Tag Archives: Jessie Mattis

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!

Kids: Kingdom Hungry

When did we start expecting so little of our children? Sure, schools cram kids full of information before sending them home to juggle homework, extracurricular activities, and family, but that doesn’t always mean we expect much from them, aside from excessive busyness. As a society in general, we’ve loaded kids down with a lot of “stuff,” while also lowering our expectations in many ways.

We think they can’t handle losing, so we give everybody a prize. We think they can’t handle assigned chores (and we don’t want to listen to them complain), so we’ve stopped requiring that they pitch in around the house. They ask, we give.

What kind of kids are we producing? Hard-working, well-adjusted, and faith-filled? Or anxiety-ridden, self-conscious doubters?

*Disclaimer: My oldest is eleven and I don’t have it all figured out. If you feel like I’m pointing fingers, please be assured I realize I have three pointing back at myself, and we’re all on a journey. There are many contributing factors to who a child becomes.*

Here’s what I really want to focus on—what we expect of our kids in regard to our Christian faith.

First, a little about my family. My husband and I have frequent discussions with our three kids. Always have. We listen to their thoughts and share our own. We talk about implications to certain ideas and ask questions. We talk about Jesus and the Bible and its rich history and meaning.

We aren’t content to read with our kids about Noah’s Ark for the umpteenth time and call it good.

Faith is a complex, constantly evolving thing. We don’t want to overwhelm them with details and conversations they’re not intellectually ready for, but we do want to acknowledge their capabilities in understanding this three-in-one God who loves them more than they’ll ever understand (this side of heaven).

My son, always climbing to new heights!

Our family moved to a new area a couple years ago and we spent plenty of time church-hunting. Do you know one of the hardest parts for a family about finding a new church to call home? The children’s programs. It took us awhile to find a new home church, and although there are many great churches in town, we’re so happy we searched until we found one that shares our vision for kids.

Yes, we want our kids to have fun and love church. But that’s not the end-all. Unfortunately, for too many these days, it is.

Some churches are so seeker friendly that the more established Christian children get the short end of the stick. They get a bare-bones lesson about “love” or “kindness” or some other general value, play games, get a prize, and go home.

After being part of a church plant that had a rich children’s program before our move, our kids caught on to this seeker-sensitive dynamic quickly in our church hunting. One time we got in the car (okay, van) after church, asked how it went, and got this response: “It was fine. Played some games and watched a funny video.” To which we asked, “What was the lesson about?” The answer: “We didn’t really have a lesson. There was a funny video about being kind, but it didn’t mention God.”

I recognize that was our one-week glimpse into their program, but unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for children’s church programs to simply tout good values these days.

Why?

Well, one reason seems to be our lowered expectations. We want to be sure kids have a good time and come back next week; we don’t want to burden them with in-depth lessons.

Have we forgotten that children are often quick learners, capable of understanding far more than we give them credit for? Have we considered that they’re often craving deeper information about their faith in a time when life has a lot of changes and questions? Do we not realize how Kingdom-hungry children really are?

Do we really want to teach down to them only to have them meet our lowered expectations?

If we aren’t bold enough to teach our children that God loves them, sent Jesus to bring them into a lifelong relationship of love, forgiveness, and the assurance of Heaven, and then sent his Holy Spirit to empower them each day, what are we really trying to accomplish?

Let’s dare to be bold when talking to our children about God. Let’s talk to them at their level, and recognize that “their level” is probably much higher than we assume.

Children aren’t the church of the future. They’re the church of today. They’re only the church of the future when grown-ups tell them so.

What are your thoughts? What have been your observations of the kids in your life regarding faith? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below!

My Christian fiction novel, Power Up, was written for the exact purpose of giving kids (8 & up) a boost in their faith. It’s perfect for kids who crave a bit more knowledge about God’s role in our lives than what they receive at church or home.

I’m excited to tell you that a companion study guide is now available as a free download on my website! It’s great for individual study or small group gatherings of kids who want to dive in. Check it out here – and encourage the kids in your life to power up! 🙂

Quick update on me…I’ve recently completed the women’s fiction manuscript I’ve been working on for over a year, and I’m so excited!! (Still plenty of editing to do.) I have to withhold details for now, but the story is near and dear to my heart, inspired by true events in my incredible grandparents’ lives. Pray with me, if you would, that the right publishing professionals would see its value, and give it a chance to become a real book one day! Thanks for your support! You guys are the best!

One last thing–Power Up has been named as a finalist in the 2020 Selah Awards! The winner will be announced in May, but it’s honestly an honor just to be recognized as a finalist.

No Guilt: Motivation for the Homeschool Parent

Let’s be honest. Homeschooling is a privilege. A blessing, even. There are days that feel downright storybook. I fall asleep those days with these thoughts running through my mind: We rocked it today! No tears, minimal complaints, I’ve got this down! Did I mention these days are few and far between? Oh, they are.

More often than not, the end of the school day leaves me with these thoughts swirling: What just happened? What do I think I’m doing here? As if I’m capable of holding this all together!

Honestly, I guess most days fall somewhere in between. Or maybe the average day captures all these thoughts at various times; that’s probably more accurate. Am I the only one? It may feel like it at times, but I know I’m not alone.

Social media feeds are rampant with photos and captions of the perfect homeschool experience. Beautiful, intentionally decorated learning spaces. Happy children doing complex experiments. Schedules and planners so fancy they should have their own Instagram pages.

You want to know what our homeschooling space looks like? It looks like a messy countertop, probably still scattered with breakfast crumbs. It looks like the living room couch, surrounded by abandoned dirty socks (I think those things multiply if left overnight). It looks like a nook in our unfinished basement, chilly and peppered with storage tubs, but stocked with books and old school desks to boot. It looks like an out-of-place bookshelf in our kitchen, because we have limited space for our schoolbooks.

Our “good enough for me” homeschool space.

I’m done pretending I’m going to “get it all together.” If you’re a mom who enjoys interior decorating and creating a peaceful, intentional learning space, go for it! Do it and enjoy it! And if you’re not? (*raising my hand high*) Don’t stress; you can give your children all they need regardless.

Are you researching yourself to death trying to find the ever-elusive, perfect curriculum? I give you permission to settle for a “great” curriculum and end the search. Until you need something that works better for a different kid, that is. And then the search inevitably continues…

Are you wondering how so-and-so mom balances forty-seven activities, keeps a perfectly clean house, and cooks healthy meals three times a day? Here’s a secret; they don’t. Even if it looks like they’re keeping it together, and even if they think they are, they’re not. There will ultimately be a payoff for hectic schedules.

If your priorities look different than the homeschool family down the road, embrace it! Have a play date, put on a (big) pot of coffee and compare notes with other moms! Laugh about your failed attempts and cheer each other on for what’s working!

Whatever your homeschool day looks like, make it yours and make that enough. Make it your goal to lie down at the end of a day with these thoughts running through your mind: I showed up for my kids today. I was present with them, we accomplished plenty of things (even if it wasn’t all I originally hoped), and there were more smiles than frowns. Whatever we didn’t get to today, we’ll get to eventually and my kids will be okay. No guilt.

And then remember the most important ingredient of all to a successful homeschool life: Give it to God. Stop trying so hard with your own efforts. Place your control in his capable hands and sleep peacefully, knowing you have another chance in the morning and he’s got your back. He’s guiding you as you guide your children. Isn’t that a relief?

Thanks for reading! What other homeschool or parenting topics would you like to see me attempt to tackle here? I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions in the comments.

And if you’re searching for a way to supplement your kids’ Bible teaching, my tween/teen novel, Power Up, is a great way to encourage kids to embrace an active, living faith of their own! Find it here or here!