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.