Category Archives: Life

Truthful Grace and the Holy Spirit

This week, a dear friend I met on Twitter (yes, I discovered it is possible to meet dear friends on Twitter!) featured an interview with me on her blog. The interview focuses on the Holy Spirit and also covers some info you may not know about me, as well as my writing journey, and hopes and prayers for my new book, Power Up.

In place of a new post, please hop over to Melissa McLaughlin’s blog, Truthful Grace, to check out the interview! (Or find it at https://melissamclaughlin.org/ ). And while you’re there, peruse her other super-inspiring posts and consider signing up to receive her blog updates. She’s truly one of the kindness, most genuine, Jesus-loving souls around; you won’t regret it. 🙂

If you haven’t yet seen it, you can check out my new book here!

Praying that this week the Lord gives you a supernatural sense of peace, encouragement, hope, and vision. And in case you need this reminder from Jeremiah 29:11… “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future…”

Thanks for reading and have a great week! 🙂

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!”

*uh…*

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.

Calm in the Chaos

I don’t like chaos. It’s something I guard against. I don’t like to be around large groups of people very often or very long. If my kids get wound up, I lovingly instruct them to bring it down a notch or go be crazy in another room. I’m as careful as I can be to make sure our family schedule has regular times built in where we’re not running around to and from lessons and events like chickens with our heads cut off. Some types of chaos are controllable.

Sometimes life has seasons of chaos that are hard to avoid though, right? For example, when you decide to move to a new place, you have weeks or months of fixing up your current place to put on the market, cleaning like a madman before a showing, emails galore with your realtor, and road trips to house hunt. Exhausting.

Or, what about those baby/toddler years? Years of sleep-deprived chaos before the kids are old enough to go to the bathroom by themselves and sleep through the night. Exhausting.

The newest season of chaos for me and my husband, Chip https://chipmattis.com/, has been writing. He wrote a children’s book (a beautiful father/daughter story called “Under the Dancing Tree,” available at Amazon, here ), and I have a middle grade novel coming out in May (so exciting)!

Before this past year of writing and learning about the book publishing process, I never would have dreamed all that is required of authors. I mean, if you want to write a book, you have to really mean it. Writing is the easy part. The fun part. The time commitment and mental commitment of the rest of the process is no joke. Chaos, if you’re not careful.

So I’m trying to be careful. There are a million things I could be doing at any given moment. It becomes a deliberate process of making choices and prioritizing. It’s probably similar with your job, right? However it transfers to your life, I’m sure you can relate to what I’m saying.

So how do we guard against chaos when it becomes a bigger matter than simply saying “no” to activities?

I think the real answer is so simple it’s maddeningly difficult: refuse to participate in the chaos. This might sound impossible when you examine your life. After all, we still have things to do. Things we’re responsible for. Commitments we’ve made.

Yes. And we need to honor our commitments and fulfill our responsibilities. But there are always things we can say “no” to. One of the main things we can say “no” to is letting our minds be overwhelmed by the chaos around us.

Just as marriage is choosing to love your spouse every day, living from a place of calm means choosing to steady our minds every day.

But how? Well, I know I can’t do it alone, and I bet you can’t either. I need Jesus every single day.

We have to believe His promises. There are many, but three come to mind in particular:

 Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
He’s offering us supernatural peace! It’s un-understandable, it’s so amazing! Accept it.

 Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Not “I might,” I’ll perhaps,” or “maybe,” but “I WILL give you rest.” That sounds like a promise to me.

 James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
Thank goodness we have the power of the Holy Spirit living inside us to make the devil flee! That’s powerful stuff!

So the next time we find our minds being overcome by the chaos around us, let’s close our eyes, however briefly (or lock yourself into the bathroom for five minutes like I’m prone to doing…), and speak these truths out loud to remind not only ourselves, but our enemy, of these promises.

Our hearts and minds belong to Jesus, and the devil (and the stress and chaos he brings) has to flee. Praise God for that!

Do you have any tried and true methods for combating chaos? If so, I’d love to hear about them! I’m always looking for new tools for my tool belt. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

Quick update on me:
My book, “Power Up,” is nearing the end of the editing process, which doesn’t make me sad, haha! Cover art design will happen in April, and by May, we should have a real book! Meanwhile, I’m so proud of my husband for his new release, “Under the Dancing Tree.” You really should check it out at the link above; you won’t regret it. I predict it will become a modern day classic, along the lines of Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.”

8 Tips for Retaining Your Holiday Sanity

Obligations and traditions abound this time of year. There are parties and gatherings galore. Trust me, I understand the struggle! But before you let the holidays overwhelm you:

Consider these eight tips for retaining your sanity in the middle of all the holiday hubbub.

Follow these tips to optimize your enjoyment of the season and ensure that you have time to focus on the most important part—celebrating the gift of Jesus.

  1. Get the most important things on your calendar NOW. This includes your main get-togethers, any special holiday choirs or performances that you want to attend, etc.
  2. Make a budget for gifts and use cash. When you run out of cash, you’re out. That’ll make you think twice before getting that second gift for your mom just because “it’s sooo cute!”
  3. Discuss price limits with family and friends now. Just because so-and-so always spends $50 per person doesn’t mean you should. Propose something new—maybe a five or ten dollar limit. (And don’t underestimate Dollar Tree…they’ve got some good stuff, people.) Or if you’re the crafty type, propose only homemade items (cookie mixes in jars are always winners).
  4. Just say no. If you’re like me, you can’t be at every holiday function without stressing yourself out. Don’t feel bad declining invitations. If you need to, put “rest” on your calendar and then when people ask if you’re free, say, “I’m sorry, I’ve already got something on my calendar that evening!”
  5. Eat as healthily as you can. This is an easy one to let slide, but honestly—we just feel better when we eat better! Give yourself an advantage by drinking lots of water and eating your vegetables. You’ll minimize those pesky stress headaches and feel even better about your choices when you do occasionally indulge in holiday foods.
  6. Remember, everyone has different thresholds for busyness. Respect yours and respect others’. They may or may not do the same for you, but at least you can do your part to be aware of your needs before you’re completely frazzled.
  7. Simplify where you can. Yes, I know some traditions call for going all out. But cut corners where you can. This is the perfect time of year to spend a little extra (if you can) on convenience foods…prechopped onions for example. Or do what my mom has been doing for years—roast the turkey a day ahead, carve it and put it in a dish with a little broth and covered in foil, then warm it in the oven before you serve it. No huge mess right before dinner!
  8. Reject chaos. Cut back enough to find peace and JOY in Jesus this holiday season.

Let JOY be our goal.

Let JESUS be our guide.

And let common sense and boundaries prevent us from engaging in the chaos that threatens to steal our holidays. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas!

Feel free to drop me a comment—let me know your thoughts or let me know YOUR favorite time/sanity saving tip around the holidays! And don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t yet so you can get the latest posts delivered straight to your inbox! Thanks for reading!!

 

3 Ways to Pull Yourself Out of a Funk

When life knocks you down, how do you get back up?

It’s a given that life will do its best to knock us down, but it’s not a given that we will get back up. Look around and you’ll see person after person with wasted dreams and anger lines etched deep into their brows.

These people weren’t born that way. Something happened. Something that was too much for them to handle. And so they threw up their hands and gave in to the life they were dealt. No longer trying to overcome their obstacles, they succumbed to a life of resignation. They didn’t get back up.

I don’t want to do that.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to judge a single soul. For all I know, if I had to face certain obstacles, I would be in the same, hopeless boat. But I hope not. I’d like to think I would still choose hope.

Just to give myself a little credibility here, I want to be clear. My life is good. I have a great husband, three amazing kids, and a peaceful home. I have great family and friends to call on.

BUT. My good life just so happens to be in spite of a few things.

For one thing, I have multiple sclerosis. For those of you who don’t know, this is an incurable autoimmune condition that effects the nervous system. And guess what the nervous system is responsible for…? Yep, everything! Symptoms come and go, but you never know what you’re going to get.

Numbness and tingling on a toe, a leg, or the whole body. Spasms in a hand, a leg, or the entire left side of your body. Double vision. Virtually any function of the body can be affected because of the way MS works: it interrupts your nerve signals, which in turn causes your body to do some pretty crazy, disruptive things.

So yes, I have a good life. But that doesn’t stop me from wondering what the future will hold. Maybe we should take an amazing vacation this year because—what if I’m unable to travel next year? I should do everything I’m capable of doing now, because—what if this or that thing happens? Even if I’m doing my best to stay in good health and know that, for now, these are pretty irrational thoughts, it doesn’t stop them from taunting me.

For another thing, after my husband and I got married 14 years ago, we went through some hard stuff with lasting effects. His mom’s death for one. Yes, everybody deals with death, I get it. But this was different than most. After suffering a brain aneurysm in a location that had never been successfully operated on, my mother-in-law’s amazing neurosurgeon (https://www.mayoclinic.org/biographies/lanzino-giuseppe-m-d/bio-20055067 ) pulled it off. He fixed her. After weeks of riding a life or death roller coaster, she was finally going to be okay.

Then some weeks later, the day before she was supposed to come home from the hospital, a nurse (who was supposed to be holding onto her) left her side for a moment, and she fell. After what we all thought to be a miraculous recovery, she hit her head and that was the end.

Legal and family drama ensued, and my father-in-law’s dementia rapidly progressed into Alzheimer’s which took his life a few years ago.

Those are just a couple examples to demonstrate that my family and I are not foreign to dealing with tough stuff. My street cred, if you will (ha!).

But you know what? Everybody is dealing with tough stuff. There’s not a single person I’ve ever gotten to know who is not dealing with something hard. Everybody’s tough stuff looks different, but it’s tough nonetheless. It’s enough to make us lose sleep, be in foul moods, and treat each other unkindly as we all stumble through our days trying to appear “fine.”

So how do we pull ourselves out of these tough spots? Mentally, I mean. Sometimes we can’t change our circumstances, but that doesn’t mean we have to submit to a bitter life. We can do better than that. We can set the bar higher for the world to see.

Here are three ways to pull yourself out of a funk. They’ve worked for me. I hope they work for you, too.

First, it’s pointless to try to do it alone. We were never meant to carry our burdens alone. Jesus makes this offer to us in Matthew 11:28, 30: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Give him your burdens. Holding onto them alone is only going to cripple you in the end.

And after you’ve given your burdens to Jesus, find a friend or family member who truly cares, and let them help you. “Oh, I don’t want to worry them. They’re not responsible for my burdens,” you may be saying. Stop it! The people in your life who love you are probably more than willing to help. Let them. Letting others help isn’t a sign weakness, it’s a sign that you’re human, which, guess what—people already know! Let others help and then be willing to help others when you’re in a better place.

Second, engage with God. Don’t just hand over your burdens and walk away. Let him be a moment-by-moment part of your day. Talk. Listen. Be still. Let it be a relationship that grows deeper by the hour as you learn to lean on him and trust him. He’s a good, good Father. Really, he is.

Third, find a thing. Something you can turn to in the busyness of your day that will pump some inspiration into your system. My thing is music. Whether I’m bustling around the house homeschooling and doing chores or whether I’m sick in bed and can barely move, worship music is there to speak truth to my weary soul. (Lauren Daigle in particular – can’t get enough of her albums!) Some days inspiring music makes all the difference in my attitude toward life and trials.

Trials will come. But if we let Jesus carry our loads, partner up with God and other people, and find a way to regularly remind ourselves of the hope God gives us, we’ll be well on our way to overcoming any situation this world might throw at us next.

Leave me a comment and let me know your strategies for overcoming difficulties – I’d love to hear from you! And feel free to drop me your email address in the “subscribe” box so you can receive future blog posts delivered straight to you! Thanks for reading!