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

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

A New Lump

God is doing a new thing in this new year. Will you let God mold, shape, and sculpt you today? Selah…

“6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?
7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
(I Corinthians 5:6-8)
“20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?”
(Romans 9:20-21)
“But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.”
(Isaiah 64:8)

© Copyright 2017 by Kayren J. Cathcart

His Work, His Way

Many who claim to wear the label of “Believer” and think they’re doing God’s work privately ascribe to the attitude, “I’ll do it my way.” However, as followers of Christ, we are called to do God’s will.

Even Jesus yielded and surrendered His will for the ultimate glory of the Father, “…nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done” (Luke 22:42b). Why do we think we can take shortcuts and create loopholes when our greatest Example was required to take the straight and narrow path of obedience? We are not exempt from doing God’s work in the way He instructs us to complete it!

During my morning devotions (on this day we honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.), I reflected on how grateful I am to be #FreeAtLast through the finished work of Christ on Calvary. I am free from the bondage of sin, free from the entanglements of my old hang-ups and mindsets, free to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, free to obey Him fully and reap the rewards of delighting myself in the Lord. Hallelujah!

Yet, in some nagging, lingering areas, I still find myself struggling to fully surrender my will to the will of the Father – why? Is it a commitment issue? When I commit my way and my work unto Him, that commitment means I trust Him – completely and totally. My way is the road, course of life, or mode of action I find myself taking on this journey called life. My work  is a specific action, activity, or product. This means I have to yield ALL to His will – from the big things to the seemingly  inconsequential minutia of my day. In this, He will be well-pleased, and I will remain covered under the Shadow of the Almighty, safe and protected.

What do you need to commit to God afresh and anew this week so you can do His work in the way He’s instructing? You never know who is depending on you to be in proper position and right-standing with God. Don’t delay – the new year is well on its way, and you want to stay on His appointed schedule for every assignment He’s given you to complete.

Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”
(Psalm 37:5)
“1 The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord.
2 All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits.
3 Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established..”
(Proverbs 16:1-3)

© 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

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