Monday, May 18, 2015

We Wish

    We wish upon dandelions, and watch their seeds float away. You are the seed. Will you take root somewhere and thrive? Will you be hardy or hardened to your world?
  There are no words for the gut ache one feels when sending children off into a world where they are not safe. Not unless the One watches over them and leads them through. Saves them.

   After eight days and goodbyes, my heart is a jumble of, "Why and what are you going to do about them God?" I'm reminded of the answer we got months ago which was, "You. You are what I'm going to do about them." And it hurts to have your heart broken. It's hard to let go and let God, knowing the future of precious ones is in His hands, and so often those hands are on human flesh and are part of broken world systems.

   You child, are a seed buried, in what's going to be really rough ground for awhile. The slope is rocky and the ascent is up. Pray for wings.  

"Give them wings, God. Give them wings to soar."
   I realized this weekend that when we gather with others who are also making a difference for kids, who also are involved in their communities, I find it's easier to talk about broken systems and poor communication than the children. It's easier to talk about anything but your brothers and you, and all the children just like you. Children who may well be fighting for safe their whole lives.

   We certainly don't sit around the dinner table and talk about what we whisper in your ear in sacred moments. We don't mention sacred conversations where we pray, where we hope that hope was imparted. Yes, we are trying to whisper "hope" with every breath.

    There are dreams and wishes we wish for you. Sometimes, I think we are afraid of talking about them lest the power of the dreams and prayers fall away as you go. The wishes we wish for you feel like wind, so easily slipping through our fingers, just as you do. I have no clue where you are going, and you float off too soon.

   The quiet moments with you are the most difficult to reflect upon. Moments where we sought to throw you an anchor in the storm of now, and also an anchor for the stormy days ahead. This time around, nothing prepared me for how I need my own anchor at your going. The questions toss me about.

   Will you remember this is not a lesson for you? You wanted to know if it was all a lesson for you. "No, this is not a lesson, but yes it's an earthquake right now. The ground is shaking, but God is in your shaking world. He is with us. He promises not to leave nor forsake us." Will you remember the prayers spoken over you? Will you remember the broken oak? How her heartwood just split in two, but that the potential for even more life comes from those twisted limbs on the ground?

   Will that trip to OSU mean anything to you? Will all those machines, gadgets, and people become an embedded memory that one day leads you to wide open spaces of learning? You were wide eyed with wonder. Might you be college bound someday because of one short visit to see an Engineering Expo? Will that math dictionary stay with you? Will you use it? Will you remember, “You are strong, good, loving, and going to be a great builder with your hands and be a leader of people?”  Can words overcome the mess of your daily world?

   As a writer, I ask, "Are words enough?" Immediately, I know they are not. Words are powerful only when framed with a hug, a laugh, a bowl of food, and a warm bed. Words are powerful only when embraced within the gift of presence.

   We offered presence as best we could, now I will hold close sacred words and secret conversations, while the bars rattle all around you. I will keep praying for you and your brothers. I will write your names down in my book of remembrance. From a distance, I will keep speaking into your fears and pushing them back.

   Remember child. Remember us. Remember God cares. Remember this is not a lesson for you. This is not your fault. Remember we are praying. Remember you are going to change your world with that beautiful broken heart. Remember to guard your heart.  Remember to dance. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Guest Post: Miss Conolly et Dolley Madison

   Miss Conolly has my head spinning with her take on Dolley Madison. Maybe being the life of the party was not so pleasant after all! Her fictional letter from Dolley to her mother was an assignment for her IEW class; she surely prefers fiction to non-fiction writing.
Dolley Madison, 1804, by Gilbert Stuart
Dolley Madison
First Lady
Executive Mansion 

 Dear Mother,

    I am exhausted, completely exhausted. All this partying, which has gotten to my nerves, is very tiring. I am constantly entertaining all the diplomats that come to see James, and need a break. Of course, Lady Elwin was visiting from England with her husband, so a huge ball was held in their honor. As usual, I was expected to attend. I must admit something about the Elwin's to you, Mother. It is so annoying to be a president's wife, with all the nagging responsibilities that come with being a “leader of society”. Sometimes, as I sit in the huge parlor waiting for callers to arrive, I wonder what my life would be like if James had stayed a simple small town lawyer. (And, Mother, do not think I am calling James a simpleton. He is one of the smartest people I know.) Mother, this town life, which is absolutely horrible for me, is never anything but parties! Only an extroverted person could call this city home. It as grown as distasteful to me as that hateful liquid that is considered “coffee” by the people that live here!

    Mother, I must admit something. Sometimes I wish there was no such person as Lady Elwin. Ever since she arrived in Washington, there have been no parties at all, except those that were balls. It has become as dull as possible to hold parties, even though every girl in town has sore feet from all that dancing. I believe some of my acquaintances have become hypochondriacs for the duration of Lady Elwin's visit. You would think she was a Comtessa, or at least a duchess. All the lakes have frozen over, but you barely ever see those of the better class who used to come out and skate. They are all busy dancing at one ball or another. Apparently Lady Elwin likes only balls, and I assume they are treating that obvious fact the way all the ladies who pride themselves on being fashionable treat the latest fashions from France. I don't mind being well dressed, Mother, but there is a time when you have been to and held so many revels that you can't stand them. I am afraid I am at that point. I have had Lady and Lord Elwin over for dinner only once, I am afraid. We ate in the state dining room, but nothing festive was done. As it appears Lord Elwin does not like parties very much, it really is too bad for him that he decided to marry Elinda. That is Lady Elwin's name, I am afraid to say. Anyway, I suppose what I wanted to tell you was this: The senators and representatives actually did something together for once! Or rather, their wives did, as all of the Mrs. Senators and Mrs. Representatives got together to transform the Capitol building into a festive ballroom, with the room used for the House of Representatives as a banquet hall. Do you know that they did all that work just for Lady Elwin? Apparently one of the lowest forms of English aristocracy is highly celebrated here in America. Some of the ladies in my sewing circle even want to turn American democracy into American monarchy. I am afraid, Mother, that I must admit to not liking Lady Elinda Elwin very much, mostly because of the negative influence I feel she has worked over the city of Washington.

    Lately, Mother, I have been thinking about my life as a president's wife, which I sometimes find extremely tedious. However, living in the Executive Mansion certainly keeps me on my unspeakably sore toes. (Did I tell you that I was made to attend yet another ball?) Living here, while it is quite nice to have someone doing the cooking, means constant work. My morning is spent confirming the menu for dinner, making sure the public spaces are clean for the many visitors who tour the downstairs every afternoon, and leading the sewing circle that I established. In the afternoon I sit in my parlor embroidering and waiting for callers or paying calls. Then I retire to dress for tea, always a complete wonder full of croissants and cucumber sandwiches, and pay any formal calls or occasionally go to a friend's house for ice cream and cookies. Of course, after tea I generally spend my time helping James or reading a book. I wish less diplomats came to dinner, as I always have extra work to do, mainly supervising the domestic staff, when James and I are obliged to entertain foreign ambassadors. Though many of my friends believe that it is a wonderful thing to have the life of a first lady, I have no idea where they formulate their opinions, as I have decided I have no use at all for having this social obligation that has been thrust upon me.

    On nights where I am having a frightfully hard time trying to go to sleep, I sometimes get to thinking about what life would be like if James had chosen to remain a nobody with only a small law practice. Life, which is now horribly busy, would still be peaceful and calm, and James would come home early each day instead of sitting up all night puzzling out a country-sized bucket of problems. Mother, sometimes I want to be back living in that small log cabin that was and will be our home. I yearn for the simplicity of the simple country life we led, James in his office and I in my kitchen. I think even James was not prepared for all this important “cityness” that Washington spreads. He may have thought big, but James never reckoned on something this big. After his term is up, I think James will be perfectly happy to go back to our small little country village. He isn't and won't be a nobody anymore, and James likes that. While we may be well-known, when we return to our cabin, I will be so awfully glad. Actually, I would be quite happy if James had never ran for president, a very tiring job, and we had lived all this time in our cabin and had not been compelled to lead so public a life.

    Mother, do not ever come to this city. Washington is dreadfully busy, which I believe you would find annoying, and the coffee brewed here is as weak as a child's watered-down tea! I wish James had never ran for president, as I detest this whole experience of living in Washington, a very dirty place. For some reason people seem to think that Washington is a wonderful and idealistic place, Mother, even though most of this place is swampland. There are many things I must confess to you, Mother, chiefly my complaints of the people and the culture. Being a first lady in this crazy city is so very trying, I sometimes feel like screaming, so seethingly swampy and surely scatterbrained is this place. Mother, this place, as nice as it sounds, completely exhausts me!

Love from your exhausted daughter,