Prepared for that Moment: Interview with Sue Cato

At eighty-three, cancer-survivor Sue Cato is the one of the oldest active real estate brokers in the United States.

She has been in business for forty years, and she is one of the most fabulous women I know. She is a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother to many. She can bake a pie with one hand while closing a million dollar deal on the phone in the other. Her nails are always perfect, and her fashion sense, forever on point.

I adore her. I look up to her in myriad ways. It is my honor to introduce her to you.

Enjoy our conversation that follows in this short interview, filled with a lifetime’s worth of experience and advice on faith, ethics, business, finances, and the power of prayer.

LADY:  Forty years is a long time to do the same thing! How did you know you wanted to work in real estate? How does a person decide on a lifelong career?

SUE:  I stayed home with the kids for twenty-five years. But, one thing led to another–I planned events for friends, church, the kids’ school, the United Way, and the local college. Running a household as a purchasing agent, managing money.

Nothing I did was wasted. The good Lord was preparing me for my future.

The bank president needed commercial properties sold. A friend at church thought I would be good at it and suggested I go to work for the bank.

Everything I had done until then prepared me for that moment.

The good Lord was preparing me for my future.

 

LADY:  What do you recommend as a key to success in life?

SUE:  Pray.

Praying to do right is hard. I did everything above board. Even when you see something that if you ignored it you could make twenty thousand more dollars, you can never let money be your guiding light.

One thing, early on–I realized that the big boys in the corporations would try to eat me alive. I went into business for myself so they wouldn’t know what I was doing.

Work ethic.

Work hard.

I’ve never earned a penny I didn’t work for. Nobody’s ever given me a thing in my job.

Work ethic is part of who I am. I’ve always had a desire to be a winner. And where I could work hard, I did.

Never let money be your guiding light.

 

LADY:  What keeps you going?

SUE:  When I got sick (with cancer) I didn’t know what was going to happen.

I prayed a lot. I continued to study the hospitality industry. Stay current.

If you have food to eat, if you have a roof over your head, even if it’s someone who’s feeding you a meal or will take you in, then you aren’t poor–you’re inconvenienced.

 

LADY: How do you handle challenges in the workplace?

SUE:  I had a client that had a horrible tragedy, and the sale fell through.

You send flowers.

You suck it up and go on.

Because what can you do?  What can you say?  You don’t waste a penny. You may have to borrow money to eat, but you pray, and you tell yourself this too shall pass.

And you keep going.

I’ve made mistakes in my career. I assumed I would make a sale, and I’d be committed to something else before having the money.

Know your abilities before you commit yourself to responsibility.

If you have financial trouble, pray to God to show you priorities.

If you have food to eat, if you have a roof over your head, even if it’s someone who’s feeding you a meal or will take you in, then you aren’t poor–you’re inconvenienced.

Keep going.

 

LADY:  What does courage look like for you? 

SUE:  Courage is faith in action, believing that Jesus is the son of God and that He came for my redemption. Knowing that I have Jesus gives me a reason to get up in the morning, a reason to care about others, a reason to tolerate.

Knowing that the sparrows and the lilies of the field, He cares for them so well–and He still loves them less than He loves me? He will care for me. And if the whole world falls down, I can still be joyful because Jesus loves me.

When I face challenges, the times when I let Him live through me, those are the times that I am forced to get out of the center of the universe and just let God be God.

Courage is faith in action.

Just let God be God.

***

Thanks again, Queen Sue!

Nothing was wasted. The Good Lord was preparing me for my future…Everything I had done until then prepared me for that moment.  ~Sue Cato

Pray. Work hard. Keep going. Let God be God. ~Sue Cato 

Four Energy Seasons: Which One Are YOU In?

We all know that the earth has seasons of weather and growth.

But have you ever noticed that your life has seasons too? Not just in the way that time passes, but in the way your energy comes and goes.

Spring, summer, fall, winter. Energy ups and downs.

I read something from Kris Vallotton recently that alludes to this idea, and it got me thinking about my own season, and how hard it can be to give myself permission to be truly present in each one, especially when it requires rest.

In our culture, Westerners, particularly Americans, seem almost addicted to the creativity and busyness of springtime.

Something new! Something fresh! Something different!

Taglines for ads are always “the latest new thing!” Fast food and processed food companies seem to be in a weekly race to the “best” new eating concept. “Best” being a relative term…

Root beer breakfast tarts. Unicorn rainbow coffee. Cheese puffs stuffed with macaroni.

It is possible to innovate too far.

With the exception of unicorn anything, maybe they should just stick to the original flavors. Plain old mac and cheese is a classic. Biscuits and gravy are fine just the way they are. Don’t need root beer on my biscuits.

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Springtime is lovely. Innovation is fun. New things are exciting. Plowing  stale earth and dropping in fresh seeds is good. It’s a beautiful time of year. But it doesn’t make sense to have springtime all the time.

To Everything There is a Season

Plowing through.

How many times have I heard myself say those words? “Got to plow through today! So much to do, so little time! Working hard, keeping busy, plowing through!”

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Sometimes that attitude is condemned by people who interpret “plowing through” as striving. In springtime, however, plowing is right on schedule.

But you can’t plow all the time.

If you plow and plant, and then keep plowing and planting over the same field in summer, the seed won’t  have time to grow, and you will ruin what you planted earlier. If you plow a harvest too soon in the fall, you may get some of the crop, but not nearly the abundance you could have had if you waited for the season to come to its fullness. If you try to plow in winter when the ground is hard and ready for rest, you could break your plow and wear yourself out as you fight the elements. Frozen ground won’t welcome a seed.

Knowing your season is key.

In springtime, we plow, and plant, and plan for what is coming after all this sowing.

But it’s a temporary time, until next year at least.

After spring comes summer, a time of tending diligently to what has been planted. Time to weed, and water, and fertilize, and watch over the hard work of the planting. Summer is hard work in the heat, and it is less about dreaming and startups, and more about maintaining and guarding the hard work of spring.

Summer is about follow-through.

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And fall is the harvest! Everyone wants to hear the words, “Your harvest is coming!” But your harvest comes after seasons of spring and summer.  Harvest-time still takes work, but it’s the work of celebrating dreams manifesting from the spring.

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And then comes winter.

Winter is about rest. After the hard year of plowing, planting, tending, and harvesting, the rhythm of the year makes room for rest. There is still work that has to be done in winter, and seeds still doing mysterious things under ground, but it is more about keeping the home fires burning and enjoying the nourishment that came from your garden. Eating well, resting, and getting things ready for the next planting season.

And as my friend Alice Briggs says, “In winter is when the roots grow deep, wide, and strong to support all that new growth come spring!”

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As often as I hear myself say, “I’m plowing through!” I also hear myself say, “I’m hiding. I’m hibernating.”

Understand Your Season

In the Kris Vallotton blog post I mentioned above, he says, “It’s so important that we understand what season we’re in, or we will judge ourselves against the work that others are producing in very different seasons than ourselves.”

You can’t compare your winter to someone else’s spring. Their resting time will come, and so will your harvest and your new thing. If you get out of order because of someone else’s season, you could miss the benefit of God’s timing for your life.

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I have a tendency to think my personal seasons should match the natural ones. Sometimes they do, but that is not always the case.

I also put pressure on myself to be in perfect balance all the time, plow in the morning, tend in the afternoon, hibernate at night.

But no other natural system works like that. I want to stay in balance and guard my Sabbath days during the week as much as possible. But there is a rhythm to life, to our years as well as our weeks. I’m learning to accept that, and to pay attention to my words as my spirit tells  me what I need.

I have to listen to myself, my body, the words coming out of my mouth, feelings of fullness or depletion, to help me recognize my personal energy season.

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Honoring our seasons with career, dreams, family, health, and all aspects of life can be make the difference in how successful we are over time.

Spring is glorious, beautiful fun. Winter sometimes can feel like a drag, especially if you are addicted to productivity.  But even the best marathon runners and athletes schedule recovery months after big events. They know that scheduling recovery cycles will allow their bodies to achieve peak performance.

Rest makes room for a different kind of productivity. Most growth in children occurs while they sleep, and nearly all centenarians will credit sleep as at least part of their secret to a long life. The most healing in our bodies occurs while we sleep, and pregnant women need more sleep than others overall.

Miracles may begin in energy, but to grow, they also require peace and quiet and rest.

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Part of being in any season is enjoying it while it lasts and fitting your activity to the season, while also planning for the next one. A favorite winter pastime of gardeners is browsing through seed catalogs, thinking about how they’ll use their energy when the spring season comes back around again.

And knowing that all the seasons will come back around, that each one is temporary, can help us enjoy and make the best use of every one as they pass.

Spring is about plowing, preparing the ground, and planting. Summer is about follow-through, even on the scorching hot days. Fall is about harvest. And winter is about rest.

No season will last forever. Learning to appreciate each one will help us maximize the time we’ve been given.

***

What season are you in right now? How can you honor your season and prepare for the next one? Knowing that this time is temporary, whether of working hard or of resting well, how can you make the most of the time God is giving you right now?

Father, we thank You for seasons. Thank You that You are the God of the Seed. And the Tending. And of the Harvest. And the God of Rest.

Give us discernment to see the season we are in and to walk in its rhythm.

I pray no condemnation for the time spent in plowing or in rest as we fit our plans to the time. I pray for the best possible use of time in our current season. Our culture is good at working hard. I pray we learn how to work smart. And I pray we learn how to truly rest, both in weekly Sabbaths and in our winter seasons.

Resting in You, Father. Trusting all things to come together in Your perfect time.

In Jesus.

Amen

Just Do Today

The last few weeks have been complicated.

On Easter Sunday, I had a freak accident on my bike that seriously damaged the tendons in my knee. The pain has been intense, but more than just the body, injury messes with your mind. Serious pain is a head game.

And even though I’m improving, last week hit me hard.

I sat in my bed and cried.

I know that “why” is not always the most productive question, but I couldn’t help but wonder, “Why did this happen?”

“God. Why did this happen?”

 

I’ve had accidents and injuries before, but in almost all those other incidents, I could see something I did that caused them. Not that I “deserved” what happened, but I could see a line of logic, things I could have done in advance to prevent the mistake.

This time, I couldn’t see what I could have done differently with the information I had that day. I might go back now and make a different choice here or there. Hindsight may be 20/20, but foresight is not.

So I prayed and said, “I know that why is not the best question, Lord, but I can’t help but wonder.”

I waited and listened, wondering if He would throw me a bone, some little word that would help me make sense of all the time and energy I spend lugging this leg around every day, a leg that worked perfectly fine just a few weeks ago.

I heard nothing. So, like all men and women of faith and wisdom, I prayed the same prayer, but louder. In case God needed me to speak up.

“I said, I know that WHY isn’t the best question…”

And I waited.

And I heard this.

“Just do today.”

That was all.

Just do today.

I sighed and sat a minute.

And then I said to myself, “Just do today.”

“Just do today.”

 

It did nothing to help me make sense of the accident, but in reality, it did do something to help me make sense of the present and how to go forward in the future.

I had let myself be overwhelmed by questions. Why did this happen? Where is my miracle? What could I have done differently? Was I out of order or out of God’s will in some way? What should I do now? Do I need a second opinion? Why won’t the physical therapist call me back? What’s going to happen next?

And on and on.

I was asking so many questions, I was not making any room in my mind for peace.

And sometimes, it doesn’t matter how many questions we ask, even  if they are the right ones.

We hear in part, we see in part, through a glass darkly.

He didn’t tell me why.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how many questions we ask, even if they are the right ones. 

 

He didn’t tell me the answers about physical therapy or what is going to happen next.

He told me what.

He told me what to do, right now.

Just do today.

Just do what you can in this moment. Just do what will make the most difference, right this second.

And it helped me.

It gave me a clean slate. It erased all the questions and replaced them with a simple mission.

It made me realize, there was one thing  I could do. I have a great doctor at home I could email. Then he would have a heads up for when I get there, and he could tell me what I can do in the meantime.

Right then, I emailed him.

I immediately felt better, lighter.

Action gets us out of our heads. One sure way to make progress is movement. If you only ask questions but never move, you never know what is possible.

If you take a few steps, you might even realize you walked the wrong direction, but then you know which way to go next.

If you only ask questions but never move, you never know what is possible.

 

It’s simple inertia. Questions that serve no purpose weigh down our minds and leave no room for peace. Overthinking and underacting make a recipe for depression. Movement creates energy.

I pray for clarity for you, for movement, and a freedom from the pointless “whys.” For forward inertia toward the new thing God has for you in this season.

Just do today.

***

What questions are you asking that are pointless and weighing you down? What  “why” question do you need to let go so you can just do today? 

What does “just do today” look like for you right now? What can you do about your circumstance, right now, to move in any direction toward a solution? 

Isaiah 43:18-19 Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up, do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.