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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A Princess Cup for my Teacher

 

Sara Joye said “Grandma, I want to buy a Princess cup for my teacher.”

“What is a Princess cup?”

“You know, like your cups, Grandma.”
She pointed to some china cups with flowered patterns  in my cupboard.  ”
“Do you not have these in Slovakia.”
“No grandma, only in your house.”
“Would  you like to get a special patterned cup and saucer for your teacher?  I understand now.”
“Yes, I just love Princess cups”.
She held a china cup in her hands close to her heart as if it was the most beautiful, tender thing in the world.

I enjoy collecting jugs and china plates with flowers and gold trim on them.  I display them on my dressers in the kitchen.  Forty years ago a China Tea Set was a “must have” item for a bride.  It would be kept in a safe place and only brought out for tea with special visitors or at Christmas or Easter.  My husband bought me a china tea set.  Its design was called “Angela.”  Sadly I didn’t keep it safe.  I liked to use it often.

I was reminded of words from the poem The Old Woman of the Roads by Patraic Colum.

O, to have a little house!
To own the hearth and stool and all!
The heaped up sods against the fire,
The pile of turf against the wall!
To have a clock with weights and chains
And pendulum swinging up and down!
A dresser filled with shining delph,
Speckled and white and blue and brown!
I could be busy all the day
Clearing and sweeping hearth and floor,
And fixing on their shelf again
My white and blue and speckled store!
I could be quiet there at night
Beside the fire and by myself,
Sure of a bed and loth to leave
The ticking clock and the shining delph!
Och! but I’m weary of mist and dark,
And roads where there’s never a house nor bush,
And tired I am of bog and road,
And the crying wind and the lonesome hush!
And I am praying to God on high,
And I am praying Him night and day,
For a little house – a house of my own
Out of the wind’s and the rain’s way.

I had often dreamed of having a dresser to display pottery, fine china, glasses or gifts, high up out of little children’s reach.  In my new home I have two dressers.  Items I collected over the years are now on display.  Chinese patterned plates, I received as a twenty fifth anniversary present, wine glasses, china plates, gifts from my children and family photos.  My dream has come true.  My collection is being added as I pick up a bargain from a car boot sale or craft market.  Now my grandchildren admire my collection.  To their eyes it is treasure.  I must be a Princess, instead of a poor wanderer as the poem depicts.

On Saturday Aaron, Marta and their children went to shop locally.  Portaferry is a small village.  I wondered would Sara Joye find any Princess cups.  Her Mum prayed.  “Dear Lord please let someone bring Princess cups to the Charity shop today.”

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They set off.  Some time later they called me to give them a lift home.  It was cold and raining.  But the children’s spirits were not dampened.  Instead there was great excitement.  Princess cups were purchased at a bargain price.  It happened just as Marta had prayed.  In an Antique store or Fine China shop these goods would be costly.  The prized purchases were carefully wrapped to keep them safe on the journey back to Slovakia.

Sara Joye’s teacher in Slovakia will receive a Princess cup from Ireland.

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.

An Inherited Brooch Brings Back Memories.

I was wearing a brooch on my coat lapel today.  It belonged to my husband’s mother.  I liked it because it was in the shape of a tree.  It caught my son’s eye as we were out for a walk.  He said “Is that the olive tree with all the branches around your table.”  He was referring to a scripture that described our young children sitting around our table.
Blessed is every one that fears the Lord; that walks in his ways.
For you will eat the labour of thine hands: happy will you be, and it shall be well with you.
Your wife shall be as a fruitful vine within your house: your children like olive plants round about thy table.
Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed imagethat feareth the Lord. (‭Psalms‬ ‭128‬:‭1-4‬ KJV)

We used to sing this Psalm often.  Abraham said “Let me count the number of leaves on it.”  He counted fourteen, the number of children we have.  I was excited and could not wait to tell Brendan.  I showed the brooch to him and he was pleasantly surprised as well.  He counted the number of leaves.  Yes there were fourteen.  But he looked again and counted six white leaves and eight green leaves.  We have six girls and eight boys in our family.

The brooch is inexpensive but it is priceless now.  It is prophetic.  Nannie had this brooch for many years.  I bet she never expected her son would have fourteen children.  I am wearing it in memory of her and all our children The Lord gave us.

Children are a blessing from The Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Psalm 127

We moved house recently.  Brendan has been working to get our home ready for visiting family and grandchildren.  We push ourselves to get one more job done, even though our bodies ache.  We take a break and start again.  We have a big house and it is a bit  lonely with just the two of us, after years of activity and bustle.  Our hearts ache as well when we remember our loved ones far away.

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget I will not forget you.”  (‭Isaiah‬ ‭49‬:‭15‬ NIV)

Abraham returned from university yesterday; the first of the birds flying home to Ireland for Christmas.  Three more arrive on Friday.   I am blessed today as God reminds us of all our children we reared down through the years, in this little brooch.  They are returning home.  He has not forgotten us.

Lift up your eyes and look around; all your children gather and come to you. As surely as I live,” declares the Lord, “you will wear them all as ornaments; you will put them on, like a bride. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭49‬:‭18‬ NIV)

I will wear my brooch and think of God’s love and faithfulness to us.  Yes his promise to me will come true.  My children will return.

I received an e mail from a friend in Canada. She reminded me of Proverbs 13 v 12,

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭13‬:‭12‬ NIV)

When I was suffering from cancer I had lost all hope in the future or my dreams and prophesies coming true. But God intervened. He had mercy on me and for his Name’s sake he healed me. Today my hopes and dreams are coming true. The brooch resembling a tree is an encouragement to me that my longings are being fulfilled, and that God is restoring my life.

There is life after cancer. I am staying alive.

A Bird Built His Nest

 

Recently I was thinking of the blackbirds in the garden of the our Saul St home. There were so many blackbirds that I wanted to call it “Blackbird Garden”.  Every spring they would be competing for the best territory to build a nest. The hedge rows, the ivy covering the walls, the holy bushes, the undergrowth of briars, all offered a safe place to build a nest. In the big garden the birds could forage for food to feed their hungry chicks.

The male blackbird has black feathers and a bight orange beak.  He was distinctive with his shiny coat as he sat on a branch surveying the area he was planning to build his nest and singing to attract his female.  She was close by, proud of her mate who was going to prepare a home for her and her young.

The birds began to build the nest.  They flew in through a hole in the hedge with beaks full of small twigs, moss or wool.  They built their nest with the twigs and used the moss or wool for the cosy lining to keep mother and chicks warm.  When the young were hatched father blackbird was even busier collecting food and feeding the young.  He was working all the hours of sunlight.

As I watched the early morning activity of the birds, my thoughts went to my husband.  He was like the blackbird.  He was busy being responsible for me and his family and property.  He made sure his home for his family was warm and there was enough food.  He had a house full of hungry young as well.  He kept the home fires burning in the cold months.  He paid the bills.

Our Heavenly Father has put it into the heart of the bird and the father to have young and care for them.  God cares for all he has created.

We have moved house recently.  It has plenty of space for our children and grandchildren to visit.
I see this aspect of a caring father in my husband at the moment, even though our chicks have all flown the nest.  He is like the blackbird going to and fro putting things in place, hanging pictures of the children, making up beds, preparing his workplace, carrying chairs and tables.  He will sit at the head of the table as we share food and family times again.  He will sit around a camp fire out on the veranda and tell stories to his grandchildren that he told to his own children.  Brendan is preparing a home for his own children to return to and bring their little ones.

We are not retiring as parents.  Our work will continue as God gives us strength.  No pensioners bungalow for us.  Our children still need us.

Gods word encourages us to look at the birds.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? (‭Matthew‬ ‭6‬:‭26-27‬ NIV)

People have often asked us “How can you afford such a big family?”  We have faith in God like the birds he will care for us.  We are more important than them.  God promises to care for us.  He is worthy to be trusted.

In one of the psalms it says,
Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young at a place near your altar, O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God! (‭Psalms‬ ‭84‬:‭3‬ NLT)

Brendan was working with the children in our garden once before.  A blackbird came and built a nest very close to where they were working.  It busied itself with its young while Brendan was busy with his young digging the garden.  The birds like to be around life.  As our spirits reach out to God the birds respond.  They sing for us on the branches.  We will always remember that family of blackbirds.

The first of our children and grandchildren came to visit at the weekend.  I turned on the heating to warm up all the rooms.  I reminded my husband that the blackbird lines the nest with wool to keep the young warm.  He swallowed hard.

It is the middle of an Irish winter.  Whoever thinks of a house move at this time!  Our new home is bigger.  Our last house was a modern bungalow with good insulation.  It was like a hot house.  I was using the same bed covering here that I used in the bungalow.  I was feeling the chill last night.  I gave in to changing the bed covering to a duvet Brendan bought two years ago.  I tried it out before but found it too warm.  It was just what was needed in our new nest.  The feathered filled duvet kept us cosy through the cold night.  My husband had already provided for the colder days!

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The Fig Tree’s Fruit is Sweet

I live in Northern Ireland where the weather is not extreme.  Our winter is mild and our summer is not too hot.  When I travel to warmer climates it takes time for me to adjust.  It is true the saying, “there is no place like home.”

Given that, I do enjoy going on holiday to the sun for a week or two in the year.  My body gets comforted by the rays of warmth on my back.  Then a quick dip in the sea or pool to cool off.  I do believe I get healing when I come to Greece.  The sun is much brighter there.  In the scripture it says ”   The sun will be seven times brighter when I heal the wounds of my people.”  Isaiah 30 v 26

This is my beauty treatment for the year.

When I go to the Mediteranean countries the stories from the bible come alive.
In Greece I have seen families sitting outside their white washed houses, eating, talking and relaxing under a veranda frame with a grape vine covering it.

The vine can grow up quickly.   It’s tendrils shoot out leaves in many directions so it can cover a large area.  The broad leaves make a green canopy to give shelter from the sun.
Fig trees can be trained along a frame as well.  Their broad leathery leaves protect and shelter from the strong sun’s rays.

The fig tree however takes years to grow.
Here is a fig tree I took a picture of recently.
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Neither of these plants wither in the harshest heat.  An added benefit to the householder is the sweet fruit both plants produce.

The fig tree and the vine are symbols of peace.
It is God’s will that man has a home and lives in peace and not war.
The scriptures tell us about the harmony of man benefitting from the plants.
Solomon is know as a wise king.
During Solomon’s lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, everyone under their own vine and under their own fig tree. (‭1 Kings‬ ‭4‬:‭25‬ NIV)

There was peace. Another scripture says,

Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the Lord Almighty has spoken. (‭Micah‬ ‭4‬:‭4‬ NIV)

In times of war, houses are demolished and trees destroyed.  No more days of peaceful family times.
Often families can be in turmoil and war internally.  No more happy times eating together and sharing.  The vine tree is left unattended and the fig tree not pruned.

But God gives hope when there is no hope as we trust and praise him.

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. (‭Habakkuk‬ ‭3‬:‭17-18‬ NIV)

Even in the darkest times of war from without and from within God promises restoration.

The Swallow has Arrived to Rear her Young.

 

The swallow has arrived from South Africa.

Yesterday I noticed a pair of swallows swirling overhead.  They are harbingers of spring in the Northern countries of the world. They have arrived to rear their young.

Swallows spend most of their days flying through the air catching insects.  Wherever there are insects you will find swallows.  They are to be found all over the world except near the Artic and Antarctica.

They build their nests near where humans live.  Their nests are found in barns of farmers.  They return each year to the same nesting place.  I remember when I lived at home on my father’s farm each year swallows would arrive.  They flitted in and out of their nests bringing food for their young.

I have been encouraged from the scriptures when I have prayed in the past about a house for my family.

Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God. (Psalm 84:3 NIV)

It is amazing that this small bird travels from Africa, thousands of miles, to nest and rear offspring.  I watched a nature programme about the swallows.  They arrive at certain places on their journey north where swarms of insects have just hatched.  A feast is prepared for the migrating birds.  It was wonderful to watch.  God even cares for the birds of the air.

Scriptures encourage us to not worry.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life ? (Matthew 6:25-27 NIV)

So this small bird flying overhead has reminded me of Gods care and provision of a home for me.