On a small farm south of Atlanta my parents, Jeannette and S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A, lived over 50 years in the same single-story, ranch home. Those who visit their home remark on my mother’s love for white – spotless countertops and appliances, inviting cream sofas, and pristine white carpet throughout. Obviously, all installed after my two brothers and I had flown the coop, but nonetheless, borderline outlandish for a farmhouse.
Against this backdrop of white, my mother’s vibrant paintings burst with color from frames around her and Dad’s home. To see her art, you’d never guess Mom’s hand didn’t grace a canvas before the age of 65. But that was Mother. Her life’s adage came from Philippians 4:13: “You can...with God!” This foundation propelled her through college and seminary, parenting three children, running a home and farm in then-rural Georgia, and into life’s twilight as she faced Dad’s cancer, and the loss of her husband of almost 66 years.
If a foundation is important for building a physical building, how much more important is it when building a life?
Since Mother’s passing in 2015, I’ve adopted these four simple words as my own. Typically, it’s not “You can...” that’s most difficult for me to remember...it’s the latter “...with God.” Self-confidence emboldens me to lean on my own human abilities, where my unavoidable failure reminds me of my need for a Savior.
Mother placed three important “beams” of life upon her foundation in the Lord to strengthen her reliance on Him. Everything that is seen is a result of the unseen, and these strong support systems withstood the test of time – 92 years to be exact.
One of these beams was attitude. I love what Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, says of our circumstances: “We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.” Growing up without an earthly father could have clouded Mother’s perspective, but she knew you get to decide what you see; you decide how you respond. “Growing up in a single-parent home wasn’t a disadvantage,” Mother would say, “because I had the perfect father....my heavenly father.” How you perceive your situation will define your attitude. This isn’t blindly ignoring truth, but acting to boldly claim the authority given children of God in 2 Corinthians 10:5, to “take every thought captive.”
Determination was another life-supporting attribute. Mother had a “never-give-up” mentality, relying on the Lord to be her source of strength. Dad was working long hours at his restaurant most days and since they lived in the country, Mother “couldn’t get a handyman [to the house] for love nor money,” as she often quipped. So...she learned her way around a toolbox, determined – with the Lord’s help – to conquer any mountain. This determination emboldened Mother’s faith in her heavenly Father’s promises: we are equipped with everything we needed (2 Peter 1:3), our weakness is His strength (2 Corinthians 12:9), we need not fear (Isaiah 41), and the Lord hears our prayers (Luke 11:9).
Do you find yourself lacking in confidence? Follow King David’s example in 1 Samuel 30, strengthening yourself in the Lord. In Him – and only in Him – do we find our strength to live life with extravagant determination.
As I reflected on Mother’s life and her determination, I also recognized her discernment to know when to quit. By the time Dad’s health began to decline, Mother had been oil painting for 20 years and enjoyed the daily, cathartic activity. However, spending time with my dad and our growing family – which now included great-grandchildren – became her primary focus.
Maybe you feel stretched in this season as you manage an array of seemingly unfitting roles: schooling your children from home, working while parenting, in a temporary job, providing childcare for your grandchildren, succumbing to an unwitting couch potato.
Where can you exercise discernment? Paul’s prayer for the Philippians was that
knowledge and discernment would abound so they might “approve the things that are excellent” (Philippians 1:9-10). What do you need to let go of – if just for a time – to better steward the situation in which you find yourself? Then, like my mother returning to paint in the final 10 months of her life, the Lord may later refocus your attention.
Our humanity requires divine intervention, which is why my mother was constantly in communication with her heavenly Father – thanking Him for the clouds and flowers, another new day, or asking for His help to find the TV remote. She knew life only flourished...with God.
When we trust anything or anyone other than God, we set ourselves up for more stress, less strength. May you continue to find your foundation in Christ and remember with confidence you can...with God.
Trudy Cathy White is a Chick-fil-A ambassador and daughter of Jeannette & S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A. She is an author of three books including her most recent release, A Quiet Strength, about the life and legacy of her mother, Jeannette. To learn more, visit Trudy’s website and follow her on Instagram.