Less of Me and More of God

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.

A Turbulent Flight Home

Yesterday my husband and I were enjoying chatting and having lunch with friends, our last meal together before we left Israel. We sat on the balcony enjoying the sunshine and warmth which had returned after much rain. Our hosts had made a Greek salad with bread and Calamari Pasta. I savoured and had plenty of the delicious food. The meal strengthened us for the journey ahead. We had just finished when the taxi man called to say he was waiting outside. After quick farewells we got the taxi to the TelAviv airport.

We checked the times of flights at Ben Guirion airport. Ours was the only one that showed the flight was delayed. When it came time to board old and young, babies in arms, Arabs, Jews and returning tourists gathered at the Gate for departures. An infant cried the whole time. There were Orthodox Jews on board, some old, feeble, humble men with long white beards and black hats. The attendants welcomed us on board and helped settle mothers with young and the old.

We were allocated our seats at the very back of the EasyJet aeroplane. This economic airline has no frills or extra comforts, but gets you places one could not otherwise afford to go. We didn’t mind because we had an unoccupied seat on the inside giving us space to stretch and have a sleep if need be. We were thankful.

The pilot spoke before our departure and apologised for the delay due to baggage handling back in the UK. He announced the flight time would be five and a half hours, which seemed a lot longer than our flight there. He didn’t tell us about the turbulence on the way over. The pilot has to slow down through turbulence. There were no frills but plenty of spills and thrills ahead of us.

We were strapped in our seats for the first two and a half hours of the trip home! The plane shook and jerked. Mothers and babies were sick. The flight attendants were going up and down the aisle giving out orange plastic bags and cups of water to help the sick.
I was praying as I do when turbulence hits on a journey. But never has it lasted so long.

I thought of the scripture when Jesus was asleep on a pillow at the back of the boat in the storm! Brendan and I were at the back of the aeroplane in a storm. He rebuked the disciples for being fearful and having little faith. Mark 4 v 38 to 40 KJV

And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?
And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?

I decided not to be fearful and trust in God. I prayed for many others who were vulnerable. Brendan sang in my ear a song “I feel pretty”. We heard it in the movie we watched one night on Netfix. It’s called Anger Management staring Jack Nicolson. He got his clients to sing a song if they were in a difficult situation. Not only was Brendan singing but he ordered some snacks and a drink from the attendant. He was not fearful but enjoyed a few treats in the storm.

Dark January

I’m dreaming of Summer holidays

Yes, it’s not a deck chair

Yes, it’s not a Piñata Colada

Yes, the glow is not from the sun

I have to make do with

An armchair

The coal fire in the hearth

And a cup of hot coffee

To keep me warm

As the cold wind howls past my window

Making it seem colder than it is.


My Energy gets A Recharge

My energy levels needed a recharge after a busy season.

My husband always arranges a holiday when we both need to take a break from work and the business of home life and recharge our batteries.  We already visited Kerry at the beginning of August.  It was now September.  Ruth and Stuart offered us a stay in their cottage in Scotland.  A chance to take in the beauty of West Scotland and rest before we go on mission to Slovakia.  More recharging of our energy.


One evening on our return from Scotland, my daughter left a bunch of flowers on the counter when she came in from a busy day’s work.  Dinner had to be rustled together for seven hungry people.  The flowers lay in the midst of someone cutting bread, or making coffee, dirty dishes and saucepans.  Life went on.  No attention was given to the flowers.  When family were fed, dishes cleared, washed, individuals filtered away to rest.  I needed to rest after a hectic day.  The bunch of flowers were still on the bench.

Another daughter was packing up to leave for university.  My fourteenth child, is starting her final year at Edinburgh Univerity.  Last minute arrangements had to be attended to.  Boarding pass at the ready, who would leave her to the port, where is my hair dryer, did you see my purse?  She came in and out of my room asking me questions.  She was getting fraught.  In the end she relaxed in a hot bath and washed away all her stress.

There was no time to get sad at her leaving.  Angela has been home for the summer and has been a blessing to her mum and dad and other family that stayed.  She introduced a summer camp for some of her nieces and nephews.  They had a great time.  The sun shone, they canoed, swam, shopped, face painted, cycled, had barbecues, and enjoyed their wee cousins.  It was the highlight of the holidays for Maggie Sue.

Other events this summer have included our son Isaac’s wedding in Canada, our first grandson’s Confirmation, a grandchild’s baptism, our son Patrick’s wedding in Scotland, a new grandchild, our forty fifth anniversary and my sixty fifth birthday, family visiting from Canada for the wedding, visits to Kerry, Arran and Tarbert,  having two American families stay at different times, and hosting a Gathering in Corrymeela.

I’m taking a deep breath just now.  But Praise God I am alive and not dead from cancer in the grave.  I am alive to see my children married and see my children’s children.  God has been gracious to our family.  I am being restored in the midst of life.  It is not a time for me to put my feet up.

Later that night I went down to the kitchen when the house was quiet.  The flowers were still on the bench unopened.  Everything else was cleared away.  I undid the wrapping, fetched a vase, cut off unnecessary leaves and arranged my flowers into beautiful display.  I admired the gift my daughter brought home for me.  There was no celebration to mark.  Just to show me her appreciation and love. This touched my heart.

“Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him.”
Psalms‬ ‭127:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I often receive rewards from my children and husband, especially gifts and holidays.  I have been enjoying the roses after the dust of the summer has settled.  They all help to recharge my energy levels.


How my Plans were Directed by the Inspiration of a Hymn


The day before I was due to travel to Jerusalem, I awoke singing the hymn, “Nearer my God to Thee.”  I had not been singing this hymn or heard it for a very long time.   I only knew a few verses.  I sang them over and over before I got out of bed.

I looked up the internet to find out all the words.  The hymn was written by Sarah Adams in the Nineteenth century and inspired by Genesis 28 v 11 to 19

 “So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it…”  

Here are the words.

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me;

Still all my song shall be nearer, my God, to Thee,

Chorus: Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Though like a wanderer, the sun gone down.  

Darkness be over me, my rest a stone;

Yet in my dreams I’d be nearer, my God, to Thee,


There let the way appear steps unto heav’n;

All that Thou sendest me in mercy giv’n;

Angels to beckon me nearer, my God, to Thee,


Then with my waking thoughts bright with Thy praise,

Out of my stony griefs Bethel I’ll raise;

So by my woes to be nearer, my God, to Thee,


Or if on joyful wing, cleaving the sky,

Sun, moon, and stars forgot, upwards I fly,

Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee.


I Iistened to the hymn being sung on u tube.  I was enjoying this early morning praise, when I was rudely interrupted by the door bell.  My neighbour came to tell me our car was just stolen from the car park, in broad daylight. I let my husband deal with it.  

Police were contacted.  The thief had entered our home through the back door, stole the keys from the kitchen and started the car.  All this happened while I was upstairs listening to the hymn!  I thought to myself, “Something good is going to come out of this.”

Next day we left for Israel.  We were meeting friends there.  They wanted to see the historical sites in the old City of Jerusalem.

One morning Brendan was reading from a book about Jacob having a dream in Bethel.  I said “I want to go to Bethel.”

That morning I had been reading in the bible from Exodus 20 v 24

“Build altars in the places where I remind you who I am, and I will come and bless you there.” Jacob had built an altar to God at Bethel after he had the dream.  

So I said “I think we should go there.”  A  week later we all agreed to go to Bethel.  We hired a Taxi.  We drove thirty kilometres north.  We came to the city of Ramallah.  Bethel was three miles from there.  Our driver took us to the site when Jacob had his dream.

It was wonderful to look out over the land of Israel from the spot where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob lived so long ago.  

The house with the domed roof is the site of Jacob’s dream.



“Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your descendants. ” And Abram built an altar there and dedicated it to the Lord, who had appeared to him. After that, Abram traveled south and set up camp in the hill country, with Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. There he built another altar and dedicated it to the Lord, and he worshiped the Lord. (Genesis 12:7, 8 NLT)

Photo taken from inside the domed building.


We went down to the site where it is said to be the place where Jacob had his dream.  That was a special moment for us all.  I believe we were blessed by God there, just as I read from the bible a week earlier.  Many are the plans of a man but God directs his path.  I believe we were directed by God to go to Bethel.  Three things happened to lead us,  Bethel mentioned in the Hymn, Brendan reading about it in his book and my reading from the bible.  Let everything be established in the mouth of two or three witnesses.  

We return home tomorrow.  We will look for a new car!






Weekly Photo Challenge. A Pillar in Jerusalem .


Jerusalem is an ancient city.  
Today I was walking along near Mt Zion Hotel.  Before me was this beautiful view of the Walls of Jerusalem.  The pillar in the foreground is the focal point of this blog.
There are many ruins uncovered.  Pillars were used to support large buildings.  In the ruins of King David some pillars are still standing, others are lying broken where they fell.  On the plaza of King Solomon, where the Dome of the Rock is today there are many remains of pillars that once would have supported splendid buildings on this site. 
As one walks along a street with street merchants on one side, an archeological site is on the opposite side.  There we see pillars now exposed below street level.  Some of them are ornately decorated.
This reminds me of the verse,
“Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace.” (Psalm 144:12 NIV)
The pillar in the foreground is all that is standing from some building.  The ornate decorations are long gone.




Do you Believe you will ever write a Book

Some years ago I was travelling home from America.  My family had send me on a holiday for my birthday.  I was sitting beside a lady who was writing on a small computer.  She was making notes for a book she was writing.  I was returning home to a houseful of children to be reared and there would certainly be no time for writing.  Have you watched the film “Cheaper by the dozen?”  The mother of the children wrote a book!  I wondered if I would ever write a book.  The only writing I was doing was jotting down notes about my daily readings from the bible.  My husband called them “My Rewrites.”  He teased me saying “Are you going to rewrite the bible.”
Ten years on, I was on my way home from Canada to Ireland.  What was I doing?  I was writing notes for my blog.  I would never have dreamed that I would be doing this.  With the quick advancement of technology over these last years one does not have to make reams of notes in books with a pen.  I can do much writing on my i Pad.  One can e mail, send pictures, take pictures, blog, all with the press of a button.  Brendan bought it for me on my last birthday.  As I sit to write, memories come flooding back to me.  The Holy Spirit brings things to mind.
I have resisted writing before.  I resisted thinking back to the past.  I did not have good memories.  I resisted writing letters to anyone because I wanted only to write if I had some good news to tell.  I did not have the peace, confidence or courage before.  God promises he will make a way when there is no way.
 I have resisted anyone loving me.  I have resisted showing love.  I was embarrassed at first when I visited Canada.  Waitresses in the cafes were friendly and smiling.  People talked about having fun.  A husband would call his wife honey.  A wife would call her husband sweetie.  I was embarrassed.  I have never called my husband sweetie in my life.
Maybe the Irish are too numb from pain to express genuine love.  It can be embarrassing to hug someone you don’t know.  We can be sharp to tear someone down with our tongues.  I want to speak kindly and be pleasant to others.  Very often we don’t say anything and retreat into silence because of fear of being rediculled or someone retorting in anger because they don’t agree with your opinion.
There is a saying that goes if you can’t say anything good don’t say anything at all.  Perhaps trust is broken and one cannot be open again.  One puts up the defences to protect ones heart from wounding.
But God has healed my heart and mind of past traumas.  “Perfect love casts out fear.”  I can now look back and remember the good.  A friend has come back into my life this last week.  As we talked she remembered good times when we met together with our children.  More restoration and healing for me.
There is a Psalm that describes how I feel.
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them. (Psalm 126:1-6 NIV)

My First Born Son

Jesus says ” Come to me all you are are tired and weary and I will give you rest”.
I believe God cares for me and he desires to give me rest when I need it. September or October time is good for us to take a break when the children are back at University. God is good to all mankind. He wants people everywhere to know he is good. What he has done for me he can do for you.

I trust him to provide a holiday for Brendan and I every year. We need the refreshment. Need time together to fall in love all over again.

Psalm 23 says “He leads me beside green pasture and still waters to restore my soul.” Very often this Psalm is read at funerals. I don’t want to wait till I die to go to green pastures. I believe he can give me green pastures here on earth. Zakynthos is one of the places of green pastures and still waters for us. There was rain on the island the day before we arrived. Everywhere is looking so fresh.

It is mid day now. I am sitting ten feet away from the water’s edge. Little sun lights are dancing on the water. The sun shades are flapping in the breeze. We can now enjoy the beauty and sun of far away places that I used to watch in the movies.

At this time of year the sun is not to strong for our fairer Irish complexion. Time in the sun provides my beauty treatment for the year and vitamins for my bones. There is a scripture that says “The sun shall not smite you by day or the moon by night.” I do not get sunburn. I know when I have enough.

My husband has travelled to the nations. My son Brendan has married into the nations. His wife Tamara is from Italy. She has introduced us to the delicious home cooking the Italian mothers are so proud of. No more tuna debeano for Brendan. Tamara is from Sardinia another Mediterranean island. It is the number one destination for the rich and famous.

They have three beautiful girls. Brendan had a dream about his second child. He dreamed she would come early and be called Rebecca. And so it was. The dream came to pass.
“You knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139 v 13.
“Before you were born I knew you.” Jeremiah 1 v 5

As I was caring for Shann and my new son Brendan, I began to realise the seriousness of being responsible for someone else’s welfare. What I did with my life would affect my children. I began to seek how best to rear my children. This started me on my search for God and caused me to change my life. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be opened unto you.

I was reading in Exodus 20 v 5 to 6 hat God blesses to the thousandth generation of those who love God but cursing comes down the generations to the third and fourth generation of those who disobey God. I did not want my children to be cursed so I asked God to forgive my wrong doings I did in ignorance and I asked him to guide me into the future.

Shann and Brendan were good friends. They taught me to trust God. They got up every morning, knew there would be food for them, and had fun and joy. They trusted their dad would have provided for them. So too our Heavenly Father who created us promises to care for us.

They did not remember if they had a bad day yesterday. They had joy. I learnt from them to forgive and not hold on to the bad things that happened before. Jesus said we are to become like little children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

My son Brendan has a tender heart. He was born into our lives when we were young and wild. A little baby always trusts. He was there every morning looking for care but in return gave back love and trust. Our hearts were being turned to the little children.

Well done, Brendan.


Holidays are like sleep; problems don’t seem so big after a good night’s sleep.  There is a saying that goes “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.  It is time to walk or drive to be together and enjoy the beauty of our country.  We always went places where our children could have fun for free, a beach, forest or playpark.  One time we even saw elephants without going to the zoo.  We just parked alongside a field, where a circus was letting the animals graze.

One may think he cannot afford to take a holiday.  We have found God is faithful to provide the money we needed for holidays.

Psalm 23 says The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.

When Brendan and I got married in June 1971 we went on honeymoon to Southend to visit relatives.  We got the ferry overnight to Liverpool and then the train to London.  It was the first time I was in England.  When we returned to Ireland we did not go immediately to our new home but hitch hiked to Donegal and travelled around having an adventure until our money ran out.

The adventure of our lives has continued till this day.  Travelling did not hinder us when we had children. We were interested in community living and we heard about people who lived together in Findhorn in the north of Scotland.  I got some money from teaching.  We headed off the next day with two children to Scotland.  We travelled by boat, bus or hitch hiked.

Our travels took us through Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh.  Isn’t it interesting that seven of our children have gone to university in the same towns we visited back then?  Scripture says he will give us the ground where our feet shall trod.  We did not stay in the community.  We returned home and grew our own community!

Each summer we would always plan to go on holiday.  For a few years when we had three children we went on summer youth camps as volunteers.  We got to have a holiday and got paid for it.

Corrymeela is holiday centre in north Antrim, hosting families on holidays from troubled areas of Northern Ireland.  A lady who worked there offered us a holiday.  Our family was growing but that did not deter us.  I think we went there about three years running.

When we had seven children Brendan bought a car, a Peuguot 505.  We felt so blessed.  Brendan and I decided that year to venture out on our own as a family and rent a holiday home.  We were talking together and Brendan asked me, “Where would you like to go on holiday”.  I had a desire to go to Kerry.  Brendan heard of an organisation called the Full Gospel Business Men.  He had one of their booklets.  He looked it up to see if there was anyone in Kerry who organised meetings.  He got in touch with the leader and asked him to look out for a house for us.

I was expecting my eighth child.  We headed off with the car full, Brendan myself and seven children.  The house was a dream.  Plenty of rooms, washing machines, showers, and rainbows outside.  Our children loved the space.  Kerry is famous for milk and golden butter.  In the field beside the holiday house our children got a close up view of the black and white cows and heard the sounds of them tearing and munching on the grass.

We attended prayer meetings in our friend’s home.  I was praising The Lord and dancing.  People were afraid I would go into labour.  My son John held on for another two weeks.  We have been going to Kerry since, over the past twenty seven years.  We have made many friends and were always warmly received and blessed.  It became an oasis for us from the troubled North each July.

We are just back from a week’s holiday in a house quite near the mouth of the River Shannon.  We never went to Kerry for the sun.  Normally it rains, but this year we had wall to wall sunshine.  It was as good as being in Greece without the flights and expense.

Getting to University

Tomorrow I am getting the cast off my left lower arm.

For over six weeks I have felt I am carrying around a heavy weight.

This has restricted me so much.  I have needed my husband and family’s help to dress and get washed.  This is humbling and keeps me dependant on others.  Others have had to do the cooking, shopping and housework.  Lucky me.  I have had an enforced rest.

I cannot drive so I cannot escape from the house if I wanted to.  I am learning to be patient and to ask for help.  Others in the family are learning patience as well.  It has been a good learning curve.  We are more forbearing with one another.

This accident happened at the beginning of June.  Normally my husband and I take a holiday in May, which refreshes us before the busy summer, when some of our children are back from university and our home is full again.

This year our fourteenth child, Angela, completed her secondary education and plans to go on to university in September.  We needed to be here with her to help her with university applications and to encourage her through her final A level exams.

Brendan and I have found this to be an important part of our work.  From last September Angela had to fill in forms to apply to university, write her cv, go to a formal, travel to interviews and make a video.  We have had to keep her focused when her studies became overwhelming. Then in the spring, expectation heightened as she waited to see if applications were successful.

Angela is a clever girl and had applied to do medicine at university.  In January Angela received a letter from one university to say she was unsuccessful in her application.  That was okay. There was hope that she would get accepted from the next one.

In May hopes were dashed when she got her final refusal.  Her dad and I helped keep her spirits up to focus on her final exams.  I remembered Winston Churchill’s words,  “Never, never give up”.  She could always take a year out and re apply.  I did not relish the thought of another year of ups and downs.  We prayed for her and trusted that the Lord would guide.

Many years ago when I had five children I read in Isaiah 54 v 13

“All your sons (and daughters) will be taught by the Lord, and great will be your children’s peace”.  I held on to that promise in the past for my other 13 children who have been successful to go on to third level education.  We had peace.

Angela was now able to reflect and ask herself the question, “Did she really want to do medicine”.  Were we as parents or her teachers putting expectations on her?  As we talked it became clear she did not want to do medicine!  It seemed the right thing for her to do.  Many are the plans in the mind of man but the Lord directs his path.  Getting the refusals lifted the pressure.

A few days later she received an offer from Edinburgh to do Neuroscience.  She was delighted.  She accepted this offer and hopes to go there in September if she gets suitable results.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  I felt as if I had given birth and was glad the pain was over.

Brendan, I and children are just back from a holiday in Kerry.  A friend had called to say a house was available in Kerry.  We were all in need of a holiday.  Tempers were short as pressures came when we were feeling weak.  We all crashed, slept long, ate good food, and enjoyed the sun on our bodies after a long cold winter.  I firmly believe holidays are not a luxury.  They are a necessity for body, soul and spirit to be refreshed.

My heart overflows with gratitude to God for his faithfulness to us these last thirty four years since I prayed to have a baby.  He has been with us to help us rear our fourteen children, to keep them healthy and give them good success.

Ref  New International Bible.