The Father of Fourteen Children

Today my husband and I are celebrating a great Achievment, that all fourteen of our children have qualified with a degree from top universities in the United Kingdom. Our two youngest children just found out their results: Abraham got a 2: 1 degree in Chemistry from St Andrews and Angela got a 2:1 degree in Neuroscience from Edinburgh. We will be attending their graduations in June and July.

Psalm 128 says
“How joyful are those who fear the Lord — all who follow his ways!
You will enjoy the fruit of your labor. How joyful and prosperous you will be!
Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine, flourishing within your home.
Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees as they sit around your table.
That is the Lord’s blessing for those who fear him.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭128:1-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I want to thank my husband. He chose to follow The Lord many years ago. Today almost forty years later I see the fruit of his choice back then. I am happy at his side and his children are successful. He has been faithful through many difficulties of family life in this generation when being a father is not honored.

Brendan chose to have as many children as God would give him. It has not been easy. One has had to be patient, endure, remain calm, pray in times of trouble and rejoice in times of joy.
An Arab taxi driver in Israel said to Brendan when he learned we had fourteen children, “You will go straight to heaven because it must be hell on earth.” A lady in Florida said “Oh your poor husband.” when I told her we had fourteen children.

I must admit I have not been as sympathetic with Brendan. But God sees Brendan’s heart and has been with him through many trials and temptations. He has strengthened him when the going got tough. But as the song says “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I would not be alive unless he believed that God would heal me. I had fourth stage cancer and I would not be here to see my children graduate.

My dad was a pioneer in his day when there wasn’t much money. He wanted his eight girls and two sons to receive an education. We all attended grammar school. My sisters qualified as teachers and nurses. I graduated from the University of Ulster.

Brendan loved books from he was young. He would spend many hours in his local library. When he visited friends with his mother he would take down the books from the shelf and read while his mum chatted. His call to be a writer was developing back then.
He encouraged his children to do well in education. There was always books in our home and a desk in each of the children’s room to do their homework. We didn’t have a TV when our children were growing up. Those children developed a love of reading books. Brendan coached his children and inspired them to be high achievers. If they failed he helped them to get going again.

We were blessed to have good schools for our children to attend, in Coleraine and Downpatrick in Northern Ireland. So a big thank you for all those teachers who encouraged and took an interest in our children.

A big thank you to each of my children who endured the difficulties and temptations that university life brings your way. You succeeded. You endured to the end. I am proud of you.

Above all God blessed us all with health and strength to achieve this success.

But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.””
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭10:17‬ ‭NIV

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Family Friday. We Didn’t Get Invited Out to Dinner

While in Canada recently, a young man called David, picked us up from the airport at Dawson Creek.   I remembered him from my last visit.  He came to a meeting with his wife and four small children.  They were like little mice playing quietly, not wanting to disrupt the meeting.

This couple reminded Brendan and I of times past when we would attend meetings with our young children.  I had eight children at the time.   The children joined in the singing and were well behaved when someone was speaking.  We were the biggest family there.

Our host was telling us that David and his family don’t get invited out to dinner, because people think a family of four is too much to cope with.  They can cope with adults but not young children!   I sympathised with David.  Wouldn’t the parents feel loved and accepted it someone had their family over for soup even.  

Getting everyone ready for Sunday meetings became stressful for us as our family increased.  We had to be up early, get dressed, be on our best behaviour, sit through services and then come home to make dinner for all of us.  When we had ten children we decided to stay home on a Sunday morning.  It was more relaxed for us all.  Brendan taught our children in the relaxed atmosphere of home.  I had plenty of time to cook dinner.  For seven years we stayed home on Sundays.  Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, and Angela were born in those seven years.

We remembered the love of God for children. 
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭40‬:‭11‬ KJV)
We knew God was carrying us in his arms.

In the earlier years when I had seven children we met up with friends for picnics.  We would meet in each other’s homes for lunch.  The other ladies were great cooks.  Our children were around the same age, and played happily together.  But as number eight child, number nine child, etc arrived the invites for dinner stopped.  We were alone on Sundays together with our growing family. We lived far away from our parents or extended family, so no aunts or uncles to give a helping hand.

I will always remember the kindness of a friend, Rose Rodgers, who invited ten of us for dinner.  She knew my husband was away on a trip.  He was working on a mission and often I would come under attack from the enemy, the devil, when he was away. The enemy would use these tactics to wear me down. If I was not able to look after the children at home then my husband would have to stop travelling. I was determined I was not going to miss this dinner.

Came the day to go, I asked one of my daughters to help get the youngest child ready.  She put the child in the bath and turned on the hot tap.  She forgot to turn on the cold tap as well.  I was busy seeing to the others when one of the other girls came running in shouting, “The baby’s legs are scalded.”  I was calm.  I knew this was an attack from the devil to stop me going out with my children for dinner.

I attended to the baby, dressed her, told my other children to get in the van and wait for me.  We drove to the doctors surgery just to check that the baby was okay.  I was praying all the way.  I told the other children to behave while I went into the surgery.  I didn’t know how long I would be.  While I was waiting to be seen, one of the children came running to find me.  Two of the girls were fighting in the van.  I had to go out and restore calm. One was annoyed with the other for hurting the baby and was battering her with a stick. They were traumatised at the thought of permanent damage being done to their wee sister’s legs. I told them God would heal my baby’s legs. I returned to the doctor.  He dressed the baby’s legs with cream and he reassured me her skin was not harmed.  

Praise The Lord.  I drove off with the van full of children to my friend’s house.  We all filed in and apologised for being late.  How I enjoyed that meal.  My friend had a big heart.  I will never forget this kindness from Rose Rodgers.

I was under a Curse for not Honoring my Parents.

Honoring my Parents.

I thank God for my parents.  They laid down their lives to rear me and give me a good start in life.  I was not as loving and thankful for their care as I should have been when they were alive.  I realise  the work involved in raising children after rearing my own.  I did not honor them as I should have.  Being a parent is often a thankless task.  I feel honored if my children are thoughtful to me and thank me.  I understand how my parents must have felt when I did not get in touch.

My fourteenth child Angela was born.  I was faithful in looking after my husband and other children.  I was praying for more provision and space for our big family.   As my family increased, the house we lived in seemed to get smaller and smaller as my children grew.  I needed more space.  I believed God’s word where the children of Israel were given land according to the size of their tribe.  I had a big tribe and I was asking God for more room.  I applied to rent various bigger properties but no door opened.  There was no breakthrough so I became discouraged.

I had a strong desire to move to a bigger house, perhaps the country, so my children could enjoy the outdoors.  I grew up in the country side.  I used to play outside with my brothers and sisters and make up our own games.  Now in the winter time I got frustrated with everyone indoors in the bad weather.  The only space I had to myself was my own side of the bed.  I got cabin fever.  Brendan was very good.  We would go for drives to forests and beaches for long walks.  The children were able to run about and let off steam.  This eased the immediate pressure.

I believe the Holy Spirit guided me to read the Commandments in Exodus 20.
“Honor your father and your mother, so that it will be well with you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. (‭Exodus‬ ‭20‬:‭12‬ NIV)

I left home when I was eighteen years old to go to university.  I got married when I was twenty.  I carried on with my life and did not thank or honor my parents.  I was busy looking at my own situation.  God showed me I was under a curse because I had not honored my parents.  It was not going well for me.   Yes I wanted to obey God and pray but I believe there was something wrong.  Was I to continue in hardship, feeling the frustration of limited space, because I had a big family.  I believed children were a blessing from The Lord and I needed his guidance and strength to rear them.

I needed someone to help me.  I read a book by Derek Prince called Blessings and Curses.  In it he explains how someone can be under a curse.  I read about John and Paula Sandford from America, who prayed for people in the area of family.  I rang up their offices in America to enquire if they were coming to the UK any time in the future.  Yes they had a conference in May of that year.  I booked my place at the event.  My husband came with me.

The first night of the conference John Sandford, who was an older man, spoke.  He sounded like my own father.  I broke down and cried.  I continued to cry while he spoke.  The curse was being broken and my healing started.  My parents were both dead at that time so I couldn’t go to them and apologise.  I asked Jesus to forgive me.  He forgave me and broke the curse I was under because of my disobedience to the word of God which says honor your mother and father.

The following year breakthrough came.  We moved to a bigger house with more space for all of us.   The pressure was released.  I had joy in knowing God cared for me.
This may seem strange to you.  You may not have heard of a curse before.  I share this story because this is what happened to me.  Perhaps it will help you.
Jesus breaks a curse and brings a cure.

Cartoon from Smokey Mountain Photos

Have You Ever Felt You Were Going to Break under Strain?

I was at a conference in Slovakia recently, testifying to the Power of Jesus to heal from cancer.
While staying in Budmerice with my son Aaron, wife Marta and family I took a walk around the neighbourhood.
Fruit trees flourish in the hot summers there.
I saw plum trees heavily laiden with fruit.

image

The branches were weighed down, in danger of breaking with the abundant produce.
The gardener had put stakes under two of the boughs to support them so they wouldn’t break.
I am reminded of a line in Richard the Second.
Scene iv, the Gardener speaking.

Go, bind thou up yon dangling apricocks,
Which, like unruly children, make their sire
Stoop with oppression of their prodigal weight:
Give some supportance to the bending twigs.

Shakespeare, who is the author of Richard the Second, had a big family.
He likened the apricots on the tree to children that like the fruit caused the twigs to bend with weight.

My husband was the gardener in the play many, many years ago when he was at university.
I remember these words he spoke.  We had two children at the time.
Little did we realise we were going to bear more fruit.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. John 15 v 16

God gave us fourteen children.
We have borne fruit down through the intervening years.
I looked at the fruit bearing branches and I remembered I have often been at breaking point.
I have felt, “How can I keep going?”
How can I have another child?
How can I rear my children?
How can I afford another child?
But God!
God who chose us to bear fruit has always been faithful.
Help and support always arrived when Brendan and I needed it.
God gave me the strength to keep going.
A scripture verse would encourage me.  Someone would ring me up and encourage me.
My husband and children helped.
I did not have immediate family, no aunts or grandparents to help.
A young lady called Aine came to live with us for two years.
She was a great support.
Another time when my husband had to go on a trip to India, a young American called Sheila came to help. She stayed for nine months and loved the rough and tumble of family life.
Sarah Smith stayed one summer with us.  She was another “stake”.
More recently after I had cancer, Alexandra from South Africa came to our home.
She said God told her to come and help an Irish family.
Once God sent three ladies from Canada to our home to prophesy and encourage us in our work.
So Brendan and I did not break under the strain of bearing fruit.
God is faithful and has always sent us encouragement when we need it.
He continues to meet our need.
Praise to The Lord Almighty.

Quotation from Richard the Second

I Found a Ladybird in My Garden

I found a ladybird in my garden.  I did not have any in my last garden.

Hoorah.  It has blessed my garden.

I hope it brings its friends to kill the greenfly that want to consume the tender unfurling shoots and flowers.

I was considering how necessary and useful this small beautiful creature is in our gardens.

I mentioned in another post about how greenfly hindered my success at growing one of my favourite flowers, the lupin.

The lupin plant’s leaves unfurl in Spring. In May the first flower heads appear.

The greenfly love the new growth of the flowers. They leave the tough leaves alone.

Only a few pale, spindley flowers survived.

The ladybirds eat greenfly.  Ladybirds in one’s garden mean healthy flowers.

I was reflecting on the use of the ladybird and thought about my work as a mother with my children.

My young children are like the unfurling, tender shoots of the lupin.

As they grow up in the world the influences thereof and the lies the enemy of their souls tell their young minds, can hinder their beauty, maturity and development in life.

The lies and the pride of life land on our children’s head are like the greenfly landing on the tender flower heads.

I want to be like the ladybird.

A mother and father need to instruct the child against the dangers of believing the lies of the devil and not to believe others who would lead them into temptation to drink, greed, immorality and go the way of the world.

The bible says train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.  Proverbs 22 v 6

We tried to rear our children with this in mind.  I hope we have stopped the “greenfly” damaging their thoughts to some extent by telling them the truth.

Like the humble ladybird that eats the greenfly we parents are to eat up the lies and influences of the world that affect our maturing children.

The lies will be bread for us.

“If The Lord delights in us he will give us the land, a land flowing with milk and honey.

Don’t rebel against The Lord. Don’t fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us, their defence is gone and The Lord is with us. Do not fear them.”  Numbers 14 v 9

Photograph thanks to New Scientist

Appreciating my Parents after Rearing my own Children, DPchallenge

 

I had two children of my own.  I was twenty four years old, and lived far away from immediate family.
My life experiences were living on a farm in a big family, going to an all girls school, and attending a new university in a small town in Northern Ireland.
 
Things were about to change.  There was turmoil in our country with bombings and shootings.  People were killed, buildings reduced to rubble.  The dark clouds gathered.  Even the weather portrayed the gloom and fear over the land.
 
I must have been affected by that fear in the atmosphere even though the town where we lived was a safe place.  I began to wonder how can I keep my two children safe?  What example can I give them?  Who is right in the middle of the war?  What values can I pass on to them.
 
I remembered back to my own upbringing by my parents.  Mum and Dad worked hard on a farm to raise  us ten children, eight girls and two boys.  They did not have much money.  They sacrificed their own comfort and luxuries to look after us.  Dad was a pioneer.  He educated all of us.  He believed girls should get the same opportunities as the boys.  They had quiet faith in God.  By their actions I know they were Christians, as the old chorus goes “They will know we are Christians by their love.”
 
I knew nothing about sectarianism and wondered why Catholics were fighting Protestants.  I began to seek God.  I began a journey of faith.
 
As my family and my faith in God grew I was able to appreciate the values my parents held and their willingness to lay down their lives to rear their children and overcome hard times, trials and disappointments.  Brendan and I did not want our children to grow up to be bitter and have hatred in their hearts for their neighbours.  We worship with and love Catholics and Protestants.  Our children have married into both groups.  
 
I did not appreciate my parents when I was growing up.  I did not thank them.  I did not honor them. I wanted to leave home and see what the world had to offer.  Now, as I have gone through the work of raising children I appreciate what my parents did for me.  I have a good heritage.  I honor them.
 
My mum died at sixty four.  She did not get to see all her grandchildren.  I could have died three years ago, but Praise God he healed me and I am alive to tell other mothers there is hope and life.  May you live to see your children’s children.
 
 
 

 

The Salmon

When Brendan and I were in Seschelt our friend Ivan took us for a drive up along the coast.

We parked near a bay and our host told us he often went fishing there. The salmon were abundant in these waters and one was sure of a catch. What an ideal way to spend an evening in the sunset on his little boat in the bay. This certainly was the good life.

We stopped off at a coffee shop. Some people called over to us and told us “The salmon are running!”
There was a small river flowing nearby. We crossed over to it and sure enough we saw salmon spawning in the shallow waters. What an oppportunity for us!

While Brendan and I rejoiced to see this feature of nature before our eyes, our friend took some video footage. We were all excited as we spent those moments. It was a once in a lifetime experience.

Salmon live their adult life in the waters of the ocean. The Pacific is a big ocean, and millions of salmon return up the many rivers along the Canadian coast in Autumn. There are many types of salmon. The Sockeye is the biggest and most popular salmon caught. Wild bears and eagles have a feeding frenzy when the fish return.

The salmon has one goal, to return to the place where they were born to hatch their young. Once they leave the salt waters and enter the fresh water of the river the salmon stop feeding. They start the hazardous journey upstream over rapids, waterfalls and potholes to get to the shallow water when they can swim no further.

There the female releases her eggs in the sandy water bed and the male fertilises them. The parent salmon work is done. Every ounce of their energy has been used to get to their destination. They die soon afterwards.

We watched as the salmon released their eggs in that Creek. There were queues of fish waiting in the shallows to take their turn to lay their eggs. Perhaps they were not so keen to go forward because they knew their end was near.

Brendan, our friend and I savoured this moment. What is nature saying to us?

As I pondered on this I thought of my own life as a parent. Our goal as parents is to raise our young and help them through the stormy waters that we have passed through and show them the way.

The salmon entering the fresh water begins the journey of dying to self. This is symbolic of the one who decides to follow Jesus as well. He leaves the ocean, which represents the world and enters into the river of The Holy Spirit. Just like the salmon one has to die to self so more of the life of Christ lives in us.

As I get older I realise that on my journey in the river of the Holy Spirit I have had to die many times to my own will. As I trust God ‘s leading in my life I have peace. I can pass what I have learnt on to my children. I do not have to die physically like the salmon, but I have to die to my own will. The following scripture sums up the Christian journey.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen (Jesus the author and finisher of our faith) since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:7, 16, 18 NIV)