Not Lookin’ Good

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© jb katke

Today I made chicken pot pies. I must think things through. There is nothing I hate more than looking as bad as I am.

Have you read the back of a prepared food item to see not only how many calories it has, but, the ingredients?  There is way too much salt and some things listed I can’t even pronounce. I prefer to know what I’m eating.

That was my driving force behind making these pot pies. What a process! I had to cut the chicken into small pieces and parboil them. Peel the potatoes and parboil them as well. Onions got chopped and fortunately the frozen vegetables were user friendly. I avoid using salt in my recipes to keep from consuming too much.

Uh-oh. I just read the label on my canned chicken gravy. Note to self: make your own gravy from chicken broth next time, that is, if there is a next time. More ingredients I can’t pronounce. Pardon me while I bang my head on a brick wall.

I got started right after I mopped up the vitamin E oil I accidently spilled after my shower. Just as soon as I sort laundry and get a load washing. I always strive for efficiency.

Oh yes, don’t forget the pastry I had to make and roll out. Darn! Flour spills on my clean kitchen floor.

The process was interrupted several times to switch laundry from washer to dryer. Again to put clean clothes away.

Then, a lunch break. But I got back to it as soon as I fished the lid to my olive oil out of the pan of water.

Into the freezer they go for future meals. Go figure, I have more chicken filling than I do pastry to put it in. But I’m done, my enthusiasm is gone. They were a lot of work, and they don’t even look appetizing. All this just to know what goes into the food I eat.

Was it worth it? That remains to be seen.

This I know. Jesus made humans, not for consumption, but with a purpose in mind. Was it worth it? Looking at our world today makes one wonder. But in his scheme of things, yes.

How do I know? Because he did it. Twice. A whole lot of years ago, he got disgusted and did away with almost all his creation. Then he started over again. So those individualized plans of his must be huge!

Admittedly I wasn’t there, but feel certain his creation wasn’t as time consuming as the pot pies were for me. I’ve read that he wants his people to be the salt of the earth.

I have sneaky feeling my pot pies are going to need some salt, pepper too.

 

 

Enough is Enough

 

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© jb katke

“Just how much is enough?”

So said the speaker to we listeners. It was too many years ago for me to share his name, but I recall he came from a finance field and his question hit home. His presentation was revolving around income and much more.

Speaking of money can become a touchy subject. Some folks set a goal to what they hope to accumulate in a savings plan for retirement. Without changing their current lifestyle, I should add. No one wants to settle for less than what they deem necessary for comfort.

While others keep working just to put food on the table. Vacations, movie-going, or occasional dining out, not even up for discussion. Our situation fell somewhere in the middle.

Our speaker carried it further, alluding to the home we live in and the car we drive. Human nature is to always want bigger and better. What impacted me was furnishing our home. At that time is was a far cry from what I had in mind. I wasn’t asking for much, just a full size couch and some end tables to place lamps and drinks on. Thankfully, we have been able to rectify that issue.

We have just wrapped up a year that was more than enough. The likes that we hope never to experience again. But whatever the future holds, its valuable information to know we can get by, particularly when we have no choice. It’s easy to forget the stuff we are made of. Thank you Jesus for making a place in the human body that only you can fill to satisfaction.

Today that question takes on a humorous form for me. In an ongoing effort to hone my writing skill I’ve managed to build a collection of books chock full of helpful information. In reading my latest addition to the collection, I realize this sounds familiar. I purchased the same book twice! I’ve done that before in my pleasure reading.  Guess that makes me consistent.

By the way, I have found the Good Book is full of useful information that can be put into action right away.

What does a person do with all this acquired ‘knowledge?’ My impulse is to take it to heart and spread the word.  Hmmm…spread the word. That is not my strong suit. Not that I don’t have opinions, but we live in a society that flaunts thoughts. They are not always well received. Have you have noticed that too?

But on the other hand, there are several readers following my blog. A giant size thank you! Especially those of you that have it sent directly to their email. Those are the most beneficial for me. It shows people enjoy my words and regularly look forward to reading more. My writing coach tells me, “Words matter.” She’s right.

The most appreciated words are the ones of encouragement and hope. There is never too much of them! I’ll try to do better folks.

My One Word

Relinquish
© jb katke

 

Never would I have imagined it so life changing.

My One Word is an alternative to a New Year’s resolution.  It’s a Bible Study, but only sort of. You begin by asking Jesus for a single word that would focus on a lasting change for your life.  Search the Bible for verses that allude to that word and what he wants you learn from it. What makes it so doable is, it’s just one word/one change.

January has begun, but it’s not too late for you to dive in.

The word that surfaced for me was ‘relinquish.’ I had considered other words, ‘submit’ and ‘surrender.’ But they didn’t lead me to where Jesus was having me focus.  Submit was something I already do with my husband.  Surrender, to me, means giving up.  Relinquish, on the other hand, means to willfully release.

That is an ongoing process in my life.

Over time it’s taken on differing forms. My first wrestling match was selling my brass bed.  We were down-sizing.  I was the only one who liked it and my family couldn’t understand why I loved it so much.  At the time I couldn’t put words to it, but I can now. That dumb bed was one of the few things in our home that reflected my decorating taste. Tears flowed.

Sometime later I had cataract surgery. I was convinced I’d end up blind. Relinquishing sight, when you are a quilter and supposedly writing a God-ordained book, this just cannot be. Fear reigned. Needlessly. Isn’t that true of so many of our fears? They never come to be.

Selling my grandmother’s enamel kitchen table was another opportunity to relinquish.  As a child, my memories recalled me sitting on a step stool eating her raisin bread, picking out the raisins, eating the frosting on top and leaving the bread.  Yes, I was chastised. But it did no good.

We sold it to a young family that was thrilled to get it. Their home is all vintage thirties, all they were missing was an enamel table. It continues to be cherished, but not at my house.

I come from a family of savers.  When my dad was moving he divided up his collection of dried up paintbrushes between my husband and brother. Our allotment helped fill the trash bin.

Generations before me collected a vast amount of possibly useful things. Upon going through my aunt’s estate after her death, we came across an envelope.  Written on it was, ‘For poverty living.’ Inside it was a large needle and a six-inch string. One can expect that thinking when you have survived a depression.

Moving their stuff out of my way was forever driving me nuts.  Keep in mind, they had all passed away. This was only perpetuating the pack-rat lifestyle I hated.

This is my history. Mental battles run rampant as I dispose of what my ancestors diligently spent their lifetime saving.  Just in case.  My daughter is helping me let go, I mean relinquish.

But to dispose of something……what if sometime down the road I might need it?

I keep reminding myself none of it will be coming with me to my eternal home. By then, there will be no need!

Goodbye 2020

 

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Congratulations, you’ve made it through Christmas of 2020! What now? Or should I ask what more?

Every Christmas is the first for someone to miss a loved one. I know that hole in your life cannot be replaced. My first one without my mom was difficult, regardless of my efforts I couldn’t take her place in Dad’s life.

Memories come swarming in enough to suffocate you.

What is your Christmas memory? They can become bittersweet. My memory from a long ago Christmas leaned on the humorous side.

I recall helping mom wrap an especially awkward gift. It was only a few inches tall, but extremely long and wide. She had the giftwrap covering it in the nick of time. Christmas morning I learned the gift was for me!

Now we are soon to unwrap a new year. A fresh one, hot off the presses, to be used any way we wish. Wait a minute, didn’t we have that same emotion on January 1, 2020?

News Flash! This happens every year.

Of course, there are always unexpected things that pop up and take the wind out of our sails. You know, like COVID-19, that we have no control over.

Every day I roll out of bed to a new day filled with potential. Those are the opportunities to show what stuff we are made of.

It’s hard, I know. Life is hard. I once heard a wise man say something the likes of our life being ten percent what happens to us and ninety percent how we react to it.

How can a person react in the right way? Ya gotta know what’s right, right? A few things that came in my path proved to be helpful. Surround yourself with people that are the way you would like to be.

I have Darlene in my life that seems to know the Old Testament of the Good Book inside out and sideways.  There is much to learn of the people in it. The good, bad or the ugly.

Janice knows scripture like none other. She and her husband would recite it between themselves to strengthen each other. That came in handy when her beloved passed away. She can hardly wait to join him, but knows there are people to encourage (like me) in the meantime.

My husband loves and encourages me, despite all my flaws. Just like Jesus does.

Read! Of all the reads available, only the Good Book has the power to transform your life for the better. However good your New Year resolutions may be, I can tell you scripture tops it.

 

Gift Giving

Gift

We are in the Christmas season. Jesus’ birthday.

For some, it’s a depressing time. For others, thoughts are filled with all the glee the holiday holds. Along with the songs and carols of the season.

My favorite is Mary, Did You Know? Listening to it brings tears to my eyes. Probably especially so for us mothers. Mary Did You Know Mark Lowry – YouTube

We treasure those moments of holding our newborn in the still of the night when the rest of the house sleeps. This little one is mine, all mine to admire, cuddle, and gaze in awe of how perfect a child we have. What a gift!

It brings to mind what Mary did know. An angel came and told her she was held in high esteem and in God’s favor. He continued, saying you will get pregnant, without having sex.  You’re gonna have a son, and will name him Jesus. He will do great things and will be called God’s son. Jesus will sit on a throne as his ancestor David did, and will rule over his kingdom forever.

What Mary didn’t know was how all of this would happen. She’s in her early teens and her family are not rulers of anything. There’s a gift to wonder about!

Wouldn’t it be nice to know what the future holds for us? As eager as I was to start a family, I was clueless to what all is involved in this childrearing thing.

There were changes. Lots of them.

The most recent has actually been going on for several years now. It made for more years of seasonal depression than I care to admit.

Our children are no longer children, even so, during the Christmas season gifts flowed. However, we all share in the necessity of wise spending.

Jointly we all agreed to stop this gift-giving practice. Little did I realize how difficult this was going to be for me. Giving is what parents do.

How I miss shopping for the perfect gift just for them! I admit, I love to shop. The flip side is, it removes a lot of pressure for all us.

That, in turn, presents another difficult thing for me. The acceptance of gifts from others. It’s uncomfortable to be trained in how to be a gracious in receiver. It’s not natural.

This Christmas I received a small book from a friend. As I read through, I realized she had placed a sticky note with a message on it. Excitedly, I kept reading until I reached her note with an encouraging message.

I was certain it was just for me. But she confessed it was something that was meaningful to her, written years ago and had forgotten it was there.

Since I’ve started this writing thing, I take the written word more seriously now. Like the found sticky note, I feel like it is something meant for me directly from the writer.  I realized I had to be thankful for the author of the book too.  It came from his heart and was meant to impact the reader.

Thinking further, the Good Book came to mind. It carries a message from the author directly to the reader. The words in it are the gift of life. Yes, Jesus’s story, but how that story pulls us in until we become part of the message too.

Read it, absorb it into your life, love it, and then pass it on because it is a gift….Merry Christmas!

Our Tennessee Waltz

4922080300_7000d2b30b_bWe didn’t realize what was on the road ahead of us.

We were expecting our first child and were dancing on air. I was sicker than a dog but certain it would all be good. Even better when my husband, Dave’s tour of duty in the Navy would be over and we could get on with life. He had just completed training in the Navy.

Within a month we would receive orders on where he would be stationed. Having no ‘home’ to return to we relied on our parents. Two weeks each should get us through the wait.

We loaded our goods in a small rented trailer and headed for Michigan.  Living in Millington, Tennessee was much like camping. We were there a mere four months so only had the bare essentials.

As we traveled, Dave commented, “Soon we are going to have to get some gas.”

Then I feel asleep. Allow me to note here, nagging can be a good thing and sleeping on the job not so good. We ran out of gas.

I was awake by then and we reasoned he would walk up the incline to see if there was a gas station nearby.

Did I mention this was wintertime? The poor guy was wearing those lovely polyester pants so popular at that time. They had zero warmth and the wind was blowing.

I glanced around our stranded location. It occurred to me I should have warned him not to accept any rides.

Don’t be silly, he’s a grown man. He wouldn’t do anything as risky as getting into a stranger’s car.

My gaze returned to his path in time to see him climbing into a car that pulled over for him. Panic seized me and instantly I lost it. Mentally I knew he was going to be slaughtered and thrown out in some ditch. I sat there sobbing at the side of the road, waiting for the police to come tell me the horrible news.

I was going to have to raise this child alone. What would become of us?

As expected, the police came. Having seen our car at the side of the road, and Dave walking back my way with a gas can, they picked him up. How dare he be alive and well! I was still in my devastated mode trying to figure out how I would carry on without him.

After settling me down, we traveled on, stopping for the night. We awoke the next morning to snow. A lot of snow. Dangerous driving kind of weather.  But continue we must.

The traffic made two ruts of the road. In front of us cars were losing control left and right providing several close encounters. Miraculously no one hit us. It’s frightening to have a vehicle heading right for us and seeing the passengers inside screaming.  However, they did clear a path allowing us forge on.

We were almost at our destination when the transmission gave out on the car.

Lord, what more?

I’ve since learned not to ask him that.

In that month long wait, a family member got me a doctor appointment concerning my excessive morning sickness.  The meds were costly, but they got me over the hump and I felt much better.

Looking back at that ‘season’ of life I’m in awe of God’s protection. True, we experienced some thrills and chills but thankfully nothing on earth lasts forever. His love does.

 

Fifty Years!

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© jbkatke

How did that happen?

Each day holds some kind of specialness to someone. This week my husband and I will be celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary.

When we married we had no idea what was ahead of us in our new life. No matter what happens, we would be together. That was my dream, we would grow old together.

The following is how it played out through the years:

The Navy                                                                                                                                              Children to the third power                                                                                                                  Leaving our home state                                                                                                            Various homes                                                                                                                            Mission trips to various countries                                                                                  Grandparenthood                                                                                                                        Home business                                                                                                                              Bunches of surgeries                                                                                                                 Retirement                                                                                                                                   Husband returning to the work force

Some of our years have been really good, others not so. But we have remained together for the long haul. I could tell you it was due to our love, which is true. But mostly, it never occurred to either of us that things might not work out. Divorce wasn’t in our vocabulary.

Maybe I left something out. Both of us are convinced our happenstantial meeting was no accident. Have you read how we met? I won’t repeat myself but you can find it in my Many Octobers Ago blog.

The point I wish to make is that we were heaven sent to each other. It was nothing we could have orchestrated ourselves, but with God anything is possible. Don’t take my word, the Good Book says so. Refer to Luke 1:37. (Take note. That is what Mary was told when learning she would have a baby, without sex. Another heaven sent miracle!)

Truth is something you can always depend on, he can even turn bad circumstances around to good if we rely on him. You know like trying to celebrate when there are so many restrictions going on?

We are postponing our celebration to next year, when hopefully life will be done with COVID. As a result, we figured this day will be unremarkable. To others it will be just another ho hum day of the week.

But not so, to our surprise we received a package from an ongoing business relationship. It is a custom wood tray that blends beautifully in our kitchen. Noting our anniversary coming up, they chose to honor us. It was so unexpected, but it doesn’t end there. Our special day is also our son-in-law’s, his birthday. See, good things really do happen!

 

Spirit Living

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© jb katke

Until moving to Kansas City, I had never seen anything like it. The spirit these people have is like none other.

We’ve lived here for twenty seven years now and I’m still not used to it.

There are three seasons when people just pour themselves into the moment. Summertime baseball, all I hear about are the Royals. Autumn brings Kansa City Chiefs football fever. Lastly, the season we are in now, the Christmas season.

The number one question is ‘Have you started your Christmas shopping yet?’ It isn’t just the conversation though. All decorators seem to crawl out of their hole and inundate the marketplace with the latest trends in making a home more festive.

What really gets to me with these three seasons is the attire. People here have complete wardrobes endorsing the sport teams. It’s all they wear, eat, and sleep, their devotion worn on their sleeves. Literally. Likewise for the Christmas season. Every day is a new and different holiday ensemble.

My photo shows you what I have. My holiday tops of choice are either solid red or green. That’s it. Why, you ask? So that I can wear them throughout the year. Yes, I did succumb and purchase one Christmas sweater so that I wouldn’t look like Scrooge. As Kermit the Frog says, “It’s not easy being green.” Or red.

The reason I’m adamant about this is I don’t have the space or desire to store these exclusive wardrobes until the right season comes. I’m also cheap. Ok, maybe not cheap, but not where I want to invest hard-earned cash. I can be frivolous, just ask my husband or kids.

Needless to say, my mindset doesn’t always fit in with others. Actually, that’s biblical. Did you know that? Romans 12:2 in the Message says it best,

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.

I’m okay with that, how ‘bout you? When you think about it, it’s kinda like a three-fer. Change how you think, be mindful of your God, and thereby eliminate all those self-improvement efforts. God will do it for you. It doesn’t get any better than that folks.

A Thanksgiving of Gratitude

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© jb katke

Thankful! Are you kidding me?

Need I remind you this is 2020? The year of have nots.

Worldwide people have suffered the loss of a loved one. Business owners have closed their doors for good. Hospitals are full capacity. Churches were forbidden to hold services to their community. There’s more, but you’re capable of filling in the rest.

Some find it astounding that the sun rises to another new day. Where is the hope?

We have been forced to look at life differently. Instead of gazing back at what used to be, we must look at the way things are now.

Perhaps the hope is in ourselves. If you are still breathing, you have survived thus far. That is an accomplishment. Where there is breathe, there is hope. Now is the time to acknowledge what we still have.

Doctors and grocery stores still exist. Online shopping has become the norm.

Organizations have rallied to the call of need, helping any way they can. Neighbors have opened their doors to each other, looking in to see if all is well. It’s what America does.

With schools closed, teachers have made themselves available to continue educating students. Time invested in others is never wasted time.

Churches have opened to technology and encourage online listeners that God is still God. He knows and cares what is happening in our lives. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Families have turned inward and reconnected to each other in creative ways. For the elderly, visits are through a window, reminding them they are loved. That’s what love looks like.

Home may feel like a prison, but it also is a refuge from harsh realities. Not everyone has a place to hunker down in, if you do, consider yourself rich.

Listening to the news is optional, many feel better without it. I’m not encouraging putting your head in a hole, but sift truth from falsehoods. You can still think for yourself.

One of the many things I am grateful for is you. Some may think I harp on a religious platform. No, what I share with you is my life, things I have found to be true. Stuff you won’t likely hear from anywhere else.  Thank you for your time and interest in these words I share.

During this ongoing pandemic, I hope you can find some nuggets of hope this Thanksgiving.   Maybe even give some encouragement to others. It’s what we are here for.

Keynote Speaker

OIP

All I can say is it was an opportunity.

The mission team at church was planning a trip to Belarus, the former USSR. By design they were forming a Business Conference to English speaking students. My husband and I ran a cottage industry in home remodeling, so we qualified.

At the time, I felt we were the comedy relief of the group. Our fellow travelers were bona fide professional business people. We, on the other hand were a pint-size home business.

Our missionary sponsor approached the women of the group, “The Dean of our local girls’ college contacted me after learning of your visit here. If one of you has a free morning she would love for you to come have a chat with her students.”

I did, so we made arrangements to get me there. Boris was to escort me to a meeting place where someone would take us to the college.

“How is this individual going to recognize us, as neither of us know her?”

It seemed like a legitimate question, but if I had given it any thought, I look quite American.

Arriving at the college, the Dean welcomed me into her office. “What are you going to speak on?”

Speak on? I thought I was coming for a chat with students.

I proceeded to explain the nature of our business and she seemed satisfied. She graciously took me to the classroom where I was to visit with the students. There was a podium at the front of the room. This was not going to be a ‘chat,’

Swell, my speaking notes are back at the hotel room.

I was given a cup of tea that I never got a chance to drink. Students just kept pouring into the room, soon it was standing room only.

After my introduction, I began with how our business came to be. Immediately a hand shot up from one of the teaching staff.

“Is this going to take very long?”

A portion of my warm welcome flew out the window. Except for the girls, they seemed to soak up every word I spoke. I explained that we didn’t plan on running a business that it evolved with time.  The skills of my husband were passed on by word-of-mouth that led from one construction opportunity after another.

I shared how it takes money to make money, insofar as obtaining the right tools for each job. We operated for several years before finally getting some business cards, only because clients asked for them. God was blessing our endeavor.

The students listened intently. The business opportunities of 2005 were unheard of in this third world country. But what interested them the most was when I spoke of our home, our children, and how many cars we had, as well as my quilting hobby. They were enthralled by the pictures I brought.

To my amazement, I managed to share everything without my notes. It was an experience I won’t soon forget. It proved to me how God meets our needs when we step out of our comfort zone to speak of him.

We came to bring hope and encouragement to a people with limited opportunities. We brought home a deeper appreciation not only for what God has done in our life, but also the freedom we take for granted.

Nonsensical

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© jb katke

Can we agree that some things in life just don’t make sense? Countless times reality disregards logic.

Here is my current conundrum.

Nine Thanksgivings ago I was challenged to write one thing I am grateful for every day. Having never been one to journal I figured this I could handle. It has been my practice up until now.

This year has been challenging in many ways. As 2020 progressed I neglected my entries. October came to a screeching halt. It didn’t make sense. Under forced captivity due to COVID19, I had more time than ever to write. But it didn’t happen.

If you have been following my blogs, you’ll remember this writing thing wasn’t my idea. As I take baby steps forward, I continue to be grateful, but not in written form.

These days I have been reading and spending time with people. It’s interesting that when we are advised to keep our distance from others that we lean towards companionship more than ever. Go figure.

There are lots of good books to help take your mind off concerns. But I’ve found the Good Book is the only publication that can offer practical help and hope in times of trouble. It speaks a lot of Jesus. For sure he lived a life that doesn’t make sense.

He is the son of a creator king, filthy rich, and perfect in every way. He came here so that he could hang with ordinary people, and get this, take the blame for every bad thing they have ever done. I’m talking generations here. Let that thought settle in.

Its mind boggling that he deliberately left a perfect world to come here and wind up murdered.  Believe it or not, it’s what he did. Why? So that others could join him in that perfect world later on.

So here is what I’m thinking. When Jesus walked the earth, he tackled a challenge. Regardless of what was happening around him. His focus stayed true to what was important. People. Hope. A forever life.

Despite my challenges, or what’s going on around me, I need to follow his example. Invest in people, give hope, and share with others the everlasting life he offers to us all.

In nonsensible times like these he is the only one that makes sense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Need Met

Old Ford van © jb katke

Am I the only one that sees a divine hand in everyday happenings?

We needed a larger vehicle. Cars today just don’t comfortably accommodate baby car seats together with older children. Fights are sure to ensue, and they did.

I was at a point in my life where my Christian faith was beginning to grow. But our family didn’t have what I deemed we needed. Can I get ‘amen’ on frustration?

I could have listed countless reasons why we should have a van, when a thought came to mind.

Wait a minute, God makes no mistakes, right? If we don’t have it, there must be a reason. I should wait for it.

Easy to say, hard to do. I’ve never been big on patience.

Time passed and so did a relative providing an unexpected inheritance. Typical isn’t it to lose one thing in order to gain another.

The van entered our family. We referred to it as the Limo. The back seats were captains’ chairs that swiveled to the rear, facing a bench seat. My husband built a small table for the kids to play games, complete with cup holders built in. Fights dropped by 99%.

While the kids may not agree with me, I take pride that all of them learned to drive in Big Blue. Notice the name change? Time passed. Within 11 years we had three children, for them to have a shared experience was both a challenge and accomplishment.

It took us comfortably on many vacations. Our son used it on a three hour drive, full of newly graduated seniors to an amusement park in Ohio to celebrate. One daughter narrowly missed hitting a butterfly, while another came dangerously close to mailboxes. No harm done on any account.

That is except for my trip into town where I bought a drastically reduced sweater, ripping the trim off the side of her in a too tight parking space.

For several years Big Blue was there for my husband in his home improvement business. While I referred to it as his mobile office, it soon became the Big Lug.

Coming from Michigan, it suffered from salt cancer. Rust had eaten away too much of the body. Insulation poured out of her leaving a trail much like Pigpen of the Peanuts comic strip. She began to waddle on her frame. To my husbands’ dismay, “It still has its hubcaps!”

“No babe, Big Lug needs a decent burial.”

She served us well, but all things eventually come to an end. It was an opportunity to practice letting go. That’s hard. Especially when there are so many memories wrapped in it. Thank you Jesus for them.

 

Maybe Now I Get It

Don't Play ChickenI got a snapshot of why some folks look upon Christians with disdain.

Stick with me here and allow me to paint a word picture of how it played out.

This week as I was leaving the coffee shop, I found myself playing chicken with another driver. As I was weaving my way through the parking lot, another driver came from around the corner. The driver, (a female, darn it!) made a wide right turn planting herself on my side of the lane.

She continued moving forward towards me, not even trying to get back in her own lane. Having no place to go, I stopped. Surely she saw me, I was only a few feet from her.

In turn, she also stopped.

Lady, what are you thinking? What do you want me to do?

Finally, smiling, she turned into a parking space. That’s when I saw what was written on the drivers’ door. Get this…

Pray.

Honey, if that’s the way you drive, you need prayer. (This is precisely why I don’t place Christian anything on my car…I don’t want my driving to jade the faith of others)

So why am I telling you this? My better sense tells me I shouldn’t because you may know this individual.

I have come to believe we live out what has been entered into our memory banks. This is why we need to be mindful of the places we go and the things we do.

Without uttering a word, actions speak loudly. Especially stupid ones.

I recall my aunt would present her good intentions, but sadly she fell short in her own eyes because her actions were lacking. A friend says words matter, and they do. But actions is where the rubber meets the road.

Hopefully not as vividly as the lady I spoke of above. But you get my drift. It may be the only Bible some people will see.

As far as the Christian faith I mentioned, this is why so many cling to this guy, Jesus, who devoted his life pointing others to his dad. To the extent of a horrific death suspended on a cross, taking the blame for the evil in this world.

All that so that everyone could have direct access to his dad…through prayer. Just as that lady was endorsing. Not to mention the perks that come with that. Stuff like, protection and a peace beyond what you can imagine, on a daily basis.

A Feel Good Moment

Road debris

When was the last time you had a feel good moment?

I’m not talking about health, but a time when you did something good for the benefit of all. Maybe it wasn’t you at all, but you were there and witnessed the good deed.

Yesterday I had that opportunity.

I was driving down the road minding my own business, when the traffic light changed to red forcing me to stop. Not just me but others too. That doesn’t sound like a unique, even noteworthy moment. But it’s those ordinary moments that often impact me the most.

A driver happened to notice some road debris in the lane next to her. She sat there waiting out the light apparently deep in thought. Suddenly she opened the car door hopping out of her vehicle.

What was she thinking of getting out of her car in the middle of the street?

She ran over to the left hand turn lane next to her, signaling the driver to wait. She leaned down and scooped up what appeared to be a box of electronic equipment spread out on the pavement. Quickly she tossed it over on the boulevard next to the left hand turner.

Not even checking the traffic light, she returned to the remaining mess on the pavement and picked up what could potentially damage a tire if anyone ran over it and threw that next to the box.

Here’s the thing. She didn’t have to do that. It was in the middle of the lane. Most cars could easily straddle it and drive through with no harm done.

But this lady decided not to take that chance, even though it wasn’t in her lane to worry about. To let things be could be a potential problem for somebody. She was thinking of others.

Fortunately she got back in her car before the light turned green and we all went on our way.

I wonder what that driver in the left turn lane thought?  Was he grateful? Did he think she was stupid? I’ll never know. But I can tell you this, it made me feel good.

This reminds me of what I read some time back in the Good Book.

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”                    Hebrews 12:2 The Message

Like this lady, Jesus didn’t have to do it. He took a risk but it made him feel good that he might be helping someone later on. He was thinking of others. Ya know, people like you & me.

Why Me?

Parking lotHave you ever found yourself in a situation that made you wonder, “Why me?”

It comes in the most unexpected ways and generally something you’re unprepared for.

Mine happened in the parking lot of a local mall. My shopping trip had all the makings for a fun morning. Things took a turn when I parked my car.

Before I could even exit the vehicle a man approached me. For safety sake I lowered my window only far enough for him to speak to me. He was asking for money.

So I think, why me?

The parking lot was teeming with vehicles and people were all around going to and from their cars and stores. Why did he come to me? He could have approached any number of other people.

He explained that his car was parked across the street at a service station. He wanted to get fuel and go to someone that needed his help. I’m guessing that I know what you’re thinking. I was suspicious too.

How could I know if he was telling the truth? Maybe the money would be used for alcohol or drugs. Heck, a person cannot be too careful in this day and age.

Except this took place years ago. Deception is as old as time itself.

I gave him $10. That wouldn’t do much, but it was better than heartlessly turning him away. The man was grateful and offered to repay me if I would give him my address. “No that won’t be necessary.”

I could have stayed and watched to see if he hit upon any other people. At the time I didn’t think of that, maybe some things we just don’t need to know.

But that is not all I did for him. Unbeknownst to him, as he was walking away, I said a prayer for him. After all he might truly have been in need. A little bit of prayer never hurt anyone.

The wonderment of the experience was that I had a little extra cash. That doesn’t happen often. I was still able to do my shopping, and I felt even better because I had been gifted with an opportunity to help someone.

I hadn’t asked for that opportunity. It just walked up to my car and presented itself to me. It occurred to me that out of all those other shoppers milling around, I might have been the only one to have prayed for the man.

That gives me food for thought. It prompts me to rethink my interruptions that interfere with my plan of the day. It’s a divine appointment in Jesus’ plan for my day.

 

Speechless

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Today was an exceptional day. I was speechless.

This is how the scene unfolded. Unlike our current situation, a new, normal, school year was approaching.  I joined other mothers bombarding the mall to nail as many clothing bargains as possible.

With my son and daughter in tow we foraged through clothing racks with fellow shoppers. The department was in disarray.  Pint size shoppers were clearly tired of standing in long lines just to go into the fitting room.

A loud voice arose above the crescendo around me.

“Why on earth are you have bringing another child into this world?”

The question was directed to me.  I was noticeably pregnant with our third child,

“You already have a son and daughter, there is no reason you should have a third child.”

I wonder what she would have to say if she learned that at one time, we talked of having four kids?

I was speechless. Those that know me can appreciate that.

What can you say to an obviously irate woman? She had taken it upon herself to confront me over something that was none of her business.  There was some talk of zero population growth in the news.  Apparently, this woman was of that mindset.

If she only knew.  Some women can get pregnant easily. Not I.  When I was a child playing outside I had an accident.  My self-entertainment was climbing on the trunk of dad’s car and sliding down.  Automobiles of the 50’s with the bumper guards weren’t good for that kind of play.

Had I been more alert to the harm they could inflict, I would have been mindful of where exactly I was sliding down.  But I wasn’t.  It wasn’t until I came in the house that I realized I was bleeding profusely. I can recall no pain, but marveled that mom had something on hand to address my issue.

Before the day was out I found myself in the doctor’s office getting stitches.  It has been my self-diagnosis that explains why I’ve had trouble getting pregnant.  All that to say, every one of our children took work and are treasured.

That happened many years ago, yet I’m still amazed at the encounter at the store.

My take-away from the experience is I can’t understand where people are coming from until I have walked in their shoes.  Maybe she would like more children but for whatever reason can’t.

Each of my children has been a learning and growing experience for me.  Without them I would have missed that.

They are no longer children, but the joy they continue to bring me is priceless.  I’m convinced our experiences are opportunities to become what the good Lord has in mind for our life.

Decisions, Decisions

 

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© jb katke

 

Have you ever had trouble making up your mind? This poor tree has red on the top and green at the bottom. It can’t decide whether to give in to dormancy or try to hang on to living.

I did a pint-size research on the hows and whys of leaves changing color. I learned it’s chlorophyll that gives them the green color we enjoy in the summer. The length of the night and cooler temperature cause biochemical processes, and thus, the colors change. Probably you already knew that.

To my way of thinking, then, people may have some tree-like tendencies. Have you ever run across a stubborn person? They are as unbending as the strongest tree trunk. I will say no more.

Just as the environment changes for trees, so does mine.

I won’t even go through the list. We all have one. There are seasons for everything and in the time span of one year I can feel I’ve have run the gamut on changes, emotional and otherwise. Particularly this year. Hang in there I tell myself, nothing on earth lasts forever. It just seems like it.

Cooler weather is here. The temperature never made it to the triple digits in my little world. Nonetheless, I’m glad we no longer need protection from the unrelenting sun. It’s even easier to breathe. Or is it, with these gosh darn masks? I repeat, nothing on earth lasts forever.

However triple digits of anger have hit too many of our cities. Never in my lifetime have I seen the hate rise within our fellow citizens. We have literally turned against ourselves. I cling to what is said in the Good Book, ‘This too will pass.’

There is a story making the Facebook circuit about the elderly, nearly blind, woman being moved into a nursing facility. An aide is describing the room as she guides her resident to her new home. Before even arriving there, the old lady states, “I love it!”

“How can you know you love it when we haven’t even got there yet?”

The old woman says, “Because I’ve decided to.”

I might not have that story verbatim, but you get the drift. These days, more than ever, it’s crucial what we set our minds (and hearts) on. The decision is ours.

This aforementioned tree will eventually succumb to winter dormancy. But it’s not over, there is life after (what looks like) death. Next summer it will come alive with new growth and be bigger and stronger than it was this past summer. It will be wiser too, realizing this whole thing is nothing more than a cycle of life.

Same thing goes for people.

Sunday Teacher

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© jb katke

My Sunday teacher in high school was nice enough, a well-meaning lady. Mrs. Newman taught from the Bible what God’s marriage plan looked like. In a variety of ways, she got the consistent message across. She may have referenced a stack of Bibles; it’s just that she didn’t understand.

If she could have met the boy I was dating, I’m certain she would have taken her words back. I mean, my boyfriend was a really nice guy, there was nothing to dislike about him. Ok, he didn’t go to a church like mine, but still…

Mrs. Newman had to be in her forties, what could she possibly know about boys and dating? She was married, but still, she was so old-fashioned. She was teaching ancient stuff. How could any of that be of importance today?

One of her favorite bones to pick was to be equally yoked. What was that? I envisioned a male and female with this wood yoke around their necks pulling a cart. They would walk in unison. Ok, I got it; but like we would hardly be doing that!

“Be of the same faith.” Whatever for, it can’t be that important?

She had quite a list of other things to consider when we were dating boys:

“There are a lot of fish in the sea, make sure he is respectful of you.” Yeah, yeah, I know. He is

“Don’t spend too much time with each other.” Uh-oh, we have become exclusive. Not really hanging with our friends. We couldn’t get enough of each other.

Let me clarify that, he had friends, but not so much me. My neighborhood was full of old people, no kids to be had.

When you go out together, make it a group date with friends.” That’s fine if your friends had dates too, ours did not.

“No sex.” I knooww, what do you take me for?

There were others that I dismissed as well.

But I had moved on. Time has shown me there was truth in her words Wisdom comes with age!

I learned having the same religion makes it easier to be on the same page with each other. Fortunately, I found out his love and respect for his mom carried over to me as well.  If I believed in luck, I would say that was a lucky break. I know better.

Twenty years later, attending a women’s conference, I saw Mrs. Newman. At break time we happened to sit at the same table with our refreshment.

It was so long ago, would she even remember me?

No matter, I looked upon this encounter as a divine appointment. I introduced myself and she claimed to have remembered me.

With pleasure I told her of my husband. I married that high school sweetheart, and yes, we had some ups and downs. But we reached a happily ever after marriage.

There is no doubt in my mind God had his hand on our relationship. Twenty-twenty hindsight tells me it could have been much different for us.

There are no guarantees in a marriage certificate. In his book, God mentions, if we do life his way, things will go well with us. We are living proof.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fill ‘Er Up

It brings me great joy to share my empty laundry basket with you. Laundry basket

I know, you’re thinking the lady has lost serious brain power. (PS Join the long line, others are way ahead of you)

Allow me to explain myself.

I use this basket as a hamper, and for more years than I care to admit, this basket has been ½ full, with dry cleaning as well as laundry. I won’t burden you with why I didn’t get the dry cleaning done in a timely manner. Let’s agree some things just are and leave it at that.

This year, 2020, I got the dry cleaning done! It may be the only accomplishment I achieve this year. That’s okay.

My real purpose is for you to see what I see in that empty basket. It has potential. It can be used for storage; or as when we moved, packed with all manner of things to get from here to there.

I can almost hear you now, “They’re not perfect for everything with holes in the sides, which limits what gets put in them.” True, but…

That empty basket reminds me of myself. Imperfect, kinda limited in what I can do. But still, good for something. I’ll even go so far as to say Jesus sees me that way too. My potential combined with his help will see me through things I never imagined doing.

Like what? If you have followed my blog from the beginning, you know this was not my idea. I don’t see eye to eye with technology, what computer skills I have generally get me in trouble. More than once I’ve had to issue an SOS to my husband or writing coach.

If you read through a few of my entries, you will get it. I don’t know much, but I know Jesus. I have shared things that I have observed in others, stuff from my own life; some scary and others are kinda funny. Bottom line, though, Jesus has been with me whether I have been aware of it at the time or not.

A good blog will have a purpose to the message. My purpose is for you to see the different ways Jesus is with you too. Be of good heart. I believe mankind has value and something to offer to others. Can ya see it?

Boy Shoes

Boy shoes

For a little girl this was devastating. I wasn’t aware of having a foot problem.

Mothers notice these things though.  The wear on my shoes indicated fallen arches, prompting mom to take action.

My parents did not have the income for specialty anything.  So they may not have been any happier than I was.

I cannot recall going to a doctor to get his diagnosis or what should be done to correct my feet. Not to say it didn’t happen, my childhood memories are lacking.

I do clearly remember going to the store for corrective shoes. Looking back, I can see myself being a little bouncy. I didn’t get out too much, so even the shoe store was an adventure. It wasn’t a regular shoe store, but one that addresses various foot issues.

I made the salesman quite nervous, as he had one of his own feet in a surgical shoe, nothing like the surgical boots we see today. He feared that I might step on his foot. Not one to disappoint, I did, causing him a great deal of pain. Today I can still see him hobbling around the store moaning. That I can remember.

As our shopping experience continued, I was none too pleased with him either.

Back in the day, shoe stores had a stool with a small ramp. This provided a place for the salesman to sit as he/she tied the new shoe on. A service no longer available today. Before we even got to that point, he decided my foot needed tickling. That was far too personal for a stranger to do and made me wary of putting my other foot up.

Sadly, the shoes brought out for me to try on were all boy shoes. Ugly and black. I emphasize, at that time, I was not fashion conscious. Even then I thought they were fine for boys, but certainly not for a girl.

Today, I’m certain other kids would make an issue over my shoes. Bullying has come to the forefront of awareness in today’s society.

In my childhood though, many families were like mine. Middle class and striving to put food on the table and keep a roof overhead. I’m grateful that no one paid any attention to my shoes. Even in a trivial situation like this, I see God’s providing for a need and His mercy to not be made a spectacle of.

Unfortunately my fallen arches have stayed with me into adulthood. It’s a love, hate situation. There are so many cute shoes to be had and I have to wear something that an insert will fit in. If I go several hours without them, my feet begin to ache, so I’m grateful to have them…darn it!

Our Escape

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© jb katke

“Excuse me, sir. Sir! Excuse me, is my head bleeding really bad?”

This was how my husband was greeted as he exited our truck.

It was quite a start to what was intended to be a relaxing time away.

Inwardly I groaned, oh no, are we going to get sucked in a riot? For months the news has been reporting them occurring at night but it was the middle of the day. There is so much unrest in our country these days. My thoughts did a kneejerk reaction.

Then I noticed the young man carrying a skate board. Apparently he had an incident and the pavement won, leaving a nasty souvenir.

Like so many, we were getting restless in this seemingly never ending COVID pandemic. Optimistically confident school will be starting soon, means Dave will be returning to work driving students. Taking off for a few days was now or never.

Our travel took us to the Patee House Museum in St Joseph MO. It satisfied my interest in local history and antiques without the dilemma of whether I should purchase something I don’t need.   I especially enjoyed the vintage light fixtures throughout the building. We were pleasantly surprised to find an old Edison record player identical to ours.

www.stjoemo.info/369/pateehousemuseum

Our final destination was to visit family in Nebraska. While there I realized we are old. Those great grandchildren of ours are a bundle of energy. There is an open market for someone to learn how to bottle that; they could make millions.

Watching the little ones at play wore us out.  It has made me a strong believer in naps, I’ve decided that must be where it stems from.

Looking back on my own child raising years I recall working harder during naptime. I knew when the children came back to life, the needy interruptions would pick up where they left off.

This I can say, I’m grateful Jesus never tires of my incessant interruptions. Not only is he there 24/7, it seems he’s expecting to hear from me. It’s as if his day isn’t complete unless we’ve had some conversation. Oh wait, that’s me.

Locked Out But Not Down

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© jb katke 

 

“Not again.”

For the second time I’m confronted with the situation of being locked out. The instances were years apart but still that sensation of helplessness washes over me. Both times my son came to the rescue.

My hands full as I headed out the door. My friend Vivian was parked in the driveway waiting to take us Bible study. I was bringing the snack so my absence on this day would be noticed.

The kids, not realizing I needed to go back in the house, slammed the front door shut. My keys and purse were inside the house.

Flash back to this morning. I promised my husband Dave, I wouldn’t disturb him at work as he was up to his eyeballs in a huge project.

“Not even if there is a death in the family.”

He alone was in charge of a massive rearrangement of the entire plant, all the while never stopping production of their workload.

Against my promise I called an SOS to Dave. “I’m sorry but there is nothing I can do, there are men standing around me waiting for instruction.”

Now what?

I encouraged Vivian to go ahead to study with the snack. We would figure something out. But she insisted on staying to see us through this dilemma. I learned this is what friendship looks like.

Have I mentioned to you how resourceful my son is? Like his father, he’s a thinker. Jamie analyzed the problem and came up with a solution.

“I’m going to go through the basement window. That way I can come upstairs and unlock the door.”

“Hon, you can’t do that. The only way to get in is breaking the glass and you could get cut and hurt falling down to the floor,”

“No mom, I think I can do it without breaking the glass.” Did he know something about gaining entry to the house that I did not?

Mission accomplished, and we were on our way.

The second instance took place several years later when Jamie discovered the shed locked with his bike inside. He needed to get newspapers delivered. Except his father had the (only) key in his coat pocket. Again at work. There was nothing we could do until he came home.

Jamie had raided his dad’s toolbox. The next thing I know, he is unscrewing the hinges off the shed.

“Jamie, what are you doing, you can’t do that?”

“Mom, I thought about it and this is what dad would do.”

How do you argue with logic like that? The kid is his father’s son. They were cut from the same mold, thinking outside the box. Also known as problem solvers.

I’m proud of our boy and grateful for the impact his dad has on him. Parents have a role to play in teaching their young. But thank you Jesus, for supplying a learning mind and teachable heart.

The Questionable Gift

Gift

The following story is fiction. Or maybe not.

Chads dad reached across the vast table to hand him his gift. Instead, Chad just looked at the package.

Time stood still.

Could this be what he had been longing for all his life? Chad kept his wishes to himself. Only because he was always modifying what he was hoping for.

Could dad automatically know what I want? What I despearately need and can’t find the words to express?

His hearts desire was based upon his mood so there was no telling if this package held it.

Should he take it? Accepting this gift had the potential to make or break his heart. He felt his whole future would forever be impacted. Was it worth the risk?

Chads mind drifted off to a million different disappointments.

What about your promise? Dad was going to give us the vacation of a lifetime, then mom got sick, squelching our plans. She died. Not one for goodbyes, her last words to me, “I’ll see ya later.” Did she know something I didn’t? I miss her so much ‘cuz she made up for the lack of dad.

Chads dad was a professor with many of his teaching assignments worldwide. He explained that it was a benefit to the students for him to go to them, because they weren’t able to come to him. Yeah, whatever.

I know he loves me. He was forever sending little gifts to let me know he was thinking of me. Some of them were neat, but others made me wonder what he was thinking. Like what was up with the book on American Indians? He knows I’m not into books. Besides its history, who cares what life was like back then? This is now.

Chads head swirled with what ifs…?

His dad set the gift in front of him. He had to deal with it. Others were watching, waiting for his response. The pressure was intense.

Taking a closer look at the package, Chad recognized the wrap. He’d seen it before.

Good old mom, waste not want not, seemed to be her theme in life.

Why dispose of perfectly good wrapping paper that can be reused at a later time.

The time was now. Seizing the moment he took the gift. Being incredibly right is a weird feeling, it did change life as he knew it.

This scene is played out on a daily basis. Different people in various places, even the circumstances aren’t the same. But the same gift of accepting Jesus’ love is offered time and again.

We all know love expressed comes in many forms, but a healthy love always wants what is best and there is nothing’ bester’ than Jesus’ love.

Chad hit the nail on the head, his choice did affect the future, not just in the here and now, but for all eternity. I believe people are watching, both from above and the ones around us.

By the way, the change in us is for the better. The Good Book gets dusted off, language is tidied up, behavior upgrades, and the rewards are supersized beyond imagination.

Life cerealRemember the commercial from long ago for the new Life cereal? Siblings place the cereal in front of Mikey to try, and he liked it!

This life is new, but Mikey and Chad liked it and you will too.

An Old Fashioned Love Story

Couple

The love story of TC, as I’ve come to call them, isn’t mine to tell. However, they aren’t inclined to call attention to themselves. So if I don’t tell you, how will you ever know what love looks like?

TC are their initials; wherever you saw one of them, the other was surely nearby. They belonged together as much as peanut butter and jelly.

I confess I don’t know their full story, just the good part.

There was 15 years difference in their age. What I don’t know is how they met. It could have been at church or maybe at a summer camp. Questions come to mind about what a 25 year old man would be doing with a girl so young. As a parent I confess to shudder, thinking all kinds of wrong in it.

That’s why when sixteen year old C asked her folks what they thought of her and T getting married, they were aghast.

“Absolutely not!” How could a young impressionable high school girl know her heart? It was unthinkable.

(Note: This is another part I don’t know. Did TC go behind her folks back? If so, it was a long distance relationship.)

Through the week T worked as a road surveyor in the north woods. He was most comfortable out in nature, enjoying the fresh air, natural beauty and peace it offered.

Weekends found him back downstate among the hustle and bustle of the suburbs where C lived. What TC shared was genuine.

Years passed. C graduated from high school. She went on to college, graduating after four years of studies. She got herself a job, saving enough money to eventually move out of her parents’ home into an apartment.

All the while love remained, grew actually. T waited all this time for one reason. Mind you, he and C never abandoned the dream of marriage.

But first T wanted C to experience what adulthood held. Independence, and the responsibilities of working for a living, purchasing a car along with the maintenance of it, housekeeping, cooking, you name it.

T didn’t ever want C to feel rushed into marriage, not having the chance to do things on her own. She got to experience it all.

Ten years later we were invited to their wedding. Here is the best part. T standing at the foot of the altar, his arm down at this side, but his hand very subtly urging C to come forward quickly down the aisle. Enough time had passed.

It was a day of joy like I had never witnessed before or since.

Besides the love they had for each other, together they shared a love for Jesus. He was the one that gave them the patience and the strength to do this thing right, with no regrets.

This is how I envision Jesus’ love for us. He lets us grow up and experience life both with and without him, all the while, his love never ending. Any mistakes we make along the way are opportunities to see him better and realize he has the best for us in the long run.

Altered Moms

Julie and Alyssa
© jb katke

My life was to be forever changed and I was not pleased.

I had come to the end of my rope, all I could do is hang on for a very rough ride. My daughter Cindy, was pregnant. She had become a statistic, joining the ranks of teen moms.

Let me say right up front, too many others didn’t understand my turmoil. The era was rampant with young people making adult decisions that the rest of the family had to deal with. So I admit, it wasn’t a new concept, but one of those ‘everyone is doing it’ mindset.

But not us, not our family! We loved Jesus and my husband Dave and I did all we could to spread the love of God to our children. On second thought, why not? We’re not perfect parents.

Unfortunately, several families in our church were dealing with much the same situation. At the time it felt as though an epidemic had hit. We mothers rallied around each other, offering support and encouragement to the best of our ability.

I dubbed our group Altered Moms. Each of our lives were to be forever altered. The situations varied among us, but the concerns were the shared. One had a teenage son that fathered a child, another had a son so rebellious that his mom claimed he would get pregnant if he could! That named a few, but…what now?

We talked out circumstances that we couldn’t change. Mostly we prayed. Prayer is a funny thing. A person of strong faith may very well ask for God’s will, but that is a potent prayer. God hears our heart, but it also puts a spotlight on future words and actions.

Can I accept his will?

Think about it, this all powerful God could have prevented these crises, right? Is it possible that this unasked for dilemma be part of his plan? Not just for me, but for our kids too? I have come to believe the answer is ‘Yes, yes it can!”

I continued going to church and gosh darn if every message preached hit home. Even though our minister was clueless to our crisis, mentioning our names from the pulpit was the only thing missing. Every Sunday put me in tears because I knew it was me that needed the changing. Broadening my mind and heart was required.

A side effect is the relationship with my future son-in-law. We all have a part to play in what life hands us. These things take time. I am pleased to tell you it is well between us all now. Each of us in our own way had some growing up to do.

The beautiful little granddaughter put into our lives continues to bless us in ways we could never have imagined. A couple years later a little sister joined the fam. Our lives have become enriched over what initially seemed so hard to deal with. God knew what he was doing after all.

That is history.

I would be foolish not to mention the altered lives we are living under now in 2020. Too many have lost loved ones through this insidious COVID 19 virus.

While there may be finger pointing blame, what does that accomplish? We are where we are and at best we must move forward to what lies ahead.

Here is a mind-boggler for you:

It’s the same Guy that allowed my personal crisis and this current time we are living in. Again prayer comes into play.

Can we accept the pandemic we are in as God’s will?

What choice do we have? This isn’t over.

Experience teaches us things. We have learned staying home isn’t horrible. ‘Someday’ projects turned into accomplishments. Discerning what is important and what isn’t took center stage. Others have learned to cook. We have found creative ways to entertain ourselves. Better yet, how to relate with each other.

Bottom line: My mom was right, life is what we make it.

But I will say this with it, good things can come from bad situations. I’ve come to believe it’s one of Gods specialties.

Cabin In The Woods

                                                                                            

My folks’ cabin in the woods was far from a Norman Rockwell painting.  It was their heaven on earth. I hated it.

Uncle Geo sold them land to build a cinder block cabin. It was outstanding in its field as it was 14 miles from civilization. The rustic one room dwelling, gave all new meaning to an open floor plan. Picture in your mind no privacy                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The amenities could be counted on one finger. We had electricity.

My uncle walked around with a forked willow stick, known as dowsing. When the

Pumping water
© jb katke

branch turned down in his hands, there he declared underground water. Dad dug down making a well. Running water consisted of running down the little hill with bucket in hand.

Water was heated to meet our needs. I can still feel the spider running up my arm as I plunked an item in the dishwater, and shudder at the memory.

Bathing consisted of standup baths at the kitchen sink.   Repeat zero privacy.

Outhouse
© jb katke

 

Having no plumbing required an outhouse. Upon a visit, I observed a ribbon type thing swaying in the breeze from the door closing. Only it continued to sway well after the door shut. I cracked open the door enough to let light in to see it was a snake coiled around a grill rack. I can’t explain why there was a grill rack there. Needless to say, I my exit was swift.

 

Heat came by way of a fireplace and space heater. Fortunately, we didn’t make many trips to the cabin in cold weather.

To go took some planning. I suspect my folks kept the necessary supplies within easy reach if an opportunity should present itself. I understood where their hearts were year-round…

Both of my grandparents lived too close by. The many responsibilities in looking after the elderly fell heavily on my parents. They needed a break.

No way did  I willingly join my parents in their road trips north. Ever. In their eyes I was too young to be left home alone. As I grew, so did my resistance. It was just too primitive for me.

Compared to pioneer days, my folk’s cabin would have been considered sheer luxury.  Four walls, a roof and a door, who could ask for more? Me.

I amaze myself enduring circumstances that appeared so awful in my teenage mind. Life has taught me otherwise. This year has for sure, 2020 has helped me see things differently.

Sometimes I think the Lord supplies us with opportunities to .learn and grow in ways we would consider impossible. Yet here we are.

In The Navy Now

Dave at Navy Court in Milligton Tenn ©jb katke

The woman behind the counter leaned forward to better hear my husbands’ words.

“I beg your pardon, would you mind repeating what you just said?’

Dave patiently repeated the purpose of our visit, “I’ve just got out of boot camp and returned home to get my wife. I am to report for training classes tomorrow so we need to get housing.”

Eyes wide with amazement, the woman replied, “That’s what I thought you said.  Excuse me while I see what we can do.”

She disappeared behind an office door.  We glanced at each other, wondering why there was confusion over something the housing office does on a daily basis.  The woman returned along with the housing manager.

“It just so happens that yesterday we got an unexpected vacancy. We have a duplex available for rent.”  We signed the paperwork and promptly took possession.

We were into our marriage ten months and had missed each other terribly during the month long boot camp.  We were young and in love; separation was unthinkable to either of us.

Nevertheless, the Viet Nam War made some decisions for us. Dave realized his draft number was coming up.  He preferred the Navy so he had to take action or he would automatically be inducted into the Army.

Needless to say, our first year of marriage had not played out as I had anticipated.

Both of us were clueless to a thing called military protocol or a housing waiting list two years long.

Looking back, I see several miracles:

A couple moving unexpectedly. We walked into the military housing office at just the right time.

The people next in line on the waiting list hadn’t been notified yet,

The manager taking compassion on our situation.

Even now I can’t believe all that was a mere coincidence.  Stupidity yes, but Jesus had everything covered unbeknownst to us.

He didn’t have to provide for us the way he did.  At that time in our spiritual life, a relationship with God was nonexistent.  Both of us grew up in moral homes and went to church each week prior to our wedding.

But attendance doesn’t automatically make you a Christian any more than going to a fast food restaurant turns you into a hamburger.   Having any kind of friendship with Jesus wasn’t in our mindset at that time.

Fortunately Jesus doesn’t wait until we get life straightened out with him before he starts blessing us. Looking back I can see his love was already at work as he patiently waited for us to realize his presence.

Island Life

Bois Blanc Island

This was to be a weekend for the memory books.

A ferry ride took us across the top of northern Michigan’s Lake Huron. Our destination was one of the islands, where our friends inherited vacation home was located. It was formerly Nan’s dad home, he was one of the few hardy residents that stayed during the rugged Michigan winters.

Our family was invited but it was my husband they wanted. He was the helping hand in a porch roof repair.

We were in for an interesting experience. The shower curtain bore the attached note:

‘If a shower you must take, don your suit and head for the lake.’

You see, there were these house rules like none other…:

  • Breakfast was served at 7am. Attendance mandatory. It was the only meal we shared together. The rest of the day we were free as a bird.
  • No one sleeps in the master bedroom. It was considered a shrine where dad once slept. Not out of endearment mind you, but a fearful respect for the tough father he once was. Our visiting required this rule to be broken this one time.
  • No watching television. Except for the adults to watch an hour of evening news. Young people were expected to make their own entertainment. The island offered activity in the form of a four-wheeler that they didn’t have at home. The entire island was considered their playground.
  • No milk allowed. Period. In a weekend visit we couldn’t drink it fast enough before it would spoil. (This was our youngest daughters’ favorite rule.)

The family was cautious not to run up burdensome utility bills. Nan and her sister were the inheritors. They ran a tight ship.

Our contentious daughter added to the ‘fun’ until she eventually let her hair down.  A bat latched onto the shoelace of their son, prompted her laughter as he hopped around on one foot trying to shake it off. Eventually she resigning to the fact that our time together required interaction, so she joined the others in a game.

All of us have looked upon on this memory with fondness. It has become an inside joke for the family. When any of us come up with an outlandish desire, we always declare, “…when I get my island….”

Rose Flower

 

20200705_140323 © jb katke

Rose accused me of having frog eyes.

I hope my introduction of Rose will do her justice. Her life was like a flower to me. Did I ever let her know that? No, and it hurts my heart that I’m so lousy at maintaining friendships.

She and her husband Hank were neighbors of my husband. We were going together when I first met them. Often, when we had no money for a real date, we walked two doors down to visit with them.

Hank and Rose mentored us when mentoring wasn’t cool. They may or may not have realized how much we gleaned from them. It took years before I realized it myself.

Together they showed us what family life was all about. They were a blended family but Hank took her family as his, and likewise, his family became Roses. I know no details of their life beforehand and refuse to speculate. There is an advantage to take life where it’s at and move forward because the past is history.

Rose was perpetually involved in some project. Always revolving around family. Although she may have been contemplating a needlework sampler for the two of us. I saw the same pattern she did and ordered it to make myself. That’s when she called me frog eyes.

Even so, both of them took time to chat with us teenagers. They made relationship a priority. We weren’t part of the ‘in crowd’ of party-goers, drinkers, or doing drugs. Instead these precious neighbors were more our speed.

She shared the secret of how to get a husband to do a chore for her. Rose had repeatedly asked Hank to paint their iron stair rail, but he never quite found the time for it. One Saturday morning she laid out newspaper on the carpeted steps and proceeded to open the paint can.

“What are you doing?” Hank inquired.

“I could see how busy you’ve been, so I decided I could probably do this myself.”

“Here, give me the brush, I’ll take over.”

Mission accomplished.

I use the analogy of a flower because a flower brings beauty into any place.  It improves whatever is close by it and that is what Rose did for me. She showed me the impact a loving wife can have to her husband, her home and her family.

Whatever brought her to mind I cannot say, but I googled her and learned of her death. This I can say, whatever her age, she always seemed young. She embraced the computer age and became adept in the cyber world, putting me to shame.

Just as a flower fades with time, apparently so did Rose. Alzheimer’s is a frustrating death that is torturous for loved ones to witness.

While I don’t know her spiritual life, she reminds me much of Jesus. Rose and Jesus prioritized people. Both of them saw the good in others and showed their care.

Goodbye Rose, I love you and hope to see you later.

 

Quilt Of Shame

WP_20150920_001 ©jb katke

Mother’s Day was around the corner.  Perfect timing.  My church was giving me the opportunity to conduct a quilt class for mothers and their daughters. Quilting is a passion of mine and I was getting to share it with others!

I selected a sampler style project that would be an introduction to the many facets of the craft.  With a creative seed planted, I was hoping other women would join me in making quilts for those in need.  This could be the start of something big.  I was going to shine.

It was a learning experience alright.  For me.  Organization was required. Relaying directions in a way novice quilters and young girls could understood was important. Supposedly, I was to be the knowledgeable teacher.  It was going fairly well.  Until the end was in sight and it was time to bind the edges of the wall-hanging.

One mother/daughter team was getting in the groove and were ahead of the group.

There is just no easy way to say this. 

I ruined their project. I cut her binding too short.  If only the ground would open for me to fall in and disappear!

Needless to say, no one jumped to join in my little mission for the needy.  I was more than embarrassed, I was humbled.  Which I greatly deserved.

With all my fluff and greatness, I never asked the Lord to bless this opportunity.  How arrogant can one get?

Since my public tragedy my friends smile with patient endurance as I rattle off on my current quilt endeavor.  But I’ve learned not to be so full of myself.  A friend aptly clarifies quilting,

“You buy several yards of fabrics, cut them into pieces, and then sew them all back together again.” Yes, she gets it.

Eventually, two women did join me in quilt-making for those in need.  We met once a month.  But due to all of us employed, getting a quilt completed proved to be a challenge.  I discussed this dilemma with the Lord many a time.  My prayer was answered via a garage sale.

A neighbor came by purchasing my fabric. She shared that several ladies in her church do a similar ministry to an organization my church is also affiliated with.  She graciously invited our group to join them.  More hands to the task! At first I was encouraged, but eventually turned my mission over to them.

These events took place over many years.  Not because God was slow to respond or that he was punishing me for promoting self.

I’m certain it has more to do with dedication to what God wants, not what I’m willing to do for God.  He has his plans which far surpass what I can imagine.

If my intentions are genuine, then my life needs to walk in step with Him.

Balloon Daze

20200612_195001       © jb katke

Hot air balloons drift through my mind. Three of them floated over our home recently.

The thought of being carried by the wind, and the birds eye view, entice me. Maybe it’s the sheer size of them, or being so colorful. Whatever it is, I love them.

Whenever I see one anymore it reminds me of the time I pierced my sons’ eardrums. Poor Jamie. Several years ago we were chatting on the telephone. Having a cordless phone gave me the freedom to walk around the house.

I casually strolled into the office and opened the window blinds.

(Humor me. Hold both your hands close to your face, but not touching. Can’t see too much can you?)

When I opened those blinds all I could see were massive stripes.

“Oh my gosh!”

A hot air balloon landed in our front yard. It was a bit of a miracle because of the two large oak trees on both sides of the house. The balloon filled the entire gap.

If I hadn’t opened those blinds I would have missed the whole scene. And Jamie might have his full hearing today!

Blinds shield too much sun and offer privacy at night. Blinders on horses keep them from being distracted.

But what about the blinders we wear on a regular basis that keep us from seeing reality, the big picture? We may have less compassion for others and potentially lose an opportunity to make a difference in life.

If Edison hadn’t acknowledged the need for light, we would still be in the dark after sunset. If a person hadn’t wanted to cross a body of water, rafts and boats wouldn’t have come to be. Pioneers felt there must be a better way to travel, hence trains. You get the idea.

Need I even mention counselors and therapists to aid in both mental and physical capacities? Churches offer hope in hard times, plant seeds of trust and strengthen all the time. IF we approach them with an open heart.

Ugghhh…sounds too much like welcoming change! It is, for the better.

 

 

 

Cheerful Helpmate

20200614_140123                                                                                                   © jb katke

“You have been married forty years? I can’t imagine being together with someone that long.”

Tina was caregiver to my father and his wife in their final years.  The admiration of the love they shared spoke to this twenty something young woman. That’s what prompted her question to my husband and me as to the years we’ve been together.

“What is the glue that motivates you to stay together?”

I ask you, how does one explain in a few words what has taken a lifetime to learn?

We married so young, I must confess, both of us had some growing up to do. But there were some things set in place that helped.  Each of us came from a solid two parent home.  Both families acknowledged God.

Being high school sweethearts gave us the time to get to know each other. Learning what makes a person tick is beneficial as to whether the relationship continues.   We liked each other and appreciated our respective outside interests.

In our dating years there was no sexual intimacy.  That may sound admirable, but I later learned becomes crucial.

Our marriage has definitive roles.  We relied upon each other.  Knowing the one would pull their weight made for less conflict because we shared the same goals.

But things don’t always stay the same.  Employment can change. Age happens.  Health plays a big part. Adapting becomes the rule of the day.

God’s word indicates a wife to be a help, not a hindrance, to her husband. I became right-hand man to my husbands’ remodeling business. Office assistant and go-fer were added to the hats I wore.

When life changes come at you came, we knew we had each other’s back.  Whatever we were in, we were in it together.

The Bible doesn’t indicate a husband to be a helpmate.  But he can be if he wants to.  Recently, at a quilt workshop, I forgot to pack way too many needful items.  My husband willingly brought what I needed.  Four times!  Happily, because he knows I would do it for him.

Have done it for him.  Well, not four times in one day.

Bear with my lopsided humor. In reference to the picture, differing adhesives are required:

Painters tape for little touch-ups that need attention.

Movers tape because oftentimes we need to move on.

Electrical tape as sometimes tempers get hot (ok mine can).

Duct tape when you need something that will stick forever.

Wood glue, with a clamp, when you remember a commitment was made on our wedding day, complete with witnesses!

Explaining to so many doesn’t make sense when you genuinely love each other and know we were brought together for a divine reason.

 

The Perfect Husband

Dave sunning 3[2898]                                                                © jb katke

Can you define the perfect husband?

When my girls were teenagers they could sum it up in a single word. Rich.

My definition of the perfect husband has changed through the years. I didn’t think about it when I got married. My list came into existence when our first child was born. I should have married a pediatrician. He could have answered my endless questions and known just what to do in child raising.

Fathers Day is approaching, so I focus on Dave, the father of my children. As the years stacked up I was glad to have married a man that can fix anything. Anything. But then I got to wishing he would stop with the constructive criticism. I found he wasn’t so handy at emotional issues.

Our first home shrank after purchase. We moved in as a family of three but grew to five. Even completely rebuilding the upstairs, it still left us wanting more space. But it definitely improved the salability of the home. I was truly grateful for his skill.

We shared several lean years when he did much of our automotive maintenance. He knew how to do a lot, then I found out he didn’t like it too much. Shoot, we couldn’t afford all our car repairs! So I was glad he was at least willing to tackle some.

His career was in machine maintenance at a check printing company. So many of the plants were closing that it made moving away from the only home we knew necessary. Both of our hearts ached at the division it created in our family. But he faced the hardship in order to continue providing for us.

He retired at a young age which required further employment. By now his skills had become well known to friends. It led to his starting a home business in remodeling. He was a man in demand. I was so proud to his expertise until he was a little too busy to make what I deemed necessary for our home!

When friends found themselves out of work, Dave offered for them to join him, making it a win/win for all. My man has a good heart. After several surgeries, he needed a helping hand. Friends stepped up, even though construction was out of their wheelhouse, and came to his aid. He knows how to make and keep good friends.

Our life together has not always been perfect. But I have come to the point of realization Dave is perfect for me. He balances me as no other can. He is a man full of wisdom and I appreciate being able to bounce thoughts off him. Sometimes he wonders where I come up with stuff, but its all good, we keep each other on our toes.

Dave has supported me while I looked for myself. That’s what women of the 70’s did. They felt the need to be someone more than wife and mother. Deep inside, we know we are made for a unique purpose. Many left home, but I stayed and kept looking in the cracks and crevices until I found me.

The thing is we more than like each other, we love each other. Staying together just made sense.  But I’ve saved the best for last. He recognized his need for Jesus and together we have included him in our marriage. Our life together has never been so good!

Life Behind the Mask

20200529_103534

 

 

 

 

© jb katke

Masks have caused so much controversy. Every voice has legitimate reason why they are for or against them.

Lets’ be honest. People have been living behind masks for years. I’m not talking Halloween either.

Look at the employee that is passed over year after year without that anticipated promotion and pretending it’s no big deal.

Or the battered wife, convinced she can’t live without her husband. So she covers for his abuse with no end in sight. The hurt is real.

How about the couple dreaming of having a family only to learn it’s not going to happen? Time eventually heals for that to be OK.

Consider the people that have worked hard all their life, anticipating all the things retirement will bring? Only to find reality isn’t what they thought.

Here’s a good one. Church goers accused of putting on a good front on Sunday, but living a lie the rest of the week.

The problem today is, we are called upon to wear masks for the protection of self and others. The unthinkable has suddenly made us a health hazard!

Maybe we have been living unhealthy for a long time. Are your meals a balanced diet? Mine aren’t.

Have you read any articles on the benefit of fitness lately? Its’ one thing to know what should be done but quite another to do it. I know.

A voice of reason might say we just need to do what seems right. Even that can’t be trusted because our right could infringe upon another adversely.

What then?

A decent start could be something I already mentioned…try church. You might be surprised to find the people there are like you, not so holy, and looking for hope. Jesus gives us that.

I mean, what have you got to lose? With the worst of the COVID19 pandemic behind us, services are resuming again. Possibly in their front lawn.

Hey, it could be kinda fun! Bring your lawn chair and a cup of coffee.

Unorganized Church

Small church

“You’re serious. You really looked us up through the yellow page of the phone book?”

Its true. The church I was looking for had to be non-denominational, fundamental, and evangelical. So I let my fingers do the walking.

The time had come to provide for our son what my folks had made available to me. Church.

It was a tall order for the small church I settled on. My husband and I preferred not to be aligned with a denomination. Only we kinda were and didn’t realize it. Much later I learned it was a Plymouth Brethren church. I wasn’t attuned to various religions, and because it was located in the town of Plymouth, I thought nothing of it.

Our attendance met a need…at first. Our minister was a knowledgeable godly man called to many speaking engagements. He traveled a lot, and favored teaching from the Old Testament mapping the travels of various people.  Interesting, but nothing to take home, think on, or apply to our daily life. Spiritually, it was lacking.

I became aware how a congregation lives reflects their spiritual life. When given the opportunity for expansion, the offered land to build on was shot down. So no growth.

Our little church jumped on the popular band wagon to sponsor a Vietnamese family in coming to the US. A home was obtained and made ready for their arrival. But no one seemed interested in providing food or befriending these folks once they arrived.  What’s going on here?

One morning our minister expressed his dislike of men who had long hair.  This was the era of the seventies when that was the fad.  He referred to them as ‘shims.’

Finally the elders of the church suggested he leave to find other employment.

In time a Canadian was selected to lead us.  This new man of God opened scripture like we had never known.  We were introduced to biblical people to identify with and learn from, be they good or bad examples.  He suggested creative ways to show the community our love of God. But it seemed to fall on deaf ears. Our disillusionment grew.

When we moved out of state we set out church shopping. This time we were a little wiser and more selective to find sound teaching. The one we settled on has gone through numerous changes that a church shouldn’t have to experience. But then, why not? We are in the real world where stuff happens.

The COVID19 pandemic has brought on yet more changes. Through the years I’ve learned organization, or disorganization, is a choice. But Truth never changes, it’s who I represent that speaks volumes to those around me.

Roller Coaster Realty

Livonia Home[2874]

 

 

© jb katke

 

Who would have thought buying or selling a house is akin to a roller coaster ride? Emotions swung like a pendulum.

Whatever home improvement project we tackled didn’t address the real problem. As our family grew, the house shrank.

So we put our first home on the market. If memory serves me right it was the first time our son, Jamie offered to cut the grass. Mentally he wanted to mow the For Sale sign down. .

Wishing to keep our kids in their current schools kept our choices in a small circle.   I tackled house-hunting hoping to find one that would meet our needs.  Mission impossible.

One home had a cast iron reproduction stove I loved, but not so the house. Eventually I gave up. Why look when no one was coming to see ours?

Having returned from vacation I was diving into the mountains of laundry when a realtor called. Someone wanted to see the house, but I put no hopes into a possible sale.

“Please pay no mind to the laundry, it doesn’t come with the house.”

Even though the young wife promised her husband he could pick their next home, she fell in love with ours.

“How soon can you move out?”

Wait, what? We had to put it into high gear to find a place for ourselves. Go figure, our realtor had gone on vacation. So another filled her absence even though she was sickish.

We found a place in the neighborhood of our youngest childs elementary school. Ideal because many friends lived in that area of our older daughter as well.

We learned the sellers were friends from my parents past. When that became known they really wanted us to have their home. What a warm feeling!

“How soon can you move in?”

We had been told someone else had made an offer but had to back out of it. The following weekend the realtor set up another open house.

We placed our offer beforehand, but despite the sellers’ wishes, the realtor went on with her plan. She was hoping to benefit of being both seller and the purchasing agent as well.

Things happened fast. But the time of closing needed a little tweaking. We appealed to the sellers’ agent asking if we could postpone it one week.

“Absolutely not! They were most put out by your unreasonable request.”

We felt terrible to cause them in any kind of anguish. Because we sort of knew each other, I called with an apology for putting them out.

“What? We had no idea you had asked that, of course we can wait a week.”

Out of kindness to us, the broker of our agent gave us a bridge loan to cover the four hours between the purchase of our new home and later sale of our existing home.

“In all my years in the realty business, I’ve never know the likes of this realtors practices.”

By now we had established a good relationship with many in the office.

We later learned this agent was a personal friend of the seller and was looking out for their best interest. Her ‘concern’ for them nearly put her in jeopardy of coming before the Board of Realtors.

It all came out in the wash and we have lived happily ever after. Several homes ago.

House hunting happens every day. What was my purpose in sharing this? I’d like you to know God is in the details

The Way Things Were

Have you had enough time to reflect? How life used to be and do you want to make things different?

My mom cane to mind, maybe because we just celebrated Mothers Day. Or it could have been this gross dishwater I’m sharing with you. This was a daily occurrence in her life.

20200509_135121

Back in the day dish soap wasn’t what we know today. Mom would have to drain the sink after washing a few things and get fresh water and soap. Did I mention she didn’t have a dishwasher?

So many, including myself, will talk about the good old days. But maybe they weren’t altogether sooo good.

Permanent press clothes have not always been. Ironing was a necessity.

Microwaves weren’t invented yet. So reheated food was often a little cool or burned from further baking.

You think our roads are bad now? I can recall dad putting chains on the tires of his car for the winter season. That’s another thing. Living in a northern state, we had snow. Lots of it. I’m not talking climate change, and you can’t make me.

There were no malls to shop or for teens to hang out at. The big name brand stores resided in the metropolitan cities. The suburbs had mom and pop stores. Today many are returning to small businesses to support the community.

That’s what we used to have…community! Churches have a reputation of filling needs and we can see that today. We have made the effort to be there for each other.

Jesus was big into people. Admittedly he did get around a lot. Often his scheduled appointments were a distance away, so he walked. Giving him the fresh air and exercise many are doing now.

Have you ever given any thought to Jesus having meetings to attend? He knew the answer to life problems made himself available to others.

To do that takes time. We have had lots of that too. Suddenly multi-tasking has taken a back seat and life has taken on a slower pace. It’s nice not to rush from one activity to another.

It would be nice too, to have someone to turn to for answers. Oh wait…we do! If Jesus makes himself available, we might as well give him some of that time we have excess of. You know where to find him. Incorporate the Nike thing, just do it.

Mothers Day

Asbury out the front door neighbors © jb katke

Allow me to share this interaction with my mom from many years ago.

Mom: “This Sunday is Mothers Day.”

Me: “Again, we just had one last year! When are we going to have a kids day?”

Unfortunately when I was young I thought and talked like a child. I was kinda stupid too. Think about it. When we were young how many of us worried about the house payment, clean clothes, or the next meal? I didn’t know how good I had it.

I would like to turn this Mothers Day around. Instead of focusing on moms, I’d like to give our attention to the people that made us moms. It’s easy to overlook the people that made us who we are. Our children.

I’ve learned a great deal from my kids.

Such as:

After I vacuumed my four year old entered the house from playing outdoors. “Oh, you vacuumed.”                                                                                                                                  Lesson learned: Make your house-cleaning so apparent even the youngest member of the family takes notice.

Despite parental efforts, we could count on our contentious one to do the opposite of our intentions for her well-being.                                                                                                               Lesson learned: Patience, perseverance, and prayers actually work!

Seizing the moment. If that means doing cartwheels down an otherwise busy street in the middle of the night; calling attention of the police, so be it.                                                   Lesson learned: Express your joy in unexpected opportunities.                                                 (BTW this little caper brought your sister unspeakable joy!)

There’s more.

These children of mine grew up. (Sometimes I had serious doubts) My children are no longer children. They have married and fled the nest.

Now I have their spouse whom I also consider my children. They’re the best kind because I didn’t have to give birth or raise them.

Likewise I’ve learned from them too:

Sometimes life isn’t fair and gives ailments that hinder the life they dreamed of living.       Lesson learned: Compassion. Many of us didn’t choose the life we live.

Teen choices are not always the smartest.                                                                              Lesson learned: We carry on and with Jesus’ help see how he changes things for good.

Reality messes with our plans, hopes and even assumptions of how life plays out.               Lesson learned: Always have a plan B. Maybe even a C or D wouldn’t hurt. It takes a while to figure things out.

Kids, it’s called parent-raising.

As you reflect on your childhood years there’s bound to be some bad memories. Keep in mind knowledge isn’t part of the birthing experience. I recall my mother telling me the first time she held a baby was after giving birth to my brother.

If anything, it’s when we have children that we realize how much we don’t know. It’s an ongoing process, too many times a trial by error thing. On the job training, parent-raising at its best.

Look at the people who are in our life and be amazed! They are just who we need to learn lifes greatest lessons.

What we all have in common is sacrifice and love. Too late I learned there is a how-to book available. The good book says the greatest of these is love. That’s where sacrifice stems from. Our words and actions prove where our heart is.

God and Jesus, man how they sacrificed…and loved! The to die for kind of love. I hope you feel it.

Ready To Go

SparrowHope is in the air. The excitement is building.

People are daring to talk of what they will do when our lockdown is lifted. For many, going back to work is priority #1. They are ready to go.

Summer is coming though. Will people be able to afford vacations this year? Will any of us feel free as a bird again?

It brings to mind another kind of excitement our family experienced many years ago. We had purchased a used camper trailer but the concept was new to us. While we never camped before we were ready to go.

The trip started off with a bang. Literally. On his way home from work the evening before take-off, my husband Dave had a car accident. Fortunately it was minor and we were determined not to let that dampen our spirits.

We were headed to northern Michigan. The day was sunny and clear, so the windows were down to enjoy the mild weather wafting in.

Our spirits were high for this new adventure, until our daughter, Cindy let out a blood-curdling scream. It was unavoidable and we hit a sparrow with our rear view mirror. The poor thing was stopped cold mid-flight. Because we were still in motion, it entered the car through the back window and landed smack on Cindy’s lap.

Surprisingly, it only stunned the bird. We stopped and Dave placed it on the shoulder of the road to collect its equilibrium. That little guy had a story to tell its family in recounting the events of his day!

We arrived at our destination, Indian River for a week of relaxation. It is a beautiful campsite and we had a wonderful time…except for the nights.

I was very pregnant with our third child, who made her presence known whenever I laid still. Dave and I were sleeping on what campers call a queen-size bunk. If only it were. He got a taste of what pregnancy feels like as our little one kicked both of us through the night.

If memory serves me right that is the same time I went through withdrawal of iced tea. Loved it then, love it still. But at the time I felt like a human trampoline. This could not continue.

Kind of the same thoughts we have today concerning this COVID-19 lockdown. It just cannot go on. And it won’t.

Yes, 2020 is one for the memory books. Our Creator is well aware of what’s going on in our life. In fact, he even knew about that little sparrow. He wrote in his book.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart of the will of your father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”  Matthew 10:29-31 NIV Bible

I don’t know about you, but I have a whole lot more hair to count these days. Grasp hope, it’s there for our taking. Soon the hair shops will be open again.

Getting To Know Myself

20190414_150111-1 ©jb katke

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vlx6gQWfjp0

When I entered the seventh grade I walked into a new school and a different life.

There were lockers and every subject having its own classroom. All of them in different halls. Anything new and different can be scary.

One of my teachers, Mrs. West, knew that. As we entered her classroom her record player was on playing a song from the musical play The King and I, Getting To Know You. First impressions of our teacher were accurate, she cared for us and desired for us to see our own potential.

New and different. These are the times we are living in. Fortunately there is a light at the end of the tunnel. At least a recess until the fall comes when Coronavirus may make a return engagement.

In the meantime I have gotten to know myself better.

I liked staying home with no place to go.

In addition, I  realized it wasn’t just having family in the house that kept me from cleaning. While I love a clean house, I didn’t want to be the one doing it.

Because our days are melting together, it’s easy to say why do today what can be done tomorrow?

Former neighbors, Deirdre and Thom, introduced a notion that I embraced. On a visit to their home, we observed Thom was vacuuming the floor. He explained that the handle of the vacuum didn’t fit Deirdres’ hand well, so he did the vacuuming. I like that idea.

Some have put this time to good use and dug into dark corners and purged their home. Six weeks into this I decided maybe I should too.

Last week I started in my favorite room, the quilt room.  Fabric was shuffled from here to there. I confronted scraps saved from previous projects. Still good, mind you, just little bits of pieces. My problem is I can see their potential.  I just know they would be good for something,

“No!” I must admit I’ll never use them and they’re in my way. The time to be ruthless is now.

Something else I’ve learned about myself. Don’t be thinking about my next project until the current one is done. I get enthused, start a new one while the other is in my way.

Now you know how to create a quilt mess.

It, and I, are a work in progress. I’m still in the quilt room, but I’ve learned something else. Releasing and letting go is liberating. I’m feeling free!

In the midst of a mess there is always something to be grateful for. I’m glad Jesus isn’t ruthless and hasn’t pitched me because I got in his way. Instead He kept me all these years knowing my potential. He has a unique plan just for me.

That’s why I’m still lurking about. My guess is that’s why you’re still here too. Pitch the unnecessary and make room for Jesus’ unique plan just for you. It’s way more fun than shuffling baggage around.

A Thought

20200419_165706                                                                                          © jb katke 

Before it’s too late, I’ve got this idea to bounce off you.

The news is talking about a gradual return to work. A cautious step must be taken because we are still in the midst of the Great Coronavirus Lockdown.

But my thought is this: What if we made a time capsule type of thing with how this experience impacted our lives? I don’t have a time capsule and you might not either. But we could probably find a shoe box or anything with a lid.

The obvious could be a job loss. Or maybe if you are in the medical field or shipping industry, you are working nonstop. Write it down!

Keep track of the changes your life has taken in recent weeks. Cooking three meals a day, finding grocery shelves empty. The frantic hunt for toilet paper.

What about the Zoom app? Did you learn how to get on it to stay in touch with family or friends? How about suddenly having to stay six feet apart from others?

Maybe it was visiting your elderly parent through a window because they were quarantined. Or worse yet, a family members death. Alone.

The birthdays that came and went with no celebration. Weddings and funerals continue to be on hold.

School that was closed ahead of schedule forcing parents to suddenly become teachers so their kids don’t fall academically behind. Not to mention the graduating seniors that had to do without a ceremony.

To one degree or another we all have been impacted. Tell how you had no income but somehow got by. Document it, otherwise the future generation may not believe it.

Sacrifices never come easy. Particularly when we had to celebrate the greatest sacrifice of all privately at home. I’m referring to Jesus’ death on the cross for all the stuff we have done wrong. He loved mankind enough to willfully die, knowing that a better life was in store for us.

So maybe when all this is behind us, our lives will be better. We’ve renewed the act of being neighborly and became sensitive to the needs of others. Businesses have stepped up to provide what the medical field was lacking.

This is America. This is love in action. This needs to be recorded, don’t you think?

Its Just Another Miracle

20200413_221021 © jb katke

You might think, ‘Here she goes again.’ Cue the eye roll. Or maybe ‘I’m so happy…for you.’

Today was like any ordinary day. My husband Dave and I had a few errands to run. I suppose you’re going to remind me COVID-19 is still lurking about and our lockdown continues.

We are doing our best to stay home, but life does go on. Besides we were wearing our masks.

Because of the mask that I had this incident. I lost one of my hearing aids. There is only so much room for things around my ears and I maxed out. My hair is thick, I wear glasses, and donning my mask took me over the top.

I never felt it go or heard it drop. Of course not, we were in a store among other shoppers.

When I finally did realize my loss, I retraced my steps. An employee was near the entrance, when I inquired if he might have seen it?

“No, but I can alert the people at Customer Service for you. “

Maybe it happened in the parking lot. Nope. Inside the car maybe? Nothing.

Thoughts of having to replace it brought me down. We can’t afford this. But I also knew Jesus was on this. Nothing gets by him.

Mentally I started thanking him for how he was going to provide. Either by unexpected funds coming our way or my finding it.

All the while Dave is conducting our shopping with some help from a store employee.

“Is there anything else I can help you with?”

“Only finding my hearing aid I lost.”

“Oh, someone found a hearing aid and turned it in at Customer Service. I just heard it on my two way radio.”

Arriving at the front desk, I had to wait my turn to be helped.

I hadn’t even opened my mouth when the clerk asked, “Are you here for your hearing aid?”  I marveled at how he knew what I was there for. Then it dawned on me, I’m old. I look like some lady that would wear hearing aids. The truth hurts.

The reason I share this little saga is I want you to be aware of Jesus in a life. It pleases him to meet our needs. But we gotta acknowledge his presence.

Extraordinary things can happen in an ordinary life. I’m proof.

An Easter to Remember

20200411_190602                                                                                           © jb katke 

Considering we are still in lockdown because of the coronavirus, this year will be remembered.

We fondly look back at previous years, when new clothes were purchased to wear to church. Eggs were hardboiled and ready to dye. Festive baskets came out filled with chocolate and marshmallow bunnies. Some families hid the eggs for children to hunt down.

But this year? Our new outfit consists of a face mask. Churches are closed but providing services online for us to watch at home. No doubt many things will be traced back to ‘the year of the lockdown.’

I’m certain too, that in nine months or so we will witness another baby boom. The country will be ready for new life.

Spring time reeks new life. Our lawns come back from dormancy, the flower bulbs start to make their presence known. Gardeners are poring over their seed catalog, designing their new flower beds. After a long cold winter, the greenery of new life is always a welcome sight.

I heard a speaker recently. While gardening was not the subject matter but an analogy was used of a simple seed. We walked through the growth of a seed. When put in the ground, providing the seed has been properly nourished, will grow. But looks radically different. The seed breaks and dies in order to be transformed into a new and different life.

The message was timely. At Easter thoughts turn to Jesus. His life of helping and encouraging others is spoken of with admiration. We hear about a solid week of false accusations, imprisonment, mockery, an unjust court trial, and beating. All leading to his brutal death on a cross.

I’ve heard this story on many Easters. What I find astounding is he intentionally left heaven to make certain these events would take place. Why?

Because he also knew what would happen afterward.  Jesus didn’t stay on the cross. He didn’t even stay in his tomb. His earthly body was broken and dead. But he rose again to a new life.

He wants us to have that same opportunity.

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by belieiving in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point his finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted…                     John 3:16 The Message

Jesus returned to heaven to be at his dads’ side. Because of him you and I have the same opportunity. If we consider Jesus our friend,  we try to follow his direction on how to live. After he left, Jesus even sent a helper for mankind to make it easier for us.

In your remembering today, I hope you remember Jesus and what he did with us in mind.

That gives us reason to celebrate wherever we are, even in this pandemic crisis. Will this be the year your life is transformed to a new and better life?

Happy Resurrection day!

 

 

In The Meantime…

geo drake - Copy                                                                                              © geo. drake 

…we carry on.

The COVID-19 virus continues to be with us.

We are in week, I’ve lost count, of lock down.

And now the masks. Who would have ever thought the ensemble we put together to wear on Easter Sunday would be face masks? That is if we absolutely must leave the house. Otherwise stay put and attend church online wearing your PJ’s.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, more people are out walking. The dogs of the neighborhood have never been so physically fit.

All of us are thinking outside the box for sanity sake. I heard of one family that packed their children a lunch in individual baggies and hid them. If the kids wanted to eat, they had to search for their food. Sort of a bend on the Easter egg hunt.

I’ve become aware of many seamstresses now making masks, easing the demand and keeping the N95 masks in the medical field.

Neighbors continue to stay in touch with each other within the 6 foot guidelines of course.

Jigsaw puzzles are coming out. Non-techy people such as yours truly are learning how to get on Zoom to stay in touch with loved ones.

A new normal is beginning to take form. When this is said and done with, and it will, because scripture says this too, shall pass. It will be interesting to see how we do life after coronavirus.

Many have already learned what was once essential to living, no longer is. Are restaurants going to reposition tables a little further away from each other? Will we rush to theaters and sporting events to sit shoulder to shoulder with others? Only time will tell.

Hopefully we will carry on those good hygiene practices forced upon us now. America may have become too lax. Each of us has had our consciousness raised.

One thing is certain, we have a much better handle on who is really in control. At the risk of offending, not mankind.

Some have turned to Jesus in this crisis time. They want answers, explanations at why this was insidious virus allowed to enter our lives. We may get answers, but don’t count on it.

Is there anyone around who can explain God? Anyone smart enough to tell Him what to do? Anyone who has done him such a huge favor that God has to ask his advice?                     Romans 11:36 The Message

Not me. The choices are to ditch him completely or trust him. Considering he made the world I’m thinking he knows what he is doing. I chose trust. Faith in him has made my life bearable.

In the meantime, I’m curious to know what you are doing to maintain sanity. Share please!

Coping With COVID19

20200329_143109 © jbkatke

The whole world seems to be hibernating.

That’s fine for us introverts but seems like torture to the extroverts. However, if you are able to wake up feeling good, count yourself among the blessed.

As they say, it could be worse. The duration is what has thrown so many into a tailspin. No one knows.

So in the meantime some of us have gotten mighty creative at keeping our sanity.

I’ve seen a few things, and heard of others.

I live in a close community where many neighbors enjoy interacting. So they bring their lawn chairs, meet in the driveway, chatting it up at a respectful distance.

Those on social media have been sharing on an hourly basis. Some teachers formed a parade of cars, driving through their students neighborhood, waving and shouting out greetings. What a caring way to let these kids know they are missed.

Another on Facebook spoke of trying out new recipes. Not I.

Someone else has dusted off the board games they used to play with the kids, and enjoying them all over again.

A grandma I know is missing her grandchildren big time. So they met together at the local ice cream shop, parking their cars next to each other and enjoying their treat together separately.

But I saved my favorite thing for last.

A young mom traced the hands of her children on paper and cut them out. She then measured a piece of string the length of the childs outstretched arms. She attached the string to the hands and gave them to the grandparents. That way grandma and grandpa can wrap themselves in a hug from the children whenever they need it!

This is priceless stuff. No doubt you have come up with some novel ideas too. I’d love for you to share them with us all.

Moses Encounter With God

See the source image

 I’ve taken this from Exodus 3 and felt it was too good to keep to myself. In light of the current world-wide Coronavirus crisis I’m hoping it means as much to you as it does for me. It might help to read it from the Bible first.

Verse 2 God appears suddenly-Sometimes where we least expect to see Him

Verses 3&4 He catches our attention-When our mind & body is always busy God will use whatever it takes to get us focused back on Him.

Verse 5 He is Holy-How we see God is crucial to our relationship together.

Verse 6 God has a history-We have heard of Him before and still speaks to those who listen.

Verse 7 God sees, hears & is aware –Sometimes we may wonder, but if scripture is truth then there is a reason for what is going on right now.

Verse 8 He rescues & leads-Acknowledge the good results of what we had no control over as his rescue.  He purposely uses the people in life for our benefit.

Verse 10 He sends-We may find ourselves in places or situations we would never have voluntarily gone.

Verse 11 Mankind reeks with insecurity-How do you see yourself?  Are you willing to help others in crisis times?

Verse 12 God is with you and knows the future-This gives us hope & a reason to continue on, if for no other reason than to see how God works things out.

Verse 14 God is who He has always been-It’s the same guy, the One who created life itself all the way to where we are today.

Verse 15 God is known through all the generations-You have heard of Him, it’s our responsibility to tell others about him.

Verse 16 He watches over you-As bad as things seem, they could always be worse.

Verse 17 God promises a better future-Take that as a fact from Someone who knows.

Verse 19 God is the Supreme Motivator-To comply with his will avoids him having to apply heavy pressure to reach us.

Verse 20 God strikes at the heart with His miracles-He can and will amaze you in ways you never imagined.

Verse 21 He will see to it that His will is done-With or without help from you and I.

Verse 22 God provides-He gives us what we need when we need it; in ways we would never thought of.

These recent days have brought the uncertainty of life home. Literally. Instead of panicing, lets join together and see how our future will unfold. Keep in mind, God is still on his throne.

 

 

 

Say What…?

20200315_155307 © jb katke

“I think the best thing is for you is to not go to church.”

My words. Never would my children, or even I, imagine me saying that.

My youngest was checking in on me. I have just gotten over the flu. A ‘normal’ flu that left me feeling like I had been hit by a truck. Several times. Naomi was still battling a cough that doesn’t want to quit.

I told her our church was taking a time out for two weeks, conducting services online only. She wished her church was doing that, hence my above statement.

What has come over me? For that matter, what has come over our country? Answer: Corona Virus. AKA COVID-19.

The pandemic has overtaken not just the world, but our senses. A couple days ago my husband and I did our grocery shopping. Some of the shelves were bare, reminding me of third world countries I have visited. The top selling product first to run out? Toilet paper.

As much as I hate to admit it, we were among the maddening crowd. It becomes a survival of the fittest mindset. Inconvenience is not widely accepted in this country.

Hunkering down is another new concept. Also not warmly received.

But as I have scanned through the Bible, I have seen this isn’t a new thing. Famines and plagues have been going on and off for centuries. Read this for a mind-boggler:

What has been, will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:9 NIV

So it’s just us and an unfamiliar experience. Very much like waking up to the realization that I’m a senior citizen.

Opportunist that I am, it has been a life mission of mine to offer spiritual encouragement to anyone who will listen. Many life questions are addressed in a church setting. Good news can be heard there that generally is not broadcast outside the doors of Jesus’ house.

There is a fine line between encouraging and harping. No doubt I have crossed that invisible line on more than one occasion. It’s not that I know so much, I just know where to turn for answers. It takes time, patience, and an open heart that wants to know.

This week I attended church in my family room. It was a timely message. I’ll be there next week too, join me won’t you?

journeybible.org

The Haircut

20200301_160056                                                                                          © jb katke

“My God girl, who got ahold of your hair?”

Spoken by the hairdresser who was about to give me my first professional haircut. I was appreciative of her expertise concerning what to do with the mop on my head. But I could have done without the belch in my face.

I was a twelve year old, soon to enter my teen years and junior high school.

Finances dictated how our family lived and Mom knew every shortcut in the book of economizing. During my childhood, she cut my hair.

While I don’t recall any of that, I do remember hiding whenever she came at me with her comb. My hair was thick and full, combs hurt. Why didn’t we have a hairbrush in the house?

Thankfully, Aunt Jane was sensitive enough to realize the potential ridicule I would receive if someone didn’t intervene. She took me to her hairdresser. That became a regular practice until I was able to continue it on my own.

I marveled at having so much attention to the grooming process. Long strands of hair fell as I got snips here and clips there. The beautician put her face up to mine to get a precise measure of evenness at my ears. That’s when she chose to let loose with a healthy burp, compliments of her drink.

The Detroit area is known for more than just the automotive industry. We also take pride in Verners Ginger Ale and Sanders Hot Fudge topping too.

It was the Verners that did it. For being non-alcoholic, it still packs a punch.

Since the hairdresser brought up God, I’ll continue that thought. I’m grateful for mom teaching ways to save a few bucks. I’m especially grateful God put it in Aunt Janes heart (and purse) to rescue me from what could have been a devastating school experience. Kids can be cruel.

On one of our later visits I recall the weather getting stormy. The sky was an ominous shade of green. There I sat under one of those cone shaped hair dryers.

Thankfully we arrived home before the sky let loose. I shudder to think of what might have been. As always, God was on duty looking after my well-being.

 

Kitty Katke

Kitty © jb katke

Perfect. We can afford this.

Ours is a family of cat lovers. Visiting my mother-in-law gave us the golden opportunity of picking a kitten from a litter her cat had a while back. We enlisted our son Jamie to be the selection committee.

I wasn’t hot for the couple yellow/orange ones and hoped he would choose one of the others. Of course he did not.

“Are you sure you want that one Jamie?”

“Yep.”

Piquing my husbands’ curiosity, he asked, “How can you tell the difference between the two orange kittens?”

“I don’t know, I just like this one better.”

For sure we didn’t want a female. Mom’s husband insisted Jamie’s choice was a male. She wasn’t. Maybe that’s when things went sour.

On the four hour drive home, the kitten positioned herself on the back of the driver’s seat. She yowled her displeasure inches from my husband, Dave’s ear. Jamie and I took turns trying to comfort her but she would have none of that. Never had I ever heard such a small cat produce such loud cries.

It took us several weeks to come up with a name for her. But it was all for naught. We had called her kitty for so long, she wouldn’t respond to anything else.

We had intended Kitty to be an indoor/outdoor cat, but she had other ideas. She freaked each time the wind ruffled the grass. That might have been for the best. We discovered she had an extra claw that didn’t retract. If she got hung on something it could put her in danger.

Later on, we took her to the vet to be spayed. She was so upset she wouldn’t let the attendant bring her out to me, I had to go get her. If cats can suffer depression, Kitty did.

But Christmas day made everything better. Nothing brought her more joy than running through the giftwrap littering the floor and making it crinkle.

I couldn’t decide if Kitty had anger issues or if she took delight in tormenting people. When family visited, she would either race up the back of the couch scaring people or growl at them to feed her. My dad declared we needed a sign at the door warning others of the attack cat. She appeared to have the temperament of a Siamese.

Our daughter Cindy loved all creatures great and small. Sometimes she would hug Kitty too long or hard. The claws came out and thankfully Cindy’s eyes never were the recipient. We probably shouldn’t have kept her, but she had crept into all our hearts.

Kitty had a special friendship with Dave. As pets do, she would beg at the dinner table. If Dave took too long sharing, Kitty would gently pat his leg. If she didn’t get a treat, she would remind him of her presence with claws extended. When he was finished, Dave would wipe his hands together indicating that’s all. Only then would Kitty walk away.

For the most part Kitty enjoyed her position in our family, until she was dethroned by a puppy. Her nose was permanently out of joint. It was a grudge she held to her dying day.

Looking back on her life, I recognize Kitty had some human-like traits. She had days when she was up and others down. Like a child, she didn’t appreciate smother love. With the arrival of our puppy, Kitty felt a type of sibling rivalry. Unfortunately, she allowed someone else to ruin her life. When that happens beware, you may turn into…wait for it…a sourpuss.