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

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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

Spammed!

spam – disruptive messages, especially commercial messages posted on a computer network or sent as e-mail; unsolicited, undesired e-mail; the e-mail version of junk mail

Thank goodness my self-esteem is intact enough today that I didn’t fall for a fake ego trip (again – LOL; it’s true what they say about being older and wiser…). I got a comment from an unknown poster complimenting my writing skills (go figure – that college degree is coming in handy) and blog layout (it’s a template, for heaven’s sake). Since it appeared to be a link to a bootleg online luxury products outlet (again, age and deliverance make a healthy combination), I decided to Google the link in the attempted flatterer’s signature instead of clicking on it. (I absolutely detest internet “cookies,” and the thought of getting unending pop-up ads for who-knows-what makes me livid). When that initial search didn’t give me adequate or specific details about my phony admirer from afar, I searched the text “I am really impressed with your writing skills” and lo and behold if that site wasn’t listed multiple times, and in various languages. My suspicious hunch was right. With a few clicks, I’d confirmed that the message wasn’t from someone who genuinely appreciated my literary prowess (ha!), but instead, it was a sham from someone who wanted to squat on my web property for free advertising. Kinda like realizing that you’ve gotten a photocopied “love letter…” and you feel just a bit less-than-special…Needless to say, I hit delete on that message.

Rather ironic, since I just retrieved an e-mail message I’d been awaiting since last month – only to find out yesterday that it had – unbeknownst to me – been relegated to my “Junk” folder – yikes! The sender had been awaiting my response…and I’d been completely unaware that the important information had been sent to my attention weeks ago. Then I felt horrible that my delay had impacted my ability to disseminate the information to other people who needed it. What a ripple effect – ugh!

The value of a message can be determined by the identity of the sender, right? Unwanted message gets received, desired message doesn’t get received…I’m no techno-whiz, but it’s nearly a herculean feat to keep track of my own electronic traffic these days. And who (or what algorithm) determines that I should get daily shoe sale e-mails in my Inbox, while important personal messages get condemned to the abysmal Junk folder?!?

How often do we get spammed in a spiritual sense? We’re having a great day, focused on the goodness of the Lord, then – WHAMMO! – something unauthorized and definitely not legit comes from outta the blue that sends us spinning off course. Saints of the Most High, we must be on guard for potential intruders and distractions that desire to run roughshod and ramshackle through our emotional and spiritual well-being, leaving overturned tables and broken vases in the wake of their forced entry. What disruptive, unsolicited, or undesired messages have been bombarding you lately? In these last and evil days, our recourse is in the Person of the Holy Spirit. We need His discernment, wisdom, guidance, and protection. I dare assert that He is the ultimate spam blocker!

“1 Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer.
2 From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
3 For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.
4 I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah.”
(Psalm 61:1-4)

© Copyright 2014 by Kayren J. Cathcart

Mothering: There’s a Reward for Putting in the Work

mother (verb) – protect, nurse, tend, cherish, nurture, raise, rear

To me, mothering is a verb – an action word. In my experience, being a mother is not a passive pursuit or a mindless undertaking. Tough? Absolutely. Underappreciated? Usually. But rewarding? Definitely. However, we must bear in mind that the seeds we plant today won’t necessarily yield a harvest in 24 hours. On the contrary, it may be months, years, or even decades before we see what we’ve taught, invested, instilled, prayed about, or counseled come to full fruition. And for this, we have need of patience (Hebrews 10:36)!

Since mothers are always trying to “save here to spend there,” I called myself saving some money on a gel polish manicure by doing my own nails this week. Best of intentions, but after 2 days, the regular (and cheap since I got it “buy one, get one half off” at the drug store) polish was chipping and peeling horribly – just before it had time to match my dress for church on Mother’s Day Sunday. Perhaps I could get away with calling it a “reverse French manicure” if I hadn’t used red polish, and if it was more than 3 inconsistent nails on both hands impacted. All I could do was laugh – because after 11 years of “mommying,” I’ve settled in my heart that it’s not a professional manicure, a fresh hairdo, or a new outfit that makes me who I am. Sure, those are nice “extras” – bells and whistles, if you will – but it’s the inner man of the heart that makes a mother memorable and endeared to her children.

Back in the day, we’d all have to wear corsages for Mother’s Day – it seemed a bit over the top to me as a child, but those traditions have a way of sticking in your memory, especially when you remember special loved ones who have passed on to glory. I choose to celebrate in the mundane moments of everyday life. So forgive me for waxing poetic after my hubby and children went out of their way to get me some veggie hot dogs to put on the grill today with their meaty hot dogs (yeah, I think this vegetarian thing may be sticking – wonder of wonders; trust me, nobody’s more amazed than me).

What is a mother’s love to me today?

  • Watching a thunderstorm pass over while you’re nestled safe in the house with those you love,
  • Grabbing a package of pre-mixed oatmeal raisin cookie dough at the store because you’re too tired to whip up a homemade batch (that you know tastes better) – and not feeling guilty about not being Betty Crocker in an apron 24/7,
  • Seeing dust and a couple of cobwebs (eek!) beneath the computer monitor – and various other places that were overlooked for the past week…or maybe two…but probably three now that you think of it…and being ok with that (for the same reason listed above).
  • Pensively realizing that you’ve whizzed through the phases of changing diapers, teething, and the first day of school – but knowing you have yet to cross the bridge to middle school, puberty (as my 11 year-old reminded me today – YIKES!), driver’s licenses, etc. (help me, Lord!).
  • Investing time, energy, a listening ear, and a comforting touch when you feel like you don’t have another ounce, drop, or iota of ANYTHING left to give ANYBODY…

And then God sends the grace you need to put one foot in front of the other and make it through yet another day.
And you sink into your pillow (after everyone else in your household – of course!) with a satisfied smile, knowing that tomorrow, with its unexpected joys and hidden delights, will bring more of the same…
And you’re good with that – because it’s who you were created to be…a mother, a high calling in the kingdom of God.

I reflected on the joy of today – not technically a holiday, but definitely a “Mommy-day.” And what could be better than that? Yeah, in my humble opinion, pretty much EVERY DAY is Mother’s Day. Today, I salute those of you who are mothers in the natural and/or in the spirit, providing support, nurturing, truth, discipline, and love to those who need it. It’s a big job, but hey – somebody’s gotta do it. 🙂 Stay encouraged, and don’t be weary in well-doing – when done God’s way, the work of mothering yields great fruit that will endure for generations to come. Blessings, peace, love, and joy to you…today and every day.

“4 Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.

5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”

(Philippians 4:4-9)

© Copyright 2014 by Kayren J. Cathcart

Of Secrecy & Shame, Transparency & Truth

We all know John 3:16 by heart, right?  But when I did a www.BibleGateway.com search for “truth and light,” John 3:21 popped up.  Then I chose to read the prior verse for proper context.  While reading a few more verses above that, something clicked:  When we walk in the light, we’re showing forth the love of God; conversely, when we walk in darkness, of course we realize that there’s no love in this.  I experienced a simple, yet significant, moment of awareness.

When we keep things to ourselves, attempting to hide our foibles and struggles, we’re not being honest with ourselves – or others.  What good is a pretty façade when the inside is crumbling?  Why act like you’ve got it all together when you’re really “tore up from the floor up?”

It takes courage to stand boldly in the truth…yep, the butt naked truth.  It can be intimidating at first, but it is indeed liberating and cathartic – as if a weight has been lifted from your shoulders.  Why?  Because you’re no longer trying to hold everything together with an amalgamation of scotch tape, paper clips, staples, and push pins.  Instead, you’re admitting, “This is a bit of a mess, and I need some help and support to get through it until things come together.”  And you know what?  After that, the help you need becomes available.  Transparency makes ya vulnerable (that’s the story of my life on this blog).  Downright exposed.  But it’s the only way to start a genuine healing process.  Bringing things into the light brings life.

So today, I typed up the progression of my blood pressure readings over the past few months to share with my doctor during tomorrow’s appointment.  I’m gonna do this while taking a deep breath (perhaps several!) – because I’ve been dodging her for a while.  However, since I want to be healthy from the inside out (and not just an outward show), this is my first step.  What’s yours?

“16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”
(John 3:16-21)

© Copyright 2012 by Kayren J. Cathcart

The Parable of the Cilantro: Launch Out Into the Deep

I’ll be the first to admit that this entry may not be as chock full of deep spiritual revelation as the term “parable” implies.  However, I tried something new this weekend, and I’m pretty excited with how it turned out.

My wonderful hubby, an avid gardener, has been hard at work growing all sorts of edible green (and yellow and red) things in our backyard.  When I made ground turkey tacos this weekend, I told him I was out of my favorite picante sauce. He suggested that I use some of our fresh cilantro to make my own salsa.  I was a bit apprehensive because I’d never used cilantro before.  But I must’ve gotten a surge of confidence from somewhere because I didn’t even look online for a recipe – I just started stirring chopped red onion with canned tomatoes (because our garden ones aren’t ripe yet) and chopped cilantro.  The finished product needed some seasoning (more than I’m used to adding), but everyone (including me!) commented on how tasty it was – and the Cathcart Cilantro added a freshness that we didn’t get from a jar.  I beamed with joy as a potential recipe disaster was averted and my family was nourished and satiated.

How many times do we hesitate to try or do something new – just because it’s unfamiliar to us?  Are we not called to continue stretching, growing, learning, and maturing?  How can we do that when we’re stuck in the rut of common everyday habits and comforts?  Years ago, I’d often wonder, “But what if I fail?” to which my husband would counter, “But what if you succeed?!”

Perhaps the Holy Spirit has been nudging you for a while.  I challenge you to try something new this week.  (Because watching someone else use and taste cilantro just ain’t the same as using and tasting it yourself…).  Who knows?  You just might like the result God has in store for you! 🙂

“4 When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

5 But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.”

6 And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking.

7 So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.”
(Luke 5:4, NKJV)

© Copyright 2012 by Kayren J. Cathcart

Maternal Musings: A Mother Reminisces

“As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child:
even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.”

(Ecclesiastes 11:5)

After the Great End-of-Summer Arm Incident, I was bathing my child again.  As I recalled the days of the totally dependant infant in the baby tub, I had to admit that he was considerably bigger now, and much more independent.  Where did the time go?  I wondered.  Each evening before the bath, we secured a plastic bag around the injured arm to prevent the cast from getting wet.  I scratched as far into the cast as my pen could reach to alleviate the incessant itching.  I watched him learn to eat proficiently with his left hand.  Could I have seen this set of circumstances coming?  Hardly.  Do I have “mommy superpowers” to avert all of life’s painful lessons or shield my children from major hurt or discomfort?  Clearly not.

Because – wonder of wonders! – pressure causes us to grow…no matter what our age may be.  This child astonished me by figuring out a way to hold his sticks (cast and all!) and play the drums that he loves so much within 2 weeks of his injury.  It was as if something inside wouldn’t let him just sit down, do nothing, and be sad.  He missed being in his bed (the top bunk) – so he was climbing back up there within weeks (yikes!).  A few weeks later, though he couldn’t play badminton with his sister, he went to kick the soccer ball around in the backyard while wearing his protective brace (I was terrified and wanted him outfitted with a battle tank).

I am thankful that God covers us.  He is our Protector – and has been from the very beginning.  We really can rest in Him.  He has ALL POWER…and that trumps “mommy superpowers” any day.  🙂

“13 For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.

14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned,
when as yet there was none of them. ”

(Psalm 139:13-16)

 © Copyright 2011 by Kayren J. Cathcart