New Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s A Done Deal

 

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© jb katke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Easter!

 

Pictures Change-Revisited

sub zero temperatures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suddenly, I was grateful for this frigid weather.

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

The reason I tell you this stems from concern.

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

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

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

Life seems to continually get harder.

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

 

 

 

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.