Goodbye 2020

 

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Congratulations, you’ve made it through Christmas of 2020! What now? Or should I ask what more?

Every Christmas is the first for someone to miss a loved one. I know that hole in your life cannot be replaced. My first one without my mom was difficult, regardless of my efforts I couldn’t take her place in Dad’s life.

Memories come swarming in enough to suffocate you.

What is your Christmas memory? They can become bittersweet. My memory from a long ago Christmas leaned on the humorous side.

I recall helping mom wrap an especially awkward gift. It was only a few inches tall, but extremely long and wide. She had the giftwrap covering it in the nick of time. Christmas morning I learned the gift was for me!

Now we are soon to unwrap a new year. A fresh one, hot off the presses, to be used any way we wish. Wait a minute, didn’t we have that same emotion on January 1, 2020?

News Flash! This happens every year.

Of course, there are always unexpected things that pop up and take the wind out of our sails. You know, like COVID-19, that we have no control over.

Every day I roll out of bed to a new day filled with potential. Those are the opportunities to show what stuff we are made of.

It’s hard, I know. Life is hard. I once heard a wise man say something the likes of our life being ten percent what happens to us and ninety percent how we react to it.

How can a person react in the right way? Ya gotta know what’s right, right? A few things that came in my path proved to be helpful. Surround yourself with people that are the way you would like to be.

I have Darlene in my life that seems to know the Old Testament of the Good Book inside out and sideways.  There is much to learn of the people in it. The good, bad or the ugly.

Janice knows scripture like none other. She and her husband would recite it between themselves to strengthen each other. That came in handy when her beloved passed away. She can hardly wait to join him, but knows there are people to encourage (like me) in the meantime.

My husband loves and encourages me, despite all my flaws. Just like Jesus does.

Read! Of all the reads available, only the Good Book has the power to transform your life for the better. However good your New Year resolutions may be, I can tell you scripture tops it.

 

Gift Giving

Gift

We are in the Christmas season. Jesus’ birthday.

For some, it’s a depressing time. For others, thoughts are filled with all the glee the holiday holds. Along with the songs and carols of the season.

My favorite is Mary, Did You Know? Listening to it brings tears to my eyes. Probably especially so for us mothers. Mary Did You Know Mark Lowry – YouTube

We treasure those moments of holding our newborn in the still of the night when the rest of the house sleeps. This little one is mine, all mine to admire, cuddle, and gaze in awe of how perfect a child we have. What a gift!

It brings to mind what Mary did know. An angel came and told her she was held in high esteem and in God’s favor. He continued, saying you will get pregnant, without having sex.  You’re gonna have a son, and will name him Jesus. He will do great things and will be called God’s son. Jesus will sit on a throne as his ancestor David did, and will rule over his kingdom forever.

What Mary didn’t know was how all of this would happen. She’s in her early teens and her family are not rulers of anything. There’s a gift to wonder about!

Wouldn’t it be nice to know what the future holds for us? As eager as I was to start a family, I was clueless to what all is involved in this childrearing thing.

There were changes. Lots of them.

The most recent has actually been going on for several years now. It made for more years of seasonal depression than I care to admit.

Our children are no longer children, even so, during the Christmas season gifts flowed. However, we all share in the necessity of wise spending.

Jointly we all agreed to stop this gift-giving practice. Little did I realize how difficult this was going to be for me. Giving is what parents do.

How I miss shopping for the perfect gift just for them! I admit, I love to shop. The flip side is, it removes a lot of pressure for all us.

That, in turn, presents another difficult thing for me. The acceptance of gifts from others. It’s uncomfortable to be trained in how to be a gracious in receiver. It’s not natural.

This Christmas I received a small book from a friend. As I read through, I realized she had placed a sticky note with a message on it. Excitedly, I kept reading until I reached her note with an encouraging message.

I was certain it was just for me. But she confessed it was something that was meaningful to her, written years ago and had forgotten it was there.

Since I’ve started this writing thing, I take the written word more seriously now. Like the found sticky note, I feel like it is something meant for me directly from the writer.  I realized I had to be thankful for the author of the book too.  It came from his heart and was meant to impact the reader.

Thinking further, the Good Book came to mind. It carries a message from the author directly to the reader. The words in it are the gift of life. Yes, Jesus’s story, but how that story pulls us in until we become part of the message too.

Read it, absorb it into your life, love it, and then pass it on because it is a gift….Merry Christmas!

Our Tennessee Waltz

4922080300_7000d2b30b_bWe didn’t realize what was on the road ahead of us.

We were expecting our first child and were dancing on air. I was sicker than a dog but certain it would all be good. Even better when my husband, Dave’s tour of duty in the Navy would be over and we could get on with life. He had just completed training in the Navy.

Within a month we would receive orders on where he would be stationed. Having no ‘home’ to return to we relied on our parents. Two weeks each should get us through the wait.

We loaded our goods in a small rented trailer and headed for Michigan.  Living in Millington, Tennessee was much like camping. We were there a mere four months so only had the bare essentials.

As we traveled, Dave commented, “Soon we are going to have to get some gas.”

Then I feel asleep. Allow me to note here, nagging can be a good thing and sleeping on the job not so good. We ran out of gas.

I was awake by then and we reasoned he would walk up the incline to see if there was a gas station nearby.

Did I mention this was wintertime? The poor guy was wearing those lovely polyester pants so popular at that time. They had zero warmth and the wind was blowing.

I glanced around our stranded location. It occurred to me I should have warned him not to accept any rides.

Don’t be silly, he’s a grown man. He wouldn’t do anything as risky as getting into a stranger’s car.

My gaze returned to his path in time to see him climbing into a car that pulled over for him. Panic seized me and instantly I lost it. Mentally I knew he was going to be slaughtered and thrown out in some ditch. I sat there sobbing at the side of the road, waiting for the police to come tell me the horrible news.

I was going to have to raise this child alone. What would become of us?

As expected, the police came. Having seen our car at the side of the road, and Dave walking back my way with a gas can, they picked him up. How dare he be alive and well! I was still in my devastated mode trying to figure out how I would carry on without him.

After settling me down, we traveled on, stopping for the night. We awoke the next morning to snow. A lot of snow. Dangerous driving kind of weather.  But continue we must.

The traffic made two ruts of the road. In front of us cars were losing control left and right providing several close encounters. Miraculously no one hit us. It’s frightening to have a vehicle heading right for us and seeing the passengers inside screaming.  However, they did clear a path allowing us forge on.

We were almost at our destination when the transmission gave out on the car.

Lord, what more?

I’ve since learned not to ask him that.

In that month long wait, a family member got me a doctor appointment concerning my excessive morning sickness.  The meds were costly, but they got me over the hump and I felt much better.

Looking back at that ‘season’ of life I’m in awe of God’s protection. True, we experienced some thrills and chills but thankfully nothing on earth lasts forever. His love does.

 

Fifty Years!

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© jbkatke

How did that happen?

Each day holds some kind of specialness to someone. This week my husband and I will be celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary.

When we married we had no idea what was ahead of us in our new life. No matter what happens, we would be together. That was my dream, we would grow old together.

The following is how it played out through the years:

The Navy                                                                                                                                              Children to the third power                                                                                                                  Leaving our home state                                                                                                            Various homes                                                                                                                            Mission trips to various countries                                                                                  Grandparenthood                                                                                                                        Home business                                                                                                                              Bunches of surgeries                                                                                                                 Retirement                                                                                                                                   Husband returning to the work force

Some of our years have been really good, others not so. But we have remained together for the long haul. I could tell you it was due to our love, which is true. But mostly, it never occurred to either of us that things might not work out. Divorce wasn’t in our vocabulary.

Maybe I left something out. Both of us are convinced our happenstantial meeting was no accident. Have you read how we met? I won’t repeat myself but you can find it in my Many Octobers Ago blog.

The point I wish to make is that we were heaven sent to each other. It was nothing we could have orchestrated ourselves, but with God anything is possible. Don’t take my word, the Good Book says so. Refer to Luke 1:37. (Take note. That is what Mary was told when learning she would have a baby, without sex. Another heaven sent miracle!)

Truth is something you can always depend on, he can even turn bad circumstances around to good if we rely on him. You know like trying to celebrate when there are so many restrictions going on?

We are postponing our celebration to next year, when hopefully life will be done with COVID. As a result, we figured this day will be unremarkable. To others it will be just another ho hum day of the week.

But not so, to our surprise we received a package from an ongoing business relationship. It is a custom wood tray that blends beautifully in our kitchen. Noting our anniversary coming up, they chose to honor us. It was so unexpected, but it doesn’t end there. Our special day is also our son-in-law’s, his birthday. See, good things really do happen!

 

Spirit Living

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© jb katke

Until moving to Kansas City, I had never seen anything like it. The spirit these people have is like none other.

We’ve lived here for twenty seven years now and I’m still not used to it.

There are three seasons when people just pour themselves into the moment. Summertime baseball, all I hear about are the Royals. Autumn brings Kansa City Chiefs football fever. Lastly, the season we are in now, the Christmas season.

The number one question is ‘Have you started your Christmas shopping yet?’ It isn’t just the conversation though. All decorators seem to crawl out of their hole and inundate the marketplace with the latest trends in making a home more festive.

What really gets to me with these three seasons is the attire. People here have complete wardrobes endorsing the sport teams. It’s all they wear, eat, and sleep, their devotion worn on their sleeves. Literally. Likewise for the Christmas season. Every day is a new and different holiday ensemble.

My photo shows you what I have. My holiday tops of choice are either solid red or green. That’s it. Why, you ask? So that I can wear them throughout the year. Yes, I did succumb and purchase one Christmas sweater so that I wouldn’t look like Scrooge. As Kermit the Frog says, “It’s not easy being green.” Or red.

The reason I’m adamant about this is I don’t have the space or desire to store these exclusive wardrobes until the right season comes. I’m also cheap. Ok, maybe not cheap, but not where I want to invest hard-earned cash. I can be frivolous, just ask my husband or kids.

Needless to say, my mindset doesn’t always fit in with others. Actually, that’s biblical. Did you know that? Romans 12:2 in the Message says it best,

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.

I’m okay with that, how ‘bout you? When you think about it, it’s kinda like a three-fer. Change how you think, be mindful of your God, and thereby eliminate all those self-improvement efforts. God will do it for you. It doesn’t get any better than that folks.

A Thanksgiving of Gratitude

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© jb katke

Thankful! Are you kidding me?

Need I remind you this is 2020? The year of have nots.

Worldwide people have suffered the loss of a loved one. Business owners have closed their doors for good. Hospitals are full capacity. Churches were forbidden to hold services to their community. There’s more, but you’re capable of filling in the rest.

Some find it astounding that the sun rises to another new day. Where is the hope?

We have been forced to look at life differently. Instead of gazing back at what used to be, we must look at the way things are now.

Perhaps the hope is in ourselves. If you are still breathing, you have survived thus far. That is an accomplishment. Where there is breathe, there is hope. Now is the time to acknowledge what we still have.

Doctors and grocery stores still exist. Online shopping has become the norm.

Organizations have rallied to the call of need, helping any way they can. Neighbors have opened their doors to each other, looking in to see if all is well. It’s what America does.

With schools closed, teachers have made themselves available to continue educating students. Time invested in others is never wasted time.

Churches have opened to technology and encourage online listeners that God is still God. He knows and cares what is happening in our lives. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Families have turned inward and reconnected to each other in creative ways. For the elderly, visits are through a window, reminding them they are loved. That’s what love looks like.

Home may feel like a prison, but it also is a refuge from harsh realities. Not everyone has a place to hunker down in, if you do, consider yourself rich.

Listening to the news is optional, many feel better without it. I’m not encouraging putting your head in a hole, but sift truth from falsehoods. You can still think for yourself.

One of the many things I am grateful for is you. Some may think I harp on a religious platform. No, what I share with you is my life, things I have found to be true. Stuff you won’t likely hear from anywhere else.  Thank you for your time and interest in these words I share.

During this ongoing pandemic, I hope you can find some nuggets of hope this Thanksgiving.   Maybe even give some encouragement to others. It’s what we are here for.

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.

Decisions, Decisions

 

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© jb katke

 

Have you ever had trouble making up your mind? This poor tree has red on the top and green at the bottom. It can’t decide whether to give in to dormancy or try to hang on to living.

I did a pint-size research on the hows and whys of leaves changing color. I learned it’s chlorophyll that gives them the green color we enjoy in the summer. The length of the night and cooler temperature cause biochemical processes, and thus, the colors change. Probably you already knew that.

To my way of thinking, then, people may have some tree-like tendencies. Have you ever run across a stubborn person? They are as unbending as the strongest tree trunk. I will say no more.

Just as the environment changes for trees, so does mine.

I won’t even go through the list. We all have one. There are seasons for everything and in the time span of one year I can feel I’ve have run the gamut on changes, emotional and otherwise. Particularly this year. Hang in there I tell myself, nothing on earth lasts forever. It just seems like it.

Cooler weather is here. The temperature never made it to the triple digits in my little world. Nonetheless, I’m glad we no longer need protection from the unrelenting sun. It’s even easier to breathe. Or is it, with these gosh darn masks? I repeat, nothing on earth lasts forever.

However triple digits of anger have hit too many of our cities. Never in my lifetime have I seen the hate rise within our fellow citizens. We have literally turned against ourselves. I cling to what is said in the Good Book, ‘This too will pass.’

There is a story making the Facebook circuit about the elderly, nearly blind, woman being moved into a nursing facility. An aide is describing the room as she guides her resident to her new home. Before even arriving there, the old lady states, “I love it!”

“How can you know you love it when we haven’t even got there yet?”

The old woman says, “Because I’ve decided to.”

I might not have that story verbatim, but you get the drift. These days, more than ever, it’s crucial what we set our minds (and hearts) on. The decision is ours.

This aforementioned tree will eventually succumb to winter dormancy. But it’s not over, there is life after (what looks like) death. Next summer it will come alive with new growth and be bigger and stronger than it was this past summer. It will be wiser too, realizing this whole thing is nothing more than a cycle of life.

Same thing goes for people.

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

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© 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.

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….”