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.

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!

 

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.

A Need Met

Old Ford van © jb katke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.