Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da...

Life goes on... Or so the Beatles told us. Funny how close encounters with death can teach us to live, isn't it? Funny how enduring hardships make the joyful times so much richer. Life has never been harder than it has been these last 16 months. And still... life has never been fuller. Even more profoundly... I've never known JOY-- true joy-- like I've known these days... in this "new life", with which Leslie has left TJ and me.

Leslie's dear friend from high school, Claire, sent me along this gem, shortly after Leslie died, from a thinker/ writer named Kahlil Gibran:

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.

And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.

And how else can it be?

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?

And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?

When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, 'Joy is greater than sorrow,' and others say, 'Nay, sorrow is the greater.'

But I say unto you, they are inseparable...

This just resonates so much with what has been jumping off the pages of scripture, lately, as I read verses that never before carried the encouragement and power that they do today (I mean, they always did, but I never received it fully)... About how Paul would say, "consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds..." And how Jesus Himself talked about not truly "finding life" until you "lose your life". He wasn't just speaking of Heaven. He was talking about the fullness of life that can be lived here, on earth, with a full understanding of the frailty of this life, yet the paradoxical power of faith lived in grace... and a proper understanding of the value of the "stuff" this life has to offer. Losing Leslie re-taught me what it is that I really VALUE-- what my FAITH was really about... what LIFE I truly longed to live. And the flood that I walked into after vacation at the end of 2008 was the exclamation point at the end of that proclamation. One of my favorite Christian bands, Caedman's Call, writes this beauty (and to a GREAT tune, at that):
This world has nothing for me,
And this world has everything.
All that I could want,
And nothing that I need.
We just fill our lives with STUFF, you know? Toys, experiences, titles, substances... And we run from burden and pain. We seek the path of least resistance... the "wide gate". (Matthew 7:13-14) It's like we're trying to steal joy from life, without the required effort, or the consequences of pain, or even those of suffering and death-- and it ends up being a hollow and empty joy. You Christians in the audience... this includes us-- we're not without fault... in fact, maybe we're even MORE guilty of it, because we claim to have FAITH, yet go on self-medicating with all this STUFF... stealing joy from life, claiming the promise of Heaven, while avoiding the "cup" and the "cross" we've been called to bear... clinging on to happiness and "control", and calling it "stewardship", or "maturity", or even "wisdom". But what is the wisdom of this world to God? And what is its foolishness? As I've said before-- and indeed, many of my close friends are probably getting sick of hearing it from me-- but this faith... the "Gospel", if you will... is not really about "Heaven"... No... it's all about the CROSS. Many religions have "heaven" or some version of it. Only Christ, though, and those who call themselves “Christians”, can lay claim to the Cross, and all it represents. And the Cross is not just the Cross of Easter Sunday... no... We mustn't forget Good Friday. (But the GREAT stuff is... once we more fully grasp all that Good Friday is... Easter Sunday becomes something greater... it becomes RESURRECTION Sunday!) (Another post for another time, perhaps... Maybe in another couple of months...)

So... That's just a taste of what's been stirring in my heart these days. And that's how I want to preface today's update-- the snapshot of the goings-on in the life of TJ and me. Bottom line: Life is hard. But life is good. And life goes on.

(As an aside-- I'll try to include some pictures here, as many of you have asked for updated TJ pic's. Unfortunately... my nice digital camera/camcorder seems to have come up missing, in the aftermath of "The Flood"... I hope it turns up... but it may have to be written off as a casualty of the crisis. That being said... my BlackBerry, which I always carry with me, DOES have a camera application, so I have some classic and candid "action shots" to share... although they may be of a lower quality than one might desire...)

TJ and I are having quite a lot of fun together, lately. I will say that things at work have been quite busy... There are too many of those days where I wake TJ up before 6am, shuttle him to Dana's before sunrise, and don't return until after sunset. Not every day is like that, mind you... and not 100% of this occasional 12 hour day is spent "working" either-- lunch with a friend, run an errand or two, work-out at LifeTime (there's one by my office, one by Dana's, and one by our house... so it's always convenient to go blow off some steam and exert some physical energy over lunch, or going to-and-from wherever). No, not every day is a dawn-to-dusk marathon for me... And Liz and Dana have been SO wonderful and flexible and loving toward TJ... But still, it's my time with TJ that I cherish most, so these long days can start to wear, you know? Especially when coupled with the typical one-night-a-week of travel associated with my job... and my commitments with the church/ ministry, etc... And I get the idea TJ feels the same way-- he just longs for more time with Daddy. Yes, I have struggled from time to time with the fact that I just can't offer him the "family time” that I want him to have... (that, after all, would require there being a whole “family” that I want him to have)… There just aren't enough hours in the day. Just not enough beating hearts under this roof.
Now, we DO have some good Saturdays together-- lately our favorite pastime is going to Naperville Music or a local Guitar Center to look at the drums (him) and guitars (me), and then hit the Fox Valley Mall nearby. They have a carousel, a Panera, and lots of quarter gumball machines (both pictured on the left.) Even on some weekdays, I am able to pick him up from Dana's, or relieve Liz at our place, at 4pm or so, right after his nap, and that gives us a little time to run around and hang out together a little more. Last night, we went to Lifetime together before dinner-- a real treat for him. Tonight, we'll do some MUCH needed grocery shopping at Trader Joe's on the way home from Dana's. But even tonight, we'll probably stop and eat at Panera or something for dinner. I can count on one hand the number of times I've actually turned on the stove in 2009. Maybe two hands... But we just don't do "quiet family dinners at home" anymore. How could we? We DO have frozen meals in the freezer from thoughtful and generous friends, just waiting for the opportunity to be thawed, cooked, and enjoyed at home... But honestly... we don't even have time to thaw, cook, and clean up the mess. Those of you who know me know that I'm a bit of a food-nazi... I get it from Leslie. So I'm never going to put TJ's nutritional health in jeopardy... It's just that I'm finding that it's easier, quicker, can be just as healthy, and even CHEAPER to eat out, just TJ and me, than try to throw something together at home for the two of us... as long as we're disciplined enough with where we go, what we order, etc... And TJ doesn't seem to mind. He loves our dinner times out together. To be honest, he probably has more of my focused attention when we're eating out than he does on the rare occasion when we're eating at home... When I cook, I always serve his food first, then pray. Then I usually hover around the table and kitchen, cleaning up, opening mail, or whatever, between bites of my own dinner, so that by the time he's finished, I can get him cleaned up and upstairs to his bath...

I will say, though, there is something sacred about our night time routine, which we have been able to maintain amidst all the chaos of this new family life. We're always home for bath time. (well... almost always...) We play in the tub or the shower, get dried off, jammies on, and then head down to the basement. There, the world is our oyster... We play band... (I'm almost getting tired of "Mighty to Save" and "My Redeemer Lives", I hate to admit… but I just can’t turn down his requests!)... he bangs on his drums... we play baseball or football or basketball and it always results in tickle fights. And then we're off to bed to pray and cuddle... and he always asks me to stay longer than I do. The challenge is to get him to sleep before 9. Or 10, sometimes, for that matter. But there's just so much to DO these nights, you know?

Hard? You bet. Good? Better than that! Life is BEAUTIFUL! I'm truly cherishing these days... just wishing there was more time in them. Each day is truly a blessing. Each day, we're figuring "it" out. However we define "it"-- I don't have to define it... you know what I mean. But each day, God is providing. Not just getting us through... but providing JOY-- pouring grace and love into us. More and more laughter is finding its way into our days. We're certainly not without tears. But, as I quoted at the front end of this post...

"And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears."


Anne said...

There is much wisdom and truth in "The Prophet" by Gibran. A true favorite of mine from way back.
Tyson, the book you are writing, with your life and hopefully with your pen, is truly a reflection of God. May more and more people have an opportunity to read, see, and experience it.
Carry on.

Sarah said...

Yet again, I leave your blog feeling encouraged, refreshed and blessed to know you and be a small part of your lives.

Tyson, your humongous smile at me on Sunday after the near-disaster helped diminish my embarrassment as well. THANK YOU!

Byron Gerber said...

Thank You, It was just what I needed!

Jessica Frye said...

I LOVE seeing TJ's smile! Post those pictures anytime! Love you guys!-Jess