Category Archives: Life

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)!

Pressing the Reset Button

I promise not to weigh you down with Coronavirus chatter; that info is already being slammed in our faces from every direction. Let’s take our thoughts in a different direction for a minute. Let’s think about the new face of families in the midst of this pandemic.

Home, At Home, Decoration, Wood, Canvas

 Families are “stuck” at home, schools and lessons cancelled or adapted, many parents either out of work temporarily or working from home. For many, family members are under the same roof for longer than just the gap between dinner and bedtime.

There are currently plenty of excellent posts out there focusing on how to fill the extra time. These posts are helpful and relevant, and will hopefully prevent many parental headaches. But that’s not the intent of this post.

Would you agree with me that social activities are somewhat of an addiction to some families? You know the type—if there’s a gap in their schedule, they aim to fill it. These kids are used to going to school, running from one activity to the next, then waking to do it all over again. That’s a pretty standard family rhythm these days, I’d venture to say.

We used to run our lives similarly. Not because we chose to, necessarily. We just didn’t pause long enough to choose not to. In this day and age, we have to be deliberate to choose not to overfill our schedules; saying “yes” to all. the. things. is a given. During seasons of high busyness, I’ve always known we were missing out on something greater by coloring in all our white space. We’ve since made some good changes, and I haven’t regretted it for a second. Yes, our kids are still in outside activities, and no, as we’ve changed our lifestyle they haven’t missed running around like mad. And no, we’re certainly not perfect at maintaining balance (I wish).

Many families operate in task mode 24/7. I don’t believe relationships have what they need to thrive in task-mode circumstances. There’s peace to be found in life’s white space when it’s no longer filled with rushing.

My prayer for families during this time of “self-distancing” is for families to remember how to function as families again… For free time when kids can remember what it feels like to use their imaginations. For parents to remember how it feels to sit on the couch with a cup of tea and play a game with their kids. No time limits. No, “we have to leave in ten minutes” rushing here and there. No short tempers due to high demand schedules. My prayer is for relationships to rekindle as the breakneck pace of life slows.

Read, Socks, Coffee, Morning, Woman

As easy as it is to complain about restaurants closing, stores being sold out, and isolation being encouraged, let’s be proactive to reverse our thinking. Let’s do all within our power to embrace our situations. Of course there are hard times included with this social isolation, financial difficulties not the least of these. I’m not denying the difficulties here. But look around. Breathe it in. Your home. Your loved ones. The freedoms you still have, which are still abundant.

“Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 4:7

I don’t believe God is the source of evil and sickness, but I do believe he uses all these things for good. Could it be that God is taking the opportunity to press the “reset” button? Could it be he’s reminding us how central our families truly are to a healthy, functioning society? Let’s not resist what God wants to do in us and with us during this history-making time. Come, Holy Spirit. Bring your Kingdom. Change our hearts. Amen.

I’d love to hear your insights and questions in the comments below! And now, since so many people suddenly have lots of time on their hands, let me recommend a few great books you can find on Amazon…

For tween boys (or girls!), I recommend Joey Flynn’s Extraordinary Tale by Meghan E White. My 9-yr-old son loved it!

For parents of tweens (raising my hand), I highly recommend Hal and Melanie Young’s No Longer Little: Parenting Tweens with Grace and Hope. And I have to be honest–I’m only halfway through this one right now, but I’m hanging on its every word. If you have a tween, please check it out!

For women of all ages, I love Morning Meditations at Marina’s Kitchen Table by Marina Bromley. It’s all you could want and more in a morning devotional.

For cozying up with your little girl, this picture book by Chip Mattis is the sweetest… Under the Dancing Tree.

And if you’re needing something to keep your kids (8 & up) growing in their faith, even if church is unable to meet, I recommend Power Up by Jessie Mattis…yep, that’s me. Shameless plug I know, but still. It’s relevant. 🙂

Thanks for reading and have a blessed, peace-filled week!

Present in the Chaos

You guys. I can’t believe how much gift wrapping I have left to do before Christmas. Every year I tell myself I’ll have it all done by mid-month so I can just relax and enjoy the downtime before Christmas with my family. Maybe even read a book (gasp). But every year, I just don’t seem to pull it off.

I’m guessing I’m not alone. (Maybe I should be breathing a sigh of relief that I’m at least done with my shopping?) And here we are again, wanting to relish in the season but finding ourselves too busy. Maybe you aren’t physically busy; maybe you’re mentally busy. It amounts to the same thing, doesn’t it? Separation from the people or things we’d rather be able to focus on.

I’m not here to give you Three Magic Ways to Stop Being Busy, although I wish I could. Instead, I’m here to encourage us (yes, myself included) to embrace life right here, right now, no matter how messy, busy, or complicated life might be.

Be present in the chaos.

When just the very top of your to-do list looks like this…

  1. Make cookies for event
  2. Fill out Christmas cards
  3. Finish Christmas shopping
  4.  Spend time with Jesus
  5. Wrap gifts
  6. Play with my kids and/or spend time with friends

…please don’t be planning your Christmas shopping list in your mind while you’re playing with your kids. Be present.

Please don’t be worrying about the Christmas meal plan while you’re spending time with Jesus. Be present.

Please don’t be worrying about (fill in the blank) while you’re filling out cards. Be present.

People have been taking pride in multi-tasking for far too long. I admit, sometimes it’s a necessary evil, but I also realize how soul-sucking it can become. When we multi-task, nothing ever feels done. Our minds are always working on the next task, which means our souls never get a chance to rest and breathe before we move on to the next task or thought.

Be present in the moment, whether you’re spending time with loved ones, cooking, cleaning, or praying. Let yourself fully experience the moment, tell yourself it’s okay to just do one thing at a time, and see if just a little bit of that holiday stress doesn’t melt away.

There’s a quote by Dallas Willard that I just love (which is answering the question of how to be spiritually healthy).

“Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

That’s it. Short. Sweet. Magical.

Whether our hurry is physical or mental, it’s exhausting and is distracting us from God’s full purpose for our lives. Honestly, I ebb and flow in this area of life, but when I’m truly intentional to eliminate hurry and be present in each moment, the peace that it brings is indescribable, and so, so worth it.

 Eliminate the hurry and see what God has in store for you. Be present in each moment, and I’m positive you won’t regret it. You just may end up with enough space in your life, mind, and heart to fully celebrate God coming to earth as a baby in order to begin carrying out his rescue plan for humankind.

Thank you, God, for loving us enough to come to earth in the form of Jesus in order to show us your love in person, reach, and rescue us. Thank you that we can trust your plans for our lives. May we honor and glorify you this season by offering you our hearts, minds, and time. Let us slow down, be present, and embrace each moment as the gift that it is. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Leave me a comment to share your thoughts and your best tips for slowing down when life is busy! And, if you haven’t already, pop on over to the sidebar (or the bottom of your phone) and sign up to receive blog posts and writer updates straight to your email! When you do, you’ll receive a thank-you gift of a printable list of my top ten favorite inspirational quotes and verses! Merry Christmas and thanks for stopping by! Oh, and – shameless plug – if you’re struggling to come up with gift ideas for the kids in your life, check out these books: Under the Dancing Tree by Chip Mattis or Power Up by Jessie Mattis! 🙂 With the magic of Amazon Prime, you still have time!

(One last thing – I just reread my Thanksgiving post and truly had no idea this post was about basically the same thing. Guess we all know time management is my big struggle these days, don’t we?? Haha!)

The Great Thanksgiving Week Struggle

“The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists of shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.” — CS Lewis

It’s already Thanksgiving week, you guys! Every year I think to myself, This year I’m going to plan ahead and have a relaxed week of enjoying my family and being thankful.

And every year ends up more like, Okay, I need to sort my coupons, make my grocery list – when am I going to get groceries again? Today I need to blah blah blah and tomorrow I need to blah blah blah and on Wednesday I definitely HAVE to blah blah blah, and I don’t want to forget about spending time with the kids and, oh yeah, spending time with GOD. And somewhere in there I should probably try to be deliberately thankful.

I hope I’m alone in this Great Thanksgiving Week Struggle. I hope beyond hope you guys have it all figured out and are having an absolutely organized, peaceful, thanks-filled week. If you are, stop reading and go sip some tea by the fireplace while I speak to the rest of us (yes, myself included). You’ve earned it.

I’m definitely living the above CS Lewis quote lately, and I’m guessing you are too. We all have our things. Our stuff. Our busyness that piles up even when we deliberately attempt to control our busy.

And you, like me, may even be attempting to shove it all back in the morning to gain focus before the day slams into us. But you, like me, may be failing.

Image by hudsoncrafted from Pixabay

It’s time for us to do two things: take control and give up our control. Hmm, quite the paradox, eh? Sound impossible? Stick with me.

1. TAKE CONTROL. This is the part where we own up to how we’re handling life. This is where we ruthlessly cut out the busyness that isn’t an emphatic yes. And I’m not just talking physical busyness; this includes mental busyness. Yep, I said it.

It’s simple enough (or so it seems) to look at our schedules and cut activities until it fits the hours in our day in a healthy way—if you haven’t done this yet, please stop and do it now.

It’s not so simple to eliminate the busyness in our minds. But it must be done. First of all, let’s stop gorging on information. I’m the worst at this. Suddenly, at 11pm, I’ll need to know who played Phoebe’s boyfriend Gary on Friends in season 5 (Michael Rapaport by the way). Or I’ll suddenly need to find the best gluten free scone recipe and thirty minutes will speed by while I’m comparing reviews. And inevitably, as I search for a specific answer, a new question comes to mind that must be answered before I can sleep. In order to simplify our minds and therefore our lives, we have to stop feeding ourselves buckets of information.

That podcast you listen to every morning on the way to work? Try turning the radio off and giving your mind permission to form its own thoughts, memories, and ideas. The things you think you need to Google before bed? Make a list and tell yourself you can do it tomorrow. You probably won’t still care when you wake up and see your list. Rabbit trail averted.

To sum up number one: reduce the physical and mental busyness as much as is in your power.

2. GIVE UP YOUR CONTROL. And this is where we can exhale. You see, some things in life are just going to happen. It doesn’t matter what we think about it or how hard we try to simplify, so there’s no use getting caught up in stress. Sometimes we will find ourselves with lots on our minds and lots on our plates. If we give each thing to God as we’re doing it, we can at least experience a supernatural partnership and peace as we go about our days.

Sometimes a slower pace is in our hands, and we still need to give each moment to God, making ourselves available for his service and making our ears available to hear his encouragement and instruction.

My prayer for you (and me!) is that we can do better than “get through” the Great Thanksgiving Week Struggle of trying to get everything done. My prayer is that, even in our busyness, we can calm our hearts and minds (and hopefully schedules) enough to cultivate thankfulness and peace. Let’s not give our days the power over us. Let’s be deliberate to give our days to God.

Have an amazing Thanksgiving, everyone! Let’s find joy in being thankful this week. 🙂

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” — 1 Chronicles 16:34

Quick update: Thanks for sticking with me this year, friends! It’s been a huge learning opportunity figuring out how to market a book and balance writing with the rest of life, but I’m (mostly) loving it. I just finished the rough draft of my first women’s fiction novel. Woot woot! I tucked it away for a few weeks before I begin edits, but I’m definitely chomping at the bit — I want to get started so badly, but I know it will be best all around for me to wait so I can embrace the holidays without being (as) distracted, and it will also give me fresh perspective to get the manuscript prepared for eyes that aren’t mine. It might be awhile, but I’m excited about this one. And don’t forget about Power Up when you’re planning stocking stuffers this year… 😉