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

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

Back to Basics: Sufficiency, Satiety, and Satisfaction

satiety – the quality or state of being fed or gratified to or beyond capacity; the revulsion or disgust caused by overindulgence or excess

Do we really believe that God is big enough to supply all of our needs, fulfill us, and satisfy us? Do we rest in the fact that He is able to provide for us spiritually, emotionally, financially, and physically – in an all-encompassing way? If so, we have a strange way of walking by faith in the fact that what we currently have is a-plenty. When we’re honest with ourselves, we can admit that we often see inconsistencies in ourselves before others do.

In today’s American culture, I’m not sure how much “revulsion or disgust” we have for overindulgence or excess. On the contrary, we’re infatuated and obsessed with obtaining “more.” If we watch a 30-minute TV program, we’re tempted by the offer to “binge watch” the entire season of episodes with one effortless download. No consideration of wasting an entire day (or more!) of productivity when we can have a glut of what we just tasted…it’s within easy reach. We want everything better, faster, in greater quantities – and we want it NOW. Even infomercials that offer us “the next big trinket” hook us with the promise of something EVEN BETTER than the fantabulous deal we’re already salivating over, baiting us with the nauseatingly predictable “but wait – there’s MORE…we’ll double your order for FREE if you call within the next 8 minutes!” And you know when they suggest that you give the extra one away as a gift, most of us end up with it sitting in a drawer, under a cabinet, or on a shelf collecting dust for months (or years). Even though we can only use one item at a time, we want more…because we’re never grateful enough to be satisfied with what we already have.

Godliness with contentment is great gain (I Timothy 6:6), but are we ever really content with what we have? Or are we subconsciously striving for “the next thing” instead of valuing our present state? My church’s theme for the past year has been “Looking Unto Jesus to Maximize and Strengthen What We Have.” If we thoughtfully and thoroughly count our blessings, we must realize and conclude that we need to take better stewardship to be effective with what we already have before we receive an additional drop of anything. Before lusting after that new pair of shoes/boots/outfit/purse/jewelry/home décor item, evaluate what we’re doing with the pile of similar items currently occupying our closet or running out of our drawers. I was particularly convicted when I acknowledged that before we’d finished our plenteous Thanksgiving meal leftovers, I was already wondering what we’d have for our Christmas feast. And yes, that type of overindulgence and excess will be taking me straight to the gym next week…and for MANY weeks to come…

As we reflect on the entirety of 2014 rapidly coming to a close, my prayer is that 2015 will be a year in which we fully and wholeheartedly embrace what God has for us – and appreciate it – no matter how it looks. In spite of whatever warped, perverted messages or misrepresentations advertisers and marketers attempt to bombard us with, may we receive the truth in our hearts that Jesus is the only One Who can satisfy, fulfill, and complete us. 

“1 Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
3 Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;
4 Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;
5 Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
(Psalm 103:1-5)

 © Copyright 2014 by Kayren J. Cathcart

Chronic Disease Alert: Conquer DLS by Resting in the Lord!

Have you ever suddenly snapped back to consciousness after realizing that you hadn’t been paying attention for the last couple of minutes?  I have.  “Zoning out” can happen when you’re driving, in the midst of a conversation, sitting in a meeting, or in any other variety of scenarios.  Breaking news: you can overcome chronic DLS (Distracted Living Syndrome) by focusing on the Word of God – I’m a witness!

This may not be an earth-shattering report in your opinion, but for me, it was life-changing.  And I only started to notice when I voluntarily cut out some familiar distractions.  You see, as an extremely detail-oriented person, I knew that I was easily distracted by “little things.”  However, I didn’t realize how many “little things” I had allowed to invade my atmosphere…nor was I aware that they were rapidly accumulating.  At that point, I had to decide (consciously or sub-consciously) which distractions to filter out or pay attention to.  That led to a lot of mental exhaustion (and some admittedly ADD/ADHD tendencies), because our minds aren’t designed to constantly process information – at some point, they need to rest.

But in our “24/7 on” society fueled by TV news (or gossip), internet connectivity, roadside billboards, magazine advertisements, computer pop-ups, automated phone calls, text messages, instant messages – and the list goes on – only YOU can draw the line and say when “enough is enough.”  And when you do realize that your cup is about to overflow, I pray that you’ll run to the arms of the Lord to lay every burden at His feet, in exchange for receiving the rest that only He can give.  When we cut out some of the other voices in our ears, we can hear the voice of the Lord with astonishing clarity.  Try it today – unplug from the world and reconnect with your Creator – He’s waiting for you…

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:28-30)

 “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”
(Isaiah 26:3)

“You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You. So trust in the Lord (commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him) forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting Rock [the Rock of Ages].”
(Isaiah 26:3-4, AMP)

 © Copyright 2013 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