Category Archives: Faith

All things faith related.

Trust–More Than a Back-Up Plan

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 writing!”


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 trust me.

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.

Passive or Active: Living our Faith Out Loud

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 join in.

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 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. 🙂

(Also, check out this newly released book by Putty Putman called “Kingdom Impact.” I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but it’s on my “read it soon” list and the author is a pastor at the church I attended for years. I have no doubt it’s a life-changing read.)

Celebration Overload?

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.

There is no Junior Holy Spirit

There is no junior Holy Spirit.

For the past 10+ years, I’ve been blessed to have church leaders who regularly utter (and wholeheartedly believe) these words.

I know not every Christian can say the same, or would even know the difference, but I want to explain (briefly) the difference.

I grew up in a quaint small-town Methodist church, filled with kind people. We learned all about the Bible and the love of Jesus in Sunday School each week (hopefully earning awesome prizes, like pencils that rolled around in drawers forever unsharpened, or a small plastic something-or-other that made just enough noise to annoy your big sister…). It was a good church, full of Godly people. And I was completely oblivious to the fact that something was missing.

It wasn’t until after college that my husband and I discovered the large network of Vineyard churches and began attending. That first year was filled with eye-opening, aha-moment type learning experiences. The spiritual realm made more sense than ever before. Church was vibrant and life-giving. We had found our tribe. The activity of the Holy Spirit was clearly what had been missing in my previous church experiences.

Now, years later, I’m more thankful than ever that God led us to the Holy Spirit when he did. Why? Definitely for the sake of my husband and me, but mainly for the sake of our kids. We have three awesome kids, and if it hadn’t been for all we’ve learned through the Vineyard Church, their upbringing would no doubt look very different.

You see, I would have been more inclined and content to raise “church kids.” You know the ones I mean – good kids who go to church, learn their Bible lessons, and live happily ever after doing their best to be good enough. I was a church kid. Maybe you were too. And let me say this – it’s totally okay to raise church kids, as long as their faith becomes real to them and they make it their own.

Cue the Holy Spirit. The part of God that lives inside us when we accept Jesus as our Lord. The part of God that works in and through us every day, as much as we are willing to listen to him, anyway.

The reality of the Holy Spirit is life changing. The Holy Spirit is what transforms religion from an obligation into something irresistible.

I’ll say it again: There is no junior Holy Spirit. This means that the same power of God that raised Jesus from the dead is not only accessible to grown-up Jesus followers, but to children just the same.

Ponder that. Doesn’t that sort of blow your mind?

We have the amazing opportunity to teach our children and raise them up knowing the Holy Spirit lives inside them and has the power to transform not only their lives, but the lives of others through them. We get to raise up the next generation of Holy Spirit filled Jesus followers to know that the darkness on earth has no power over them, as long as they are connected to the Source.

So let’s be quick to speak up in defense of our (collective) children when well-meaning “church grown-ups” try to say they’re too young to understand or it’s “grown-up” stuff. We’re all at different levels of understanding and we always will be. This is complex stuff!

Just because a child, perhaps, doesn’t have the same capacity of understanding, doesn’t mean they can’t experience the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. After all, Jesus himself said (in Matthew 19:14):

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.

So let’s all heed Jesus’ instruction and encourage our kids to experience the fullness of God’s power here on earth, here and now. Not just when they turn eighteen, or twenty-one, or whatever the assumed magic number may be.

The one and only Holy Spirit is for everyone who calls Jesus Lord, whether they’re three or a hundred and three. No junior version needed.

What has been your experience with the Holy Spirit? What about your kids, if you have them? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below!

Brief Update: My upcoming middle grade novel “Power Up” is coming to the end of the editing process. I’m so excited to share it in a couple of months with parents who, like me, want something deeper for their children. Something that will challenge them to go from “church kid” to “Spirit kid.” My hope is that “Power Up” will be one of the tools that inspires them along the way.

Power Up

Do you ever wonder if there’s more to life? If what you’re experiencing is really all there is to experience? You’re not alone. I’m excited to share this post today to hopefully bring you some encouragement, and also share what’s been going on with me in my writing journey. Let’s jump in!

The way I see it, there are three types of people in the world.

1.The first type of people are not Christians. They don’t know God, or if they do know him, they certainly don’t understand him, which is why they have not yet accepted him.

2. The second type of people are Christians. They have accepted God and Jesus and they try to go to church regularly and be good people.

3. The third type of people are also Christians. They have accepted God and Jesus, and have opened their lives to the workings of the Holy Spirit. They do their best to love others with the love God has shown them, and they seek and listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Think for a second…are you a 1, 2, or 3? I’d venture to guess that most people who care to read this blog identify with 2 or 3. And if you’re a 1 and you’re still reading this – thank you! I’m so glad you are!

Lots of people identify with number 2. I’d say that’s where the majority of American Christians have landed. It’s a great place to be, but if you stay at number 2 for too long, you may begin to get restless. You may find yourself wondering if there’s something that you’re missing; more to the puzzle than what you’re seeing.

Let me just say this: if you’re a Christian, and you find Christianity boring, there is more to it! It doesn’t have to be a dull life filled with potlucks and polite greetings (I’m a fan of both of those things, by the way).

The Holy Spirit is the piece of the puzzle that so many people are missing, but they don’t even realize it yet. All Christians have access to the Holy Spirit, but we have to choose to let him actively work in us and through us. We have to choose to seek him out and listen to him when he speaks to us (and he will speak to us!).

The Holy Spirit is what turns a hum-drum Christian life into a daily adventure. It brings the spiritual realm alive. And when we realize that the King of Kings has issued us a personal invitation to work with him, up close and personally, each and every day, it’s sort of mind blowing, don’t you think?

Have you ever been walking through Target or Walmart and felt a nudge from God himself to pray for a stranger passing by? That’s the Holy Spirit, and it will rock your comfortable world. Have you ever felt like God was showing you something about another person and asking you to pray for them during your own personal prayer time, when you otherwise wouldn’t have known what was going on with them? That’s the Holy Spirit. He’s like Jesus without a body, living inside us, in constant communication with us. Or as constant as we’ll allow and recognize anyway. I’m telling you, it’s an adventure!

If it sounds a little scary or unpredictable, be assured – it totally is. But it’s also incredible and life changing, and with practice, it starts to feel more normal. And anyway…lives aren’t changed inside comfort zones.

Some may think the Holy Spirit is only for adults, but that couldn’t be further from the truth!

As a mother of three kids ages ten and under, I can say with confidence that many children’s church programs don’t expect enough from kids. Our family has visited quite a few churches, and I can see that it’s becoming more and more common to provide lots of entertainment, water down the lesson to include a feel-good moral, and send kids on their way. (Let me interrupt myself to say I’m not intending to criticize – leading kids’ church is hard work and I have great admiration for those to do so.) I’m sure the leaders have good reasons for going this route, but from my view, this is producing a culture of “church kids.” Church kids are great, don’t get me wrong! But I want more for my own.

I want to raise Jesus kids. Spirit kids. Kids who know they have the power of the living God himself living inside of them, accessible at the drop of a dime. Guiding them, encouraging them, and inspiring them to love the world recklessly.

And that’s why I wrote Power Up, a novel targeted to kids age 8-12. It’s a book where readers will follow an eleven-year-old girl named Lexi on a journey of transforming from a “church kid” to a “Spirit kid.” It’s an entertaining, messy, grace-filled journey of doubt and trust and empowerment.

You see, two years ago I was looking for Christian fiction books for my daughter. Everything I found was floofy (aka non-substantive). “Be a good kid and say your prayers while living your otherwise secular life” type stuff. All well and good, but my kids wanted something meatier. Something that painted a picture of what an active Christian life could look like. Something that inspired them to greater depths. And I couldn’t find it.

So I wrote it. Power Up is scheduled to release from Elk Lake Publishing around May 2019.

If you believe it’s a worthy goal to help 8-12 year olds transition from “church kids” to “Spirit kids,” would you pray with me? Pray that Power Up will make it into the hands of those who need it most. Pray that eyes are opened and lives are changed. Pray that God is glorified and the Spirit empowered. And pray that I can handle all that is asked of me when it comes to marketing and such, as it’s a bit overwhelming to think about for this introvert. Thanks for joining me on this journey – it’s so good to have you along. Your support and encouragement means the world to me.

Now let’s revisit the beginning of this post real quick. The Christian’s journey should always be evolving and growing. Are you a Christian? If not, ask yourself why not and then seek answers. Email me if you have questions that you can’t get answered and I’ll do my best to help.

Are you a God and Jesus Christian? Then think – do you want to grant the Holy Spirit access to your daily life? I promise, you won’t regret it.

Are you a God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit filled Christian? Then what can you do to open the door even a little wider for the Spirit? Give him the wheel even more fully. (This is where I am, by the way. I can always give the Spirit more control over my life.)

My prayer for you today is that you’ll take a next step. A baby step. Whatever size step you can handle right now. Give your life to God, let the Holy Spirit lead, and let the adventure unfold. And don’t forget to enjoy the ride.

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