Category Archives: Life

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… 😉

The Best Laid Plans…

Me to my three kids last Monday: “If we get your rooms sorted and deep cleaned this week, we’ll go to the beach on Friday!”

Kids: *cheering*

Me to my kids Thursday afternoon, after witnessing much hard work but still no completed rooms and noticing the kids moping, assuming they wouldn’t get to go to the beach: “If you keep working hard and do your best, we’ll go to the beach tomorrow even if it’s not finished yet.”

Kids, eyes brightening with hope: “Really?? Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Cue a much less stressed-out home for the rest of Thursday as I secretly hi-five myself.

Do you ever set goals for yourself, only to get discouraged when things shift course and your goal can’t be reached as intended? As a homeschool mom, I do this all the time. I tell myself things like:

“My youngest will memorize her addition and subtraction facts by so-and-so date.” (What if she doesn’t? Or what if she does but learns to hate math for the rest of her life?)

“My oldest will finish her writing program by the end of the semester.” (What if she does, but she’s just going through the motions, not actually learning? What if she starts to hate writing?)

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. –Robert Burns

I think Mr. Burns was on to something.

Here’s the thing I’ve been learning lately:

Prioritize progress and learning over completion.

When we prioritize completing a specific goal, we pile on the pressure and make the journey to the end more grueling than it should be, and then feel awful if we never do actually obtain our goal.

When we prioritize progress or learning, we’re generally more motivated to embrace the journey, no matter where we ultimately end up.

For instance, ask any high schooler what they want to be when they grow up and you’ll likely hear “a millionaire.” Played out in reality, however, how likely is it? Not very. They might even work long hours at a job they hate, advancing and advancing some more, edging ever closer to their monetary goal and wasting their days away in pursuit of their goal.

Perhaps a healthier goal would be more along the lines of, “find a satisfying job, work hard, and move up in the business as often as opportunities allow until I’m financially stable.”

Do you see the difference?

Which type of goal setter are you? Do you set big, specific goals, only to be disappointed when life turns a corner and the end result isn’t what you were hoping? (And life always turns a corner, am I right?)

Or do you set the type of goals where you can feel satisfied with yourself and the journey you’ve taken, even if things veer off course from time to time?

Really it’s just a collection of moments, hours, and days that make up our lifetime. Are we spending those hours living a life we can be satisfied with, even proud of? Or are we dissatisfied as we go through our days, with our eyes so glued to the prize that we’ve forgotten to live the life that’s in front of us?

Whatever your approach to the future, I encourage you to do a little self-reflection to make sure you’re on a healthy track moving forward. Consider these quick questions:

Am I stressed all the time? If so, why?

Am I trusting God with my future or am I only trusting myself?

Will I feel like a failure if (fill in the blank) doesn’t happen?

God wants to pour his peace over us as he leads us through our days. Are we letting him?

Maybe God has given you big, divine goals. Go after them without putting your self-worth on the line.

Maybe he’s asking you to go a little easier on yourself in order to accomplish the deeds he has planned for you in the everyday (which maybe you keep missing because of your laser focus on what you’ve deemed most important).

A pic from our recent trip to Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Preserve in CA!

The point is, don’t miss the forest for the trees. Take a deep breath and embrace the moment, hour, and day you’ve been given. Take off the pressure you’ve put on yourself and feel the lightness that it brings.

 Being driven is a good thing, as long as your drive is submitted to God’s plan for your life. And oh, does he ever have a plan for your life. A good one. In his goodness you can rest assured.

What has been your experience? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Also, feel free to drop a suggestion for future blog post topics! Thanks for reading and have an awesome week!

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.