All posts by Jessie Mattis

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!

23 Tips and Tricks for the Frazzled Homeschooler

Is your mind frazzled at the thought of planning your next homeschool semester? If you feel overwhelmed by the things you don’t know you don’t know, I get it. I’ve been there, and sometimes am still there. This blog covers topics that inspire and ignite our Christian faith, but a big part of my Christian walk involves homeschooling our three children (ages 12, 10, and 8), so today I want to encourage homeschool parents to embrace this mighty calling without embracing the pressures and comparisons that so often accompany it. Trust me—it doesn’t have to be as hard as some people make it.

A peaceful scene to help you take a deep breath. 🙂

I’m currently staring my eighth year of homeschooling in the face, and even though there’s always more to learn, I want to share a list of tips (in no particular order) I wish I’d known eight years ago. Hopefully it will be of some benefit to you. Here are:

23 TIPS AND TRICKS FOR THE FRAZZLED HOMESCHOOLER

  1. Curriculum. Don’t waste weeks searching for perfection; it’s elusive anyway. Settle for “very good” and be prepared to experiment with new methods in the future as needed.
  2. Cathyduffy.com is an invaluable curriculum review website. Super helpful.
  3. Make the curriculum work for you; don’t let it run your days. Who cares if you don’t finish a textbook by the end of the year? We rarely did when I was in public school and I’ve survived. Just start with a review before diving into the next book.
  4. Going with my point above, there’s no need to stay on grade level for all subjects. I have one who zips ahead in math because he loves it, but lags a little in language. At one point he was in 4th, 5th, and 6th grade at the same time. Not a problem!
  5. Hold lesson plans loosely. Plans are made to be changed. Honestly, although I always have ideas for the week and we’re always moving forward, nowadays it’s more common for me to document in my planner the things we’ve accomplished each day, rather than the things I plan to accomplish.
  6. Don’t strive to recreate traditional school. It’s not the same, and that’s a wonderful thing. Do what works for your family, whether that means kids sprawled throughout the house on separate screens, or you leading group discussion as they sit at desks.
  7. If teaching multiple ages, get olders to help youngers when feasible. (giving spelling quizzes, doing flashcards, etc.) Anything taken off your plate is a win for your sanity.
  8. Do have consistency so your children (mostly) know what to expect each day. Children thrive on routine, even if said routine is pretty relaxed.
  9. With multiple kids, do what you can together. We love to start mornings with “living room time,” where we do devotions, take turns reading a poem, and do history together. It’s my favorite part of the day.
  10. Your own settled, peaceful spirit is more important than checking off your to-do list for the day. Kids pick up your attitude and will soon learn to hate school if you’re always stressed out. I may or may not speak from experience. 😉
  11. Do subjects for a scheduled amount of time, not the duration of a scheduled assignment (as long as your kids are trying). My firstborn used to struggle through math, but I pushed to finish an entire lesson each day. Cue tears, frustration, and wasted hours for both of us. With an end time in sight, your child can be assured that even if they’re struggling to grasp a concept, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and you’ll pick it up again tomorrow.
  12. Cut yourself some slack. Completely overwhelmed? Take a mental health day and have the kids watch educational shows/videos with no guilt. Learning is still happening, trust me—my kids learned everything they know about animals from Wild Kratts and I don’t regret it for a second. If they’re older, give them a great book to read.
  13. Your kids are learning more than curriculum. They’re learning how to run a family and live life as kind, respectful, critical-thinking humans. Isn’t that just as important, if not more, than book learning?
  14. Homeschooling doesn’t have to be forever, so release yourself from the pressure of making such a huge decision. People sometimes ask me if I plan to homeschool through high school. My answer? “We’re taking it year by year, kid by kid.”
  15. Ease into your semester. Start with a week of devotions and math review (or whatever is most important to you), then add subjects in from there as you all get accustomed to the school routine.
  16. Join a co-op if you can. Ours meets weekly and parents take turns teaching from predecided textbooks. It’s great for the kids to make friends and learn how to function in a group environment, and just as great for us to form friendships with other likeminded parents who support each other.
  17. Minimize. Saying yes to the three Rs, plus history, science, Latin, Spanish, typing, coding, piano, violin, soccer, and theater will only completely overwhelm you and your kids. Don’t try to do everything. Figure out your “musts” and choose accordingly.
  18. Consider rotating some subjects. You don’t have to do every subject every day. We rotate science and history. I also leave Fridays more open, requiring only math before jumping into art, cooking, or a field trip.
  19. Leave blank space in your days. When each minute is planned, your children don’t have time to form independent thoughts and ideas, or use their imaginations. Turn off screens, give them time, and see what they create or make up. Kids have the coolest, most random ideas.
  20. Hear this: You don’t have to love homeschooling to be glad you’re doing it. Most of the time I’d rather be writing, reading, or playing with my kids, than teaching and making lesson plans, but I’ve never regretted our decision. No guilt. No comparisons.
  21. Be okay with hard days. Trust me, they will come. Have your reasons for homeschooling settled in your mind so even if you take a day or two off to regroup, you can continue on without giving it up altogether.
  22. Rest time isn’t just for toddlers. My grade school aged kids still “rest” for an hour in their rooms after lunch, giving us all a much-needed break from each other. They read, listen to music, or play quietly. Even our dog has rest time in his crate, and I’m pretty sure he looks forward to it as much as the rest of us. It’s not a punishment; it’s a blessing.
  23. When all is said and done, there will always be gaps. You’ll always wish you had covered this or that. Kids are resilient. Teach them to enjoy learning and they can fill in their own gaps later. No guilt, so long as you’re trying.

(You might notice I have no number dedicated to raising kids who love Jesus. This is always the filter through which I view all of the above. And don’t forget to start, end, and fill in the blanks with prayer along the way.)

This is the list I wish I had eight years ago. I hope it helps you find some freedom in your own journey. One more recommendation is a blessedly short book I discovered several years ago that literally changed my homeschooling/parenting life by leaps and bounds. I wish I could give it away, but since I can’t, here’s the link to Teaching From Rest….

Oh yes, one last thing. Please don’t forget to check and abide by your state’s homeschool laws.

 What would you add to this list? What questions do you have for me? Leave a comment or reply to this email to let me know! I’d also love to hear from you with ideas for future blog post topics that could serve you in the future!

And if you haven’t already, go ahead and subscribe below to receive super-occasional blog posts and newsletter updates from me, and to claim your free printable of my ten favorite quotes and verses (awesome to hang on your mirror for some daily inspiration)! Thanks for reading and have a great week!

Grit and Thankfulness

By the time you read this post, Memorial Day 2020 will be over and you’ll be back to work or your otherwise normal daily life (as if anything is normal these days, ha!). However, as I write, it’s still very much Memorial Day. I’ve had war on the mind for months as I’ve been researching and writing a new manuscript that involves both WW2 and Vietnam, so today, I’m feeling the holiday a little bit more than usual.

My Uncle David, my dad’s oldest brother, was a brave Marine who died in Vietnam, years before I was born. Every year I see his face in pictures and imagine his family receiving the gut-wrenching news. Every year I clench my teeth to hold back tears as I try to explain the significance to my own children. Every year, there’s a memorial service held in the country cemetery where David rests, and his father—my 93-year-old grandpa—still dons his own WW2 era Navy uniform and fires his rifle in the traditional, emotional, three-volley salute. Every year except this one. This year there were no Memorial Day services in Illinois. (I live in Indiana, but am usually able to travel back to my hometown for the holiday).

No in-person, official recognition of the men and women who, as Ronald Reagan put it, gave up two lives on the battlefield—the one they had lived up until that point, and the one they would have lived in the future. Another point for COVID-19.

Uncle David.

Most of us use Memorial Day to plant gardens, go boating, or cookout—or, if you’re like my kids, wash the car with the hose and water guns. And there’s nothing wrong with that! It’s fun! Thanks to our selfless military, we have freedoms and liberty and, unlike most generations before us, the option of choosing leisure on a regular basis.

But as we enjoy our freedoms, let us not forget that Memorial Day is gritty. For many, it is filled with tears. Memories. Regrets.

Let’s take more than a fleeting second of remembrance, and spend some time being deliberately thankful. Thanking God for the men and women who have laid down their lives to help shape America into what it is today, so that we can live in peace and safety and help other countries do the same. Thanking families who have courageously lived with a gaping hole after losing a family member. And thanking the soldiers among us for living their lives with the bravery of knowing that on any given day, it could be them.

Lord, thank you for each of our nation’s fallen soldiers. Encourage families today, Lord. Provide comfort for those who are sad, guidance for those who are lost, and hope for those who are lacking. May we see your greater purposes as we go about our lives, and may the eyes, ears, and hearts of America—and the world—be turned to you alone. Thank you for your provision and endless love.

Amen.

Quick update on me – Power Up is officially the winner of a Christian Indie Award! It’s such an honor, and I pray God will continue to use this book to guide kids and adults into deeper relationship with his Holy Spirit.

Also, as I alluded to above, I’m working on a women’s Christian fiction manuscript. I would appreciate prayers for this project, as it’s turning out to be bigger than I originally thought, and I only want to follow where God leads on this. I’m actually in the process of turning my one completed manuscript into three separate manuscripts. Exciting, but a lot more writing, which takes a lot more time! I couldn’t do it without your support—thanks for sticking with me and caring about the words I’m putting down.

May they be pleasing to you, Jesus.

A Taste of the Afterlife

Hello, friend! How are you holding up these days? I know this is a time of difficulty for many, so I wanted to start by telling you I’m saying a prayer for you as I type, and I appreciate you taking the time to open and read this post today, when you have so many other things fighting for your attention. Alright, let’s jump in. 🙂

What if everything we experience on earth is really a taste of what’s to come in the afterlife? And if it is…so what? Hear me out and I’ll keep it brief.

On earth, we are perpetually stuck in the in-between. We live in a world where good and evil co-exist, and so our lives are filled with both at any given moment.

Maybe we go on vacation to the mountains, but when we arrive, the hotel lost our reservations. On vacation in the mountains? Good! … Lost reservations? Bad.

Life is a balancing act of the good and the bad, right?

Occasionally we experience times of extreme good or extreme bad—like a long, fun, health-filled summer break, or these days of learning to live with the reality of COVID-19. Life can be hard. And confusing.

Perhaps this is an oversimplification, but simply put, good comes from God, and evil is the result of separation from God.

Heaven is a place full of goodness, love, peace, joy, light, wellness, and God’s perfect love.

Hell is a place separated from ALL of the above (because all good things stem from God). With that separation comes anger, hatred, pain, and loneliness.

The question I opened with is an idea that recently blew my mind: What if everything we experience on earth is really a taste of what’s to come in the afterlife? Good and bad alike.

We think we’re intelligent now…but we’ll know and learn so much more in heaven!

We think we know beauty now…but we’ll experience views, colors, and beauty so much more exquisitely in heaven!

We think we know what loves means now…but we’ll experience love so much more completely in heaven!

The converse is also true.

We feel pain now…how much greater the pain will be if we choose eternal separation from God (hell).

We feel lonely now…how much more intense the loneliness will be in hell.

We get angry and perform violent acts…how much worse the violent acts will be in hell.

It’s like God is giving us a glimpse of both sides, and giving us a lifetime to make our final choice. A lifetime may feel like forever, but really it’s just a tiny dot on the map of eternity.

And so we must choose. Some may be thinking, “but nobody chooses hell, Jessie.” But just as choosing to eat Oreos for every meal is equal to choosing poor health, ignoring God is the same as choosing to reject him. Jesus is pretty clear in Luke:

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” –Luke 11:23

Do we want to embrace our loving God now, choose his all-consuming love while we’re on earth, and live forever in heaven experiencing pure goodness and perfect peace? Goodness and peace that is incomprehensibly greater than that which we experience now?

Or do we want to spend our lives claiming we don’t need God, mustering feeble attempts to be a “good person” in our own strength while denying the existence of God altogether, and then spend eternity separated from all that is good and right? Experiencing pain and sorrow in measures far beyond what we know of it now?

I don’t know about you, but I choose God. Here and now. Sure, you’re free to say yes to God in your dying breath, but why wait? Why not experience the fullness of life he has planned for you starting today?

If the wonderful things on earth are only the smallest glimpse of what awaits us in heaven, I’d say it’s beyond worth powering through the tough times until we get there. And I don’t even want to think about the alternative, do you?

God, thank you that you love us so deeply. Thank you that your goodness is better than our human minds can fathom and that you desire each of us to be saved and in relationship with you, the Source of all goodness and love. I pray for those who haven’t experienced you yet, and ask you to open their hearts and minds to you. Thank you for being good and trustworthy. Amen.

I’d love to hear what thoughts or questions you have on the matter—just drop a comment below!

By the way, this conversation isn’t just for adults! Kids wrestle with these same big concepts too, and need people and resources in their lives to support them. That’s exactly why I wrote POWER UP. This novel is for anyone 8+ who needs an entertaining reminder of God’s goodness and power, and his desire to speak to each of us personally. Trust me, this Selah Award Finalist book is not just for kids. And the kindle version just so happens to be on sale for $0.99 through this Sunday (4/19/20)!