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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Australia or New Zealand (01/15/09)

TITLE: More Precious Than a White Heron
By Margaret Gass


Mark let out a sigh and pushed the encyclopedia away. He had picked “Queen Elizabeth II” as his topic for the school’s annual curriculum fair, thinking it would be easy. He already knew where she lived and a little about her family--though most of what he knew came from the tabloid headlines about her grandchildren, Princes William and Harry. He thought the family “World Book” would give him the basics, and that he could get lots of pictures for his display board with one quick trip through the checkout line at the grocery store. Now he was finding it tough to focus on the “boring” descriptions of Parliament and the British Monarchy, and that he simply did not have enough information. He was going to have to take desperate measures: he would have to ask Mom for help. He hoped she would spare him the procrastination lecture, because that was something he knew by heart.

“Mom! I need your help! Can you come here?” he shouted, without even bothering to get up from the worn dining room table. “Mom!”

“Why are you screaming?” Nancy said as she entered the room. “I could hear you all the way from the basement. Are you through with your homework? I need to set the table for dinner.”

“No,” Mark said, “and I don’t think I will ever be done with this stupid project! I’m supposed to write five pages about a current world leader, and I can’t even fill five note cards!”

“Is that your ever-so-polite way of asking for help?” Nancy asked. Nancy had, of course, already offered to help--three weeks ago, when the project was first being discussed, and again last weekend, when she had offered to drive Mark to the library. He hadn’t wanted help or advice then, and she had bitten her lip as he brushed her aside with all the bravado an eighth-grade boy could muster.

“Yes, ma’am.” Mark recognized the “Mom-voice” and decided to cave quickly, hoping it would lead to no lecture and more help. “I can’t understand this stuff, and the book’s talking about events way before I was born. What’s the point?”

Nancy replied, “I think the point will be best made after dinner. Clear the table, and we’ll Google on full stomachs. We’re having tuna casserole.”

Thirty minutes later, mother and son sat before their dinosaur of a computer, scanning the official royal website. “What’s a Commonwealth? I thought Elizabeth was Queen of England,” said Mark as they scanned the links at the left of the screen. One quick click informed them that it was “a voluntary organization of 53 countries formerly under British rule.” Not much help. Another click took them to Australia, where they discovered the Queen’s official title was, “Elizabeth the Second by the Grace of God Queen of Australia and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth.” New Zealand added “Defender of the Faith” to her title, and in the Maori language she was known as Kotuku, which means “the white heron,” a cherished bird in New Zealand. This discovery led to a discussion of the only Australian bird Nancy could remember, the Kookaburra, a member of the kingfisher family who bashes its prey’s head against a rock…not quite the image she’d had as a child when she’d sung “Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree” in third grade music class! Soon Nancy and Mark were “oohing and ahing” over gorgeous vacation scenery as Mark made notes about the Queen’s Standard, her official and ceremonial duties, and how her image was on the currency and coinage of several countries. Now excited by his topic, he went to bed exhausted at 11 pm.

Nancy stayed up another hour or so, reflecting. She loved nights like this, nights when her boy looked to her as a source of help and wisdom instead of being embarrassed by his “hopelessly uncool” mom. She loved being able to point him to Jesus and remind him to seek God’s wisdom without being preachy. It’s so easy to see God’s loving creativity when looking at His beautiful creation…but sometimes she failed to look.

Nancy realized that she made assumptions about God, just as Mark had about the Queen, based on surface information. How long had it been since she had searched the Word as thoroughly as they had searched the internet? Had she taught Mark how to do so? It was Mom’s turn to ask for help, and Nancy sank to her knees. “Father…”

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This article has been read 547 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Connie Dixon01/22/09
Good job! I loved the reminder about researching - everything but the Word, and how research could be so much more incredible when the subject is God. Great story, good writing.
Joy Bach 01/22/09
What a great article! And how very true it is...we spend time researching a new appliance purchase, what skin cream to use or what might be a good movie. How much time do we spend researching the most important thing? Makes for a lot of reflection.
Karlene Jacobsen01/23/09
There is so much information we don't know about Australia and New Zealand. This mom and son were very realistic and enjoyable to meet and get acquainted with.
Dolores Stohler01/26/09
This was very well done. I learned a few things about the British monarchy and then the Biblical twist at the end made it a story well worth reading. Kudos to you!