelming to think about for this introvert. Thanks for joining me on this journey – it’s so good to have you along. Your support and encouragement means the world to me.

Now let’s revisit the beginning of this post real quick. The Christian’s journey should always be evolving and growing. Are you a Christian? If not, ask yourself why not and then seek answers. Email me if you have questions that you can’t get answered and I’ll do my best to help.

Are you a God and Jesus Christian? Then think – do you want to grant the Holy Spirit access to your daily life? I promise, you won’t regret it.

Are you a God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit filled Christian? Then what can you do to open the door even a little wider for the Spirit? Give him the wheel even more fully. (This is where I am, by the way. I can always give the Spirit more control over my life.)

My prayer for you today is that you’ll take a next step. A baby step. Whatever size step you can handle right now. Give your life to God, let the Holy Spirit lead, and let the adventure unfold. And don’t forget to enjoy the ride.

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It DOES Affect You.

“My daughter doesn’t want to be a preacher, so it doesn’t affect me.”

Actual words spoken by an actual human being on the topic of whether churches should empower women in ministry. Maybe it’s just me (I’ve been a little passionate about this topic lately), but I had to pick my jaw up off the floor after this one. It’s akin to hearing someone say “I don’t work outside the home so the issue of equal pay for women doesn’t affect me.” (Uh…what about the rest of society?)

Now before you close your browser thinking, “oh no, she’s going to preach at me or try to get me to change my mind,” please don’t. Stick with me. My goal isn’t to make you think what I think, but simply to encourage everyone to give the issue of women in ministry the thought it deserves (as it affects 50% of the population and all). So join me while I attempt to get your wheels spinning by taking you through a couple of points you may have never considered. And if you totally disagree with me in the end? That’s ok!

Here’s the thing—whether you’re a Complementarian (one who believes the Bible prohibits women from teaching and preaching) or an Egalitarian (one who believes the Bible empowers women to teach and preach), hopefully we all claim to hold our beliefs for the glory of God and the purpose of obeying his instructions.

(Let’s endeavor to read scripture responsibly and holistically.)

Romans 14:5 is a great verse that addresses disagreements in the church that are non-essential (they’re not “make or break” for your salvation). Let’s take a quick look:

One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.

In light of this verse, as long as you attempt to make informed, biblical decisions, I can respect you even if I disagree, and I hope you can do the same. None of us want to be “those people” who try to make the Bible say what they want it to say or blow off certain passages because it doesn’t line up with what they want. I believe scripture is the inspired voice of God and we should treat it accordingly.

One concept that is new to more people than you might think is the importance of reading scripture in context. Who was the letter originally written to and for what purpose? What was going on in society at the time that may have influenced certain writings? This stuff makes a difference!

We also must read scripture holistically. If, for example, one verse commands women to be silent and one commands them to pray and prophesy, we clearly can’t just choose our favorite at the exclusion of the others; we have to understand them in light of the overall message of the Bible. Not doing this is precisely how people defended their “right” to own slaves for centuries, and it’s simply irresponsible.

The reason there’s so much controversy about this particular topic is because the Bible appears to speak out of both sides of its hypothetical mouth, which only means the topic requires thought, study, and guidance from the Spirit.

Here I’m going to pause briefly and ask you to read 1 Timothy 2:8-15. (It’ll be quick, I promise!)

*pausing, pausing, hum da dum dum dummm.*

Okay, are you back? Great. After reading that passage, you might ask how anyone can believe that women should be empowered to be pastors when Paul clearly says in 1 Timothy 2:12:

I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. (ESV)

Sounds clear as day, yes? But is it really? This is where I want to challenge you to think outside the box.

Let me point out that verse twelve says “I (as in, Paul) do not permit…” If this was a verse to be applied to all people for all time, it seems to me a big enough command (as it applies to 50% of the population for all time) that he would have wanted to point out that it was God’s command, and not simply his own.

Could it be that Paul was writing this letter to a certain church that he oversaw, and because of the patriarchal society they lived in, the spread of the gospel message (Paul’s ultimate goal) would have been hindered coming from women?

Could it be that in our modern, women-and-men-should-have-equal-opportunities society, the spread of the gospel is most effective coming from men AND women, and therefore this verse is not a rule to be followed for all time, but simply a glimpse into the beginnings of the church?

(Male and female – equally powerful as the Spirit leads.)

I’m not claiming to have all the answers. While of course I would love for everyone to equally empower men and women, I’m honestly just trying to get your thoughts churning on the topic and open your mind to the complexity of the matter.

Let’s look at two other points in 1 Timothy 2. In verse eight Paul says (according to most translations), “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarrelling…” (ESV)

Imagine this verse taken literally and tell me you didn’t laugh! If we are applying every verse exactly as written, why don’t we see Christian men at Walmart or Lowes or EVERYwhere, praying and lifting holy hands as they shop and do life? Is there something less special about this verse that makes people take it less literally?

And in verse fifteen Paul says, “Yet she (woman) will be saved through childbearing…” (ESV)

Who among us truly believes that women are saved through childbearing? Can anyone honestly claim that this verse alone rules out salvation for women who never give birth? Looking at the New Testament holistically (as we should always do), it’s clear that we are saved through grace by faith alone, and not through the physical experience of childbirth. So yet again, we’ve found another verse in this passage that’s not to be taken literally for all time. Why is it so easy to ignore certain verses in favor of others?

Now let’s say your reasoning leads you to believe that while not all of these passages are meant to be taken literally, the one prohibiting women from teaching and having authority over men is, in fact, meant to be taken literally.

Let’s follow that path real quick.

Many churches translate this verse into not allowing women pastors. But that’s not what the Bible says, is it? Nowhere that I’ve found does the Bible limit this exclusion to pastoring, nor does it limit it to the church environment. So to take this to its logical conclusion, it seems that if you believe there shouldn’t be women pastors, you must also believe there shouldn’t be any women professors (for at what age does a male student become a man?), nor should there be any women CEOs or bosses of any kind.

Finally, consider this: when you read through the “gifts” passages of the Bible (such as Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:8-11, 28), which talk about the various gifts people receive from God (teaching, prophesy, wisdom, etc.) gender is not once mentioned or alluded to. What is made clear is that God imparts these gifts as he chooses.

So whether your daughter wants to be a pastor or not is beside the point. Someone else’s daughter (my ten-year-old, currently) does. And before you tell her she’s not allowed, I beg you to give this topic the prayer and research it deserves.

I won’t pretend to have it all figured out. There are several people in my life whom I love and respect very much that simply disagree with me here. But as long as we’re convinced the other is basing their beliefs on the Bible and the instruction of the Holy Spirit, we can each continue to serve the Kingdom of God the best ways we know how with a clear conscience. And surely that’s all God asks of us.

(To be clear, this post only scratches the surface of this topic, which spans the whole Bible and New Testament in particular, not just 1 Timothy. If you want to reach out for further discussion, please go to my “contact” page where you can email me directly.)

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, and if you haven’t yet subscribed to receive these posts directly to your email, now is a great time to do so! Stay tuned for my next post in a couple weeks where I’ll tell you a little more about my middle grade fiction book, Power Up, which will be released in a couple months! So exciting! Have a blessed week!

Steadfast Like Mary

I feel like I just blinked and the whole Christmas season passed. Though it feels like a blur, I can still look back and see memories being made, character being grown, and relationships being strengthened. And throughout it all, I must say I’ve had Mary on my mind this season.

Mary was only a teenager when an angel appeared and told her she would conceive the Messiah, of whom she’d heard prophesies about her whole life.

She readily and joyfully accepts her assignment (in spite of the risks to her relationship with her fiancée Joseph, their families, etc.). She says yes to God, even in spite of knowing the details of how it would all work out.

Fast forward about nine months. Mary could give birth any day now, but suddenly is required to travel 80 miles with Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Possibly by donkey, possibly by foot. Either way, this was a very pregnant woman traveling 80 slow miles.

Let’s just pause here for a sec.

I mean, honestly. If I was Mary and knew I could give birth to the Messiah any day, I don’t imagine I would have been quite so agreeable. My thought process probably would have gone something like this: Uh, God…seriously?? Did you hear what they’re asking of me? Let me politely remind you how I already said yes to this giant assignment you gave me of birthing the Messiah – surely you aren’t going to make me travel 80 miles on a donkey. Right, God? Right??

Maybe she had similar thoughts. Then again, maybe she didn’t.

Finally the time comes for Jesus to be born and there’s no available lodging anywhere in town. After 80 miles on a donkey this strong, determined, pregnant teen labors and delivers our Savior in a stable, surrounded by animals.

Let’s recap real quick: Mary accepted the assignment of being the mother of Jesus, daunting as that would have been. She then traveled 80 miles only to give birth to the Savior in a barn.

We’ll never know the thoughts that ran through her mind, but if it was me, it probably would have been something along the lines of: This whole being the mother of Jesus thing is absolutely incredible, God. But, uh, a barn? Really? This is The Promised One, your son—why on earth would you let him be born in a barn?

Basically all Mary knew from the angel that visited her when she conceived was that Jesus would grow up to reign over a great kingdom. Fast forward 33 years and imagine banking on THAT promise from a human perspective, then witnessing your perfect son going to trial and being crucified, the most horrible of deaths. What a horrifying turn of events.

But through her sorrow, Mary believed Jesus when he said he’d rise again in three days. She was steadfast. Steadfast. Though time and time again things didn’t go as she expected, she kept saying yes to God. And you know what? All of God’s promises came true. He was faithful, as he is today and every day.

Though his promises came true in ways that were unexpected and maybe even seemed a bit backward to Mary in the moment, his promises still came true. Because he had a bigger, better plan than she could have dared to dream.

You see, God’s big-picture plan extended to all of humanity whereas Mary could only see the plan through the lens of her life in that moment. But still, she said yes to God, again and again.

Can you imagine if she hadn’t?

In this coming year, I pray for everyone who reads this to receive the strength, the steadfastness, and the faith Mary exhibited. I pray that when you step out in faith to follow God and then roadblocks pop up, that you will still see God moving for the good of humanity and keep saying yes to his plan. I pray that God’s goodness would not be brought to trial in your mind when problems come (and they will come), but that your faith in God’s character would lead you forward in confidence.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” —John 16:33

Thanks for spending some of your valuable time reading! Here’s a quick update on me – the editing process for my middle grade novel, Power Up, is still rolling (rather slowly). It should be released this year, although I have no idea when at this point. I have a couple other works in progress that I’m excited about, although I did take a couple weeks off from writing over the holidays to be able to relax and celebrate the season with my awesome family. I hope you all had a great Christmas!

One last thing – please consider leaving me your email address in the sign-up box provided (if you haven’t already) so you can receive each new blog post directly to your inbox! Thanks!

Ark-Building Faith

Expect others to think you’re crazy when you follow God’s leading beyond all logic. Following God is an adventure that you’ll never regret.

I love a good checklist, don’t you? For groceries, to-do’s, the year ahead – it doesn’t matter. I function best with a plan and a list.

It wasn’t always this way. I used to fly by the seat of my pants more often, moving in whatever direction seemed best at the time. (Ah, carefree college days…) But now the unknown is more likely to stress me out. If, that is, I’m focused on my own goals and agenda.

That’s the interesting thing about following God…learning that he has his own agenda for you and being put in the place to choose God’s path or your own.

I’ve learned that there is a spectrum of Christians. There are Christians who love God, go to church, and are kind to others. They do their thing, go on their way, and love God in the process. And that’s okay – that’s where they are on their journey with God.

And then there are Christians who truly believe that God will guide their way if they let him. So they make as much of a plan as they can, but then sit back and let God guide their way.

Over the past ten years or so, I’d say I have morphed from the first type to the second. And let me just say what an adventure it’s been letting God lead.

Sometimes I’ve felt crazy. Sometimes others have thought I was crazy. You have to be willing to be thought of as crazy by others when you decide to let God pave your way. After all, you don’t have sound logic to back you up, aside from sheer trust in the Lord and his ways.

A man by the name of Noah comes to mind. He had the crazy-sounding faith to build an enormous ark in the middle of the desert, working day after day in the hot, dry sun as onlookers laughed at the seeming ridiculousness of the situation. All because God told him to, whether it made sense to him or not. (Check out Genesis chapters 6-9 for the whole story.) And it’s a good thing Noah was faithful, or else the entire population would have been wiped out.

Five years ago my family and I packed up and moved to Valparaiso, IN to help plant Rolling Hills Vineyard Church  http://www.rollinghillsvineyard.org. What a great and challenging experience it was, though it did include a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. (Okay, not much blood…if any.)

It truly was an incredible experience! So when my husband, www.chipmattis.com , and I both felt God leading us to Bloomington, IN four years later, you can bet that many people we had grown to love in the church community we helped to build “disagreed” with our decision. It was tough.

But here’s the thing. It wasn’t our decision. It was a hundred percent God’s. In fact, I have a backlog of journal entries to demonstrate all the ways God was preparing us and those around us for our move to Bloomington, months before we were even in on his plan for us.

It’s clear as day to Chip and me that God was paving the way, but I’m sure there are still a few people from the church we left who think we’re crazy for moving “for no reason.” And that’s okay. Maybe someday they’ll understand. Regardless, we aren’t seeking man’s approval.

(Side note – sometimes it takes time for God’s reasons to unfold, but you can bet when he directs you that he has reasons even if he hasn’t unveiled them all to you.)

We followed God’s lead and moved to Bloomington a year and a half ago, and truthfully there have been plenty of difficulties and disappointments. But they pale in comparison to the overwhelming peace we have, knowing we’ve followed the Lord. We’re adjusting and adapting, slowly making friends and settling in. Good things take time, right?

God’s timing cannot be rushed, and as utterly frustrating and sometimes maddening as that fact is, it’s a truth that can’t be changed. BUT, we find rest for our souls remembering that he knows infinitely more than us and he loves us so much that he will always guide us down the best path if we’ll give him the trust and permission to do so.

God is a gentleman.

God is a gentleman. He won’t force his ways on us, but he’s ready and waiting to lead us down the best path for us as soon as we give him the go-ahead.

And just because it’s the best path, it doesn’t mean it will be an easy path. We’re still human beings living in a fallen world, after all. But during the difficulties that will inevitably arise for all of us, we can move forward in life knowing that God’s will is being accomplished through us. And that’s a peace and confidence that is unrivaled by this world.

So I’ll stick with my check-list making ways…when it comes to groceries, Christmas lists, and other non-life altering decisions. But when it comes to the path of my family’s future? I’m giving God the pen and letting him make his own list for me.

My goal is to exercise ark-building sort of faith.

What about you? Is God calling you in a new direction? Is he asking you to change jobs, move, or reconsider the plans you made for your own life? I encourage you to listen. Seek his voice. Seek his word through the Bible. Seek wise counsel from Christians that you trust.

His perspective beats our limited view every time. Not only that, but he LOVES you more than you can even imagine. Which means he wants the best for you.

Following God is an adventure, for sure. And making the choice to follow God’s lead is something you will never, ever regret. Making the choice to disregard God’s lead…now that’s a life of regret in the making.

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear from you – please share your thoughts in the comments below, and also let me know if you have an idea for a future blog topic you’d like to see me cover. While you’re at it, don’t forget to sign up with your email address so you can get future posts delivered directly to you!

It’s Always Something, Am I Right?

It’s getting close to Christmas, you guys! Maybe you’re excited like me, and maybe not so much, but this holiday season is a season of joy in many ways.

I start decorating for Christmas as soon as my dear husband gives me the okay, and I listen to Christmas music in October. I fully participate in the festivities that abound in the month of December and I love it!

My handsome hubby on Christmas Tree Day!

But it can be a time of sadness for our family too. We remember the horrible passing of my mother-in-law, and when December 26th rolls around, my father-in-law is no longer here for his birthday to be celebrated. On top of that, I have a bit of anxiety and flashbacks to last year when my health wasn’t as good and my MS was giving me troubles.

Do you ever feel like life is just one long string of difficult events (with an occasional respite thrown in here and there so your sanity isn’t entirely lost)?

If so, I know the feeling. Between the death and sickness of family and friends, the horrific events on the news, and the stresses of life in general, sometimes life can feel very…dark.

I’m guessing I’m not alone here. And hopefully I’m not alone when I say I refuse to allow that outlook to rule my mind.

So how do we fight the darkness? How do we muster the strength to focus on the good, when sometimes the good moments feel so few and far between?

We fight darkness with light. The light of Jesus, specifically. And we remember our view of life is the result of thousands of daily choices that we may not even realize we’re making. Such as:

Will I complain? Will I dwell on the negative? Will I focus on the sadness of the world? Will I choose fear?

Or.

Will I choose to be grateful? Will I find the positive? Will I find joy in good news? Will I choose hope?

I’m no scientist, but I do know the more you think positively or negatively, the more your brain gets wired to continue down that path. To me, that’s pretty empowering.

Thankfully, the pressure isn’t all on us and our abilities. Not even close.

God desires to help us and give us the mental (and physical) rest we need to keep going strong.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”  –Matthew 11:28-30

If we take him at his word and give Jesus our burdens to carry, we find ourselves free to accept and be filled with joy from the Holy Spirit.

Even if sickness or uncertainty is staring you in the face today, your peace doesn’t have to suffer for it.

Consider this—we get to rest in the truth that we belong to Jesus, Heaven awaits us in the end, and nothing on earth can take those things away from us. And in the big, big picture… what else really compares?

And let’s not forget we don’t have to resign ourselves to the ups and downs of this life without a fight. We serve a God who answers prayer and performs miracles. Yes, even today God is still working miracles all around us. So let’s spend more time hunkered down in our prayer closet (or car, or bedroom, or whatever) and let’s be open to praying for and receiving the good things God wants to do in us and for us, instead of sitting back and letting life happen however the chips may fall.

What about when life is good?

Sometimes life is great. All the pieces of this crazy puzzle called life seem to fall together and we can inhale deeply and count our blessings. But if you’re like me, your peace is sometimes threatened even during times of otherwise smooth sailing. Why?

Because something always happens next. Am I right?

But instead of anxiously awaiting the next difficult thing, let’s be deliberate about choosing joy in the moment.

There are always blessings to count—let’s do just that. Let’s choose joy. Let’s open our hearts and allow the Holy Spirit to rid us of anxiety and fear, and replace those things with peace, hope, and joy. In times of trial and times of plenty alike.

So even though this season in particular is a myriad of joy and sadness, I can choose. I can focus my energies on what “could have been” and give myself over to sadness and anxiety, or I can turn my eyes upon Jesus, count my blessings, (which truly do abound, as they do for most of us with running water and electricity) and receive the peace and joy that he so desperately wants to give.

Moment by moment, I’m doing my best to choose peace and joy to carry me through this upcoming Christmas season. How about you?

Let me know your thoughts by leaving me a comment below – I’d love to hear from you!  

And for any of you who may be wondering, here’s a brief update on me: My middle grade Christian Fiction novel (currently titled “Power Up”) is in the editing phase. There is a lot of waiting and a lot of back-and-forth right now as my agent, publisher, editor, and I work together to get everything just right. It’s a time of excitement and soon it will be a time of teaching myself how to effectively market a book—yikes! Life is an adventure, that’s for sure. While I have a little down time in the middle of the waiting, I’ve been working on an adult Christian fiction novel. It’s a story that’s been on my heart for a while, and even if it comes to nothing, it’s SO much fun to write.

I truly do appreciate your support through this new writing adventure! Thanks for reading!

8 Tips for Retaining Your Holiday Sanity

Obligations and traditions abound this time of year. There are parties and gatherings galore. Trust me, I understand the struggle! But before you let the holidays overwhelm you:

Consider these eight tips for retaining your sanity in the middle of all the holiday hubbub.

Follow these tips to optimize your enjoyment of the season and ensure that you have time to focus on the most important part—celebrating the gift of Jesus.

  1. Get the most important things on your calendar NOW. This includes your main get-togethers, any special holiday choirs or performances that you want to attend, etc.
  2. Make a budget for gifts and use cash. When you run out of cash, you’re out. That’ll make you think twice before getting that second gift for your mom just because “it’s sooo cute!”
  3. Discuss price limits with family and friends now. Just because so-and-so always spends $50 per person doesn’t mean you should. Propose something new—maybe a five or ten dollar limit. (And don’t underestimate Dollar Tree…they’ve got some good stuff, people.) Or if you’re the crafty type, propose only homemade items (cookie mixes in jars are always winners).
  4. Just say no. If you’re like me, you can’t be at every holiday function without stressing yourself out. Don’t feel bad declining invitations. If you need to, put “rest” on your calendar and then when people ask if you’re free, say, “I’m sorry, I’ve already got something on my calendar that evening!”
  5. Eat as healthily as you can. This is an easy one to let slide, but honestly—we just feel better when we eat better! Give yourself an advantage by drinking lots of water and eating your vegetables. You’ll minimize those pesky stress headaches and feel even better about your choices when you do occasionally indulge in holiday foods.
  6. Remember, everyone has different thresholds for busyness. Respect yours and respect others’. They may or may not do the same for you, but at least you can do your part to be aware of your needs before you’re completely frazzled.
  7. Simplify where you can. Yes, I know some traditions call for going all out. But cut corners where you can. This is the perfect time of year to spend a little extra (if you can) on convenience foods…prechopped onions for example. Or do what my mom has been doing for years—roast the turkey a day ahead, carve it and put it in a dish with a little broth and covered in foil, then warm it in the oven before you serve it. No huge mess right before dinner!
  8. Reject chaos. Cut back enough to find peace and JOY in Jesus this holiday season.

Let JOY be our goal.

Let JESUS be our guide.

And let common sense and boundaries prevent us from engaging in the chaos that threatens to steal our holidays. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas!

Feel free to drop me a comment—let me know your thoughts or let me know YOUR favorite time/sanity saving tip around the holidays! And don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t yet so you can get the latest posts delivered straight to your inbox! Thanks for reading!!

 

3 Ways to Pull Yourself Out of a Funk

When life knocks you down, how do you get back up?

It’s a given that life will do its best to knock us down, but it’s not a given that we will get back up. Look around and you’ll see person after person with wasted dreams and anger lines etched deep into their brows.

These people weren’t born that way. Something happened. Something that was too much for them to handle. And so they threw up their hands and gave in to the life they were dealt. No longer trying to overcome their obstacles, they succumbed to a life of resignation. They didn’t get back up.

I don’t want to do that.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to judge a single soul. For all I know, if I had to face certain obstacles, I would be in the same, hopeless boat. But I hope not. I’d like to think I would still choose hope.

Just to give myself a little credibility here, I want to be clear. My life is good. I have a great husband, three amazing kids, and a peaceful home. I have great family and friends to call on.

BUT. My good life just so happens to be in spite of a few things.

For one thing, I have multiple sclerosis. For those of you who don’t know, this is an incurable autoimmune condition that effects the nervous system. And guess what the nervous system is responsible for…? Yep, everything! Symptoms come and go, but you never know what you’re going to get.

Numbness and tingling on a toe, a leg, or the whole body. Spasms in a hand, a leg, or the entire left side of your body. Double vision. Virtually any function of the body can be affected because of the way MS works: it interrupts your nerve signals, which in turn causes your body to do some pretty crazy, disruptive things.

So yes, I have a good life. But that doesn’t stop me from wondering what the future will hold. Maybe we should take an amazing vacation this year because—what if I’m unable to travel next year? I should do everything I’m capable of doing now, because—what if this or that thing happens? Even if I’m doing my best to stay in good health and know that, for now, these are pretty irrational thoughts, it doesn’t stop them from taunting me.

For another thing, after my husband and I got married 14 years ago, we went through some hard stuff with lasting effects. His mom’s death for one. Yes, everybody deals with death, I get it. But this was different than most. After suffering a brain aneurysm in a location that had never been successfully operated on, my mother-in-law’s amazing neurosurgeon (https://www.mayoclinic.org/biographies/lanzino-giuseppe-m-d/bio-20055067 ) pulled it off. He fixed her. After weeks of riding a life or death roller coaster, she was finally going to be okay.

Then some weeks later, the day before she was supposed to come home from the hospital, a nurse (who was supposed to be holding onto her) left her side for a moment, and she fell. After what we all thought to be a miraculous recovery, she hit her head and that was the end.

Legal and family drama ensued, and my father-in-law’s dementia rapidly progressed into Alzheimer’s which took his life a few years ago.

Those are just a couple examples to demonstrate that my family and I are not foreign to dealing with tough stuff. My street cred, if you will (ha!).

But you know what? Everybody is dealing with tough stuff. There’s not a single person I’ve ever gotten to know who is not dealing with something hard. Everybody’s tough stuff looks different, but it’s tough nonetheless. It’s enough to make us lose sleep, be in foul moods, and treat each other unkindly as we all stumble through our days trying to appear “fine.”

So how do we pull ourselves out of these tough spots? Mentally, I mean. Sometimes we can’t change our circumstances, but that doesn’t mean we have to submit to a bitter life. We can do better than that. We can set the bar higher for the world to see.

Here are three ways to pull yourself out of a funk. They’ve worked for me. I hope they work for you, too.

First, it’s pointless to try to do it alone. We were never meant to carry our burdens alone. Jesus makes this offer to us in Matthew 11:28, 30: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Give him your burdens. Holding onto them alone is only going to cripple you in the end.

And after you’ve given your burdens to Jesus, find a friend or family member who truly cares, and let them help you. “Oh, I don’t want to worry them. They’re not responsible for my burdens,” you may be saying. Stop it! The people in your life who love you are probably more than willing to help. Let them. Letting others help isn’t a sign weakness, it’s a sign that you’re human, which, guess what—people already know! Let others help and then be willing to help others when you’re in a better place.

Second, engage with God. Don’t just hand over your burdens and walk away. Let him be a moment-by-moment part of your day. Talk. Listen. Be still. Let it be a relationship that grows deeper by the hour as you learn to lean on him and trust him. He’s a good, good Father. Really, he is.

Third, find a thing. Something you can turn to in the busyness of your day that will pump some inspiration into your system. My thing is music. Whether I’m bustling around the house homeschooling and doing chores or whether I’m sick in bed and can barely move, worship music is there to speak truth to my weary soul. (Lauren Daigle in particular – can’t get enough of her albums!) Some days inspiring music makes all the difference in my attitude toward life and trials.

Trials will come. But if we let Jesus carry our loads, partner up with God and other people, and find a way to regularly remind ourselves of the hope God gives us, we’ll be well on our way to overcoming any situation this world might throw at us next.

Leave me a comment and let me know your strategies for overcoming difficulties – I’d love to hear from you! And feel free to drop me your email address in the “subscribe” box so you can receive future blog posts delivered straight to you! Thanks for reading!

Do Your Best Until You Know Better

Have you ever witnessed a toddler picking up their toys? It usually goes something like this: Put a toy in the toy box. See a fun toy that’s already in said toy box. Take out fun toy and play with it. Get reminded to keep picking up. Put a couple more toys in the toy box. Get distracted. Repeat.

And when the toys are more or less picked up, whether or not they’re half hanging outside the toy box and there are still some race cars or doll clothes scattered about, what does the parent say? Well, when the child is just old enough to learn how to pick up, the reaction from the parents is usually along the lines of: Great job, honey! Way to go, picking up your toys! What a big girl/boy you are!

Fast forward a few years. Now imagine you tell your eight-year-old to pick up their room. How pleased will you be to walk in and find toys still scattering the floor, toy box overflowing with dress up costumes? Probably not very.

Why? Because you know your eight-year-old knows better. You know what they’re capable of and can tell when they’re not really trying.

But when your eight-year-old tells you they’re finished and you walk in to find a basically neat room, with their comforter frumpled from their best attempt to make their bed and their books wrong side out on the bookshelves (although lined up somewhat neatly), what are you going to say? Probably something like, Great job, honey! Thank you for picking up your room when I asked you!

Why? Because you know he or she did their best. You know what their best looks like and you understand how that will change as they grow and learn.

And finally, imagine your child grows up and gets a job cleaning houses. Imagine they have to answer to the demands for near perfection from their clients. If you were to inspect a house they cleaned, what would you find?

Probably near perfection.

Why? Because they have grown and learned over the years and they now understand exactly what is expected of them and exactly what a clean house ought to look like.

Is our journey with God so different from this toddler, eight-year-old, and grown-up?

Maya Angelou has a quote that I absolutely love, which goes like this:

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

We can’t do what we don’t know! And that’s okay!

Just like the mother praising her toddler for picking up, even when the job isn’t technically done well. The toddler is only just learning what it even means to pick up their toys. From their understanding, they did exactly what was asked of them. And it was enough. It was pleasing to the mother.

As we learn more, more will be expected of us. In life as well as with God. We try our hardest, and certainly none of us are living perfect lives, but God is so pleased with us when we live according to our best understanding of his instructions.

And this is where it can get sticky.

This is where we sometimes encounter others with different beliefs due to different interpretations of scripture, as people do their studying and arrive at different conclusions.

For example, women pastors.

My personal Bible study, research, experience, and relationship with God has convicted me to believe God has empowered men and women alike to preach his Word. Others, through their own Bible study, research, experience, and relationship with God have come to believe that God has not empowered women to preach. Both views have scripture to support them.

Check out this passage from Romans 14:1, 5

“Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters… One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.” [My paraphrase of verse 6: For they both do so to the Lord and give thanks to God.]

I believe as long as we’re doing the best we can, attempting to make sense out of what God has spoken to us, we please him by being obedient and giving it our all.

If we’re loving God and loving others, and are convinced by the Bible that the path we’re taking is best, I believe God is incredibly pleased.

(And we’d do well to remind ourselves that this goes both ways with other people. So when we feel like examining other people’s paths and beliefs, let’s remember they’re on this “you can’t do better until you know better” journey as well. And yes, some people know better and just don’t care. That would be a different blog post for a different day, haha!)

The more we learn, the more God will ask of us. The more we obey, the more we’ll trust his paths. But it’s always a moving target according to our best understanding at the time.

God never changes, but we change all the time. Hopefully for the better.

And wherever we are on the journey, whether we just met Jesus today, or we’ve known him our entire lives—as long as we grab hold of his word and make our best attempt at obeying and serving him, I believe he’ll look at us and say, Great job! Thank you for doing your best! Way to go!

(Please leave me a comment below to let me know your thoughts! And before you leave, I’d love for you to sign up with your email address so I can send you new blog posts straight to your email! Thanks for reading!)

Jesus-Speakers and Paul-Writers: The Power of Words

I’ve never been good with the spoken word. I was deathly shy in high school, speaking as little as possible, except to my closest friends and family. In college I loosened up, got a little more comfortable in my own skin, and began to converse more easily with others. However, I was still ridiculously shy in the classroom setting, doing all in my power not to be called on (lest my face turn so bright red that others would stare and possibly worry about my health).

After college, I married a man (www.chipmattis.com) who is a master of words. In fact, after participating in a church class, our pastor coined him as The Word Jedi, since he always knew just how to pronounce the hard Bible words and always knew how to articulate what was on his mind.

My fantastic, Word Jedi husband is my go-to person when I need to make an important phone call. When we moved to a new town and found a great doctor for the kids but she wasn’t taking new patients, for example.

The nurse told me “sorry, she’s not taking new patients” and I said, “okay, thanks anyway.” My husband, on the other hand, called back and heard “sorry, she’s not taking new patients” but HE thought not yet, that is… and ta-da!

All three kids were new patients by the next day.

Questions concerning confusing medical bills and insurance? I hand him the phone and suddenly everyone is on our side. It’s simultaneously maddening and amazing.

He is the perfect husband for me in part because I can rest assured social situations will always be easier with him nearby. He balances me out and has served as a great example to me, inspiring me to become bolder and more confident in my in-person interactions.

I, on the other hand, have always been more comfortable with the written word. There’s a quote by Flannery O’Conner that hits the nail square on the head. She said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

Exactly!

Whenever important issues come up with important people in my life, I always prefer email. And no, not because it’s too intimidating to have serious conversations face to face (which it sort of is, but that’s beside the point…), but because I have to see my words in print to be able to think through what I’m trying to say before I officially say it.

It’s the only way for me to communicate effectively and be sure I’m saying all that I intend to say.

Some people are natural-born talkers. They can have difficult conversations in their sleep and not lose focus or forget what they were going to say.

I am not those people. Sometimes I wonder if I’m even from the same planet as those people.

Do words have power? Absolutely, not doubt about it.

Are words more powerful when spoken or written? Well, just look for a moment at the New Testament.

First we have Jesus himself, who is well known for his crowd-gathering preaching and parables. He was a spoken word man through and through. Powerful? Um, yes… Jesus and all.

And then we have Paul, the author of much of the New Testament. Did you catch that word there? I’ll say it again. Author.

I’m sure Paul did his share of speaking as he traveled around starting churches and sharing the message of Jesus. But what do we know him for today? His writing!

Paul is one of my favorite authors of all time because he demonstrates so clearly the power of the printed word.

I’m sure we are in agreement that there is power in both the spoken and written word.

But when it comes to present day personal interactions? The effectiveness of spoken vs. written word definitely depends on who you are.

Now, there are certainly merits to conversing in person, including making it easier to give someone else the benefit of the doubt, which I go into detail about in my last blog post: https://www.jessiemattis.com/2018/09/21/giving-god-the-benefit-of-the-doubt/ .

But there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to how people best interact with one another.

I mean, really. What if Paul decided he needed to follow Jesus’s example exactly and so only preached to those in his vicinity? (Although there could be records of Jesus writing letters that I’m just not aware of.) Thank goodness Paul recognized his gift of writing and was able to utilize his parchment and quill to make such far-reaching contributions to eternity!

Let’s allow ourselves to embrace our “spoken word” self or our “written word” self without feeling like we should be one or the other. God created both types of people and will use us each for his great purposes. Isn’t that the main point after all?

Do you relate more to Jesus or Paul’s preferred communication style? I’d love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below. And if you’d like to receive future posts directly to your inbox, please zip over to the “subscribe” button and leave me your email address! Thanks for reading!

Giving God the Benefit of the Doubt

Why does it come so naturally to think the worst about others?

Let’s say a friend is supposed to pick you up so you can go out to dinner together. You’ve been looking forward to it all day and the time of her arrival finally comes…and passes. Twenty minutes later you get a text: “Sorry, running behind, be there soon.”

Your mind gets fired up. She’s just now texting? Where was this text twenty minutes ago? I’ve been counting on this night out all week and she doesn’t even have the decency to be on time. Doesn’t she want to hang out with me?

She finally pulls into the driveway and you hop in the car. She smiles at you and says hello, but you can tell she’s been crying. “Sorry I’m late,” she says. “I was running a couple minutes late because Jason and I got into an argument, and then I got pulled over on the way here since I was trying to make up lost time. Now I have a ticket to deal with…anyway, I’m really glad we’re going out tonight. I could use some friend time.”

Oops. For a second you’re overwhelmed with feelings of your own jerkdom. You mentally scold yourself for doubting your friend and then move on with your evening, comforting your friend and having a fun dinner out.

I’ve realized it’s much easier to think the best about someone when you’re in person. When we’re hearing the account from the person themselves and they’re standing right in front of us, looking into our eyes, our instincts lean more toward understanding, rather than blame.

Isn’t it the same with our relationship with God?

When we are distant from God it’s easy to blame him for all the wrong in our lives. We get a little too comfortable and then we get lazy. We know he’s our friend, we know he’s there for us, and so we don’t lean in to him as much.

We read the Bible…some. We pray…some. We certainly haven’t forgotten about him but we haven’t been actively pursuing him either.

And when something bad happens, as it inevitably does, our world is rocked. So we turn to God. But instead of falling into his arms of love, we start blaming. Why would you let this happen? Why wouldn’t you stop this person from doing that thing? Why…?

But when we’re walking in stride with him, in person, we remember who he really is. We remember his unchangeable character and we give him the benefit of the doubt.

When we make the effort to stay intimately connected with God each and every day, that’s when our trust in him is unshakable. We know who God is. We know his character and his promises, and we don’t doubt his goodness or his love for us.

And then, when he’s standing right in front of us, looking into our eyes, we believe him when he says: I’m sorry this bad thing happened. I hate it too. But I love you more than you could ever know and I’ll never leave you. And even though Earth isn’t perfect, Heaven is. And it’s waiting on you. I’m waiting on you. And I’m for you—always.

And maybe…just maybe next time, whether in dealing with friends or with God, our first instinct will be to trust instead of blame.

 

Please leave me a comment below to let me know your thoughts – I’d love to hear from you. And while you’re at it, make your way over to the “subscribe” button and leave me your email address so I can email you future posts directly! Have a great weekend everybody and thanks for reading!