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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Life is Like a Fireworks Show

On this humid Independence Day holiday weekend, I purposed to stay unplugged from electronic devices (and hence, my usually tightly choreographed schedule) and enjoy vacation in every sense of the word – especially physical and mental. It started with yesterday’s long country drive with my family – replete with taking in the cows, goats, and horses in various pastures green with nothing in particular to do. It truly made me smile. Tonight, my kinda calorie-free southern fried beauty included sitting in my wicker porch chair watching the fireworks from my front lawn while rolling my hair by the streetlight’s glow – priceless!

After returning from a lovely informal afternoon family gathering full of grilled yumminess and plenty of funny stories (shout-out to the Cathcart Cousins Council!), I decided to take in the fireworks before showering and getting ready to return to work and daily routine in about 8 hours. Little did I know that God had a message in store for me – written colorfully across the sky. So what parallels did I draw between life and a fireworks show?

Both life and fireworks can be:

  • Noisy – and then full of intermittent silence while gearing up for the next BOOM!
  • Beautiful – as many times as I’ve experienced fireworks, I never cease to be delighted by what I see…especially the sparkly, glittery ones!
  • Smoky – after the beauty, some things have to blow over…so just let it GO!
  • Unpredictably spontaneous – though I didn’t know what color combination or size fireworks would be displayed next, I still waited with bated breath for the spectacle of the next dazzling array.

So why don’t I appreciate these same characteristics when I encounter them in real life? Why are my feathers so easily ruffled by the unexpected and the unknown? Aside from the obvious answer of still getting over some traces of being a semi-OCD control freak…after 2 funerals in the past week (one at the week’s start and one at the week’s end), I’m admittedly more pensive than usual. But I’m coming to realize (that along with my own aging process – which is hopefully accompanied by maturation and increased sagacity), I have to become more deliberate in setting the pace for my day – rushing and busyness to a future God holds in the palm of His hand have got to take a backseat to intentional consciousness of the present moment.

Yes, the consummate planner in me has to take off her hat periodically and just breathe instead of always pushing forward. So as I approach the second half of this calendar year, I plan to incorporate these concepts for balance, serenity, and peace. It’s got to be better than mindlessly zipping along and speeding through on the interstate of life. I don’t want the cares, worries, and distractions of this world to choke out my ability to enjoy the abundant life in Christ. I want to be fruitful and productive, so I will actively practice the spiritual muscle-building exercise of casting every care on Him – and enjoy the fireworks…and the freedom Christ provides! What about you?

“And the one on whom seed was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the worries and distractions of the world and the deceitfulness [the superficial pleasures and delight] of riches choke the word, and it yields no fruit.”
(I Peter 5:7, AMP)
Casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully].”
(Matthew 13:22, AMP)

© Copyright 2017 by Kayren J. Cathcart

A Beautiful Moment Unfurled

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

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

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

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

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

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

 © Copyright 2016 by Kayren J. Cathcart

A Mother’s Day Rebuke…and a Reminder of God’s Promises

rebuke (noun) – reproach, reproof, scolding, telling-off, lecture, criticism
rebuke (verb) – reprimand, reprove, scold, admonish, chide

Now that the title has grabbed your attention (‘cuz we ALL know a mama or two – or more – who can put down her share of a good ol’ piece of rebukin’! LOL – but we know it was ultimately for our benefit), I’ll give you the backstory…because I always have a backstory, right? 🙂

One of the Bible apps on my phone featured Isaiah 32:17 as the daily scripture this week (and since after the doozie of a week it’s been, I was longing for peace, quietness, and assurance like you wouldn’t believe!), so I decided to read the scripture verse in full context of the chapter this morning during my personal Quiet Time. Granted, I wanted to sleep late while my hubby was out cutting grass at church, but the irresistible draw of opening the blinds to watch the lively bird sanctuary in my backyard inspired me to take advantage of this morning time of solitude. While the children were still sleeping, I seized the opportunity to have some moments of meditation with my Creator.

17 And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.
18 And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places;
(Isaiah 32:17-18)

Sounds wonderful, eh? Yep, it just put me into a mindset of tranquility. So on I read from the beginning of the chapter, and I was a little surprised at what I found…but I shouldn’t have been, because God is full of surprises! I found some verses that addressed women…how timely in light of this being Mother’s Day weekend.

“9 Rise up, ye women that are at ease; hear my voice, ye careless daughters; give ear unto my speech.
10 Many days and years shall ye be troubled, ye careless women: for the vintage shall fail, the gathering shall not come.
11 Tremble, ye women that are at ease; be troubled, ye careless ones: strip you, and make you bare, and gird sackcloth upon your loins.
12 They shall lament for the teats, for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vine.”
(Isaiah 32:9-12)

 Here’s a mini-breakdown from my study time:

Verse 9 – women at ease and careless daughters are called to attention and away from slothfulness (hence, the title of this post); it’s not saying that most women are “trifling,” but we all know that being a godly mother requires hard WORK – and lots of it!

Verse 10 – vintage = harvest of grapes; lack of productivity or harvest has long-lasting repercussions

Verse 11 – we must repent and change ALL ways that do not glorify God

Verse 12 – the things real godly mothers are supposed to provide, produce, render, and give include and are represented by:

  • Teats – for nurturing and nourishment
  • Pleasant Fields – homemaking is a lost art that must be rediscovered and recultivated for the continued perpetuity of a civilized society
  • Fruitful Vine – productivity (at home, in business, as a wife, in child-rearing, etc.) entails and encompasses ACTIVELY working in and pursuing the things of God (because we’re all virtuous Proverbs 31 women, right? Right!) 🙂
  • If any of these components are missing from our “mothering,” deficiencies will be evident.

After seeing that analysis, I honestly couldn’t take much more and stopped reading to catch my breath after the wind was knocked outta me (“You said that for real, God?!”). But at the same time, I was overwhelmed with God’s miraculous love that gives mothers such a tremendous job, but it’s given along with His promise to never leave nor forsake us, and His promise to provide the wisdom and guidance we need daily. How comforting to know that we’re never alone as we face the challenges and joys of motherhood!

May your Mother’s Day weekend – and every day going forward – be filled with the joy of the Lord which is your strength. Do we get tired and weary sometimes? Absolutely! But we can walk in abundant blessings as we undertake every task and assignment associated with and required for building the foundation of future generations – no small feat, but one for which God has thoroughly equipped us (with His Word and His Spirit) to accomplish in excellence and for HIS glory. Be encouraged as you trust the Lord to guide you through every twist and turn along the journey of motherhood. I am! 🙂

“37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.
38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.”
(Luke 1:37-38)
“And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”
(Psalm 1:3)
“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”
(III John 1:4)

© Copyright 2015 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

Change Your Mind: It’s Not a Sin to Be Early!

This morning, I leisurely sailed through a series of green lights, which put me on the early commuter train.  This opportunity was provided compliments of my children’s bus driver who arrived EARLY.  Since I purposed in my heart to be early this morning, I didn’t have to “run the bus down” (literally) to get my children on it – what a blessing, because I’ve done that on more occasions than I care to admit!  Our regular bus driver is always punctual – and quite often, she is early.  Conversely, our substitute bus driver is always late – consistently and without fail.  Which would you rather be said of you – that you’re dependably timely or that you’re regularly late?

I used to think it was a sin to be early – I know it sounds ridiculous, but in my mind, I thought, “Surely things can’t get started without ME being up in the mix!”  As I’ve matured, I’ve learned that things will pass me right on by if I’m not in proper position on time and prepared, and that I’m not as integral to the world continuing to rotate and revolve as I thought I was.  How humbling!

Challenge yourself to be early for everything you do for an entire day.  Then try it again the next day.  Before you know it, this good habit will have become part of your character – and a strong part of your silent testimony for our faithful God.  Don’t damage the credibility of your witness by “skidding in by the skin of your teeth” or “barely making it in just under the wire.”  Let God give you a transformative “mind makeover”…because you never know who’s watching and taking notice of your actions – and you may enjoy less stress and lower blood pressure, too!

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
(Romans 12:2)

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:”
(Philippians 2:5)

 © Copyright 2013 by Kayren J. Cathcart

The Delight of Deleting Audio Clutter to Savor the Sound of Silence

Over the weekend, instead of watching TV while I munched on my afternoon salad, I sat in front of my bedroom window and peered out.  I didn’t see any birds or clouds moving, but guess what I did notice?  A twig on a sapling moving back and forth ever so slightly in the wind.  How serene; it spoke peace to my very spirit.  I ruminated, “If nature’s not in a hurry, why should I be?”  I would’ve never been conscious of something that miniscule with the distraction of an electronic box constantly flashing images at my eyes and blaring background noise into my ears.

This morning, I drove to work at a leisurely pace.  I kept the radio off.  And I relished the delicious sound of silence.  It was absolutely sublime.  I saw my commuter train pulling up as I parked and I decided not to run for it.  (Yes, if I’d run through 2 yellow lights, I could’ve been on that train, but refer to my previous posts – I have turned from my wicked ways!).  So I sat patiently in the (warm) car and waited to get on the next train that would arrive in 10 minutes – no harm, no foul.  I visually absorbed my surroundings before stepping out into the drizzle, and then I faced my morning with a smile instead of a dubiously furrowed brow – or worse yet, the “blahs of another dreaded day in the office.”

I am taking my own advice to SLOW DOWN and invest time to reflect on the beauty God has placed within arm’s length.  Are you?  I encourage you to take notice of something today that you haven’t appreciated lately – a delightful surprise might be closer than you think!

“In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.”
(Psalm 94:19)

“Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”
(Psalm 37:4-5)

 © Copyright 2013 by Kayren J. Cathcart