Brendan and I moved back to Ballynahinch, Co Down where I was born. Nine children moved with us. Four other children were at university. One was married. Friends were perplexed at us moving away from Coleraine with your big family. “How were we going to manage?” they asked. “You will never get good schools like here. Where will you live? Your children will miss their friends.”
I had been praying for five years that God would provide a bigger home for us. I knew these young children would turn into teenagers and would need more space. I believed that God would provide for me. He gave me my children, and I believed he would help me. When the children of Israel went into the promised land they were given land according to the size of their tribe. I had a big family and I hoped that God who helped the children of Israel would do the same for me.
You must distribute the land among the clans by sacred lot and in proportion to their size. A larger portion of land will be allotted to each of the larger clans, and a smaller portion will be allotted to each of the smaller clans. The decision of the sacred lot is final. (Numbers 33:54 NLT)
We moved to a modern, warm bungalow. There was plenty of room for us all. My son John loved his new home and town. He made friends easily at his new school. He loved getting outdoors. He would spend a Saturday with his new friends walking along the river behind our house or wandering over fields and forests beyond. There was a corn mill nearby that was still working. The boys went down there and looked at the large wheel turning with the water flowing over it. I remember going there when I was a child with my father. He was getting bags of corn bruised into oats. The river behind our house fed the wheel that turned the grinding stone in the mill.
John’s adventures reminded me of Robert Louis Stevenson’ poem,
Over the borders, a sin without pardon,
Breaking the branches and crawling below,
Out through the breach in the wall of the garden,
Down by the banks of the river, we go.
Here is the mill with the humming of thunder,
Here is the weir with the wonder of foam,
Here is the sluice with the race running under
Marvellous places, though handy to home!
He would head off down the back of our garden, through a hole in the hedge to meet his friends. They went fishing and swimming in the river behind the garden. He would not return till late.
John started a new school, and travelled nine miles by bus to it. His older sister went to the same school. Settling into a new area and a new school can be daunting for any child. John looked on his experience as an adventure and was enjoying a whole new world, new countryside, meeting my extended family, and making new friends. He never looked back.
I later found out that our new neighbours’ son was bullied on the bus and at the school John went to. He left and went to another school. My daughter and son did not face any trouble on the bus or at school. Because they had each other, no one dared pick on John because his big sister would soon respond and not take any hastle. She was used to dealing with her siblings. On any bus full of teenagers there will always be banter. John and his sister took it all in their stride and didn’t make any enemies.
We all had a family holiday to Spain in the year 2000. On the flight over to Spain John met a girl who went to his old school. She was telling him that many of the children in his old class were using drugs. I was so glad we moved when we did. It was good for my daughter as well. She was getting to the age where she was being influenced by friends to rebel. She was made head girl in her new school. Both my children found favour when they moved to a new town and new school. I knew God was with us and he would look after us just as this scripture says.
And you saw how the LORD your God cared for you all along the way as you traveled through the wilderness, just as a father cares for his child. Now he has brought you to this place.’ (Deuteronomy 1:31 NLT)