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

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.

Valentine People

Cookies and cupcakes

It’s half over…but Happy Valentine’s Day!

Have you received something special from your loved one or good friend? If not, it’s likely you won’t at this late hour.

This is why I’m sending this message today. To let you know there are people out there that don’t need Valentines to let others know they are loved and appreciated.

They express it often and when it’s least expected. Two women come to mind. One near, the other far.

My far friend is a cousin by marriage. Locally, she is known as the Cookie Lady, a badge she wears proudly. Anne is quite community-minded and often bakes cookies for neighbors, teachers and firemen. Those are the ones I am aware of, my guess is the list is much longer.

Why does she do that? My guess is it meets a need for her as well as her recipients. Through the years Ann has lost a lot of family. She loved them deeply then, and continues today. What else can one do that has so much to give?

The near friend, supplies so much to me. Yesterday was cupcakes. But prior to that, because she knows what a material girl I am, and a former quilter at-large, sends me quilt magazines. Not to mention the cards and wishes throughout the year.

She knows how to reach me. Undoubtedly, she shares with many others as well.

These women spread their love far and wide. They make a huge impact on their receivers as well, understanding she doesn’t have to do it. It’s done by choice.

(Now you know why momma told you to be picky in who you make friends with!)

I understand. We can’t choose our family. By design, that’s done without consultation. It gives us all a chance to extend love to those who don’t deserve it.

Ya know, like Jesus. He extends himself to one and all to be his friends. Regardless of how we have lived, he makes himself available 24/7.

Not feeling it? Here is a challenge for you. Think of any variety of situations in your life that could have worked out differently. Good or bad.

The bad ones can be looked upon as learning experiences. The good ones, Jesus extending his love and mercy for what could have gone so wrong. He doesn’t have to, it’s just he wants to, because he has so much love to give.

Who Is The Most Blessed?

Never have I met anyone quite like Kira.    Redhead

How do you picture a missionary?  Serious, sedate, logical, holier than thou, determined to change your mind about religious stuff?

Kira was a missionary, but none of the above. She was a 70 something widow, talkative, enthusiastic, spontaneous, and could see humor in everything. She changed my mind on what a religious person looks like.

During Kira’s stay with us we were without a camera. But the dear lady pictured here displays the aura we experienced beautifully.

She would regale me with tales of things her dearly departed husband would do, laughing so hard I thought she was going to pee.

I wasn’t even aware of her existence until her presence was announced in church. Here on temporary furlough, she needed a place to live.

“I hear you have been sleeping around,” was my greeting when she came to the door.

With that said, she determined we were going to get along just fine.

It seemed so right, our children had grown and left home. Dave and I rattled in our large home. Kara’s personality filled it to full capacity.

She had so little, but her reason for being here was to rid herself of what she had. The home she raised her family in was only a couple miles from us. Her plan was to to fix it up and sell it.

“It ties me down and I don’t want anything dragging me away from where my heart is. “What a blessing to be planted right in the home of a remodeler, how perfect can it get? Only God could do that!”

Well yes. Don’t misconstrue my words. Dave loves helping others. It’s just that his job is a physical one and at the end of the day, he’s tired. She ran circles around both of us. Keep in mind, she was in her 70’s.

However, Kira had plans, “I could use some help, have you got the time?”

Those who know my man knows he’ll make the time.

After selling the house, her plans were thought out. “When I get old, I’ll return to the States. In my 80’s I’ll just take short-term mission trips.”

Kara’s goal was questionably commendable. She had a special needs son. Another son had deliberately removed himself from family ties. She has no idea where or how he is. Those are things that keep parents up at night. It puts them on their knees.

In so doing, Kira got a divine message.

“I’ve raised my kids and made sure my one boy is well cared for. Now it’s time to impact my new young friends that are so hungry for truth. I love doing that, letting others know about Jesus.”

She was eager to get back to her mission field.

Rubbing shoulders with Kira has impacted my life. She showed me how precious life is, to make the best of unfortunate circumstances and to make the important things a priority.

We have lost touch with Kira, she may be  living with the Lord now and having a ball. She’d have it no other way.

 

Seriously?

Churchill HS marching band

My anger was over the top. It seems I’m not over the confrontation yet.

To give you a little background, a lifetime ago I was a marching band mom. My son, Jamie, played the trumpet though high school and beyond. He enjoyed it and so did his father and I.

Let me hasten to add, it was hard work. Every week of the football season meant a few new songs to learn and new formations to perform at the games. This, on top of all the demands from other classes.

Life has a way of changing everything. By the time our youngest, Naomi, hit high school, we had a job transfer and new schools to acclimate to. Naomi opted to become a member of the flag girls that performed routines alongside the band.

Each week the band played the same song. I couldn’t understand why. If you watched one performance, you’ve seen them all.

In asking the band teacher about this he explained, “The students couldn’t possibly be able to learn a new song in every week.”

This is when I became livid with anger. Standing before me was a picture of what separates good teachers from bad.

“Yes they can! These kids aren’t learning anything doing the same routine week after week. They need the challenge and the opportunity to expand their repertoire. Playing the same musical number repeatedly is a recipe for boredom. Not to mention zero desire to discover if they have a music preference.”

Fortunately the flag girls did their own music numbers offering various costumes with different flag formations. At least they weren’t bored to tears!

Olathe South HS flag corp

My take away was this: The mindset of the band teacher revealed was he was tired of teaching and was merely putting in his time until retirement. Mentally done, he no longer cared to instill a love for music to his pupils.

Everyone has something to offer, instilling what we love into others should never grow old.

Sometimes Jesus gives me opportunities to grow that I may not like. But it’s something he knows I can master with his help, and usually holds a future benefit. He never tires, becomes stagnant, or limited in love. It never ends.

 

 

 

Enough is Enough

 

20210103_102114
© 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.