Tag Archives: power up

50 Screen-Free Ideas to Beat Boredom at Home

Summer is upon us! According to the school calendar, that is. *Insert happy dance.* The cold winter, fool’s spring, second winter, and mud season have most of us – Midwesterners, at least – ready for the long days of summer. But for those of us with children, we may be facing long hours at home with kids who inevitably come to us with the dreaded words: I’m bored.

Not to worry! Read on for a list of 50 screen-free ideas to beat your school-age child’s boredom this summer. If you’re a family like us who limits screen time, this list is for you. Most of these ideas can be adapted to suit a broad age range. And if you don’t have kids at home, you may just want to tuck this list away for the next time the kids in your life visit…or even try them yourself!

Since my suggestions of chores are always met with groans by my children (can’t say I blame them), we came up with this list of fun, simple things to do at home on those days when there’s just nothing to do. Most are free, depending on what you do or don’t have lying around the house. I’m not claiming all these ideas are unique or mind-blowing, but it is nice to have them all compiled in one spot. Funny how easy it can be to forget the simple things when you’re booored. 😉

Here we go:

50 SCREEN-FREE IDEAS TO BEAT BOREDOM AT HOME

  1. Paint
  2. Bake
  3. Read
  4. Play in the hose
  5. Frisbee
  6. Play catch
  7. Train the family pet to do a new trick
  8. Write a real letter to a relative, friend, or celebrity
  9. Exercise
  10. Make up a dance
  11. Play an instrument
  12. Build a small boat out of household items and see if it floats
  13. Play Doh
  14. Board games
  15. Solitare (with real cards)
  16. Experiment with new hairstyles
  17. Sidewalk chalk
  18. Write a story
  19. Write a song
  20. Make up a skit
  21. Make homemade puppets
  22. Put on a puppet show
  23. Have a family talent show
  24. Dehydrate something (apple slices, for instance)
  25. Search for toads or caterpillars
  26. Puzzles
  27. Balance a broom handle on your palm in the yard – try to beat your time
  28. Leave wildflowers on someone’s porch
  29. Design a family flag
  30. Make a smoothie
  31. Research safe, local edible plants and forage
  32. Make a fort
  33. Water balloon fight
  34. Press flowers and use clear packing tape to create bookmarks
  35. Leaf rubbings
  36. Wildlife sketches
  37. Dig a hole
  38. Have a tea party – pretend with youngers or go all out with charcuterie with olders
  39. Legos
  40. Cross stitch
  41. Knit or crochet
  42. Make up jokes
  43. Call a relative and ask them about their childhood
  44. Wash the car
  45. Play dress-up
  46. Origami
  47. Carve a bar of soap into a piece of art
  48. Whittle
  49. Practice starting a fire (in a designated fire pit with adult supervision)
  50. Make a card for someone “just because”

Occasionally my kids lose screen time for one reason or another, and I have to say – after moping a little, they come alive and get really creative. I’m even planning on designating one day per week this summer as screen-free. Join me, and watch your kids develop new interests and ideas!

And if you have tween/teen children who could use some inspiration in their Christian faith this summer, my book, Power Up, was written exactly for that purpose. The spiritual formation of tweens is easy to overlook in a busy family life, so I hope you find this book to be a helpful resource this summer!

As precious as our children are, parenting is no easy task, and we need each other’s support, so feel free to share this with anyone who might find it useful. Also, let me know in the comments if you’re joining us for a screen-free day each week this summer! Let’s unplug and bring some simplicity and serenity back to childhood. And last, this list is certainly not comprehensive, so let me know below what ideas I’m missing – I’d love to extend our list!

Thanks for reading, and God bless!

Parents, Here’s Why I Admire You.

            I don’t know about you, but I’m greatly inspired by parents at every stage of the parenting life. I have three children of my own (8, 10, and 12), and I learn more every year about the special strength it takes to parent well. Read on to hear just how I admire you, parents!

First of all, to the parents by heart but not by children. You who long for a child to call your own. You shower young relatives with love, and your affection is evident to every young life that intersects with yours. God’s purposes for you are higher than high. Your heart does not go unnoticed. Though I can’t answer why things are as they are, I can assure you that you’re admired for your strength and dignity. Your love and your grit. Though it may feel hidden right now, you are blessed in profound ways that will one day be made clear.

            And dear parents with young ones. You are sleep deprived, learning to sacrifice your own interests, schedule, and desires on behalf of another being. You feel as if you are putting yourself on hold as you navigate all the firsts and tears, yet really you’re growing in leaps and bounds in ways you can’t yet see. You reside in an entirely new world. A world of endless questions and snuggles. Scary, exhausting, wonderfully rewarding, and so full of love. I applaud your determination.

            Parents of grade-schoolers. Your children are transitioning from needing physical protection and attention to needing emotional and intellectual attention. This transition is hard. You appreciate the extra hours of sleep, but hit the pillow hard after answering philosophical bedtime questions. Thanks to world events, you may suddenly have more time in close proximity with your children than you’ve ever had. Maybe you love it. Maybe it’s so hard you wonder if you’re strong enough to keep your cool. But you press on without giving up because you know these are crucial moments in your child’s life. To you I say, well done. You are strong enough. Thank you for loving your children well.

            Parents with teens. For you I have much respect. I’ve yet to raise teens, but I know well and good these are independence-forming years. Everything you tell them is wrong and experience is now their favorite teacher. If only they knew how right you truly are. Someday they will. So today you love them, you do your best, and you shed some tears. You show them grace and pray they honor you with the same. You’ll gradually release your child into the world of cars, friends, and the opposite sex. This might be the stage that frightens me most of all. And yet there’s hope and joy in the midst of new, difficult things. There’s laughter and connection on a new level. Teens need their parents no less than toddlers. Don’t let them pull away too completely. Not just yet. They don’t realize how much they need you. You, parents of teens, are wonders of the power of the human spirit. Keep on doing your best, reminding yourself there’s grace for the times when you’re less than your best, and forgiveness must flow from all sides. And don’t forget to find the joy. Your consistent love in an upside-down world is stabling to your teen.

            Dear parents of grown children. I used to think once kids left the house, life would resume similarly to pre-children days. Oh how laughable I ever dared form that thought. Your heart now lives outside your home; possibly in several states or even countries. Grandchildren come, and the same holds true. The hopes, the worries, the prayers…they only compound. While your house may be neat and quiet, your heart and mind are full to bursting. You may long for the mess and the noise of years past. You’re well aware life could never return to any semblance of pre-child days. You are forever changed, forever balancing new versions of relationships once so straightforward. Keep running the race; your children still need you in wonderful new ways, and old ways alike. Prayers for deep breaths and joy for you.

            A prayer for all parents:

            Lord, thank you for each parent’s heart. You know their struggles and you know their joys. Meet them in the middle of both. Encourage where there’s doubt. Give peace where there’s fear. Give us grace as we seek to do right by the children in our lives. Make us bold and strong, showing us where our children need us to step in and where they need us to step back. Let us never forget that our precious children belong to you. You are their good, good Father. You’ve gifted us with an opportunity to grow in ways we could have never imagined, learning new depths of love, and new depths of leaning on you and your promises. Hold us close as we endeavor to point our children to you. Lighten hearts and let the laughter flow as we seek to do our best and enjoy the ride. We love and praise you, Jesus. Amen.

I’d love to hear from you! Leave me a comment below to let me know what’s on your mind!

One last thing. My novel, Power Up, released last year. Although intended to inspire tweens to embrace the adventure of partnering with the Holy Spirit, over the past year I’ve realized it’s been just as inspiring to adults as the younger crowd. I’ve concluded that many adults (myself included) process simpler messages better than messages that get weighed down with theological jargon and drawn-out sentences. It’s simply more accessible. I encourage you or anyone age 8+ to check out Christian Indie Award-winning Power Up if you’re feeling like your Christian walk has become “hum-drum.” There’s another exciting level that awaits you. Embrace it and refresh your spirit as you see the world through new eyes! (Kindle version only $3.99.)

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.