Spring Visitors

Here in Ireland, a few weeks ago on Easter Sunday the sun was shining and many families and their granny’s and dogs were out for a drive. The two ferry boats between Portaferry and Strangford were racing across The Narrows to help the travellers on their day out; perhaps to visit the festivities at Castle ward, Castlewellan or Newcastle. Others from Strangford come to visit the Aquarium in Portaferry or take a tour of the Ards Peninsula.

We had taken a drive a few days before to pick up our daughter who returned for Easter. The water had filled Strangford Lough as far up as Newtownards. It reached up to the wall that separated the the road from the sea. I looked down through the clear water as we drove along the shore. I marvelled. Where else is there a place where one can drive for miles so close to the shore? I was enjoying the Lord’s provision of leading me beside still waters to restore my soul. We continued to enjoy the Easter weekend of rest.

Easter Monday is memorable for me. Nine years ago I went to the Accident and Emergency in the local town. I was later diagnosed with fourth stage cancer. Praise God I am staying alive after my experience with cancer. I celebrated the victory over the weekend with my family.

On Tuesday the weather changed. Grey clouds rolled in on stormy winds from the east. There was a chill in the air. Warm coats were picked up again. All the visitors had gone. They returned home revived and refreshed from having time out in the country.

I noticed different visitors outside my window. The swallows have arrived for the summer. They nest under the eaves and rear their young. There was no time wasted. A couple of them inspected the nest used last year and began mending it, flying in and out with mud in their beaks.

All the ways of nature have a purpose. The swallows have travelled thousands of miles from Africa. The strong south east winds helped them on their way. The same winds carried the Brent Geese north on their return journey to Canada. I miss their calls as they gathered beneath our garden to drink from the fresh water stream. They have been feeding on the eel grass along Strangford Lough since September. When the Brent Geese arrive they look like ducks. When they leave they have grown fat and look like geese.

I will enjoy the company of the swallows over the summer along with the resident forest and sea birds. The blackbirds, robins, pigeons, pheasants, doves, thrush, starlings and sparrows are busy making nests for their young. The call of the doves in the morning replace the Brent Geese. The other birds join the chorus as the sun begins to rise in the east.

The time of singing of birds has come. Sap is rising through the tree trunks. The leaves burst open and discard their shells. The sticky pollen of the sycamore tree in front of the house is falling all around. Another thing the wind carries to other trees to pollenate them. The pear and apple blossoms are in full bloom waiting for the bees from a neighbor’s hive to collect their nectar. All nature is busy increasing and multiplying.

Yet more visitors arrived below on the Lough. A beautiful tall yacht drew up within my view below. The owners are getting it ready for sailing events over the summer. I watched as it was secured to a buoy. It is the season for yachtsmen to put their vessels back in the water. A crane lifts the boats, which look like big birds, and settle them on the water.

It’s good to be alive and see life abundant all around.  Jesus came to give us life and life abundantly.  He has done that for me.  It’s the devil who comes to rob, steal, kill and destroy.  John 10 v 10

International Woman’s Day

  • It’s International Woman’s Day.
    Hip, hip hooray.
    Many women have done well with their work in medicine, engineering, sports, literature, art, teaching, justice and caring jobs all over the world. With education available in the Western world women have had many choices of career available to them.
    Not so for many woman in the third world.
    I want to celebrate today women all over the nations who are wives and mothers of children. Some may be one of many wives a husband has. But she is faithful to her situation and looks after her children. She doesn’t have a choice. Well done to woman who rear their children in poverty situations, giving their last drop of milk to save a dying child at her breast. And women who care for their children on their own because their husbands have abandoned them. I celebrate today any woman who have chosen to have her child despite the doctor’s advice to have an abortion, the mother who is caring for her sick child and the mother who is rearing many children.
    I was one such mother. I chose to have fourteen children and stayed at home to rear them. It was twenty four seven work.
    I congratulate woman throughout the world who are wives and mothers.

Honouring your Parents.

This last year I have been at too many funerals. It keeps one vulnerable to the reality that my time is short on this planet.

Praise God he extended my life by healing me from fourth stage cancer. It will be nine years this year since I was healed. I have experienced more and more God’s care and restoration in my life.

Psalm 71 says Even when I am old and grey, do not forsake me, my God.

Psalm 90 says, Our days come to seventy years or eighty, if our strength endures. Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

I hope in God’s promises to me. He has been faithful to heal me.

Seeing friends who are ill and vulnerable makes me realise the importance of family. My husband and family have been there for me when I had cancer and more recently when I was nursing a broken arm.

Receiving a phone call to show one cared lifted my spirits. I felt even better when one came to visit or stay a while to help me. Bringing cooked food showed me love.

Many parents are left lonely and without help in their old age because loved ones leave home to work in foreign countries. Work there demands their time and they don’t have time to think of parents back home growing old.

Sickness can come to an aged person because of loneliness. With no one to visit or encourage one, it is harder to recover. Yes the health services help to a certain degree. Friends, if one has any, can help for a season.

Having the support of family keeps one alive. Psalm 127 says “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.” When I had cancer my children rallied around me, cared for me and prayed for me. They were patient with me and brought my healing.

I know a friend who in her forties returned home to care for her elderly parents which took a period of twelve years. She is now married. Another friend, even though she had family of her own cared for her parents for ten years. Another lady, a widow, lived till her eightieth year, though she had ill health all her life, because her two sons went to see her every day.

Old people live long lives in Japan and Sardinia, not because they have money. In Japan older people have communities where they have activities and social interaction. Life is extended in Sardinia because the elderly parents are cared for by their children. They are surrounded by their grandchildren and help in their rearing. It has been studied that helping with grandchildren extends one’s life.

In China the law requires the children to look after their parents. They will be punished if they don’t. It is good to hear that China’s law’s are in line with what the Word of God says. “Honour your mother and father and it will go well with you and you will live along life.” It’s the only commandment with a promise.

In the West, so called “civilised world” sadly this commandment has been neglected. Young people have opportunities of education, travel and work. They end up being busy and years pass by. They forget their parents who reared them and gave them a start in life.

I visited a home recently where a lonely elderly couple lived. The garden was unattended. The paint work was not renewed for years. Inside the dust has gathered. Newspapers are piling up. They are neglected. The children have gone to foreign lands to work. Money does not buy love as the Beatle song goes. Another song has words that say “Bring your love to me, don’t send it.”

I was grieved last year to visit a dying friend. She was in a luxurious nursing home, where no expense was spared. Her children paid the bill, but they were in far away countries. No one to hold her in her last days on earth.

I could give more examples. If this message touches your heart, please think of your own parents or look out for elderly people you know.

In “Healing”

The Father Giver of Gifts

The sun rising this winter’s morning.  

Only five more days till the darkest day of the year in the Northern part of the world. My last child number 14 in our family, has her birthday on the 22nd December. When she was born she brightened up our lives in the middle of winter. Four other of my children were born within three weeks of Christmas. When lots of people were in a frenzy buying presents we were having babies. They are gifts from God our Father. “‘Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him.” Psalm 127

Christmas is a time when we remember Jesus being born among mankind. God the Father sent his son Jesus from heaven to be present with us in the flesh. He was a gift to us from the Father.  He came from heaven to save mankind from sin and death, caused by Adam’s disobedience.

Having some of our children around the Christmas season when Jesus left his home in heaven, reminded my husband of a vision he had. He saw spirits of children around them Throne of God in heaven. They were asking God could they be born on the earth. Brendan said he was open to have as many children as God wanted to give him. We didn’t plan our family. God is our family planner.

Any parent loves to buy his children presents especially at Christmas time. They are excited opening the beautifully wrapped gifts. One mother I know puts £30 pounds aside every month for Christmas. But sadly thanks for the presents are given to a crazy, old, fat man in a red suit following a reindeer. Jesus said, “If you, then know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matt 7 v 7. God our Father delights to give us what we ask. We don’t have to be confined to asking God for presents at Christmas time.

God the Father is the true giver of all that is good. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
‭‭James‬ ‭1:17‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Brendan and I reared our children on very little money. We believed the word of God,

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;
and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭55:1-2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The supermarkets are full of food and gifts at this time. What will parents do who can’t afford the gifts and food that they see? I can testify that our family never went hungry at Christmas time. They were never in lack. God is faithful to look after us. He is our shepherd.

I would encourage anyone to do what Jesus said, Ask and It shall be given onto you.

My Grandchildren’s Christmas Play.

I attended my grandchildren’s Christmas play this morning. When they appeared on stage the mum, dad and myself had to wave until the two boys caught our gaze. They were ready to get on with the show knowing family were watching.

It doesn’t seem so long ago since I was watching each of my own boys and girls in a traditional Christmas play. They would dress up as a shepherd, an angel, a wise King or a donkey. They sang songs about Jesus birth.

Today’s event was different. The children invited us to see how six other nations celebrate Christmas. Poland and China were my favourites. The little ones were dressed in red Chinese costumes and flat hats. I must congratulate the teachers on managing so many young students. A big effort indeed.

I called my son last night to tell him I wouldn’t be able to make it. I was too far away, too cold, too sore, too old, too tired, too alone and my car wasn’t working. I awoke early. I changed my mind and made the effort to go. Ressurrection power kicked in.  The electric plugs had fused. First hurdle to overcome. I dressed in warm clothes because the chilly cold winter winds were blowing. I got the ferry. It was navigating across from Portaferry to Strangford on choppy waters. I sat nervous in my van. I hoped the wind would die down for my return journey.

All the effort was worth it to see my son’s and grandchildren’s smiley faces because granny came along. I remember being at a school event after my first grandchild was born. Everyone was congratulating me on being a granny. It must be an important hurdle for a woman. We now have eighteen grandchildren. Most of them live too far away to attend school plays. They live in far flung places; Canada, Slovakia and Dublin.

I’m glad I didn’t miss today’s Christmas show.

An October Morning.

Oh the stillness of Monday morning.
The house is quiet.
No popping of the toaster, or the kettle boiling for tea and coffee.
The high chair is empty till the next grandchild comes to visit.
No airport pickups today.
Visitors from far away places in England, Canada and India have left.
The light, warmth and stillness invites us outside.
The calm after the storm.
Our friend the robin welcomes us.
He flutters and swirls around me, excited.
Others birds in the forest are singing their hearts out.
Two blue tits come down inquisitively looking for food.
A blackbird calls.
A solitary Raven chases away any competitors for the food scattered on the lawn.
The sunshine glistens on the water, thousands of lights dancing.
Tinkle, tinkle sounds come up from the last yacht below in the bay.
Where is the sun bed?
It hasn’t been packed way yet.
I stretch out and look up.
A few dry leaves drift past.
There is the blue sky beyond the bare branches.
Somewhere up there in an aeroplane is my son and his family.
I will savour the sunshine and beauty.
It’s a new day, I will not be sad.

Don’t give a Woman a Colour Card

Celestial, Teal Magic, Hidden Glade and Chocolate Kiss.
No they are not the names of drink cocktails, cakes or a mystical holiday destination. They are some of the names of colours on my paint colour card! My head is in a spin seduced by these enchanting names. Nowadays one has many more choices of colours than the seven colours of the rainbow, blue, red, orange, yellow, green, indigo and violet.

Our present home has had a make over this summer. All electric fixtures were checked. Old light fittings above doors were replaced and the car park light repaired. Old bulbs were replaced with luminescent long life ones. The roof, gutters and yard have been power washed. Windows frames and surrounds needed repairs. The outside walls, some indoor rooms, doors and windows are looking good after being freshly painted.

I read in Isaiah 60 v 10 that ““Foreigners will rebuild your walls.” Workmen has been with us during the sunny months of July and August. They don’t realise they are doing the Lord’s work. They don’t realise that my walls are ever before him. Isaiah 60 v 18 “Your walls will be called salvation and your gates praise.” They are rebuilding, repairing and renewing my home.

My daughter bought a house in Liverpool. Finding a house, putting an offer on, waiting to see if it accepted, applying for a mortgage can test one’s patience. More waiting was needed for the owners to move out after they agreed to sell. It can be one of the most stressful events in one’s life.

She took ownership of her new home in February. The house was cold with no curtains. She slept on a mattress on the floor the first night. More stress. The first thing she arranged was a carpet clean and the walls painted. She didn’t have the time to choose wonderful colours for her walls. They were all painted magnolia. I lived with magnolia in all my homes. Brendan thought it the best and cheapest option when we were on a budget rearing a big family with many rooms and corridors in our home to paint. He and some of our children were the painters then.

Four of the inside rooms needed freshened up as well. Brendan was happy to let me choose the colours for the inside rooms. I was given a colour card by the painters. There were so many different shades of green, blue, greys and yellows. I trusted my own judgement and picked the colours, olive, Bokhara, mustard and yellow. Brendan looked nervous but agreed and sent off an e mail to the painters with the choices.

The painters arrived on Monday morning this week armed with brushes, buckets of paint and sheets to cover any furniture. They walked into my workshop. They looked nervously at the clutter. It couldn’t possibly all be covered up with the sheets they had brought. There was relief written over their faces when I told them they could start in our bedroom which had been cleared out.

Some of our family were visiting. Brendan co ordinated a clean up of my workshop for the painters. I hid upstairs. Whatever will be will be. The painters started painting in my workshop the next day. Brendan saw the first strokes of the Bokara paint on the walls. He looked for me and protested “Your room is going to be a bright orange like Easyjet.” He was beginning to regret letting me choose the colours for any room. I went to look. I agreed. What can we do? Can I live with bright orange in my workshop?

I asked the painter, his name was John, could we change the colour. He explained that each tin of paint had been individually mixed to order. They could not be changed. I let him continue his work. After four coats of paint and two disgruntled men, my workshop is transformed to a warm orange/brown shade like the sunset. It didn’t turn out to be the new Easyjet room. It is more reminiscent of an oasis in the Sahara desert. The workmen fiinished the other two rooms and left yesterday. One is golden and the other sunshine yellow. We have four fresh rooms and Brendan is happy. He’s busy picking out suitable art work.

Brendan told me John said to him “Never give a woman a colour card!” He was happiest with old faithful magnolia! A wall painted magnolia doesn’t take four coats to finish. Two other daughters moved house this year. There is no magnolia in sight. Stairways are painted navy blue. Other rooms are dark shades of green, grey and blue. I was inspired by their choices. I and my girls have boldly coloured homes.

I awoke in my olive green bedroom this morning enjoying all the shadows the morning sun was creating on the walls. Each wall was a different hue of olive. The smell of fresh paint has cleared. The painters are gone.

Praise God for colour and beauty. It lifts our spirits. A friend of ours returned from abroad many years ago. It took him time to recover. Everywhere was grey; grey skies, grey streets, and grey walls. Ireland is definitely a country of forty shades of green. Take a drive though the countryside and count the different hues of green and yellows of harvest. I am inspired by the beauty of my surroundings.

In any dark days of winter that are ahead my heart will rejoice as I sit in my sunset workshop or welcome my guests or family into the sunshine guest room.