Tradition

“’What is your favorite Christmas tradition?” 20191208_154746

It was an icebreaker question for my tablemates at Bible study.  First off, getting-to-know you questions are dumb. We are women, nurturers at heart, compatible beings, user-friendly and capable of carrying on a conversation.  With or without cause. We have words and know how to use them.

Secondly, I don’t have a favorite Christmas tradition.  My mom did. When you got any clothes for Christmas, you couldn’t wear them until after the New Year. Where she came up with this I don’t know.

After I got married, this went out the window.  With gusto.

As far as Christmas shopping is concerned,  my husband is not prone to buy clothes.  Many Christmases ago, as I shopped for others, I kept seeing things I’d like for myself.

When my husband returned home from work I told him, “You have some clothes on hold at the store.  Pick through them and surprise me for Christmas.”

He did.  I got them all-and amazingly they all were the right size.  Not all husbands can do that.

When I was a child, Aunt Jane had the tradition of hiding a really large gift for me behind the chair.  I caught on quickly. Christmas Eve always found me peeking at it.

Apparently I did have one tradition albeit unintentional.  It seems every Thanksgiving for too many years I clogged the garbage disposal with potato peels.

“Mom, again? You do this every year.”

“I do?”

“Yes, it happened last year too. Don’t you remember?”

“Um, no. That was last year.”

But I’ve learned.  Now I make instant potatoes. Problem solved.

Grandma Andrews had the tradition of baking fruitcakes for everyone in the family.  I grew up with them, but my little family didn’t share the love. It was mine, all mine.

Grandma died, but Aunt Jane carried on her tradition. It wasn’t until my aunt passed away that I had access to their recipe collection.   I was shocked that neither of them followed the recipe. Both these women were sticklers for doing things by the book. While I haven’t made a fruitcake yet, if I did, I’d modify it too. It’s what I do. Then wonder why it didn’t turn out good.

One would think I would learn from my mistakes, especially in the cooking department. But why change a perfectly good tradition?

Salvation Army

SA Bucket

Many a Christmas season I refused to donate to the Salvation Army cause. But my heart had been touched as I gave it more thought. Both physical and spiritual help is offered year round to the less fortunate.

“Oh no, I didn’t mean to do that!”

I came unglued. What was I going to do now?

About to enter the grocery store, I scooped up all the loose change in my purse and deposited it into the red Salvation Army bucket. I watched helplessly as the coins fell in, along with my husband’s wedding ring.

A couple volunteers stood at the post ringing their bell.

The man spoke up. “That was really generous of you.”

“No it’s not, I’m not generous at all.”

I learned the couple belonged to each other, but neither of them had the key that belonged to the bucket. Sensing my anguish, the man pulled out his cell phone placing a call to his supervisor. There was nothing he could do to help me either.

The husband handed me his business card, in case I should need him. He was a lawyer.

I wagged my finger at him. “You better be honest, because I have your number now.” I can’t believe I said that. Clearly I must stop watching so much TV.

I was cold and in a hurry.

I had just left my husband’s bedside. He was still hospitalized recovering from his fourth back surgery. The wedding band was put in my change purse for safe keeping. Yeah, right.

Eventually I was given a phone number I could call to retrieve the ring. The office of the Salvation Army was alerted to my error and were on the lookout for it. I was told it was found and waiting for me to pick it up.

It was one for the memory books.

That was several years ago, but it still brings up a vivid holiday memory. Today, I smile at it, not so at the time.

The following year, I again deposited some change in the red bucket. “You’re not getting any wedding rings this year.”

The young man’s bell stopped mid ring,  “That was you?”

A change of heart

The Salvation Army folk are a good group of people that make a positive difference in lives. Who couldn’t use a little encouragement now and then?

The Blue Season

 

 

We are fast approaching the blue season.

No one wants to be identified with what the world calls it. Depression. Down time or a case of the blahs doesn’t sound so bad. But it feels awful. I know.

We all have some form of heartache.

Too many of us have lost loved ones this time of year and the absence screams at you.

Why should this time of year be more painful than losing a loved one any other time?

In my case, it’s those Norman Rockwell scenes that appear. The pictures that depict what our family gathering will not be. The memories of what used to be

The holidays can look as bleak as this festive but hollow turkey.

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© of JB Katke

It’s all where you place the syllable.

My dear departed mother used to tell me about putting the emphasis on the other       syl-i-able. She meant for me to look on my situation differently.  The good Lord gives us enough opportunities to do just that, because nothing stays the same.

Not all change is bad…so I am told.

A few years back I inadvertently found the secret to overcoming the blues. It’s about taking my eyes off self and really seeing others.

A family from Great Britain were renting the house across the street. Being in the US meant back home there were going to be some empty seats at the table. We had some empty seats of our own and invited them over for Christmas dinner. It was a memorable evening for all of us.

The reality is not all Facebook lives are necessarily as they are portrayed.

Perspective changes, when you suddenly realize how much you have to offer and be grateful for.

Note to self

Joy comes when you lighten the load of a heavy heart.

Black Friday

Black Friday is by far the biggest shopping day of the year. Daily, ads came pouring into my mailbox alerting me of sales I must not let pass. One in particular caught my eye, that I had every intention of taking advantage of.  Only it would have to be my deep, dark secret from the world.

20191112_080527© of JB Katke

A roll of quilt batting, normally costing $300.00 was discounted down to $99.00. A roll can make at least twenty-five quilts depending on their size. Ideal for the little quilt ministry I had.

Generally this store frustrates me enough to avoid shopping there, but I was willing to make this one exception. The doors opened at 8am and I was there early. Several other people were ahead of me. Time enough to strike up conversations.

Shopper #1 turning to the lady behind her. “What brings you here so early?”

Shopper #2: “I came to get that roll of quilt batting for only $99.00.”

Shopper #3: “I did too!”

Shopper #4: “So did I.”

On down the line it went.

Yet another piped up, “I’ve come all the way from Lawrence. I called the store to make sure they were stocked before I made the hour long drive to get here. They have twelve rolls.”

I counted down the line of shoppers. I was #15. This was not looking good. My heart began to sink. My hands began to sweat as the doors opened.

A mad rush whooshed inside. A display by the door held four rolls. They were scooped up instantly. Others charged down the aisle to the batting department to claim the rest. I was at the tail end of the crowd, and knew there was no hope for me.

A sales person called out, “Here are two more by the register.”

Shopper #14 and I grabbed them. Come to find out, there were only six rolls, not twelve. By 8:01am they were sold out.

My heart flew higher than a kite.

Who knew one could be euphoric without drugs?

But now my dilemma. I couldn’t tell anyone what God had done for me.

I don’t know the origin, but the saying, ‘A fool and his money are soon parted,’ stuck in my mind.

We were low on cash. In the eyes of others, this could look like a foolish expense.

Maybe the foolishness is worrying about what other people think.

My husband had no issue with my purchase, but the guilt was eating me alive. I could take it no longer and told to my missionary friend. Instead of criticism, she agreed that was a super deal.

Confession is good for the soul.

I realize the importaqnce of telling others what God does in your life and what he means to you. Letting people know what a positive difference he can make in their life isn’t a bad idea either. How else will they know his awesomeness?

Genuine Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

A particular Thanksgiving comes to mind annually. The year was 1981,

I had just come home from the hospital, having given birth to our third child.

Being so close to the holiday made commitments to anyone’s invite to join them for dinner sketchy. I’ve yet to meet a little one that takes note of a holiday or their parents schedule before making an appearance.

Our friend Carrie thought of that. Of course she would, being the mother of four.

Our church made a point of delivering meals to new families. And Carrie delivered. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving she brought us a meal with all the fixings. Even down to festive napkins.

I was incredulous at the time and effort she invested for our family. Not everyone would be open to preparing a meal like that to give away. Carrie wanted to make sure we didn’t spend a holiday in want. Mental pictures formed of her returning home and serving hotdogs to her own family.

Each year that memory comes back to life, humbling me every time. Except I can’t recall what we actually did for Thanksgiving that year. Whatever it was couldn’t top what Carrie had done for us. That sticks.

To me, that is a picture of sacrificial love. Unexpected, but appreciated annually.

My Plastic Career

The auditorium was full of ambitious women in a selling mood.  My endeavor was to become a representative for home sales in a plastics company. My manager and I took a seat in one of the rows of folding chairs in preparation for the presentation.  Nothing could have prepared me.

The meeting started off with the introduction of a new product line. Demonstrations took place on how to convince my hostess and her friends that the new item was essential to their kitchen.  

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“To the homemaker, storage and organization is key.  Remember to encourage the guests to invite you into their home.  Don’t listen to the first three ‘No’s.’ That’s how we stay in business girls, by continuous demonstrations.”

This reminded me of my high school pep rallies.

Then came a testimonial.  A manager stood before us heralding one of her newest recruits.

“Her husband is currently in the hospital and she has three children under five years of age. Her car broke down last week but still Veronica made it to her hostess’ home keeping her commitment.”  One could almost hear the violin playing.  Yes, I’m being sarcastic and I’m sorry. I find it distasteful to put a person on a pedestal.

No doubt my face reflected that deer in the headlights expression.  This was more than information overload. This was sell, sell, and sell.

Trying to take in all this pomp and circumstance was over the top.  My thoughts turned to Christians that have this same drive for sharing their love for Jesus.  This was a turning point in my life.  Passing on hope to someone for their benefit, not for my profit, deeply impacts me.

At one of my own demonstrations a guest challenged whether a container was water proof. Oh no, onfrontation!  I held my breath as we put a camera into the container; trying to submerge it in a sink full of water.  Thankfully it floated, but that was more stress than I needed.

Mine was a short-term business venture.  We took that experience as a business loss at income tax time.  I prefer not to force myself on others. Even the husband of my manager gave encouragement, but not in the sales realm. She didn’t care what he did as long as he didn’t bother her.

This was not for me. But it did a world of good for my spiritual growth.

It Just So Happens…

Who would have considered a trip to the grocery store as a divine encounter?

My purchases were made and I was in the process of loading them in the car. Likewise for the shopper parked next to me. I was oblivious of her until she spoke.

“Why is my car moving?”

 First she panicked, then leapt into action to stop the car. The young mother had put her daughter into the back of their SUV, then proceeded to load her groceries.  Apparently her little one clamored about the car, hitting the gear shift that set the car in motion.

The Memory Came Flooding In

thVE2CGGDEIt took me back to Clyde Smith, a local produce market that is now defunct. In its heyday, it was a thriving business, set far off the road with a huge parking lot in front. I let my toddler in the back hatch of our Chevrolet Vega and proceeded to load my purchases.

Just as I slammed the hatch down I became aware of the car moving in reverse. The keys were in my hand but I couldn’t side step fast enough to get them in the lock to open the door.

My daughter had climbed into the back seat, her eyes wide, as I watched her through the window passing by. The car getting ever nearer the heavily traveled main street.

I was screaming for help, but no one could hear me. Having to think fast, I darted behind the car and let it bump into me, not thinking of the dangerous consequences.  Eventually it stopped.

But here is the main thing. From where I was parked, the car came to a halt about fifty feet from the road.

No other cars were parked behind me that could have been in the path of mine.

Now is that a God thing, or what?

Back to the Present

Because of my experience, I was able to share with this mom how God had made himself known to me.

The Point is

In thinking back,  I hope she sees God in her experience as well, because he was most assuredly there.