"Let the gratefulness overflow into blessing all around you. Then, it will be a really good day." Louie Schwartzberg
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Embracing Change Through the Fear of it--a lesson from my children

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When Paul and I were engaged, we submitted ourselves to pre-marriage counselling.  I had no problem with the idea coming from the framework that all one-on-one or one-on-two sessions with a professional can only be good and also because it was like a forced date for the two of us.  Since we had had an unconventional courtship (ie, long-distance letter-writing), dates were good. 

Paul submitted because he had no choice.  Not quite gun to his head, but I think you get the picture.

However, Paul very quickly leaned towards my framework for such things and to this day, we treasure that time we had with Pastor Travis.  He gave us the building blocks for a great marriage and a wonderful life together.

In those sessions, I remember Pastor Travis warning us that "change" is one of the biggest factors which puts stress on a relationship.  He was warning us because he knew our plan was to move from Canada to New Zealand straight after our wedding and he wanted us to be prepared.

We were young.  We had few ties and responsibilities but much adventure in our spirit. We feared nothing.  What's another country between friends?  What's moving half-way around the world away from friends and family?  Mere trifles surely in the scheme of things.

And I suppose, looking back at all that adventure in our spirit, the change was just a trifle.  We were in the right place, doing the right thing and having a lot of fun as we explored new things, new careers and new people.  There was little stress on our relationship.  Travis was not wrong in warning us; it just meant we had to be certain of our bond, certain of our direction and certain of our faith.  And in all of those things, we were very certain.

Fast-forward several years and four children.  The adventurous spirit long gone in the whirlwind of soiled nappies, grocery bills, heating costs, committees, jobs, cleaning, laundry health and education.  All summed up by one word:  responsibility.

Somewhere in our thirteen years of parenthood we lost sight of the balance between responsibility and adventure.  We assumed we were doing the right thing, giving our children all those things we thought they needed:  roots, stability, consistency, predictability....  There wasn't much room for adventure in this new life as RESPONSIBLE PARENTS so we pushed that little spark of adventure into a corner of our spirit labelled "not now."

So when we came to a point when that tiny adventurous spark inside of us was crying out and pleading for help before finally becoming extinguished FOREVER (and thus a big part of us dying too), we stopped.

We assessed.

We looked back and we looked ahead.

We realised.

And we grabbed hold of each other and looked one another in the eye with fright as we said the words, "how close did we come?"

Too close. 

Something had to change.  

But the kids?

What about roots, stability, consistency, predictability...?

Yes, but something had to change.  They'll be fine.  We'll help them through it.

Remembering that "change is one of the biggest factors to put stress on a relationship" (and we had six times six relationships to consider), we braced ourselves and embarked.

We sold our house.

We sold a lot of things.  Because things are only things after all.

We sold a car.

We put stuff into storage.

We left our community of 18 years.

We left our friends.

We travelled through the country, living out of our van for 3 1/2 weeks, not always knowing where the road would take us from one day to the next or where we would lay our heads.

We moved to a new city.

We moved into a new house.

We bought new things.  Because things are only things after all.

We started at new schools.

We made new friends.

I guess you could say, on the change scale, we were right up the danger end.  At any point we expected our relationships to blow to oblivion under the stress of it all.  And we were ready, arms wide to console our children on the loss of those things they needed:  roots, stability, consistency, predictability.

But it never happened.

One of our daughters had half a day of sadness in the new house which wasn't the old house but that vanished by the time we had hopped on our bikes to explore the new neighbourhood.  In actual fact, it was our children who reached out to us with wide arms, glowing eyes, and smiling faces to console us.  To reassure us.  To help us through the loss of roots, stability, consistency, predictability.

Those things they never actually needed.

And neither did we.

Because quite simply, all any of the six of us actually need is each other and our faith.  Our children have faith in us and know that we love them and love God so are making the right decisions and changes for them.  That's all they need to know and so they have embraced the changes in our lives.  They are secure and that's all that matters.

And we have faith in God to know these changes are not for the sake of change itself.  We are not just getting out of the proverbial rut.  The changes in our lives have come because we have listened to His quiet (and sometimes not so quiet!) voice in our ear and so we know we will all be okay no matter how scary (and uprooted, unstable, inconsistent and unpredictable) it becomes.  Because just as we provide love and security to our children, so does our Father God provide these things for us.  Every step of the way.

But here's the thing:  none of us is just okay.  We're thriving in the change.  The six of us have always been a tight unit but we're closer than ever.  Our relationships are stronger and we're happier and more joyful and more relaxed and more at peace than we've been in a very long time.  

When unpacking all of this with a friend recently, someone who has modelled adventurous parenting, she said that she's convinced most change is never a bad thing. Please note there are changes outside of our control which involve deep loss and pain and grief and I would never over-simplify that pain by saying tritely that there must still be some good in that.  I am referring to change which occurs out of choices we have to make.  We put it off and put it off until we finally have no choice and then we look back and wonder why we waited so long.  Yes.  That's it exactly.  Every time.  

Because every time we do exactly the same thing again.

But really, why do we put off what's good for us?  Because we're human.  How long exactly did the Israelites wander around in the desert before they finally went into the promised land?  Forty years.

Forty years.

I am thankful at this moment we didn't wait forty years to claim the promises of God.

A New Year and a New Word

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My word for 2014 was Wolf.  After a mammoth 2013, fighting some battles and walking away from others, I was still in defence mode.  It was a learned response and a difficult one from which to disengage.  I sat amongst the safety of friends and family in Canada writing my New Year's post and I knew that when we hit the ground back in New Zealand I would be prepared to fight again.  Nothing and no one would harm my family. 

Just let them try.

And they did try.  They tried, and we wrapped our strong wolf arms around each other and defended ourselves again and so they failed to harm us.  It was exhausting.

But through all of our “wolf” year, another word weaved itself into our lives.  The word was limbo.



2014 became the year of promise for us, the promise of new things, but the year in which we would have to wait for those promises to be fulfilled.  We knew that certain changes needed to be made and we embraced those changes whole-heartedly.  Yet, they did not come as we would have hoped.

So we waited and we prayed and we followed God’s direction and we waited some more, knowing that we were in His favour and that eventually the waiting would end.

December 19th  2014, the waiting ended.

We sold the house we had built six years earlier, the house full of memories both beautiful and painful, and we moved out of it forever.  As you would expect, I felt some sadness but no regret.

I was too relieved to feel any regret.

Relieved and excited.

Tremendously excited.

Because finally, the waiting was over and from that day living in limbo, living in the wilderness, was over too.  From that day, we began to launch. 

A few days before moving, two elderly wise friends who had cried and prayed with us through the battles and the hurt of the year past, came to say good-bye and to pray once more.  This time, the tears we shared together were tears of joy.  And as Margaret held my hand between her ancient ones while we affirmed her for the word she’d given us months ago, that we were to “launch out into the deep and let down our nets” (Luke 5:4), she smiled with her eyes and spoke to our hearts:

“And what happened when Peter launched into the deep water?  He caught so many fish, the nets started to break.”  There was a twinkle in her eye as she said it.

And so my word for 2015 is launch.  My family is launching out into the deep and we are wriggling from the excitement of it.  We do not know what it looks like yet, but will embrace each step and each adventure.

At the moment it means we are homeless and on the trip of a lifetime, exploring the South Island of New Zealand.  It means we wake up and check the weather, look at the map and decide what to do or where to go next.  There is no return plan yet. It means taking in the sites and wonders of this amazing part of the world and pinching ourselves daily.  It means clambering through grassy hills with friends, swimming under waterfalls, watching the sun rise over mountains geocaching along rivers, sneezing in the Canterbury Nor’wester and sharing our stories together as a family.  The memories we are creating on this trip alone are already starting to strain the nets.

Although we do not know what fish there are to catch, we do know that what lies ahead for us is plentiful. 

And beautiful.

And golden.

An abundant life.

Because it has been promised us by God.

Happy New Year my dear reader.  May your nets fill to bursting this year too.

From Dust to Restart

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"A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness."  John Keats

We sold our house exactly one week ago.  We expertly packed everything we hadn’t already sold into a storage container while all essential items went into the Granvia for our Big Adventure. 
Thankfully we spent two days recovering with a friend in her house before we wiped the dust off our feet for the very last time (Matthew 10:14), got on the road and headed south.  Our first stop was Wellington to visit some much-missed friends who had moved away earlier in the year.  Next stop was the Interisland Ferry at 7:30 on a misty Sunday morning.  The ferry journey was pleasant and a good chance to finally stop.  We stopped and sat for three hours, reminiscing, looking forward and enjoying the view.

The ferry docked in Picton and we began the 2 ½ hour drive to Kaikoura.  I could not peel my eyes from the vineyards and the dry golden hills of Marlborough, pointing out things of interest to the children.  With each kilometre our oohs and ahhs and “look at that!” became more frequent and more passionate especially when the crystal water of the Kaikoura Coast came into view.  Each new thing we spied was like a nugget of soul-food.  Upon arriving at our home-away-from-home (except we don’t have one anymore so does that really apply?) my thirteen-year old son exclaimed, “wow, that was the best car trip ever.”

“Because it was so short?”  I asked, since normally it takes at least four hours for us to get anywhere.

“No, because there was so much to look at.  So much that was new.” 

My Mama-heart swelled.  This Mama was grateful and blessed and rested and hope-filled and just plain ol’ happy. 

And fitting too because “so much that is new” could just about be our motto for 2015.  And we all are embracing the fact that “new” means the same as “very very good.” 

Our eldest’s words and the trip south seemed to have set us up for a magical three days in Kaikoura.  It’s always been a place we by-passed enroute to our destination (cue the line from Cars).  This time we planned a recoup.  Recoup and recovery for our family after a move and a pretty crazy year.  Again. 

If there is a Paradise on earth, it is Kaikoura.  I’ve been to some beautiful places and I have been awed and overwhelmed by landscape but never before like I was in Kaikoura.  The colours and the contrast in this amazing place are worth every artist’s attention and every poet’s contemplation.  I am not a poet but I studied the Romantics back in university and I understood exactly how Keats and Shelley must have felt, hiking in the mountains, inspired by nature to put pen to paper what they felt and saw.  As we walked along the cliffs above the sea amongst golden grass, purple lupines, white cliffs, rugged reefs, green flax and the blue blue blue of the Pacific, I cried.

I actually cried from the beauty of it, with a permanent joyous smile under the tears. Not just tears in my eyes, but tears welling up and overflowing while I furiously blinked and wiped not because I was embarrassed by the tears but because they blocked my view and all I wanted to do was to see.  Just to see.

To see and to absorb and to feel and to hope.

I did not want to leave and since we are homeless anyway, the thought crossed my mind that we could make this our home.

But we did have to leave because our next stop was Christchurch for a family Christmas with the Kiwi grandparents and cousins from Canada.  Yes, there is another Susan Dominikovich from Canada married into this Kiwi family but that is another story altogether.

Christchurch is about family but it is also about memories since this is the city in which my husband was born, broke his leg, grew up, went to school, studied, made friends, lost friends, drank for the first time, went out with his first girlfriend, and played cricket.

The city in which he lived for twenty-two years.

The city that will never be the same again.

Today our family walked through the city centre of Christchurch, the area worst hit by the devastating earthquake of 2011 which brought tall buildings to the ground and took the lives of 185 people.  Nearly four years later and the area still resembles a war-zone.

We wandered through deserted streets of condemned buildings and rubble.

We sat in the Square and stared at what remains of Christchurch Cathedral.  This time it was my husband who wiped away tears but for very different reasons.  Sites cordoned off and nature reclaiming what once was man’s domain is difficult to fathom.  My heart sank at the brokenness of the Arts Centre, one of my favourite places and where Paul bought for me my koru, new beginnings, nearly twenty years ago.  The words, “just bricks and mortar” came to mind, but still, there once was beauty in those bricks and mortar.  And we stared dumb-struck at ami Stadium, deserted, the field over-run by weeds, the Hadlee Stand gone. Silent with just a whisper of wind reminding us of the glory days of its past.  Long gone.

And then we came across a spark of energy in the middle of the devastation.  A hive of activity, buskers, shoppers and coffee-drinkers.  Mothers hanging on to the sweaty hands of their children while they line up for a sausage roll or sushi, girls in short skirts comparing the contents of their shopping bags, and young couples in white shirts and sunglasses laughing together over their lattes.  The shops and businesses on Cashel Mall have been revived and rebuilt in bright containers, bringing vibrancy and colour into the concrete wasteland which was once the business centre.  It is now called Re:Start Mall.


I get that.

I so get that.

A city ravaged and destroyed by an earthquake and a people determined to import what beauty they can into the rubble and the ugly.


When we get back to Taranaki and settle into our new home, it will be a Restart for us too.  A restart because we will never be able to look at the small town we lived in with the same naïve beauty-seeing eyes again.  A restart because we do not want to waste one more second in the dust when there is so much beauty around the corner.

We wiped the dust off our feet.


So much that is new.

Well done Christchurch.  You are not sitting in the rubble, pining for what was lost.  You have moved on.  You have created something new, something wild, something ingenious.
Something beautiful.

And so will we.

We can restart together.

In the Waiting: Advent and Believing the promises of God

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"I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord,  "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."  (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)


The season of waiting.  Anticipating.  Hoping.  


I know a thing or two about that.

The people of Israel were promised a King.  It wasn't just a whisper in the wind sort of promise.  It was a shout it from the rooftops sort of promise.  God spoke through his prophets time and time again that

"Out of the stump of David's family will grow a shoot--
   yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.
And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him--
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding
   the Spirit of counsel and might,
   the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord..."  (Isaiah 1-2 NLT)

The Israelites were promised a saviour who would deliver them from decades of slavery and persecution.  Expectation ran high for generations.  And as each generation endured the continuation of that slavery but with various masters and the promise left unfulfilled, there would have been doubt, bitterness, taking up the sword and fighting for themselves. Fighting for freedom.

Because while they were in the waiting, there would have been many who doubted the promise was even such a thing at all.  Perhaps it was just a rumour.  Manipulation.  A movement. Someone's clever idea to achieve unity.  Or even just wishful thinking.

I know a thing or two about that too.

My family has been in the waiting recently and we have been in the waiting before.  Each time I heard God's promise and each time I clung to that promise with every ounce of hope I had my heart and little finger tips.  And each times, God fulfilled that promise.

I am married to a promise.  Nearly 19 years of a promise fulfilled.

And I have recently celebrated the birthdays of two other promises.  Any woman who struggles with infertility knows the waiting all too well.  The hope, the fear, the pain and anguish in the waiting.  But I heard God's promise clear as anything that he was "doing a new thing" in me.  I took that promise and I believed and now my baby boy is thirteen, my baby girl is 10 and two little surprises that came not long after were like the icing on the cake of that original promise.  

With cherries on top.  

So two years ago when I was in the midst of grief and sadness and fear over the thought of losing my community, the church family I'd known and loved for several years, and I heard God's whisper saying, "I will give you community elsewhere,"  I believed Him.  I exhaled all of that fear and sadness and grief and I inhaled deeply of gratitude.  The relief and peace I felt was immediate and overwhelming.  And I also knew that God had already begun to fulfil that promise in my life and by now He has given me so much more of true community than I ever imagined I'd had before.

And then this year.  We arrived back from a trip to Canada in January asking questions.  I was tremendously unsettled.  I gave myself some time to get over the feelings of disequilibrium and homesickness (my true north strong and free!), but the unsettledness did not go away.  By March, the questions we had been asking ourselves began to lead us in a very clear direction.

1.  Who are we?

2.  Where are we going?

3.  How are we going to get there?

It hit us like a tonne of bricks that we were in the wrong place.  Literally.  We were not supposed to be here anymore. And once we began to entertain the possibility that we should move, all the reasons why we should became glaringly obvious.  It was just the how and the when and the what that was unclear.

We began to look at houses in a new area and we had great fun imagining ourselves living there.  But eventually we came across a piece of land in a unique but perfect situation.  I had sworn up and down that I wouldn't build again.  Dont get me wrong:  I loved building.  But it was the landscaping and transforming mud and rocks into a garden and a yard that I couldn't fathom again.  Could we?  Should we?

So Paul went for a walk to the shops and on his way back home and elderly friend of ours was in her front garden and she stopped him, grabbed his hands, looked him straight in the eye and said, "launch out into the deep."  Her words came from some verses in the Bible she had been meditating on, where Jesus tells Peter to stop fishing in the shallow water and launch out into the deep.  

And those five words became the promise that we we were waiting for.  The promise that that we could and we should and that in fact, we must.  

In May we put our house up for sale but immediately upon signing the authorisation, I heard god's whisper in my ear.  It was a promise that there was a perfect time for our house to sale but it was not yet.  That perfect time would be at the end of the year and that we had to be patient in the waiting.  We would sell in the perfect time and it would mean that we could go to the South Island for Christmas and be with family there.  It would  mean a fresh start in January with a new house to rent and new schools.  

Through the winter we did not actively market our property, but picked up the reigns in September.  As September flew into October I had to clamp down on those oh-so-human doubts that our house would ever sell.  I would literally shush myself when mind wandered towards thinking that perhaps we had mis-heard the promises in the first place.  Perhaps it was just our own wishful thinking after all.

Thankfully my dearly beloved was there with me. He never doubted and was always on hand to remind me of how God has worked in our lives, starting with that very first most wonderful promise, our union together.

Our house did sell and the settlement date that was agreed upon was the 19th of December.

We will put our things into storage and head to Wellington the next day and get on a ferry to the South Island the day after that.  

I know!

I know what you're thinking...or you should be thinking.

God is so cool!

There are still a lot of uncertainties and questions about what lies ahead as we continue to launch out into the deep but it is tremendously exciting because we are resting on God's promise in it all and we have a lot of hope in that promise.  And we know we can rest on that promise, because we've done it before.  

We don't need to know exactly what that promise will look like, just as the Israelites did not know to expect the person of Jesus as their promised saviour.  Many had built up that promise into something God had never intended and so did not recognise the fulfilment when He was right there in front of them.  But those who chose to believe in Jesus soon learnt that he had come to give them life to the full (John 10:10).

And so as Paul and I and our family launch out into the deep, we know that we are in fact launching into life as well.

The life that God has promised us.  

Life to the full.

Not in Kansas Anymore

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Two things can be said about why I haven't written in awhile.

Okay, maybe three.

First, I didn't want to.  Quite simple really.

Second, I had found myself looking at life and people through a new filter.  This would be the  "opposite of rose coloured glasses" kind of filter.  It was a filter which highlighted and magnified the glaring fact that people are hardly ever what they seem.  And that sometimes, they are downright evil.  It took some getting used to.

Third, knowing that I was now looking at people through this filter, you wouldn't have wanted to read what I had to write.  Trust me on that one.

And then one Sunday night, as I sat at my piano and played for the first time since August, I felt a change.  A lifting.  A lightness.

Filter still there?  Check.

Circumstances all the same?  Check.

But something new.  Something different.

It was a lifting, a lightening.  A knowing that despite everything I had seen, all the ugly, all the pain (and not all of it my own), there was still good.  There was still light.  I believe it can all be summed up in a little word.  A little word called hope. 

And the thing I have to say about it, about all of it, is that when you are faced with change and you're scared and you're anxious to make the decisions that need making, this.  Just this:

Embrace the change.

Let the change wrap itself around you, pick you up off your feet and take you for a spin while you cling for dear life.  Because it will feel that way, like you're clinging for dear life.  But when you land again and you take a peak to see what it is you're left with, you'll be saying these words:

"I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."  

All that stifling black and white and all those devious shades of grey will be gone and before you will be a road full of adventure, excitement and yes, even danger.  But a road full of colour.

Why on earth would we hang on to grey when we can have colour?

Because if grey is all we've known in awhile, then anything else is too frightening to consider.  Grey is at least safe.

Isn't it?

But then you could be like me and resist the obvious, the necessary change, for so long that you discover the hard way, grey is not safe.  Grey most definitely is not safe at all.

Take my word for it; don't wait too long.  Don't wait.

Embrace the change. 

We left a church.  That was good.

We left a school.  That also was good.

We are moving from the house we built and have loved every single day for over five years.  

We are leaving this town.  This town I have loved and in which I have lived longer than any other.  The only town my babies have known.  The town in which I thought we had laid roots for our family.

And we know that what lies ahead will be good.  Because it is full of hope and it is full of colour.  And beauty and life and friendship and music and poetry.  And fun and new things and exciting things and adventure.  And love and laughter.  

Lots of love and laughter.

So I have embraced change and gone for a spin.  We haven't quite landed yet, but I know that when we do, the filter will still be there.  We will still look at events and people with new seeing eyes, knowing there is potential for danger even in this new and colourful world.

But I know it's right.  I know it's right to move on and I'll be honest with you, dear readers...

I'm fairly bursting with the excitement of it.

Nothing New Under the Sun

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Believe it or not, I've been at a loss for words.  

It's been two months since I last wrote about 9/11 and good versus evil because nothing has changed and I have simply been at a loss for words ever since. 

When it was my own story of betrayal, grief, injustice, lies, hurt and healing, I could write about it.  I even summed it up with an analogy to having taken the red pill in the Matrix.  I saw and experienced such things which would change me forever but I could write about it because it all began to make sense.  There were things we needed to see and so the changes which followed were necessary and ultimately were for good.  And I was glad for seeing.

We needed to see that there was evil in the world and learn how to protect ourselves and our family from it.  I needed to have my year of the Wolf, putting into practise what I'd learnt about loyalty and family.  Paul and I have put a protective hedge around our four little cubs and woe to anyone who has tried to hurt them.  Our family is the better and stronger for it and on that level alone I am grateful for everything that led to this point.

But then it became someone else's story and that's when I became really angry and that's when I began to wonder if it really did make sense after all.  Because when it wasn't me but someone else that I dearly loved who was betrayed and hurting, there was no amount of reasoning or justification for it.  It was completely and utterly unfair.

It was wrong.

I was at a loss for words to explain it.  I still am.  And I'm still angry.

Except to say that nowhere in the Bible are we ever promised an easy life, a sugar-coated life.  Jesus does not say, "Follow me and you'll have it easy!"  Rather, he promises quite the opposite.  And not just once but time and time again we are told to get our armour on, get ready, the onslaught is coming. 

It is already here.

A friend of mine recently wrote in her blog about the rain outside her window and how it matched the rain she felt inside.  I get that.  But as I read her words late last night, I had to admit that I don't see the sun peaking through the clouds anytime soon.  Or at least, when it does, it certainly won't be shining in it's full glory for me like it used to.  It's not that I am depressed or sad or forever melancholic. It's that I am honest.  It's that I'm more knowledgeable, more discerning.  It's that I'm armed.

And then my 9-year old daughter who is wiser than her years gave me a verse this morning. She was actually showing me Ecclesiastes 12:1 and said it meant something for her but my eye was instantly drawn to the words "rain clouds" in verse 2:  "Remember him [your Creator] before the light of the sun, moon, and stars is dim to your old eyes, and rain clouds continually darken your sky."  (Ecclesiastes 12:2, NLT).  

There's a word there.  It's an important word.  And probably one we'd rather weren't written on the page.


The writer is referring to the relentless physical ageing of the body but I believe the metaphor is much bigger than that.  For me, the rain clouds refer to the spiritual darkness hanging over us.  I have joked that I didn't grow up until I turned 40 but I'm only half-laughing when I say it.  Because actually, that's when I started to see firsthand the potential for evil which lies in the heart of humankind and that's when my eyes started to open and that is certainly when the rain clouds started to darken my sky.  And I hate to have to tell you this, whatever the rain clouds represent, they are guaranteed to darken your sky too.


Our response to the inexplicable and relentless evil we see in this world can only be this: remember Jesus. Remember Jesus who was shamed and betrayed and lied to.  Remember Jesus who was whipped and tried and hung on a cross to die.  
Remember Jesus "before the rain clouds continually darken your sky" because you will need Him when they do.  And my faith tells me that is enough.  It is enough just to remember Him and to need Him.

Because He gets it too.

9/11, Sam's Speech and Good versus Evil

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It's a slow start for me today.  One of those rare and luxurious, tea and toast in bed days, after the kids have gone to school.  I needed a rest morning and I'm taking it.  Plenty of days ahead for activity.  And I'm sitting here with my computer, facebook open and I'm struck with the beauty and solemnity of the tributes for 9/11, that day no one will ever forget.  I remember that it was a slow start for me thirteen years ago as well, heavily pregnant and covered in PUPPP rash.  It was a hot day in September and I was trying to keep myself cool when a friend rang and told me to turn on the T.V.  

Those images.

Thirteen years later it occurs to me that I should write something too on such a subject so close to my heart, and then I realise I don't have to.  Our Sam has already said what needs to be said.  

Tuesday night we had the privilege of watching three of our children perform their speeches in the school speech finals.  8 year old Abby's speech was about her favourite hobby:  the rainbow loom.  9 year old Madeline spoke about the wives of King Henry the 8th, a subject that she is passionate about.  She's already started her speech for next year which will be about Lady Jane Grey.  You'd be right if you assumed she was my mini-me.

And Sam's speech is also about his passionate interests:  Star Wars, Harry Potter, LoTR and The Hobbit, but with a twist.  He speaks to convince us why these movies and books are so important.  Dressed in his Jedi cloak, he stands confidently in front of his audience and he speaks about good versus evil, like he knows.  Because he does know.  My boy of not-quite-thirteen already knows about the evil in this world.  And it breaks my heart.  

Below is a transcript of Sam's speech, meant to be spoken with conviction (and it was--he won the senior trophy and I was not the only one with shivers running down my spine), rather than read quietly to oneself.  

Good versus evil.  The greatest battle of them all.  Which side will you choose my Padewan and Younglings?  I am a Jedi Master.  I have faced both good and evil.  I am going to tell you about this battle and its importance to us today in 2014.

Have you noticed that all the best movies have this battle of good versus evil in them?  In both the Star Wars trilogies the battle is between light and dark.  Sith take control.  Think Darth Maul, Count Duku, Darth Sidius and the most notorious of them all, Darth Vader.  All dark.  All evil which the Rebel Alliance and Jedi have to fight against on behalf of the good.

Then there is Harry Potter.  The name Tom Marvelo Riddle might not mean much to you, but when he chose evil, he became the nasty, horrible Voldemort.  Through the seven books the battle rages between good and evil, Harry Potter versus Voldemort.

And who could forget Lord of the Rings?  A fellowship of hobbits, elves, dwarfs and men against the power of Sauron and his orcs and ringwraiths.  And now with the Hobbit trilogy we meet Azog the defiler and Smaug the dragon.  Again, evil, which the Dwarfs and Bilbo Baggins must try to defeat.

But why is this?  Why can’t we just enjoy the stories and movies for what they are … fiction.  Aren’t they just made up stories and characters to keep us entertained?  Is there really a Dark side? Is there really an evil Darth Vader out to conquer the universe?  And is there really a Lord Voldermort out there trying to destroy our good heroes?  Surely there are no Orcs hiding in the forests at night fighting battles for Sauron, the evil eye, watching our every move.

Well consider this.  The bombing of Malaysian Air flight MH 17 killing 298 people was not fiction.  The Nigerian school girls who were kidnapped by rebels in that country—not just a fairytale.   Massacres in Iraq and Syria —not fiction.  If you’re not convinced, let’s go back a bit further.  9/11 in 2001.  The Twin Towers came down during terrorist attacks and thousands of people were killed including police and firemen.  No, this was not fiction either.  Let’s go back even further.  World War 2.  Adolf Hitler and the concentration camps:   millions of people murdered.  Definitely, not fiction

The movies we watch and the books we read about good versus evil are so important because they warn us.  Evil is very real and it is something we all have to face in our lives.  The stories help us to be prepared and help us make good choices so we are always on the right side.  The good side.

But that doesn’t mean it will always be easy.  The temptation Luke Skywalker and others face to turn to the dark side is very real.  Let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to be able to do this to their little sister from time to time…..

But I have made my choice.  I am choosing good.  I am choosing the way of the Jedi.  But what about you?  Which side are you choosing?

Sam Dominikovich, September, 2014

This is our tribute to the thousands who lost their lives thirteen years ago.  This is our pledge that they did not lose their lives for nothing...that if a thirteen year old boy chooses light, the side of the good instead of the evil that rages all around us, then there is hope.

There is hope.