People have often asked us how we managed to rear our fourteen children. If I was to be anxious or worried about the future I wound not be well. I have learned not to be fearful and be at peace.
Recently I visited my brother to give him a present for his birthday. He works on the farm where I lived as a child. He reminded me of a day we came to visit. I laughed. I remembered it well.
When Brendan and I moved back to live in Co Down I was looking forward to introducing my children to the open spaces of the countryside where I grew up as a child. We drove up to the farm soon after we settled into our new home. All the young children piled out of our van and ran about wanting to explore the farmyard. My brother became very anxious. He was worried about some of them having an accident. The government is always warning the farmers about farm safety. My brother could not get over how easy going we were.
Brendan gathered up all our children and took them for a walk in a field where there was plenty of room for them to let off steam in safety. Brendan and I have learnt to trust God will keep our children safe. In Psalm 91 He gives his angels charge over you so you will not strike your foot against a stone. Jesus tells us not to be afraid. Perfect love casts out fear. As we obey God promises to watch over our going in and out.
Some years ago a family from New Zealand arrived to live in our area. We got to know them. We met up with them and other friends to go for walks. They had four children. Their children were adventurous and had no fear. They climbed on walls, trees, and jumped from great heights. We in this country would be telling our children, “Be careful in case you fall and break a leg.” My husband determined, after seeing the freedom these children had, not to be fearful when our children played.
This last month has been a time of some of my children leaving and others returning. Mary, Hannah and David have returned home after their time in Africa and India. Thank God they are back and looking well. God is faithful. He kept them safe and free from disease.
I remember my son Brendan leaving home to do a world trip after he finished university. That was twenty years ago. His friend’s mother asked me “Are you not afraid for you son going away”. I told her I knew God would look after him because God’ s word promises we are under his daily care. In Psalm 91 says no disaster or disease will come near you.
One morning while my son Brendan was away, I awoke one morning and sat bolt upright on my bed and said the words “My children are not born for misfortune”. This is from Isaiah 66. I was reassured in my spirit that my son would be okay and he would return home safely. Brendan and his friend did some mountain hiking in the Himalayas in Nepal. They needed some water. Brendan drank from the local stream. His friend did the same but suffered terrible tummy upset. I suppose in the rough and tumble of living in our home with a lot of other people, one’s immune system learns to fight off all bugs. After that I learned not to be anxious if any of my family were far away in another country.
If one of my children felt unwell, my husband Brendan and I would pray for him. He would recover with a little tender care and rest. Only if the sickness persisted did I take them to the doctor. My father rang me up one time and asked me “Why are your children never sick”. Other families, he said get colds and flues in the winter. He was amazed.
We even pray for our animals. Brendan had bought a Wolfhound pup. We called it Shadow. He cost a good deal of money. The previous owner sent home a list of food she recommended Brendan should feed the dog. I took one look at the list, fried chicken, eggs, etc and told my husband my children do not even get as good food as she is recommending for a dog. Brendan brought the list to the local pet shop. The man there asked him if this was a human being he was feeding? The shop keeper sent him home with a bag of dog meal.
My husband was away on a trip. It was summer time. My children were playing in the garden with the puppy. They were spraying water on each other. The puppy got caught up in the fun. Later that evening I noticed the puppy was shivering. “Oh no” I thought. “What is Brendan going to say if something happens to the new puppy.” He had invested so much money and would be disappointed if anything happened. I quickly gathered the children together to lay hands on the puppy and pray that God would heal him. Shadow recovered and brought our family much joy in the coming years. He grew big and lived to a ripe old age.
I remember watching a programme on TV around the time we had just moved from Coleraine to Ballynahinch. We had nine children with us. I must have been worried about provision for my children.
The programme was about wild life around the Bramaputra river in Northern India. The biggest animals in the world live there happily. There is room for them all. Water buffalo, elephants, rhinoceros, tigers and leopards roam freely in the rich grasslands along the river. The river often overflows its banks and deposits nutrients to sustain the lush growth. The climate is warm all the time with no harsh winds or cold.
This programme showed a large family of otters feeding on fish in the river. They chomped happily on the abundant supply of fish. After they had gorged themselves they climbed up onto the bank and lay basking in the sun, content with full bellies and safe. A picture of abundant provision. No famine there.
Brendan and I are strong characters and sometimes we jostle for our own space. This programme reassured me there is plenty of space for big characters. I could imagine my children lying happily in their beds safe, well fed and content like the otters. God looks after the animals will he not also care for us. And there would be plenty of provision for my big family with no fear of lack. We could lie down in safety with nothing to disturb us.
Psalm 36 v 6
You care for people and animals alike, O Lord
How precious is your unfailing love. O God.