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.

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Father of Fourteen Triumphs

Triumph is rarely instant. It often comes at the end of a period of patient endurance. This week my husband and I have joy. We saw the success of a long campaign as regards our children’s education.

We are celebrating all fourteen of our children having 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.

“O clap your hands, all you people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭47:1‬ ‭KJV‬‬

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

My Energy gets A Recharge

My energy levels needed a recharge after a busy season.

My husband always arranges a holiday when we both need to take a break from work and the business of home life and recharge our batteries.  We already visited Kerry at the beginning of August.  It was now September.  Ruth and Stuart offered us a stay in their cottage in Scotland.  A chance to take in the beauty of West Scotland and rest before we go on mission to Slovakia.  More recharging of our energy.

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One evening on our return from Scotland, my daughter left a bunch of flowers on the counter when she came in from a busy day’s work.  Dinner had to be rustled together for seven hungry people.  The flowers lay in the midst of someone cutting bread, or making coffee, dirty dishes and saucepans.  Life went on.  No attention was given to the flowers.  When family were fed, dishes cleared, washed, individuals filtered away to rest.  I needed to rest after a hectic day.  The bunch of flowers were still on the bench.

Another daughter was packing up to leave for university.  My fourteenth child, is starting her final year at Edinburgh Univerity.  Last minute arrangements had to be attended to.  Boarding pass at the ready, who would leave her to the port, where is my hair dryer, did you see my purse?  She came in and out of my room asking me questions.  She was getting fraught.  In the end she relaxed in a hot bath and washed away all her stress.

There was no time to get sad at her leaving.  Angela has been home for the summer and has been a blessing to her mum and dad and other family that stayed.  She introduced a summer camp for some of her nieces and nephews.  They had a great time.  The sun shone, they canoed, swam, shopped, face painted, cycled, had barbecues, and enjoyed their wee cousins.  It was the highlight of the holidays for Maggie Sue.

Other events this summer have included our son Isaac’s wedding in Canada, our first grandson’s Confirmation, a grandchild’s baptism, our son Patrick’s wedding in Scotland, a new grandchild, our forty fifth anniversary and my sixty fifth birthday, family visiting from Canada for the wedding, visits to Kerry, Arran and Tarbert,  having two American families stay at different times, and hosting a Gathering in Corrymeela.

I’m taking a deep breath just now.  But Praise God I am alive and not dead from cancer in the grave.  I am alive to see my children married and see my children’s children.  God has been gracious to our family.  I am being restored in the midst of life.  It is not a time for me to put my feet up.

Later that night I went down to the kitchen when the house was quiet.  The flowers were still on the bench unopened.  Everything else was cleared away.  I undid the wrapping, fetched a vase, cut off unnecessary leaves and arranged my flowers into beautiful display.  I admired the gift my daughter brought home for me.  There was no celebration to mark.  Just to show me her appreciation and love. This touched my heart.

“Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him.”
Psalms‬ ‭127:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I often receive rewards from my children and husband, especially gifts and holidays.  I have been enjoying the roses after the dust of the summer has settled.  They all help to recharge my energy levels.

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

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)

Family Friday Woollen Blankets are Comforting

When I moved to my present home a friend noticed the curtains in my bedroom, left behind by the previous owner.  She gasped, “What beautiful curtains.  That material is sixty pounds per meter to buy.”  Then I thought, “Yes it is a good idea to have woollen curtains.  It keeps the cold air out.  Wool is a good insulating material.”

When I visited my children at their Scottish universities I would buy a tartan woollen blanket each time.  I now have a collection of blankets in all colours, blue, red, purple and grey.  I use one as a throw over a duvet on a winter’s night.  It prevents heat lose through the night.  They come in useful for ground cover on a picnic or warmth for a baby playing on the floor.  I use one over my settee.  It is useful when one needs to stretch out and put one’s feet up for forty winks in the afternoon.  Even the dog got to have one.

I always tried to visit my children, each one, when they were at university.  One son shared a flat with five other lads in Glasgow.  When I arrived the students were sitting around a play station.  They were concentrating on the game.  The kitchen sink was full of dishes and the garbage tin full of cans and empty bottles.   My son showed me to his room that he had prepared for me to stay.  The situation did not phase me.  I stepped over bodies to get to the room and rested for a while after my journey.  I was so glad to be alive to visit him, after my healing from cancer.  Things that would have annoyed me before, didn’t bother me.  I could have been in the grave and never have seen my boys on the earth again.  What did a few dirty dishes matter.

When I got up later everyone had gone.  It seemed these boys came alive at night and kept a low profile by day.  My son took me out for a meal and we spent a short time together before I moved on by train to Aberdeen to see another son.  He gave up his bed for me.  He showed me around the university and introduced me to some of his friends.  I was relaxed enjoying my visit with him, being alive.

I traveled down to London after Aberdeen.  I shuddered when my son showed me his bedroom.  It was freezing.  The window was single glazed, the curtains were flimsy and the duvet light.  The young mustn’t feel the cold.  I went out and bought my son a woolen blanket.  At least it will give a bit of comfort and warmth.  Only mothers see the need.  The blankets have become an inheritance for my children.  This son still has the woollen blanket I gave him.  He has brought it to his new home in Canada. 

I bought a tartan blanket for another son when he was at Oxford Brooke’s.  He used it for picnics on the lawns of Oxford universities as well as a covering on his bed.  He still has it and it is still in use for his two boys when he takes his family on picnics.  I was talking to him recently.  He was staying in my home while we were away.  He appreciated the woollen blankets I had beside the sofa.  He enjoyed a few siestas with a woollen blanket pulled up over him.  

A thought dropped into his mind, “I wonder could I make a wrap around out of a woollen blanket.”  There is a special warmth that comes from a woollen garment.  He was delighted later that day to find a pure woollen dressing gown in a thrift store for a few pounds.  He will have no fear of the cold winter evenings.

I suppose it is a mother’s instinct to make sure her children are comfortable.  When my children were babies I always made sure they were tucked up warmly in bed.  They slept better that way.  The scriptures make reference to this in Isaiah 66, where God promises to comfort us.
As a mother comforts her child, so I’ll comfort you. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭66‬:‭12-13‬ MSG)

Packed Up and Back to University

My two children left this morning to catch the boat to Scotland.
Aaron was the first of our children to go to university in Scotland.
Brendan and I had a friend who lived in Dundeimagee.
We had visited him a couple of times so I think we suggested Aaron apply to university there.
I was busy at home with other children so Brendan and I sent Aaron off with our blessing.
He headed off with one piece of luggage, a rucksack.
He travelled by bus to the Larne ferry to Stranraer and made his way on up to Dundee.
I don’t think he had much money in his pocket to tide him over till his grant came in.
He left the security of home to make a way in the world.

I was reading today from the scripture in Psalm 15

“You show me the path of life,
The fullness of joy in your presence,
At your right hand is happiness for ever.”

Sixteen years on God has been faithful to show Aaron the path of life.
He has made his home in Slovakia with his wife and three children.
In the sixteen years since eight children have travelled across the water to university.
My husband and I have travelled with them to see them settled into their accomodation.
Two of my children Angela and Abraham set off early this morning to catch the ferry to Scotland.
They start back to university next week in their second and third years respectfully.
My son John is leaving them to the boat in the van.
No hauling heavy luggage onto a bus.
They were wondering how were they going to get all their luggage onto the bus or train at the other side.
I read them an article from the Sunday Times written by Roland White.
I quote,

It is fair to say I did not travel light.  There was a trunk, two suitcases, a rucksack, a sleeping bag and books.  I vividly recall the two mile track from the train station to my digs. First I carried the trunk 40 yards.  Then I came back for the cases. And the rucksack. Then I carried the trunk again.  And so on.  I arrived at my digs in late afternoon, sweating heavily.  There was nobody in.

They did not complain any more.
I just got a text to say they are on the boat, setting out on the next stage of the path of life.
I am not sad because my help comes from The Lord who shows me the Path of Life and I have faith that God will guide my children as well.

Quote from The Sunday Times, News Review,  Roland White

My Son Overcame Difficulties to Graduate from Law School

I hear the screeching of sea gulls as they fly over the roof tops.
It is a familiar sound in Aberdeen, the granite city.
The bus takes us along the mile long street, busy with buses, cars and people.
Ah I am back in Aberdeen for my son’s graduation.

As well as the gulls, I hear the sound of helicopters overhead.

This is a sound familiar to us who are from Northern Ireland.
Military helicopters patrol the sky particularly at this time, when trouble could erupt again.
But unfortunately it is not a sound of prosperity back home in Northern Ireland.
It reminds us of the need for surveillance because of continued tensions between communities in Belfast.
In Aberdeen the helicopters transport goods back and forth to the oil platforms.
Aberdeen is prospering because of the oil industry.
I counted fifteen large ships anchored offshore waiting to get into harbour.
Today,  my husband and I am in Aberdeen for my son Jacob’s graduation in Law.
I remember our visits to this sunny, granite city.  Our daughter Mary graduated as a Doctor eight years before.
We enjoyed walking the long stand with the sunshine on our backs.
The people are warm and welcoming.  Two of our children have been blessed here.
There is no recession here.  New office blocks are being built.  New shopping malls being planned.
There are a hundred oil platforms offshore.
A lot has happened to me in the years since I first visited Aberdeen 15 years ago.
We moved house from Coleraine to Downpatrick, we have reared nine other children who have left home, I haved had fourth stage cancer and have been healed and am alive to tell the tale.
When I was suffering from cancer and did not know it, six children were still at home.
I was depressed so that would have had an affect on my children.
Jacob was studying for his A levels.  He did not get the required results and had to repeat a subject.  He was another year at home.  It must have been difficult for him.
He heard the news I had cancer when he was volunteering in Soweto, South Africa.  More emotional pain.  Only God knows how he must have felt being so far from home.
When he returned I was going through cancer treatment.
He was accepted to do Law in Aberdeen, where he has been studying for the last four years.
Today is a day of Joy.

I am alive to celebrate with my son his Graduation from Law School.  Perhaps his college friends or lecturers did not know the stress my son was under the previous couple of years.  His mum suffering from cancer, and this playing on his mind.

But God knew and has been with him.
When he came home at term time I noticed he had very bad acne.  I did not say anything.  Acne is related to stress.
I noticed recently that his skin is clear.  He volunteered that he had gone to the doctor about his acne earlier in the year.
He took some medication the doctor prescribed.  After a week he stopped taking it because of the side affects.  He decided to cope with the stress he was under by listening to music and relaxing by playing music.  He was healed.
I am so thankful to God for this healing.  I watched a programme that showed the side effects of some treatment that is given for Acne.  It causes depression!
Today we celebrate with him the victory over our circumstances.  He finished the race and has won the reward.
He has Graduated from The School of Law, University of Aberdeen.
Well done Jacob.