If you can’t access this here go to my Facebook page Angela Mc CAULEY click my picture button on left hand side and you will see the post about this song.
Brendan and I moved house recently to be near four of our children and their families. The whole downsizing thing was worse than expected. Today I tried to sort out some boxes and albums of photographs. There were loads of them. Brendan always took photographs of his big family.
The pictures sent me on an intense emotional rollercoaster ride which lasted all day. It was as if a big hand reached deep inside my heart and stirred up so many memories and emotions of people I loved, living and dead. Photos of family events, holidays, birthdays, weddings, graduations, football successes, new grandchildren, new towns, foreign travel and ministry adventures were all lying hidden and forgotten in these old boxes and albums.
I saw my fourteen children blooming and sprouting from baby, teenager, adult, some into marriage and parenthood. I wondered how Brendan and I reared fourteen children. Praise God who daily renewed our strength. When my children were young I was happy with them tucked up in bed at eight o clock at night. I wasn’t really prepared for a house full of teenage girls and boys.
The photos recorded joy, beauty, feasting, play, rest, exploring, walking, swimming and friendship. Each decade shows development, children at primary school, grammar school, university, work, marriages and grandchildren.
What was clear to me is that God has changed every one of us. For myself, as I walked down through life, I had to die to what I personally wanted to allow more of His kingdom in my life. I could see a change in my appearance from year to year. God so often lifted burdens that were too heavy to carry. I will continue to be charged into the likeness of Christ. As someone said, God hasn’t finished with me yet.
My choices today will steer my life for the next ten years. Will it steer me into life and health or will I end up in trouble because wrong choices? Even if I make bad choices God in his kindness will not let me continue in my mistaken ways. He gives us a way of escape and a chance to start afresh because of His love. Like a Father who watches over his children so God is watching over us. He knows our frame and He knows the pitfalls. I am being changed from one degree of Glory to another.
As I rummaged through the photos I was reminded of a short humorous poem Brendan once wrote.
These are the good old days we’ll all remember well.
Turned into days of heaven, from these bad days of hell.
It is good to remember the good times.
Outside my hotel window
The Christmas street lights are bright
It is the dead of night
A bird is singing
The sweet tweets echo through the silence.
Is he announcing good news?
Is he calling for attention
Like the multitude of heavenly hosts praising God
When the angel announced Jesus birth to the shepherds
Singing Glory to God in the highest
And on earth good will to all men.
There is room for me in the Inn
In a soft plush bed
Because He was born in a straw lined manger.
The tide is high
In Strangford Lough
No room to wade on the shoreline
The water is lapping against the wall
I’m safe here on the ledge
My favourite spot
Jutting out of the water
And keep warm
With my neck
Sunk between my shoulder blades
Till the water recedes
To dart at some tiny fish
Lingering in the shallows
I know their hiding places
I’m too old
To fly from my perch
To find another spot
Those fishing grounds
To the younger ones.
I am always encouraged when I watch birds in my garden. Jesus tells us to look at the birds. They don’t sow nor reap yet our Heavenly Father looks after them. We are more important to God than birds so we are encouraged to learn from the birds.
There are swallows nests in the eve of a barn and a swallows nest in a hedge nearby. Psalm 84 says “Even the swallow and the sparrow find a nest near your altar where she can rear her young. “. An altar speaks of a place of prayer. So if one is praying in his home be sure there will be a bird’s nest nearby in the springtime.
I’m fascinated by the energy the birds exert in rearing their young. Firstly they fly here and there to collect material to build a nest. Then the female lays her eggs and hatches her young. The male and female gather food to feed the hungry chicks. The poor parents are exhausted after the young leave the nest. I often felt like that after the summer when my children were home for the summer. I have never seen chicks in a bird’s nest before. This year I had the treat of seeing my first nest of young.
After visiting a friend before lockdown, Jean sent me a picture of a robin’s nest. She had been furloughed from work and was enjoying her garden. The parent birds had found a safe spot under a plastic covering in a shed. Jean wanted to use a table she had stored there. To her delight she found the nest with three chicks in it. She didn’t unsettle the nest but checked it every day till the chicks fledged three weeks later.
She inspected the nest more closely and found small purple pellets at the bottom of the nest. She did some research and it was suggested they acted as insulation and absorbed waste. How clever the robins are. They even know what can be used as good material for their rearing of their young.
My son is home during lockdown. Back in March we had some logs that needed chopped. Each day my son enjoyed a bit of exercise chopping the wood. His dad and he cleared a space in the yard to store the wood for next winter.
One morning in May I noticed a Wagtail flitting in and out of the wood pile. Was he building a nest in the
midst of the newly stacked logs? I never got to check where the nest was.
But I was social distancing at a friend’s farm recently. He said come here I have something to show you. At the back of his modern tractor in between the gear for lifting heavy weights was a nest with three baby wagtails. He told us the parents feed the young when the tractor is not in use. When the tractor is in use the parents follow it to feed the young when the farmer stops. How special is the lengths the birds go to rear their young and overcome obstacles.
I heard a cuckoo recently. It had a clear crisp,call. I was cheered to hear it’s call. They fly in from Africa in April. The female lays her eggs in a wagtails nest or other convenient nest in the meadow. She is lazy. She leaves the rearing of her young to poor little birds that feed one hungry Cuckoo chick after it has pushed the other young out of the nest. The Cuckoos don’t stay too long they fly away in May.
My daughter lives in a street in Belfast . Blackbirds have built a nest in a bush in the hedgerow. She sent me a photo of the nest with young in it. The parent birds fly in and out to feed them. Ruth is keeping her cat in lock down in case she disturbs the birds.
All these three stories of birds has comforted us during this season of isolation. We are looking to the birds as Jesus taught us. They don’t wear masks or are restricted in rearing their young. They continue to survive.
It was my husband’s seventieth birthday last Saturday. Our children had planned to fly in from Canada, Slovakia, Italy, England and Scotland. Due to the Corona virus lock down the planned celebration with family and friends was cancelled. The children were disappointed not being here with their dad to celebrate this special day.
I was looking forward to the event marked on the calendar. Brendan had been busy for the past few months helping me finish my book. He would awaken at five am and start working. A friend of his called one day. My son told him Dad was resting because he was up at five am writing mum’s book. The friend put his hand to his heart and appeared shaken, saying to me , “Brendan must love you very much.”
It was a glorious sunny day on Brendan’s birthday. Some of our children are staying with us at the moment and working from home. We planned a celebration for Brendan with just a few of us. We hung bunting and balloons around the garden. Abraham prepared a barbeque.
Different kinds of guests dropped by to celebrate with us. Unexpected visitors arrived from Africa; swallows that return every year to nest in the barn. Brent geese flew overhead. They are preparing for their long flight to Canada. They leave Strangford Lough at this time every year. Bees buzzed among the apple and pear blossoms. Starlings flew in and out of the garden wall where they are building their nests.
The open space of our garden where Brendan’s pot plants, shrubs and trees are bursting forth was an ideal venue. Bird song provided the music. All freely given by our Creator God.
Abraham put together a video of each of our children reciting one of Brendan’s poems. I shed a few tears when I saw our children. We had a great celebration despite the circumstances. Happy Birthday Brendan
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.
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.
God our Father in heaven told the Jewish people he didn’t want their sacrifices of bulls and goats. In Psalm 50 v 14 and v 23 I read,
What I want instead is your true thanks to God.
But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.
It is good to thank God and thank others.
I was speaking to an elderly man of over eighty years. He told me as well as being thankful he tries to make someone happy every day.
When one is thankful he is like a flourishing tree. Letting thankful words come out of his mouth cause his sap to come up within him; like a bubbling brook that overflows. Others want to be around him. When one is bitter and complaining he becomes like a withered tree. Others shun him. There is no life flowing out.
I think of the words of Jesus again from Matthew 13 v 12.
Whoever has will be given more, and he will have abundance. Whoever does not have even what he has will be taken from him.
There is a chorus that goes,
“Count your blessings name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”
Try it. Don’t focus on what one doesn’t have but be thankful for all what one does have.
You will feel better. The gloom will lift when you start to be thankful. Practise being thankful.
We are privileged people living in the Europe. We have good education, health services, travel and many other benefits. We often forget to give thanks and take these blessings for granted. Young people have so many choices in their lives that it is easy for them to want more instead of stopping to be thankful and enjoy what one has.
One’s husband, ones wife, ones friend, a mother or father, professor or teacher will brighten up when he is thanked or receives a greeting card.
God is the giver of all good things. He is a good, good Father. Thank him.
I’m sitting under a willow tree in Slovakia,
My body welcoming the warmth of the sun
Along with all the creatures
That had to endure the long winter.
Life is breaking forth all around me.
Sparrows chirp above me in the branches,
Taking turns to fly up
Into crevices in the wall
Building their nests to have their young.
I survey the green panorama of the forest trees.
Two weeks ago they were bare brown trunks.
Doves call from their midst.
The apple trees burst forth buds and flowers
Attracting bees that buzz and hum
Busy collecting nectar and pollen.
White butterflies float in the air,
Outlined by the green background.
Although a thousand miles apart we share
Familiar wildlife in our gardens.
Sparrows, swallows, doves, bees and butterflies know no borders.
My son works with the soil.
My daughter in law is planting flowers,
Free from the repetition of washing dishes and clothes,
Cooking, baking and cleaning.
Their children play nearby,
Safe in the space of the new mown garden.
A hose gushes cool water.
The children dart in and out of the spray,
Running, chasing and squealing.
Barbecue smoke drifts through the air,
Inviting us to the picnic table.
Grilled chicken, courgettes, pineapple
Sweetcorn and mushrooms are ready.
Let’s dive in.