Black Guillemots Nest Nearby

The Loughshore Rd in Portaferry, Co Down is very popular with local walkers, and more so during the Covid restrictions. There is less vehicle traffic. A family of Black Guillemots have become quit celebrities to local visitors.  They have brought joy to many people during this difficult time when people have had to self isolate.  Getting out in nature among God’s creation brings healing to the soul and mind.  

The Black Guillemot is a small black sea bird with a white patch on each wing. Each has a pointed beak, smooth feathers and red feet. They feed on sea creatures and can dive very deep underwater to feed. It’s a privilege to get to see such wild life nearby.

Black Guillemots have a nest amid the rocks in the wall along the shoreline of Strangford Lough.  They  have become quite tame. Passersby stop to watch them as their family play in the water below. My daughter was driving past last evening. Two birds were sitting on the wall. I asked her to reverse the car to see if we could see them up close.

Amazingly the two birds were not disturbed as we stopped. They didn’t fly off. We were able to take photos of them close up. What a delight.

The waves from storms in February breached the shoreline wall in various places. Some were repaired before the lockdown. The road had to be closed to traffic about a mile along the shore from where we live. The wall was broken and part of the road fell into the sea. The Covid lockdown prevented workers getting to fix it.

Then in July when work was due to start to repair the road, it was discovered that another group of Black guillemots had built nests nearby. They were still feeding their young in the nests. The department of the Environment stepped in and advised work to stop. The repair didn’t go ahead. The workers are waiting till the Black Guillemots are finished reading their young.

The Sunshine has Returned

It is a fact that man is sure to have trouble in this world.
Yet man is born to trouble, as sure as sparks fly upward. Job 5 v 7

When I was living in my father’s home I was sheltered and protected from life’s storms.
I was hopeful and joyful for my future when I left home. My sunny expectations have carried me through many ups and downs in life. Yes we will have troubles but God in Psalm 91 promises to be with us in trouble and deliver us out of it.

Psalm 50 v 13 to 15 v 23

I don’t need your sacrifices.
What I want instead is your true thanks to God.
Trust me in times of trouble and I will rescue you and you will give me glory.
But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.

The sun is shining again bringing light and warmth. Alleluia. It is so welcome after grey snow laden clouds and chilly biting winds here in Ireland. Humans, animals and birds were forced to shelter till the storm passed. Was that the last cold blast before spring? Can the daffodils blossom and lift their sunshine petal trumpets now?

How did I survive the cold spell? I needed the help of others. Brendan made sure there was oil in the tank, coal and wood at hand to light a fire in the evenings. The warmth from hot water bottles helped us get to sleep. My daughter made warm dinners.

I had a lingering cold for a few days. I had started listening to the radio in the mornings and when I was driving. My ears were buzzing with fears about results of Brexit, local tragedies and news of bad weather. My mood took a dip and I developed a fever as the cough developed. I hid under the duvet. I felt a dark shadow over me bringing gloom. My husband and daughter prayed and attended to me.

I realised what had happened to me. I was allowing all the bad news to affect my mind. I was not thanking God for his many blessings to help me through the dark days. I needed to get back to reading the good news. The Word of God is truth and up lifting and healing.

Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice, Paul encourages us. We may not feel like rejoicing when your car won’t start, you can’t get to work and the baby won’t stop crying. Thanking and praising God changes the atmosphere. Your mood changes and it lets God move to help. He comes to the rescue.

Often I would come before God crying and telling him all my woes. It doesn’t help. My prayers don’t get any higher than the ceiling. His word tells me to come before him with thanksgiving and praise. That is the best sacrifice that pleases God. Then he will move to change the woes. They will disappear like wax before heat and smoke before the wind.

Psalm 91 reminds us if we trust God he will be with us in trouble. In this world we will have trouble. Jesus said be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. Our best security for the future is to thank God now, each day and he promises to be with us in the bad times and even deliver us out of them. Alleluia.

Weeping may endure for the night but joy comes in the morning. The birds are singing, The sun is reflecting off the water again. The sky is blue. The dark clouds have gone. My car will get fixed. That which is broken will be restored.

We may do all we can in life to avoid trouble. But it is a fact that trouble will come.

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The Sound of the Wind

One evening recently it was stormy.  I heard the sound of the wind.  The wind was blowing through the trees of the forest nearby.  I was enjoying listening to the rustle of leaves.  I was working in the garden at the back of the house.  The sun was shining.  I was alone.

Later that day I was reading from John 3 in the scriptures.

Jesus said, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the spirit.”
‭‭John‬ ‭3:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The wind stirring around the house reassured me of God’s presence by his Holy Spirit.

When Jesus disciples were in the Upper Room there came a mighty wind.

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”
‭‭Acts‬ ‭2:1-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The disciples went out from that room and the people from the nations that were gathered in in the city heard them speaking in their languages.  This was the work of the Holy Spirit.  He empowered the disciples, who were ordinary men to speak boldly about Jesus and tell them, Jesus had just recently died.  Jesus had come on earth from heaven.  He worked miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit.  He told his disciples they would do even greater signs to testify that God was speaking through them.

The disciples spoke to the crowds about Jesus death and how he had provided a way for mankind not to perish but have eternal life.

Listen for the sound of the wind.

Sentimental Saturday. Left Behind.

Ten thousand visitors took to the country to Castle Ward, a National Trust property near where I live, on Easter Monday and Tuesday.  There were two ferries operating between Strangford and Portaferry to cope with the traffic.  I often wandered why there was an ice cream shop in Strangford.  Now I realise it is there to provide for the children who are waiting for the next ferry.  My own grandchildren had the extra delight of getting ice cream slushies as they waited for the ferry.  Delicious.

In an article in a Belfast newspaper there is a story about an one arm teddy bear that got left behind at Castle Ward.  Some little child would be missing his cuddly toy that night.  I hope teddy and child will be reunited.

Over the past week some of my own children and grandchildren came to visit to celebrate Easter and my fifth year anniversary free from cancer.  Bedrooms were overflowing with people, like the luggage hanging out of suitcases.  I had to make sure there was plenty of hot water for all the showers going.  Hair dryers were buzzing.
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The fridges were full, the range at full heat, logs were gathered in, plenty of supply of toilet roll and tissue, the boiler timed for heat and hot water, and the dishwasher was spinning. The kitchen was full of activity as meals were prepared and ate. For a few nights it was like the old days when we would gather around the fire with Brendan telling stories, then prayers and bedtime, for old and young.

In the mornings I heard voices from the bedrooms. Sisters were talking and laughing as they caught up with each other’s news. Three of them did a workout in the morning sun. Four children were tempted to take a swim in lough below. In the afternoon some collapsed on the lawn with heads together chatting and enjoying the warmth of the sun.

One of my girls had the flu when she returned.  With love, rest and prayer she recovered and headed off to Kenya for work on Tuesday.  Some of my grandchildren had tummy upsets and chills.  One of them went to the doctor.  He could find no infection.  Praise The Lord it was a demonstration of God healing her.  She had a smile on her face when she returned.  Mum and child had no need to worry.  Grand Da’s home is a place of refuge and healing from the storms of life.

All the grandchildren left today.  The house is silent.  The fridges are empty, only ashes in the fireplace, the dishwasher and hair dryers are quiet.  The bin is full of empty Easter egg packages and drink bottles. Bedcovers are tossled on empty beds.  Damp towels are left on the floors.

I had a relaxing bath and went to bed early trying to cope with the emotion of it all.  I awoke in the middle of the night to get a cup of tea.  Brendan joined me.  We are together again, just the two of us.
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A children’s I Pad, some Easter eggs and vases of colorful tulips are left behind.  On the floor a toy donkey was lying with its leg over his head.  Perhaps it was wiping away his tears at missing the children.  A toy bird lay on the table.  There was no more screaming laughter from Grand Da’s antics with the puppet bird.  A bunny rabbit sat forlorn with a toenail broken.  I can understand where the inspiration for Toy Story came from.

But I have lots of love and memories in our hearts.  And I have clean carpets and a new Hoover.  My daughter could see the dust.  The dust and the grandchildren have gone.  They will return.

I Miss the Ferry Today

Today in Northern Ireland the media is celebrating Red Nose Day.  Money is raised for charity by celebrities doing fun things.  There will be plenty of buzz on the radio and TV to distract people who are annoyed with others who go on strike.

It is also the day the Unions for Public Transport Workers, Teachers and Health Care Workers called a strike in protest for more pay.  Don’t we take for granted the services we enjoy, until they are not there and only then we appreciate the service they provide.

From the front of our home we look out on Strangford Lough.  We see the Strangford – Portaferry ferry cross over the channel ever fifteen minutes.  Today there is no sign of the boat.  I feel lonely and  bereft.  I miss the security of the ferry.  I love to see the boat cross, regular as clock work from seven thirty am till eleven pm.  When we are taking a trip into town we have to take the ferry.  We can leave the house a few minutes before the ferry is due to leave the port.  We get there on time.  No waiting around.

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We cross over on this ferry often.  When we were moving house here a few months ago, one of the workers on the ferry said to my husband, “You will soon own this ferry with all the money you are spending.”  My daughter stayed here a few weeks ago.  She said the ferry was company as she watched it lights as it moved to and fro across the lough. There were lights even though it is not Christmas.

There have been storms this week.  The ferry stills works even through gales, snow  and chilling winds.  Often the men’s hands and faces are blue from the cold, as they collect the fare.  The weather does not stop them being cheery and give a pleasant greeting. But today they are having a day off, even though they are taking unpaid leave. They deserve a reward for the service they provide.  Thank you.

The sea is calm, the sky is bright, no dark clouds or cold winds.  There is no activity beyond on the channel of Stranford Lough today. There is no chug chug from the diesel engines. Only the sound of birds shrilling in the warm sunlight. Today is one of only a few days that the ferry does not operate.  I am so thankful for this service.  God bless the workers today.

Preparing For Darker Days

On Sunday night the fourth of October, there were gales and heavy rain in my part of the world, Northern Ireland.  As we travelled home late at night, leaves were falling against the windscreen like a snow storm.  Next morning electricity was out and branches of trees, twigs and leaves littered the roadsides.  I thought winter had arrived suddenly.
Swallows have left and farmers have their crops harvested.  I was not ready for the season change.
There had been warm sunny days during September so I was unprepared for colder, windier and wetter days.  The forecast told me the weather would remain unsettled.  I felt like the animals that hibernate, I wanted to scurry for cover.
I remembered a dream I had many years ago.  I saw a stack of logs and a stack of coal beside my house.  I would have provision for cold days. This dream encouraged me to believe Proverbs 30 for myself and not fear the cold weather.

She has no fear of winter for her household, for everyone has warm clothes.
She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭31‬:‭21, 25‬ NLT)

Thankfully one of my sons was visiting. Patrick is home all the way from Australia. One of my children turns up when I have a need.  I needed his help.   He made a shelter near my back door to store logs.  He secured the covering on my shed so rain would not seep in.  He cleared the guttering of any buildup of leaves.  We emptied pot plants of fading summer plants.  We moved potted trees and shrubs to a sheltered part of the garden away from scorching salty winds.  Brendan secured a store of oil and coal. Thank God for my husband and son. I feel more prepared for the season ahead now.
This week has been a glorious week.  The forecasters were wrong.  We had sunny days to finish the work outside.  At night the full moon shone overhead.  Amazingly we had a glimpse of a red moon as it rose in the sky on Friday night.
Another sign as the Word of God tells us
I will show wonders in the heavens. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. (‭Joel‬ ‭2‬:‭30-31‬ NIV)
God is speaking through his Creation.
This Sunday night I am enjoying the glow and heat from my log fire in the hearth.  I will enjoy the rest and warmth indoors through the dark nights ahead.
Are you prepared for darker days?  The weather and news headlines forecast storms ahead.  The media instill fear for the future.  Do not be afraid.  Look up at the sun, moon and stars.  Look up to the One who created them and have faith in God. Call upon his name and you will be safe.  You will find shelter under his wings.