Worth the Wait: Baxter Lesson #5

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Writing The Calling of Ella McFarland has required a virtue: patience. But learning to wait is hard.

Baxter, my four-month-old Cavapoo, spends a goodly portion of his day waiting. At my feet. While I write. In his 4 months of life, he’s learned some things are worth the wait.

Baxter’s in good company.

Take Abraham Lincoln, for example. Good ol’ Abe suffered one defeat after another from 1832-1858. Granted, he enjoyed some successes those years, but the big win didn’t come until the presidential election of 1860.

lincoln_president-391128_1280What if Abraham Lincoln had given up in 1832 when he suffered his first defeat for state legislator and a business failure? Or in 1835-1836 when his sweetheart died and he had a nervous breakdown? There were defeats for Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, nominations for U.S. Congress, land office, U.S. Senate, and U.S. Vice-President.

Or if Abe had given up in 1858 when–again–he was defeated for the U.S. Senate, the Emancipation Proclamation wouldn’t have been written in 1863. Nor would General McClellan have finally been removed of his command and the way cleared for General Grant to lead the Union to victory. 

Immortality as arguably the greatest American president was worth the wait.

GrandmaMosesStamp1969-public-domainThen there’s Anna Mary Robertson Moses–otherwise known as Grandma Moses–who first painted as a child using lemon and grape juice, ground ochre, grass, flour paste, slack lime and sawdust for creations. What if she hadn’t been willing to wait for the right time for her talent to emerge? After decades of marriage, child-rearing, and farming, and after arthritis had destroyed her ability to embroider, she picked up a paint brush at age 78. And the rest–including a U.S. postage stamp in her honor–is history.

Reaching icon status was worth the wait.

And, oh, how long Frederick Douglass waited! From his birth in slaveryFREDERICK_DOUGLASS_public-domain around 1818, he never knew his mother–I do not recollect ever seeing my mother by the light of day. … She would lie down with me, and get me to sleep, but long before I waked she was gone–until his death in 1895, Douglass never ceased to stand for freedom. Born into slavery, he made repeated attempts to escape and finally made it to freedom in 1838. He became the foremost voice for the abolition of slavery and stood for a woman’s right to vote. 

At the 1888 Republican National Convention, Douglass became the first African American to receive a vote for President of the United States in a major party’s roll call vote. And he died in 1895 shortly after returning home from a meeting of the National Council of Women in Washington, D.C.

Advancement toward equality was worth the wait.

Baxter’s contentment comes when he gets my attention. Abraham Lincoln wasn’t content with emancipation; his next goal was reconstruction. Grandma Moses painted as long as her fingers could hold brushes, and Frederick Douglass rested only in death.

At the moment I’m basking in the joy of the release of my long-awaited debut novel, The Calling of Ella McFarland.

But I’m also waiting for that day when all the wars and rumors of war will end. 

Some things are worth the wait. 

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
Psalm 27:14

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Politics, Yesterday and Today

I can’t watch the news for long. Not when it’s about politics. Gets my dander up. My imagination wanders to places it has no business as a Christian—except to prayer. Politics, yesterday and today, can get most anyone’s dander up.

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http://www.loc.gov/pictures/ resource/cph.3g12608/ (Public Domain)

Political elections, particularly presidential, are a grim reality of the present, as they were in the past. So are congressional disagreements and political infighting. But as heated as speeches, interviews, and press conferences can become today, we have yet to witness what South Carolinian, U.S. Representative Preston S. Brooks, one of my distant cousins, perpetrated on Senator Charles Sumner in the U.S. Congress on May 22, 1856. 

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Sacking_of_Lawrence#/media/ File:Sacking-lawrence.jpg (Public Domain)

Per an account of the event at www.ushistory.org, Republican Senator Sumner of Massachusetts, an avowed Abolitionist, gave a bitter speech in the Senate after the sack of Lawrence, Kansas on May 21, 1856 in which he blasted the “murderous robbers from Missouri,” calling them “hirelings, picked from the drunken spew and vomit of an uneasy civilization.” Part of his speech was a bitter, personal tirade against South Carolina’s Senator Andrew Butler whom Sumner declared  an imbecile. “Senator Butler has chosen a mistress. I mean the harlot, slavery.” Stephen Douglas predicted that a fool like Sumner would likely get himself killed by another fool. The speech went on for two days and another two days passed before the prediction proved true.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Caning_of_Charles_Sumner#/ media/File:Southern_Chivalry.jpg (Public Domain)
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https-::en.wikipedia.org:wiki: Charles_Sumner_Walking_cane_ used_to_assault_Senator_Charles_ Summner,_May_1856_-_Old_State_ House_Museum,_Boston,_MA_-_ IMG_6685 (Public Domain)

Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina was a Southerner raised to live by an unwritten code of honor. Defending the reputation of one’s family was at the top of the list. As a distant cousin of Senator Butler, Brooks entered the Senate chamber where Sumner was working at his desk. “You’ve libeled my state and slandered my white-haired old relative, Senator Butler, and I’ve come to punish you for it.” Brooks struck Sumner over the head repeatedly with a gold-tipped cane. The cane shattered as Brooks administered blow after blow on Sumner, but Brooks could not be stopped. Only after being physically restrained did Brooks end the pummeling.

Northerners were incensed. The House levied Brooks a $300 fine for the assault when they were unable to garner the votes to expel him. He resigned and returned home where South Carolina held events in his honor and reelected him to his House seat. Replacement canes were sent to Brooks from all over the south. This response outraged northern moderates even more than the caning itself. (Shades of politics today?)

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http-::www.ushistory.org:us:31e.asp

The physical and psychological injuries from the caning kept Charles Sumner away from the Senate for most of the next several years. The voters of Massachusetts reelected him and let his seat sit vacant during his absence as a reminder of southern brutality. The violence from Kansas had spilled over into politics in the national legislature.

Which brings me back to politics today. Sure enough, what’s old is new. We’ve seen via news and online clips the brawls that have erupted in legislative bodies in countries around the world. And outside peaceful political gatherings in the U.S. We’ve seen the extremes to which political and religious fanaticism has taken some. And we’ve turned off our TVs to find peace amid the turmoil. But so far we haven’t seen a physical attack in the U.S. Congress since the one perpetrated by one of my very distant Brooks relatives. 

Lord, deliver us from such. (And keep the canes out of Congress!)

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