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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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….”

Cheerful Helpmate

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“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.