Taking Inventory, Measuring Growth

What a full year it’s been; I have MUCH to be thankful for – and I’m sure you do, too! The “Watch Me Grow” chart with the giraffe comes to mind – you know, the one where a parent measures how tall their child is growing every so often? It felt like God kept His spiritual measuring stick handy for me in 2016, but thinking back over the year, I wouldn’t change a thing. Every step of the journey was preparation for what is yet to come.

In retrospect, God has kept my family through one transition after another, and I am grateful. One of the most significant adjustments was the mid-year 180⁰ career change of my spouse. Prior to that, God sustained us during a stint when my hardworking hubby endured a 3rd Shift role with valiant strength and dogged determination that ministered volumes to our family and friends alike. Both children are in middle school and are successfully navigating those potentially turbulent waters with the God’s grace, parental patience, and the Holy Spirit’s guidance and protection. Were things perfect in my family this year? By no means – but I am a witness that consistently-applied discipline DOES indeed bring forth the peaceable fruit of righteousness! 🙂

I’ve put a renewed focus on my personal role within the ministry of marriage as we celebrated our “Sweet 16 Wedding Anniversary” for an entire month. As I committed to make my 40th year on the planet fabulous every day (and it has a wonderful celebration filled with glitter, laughter, tears, and joy!), I learned that a sign of true maturity is to admit the things I don’t know (and to be okay with it) – this was a liberating epiphany (especially since I consider myself to be a planner extraordinaire)! I’ve learned to embrace where I am at this specific point in time instead of allowing dissatisfaction to propel me to attempt to achieve some unrealistic and elusive goal that was never mine to begin with.

We’ve mended bridges with family members and friends, realizing that time really does heal all wounds, even though it doesn’t change the past. I’ve learned to extend forgiveness proportional to the amount of times I need to ask for it.

I’ve diligently worked on holding my tongue so I don’t respond before thinking (as much…trust me, this is progress for someone with my DNA – LOL). I’m doing this not through clenched and gritted teeth to “finally take that vow of silence I’ve been threatening forever” (but been woefully unable to make good on – it’s in the genes; what can I say?!). Now, this refined behavior comes from a primary desire to please God and to allow the fruit of the Spirit to be manifested in every facet of my life.

Sometimes we can’t see how much we’ve grown because it’s like waiting for a flower to bloom 5 minutes after we dropped the seed into the dirt – or more accurately, it’s like watching paint dry. We’re too close to the action to be able to fully absorb the progress. Yet, by stepping back with objective observation through a time lapse lens, we notice the flower unfurl, the seed begin to sprout and bring forth abundance, and our personal growth and development come forth according to God’s Word. I encourage you to take inventory of your own growth over this past year – you may be surprised to see that, though you’re not where you intend to be, you’ve far surpassed your starting point…and this, my friend, is indeed praiseworthy!

Join me in looking ahead to a new year full of promise and potential with joyful anticipation…God’s best is yet to come!

“20 My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me.
21 This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.
22 It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
24 The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
25 The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.
26 It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.”
(Lamentations 3:20-26)

 © Copyright 2016 by Kayren J. Cathcart

A Beautiful Moment Unfurled

Sometimes we have to step back to really appreciate the things (or people, or circumstances, or situations) that God has purposely placed in our lives.

flower-photo-10-22-16This rose (in the picture) graces my front yard, but I didn’t really notice it blooming until the other day as I barreled around the corner (as usual) after a long workday commute home. I remarked to my husband that I remembered accompanying him to the home improvement store when he bought the thorny rosebush, bare of blooms, months ago. I remember when he planted it. And then, I stopped thinking about it. This morning, the beauty of this single rose (amidst the lush foliage that testifies to my husband’s attentive “lawn love”) struck a chord with me. I was inspired to grab the camera and snap a glimpse of the image that has been etched in my memory – before the cold weather takes the petals away for the season.

My exquisite organic basil is withering away, the cucumbers from our summer garden have become a distant memory, and everything changes. Boy, does everything change! Yet, I have the gift of this precious moment. I chose to snap photos from three different angles of the same flower. Each position offers a diverse vantage point from which to appreciate another facet this creation offers.

 unfurl – open up, unfold, spread out, expand, develop

What intrigues me about flowers is that they bloom when they’re ready to – it’s an internal trigger mechanism that God placed in them to fulfill their potential. There’s no speeding up the process unnaturally. There’s no prying it open before the appointed time. Only pure patience will yield the satisfaction of seeing a beautiful bloom come to fruition in its season. May we apply the same patience to the seedlings and baby blooms in our everyday lives. God may have some delightful (and beautiful surprises) ready to spring forth right beneath our noses! And yes, I did take time this morning literally to smell this rose and savor all it had to offer…a timely, symbolic, worthwhile, and necessary activity for this creative being. I am filled with gratitude…

“He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.”
(Ecclesiastes 3:11)

 © Copyright 2016 by Kayren J. Cathcart

Pop-Up From the Past: Ongoing Saga of the Accursed Chili

Have you ever thought you were over something, and then a trace of its residue just rears its ugly head at the most unexpected time? Yeah, me neither LOL…

Being the self-declared “delivered from cluttering” gal that I claim to be (intentional tongue-in-cheek sarcasm), I was grabbing one of those super-useful plastic grocery bags to <ta-dah!> reuse (of course, you saw that one coming, right?). Well, lo and behold if it didn’t contain a grocery receipt – not just any grocery receipt, but the one from 9/29/16. Why is this significant? September 29, 2016 is the fateful day that I purchased the remaining ingredients to complete my masterpiece homemade turkey chili – a meaningful demonstration of loving sustenance for my family on an overcast Fall day.

What made this a less-than-perfect foray into slow cooker bliss was the kidney beans. Alas, I choose to put the onus for the gas that came upon us all on the fact that I got a different brand (I know, I know, bigger isn’t always better, and the sale item may not be the highest quality item – yada, yada, yada – I get it). But my innards can tell the story that lasted for several days as those beans meandered their way through my intestines…oh so very slowly. Thankfully, I recovered (with assistance from some leafy greens). But I really didn’t need a reminder of the experience – and I really wasn’t expecting that today. And here was that receipt, weeks later, staring me in the face from the bottom of that plastic bag that I was about to place in the bathroom trash can. Memories…it just made me mad all over again as I scowled at the receipt I should’ve shredded days ago.

I’m being a bit dramatic (who, me? ha!) to drive home this point:

When it’s time, throw away the turkey chili.

No matter how good it tasted (and still tastes). In spite of how warm it made you feel on a cold night. Forget the fact that it was perfectly seasoned. It’s no good for you. You’ll regret it later – trust me. Trust that inner voice. Trust what your family is telling you. Trust the rumbling in your belly.

No matter how much is left in the container you prepared for a busy week. Ignore that brilliant last-ditch idea to valiantly take it with tortilla chips for a twist on workday lunch at your desk because no one else in your house is brave enough to face the inferno in a bowl.

If it’s giving you gas (or something worse), it has to go. Now.

Spiritual application: Get rid of the old, useless, and hazardous to your health stuff you’ve been hanging onto for way too long – things you’ve been holding in your heart, emotional baggage that’s weighing you down, relationships dangling by a thread that you just haven’t cut off for your own good, whatever.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned. If you ignore this wisdom (garnered from personal experience), you may unnecessarily have your own October horror story. My take on it: not worth it. Let it go. Pass! (pun intended…)

See hubby, I did learn my lesson (this time…after all of my other similar and near-disastrous gastrointestinal incidents). Progress – let’s savor that flavor!

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”
(Proverbs 4:23)

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
(II Corinthians 5:17)

 © Copyright 2016 by Kayren J. Cathcart

Absolutely Audacious Residue: God’s Cleansing Rx is the Fix

audacious – daring, bold, brave, overconfident, impudent, risky, foolhardy

How audacious, big-headed, and myopic to be a tool (in the hands of the Master) that wants to be used only in the way it sees fit, instead of in the way deemed proper and timely by the Expert Creator of the Universe. It is a selfish and unloving view indeed that cares only about how I feel instead of how my obedient service will bless someone else or supply the need of another part of the Body of Christ.

Am I so intimacy-averse and apprehensive of true transparency of my own underlying issues that I’d contribute to atrophy of muscles being developed within the Body of Christ? When I move out of my God-ordained position, do I acknowledge that I’m giving place to the devil? When I feel like giving up, giving in, quitting, or throwing in the towel, do I admit that I’m really telling God that the joints He put in my presence to supply my need are woefully insufficient and inadequate? Do I see that I’m devaluing God’s creation (that He made in HIS holy and righteous image) when I attempt to separate into a cocoon and isolate myself from my brothers and sisters?

When I’m too agitated to pray, too distracted to see the needs of others (needs that may prompt them to act unseemly or out-of-character), and too absorbed in the mindset governing my personal universe and its exclusively hand-selected inhabitants – I need to step back and allow God to correct my focus according to the lens of HIS unconditional love.

These words flowed from my pen when I recently found myself needing an emergency “spiritual chiropractic adjustment” before I was fit to minister before God’s flock. Faithful as ever, God was answering even as I was calling. Have you ever cried out from that wretched place of brokenness and repentance, pleading to be changed and cleansed so you could be put back into service with a right heart? It is a highly cathartic experience called confession that really is good for the soul. If you find some audacious residue built up in your heart that’s hindering a free-flow of pure worship, obedience, peace, or anything else that is promised to a child of the Most High, I recommend humbling yourself and making an appointment with The Throne Room…for today’s prescription.

“10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”
(Psalm 51:10, 17, KJV)
“5 Everyone who is proud and arrogant in heart is disgusting and exceedingly offensive to the Lord; Be assured he will not go unpunished.
6 By mercy and lovingkindness and truth [not superficial ritual] wickedness is cleansed from the heart, And by the fear of the Lord one avoids evil.”
(Proverbs 16:5-6, AMP)

© Copyright 2016 by Kayren J. Cathcart

When Folks Don’t Like Your Flavor

Some people love chocolate ice cream. Others prefer vanilla ice cream (though for the life of me, I cannot understand why LOL). And there are some who fancy either one, depending on their mood. I am fixed in the chocolate camp (preferably with pecans or almonds added!), while my hubby is firmly entrenched in the classic vanilla camp. Thankfully, this has worked for us with relatively few dust-ups in almost 16 years of marriage. Have I tried to coax him to “just taste a spoonful” of my deep, rich, luxurious chocolate ice cream cone and he refused because it’s just not his “thang?” Absolutely. Has he offered to share with me his delight derived from a bowl of vanilla bean ice cream and I declined the extra calories for its blah-looking plainness? Yup. Does it have to be a deal-breaker? Of course not (if you’re wise and want to enjoy a good marriage – ha ha)!

So I’m talking about ice cream, right? Yes…and no. See, in my humble purview (especially after the week I’ve had), personalities of the people who cross our paths can be likened to ice cream flavors. <Full disclosure: I have no professional training in psychology, but bear with me for a moment.> Some people like outgoing folks – and others don’t. Some hold in high regard reserved, pensive thinkers – and others look at them like visitors from another planet. High-energy and bubbly vs. low-key and demure; impulsive free spirits vs. calculated risk-takers; there are so many seemingly diametrically opposed personality pairings we encounter during the course of a day. But that doesn’t have to turn into a conflict or a clash, right?

It’s very easy to say “you shouldn’t care whether people like you or not.” It’s quite another thing to deal with it when they are making known how much they don’t like you. I’m not as “soft” as I used to be (thanks to “mental toughness training” from a father and husband who are both former military). However, as a recovering people-pleaser, I acknowledge when I feel rejected or marginalized. That identifying and acknowledging part I’m pretty good at. It’s the mastering it and moving on part that I’m diligently working on in this season. Because while I realize that everyone doesn’t like my flavor (or me, for that matter), I don’t want any person, thing, situation, or circumstance to hold a hindering grip or exercise paralyzing power over me, impacting my present and debilitating my future. I don’t want to plan to avoid a particular location at a specific time just to get around speaking (or not speaking) to someone who has expressed disdain for my flavor. Both chocolate and vanilla have their merits – it’s just a matter of preference. And both have a place…it doesn’t always have to be either/or.

Granted, there is middle ground (and no, I’m not referring to fudge ripple ice cream, because that weak hybrid just doesn’t make any sense to me – ok, maybe it makes sense, but I just don’t like the taste…and not because it’s viewed as a compromise for someone who’s dug in their heels on one side or the other LOL). Reaching across the boundaries of personal preference to understand from another person’s perspective is a start.

Kinda like the vanilla cheesecake I made last night that my whole family enjoyed together. Even though it had light cream cheese, light sour cream, and sugar substitute. So I guess it could’ve been viewed as a compromise…but not really, because I’ve never made a chocolate cheesecake, and I wasn’t in the mood for one anyway. And I’ll be the first to admit that the vanilla cheesecake was SLAMMING and hit the spot – even though I’m still loyal to chocolate as my favorite flavor!

How can you appreciate someone else’s flavor today? You probably don’t have to look very far – and the opportunity may even find you. Accept the challenge; it may be more palatable (and maybe even pleasant) than you expect.

A Neapolitan Postscript: Ya know, it didn’t even dawn on me while writing that there are some folks who like strawberry, too. <gasp!> God’s got us ALL…and THAT, my friends, is good news!

 “12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
14 For the body is not one member, but many.
17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?
20 But now are they many members, yet but one body.
21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.”
(II Corinthians 12:12, 14, 17-21)

  © Copyright 2016 by Kayren J. Cathcart

Are YOU Allergic to Foolishness?

The dictionary’s definition of foolishness – stupidity, idiocy, silliness, imprudence, thoughtlessness
Kayren’s definition of foolishness – insignificant or of little consequence in the big scheme of the cosmos; sheer and utter nonsense and ridiculousness causing needless agitation or aggravation

Take your pick for however you feel it’s best defined, but our society is fairly saturated with foolishness these days – don’t you agree? Everywhere we turn, we’re surrounded by annoyances, irritants, hassles, and provocations – the majority of which have little to no eternal value. Yet, we can find solace and restoration in the presence of the Lord.

It’s almost Spring, a time when some people experience seasonal allergies. Itchy eyes and runny noses are only a couple of symptoms endured by those who are allergic to some of the environment’s blossoming bounty. However, as saints of God, we should have a 24/7 allergic reaction to sin…and that’s the root of foolishness. What’s the cure/remedy/treatment for Foolishness Allergy? Inoculate yourself with the Word of God so you’ll be able to fight the wiles of the devil and UTTERLY REJECT foolishness in its myriad forms all too prevalent in our daily routines! The good news: there’s no way to overdose on this vaccine. 🙂

Though we may encounter foolishness, we don’t have to be contaminated or overtaken by it. For example, we have the strength, power, and authority through Christ to turn the channel, walk away from a conversation, or not respond to an argument. Ta-dah – instant Foolishness Repellant! Unofficial prescription: Apply liberally until allergic symptoms subside…and if we’re growing in maturity, we can even pray for those who are steeped in foolishness. You may be pleasantly surprised at the rapid, positive results of smearing this remedy when encountering your next “foolishness situation…”

“O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee.”
(Psalm 69:5)

“Wise men lay up knowledge: but the mouth of the foolish is near destruction.”
(Proverbs 10:14)

© Copyright 2016 by Kayren J. Cathcart

Interruptions…or God’s Call?

Recently, I got a little ticked initially (ok, annoyed, aggravated, and increasingly irritated) by two separate “interruptions” during my workday. I caught myself thinking, “There are 3 other names on the list – am I the only one they can call to sign for a package? I’m trying to focus on finishing up this assignment by the deadline.” But after the delivery people had left my office, I realized that both times that day, I’d been privileged with a golden opportunity to share the Word, let my light shine for Christ, and give some much-needed encouragement. How self-centered of me not to see the bigger picture; perhaps they were my most important assignment that day!

I had prayed for God to open doors for me to share His love…and here He literally brought the people to my door, practically dropping them in my lap, so I had to repent for not recognizing the blessing in disguise. It went right along with the Teen Sunday School lesson I was preparing to teach, so I was definitely convicted! Are you despising the gift Christ has placed in you for others?

May we always be prepared to answer when God’s opportunity to minister knocks on our door and presents itself – even at those unexpected moments! I had to take a detour during today’s evening commute…but the blessing was that I heard about the accident two lights ahead of me on the traffic report just before I saw the wreckers blocking the intersection. I was so grateful for that “interruption” of an unplanned detour (that added only 5 minutes to my commute) since it meant I wasn’t involved in the smash-up – hallelujah! My daughter rolled her ankle playing basketball during afterschool (2 minutes before I arrived to pick her up today). While that was definitely an unscheduled weekday event (to say the least!), I had to be grateful that it wasn’t broken. Though it changed our evening plans and we all had to move slower to assist her, at least she could still hop on one foot. It’s all in our perspective. This week, I challenge you to embrace a divinely orchestrated opportunity that at first glance may appear to be an interruption – God has purposely designed it with His children in mind. He is at work…may we adjust our attitudes to work with Him – all for His glory.

 “3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit [through factional motives, or strife], but with [an attitude of] humility [being neither arrogant nor self-righteous], regard others as more important than yourselves.
4 Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
5 Have this same attitude in yourselves which was in Christ Jesus [look to Him as your example in selfless humility],”
(Philippians 2:3-5, AMP)

 © Copyright 2016 by Kayren J. Cathcart