Tag Archives: peace

Celebration Overload?

Easter is almost here! Time for special church services and Easter baskets; time for remembering Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection, and oohing and ahhing over kids in fancy hats and sweater vests! I love this time of year. Spring is in the air (literally…I’ve been sneezing all day), the trees are budding, flowers are blooming, and it is birthday season at the Mattis house.

Yes, you heard right. I said birthday season. If I’ve seemed a little more MIA than usual, I blame birthday season. Four out of the five of us celebrate birthdays within six weeks of each other. Add my husband’s recent book launch party to the mix and that basically equals a party most weekends for months on end.

For me, this translates into countless trips to Target and Party City for party supplies and gifts, and lots of late nights making cakes and decorating after the kids are in bed (I tend to go a little overboard making my kids’ cakes…time consuming but super fun). Not to mention the paper lists strewn about my kitchen like some new form of recyclable countertop material. (I have been known to make a list of all the lists I need to make…is that weird?) Birthday season is serious, people.

Celebrating my family is a wonderful thing. What’s not so wonderful is when I let the task of celebrating overtake the actual celebration going on in my heart. That’s when things get overwhelming.

I must say, I have made strides in this department (if I do say so myself). I used to obsess over my house and the presentation of things to an unhealthy degree, finding it difficult to truly enjoy the celebration. Letting go of the Pinterest-perfect ideal was beyond freeing. Because, really. When’s the last time you cared if there was a stack of papers on someone’s counter. Never? That’s what I thought.

So even though these days I can maintain my sanity while we celebrate, I still have to take the time to guard my mindset so I don’t get burned out by all the fun. I think the issue boils down to this:

There is a difference between personal celebration versus God-centered community celebration.

If you read through the Bible for any length of time, you’ll quickly realize how much celebrating went on back then. There were festivals and parties to celebrate something-or-other every time you turned around! But the thing is, they had a pretty solid mixture of personal celebrations (weddings, banquets, etc.) and community celebrations which were God-centered.

There’s something different, more fulfilling in my opinion, about celebrating God amongst other believers. Whether it’s a Christmas Eve church service or a family Easter celebration, the goal of celebrating is to remember the amazing things God has done, praise his goodness, and do it alongside others who are likeminded.

Personal celebrations are super fun, and are a great way to break up the often-otherwise mundane days, but they’re just not quite as, I don’t know…rich of an experience.

God clearly lays out an expectation of celebration for us in the Bible. It is good to celebrate! Healthy, even! Celebrations remind us of our blessings and the goodness of God himself. They nourish and revive our weary souls! (As long as we go easy on ourselves with party prep…)

As Easter draws nearer, let’s do an honest examination of ourselves. Are we stressed out trying to make everything just so? Or are we excited to remember and celebrate Jesus’ powerful resurrection with our fellow Christ-followers?

If you fall into the stressed-out camp, let me encourage you. First of all, I’ve been there and I get it. There’s just so. much. to. do. Life can get overwhelming with everything else on top of planning a celebration. But if this is you, stop for a minute. Take a ten minute coffee date with God (or tea, ginger root beer, whatever). Tell him all your worries. Then ask him to steady your heart. Ask his Holy Spirit to fill you with the overwhelming sense of love and peace that only he can give. Receive it.

Then grab your party hat and head into the Easter weekend with a spirit of joy, knowing all that really matters is Jesus crucified and brought back to life as he conquered death and paved a path for each of us straight to Heaven. Happy Easter, friends.

What are your Easter traditions? Are you feeling stressed out or excited this year? Drop me a comment to let me know—I’d love to pray for you if you’re having a hard week!

Quick update on me: My manuscript, Power Up, is still in the editing phase. I’d like to say “final” editing phase, but I don’t want to jinx it. 😉 Let me tell you, this whole route to publishing has been a learning experience like I never imagined. The last word I heard from my publisher is that they were hoping for a May release date, but that’s seeming more and more unlikely. The cover artist is supposed to be working on the cover art this month, which is exciting! I can’t wait to see what they come up with. I’ll keep you posted. I can’t believe this book will soon be a reality—pray with me that it will be instrumental in changing the lives of 8-12 year olds! Thanks again for taking this journey with me.

Peacemaking vs. Peacekeeping — the Startling Difference

I’ve always thought of myself as a peacekeeper. Don’t make waves, don’t rock the boat, try to keep everyone happy and steady. And I’ve been pretty satisfied with that version of myself over the years.

Until Sunday.

Honestly, having been to church since I was born, I don’t typically come across brand new concepts in church. I mean, there are definitely always new growth points for me, but it’s rare that something is an entirely new idea.

This past Sunday (at City Church for All Nations in Bloomington, Indiana: https://citychurchbloomington.org/ ) I was hit with this new (to me) idea:

We are called to be peaceMAKERS, not peaceKEEPERS.

To the untrained ear (like mine for the past 30+ years), they sound very much the same and are often used interchangeably. The only problem with this is they are not actually synonymous like I (and maybe some of you) previously thought.

You see, to KEEP the peace implies we’re careful about what we say and often careful not to speak up at all in the face of something we may disagree with. We wouldn’t want to make any waves after all. We wouldn’t want to do anything that might cause another person to feel strong emotions. That wouldn’t be peaceful, would it?

While we absolutely should be careful with our words and let wisdom be our guide, telling us when to speak up and when to keep our mouths shut, sometimes we need to make a few waves in order to ultimately MAKE peace.

It’s what the role of a peacemaker is all about:

Making, not just keeping, the peace.

Imagine being married for many years to a spouse that drives you crazy. (Some may have to try harder than others…haha.) Maybe it’s due to little things that add up, or maybe it’s big things we’re too afraid to address.

To keep the peace is simple, if not easy. Keep quiet, keep plugging away at life, all the while building resentment and bitterness toward our spouse on the inside.

To make the peace is not as simple. It may involve a not-so-peaceful period of arguments and hard work as we thoroughly address our issues in order to come out on the other side where true peace resides.

Sometimes we must upset the superficial peace in order to ultimately attain genuine, lasting peace.

Do you know how often the Bible talks about the importance of peacekeeping?

Zero. Zero times.

Our call from God is to make peace, not merely keep it.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”  Matthew 5:9

Are you up for the challenge of peacemaking? Personally, I’m still deciding.  Only kidding! Mostly… 🙂

Nobody said it would be easy. It will take courage. It will take initiative. It will take practice. But I believe in us. We can do it… with a little help.

I believe the Holy Spirit will guide and help us as we get up out of our comfy cozy comfort zones of peacekeeping in order to pursue peacemaking.

It won’t be easy, but how sweet to be called children of God. If that doesn’t motivate us, what will?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! Had you ever considered the difference between peacemaking and peacekeeping before?

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Thanks for reading!

3 Tips for Mental Downtime

I often long for the “good ol’ days.” Life seems to get more complicated as the decades pass by. Technology and expectations are increasing at a rate I have no desire to keep up with. I think of the contentment of my grandparents, living the lives that were in front of them, building relationships with people nearby. So peaceful, so simple (seemingly).

We lead a full life. We like it. It works for us.

But while we make an effort to keep from getting overwhelmed by busyness, I’ve found there’s a new source of overcommitment threatening our family.

Mental Busyness.

Over the past year my husband and I each began to pursue writing. He’s written several children’s books and I’ve written a middle grade Christian fiction novel; we’re both working toward getting them published.

We attended an amazing writers conference in May that opened our eyes to elements of this journey we didn’t even know existed. The top surprise being the importance of “platform.”

Platform is just another way of describing the realm of your reach or influence. The more people you can reach, the more books you’ll eventually sell.

When you think of an aspiring author, you probably picture someone at their laptop, hot beverage nearby, typing away as a story flows from their fingertips. And yes, that is an accurate picture of an author. About 2% of the time.

So what about the other 98% of the time? This is spent crafting query letters and proposals (that must be nearly perfect, lest they get thrown out immediately). And some of the time is spent on social media, attempting to build an audience.

Honestly, I dislike social media on any terms other than keeping up with my own relationships. Now don’t get me wrong—I understand there’s merit to connecting with a potential audience, and I’m willing to put in time to do so. I realize it’s a business move. A must.

But guys. Oh my word.

Let me just say it’s beyond disheartening to research potential agents only to read over and over again “we will be Googling you and expect you to have a strong Twitter presence.” And Facebook. And Instagram. And blog. And email list. (Insert me pulling out my hair.)

It’s easy to fall into the dangerous territory of thinking, “Well, I apparently have to sell my soul to the social media devil if I ever want to become a published author. So much for the message God put on my heart. So much for the countless hours I poured into my manuscript.”

This is when I realize I’m holding the reins too tightly and not giving God enough credit.

God is the one who guides our paths. God is the one leading us to the right people and places on our journeys. So why am I the one trying to steer the ship? I have to constantly assess my frame of mind.

While we endeavor to keep our physical schedules at a healthy, manageable pace, what about our minds? We’re overcome with mental busyness.

We just returned from a long weekend away. One hotel room, five people. By the time we got home I was seriously craving some free time. You know, free time—you may have heard of it. The space required of all humans to continue functioning in such a busy, distracted world.

It’s not just physical downtime we need, but mental downtime as well.

If I wake up, immediately check Facebook and Instragram, go on with daily activities and chores (checking social media every time the kids are occupied), put the kids to bed and jump back online to continue building my platform before my head hits the pillow, what kind of life is that?

It’s a whole new type of rat race, that’s what. Our grandparents would shudder at the thought.

Thankfully, we have a patient, loving God. This means he’s not going to shout to get our attention when he has something to tell us. He’s going to wait patiently, watching and loving us, until we shut down the chaos in our minds enough to crawl back to him and sit quietly in his presence.

And that’s when God speaks to us. That’s when we’ll actually allow our ears to be tuned to him over the noise of our full lives.

Having a full life and chasing your dreams are not bad things. They’re wonderful, God-given things. But we’re the ones responsible for how we fill the moments of our days, physically and mentally.

Downtime is the best way to form fresh, potentially life-changing thoughts and ideas, and it’s the only time God can truly speak to my mind and guide my heart. And without that, it’s all meaningless.

Here are three simple ways to give ourselves more mental downtime:

  1. Turn off the radio. Am I the only one who defaults to music in the car or in the kitchen? I love music and can’t imagine a day without it. But what if we take some opportunities to deliberately replace music with silence? What might God want to say in those silences?
  1. Change our morning and/or evening routine by just 10 minutes. Ten minutes is doable for all of us, right? Set that alarm for ten minutes earlier or stay up ten minutes later, turn off all our devices and just be still. Listen for the voice of God.
  1. Schedule it in. We need to be deliberate. Turn off the TV while we’re folding laundry. Turn off Netflix before the next episode loads. Make a lunch date with God and write “meeting” on the calendar.

Let’s change our habits today. Let’s be deliberate about prioritizing mental downtime for ourselves, and give God space to move.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. You can also enter your email address to receive future blog posts directly to your inbox! Thanks for reading!

Uncertainty and Anxiety with MS

For anyone who doesn’t already know, (and be thankful if you haven’t been forced to learn, haha!) MS is a very unpredictable disease.  It looks different for everyone, so there’s no way to know how the future will unfold.  I happen to have a fairly mild form of it – for now, that is.  I’ll go through a few years or so where I feel great, and then will have a flare up as if to remind me not to get too cocky about feeling so good.  When I do have a flare up, it’s usually pretty intense and may last several months.  Needless to say, this pattern can cause quite a bit of uncertainty, anxiety, and fear – if I allow myself to think too much about the possibilities!

It seems as if every time I search for something MS-related online, or flip through an MS Society magazine, all I get are visions of canes, wheelchairs and bladder control problems.  If I search MS groups and message boards online I inevitably find person after person voicing their health struggles and woes.  And these people have legit problems – I have great compassion for them! However, I often have to remind myself that (in general) the ones posting these tragic stories are often the worst off.  They find themselves in a dark place and they get online to reach out, share their stories, and search for hope.  But for those of us who are actually doing pretty well, it can paint a  frightening and hopeless picture of the future.

After the birth of our third child (6 years ago), I had a flare up that was so bad it basically halted my life.  I could do extremely little to help my kids, husband, or self.  I basically stayed in our bedroom for weeks having spasms while my family and friends cared for my children.  I’ll admit – I did resist medical treatment for a few weeks in order to nurse my newborn; if I had sought treatment sooner, it surely wouldn’t have been quite so dramatic.  And yes, I have been known to be stubborn once or twice. (Insert my husband’s laughter here.)

The reason I mention that specific flare up is because, although I’ve never been professionally diagnosed, I’m almost certain I have some level of PTSD because of it.  Obviously, there are many people who have been through worse situations. I almost hate to use the term “PTSD” because I don’t want to take away from their stories – war, abuse,  etc.  But honestly, those months were intensely painful for me, as well as crazy emotional since I wasn’t able to care for my newborn or other children.

That being said, each time I feel the slightest twinge in my leg that reminds me of that time, anxiety floods my mind and body.  My mind immediately goes to the worst case scenario and I start planning ways for my family to do life without my participation.  Not to brag or anything, but as a homeschool mom of three, my involvement is fairly crucial to our days functioning smoothly!  CBD oil helps me a lot, but it’s not enough to work on a deeper, spiritual level.

So then I have a choice.  Do I let myself get sucked down the trail of doom in my mind?  Or do I deliberately choose to speak truth and hope into my life?  Truthfully, it’s a mind battle between the two, but so far hope and truth have always won out in the end.  But only with Jesus’ help.  Honestly, oftentimes in those situations my first and most prominent prayer is simply: “Jesus.”  So much meaning behind one name.  And since God and I are tight, I rest easy knowing that he knows what I mean.  I don’t say it as some do, out of frustration.  When my prayer is simply “Jesus” what I’m really saying is:

“Help me, God.  I don’t have the strength for this.  I’m too tired.  I’m  scared. I need you to carry this and take it away.  I need you to be by my side as I go through whatever I’m about to go through. I need your peace so I’m not terrified and defeated.”

And then the anxiety eases.  And maybe it comes back five, twenty, or forty five minutes later, and I whisper another “Jesus.”  And it eases again.  Lather, rinse, repeat indefinitely.

If I don’t have the confidence that comes with knowing Jesus is always with me no matter what, loving me and helping me as I go, then I will always be anxious and scared when a flare up (or any other stressful life circumstance) occurs.  But since I do have this confidence, I know that I will ultimately get to a point where I say, “Whatever happens, God will be with me to help me and provide for my needs and my family’s needs. He always has and he always will.” And it’s after I’ve gotten to this point where I can truly move on with my day and live without fear for the future.  It’s at this point I can live the life I have and not the life I fear I’ll have one day.