Sixteen Graduations in One Family

Brendan and I set off for Scotland from Belfast City Airport on Thurday. We arrived on good time for our Flybe flight. I was looking forward to spending the afternoon with our son who was picking us up from the Glasgow airport.

We checked our flight on the screen. It was rescheduled for a hour later. That was fine. We relaxed in the lounge. Our flight was called but we were told to wait in the lounge. Time passed. We missed our flight! A big shock! Brendan comforted me but I was shaken. An attendant arranged for us to get the next flight at six thirty without any further expense. That eased the pain. We missed seeing our son. More waiting.

Today, Friday, 7/7/17, our daughter Angela graduated from Edinburgh university. We were with her to see her receive her award along with over a hundred other students. It was a colourful and jubilant occasion.

Angela is the last of our fourteen children. All sixteen of us have received a degree from university. It is forty five years since I graduated from university. Today’s celebration was worth the waiting.

I have lived to see all my children graduate after having cancer in 2010. God is good. He is faithful to keep his promise that he will bless my children. Exodus 20. Brendan was at each birth of our children and at each graduation. That must be a record. He is a great husband, dad and grand dad.

God and his angels rejoice when we were born on the earth. God and his angels are rejoicing over us today.

When God gives a promise nothing can stop it coming about. Our own mistakes, difficulties, even missing a flight will not stop what God plans to bring about.

Living in Harmony

Watching a wildlife program about Japan has inspired me.

The most northerly island, Hokkaido has the harshest climate of all the islands of Japan. The people who have settled there are farmers who grow cereals and flowers in the short summer. Fishermen harvest the rich sea before the cold of winter freezes it over.

In September the Pacific salmon begin to return to the rivers of Hokkaido to spawn. Black bears gather at the coast to feast on the fish that team in the river mouths. Fishermen who also collect the bounty of salmon, sit mending their nets. These men and bears live in harmony with each other. There is plenty of food for both. Often a mother bear is fiercely protective of her cubs, but there is no need to fear in Hokkaido.

The farmers have reclaimed marshland on the coastlands. They were once the feeding grounds of large, tall, white birds called the Red Crowned Cranes. To the Japanese they are symbols of beauty and long life. A century ago their numbers were reduced to thirty pairs. They were in danger of extinction. The farmers, who drained the cranes’s feeding areas, rescued the cranes by giving them grain through the winter when the ground is frozen. Their numbers have now grown to 1000. Here is another example of men and wildlife living in harmony. They co-exist in the harsh conditions.

These cranes are known most of all for their singing and dancing. When they gather in large numbers they put on a show. The enormous birds lift up their heads and raise a deep call from their throats. They pirouette, jump and flap their large wings. They don’t crash on the icy ground. Their performance reminded me of the ballet dancers I saw recently in “Giselle.” The male star leapt across the stage. The many ballerinas created an enchanting atmosphere with their movements in the second act.

The Red Crested Cranes are an example to us. They live in a cold, harsh environment. They could chose a more comfortable climate. Instead they flourish, dance and sing where they are meant to be. Their beauty, strength and endurance are to be admired. I am encouraged to lift up my voice and dance, like the cranes before the One who created me, even in the most difficult of situations. The psalmist calls us to praise Him. “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” Psalm 150 like King David danced with all his might before the Lord when he brought back the Ark of the Lord.

Sunny

Since May the first it has been sunny most days in Co Down Northern Ireland. The winter passed and we moved into summer early, and the sun is still shining as we end June. The sun shine reminds me of God’s promise in Malachi, “The sun of righteousness will rise with healing in his wings.”

This must be a record. It is delightful to awake to bright skies. We have had breakfast outside most mornings and no I’m not is Geece.  There are clear skies recently up until eleven in the evening. This must be what it is like in Norway or Iceland where the sun doesn’t set in Summer.

I love living in Ireland. I have travelled to New Zealand, India, Mediterranean countries, the United Kingdom, America and Canada. I have enjoyed my visits there but I am so happy to return home to Ireland. It is comforting to hear the accent of the air hostesses on the flight back to Belfast or listen in to Hugo Duncan’s cheery radio show. I don’t mind the not so sunny days, the mist over Strangford Lough, the gentle rain, or the odd storm that brings winds that shake the trees in the nearby forest and rain that leaves a salty spray on the windows.

If it does get cold a warm jacket keeps the chill away. Woolen blankets are always at the ready on the settee for added warmth. I am sure of a good night’s sleep with a comforting hot water bottle on a chilly night, no matter if the wind blows a gail outside.

As the sun was setting last evening there was much activity around the harbour in Poratferry. There was slow tide. A large boat with a crane was near the harbour. It looked like an oil rig! It was hired from Liverpool to salvage a 1930’s sailing vessel that had sunk. We stopped to enjoy the lit up show.

Work continued into the night. The job was completed at four am. The sailing vessel was raised out of her sandy, muddy resting place and was manoeuvred by the larger rescue vessel into shallower water. Workmen were working today to break the wooden frame.

I enjoyed the spectacle of the lit up platform towering over the sailing vessel it had come to rescue. Excitement came to our quiet village. Many people lingered on to see the sunken vessel raised. Sadly the sailing boat was beyond repair. I thought of God when I looked at the oil rig-like platform. It was towering and strong.  Often in one’s life God our father comes to the rescue. Perhaps we get stuck in the mirey clay, or get into troubled waters. He reaches down with his tender arms and gathers us to a safe place.

Shout, and do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, “Your God is coming!”
Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power.
He will rule with a powerful arm.
See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.”
‭‭He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart.
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:9 to 11 ‭NLT‬‬

I praise and thank God for the many times he has rescued me and my loved ones from danger. He will continue to do so. We have two more months of summer left. I expect we will have more sunny days and days of healing.

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

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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Exam Weather

It is May, the time of the year that college students dread. Exam time. In Ireland there are blue skys and sunshine, typical exam weather. Instead of studying one would prefer to sit in the park and hang out with friends.

Two of my children are studying at St Andrews and Edinburgh. This is their final year and they hope to graduate in June. Abraham finished his last exam this morning. What a relief after five years. He is celebrating. No more lab research, library, exams, reports or lectures. Angela has handed in her dissertation and has three exams to sit. Only a few days to go.

Seven years ago I was suffering from Fourth stage bowel cancer. I was wondering if I would live to see all my children graduate or indeed see any more grandchildren. Nine children have been born since then and I have my outfit ready for two graduations this summer. Praise God, he has kept me alive to enjoy the goodness of God in the land of the living.

I started my treatment of chemotherapy and radiotherapy on July the first in 2010. Each day for five weeks I would attend the City Hospital Cancer Treatment unit in Belfast. I told my husband I wanted to try out a different cafe each day for lunch after my treatment. It would lift my spirits before the long journey back home. Let’s celebrate now, whether I was going to live or die! Brendan didn’t know what to think.

I had been diagnosed with cancer back in April. Since then I was given promises from God that I would be healed. People were praying for me. I was encouraged by this new hope and I began to respond to it. Students from Queen’s University, Belfast graduate In July. Placards outside restaurants advertised places for graduation dinners. I thought I will organize a meal and invite my daughters who were visiting, a step of faith. It will be my graduation from cancer dinner, even though I was just starting my treatment. I had been to a graduation dinner each year for some of my children as they finished university for the previous five years. Three of my daughters joined me for dinner a few days later. They must have thought I was crazy. They were trying to cope with my diagnosis and were hoping the best for me. I had lamb for dinner and remembered another lamb, who was sacrificed for me, Jesus.

Brendan arranged another surprise graduation for me. On the day of my last treatment my daughters Mary and Nora walked into the waiting room of the cancer department with a bunch of flowers and balloons. They presented them to me as Brendan played the song, “Pretty Woman” on his I phone. Music and joy filled the room, a light relief in the somber atmosphere. I was taken by surprise and uplifted with my loving family, another step of faith on my healing journey.

This summer I am seven years cancer free. I’m alive to celebrate my last two children out of fourteen graduate from university. I’m alive to praise God for his touch in my life.