The Power of Active Choice vs. Default

default – failure to act; course of action that a program or operating system will take when the user or programmer specifies no overriding value or action

Saturday afternoon, I had a great conversation with another mom of growing adolescents. Our chat meandered from grocery store budgeting tips for keeping our giants nourished to specific foods they like. As we talked about the weeknight (anytime!) lifesaver known as ramen noodles, I told her I didn’t eat them anymore because of the high sodium content of the flavor packets. She quickly assured me that she enjoys hers with reduced sodium chicken broth…and I saw sunbeams emitting from the heavens.

Sunday afternoon, my hubby grilled hot dogs for the family. Knowing I didn’t need the excess sodium, I skipped the hot dogs, but wasn’t sure what I wanted for lunch. After my nap, I thought about those ramen noodles and pulled out my low-sodium chicken broth. Three minutes and three dashes of pepper later, I was enjoying some tasty soup on my front porch while birdwatching. It wasn’t until halfway through the bowl that I realized, “Hey, I made a better decision instead of just going along with what everyone else was doing!” I also took a 20 minute walk with my children instead of perfecting my couch potato skills all afternoon.

Fresh off of yesterday’s triumph, I ordered a salad today for lunch. When I opened the box, nestled right next to the wheat crackers and the pickle spear, I noticed a frosted sugar cookie (that I didn’t order) wrapped in cellophane…staring at me…summoning me to take a tiny nibble. I refused the invitation and promptly took the cookie intruder to our office break room so someone else could give it a new home.

So many times I just gave in to the thing in front of me because it was easier than politely declining or steadfastly refusing something that looked/smelled/sounded/seemed soooo good – but really wasn’t. Yet, these past couple of days have been different. So I guess the “Shake Up Your Routine” speech I gave this week at Toastmasters is having an impact on ME. And I’m proud of myself for finally making some necessary changes. Sure, it was “just one meal,” “just one walk,” and “just one cookie that didn’t slide down my gullet.” But it was a start. And it was MY fresh start of commitment to continue down a better path so I can see positive results and experience improved health. This week, challenge yourself not to yield to the default…leave a comment if you’d like some support on your journey – because you’re certainly not the only one who has to put effort into actively making righteous choices!

“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:”
(Deuteronomy 30:19)

© Copyright 2018 by Kayren J. Cathcart

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Pull the Plug on Foolishness

After transparent self-disclosure while teaching Teen Sunday School class last week, I knew by Monday what I had to do. And I was more than a bit irritated as I scrolled past the sports shows and sci-fi stuff to delete the mini-hoard of chick flicks (harmless, right?) I’d accumulated on the DVR since December…here’s the backstory…

I admit that I’m artistic and quirky, perhaps not in that order. I like documentaries, cooking shows, black and white movies, mysteries/suspense/conspiracy theories…and unbeknownst to me until the recent holidays, Christmas movies on Hallmark Channel. The ribbing from my family got so bad that my hubby would enter the room (where I’d hunkered down with popcorn and my comfy fuzzy socks) and smugly grin, “Hey – I know how this one’s gonna end! The dude’s gonna ride in on his white horse and save the day…” He would come in on the last 5 minutes of the movie and blow my warm happy feeling right outta the water (like sports doesn’t get repetitive – someone wins and someone loses every time, right?!).

I’m not a hopeless romantic, but “Cinderella” was my favorite Disney movie as a child (and still is). I say there’s nothing wrong with a formula movie or a predictable movie – I mean, it takes a certain degree of creativity to rework the same plot in 50 different ways and in 50 different movies (whether by changing the setting, the characters, or the theme); I think this nurtured the creative writer in me. I convinced myself that I was just enjoying a movie with a happy ending that seemed like good, clean entertainment. I looked past the lie of Santa Claus, multiple tree lightings on the town square with hot cocoa, countless mentions of luck/wishes juxtaposed with the lack of mentioning Jesus (though multiple holiday carols were sung – how can this be?) to remind myself the importance of witnessing Christ to others – and not just during the Christmas season. However, Christmas movies rolled into Winter movies, which rolled into Valentine’s Day movies. Why? Because this TV channel is an outgrowth of a greeting card company that capitalizes on getting money and marketshare by tugging at the heartstrings and manipulating emotions. And I thought I wanted to work for them after I got out of college…however, I digress.

As I set my DVR to record the movies that looked interesting to me (the ones about career, cooking, and mother/daughter relationships – and don’t forget WEDDINGS and princesses – rose to the top of my list), I was amassing a veritable library for which I couldn’t be the curator. I knew I didn’t have time to watch all of this content and take care of my responsibilities. Plus, they were centered around stuff that doesn’t even pertain to me (dating?! um, hello – I’ve been happily married for 17 years LOL…snowboarding – yeah right, I don’t even pretend to have a personal interest…yet, I watched that movie for 2 hours after my household went to sleep).

Strong conviction came as I talked to my middle-schooler about time-management during our morning commute…after I’d stayed up until 2:30am that morning to watch 4 hours of movies. I couldn’t find where I’d spent 4 hours communing with God or studying His Word over the past week. My actions needed to change to align with what I said were my beliefs (“I love You, Jesus”). So that brought me to this very moment when I knew the fantasy world, make-believe, play-play, pretending, princess fairy tales, and imagination had to come to a screeching halt in the intersection with real life. I briefly considered keeping 1 or 2 movies for a “rainy day,” but quickly dismissed that unviable non-option since I didn’t want to have the accursed thing in my camp. I have discarded anything that might prove to be a stumblingblock.

I must’ve deleted at least 15 movies (both in queue and set to record this weekend)…I stopped counting as I scrolled and clicked the remote. It felt like pulling the plug for the bathtub drain, but it didn’t really hurt. Some movies I’d recorded weren’t particularly worthy of watching – it was just comforting to know I’d have something to watch while the rest of my household was engrossed in sports – mind candy or mental fluff…a way to pass some idle time (like I have that laying around to spare! Something important was obviously going undone, getting neglected, or being postponed). In the midst of my resolute and determined progress, the DVR powered itself down and rebooted. Undaunted, I picked up where I’d left off and plowed ahead determinedly. The recording space available went from 9% to 18%.

Full disclosure: I’ve gotta admit, I was looking forward to watching “Cooking With Love.” And the sequel “All of My Heart: Inn Love” (not because the first one was so good – because it wasn’t stellar – but because I wanted to see what happened next with the characters). Were these movies my personal kryptonite like spy thrillers, solitaire, spy thrillers redux (that I blogged about 7 years ago), or Words With Friends (moment of silence…would someone in my house please play live Scrabble with Mommy so she doesn’t have to think about WWF???). I dunno – but they sure were a distraction from me obeying the Master with a clear heart and mind.

Why am I taking time to put all my stuff in plain sight for everyone to see? Because even if you happen not to be a closet Hallmark Channel junkie, there’s something that competes for your attention, devotion, affections, and investment of time and energy – and it draws you away from building relationship with your Creator. The question is: when are you gonna pull the plug on your foolishness? I just did – now it’s your turn.

“O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee.”
(Psalm 69:5)
“I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love.”
(Psalm 119:113)
“The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness.”
(Proverbs 15:14)
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”
(Colossians 2:8)

© Copyright 2018 by Kayren J. Cathcart

Relief, Rest, and Release from Unrealistic Expectations

Over the past month, several wake-up calls have underscored my finite capacity and helpless inability to whip out the “invisible Wonder Woman cape and boots” from the back of the closet at a second’s notice. Not that I didn’t realize I had limitations (gee, am I aware of my personal limitations!)…but in my trying not to focus on them, I kinda blurred the lines between fantasy and reality. I didn’t notice that I’d been slowly but steadily creeping back to attempting to save the world in my own strength – again. But my sheer exhaustion and utter fatigue should’ve tipped me off.

Case in point: Last Thursday, I learned about an extra-curricular activity (regional academic team competition) my children had earned the opportunity to participate in…outside of the city…on this Saturday. (Anyone who knows me is aware that I LIVE by my meticulously updated family calendar). Now a *normal* person who *already* had several commitments on that same day would have no problem identifying that they couldn’t squeeze one more ounce into an already full container. But not me! I didn’t go into flat-out panic mode. Yet, I DID start brainstorming options for how to “make it happen” – for my children, the team, the coach, the school whose reputation would be enhanced by a team win…world peace – yeah, my foolishness was just that lofty and unrealistic. Unfortunately, this entailed either (or all of the following):

  1. Asking my wonderful hubby to forgo his work assignments to get at least one child to another city by 9am…because I was already committed to an activity that starts at 10am in Charlotte.
  2. Putting my child in a car for a 1-hour drive with a parent I’d only met once who was going to the same event.
  3. Assuming that there would be no traffic or accidents on I-85 while attempting to get the second child back for afternoon orchestra rehearsal (for a concert in 2 weeks)…by 1:30pm.
  4. Ignoring the fact that I’m scheduled to be in choir rehearsal Saturday at 1pm, so I probably wouldn’t be of any real assistance in these transportation gyrations.

If you think there were gaping holes in my logic, you’re right…I was just trying to cobble together potential solutions, regardless of the feasibility, practicality, or achievability of my improbable pseudo-goals.

None of these options would fly with my husband (especially the second one: “What do you know about their driving habits, what they’re carrying in their vehicle, who else will be with them?” etc., etc.). I knew before I asked him that I had no satisfactory answers. Yet, I asked anyway, in a feeble attempt to salvage the mirage of “being able to get it all in and assuage all parties involved.” And for what? You already know that he firmly vetoed every option I unconvincingly presented.

The children’s egos wouldn’t have been crushed by not participating; they were cool with it and knew there were prior commitments on our schedule. Yet, I still had that nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I didn’t want to have to tell one or more parties, “I’m sorry, but we’re unable to participate in this activity at this time.”

Relief (from self-imposed anxiety because I anticipated potentially disappointing someone else) came only with the cheery e-mail response that the teacher completely understood that I was unable to 1) clone myself, or 2) be in two cities (one hour apart) at the same time. In the meanwhile, I had worked myself up into a froth – in vain. There was absolutely NO GODLY FRUIT to show for this flurry of mental histrionics and “what ifs.” How absurd was that on my part?

So what’s my point? Let’s free ourselves this year from the “what will people say?” mindset. Commit to “stop doing crazy.” Fight that random, bizarre pop-up thought that may be residue from PPD (People-Pleasing Disorder) or CHD (Chronic Helping Disorder) that still lingers, no matter how hard you’ve scrubbed. 🙂 As long as we’re doing our best to walk in excellence according to God’s Word – which includes taking care of ourselves and our families (and not minimizing or excluding this as a priority) – we can breathe a sigh of relief, rest in the Lord, and release ourselves from unrealistic expectations (whether real or, most likely, perceived). Then we can be about our Father’s business…

“28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:28-30)

© Copyright 2017 by Kayren J. Cathcart

Capturing THIS Moment: A Celebration of Life

LIFE = Love In Full Expression
Kayren’s “definition of life” – February 2017

The vat of cheap bubble gel I bought over month ago for a leisurely dream bath (replete with candles) mocks me as it sits by the tub…unused. Each day, I’ve rationalized that “a shower is quicker and more convenient” when I’m exhausted after yet another long day, but I know I’m just putting it off. One small but significant act of self-care could have slowed down my merry-go-round of life for just a few moments – but I let the opportunity slip through my fingers like grains of sand. Today is the day I needed a bubble bath most…over a month ago. Get the picture?

In the past month, I’ve experienced the unexpected passing of my father-in-law, the joyous wedding of my nephew, a reflective Valentine’s Day with my wonderful hubby of nearly 17 years, and the commemorative 14th birthday of my firstborn son. Whew – talk about a sentimental time! With all of these life events touching significant men in my life, I’ve been calling my own daddy a lot more frequently – and the support on the other end of the phone has been vital, timely, and greatly appreciated. To say that these life events have taken me on an emotional roller coaster may not be an accurate analogy. Perhaps the churn of a washing machine more closely describes the variety of “cycles” I’ve whizzed through (at an accelerated pace) in a relatively short time span.

Which brings me to this unpoetic moment (inelegantly – yet perhaps appropriately – orchestrated by my dishwasher droning in the background) that I’m capturing to do what I encourage so many others to do in order to stay spiritually and emotionally healthy: journal. My cup nearly ran over today as I teetered dangerously close to the edge (trying to look like I’m keeping it together but I really wanted to go sit undisturbed in a dark closet for a few minutes to savor the silence and stillness). My mental filter was clogged and I needed to download and offload the multitude of thoughts cluttering my mind, heart, and soul. Yep, I was bracing for impact as I anticipated the sound of me smacking the wall. Nevertheless, God in His infinite grace used His strategically-placed children to pull me out of the melancholy. Because I still have a job to do for the King of Kings. My itty-bitty fickle feelings haven’t exempted me from fulfilling my purpose or completing my assignment. So I get back on track.

And I rejoice in this moment because I have much for which to be grateful. From now on, I will think of life in terms of “love in full expression” – it runs the gamut of highs and lows, ups and downs, sweet and bitter, laughter and tears – and spans everything in between. Love and life are inextricably intertwined. And I’m learning each day that God intentionally designed it that way. It solidifies my need for Him – my utter dependence on Him for every moment of every day…not just when I feel like my tank is low or empty because I’ve come to the end of my own sufficiency. What amazing grace from an awesome God…worthy of celebration. Take this moment to render a heartfelt worship to your Creator; it will shift and align you back into proper position to hear His next instruction. At least that’s what happened for me today…

“18 When I said, My foot slippeth; thy mercy, O Lord, held me up.
19 In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.”
(Psalm 94:18-19)
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
(John 14:6)

© Copyright 2017 by Kayren J. Cathcart

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

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

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