Vintage Blessings

© jb katke
© jb katke

Circumstance can be better than they appear.

Looking online, I see class trips after a high school graduation remain alive and well. Did I have one? No. The high school I graduated from was brand new; mine was the second graduating class. There was a reason. There is always a reason for things.

Neighborhoods were sprouting everywhere. Young families with fresh mortgages lacked funds to send their child to a far-away destination just to click a few snapshots for the memory book.

Obviously, I have survived the lack of opportunity.

Spring break season for college students is over. These young’uns are not even degreed graduates, but off they go to pleasure island. Wherever that is. Some off to their death, I should say.

Seven of them, I couldn’t keep counting, I know there is more, but it’s too depressing. These college attendees didn’t return home. Whatever the cause, death seems premature for them, not even getting started in life. The pain of loss is incredible.

Because I didn’t go to college, another missed memory for me. Maybe I should be grateful because I am still alive. And making memories of another sort.

Fast forward to my marriage with no honeymoon. At the time, it was okay. Later on, not so much. I was thrilled to have my man under the same roof forever. Many times’ I have reminded myself of that contentment. It works every time.

It’s been said we could take our honeymoon later. No!

Traveling together later is a vacation, not a honeymoon. I will let your imagination define the difference. We have traveled together more times than I can count and I am grateful for that.

The thing is, it’s all about viewpoint. Mine is a lot of hindsight. There are so many hurts and missed opportunities in life. The stuff we cannot explain the whys of.

But repeating my words above, there is a reason.

A picture is worth a thousand words. How many times I have heard that! And licked my wounds because I had no pictures. However, the lens of a camera doesn’t catch everything. The circumstances that bring us to where we are today. It would be in our best interest to remember that.

To realize there is a God who does know and understands us becomes invaluable. Heck, he made us the people we are. Circumstances have his stamp of approval because he knows what is best. That is why he designed a special place inside each of us that only he can fill to satisfaction. Did you know that?

The Good Lord knows what it will take for us to turn to him. Sometimes it can hurt if I hold onto things so tightly that I should let go. Instead of being bitter, feel protected. He is higher and has a better view of what is ahead for us. He holds tears and heals hurts. That’s a fact.

there is Always hope

Considering my situation, I should not have laughed. I couldn’t help myself. The waves were tossing me around as if I were a rag doll.

All my husband Dave had to do was release his grip on my arm and I would be carried away, never to be seen again. But he didn’t, his grasp kept me safe next to him.

I was up to my shoulders in the Caribbean Sea. Those that know me best understand I have a deep respect for water. Unable to swim, I limit my use to drinking it, showers, dishes and laundry.

We were part of a group on a short-term mission by Won By One, in Jamaica. Paradise, had we not been thrust into Harmons, among the poorest of the poor. Yet they were happy.

How can that be?

Two of us women were in charge of sorting the clothes that had been donated. Mens, ladies, girls and boys, including shoes. Many of the residents were barefoot.

One Jamaican woman sticks in my mind. She and her two children took a taxi to our mission. I met her at the door asking how we could help her. “Anything you have to sell us would be much appreciated.”

It was the practice of the mission to sell the donated goods. While you might think that wrong to do, it was explained to me. “By selling our donations, these people gain self-respect. Instead of promoting dependance, it gives them pride to know they have provided for their family.”  At the time the cost was minimal, clothing could run as much as one cent per item.

Having deposited his charge to our Mission establishment, I noted the taxi left. Whatever the mother bought, she would have to carry as she walked home.

That day we went to the Caribbean was a little recess from what we came to do. Build a home, the size of a bedroom. The land some of them owned were minute and far from where tourists visit. The less fortunate are not allowed there, it would not make for good PR.

Jamaicans are a friendly lot, smiles abound. My guess is they lack medical care, I know they lack dentists.

Yet they are happy.

How can happiness thrive in abject poverty?

Because they know no other way of life. They have no access to how others live, having nothing to compare their lifestyle to. The Good Book says we will always have poor among us. Maybe that is so that we will see God better, perhaps make a difference in ones life, just like Won By One.

They know there is a God. Countless churches from all over the globe come to minister to these folks. It’s only natural to cling to what other faiths offer. There are over four hundred different religions. Take your pick from what you want to believe in, always embracing the message of hope.

But…is their hope in the one true God?

Only he knows. It would seem unlikely, except for Won By One. They reside nearby offering opportunity and hope. They are a steadfast anchor for spiritual growth. Fortunately, God only looks at hearts, not our surroundings or belongings.

He is holding these people, caring and protecting as only a good God would do. Like my Dave, he has a strong grip on their heart, keeping them close to him and safe. By the way, he is here for you too.

What’s In a Day?

  © jb katke

Here is the potential of opening a can of worms.

Every day is some kind of day. That could be considered a deep thought for a shallow mind.

Somebody, somewhere decided to make each day of the year a national observance of something. I mean the nondescript observances that for the most part are irrelevant to our life.

For instance, National Banana Cream Pie Day, or National Cheese Doodle Day. What is a cheese doodle? Never have I started my day thinking of pies. Who makes this stuff up and for that matter who determines the day of note?

From what I gather it is the United States Congress.

It seems there are lots more issues that need attention than banana cream pie day. Can I hear an Amen?

I have already missed a really good one, National Old Stuff Day. Who among us doesn’t have old stuff. This spring I hope to unload a bunch of my old stuff with a garage sale. My track record thus far has not been good.  No one wants my old stuff.

Another missed observance was National Son Day. I have a son and am mighty proud of him. I try to let him know how much he means to his dad and I, but will let him have the deciding vote. The point is there must be sons out there who don’t get the feels of appreciation. So, a special day is set aside for him. That is a sad commentary.

Is there a National Daughters Day too? If I don’t ask, I may miss that as well. I have a couple of them and dread the thought they may think I’m not proud of them as well. But then, if I did, at least I would be giving the kids equal billing…no observance of sons and daughters at all. Except for those moments when I verbally tell them how special they are. I have been on a words kick lately; that may give more meaning than a mandated day of observance.

There are some days that concern me. Lets’ just focus on this month, March. Many of the days share special observances, they must, there are only so many days in the year. And sooo many subject matters. Take for instance the 13th. Its National Good Samaritan Day, Open an Umbrella Indoors Day and Napping Day. Does this indicate one can only be a do-gooder one day a year, and what is with opening an umbrella indoors mean? What about only being able to take a nap one day a year? Mothers of little people would take issue with that one for sure.

There is even a day set aside for True Confessions. The Good Book says to confess our sins whatever the day is.

March 16th might be much appreciated for No Selfies Day. You already know what you look like.  

Sorry but the 18th has already been spoken for. It’s National Supreme Sacrifice Day. The supreme sacrifice has already been accomplished by Jesus, who died for the wrongs of the world. Ya can’t get any bigger or wide covering than that.

Do we need a day set aside for Common Curtesy Day? If so, it’s the 21st of the month. Everyone should love the 22nd, National Good Off Day. Many may get the two days mixed up with daily patterns.

Why would we need National Weeds Day on the 28th of March? In my part of the country, we may still be waiting for the snow to melt away. This year there are parts of the country that will agree with that clear into June!

The 30th is another day of shared observances, National Pencil Day and National I Am In Control Day. If you are in control, how come pencils have erasers? Just a thought.

But what about today? It has to be recognizing something. It is, it’s National Be Heard Day. Everyone has an opinion on something and feels the need to let others know about it.

Are you listening to me? Here is my message to you:

Let your children know how much you love them, no matter how old they are. Show kindness daily, forget opening an umbrella indoors, it’s of no purpose. Regardless of the day if you feel sleepy take a nap, but not at work. Admit it when your wrong, especially to the Lord, he already knows it but confession soothes the soul. Thank Jesus for his supreme sacrifice. Try not to goof off, time is precious, instead show some curtesy to those who don’t deserve it. Pull out some unwanted weeds. Pencils excel over pens; words can be erased when we realize we are not in control.

Sticky Words

Words count for something. Especially out of the mouths of babes.

Through the years, I have accumulated a few treasured words from children. They are beyond cute, all the way to hilarious. I hope you find as much enjoyment as I have in them.

Our son, Jamie, just a toddler, repeated words he had heard me say on a regular basis.

“Alba rubba.”

I’ve never said that. It took me a few days to figure it out. Each time he said it, he was in the living room, running into his bedroom to get a toy. I realized he was saying ‘I’ll be right back.” The very words I told him as I left the apartment to go downstairs to our mailbox. He didn’t want me to worry he wasn’t returning, just as I didn’t want him to think I would never come back.

A few years later, at the ripe age of four, we were running a few errands.

“Momma look, a kenkeetiedkitchen!”

Can you imagine the thrill a little one would have at seeing the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant featured on the TV commercials? Oh, to be young and impressionable again.

Our daughter, Cindy, was equally impressed of things. She admired beautiful clothes when she saw them (Four-year-olds must become aware of their surroundings enough to comment.) A Bumblebee came to visit our flowers. The buzzing sound is so deep, I was petrified she would do something, prompting him to sting her. She stood still in admiration, “Oh, bee has a pretty dress!”

On a particular rainy day, Cindy mentioned we should probably take our “umberdella” with us. Indeed, we needed our umbrella.

Our youngest, Naomi, didn’t lack for memorable words either. As we sat at the dinner table, the family was trying to learn the books of the Bible. Micah was the one that caught her attention. “Do you think Micah ever went on a hikah?”

Of our three children, Naomi liked words the best. She could carry on a one-person conversation, never giving the four of us a chance to get a word in edgewise. Her father gave her food for thought.

“If you aren’t careful, you are going to run out of words.”

Pondering that for just a moment, she replied, “I’ll just use the same ones over again.”

Problem solved. Those memories stick with us to this day, as do the words. Dave and I continue to use them, even if we two are the only ones that understand what is said. They stick.

But it wasn’t just my children. Take Julianne for instance. He and his family were attending an open house at school when they encountered one of this former teachers.

“My goodness Julianne, you have grown a foot!”

Checking his feet and looking behind him, he responded, “No I haven’t.” I still laugh at that.

The most recent sticky words were relayed to me from Cindy, now a grandmother. My great-granddaughter, Rosie, is hot to get her ears pierced. Mom has been putting her off, so she decided to go to a higher authority, aka Nana. Surely she could make this happen.

Cindy shared the story of getting her own ears pierced way back when. It had been a hard sell to her mom (me) as well. My intent was to wait until she had reached the age of taking care of them herself. She ended her story with, but you should hear GG’s experience. (That is what the great grands call me) It involved an ice cube and a potato!

Rosie’s eyes grew wide, “That was back when everything was black and white!”


But truth doesn’t always hurt. Things are not black and white. You can count on the Good Book because its message never changes. God says he will never leave us or give up on us. Let that stick with you. No matter your past, it’s over and history to be learned from.

Instead, look ahead to what God can do in your life. It will only improve. Need I remind you he created the universe? Life will not become instantly easy, but he will make it bearable with a smattering of miracles to follow. Hes’ got this.

What Now?

It ended on Valentines’ Day.

For the past month I have shared excerpts from a long-ago journal to my husband. Now that the man-made holiday is over we can be done and move on. That in no way means our showing love should be over and done with.

Many years down the road though, it may look different.

A (kind of) humorous side note. When things, anything, doesn’t do what I intended; I have a habit of saying, “It has a mind of its own and will do as it pleases. It never consulted me about this matter.” Case in point-these candles.

© jb katke

When I brought them home, they looked like a normal candle. You can see the center candle is green with white ones on each side. Upon being lit, initially they performed as I expected. Melted a little with the wick recessing deeper in the candle. With time and usage though, the picture changed. They melted down into the most interesting configurations. Not at all what I had expected.

The candles changed in ways I could never have anticipated.

Dave and I changed as time went by too. Our marriage doesn’t look like it did when we were newlyweds. Personalities we had not seen began to emerge. Life became interesting. It can make or break a relationship. To our good fortune and an ever-loving God, our marriage was enhanced by the nuances.

Going into this relationship of ours, we were, and continue to be, clueless how the future will unfold. Whatever…it’s all good.

© jb katke

Check out these candles now that they are lit and burned down even more. They are the same ones. That green candle now looks red.  How can that be? Your guess is as good as mine. Nonetheless, we enjoy them still. They are an unexpected surprise.

That is a good definition of life. An unexpected surprise. Things enter our lives that we could never have imagined. The only difference is life does not have a mind of its own.

It has a Lord of the Universe. While he created humans, we are not his puppets to be manipulated. Each individual has a mind of their own; to live however we wish. While we may not be in a desirable circumstance, everyone has the ability to shine, like these candles. One small flame of a candle can light up the darkest of places.

Person to person, one can make all the difference in the world to another. With Gods’ help, that is. His love doesn’t look like what we may expect, but it’s all good. An unexpected surprise.

Treasures of the Heart IV

© jb katke

Here we are, the last of the four-part Treasures of the Heart series. If you have stuck with me, thank you! Maybe this is the first you noticed the series, if so, feel free to go back and read blogs I,II, and III.

The past blogs have covered Repairs, Acknowledgement, and the Spiritual. The final category that leapt out to me was Needs. We all have them, don’t we? Even feeling the need to be needed.

Within a marriage it is easy to think our partner is going to fulfill them all. Expectations can be a risky business, especially if they are not voiced.

“You needed my presence. Meeting with friends, sometimes conversations can get ‘sticky.’ Isn’t it nice that we can depend on each other? Each of us compensates for the weakness of the other. Being needed feels good, especially when accompanied with appreciation.”

There are such a vast array of needs that I feel inadequate addressing the subject. No one knows their needs better than you. That being said, I would feel remiss to overlook the obvious.

In these blogs I have been taking notations from a journal written from wife to husband. As you well know, husbands are not the only ones requiring acknowledgement, spiritual support and needs. So does the female species.

“Here I sit full of I don’t know what, confusion I guess. It doesn’t seem fair that God made women more flexible than men; to be the ones to adjust to the situation at hand. Do you suppose that God is teaching me how to wait by waiting on you? Maybe I don’t want to learn. It’s no fun when the outside world keeps us from coming together.”

The world was different when these quotes were originally penned. Womans’ Liberation was in its heyday. Considering females in the workforce not getting equal pay for equal work, it was time for their voice to be heard. Unfortunately, it took on a militant bend that only raised the ire of not just men, but ladies too. Where does the homemaker fit into that dynamic?

The stay-at-home moms, such as myself, didn’t fit in. The benefit of a husband providing living needs is glorious. But how can her worth be tallied? I won’t list off the various roles a mother wears; I’m certain that to hire out those tasks would cost a fortune. Men couldn’t afford to pay a wife! A certain few may have given their wife a spending allowance, making a woman feel demeaned. Isn’t it the children that get an allowance for doing chores?

Can you feel the angst?

My friend Rebeccas’ mantra is Words Matter. If acknowledgement is missing, one can lose hope for any change. Words are a good start and actions count too. Today is Valentines’ Day, let your spouse, male or female, feel the love. They need it. Singer Jackie DeShannon sings, What the World Needs Now is Love.

It’s a wonderful sentiment, but Gods’ love fills the bill. He has the to die for kind of love that gives purpose and meaning to our lives along with the strength to carry on.

Treasures of the Heart III

 © jb katke

Are you still with me? I present to you my third installment of the four Treasures of the Heart series. Portions of this blog come direct from my heart as it is written in my husbands’ journal.

My previous blogs have covered Repairs and Acknowledgement. The next theme that ran consistent through the journal was Spiritual.

Todays’ words may be hard for some to swallow. They stem from a deep spiritual belief that I realize not everyone shares. To put faith in a loving God can be challenging if hard times are experienced. I get that.

When Dave and I married, we did not come from the same religious background. There is a name for that, ‘unequally yoked.’ As I write, I try not to use Christian lingo. But I will share it now because it might ring a bell in your own marital relationship.

Try to imagine two oxen yoked together plowing a field. It is crucial for them to be in step with each other or nothing will be accomplished. It is kind of like that in a marriage. If a husband and wife are not sharing the same goals, they are not working together. Harmony is nowhere to be seen.

Thankfully, in our situation, Dave and I had the same morals growing up. That helps. As the years went by, a series of confrontations occurred in Daves’ life that prompted a spiritual change. Those things don’t happen overnight, but when it does all becomes well in due time.

“Walking around our yard after the rain makes everything so beautiful. This is the day the Lord has made and I am rejoicing in it! I am so happy with what you & God have provided for me.”

I was seeing the everyday backyard with new eyes. Dave had planted some trees and they are growing beautifully. It takes time to grow a tree and likewise to apply a spiritual attitude. When I tuned into God, I was self-conscious to speak about it. So was Dave.

“I think it was a wonderful idea to include prayer requests when we say grace at the dinner table. It was probably difficult for you, but I admire the step you took in leading our family.”

I’m not gonna lie, it takes guts. All the more so if you have trials going on. The previous blog mentioned some issues at his workplace. Sometimes Daves’ job required travel to take further classes in machine maintenance. I never enjoyed his absence.

“I’ve prayed that you might feel Gods’ presence and draw on his power. I know he will keep you safe. You mentioned the possibility of this being a test for future job opportunities. Whatever comes of our future, I hope we can see God working things out.”

He did, we did. This was written later:

“Today I read Psalm 40. There was so much in it that I shouldn’t even try to put it in a nutshell. From it I got, Gods’ ear is opened to us, not to hide our faith, that evil seeks to destroy us-but will be brought to shame, and so much more. God has a plan for you, for us-we don’t have to get uptight over the power people have over you because God has even more power!”

This. As we sat together filling out a form for a job transfer. At best, all I can tell you is being God-conscious is an uncanny feeling. We may feel at the end of our rope, but take heart, God has this.

Until guilt came knocking at the door.

“Honey, you’re so tired tonight. You’ve had a tough two weeks and tonight was no better at Boys Brigade. I feel so guilty when these times happen because I’m reminded that I haven’t prayed for you enough. How can things go right when your mate isn’t doing her job at home? I have let you down. Sometimes I dream of us packing up and going somewhere far away, quit work, and just make woodworking projects and sewing things to sell. Having you home would feel like a daily vacation.”

It would be so easy to give up. Having a faith in God isn’t a religion. It’s a relationship that requires our part as well as God’s part. He has already done his, the rest is up to people to walk in step with his plan. There is that yoke thing again. God did his part by sending his son, Jesus, to earth; it’s what we celebrate at Christmas. Jesus brought a message of hope and a new way to live. By dying on the cross, he made open a way to live with him and God eternally, it’s what we celebrate at Easter.

Like any relationship, it takes two.

Treasures of the Heart II

 © jb katke

This is the second of my four-part Treasures of the Heart series. These blogs stem from a long ago journal I gave to my husband.

Dave presented it to me as he was scouting for something else. Looking back, it must have been a difficult time in our life. All marriages have them. As I reread through the entries it brought home the importance of words. Spoken or written, makes no difference.

The first theme I noted was Repairs. Today I focus on another theme that came to my attention. Acknowledgement. We all have a need to be recognized, yes?

Of all the pages of affirmation I wrote, Acknowledgement carried the most entries. Words were even mentioned one day in particular.

“You’re talking more today, that makes me happy. I know you are recovering from the stress at work.”

Can a spouse understand working conditions? She can try.

“I realized you didn’t receive anything positive in your life. Not from work, not from the kids, not from me either. I am the only one that can change that.”

Let’s face it, the workforce does not hand out praise for doing the thing you were hired to do. Children cannot comprehend the adult world. Allies can be few and far between, a sensitive spouse can make all the difference in the world.

My dear treasured husband, this has been a difficult week. Twice you had to deal with uncomfortable circumstances. Addressing them doesn’t come natural to you. But this is what I see, God is at work in your life, giving you the strength to face the moment.”

Even a bad example can be a good one. Having a boastful, arrogant boss who routinely takes credit for your work accomplishments is the epitome of frustration. Being on the receiving end of that provides you the know-how of what not to be.

You know how tough life can be.

“I can tell by your face.”

Home is all we have to let off steam.

As parents, Dave and I didn’t realize how our character impacted the kids. Twenty-twenty hindsight reveals all.

“Years ago Jamie told me he wanted to be a carpenter because that is what Dad and Jesus were. Today he reminded me of how much he looks up to you. The shed key was missing and he had to get newspapers delivered. Anger and frustration spilled over. Looking out the window I saw he was taking the lock off the door so he could get his bike. When I tried to stop him, his words were, ‘Mom, it’s what dad would do.’”

He thought it through-so like his father! I hope that made you as proud as it did me. This is how I wish to end today. Be an overcomer, it is possible with Gods’ help.

One more thing-our son has a career that requires problem solving, much like his father had so many years ago.

Treasures of the Heart I

© jb katke

One would think living with a man for fifty plus years, a wife would know him.

Entering my quilt room, Dave handed me a small book.

“I remember that!”

The small brown tweed journal I used to document some sentiments to my man for a season of our life.

“I have been looking for my pictures of when I was in the Navy and found this in my personal box.”

“You have a personal box?”

“Yes, all the notes you wrote me in high school are there too.”

“What? You saved all those notes!” Note to self: Find that box and destroy all evidence of my youthful desires.

“I still haven’t found the pictures I want, but thought you might use this for a blog or something.”

Like any marital couple, we experienced some stuff. The entries were short-lived. I guess I either got too busy or the journal was put away in that Personal Box I never knew existed. Reading through that little journal from so long ago brings back some bittersweet memories.

Four categories ran consistent. Enough for me to share with you bit by bit. Each week I will reveal one of them. Keep in mind these words I share come from another realm than where we live today. The first category that came to my attention was Repairs.

 “When are away, things had a way of breaking down.”

Thankfully, upon his return Dave addressed the issue.

 “Thank you for the repairs you make in our home.” I also noted using his talents to work for extended family.”

Not all men are able to make reparations. We need to cut some slack if they are lacking in that department. However, my man was born to fix things. Dave has an inquisitive mind on how things work. He tells me in his childhood he often took things apart to better understand the inner workings.

Some of which were working just fine until his young hands got ahold of it. There was at least one instance of his putting things back together to never work again. At this time, I would like to address that child you may have today that does likewise. Try your best not to chastise the little one. A well-known publication touts, ‘Inquiring Minds Want to Know.’ It falls into the learning process.

A Lopsided View

 © jb katke

Although the holidays are officially over, the house can look as lopsided as this picture.

All the décor of the season packed away, making our home look bare. Except one hides in plain view, to delay its slumber until next Christmas. It’s an unintended tradition of mine, to overlook packing away at least one of the objects. I’ll get to it, but don’t hold your breath.

My husband, Dave, and I have been swapping germs for the last four months. I’m not good at illness. Enough already. Feeling good is in the distant past. So long ago that we think back to our childhood. Okay, that is an exaggeration.

Returning to reality is hard to do. Am I the only one that needs a vacation after the holidays? A time out from the demands to go and do that come along Christmas, an escape from the germs that roam freely. Just a chance to breathe easy and be at peace with ones’ self.

Last week I showed you the finished product of an apron for my granddaughter. It felt good to get back in the quilt room. Quilts were what I did before this writing gig kicked in.

It brought me pleasure to create something beautiful that was useful too. Only my quilts generally were not beautiful, and rarely finished. Those that did reach completion were done with great relief, followed with the comment, “I won’t be making that again!”

I could breathe easy in the quilt room peacefully stitching fabric into designs. I used to say that time stops in the quilt room because I could lose myself in the pleasure it brings. Meals and housework took a back seat. Indeed, today time has stopped. The clock batteries ran out and I seldom enter the room anymore to worry about the time and how I shouldn’t be here.

Meals and housework continue to reside in the back seat because I haven’t been up to it. Have I ever been up to it? No. Some day I will get the ladder out and set that picture upright. Refer back to not holding your breath.

Another place to breathe easy is when I sit down to read God’s word. Have you ever read something that just impacts you to the core? If not, the Good Book is a great place to start. I enjoy reading of history, families of the past, and what to expect in the future. Even if you are into Sci-fi or talking animals, it literally has something for everyone. Royalty, family rivalries, you name it.

Each time, I come away with a peace that cannot be explained. The pages reveal that there is a reason and a plan for living. Inside you will read how much you and I are loved; I’m telling you it’s over the top and sets your life straight…no ladder needed.