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.

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Keeping my Home Clean

“Where there are no oxen, the stall is clean, but from the strength of an ox come abundant harvests.”

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭14:4‬ ‭NIV‬‬
I found great comfort from this scripture when I was rearing my children. There is plenty of hard work and plenty of mess; Brendan and I had to see beyond the hum drum of daily life. We had young children but they will grow to become adults who will make a difference in the world. They will work, prosper and increase as they have wives and families of their own. They will bring a harvest of good for others. They will make a difference in their generation.

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It’s just as well I had an easy going disposition. I never thought it a priority to dust and clean and Hoover . Some people are house proud and keep their home like a palace where the family cannot relax. Don’t leave that there. Pick that up. Wipe that mess up. If I was constantly demanding my husband or children keep the house clean it would not be home where everyone enjoyed being together. My energy went into breast feeding, nursing, cooking, shopping, overseeing, driving and seeing to the needs of others. There was no extra energy to have the house spick and span. My husband had to get used to the busyness in a big family. He lived with his mother as an only child before we were married.

I kept the amount of clothes each child had to a minimum. That meant less washing, and less clothes to be left on the floor of the bedrooms. Each child who was old enough helped with clearing of dishes, filling the dishwasher, washing of pots and pans and sweeping of the floor after each meal. We had wooden floors which were easy to brush and wipe with a mop. I expected the children to look after and keep their bedrooms clean. I never got to the top of the house each day to check. Peace reigned instead of stressing over untidy bedrooms or dirty dishes.

Life was to be lived. After school there was time to play with friends outdoors, or with toys indoors. My girls enjoyed reading books. They would be found in their rooms engrossed in a book. We didn’t have a television in those early years. We found it a waste of our time. Often it brought strife. There would be diagreement of what programme to watch. We got rid of it and we found plenty of other things to occupy us.

My big kitchen has a tiled, speckled flour. The dirt does not show up on it. It can be left for days without being cleaned.

We had green carpets throughout the bedrooms. They kept the rooms warm but didn’t show up spills or grim. A weekly Hoover refreshed the carpets to keep them clean. Buying a dishwasher was my first big investment in my kitchen. It proved invaluable. Dishes could be stored in it and washed when it was full. That kept the benches clear and clean.

My household was full of family over the Christmas period. Bathrooms needed cleaned, the washing machine was in use a lot, clothes needed dried, beds needed changed for new visitors. I felt I was running an hotel.

It is quiet now with children left home. There is less work needed to keep the house. The stall is clean.

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Washing Dishes

Brendan and I are visiting with our son Aaron and family.  Marta, our daughter in law has just had a new baby boy!  A new baby causes a big adjustment in any family.  Mum isn’t just as available as before to see to the other children or see to her housework.  She is busy feeding her baby and coping with the after shock of giving birth.  All the change in the family helps the other children grow up.  Another step to maturity.  Help is needed to wash clothes, dishes, shopping and cooking.  Aaron and Marta will get through this phase.  We can encourage them because we have survived child rearing to tell the tale.

Another fulfillment of the promise from Psalm 128 v 6,  “You shall see your children’s children.”

To help after dinner Brendan and I washed the dishes.  This brought back memories of the small kitchen in our first home.  There was no room for two people to stand at the sink.  The kitchen was the coldest part of the house.  I didn’t want to stay there too long after dinner.  No making wishes over dishes in the sink!

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Brendan did some improvement to shelves and cupboards.  Dishwashers were not common in any household then.  My wish over dishes was to have a dishwasher.  I bought a second hand machine for fifty pounds!  It was a good buy at the time.  The children cheered.  No more standing in the cold kitchen washing dishes by hand.

We have always lived in older houses.  The kitchen always needed updated in each one.  Modern houses come with inbuilt washing machines, cookers, sinks and work tops.  The big bedrooms and big living rooms in the older houses compensated for the small kitchens. The dishwasher has continued to be an important item in my kitchen. It serves a great  purpose for any housewife.

Dreams Come True

Dreams come true.  Psalm 128 says “May you live to see your children’s children.”

I celebrated being sixty five recently.  Brendan and I celebrated being married for forty five years on Saturday.  Our children wanted to mark the event.  They reassured me they would do the catering and make it a hastle free day for us.  They wanted to hold the event in our home.

The first of the family arrived on Thursday night from Slovakia.  Aaron and his daughter Sara Joye wanted to be here to see other family and cousins.  Mary and Hannah arrived on Friday night.  Brendan took me on a mystery tour to a secret destination to avoid the stress of getting the house ready for visitors.  What a lovely surprise!  Brendan is romantic.

We returned next day refreshed ready to receive visitors and family.  Twenty seven of my immediate family gathered for the day.  Friends and extended family dropped in on Saturday afternoon.

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The fog lifted, the ferry sailed, the sun shone, the range got fixed, vehicles parked at the side of the house, roses blooming, tea and coffee brewing, sandwiches tempting, candles burning, tea cups clinking, adults embracing, chit chat buzzing and children darting.  Love was in the air.

Suddenly I remembered a dream a friend sent me over ten years ago.  She saw Brendan and I in a house on an elevated site overlooking the sea.  We were in an open plan living room with all our children and grandchildren around us.  Last Saturday I was in the dream.  The dreams have come to pass.

God gives dreams about the future to give us hope.  God is faithful. He fulfilled those dreams.  We were gathered with our children and grandchildren to celebrate forty five years of marriage.  We made it to celebrate forty five years together despite many trials, temptations and cancer.  Our children were delighted for Brendan and I.  They were overjoyed to be with us, especially since I’m staying alive after cancer six years ago.

It was a special joy filled day.  I remain alive to see my children’s children and see dreams come true.

Testimony Tuesday. Norming and Storming Brings Unity.

In earlier years some children left home for university and others were still at home.  At holiday times those at university would return home to Ireland with their luggage.  They would have to find a spare bed or share with others for the duration of the holidays.  We all had to adjust to being in close proximity again.

When children leave they have more space in their new surroundings.  So returning to a confined space stretched their patience and they had to sacrifice their own comfort.  They usually were stressed out after exams at university and tired after all the activity student life demands.  They would crash in bed and sleep late.

I had other expectations.   I looked forward to their company and some help to give me a break from working in the home.  Instead I had more work to do, more cooking and shopping.  Home was somewhere for them to get their batteries recharged.  My batteries were running out.

In my dilemma I would get frustrated with the children and made demands they were not able to meet.  Children would get frustrated with each other and disputes would have to be settled.  All this was too much for me.  I would call on my husband to talk to any child  who was misbehaving and settle disputes between me and the children, or between each other.

Brendan had his work cut out.  He called these times “Norming and Storming.”  The children were disciplined and reconciled.  Often I felt disciplined when I had to be reconciled to my own children.  The father has the ability to do this for his family.  He can bring unity.  While living together as a big family we had to get on with each other and forgive each other.  We had to go through the process each time we were together.

Despite all the Norming and Storming at the beginning, holidays always turned out to be refreshing times when we could spend time together at meals and at play.  My husband and I were stretched at these times.  When everyone left we needed to take a break ourselves to forget about our troubles and spend time together.

When any group of people get together to do a task, they have to take time to know one another.  Each one’s skills and gifts are needed in the Christian life to help each other.  I needed others to help me get healed.  Someone with the gift of healing helped, another with the gift of prophecy encouraged, a deliverer, the doctors, nurses, family and friends were all needed to love me back to health.  God works through people.  We are his hands and feet.  That is why it is important to get on with each other and forgive each other.

We make up the Body of Christ.  Where brothers dwell together in unity The Lord commands a blessing.

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.” (‭Psalm‬ ‭133‬:‭1, 3‬ NIV)

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 Hear the Brent Geese Honking.

My front door is one hundred and ten steps away from the sea shore.  This morning I can hear the honks of Canadian Brent geese that graze along the waters edge.  The sun is coming up over the hill to the left.  It will melt the crisp frost that has whitened the grass overnight.  It’s a new day dawning.

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I think of the song by Matt Redman

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

[Chorus]
Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name

You’re rich in love, and You’re slow to anger
Your name is great, and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find

The Brent geese come to this area of Strangford Lough for the winter.  I always think of our friends from Canada when I see them.  They remind me of the blessing Canadians have been to my husband and family.  Canadians have visited us and we have visited Canada.

There are four aeroplane trails going west to east as I look up in the sky.  Flight paths pass over Ireland from Canada to London.  After the Christmas festivities with friends and family my heart is being drawn to travel and the nations beyond to tell my story of God healing me from cancer.

I was reading from the scriptures this morning.

This message is from the LORD, who stretched out the heavens, laid the foundations of the earth, and formed the human spirit. (‭Zechariah‬ ‭12‬:‭1‬ NLT)

How good it is to sing praises to our God.
He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.
He counts the stars and calls them all by name.
How great is our Lord! His power is absolute!
His understanding is beyond comprehension! (‭Psalm 147 v 1 to 4

These scriptures remind me that the God who made the heavens, made me, and he healed my broken heart and healed my wounds and is restoring my life from sadness and sorrow.

I want to sing Bless The Lord Oh my soul.  I am alive to praise The Lord.  Psalm 88 says the dead cannot praise God.  It is good to be alive to hear and see the Brent Geese.

My sons, daughters and grand children were strumming on their guitars, playing a tin whistle and singing last night as we gathered together.  Songs of joy are filling our home and hearts.

One of my grand daughters gets up early to play her guitar and write songs.  She has to rush when her mum calls her for school.

He awakens me morning by morning and fills me with joy.