Ark-Building Faith

Expect others to think you’re crazy when you follow God’s leading beyond all logic. Following God is an adventure that you’ll never regret.

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!

It’s Always Something, Am I Right?

It’s getting close to Christmas, you guys! Maybe you’re excited like me, and maybe not so much, but this holiday season is a season of joy in many ways.

I start decorating for Christmas as soon as my dear husband gives me the okay, and I listen to Christmas music in October. I fully participate in the festivities that abound in the month of December and I love it!

My handsome hubby on Christmas Tree Day!

But it can be a time of sadness for our family too. We remember the horrible passing of my mother-in-law, and when December 26th rolls around, my father-in-law is no longer here for his birthday to be celebrated. On top of that, I have a bit of anxiety and flashbacks to last year when my health wasn’t as good and my MS was giving me troubles.

Do you ever feel like life is just one long string of difficult events (with an occasional respite thrown in here and there so your sanity isn’t entirely lost)?

If so, I know the feeling. Between the death and sickness of family and friends, the horrific events on the news, and the stresses of life in general, sometimes life can feel very…dark.

I’m guessing I’m not alone here. And hopefully I’m not alone when I say I refuse to allow that outlook to rule my mind.

So how do we fight the darkness? How do we muster the strength to focus on the good, when sometimes the good moments feel so few and far between?

We fight darkness with light. The light of Jesus, specifically. And we remember our view of life is the result of thousands of daily choices that we may not even realize we’re making. Such as:

Will I complain? Will I dwell on the negative? Will I focus on the sadness of the world? Will I choose fear?

Or.

Will I choose to be grateful? Will I find the positive? Will I find joy in good news? Will I choose hope?

I’m no scientist, but I do know the more you think positively or negatively, the more your brain gets wired to continue down that path. To me, that’s pretty empowering.

Thankfully, the pressure isn’t all on us and our abilities. Not even close.

God desires to help us and give us the mental (and physical) rest we need to keep going strong.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”  –Matthew 11:28-30

If we take him at his word and give Jesus our burdens to carry, we find ourselves free to accept and be filled with joy from the Holy Spirit.

Even if sickness or uncertainty is staring you in the face today, your peace doesn’t have to suffer for it.

Consider this—we get to rest in the truth that we belong to Jesus, Heaven awaits us in the end, and nothing on earth can take those things away from us. And in the big, big picture… what else really compares?

And let’s not forget we don’t have to resign ourselves to the ups and downs of this life without a fight. We serve a God who answers prayer and performs miracles. Yes, even today God is still working miracles all around us. So let’s spend more time hunkered down in our prayer closet (or car, or bedroom, or whatever) and let’s be open to praying for and receiving the good things God wants to do in us and for us, instead of sitting back and letting life happen however the chips may fall.

What about when life is good?

Sometimes life is great. All the pieces of this crazy puzzle called life seem to fall together and we can inhale deeply and count our blessings. But if you’re like me, your peace is sometimes threatened even during times of otherwise smooth sailing. Why?

Because something always happens next. Am I right?

But instead of anxiously awaiting the next difficult thing, let’s be deliberate about choosing joy in the moment.

There are always blessings to count—let’s do just that. Let’s choose joy. Let’s open our hearts and allow the Holy Spirit to rid us of anxiety and fear, and replace those things with peace, hope, and joy. In times of trial and times of plenty alike.

So even though this season in particular is a myriad of joy and sadness, I can choose. I can focus my energies on what “could have been” and give myself over to sadness and anxiety, or I can turn my eyes upon Jesus, count my blessings, (which truly do abound, as they do for most of us with running water and electricity) and receive the peace and joy that he so desperately wants to give.

Moment by moment, I’m doing my best to choose peace and joy to carry me through this upcoming Christmas season. How about you?

Let me know your thoughts by leaving me a comment below – I’d love to hear from you!  

And for any of you who may be wondering, here’s a brief update on me: My middle grade Christian Fiction novel (currently titled “Power Up”) is in the editing phase. There is a lot of waiting and a lot of back-and-forth right now as my agent, publisher, editor, and I work together to get everything just right. It’s a time of excitement and soon it will be a time of teaching myself how to effectively market a book—yikes! Life is an adventure, that’s for sure. While I have a little down time in the middle of the waiting, I’ve been working on an adult Christian fiction novel. It’s a story that’s been on my heart for a while, and even if it comes to nothing, it’s SO much fun to write.

I truly do appreciate your support through this new writing adventure! Thanks for reading!

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!!

 

3 Ways to Pull Yourself Out of a Funk

When life knocks you down, how do you get back up?

It’s a given that life will do its best to knock us down, but it’s not a given that we will get back up. Look around and you’ll see person after person with wasted dreams and anger lines etched deep into their brows.

These people weren’t born that way. Something happened. Something that was too much for them to handle. And so they threw up their hands and gave in to the life they were dealt. No longer trying to overcome their obstacles, they succumbed to a life of resignation. They didn’t get back up.

I don’t want to do that.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to judge a single soul. For all I know, if I had to face certain obstacles, I would be in the same, hopeless boat. But I hope not. I’d like to think I would still choose hope.

Just to give myself a little credibility here, I want to be clear. My life is good. I have a great husband, three amazing kids, and a peaceful home. I have great family and friends to call on.

BUT. My good life just so happens to be in spite of a few things.

For one thing, I have multiple sclerosis. For those of you who don’t know, this is an incurable autoimmune condition that effects the nervous system. And guess what the nervous system is responsible for…? Yep, everything! Symptoms come and go, but you never know what you’re going to get.

Numbness and tingling on a toe, a leg, or the whole body. Spasms in a hand, a leg, or the entire left side of your body. Double vision. Virtually any function of the body can be affected because of the way MS works: it interrupts your nerve signals, which in turn causes your body to do some pretty crazy, disruptive things.

So yes, I have a good life. But that doesn’t stop me from wondering what the future will hold. Maybe we should take an amazing vacation this year because—what if I’m unable to travel next year? I should do everything I’m capable of doing now, because—what if this or that thing happens? Even if I’m doing my best to stay in good health and know that, for now, these are pretty irrational thoughts, it doesn’t stop them from taunting me.

For another thing, after my husband and I got married 14 years ago, we went through some hard stuff with lasting effects. His mom’s death for one. Yes, everybody deals with death, I get it. But this was different than most. After suffering a brain aneurysm in a location that had never been successfully operated on, my mother-in-law’s amazing neurosurgeon (https://www.mayoclinic.org/biographies/lanzino-giuseppe-m-d/bio-20055067 ) pulled it off. He fixed her. After weeks of riding a life or death roller coaster, she was finally going to be okay.

Then some weeks later, the day before she was supposed to come home from the hospital, a nurse (who was supposed to be holding onto her) left her side for a moment, and she fell. After what we all thought to be a miraculous recovery, she hit her head and that was the end.

Legal and family drama ensued, and my father-in-law’s dementia rapidly progressed into Alzheimer’s which took his life a few years ago.

Those are just a couple examples to demonstrate that my family and I are not foreign to dealing with tough stuff. My street cred, if you will (ha!).

But you know what? Everybody is dealing with tough stuff. There’s not a single person I’ve ever gotten to know who is not dealing with something hard. Everybody’s tough stuff looks different, but it’s tough nonetheless. It’s enough to make us lose sleep, be in foul moods, and treat each other unkindly as we all stumble through our days trying to appear “fine.”

So how do we pull ourselves out of these tough spots? Mentally, I mean. Sometimes we can’t change our circumstances, but that doesn’t mean we have to submit to a bitter life. We can do better than that. We can set the bar higher for the world to see.

Here are three ways to pull yourself out of a funk. They’ve worked for me. I hope they work for you, too.

First, it’s pointless to try to do it alone. We were never meant to carry our burdens alone. Jesus makes this offer to us in Matthew 11:28, 30: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Give him your burdens. Holding onto them alone is only going to cripple you in the end.

And after you’ve given your burdens to Jesus, find a friend or family member who truly cares, and let them help you. “Oh, I don’t want to worry them. They’re not responsible for my burdens,” you may be saying. Stop it! The people in your life who love you are probably more than willing to help. Let them. Letting others help isn’t a sign weakness, it’s a sign that you’re human, which, guess what—people already know! Let others help and then be willing to help others when you’re in a better place.

Second, engage with God. Don’t just hand over your burdens and walk away. Let him be a moment-by-moment part of your day. Talk. Listen. Be still. Let it be a relationship that grows deeper by the hour as you learn to lean on him and trust him. He’s a good, good Father. Really, he is.

Third, find a thing. Something you can turn to in the busyness of your day that will pump some inspiration into your system. My thing is music. Whether I’m bustling around the house homeschooling and doing chores or whether I’m sick in bed and can barely move, worship music is there to speak truth to my weary soul. (Lauren Daigle in particular – can’t get enough of her albums!) Some days inspiring music makes all the difference in my attitude toward life and trials.

Trials will come. But if we let Jesus carry our loads, partner up with God and other people, and find a way to regularly remind ourselves of the hope God gives us, we’ll be well on our way to overcoming any situation this world might throw at us next.

Leave me a comment and let me know your strategies for overcoming difficulties – I’d love to hear from you! And feel free to drop me your email address in the “subscribe” box so you can receive future blog posts delivered straight to you! 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!)

Jesus-Speakers and Paul-Writers: The Power of Words

I’ve never been good with the spoken word. I was deathly shy in high school, speaking as little as possible, except to my closest friends and family. In college I loosened up, got a little more comfortable in my own skin, and began to converse more easily with others. However, I was still ridiculously shy in the classroom setting, doing all in my power not to be called on (lest my face turn so bright red that others would stare and possibly worry about my health).

After college, I married a man (www.chipmattis.com) who is a master of words. In fact, after participating in a church class, our pastor coined him as The Word Jedi, since he always knew just how to pronounce the hard Bible words and always knew how to articulate what was on his mind.

My fantastic, Word Jedi husband is my go-to person when I need to make an important phone call. When we moved to a new town and found a great doctor for the kids but she wasn’t taking new patients, for example.

The nurse told me “sorry, she’s not taking new patients” and I said, “okay, thanks anyway.” My husband, on the other hand, called back and heard “sorry, she’s not taking new patients” but HE thought not yet, that is… and ta-da!

All three kids were new patients by the next day.

Questions concerning confusing medical bills and insurance? I hand him the phone and suddenly everyone is on our side. It’s simultaneously maddening and amazing.

He is the perfect husband for me in part because I can rest assured social situations will always be easier with him nearby. He balances me out and has served as a great example to me, inspiring me to become bolder and more confident in my in-person interactions.

I, on the other hand, have always been more comfortable with the written word. There’s a quote by Flannery O’Conner that hits the nail square on the head. She said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

Exactly!

Whenever important issues come up with important people in my life, I always prefer email. And no, not because it’s too intimidating to have serious conversations face to face (which it sort of is, but that’s beside the point…), but because I have to see my words in print to be able to think through what I’m trying to say before I officially say it.

It’s the only way for me to communicate effectively and be sure I’m saying all that I intend to say.

Some people are natural-born talkers. They can have difficult conversations in their sleep and not lose focus or forget what they were going to say.

I am not those people. Sometimes I wonder if I’m even from the same planet as those people.

Do words have power? Absolutely, not doubt about it.

Are words more powerful when spoken or written? Well, just look for a moment at the New Testament.

First we have Jesus himself, who is well known for his crowd-gathering preaching and parables. He was a spoken word man through and through. Powerful? Um, yes… Jesus and all.

And then we have Paul, the author of much of the New Testament. Did you catch that word there? I’ll say it again. Author.

I’m sure Paul did his share of speaking as he traveled around starting churches and sharing the message of Jesus. But what do we know him for today? His writing!

Paul is one of my favorite authors of all time because he demonstrates so clearly the power of the printed word.

I’m sure we are in agreement that there is power in both the spoken and written word.

But when it comes to present day personal interactions? The effectiveness of spoken vs. written word definitely depends on who you are.

Now, there are certainly merits to conversing in person, including making it easier to give someone else the benefit of the doubt, which I go into detail about in my last blog post: https://www.redirected.life/2018/09/21/giving-god-the-benefit-of-the-doubt/ .

But there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to how people best interact with one another.

I mean, really. What if Paul decided he needed to follow Jesus’s example exactly and so only preached to those in his vicinity? (Although there could be records of Jesus writing letters that I’m just not aware of.) Thank goodness Paul recognized his gift of writing and was able to utilize his parchment and quill to make such far-reaching contributions to eternity!

Let’s allow ourselves to embrace our “spoken word” self or our “written word” self without feeling like we should be one or the other. God created both types of people and will use us each for his great purposes. Isn’t that the main point after all?

Do you relate more to Jesus or Paul’s preferred communication style? I’d love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below. And if you’d like to receive future posts directly to your inbox, please zip over to the “subscribe” button and leave me your email address! Thanks for reading!

Giving God the Benefit of the Doubt

Why does it come so naturally to think the worst about others?

Let’s say a friend is supposed to pick you up so you can go out to dinner together. You’ve been looking forward to it all day and the time of her arrival finally comes…and passes. Twenty minutes later you get a text: “Sorry, running behind, be there soon.”

Your mind gets fired up. She’s just now texting? Where was this text twenty minutes ago? I’ve been counting on this night out all week and she doesn’t even have the decency to be on time. Doesn’t she want to hang out with me?

She finally pulls into the driveway and you hop in the car. She smiles at you and says hello, but you can tell she’s been crying. “Sorry I’m late,” she says. “I was running a couple minutes late because Jason and I got into an argument, and then I got pulled over on the way here since I was trying to make up lost time. Now I have a ticket to deal with…anyway, I’m really glad we’re going out tonight. I could use some friend time.”

Oops. For a second you’re overwhelmed with feelings of your own jerkdom. You mentally scold yourself for doubting your friend and then move on with your evening, comforting your friend and having a fun dinner out.

I’ve realized it’s much easier to think the best about someone when you’re in person. When we’re hearing the account from the person themselves and they’re standing right in front of us, looking into our eyes, our instincts lean more toward understanding, rather than blame.

Isn’t it the same with our relationship with God?

When we are distant from God it’s easy to blame him for all the wrong in our lives. We get a little too comfortable and then we get lazy. We know he’s our friend, we know he’s there for us, and so we don’t lean in to him as much.

We read the Bible…some. We pray…some. We certainly haven’t forgotten about him but we haven’t been actively pursuing him either.

And when something bad happens, as it inevitably does, our world is rocked. So we turn to God. But instead of falling into his arms of love, we start blaming. Why would you let this happen? Why wouldn’t you stop this person from doing that thing? Why…?

But when we’re walking in stride with him, in person, we remember who he really is. We remember his unchangeable character and we give him the benefit of the doubt.

When we make the effort to stay intimately connected with God each and every day, that’s when our trust in him is unshakable. We know who God is. We know his character and his promises, and we don’t doubt his goodness or his love for us.

And then, when he’s standing right in front of us, looking into our eyes, we believe him when he says: I’m sorry this bad thing happened. I hate it too. But I love you more than you could ever know and I’ll never leave you. And even though Earth isn’t perfect, Heaven is. And it’s waiting on you. I’m waiting on you. And I’m for you—always.

And maybe…just maybe next time, whether in dealing with friends or with God, our first instinct will be to trust instead of blame.

 

Please leave me a comment below to let me know your thoughts – I’d love to hear from you. And while you’re at it, make your way over to the “subscribe” button and leave me your email address so I can email you future posts directly! Have a great weekend everybody and thanks for reading!

4 Ways to Reclaim Your Inspiration

Do you ever get the feeling at the end of a day, week, or even year that life is passing you by without your consent? Without your full participation?

Maybe it feels like life is so full of the must-dos that there’s no time for the want-tos. Maybe you routinely wake up, go to work or school, take care of the house and/or family, and by the time you check off all the boxes of adulting for the day, it’s time to do it all over again.

You find yourself going through the motions of life like a robot with none of the zest for life you had “back in the day.”

“That’s life,” people say.

“You gotta do what you gotta do,” they say as they throw up their hands, feeling as lost as you do.

You’ve lost your motivation because you can’t find your inspiration.

I’ve been there. Much of the toddler years of my kids’ lives felt that way. Maybe due to sleep deprivation. Maybe due to the fact that you can’t form a coherent thought when you’re hanging out with toddlers all day. I’m not complaining—I’ve loved my time at home with my kids, but there are certainly seasons of life more…shall we say…life giving than others.

This is for those of us who lose sight of the inspiration we so desperately need in order to obtain a fulfilling life.

If this is where you find yourself today, or have found yourself in the past, I’m speaking to you. And I’m most certainly speaking to myself.

Four Ways to Reclaim Your Inspiration:

1.  Be still. Some people claim they’re always busy as if it’s a badge of honor. It’s not. You will never find inspiration if your mind is crammed full of everything under the sun.

Make margin in your life—it’s not your job to take care of everything under the sun. Clear your mind long enough to let the peace of God and the voice of the Spirit calm and guide you. This will allow you to remember what really matters and direct your focus.

2.  Speak affirmations. For whatever reason, there is power in speaking truth out loud. Talk back to the negativity that tries to take root in your mind.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started: “I have power, love, and a sound mind.” (from 2 Timothy 1:7), “I delight in God. He fulfills the desires of my heart.” (from Psalms 37:4), or “God fills me with joy and peace as I trust in him.” (from Romans 15:13).

Practice speaking affirmations such as these and you will soon find that you have more confidence in God and in yourself.

3.  Remember what God says. Yes, this sort of overlaps with point #2, except where point #2 focuses more on who YOU are in God, this one suggests focusing more on GOD alone. His timeless truths and promises for our lives.

My favorite way to remember the truths of God is through music. Contrary to popular belief, there actually is a lot of great Christian music out there. (Lauren Daigle is one of my favorites and my 10 year old daughter thought it was Adele when she heard her on the radio!)

Good music is a great way to flood inspiration back into our hearts and minds. Other ways include reading the Bible or reaching out to a friend who can speak the truth of God into your life.

4.  Just do it! (And no, I’m not trying to get into any Nike controversy, I promise.) Sometimes you just have to be bold and do something new or unexpected. Have you been wanting to learn piano for years? No time like the present! Have you been wanting to start a Bible study with your friends? Call them today! Doing new things brings a rush of life back into your soul like few other things can.

My challenge to you (and to myself) is to be proactive and try out these four tips this week—see if some inspiration doesn’t come creeping back into your life. I pray that each of us would breathe new life as we seek to understand the vision and good plans God has for our lives, grab hold with both hands, and not look back.

I would love to hear what you think! Leave me a comment below to share your thoughts! And while you’re at it (if you haven’t already), head on over to the subscribe button and drop your email address so you can receive future posts directly to your inbox. 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!

Life Changing Time-Ins

The concept of a time-in was a game changer for me.

If you have young(ish) kids and have never heard of a time-in, then please—keep reading. And if you don’t—also keep reading. (You never know when this might come in useful!)

Several years ago when I was knee deep in cloth diapers and homemade baby food (yes, our first child got all the good stuff. Don’t even ask about the second and third.) I was an avid consumer of parenting books. Most had great nuggets of wisdom I attempted to tuck away into my sleep-deprived brain for another day.

Truth be told, most of those nuggets got lost in the chaos that is my brain. Never to be seen again amidst lost card game instructions, movie plots, and to-do lists.

However, one parenting tip that stuck with me was the idea of a time-in. In case it’s a new idea for you, a time-in is basically the opposite of a time-out, but it works for kids of any age; not just the youngest ones.

I’m pretty sure every parent in America is familiar with the concept of the time-out: you know, wait until child misbehaves, then banish them to a small area where they miss out on the fun that’s going on around them while they reconsider their bad choices and plan for how to make better choices in the future. Uh-huh. Because that’s totally how it goes, right?

In reality (well, my reality anyway) time-outs have looked more like this: pick up screaming child, place them in a certain area away from all the fun, explain the wrongdoings and consequences, plug ears while child continues screaming and doesn’t hear a word you say. Child screams until you either retrieve them or they fall into a sniffley sleep. Does that sound more familiar to anyone else?

The magic of the time-in is that it nips most major meltdowns in the bud. What happens is that you deliberately spend time with your child periodically throughout the day. (It doesn’t have to be lots of time, it can be as little as just ten minutes every few hours, depending on the child.)

By paying deliberate attention to your child, by getting into their world and really focusing on them, you are ensuring that they feel valued, loved, and cared for.

And when a child feels valued, loved, and cared for at the start of a day, they are way less likely to pitch fits throughout the day.

Obviously, it’s not a magic bullet. Tantrums and fits definitely still happen. But I’m here to tell you that time-ins have worked well for us.

When my youngest was a toddler and I was homeschooling my two bigger kids, time-ins were a crucial part of our morning routine. I knew that if I spent just ten minutes playing with and loving on my toddler, she would be way more inclined to toddle around happily while I turned my attention to the big kids for school.

And if I forgot or skipped our time-ins before school? My precious, easy-going toddler would turn super whiney. She would get into everything she knew she wasn’t supposed to be in.

Why? I imagine it’s because she didn’t receive my positive attention to begin with and so resorted to getting my attention however she could.

Now my kids are ages 6,8, and 10 and time-ins are still a necessary part of our days. My kids don’t generally throw tantrums these days (hooray!), but I can still see a difference when they’ve had a little quality time with me or their dad.

They get along with each other better, they complain less, and they’re happy to entertain themselves for quite a while afterward. And then I can pull out my trusty to-do list and get to work!

Pretty powerful results for a pretty simple concept.

Yes, all parents are busy. All parents have a billion and a half things running through their minds at any given moment.

But really—ten minutes. Three times per day.

If you have kids and you haven’t spent ten focused, screen-free minutes with them lately, I challenge you to give it a try. If you have more than ten minutes, by all means spend more focused time with them. I’m challenging myself, too, by the way. In no way do I have this all figured out.

Catch them in the morning before things start to go wrong. Connect with them first and then observe the positive differences in how they deal with their day.

See how drastically time-outs are reduced when time-ins become a part of your daily routine.

And when time-ins and time-outs fail you (as they sometimes will), remind yourself of Psalm 127, 3-4:

“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.”

No matter our moods and attitudes or our children’s moods and attitudes, our children are gifts from God. They are valuable. Precious. Small reflections of Jesus in our very homes. Let’s do our best to treat them as such.

Have you used time-ins with the kids in your life or is this a new idea for you? Leave me a comment to let me know your thoughts! Also, take a sec and head over (or down) to the subscribe button and sign up so you can receive new blog posts straight to your email!

One more thing—I had endeavored not to blog about kids /parenting /homeschooling since there are a bazillion other blogs out there focused on these things. But since it’s all such a part of who I am, those topics will probably start coming up more often. And that’s okay. 🙂 Thanks for reading and have a happy weekend!