Let’s Remember. It’s April 25, one year after the earthquake that shattered Nepal and claimed the lives of thousands. Since then, Nepal has faced multiple struggles in rebuilding, signi…
On my run this morning, I saw someone who looks a whole lot like how I remember you. Same build, same white t-shirt, full head of white hair, with a fishing hat perched on top.
Mile one, I had to do a double take. Mile two caught me off guard again. And mile three, his stern face grinned at me and said “Mornin’!” with the same gruff tenderness that you would project over the breakfast waffles and bacon whenever I slept over.
I smiled back, and cried the whole bike ride home. I miss you, Grandpa.
I miss you a lot.
I miss going into your shop and “helping” you sweep up shavings. Or how you would give me scraps of wood and let me trim them with the saw, giving the firm instruction that I “just don’t chop them fingers off.” You could make anything you wanted to in there, and lots of times it would be for us- the little stinkers you called your grandkids. Sometimes, I just don’t like seeing the people who rent your shed now, because it’s almost like they’re interrupting a sacred space full of precious memories.
I miss watching you and Grandma together. How you cared for her so well through her hospitalizations. How you faithfully honored your vow of “in sickness and in health” and ultimately, after 48 years, “till death do us part.” How you made sure we respected her. Some of us couldn’t get away with half the sass she puts up with now if you were still here, that’s for sure. How sometimes you intimidated me so badly, but I still knew I could crawl up in your chair with you and you wouldn’t mind one bit.
I miss you stopping over to fix something up whenever you were in the neighborhood. I miss you telling me that I had my eyes open during prayer and how you would chuckle at the astonished “How did you know?!” look that would creep onto my guilty little face. You gave me lessons in how to properly swat flies. You told me stories about your time in the army. You would help with anything I needed and come up with all these ingenious ways to solve my seven-year-old dilemmas.
I miss how you would sit and listen to me stumble through my latest piano piece, or read my projects for school, and quietly shake your head and say “That Kristyn Grace…she’s somethin’ else.”
You were tough and gentle. Respected and kind. Simple and hardworking. You’re one of the biggest encouragers I can think of. You always cheered us on no matter what. When I was drum major, you would’ve been right next to Grandma at every parade. When I sang my first solo, you would have clapped the loudest. You would’ve been there at my high school graduation, given input when I bought my first car, been so interested in my trip to Nepal. You would’ve supported me all the way through taking a year off of school, but would be so proud that I’m starting college at the same place you did in less than a month. I learned how to change my oil last night, and for some reason you would have been ridiculously proud of that too. And whenever I end up bringing a boy home for Christmas, I’m gonna miss you announcing your unapologetic opinion of if he’s “the real deal” or not. But in all honesty, Grandpa, I’ve been finding myself hoping that whoever he is…is a lot like you. Protector. Provider. Humble leader.
Most of all, I miss watching you live out your sincere faith. And how you truly lived for the Lord and desired to please Him in everything you did. You walked with integrity and loyalty and honor. In your own quiet way, you sure raised the bar high.
It’s been nine and a half years, hasn’t it? I may not think about you as much now, but I think I miss you more. I can’t wait to hug you in heaven, and worship side-by-side again.
I love you, Gramps.
I love you a lot.
“Kristyn, why is you so sad?” The query of the darling three-year-old I nanny.
“I’m so sorry, sweet girl. I have a lot on my heart.”
She tilts her head inquisitively and then traipses to the other room to play. Moments later, her little face peeks around the corner and she smiles shyly.
“Don’t worry, Kristyn, you is so beautiful.”
Emotion runs over and I stand there by the bottle warmer with tears in my eyes.
The living room is a disaster in the aftermath of Fort-Building 101, the dishes are still dirty, the baby is screaming for no possibly known reason, and Miss Three is incessantly insisting that she needs a third cup of chocolate milk to match her age. As I am about to be unnecessarily harsh with her tender spirit, I receive a text from a dear friend.
“Read Matthew 10:42. It’s a nanny life, just replace “water” with “milky” :)”
I look it up.
“And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup if cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”
I bite my tongue.
Maybe all this – this changing your outfits for the 6th collective time today, this cleaning up your paperless watercolor experiment on the counter, this training you over and over again to use gentle words and actions – is teaching me.
Maybe as I hold you tight and walk in circles for hours to bring you calm, even though you aren’t lacking anything, I can remember that I serve a God who provides all I need, and still continues to carry me close to his heart.
Maybe as I help you wipe up that accident from the floor yet again, I can be thankful that my Jesus didn’t leave me on my own in my mess, but did the dirty work for me.
Maybe as I stir Mac n’ Cheese, change diapers, re-read books for the 16th time today, and prompt you yet again to say ‘please’, I can walk in the blessing of what a precious opportunity it is that I have – to invest in eternity by investing in your hearts.
Maybe these ordinary days… are the most fulfilling. The most beautiful. And filled with the most grace.
Maybe your two beautiful, innocent faces are showing me glimpses of my glorious God.
All through high school I thought I had the four years after graduation figured out. I knew I was generally expected to dive right in to college and I was determined to follow through. I knew what I wanted to study and knew the general location of where I wanted that to be. I knew I wanted to attend school loan-free and complete it debt-free. I knew I would be paying for my own education and that I would graduate at a younger age than the average student. I knew there would be challenges, but I was confident to face them. I was familiar with the idea of a gap year and at moments would entertain the possibility, but for the most part, I decided against it. I knew a year out of school would mess everything up. Yep…I had it all figured out.
Senior year brought a flurry of activity, and with it came that multitude of college applications, essays, forms, visits, and scholarship and financial aid paperwork (as well as the vast overabundance of mail and phone calls.) It also brought a growing level of uncertainty. After every meeting with an admissions counselor and every conversation with a prof, I would picture myself in that particular academic setting and point out all the things I admired and appreciated – yet my heart would be uneasy. I wasn’t nervous. Neither was I excited. Deep down, I knew that I wasn’t supposed to be there. Not “there” as in a specific school…”there” as in college itself. And I really did not want to accept that realization at all.
I had everything figured out, remember? It was all lined up. I wanted the challenge, the adventure. I wanted to share post high school experiences with my friends. I thought I wanted to live up to the cultural expectation of “college after high school because that’s just what you do.” It all made sense. Still, I had no peace. I was pursuing my plans instead of pursuing God’s will. That, my friends, is a dangerous place to be. In the words of Corrie ten Boom, “There are no ifs in God’s world, and no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety. Let us pray that we may always know it!” So gently, firmly, and with oh-so-much love in His voice, God began to impress these words upon my heart:
“Stop. Stop the pursuit. Stop forging forward. Rest in me. I have so much more I want to share with you. So many ways to reveal myself to you. I want your full attention. I want you to know me closely, personally, intimately. Stop.”
Every protest and excuse and struggle that I spewed forward fell flat (of course) and the deposit day came and went without a place for the next semester reserved in my name. My files were put aside for potential future reference. My years of careful planning were completely gone within a couple of months. I was left with two things: absolutely no idea what I was doing in the fall, and a whole lot of peace. When the Lord of the Universe calls you by name and desires a deeper relationship with you, cultural expectations pale significantly in comparison.
What is it that I believe? What do I stand for? How do I live it? In what ways can I serve? Most importantly, who is the reason I’m seeking answers to these questions, and how do I know Him? Really know Him? This is the ultimate purpose of my gap year. To make use of the space, take time to listen, step back and learn who my Jesus really is.
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:7-11
The time when many of my friends set out to begin or continue their college adventure and I, well, don’t.
Trust me when I say that it’s been a journey of reliance and surrender for me to accept that college is not where I am supposed to be right now. And that the month of August is especially hard because it seems like all anyone ever talks about (minor generalization) are class schedules, move-in day, and last-minute important details ~ conversations in which I cannot fully participate.
However, before you get the idea that I plan on sitting around moping all year, waiting to figure out what to do with myself for the rest of my life, let it be known that while some uncertainty still remains, I am greatly excited for what The Father has in store for me this year! It has been so much fun coming up with ideas and making list after list of ways to fill my time, and it has been wonderful seeing certain details fall into their pre-ordained place. I’ve begun to envision my main goals for this year and I am quite literally thrilled to begin experiencing them! So without further ado…five ways to thrive when your friends leave for college.
1. Engage in community.
Simply because you aren’t in a situation where you are “forced” to meet new people and make new friends, doesn’t mean you have to sit around hopelessly longing for the good times with all the people who are away at school. It just means you have to take a little more initiative! Having a community of peers and mentors who will uplift and encourage you in your walk with Christ is oh-so-very needed as you grow. Take a step out of your comfort zone and attend your church’s young adult ministry, get involved in a Bible study in your area, organize get-togethers with co-workers, start corresponding with out-of-state acquaintances, go out for coffee with an older woman you respect, really take time to get to know your siblings, you fill in the blank. Sure, it may take a little extra effort on your part, but the relationships and experiences gained will be well worth the process!
Take this opportunity to look outside of yourself. How can you meet the needs of other people? What is the best way you can serve this year? In what ways can you exemplify the love of Christ to the people in your everyday life? And how can you use the gifts God has given you to uplift the body of believers and show grace to those who need it most? Look around, and be willing to involve yourself and get your hands dirty for the kingdom of God.
3. Tackle your bucket list.
Maybe you won’t be able to tour Europe or find the cure for cancer, but I’m sure some smaller “yes-this-needs-to-happen” moments can easily be accomplished with both a little strategic planning and a healthy sense of spontaneity! After all, who doesn’t want to pay a strangers tab at a restaurant or bake in the middle of the night for no reason at some point in their life?
4. Linger in God’s presence.
Has your heart felt anything like mine recently? Pressured, stressed, overwhelmed and pulled in twenty-seven different directions at once? Are you craving peace? Do you have deep desires that can only be fulfilled by the Lover of your soul? Make time to learn, listen, and sit under the teachings of God himself this year. Develop a desire to be with him, digging deeper, allowing him to draw your heart ever closer to his. Take time to stay in his presence. He will satisfy.
5. Keep learning.
School and learning aren’t synonymous, believe it or not, and you can continue broadening your horizons without a full-time class schedule. Finally pick up guitar! Get started on that stack of books you’ve wanted to read or spend hours giggling with children! Develop a hobby, intensely research something completely random, or adventure outdoors! Intern or job shadow in your fields of interest, work on your DIY projects, and ask lots and lots of questions! Even if you aren’t any closer to those fancy letters behind your name, you’ll have succeeded in doing a whole lot of living. And hopefully had your share of fun doing it as well!
Blessings on the year ahead!