All posts by Jessie Mattis

50 Screen-Free Ideas to Beat Boredom at Home

Summer is upon us! According to the school calendar, that is. *Insert happy dance.* The cold winter, fool’s spring, second winter, and mud season have most of us – Midwesterners, at least – ready for the long days of summer. But for those of us with children, we may be facing long hours at home with kids who inevitably come to us with the dreaded words: I’m bored.

Not to worry! Read on for a list of 50 screen-free ideas to beat your school-age child’s boredom this summer. If you’re a family like us who limits screen time, this list is for you. Most of these ideas can be adapted to suit a broad age range. And if you don’t have kids at home, you may just want to tuck this list away for the next time the kids in your life visit…or even try them yourself!

Since my suggestions of chores are always met with groans by my children (can’t say I blame them), we came up with this list of fun, simple things to do at home on those days when there’s just nothing to do. Most are free, depending on what you do or don’t have lying around the house. I’m not claiming all these ideas are unique or mind-blowing, but it is nice to have them all compiled in one spot. Funny how easy it can be to forget the simple things when you’re booored. 😉

Here we go:

50 SCREEN-FREE IDEAS TO BEAT BOREDOM AT HOME

  1. Paint
  2. Bake
  3. Read
  4. Play in the hose
  5. Frisbee
  6. Play catch
  7. Train the family pet to do a new trick
  8. Write a real letter to a relative, friend, or celebrity
  9. Exercise
  10. Make up a dance
  11. Play an instrument
  12. Build a small boat out of household items and see if it floats
  13. Play Doh
  14. Board games
  15. Solitare (with real cards)
  16. Experiment with new hairstyles
  17. Sidewalk chalk
  18. Write a story
  19. Write a song
  20. Make up a skit
  21. Make homemade puppets
  22. Put on a puppet show
  23. Have a family talent show
  24. Dehydrate something (apple slices, for instance)
  25. Search for toads or caterpillars
  26. Puzzles
  27. Balance a broom handle on your palm in the yard – try to beat your time
  28. Leave wildflowers on someone’s porch
  29. Design a family flag
  30. Make a smoothie
  31. Research safe, local edible plants and forage
  32. Make a fort
  33. Water balloon fight
  34. Press flowers and use clear packing tape to create bookmarks
  35. Leaf rubbings
  36. Wildlife sketches
  37. Dig a hole
  38. Have a tea party – pretend with youngers or go all out with charcuterie with olders
  39. Legos
  40. Cross stitch
  41. Knit or crochet
  42. Make up jokes
  43. Call a relative and ask them about their childhood
  44. Wash the car
  45. Play dress-up
  46. Origami
  47. Carve a bar of soap into a piece of art
  48. Whittle
  49. Practice starting a fire (in a designated fire pit with adult supervision)
  50. Make a card for someone “just because”

Occasionally my kids lose screen time for one reason or another, and I have to say – after moping a little, they come alive and get really creative. I’m even planning on designating one day per week this summer as screen-free. Join me, and watch your kids develop new interests and ideas!

And if you have tween/teen children who could use some inspiration in their Christian faith this summer, my book, Power Up, was written exactly for that purpose. The spiritual formation of tweens is easy to overlook in a busy family life, so I hope you find this book to be a helpful resource this summer!

As precious as our children are, parenting is no easy task, and we need each other’s support, so feel free to share this with anyone who might find it useful. Also, let me know in the comments if you’re joining us for a screen-free day each week this summer! Let’s unplug and bring some simplicity and serenity back to childhood. And last, this list is certainly not comprehensive, so let me know below what ideas I’m missing – I’d love to extend our list!

Thanks for reading, and God bless!

What if Our Defintion of “Good” is All Wrong?

What if our definition of good is all wrong? What if, in our humanness, we reduce goodness to what feels, looks, or seems good when all the while, God has bigger things to say about it?

I have an autoimmune condition. Most of the time I’m fine, but sometimes I’m not. And ten years ago, I had a few of the worst weeks of my life. During those weeks, immediately following the birth of our baby girl, I was unable to carry on normal responsibilities. All I could really do was sit while my husband, family, and friends took care of our newborn, two-year-old, and four-year-old. If I moved my head much at all, my body would spasm, and let me tell you…it was unpleasant. It was bad. Awful. Angering. And all the other adjectives that describe a terrible situation. Physically, it was the worst time of my life.

It may come as a surprise that I can say with full confidence that this time of physical and emotional suffering was the best time of my life, spiritually. When distractions were removed and I found myself crying out to God hundreds of times per day, he and I grew closer, as relationships naturally do when given undivided time and attention.

The book of Isaiah was written seven hundred years before Jesus was born. But this prophet spoke prophecies regarding the coming Savior that unfolded exactly as stated, seven hundred years later. Isaiah 53:10 says this regarding Jesus:

But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief.

If you’re like me, that sentence gives you pause. We could discuss for days all the approaches to theology regarding God willing or not willing human suffering, but let’s lay that aside for now. The above verse states clearly that God’s plan was to crush Jesus. Crush.

Seem dramatic? I agree. But with this mysterious plan of God’s came the rescue of the entire human race.

And look at 2 Corinthians 1:8b-9. Paul says this in the New Testament:

We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.

As a result of Paul’s crushing, he learned to rely on God. It may not sound worth it, but I assure you, it is. Paul says so and God says so. Our time on earth is only a blink of an eye compared to eternity in Heaven, so being Heaven-minded now has much greater benefits for us in the long run. We will never fully understand God’s ways, but one truth we can count on is this:

Good things come from crushing.

Maybe we don’t feel it, see it, or even believe it much of the time. But feelings don’t lead us to truth. Truth is truth, regardless of our thoughts or feelings. The truth is, going through intense difficulties refines us in ways that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. As long as we don’t run the other direction, being crushed draws us nearer to God than any amount of church-going, praise songs, or study can. (And no, we don’t draw near to God because God has an ego problem and wants us to need him. We draw near to God so we can know on an intimate level his love, goodness, and guidance.)

This topic was inspired by a recent sermon by my pastor, David Wigington. In his sermon, which you can check out here, he said, “Crushing doesn’t destroy your gifts; it exposes them.” Truer words were never spoken.

When I was going through that health crisis a decade ago, I nearly felt like my life was over. I never dreamed of all God could do with me in the years to come. Suffering allowed me to experience what it means to rely utterly and completely on God, and because of it, I am now able to be and do things I would have otherwise never thought possible.

Suffering is never pleasant in the moment. Of course we want to avoid pain when possible, and I’m not implying otherwise, but when unpreventable suffering does come, if aligning our souls with God himself is what we gain, what could be better? Perhaps it’s time to rethink our perception of good.

Do you have any stories of how God used difficult things in your life to bring about good? I’d love for you to share them in the comments below – it’s so encouraging to read such stories! And if you want to dive deeper into David Wigington’s words of wisdom, check out his awesome book, God of the Long View. Highly recommend!

The Genuine Power of Music

What song has been stuck in your head lately? For me, it’s the Andy Griffith theme song. My son is into the show lately, and I find myself whistling it without warning.

What song did you dance to during that special moment in your past? I’ll bet you know just the one I’m talking about. I’ll bet you turn it up every time it comes on the radio.

And what song do you turn on extra loud when you need to get your head on straight and get pumped up for your big event? (Let me guess—Eye of the Tiger?)

I’m sure you see my point by now…music is more than something we just turn on in the background occasionally. For most of us, music has genuine power. It has the ability to influence our thoughts, emotions, and even spirit in just an instant.

Did you know music is referenced in the Bible HUNDREDS of times? It’s true. Music is often a big part of a centered, Godly life.

In this day and age, we encounter darkness every direction we turn. Whether it’s in our schools, next door, places of authority, or overseas, there’s no denying that satan is on the move in big new ways. Of course, Ecclesiastes 1:9 reminds us that “there’s nothing new under the sun,” so none of this is a surprise to God, overwhelming though life may seem sometimes. But what are we supposed to do in the face of such darkness?

Thankfully, God has given us effective coping mechanisms while we do our best to live well our time on earth while also craving the spiritual perfection of heaven. Besides spending time with God and others who love God, music is a powerful strategy that can point our eyes toward Jesus while also uplifting our very souls.

Of course, like anything good, humans have found ways to corrupt God’s good gift of music, so being selective in our music choices is key. While clean mainstream music can also be uplifting, when we’re feeling discouraged, fearful, or distant from God, it’s helpful to reach for something a little more substantial.

I don’t know about you, but turning on the local Christian station or finding a good praise CD or playlist can make all the difference in my day.

As a mom to three awesome kids, a goal of mine has been to pour encouraging, Godly music into their lives and brains. Why? Because when hard times come, as they have and will continue to do, those songs will be seared on their very souls.

The Holy Spirit loves to bring to the surface songs that are tucked away in my mind to encourage me in hard times, and I want that for my kids as well. In this way, we can be encouraged by God’s truths even if we’re stuck somewhere without batteries or power, when we’re sitting beside the hospital bed of a loved one, or when we’re falling asleep in the stillness of night.

Memorizing Scripture is a wonderful practice that I highly recommend, but to be honest…I’m not very good at it. Memorizing songs, however, is often effortless. And if I find songs that contain direct verses, even better! Once a song has a place in our brains, it rarely leaves, which is why it’s our job to make sure we consume music that is full of light. It’s our job to encourage our children to consume music that is full of light.

Music becomes a part of us and can even direct the desires of our hearts. Music is a more powerful gift from above than most people give it credit for. So go ahead and flip that radio on if it’s been awhile. Fill your home and your heart with praise and see what a difference it can make.

Lauren Daigle, Bethel Music, and Toby Mac are some of my personal go-tos when I need a musical spiritual boost. Who are some of yours?

Are Your Emotions Telling the Truth?

“Life was simpler in the good ol’ days.” Sound familiar? Do you agree or disagree?

I’d say it’s true in many ways. People used their brains more than their emotions back then. Self-control, discipline, logic, and truth were king. Nowadays, these virtues are ridiculed more often than they are respected. In a society fueled by emotion, what if we made a point to be different?

Emotions Lie

The current popular mentality sounds something like this: If you feel something, it’s true for you. Follow your feelings. (Even if that means cheating on your spouse and destroying your family … Even if it means severing family relationships for petty reasons and living a lifetime of regret).

When you boil it down, our emotions lie to us, but we often eat these lies up as truth. We think if we feel something, it’s a part of us. It becomes who we are–something we can’t change.

This is a lie.

Emotions are a Blessing

Emotions are God-given, but just like every other good God-given gift (talents, money, sex, etc.), humans easily distort the gift until it becomes bad. This is how we end up holding grudges, dealing with unchecked anger, or letting disappointment dictate our lives. We need to seek God’s help in order to strive for healthy emotional responses (sometimes he may direct us to professional help). With His help, we can train our brains to reign over our emotions.

Emotions aren’t bad; they are beautiful, wonderful things. In fact, God has emotions! But when emotions start leading us instead of the other way around, we walk into some murky waters and usually end up with regrets.

Emotions Need Controlled

My husband recently told me he read that the most successful leaders are those who listen to other perspectives, being willing to change course as they are convinced it is correct. They don’t go into a situation ready to demand their own way. People follow them because they listen as they lead. They’re reasonable. Steady. Is that you? Is that me?

When we hold conversations with others who hold differing views, do emotions rule our words? Do we let our emotions run the show to the point of losing the other person’s trust and respect? If so, that’s a good sign we need to be deliberate in managing our emotions.

A Higher Standard

As I have been writing fiction that takes place in the 1940s, it’s been fun to dive into the research. Things were much more proper and disciplined then because people knew and accepted that it was irresponsible to run your life by emotion.

The world seems to have forgotten these basics. These days, if you don’t run your life by emotion, you’re labelled as stuffy, unaccepting, or old-fashioned. That’s fine by me. Those labels certainly don’t hurt my feelings when I know I’m holding myself to a higher standard.

We need to rise to a higher standard for ourselves and for society. Society is unraveling for lack of morals and structure, in favor of doing whatever feels good. It’s time to flip that narrative on its head. The only way for society to function in good health is for us to function as healthy individuals. If we don’t, we invite worlds of regret and broken relationships, and we miss out on the depth that God and life have to offer.

What God Says

I’m not saying it’s easy to put boundaries on our emotions, nor can I give you easy steps to do so. Heaven knows I haven’t figured it out yet, but I do know lots of prayer and determination are in order.

But what does the Bible say about emotions? A lot. Here are just a few relevant verses:

  • “One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one whose temper is controlled than one who captures a city.”   – Proverbs 16:32
  • “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.”    – Proverbs 15:18
  • “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” -Jeremiah 17:9
  • “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.”   – Philippians 2:3

As a Christ-follower, I want to look different than the world. While the world around us explodes with fear and anger, what if we refused to join in? What if, instead, we looked to Jesus to be our anchor and source of steadiness? That’s the picture of emotional health I want to strive for.

Let me know in the comments how I can pray for you today! And if you have strategies for keeping your emotions in check, I would love to hear them. Thanks for reading, and have a great week!

Also, if you’re looking for some Christian fiction for yourself or your teen, head over to jessiemattis.com/books to check out my books and download my newest novella, Love on a Whim, for free!

The Value of Old Age

I absolutely love hearing stories from older generations. My own grandpa, a WWII veteran, is a wealth of information. Yes, he’s alive and well in his 90s, raising horses, gardening, and reading in his down time. (I think he said his list of books read in 2021 topped 88.) He is full of wisdom, knowledge, and stories, but the funny thing is—he doesn’t seem to realize it. In his quiet, humble way, he goes about his days like anyone else, not realizing the value of what he has to offer from his wealth of life experience.

Not my grandpa…but likely someone’s. 🙂

ASK QUESTIONS

If we don’t ask questions and start conversations with the elders in our lives, they may never share their wealth of wisdom and experience! Isn’t that a tragic thought?

Several years ago, when I set out to write historical fiction, I had the privilege of interviewing my grandpa. Even though he’s quiet and unassuming, he’s happy to share when someone asks questions.

I learned loads about him and my grandma from that interview, including personal war stories you’d never see in a history book. In my opinion, knowing family history greatly enriches a person’s heart and life.

With age comes a special kind of wisdom and understanding that is only gained through living a long life. So let’s ask questions while we have the opportunity! Invite the ones who lived through the Holocaust, polio, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and all the conflicts since and in-between to speak into our lives. Let them give us things to think about that we’ve never before considered. Let them say things that challenge our current opinions and assumptions.

MAKE GOD SMILE 

It’s never too late to start conversations with those of advanced years. We might just be surprised what we learn. And not only does it show them they are honored and valued; I think it makes God smile. Not only do I think he smiles, I think he’s deeply pleased because this has been his plan all along. Take these verses, for instance:

Stand up in the presence of the elderly, and show respect for the aged. –Leviticus 19:32a

Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked.  –1Kings 12:6

WE ALL HAVE MUCH TO LEARN

I recently released a free historical romance novella here on my website (www.jessiemattis.com) called LOVE ON A WHIM. The idea for the plot was sparked by a one-paragraph blurb I read about one woman’s experience during World War II. Her story of meeting and exchanging addresses with a Europe-bound soldier passing through Ohio when his train made a quick stop was enough to ignite an entire story in my mind. This was a starting point I could never have thought of myself, as I’d never even heard of the canteens that were set up at train stations to serve soldiers passing through at the time. I’m so thankful I had a glimpse into that woman’s personal story from the 1940s.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we all have a lot to learn, and our elders are a great starting point. God’s design of families and different generations is a beautiful gift in so many ways. Let’s use his gift well.

Do you enjoy chatting and gleaning wisdom from older people in your life? Tell me more in the comments – I love these types of stories! And if you haven’t already subscribed, I’d love to have you join my monthly newsletter list. You’ll get my free LOVE ON A WHIM ebook as well as monthly inspiration and humor delivered right to your inbox. Thanks for reading, and have a great week!