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

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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

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

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