New Life

Its important for you to understand I don’t look for these things. They come to me unplanned and seemingly out of nowhere. Snapshots that impress me, stuff that I can share with you.  Like my neighbors Ginkgo tree.

Last year the homeowner’s association of our neighborhood planted it to replace a tree that died. I was ecstatic because I love ginkgos! It was a baby, all of two feet tall with twig branches. Until I realized, girl, you’re not going to live long enough to see this in its full- grown beauty.

Sometimes I crack me up! To get so excited over something I won’t see.

Hopefully winter is behind us, spring is coming and the tree is growing. I snapped this picture to tell you how it spoke to me.  New life is coming. Or should I say renewed life is coming?

It was proof positive that we all have a future renewed life to look forward to. Not everyone can see that. It reminds me of the young girl that was struggling in her teen years. Her mom did the best she could to offer encouragement, letting the girl know a new day was coming that could be better.

As so many teens would say, “You don’t understand.”

Maybe the mom didn’t, after all, generations live in different generations. Times change. Issues can be chameleon-like, taking on different shades based on the background of current society. What remains the same is the struggle. It’s difficult to get excited over something we can’t see. 

This is why it is imperative to blow the dust off your Good Book and give it a read.  To be lifted up and get a birds-eye view is nice. But to get a Gods-eye view gives hope and enlightenment. Everything around you will take on a different viewpoint.

Plants and trees experience a dormant season. The COVID pandemic has given us a taste of what that is like. Never have I given a thought to nature taking a forced time out. How good it must be, for plant life to feel the warmth of the sun, taking nourishment of the spring rain. Just to come alive again!

Here is my take-away for you. Splash in the puddles, rejoice in a brand-new day. Give thanks that our dormant season is becoming a thing of the past. Grasp hold of the opportunity that God gives for us to have a new life, with his perspective making all the difference in this world and the next.

Perfect Misteaks

Mistakes in life are too often downplayed. They have a place of value. I can tell you firsthand, my best lessons have been learned through the uh-ohs of life.

Generally speaking, people don’t like to confess their failures.  The need to be always right is part of the human nature. 

My former neighbor Selina, once told me she had never given her mother a moments concern.  Looking back at that conversation, I wonder if I raised my eyebrows?

She became pregnant out of wedlock when she was fifteen years old. Current society doesn’t think that is any big deal, but back in the early sixties, yes, it was frowned upon. Selina also openly admits that she has a favorite child. Imagine how the ‘unfavorite’ kids feel. 

Have you ever heard a person say they have no regrets? Thoughts come to mind that perhaps they have never challenged themselves. Nothing ventured, nothing gained is true. Or maybe there is no inquisitive nature.

My husband for instance, as a child was always wondering what makes things work. More than once he took a perfectly workable object apart to learn the mechanics of it, but when put back together, it no longer worked. I don’t believe his parents ever chastised him. If they had, it would have thwarted his curiosity. Today the man can build or repair anything-and this wife is thankful!

Like anything, the pendulum could also swing the other way. I recall a co-worker learning of a position open that she was interested in. She applied, and was interviewed. She gave herself a glowing report, claiming she could easily transition into this new role. For her sake, I hoped she didn’t get the job, because no way she could perform to the degree she implied.   It would do nothing for her reputation.

            Another downfall to not being honest with yourself is the false sense of security. To be ‘your own person,’ to the extent of not acknowledging a need for Jesus is risky. So much of life is beyond control and to think events can be manipulated in a pleasing manner is a recipe for disappointment.

            In my own experience, I have found a friendship with Jesus has given me a healthy view of myself. I see all kinds of faults, but Jesus shows me he can take those flaws and turn them into a productive work that encourages others and makes both he and I look good at the same time. He can do stuff in and through me that I could never do on my own.

            Think of what he could do in and through you!

It’s A Done Deal

 

Cross picture
© jb katke

Do you get into folklore stories? Some folks are and can’t get enough of it. The reason I ask is I’ve just finished reading a book that claimed to be a true legend. With some research I learned a true legend is a story handed down that is true, but there is no proof of it.

The only legend I am familiar with is the one about J. Have you heard of him? Tons of books have been written about him. From what I understand, J was from another world. How he got here is disputed. But it’s hard to deny the existence of a guy standing in front of you.

According to the story, a magical voice spoke to a young girl saying she was going to have a baby, but not by natural means. Supposedly she was a goody two shoes, as we call people today that seem to do no wrong. Naturally this caused quite a stir from her family, even her boyfriend was put off by the whole thing.

One would need to be a fly on the wall to hear the conversations that followed her announcement. Nothing is documented on what her folks had to say, but the boyfriend was ready to nix their marriage plans. But the magical voice spoke to him too, so he wound up staying by her side.

So that is how J came to planet earth. He was an interesting sort of character. People either loved him or hated him. He had that kind of personality that seemed to draw out a persons’ true character. It was as if he could see right through them and read their minds. But he told neat stories that always seemed to have a message and drew folks to him from all over.

Keep in mind he was an alien from another realm, they can do what no man can. J healed sick people. That could be another reason for drawing as many crowds as he did. His actions irritated so many knowledgeable men of the day. J made them look bad because he could do things they couldn’t. He knew things that they didn’t. J claimed to be on a mission.

There was only one thing the haters could do…get rid of J. It would solve all their problems and once again, folks would look up to them in respect.  To accomplish this a trial was necessary, only the timing was bad. There was a religious holiday going on. So a pretend one was established.

The scum of the earth people were hauled in to court giving false testimony. The whole thing was a cruel joke. But it was effective and J was tortured, beaten, and nailed to a cross. Yes nailed! Let that sink in a moment. He hung there for all the world to see until he died. The haters won, or so they thought.

One would wonder, if J knew so much, why would he put himself through this? What exactly was his mission? He made some outrageous claims. Like he and his dad created life! You and I know how babies come, but this lends the question: What came first, the chicken or the egg? Something had to get the ball rolling, right?

It didn’t stop there. He was always talking about the home he came from. That people could come live there with him if they wanted to. How is that possible? All he asked was to give credit where it’s due. To acknowledge him as who he was, the Son of God. J had a way of making all the wrongs of this world turn into something right, like is was his ultimate plan all along.

One little problem with the haters plan. They neglected to keep in mind they were dealing with an alien.  J didn’t stay dead! He helps us see what he sees, encourages us to want what he wants…he draws us.

J is waiting but the ball is in your court on what you think of this true legend.

Happy Easter!

 

Midnight Lessons

 

Midnight
© jb katke

Our doorbell rang. Midnight barked her announcement that we had a visitor. My husband headed for the door telling her to settle down.  Midnight barked quieter.

“Shush girl, I’m right here.”

“Woof.” Quieter yet.

“That’s enough!”

Midnight stalked away with disgust written on her snout, mumbling “mwmwm.” After all she was only doing her job!

Pets do have personalities.  As far as Midnight was concerned, the door belonged to her, likewise the sidewalk.  Naturally she would sound the alarm when someone who didn’t belong used them. Midnight included in her fold Grandma, and her dog Puddin.  Grandma adored Midnight and Puddin adored coming to our house to watch the fish swim in the fish tank. It appeared to be canine MTV.

Midnight considered us family, but not everyone was thrilled by that.   My husband and I both grew up with pets, but my husband was done with them.  Our son had other ideas though.  I vividly recall the day my husband called me upstairs where he was working.

“I’m getting weak,” he said. “I’m thinking of getting Jamie a dog. Can you think of any reason we shouldn’t?  Please, any reason at all?”

His petition took me by surprise because nothing had been said recently. At the moment I could not come up with a reason why our boy should not have his dog.  Later I was able to pinpoint an issue with pet ownership.  Hair. Everywhere. Which should not have come as a surprise because we already had a cat.  Adding another pet to the mix just meant twice the hair.

After we brought our pup home, the family gathered around the table for the serious discussion of a name for this new family member.  Because she was all black, I leaned towards Licorice.  But that was quickly squashed due to my tendency to go by nicknames.  Standing at the door calling for Licker didn’t seem appropriate. We settled on Midnight but called her by many names, Pup, Poochkie, Mid, Mutney.  She responded to all, lapping up the love and attention most of us gave her.

At about the same time Midnight joined our family, some friends of ours added a pup to their family as well.  Their experience with a new puppy wasn’t altogether good.

“Are you folks having problems at night with your puppy whining and crying after being put to bed?”

“No, not at all,” I said, perplexed as to why they were experiencing this.  All the kids welcomed her with open arms, our son especially.  Because the puppy was too small to jump onto his bed, our boy lined the floor with newspapers and slept on it with Mid.  Our friend, on the other hand, put their pup in a kennel far from any family members.  Clearly, he didn’t grasp that dogs shouldn’t be treated like animals.

Midnight was happiest when she was included in family activities. She especially enjoyed going camping with us.  Most of the time we were outdoors with her, so she had ample attention.  One vacation in particular she tried to befriend another black critter that had a really neat white streak running down its back. Thankfully I managed to squelch that doomed friendship before any bad memory took place.

It amazes me the how and what lessons God will bring into my life to learn. Living with our new family member, I became a student of valuable lessons that Midnight had for me. Take for instance the aforementioned visitor at the door.  Immediately Midnight determined whether our visitor was friend or foe.  Her policy was to like everyone.  Then had a friend for life

Other lessons I learned from Midnight:

When a person is hurting, stay close by, with a  listening ear available to them. Midnight lived that out making herself available to any one of the kids during those tough adolescent years.

Even the few times we reprimanded her, Mutney always forgave us.

Little people were some of Mid’s favorite humans.  I guess because they knew how to have fun.  If they tended to be a little clumsy she exercised patience.

Mid could read people and take joy in another person’s happiness. Understanding wasn’t a prerequisite for her to join in the celebration.

Our girl loved car rides. She made it a practice to never pass up an opportunity for a road trip, however small it might be.  Ditto for red wagons.  Don’t postpone joy.

When outdoors, she always took the opportunity to go to the bathroom.  Who knows when the next opportunity would be?

You don’t have to finish all the food in your bowl. If her snout was dry and she felt a little under the weather, it was ok.

In theory, Mid was not to be on furniture.  It was my way of controlling some of the shed hair.  When we were gone, it was another story. The furniture was at her disposal. When taking a nap, she would find the softest pillow in the house.

Be a kitchen-helper. There just isn’t an easy way to conduct floor patrol without getting underfoot. At least the cook shouldn’t feel lonely in there by herself.

Adapt to the changes in your world. As long as you have family, you have all the support and protection you need.

Lastly, always have the last word.

While my husband might not completely agree, our lives would not have been complete without this four-legged family member. As long as Midnight gave her master the lead dog position, all was well with the world. We miss you girl and always remain your faithful family.

Pet Preferences

Stella Geyer
© jb katke

Somehow through the years pets have reached an elevated status. Back in the day they served the purpose of teaching children responsibility. They had names like Spot or Ruff. Today they are members of our family, bearing people names.

While taking care of business at the DMV, an employee had a family photo on display, with their dog included in the picture. It made me wish we had done a similar thing with our beloved cockapoo, Midnight. She certainly grabbed the heart of this family. We may have gone to pick out a puppy at the pet shop, but in reality, she adopted us.  She knew her role and was protective of her humans.

Take for instance the time we stayed in a hotel. There was a reception going on and a party member had too much to drink. Seeing Midnight he swaggered over to make friends. She would have none of it, lurching forward and growling for him to keep his distance from her family. Dogs have a keen sense of potential danger.

That is unless they wanted to play. Our neighbor leaned toward Airedales. Chris was just big enough to prompt respect from our youngest, Naomi. When she went over to play, Chris would see her coming and bound out to meet her with play in her mind too. He would grab her mitten off her hand and run off. Seldom could Naomi get it back. He must have had a swell hiding place.

Whatever pet you have, they all carry their own unique personality. For a brief season, my husband had a cockatoo. Coach, so named, because she would perch on a cue stick as he played pool. He claimed she gave advice as to how to hit the ball. I’m thinking she was beyond people friendly and thought herself as one of us. Coach desperately wanted to join us when eating. She would pace the ledge near the table, calculating where she would land. When firmly told no, to stay put, she would pout and peek her head around to see if we were watching her suffer.

Kitty came to us from grandmas’ house. She wasn’t a Siamese, but had the personality of one. Petting her was tolerated only up to a point, and let you know you were done by nipping at you. Our neighbor mocked us for having a cat because they were no protection. Only when she stopped by for a chat and Kitty entered the room, our neighbor went halfway up the stairway to avoid her. Fear by intimidation also covered meal time, Kitty included herself in our family meals, either by the use of claws or growling to get you to feed her.

Speaking of cats. Meet Stella. She owns our granddaughter. By now you get it, animals own we people. Stella is low man on the totem pole of where she currently lives, the other cats have her completely buffaloed, making certain she stays out of their way. When she wants a drink, this is how she gets it. From the kitchen faucet. I guess she likes her water fresh. While she may not realize her power, she has people accommodating her demand.

Despite their manipulation, we love them all. Some folks can’t imagine life without a pet. In their own way, they can be therapeutic. Animals can sense a persons’ emotional state and offer themselves on a lap for petting and conversation. All one-sided of course, but they are skilled listeners. They don’t judge and accept you just as you are. Much like Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

Never Would I Ever…

 

I will never drive a minivan
© jb katke                                                            

Have you ever eaten crow?

I don’t mean the bird. I’m talking about swearing you would never do something, then at some point, find yourself doing it.

As I pulled into the parking spot I saw this sticker on the minivan next to me. Immediately my daughter Cindy came to mind. The sticker stated, “I will never drive a minivan.”

That was Cindy’s sentiment.

To date, she has kept her word, and I smile thinking of that. Someday she will have to educate me on why that is so bad. She is a suburban mom with two children and has carted many others around on any given day.

Another thought came of Cindy and her sister, Naomi. They absolutely refused to wear bell-bottom pants. I did in my day, which could be why they are adamantly against them. Recently I was shopping for some new pants, and was aghast to find the fuller legs are what’s trending now. Behind my back styles changed. How dare they! Just because I wore them in my youth doesn’t mean I wish to go back to that.

Thoughts kept flowing. When I was in second grade, my teacher did an admirable thing. Each week she would bring a new food for us students to try. Most of it wasn’t new to me, so it presented no problem on my part.

Until the day she brought cottage cheese.  Each time she brought a normal size spoon for tasting. That day she brought a huge serving spoon, or so it seemed to me. The stuff didn’t look appetizing and had no desire to put it in my mouth. But I must; not one spoonful, but two. I thought I was going to die.

Today, I don’t touch the stuff and venture to say, she would be in a heap of trouble forcing children to eat something against their will. That was before kids became snowflakes that melted over whatever they didn’t like.

Where I am living now, figuratively I eat crow every day. I have never seen the advantage of living in a neighborhood that sits next to the main street, but you have to pass your home to the nearest side street and meander through the neighborhood to get to your home. I swore I would never live in a place like that.

It doesn’t stop there. I’m also anti-cookie cutter homes that all look alike. Never would I put myself in a community where the only difference in homes was the address. You guessed it on both counts, this is exactly how I’m living now. And I love it!

All this to say one thing. Jesus must have quite a sense of humor. Why do we people make statements only to look stupid later and have to eat our words? My guess is it’s the best way for us to realize some things are not as bad as we think.

It’s quite clever of him to let us learn stuff on our own. Kind of like letting your children find out the hard way, through experience. Oh yeah, I keep forgetting, we are Jesus’ kids. Parents know what is best for their kids, but letting them come to the same conclusion reinforces the lesson. Touché.

Puzzling

Life is puzzling. And hard. Much like this puzzle.

Puzzle
© jb katke

   

   Where do the pieces fit? Looks are deceiving, what seems right is all wrong. We have a picture to go by, but do the pieces from the box even belong to the same puzzle?

One year ago this week, was the last normal week lived, prior to COVID-19. Little did we know what would develop. I don’t have to go into detail because you know. In the minds-eye we all have a picture of how life should look. It’s a far cry from what we see around us.

Has my vision gone bad, or am I just looking at the wrong things? There is a constant reminder that rattles in my head, ‘Don’t lose your focus.’ Regardless of what my world looks like, I can make a difference.

Someone, somewhere needs hope. I have come to believe my focus is to show that life can be different than what we see. Many years ago, as I crawled into bed, I recall thinking, I wish there was a book written that would tell me what an ordinary like looks like if Jesus is part of it. Out of nowhere came a voice,

“Why don’t you write it?”

(I must have just finished a good book) because here I am writing. A most unnatural thing for me to do. If ever there was an ordinary life, it’s mine. Yet as time has passed, conversations or events have come to the forefront, giving me fodder to write. It’s quite the adventure.

In a nutshell, that is what life with Jesus by your side looks like. An adventure. Opportunities will come that have never been dreamed of. Admittedly, some that one could do without. This always brings on the why question.

Currently, I have just finished a trilogy, the Reverend G series, by RJ Thesman. Another good read. “It’s not why, but Who,” says Reverent G. That is where it all stems from.

So much of life is beyond our control, but take heart. Jesus’ dad is still on his throne, nothing takes him by surprise. He can, and does, whatever he wants. It’s how we react that makes all the difference in the world. Focus on him. Others are watching to see if our language matches our lifestyle.

A friend from my past used to think Jesus deliberately puts us under his thumb to keep us downtrodden. The truth is he is he wants all to see him for who he really is. A saving kind of friend who will come to help, but only if we ask him to.

I can assure you from my experiences, what appears so bad, can be turned into something good. Time and again I am reminded that my latest upset brings Jesus to mind. That may well be the reason for our upsets, to think on him. He’s got this

Only then, will the pieces of my puzzle fit together to make a beautiful picture.

 

Purging

Quilt room purge
© jb katke

What a dilemma.

So much time and money invested in acquiring tools of the trade, only to come to this …

“I must ruthlessly purge my collection of classroom materials, now that I’m no longer teaching. It’s hard to let this stuff go when it has taken me so long to accumulate it. I know they are still valuable.”

The voice of a new retiree.

“If you want to add something in your quilt room, you have to decide what you’re willing let go of to make room.”

Marty, my quilt buddy, knows how heart-wrenching that can be, having already downsized her home.

On the flipside, it can be freeing. All those pattern books that sucked me in to their inspiring pages.  First though, finish the work in progress. Today I can be at peace. While quilting will always be a part of me, finishing my projects has become a chore. The feeling has passed.

Purging is a must, because I’m not the same person I used to be. Many can relate to those words. If not now, your future self certainly will.

Looking back, I can’t help but smile. I can identify ways of the past that led me to where I am today. Only it wasn’t quilting.

How can I know that?

Simple. My focus was on making my passion known, without investing the time it took to excel. It was about me.

Jesus made it clear that his plan was different. Take me to a place I’ve never been before and rely on him to instill the passion to excel. That makes him the focus, and all of us can be in awe at what he accomplished through me.

It’s an adventure that can only be recognized by stepping out of my comfort zone. Surprisingly, I’m kinda liking it.

In my quilting days, I used to think quilters were very much like Christians. Always supporting and encouraging.

I’ve come to learn writers are the same way. Those that respect their skillset are sharing themselves so others can develop too.

So I scour the quilt room, digging up the stuff I was going to do ‘someday.’ There is a two-fold benefit. By doing so, I will have room to store the projects important to me. And it eliminates the excess baggage my kids will have to sort through later.

Who knows? Maybe after I’m done and things have a storage place, there may be room to work!

Pictures Change-Revisited

sub zero temperatures

A meme was forming in my mind. It went something like this:

You’ll like living in Kansas they said. The winters are mild there. People, the wind chill may drop to -30 tonight!

All I had to do is remember how to meme on Facebook.

Arctic temperatures hit us with I can’t even think of anything that hard. Our furnace has been running 24/7 for nearly ten days. We are warm when others are not. We get it, and understand this deep freeze is impacting too many in the nation.

A friend living in Texas posted a humorous message that her state was closed. Southern states aren’t equipped for this kind of snow and cold. Life comes to a standstill.

In the course of the year some have lost jobs, most schools have been closed, COVID-19 has taken too many lives. Death, it seems is lurking behind every corner. Now this.

Our personal crisis involved the compressor to the refrigerator dying. The thought of losing food was a place I didn’t want to go.

Suddenly, I was grateful for this frigid weather.

Our frozen food was boxed up and set outside. Refrigerated food was delegated to the garage. The years we went camping came to mind, it was inconvenient but doable.

The reason I tell you this stems from concern.

Situations happen beyond our control are made bearable if one has a friendship with Jesus and his heavenly father. That is the take away message in many of my blogs

How you might receive that message is added concern for me. I dread to think you may be thinking, ‘I’m so happy things worked out…for you.’ However, your response is out of my control.

Where you are at today may be radically different than where I am. I have seen the news on TV. Wind turbines have frozen up, making power outages abound. No heat and yes, food loss. Accidents on the road, some causing death.

Life seems to continually get harder.

The clincher for me is where these events are happening, Christians are there. They too, are suffering, and they have that friendship with Jesus! What about them?

My only response is Jesus is there with them. Somehow, some way, he is making the circumstances doable for them to get through. Because the Good Book says so, I can relay that message to those who may not have read it.

This usually impacts me with the “Why them and not me?” question.

The best I can figure is it’s my call to pray for them, and give thanks for what is going to be done to help when I’m so far from the situation. Jesus is right there, on the spot, in the moment. You can’t get a more personal, present help than that.

Pictures Change

House for sale

I hesitate telling you this because you’re going to think I’m weird. Those that know me well don’t wonder.

(Don’t let my husband know what I’m sharing with you. It exasperates him because he wants me happy at all times)

At the closing of our home, our realtor asked, “Do you think this will be your forever home?”

“Yes I do. We are weary of moving and needing to downsize. A large house sitting on big land means a lot of work.”

Choices can make or break an outlook on life. For me it was home, with each house, the picture changed.

I ask you, have you ever been in a place that didn’t feel right? At first it seemed ideal, but later, not so much.

It took several moves before I had a handle on what my problem was. Houses are nothing more than buildings until you take residence and make the habitat an environment that reflects the people living there. Until recently that wasn’t happening.

Currently, my husband and I are living in a new home. Every other home was previously owned, selections made by others. But here we got to pick out the cabinets and flooring, etc. It was as close to perfect as it gets. I. Was. In. My. Element.

That is where my prayer stemmed from. I’ve read in the Good Book what heaven is like. I’ll give you a hint, you’ll want to go there. No sickness, no worries, everything good we strive for on planet earth but never seem to attain. It’s there. Plus, you will be in the presence of Perfection, our Creator. The questions we have here will all be answered there. Finally things will make sense.

My prayer?

That this home that was built for us would not be perfect. I didn’t want it to make me so happy I’d lose sight of my real forever home…with Jesus.  Nothing compares to him.

Our home isn’t perfect, making it answered prayer!

A friend once told me she had the joy of choosing things in her home, and now she has regrets. I’m not alone. That’s life this side of heaven. Imperfect.

My husband knows I’m happy because I remind him. He’s a little on the forgetful side.

On any given day you might see a sawdust trail or a quilt project laying around. There is a perpetual jigsaw puzzle in the making and a cluttered kitchen counter. It’s us living there, being as happy as we can be this side of heaven.