Refreshment in a Land flowing with Milk and Honey.

I believe holidays are not a luxury, they are a necessity.
In this busy world, work and other activities demand our time and energy until one is worn out. I thought it important for us as a family, even though a big family, to get away for a summer break. We had valuable time together creating memories.

Brendan and I are staying in Limerick.  It is a little bit different this year.  We are on our own, instead of eight, nine or twelve of us.  A friend offered us the use of his home while he and his family are on their holidays.  We usually take a holiday at the beginning of May to recharge our batteries after winter and work schedules.  There was no time free in May this year.  My body was weary and needing some attention.  I dreamed of travelling west in Ireland to be refreshed seeing the mountains and green valleys.  I decided to help Brendan continue prepare for people who were coming to stay with us. I continued to dream.

June was busy with guests from Alabama and India.  The day before guests arrived our friend called to offer us his home in Adare at the end of June.  When Brendan told me I was delighted.  God is faithful.  He knew my need of rest and he provided.   As we shared our home with others, God inspired another person to share his home with us.

A man reaps what he sows.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (‭Galatians‬ ‭6‬:‭7, 9‬ NIV)

Thirty years ago, our friend offered us the use of his home.  We had eight children at the time.  It was a generous gesture.  Not everyone wants to let a big family have the run of their home.  We were able to visit the local tourist scenes and go to the beach when the sun shone.  The children played about in the fields nearby or at the beach like young calves released from the stall.  We have stayed in his home many times down through the years.  He is a blessing.

Kerry and Limerick are famous for the production of milk. Lush, thick grass grows all the year round to support the herds of Friesien cows. There are plenty of green pastures. It is a land flowing with milk like the Promised Land.

Back then people were in conflict in Nothern Ireland.  There was pressure in the atmosphere.  Everyone was under a cloud.  From that year on we went for two weeks in July for holidays to Limerick, Donegal or Kerry.  We enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and warm welcome wherever we travelled.  We always returned to the  North of  Ireland refreshed.

The Power of a Mother’s Love

Mother’s Day is approaching.  I was impacked by a video I watched this morning.  A mother had given birth to twins, a boy and a girl prematurely.  There is always a risk a baby will not make it when born prematurely.  This was so with the little boy.  The doctor gave the “dead” baby into the mothers arms and left her alone with her husband.  The mother laid the baby on her heart, the father put his arms around him keeping him warm with their body heat.  The mother spoke to her baby and told him how much he was loved and about all his extended family that he belonged to.  She continued speaking lovingly and tenderly.  The baby began to breathe and move.  The doctor said “No, he is dead.”  But the little boy lived and is now a healthy five year old.  There was life in the words the mother spoke over her lifeless child.  God is love and as we show love and speak love it brings life.  This speaks to me of a saying that love is stronger than death.

Love is expressed through touch.  When a baby is born he has to go through the squeeze to be born, comes from a cosy, warm place into a cooler room and has to gasp for breath?  Surely it must be stressed, poor thing.  My daughter is an Obstetrician surgeon.  He helps some mothers give birth.  Her hands are the first hands that hold those new borns.  She speaks life over the mother and baby.  Another daughter is a Mid Wife sister.  Her hands too are the first that hold many newly born babies.  

There is a song that goes “Love lifted me” by Kenny Rodgers.  I think of it today.

When my husband and family learned I had cancer their love lifted me and helped me heal and live.  Others showed their love by visiting me and bringing gifts.
Mother Teresa lifted people who were dying from the gutter.  She and her nurses held them and comforted them.  Many widows and widowers enjoy going to the hairdresser.  The hairdresser’s hands may be the only ones that touch them all week.  When a marriage breaks down or one is bereaved the one thing people have told me is they miss being touched.

We make a promise “To have and to hold from this day forward, till death do us part.”  When I made those vows I did not know how important having someone to hold was.  The love between a couple grows into holding a child.  Love grows and brings life and increase.  

Jesus said, “they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” (‭Mark‬ ‭16‬:‭18‬ NIV)

Holding someone who is sick brings comfort and love and makes them better.  The power of God is in love and touch.  Nurses do a great job.  When I was in hospital, having children, with a broken arm or with cancer the nurses comforted me, reassured me and drove away my fears.

If You’re Irish Come Into The Parlour

Here is a song I sang growing up.

If you’re Irish come into the parlour,
There’s a welcome there for you;
If your name is Timothy or Pat (or David)
So long as you come from Ireland,
There’s a welcome on the mat,
If You come from the Mountains of Mourne,
Or Killarney’s lakes so blue,
We’ll sing you a song and we’ll make a fuss,
Whoever you are you are one of us,
If you’re Irish, this is the place for you!

I am in Toronto to see Ava, my son David and Jacquelyn’s baby. I am staying at Jacquelyn’s parents home. I am enjoying the change of season here. I took a walk and took this picture.


David our son, was welcomed into the heart of Jacquelyn’s immediate and extended family. David has been fishing with Jacquelyn’s dad, brothers, uncles and and grand dad. They caught many fish and had a great time. He has been to hockey matches, plays tennis and soccer, been on a visit to Washington to see extended family, and sightseeing at the Niagara Falls.

Maureen, Jacquelyn’s mum spent all Sunday cooking dinner for friends who wanted to come over to meet me. It was Thanksgiving and Christmas all in the one day.
Maureen likes the windows open. I like a cool room too! She loves roast potatoes and Irish wheaten bread, which she bakes on the weekend. She had someone from Ireland she could share with. It was her mum’s recipe. Her mum grew up in Belfast.  We celebrated her mum. Her memory lives on.

Jacquelyn was particularly fond of her and misses her. Her baby is wearing a cardigan her granny knitted for her.

Maureen’s aunt called by the other day. She brought a beautiful Christening robe, an heirloom. Her sister had hand knitted it and gave her for her children. Now it was being given to Jacquelyn for Ava’s christening. She told us how she loves to make soda bread just like we get back in Ireland. She has here fridge full of it ready to give as a gift to anyone who calls or comes into her parlour.

I am being made to feel welcome and part of the family. I don’t have to cook, clean or shop. I am available for babysitting when Jacquelyn needs me. It’s not hard work nursing a warm, cuddly, baby girl. Oh the joy of being a grand mother. I don’t have to do the hard work of feeding, dressing and changing.
It is lovely to see my son caring, protecting and treasuring Jacquelyn and Ava. A whole new world for him.

When Brendan travelled to North America twenty years ago he was welcomed with open arms, celebrated, loved and accepted. A big shock to the system when back home in Northern Ireland there was war. The Irish were rejecting each other.

I went to England 35 years ago to have my own daughter. I was welcomed by the Irish community as a long lost relative. They were from Kerry and I was from Derry. But we were all Irish in another country.

The words of the song above are true. Brendan, David and myself have been welcomed into people’s parlours.

My First Time Babysitting Grandchildren

I am still resting after rearing fourteen of my own children.  I have not rushed into the arena of looking after my grandchildren.  I know many peers that help out with their children’s children because both parents to go out to work.  

I called my son John yesterday.  He was getting ready to go to a wedding.  He sounded stressed.  I asked “Are you bringing the children with you?”  He has two boys under three.  Yes, he was bringing them.  What a nightmare?  I remembered many years ago when I brought my son that I was breastfeeding to a wedding.  I did not enjoy the day.  There was no one there who was sympathic to my situation.   I have found the attitude “You chose to have your children.  Tough on you get on with it.  You have a choice you know, not to have children, to save you all this work.”  Out of compassion for he and his wife I offered to babysit for a few hours until another relative would baby sit them in the evening.

I ventured to say “Put them to bed for their afternoon sleep before I arrive.”  I was hoping the boys would sleep most of the time I was there.  I arrived to see Rachel looking beautiful and glamourous.  She winked at me as they drove off for the day.  My son and his wife could have a day away from the children to enjoy a meal and relax with friends.

I made myself comfortable to do some work on my iPad.  Fifteen minutes later I heard  one of the boys crying.  I left him for a minute or two, hoping he would go over to sleep again.  But no, Daniel needed attention.  His mum told me he likes a bottle of milk when he awakes.  I prepared the milk and then picked him up from his cot.
He continued to cry even though I tried to comfort him.  He drank some of the milk but went back to crying.  I did not want to ring his parents and tell them their baby was crying.  I nursed him and prayed over him.  With his little arms he tried to push my hands away as I held him.  How come a one year old had such strong arms?  If any neighbour heard him crying they may have called the child help line to report a crying child.

After ten minutes little Daniel adjusted to his mum not being there and stopped crying.  He and I became great pals for the afternoon.  He isn’t walking yet but can stand up holding onto the furniture.  He crawled about the floor and played happily with blocks and looked at toy books.  

I needed to put some logs on the fire.   While I was doing that Daniel wondered off down the corridor.  When I looked for him he was in the bathroom.  He was standing up beside the toilet bowl dipping his hand in and sucking on his fingers.  Agharrrrr.   I don’t know if the toilet had been flushed.

I didn’t panic.  I have reared fourteen of my own children and no disaster is going to befall my grandchild that I will not be able to cope with.  I trust God’s promise.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; (‭Psalm‬ ‭91‬:‭9-11‬ NIV)

I did not rush him to the Local Accident and Emergency.  I washed his hands and mouth and carried on with our day. So keep the toilet door closed if you are baby sitting.
Daniel was none the worse for his day with me.   I was not reported to Childline and I did not have to go to the A and E.  His mum and dad had a great day out.

God is a Parent

There is nursery rhyme that goes.

There was an old woman she lived in shoe,
She had so many children she did not know what to do.
She gave them some broth without any bread
and whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.

A gal has got to do what a gal has to do!

When I am at my wits end and don’t know what to do with my children I laugh when I remember this nursery rhyme.
That is how it is sometimes.
That was fine when the children were young.
How does one cope when one’s son or daughter chooses to follow the prodigal route?
I get encouraged when I read God’s word.
God is a parent too. In Isaiah 1 it says

Hear Oh heavens, Listen Oh earth!  This is what The Lord says.
“The children I raised and cared for have turned against me.
Even the animals, the donkey and ox know their owner and appreciate his care, but not my people Israel.”

Israel were God’s children.  He chose them and worked miracles to save them in the desert and helped them cross the Red Sea.  He brought them into the Promised Land.  But the more he blessed them the more they turned away.
Aren’t we all like that to our parents?
As I find myself a parent, distressed, I find comfort because God understands.
He has pain too when his children go astray and disobey.
God likened himself to a mother hen.
Like the hen he longs to protect his children from danger and keep them safe close to him, warm and comforted under his wing.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. (‭Matthew‬ ‭23‬:‭37‬ NIV), Jesus said.

Israel had many feast days and sacrifices they carried out, but God was not interested in them.  He stopped listening to their prayers.  He wanted them to
Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭1‬:‭17‬ NIV)

God wants us to come to him.
If we have turned away he wants us to return.

Isaiah 1 v 19 says
“If you would only obey and let me help you.  Then you will have plenty to eat.  But if you keep turning away and refusing to listen you will be destroyed by your enemies.”

He wants us to listen to him.
How can one listen to God today.
Stop everything, turn off all noise.
Be still and know I am God.
Some people dread the thought of having silence or the idea God can speak to them.
They are frightened he is going to ask them to do something they don’t want to do.
If you don’t want to change then you may not be ready to be alone with God.
God is not up in the sky where we can’t find him.
Or at the other end of the world.
He is near in your heart. Stop and listen.
You will start out on a journey you will never regret.



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.