All posts by Jessie Mattis

Snoozefest to Fascinating: 6 Reasons to Care About History

History used to be my least favorite subject. I’m talking all through grade school, high school, and college, I had zero interest in it. Zero.

As far as I was concerned, the whole subject was a giant snoozefest that I had to pass to get through school (much to my parents’ chagrin). Afterall, it was in the past. What difference did it make?

Imagine my family’s surprise when, five years ago, I decided to start writing historical fiction. Suddenly, they saw me become obsessed with the Revolutionary War (thank you, Hamilton!), World War 2, and Vietnam. (Shout out to my supportive husband who listens to me excitedly spout all my newfound knowledge as I learn!)

I now laugh, and feel a little bad for, my former history-hating self.

If you or the kids in your world fall asleep whenever history comes up, I encourage you to consider the following points, and maybe you’ll learn to love history too:

  1. An understanding of history is empowering. Remember — there’s nothing new under the sun, and since history is cyclical, studying how and why things occurred in the past gives us insight on how to move forward. This broad depth of understanding is empowering!
  2. It’s okay to not know everything. There is a LOT of history to learn, and while I want to be sure to understand certain main events, there’s no way I’ll ever know it all — and that’s okay! So dive into whatever you deem relevant or interesting. There’s no scoresheet. (Thank goodness!)
  3. Videos can help. Here me when I say I love to read. I really do. But for some reason, it’s difficult for me to digest history books and remember anything I read. I engage and retain better through video form—at least when it’s a substantial chunk of information. So hit up YouTube or the library or wherever you can find trustworthy videos, pop some popcorn, and settle in!
  4. Look for parallels in modern society. It’s always fun to connect the dots of what you’ve learned to something relevant today. Like I mentioned in point number one, history is cyclical, so it shouldn’t take too long to find a comparison!
  5. Know that those with an understanding of history are forward-thinkers. Teaching kids the importance of history (not just teaching them history, but the importance of it) means raising empowered, forward-thinking kids. We can only move forward in a healthy direction if we’re able to first look back to understand where we’ve been and why. Remembering is the only way to avoid the same mistakes that were made in the past.
  6. Knowledge of history helps set the stage as you read historical fiction! 🙂 It’s a lot easier to get into the flow of your book if you’re already somewhat familiar with the context and events.

You may not have the same reasons I do for diving into history (historical fiction writing and an interest in family history), but I’m sure you have reasons of your own. Every person on the planet can benefit from an understanding of history in some way, shape, or form.

Now what can you do this week to learn something new? Try doing an internet search for something you’ve always heard of but never quite understood. Maybe something like “Stonehenge” or “the War of 1812.” Anything that comes to mind. And then dive in—for two hours or two minutes; it’s up to you.

And if you don’t care to read fifteen-page articles, let me share with you my little shortcut. Try searching like this, for example: “the war of 1812 for kids.” Adding for kids to the end of your search term will lead you to more abridged sources, but still give you the meat of the issues. You’re welcome. 😉

And what does the Bible have to say? “Remember the days of old, consider the years long past; ask your father, and he will inform you; your elders, and they will tell you.” –Deuteronomy 32:7

Let me know your thoughts in the comments, as well as what topic you plan to dive into soon!

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The Price of Freedom…for Our Land and Our Souls

How was your Memorial Day? Did you enjoy a three-day weekend or a get-together of some sort? Maybe you wore your special patriotic shirt for the day or made your famous strawberry pie to kick off the summer. (Sounds like a good day to me!)

Along with all these fun things, I hope you were also able to slow down. To remember. To honor those who gave all so we could live our lives in freedom.

Memorial Day is personal to my family. We gather almost every year to attend the local service at the cemetery. Each year, my grandpa, who served in the Navy in World War Two and never slows down to this day, stands up front in uniform and participates in the traditional three-volley salute before Taps is played, echoing its haunting, beautiful tune across every ear and every grave.

Now that my kids are 15, 13, and 11, they don’t ask about the tears in my eyes anymore. They don’t have to. It’s expected. And it’s understood. They’ve heard my reasons before…and before that…and before that.

They understand that my dad’s oldest brother, David, was shot and killed serving with the Marines in Vietnam. They understand that he decided it was his duty to fight for freedom and that he died with honor. (Yes, this was a messy war, but its intent was worthy, and the soldiers who served will always have my honor and respect.)

My kids understand that my grandpa joined up during WW2 to fight for freedom. To stop the bad guys. He made it home alive, but his sacrifices were great overall—especially the sacrifice of his oldest son (David) as he died fighting against communism in South Vietnam.

They know my other grandpa fought in Korea, having to leave his new wife behind, pregnant with their first child. He made it home alive, but missed the birth and all the “firsts” that came with raising their first baby because he was off fighting hard for other people’s freedoms.

My kids understand that one of their other dear great uncles fought hard in Vietnam, though he did make it home in one piece. They know his sacrifices include living through painful experiences there as he fought for freedom.

They know that war is monstrous, but freedom is a cause worth fighting for. They know that soldiers are brave and worthy of gratitude and respect.

My kids know that when my eyes fill with tears, as they do every single Memorial Day without fail, it’s because my heart is too full of gratitude, appreciation, and memories to keep it inside. America truly is the land of the free and the home of the brave, and only by remembering and teaching upcoming generations these truths will it remain so.

How do the children in your life view Memorial Day? Do they slow down in between hotdogs and popsicles to pay respect to our nation’s fallen heroes? If not, it’s never too late to remind them of how we gained the freedom that enables us to enjoy a day off.

One last thing. During the annual Memorial Day service, the speaker often reminds us that freedom is paid in blood, and only by honoring the fallen can we truly appreciate all God has blessed us with here in America…

Sound familiar…? Freedom paid in blood…? Of course I’m beyond grateful for my American freedoms, but how much more grateful I am for the freedom that was bought for each and every one of us across the globe with Jesus’ blood on the cross. Spiritual freedom was paid for once and for all by Jesus and can never be taken away. Now that’s something to really remember and honor.

Who were you remembering this past Memorial Day? Let me know in the comments; I’d be honored to share these memories with you!

And if you aren’t already receiving these posts from me monthly, I’d love for you to join me by signing up at the bottom (or side) of this page. You’ll receive my historical romance ebook, Love on a Whim, as a special thank-you gift!

Chasing a Moving Target? Here are 5 Steps to Help.

Ever feel like you’re chasing a moving target? You accomplish one task only to have three more fill its place. Your knee heals just before your back goes out. You do what you’re told is required to accomplish X, Y, or Z, only to find the requirements have changed just when you think you’re done. You wipe the counter only to find a scattering of crumbs ten minutes later. You make progress in your marriage only to have a new issue arise. How do we keep moving forward when the end goal never quite seems to be within reach?

If we’re not intentional, burnout and discouragement (or even depression) will sneak up on us for sure. Here are five ways to keep moving forward when it seems there’s no end in sight.

  1. Remember your “why.” Why is it important to work toward this goal in the first place? What good will come if you keep moving forward?
  2. Visualize success. How will it feel to succeed? How will life change for the better? Focus on the good that will come from pushing through and achieving your goal. (And click here to check out my post on how crucial it is to hold on to HOPE.)
  3. Visualize failure. What will happen if you give up? How will life change for the worse? Remember why you don’t want to let this happen. (Not sure I’ve ever seen this in a list of how to succeed, and I don’t want you to linger in this place in an unhealthy way, but I do think there’s merit here.)
  4. Pray. Draw near to the one who made you and ask for direction. Maybe God wants to guide you down a different path or to a new resource to help in your journey, or maybe he simply wants to give you a hug and an extra boost of strength and encouragement for the path ahead. Give him the wheel.
  5. Remember your eternal reward. Life is not always within our control, as I’m sure we’re all too aware. Keep your eye on Jesus to guide you into what he has for you here on earth, while also remembering that all will be made right and just in Heaven—and our time on earth is truly just a blink of an eye compared to eternity.

Sometimes the path ahead is full of life and possibilities, but sometimes it feels just plain confusing and difficult. Allow God’s strength and grace to fill in the gaps as you put one foot in front of the other. What are you pushing for these days? Let me know in the comments—I’d love to partner with you by lifting you up in prayer!

I write fiction with relatable characters who depend on God’s strength to overcome real life struggles. If you’re interested in monthly Christian encouragement and a free historical romance novella, sign up for my newsletter and get Love on a Whim delivered to your email instantly!

7 Promises of Ridiculous Hope

Successful people are hopeful people. Over the past 30 years, research has shown that hope, not skill mastery or optimism or grit, is the most important determinant of success (according to Pattison Professional Counseling and Meditation Center). Does this fact leave you cheering or sighing?

I’d venture to guess that many of us would call ourselves generally hopeful people. If this doesn’t describe you, I believe that hope is both a gift from God and a skill that can be developed, so you’re not out of luck – stick with me!

In the 1946 book Man’s Search for Meaning, Holocaust Survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl explains (in a much more grandiose way) that humans always need something to look forward to. This statement may sound basic, but it’s actually incredibly deep.

Frankl tells of being imprisoned in a concentration camp and noting that death rates of prisoners always increased the week between Christmas and New Year’s.

Why?

He concluded these excess deaths were because these prisoners had held on to illogical, ridiculous hope that they would spend Christmas with their families. When Christmas Day came and went with no sign of their loved ones, so did their will to go on. Their ridiculous hope had a direct impact on their frail physical well-being; it literally kept them alive.

Sometimes we don’t realize the hope we’re holding onto is ridiculous until later, and this is a good thing! People living in a state of hope are more likely to achieve their goals and live with a sense of purpose.

For instance, others might chuckle if I say I believe the novel I’m writing could one day change the world, but that ridiculous hope is precisely what it takes to accomplish the difficult task of completing the novel. Anything less than ridiculous hope would result in an unfinished manuscript.

After I complete my manuscript, I may then be able to look at it more objectively and see that it might not change the entire world, but it still might change a few lives – lives that wouldn’t have been changed without my holding onto such hope. Hope gives us drive toward our goals and enables us to push through difficulties. Ridiculous hope keeps us pressing on long after others have given up on our vision.

Hope (or the lack thereof) also clearly affects our physical health, as noted above. Not only does Frankl give several examples of this in his eye-opening book, but in a recent chat with a medical professional friend, I was told that the patients who beat cancer nearly always have a hopeful attitude. He said the physical difference between hopeful versus hopeless patients is stark and obvious.

Hope is not the same as optimism, although they are certainly related. While optimists believe good things likely await in their futures, hope-filled people are driven to make those good things happen rather than sitting passively by.

God has a lot to say about hope, too. Here are seven of God’s many promises about hope:

  1. We have hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
  2. Jesus Christ is our living hope. (1 Peter 1:3)
  3. Hope anchors the soul. (Hebrews 6:19)
  4. Hope in the Lord allows us to be strong and take heart. (Psalm 31:24)
  5. Our hearts are sick without hope. (Proverbs 13:12)
  6. The eyes of the Lord are on those who hope in him. (Psalm 33:18)
  7. Hope makes us bold. (2 Corinthians 3:12)

If we take these seven truths about hope and use them to chase after our God-given goals, I’ll be surprised if we don’t start seeing significant change in our lives. There’s no magic formula (after all, who can know the ways of God?), but ridiculous hope is certainly a life-attitude that will deliver results, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual.

If you want to read more about the psychological benefits of hope, I found this article helpful: Want More Success in Your Life? Have Hope.

And have a peek at my middle grade novel, Power Up, if you want to share with the children in your life about the ways the Holy Spirit can bring them hope. (Grown-ups have found hope through it too!)

Procuring Peace in a Crazy World

How are we supposed to be at peace when it feels like the world around us has gone mad? Some days it feels like an impossible task.

But let’s really think about it for a minute. What does peace look like to you? A home where everyone gets along? A calendar with more open days than filled days? The absence of conflict in the world around you?

First of all, sign me up for all of these things. 😉 Second, while these scenarios are desirable and may make you feel peaceful for a while, they are too dependent on outside circumstances to allow for true, unshakeable peace.

True peace transcends our circumstances, as paradoxical as it sounds. Peace is one of the attributes of the Holy Spirit, which means we need His power in order to live in peace, despite our circumstances.

For the Christian, true peace is a gift from God, but it also comes from deep trust. We trust that God’s plan is ultimately best, so we walk in peace. We trust that God is love and nothing we can ever do will change his great love for us, so we walk in peace. We trust that, in the end, God will right all the wrongs of this crazy world, so we walk in peace. Usually.

It’s all too easy to fall into a state of inner conflict or unrest, and when we find ourselves in this place, we need to examine our souls. If peace comes from deep-rooted trust in God, then conversely, conflict comes from distrust, whether we acknowledge it or not.

We don’t see God moving in the way we’ve been praying for, so we doubt his goodness and our hearts are conflicted. We aren’t convinced God’s love is unconditional, and our hearts are conflicted as we ponder what that means for us. We see people around us doing terrible things and being honored by the world, and we are conflicted as we question whether God will bring justice to the hard situations. (If trusting God is a challenge, check out this relevant post from awhile back: The Huge Truth My Characters Taught Me About Trusting God.)

Peace is largely the result of trust—honest, true, deep-rooted trust. It takes courage to attain peace, because it takes courage to faithfully trust God in all things. And peace is certainly not the result of a lack of conflict in the world around us. I can assure you that’s not going away before Jesus comes back.

How do we go about procuring this peace, especially since it sometimes feels like a moving target?

  • We spend time with God. Not just a few minutes in the morning, but throughout the day. We play worship music, have conversations with others, talk to God about random things throughout our days, and get to know him on a deeper level.
  • We actively display our trust by submitting to him.
  • We pray and ask him for his peace to fill our lives.
  • We remember that Jesus himself walks before, beside, and behind us through all things.
  • We bring him into every part of life until our hearts are entirely yielded to him and once we do that, we don’t stop there because we know it’s a daily process that is easily undone if we let down our guard.
  • When we lose our peace, we pray for more strength and more faith and we declare our trust in God until our hearts and minds are at peace once again, filled with confidence in his trustworthiness and goodness.

Striving for peace is a goal of mine this year. Maybe it is for you, too. If so, join me in lingering on these verses and promises from God:

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. –Philippians 4:7

I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world! –John 16: 33

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you. –2 Thessalonians 3:16

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. –John 14:27

I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.         –Psalm 4:8

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. –Romans 15:13

Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. –Philippians 4:9

The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. –Isaiah 32:17

To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. –Romans 12:18

Print out these verses and hang them where you’ll see them every day. Share them with a friend or relative going through a hard time. Nothing beats Scripture when it comes to speaking peace into our lives.

I pray, as you read this, that God would fill you with unshakeable peace and that your trust in his love and his goodness would permeate into your heart and soul more than ever before. Amen.