Joy in the Ordinary

I’m not sure I’ve ever met someone who finds more joy in the ordinary than my dad.

I mean, let’s face it: the guy hasn’t always had it easy. After struggling to put himself through law school (no small feat), he was blessed with five – count ‘em FIVE – daughters who needed four sets of braces (Vanessa was the lucky one with the naturally straight teeth… jealous!), and a wife suffering from an autoimmune disease with no cure (Multiple Sclerosis, in case you’re wondering), who later divorced him after 32 years of marriage. So rather than join his law school buddies in the bliss of yacht-owning retirement, he’s still plugging away at his job, trying to make ends meet, and renting a room in his friend’s mansion because his house was sold to pay the bills. Yikes! That’s enough to make anyone bitter. It gives me a sour taste in my mouth just thinking about it all. And yet, you never hear him complain.

No joke. The man is ALWAYS smiling. He extracts so much joy from the simple things in life; he just doesn’t have room in his heart for sorrow. I can remember countless trips back to Western my freshman year, inching along those back roads at a snail’s pace. Me: groaning internally because all I want is to be back in my dorm room with my friends (and better yet, away from the insanity of home), him: grinning from ear to ear, proclaiming the beauty of it all. “I love this,” he’d say, “Look at all the leaves changing colors on the trees. It’s such a pretty drive.”

I can’t help but appreciate fall in Monmouth now.
Or how about his weekly (sometimes daily) mass e-mails to my sisters and I, just to tell us a bit about his life and ask us about ours? He finds so much pleasure in staying connected to us. He genuinely cares about my seemingly mundane school/work/homework/more school/more work schedule. Probably even more than I do.

I ask others about their days now.
This is the man who wears his wedding ring hooked on a cross, draped around his neck. The guy who stores pictures of his daughters in his Bible, praying over them every night. He constantly demonstrates to me what it means to have unrelenting faith. Even with the wealth of pain he’s been dealt, he truly understands what it means to trust and obey.

I pray every night now.

An ordinarily annoying task, such as taking your car to Les Schwab to have a flat fixed, is an adventure to my dad. Free popcorn! A trip to his office will most certainly involve some sort of treat stored inside his cabinets. A fruit bar purchased on sale at Winco, some hot chocolate, a comic strip he’s clipped from the newspaper that reminded him of me. Rather than just call and say “congrats” or “I’m thinking of you,” he’ll send cards. Lots of cards. Always filled with his slanting handwriting, flat along the bottom because he uses a ruler to create straight lines and make things look nice (must’ve been something he picked up in law school).

I send out a lot more cards now.
Many people covet the trappings of this world: iPods, sports cars, brand name clothing. The latest and greatest, make-you-happy-until-something-new-comes-out gadgets. My dad enjoys $3 movies at Northern Lights, chocolate milk (which he sometimes opens in the store and drinks as he shops, presenting the cashier with an empty container when he’s checking out – horrifyingly embarrassing as a child, mildly amusing and charming now), Banzai Burgers at Red Robin, and watching his favorite TV shows on DVD. But more than any of those things, he enjoys people, nature, and beauty. He treasures moments spent with those he loves (seriously, take him out to dinner some time, it’ll make his day). He takes day trips to the beach to go whale watching and pray. He notices the simple ways that God shows us His love; the things so many of us take for granted.

I strive to find more joy in the ordinary now.
I haven’t always appreciated him. In fact, there was a time when I swore I would never be close to my father. Ever. I used to pray every night that the same angry man who didn’t understand me would somehow transform into a patient, sympathetic, caring man who loved me for me. Whether it was him who changed or me who opened my eyes more, I’m not sure. Most likely it was a little of both. Either way, if I ever needed proof that God is good and that He listens to us when we talk to Him, it’s in my father. He is, hands down, the most patient, sympathetic, and caring man on this planet. He loves me unconditionally and un-circumstantially. He’s so joyful, his eyes even sparkle and smile. His cheeks crinkle, displaying the most delightful dimples you’ve ever seen. And when he laughs – oh goodness, when he laughs – it’s like it comes spilling out directly from his soul. His whole body shakes. He tosses his head back, closes his eyes, and allows the moment to consume him. Trust me, it’s contagious.

I laugh a lot louder now.

All I can say is that the man who decides to pursue me in the future is going to have a lot to live up to. Thanks to my father, I know what a true man of God looks like. And I won’t settle for anything less.


Amanda said…
Wow, Blondie. That was good. Amazingly well written and from the heart. You are absolutely right about dad. He's always upbeat, postive and enjoying the good, fun, and beautiful in even the smallest mundane tasks- like the free popcorn at Les Schwab. He's the one you see standing in the parking lot not yet going into the store even though everyone around him is in a rush to get their groceries on their way home from work and hurry back home and one with their day, but not Dad, nopes he's the one who is out watching the sunset to see what colors God paints the sky with that night because "it's gonna big a good one." I love what you said about laughter spilling over from the soul. So true. You can't help but be swept in to his good mood.
Yup I love your Dad. He's much like my Dad....only they have different stories about their lives. Different hairdos too, my hubby points out. Now we debate the spelling of hair doo? Hairdoo? The world may never know.