International Woman’s Day

It’s International Woman’s Day today, the day aimed to help nations worldwide eliminate discrimination against women. It also focused on helping women gain full and equal participation in global development, according to what I read this morning.  

The Duchess of Sussex at her last engagement in London as a Royal spoke about the need for men to care for the women in their lives. Any man will have a mother for sure, perhaps a sister and a wife. His ability to care for women in his life will be influenced primarily by what he has seen modelled to him by other males.

Down through the generations the family  with a mother and father has been the nurturing place for the healthy growth of human beings, physically and emotionally. Families with similar values group together in many cultures to support each other. In nature we see male and female creatures create young and spend their energy to raise them. The adults stay together with their own kind in flocks, herds or shoals where the young are protected. There is power in numbers.

The family model I grew up with that shaped my early life was my dad, who worked on the farm and my mother who looked after us ten children at home. Dad was a gentle man who cared for my mum who needed to be strong to rear us. My parents showed their love to me by providing food to eat, a warm home, education, sharing their time and guiding me in the best choices to make for later life, all on a limited amount of money. Extended family often visited our home and we attended the local church where I heard about God and met our local community.

I left home and chose to explore the world beyond the safety of family and home. I went to university during the troubles in my country. When I had two children of my own I began to look for the best way to rear my children. And give them the nurture and care I believed was important. In my search for truth and the right way to live I mixed with many different people with different values form me. I met some Christians who were kind to me. I looked at their lives and I began to read the bible.

I read about Jesus. He went about doing good and healing those who were oppressed of the devil, both men and women. All who came to him were healed of disease and delivered form devils. Jesus was particularly merciful to women and children. He released the woman who was going to be stoned to death, the punishment her culture demanded. He cast seven demons out of Mary Magdalene. He raised the son of a widow so she would have someone to look after her. He let the little children come to him and took them on his knee and blessed them when his disciples wanted to stop them. A woman who was not from his culture came to him and asked him to heal her daughter. He did as he asked. He didn’t discriminate.

In my generation many women here in the west have had the opportunity to be educated and work alongside men. Women have now the freedom in the west to be independent of parents or husband due to their access to wages. Today we celebrate Woman’s International Day which wants to highlight discrimination against women and give equal participation in the global development of the world.

I totally agree with this vision. Is education and equal wages the answer to woman’s discrimination. I believe there is more to understand that can bring freedom to women. I am a free woman because Jesus forgives my failures and wrong choices and gave me a new beginning. He helped me rear my children and give them values for them to have when they leave home.

He healed me of fourth stage cancer and delivered me from demons of rebellion , rejection and bitterness. You see Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. Sin and sickness are works of the devil. No amount of education or money can deliver a woman from poverty, sickness or abuse. People don’t know there is a spiritual force at work in the world, the power of the devil. Jesus came to save us from his power and show us how to live in freedom. Yes he wants men, as The Duchess of Sussex said, to look after the women in their lives. But they can’t do it properly with out the help of Jesus. It means laying down your life and your own desires for them, like Jesus did for his Church.

When Jesus, whose face was covered in blood from his crown of thorns, was carrying his cross along the streets of Jerusalem, he stopped to talk to women. He told them not to weep for him but to weep for their children because he knew it was going to be hard to rear children.

A woman’s role if she is married, I believe is to protect her unborn child and bring good values to her children. The world offers today women in the west, money, comfort and ease. But at what expense? Woman now have the choice to kill a child in her womb that will be an inconvenience to her way of life. Many people are afraid of the Corona Virus but there an ill in our society that is even promoted and paid for by nations, the killing of innocent children in the womb.

My advice as a mother of fourteen children to the global development of the world is to embrace Jesus, believe in him, accept him and follow him like many women did when he was on earth. Read about other women who were courageous to bring freedom to their nations, like mary, Judith, Jael, Deborah, Esther and Ruth.

The Robin

 

In Ireland the humble bird the Robin is celebrated on our Christmas cards. Images of the bright eyed bird with healthy feathers, red on his breast and brown on his body and wings are displayed on many a mantle piece.

One forgets that this bird has had to survive a busy schedule in spring and summer building nests, hatching eggs, and foraging for food to keep himself and young alive. Brendan leaves out seeds and leftover bread on the fence for the birds. One bird waits expectantly every morning. It has come into our kitchen when we leave the door open.

If I am away for a few days the Robin welcomes us back by hopping in circles around me from shrub to hedge to get my attention. I haven’t been looking out for my friend for a while. But this morning I was up early. The bird must have seen me move about the kitchen. He was looking for food.

I fetched the seed box and laid out some seeds. The Robin came along. Sadly he looked a bit disheveled. His head was bereft of healthy feathers. He had few red feathers. He must have been in a few difficult situations; fights, hungry or thirsty.

Perhaps the hungry mouths he was helping feed this summer pulled at his feathers when he was sharing his morsels. Is it time to moult his feathers? Or was he in some territorial fights? I discovered from a bird blog that robins defend their territory fiercely.

He has some nice territory to defend. He has two gardens in which to forage and get plenty of food for his offspring. He has a home owner who leaves out treats for him every morning. He isn’t going to give up easily.

Can I learn from this little bird. Jesus said look at the birds. I see this Robin as a real warrior fighting for his home and his land where he gets provision for his young. I read in Nehemiah 4 v 4 that the men prayed for their families and their homes. They built with one hand and defended their property with a sword in their hands. Like the Robin I often get a few ruffled feathers as I defend my home and children. It is my space and I want to keep it a safe place free from evil.

Jesus likens a man to a house.
““When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. “”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭12:43-45‬ ‭NIV‬‬

We can learn from this scripture Jesus warning to continue to keep our house free from evil spirits. They will always want to come back in. They will never give up. So one needs to be on guard to prevent evil coming back into ones life once we have been set free.

How does one do that. By believing in Jesus, by prayer, by reading the Word of God and by obeying what God has asked one to do.

A Place of Abundance

My son Abraham pumped up the tyres on my bicycle today. The firm tyres seemed to improve my progress cycling along the path. I didn’t have as many aches and pains this morning. My body must be adjusting to my new regime. I was able to cycle further too.

“The hand of the LORD was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.
This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones:
I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.”
‭‭Ezekiel‬ ‭37:1-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬Y

Breath entered my bicycle and it was working better! I will remain ember Abraham as I go for a cycle. He leaves today to take up a job in London after finishing university this year. He leaves the nest today.

Sparrows came to my attention today as I was out on my bike ride.
There was an abundance of them. They flourish here because food is readily available. There are plenty of safe nesting and roosting sites nearby in the hedgerows and trees. A flock of birds flew up from the seaweed along the shore. Little grubs, beetles and insects break down the seaweed. The sparrows have easy nutrious pickings.

If they fancy a change the hedgerows are full of haws, blackberries and honeysuckle fruit. Nearby barley has been harvested by the farmer. There should be plenty of seeds left behind after the reaping. All this provision should see the birds through the winter months.

Seeing the sparrows reminded me of Psalm 84,
“Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, LORD Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭84:3-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

This scripture was a great encouragement to me when I was praying for a new home. God knew where it would be best and safe for Brendan and I to live to rear our young. There was always the provision of friends, shops and schools in the towns we ended up residing. As I reflect I see God’s leading in every house move. He brought us to a place of abundance. Just like the sparrows today. They are flourishing in a place of abundance.

Jesus used the illustration of a sparrow because it is the most widely distributed wild bird and it lives close to human habitations.  Wherever I travel in the world I always see sparrows.  Jesus said he knows when a sparrow falls to the ground.  We are more important than the sparrow.  We can be assured of Jesus care for us, just as he cares for the sparrow.  If we fall or are downcast he knows and comes to our aid.

An Heritage of Potted Plants

Brendan and I were not given an heritage of land from our parents but we have inherited a love for plants.

When Brendan and I got married, the first place we lived in was the attic of a fellow student’s house. We progressed to other houses as our family increased.

Our first home with a garden was an end of terrace house. We moved there in 1987. A Cherry tree grew across the street. The pink blossoms were a delight in spring and the colored leaves lingered in autumn. Brendan brought more colour to our bay windows with boxes full of Petunia and Lobelia.  The benefits far outweighed the cost.  Thanks to Brendan the boxes overflowed with trailing blossoms full of colour: pink, purple white and blue. He carefully tended them with water, a touch of miracle grow and some dead heading. They flourished. Our house was the only one in town with a window display. It was greatly admired.  In primary school my son’s teacher asked the children to write about how their family helped their community.  He wrote about his dad brightening up his neighborhood with his colorful window boxes.

There was war in Northern Ireland in those years. People were distressed and their minds were far from beautiful flower arrangements. The sky was grey during the troubles and the atmosphere tense. There may have been war outside but God was giving us peace in our home and garden.  In 1998 we had the Good Friday Agreement.  We have peace in Northern Ireland.  Since then towns around the Provence have flower displays in their centres. There is a competition for the best Blooming Town.  Brendan was prophetic when he made those window boxes.  He was light in the middle of darkness.

I believe everyone should have a garden. It gives extra space to sit in the sunshine or grow flowers and vegetables. In Greece I have seen families sit in the cool of the evening outside their white washed cottages, underneath a canopy of vine leaves. I believe it is God’s will as well. God says in his word, “Every man neath his vine and fig tree shall live in peace and be unafraid.” Micah 4 v 4.

Brendan continued to work in the garden at the back of the house. It was overgrown with weeds. Before we came to live there, people would walk through, as a short cut to the shops. He put up a fence, reclaimed the land, trimmed hedgerows, planted rose bushes, fixed the clothes line, and built a patio and a treehouse.

A lilac tree grew at the entrance to our garden. It reminded me of my childhood. A tree grew in my neighbor’s garden in the country. As I walked to school each morning in May I loved to see the curly, light purple blossoms. It was in full blossom around my birthday at the end of May. Nature was comforting me and remembering my birthday.  I was inspired to write this blog this morning after seeing many lilac tree in the locality.

I am staying on the border of Massachuttes and New Hampshire. As we travel about I see many lilac trees. I asked my host about them. She told me the lilac is designated the state symbol for New York and New Hampshire. A lilac bush can live for hundreds of years.  Originally from Europe and Asia, lilacs date back to the 1750’s in America – they were planted in the first botanical gardens and both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew lilacs in their gardens. I am planning when I go home to buy a lilac tree and plant it in my garden.

Birds built their nests in the hedges as Brendan worked and the children played in the garden. Life returned to the neglected house and garden. Our family flourished in the space and peace. Brendan and I bore fruit in our Captain St home. We had six more children there. The house was a warm “nest” for our growing family.

Came time to move to a bigger home. Brendan and the children put rose bushes and other shrubs into pots. Empty window boxes were packed away. We wanted to bring with us our plants we had nurtured in the garden.

We moved to County Down. It is where I lived till I was eighteen. I grew up on a farm. My mum and dad retired to the town. Their garden was full of rhododendron bushes. Each came into flower at different times in May. I loved their garden. Sadly mum and dad had passed away many years before we moved.  Brendan’s mum would give him a cutting of a plant he would ask her about. We have inherited all the plants she grew in her garden.

I bought some rhododendron for our new garden, to remind me of my parents. Rhododendron like acid soil to grow in. The soil at our new home was not suitable for rhododendron so I have grown these plants in pots ever since.

I was watching Gardener’s World recently. An eighty two year old lady was interviewed. She was an experienced gardener. Many owners of estates had sought her advice for their gardens down through the years. When she downsized to new accommodation she brought sixty pots of her favorite plants with her.

Brendan and I are like her. We had a trailer load of all our pot plants when we moved to our present home. Our assortment of plants have increased and multiplied. We have hostas, roses, geraniums, rhodendrums, daffodils, lily of the valley, primroses, lilies, gladioli, fushia, honeysuckle, agapanthus, everlasting sweet pea, varieties of daisy, pansies, and lobelia. I have a herb garden where the rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, parsley and oregano have grown into bushes. They have space to grow when they are removed from the small pots.

Now all our children have left home, Brendan I enjoy tending our garden. This spring we were busy repotting plants, and filling window boxes. We have time to feed, water and dead head our flowers. I am reminded of the scripture,

“The Lord will guide you always; he will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” Isaiah 58 v 11.

Our plants have increased and multiplied. This is part of the heritage we can pass on to our children.

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Keeping my Home Clean

“Where there are no oxen, the stall is clean, but from the strength of an ox come abundant harvests.”

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭14:4‬ ‭NIV‬‬
I found great comfort from this scripture when I was rearing my children. There is plenty of hard work and plenty of mess; Brendan and I had to see beyond the hum drum of daily life. We had young children but they will grow to become adults who will make a difference in the world. They will work, prosper and increase as they have wives and families of their own. They will bring a harvest of good for others. They will make a difference in their generation.

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It’s just as well I had an easy going disposition. I never thought it a priority to dust and clean and Hoover . Some people are house proud and keep their home like a palace where the family cannot relax. Don’t leave that there. Pick that up. Wipe that mess up. If I was constantly demanding my husband or children keep the house clean it would not be home where everyone enjoyed being together. My energy went into breast feeding, nursing, cooking, shopping, overseeing, driving and seeing to the needs of others. There was no extra energy to have the house spick and span. My husband had to get used to the busyness in a big family. He lived with his mother as an only child before we were married.

I kept the amount of clothes each child had to a minimum. That meant less washing, and less clothes to be left on the floor of the bedrooms. Each child who was old enough helped with clearing of dishes, filling the dishwasher, washing of pots and pans and sweeping of the floor after each meal. We had wooden floors which were easy to brush and wipe with a mop. I expected the children to look after and keep their bedrooms clean. I never got to the top of the house each day to check. Peace reigned instead of stressing over untidy bedrooms or dirty dishes.

Life was to be lived. After school there was time to play with friends outdoors, or with toys indoors. My girls enjoyed reading books. They would be found in their rooms engrossed in a book. We didn’t have a television in those early years. We found it a waste of our time. Often it brought strife. There would be diagreement of what programme to watch. We got rid of it and we found plenty of other things to occupy us.

My big kitchen has a tiled, speckled flour. The dirt does not show up on it. It can be left for days without being cleaned.

We had green carpets throughout the bedrooms. They kept the rooms warm but didn’t show up spills or grim. A weekly Hoover refreshed the carpets to keep them clean. Buying a dishwasher was my first big investment in my kitchen. It proved invaluable. Dishes could be stored in it and washed when it was full. That kept the benches clear and clean.

My household was full of family over the Christmas period. Bathrooms needed cleaned, the washing machine was in use a lot, clothes needed dried, beds needed changed for new visitors. I felt I was running an hotel.

It is quiet now with children left home. There is less work needed to keep the house. The stall is clean.

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Washing Dishes

Brendan and I are visiting with our son Aaron and family.  Marta, our daughter in law has just had a new baby boy!  A new baby causes a big adjustment in any family.  Mum isn’t just as available as before to see to the other children or see to her housework.  She is busy feeding her baby and coping with the after shock of giving birth.  All the change in the family helps the other children grow up.  Another step to maturity.  Help is needed to wash clothes, dishes, shopping and cooking.  Aaron and Marta will get through this phase.  We can encourage them because we have survived child rearing to tell the tale.

Another fulfillment of the promise from Psalm 128 v 6,  “You shall see your children’s children.”

To help after dinner Brendan and I washed the dishes.  This brought back memories of the small kitchen in our first home.  There was no room for two people to stand at the sink.  The kitchen was the coldest part of the house.  I didn’t want to stay there too long after dinner.  No making wishes over dishes in the sink!

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Brendan did some improvement to shelves and cupboards.  Dishwashers were not common in any household then.  My wish over dishes was to have a dishwasher.  I bought a second hand machine for fifty pounds!  It was a good buy at the time.  The children cheered.  No more standing in the cold kitchen washing dishes by hand.

We have always lived in older houses.  The kitchen always needed updated in each one.  Modern houses come with inbuilt washing machines, cookers, sinks and work tops.  The big bedrooms and big living rooms in the older houses compensated for the small kitchens. The dishwasher has continued to be an important item in my kitchen. It serves a great  purpose for any housewife.

Dreams Come True

Dreams come true.  Psalm 128 says “May you live to see your children’s children.”

I celebrated being sixty five recently.  Brendan and I celebrated being married for forty five years on Saturday.  Our children wanted to mark the event.  They reassured me they would do the catering and make it a hastle free day for us.  They wanted to hold the event in our home.

The first of the family arrived on Thursday night from Slovakia.  Aaron and his daughter Sara Joye wanted to be here to see other family and cousins.  Mary and Hannah arrived on Friday night.  Brendan took me on a mystery tour to a secret destination to avoid the stress of getting the house ready for visitors.  What a lovely surprise!  Brendan is romantic.

We returned next day refreshed ready to receive visitors and family.  Twenty seven of my immediate family gathered for the day.  Friends and extended family dropped in on Saturday afternoon.

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The fog lifted, the ferry sailed, the sun shone, the range got fixed, vehicles parked at the side of the house, roses blooming, tea and coffee brewing, sandwiches tempting, candles burning, tea cups clinking, adults embracing, chit chat buzzing and children darting.  Love was in the air.

Suddenly I remembered a dream a friend sent me over ten years ago.  She saw Brendan and I in a house on an elevated site overlooking the sea.  We were in an open plan living room with all our children and grandchildren around us.  Last Saturday I was in the dream.  The dreams have come to pass.

God gives dreams about the future to give us hope.  God is faithful. He fulfilled those dreams.  We were gathered with our children and grandchildren to celebrate forty five years of marriage.  We made it to celebrate forty five years together despite many trials, temptations and cancer.  Our children were delighted for Brendan and I.  They were overjoyed to be with us, especially since I’m staying alive after cancer six years ago.

It was a special joy filled day.  I remain alive to see my children’s children and see dreams come true.