Tag Archives: jessiemattis.com

Ark-Building Faith

I love a good checklist, don’t you? For groceries, to-do’s, the year ahead – it doesn’t matter. I function best with a plan and a list.

It wasn’t always this way. I used to fly by the seat of my pants more often, moving in whatever direction seemed best at the time. (Ah, carefree college days…) But now the unknown is more likely to stress me out. If, that is, I’m focused on my own goals and agenda.

That’s the interesting thing about following God…learning that he has his own agenda for you and being put in the place to choose God’s path or your own.

I’ve learned that there is a spectrum of Christians. There are Christians who love God, go to church, and are kind to others. They do their thing, go on their way, and love God in the process. And that’s okay – that’s where they are on their journey with God.

And then there are Christians who truly believe that God will guide their way if they let him. So they make as much of a plan as they can, but then sit back and let God guide their way.

Over the past ten years or so, I’d say I have morphed from the first type to the second. And let me just say what an adventure it’s been letting God lead.

Sometimes I’ve felt crazy. Sometimes others have thought I was crazy. You have to be willing to be thought of as crazy by others when you decide to let God pave your way. After all, you don’t have sound logic to back you up, aside from sheer trust in the Lord and his ways.

A man by the name of Noah comes to mind. He had the crazy-sounding faith to build an enormous ark in the middle of the desert, working day after day in the hot, dry sun as onlookers laughed at the seeming ridiculousness of the situation. All because God told him to, whether it made sense to him or not. (Check out Genesis chapters 6-9 for the whole story.) And it’s a good thing Noah was faithful, or else the entire population would have been wiped out.

Five years ago my family and I packed up and moved to Valparaiso, IN to help plant Rolling Hills Vineyard Church  http://www.rollinghillsvineyard.org. What a great and challenging experience it was, though it did include a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. (Okay, not much blood…if any.)

It truly was an incredible experience! So when my husband, www.chipmattis.com , and I both felt God leading us to Bloomington, IN four years later, you can bet that many people we had grown to love in the church community we helped to build “disagreed” with our decision. It was tough.

But here’s the thing. It wasn’t our decision. It was a hundred percent God’s. In fact, I have a backlog of journal entries to demonstrate all the ways God was preparing us and those around us for our move to Bloomington, months before we were even in on his plan for us.

It’s clear as day to Chip and me that God was paving the way, but I’m sure there are still a few people from the church we left who think we’re crazy for moving “for no reason.” And that’s okay. Maybe someday they’ll understand. Regardless, we aren’t seeking man’s approval.

(Side note – sometimes it takes time for God’s reasons to unfold, but you can bet when he directs you that he has reasons even if he hasn’t unveiled them all to you.)

We followed God’s lead and moved to Bloomington a year and a half ago, and truthfully there have been plenty of difficulties and disappointments. But they pale in comparison to the overwhelming peace we have, knowing we’ve followed the Lord. We’re adjusting and adapting, slowly making friends and settling in. Good things take time, right?

God’s timing cannot be rushed, and as utterly frustrating and sometimes maddening as that fact is, it’s a truth that can’t be changed. BUT, we find rest for our souls remembering that he knows infinitely more than us and he loves us so much that he will always guide us down the best path if we’ll give him the trust and permission to do so.

God is a gentleman.

God is a gentleman. He won’t force his ways on us, but he’s ready and waiting to lead us down the best path for us as soon as we give him the go-ahead.

And just because it’s the best path, it doesn’t mean it will be an easy path. We’re still human beings living in a fallen world, after all. But during the difficulties that will inevitably arise for all of us, we can move forward in life knowing that God’s will is being accomplished through us. And that’s a peace and confidence that is unrivaled by this world.

So I’ll stick with my check-list making ways…when it comes to groceries, Christmas lists, and other non-life altering decisions. But when it comes to the path of my family’s future? I’m giving God the pen and letting him make his own list for me.

My goal is to exercise ark-building sort of faith.

What about you? Is God calling you in a new direction? Is he asking you to change jobs, move, or reconsider the plans you made for your own life? I encourage you to listen. Seek his voice. Seek his word through the Bible. Seek wise counsel from Christians that you trust.

His perspective beats our limited view every time. Not only that, but he LOVES you more than you can even imagine. Which means he wants the best for you.

Following God is an adventure, for sure. And making the choice to follow God’s lead is something you will never, ever regret. Making the choice to disregard God’s lead…now that’s a life of regret in the making.

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear from you – please share your thoughts in the comments below, and also let me know if you have an idea for a future blog topic you’d like to see me cover. While you’re at it, don’t forget to sign up with your email address so you can get future posts delivered directly to you!

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!!


Do Your Best Until You Know Better

Have you ever witnessed a toddler picking up their toys? It usually goes something like this: Put a toy in the toy box. See a fun toy that’s already in said toy box. Take out fun toy and play with it. Get reminded to keep picking up. Put a couple more toys in the toy box. Get distracted. Repeat.

And when the toys are more or less picked up, whether or not they’re half hanging outside the toy box and there are still some race cars or doll clothes scattered about, what does the parent say? Well, when the child is just old enough to learn how to pick up, the reaction from the parents is usually along the lines of: Great job, honey! Way to go, picking up your toys! What a big girl/boy you are!

Fast forward a few years. Now imagine you tell your eight-year-old to pick up their room. How pleased will you be to walk in and find toys still scattering the floor, toy box overflowing with dress up costumes? Probably not very.

Why? Because you know your eight-year-old knows better. You know what they’re capable of and can tell when they’re not really trying.

But when your eight-year-old tells you they’re finished and you walk in to find a basically neat room, with their comforter frumpled from their best attempt to make their bed and their books wrong side out on the bookshelves (although lined up somewhat neatly), what are you going to say? Probably something like, Great job, honey! Thank you for picking up your room when I asked you!

Why? Because you know he or she did their best. You know what their best looks like and you understand how that will change as they grow and learn.

And finally, imagine your child grows up and gets a job cleaning houses. Imagine they have to answer to the demands for near perfection from their clients. If you were to inspect a house they cleaned, what would you find?

Probably near perfection.

Why? Because they have grown and learned over the years and they now understand exactly what is expected of them and exactly what a clean house ought to look like.

Is our journey with God so different from this toddler, eight-year-old, and grown-up?

Maya Angelou has a quote that I absolutely love, which goes like this:

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

We can’t do what we don’t know! And that’s okay!

Just like the mother praising her toddler for picking up, even when the job isn’t technically done well. The toddler is only just learning what it even means to pick up their toys. From their understanding, they did exactly what was asked of them. And it was enough. It was pleasing to the mother.

As we learn more, more will be expected of us. In life as well as with God. We try our hardest, and certainly none of us are living perfect lives, but God is so pleased with us when we live according to our best understanding of his instructions.

And this is where it can get sticky.

This is where we sometimes encounter others with different beliefs due to different interpretations of scripture, as people do their studying and arrive at different conclusions.

For example, women pastors.

My personal Bible study, research, experience, and relationship with God has convicted me to believe God has empowered men and women alike to preach his Word. Others, through their own Bible study, research, experience, and relationship with God have come to believe that God has not empowered women to preach. Both views have scripture to support them.

Check out this passage from Romans 14:1, 5

“Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters… One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.” [My paraphrase of verse 6: For they both do so to the Lord and give thanks to God.]

I believe as long as we’re doing the best we can, attempting to make sense out of what God has spoken to us, we please him by being obedient and giving it our all.

If we’re loving God and loving others, and are convinced by the Bible that the path we’re taking is best, I believe God is incredibly pleased.

(And we’d do well to remind ourselves that this goes both ways with other people. So when we feel like examining other people’s paths and beliefs, let’s remember they’re on this “you can’t do better until you know better” journey as well. And yes, some people know better and just don’t care. That would be a different blog post for a different day, haha!)

The more we learn, the more God will ask of us. The more we obey, the more we’ll trust his paths. But it’s always a moving target according to our best understanding at the time.

God never changes, but we change all the time. Hopefully for the better.

And wherever we are on the journey, whether we just met Jesus today, or we’ve known him our entire lives—as long as we grab hold of his word and make our best attempt at obeying and serving him, I believe he’ll look at us and say, Great job! Thank you for doing your best! Way to go!

(Please leave me a comment below to let me know your thoughts! And before you leave, I’d love for you to sign up with your email address so I can send you new blog posts straight to your email! Thanks for reading!)

Checklist Endorphins??

Hello, my name is Jessie and I’m a list maker. There, it’s out. I confess – I have grocery lists, meal plan lists, homeschool lists, to-do lists, books-I-want-to-read lists, and this list I’ve made of lists I like to make could go on and on. (Does the word list look strange to anyone else after that many repetitions?)

I’ve been laughed at for my list making, and although it genuinely doesn’t bother me, you can imagine my delight the other day when I heard that checking boxes on a to-do list actually releases endorphins.

That’s right, those oh-so desirable, feel-good endorphins are actually released into our bodies when we physically mark an item off of our list. (Physically, meaning marking it out with a writing utensil on paper. The same effect was not found to be true when marking it off of an electronic device.)

It’s so exciting to me that there’s actually science to back up my list making habits now! But whether you’re a list maker or not, let’s look at this a little further.

What does this new knowledge of endorphin-releasing checkmarks mean for us?

It means the more we check off our lists, the more motivated we are to continue doing so. Endorphins are that boost we need in order to get into a groove so we can stay on task.

This new knowledge also means that it’s absolutely okay, and even encouraged, to write menial tasks on our lists entirely for the benefit of crossing them off.

“Get up.” Check!

“Make coffee.” Check! Sweet, I’m on a roll!

Let’s give ourselves some time to start releasing those endorphins with smaller tasks before attempting the meatier ones like exercising or paying bills.

I gotta say…this new information definitely reduces the amount of crazy I’ve felt for all those times I backfilled my list for the sole purpose of checking more items off.

It’s science, people!

Maybe you’re not a list person. Maybe lists make you feel confined or burdened. Maybe you’ll never be a list person. And that’s okay. (I guess.)

BUT, maybe it’s just time to try again. In this busy age of existence, information bombards our senses at all hours of the day. It’s certainly enough to make the important things slip my mind if I haven’t written them down.

List makers rejoice! The next time someone scoffs at us and our list making ways, we’ll be armed and ready with science to back ourselves up. You can’t argue with endorphins.

Non-list makers, fear not! Now is the time to try again, making sure to add several easy tasks to your list first in order to get that endorphin boost before you tackle the rest of the list.

And while this topic may not be quite as deep as many of my posts, I really do love a good nugget of health related encouragement. And I love lists. So, you know…win-win!

Have a happy and safe Labor Day weekend and thanks for reading! I’d love to hear any comments you may have – feel free to post them below!

Prioritizing Our Priorities

I distinctly remember interviewing for a foster care case manager position, which ended up being my first job out of college. I was given a list of several different job responsibilities and was asked to prioritize them. It felt like a trick question. Things such as attending a court hearing or an essential meeting that happened only twice per year. Getting kids to and from family visits or maintaining records and notes on every little thing that was said or done. How was I supposed to rank them when they all seemed essential?

Turns out it wasn’t a trick question. They all had to get done, but sometimes you had to choose one over another. I ultimately learned there were right and wrong ways to prioritize my ever-changing, chaotic case management schedule. Sometimes things that appeared extremely important had to give way to things that were technically more important. It’s challenging when the important things we have to do don’t match up with the hours in the day.

That’s when we must deliberately prioritize.

What are you top priorities? Family? God? Your kids? I’d be willing to wager a guess that those are the first things that popped into your mind. Maybe what you declare to be your priorities actually are your priorities, but let’s pause for a minute. Consider how you spend your free time.

Is your free time mostly spent with your family or with God? After all, that’s what most of us say we prioritize.

Or is your free time more honestly spent staring at your phone, checking for the umpteenth time how many “likes” or “retweets” you’ve received since you last looked (ten minutes ago). Maybe it’s spent watching TV or scrolling Amazon. What we choose to do with our time reflects our top priorities.

(Maybe you’re saying “Free time? What is that?” In which case, I assume you are probably overworked or else you have small children or a family situation that demands your time. Sometimes these situations last just for a season and you find respite on the other side. But if a lack of free time is a constant in your life, no matter the circumstances, I would encourage you to re-evaluate your priorities. Rest is not an option, it’s a necessity. But I digress.)

Last month we planted a garden in our backyard. We tilled and planted hastily, trying to get it done before the rain. We didn’t plan and prioritize properly for the undertaking that it was, and now? Now it looks like part of the lawn.

My garden at its worst this year. Honestly, people.

Initially I would have called our garden a priority but honestly, grass has taken it over. Recently the kids and I were able to weed a good part of it, at least around the plants, but it still feels like a lost cause. We planned and planted a garden, but I didn’t prioritize maintaining it. It got lost in a sea of “other things” that needed to be done and it fell to the bottom of the list. Obviously my time management and neglect of the garden demonstrated its true lack of priority in my mind.


Are you prioritizing your true priorities? To find out, try this:

Make a list of what you would call your top three priorities. Then make a list of the top three things that consume your time. How do they match up?

Obviously this isn’t a perfect exercise, factoring in work and family commitments that are beyond our control, but it should still, in part, be reflective of where our true commitments lie.

If work is edging out your proclaimed priorities, do you throw your hands up and decide there’s nothing you can do? Or do you pray and seek out an alternative plan that leaves you with more time for the things you truly count as valuable?

If you count God as your number one priority, what does that look like in your life? Are you ingraining him as part of your every day or do you find yourself saying a quick generic prayer just as your eyes are closing for the night?

Ask God to reveal to you where your priorities should lie and what steps are necessary to get there. He loves to help us get our lives in order when we ask for his help.

Now try to identify one of your priorities that isn’t getting its deserved time of day from you. What would be a next step in bridging the gap of proclaimed priority vs. actual priority? The first step is to acknowledge the discrepancy and the second step is to take action to fix it.

Here, I’ll go first. I acknowledge that my kids are a top priority, but now that they’re old enough to be self-sufficient it’s all too easy to go about my business while they’re off doing their own thing. If I want long lasting relationships with them, I must be proactive about spending time with and really getting to know each of them individually. This week I will endeavor to spend more quality time with each of them. (Perhaps by weeding the garden together…kill two birds with one stone, yes??)

If we aren’t deliberate with our time, we will end up wasting it. Period.

Have you identified the discrepancies between your priorities and where your time is spent? What steps can you take this week to bridge that gap?

Leave me a comment to let me know your thoughts. I’d love for you to sign up to receive future blog posts by email as well. Have a happy Fourth of July and thanks for reading!