Monday, April 15, 2019

Fire & Rain & Miss Madeline

Good Monday morning.

Let me begin by saying I am not here to discuss James Taylor's music with you.

Last week I introduced you to a new family member, Maggie. You can catch up on that - - - > here if you missed it. Here are a few glimpses of Maggie's first official week as a Zeigler:

She quickly claimed a pair of Reagan's socks as her own, & she has so much fun dragging them around the house no one has had the heart to take them away:

I'm having to instill a few manners in Maggie. This is her after leaping on the dining table. She's perched atop Reagan's math homework. 

The kids quite enjoy walking the dogs with me in the afternoons. 

During one of our walks last week a neighbor approached me to share some interesting information. She has a friend who lives in the neighborhood who wants it to be known that if we ever decide to sell the house she'd like to be alerted to that fact. I am serious. She likes the location & the adorable exterior, & her husband likes our yard that is smaller than his current yard. They want to stay in the neighborhood but are looking for a smaller yard. I know what you're thinking, & I too believe the Lord sent them to me.

I calmly untangled Maggie's leash from our neighbor's legs while I let her know that I have in fact given some thought to selling our house. Isn't life interesting sometimes? Trey didn't find this whole exchange as interesting as I did, but what's the harm in letting a neighbor tour your home when next your husband is on a business trip? It's important to be neighborly & hospitable. It is actually Biblical.

This next picture was taken by Reagan's teacher Friday afternoon. All week the kids begged me to bring Maggie when I came to pick them up, & so Friday I obliged.

So, Zeigler: party of six is going pretty well.

Despite the Monday through Friday bustle of school plus acclimating ourselves to the realities of being a two-dog household, perhaps the most memorable day last week was Saturday. Locally we were pelted by rain all day long. Reagan had a soccer game scheduled for nine o'clock Saturday morning, but that was canceled. The children & I did not go anywhere all day long. It was a long, interesting day.

Afraid we'd eventually lose power, I got myself & the kids bathed much earlier in the day than I otherwise would have on a Saturday. I did some laundry. I made the kids & the dogs huddle in the hallway with me when the predictions were somewhat dire in our area. Naturally we took group selfies to share on social media like all people who fear dramatic weather events do.

We were fortunate Saturday. We got a whole lot of rain, but other than that we experienced nothing of note. This was not the case for everyone in our area. A local boy drowned. Some roads & homes flooded. By the end of the day, a local elementary school burned down after being struck by lightning. 

Thanks to the Internet, weather truly becomes a community event. As I mentioned, I was home all day Saturday. I was watching Facebook for weather updates as all good & wise people do. There was a bit of a hysterical mood in my Facebook feed on Saturday. We fear & often allow weather to vex us because we cannot control it. Weather is a reminder to us of how small we truly are. We know a lot about how & why meteorologic things happen, but we can't prevent them, & we cannot initiate them. In any fictional setting that features humans playing God (The Truman Show, The Hunger Games), be assured, the god-figure(s) will meddle with the weather. If you've seen it, you may recall Christof's line in The Truman Show, "Cue the sun."

It is our nature to seek to control things (&, yes, people). If you don't believe me take a look at our government. April 15 is, after all, a most excellent day to take a good look at our government. Call me crazy, but I don't want people who cannot control spending & often cannot personally control themselves being given much say in my life.

George W. Bush & other Republicans once partnered with the late Ted Kennedy to pass legislation (No Child Left Behind) that impacts every public school student in America. Think about that. Ted Kennedy drank too much, cheated on his wife, & once left a woman to drown in a car he drove off a bridge. I think it was foolish of the voters of Massachusetts to continue to send the man to Washington, but what ought to protect me & all public school children (as well as teachers & administrators in the public schools) from men like Ted Kennedy is a small federal government that does not deal with education. Ted Kennedy's life was a long experiment in making terrible decisions for which he rarely suffered consequences because of his last name as well as the D after his name, but yes, let's give him control over decisions that impact America's school children. As was so often the case during his long tenure in the Senate, he was responsible for terrible legislation for which he paid no personal or political price. 

My point, & I do have one, is that we live day to day with the illusion that we wield a great deal of control over things. Many of us seek to control others because we think we know what is best for them. Granted, this is usually true when it comes to rearing children, but it is a whole different ball game when only adults are playing. I bristle at governmental attempts to control people because the government is rife with people who cannot even control themselves. They spend other peoples' money with abandon, many of them believe they are above the law (& sometimes they're proven correct on this count), & a handful of them cannot even remain faithful to their spouse (see: my aforementioned Ted Kennedy discussion). If you can't keep your pants zipped around people to whom you're not married, I'd rather you not have any control over my life, & I'd rather you not have the power to tax my income & spend it how you deem best. Just maintain a military, secure our borders, & make sure the Interstates are in working order, & step on back. 

One of the greatest political mysteries to me is that the same people who despise Trump, who liken him to Hitler, clamor for the government — the very government that is at the moment headed by Donald Trump, the man they hate — to be handed more control of their lives. Before demanding the government provide yet another service, before demanding they oversee yet another aspect of your life, you ought to envision whomever your nightmare president is has won the next presidential election. If he or she is president, do you still want the government having a hand in educating your children? In making decisions about your healthcare?

So anyway, control. We are discussing control. Aside from the ubiquitous presence of government in our lives, there are two circumstances that can quickly yank us out of our fantasy that we are in control. These are weather-related incidents & health-related incidents. I have seen both play out over this last week in somewhat dramatic fashion.

I told you last week that I had received news that a former student of mine was facing a health crisis. She was & is still in ICU. Her name is Madeline. She was my student for two years (& not because she failed English class). I taught her eleventh grade Honors English, & then I taught her AP English her senior year of high school. A perfect storm of health issues collaborated & landed her in the hospital. She was told she had mono. She came home to recover, but she worsened dramatically & ended up in the hospital with dangerously high blood sugar. She threw up because she was in DKA (remember, kids, we've discussed DKA before but feel free to Google if necessary). There was concern she'd torn her esophagus when she vomited. A diagnosis is not yet clear, but she's come a long way already. She spent several days sedated & on a ventilator. She's awake now & doing her own breathing.

When I typed that last phrase, awake now & doing her own breathing, I immediately thought of The Awakening. Madeline fell in love with The Awakening when we read it her senior year. After she finished her AP Lit exam she texted me to let me know she'd answered the open question using The Awakening. I knew she would. She told me before she took the exam that regardless of the specifics of the open question she would answer it using The Awakening; she said she would make it work. And she did make it work. She passed her exam, & she's now a student at Mississippi State on a great scholarship. She's an incredibly gifted young woman who loves the Lord & has been, in the most dramatic of fashions, reminded of who is in control & in whom her faith must continually reside. 

Madeline could no doubt write me a stunning essay detailing the reasons Chopin's Edna Pontellier is a noble protagonist. I like Edna. I've written blogs all about Edna in the past. I've delivered riveting lectures about Edna. Edna is not without her flaws, though. If I had to pick the more inspiring heroine, the stronger heroine, the Christlike heroine, I'd pick Madeline every day of the week & twice on Sunday. Madeline has carried more of an emotional load in her few short years than many will in their entire life, & now she is fighting for her physical health. I love & admire you so much, young lady. I am recovering from sinus issues & a nasty fever blister; once I feel relatively germ-free & ICU-worthy I will come see your beautiful face. 

So, to sum up, we truly control so little. We plod along day after day jotting things in our planners. Sometimes things go as we hope & plan, but it is how we respond when things do not go as planned that is the testing point C.S. Lewis refers to in The Screwtape Letters:

Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality. 
Highest reality is the point at which you are viscerally reminded you are not in control, but you still proclaim it is well with my soul. Highest reality is a family split in two through no fault of your own. Highest reality is an ailing child. Highest reality is a building giving way to soaring flames. Highest reality is a deluge of water gushing into your home, or an ear-splitting wind howling outside your front door. Highest reality is, for some, confronted in a room in the ICU.

Courage is coming face to face with highest reality & kneeling before God anyway, praising Him anyway, trusting Him anyway, obeying Him anyway. Madeline is familiar with life's moments of highest reality; she finds her courage again & again.

As a segue to Easter, let me add a final thought to this diatribe about all of the things we do not & cannot control: God, like every great author, knows the significance of weather, & He knows the significance of physical health. He uses both to illustrate powerful lessons throughout the Bible. I think aside from the flood my favorite Biblical use of weather is when the Lord darkened the sky & shook the earth as Christ died, as the life left His body. Wouldn't every parent who lost a child do the same if they had the power? God doesn't have to write His name in the sky to make Himself known; He created the sky, & He created the light by which we can see it, & He can snuff out that light at any moment. He speaks, & the sun obeys, & the earth moves. The Bible is, among other things, a wonderful piece of literature & can be analyzed as such. God appreciates symbolism, & it wouldn't have seemed appropriate that the sun remain high & bright in the sky given that the man who was present when the sun was spoken into existence was in the throes of death. For the God of the universe, you have to think the point of highest reality was doing nothing as His Son writhed in agony on the cross.

My goodness, this has not been a light read. I hope you consider it worth your time, nonetheless. The week ahead is a four-day school week for the kids as we prepare for the long Easter weekend. I have so many egg hunts for which to prepare I really have no business sitting to blog, yet here I am. Maybe next week I'll share my thoughts on our odd habit of remembering Jesus's death, burial, & resurrection by stuffing colorful plastic eggs with candy & then hyper-regulating how many plastic eggs children can find.

Despite being metaphorically assaulted by the federal government today, I hope you have a nice day & a Happy Easter. Remember, one day Jesus will return for His own, & at that time both death & the federal government will be destroyed. Carry that thought with you today.

I shall return in a week's time, the Lord willing, to share some Easter photos & amusing Easter anecdotes with you & let you know if I've sold our house to our neighbors without Trey's knowledge. 


No comments:

Post a Comment