Tag Archives: Jessie Mattis

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!

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… 😉