The Parable of Picking Okra: Maturing From Beneficiary to Benefactor

beneficiary – recipient, receiver, grantee
benefactor – contributor, sponsor, supporter, backer, patron, promoter

Maturity requires that we move from being takers all the time. I had to apply this truth to my own life today. Case in point: my husband lovingly planted a garden to nourish our family. He took the lead, and he does 99.9% of the work on it (thank ya, kind sir!). Due to my strong aversion to bugs and other creepy crawlies, I don’t generally spend a lot of time in, near, or around the garden – and especially if he’s not out there. But this fine evening, I got home first and decided to gather some fresh herbs to add to my planned entree. To my great chagrin and utter disdain, there were plenty of annoying gnat-like beings buzzing around the thyme, so I opted to use (less infested) rosemary from the front yard as this evening’s standout seasoning. Did I mention that I really detest bugs? However, I digress…

Well, before I could head towards the rosemary, I looked up – really high – and saw that there was some okra ready to be picked. Mind you, my wonderful hubby is always telling me and the children “Somebody needs to harvest the okra every day so it doesn’t get hard and unusable.” Now have I ever heeded those words? Not directly – because I always ask him sweetly to bring in any okra and I’ll be delighted to cook it for him. Yesterday I discovered (thanks Google recipe search!) that roasted okra is every bit as delicious as fried okra (hey, I’m a true Southerner…don’t judge! LOL), there’s less mess to clean up after cooking, and of course it’s healthier. Soooo, I decided to try to pick the okra myself (for the first time ever) – even though the stalks towered over 1 foot above my head. After carefully grasping a pod to lop off with my kitchen shears a few times, I finally decided to let gravity work on my behalf (and get away from the bugs faster). I grabbed the too-high okra plant looming over me, pulled it close enough for me to cut from the tippy-top, and I was on my way. Snip, plop, snip, plop, snip, plop, gather. Ah, I could almost taste the roasted okra melting on my tongue!

Something had irritated my skin terribly, so I ran to put some cream on the red rashes spreading over my forearms – but even that didn’t deter me from the roasted okra joy that I was soon to experience! I’m very excited to have 11 okras I picked myself to add to the 2 my hubby brought in yesterday with the peppers and tomatoes. And I should be proud of taking this major step forward – because though I could’ve waited until my hubby got home to ask him to bring it in for me to cook with dinner, why should he have to when I’m fully capable of assisting – even when it’s outside of my comfort zone? I had time and energy that he probably wouldn’t have after a longer workday than I’d had. So this was my gift to him today – and I know he’s gonna be tickled that I actually put into practice what he’s been saying for years. 🙂

It’s high time that ALL God’s chill’uns choose to move from being beneficiary to benefactor. At some point, we have to realize that God has given us so much that we must give back to someone else. Even when you have multiple areas of need, prayerfully consider who you can help this week from an area of your own abundance. Then you will see and experience the true blessing implanted within the process of maturity.

Now if you’ll kindly excuse me, I’m off to cook dinner!

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
(I Corinthians 13:11)

“12 For if the eagerness [to give] is there, it is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.
13 For it is not [intended] that others be relieved [of their responsibility] and that you be burdened [unfairly], but that there be equality [in sharing the burden]
14 at this present time your surplus [over necessities] is going to supply their need, so that [at some other time] their surplus may be given to supply your need, that there may be equality;
15 as it is written [in Scripture], “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not lack.”
(II Corinthians 8:12-15, AMP)

© Copyright 2017 by Kayren J. Cathcart

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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

Obedience to Authority is NOT Grievous: Stay Under the Umbrella of Protection

“Obedience is better than sacrifice!” My mama used to drill this into my head as a child (which isn’t altogether a bad thing, now that I reflect upon it). Usually, it was to remind me to just go ahead do what she’d said instead of analyzing it first, then putting my own “personalized interpretation” on it, and possibly getting around to doing what she’d told me to do much later than she desired. The scripture verse referenced comes from the story of King Saul who – to his own detriment, demise, and utter downfall – decided to “do his own thing” because he thought his idea was better than God’s (or perhaps he imprudently figured that God wouldn’t realize he did something different from what was instructed… and grossly miscalculated – I dunno).

Earlier today, I had the opportunity to minister encouragement to a precious sister in Christ. I was led to gently (but firmly) remind her that God had placed her husband in her life for her protection, and therefore she should stop trying to “figure it out” by herself, and receive the wisdom and counsel coming from within her own house, and apply it (in a timely manner) for her benefit. Well, wouldn’t you know I got tested on that very same thing within less than an hour of saying it to her?

My wonderful husband is fiercely protective of our family. Since I’m certain it has something to do with him taking seriously the fact that he will have to stand before God and give an account of how he cared for those he was given stewardship over, I really try not to give the brother a hard time! Being the health/safety/well-being oriented person (and hence weather-watcher) that he is, he was mindful of the fact that our area (multiple counties – indeed a great part of the state) is under a tornado warning until 10 p.m. Now I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a Doubting Thomas, but even after seeing the headlines on two local news websites and checking the weather app with the big ol’ red shading over 1/3 of the state, it really didn’t faze me; I was prepared to carry on with my planned evening routine…that is, until my hubby pulled rank and the emergency brake, and my plan came to a screeching halt.

His phone call during my commute was crisp, curt, and to-the-point, “I see how the weather is looking on this side of town; call and cancel the children’s piano lesson tonight.” Casually glancing around at the balmy sunshine and fluffy white clouds, I opened my mouth, then closed it after many thoughts zoomed through my head but I wouldn’t let them outta my lips, “It’s probably not gonna even do anything over this way…the piano teacher is 5 houses down the street from ours…even if something did happen, I’m sure we could get home safely…” It wasn’t worth a protest, or even asking my infamous “what if” since no commentary, opinion, or feedback had been invited or solicited. He had spoken; it was my turn to obey. So I did. (Score 10 “spiritually maturing wife” points for the short girl – she finally learned to just roll with the prophetic unction without asking 50 zillion questions because she didn’t have all the details). 🙂

By the time I’d picked up both children and we were heading home, little splotches of raindrops had turned into an all-out steady rain – who knew those pretty white clouds held such amounts of water on a sunny day? And if tornadoes were featured on The Weather Channel last night and thunderstorms were in the forecast, they were definitely heading this way. Needless to say, I’m glad to be where I’m supposed to be right now – at home in the ark of safety and under the Shadow of the Almighty – just like my hubby told me to be. As the piano teacher said, “I respect the power of those storms; no problem rescheduling their lessons!” Likewise, we must respect the power of those in authority over us who are merely trying to save our lives from hurt, harm, danger, and destruction. I don’t have to see debris flying all around me to realize the need for protection. No more walking the “obedience tightrope” without a net, hoping to thumb my nose after the fact and say, “See? I knew nothing would happen.”

Things I’ve learned about obedience:

    • Delayed obedience = DISOBEDIENCE.
    • There’s no such thing as “creative obedience” or “intended but poorly executed obedience.” That’s an obscure, self-deceiving excuse.
    • We can call it any of these “other” things, but if it’s not obedience…it’s just not obedience! trying it my way first; testing out an option; eventually getting around to the original instruction; making a variation; proposing an alternative; being open to adaptation; allowing a modification; tolerating a glaring disparity or discrepancy; reworking; alteration; deviation; departure; distinction; difference…and the list goes on…

Call me apocalyptic (in light of the deluge and onslaught of current earthquakes, tsunamis, pestilence, plagues, and epidemics, do you really blame me?), but my prayer is that we hearken to the truth (and obey!)…no matter how the message is delivered. Pay attention, saints! It’s time out for foolishness in any form…selah.

“And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”
(I Samuel 15:22)

 © Copyright 2014 by Kayren J. Cathcart

Family: A Beautiful Cacophony

This weekend, I was delighted to host my parents – along with my sister (whom I hadn’t seen in ages) – for a Sunday afternoon visit. While I didn’t have a clear meal plan, I had a hankering to serve brunch – I’m always game for French toast with powdered sugar (yum!), and I felt I owed my sister the real deal since I’d sent her a picture on her birthday of the breakfast I’d fixed in her honor across the miles…and taken it upon myself to eat it for her, too. Anticipating that I wanted everything finished in advance so I could spend quality time with my guests, I lovingly prepared the French toast together with 3 dozen zucchini mini-quiches with fresh basil from our garden on Saturday – because what’s more fun that cooking eggs in a muffin tin?! 

The funny thing was that my mom, on the other hand, prepared chicken fettuccini alfredo and brought Hawaiian bread (yum!) and various salad toppings to go with my other freshly-harvested garden goodies in the salad I made for folks who wanted dinner foods. My hubby blew it all outta the water when he finally fixed the 9-hour slow-cooker pot roast with potatoes that he’d been talking about all week. 

It was absolutely hilarious to see my mom, the consummate event planner and ultimate “hostess with the mostest,” as she set our “party table” with the blue plastic tablecloth that she somehow produced out of thin air, replete with sparkly curled banners of festiveness for a centerpiece, accompanied by her handy-dandy pink travelling placemats, convenient matching paper plates (and salad bowls, of course), red plastic cups, and a full place setting of clear plastic cutlery. Voilà! She is usually determined to make a major production out of the most informal gathering…so we humor her and watch her gesticulations with amusement.

Like our assorted table setting, there was absolutely no coherent theme to the menu, but we all sat down together to graze and munch contentedly, starting with my fruit tray of navel oranges and grapes and ending with the brownies Mama had individually bagged and tied with a cheery ribbon for each family member. Seeing my semi-vegetarian and formerly vegan sister succumb to the tender pot roast (placed atop her salad) was therapeutic. Everyone let their hair down and savored the comforts of family and home (not just a place, but a state of mind, in my personal opinion).

My ears relished the ebb and flow of concurrent conversations punctuated by raucous laughter of not-so-distant shared memories. My sister and I ended the evening by trying on clothes Mama had picked up from an estate sale and deciding who looked thinner in which outfit – that yielded a ton of cackles. I surveyed the scene with the ironic consciousness that my family puts the “fun” in dysfunctional, which is pretty much the only normal I’ve known. I’ve often wondered why God put people who just wanted to be hassle-free and to enjoy undisturbed solitude smack dab in the middle of a family. As I grow in age, wisdom, and grace, I’m just thankful that He did it for me – I think I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. Family is the gift that keeps on giving, and I’m appreciative for the entire package. I hope you’ll take a moment to give thanks for your own family (in whatever shape, form, or quantity it may appear), and let them know how much you love, value, and treasure them. Today is the perfect day to reach out and (re)connect…

“God places the solitary in families and gives the desolate a home in which to dwell…”
(Psalm 68:6a)

© Copyright 2014 by Kayren J. Cathcart

Real Love In Action IS Action

I’m just sayin’…

Real love makes you pan fry fish on a weeknight at your spouse’s request.  Without grumbling.  Or rolling your eyes…at least not a lot.  After you’ve worked all day – and he has, too.  When you were excited that there was already a meal prepared during your massive amounts of weekend free time (NOT!) and waiting in the fridge.  So you were planning to kinda chill out after checking homework, facilitating bath time, reading bedtime stories, and tucking children in.  And you’re on Weight Watchers and you know that you don’t need to have fried food.  Even though you put some fish in the oven to bake it for yourself.  Because it’s healthier.  And you didn’t get to exercise today because you forgot about the lunch meeting with co-workers on your calendar during your workout time.  And you “treated” yourself to french fries then when you didn’t really need ‘em.

But you’re a southern chef (sort of) and naturally, you taste while you cook.  So at least you eat more baked fish than fried fish once it’s all cooked.  And you’re happy to serve your spouse with a smile. Because you’re grateful that God has blessed you with this particular spouse.  Even though it would’ve been a little (okay, maybe a lot) easier to make a healthier choice if your spouse had asked for baked fish.  But you love your spouse and you want them to have what they ask for.  With hot sauce, of course.  Did I mention that the baked fish was really good, but the fried fish was slammin’?

Real love in action.  Know what I’m sayin’?  Yeah, that also includes my workout tomorrow…

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

(I Corinthians 13:13, NIV) 

© Copyright 2010 by Kayren J. Cathcart