Each Day a Gift

“It’s a gift.”

The words easily rolled off my tongue. I meant it.

A new school year has begun, placing my husband back to work. Translation: Our summer days of living as if we were truly retired have come to an end.

Dave works for a company that services our local schools. Each day, late in the afternoon, he gets his work order for the following day. However, no contact was made for the first day of school. This seemed unusual to me, “Are you going to go in anyway, just in case you were accidently overlooked?”

“No, no work order means I’m not working.”

What we thought was our last full day together actually was not. We had one more to enjoy each other’s company. Hence, my ‘gift’ comment.

Not only had we received a gift, but I also had an opportunity to give a gift.

I was about to enter a small grocery store when a young man approached me. “Excuse me ma’am, could you help me out? This is not easy for me ask, but could you give me some money? My car is out of gas and I am in need of getting some formula and diapers for my baby, along with some food for the week too. I won’t get paid until next week.”

That is a lot of need. I hesitated at first. But have come to recognize our Good Lord knows who should be approached to meet some needs once in a while. Our family has known need from time to time too.

“I can go with you across the street to Target and help you purchase some things. Would that work for you?”

“I’m not sure they have everything, but my car needs gas too.”

“Would it help more if I got you gas instead?”

“That would be nice, if you could do that.”

We met at the corner station and as I filled his gas tank he proceeded to go to others nearby petitioning them. I realized there was a male passenger in the car. Be careful girl, you are alone.

Upon his return, “This is so good of you. Most people just tell me no and to shove off. They don’t give a damn about my needs. I went to my church, and they refused to help me too. I really need the money for diapers and formula, food too. I live in Paola, but was here to see my girlfriend.” The more he talked, the more flaws I recognized.

“What church do you go to?” He gave a generic name just about every community has.

“Let me call my husband, he will be expecting me home soon. “Hi Babe, listen I have received a ministry opportunity and may be a little late. There is a chance I might be going to Walmart, but I will let you know when we can meet up.”

“Would you like me to follow you up to Walmart where I might be able to help a little bit?”

“Oh no ma’am, you have already helped so much. All I need now is money.”

I could see where this is going. He wanted cash, nothing else would do.

“Well, if you change your mind, let me know. God be with you,” as we parted ways.

Almost at the grocer for the second time, I realized I didn’t get my receipt at the gas station. Rushing back, can I remember which fuel pump we were at? I did and it was still hanging there waiting for me.

Finally, arriving at the store for the third time, there the young man was. Asking for help to anyone who would listen. Red flags flew as the light dawned.

He was peddling at locations that did not have what he claimed he needed. This grocery store was limited in merchandise, but what they did have was good prices. There was a risk in seeking help at Target or Walmart because he may encounter someone willing to do what I did. Meet his supposed need, what he wanted was money.

He may or may not have a girlfriend and a baby. Only God knows. Having filled his gas tank, I may have enabled him to carry on his quest for cash. He may have considered me a fool. What he would do with the money is anyone’s guess. But…

Listening to my phone call, he learned I considered him a ministry. On our closing conversation he received my blessing of God being with him.

I am no gardener, but seeds were planted. What is done in the name of Jesus is never wasted. Never forget that.

Remembering Important Things

 © jb katke

Saturday morning proved my point. Truth does not lie.

My husband, Dave, doesn’t understand my thinking spots. I have been richly blessed with two. My bed, which keeps me from sleeping, and the shower.

The day started when the alarm rang, I could not get the thing turned off. As it fell to the floor I realized the remote control does not work for the alarm. Startled, I leapt out of bed realizing the sewing repair to our sun protector for the car had gone undone. The summer heat has made it essential to keeping the car cool.

Questions ran through my mind. Can I get it done before we leave the house? Should I eat breakfast before or after the repair? Is there time for any of this?

Then I woke up. We aren’t going to church; we are going out for breakfast. With church friends, hence my confusion. Today is Saturday, not Sunday. I don’t need to eat.

Jumping into the shower, shampooing reminded me I had not responded to the message my hairdresser sent me. She arrived at work late Friday, overlooking my appointment. No problem, it wasn’t until this week anyway.

Double checking that fact, it came to my attention I had never entered the appointment in my calendar. If I only had a brain.

I can remember things. Like the day I purchased these shoes. We had traveled to visit our daughter Cindy, and her family. Us girls took a shopping trip where I encountered these cute shoes. On sale for $4. Deliberation set in. Do I need them? They are sooo comfortable.

Incredulous that I would hesitate, Cindy piped up, “If you don’t buy them, I will!” This at a time when she barely had two nickels to rub together. As you can see, I bought them.

What I don’t recall is how long ago that was. But it has been years, and I relive that shopping trip today as I am about to pitch the shoes. They wore out.

It makes me sad but Dave is in awe of my memory. In marriage, it never hurts to be in awe of your spouse. Respect and admiration in each other is a healthy thing.

The Good Lord gave us a mind to use in memory and discerning.

It is important to remember that none of our circumstances are a surprise to God. It is a mystery how the human mind works, but always remember that he is in charge. It builds that aforementioned awe, respect and admiration.

Disdainful Treasures

© jb katke

The essentials of former kitchens. These are the tools of women of my past.

Can you recall the tools and utensils in your family kitchens and thinking how old, battered and ugly they were? Looking through child eyes I missed so much. I never gave a thought to how inefficient grandma’s kitchen was. She had a tiny counter; making her workspace at the kitchen table.

The table that partially jutted into the doorway leading to the dining room, making navigating between rooms difficult. People of her day never complained of inconveniences, they just made do. It was grandma’s lot in life.

Her smooth bottom cast iron fry pan is different than the likes we see on the market today, and incredibly heavy. It lacks the enamel exterior of a pretty color to admire as one cooks, but it served its purpose. Likewise with her enamel mixing bowls bearing a few nicks. In my minds-eye, I can still see her using them at that table.

The melamine mixing bowl was my mom’s. Then and now, it’s ugly to me. But I love it. The teal color is so old its new again. Looking back, Mom must have reveled having it because she seldom got anything new or what we refer to as ‘trending.’ She did not have a complaining spirit.

With the passage of time, I have come to treasure these things because they bring the women of my past to life. As a child, I didn’t appreciate them, but I do now. Even scripture from the Good Book speaks of children’s thought processes.

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”  I Corinthians 13:11 ESV

Mother and daughter knew their value and didn’t seem to need verbal appreciation. Which is a good thing because I’m not sure they got it. They adulted because that is what adults do.   Their mentality was serving the people they loved.

Jesus loved in that same serving manner and he wasn’t altogether appreciated either. Children adored him more than some adults. Little ones trusted, whereas many adults questioned.

His love continues to this day because Jesus can see in his minds-eye our future life with him. That is if we will accept it. Knowing we don’t deserve all the good things he has in store for us is humbling. Humility is not popular at the moment. Nor is trust. Nevertheless, his love exists.

Don’t be an Evelyn. Her thinking is as flawed and ugly as the mixing bowls. She is determined to get the best this world offers and is willing to step on anyone who gets in her way. She is oblivious to the hurt she freely inflicts on others.

Life with Jesus by your side, doesn’t work that way. He will chip away the flaws in our words and actions, creating a whole new person. One that draws people to want him in their life because they witnessed the change. It’s a promise to a willing heart.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new sprit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26 ESV

Take him at his word.

Becoming a Sponge

 © jb katke

People and sponges have much in common. 

My hope this week includes becoming more sponge-like. Sponges absorb a lot. I best chose my words carefully or you may think I speak of drinking in excess. Not so.

Soon I will be attending a writers conference on marketing. Every bone in my body says I don’t want to learn this. Deep in my gut, I know it is precisely what I need. Do you have moments in your heart of not doing what is best?

It could be anything. A class, cross-training at work, exercise. Maybe it’s an unhealthy relationship. It’s a change that will ultimately better you, but the effort is daunting. Like a rung out sponge left drained. But it must be done.

This marketing thing is necessary if I want to sell my future book. It entails selling yourself. That is not my strong suit. Particularly when I have an inkling where this could take me. In time I may have to purchase a square, that little electronic doo-dad that attaches to your cell phone when someone buys my words.

What if I’m asked to speak somewhere? Standing up in front of people is difficult for an introvert. I may even have to learn Power Point. Oh. My. Goodness. Will it ever end? No. Learning is part of life. Do you see how important open-mindedness is? A prerequisite.

Much like a sponge, I have absorbed important things in life. Among my education has been getting to know our Creator. Sharing what I know of him to others is his plan for my life. That can be both exciting and humbling.

Someday I will grasp that change plays a large part in life. It begs the question of why do I put myself in these situations. The answer is simple and complicated because not everyone will “get it.”  It is not my doing, our Creator suggested it to me.

You may be getting messages from him yourself, not realizing who is speaking to you. Do you have nagging thoughts knowing  what you should be doing, but put it off? It’s a human trait, so don’t beat yourself up too much. Just enough to realize that it must be done if it will make you a better person.

The bottom line is this, my future includes meeting our Creator face-to-face. He’s gonna ask about the stuff he directed me to do. How come I didn’t follow through? He will ask the same thing of you. Make sure your answer will stand up before a really holy Guy.

Rather than consider the task daunting, look upon it as an opportunity. That is what life with our Creator is like, going from one amazing opportunity after another. Don’t be fooled, some of his opportunities look like mission impossible. It would be, without his participation, but knowing he is right beside you, watch and see what he can do!

Let the buyer beware, the upcoming book will tell you all about my life with him…when I wasn’t aware of his presence.

Kitchen Secrets

© jb katke

Oh, to have a formative mind. Or even a mind that can remember things. The right things, that is.

A lifetime ago, or so it seems, my youngest granddaughter, Willow, and I were baking together. I shared a kitchen secret about eggs. Cracking a raw egg in a measure cup that you will  use for either shortening or molasses prevents it from sticking and easier to scoop out.

Willow was young enough to grasp knowing secrets was a highly treasured confidence. “What other kitchen secrets are there Grandma?”  

That was all I could think of at the time, but olive oil does the same thing. Her “yes” to my inquiry if she liked cooking, prompted me to ask if she would cook for me when I get old.  No doubt she may not recall that conversation, but I am open to holding her to that commitment.

This came to the forefront of my mind as I pawed through the freezer. I came across a couple foreign objects used in previous meals, thinking there was enough left for future use. Normally I label what I freeze, but I will remember what it is. Sure, I will.

Both of them, some sort of sauce. Teriyaki from a recent chicken dinner, or is it Aunt Ellens pork glaze? Your guess is as good as mine. Fear of using the sauce on the wrong meat, you can guess what will happen this next trash day.

The problem is, I hate to cook. Always have.

Even before that catastrophe in my 7th grade Home Economics class. The class was cooking tapioca. Even the name sounds disgusting. I imagine it’s like eating lumpy pudding and the appearance is far from appetizing. But that is just me.

The ingredient list called for a dash of salt. I ‘dashed’ the salt shaker and the lid fell into the mix, pouring gobs of salt out in the process. Someone from a previous class thought this would be funny. It saved my table group from tasting it, so I guess I should be grateful.

It may not be the taste as much as the texture that seems revolting to me. If you eat it and like it, I would appreciate hearing your comments.

Is this you, do you feel the ingredients God used to create you are disgusting? Not everyone will agree with you. Putting the color of your hair and eyes aside, and every other aspect that makes you, you. Know this. You have been made to order, a custom job according to God’s specific specs. Do some research.

The first few chapters of Genesis in the Good Book speak of the sky, our earth, the animals, every natural thing you can imagine was made just right. God, himself said it was good. My guess he is equally happy with you as well. It’s easy to love kittens and puppies, but loving yourself as God does, not so much.

I encourage you to look into that book to find out what makes you so great. I will give you a spoiler alert, you are made in His image. You will also find surprising stories of  people and families that are similar to yours.

Many of them are word pictures of God and his son, Jesus. My personal favorite is the chic book, Esther, that makes no mention of God at all. But the stuff you find He did behind the scenes will amaze you. If you are a party animal, enjoy a good glass of wine, into fairy tale rags to riches stories and the consequences of what gut hate can do to a person, read on!  I have said too much, but I’m telling you the Good Book has something for everyone.

My Invisable Helper

© jb katke

Well folks, it’s happened again.

Some mornings I wake feeling defeated before the day begins. I hate it when that happens. The problem is I get easily overwhelmed. I have more to do than there are hours in a day. Retirement just ain’t what I imagined. Do ya know what I’m sayin’?

Then I remind myself, for most women, retirement is an illusion. You are familiar with the workload of a homemaker, so there is no need to elaborate. Grandma Andrews once told me, “A housewife never lacks something to do.” Those are true words if I ever heard them.

While I don’t do the gardening or canning grandma did, I do have one little teeny tiny task that makes all the difference in my world. I’m writing a book, and I am here to tell you that is difficult to accomplish. Particularly when I never dreamed, or set out to write. Ever. Period.

As if waking with a crummy attitude isn’t enough, I find myself behind in my allotted time reading the Bible. So, I picked it up this morning and the following is what I read,

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress…”                                                                                                         Hebrews 12:1 NLT

It is uncanny how often when I am playing catch-up in my reading, I come across a verse that speaks to where I am at in that moment. I interpreted that to mean, others are watching. Girl, God’s got this. Don’t let little things get you down, there are others that suffered far more grief than you will ever know. There are people rooting for you

I continued reading.

So, take a new grip with your tired hands and stand firm on your shaky legs. Mark out a straight path for your feet…”                                                                           Hebrews 12:12 NLT

The fact that God doesn’t make mistakes, wrestles in my mind and heart. The waters I tread are strange to me. Writing a book takes a truckload of effort; keep moving forward one step at a time. A saying comes to mind, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

My aim is not to spook you, but experience points to a supernatural experience.

People and circumstances have come to my attention making this a doable project, showing me the next step. I will tell you this. Never will I look at a book the same again. Authors literally pour themselves into the art of writing, not for the money, but because they either have a message to convey, or a desire to entertain.

As usual, when I read the Good Book, I feel strengthened and encouraged. Today is no different. I still find myself challenged, but God’s got this, it was His idea in the first place. My writing coach feels I will have book in hand yet this summer. She thinks great things of me because she knows an invisible Helper is by my side. Stay tuned to my continuing saga.

People v People

The Supreme Court decision concerning Row v Wade has put so many loving people at odds. Air has become volatile, even among family members. Everyone feels they are right.

Individuals come to decisions based on their situations, and that is what forms the great divide. We all come from varying experiences. What is absolutely right for one individual could be the undoing of another.

Should either side of the issue become law? Pardon the pun, but conversations have become pregnant with emotion. Let’s remember that as long as mankind has existed, there has been a difference of opinion. How do we handle these times we live in without pointing fingers?

My mind goes back to a childhood television show, Leave It To Beaver. When the family hit a crisis point, Beaver’s mom would turn to her husband, “Ward, do something!”  In that era, we all had a sense of right and wrong. To cross an unacceptable line carried big consequences. Lines are still drawn, but no one seems to care anymore.

Correction, most people care, they are merely silenced by those with a louder voice. Who is it that carries the megaphone? We may not want to know.

Our Inventor of family could be taking a dim view of the society we are living in. It would not be the first time. A long time ago, he held sorrow for the likes of man, and allowed a flood to take many lives. We are here today because a certain few that held him in high esteem. The rainbow we see today after a rain is his promise he won’t do that again.

But he is capable of other things..

In the Good Book, I’ve read of a guy killing his brother, becoming a fugitive the rest of his days.

In another part, I read of a guy that murdered in defending someone, but after forty years was given an opportunity to defend a whole nation of oppressed people. The difference? The heart.

Years later, there was a dude that hated the people of that saved nation. To the extent, he devised a plan to have the race annihilated. Only it didn’t go quite as planned. Someone leaked the news and the dude found himself hanging. Literally. Not just him either, his boys too.

Therein, can be the problem. To focus so much on what is right in our own eyes, we become blinded to who else is being affected by our stance. The heart is the heart of the matter.

That is where the Ten Commandments come in handy. It pretty much lays out how we should treat others, whether we agree on everything or not. They are old, but gold, laid out by a Guy we cannot argue with.

Standing By The Banner

My research proved to be short-lived and left me deflated.

The debate was settled on June 14th, 1777.

Today is Flag Day and I had hoped to give you a little history of how it came to be. Stars and stripes it is. What I don’t know is what were the other options for our national flag? No matter, it’s all history now.

Were we in total agreement back then? Most likely no, seldom have the citizens of our fine country been in complete agreement. The only instance I can recall in my lifetime was after the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were under attack.

Leaders gathered on the steps of the courthouse, regardless of their political party, and prayed for our nation. Yes, prayed! Together. Every one of us stood together, united under our flag.

There are many flags to stand for and be united under. Each state has its own flag. The only other flag I recognized was the white surrender flag.

These days, the police have a flag for those who esteem how vital their role is in our society. Black Lives Matter has one to memorialize the oppression their race used to live under. The Jewish nation also has a flag, remembering the atrocities their ancestors endured.  

I am beginning to see the importance of flags in general. It is what they represent, a people, a nation, a sect, united in cause. Standing together. This is what makes our American flag so popular, and desired by many.

Our stars and stripes reveal we are one nation, under God’s authority, giving liberty and freedom to our residents. Freedom to pursue worthy endeavors, and worship in our own unique way. To live without fear, or at least it used to be.

That has to be why so many are eager to come here. To experience what freedom looks like. Of course, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. Every nation has their laws.

It gets sticky when man-made laws interfere with God’s laws. His laws can be found in Exodus 20 in the Good Book. What many don’t realize is that following God’s laws far surpass man’s laws. Both are intended to protect. One just does a better job than the other.

If God’s laws are disobeyed, and a contrite heart admits it, the offender may suffer the consequences.  But also gets grace and mercy. A second chance to do better, it makes for a new and improved you. Man-made laws cannot guarantee that.

Near Surrender to Fred

© jb katke

There comes a time when ya gotta give up. We named him Fred.

This spring we have had the annoyance of a cowbird seeing it’s reflection in our window. Fred demands mating with it and will not take no for an answer. He ignores his female counterpart at the feeder.

The screens came down to protect them from damage. Fred now has free access to perching on our window sill with frequent body slams trying to get at its reflection. One would think he would get the hint or knock himself silly.

Covering the window with aluminum foil, we thought the shiny surface would deter it him becoming a nuisance. No such luck. Swapping the aluminum foil with cardboard was considered, but talked ourselves out of it. To be effective, it should be placed outside the window where the spring rains would make a mess of it.

Either way, our vision outdoors was blocked. What really angers me is Fred is keeping the humming birds away. I have worked hard at drawing them, all to no avail now.

Anger is putting it nicely; I want to kill him. Wouldn’t you know, Jesus had something to say about a birds.

Not even a sparrow, worth only half a penny, can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. (Matthew 10:29 NLT)

I bet that applies to cowbirds too, so murder is out of the question. That blasted bird is holding us captive.  On our pleasant days we have been unable to open windows for the lack of screens.

Dave has done a little research and learned a further reason to hate Fred. Cowbirds lays eggs in other bird’s nest. If the home-owning bird returns home to find foreign eggs, it kicks them out. The next time it leaves the nest, that ornery cowbird kicks out the homeowners eggs. Talk about squatters taking over, I have nothing nice to say about him.

In the past, I have wished to learn the various bird calls to know who is ‘singing.’ I have learned the cowbird; he is still lurking about. Any ounce of Christianity I have is quickly evaporating.

Until I continued to read what Jesus has to say about people v birds.

So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to him than a whole flock of sparrows.            (Matthew 10:31)

Clearly Fred knows enough scripture to not fear the evil intent of my heart. As a last resort, we have placed a wood owl wall-hanging Dave made in our window. Fred seems to be keeping his distance now.

Perhaps I should be content that the good Lord values me above a bird, regardless of my heart. It almost makes me want to surrender my anger to play nice to this creature God created. After all, it is people that God created to be his own image, not some birdbrain.

Opposites Attract

©jb katke

Winter is necessary.

My dearly beloved, Dave, would hasten to disagree with me. We are polar opposites. Not to say I love winter, but it does create an appreciation for springs new growth.

At least in normal people. Not I. After our springtime rainy season is over and it gets warm, sadness settles in me. I know what is coming. Heat and sunshine, neither of which I can tolerate. Nor can this squirrel.

The same happens with Dave, only his time of sadness is when autumn hits. That is when I shine. But we both know what is coming. A cold dead winter that chills him to the bone.

Trees lose their leaves. Don’t you just love hearing them crunch underfoot? Dave doesn’t. He sees the bare branches of those trees losing their lush greenness, standing bare naked for all the world to see

I, on the other hand, see them pointing up to their creator. The beauty of the individual leaves is better seen when underfoot, not so when massed together in the branches. Suffice it to say, one of us is perpetually gloomy. Correction, not gloomy. just eager for the season to be over.

Looking back, I can’t say when this mood swing became apparent. When we married we agreed on everything. I jokingly say he’s changed. But I have too. Those tendencies were lurking about for a long time. Each of us growing up in Michigan, we were unaware of extreme weather changes.

Living in Kansas, we now recognize the change and can lay a finger as to the why of it. Michigan is full of trees and overcast skies. The sun shone brightly, but the trees were a shield. We had occasional hot days, but they never lasted long, and gentle breezes made it bearable.

On the other hand, the Kansas breeze is more akin to a constant wind. In the summer, it blows hot air. Admittedly, I do appreciate it when we have the winter ice storms, as it seems to blow the pavement dry.

Bottom line, there is always something to be grateful for. As well as something to whine about. Change is what the world is all about, and for the longest time, has never meant to be perfect. Instead, it gives us something to look forward to. Something to hope for that is better than what we see or feel today.

Something that won’t change, ya’ know, something everlasting. Like God’s love. And heaven, where life is perfect because of who lives there. Jesus and his dad, the Lord God.

Spoiler Alert: He was the Guy who created all this climate change. Something for everyone!