All posts by Jessie Mattis

Increase Gratitude by Checking Your Habitude

I’ll admit, when I first heard the word “habitude” from my pastor recently, I thought he’d made it up. Did you know habitude is a real word? Well it is, and here’s what it means: a habitual tendency or way of behaving. Basically our attitude habits. (Go figure, right?)

Thanksgiving is upon us and it’s been a crazy year. Even the most naturally optimistic of us might have developed some…uh…not-so-optimistic attitudes over the course of 2020. But it’s time to change our habitudes; time to line them up with God’s perspective.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says,

                “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

Your first response might be one of resistance. Surely he can’t honestly mean we should be thankful in ALL circumstances, right? What about the death of a loved one? A lost job? An estranged relationship? What about the sadness that comes with life-long holiday traditions being changed for the first time? What is there to be thankful for in the depths of difficulty?

My answer is this: God doesn’t list exceptions, he says all. He wants us to express gratitude regardless of our situations. In a recent sermon on gratitude my pastor explained it something like this: We have our nose to the billboard of life. How much of the big picture can we see with our nose against the billboard? A few square inches at best? We can’t see the whole picture right now, but we believe through faith and scripture that God is working out our difficulties for our good and for his glory.

What I’m certainly not trying to say is that we should be happy about all the hard things. Of course there’s a time for mourning, grief, and sadness; we’re only human, and even Jesus himself felt these emotions. But as Christians with the added benefit of the Holy Spirit, we don’t have to be defeated by our circumstances. We can grieve and mourn while praising God for his blessings and goodness at the same time. Does that sound like a contradiction? I don’t believe it is.

So what can we find to be thankful for when hard times surround us? I suggest you get some good old-fashioned paper and make a list.

Laughter. Food. Family and friends. Provision. Books. Space heaters. Facetime and Zoom. The way God turns bad things into good. Church, even when it is online. That’s just the start of mine. You’ll have plenty of your own, I’m sure, once you stop to think about it.

Writing down the things you’re grateful for has power. It makes them seem more real and gives you a reminder every time you see it.

Philippians 2:14 says this,

                “Do everything without complaining or arguing…”

Sorry/not sorry for this last verse. Sometimes the last thing we want to do in such an unfair world is to give up complaining. Complaining is our way of expressing to others just how hard we have it; we’re fishing for understanding and sympathy whether we know it or not. But guess what. Everybody else has their own things to complain about, so we’re probably not getting very far on the sympathy train.

What if we all did an experiment? What if, this week specifically, we all tried to eliminate complaining from our vocabulary? What if we took every negative thought captive and replaced it instead with a gratitude? We have much to be thankful for, even if we have to dig deep to find it.

If we can deliberately take note of our negative attitudes, we can deliberately transform them into positivity. We can change our habitudes with God’s direction and strength to help us. Imagine what this unnatural 2020 holiday season could look like if we did just that.

Who’s in?

*****

Quick update from my neck of the woods. I attended the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference virtually last week and was humbled that my novel, POWER UP, won a second place Selah Award (these awards recognize excellent writing in the Christian market). Equally exciting, my current historical romance manuscript won second place in the Foundations Awards (which recognize excellent writing specifically by conference attendees). I can’t even begin to tell you how much of my heart and soul have gone into these projects, so it was a thrilling night, to say the least. Thanks to each of you for your support! Praying you have a blessed Thanksgiving week!

Listening to Our Kids is Important -How to Listen Well

I am SO excited to share today’s super relevant words of wisdom by middle grade author Meghan E. White. Meghan is a Christ-follower, homeschooling mom, and a sweet friend. In her novel, Joey Flynn’s Extraordinary Tale, an eleven-year-old boy moves to a new state and encounters all sorts of exciting and unexpected adventures as he learns to trust God. My son absolutely loved this book (sequel, Meghan??), and I’m sure your kids will too. Show her some love by checking it out here and following here online (links at the end). Okay, now on to Meghan’s encouragement for Christian parents, or really anyone with kids in their lives…

Don’t touch that!

Keep your hands to yourself.

Clean your room.

Do your homework

Do your chores.

Brush your teeth.

Wake up.

Go to bed.

Time to go.

Say you’re sorry.

Say thank you.

Do this.

Do that.

Don’t do this.

Don’t do that.

From the time our children are born until they leave our homes, we give them so many directions, orders, and instructions. It’s all part of the parenting gig. These tiny humans are our responsibility. We want functioning, contributing members of society. There’s a lot of pressure on moms and dads.

Christian parents want our children to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. So we take them to church, and teach them the word, and how to pray, and how to walk out following Jesus. More pressure. Thankfully we are not doing any of this alone. Christians have the Holy Spirit living inside, guiding us, and reminding us of all truth.

In the middle of all the teaching, guiding, and disciplining, it’s imperative to listen to our kids. We are so busy filling them up, which is essential, that we can lose sight of who they are. Our children are individuals. Made in the image of God. They may physically look like us, but they are God’s children first and foremost. It’s really hard to keep that in check.

When my boys were babies I felt so protective of them. God designed that instinct in parents. That’s a good thing. The negative side of that protective feeling is thinking our kids are ours alone. Our children belong to God, and we need to daily hand them back over to Him. I know, I know, not easy to do. When we hand our precious babies and big kids back over to God it frees us up. The load gets lighter. God loves our children more than we do.

Now that we’ve handed our kids over to God, we can be better listeners. Every single person wants to be heard. Our kids are no exception.

Listening to our kids is important.

  • It builds their confidence.

This world would love nothing more than to take our kids, chew them up, and spit them out. Our children’s confidence comes from who they are in Christ. The more they know that what they say matters, the more confident they will be to speak up against evil.

  • It builds our relationship with them.

 Our kids need to know that we are a safe place for them. That we love them no matter what they say or do. If we refuse to listen, or shut them out, they will not open up to us.

  • It builds their relationship with God.

Kids learn how to relate to God as they learn how to relate to us. If they know they can safely come to us with absolutely anything, they will be more likely to come to the perfect Father, God, with anything as well.

How to Listen to our kids.

  • Create a relaxed environment.

Hang out with your kids. If they are little, get on the floor and play with them. If they are teenagers, listen along to the music they like. You have to spend time in their world with the things they enjoy, even if you don’t like the same things.

  • Ask lots of questions.

This is your child’s chance to tell you some things, instead of you telling them. Let them be the expert on whatever the subject is, favorite toy, band, sport, etc. Ask them about what they are really excited about. Listen.

  • Remain calm if they say something shocking.

If you want your kids to feel safe talking to you then you can’t freak out on whatever they tell you. Listen first. If it’s something really controversial like from a teenager, just stay calm before you respond. Be honest. Pray before you speak.

We can’t force our kids to share with us. But we can create a home and family environment where they feel safe sharing.

Father God is safe. He lets us come freely to Him with anything, and everything. We need to show that same unconditional love to our children.

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

James 1:19, NIV

Love you all,

Meghan

Thank you for reading my post!

Followmy bloghttps://meghanewhite.blog

Email me meghanewhiteauthor@gmail.com

Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter/meghan_e_white

Follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/meghan_e_white/

Raising Empowered Kids: 3 Practical Tips

I’m so excited to be featured as a guest blogger this week for Meghan E White! Meghan is a fellow Christ follower, homeschool mom, and middle grade author, and our blogs serve similar purposes–to inspire and encourage others in their walks with God.

If you could use some rejuvenation in your parenting, hop on over to her blog now to find my new post, Raising Empowered Kids! (And while you’re at it, dive in to the rest of her posts and find yourself a bit more motivated and inspired than you were before.)

I’d love to keep in touch! If you haven’t already, sign up with your email and you’ll receive a printable of my top ten favorite verses and quotes! Thanks for reading and have wonderful week! 🙂

Parents, Here’s Why I Admire You.

            I don’t know about you, but I’m greatly inspired by parents at every stage of the parenting life. I have three children of my own (8, 10, and 12), and I learn more every year about the special strength it takes to parent well. Read on to hear just how I admire you, parents!

First of all, to the parents by heart but not by children. You who long for a child to call your own. You shower young relatives with love, and your affection is evident to every young life that intersects with yours. God’s purposes for you are higher than high. Your heart does not go unnoticed. Though I can’t answer why things are as they are, I can assure you that you’re admired for your strength and dignity. Your love and your grit. Though it may feel hidden right now, you are blessed in profound ways that will one day be made clear.

            And dear parents with young ones. You are sleep deprived, learning to sacrifice your own interests, schedule, and desires on behalf of another being. You feel as if you are putting yourself on hold as you navigate all the firsts and tears, yet really you’re growing in leaps and bounds in ways you can’t yet see. You reside in an entirely new world. A world of endless questions and snuggles. Scary, exhausting, wonderfully rewarding, and so full of love. I applaud your determination.

            Parents of grade-schoolers. Your children are transitioning from needing physical protection and attention to needing emotional and intellectual attention. This transition is hard. You appreciate the extra hours of sleep, but hit the pillow hard after answering philosophical bedtime questions. Thanks to world events, you may suddenly have more time in close proximity with your children than you’ve ever had. Maybe you love it. Maybe it’s so hard you wonder if you’re strong enough to keep your cool. But you press on without giving up because you know these are crucial moments in your child’s life. To you I say, well done. You are strong enough. Thank you for loving your children well.

            Parents with teens. For you I have much respect. I’ve yet to raise teens, but I know well and good these are independence-forming years. Everything you tell them is wrong and experience is now their favorite teacher. If only they knew how right you truly are. Someday they will. So today you love them, you do your best, and you shed some tears. You show them grace and pray they honor you with the same. You’ll gradually release your child into the world of cars, friends, and the opposite sex. This might be the stage that frightens me most of all. And yet there’s hope and joy in the midst of new, difficult things. There’s laughter and connection on a new level. Teens need their parents no less than toddlers. Don’t let them pull away too completely. Not just yet. They don’t realize how much they need you. You, parents of teens, are wonders of the power of the human spirit. Keep on doing your best, reminding yourself there’s grace for the times when you’re less than your best, and forgiveness must flow from all sides. And don’t forget to find the joy. Your consistent love in an upside-down world is stabling to your teen.

            Dear parents of grown children. I used to think once kids left the house, life would resume similarly to pre-children days. Oh how laughable I ever dared form that thought. Your heart now lives outside your home; possibly in several states or even countries. Grandchildren come, and the same holds true. The hopes, the worries, the prayers…they only compound. While your house may be neat and quiet, your heart and mind are full to bursting. You may long for the mess and the noise of years past. You’re well aware life could never return to any semblance of pre-child days. You are forever changed, forever balancing new versions of relationships once so straightforward. Keep running the race; your children still need you in wonderful new ways, and old ways alike. Prayers for deep breaths and joy for you.

            A prayer for all parents:

            Lord, thank you for each parent’s heart. You know their struggles and you know their joys. Meet them in the middle of both. Encourage where there’s doubt. Give peace where there’s fear. Give us grace as we seek to do right by the children in our lives. Make us bold and strong, showing us where our children need us to step in and where they need us to step back. Let us never forget that our precious children belong to you. You are their good, good Father. You’ve gifted us with an opportunity to grow in ways we could have never imagined, learning new depths of love, and new depths of leaning on you and your promises. Hold us close as we endeavor to point our children to you. Lighten hearts and let the laughter flow as we seek to do our best and enjoy the ride. We love and praise you, Jesus. Amen.

I’d love to hear from you! Leave me a comment below to let me know what’s on your mind!

One last thing. My novel, Power Up, released last year. Although intended to inspire tweens to embrace the adventure of partnering with the Holy Spirit, over the past year I’ve realized it’s been just as inspiring to adults as the younger crowd. I’ve concluded that many adults (myself included) process simpler messages better than messages that get weighed down with theological jargon and drawn-out sentences. It’s simply more accessible. I encourage you or anyone age 8+ to check out Christian Indie Award-winning Power Up if you’re feeling like your Christian walk has become “hum-drum.” There’s another exciting level that awaits you. Embrace it and refresh your spirit as you see the world through new eyes! (Kindle version only $3.99.)

Be Encouraged: Diamonds from Pressure

Have you ever received a note of encouragement from a friend or relative? Something that really speaks to you and gives you the strength to keep going for another week, day, or even hour? It can be a game-changer, can’t it? Sometimes all we need is to be seen. To be reminded that our plight matters. That our struggles aren’t in vain.

While my encouragement may not be as effective as receiving it from someone who knows the individual ins and outs of your heart, here is my best attempt to encourage you when life feels overwhelming…

Dear Friend,

I know things are hard right now and it stinks that you have to go through it. But don’t lose your hope. What the enemy means for evil, God promises to use for good (Romans 8:28). Whether you’re dealing with fear, the death of a loved one, scrambling to figure out your child’s schooling, having relationship difficulties, struggling with work, family, or the lack thereof, God wants to cover your soul with peace and assurance. He wants to provide you with that deep soul-rest you’ve been craving that you just can’t seem to attain through your own efforts (Matthew 11:28).

You know how you feel like the demands on your time and energy will never end, and you’re left emotionally wrung out and frustrated? I understand; life is heavy sometimes. But maybe it’s time to reevaluate. Say no to extras. Prioritize. And yes, kids’ activities like soccer and cross-country count as extras.

Minimize. Breathe. Remember these three words: You Are Enough. And no, I didn’t say you are doing enough. Regardless of what you’re doing, you’re already enough because you’re you; not because you baked two hundred cupcakes for the bake sale or spent all your free hours volunteering.

God made you because he delights in you. Soak in that for a second.

The God of the universe delights in you. Not for what you can do for him, but because of who he made you to be.

Be.

There’s beauty in that tiny, simple word. Freedom, even.

Be. Just be.

Parents, remove the pressure you’re carrying. Tear it off like a sweater on an August day in Indiana. You don’t need it. What you (we) need instead is an active partnership with the God who made you and your child from scratch. Walk alongside him minute by minute, seek his wisdom and provide for your children, but take off the pressure. Throw the guilt away in the same manner—like a long-john shirt under your sweater on an August day in Indiana. It’s unnecessary; hindering, even. You don’t want the guilt, you don’t need the guilt. Instead, move forward. Pray.

Yes, there will be things you miss and forget. There will be gaps. You’re not perfect. No human is besides Jesus himself. Stop expecting so much from yourself. You know how you extend grace to others so often? Do that for yourself.

Be thankful. Even in seasons of difficulty we all have things to be thankful for, whether big or small. Whether it’s cozy socks, five minutes to yourself, coffee, clean water, or your family, start listing things you’re thankful for out loud.

Thankfulness begets thankfulness.

You are only one person and you are enough, whether other people recognize it or not. This is between you and God. You and that inner voice.

Turn on some inspiring music, youtube something to laugh about (Brian Regan is a great, clean comic if you need somewhere to start), whisper a prayer of thanks, and take a deep breath.

You’re doing great.

And when you’re discouraged, remember this: a diamond is formed only through intense amounts of pressure.

Your Friend,

Jessie 😊

PS — Here are a few links to some of my favorite means of encouragement/rest. Brian Regan, Live From Radio City Music Hall (he never fails to make my entire family laugh), Lauren Daigle, How Can It Be (my go-to worship album for encouragement), Power Up (a novel to bring spiritual encouragement to ages 8+). Leave me a comment to let me know your favorite sources of encouragement — I’d love to hear from you and check out some new ideas! And while you’re at it, go ahead and drop your email in the subscription box–you’ll automatically receive a printable of my top 10 favorite quotes for encouragement, and I’d be honored to send you new blog posts and encouragement straight to your inbox!