I know I’m not alone when I say readjusting to real life after a great vacation is tricky business. Going from the Florida coast back to Indiana has been less than glamorous. In less than 24 hours we traded palm trees and white sand for broken mowers and the discovery of hornets living in my daughter’s bedroom wall. *shudder*
Though things could certainly be worse, all this ridiculousness has left me with a need to be encouraged. Thankfully I have great family and friends to keep my eyes pointed toward Jesus when things aren’t going according to plan. I also have the encouragement of several blogs I read. That’s what I hope to leave you with today–encouragement, not only from my words, but from being introduced to another blog, which is always full of hope.
I recently wrote a guest blog post for an inspirational blogger named Karen Friday. She and her husband pastor a church in Tennessee and have been in ministry for over thirty years. It’s an honor to be featured on her blog (Karen Girl Friday), so today I’m going to link you to my blog post on her site. Check out “Empowered Kids — Everyday Life with the Holy Spirit” and then browse her other posts too, and I promise you’ll leave encouraged!
“Give your anxieties to God.” “Let Jesus carry you.” “Let the Holy Spirit’s peace cover you.”
All messages I’ve been focused on all month as I’ve been marketing my book, Power Up. All important truths, yes?
But then camp.
Camp, you ask?
My two oldest kids are heading to church camp soon and I recently spent several days FULL of anxiety over my two sweet, innocent homeschool kiddos heading into a world of other kids (strangers who have been exposed to who knows what all) without me there to guide them.
I was about ready to pack up my family and move to an unoccupied mountain where I wouldn’t have to worry about my kids being exposed to this world full of awfulness ever again.
My wheels wouldn’t stop spinning as I thought and over-thought some more, my head filled with lies about the safety (or lack thereof) of my children.
It didn’t take me long to realize how wrong and misguided my focus was. I knew in my head that God would be with them (and me), and I knew my thought patterns were unhealthy, but still. Sometimes it’s hard to change, am I right?
Well, after spending more time in prayer and with Jesus (which I hadn’t been doing enough of and it showed), my thoughts began to shift.
What if, instead of all the horrible scenarios playing out as I had feared – what if their lives changed for the better? Imagine that! What if their relationship with God was ignited and challenged and they developed lifelong friendships? What if separation from their family was just what they needed to be stretched and ultimately learn the joy of letting God take care of them? What if they had exciting adventures and experiences that they could look back on and maybe someday tell their children about?
I’m finally (thank goodness) at a place where I’m genuinely excited for them to go and experience a week of camp.
Clearly, this isn’t just about camp. What’s going on in YOUR life right now that has your wheels spinning and spinning, only digging you deeper into the mud? Where do your thoughts need to shift from “expecting the worst” to seeing the ways God could use the situation in positive ways?
It’s not an easy shift to make, so I challenge you this week to spend more time in prayer. More time deliberately being thankful and speaking aloud the truths of God’s word. Ask God to bring about the change in your mind that you feel you can’t accomplish alone. Seek out a Christian counselor if you’re not seeing any light at the end of the tunnel. Have hope.
And don’t forget this promise from Joshua 1:9:
“This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Lord, I pray for each person reading this, that you would ease the burden in our minds right now. This world is full of burdens and brokenness, but it is also full of goodness and hope. Holy Spirit, bring your hope and truth to replace the lies in our minds. Let us find joy in the middle of trials and laughter in the middle of our storms. Be our joy, peace, and truth. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Book update: Power Up has been released for about a month now and I’ve gotten some great feedback! I honestly believe this is a book that every grade school aged kid could benefit from. I’ve also gotten great feedback from adults who have told me it opened their eyes to some new ideas. If you know of anyone who might benefit from it, would you help me spread the word? Honestly, this marketing thing is tough, so I appreciate all the help I can get. 🙂 Thanks for following on this journey with me!
When I had an idea for a book about two years ago, I put it
on the back burner in my mind. Who has time for writing when you’re raising/homeschooling
three kids, right?
One weekend my husband and I went on an overnight road trip
without the kids. On the way home, somehow we decided to make a list of hopes
and dreams. Anything went.
Onto the list it went. “Write a book.”
I didn’t know we were going to delve deeper into our list items, although I should have, being married to Chip and all. 🙂
“What would you want to write about?” he asked.
“I don’t know…I sort of have an idea I’ve tossed around.”
“Well then, let’s get it on the calendar and you can start
And so it began. I took an evening, hid away on our back
porch with the laptop, and started writing. The story poured out of me. After
about a zillion rounds of editing (being brand spanking new to this and all), I
finally had a completed manuscript. But then I was left wondering, “what now?”
After reading stats on how few manuscripts get accepted by
agents and publishers, I was tempted to quit. But I loved my story. I believed
in it, and continue to believe (as basically every Christian writer says) that
God gave me this story to tell. I had to trust that he would get his message
out however he thought best.
Maybe I would send it around to a handful of
agents/publishers and if I didn’t get any bites I could pursue self-publishing
(which is a completely valid option; doesn’t need to be last resort, fyi).
After reading over and over how important networking is for
writers, my husband and I attended an amazing writer’s conference (Blue Ridge
Mountains Christian Writers Conference). We learned a ton, made some friends,
each won an award for our respective manuscripts (awesome!), and finally, on
the last evening, we met Deb Haggerty. Deb owns a publishing company (Elk Lake
Publishing Inc.) and “publishes what she likes,” as she put it.
She viewed the print-out of Chip’s story, Under the Dancing Tree, and offered him a contract on the spot (it released a couple months ago – check it out on Amazon, it’s a perfect Father’s Day gift!). She invited me to send my proposal after the conference, which I did. I had to trust that if it didn’t work out with Elk Lake, God would lead me and my story where he wanted us.
Even though I knew it could take weeks or even months to
hear back, I was so nervous and excited I checked my email every hour or so.
Less than 24 hours later, I heard back five words I’ll never forget.
Power Up has a home.
My heart almost stopped. I told Chip. I called my mom. I
couldn’t stop smiling (smiling’s my favorite).
And so the roller coaster began. While Deb agreed to publish
it, she requires all her authors to have literary agents. That felt like a
potential dead end. Not a lot of literary professionals are keen on middle
grade book ideas, unfortunately. I had to trust that if God opened a door with
Elk Lake, he would lead me to an agent.
A couple months later I signed with an agent and was signing a contract with Elk Lake to publish Power Up. A happy ending, right? Except it was just the beginning.
Thoughts plagued my mind – what if nobody likes it? What if nobody
buys it? What if, what if, what if.
The publishing process has its stressful moments, and I
remember one evening after everyone else was in bed, sitting alone with my
anxious thoughts, lost in worry.
Then I heard a quiet voice.
You say you trust me,
but worrying about it all shows that you DON’T trust me. Give it to me; you can
It was a sobering moment for me. So I took a deep breath and attempted to do just that. Staying on top of the worry is an ongoing, but worthwhile, effort. My instinct tells me I have every reason to worry and be anxious. But giving in to the worry only reduces the gift that Jesus offers (to carry me/my burdens and work it all out for good) to a back-up plan.
Though my book, Power Up, is really close to being published, it’s down to getting the final details right. Worry still tempts me. What if, what if, what if…
But I don’t want to relegate Jesus’ faithfulness to my back-up plan. He’s got his plans for me and for this book all in the palm of his hand, where they’re safer than any place I could ever dream.
What does your journey of trusting God look like? Are you handing your burdens to him in full trust? Is he simply your back-up plan for when you finally reach the end of your rope?
I pray you’ll find the courage to trust God more than ever before, in whatever circumstances you’re experiencing, and have faith in his ultimate goodness and love for you. Even when life is messy, he is a trustworthy God, of this you can be sure.
You attend a baseball game … or … you practice hard and play
on the team like Babe Ruth.
You watch your kids play … or … you grab a water gun and
You sit and take it while your kid talks back … or … you
open your mouth to utilize a teachable moment and some healthy discipline.
You sit quietly during the meeting without sharing your idea
… or … you speak up and save the company thousands with your great idea.
Which side of the or
do you want to be on? We can live life passively, or we can live life actively.
I used to live extremely passively. Never speaking up, never
testing my limits, never really expecting all that much from myself. It was
safe. I like safe. Ask anyone who’s close to me and they’ll confirm.
I think my 30’s have been good for me. I’ve done my best to
leave my safe, insecure 20’s in the dust and have branched out more than I ever
dreamed possible. And with that I’ve seen the fruit that bears from active
living—excitement, passion, fulfillment, and hope. I know now I’d never feel
fulfilled going back to my passive, predictable lifestyle.
Is the passive vs. active phenomenon any different when it comes to our faith? Absolutely not!
I used to be passive in my faith. Go to church, say my
bedtime prayers (if I didn’t fall asleep first), read the Bible (once in a
while), be a good person. No risks, nothing uncomfortable.
Then one year we moved and began attending a new church, and
I found myself challenged. It was uncomfortable. I tried resisting and holding
onto my passive, church-going ways. But I loved the church and couldn’t remain
passive for long. Everyone around me seemed inspired to go out and love others
in a Jesus-reflecting, radical way. I was impressed. They cared for the needy,
did life together, and prayed for each other, on the spot.
“How are you?”
“Oh okay, just fighting a headache this morning.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. Can I pray for you right now?”
“That would be great, thanks!”
Sometimes the headache (or whatever it was) was healed/changed. Often it wasn’t. But these people weren’t deterred from praying, because sometimes…SOMETIMES, the power of God broke through and changed everything.
Fast forward over a decade. The things my family and I learned
at the Vineyard Church were game-changers. So much that we uprooted our family
and moved to Valparaiso, IN to help plant another Vineyard church and
experience God in new ways.
We learned the importance of listening as God speaks to us
through his Holy Spirit. We learned never to stop praying, and never to stop
expecting God to move. We learned to partner with him as he seeks to advance
his Kingdom here on earth.
We experienced first-hand that an active faith is life-giving and exciting, while a passive faith is ho-hum and dull.
Now, what I’m not trying to say is that everyone needs to be running around in the streets loving on and praying with everyone they meet. (I mean, maybe some people roll that way, but not this girl.) We don’t always have to be chasing and doing. We do always need to be following the Holy Spirit’s lead.
We should strive to embrace the fact that God is real,
alive, and wants to move in us and through us. Knowing this is the case, we
should endeavor to tune our ears to the Spirit’s voice and be ready and willing
to do whatever God asks of us.
Maybe his voice will tell us to pray with a stranger in the
middle of Wal-Mart or befriend a person sitting alone.
Maybe his voice will tell us to move to a new state or take
a new job when it seems illogical.
Maybe his voice will tell us to just be still and know how
much we are loved by him.
Every day is an adventure when we let the Holy Spirit guide our lives and actively follow where he’s going.
And guess what? You’re invited! As my old church used to put
it, “Everybody gets to play!”
You don’t have to be a pastor or go through any special
training to live your faith out loud. All you have to do is be a willing
follower of Jesus. He’s ready and waiting to guide and speak to you.
The Holy Spirit speaks to and through kids, too!
There’s no age requirement for partnering with the Holy
Spirit. No “must be 18 or older to call.” No permission slip for minors.
Kids do what’s modeled (well, often, anyway). Let them see
you living out your faith so they’ll be inspired to do the same.
In my upcoming book, Power Up (releasing from https://elklakepublishinginc.com this spring!), my goal is to demonstrate to kids what life can be like when they decide to listen to the Holy Spirit and follow his lead. My prayer is for the book to inspire a new generation of Jesus-followers to trade in their passive faith for an active one.
So give it a try! Take a minute, close your eyes, and ask the Holy Spirit what he wants to say to you. Trust me, once you embrace an active faith, you won’t want to turn back. Leave me a comment to let me know your thoughts and experiences on the matter!
Disclaimer: By no means do I have this “all figured out.” It’s much easier to live passively and I frequently fail to demonstrate to my kids the excitement of following the Spirit, but all I can do is keep trying. Thankfully, there’s grace for me. And for you, too. 🙂
Easter is almost here! Time for special church services and Easter baskets; time for remembering Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection, and oohing and ahhing over kids in fancy hats and sweater vests! I love this time of year. Spring is in the air (literally…I’ve been sneezing all day), the trees are budding, flowers are blooming, and it is birthday season at the Mattis house.
Yes, you heard right. I said birthday season. If I’ve seemed a little more MIA than usual, I blame birthday season. Four out of the five of us celebrate birthdays within six weeks of each other. Add my husband’s recent book launch party to the mix and that basically equals a party most weekends for months on end.
For me, this translates into countless trips to Target and Party City for party supplies and gifts, and lots of late nights making cakes and decorating after the kids are in bed (I tend to go a little overboard making my kids’ cakes…time consuming but super fun). Not to mention the paper lists strewn about my kitchen like some new form of recyclable countertop material. (I have been known to make a list of all the lists I need to make…is that weird?) Birthday season is serious, people.
Celebrating my family is a wonderful thing. What’s not so wonderful is when I let the task of celebrating overtake the actual celebration going on in my heart. That’s when things get overwhelming.
I must say, I have made strides in this department (if I do say so myself). I used to obsess over my house and the presentation of things to an unhealthy degree, finding it difficult to truly enjoy the celebration. Letting go of the Pinterest-perfect ideal was beyond freeing. Because, really. When’s the last time you cared if there was a stack of papers on someone’s counter. Never? That’s what I thought.
So even though these days I can maintain my sanity while we celebrate, I still have to take the time to guard my mindset so I don’t get burned out by all the fun. I think the issue boils down to this:
There is a difference between personal celebration versus God-centered community celebration.
If you read through the Bible for any length of time, you’ll quickly realize how much celebrating went on back then. There were festivals and parties to celebrate something-or-other every time you turned around! But the thing is, they had a pretty solid mixture of personal celebrations (weddings, banquets, etc.) and community celebrations which were God-centered.
There’s something different, more fulfilling in my opinion, about celebrating God amongst other believers. Whether it’s a Christmas Eve church service or a family Easter celebration, the goal of celebrating is to remember the amazing things God has done, praise his goodness, and do it alongside others who are likeminded.
Personal celebrations are super fun, and are a great way to break up the often-otherwise mundane days, but they’re just not quite as, I don’t know…rich of an experience.
God clearly lays out an expectation of celebration for us in the Bible. It is good to celebrate! Healthy, even! Celebrations remind us of our blessings and the goodness of God himself. They nourish and revive our weary souls! (As long as we go easy on ourselves with party prep…)
As Easter draws nearer, let’s do an honest examination of ourselves. Are we stressed out trying to make everything just so? Or are we excited to remember and celebrate Jesus’ powerful resurrection with our fellow Christ-followers?
If you fall into the stressed-out camp, let me encourage you. First of all, I’ve been there and I get it. There’s just so. much. to. do. Life can get overwhelming with everything else on top of planning a celebration. But if this is you, stop for a minute. Take a ten minute coffee date with God (or tea, ginger root beer, whatever). Tell him all your worries. Then ask him to steady your heart. Ask his Holy Spirit to fill you with the overwhelming sense of love and peace that only he can give. Receive it.
Then grab your party hat and head into the Easter weekend with a spirit of joy, knowing all that really matters is Jesus crucified and brought back to life as he conquered death and paved a path for each of us straight to Heaven. Happy Easter, friends.
What are your Easter traditions? Are you feeling stressed out or excited this year? Drop me a comment to let me know—I’d love to pray for you if you’re having a hard week!
Quick update on me: My manuscript, Power Up, is still in the editing phase. I’d like to say “final” editing phase, but I don’t want to jinx it. 😉 Let me tell you, this whole route to publishing has been a learning experience like I never imagined. The last word I heard from my publisher is that they were hoping for a May release date, but that’s seeming more and more unlikely. The cover artist is supposed to be working on the cover art this month, which is exciting! I can’t wait to see what they come up with. I’ll keep you posted. I can’t believe this book will soon be a reality—pray with me that it will be instrumental in changing the lives of 8-12 year olds! Thanks again for taking this journey with me.