Spring Visitors

Here in Ireland, a few weeks ago on Easter Sunday the sun was shining and many families and their granny’s and dogs were out for a drive. The two ferry boats between Portaferry and Strangford were racing across The Narrows to help the travellers on their day out; perhaps to visit the festivities at Castle ward, Castlewellan or Newcastle. Others from Strangford come to visit the Aquarium in Portaferry or take a tour of the Ards Peninsula.

We had taken a drive a few days before to pick up our daughter who returned for Easter. The water had filled Strangford Lough as far up as Newtownards. It reached up to the wall that separated the the road from the sea. I looked down through the clear water as we drove along the shore. I marvelled. Where else is there a place where one can drive for miles so close to the shore? I was enjoying the Lord’s provision of leading me beside still waters to restore my soul. We continued to enjoy the Easter weekend of rest.

Easter Monday is memorable for me. Nine years ago I went to the Accident and Emergency in the local town. I was later diagnosed with fourth stage cancer. Praise God I am staying alive after my experience with cancer. I celebrated the victory over the weekend with my family.

On Tuesday the weather changed. Grey clouds rolled in on stormy winds from the east. There was a chill in the air. Warm coats were picked up again. All the visitors had gone. They returned home revived and refreshed from having time out in the country.

I noticed different visitors outside my window. The swallows have arrived for the summer. They nest under the eaves and rear their young. There was no time wasted. A couple of them inspected the nest used last year and began mending it, flying in and out with mud in their beaks.

All the ways of nature have a purpose. The swallows have travelled thousands of miles from Africa. The strong south east winds helped them on their way. The same winds carried the Brent Geese north on their return journey to Canada. I miss their calls as they gathered beneath our garden to drink from the fresh water stream. They have been feeding on the eel grass along Strangford Lough since September. When the Brent Geese arrive they look like ducks. When they leave they have grown fat and look like geese.

I will enjoy the company of the swallows over the summer along with the resident forest and sea birds. The blackbirds, robins, pigeons, pheasants, doves, thrush, starlings and sparrows are busy making nests for their young. The call of the doves in the morning replace the Brent Geese. The other birds join the chorus as the sun begins to rise in the east.

The time of singing of birds has come. Sap is rising through the tree trunks. The leaves burst open and discard their shells. The sticky pollen of the sycamore tree in front of the house is falling all around. Another thing the wind carries to other trees to pollenate them. The pear and apple blossoms are in full bloom waiting for the bees from a neighbor’s hive to collect their nectar. All nature is busy increasing and multiplying.

Yet more visitors arrived below on the Lough. A beautiful tall yacht drew up within my view below. The owners are getting it ready for sailing events over the summer. I watched as it was secured to a buoy. It is the season for yachtsmen to put their vessels back in the water. A crane lifts the boats, which look like big birds, and settle them on the water.

It’s good to be alive and see life abundant all around.  Jesus came to give us life and life abundantly.  He has done that for me.  It’s the devil who comes to rob, steal, kill and destroy.  John 10 v 10

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Arctic Tern Takes Sanctuary

An Arctic Tern was taking sanctuary along the sea shore today.  It was warm in the morning sunshine and sheltered from the wind in a bend of the shoreline and safe from danger.

Brendan and I went for a walk this morning to Ballyhenry Island.  We noticed a lone Arctic tern sitting on a stone.  Normally the terns are in pairs or a group along the shore.  This bird did not look as if it had energy to go diving for food today.

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The terns come to Swan island opposite Strangford to nest and have their young in June.  They leave at the end of the summer and return to Africa.  The terns squeal, fight, swoop when they are feeding or returning to their nest. They dive into the water for fish, and take off again.  They are full of energy.  Here is a photo of a healthy group and one young taking a rest after fishing.

The average Arctic Tern lives about thirty years, and will, based on the research, travel some 1.5 million miles during its lifetime.  It is famous for its migration; it flies from its Northern breeding grounds to the Antarctic and back again each year, the shortest distance between these areas being 12,000 miles.  The long journey ensures that this bird sees two summers per year and more daylight than any other creature on the planet.  How amazing that this bird can travel so far.  We are privileged for it to visit us.

I took a closer look at the lone bird through the binoculars.  The bird’s feathers around the mouth look grey instead of the usual black.  The beak and legs were a dark red instead of a brighter red.  I think this bird may not have much longer to live.  It has taken sanctuary in this quiet place to spend its last few days.  No more flights around the world for this bird.

This coast must be the place where grey haired and grey feathered creatures come to stay.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/sanctuary/

Forgiven Much, Loves Much.

 

Today I experienced a little of what it is like to be forgiven much and to love much.

Abraham returned to Scotland today.  I was leaving him to the ferry at the Port of Belfast.  Hannah warned me that 1000 cyclists were out somewhere in the Ards Peninsula today, Sunday.  To avoid hold ups or upsetting cyclists because I try to overtake them, I decided to take the ferry to Strangford.  After farewells to family at home, Abraham and I set off.

We boarded the nine forty five ferry from Portaferry to Strangford.  There were about eighteen cars on board.  The ticket master came to check my card.  One can buy a card for twenty journeys for half the price.  He said “Your journey have been paid for.”  I looked around to see if there was someone who knew me and kindly paid for my fare.  But no.  The ticket collector told me someone has paid for everyone on the ferry.  A gentleman had bought a card and would not be using it again.

Abraham and I looked at each other.  Whoa!  That was an unlooked for blessing.  It felt unusual to receive this kindness from a complete stranger.  Abraham commented that anyone on board who has to pay the full fare will benefit the most from this man’s generosity.

For a moment I felt the love and presence of God.  I thought this is what it feels like for someone to pay the price for something I was responsible for.  I was able to go free.  I experienced a little bit of what Jesus paid for on the cross when he died to forgive my sins, heal my diseases and give me  eternal life in heaven.  He paid the price for me to go free instead of having to suffer for my wrongdoings and go to hell.

Here is a reading from scripture which tells us about Jesus forgiveness.

“When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.
A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.
As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender.
One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.
Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,”
Jesus said. Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house.
You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet.
You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.
Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.””

I did not argue with the ticketmaster and say, “I don’t want to accept this man’s offer.  I insist on paying for my own passage.”  Perhaps one can feel as if one doesn’t deserve this kindness.  One has to learn to receive.  Sometimes we say something like that to Jesus when we don’t accept his sacrifice on the cross to pay for one’s sins and go free.  Let us be like the woman who washed Jesus feet.  She received Jesus forgiveness. Having been forgiven much let us love much.
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The First Gleam of Dawn

Where I live the sun rises over the hill and forest to my left.  It’s light reflects off the water in Srangford Lough, brightens and warms our home.  It may be blowing a gale outside but the glow from the sun warms, not only my kitchen but my heart as well.  I am reminded of the verse in Proverbs 4: 18,

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The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.

One may have had a sleepless night. Worries, anxiety, pain, stress, loneliness may loom large in the night. It cheers my heart when I see the sun rise in the morning. Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning.

This verse is in the middle of Proverbs that give wisdom to the reader, whether young or old.

My children listen to me.  Listen to your father’s instruction.  Pay attention and grow wise, for I am giving you good guidance.  Proverbs 4 v 1 NLT

My son, obey your father’s commands, and don’t neglect your mother’s teaching.  Keep their words always in your heart.  For these commands and this teaching are a lamp to light the way ahead of you.  The correction of discipline is the way to life.  Proverbs 6 v 20 NLT

As we drove home last night I saw many young people walking the streets of a village nearby. These young were like sheep without a shepherd.

When our own children were that age, my husband and I realised the difficulties they faced. When young people get together without guidance, taking drugs, drinking and immorality become the norm. I did not have my fourteen children to be born for misfortune. The devil is out to rob steal and destroy.  I am not willing to give up my children without a fight.

We had a meeting on a Friday night for our children and their friends. We taught them the way of truth and gave thanks and praise to God who helps us.

Those years when my boys were teenagers were difficult for me. I developed fourth stage colon cancer. I was dying. But God had a plan for me to live and not die. He healed me.  I am alive to pray for my children.

I read in the Psalm 30 today these words.

I will exalt you, LORD, for you rescued me. You refused to let my enemies triumph over me. O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you restored my health. You brought me up from the grave, O LORD. You kept me from falling into the pit of death.
“What will you gain if I die, if I sink into the grave? Can my dust praise you? Can it tell of your faithfulness?

You have turned my mourning into dancing.  I will sing praises to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever! (‭Psalms‬ ‭30‬:‭1-3, 9, 12‬ NLT)

God is real.  He interested in our daily lives.  He is interested in a mother’s cry for her children. Mothers, our destiny with God is to crush Satan under our feet.  Let my people go to worship God, Moses cried out.

The God who causes the sun to rise every morning healed me from cancer.  He will help me at break of dawn.

The Strangford / Portaferry Ferry Choir

 

Tonight the Strangford/ Portaferry Ferry is lit up and the deck is a stage for choirs singing Carols.  Praise songs ring out over the Lough in the chilly, evening air.  School children and adults take part.  Drivers are entertained as they make their way home.

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At the ferry exit on each side of the Lough there is a mini Christmas Market.  I am at the Craft Fair with my Seaglass Mosaics.   John, my son is exhibiting his Bog Oak and Bronze.  We are hopeful for a successful evening.  It is a good opportunity to meet families from our community.

My mosaic collection began in May this year, after I picked up some green pieces of glass from the local beach.  I was inspired to make a picture of Ireland with a piece of Seaglass for each of the thirty two counties.  More inspiration has followed.  I enjoy the peace and results as I work.  I never dreamed I would be making mosaics, never mind selling some at a Craft Fair.  I believe The Holy Spirit gives me the inspiration.  He is the Creator.

I have visited the Christmas market in Bratislava.  It is full of Craft Stalls selling Christmas Fare.  It is a event where friends and families meet to have time together, sharing mulled wine and kebabs.  Eight of my family are there in Slovakia tonight!  From one Christmas Market to another, Ahoi!

I was excited to learn that the idea of Carol singing on the Ferry came from Vancouver, Canada.  I have been to the ferry terminal at Nanaimo and have travelled on the ferries to Seashelt and Vancouver Island.  My son Isaac is in Vancouver at the moment.

It all began fifty years ago with one boat decorated with Christmas lights.  Now fifty boats take part in the Carol Ships Parade of Lights.  It is a great attraction for visitors during the Christmas season in Vancouver.

The Ferry Crossing between Strangford and Portaferry is the oldest continuous ferry crossing in the world!  I can imagine Patrick and the early Christian settlers making the crossing back centuries ago in a wooden craft.  Our Ferry ship today is humble in comparison to the big ferries that dock in Nanaimo.

It is a wonderful experience to have a Christmas market and Choir Ferry so close to my home.  May this festival grow as the years pass and become a successful tourist event and attraction for Portaferry and Strangford.

Some information taken from an article in the Down Recorder, published on 2nd December.

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.

Please Call Me Mrs Rock The Boat

I have been known to be controversial in my life.  Who wouldn’t be, being the mother of fourteen children and being healed of cancer.

I tend to unsettle the settled, but comfort the uncomfortable.  I have confronted ministers, doctors and teachers in defence of my children or values I have.

I challenge people’s mindsets just by being alive.
I had an experience last night which demonstrated the reality of what I can do in situations, unwittingly.

As I look out my window I see the ferry pass to and fro across the channel between Portaferry and Strangford.  It keeps going in fair or stormy weather.  I appreciate the work the men do who keep it operating.

I was returning from visiting relatives last evening.  I was the first in the queue to catch the eight pm ferry from Strangford to Portaferry.  I arrived just as the ferry was docking.  My children and I looked out and noticed the the ferry boat was moving from side to side and not docking.  I wondered what was happening.  There was no strong wind blowing and the sea was calm.

I switched off my lights which were in full beam!   The boat docked.  The few cars  and passengers disembarked.  I turned on my engine and moved forward onto the rampart and was about to park my car.   Normally the drivers are waved to move forward to the front of the deck.  I was waved to a stop by an irrate attendant.

He waved his finger as he berrated me for stopping the ferry docking.  I didn’t understand.  He added your lights were in full beam and the driver could not see to dock the ferry.  “Did you not read the notice that drivers are to turn off their lights!”

I apologised profusely not knowing that I had just “rocked the boat.”  I must have caused some annoyance to the ferry workers.

I was laughing about my experience when I was reflecting this morning.

That was the second time recently someone waved his finger at me.

I am adjusting to the new environment in which we now live.  The narrow roads are popular with cyclists. I had a limited time to get to Belfast the other morning.  I was trying to overtake a bunch of cyclists that were strung out in front of me.  I took the opportunity to overtake  but couldn’t make it.  I probably frightened not only my passengers but all the cyclists.  I had the last cyclist wave his finger at me!

Thankfully I didn’t hear what the cyclists or ferry workers said about me.