Over Being Overwhelmed: The Heart of the Matter (Living Wholehearted)

Over Being Overwhelmed: The Heart of the Matter (Living Wholehearted)

This time of year brings nostalgic memories, painful losses, and a whirlwind of a running to-do list. It’s the most wonderful time of year, and yet the hustle and bustle is so counter to the meaning of the season.

We said good-bye to Thanksgiving before Halloween even started. All my favorite stores were stocked with green and red before October could close it’s last pages. We are all in a hurry in every sense of the word this time of year. Anxiety is high and expectations are even higher. I, for one, am pledging to strike and not participate in the overwhelming any more. You with me?

Read the rest of this post at LivingWholehearted.com.

Receiving Rest

Receiving Rest

Receiving Rest
A Discipline and an Invitation

Do you regularly lie down to rest?

It’s not an easy thing for most adults living in western cultures. With never-ending lists and demands piling up, the pulse of productivity ticks on, making it difficult to prioritize anything else, especially stopping to rest. There is simply SO. MUCH. TO. DO!

If you are anything like me, sleeping in is a luxury seldom realized. Naps? Forget it. The second I try to settle down I know someone will need something. It’s not that we avoid good rest or doubt the value of a power nap, it’s just that attempted self care or r&r time seems virtually IMPOSSIBLE!

Chuckling to myself, I listen to sermons admonishing Martha, a woman from the Bible, as a busy body. If you are not familiar with her story, it is worth reading. It’s a story of two sisters: Mary and Martha. Mary sits at the feet of Jesus, listening to His words and being present. Martha is occupied by all the preparations that had to be made. In other words, Martha was a distracted doer, running around the kitchen performing ALL THE THINGS that needed to get done in order to host someone as amazing as Jesus in her home. Jesus tells her point blank: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better” (Luke 10:38-42). Few things are needed. Before you think that might have been a bit harsh, consider Jesus’ tone. Understanding someone’s tone is almost as important as the actual words they say — it’s the message underneath the message.

He was gently and graciously offering Martha an invitation to sit down with Him and enjoy the time together.

In terms of the CVI, Martha was likely more on the practical side. She considered all the implications of what needed to be done as well as the cost of the those tasks not being completed. Worry was her companion. Mary, probably more on the relational side, was never interested in practical things; the dishes could wait. What she needed most was time with Jesus.

Isn’t time with Jesus what we all really need?

Though I don’t think Jesus was making a commentary on which Core Value or hard-wiring is better, He was speaking to the heart of our motives. Specifically, He was asking Martha to recognize the importance of sitting down with him, suggesting that there would be time enough to complete all the other items on the to-do list later or to let go of some tasks.

The Psalmist says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures” (Psalms 23).

If God desires us to “lie down in green pastures,” then what is it that keeps us from resting, from sitting at the feet of Jesus and just receiving His presence and peace? 

No doubt 2020, and the first several months of 2021, have brought FORCED REST. The problem with anything forced is that it often stirs up anger, resentment, and a bit of our stubborn streak. I do not want to be told what to do. I am not tired! Yet, by March of 2021, with activities starting up again and plans being made, I found myself saying, “YES!” to them all! Perhaps it was out of starvation for something “normal” or for much-needed social interaction for the kids. Whatever the motive, I watched many people, myself included, go from 0 to 60 pretty quickly. After twelve months of forced rest, so many of us anxiously pushed the productivity throttle all the way back up (and not just in the drawers and cabinets that have been re-organized ten times around the house).

In all the excitement and relief that comes with life picking up speed again, we would be foolish to forget the clear message that Jesus gave Martha about stopping to rest. If you’re paying attention, can you feel God’s gentle Hand pressing upon your shoulders saying, “Sit down and trust me. Let me do the work.” Can you hear Him whispering to you to “enjoy, breathe, and take in the work I have already done”?

We have a compulsion to value results — what we can see accomplished. And yet, Jesus clearly stated that, “Mary has chosen what is better.” Resting is both a discipline and an invitation.

In the third chapter of Ecclesiastes, we are reminded that there is a time for everything:

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2) a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3) a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
4) a time to weep and a time to laugh,  a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5) a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6) a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7) a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8) a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
9) What do workers gain from their toil?  10) I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.  11) He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

As a practical tool, I often refer to this list in Ecclesiastes, circling the numbers that come easily. I also ask God to help me with the ones I resist. It’s actually a great passage to use to take inventory of our ability to balance priorities and our rhythms in life. Teaching our children to love God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength, as well as to love others, requires us to model in real life moments, slowing down and more fully experiencing what God has done.

It means teaching our children to live in a culture that awards productivity and achievement (we’re still giving away trophies even though everyone gets one now), but to live differently — with their eyes open and clear. We need to help them understand where their true identity comes from and that wholeness requires both work and rest. Raising children as believers requires us to keep this at the forefront of our own minds so that we can model the unhurried pace; not with the goal of being lazy or unproductive, but to allow time to taste and see that the Lord is good. To sit and to experience the fruit of who He is and what He has already done.

Learning to rest is a vital part of practicing the greatest commandment. It also means that we’ll be swimming upstream in an achievement-based culture that breeds performance-based spirituality. Believing that it’s “all up to me” is a product of our culture and can be seen in each of the four CVI values:

  • If you are a MERCHANT, you may think it is up to you to make others feel at home and appreciated. You carry the conversation, cook the home-made soup, respond to every text thread, and love on every friend and stranger that passes by.
  • If you are an INNOVATOR, you have the tendency to think it’s up to you to solve every problem that presents itself. If you don’t come up with the solution, no one will. Challenges find you, even when you sleep, and they often prevent you from ever truly resting.
  • If you are a BANKER, you might believe that every T must be crossed and every I must be dotted; precision must be achieved before you’ve “earned” down time. Excellence oozes from you while order is your middle name. And yet, in a fallen world, your job will never be done.
  • If you are a BUILDER, you may want nothing more than to write out a to-do list and see every last item crossed off by the end of the day. There is no person, email, or tornado that will stop your tenacious can-do attitude. Completing tasks is a badge of honor.

Thankfully, no matter our hard-wiring, God finds ways to put His kind Hands on our shoulders and says, “Come to me and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28-29).

God says we are loved even when we rest. Do you believe that for yourself? How about for your children? For your spouse, your friends, or your staff?

I can love God with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength while I nap. I feel His presence as I take time to breathe in fresh air, when I hear the sounds of birds, and even when I read a book for no other purpose than to enjoy it. We must understand that our value and worth is separate from our achievements; this understanding helps us to love others apart from their achievements, too.

As you consider Father’s Day, the first days of summer, and recovering from this past year of forced rest, consider what slowing down looks like for you. How does time for rest take shape in your days? There is no formula — that’s the beauty of it. Resting is both a discipline and an invitation from a God who modeled the importance of this by creating the world all week long and then intentionally rested on the seventh day. Did the God of the universe need rest? No. He demonstrated to us how to slow down and enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Rest is a discipline and an invitation.

The next time God gently puts His hand on your shoulder and makes you lie down in green pastures, when He leads you by the quiet waters, remember to pause. Don’t hurry through the experience, anticipating the next agenda item. If you allow Him to, God will refresh your soul. He will guide you along right paths for His name’s sake. And then, when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death (the storms of life), you will fear no evil. For then you will know — not just with your mind, but with your heart, your body, and into the depths of your soul — that He is with you and that you will lack nothing (Psalms 23: 1-4).

Written by Terra Mattson, MA LPC, LMFT
Co-Founder of Courageous Girls & Living Wholehearted
Author, Speaker, Podcaster, Executive Coach

The Point of Parenting

The Point of Parenting

Keeping the long-term picture in mind, Jeff and I have made it one of our MAIN goals to help our girls KNOW experientially that they are loved and to teach them to turn again and again and again toward God, REGARDLESS of how their story unfolds.

In keeping the main thing the main thing, behavior modification and sin management are low on our priority list.

Children will always have behavior issues. It’s called sin. (wink) Teaching a child what to do when temptation arises and how to respond when they make a painful choice is really a better goal for ourselves.

Let me share why.

Poor behavior is not okay because it keeps us from experiencing the fullness of life. And yet, it can be a vehicle toward transformation, depending on how we respond to it. If the point of parenting is to stomp out bad or unwanted behavior from our children, it is likely that they will become hollow and compliant human beings who are vulnerable to attracting controlling spouses and following controlling leaders.

The POINT, my friends, is to help our children grasp how wide and long and deep is the love of our God so that they will trust Him with all of their being. (see Ephesians 3:16-20)

This understanding doesn’t result from the delivery of our profound theological lectures, but rather from the small, and often mundane moments of disciplining.

We commonly find ourselves on one side or another of the parenting coin due to our natural hard-wiring and childhood stories. One side is the over-controlling parent who has a rule and a consequence for EVERYTHING. The other side of the coin is the parent who coddles their children and allows them to lead the relationship out of fear of conflict. Each parenting approach has several likely consequences. So, let’s consider the way God parents us.

We have a sign in our home (yes….another sign) that says, “Love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him.” Deuteronomy 30:20. When the kids were little, we added a melody and would sing it often to tuck it away in our hearts (including us parents!). We still sing it today as God brings it to mind. It grounds me in my parent role as I remember that God is the ultimate good Father whom we can cling to in all seasons. In the Old Testament, we see how His chosen people keep leaving and returning to God, loving and then forsaking God. In the verse just before Deut.30:20, we hear God parent His children:

“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”

God gives choices. Choose life. OR choose the ways that lead to death and eternal separation from Him and His family.

And God explains the consequences up front.

Our God is a God of choices. There are many times when we become overwhelmed by the behaviors of our kiddos. Yet, the point of parenting is to help them choose again and again. Life and the ways God has said are best for us. Or death.

What I love about what God models is that He gives the choices and consequences up front. Throughout the Bible, He gives us a clear and upfront scenario. He gives choices AND, in great mercy, warns us of the result based on each decision. He doesn’t micromanage and He doesn’t leave us guessing. This plays out in our day-to-day choices and with the things He has given us autonomy and choice in, but we have to be careful not to over simplify this or apply it inappropriately. An example of this could be believing that someone’s cancer diagnosis came as God’s punishment for earlier choices or stepping outside of God’s boundaries. In other words, our human and worldly tendencies can be to start thinking that people get what they deserve. We can judge others by their actions/outcomes, but be much more lenient of ourselves because we naturally judge our own intentions. This is what is so amazing about God’s grace. It can’t be earned, He gives it freely to all who receive Him.

What can this look like in our home?

“John, you can choose the cookie now and not have the birthday cake later with the family OR you can pass on the cookie now and have the birthday cake with the family later. You choose.”

YOU CHOOSE. No temper tantrum. Healthy power of choice given to a child. Win-win.

When a child is two, their choices are smaller. “Do I want a red shirt or a blue shirt?”

When they grow older, their choices expand and so do the potential consequences: “Do I date? Who do I want to date? What will I do with my body?”

Before we can help our children make choices by leaning into the voice of God, they need to know that He is kind and good, and that He loves us deeply. God’s love is not dependent on our choices. As parents, we are our children’s first experience with God the Father. How they experience us, especially when they make poor choices, is connected to how they experience Him. Yikes! But it is so true.

When our children are making poor choices, it often means their “lid is flipped.” So, how do we handle a flipped lid or a flooding of emotions?

Dr. Siegel, author of the Wholehearted Child, reminds us that when a child’s lid is flipped, they cannot hear or receive any direction from their parent. In fact, when your lid is flipped, you are not in a place to parent well either!

Too often, we discipline our children for trying to cope with their feelings of being overwhelmed, scared, hungry, tired, anxious or excited. When they are flooded with emotions, they are merely reacting and often in the process of learning what to do with these normal emotions. This, my friends, is not the best time to offer discipline (though oh, so tempting!). This is when we are to offer comfort, care, and attachment, so that our kids know they are never alone in their uncomfortable or overwhelming emotions.

Emotions are part of being a human. We need to learn what to do with emotions and help our children do the same.

So, the next time your child exhibits one of these behaviors:

  • Stomps off to her room.
  • Yells back when you ask him to clean his room.
  • Steals cookies from the cookie jar.
  • Throws a temper tantrum at the store.
  • Bites the babysitter.
  • Pushes his sister.
  • Rolls her eyes and calls you mean under her breath.

Remember, his or her lid is flipped. The brain is flooded. This is not the time to negotiate, punish, argue or ignore your child. It’s the time to lead your child to healthier coping strategies. It’s can also be the time to calm yourself, which may mean a parent time-out so your own brain and body can calm down.

Our children need our help to not feel lonely in the ups and downs that accompany a growing brain and the human experience of emotions. For older kids, try giving some space so everyone can chill. For younger kids, lean in, which is called a “time-in” instead of a “time-out”. They grow to realize that nothing can separate them from the love of God (or the love of their mom and dad). Try moving through these steps:

  1. Name the emotion: “You are angry.”
  2. Identify where it shows up in her body: “It seems you want to punch something with your hands.”
  3. What does the emotion need (a hug, a banana, a friend to talk to): “Do you want to hit the pillow?”
  4. Meet the need: Let her hit the pillow.

You might be thinking, but don’t kids need consequences?

YES. In fact, a child without consequences will learn to use their emotions and behaviors to manipulate their world. However, a child who is only given consequences without comfort, care, and attachment from a parent is more likely to seek other, unhealthy, sources of comfort in their life: drugs, sex, eating disorders, pornography, self-harm, workaholism.

If consequences are necessary and both you and your child are calm, then you can talk about what’s next and discover a solution. Let the consequences match the crime. Sometimes the consequence includes grace – offering undeserved favor. If you decide to give grace instead of a consequence, it’s important to share the “why” with your child: “Even though we deserve punishment, God still lavishes His love on us….even when we do not deserve it.”

Use grace wisely. It’s meant to be profound and used in impactful moments.

Good news! Not one of us has this parenting thing down perfectly. But, with the help of God’s Holy Spirit living and abiding in us, the more we connect with His heart for us, the clearer this all becomes, we focus less on behavior management for our kids and more on helping them capture the heart and voice of our God, learning to love the One who already loves them. This comes through experience in real time.

In the end, the point is for us, as parents, to live in step with our God, who loves us deeply, and wants our children to experience that same love. God loves you! Love has boundaries. There are consequences for the harmful choices we make in life. God uses (doesn’t waste) consequences to help re-attune our hearts, minds, and bodies back to Him and His ways so that we can do life with Him now and forever. His love, even through consequences, keeps us close and meets our needs. Teaching our kids that they can trust coming to us with any struggle, will help them trust their God with struggles all the days of their lives.

In this way of parenting, we keep the main thing the main thing.

Let’s choose life!

Written by Terra A. Mattson, M.A. LPC, LMFT
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Licensed Professional Counselor
Author, Speaker, Podcaster & Co-Founder of Courageous Girls & Living Wholehearted

The Real Digital Dilemma: Our Children Need Us to Lead

The Real Digital Dilemma: Our Children Need Us to Lead

Client: I just reached 10,0000 followers on my instagram account! 

Me: Wait. You have 10,000 followers? You are only 14 years old. Who is following you?

Client: I don’t know. People. They just like my photos.

Me: Can I see your photos? 

Client: Sure. They are mostly pictures of me posing. Nothing special. 

Me: Well, you are quite beautiful. Some of the photos seem more seductive than others. What message are you trying to put out to the world on your account? 

Client: Message? I don’t know. It’s just fun to see what people like about me. I feel more confident.

Me: Do your mom and dad know?

Client: Yes. They are fine with it. They really don’t pay much attention. 


Instagram entered the world in 2010. Just two years later, in 2012, the underbelly of the Instagram beast regularly showed up in my office in the form of disconnected, self-doubting, anxious users.

I knew very early on that the long-term effects of this “new addiction” would drastically impact developing identities of its users. It took years to have documented evidence showing just how bad it really was; the addiction had rooted itself in the lives of millions, and its poison flowed quickly through its victims.

Sadly, the conversation above is just one of many I have had with teens and young adults over the twenty years I have spent as a professional in the field of marriage, family, and mental health. For the past fifteen years, I have observed changes and trends from within my private practice. In my book Courageous (2020), I unpack memories of sitting with young teens, listening to them recount how worthless and ashamed they felt, in large part due to social media. Many never realized they would end up feeling this terrible from something that seemed so harmless. They were blind-sided, and so were their parents.

Clients struggled with eating disorders and sex addictions.

Some, quite young, agreed to “hook-ups” with random guys that gave them attention online.

Other clients watched Facebook affairs end their marriages.

Young girls sat across from me, confused, lured by predators, unsure of how to disentangle themselves.

Boys learned hard lessons after blasting nude pictures across public platforms that ruined lives. Pornography addiction skyrocketed, among men and women alike, while depression and anxiety spun out of control.

My office was a hot-bed for the trauma brought about by this new addiction.

If you have recently viewed the Netflix special called The Social Dilemma, then you know I am not alone in recognizing the need for reform.

Without shaming parents, who are learning in real time how to manage the overwhelming rise of technology in the home, I do want to help you wise up to the reality of where we really are as a culture. We cannot make any changes without an honest awareness of our current reality. Jesus said, “The truth will set you free,” referring to the truth of the gospel. This also refers to acknowledging the truth of where you are at with this very real “dilemma,” and how it is impacting your life.

Social media exacerbates vulnerabilities and preys on individual weaknesses, but it doesn’t necessarily create the brokenness. Brokenness happens when a core need is not met.

For many young social media users, that need is legitimate relationship. Unfortunately, young teens and pre-teens don’t easily know how to get that need met in a healthy manner and are often slow to ask for help.

As a therapist, I can say with total confidence that many adults struggle with this very same issue. This internal desire for deep relationship is actually God-given. He designed us for community and needing others is a big part of how that evolves. Our culture (and social media outlets) has done a brilliant job coming up with a “quick” fix to this wide-spread emptiness, but it doesn’t actually meet the human need for connection.

While our kids have constant access to countless, conflicting voices, they really need to be hearing a consistent refrain of love and acceptance from one or two caring adults on a regular basis.

Thanks to technology, we now enjoy a wide-spread lack of emotional regulation across society. No need to look any further than a public parking lot to see evidence of that!

We have also lost the ability to make eye contact and to maintain conversation. This is true for many young people, but it’s also true for adults and parents who model these behaviors to their own kids.

In 2010, little was known about the long-term consequences that would affect both children and families, Parents did not have many tools to intervene in growing addictions. Many parents and adults assumed kids were “safe” because everyone else used it, too.

The impact of the digital age has changed our neurobiology as well as our expectations of life. We have different ways of relating to one another, and to the world around us, but the truth is that we were never designed to find our meaning or purpose beyond real life, one-to-one relationship. In fact, research shows that the average person can only handle 60 relationships at any one time (give or take a few). Trying to manage the opinions and needs of thousands, sometimes 24-hours a day, is beyond anyone’s ability, let alone a twelve year old child.

Courageous Girls launched in 2012 out of a response to what I saw daily in my office.

The impact of the digital age on moms, daughters, sisters, wives, (as well as husbands and sons) was too much to bear. I hoped Courageous Girls would be a force moving people in a new direction—one that encouraged healthy and whole relationships; where moms and daughters could come together to exercise their muscles in trust, grace, and face-to-face, authentic relationship. Courageous Girls was founded on the desire to help girls (and moms) discern God’s voice, and to be grounded in the self-actualization that happens when we truly understand that we are loved, just as we are.

After years of avoiding social media myself, I joined Instagram in August, 2019.

Despite the mountain of evidence against such apps, I felt like Instagram could still use a few more hope-filled voices, and I set out to share the message of Courageous Girls and Living Wholehearted.

Before officially signing on, I set up boundaries for myself and for my family. So far, I’m still on. However, I constantly hold this part of my job loosely; if at any time I feel my addictive nature is triggered, or that the platforms are breaking down my family unit, I will jump off.

My daughters cannot hold that same tension on their own. Their reasons for engaging are more fragile and they are more easily influenced. As an adult, my discernment muscles are far more seasoned than theirs, and this is precisely why we, as parents, must engage our kids to help them build similar muscles. We must raise them to resist the pressures of the “social media world” in order to keep them from becoming another commodity for the system at large.

The voices from our screens tell us we need to do more, be more, and have more; they heighten our sense of urgency. It’s not by chance that now, in 2020, the inventors of many of our most addictive platforms confess they never imagined the damage their creativity would cause.

The Social Dilemma, a recent Netflix feature, introduced us to Justin Rosenstein, an innovator who curated the “like” button. He shared that the goal of the original design was to help spread love. No one ever imagined it to be a key factor in teen loneliness, depression, or suicide. Young minds naturally struggle to distinguish the feedback from their own parents and peers, let alone the opinions and comments of strangers across the world.

So what do we do? How can we begin to scale our kids back to solid ground?

Tips going forward:

  1. Watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix. View it together with your family, if kids are old enough, and have conversation about it.

  2. Check out my dialogue with my husband, Jeff, from November 18, on Courageous Girls Facebook Live.

  3. Create a digital device family contract and start using it! Include everyone. Renegotiate as needed.

  4. Talk to your kids about the hard why. We need to teach them to swim in the shallow end of the pool before we toss them into the deep end of social media and smart devices that are trying to woo them as potential consumers.

  5. Ask them for honest feedback regarding how you are doing with your own screen time (TV, computers, gaming, phone, social media. etc.)? Be open to listening to the feedback given and then take that feedback to God in prayer.

  6. Consider waiting to hand your child a smart phone as long as you can. There are other phone options, like the GABB phone, to fill the need for a communication tool. The smart phone does create addiction tendencies and can cause higher levels of anxiety, attention deficient, depression, and other mental disorders. Smart phones also make boundaries tougher to implement around social media usage, because of the availability and accessibility.

  7. Wait until high school (or beyond) for social media on any device, and then limit usage to 1-2 platforms. Every child is ready at different ages. There is not one standard “fit.” Be thoughtful and do your own research. Have full access to all accounts and have regular dialogue regarding usage, time limits, messages your child is wanting to give others, and how she can engage her friends in more “real life” ways. Having a text conversation is not the most helpful skill set for life.

  8. Most young adults complain that they have higher anxiety having face-to-face conversations than over a device. We need to change this phenomenon quickly and Courageous Girls is a part of that movement. Check out the topics and conversations at www.mycourageousgirls.com. You’ll find curriculum, hot topics and resources to help you.

In this together,


Terra A. Mattson, M.A. LMFT, LPC is the co-founder of Courageous Girls and Living Wholehearted, Author, Podcaster, Counselor and Executive Coach.

@terramattson   www.terramattson.com

Preparing Our Children for the Road of Life – FREE Download at LivingWholehearted.com

Preparing Our Children for the Road of Life – FREE Download at LivingWholehearted.com

When all is said and done, what do you want for your marriage, your family, your home?

Better communication. 

Deeper intimacy and connection. 

More understanding and empathy. 

Less conflict. 

More joy!

These are common statements made whenever we, as a counselor or coach, ask the miracle question of a client: what would be different in your home if you had a magic wand? 

Read the rest of this post and get the FREE download at LivingWholehearted.com

Making a Toolbox for Anxiety

Making a Toolbox for Anxiety

by Megan O’Connell
with Terra A. Mattson, MA LPC, LMFT

Worry has been a constant companion of mine for as long as I can remember.

And as much as I wished it away, it didn’t budge.

So when my fourth grade teacher asked us to write a folktale about a character based on ourselves, I knew right away my story would be about a young girl, The Little Worrier, and her experiences navigating life with an abundance of worry.

As an adult, I learned my high level of worry was something others faced too, but it had a specific, diagnosable name: Anxiety.

Read the rest of this post at TerraMattson.com

Living with Courage – Blog at joyofit.org

Living with Courage – Blog at joyofit.org

Terra Mattson wrote a great post as a guest blogger over at joyofit.org. The title is Living with Courage and here is the intro:

When I reflect on the idea of courage, a particular moment from high school stands out in my mind.

Two of my close friends (both of whom happened to be large, broad-shouldered, football players) were physically brawling in front of our school. Upon realizing what was happening, I marched my 5’6” frame through the crowd that had gathered to watch, and positioned myself right in between the two boys yelling, “Stop!” By the grace of God, and my cat like reflexes, I ducked just as one of my friends threw a powerful fist at the other, ignoring the fact that I was standing between them.

Head over to read the blog post and leave a comment! Living with Courage by Terra Mattson



How to Foster a Committed CG Group in a FOMO, Uncommitted Culture

I have been married to my husband, an avid fly fisherman, for nearly two decades. I have learned a few things about trout, whether I wanted to or not. If you see a trout moving downstream for more than a few seconds, it’s likely injured or dying. Trout are made to move upstream against the current, and those that do are healthy and strong. I think Courageous Girls are like trout. We are made to go against the grain — to grow muscles we are unaware we have so that we can stand firmly like mighty oaks of righteousness in the midst of a hurting world (see Isaiah 61).

When I started my first Courageous Girls group in 2012, the growing trends of surface relationships, lack of commitment, and the rise of FOMO (fear of missing out) felt like currents I did not want my girls to die in. New to Sherwood, Oregon, I was ready to trust God to build a small tribe that could test the status quo. During the first year of our CG gatherings, I remember feeling so vulnerable after each month of Courageous Girls. I expected moms to change their minds, find something better to do, or slowly lose momentum and bail. When I invited everyone back the second year with the hopes of making this “thing” a three year commitment, I was floored when every mom agreed to continue.

Year two was a little harder, as our casual relationships grew on us like a comfortable pair of jeans and conflicts began to naturally emerge. I had MANY conversations with moms about the dynamics between daughters, their own insecurities about being in the group, and the disappointments of unmet expectations. With every conversation, I found myself turning toward God with a deep inhale, and then exhaling His courage back out to continue on. My own conviction in knowing that all healthy relationships are built over a long period of time, through the struggle of conflicts, helped me to gently encourage us all to hold tight to what God was doing through our hesitant commitment to one another. This is was for our girls. And, this was also for the little girl in each of us.

Based on years of experience leading women, I decided to assign each mom a specific month and lesson to facilitate before the CG year even began. Prayerfully considering which CG conversation might be the right fit for each woman to guide, every mom had a place to contribute and to practice courage. You are welcome! This type of intentional preparation has helped every mom know the plan in advance and settle into the pace of our monthly gatherings together. In early Fall, we took a mom and daughter retreat to catapult us into community, offering only what a retreat can do: awkward depth in a confined space and time. The rhythm of our annual retreat continues to bring the needed glue that now holds us together each year as school life picks up and us moms notice a few more gray hairs.

Even better, I invited moms to get away with me mid-year (without our girls) to dig deeper into our own relationships, adding a slow and steady drip of vulnerability between moms. Now, after six years together, we are taking time to write and pray intentional words over every daughter on the morning of her thirteenth birthday. We now have history and are starting to see the ways in which God has ordained our relationships for His purposes and for each of our lives as our daughters quickly move from tweens to teens.

Everyone gets weary at some point during any journey we commit to. Starting is half the battle, but finishing well is the other half. Commitment is an ‘old school’ virtue we are trying to bring back to the next generation. It holds a vital role in EVERY RELATIONSHIP we have in our lives, and is a hidden ingredient in healthy adults. Remember that when a mama wants to cancel a CG gathering, skip a month, or not participate in leading, we indirectly communicate to our daughters that something else is a priority. That is NEVER our heart’s intent when we decide to stay home this month, and yet, our daughters feel a loss. These groups are not for us. They are for her.

In contrast, our daughters feel our love every time we make this special gathering count, and place the scheduled meetings at the top of our priority list in the midst of all the other activities in our lives. And yes, there is ALWAYS  grace for the occasional missed gathering, but the pattern of not being consistent speaks loud and clear to our girls. What a simple way to speak deep love and loyalty into our daughters’ souls! To say to them, “Today, our time spent together at CG is more important to me than anyone else or anything else! I want to be with YOU!” It is so important to keep the bigger vision of these CG gatherings in our minds when we start to feel the daily grind of life. Our daughters are worth our time and energy, and these once a month gatherings help her FEEL our love. Play Therapy research tells us that children need to have prioritized, undivided attention on a regular basis in order to believe the words, “I love you.”

Consistency and commitment are two characteristics we are desperately in need of in an attention-deficient culture. The only way to attain them is through time and practice. Courageous Girls was designed to be as little of an effort as possible for a pretty big return. With only one meeting a month, rotating homes, and only leading one gathering a year, CG is doable! Even more, when each mom takes a turn to lead group discussions, we model to all our daughters the power of community, the variety of gifts we bring, and what courage looks like in ordinary moments. It changes a daughter’s perspective of her own mom when she sees her leading the way. We have tried to make facilitating a group as simple as reading the curriculum and trusting God to do the rest.

Courageous Girls is not a quick fix, nor is it a clique of best friends. We are not taking short cuts to any unrealistic expectations or overnight miracles, but rather, are leaning into a process of grace and trust in God. God seems to have the habit (see the Bible) of taking broken and not-so-likely candidates in order to use them to change the world. I think Jesus was the only one that really saw the potential in his disciples, so that gives us great hope when we wonder why we are in the groups we are in. Who am I to say that God will not use the women and daughters in each of our groups to transform not only our own lives, but the lives of our families and our communities? I believe all God needs is you and a willing heart. I often see the sign in the corner of the Living Wholehearted Lodge & Retreat that reads, “Shortcuts never lead to anything worth it. Never.” It reminds me to be a like a trout who swims upstream, when I’d rather coast with the flow of the river. Let’s swim beside our daughters and help them learn the ways of the river — let’s lean into the depths of their souls and trust that God created all of us to be strong and courageous!

Written by Terra Mattson, M.A., LMFT, LPC, Co-Founder of Living Wholehearted
Author of InCourage: Rooted In Grace, www.incouragebook.com

*We are hosting a Courageous Girls Leader’s Training on June 7th. Whether you are a seasoned CG leader or want to start a new group of your own, this half-day workshop will provide you with practical leadership skills to lead your group well. The day will also offer you personal time with founder and author, Terra Mattson, as you gain collective wisdom form other CG leaders and personal refreshment as we gather on five acres of old growth woods at the Living Wholehearted Lodge & Retreat in Sherwood, OR. This personalized workshop has limited space, so register early. Cost is $45 and includes retreat training, materials, lunch and coffee/tea/water. Food allergies are accommodated. Register at http://livingwholehearted.com/events/workshops.

Building Trust in a Guarded World

Building Trust in a Guarded World

It always helps to have people we love (and trust) beside us when we have to do difficult things in life.

– Mr. Rodgers

Life is so much better with a few trusted friends by our sides. In fact, a Harvard study found in 2016, after 80 years of researching health, that there is no greater health benefit than having a community of people who know you, love you, and will stand with you throughout life. It’s even more beneficial than eating your veggies or working out several times a week! Eating chocolate cake with a trusted friend is actually better than running a 10k alone. (Okay, the study did not prove that, but it seems like a logical leap.) As you set goals for the year, consider focussing on moving deeper into community and developing greater trust with those who cross your path. In order to heighten your health in 2019, begin the journey of building ‘roots of trust.’


Now, this is a loaded word. It gets thrown around with little consideration of its power, impact, and the ripple effect it produces. Many of us think we trust others easily, sometimes even too easily. Others of us are fully aware of the walls we keep highly fortified so that no one, and I mean no one, will ever hurt us again. Here are a few principles I have learned over the years about trust — these principles have been gleaned from many wise leaders, but also from my clients who trust me with their hurts and from my own personal experiences along the way.

When I started my first Courageous Girls group in 2012, I had just experienced one of the biggest betrayals of my life. At that point, I thought I was done giving my heart away to girlfriends. I had shared my heart deeply with another to find it broken, betrayed, used and lied to without any attempts to repair. Do you have a story from your life that has caused you to guard your heart and vow, “I will never let that happen again?”

My broken heart longed to help my own daughters develop healthy relationships and navigate the sometimes shark-infested waters of female friendship. Yet, I knew that my girls could not do this without me modeling the way. My words would never match my actions if I did not allow myself to trust others again. But what would this look like in my life? How would I heal the pain that still lingered enough to open my heart back up again? I know far too many who have been violated, betrayed, judged, rejected, abandoned, used, and abused. This type of experience does not discriminate. No matter how much a person gives or how hard they try, the wounds from others may never be fully known until carnage appears.

If this has been a part of your life story, my heart aches with you. When this happens, trusting others feels like trying to hug a grizzly bear. Here, big grizzly bear…please don’t eat me! The thought of trusting again can sound stupid and naive. And yet, the truth is that not everyone is out to hurt you. Only some are untrustworthy, but not all. Learning to trust and also to be trustworthy is a part of being courageous and living whole-hearted. Let’s explore more.

Trust is only built over time and consistency.

Often times we naively believe that trust is a given. Innocent until proven guilty, right? Herein lies a problem: Predators thrive on using implied or quickly-granted trust as a means to do harm. Think about anyone in a leadership position who has taken advantage of others easily because of the inherent trust assumed with their role. Others incorrectly think that broken trust can be easily repaired with a flippant, “I’m sorry,” after promises are broken and inconsistent patterns emerge.

Perhaps you are like many people who say they trust others but have never fully let anyone see you. Do you really let anyone in on your darkest days? Would you know who to confide in when you are at your weakest? Studies show that it takes about two years before people start to really know one another. At that point, an individual is equipped with enough information to make a better judgment about who they are risking their personhood with. This is why time is such a crucial factor for all relationships. This is also part of the wisdom connected with showing up once a month for two to twelve years for Courageous Girls groups. Though it is so different than most of us experience in life, showing up is a vital ingredient in trusted relationships (visit mycourageousgirls.com for more). Faithfulness is the fruit that is produced through consistency. It demonstrates commitment, care, and integrity.

Showing up for a friend’s birthday (even when a competing invitation arrives the day before), remembering a prayer request, meeting weekly for coffee, making it a priority to sit in the hard places with a neighbor — all of these illustrate faithfulness that builds trust. Laughing together, sharing life experiences, and meeting goals together are wonderful parts of relationships both at work and at home, but nothing compares to the slow drip of consistent, long-term, faithful people who show up again and again and again. After the seven years with the same moms and daughters in our Courageous Girls group, we have established trust and continue to build upon it. This kind of trust reminds us that we are not alone in this world. When storms come, as they always do, we have others to remind us who we are and who God is in the midst of the chaos. We cannot force trust to grow faster than it naturally does. It must be built one moment at a time, over time.

There is always a measure of risk in trusting another with ourselves.

Living Wholehearted and Courageous Girls are organizations full of brave souls who aim to be unafraid — unafraid of the risk we feel sometimes when trusting God; unafraid of trusting others, and unafraid of trusting ourselves. The practice is scary and the stakes are high. However, the reward is what we all are longing for — to be known, to be loved, and to be significant. Considering all the relationships you have, which ones are you willing to begin investing in a little more this year? Who in your life has proven to be consistently present and solid, perhaps even more than your own actions warrant? Consider pursuing a deeper level of trust with a few key individuals. Share a little piece of your childhood journey, perhaps the fears you have, or what you hope for in your friendship at a truthful and vulnerable level. You will likely feel some hesitancy as you take this step of risk, but don’t pull your foot back from the progress that can come from opening yourself up to the people who are earning your trust.

Trust is built on the other side of healthy conflict resolution.

Some of us thrive on conflict and drama, even at the cost of never finding resolution. Others thrive as peace-keepers, avoiding making waves by pleasing others, even at the expense of telling the truth. Both types of entanglements result in people missing out on what God intended for the human heart: resolution after conflict. Conflict is a necessary ingredient in the process of being known and building intimacy. Without it, relationships remain shallow, and one will never know if the other can be trusted in a storm. The very essence of the Christian faith is rooted in a narrative that trumps after conflict. It’s what happens after the conflict that helps us build trust in one another. Hang around someone long enough, and conflict is bound to happen. Deciding to be a trustworthy person means you can humbly say, “Let’s talk about it. How have I impacted you?” After listening well, maybe you can also share how they have impacted you, too. The cherry on top is when both parties can own something they did to contribute to the conflict, ask for forgiveness, and come up with a plan for how to do things differently the next time. Doing this can advance your relationship with people who desire to grow in trust and intimacy.
Trust is rare and fragile. It takes years to build (and only moments to shatter).

Shrinking the gap between who we say we are and how we live requires awareness and regular feedback from those around us. Being able to trust a person does not require perfection, but it is rare and it is also fragile. Trust at a basic level requires integrity, practiced with regularity. Integrity is the willingness to be honest and truthful with another and to also do the necessary work to repair where we have done wrong. It may sound difficult but that’s because it is, especially in the world we live in that has become accustomed to accepting partial-truths as the “norm.” Integrity means we speak the truth even when it seems “unimportant” or “not required.” It looks like telling your friend that you really can’t afford to buy her a birthday present this year rather than skipping her party at the last minute out of embarrassment. Trust grows when we insist (for ourselves) that our words and actions imbue care and precision. This is not easy, but settling for an “okay” grade on this aspect of our personal affairs is harder in the end.

I recall former CEO of World Vision, Rich Stearns, sharing how he spent six months on a “forgiveness tour.” Basically, he went to anyone impacted by a poor decision he had made, and, after coming face to face with the ripple effects of his decision, he owned his choices and took the time to make sure each person felt heard and a sense of resolution. Now that builds trust!

While a forgiveness tour may not be realistic for everyone, we can certainly take steps toward resolving broken trust that we have a part in. This might look like removing a mask of pride, ignorance, indifference or fear to step closer to another who provokes us to keep that mask on. When we stop “pretending” that everything is okay and allow others to see our frailty and weaknesses, we invite them to walk a bit closer with us in our journey. When we are honest with ourselves and others, we move closer toward being a person who others will trust with their true selves as well. Let me be clear: Not everyone is a person worth trusting at this level. This kind of trust and vulnerability is built over time and often times won’t occur with more than a handful of people in a lifetime.

Consider if you typically act like a trusted person—Are you someone who moves toward others rather than away in the midst of conflict? Do you receive feedback when others need to offer it? Do you speak the truth about your needs, emotions, and hopes, rather than appeasing others by acting as if you have no needs of your own?

Consider someone you want to build (or re-build) trust with this year and begin. Work on developing these characteristics steadily, one day at a time, asking God to help you every step of the way. If you stumble, don’t give up!

Choose to try vulnerability again. I did, and I can truly say that it has propelled my life in so many beautiful, meaningful ways over the last few years, in all my leadership roles and in my life as a mom and wife. In a heavily guarded world, it may feel easier and safer to stay closed off and rely only on yourself; know that God has more planned for you and for your heart.

A person with one or two trusted friends is truly rich. Trust is not an allusive mystical idea. It is a practical and fundamental part of any healthy relationship, producing the heart of what we all long for at the end of the day: to be known, to be loved, to be significant. This is courage.

For more on how to build trust with God and others, see InCourage: Raising Daughters Rooted in Grace by Terra A. Mattson or, Trust for Today, by Trueface Ministries.

Be Loved, Love Well