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

Advertisements

EXTRAordinary: A Day Worthy of Celebration

I just whipped up a sugar-free boxed cake to throw in the oven. At 11pm on a school night. After returning from a hair appointment and battling a raspy throat for over a week. Why? Well, in addition to nearing the start of our corporate Lenten fast (who needs chocolate for 21 days? rhetorical question, of course), I have so many reasons to be thankful on this standard, run-of-the-mill school night. Today was anything but ordinary.

This morning, I said goodbye to my family and stopped to get gas during my commute. In the back of my mind, I was aware that this was part of the franchise where a local teen lost his life a few nights ago. Before I arrived at work, my hubby called to tell me that our son’s school was being evacuated for precaution of a bomb threat. A few minutes later, my son called to tell me he was safe and that they’d be returning to a regular school day since the authorities had deemed the building safe within 3 hours of the evacuation. My son auditioned for All-State Honors Band this weekend and found out that he wasn’t selected. However, knowing that my child came home safe today meant more to me than him earning All-State designation. Some things you just can’t put a price tag on.

The old folks used to sing the hymn while tapping their feet on wooden floorboards, “Count your blessings, name them one by one; count your blessings, see what God has done.” Today was anything but ordinary, and I am sincerely thankful. Overwhelmed with gratitude. Overflowing with praise and thanksgiving to the God Who is big enough to keep me and my family and everyone else in the palm of His hand and under the Shadow of the Almighty. My list of blessings is growing by the minute – how about yours?

Do take a moment to reflect on your own list…while I go pour a glass of milk, frost this cake, and sample my handiwork…because today was an EXTRAordinary day, truly worthy of celebration! After all, who needs a special reason for a warm slice of sugar-free chocolate cake anyway? On second thought, I’ll skip the frosting…this moment can be savored “as is…” and I’d better get to bed soon!

 “…but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me…”
(I Kings 17:13b)
“I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.”
(Psalm 69:30)
“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”
(Psalm 91:1)

© Copyright 2018 by Kayren J. Cathcart

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

Lost…and Found!

This year, I’m challenging myself to do new things and embrace experiences outside of my comfort zone. Oh, the places I am going!
Though I tend to be directionally challenged and beyond map assistance, this vignette is not about ME getting lost (this time) – read on, my friend…

Memories of MPLS Feb. 2018

A fond memory from my first trip to Minneapolis in February – when I discovered the outdoor covered waiting area for the light rail was equipped with a HEATER! #euphoria #elation #southerngal

This past Monday, I found myself flying for work to a Midwest a city I’d never visited. “Welcome to Minneapolis!” the pilot announced as we prepared to land. “The current temperature is 0 degrees…” I don’t know what else he said after that; I must’ve blanked out, because in my southern belle mindset, ZERO is not a temperature. It’s a level of tolerance, but it’s definitely not a temperature. So after grappling with the decision of whether or not to get off the plane (I did), experiencing zero degrees for myself (I don’t need to do that again), and surviving the cold to joyfully return two days later to 60+ degree February weather in North Carolina (with much gratitude), I was grateful for all of the layers of outerwear that helped keep me from becoming a popsicle. I probably looked like a 5-foot tall Minnesota Yeti (do those exist?), but I wasn’t there to make a fashion statement – I wanted to stay warm. Mission accomplished.

On this sojourn into the wintry tundra, I’d taken my Isotoner gloves (given to me by my dearly departed grandmother, maven of classic style), so not only are they functional (and insulated!), but they have sentimental value because I’ve had this personalized gift for (at least) a decade. My gloves arrived home with me, safely tucked into the pockets of my fur-lined winter parka affectionately dubbed by my hubby as “the mini-bear.” I wore “the mini-bear” to Bible Study on Wednesday, and when I reached into my pockets after service concluded, I gasped when I pulled out only one. I feverishly dug around for the matching glove, asking people who sat near me if they’d seen a black glove lying around, and felt my heart sink as I retraced my steps to the car, seeing no lone glove laying on the pavement. Grrr…what good is one glove?

Anyone who knows me is aware that I react in similar manner when a sock in my house is missing its mate (baffling – if two went into the washing machine, how can only one come out of the dryer? Is there a sock-eating monster hiding in my laundry room???). As I continue to explore the conspiracy, I’ve started pairing my own socks with a safety pin before tossing them into the hamper – this has brought me some semblance of sanity from the mysterious disappearances. But this wasn’t a sock; this was the set of gloves given to me by my grandmother – and I desperately wanted to find the match. Thursday, it was so warm that I didn’t need “the mini-bear,” and I tried to console myself that maybe the glove would miraculously turn up before it got cold again in a few days. By Friday, I wasn’t sulking about my unfortunately misplaced glove, and had somewhat resigned myself to the fact that I’d enjoyed the pair for over a decade, so if I needed to purchase another set of gloves, I was in a position to do so (hey – making lemonade from lemons, right?).

Saturday morning, as I dressed to take my children to a science enrichment program, I put on my comfiest pair of grey sweatpants, reached in to straighten out the bulky pocket lining gone awry, and lo and behold if I didn’t feel my long-lost glove! I squealed with glee and ran to proclaim the glad tidings to the rest of my family (who stared at me flatly for two seconds before returning to their breakfast without a word, shaking their heads as if to say, “That’s just Mom.”).

Though they didn’t share my jubilation, what immediately flashed through my mind was how God must feel about the return of someone who belongs to Him. Do we diligently seek to save that which is lost and bring them back into His sheepfold? Do we have any idea of the sheer delight it brings His heart to see the return of someone restored to where they rightfully belong because they humbly receive the sacrifice made by His dear Son? May we realize that souls are more important to our Father than a missing glove or sock could ever be…and align our actions accordingly to consistently build the citizenry of His kingdom.

4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
8 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?
9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.
10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”
(Luke 15:4-10)

© Copyright 2018 by Kayren J. Cathcart

 

Hot Pepper Hands: Play With Fire & You’ll Get Burned

Not sure how I got distracted from posting this back in September 2017 when I drafted it (ok, now I remember – I wanted it to be perfect before posting it, and then I got sidetracked and didn’t get back to revisiting it…until today).
Since it’s still a timely message for me, I hope you’re able to appreciate it, too…
God’s warnings are evidence of His extravagant love for us.

Determined to make the most of our garden’s bounty before the seasons change, I recently got busy incorporating a little “kick” into my standard spaghetti and tacos (thanks to 3 lbs. of ground turkey on sale this week) when I got the brilliant idea to take the seeds out of the peppers without using gloves – reasoning that the hand using the knife wasn’t touching the peppers, and that I was holding the stem with my other hand and I’d be fine…what an ill-advised move!

A short time after both of my gourmet dishes were complete, I noticed that my fingertips were throbbing. I washed my hands vigorously, and then decided to take a bubble bath – surely that would soak away any offending pepper particulates remaining on my skin, right? WRONG. A few minutes after my bath, I noticed that my knuckles were starting to tingle, and I got more than a little concerned. My hubby told me to look online to see how to remedy the situation. My increasing discomfort pushed me to the computer without hesitation. Who knew I’d find a wealth of information about “hot pepper hands” (which I’d never heard of) and how to find relief in a matter of minutes. Of course I could’ve prevented all of these shenanigans by just putting on gloves, but I guess that was too simple…

I decided to forgo washing my face for 24 hours to err on the side of caution and protect my eyes (fine time to be risk-averse – AFTER the fact, eh?). Anyhoo…

Granted, my culinary creations were tasty – but I didn’t have to pay for it with a chunk of my skin. Lesson learned. Are there any questionable situations you’re handling without proper spiritual protection? I urge you to get the gloves to avoid contamination – and ruination. Choose to learn from wisdom instead of having pain as a harsh taskmaster to whip you into submission.

To recap in laymen’s terms (for those of us in denial that we’re flirting with danger):

  1. Don’t try to outsmart the system
  2. Don’t take an unnecessary walk on the wild side
  3. You will pay to skip a step
  4. Appreciate the value of living under the protection of a Sovereign God – just use the gloves!

“And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:”
(Mark 9:43)

© Copyright 2018 by Kayren J. Cathcart

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

Latch Onto Flat Irony

A few years ago when she was an impetuous elementary school student, we bought my daughter (now a full-blown middle schooler) a latch hook set. Harmless enough, right? Read on, my friend…
It’s a hair thing – I’m sure you’ll understand…

It was a small, simple soccer ball pattern that shouldn’t have taken long to complete, and we thought it would teach her tenacity and persistence – along with giving her a sense of accomplishment – once she saw the completed product she’d created. We challenged her to finish it within a month…and then within several months, and then before we moved. I even threatened her (with what, I can’t remember…but obviously, it was an ineffective tactic). Neither challenges nor threats worked, and that latch hook soccer ball was never finished so she could hang it proudly on her wall or use it as a rug – or whatever folks do with completed latch hook projects. So today (after apparently unearthing some foreign objects submerged in her closet region), she meekly approached my husband and asked to use the internet. When he inquired the reason and she said she wanted to search for a latch hook tutorial – he seemed more than pleasantly surprised and more than eager to oblige her.

I courteously stepped aside from the household budget spreadsheet I was reviewing on the computer to allow her to conduct her own YouTube search. Sidebar: Since my son just entered high school and I can no longer get away with operating as Helicopter Parent-In-Chief, I’m making a daily concerted effort to step back to allow my children to use their own wings. As a matter of fact, I went to my room and started journaling about adjusting to feeling not-quite-as-needed (and rightfully so) now that my children are growing up into teenagers. Then I heard a knock on the door. When I heard my daughter’s voice, I invited her in. What she said next, I wouldn’t have expected in a million years. Really.

“Mom, I was scratching my head, and I got this stuck in my hair.” And there (in all its glory) was the latch hook tool suspended in air like a linear halo as her hands gestured towards the back of her head. Incredulous doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt about this unlikely and improbable turn of events. Like seriously – this has really happened…just now? Like, I leave you alone for 5 minutes in the dining room and you get a small metal object stuck in your hair? (Though I was grateful this didn’t precipitate a trip to the neighborhood urgent care – where I think we’re a couple of visits from achieving VIP status). Mind you, she has cornrows….in a bun. Yes, let the mental picture sink in. I could just picture myself having to take down 3 rows of braids tonight and explaining to people in public that we’re just hanging on until her hair appointment in 3 days.

I calmly stepped away from my journal and said, “Let’s take a look at this under the bathroom lighting.” As I got my small comb and began to extricate the hook from the first braid, I gently probed, “Did you not consider putting the tool down before scratching, dearheart?” to which she replied with a straight face, “I forgot I had it in my hand.” And what else would you expect from a middle schooler? Gratefully, this story has a happy ending: the latch hook was disentangled (expeditiously, safely, and without further incident) and the braids are still – for the most part – intact. I witnessed today – up close and personal – the miracle-working power of Almighty God. I dare say that when this soccer ball is completed, I will shout hallelujah, ‘cuz He’s faithful! Can I get a witness?

“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.”
(Jeremiah 33:3)

© Copyright 2017 by Kayren J. Cathcart