Wasted No More

IMG_3712The truth is the majority of people are wasting their lives. Admittedly, I’ve wasted a good portion of mine. Because of pride; and some out of ignorance. Some spend their entire lives seeking fulfillment or happiness and though they find it in an array of areas, it is fleeting. Always. And when joy fades, the search begins all over again, but this time with a chink in our armor that reminds us that we failed somehow, somewhere. Sometimes this takes a toll on our identity because we no longer know exactly where we fit or what we need (or should) be doing; we just know it’s something beyond us.

We desire to be a part of a bigger, grander plan. It’s not that we think we have to do big things, but we want to be a part of something. We want to belong. We want to know our lives account for something beyond our expiration date.

Today marks the sixth year since my Daddy entered Heaven’s gates, the sixth year since he ran into the loving, outstretched arms of his Heavenly Father, the sixth year since he last felt pain, cried, worried, planned, dreamt…. It’s been six years—and not a single day has passed that I do not see his crooked smile in my mind’s eye or hear his voice encouraging me to keep going, to keep perspective when life feels so chaotic, uncertain, or overwhelming. Sometimes I still think I smell his aftershave or feel his rough and calloused hand in mine. I think it’s because I want to more than me losing my mind. I’m easily swept up in the memories of him and have lost moments of time to grief and tears—sometimes unexpectedly. I miss him Every. Single. Day. And every single day I think about both what his life and his death has taught me.

My dad died a young man; he was only 61! He did not get to see many of his “fifth quarter” hopes, dreams, and plans come to fruition. And boy, did he have a great retirement planned—He talked about it for years; literally years. He financially planned, ravenously read about various places and things he hoped to go and do…. To say, “he was giddy with anticipation” is a gross understatement because I’m pretty sure I caught him drooling a time or two when he’d share his next great idea! And although he was filled with so much joy in his dreaming and scheming, he was also counting down the days until its reality. I can still see the way his pale blue eyes danced as he dreamt out loud to anyone willing to listen.

calf-362170_960_720My Dad was a man who lived humbly. He was a dairy farmer for more than half of his life, then a custodian. He didn’t care about worldly possessions, but the ones he had he counted as blessings…gifts from the Lord and would have readily given them up to help someone in need. To the world looking in, he would appear to be a regular Joe, a man who perhaps didn’t achieve as the world pressures. He did not chase after the mighty dollar; he did not seek after prestigious positions, or dress to impress. He was meek, dedicated to his work, devoted to his family and friends and eagerly looked forward to helping others. He longed for little and gave everything. He was humble. He was sacrificial. He was fulfilled. He did not live to the world’s standards and it didn’t bother him for he did not strive to look like the world.

Over the course of his last few years, it was not uncommon for him to crave communion with Christ. He longed to be in His physical presence and would weep as he tried to envision the glory that he would soon encounter. My dad knew he’d run to Jesus if he ever had the chance. He got his chance– and I know he is on his knees singing his heart out to His Lord and Savior.

At his memorial service, where over 450 people attended, I heard countless stories of how my Dad touched their lives in remarkable ways…mostly through his attitude and his servanthood. As someone who knew his heart well, I can say I believe he had the right idea about life for he was a man fulfilled, longing to bring glory to Jesus in everything he did. He did not waste a single day…not one! If my Dad were to read these words, he would shake his head and with tears in his eyes say, “No Beloved, I have barely scratched the surface of living a life worthy of the calling”. “The calling” that he would refer to is a life basked in the hope of Jesus.

As I have spent much time reflecting these past six years since my Dad passed away, I have been repeatedly reminded that life is not about mastering or attaining many things, like the world reflects; it is about being mastered by one great thing! My Dad’s life counted for something eternally…I want to be consumed by that same fire! I don’t want to leave anything left unsaid, anything left undone. I want to use ALL of this life I’ve been given to give God complete glory and honor. Nothing else matters. Literally. #wastednomore

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” Matthew 22:37

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Yellow Roses; A Father’s Day Tribute

IMG_3711Today, marks the sixth Father’s Day, the sixth year of heart-to-heart conversations gone by, the sixth year of missing my Daddy’s big bear hugs and whispered, I love yous. I can still see him as he was, however– in his baseball cap and Levis, with that familiar side-to-side walk. I can still hear his calming voice and see his crooked smile as he’d cock his head to one side when he’d greet me, “Hey-ya Karyn”. When I close my eyes, I can almost feel him–his gruff hand in mine, smell him–his Old Spice soap, hear him–his laugh–ahhh, my heart smiles and weeps with the memory.

I wish I had held onto more of him when I had him here. I wish I had listened more intently to his words of love as well as admonishments; loved more deeply; given more freely. I wish I had hugged him a little longer; visited more often. I wish I hadn’t taken him for granted.

I wrote the following post a year after he passed away. And although it is not the anniversary of his passing,  it seemed fitting to share it today, on Father’s Day. I miss you like crazy, Daddy and love you abundantly more. Abundantly!!!


Written July 13, 2011

IMG_3712One year ago today as the warm sunshine poured through the large windows of room 335, I laid next to my Daddy in his hospital bed kissing his cheeks, his hands, his forehead… a million times over, embracing a precious memory with each kiss, saying good-bye, I’m sorry, and thank you with each remembered story. Though my mind has been swept over with these memories as of late, I do not write this morning from a place of sorrow so much as I write from a place of gratitude. Just a few thoughts and memories…

I kissed and nuzzled his cheeks a million times that day, feeling as though I couldn’t stop, not wanting that kiss to be the last one I ever gave him. His cheeks were rough despite hospice’s attempt to shave him. I found it endearing however, as my mind wandered to the days when I would sit on the bathroom counter and watch him shave after he’d come in the house from a long day of milking or working in his yard. I always loved watching this ritual. Still, to this day, I can see him shaving two or three upward strokes, then rinsing the blade in a sink of warm, sudsy water. I can still hear the tap, tap of the blade against the side of the sink and smell the distinct fragrance of his shaving cream. He sure got mad when I’d steal it to shave my legs as a teenager. I can still hear his voice as he’d yell from the bottom of the stairs, “Karyn Lee…bring it down here”. He didn’t even have to clarify what “it” was. We both knew.

His shaving cream wasn’t the only thing I would “steal” from him. To this day, nearly 20 years living outside my parent’s home, I have a reputation for stealing Dad’s flannel shirts. It didn’t matter if they were the “good flannel shirts” or ones he wore for milking or yard work. I just adored them and everyone knew it. Often, I would hear my name being called from the bottom of the stairs but it had a different ring to it. He wasn’t mad, like he was with the shaving cream. It was more like “I’m flattered, but honey, you gotta stop doing this”. Once he called me, a year or so after I had moved out and gotten married to ask if I had stolen his new flannel shirt! I didn’t…honestly… but still to this day, I cannot live down the fact that I would take his shirts and make them my own. In fact, my youngest niece calls me, “Aunt Flannel”, which makes me laugh because I only wear flannel shirts when I garden. I guess I still want to be just like my dad. I don’t have any of his shirts now and that crushes me. There was just something about his shirts that no one else, not even my dear husband’s shirts have. I guess I felt safe wrapped up in his over sized shirts, close to him somehow. Sure wish I had stolen just one more.

I held one of his hands almost the whole day, kissed every finger, traced the lines, and winced at his countless scars. I love those big, rough, and calloused hands. I always have. They spoke volumes about the kind of man he was– strong, able, learning, giving, sacrificial, loving. I still recall what it felt like to hold his hand, to have him give that little extra squeeze right before he’d let go. His hands engulfed my hand and I loved it. I always felt like his little girl when I held his hand…even when I was all grown up and had children of my own. I miss holding his hands, praying with him, and working alongside him. He taught me everything with those hands–how to tie my shoes, ride a bike, sweep a floor, milk cows, pull weeds, hug, love, give, serve…

One of his absolute loves was working in his yard. He had an amazing gift that dazzled people who would pass by. Though, like a true gardener, we never call it “work”, for it is something that feeds the soul in a way that nothing else does. I had the privilege to have my hands in his yard this week, to pull his weeds, to prune his Rhodies, edge his flowerbeds… The most difficult thing for me to touch were his roses…yellow, vibrant roses…these were his pride and joy. I saved them for last. And wept as I breathed deeply the sweetest scent…a scent I didn’t realize I associate with my dad no matter where I smell it.

On my knees already, I buried my nose into the spent pedals I’d just pruned and allowed the Lord to wash over me, to touch me with his tender grace once again. His mercy touched my brokenness and I knew I was safe and loved completely even without the touch of my dad’s hand or being wrapped in an oversized flannel. My Heavenly Father swooped down and held this broken heart of mine and reminded me of words I had read just that morning, “However serious we believe Good Friday is, we are confident that Easter Sunday lies ahead of us.” Meaning, that no matter what disappointments, frustrations, hurts, injustices, or loss come our way because of our faith, our hope in Christ, we KNOW Easter Sunday—the day of Jesus’ resurrection—and the fulfilling of His promise– is right around the corner. Christ did not promise an easy, painless life. He did promise however, that Heaven would conquer all in the end (Easter Sunday).

Death will be overturned and the fragrance of yellow roses will fill the air, I am certain of that!

My Dad’s heart desire was to meet Jesus…boy, did he ever speak often of this desire and believed as my favorite author, Brennan Manning, does that “Death is not the ultimate, but rather the final breakthrough into the waiting, outstretched arms of the Father.” He could not wait to see Jesus face to face. I often picture my dad on his knees before the emerald throne singing, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty” with tears of great joy streaming down his cheeks and with a heart that swells with such love, such gratitude for ur Heavenly Father. I miss my Daddy terribly but I KNOW Easter Sunday will come for me too– and one day, I, too, will run through heaven’s gates. I will embrace my Lord, my God first, but then I am hugging my Daddy!

Until that day, I am hugging him in my heart.