Christmas 2022

 © jb katke

Tis the season to be jolly. Are you feeling it? I’ve been told the Christmas carols were lurking about long before Halloween.

While I don’t want to camp here, many look upon the holidays with dread. It’s another year without a loved one, a time where family thinks Grandma should be baking all those Christmas cookies, another season where gifts are expected. So many demands of the season. And maybe you’re just are not feeling it. Yet.

I wish to introduce you to some alternative ways to tackle the holiday season. If you don’t have a home church to attend, try one this year. Lots of people do. The choices are many, but if you find a keeper church, make it a new tradition to go every Sunday throughout the next year. You may be surprised to find many others like yourself. Find joy in getting out of bed to hear an encouraging word.  

We don’t have to look far to see another individual in need. You could make a difference. Particularly this year, with so many coming at us from foreign countries. I don’t wish to camp there either. But I will share a couple experiences Dave and I had long ago.

While still living in Michigan, we learned the family living across the street were renters from Great Britain. The company the husband worked for sent him to the US on a temporary project. It was Thanksgiving and we decided to open our home to them for our big dinner. We all had a wonderful time and later they returned the kindness by inviting us over for a meal. What stands out in my memory was their greeting us by the door, all standing like ducks in a row to welcome us. Traditions vary and its fun to learn how others celebrate.

Another time, here in Kansas our church gathered the names of some in our community that could use a little Christian love. We were encouraged to use baskets to fill with all kinds of food for a Christmas meal. Our Bible study group decided on a laundry basket instead, as it would hold more and be useful the rest of the year too. We shopped together gathering food for a meal not to be forgotten. When we delivered it, we became aware, this family had no oven!

That was not acceptable for the turkey we had in their basket. Fortunately, one of our group had a family member employed at an appliance shop. (Need I insert here that God never makes a mistake? The Good Book says all things work together for good to those who are called according to his purpose.) A range was selected for them and we got it delivered and installed in time for that meal.

Whatever your traditions may be, I wish you the Merriest Christmas ever.

Genuine Thanksgiving

© jb katke

Bear with me as this memory is etched in my memory bank. Good memories are worth retelling.

 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 close to the holiday made commitments to anyone’s invite to join them for our big annual family 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. Its natural she would, being the mother of four.

Our church made a point of delivering meals when a new infant joins the family. 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. May each of you be blessed with good memories, great friends, and an appreciation of how God works in your circle of people.

Mind Bending

 © jb katke

It’s over now. A piece of my history.

Those close to me knew I was dreading Saturday. The potential excitement turned out to be more than I could have imagined.

I participated in my first book-signing. That’s a good thing, right? Years of writing became a physical reality in producing my first book. That is an accomplishment by anyone’s standard.

Never have I imagined authoring a book. I was not a writer, not even given to journaling. When the notion was introduced to me, I balked at the idea. It wasn’t in my radar, nor my bucket list.

Some things take time to sink in. It occurred to me when the Lord brings something to attention, it’s best to listen up. Not only is he a God of action, he means what he says. The Good Book is full of instruction; those that  heeded it and people who did not. The latter was not a pretty sight.

As time went by, more incidents of my life were recalled, proving my life was not as uneventful and I had always thought. Putting my encounters down on paper, I realized the Lord has been involved in my life more than I thought. One Day Wonders, Ordinary Days Becoming Extraordinary came to be. Or birthed, as my writing coach puts it. It took labor to make it happen.

The difficult thing is I am an introvert. Talking with others is not a problem, but often after being in a crowd, I feel the need to crash at home. It wears me out. Hence, my dread.

My how the picture changed. A week ago, I was diagnosed with COVID and felt awful. That’s when my mind did a flip. Suddenly, I was concerned I might not be able to be a part of the book-signing event. Recovery was out of my hands.

Just like that, the thing I was dreading became something I wanted to do. Worried that the decision was out of my hands, I did the only thing I knew to do. Discuss it with the Lord. This whole book thing was his idea in the first place.

What I did sounds ludicrous even to me. Keeping in mind who prompted me to write, I gave the Lord permission to do whatever he wanted with my health. Why not trust the one who has all the control? His decision would be all right with me. As if he needed my permission! If I’m healed, I will go through with the book-signing. If I remain sick, he will get me through it.

Waking up in the morning, I felt good. Getting up hours before I have been through the week with no help from an alarm clock. The strange thing is I felt no dread, just calmness. And peace.

This is why I am sharing my day with you. Concerning the things in life you may dread; you can have the same experience I did. Good intentions are nice, but determination takes a person only so far. Bottom line, some things are just outside of human jurisdiction.

It’s nothing more than a simple trust in someone who has more power than you do.

The Nike Thing, Just Do It!

 ©jb katke

When a person does not feel good, we need a comforting environment. Even if it looks too much like a funeral home.

“Mom, by the time I went to bed, my heart rate had slowed to 127 beats per minute. I was not sure I would wake up in the morning. I told the Lord he could take me if he wanted, although I didn’t know who then would take care of Sara.”

Those words are enough to chill any mothers heart down to the core.

Jamie’s wife, Sara, with autoimmune disease, has multiple health concerns. They have no children to look after them, and are currently caring for Sara’s mom in her elder years. The two of them have a full plate with no room for further illness.

But Jamie tested positive for COVID. I wanted in the worst way to be there for him, but there are miles between us. He’s a grown man, for goodness sake, but motherhood knows no end date.

His request from a year ago flashed through my mind. “I’d really like you to write about your mom, to know more about my grandma.” Have I done it? No.

I’ve gotta do this thing, we never know how much time we have. Chances are his sisters would like it too. Too bad I don’t understand more about the human psyche to comprehend why we don’t do the things requested of us. Particularly, for the ones that we love the most.

Me of all people, should value that simple request. In my younger years, I never thought to question the past of my family. Today is too late, they have all gone to their eternal home. The history I will never know until we are joined together again. If we are joined together.

This situation has gotten me off my proverbial butt. Even though my favorite chair (Edith’s chair, only because it is mine, it’s Julie’s chair) calls out for me to settle in with my current read or sit a spell to work out my Sudoku puzzle.

No instead, I tackled the ironing, and picked up that blasted unfinished quilt that we are using on our bed anyway. Time is ticking. But words must be written, passing on what little family history I know. Even if no one asked for it, someone down the road may find it more than interesting.

I am learning that the hard way.

Another thing I learned recently; one can contract Covid through cell phone lines. Who knew?

Not to blame Jamie or anything, but I have no idea where I picked it up at. I graciously shared with my husband, Dave. Neither of us are amused, but count ourselves among the fortunate to live to tell about it.

At this point we are too weak to point any fingers. The other night, Dave accidently spilled his drink on the carpet and I jumped (as fast as I could) to mop it up. “I think that’s the most work you’ve done in three days!”

If I were stronger I would have let him have it between the eyes. Besides…it was only two days.

Halloween Memories

What makes Halloween memories so great?

We had some good times that included candy, that’s why. Perhaps glad there are no do-overs? My past Octobers used to be filled with sewing costumes. I don’t miss it. Michigan Halloweens come cold. There had to be enough room under the costume for a winter coat.

Another factor, which I don’t share, is getting scared out of your wits. That has never been pleasurable, real life has enough blood-curdling thrills. Consider today.

I hope I am not too late with this message.

If you have been listening to news lately, there are many concerns about Fentanyl entering our country in various forms, one of which is candy. Many are frozen in fear of their children falling victim to this deadly drug.

The fear is not new. When my children were young, there was a scare at this same time of year concerning needles and razor blades found in candy and apples. That and this Fentanyl deliberately placed in the hands of innocent children makes anyone’s blood grow cold.

What can a parent do when children cannot go out Trick or Treating? In the eyes of small people, this is not an option. Parents want their kids to be safe, to have a good time, and make memories to look back upon.

There is an option I will share.

The mothers in my neighborhood threw a party. Instead of going door to door, we decided the safest bet was providing a different memory. This was not an easy task for yours truly, who is not a party animal.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. One mother offered her yard. It was an ideal setting backed up to a park bearing spooky trees at night, complete with wind blowing through them. All of us volunteered homemade treats; we had to make a large quantity to compensate for not begging candy from the home of strangers. At least we knew what was there and that all food was safe for consumption.

Games were planned and the kids all seemed to have a great time. Most of all though, we mothers could take a sigh of relief knowing our kids were not going to be a statistic of a death related to this foul play.

That’s what loving parents do. Provide stability in fearful times, showing a different way of having fun, keeping innocent ones safe. Just like Jesus did. He showed a different way of life, provided a safe place to live.

And fun. It doesn’t have to have an evil intent.

Images Created

© jb katke

Each day I see my image in the mirror and I seldom like what I see.

Working with what I have is a challenge. After I have done the best I can, I still look like me. Or not.

Our image actually goes deeper than what is visible on the outside. Deeper than our DNA even. Our feelings stem from the beginning of time. I say that with confidence because God said so. Reading in his first book, everything he created was “good.”

People are made in God’s image. Look with me at mankind as a whole.

We laugh, get angry, shed tears, feel sorrow, mourn, love, hate, experience times of both energy and fatigue,  get impatient, and last but not least, passionate. I have experienced every one of these feelings. Have you?

Each of those expressions come direct from our Creator. The Good Book proves it.

Check out what Nehemiah 12:43 mentions, “…the sound of rejoicing could be heard far away.” Hmm…that sounds like laughter to me.

What about anger? Numbers 32:10 says, “The Lord’s anger was aroused that day and he swore this oath…” I will let you research that.

Jesus, God’s son shed tears, “Jesus wept,” is found in John 11:35.

Sorrow and mourning. ”The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth and his heart was filled with pain,” says Genesis 6: 6. Wow, I better shape up!

He wrote the book on love. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life.”

Hate too? Proverbs 6:16- 19 tells us God hates seven things. I’ll let you look that up on your own.

Energetic. Jesus drove the money-changers out of the house of worship. Read how in John 2:15.

Fatigue. Jesus had a quiet spot to recharge himself at the Mount of Olives, according to Luke 22:39.

Impatience, can ya believe it? Take a look at Mark 8:12, Jesus sighs!

Passionate to his cause. Acts 2:3-4 tell what the Holy Spirit did to ordinary men.

Feelings are legitimate, but also short-lived. They change. Except what God has created in you. That soul, that lives forever and reflects the Guy who made you. He considers you good because you’re a reflection of him. Your image in the mirror needs to hear that.

Perfection is impossible on planet earth, but with God’s help your life can show others what he is like.

It Shouldn’t Happen

©jb katke

It should not have happened. I was so careful.

But it did.

Recently at my local thrift shop I purchased a shirt that looked like it would fit. Trying it on at home, learning it was huge. The fit depends on the manufacturer, some clothing lines run large. Usually the upper end name brands, which of course are more expensive. Requiring a smaller size, in my world is worth the price.

Here I am, trying to downsize it by four inches. Tailoring is not my thing. Not only because I lack the training: but I used to work for a tailor. I look upon those days as a dark time in my life. I had been sewing for thirty years, but this Lebanese man, who could barely speak English, stood over my shoulder watching my every stitch. Eventually he walked away with his arms in the air and an, “Okay, okay.”

Clearly I was not living up to his expectations. Likewise, in my little sewing room working on this shirt, I was not living up to my own expectations. The fabric was a limp, loosie goosy challenge. The kind I generally avoid. It tends to get caught in the seam I’m sewing, and regardless of how careful I am, it happens. It did not disappoint.

Thinking I had a job well-done, I learned in ironing it the body of the shirt was taken up in my stitched seam. Frustration consumed me. After stitching, I had cut the excess off of the seam. I had to set it aside overnight. This tuck in the shirt was incredibly close to that cutting. Did I ruin it before I even had a chance to wear the thing? Had I thrown good money away? Okay, so it wasn’t much money, but still being a clothes horse, I never have too many changes of clothes.

Today I was back to it. Amazed at what I discovered. Each stitch I unsewed indicated the wayward tuck was not impacted by my trimming the seam. It’s a miracle! My little sewing escapade may seem trivial, but it brought something to mind.  

Churches are full of people that try so hard to do things right, and mess up. Day in-day out, week after week, expectations go unmet. Christ followers keep coming back for their weekly dose of encouragement. Things happen, even to those trying so hard to make sure they live right. Its part of living on planet Earth, being human dealing with stuff that should never be.

That tailor I worked for was a disappointment to me too. He was a married man with a lady on the side. He could not fathom why his wife was so angry with him. Wrong is wrong and he was old enough to know better.

It’s a miracle that Jesus never gives up on us, regardless of how we botch things. In fact, he doesn’t see any difference in varying degrees of wrong. To him, it’s all the same. Sin is sin.

That doesn’t give free license to do whatever a heart desires. It’s just that Jesus will meet us where we are when we are in tune with him. He is the only God I know that can take a wrong, and turn it around for good. That’s why what he does are called miracles instead of ordinaries.  It pleases him to please us…when we aim to please him. It’s a two-way relationship I’m talking about.

Who ‘Da Thunk It?

© jb katke

Oh. My. Goodness. It actually happened. This book has been in the works for five years and one lifetime.

In the process many of you have encouraged and supported this notion, that was never my idea in the first place. Without even realizing it, you believed Jesus would give me the words to write. And he did.

Do the names Perez, Hezron, Amminadab ring a bell to you? They don’t to me either, except they are mentioned in the Good Book. An FYI for you, they are part of the ancestors of Jesus and lived a noteworthy enough life to be mentioned in his book. Still, they may mean nothing to either of us.

I could name more. But you get the idea, we know little else about them. To you and I they are nobodies. Have you ever felt like a nobody? I have.

In one sense, its comforting, because little is expected of you. The truth of the matter is you are somebody to Jesus. We may not know each other, but I know he has plans that only you can accomplish. With his help I hasten to add.

Just because one likes to read does not make him or her a writer. Unless, Jesus is behind it. Suddenly, your life is replayed in your mind to your amazement. Have you found yourself in situations that you were clueless to how it would play out? Somehow it did because Jesus was right there with you.

I am not foolish enough to think he will get you out of a tight spot of your own making. Don’t be thinking he set you up; we all have made choices that ruled Jesus out of the equation. Even then, Jesus knows it and may throw a lifeline.

The question is, will you recognize it if he does? I have spent the better part of a lifetime clueless to his involvement in my life. Twenty-twenty hindsight has shown me I have wasted too many years in not thanking him.

Even so, his rescues never stopped. That is how strong his love is for mankind. That would include you.

Don’t make the mistake I did. I had dreams and aspirations of how I could please Jesus. My ideas, not his; as if he, creator of the world, needed my help. His workmanship speaks for itself. I can appreciate a good sunset, but had no part in making it.

My desire to serve those less fortunate fell flat. All because he had other ideas for my life. Through the school of hard knocks, I learned he doesn’t need people with an agenda and feel highly qualified. Rather he prefers those who feel completely inept, but willing to step into uncharted waters, splash around until they feel his support under their feet.

Then, put a seatbelt on. You are gonna get a ride like none other, and come out the other end feeling like Jesus’ somebody because of what you accomplished together. And surprise everyone in the process, especially yourself.

The purpose of One Day Wonders, Ordinary Days Becoming Extraordinary is for you to see your own life differently. I hope you do. Find it on Amazon.

https://www,amazon,com/s?k=jb+katke&i=stripbooks&crid=1103edsfx84yh&sprefix=jb+katke%2cstripbooks%2c108&2c108&ref=nb_sb_noss.

Labor Force

© jb katke

What does a cookbook have to do with labor? Not much, if anything..

The year before our wedding, Dave gave me this cookbook for Christmas. A smart girl would have eagerly opened it to try out a few recipes. Not I. After the wedding I took the cellophane wrapper off to use it.

Red flags should have been flying for both of us. Food is important and cooking shouldn’t be. A side note: I have reason to believe that this particular cookbook could be valuable. This picture caught my attention. It doesn’t belong in a book of recipes. On the plus side, numerically the pages continue, so I’m not missing any recipes.  As if I would.

© jb katke

I wasn’t excited about cooking, then or now. Because I like eating I have been prompted to try my hand navigating around the kitchen. My first venture was making a roast beef. I highly recommend understanding the recipe prior to preparation. Unfortunately, I misread the roasting temperature to what was actually the inner roasting temperature. A long and slow 300⁰F brings better results in a timely manner, rather than the 165⁰F that takes all night. As the hours ticked by and bedtime was looming, we chiseled off a few bites to keep body and soul together.

It’s difficult to do an unlikeable task. I understand. Around town, we are finding help wanted signs everywhere. This concerns me and will pass what I have learned on to you for future reference.

When a person reaches senior citizen age, Social Security will come. A situation may arise. The income received in your elder years stem from how much you put into Social Security during those years of employment. With fewer people working now, it’s only a matter of time when it will not be pretty. Age happens, ready or not.

The government uses the social security we pay, if there are few employed, funds will be low. So low that by the time you reach retirement, there may not be a Social Security.

For our own best interest, employment should be considered. It has its benefits. Working gives us purpose. When I became employed my mind expanded, taking in knowledge of how one business serves another. Thank you Jesus for farmers and truckers. With no thanks to COVID, we had a taste of empty shelves at the store.

Employment keeps a person occupied so that time is not wasted on the frivolous. I learned time management, my job provided income, my responsibilities at home sustained our family. Both have value and bring positive self-esteem for the effort. At the moment, there is not an over-abundance of self-worth.

Contributing to society had another bonus. It taught my children the value of hard work. Even though life is work, I dislike the word ‘force.’ Like it or not, living does bring a kind of force. Balancing a job with pleasure takes work. Spending quality time with those we love takes time. Instilling a sense of right and wrong in our little people takes patience, and portion of our sanity. Take it from me, it’s worth it!

May the force be with you this Labor Day weekend, and beyond.

School Shopping Nightmares

Can I get an amen for how grueling back-to-school shopping is?

My first experience, when prepping our son, Jamie for kindergarten was hair-raising. It happened so many years ago but the memory never fades. I had asked my mom to come with us as Cindy, our youngest at that time could be a concern. She did not disappoint.

Cindy grew restless, so mom suggested they go for a walk. They had made it only a few steps when Mom encountered a friend of hers. They stopped to chat for only a moment, but that is all the time Cindy needed. As they moved on, mom reached for Cindy’s hand—which was not there. Cindy was gone.

Mom looked anxiously around, no Cindy. Up one aisle and down another, she was nowhere to be seen. How mom must have feared coming to me without my daughter. Together we fruitlessly searched clothing racks where little people like to hide.

As both of us were preparing our hearts for a missing child to be forever gone from us. A voice over the PA announced a missing child. Cindy, because she was well aware of where the toy department was, had gone up the escalator on her own to the furthest part of the store, collected a teddy bear and plopped herself down at the top of the escalator where she assumed we would meet her.

A stranger, recognizing the child was by herself, took her to Customer Service. I consider this shopper to be an angel in disguise. Today, Cindy is a grandma.

Another year of back-to-school shopping had me facing a fellow shopper ripping my face off. I was noticeably pregnant with Naomi, our third child.

“How dare you have another child!”

Sincerely, I did not know how to respond. This was back in the era of zero population growth, so she may have been of that persuasion. Or—she may have longed for more children, and that was not to be. We can never know the pain others may be dealing with.

My last unpleasant back-to-school shopping left me dumbfounded. As anyone knows, the children’s department is an upheaval from searching the right size. The lines into the fitting rooms were enormous. One mom, would have no part of that. She insisted her son, around eight years old, big enough to have a sense of modesty, to undress right there in the middle of the store.

The boy, sobbing, begged his mom, imploring her not to make him do it. She had reached her breaking point and forced him. I could not believe my ears or my eyes. I wonder what her relationship is with her son today? Those are things that stick in the memory bank.

To this day, they all stick in mine. I thank the Lord for bringing our Cindy back to us, for a tidbit of compassion for an angry mom, and giving us a healthy little Naomi.  Not to mention a God that only asks us to follow him, stretching us out of our comfort zone in a way that encourages us to keep our focus on him.