Give Thanks

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who struck down mighty kings. His faithful love endures forever.
He killed powerful kings— His faithful love endures forever.
He remembered us in our weakness. His faithful love endures forever.
He saved us from our enemies. His faithful love endures forever.
He gives food to every living creature. His love endures forever.
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭136:1, 17-18, 23-24‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In front of my window this morning blackbirds, a pigeon, wag tails, starlings, a chaffinch and robins feed. The God, who created the heaven and the earth cares for them.
It is a privilege to be alive to see the life around me. It is good to be still and take rest in the peace. I heard a pastor say that nature is a bible for us to see with our eyes. The heavens declare the glory of the risen Lord.

I remember back to many times in my life when I was feeling weak and helpless. I was doing my work looking after my husband, family and home. At times I felt overwhelmed. Our unseen enemies put pressure on us.

There were enemies in Israel called the Amelikites. God hated them because they picked off the weak ones among the Israelites. The elderly and the young are the most vulnerable. If they attacked the people the elderly and the young die first. They will not survive in war.

When Moses travelled through the desert he went at the pace of the people who were with young. He protected them. When Jacob was returning to see his father Isaac he went at the pace of the women and children.

The Amalekites are a symbol of spiritual enemies in our lives that are out to attack us when we are weak, to rob, destroy and kill. I believe a father and mother are so important to protect our young from the unseen spirits. Only with Jesus help can we overcome.

“He remembered our utter weakness. He saved us from our enemies.”

I can testify as we reared our children God covered our backs from our enemies who wanted to snare us.

It has been said that it takes a whole community to rear a child. In the past in Ireland neighbors and extended family looked out for one another. If a parent was under pressure a granny or relative would look after the children for a day to give respite.

Now families are independent and nuclear. One may think, “Oh I’m okay I won’t need anyone’s help.” The pressure comes when children are sick, the husband looses his job or other unforeseen difficulties. We need others.

I enjoy nature programmes. I have watched how wildebeest, zebra and caribou migrate in search of food and to have their young. When they come to the green pastures there are hungry enemies waiting who haven’t had food for days. A crocodile lies in wait under the water to gobble up some weak calf or sick animal who cannot get across the river and is cut off from the herd. Scrawny wolves lick their jaws when they see a meal coming their way. They hunt in packs and pick off the weak, sick, lame, old and young of the herd that have fallen behind. Lions hunt down the wildebeest that begin to stampede. The young and old can’t keep up with the rest so become easy prey for the lions who outrun them. There is safety in staying with the group.

Where our family lived was important. Our homes were always near schools, doctors, dentists, shops, hairdresser, bus stop, friends and recreation areas. There was a hospital, library and swimming pool in each town where we lived. The teachers knew our children as they passed up through the schools. They were kind to them. School friends were important. My eldest daughter still meets regularly with friends she met at school. Football coaches were supportive and looked out for my boys attending soccer, rugby or Gaelic. The clinic was nearby for care from the doctor when I was pregnant. I could walk to the supermarket from each place I lived. We felt safe in the places where we lived.

God brought us to green pastures and protected us from our enemies.

Oh White Butterfly

Oh White Butterfly

Oh white butterfly,
You are in the forest in Portaferry,
You live in my orchard,
You visit my graden,
You surprise me in Toronto.
You pass by the Rugby match in Etobicoke,
You flutter across the lawn in Massachusetts.
Were you at the Pinnacle in New Hampshire?
You rest on the lilac tree in Meene.
You spread your wings in Glouster.
You rest on a stone in Newbury Port.
You smell the flowers on Lough Erie shore.
You dance in my garden,
to welcome me home again.

The Good Weather

I notice postings on Facebook from family and friends is slow recently. Is it because the good weather back home in Northern Ireland has enticed folk to enjoy activities outdoors?
The warmth of the sun is comforting all of creation. It brings life after the cold and darkness of the winter season. It is freely given.

The Lord’s face is likened to the sun. In Numbers Aaron and his sons were to command a blessing on the people of Israel.

““ ‘ “The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
The LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” ’”
‭‭Numbers‬ ‭6:24-26‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand,
the son of man you have raised up for yourself.
Then we will not turn away from you;
revive us, and we will call on your name.
Restore us, LORD God Almighty;
make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭80:17-19‬ ‭NIV‬‬

God knows our frame. He knows we are but dust. If he takes our breathe away we would die. We need to see his goodness in the land of the living. God will not fail those who look to him for bread. This scripture has been a great comfort and brought me hope in the past when I was busy or feeling discouraged.

“I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭27:13-14‬ ‭KJV‬‬

God is good. He is faithful. He has compassion on all he has made.

Whale And Bird Watching

On the whale watch off Boston, I saw a hump back whale flip it’s tail and descend into the depths of the sea to catch its prey.

Before my trip to Massachusetts I noticed a couple of Swallows nesting in the eves of our barn. The Brent Geese have left but the Swallow has arrived. The Swallow is a tiny bird in comparison but it has just completed a 3000 mile trip from Africa. They have arrived in Ireland to rear their young.

I have just made a 3000 mile trip from Dublin to Boston. I have come to Boston in the springtime! The area around Boston is called New England. I wonder why? I soon found out as I travel around this area. Many people left Eurpoe over the past four hundred years in search of a new life in Northern America. The Irish came to America fleeing famine, poverty and war. It is surprising how the territory looks like The British Isles, similar lands, trees and birds, and similar seasons. The gardens around have similar plants to the ones back home. Many villages around here are called, Glouster, Dover, Portsmouth, Antrim, Manchester, Belfast.etc.

People can now fly to the New Land where many, many years ago only the birds could reach. Our hostess loves birds. She is from England. She leaves out food for them. All sorts of birds and creatures arrive to partake of the feast. Two Red Squirrels, Grey Squirrels , tiny Chipmonks, ducks, Cardinals, Blue Jays, and Sparrows, to mention only a few, feed outside. I watch this little zoo at breakfast time. I look up in the sky and there are swallows here too. They fly here from warmer climates in South America.

Brendan and I were priveged to go on a whale watch off the coast of Boston. Different whales come north to feeding grounds off the east coast of New England. There are Minke, Humpback and Blue whale. We were told to look out for water spouts. This was spray released when the whale comes up for air. I was very excited when I saw a geyser of water in the distance. We were in whale territory! The boat slowed down. A mother humpback whale and her calf were swimming nearby. What big creatures! I marveled at these beautiful mammals as I followed them gliding through the water. Then the mother dived underwater as she flipped her tail. Many whales are recognized by the pattern on the tail. The people who take us for the whale watch have given a name to each new whale and keep a record of sightings. I thought of a scripture verse referring to the whale from Psalm 104

“O Lord, what a variety of things you have made!
In wisdom you have made them all.
The earth is full of your creatures.
Here is the ocean, vast and wide, teeming with life of every kind, both large and small.
See the ships sailing along, and the whale which you made to frolic in the sea.
They all depend on you to give them food as they need it.
When you supply it, they gather it.
You open your hand to feed them, and they are richly satisfied.
May the glory of the Lord continue forever! The Lord takes pleasure in all he has made!”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭104:24-28, 31‬ ‭NLT‬‬

On the whale watch on Thursday, a tiny bird landed on the boat. It wasn’t afraid to come close to people. It landed on a lady’s jumper. It was a Wilson’s Warbler, indigenous to North America. It is like our sparrow. It was on its way north to breeding grounds from the south. It had been blown off course. In the local Amsbury newspaper there was an article that said migration of birds was delayed this year to Massachusetts because of bad weather.
The Lord knows when a sparrow falls to the ground.

Outside the boat I could see one of the biggest creatures on earth and on the boat one of the smallest creatures. What a contrast and both are cared for by God.

The humpback whale dived, flipped its tail goodbye and began to descend again. Our boat turned for shore.

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

An Heritage of Potted Plants

Brendan and I were not given an heritage of land from our parents but we have inherited a love for plants.

When Brendan and I got married, the first place we lived in was the attic of a fellow student’s house. We progressed to other houses as our family increased.

Our first home with a garden was an end of terrace house. We moved there in 1987. A Cherry tree grew across the street. The pink blossoms were a delight in spring and the colored leaves lingered in autumn. Brendan brought more colour to our bay windows with boxes full of Petunia and Lobelia.  The benefits far outweighed the cost.  Thanks to Brendan the boxes overflowed with trailing blossoms full of colour: pink, purple white and blue. He carefully tended them with water, a touch of miracle grow and some dead heading. They flourished. Our house was the only one in town with a window display. It was greatly admired.  In primary school my son’s teacher asked the children to write about how their family helped their community.  He wrote about his dad brightening up his neighborhood with his colorful window boxes.

There was war in Northern Ireland in those years. People were distressed and their minds were far from beautiful flower arrangements. The sky was grey during the troubles and the atmosphere tense. There may have been war outside but God was giving us peace in our home and garden.  In 1998 we had the Good Friday Agreement.  We have peace in Northern Ireland.  Since then towns around the Provence have flower displays in their centres. There is a competition for the best Blooming Town.  Brendan was prophetic when he made those window boxes.  He was light in the middle of darkness.

I believe everyone should have a garden. It gives extra space to sit in the sunshine or grow flowers and vegetables. In Greece I have seen families sit in the cool of the evening outside their white washed cottages, underneath a canopy of vine leaves. I believe it is God’s will as well. God says in his word, “Every man neath his vine and fig tree shall live in peace and be unafraid.” Micah 4 v 4.

Brendan continued to work in the garden at the back of the house. It was overgrown with weeds. Before we came to live there, people would walk through, as a short cut to the shops. He put up a fence, reclaimed the land, trimmed hedgerows, planted rose bushes, fixed the clothes line, and built a patio and a treehouse.

A lilac tree grew at the entrance to our garden. It reminded me of my childhood. A tree grew in my neighbor’s garden in the country. As I walked to school each morning in May I loved to see the curly, light purple blossoms. It was in full blossom around my birthday at the end of May. Nature was comforting me and remembering my birthday.  I was inspired to write this blog this morning after seeing many lilac tree in the locality.

I am staying on the border of Massachuttes and New Hampshire. As we travel about I see many lilac trees. I asked my host about them. She told me the lilac is designated the state symbol for New York and New Hampshire. A lilac bush can live for hundreds of years.  Originally from Europe and Asia, lilacs date back to the 1750’s in America – they were planted in the first botanical gardens and both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew lilacs in their gardens. I am planning when I go home to buy a lilac tree and plant it in my garden.

Birds built their nests in the hedges as Brendan worked and the children played in the garden. Life returned to the neglected house and garden. Our family flourished in the space and peace. Brendan and I bore fruit in our Captain St home. We had six more children there. The house was a warm “nest” for our growing family.

Came time to move to a bigger home. Brendan and the children put rose bushes and other shrubs into pots. Empty window boxes were packed away. We wanted to bring with us our plants we had nurtured in the garden.

We moved to County Down. It is where I lived till I was eighteen. I grew up on a farm. My mum and dad retired to the town. Their garden was full of rhododendron bushes. Each came into flower at different times in May. I loved their garden. Sadly mum and dad had passed away many years before we moved.  Brendan’s mum would give him a cutting of a plant he would ask her about. We have inherited all the plants she grew in her garden.

I bought some rhododendron for our new garden, to remind me of my parents. Rhododendron like acid soil to grow in. The soil at our new home was not suitable for rhododendron so I have grown these plants in pots ever since.

I was watching Gardener’s World recently. An eighty two year old lady was interviewed. She was an experienced gardener. Many owners of estates had sought her advice for their gardens down through the years. When she downsized to new accommodation she brought sixty pots of her favorite plants with her.

Brendan and I are like her. We had a trailer load of all our pot plants when we moved to our present home. Our assortment of plants have increased and multiplied. We have hostas, roses, geraniums, rhodendrums, daffodils, lily of the valley, primroses, lilies, gladioli, fushia, honeysuckle, agapanthus, everlasting sweet pea, varieties of daisy, pansies, and lobelia. I have a herb garden where the rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, parsley and oregano have grown into bushes. They have space to grow when they are removed from the small pots.

Now all our children have left home, Brendan I enjoy tending our garden. This spring we were busy repotting plants, and filling window boxes. We have time to feed, water and dead head our flowers. I am reminded of the scripture,

“The Lord will guide you always; he will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” Isaiah 58 v 11.

Our plants have increased and multiplied. This is part of the heritage we can pass on to our children.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/heritage/
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The Brent Geese have Left.

In the last week the Brent Geese have left for Canada. Isn’t it amazing the timing in nature. These birds have been migrating since creation. How marvellous our creator is.

“Then God said, “Let the waters swarm with fish and other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind.” So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that scurries and swarms in the water, and every sort of bird—each producing offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply. Let the fish fill the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth.” And evening passed and morning came, marking the fifth day.”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭1:20-23‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Many centuries ago before man has cultivated the land people living along the shores of Strangford Lough would have welcomed the arrival of the geese.  Perhaps there could have been a source of food. There are many historical Christian settlements along the Lough, Greyabbey, Nendrum and Movilla.
Nowadays the Brent geese are protected.

When the Brent arrive on the Strangford Lough shores in September, they look like ducks. They have flown across the Atlantic from Northern Canada, a journey of two thousand miles. They spend the next eight months in Ireland. They feed on eel grass, which grows on the intertidal shore especially where fresh water meets the salt water of the sea. There are two such areas on the shore near where I live. I am privileged to watch the birds close up.

For the last month groups of geese gather near my home to feed. I can hear their guttural calling when they arrive. They are fattening up for their flight across the ocean. They now look like geese. They waddle from where they are feeding to the shore and float away when they are disturbed. They conserve energy at this stage only flying off when in danger. They can be approached up close to get a picture. When they do take flight they travel very fast just above the level of the water and disappear into the distance.

The name Brent means charcoal in Norse. Their feather colours are dark on the neck and wings. Their wing tips and underbelly are white. When the sun shines the light highlights the white feathers, making the birds look regal with the black and white contrast.

I thought the same geese return in the spring. The Irish Brent Research Group tells me the parents remain with the young for fifteen months before the fledglings are strong to make the long journey to feeding grounds along the shores of Ireland. They stay home with their young. This reminds me that even the birds follow the truth in the scripture,
“He gently leads those who are with young.” Isaiah 40 v 11.

“The migrating geese leaving en mass signify a powerful force in nature.” quote from Naomi Hart, artist. They know when the time is right. Perhaps there is a strong wind blowing that helps their journey north. The desire to leave and return are part of the bird’s life cycle. I am learning from the birds.

“Look at the birds of the air, for they don’t sow, neither do thy reap.”  Matthew 6 v 26.    I have learnt so much by looking at the birds.

When I travel to Toronto, Canada the flight from Dublin is seven hours. The journey home is only five hours. Why? There was a strong tail wind behind the plane helping it along. Similarly I believe the strong winds help the birds migrate.

Perhaps by looking at the birds St Brendan was inspired to make a boat to travel north into the Atlantic on a path of discovery. Swans and Geese head north into the horizon where the human naked eye can see no land. “But there must be some place out there for the birds to land,” he may have thought?

Brendan and I often go to far off nations around May and September.  Like the birds we know when it is time to fly.

A Walk in The Woods

The final days of winter have passed.  The time for the singing of birds has come. Often our lives feel as if it is winter all the time. In Narnia, the writer C S Lewis gives the image of all creation living under the spell of  the wicked witch. Every life form was frozen. But Aslan the lion, who is a symbol of Christ, comes and breaks the spell of the winter of a hundred years and all life begins to warm up and live again.

Just as in CS Lewis’ book Narnia we can be trapped by forces over which we have no control, being under the spell of darkness and coldness, or things not working out in our lives. We have free will to make choices and live as we wish. But sometimes life does not work out the way we had planned.

If anyone feels like this Jesus gives us his promise. “I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you.” John 14 v 18. This is a wonderful promise. He will not leave us in the winter of our lives, which happens to us because of circumstances which are beyond our control. There is an evil power that casts a spell on our lives. It is the devil. He has been ruling over the world since Adam and Eve were put out of the garden. But Christ appeared to destroy the works of the devil.

While Jesus was on earth he went about healing the sick and casting out demons that kept the people bound. One woman believed that if she touched the hem of his garment she would be healed.
“And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: Matthew 9 v 20
A man crippled from birth was healed and took up his mat on which he was sleeping and walked. “And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.” John 5 v 5.
Another man who was blind from birth was healed so God was glorified. John 9 v 1.
In these three situations mentioned, the individuals had their condition for a long time, one twelve years, one thirty eight years and the other from birth. Jesus healed them all.

If one is in a situation for a long time when there seems no change, I assure you Jesus will come to you and set you free. There is hope. Spring will come in your life. The singing of birds will come as The Song of Solomon says.
For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone, The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; Song of Solomon 2 v 11.

Brendan and I went for a walk in the woods near our home two weeks ago. The morning sunlight streamed though the trees. Ferns were opening their arms in the warm rays of light. Streams of blue bells flowed down the banks. Doves cooed in the branches. A single bumble bee busyed himself visiting the open blossoms. He had so much work to do, flitting from flower to flower collecting pollen. Three different kinds of butterfly were enjoying the still, warm air. Bird song rejoiced. We were walking in a garden the Lord tended.

The season has changed. The sun is shining. Life is returning to the forest after the final days of winter.

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