Give Thanks

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who struck down mighty kings. His faithful love endures forever.
He killed powerful kings— His faithful love endures forever.
He remembered us in our weakness. His faithful love endures forever.
He saved us from our enemies. His faithful love endures forever.
He gives food to every living creature. His love endures forever.
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭136:1, 17-18, 23-24‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In front of my window this morning blackbirds, a pigeon, wag tails, starlings, a chaffinch and robins feed. The God, who created the heaven and the earth cares for them.
It is a privilege to be alive to see the life around me. It is good to be still and take rest in the peace. I heard a pastor say that nature is a bible for us to see with our eyes. The heavens declare the glory of the risen Lord.

I remember back to many times in my life when I was feeling weak and helpless. I was doing my work looking after my husband, family and home. At times I felt overwhelmed. Our unseen enemies put pressure on us.

There were enemies in Israel called the Amelikites. God hated them because they picked off the weak ones among the Israelites. The elderly and the young are the most vulnerable. If they attacked the people the elderly and the young die first. They will not survive in war.

When Moses travelled through the desert he went at the pace of the people who were with young. He protected them. When Jacob was returning to see his father Isaac he went at the pace of the women and children.

The Amalekites are a symbol of spiritual enemies in our lives that are out to attack us when we are weak, to rob, destroy and kill. I believe a father and mother are so important to protect our young from the unseen spirits. Only with Jesus help can we overcome.

“He remembered our utter weakness. He saved us from our enemies.”

I can testify as we reared our children God covered our backs from our enemies who wanted to snare us.

It has been said that it takes a whole community to rear a child. In the past in Ireland neighbors and extended family looked out for one another. If a parent was under pressure a granny or relative would look after the children for a day to give respite.

Now families are independent and nuclear. One may think, “Oh I’m okay I won’t need anyone’s help.” The pressure comes when children are sick, the husband looses his job or other unforeseen difficulties. We need others.

I enjoy nature programmes. I have watched how wildebeest, zebra and caribou migrate in search of food and to have their young. When they come to the green pastures there are hungry enemies waiting who haven’t had food for days. A crocodile lies in wait under the water to gobble up some weak calf or sick animal who cannot get across the river and is cut off from the herd. Scrawny wolves lick their jaws when they see a meal coming their way. They hunt in packs and pick off the weak, sick, lame, old and young of the herd that have fallen behind. Lions hunt down the wildebeest that begin to stampede. The young and old can’t keep up with the rest so become easy prey for the lions who outrun them. There is safety in staying with the group.

Where our family lived was important. Our homes were always near schools, doctors, dentists, shops, hairdresser, bus stop, friends and recreation areas. There was a hospital, library and swimming pool in each town where we lived. The teachers knew our children as they passed up through the schools. They were kind to them. School friends were important. My eldest daughter still meets regularly with friends she met at school. Football coaches were supportive and looked out for my boys attending soccer, rugby or Gaelic. The clinic was nearby for care from the doctor when I was pregnant. I could walk to the supermarket from each place I lived. We felt safe in the places where we lived.

God brought us to green pastures and protected us from our enemies.

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The North and South of Ireland.

The small island of Ireland is a country on the west of Europe.  It is known as the Emerald Isle.  Photos taken of Ireland from the Space Station show the island is totally green.  The photo does not show up any outline of a border.  Since 1922 this beautiful land has been divided.  Six counties in the north are called Northern Ireland.  The remaining twenty six counties in the south are called the Republic of Ireland.

It was such a photo from the space station that inspired me to make a mosaic map of Ireland.   I live beside the beach.  I first picked up green pieces of broken glass there in May a year ago.  The green, broken pieces of glass could have one time been parts of bottles that would have been used for all kinds of drinks.  Before modern times when we are encouraged to recycle our empty bottles, many such bottles were disgarded into the sea from residents or ships that docked at Portaferry.

There were many shades of green among the pieces. As I looked at them I was inspired to make a mosaic of my country, Ireland, which has thirty two counties. I found a piece of wood and a tube full of tile filler.  The outcome was a mosaic picture of Ireland.

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The pieces of glass on the beach are all that remain of once useful vessels.  The edges weren’t sharp any more and their colours were cloudy from the years of being broken and worn with the sea storms.  They had lost their shine.  As the raw glass is broken into smaller pieces and slowly polished by the sand as it is rolled around in the surf for anywhere from 5 to 50 years it becomes sea glass.

Like precious gems, sea glass is rare and beautiful.

Some of the synonyms for broken are

Damaged, in pieces, severed, injured, fragmented, dismembered, shattered.

The sea glass reminds me of broken people. The words above can be used to describe them.  What hope is there for them?  Each one may have felt useful at some part of their life.   One may have felt whole at one time but life’s tests bring brokenness.  These people have been worn down by the storms of life.

Circumstances in life bring troubles, disappointments, lose, fear, anxiety or rejection or divorce and one is relegated to the ash heap.

“He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes, with the princes of his people.”

Psalm‬ ‭113:7-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

But even after many years Our Creator God can reach down and touch all that remains of a broken vessel and make something new.  My mosaics speak to me of hope.  There is life after brokenness.  

Like people, Ireland has been through much brokenness in her history, famines, invasions, civil wars, external wars, emigration, recession and divisions.  Despite it all Ireland is surviving.

Just this week in the local Papers.  I read these reports.

The Belfast Telegraph article by Cate Mc Curry on 17 th May 2016

Beautiful  County Fermanagh came top in a survey to find the UK’s most neighbourly places.

It showed Northern Ireland is friendlier than anywhere in England, Scotland and Wales, with Fermanagh topping the list of counties ahead of Armagh and Antrim.

All of Northern Ireland’s counties made the top 10 friendliest spots across the UK – with the province dominating the top six.

The findings emerged after a study by the Big Lottery’s Big Lunch, which aims to bring communities together and reduce loneliness and isolation. Now in its eighth year, The Big Lunch is an idea from the Eden Project, made possible by the Big Lottery Fund. It aims to get as many people as possible to have lunch with their neighbours in a simple act of community, friendship and fun.

According to the website Belfast Live,  Belfast has been voted the best city in the UK to visit.  I quote,

“Belfast scooped the top accolade at the Guardian and Observer Travel Awards 2016.

The annual awards recognise excellence across the tourism industry and are voted for by members of the public.

Belfast now welcomes around seven million visitors a year and nearly two million of them stay for at least one night.

And tourism contributes more than £450million to the city’s economy annually.”

Whatever your budget, you will find a place in Belfast to eat or stay that suits you.

I am very encouraged to read about this success for Belfast.  Despite Policital controversy Belfast is prospering!

Here is another success report from the Independant.ie on 17 th May 2016. I quote,

The report suggested that people in Ireland enjoy some of the healthiest lives.

A woman, with a life expectancy of 83.1, can also expect to spend 68 of those years in good health, while a man, who can expect to live to 79, can also look forward to 65.8 years with no major health scares.

Elsewhere, the figures also indicate a well-educated and hard-working nation.
The number of 25-34-year-olds who have been to college or university is the fourth highest in the EU – and they put it to use.

The report noted that even though we clock long hours, the productivity per hour was the fourth highest in Europe, behind Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The study confirmed Irish marriages last long with the divorce rate the lowest on record, 0.6 per 1,000 people.

The country still had the third fastest growing population in Europe over the previous 10 years.

http://www.independent.ie/breaking-news/irish-news/irish-have-longest-marriages-and-second-highest-birthrate-in-europe-34665106.html

Ireland is a safe place to live for the unborn, the young and old.  I have always maintained that Ireland has been a good place to raise a family. Now people from all counties are circulating around our island from the south to the north, and the east to the west.   May Ireland always remain green and friendly in the north and the south.

I believe God is reaching down and restoring our land as evidenced by these three newspaper reports.  People will want to come to live in this friendly place.

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

Bird Watching through my Kitchen Window

imageIt is the eleventh of February today.  I am recording the activity of birds in my garden.  I live along the Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland.  The warm morning has invited all kinds of birds to flit about in the garden.  A wren stays low along the hedge.  A robin jumps about among the plant pots.

The busiest birds I see are starlings.  There are three pairs flying back and forth.  Each pair had found a nook in the old wall adjoining my garden.  One bird flys in with a small twig in his mouth.  He didn’t exit for five minutes.  He must be building his nest, preparing for young.  I am excited to discover birds building their nests in my garden and so early in the spring.  I will look forward to catching the starlings’ progress each morning.

It is relaxing to sit quiet and patient keeping an eye on the nest sites.  My breakfast dishes need washed, benches need cleared, floor needs brushed.  I want to make some phone calls.  E mails need checked.  All can wait.

I am bird watching from the comfort of my kitchen.  I don’t have to go for a drive to a special bird watching sight, or get wrapped up in warm clothes to face the elements.  Watching the birds is taking my mind off all immediate troubles.  There are many things that could cause me to worry or fret.  Instead I am looking at birds.

Jesus said “Look at the birds.”
“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?

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (‭Matthew‬ ‭6‬:‭25-26, 33-34‬ NIV)

A pair of doves rested on a bare branch.  One flew off with a low moan.  The other followed.  I hope they return.

Later in the morning one single bird was singing from the treetop in my garden.  I think it was a Great tit.  He was announcing loud and clear.  “This is my domain.  He was attracting his mate to join him.” I will be looking to see where his nest is.

Tableau Thursday. The Season of Singing of Birds has Come

“The season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. (‭Song of Solomon‬ ‭2‬:‭12‬ NIV)

It is the 29 th April today in Co Down, Ireland.  I was pleasantly surprised to see a swallow swoop towards my window this morning.  Hooray the swallows have arrived. It is a new season. There is a different song outside.  Robins thrill, doves coo, chaffinches chirrup as they call to their mates in the warm mornings.  It will be safe to start building nests to prepare for having their young.

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The migrant birds are on the move.  The Brent Geese that had visited with us since September left the shore below while I was away in Scotland.  When they arrive in September they look like ducks.  They have shed weight while rearing their young in the Tundra in Northern Canada and have used up energy flying thousands of miles to our shores.  The Brent Geese come to the shores of Strangford Lough to feed on Eel grass. By April they have grown and fattened up.  They look like geese.  When the new season comes they fly away.  I miss  them.  Some geese came to feed and drink each morning below at a spring of water that joins the sea water lough.  I would hear their throaty calls from my room.

Jesus tells us to take the birds as our example and not to worry but seek first his kingdom.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body.  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)

I was shaken from my melancholy when I noticed the swallow this morning.  I went to share with my husband , “The swallows have arrived”.  It was an unexpected visitor.  He has flown here thousands of miles from South Africa.  He has made it as his family before him did.  What a feat.  Such a small bird can fly such a long way.

He had no luggage with him.  No belongings.  No passport. He has no purse.  He is free to fly over borders and nations.  He is no threat to anyone.  God had prepared a place for him in the barn behind our house. He will eat the food and drink the water here. He is welcome. He has brought joy to me. The singing has come to our land.

I watched a nature program about the flights of migrant birds.  On the swallows’ journey up North they stop off at different points to feed and rest for the next stage.  One stopover is by a lake.  The swallows arrive there just when millions of flies hatch out.  The air is dark with the flies.  The swallows swoop in and out of the cloud of flies and have a feast.  This is another example of God providing for the birds of the air.  I rejoice to see God’s timing and provision for the birds of the air.  Our Creator and Father looks after all his Creation.  I marvel in his Glory. I see his Glory in Creation.

The swallows song will join with the resident birds in the dawn chorus.  They will build their nests and rear their young in the barns behind where we live.

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)

I will hear a different sound in the morning.  Instead of the Brent Geese’s call, there will be the chirping of the swallows on the wire.

The Farmer hears the Cry of the Cow Separated from her Young.

We returned home after visiting family.  It is good to be home again in the middle of nature.
My neighbour told me the swallows leave on the 22 nd September.
We arrived back on the 23 rd and I was anxious to see if he was right.
This morning I looked out to see if there were any swallows gathered on the electric wires. 
There were a few circling over the trees.
This afternoon there is not a swallow in sight.
I missed their gathering on the wires to leave.
There is a stillness in the country.  All the animals in the fields are quiet.  If an animal makes a sound the farmer knows something is wrong.
Last night a cow was roaring in the field beside us.  I knew something must be wrong with her.
My neighbour is away on holidays.
I went out early this morning to see her.  She was needing attention.
Another farmer came by and told me the cow’s calf was missing!  He had found the calf and reunited them. There has not been a sound from them since.
All my children have left home.
I have been sad like the cow separated from her young.
But I will see them again.
I marvelled that the farmers help one another here when necessary.
At this time of the year some farmers take the calves, that has been reared by their mothers all summer, to market.
Then there is plenty of roaring from the cows that have been separated from their young.
The bond is broken and the cows would be uncomfortable with milk gathering in their udders.
This reminds me of a story in 1 Samuel 16

“Now then, get a new cart ready, with two cows that have calved and have never been yoked. Hitch the cows to the cart, but take their calves away and pen them up.
So they did this. They took two such cows and hitched them to the cart and penned up their calves.
Then the cows went straight up toward Beth Shemesh, keeping on the road and lowing all the way; they did not turn to the right or to the left. (‭1 Samuel‬ ‭6‬:‭7, 10, 12‬ NIV)
These cows were carrying the Ark of The Lord on the cart from the Philistines to Israel. These creatures defied nature and submitted to the yoke that pulled the Ark of The Lord.
Sometimes I have to go against my natural instincts when I have to obey God. Inside I want to scream but I have to submit to the yoke of The Lord.
Jesus said “My yoke is easy and my burden light.”Matt 11 v30

Perhaps this time of the year is significant.
The swallows go south, the calves are weaned from their mothers, Canadian Geese migrate here, and children leave home.
September 24 is the feast of Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish New Year.
The holiday is a commemoration of God’s creation of the world.
Perhaps the holiday reflects the cycles in creation.

L’shana tovah u’metukah

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.

 

DP Challenge I am Looking Forward to the Golden Years of Life after being Healed of Cancer

In this world we have to live with one another, young and old, rich or poor, black or white, male and female, even though we have different perspectives of each other and disagree with one another.  Writing has helped me slow down and think outside the box and look at life from another’s perspective.
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Here are two stories that gave me perspective about my age from someone else’s view.
I went to a local store recently to buy a fish supper.  Here in Ireland it is our favourite, tried and tested take away.  Pizza and kebab shops have opened and shut down again.
I was taken aback when the assistant said “Do you want the pensioner’s deal?”  I forgot I had white hair and I certainly did not feel like a pensioner, even though I am one.  I also thought a pensioner’s portion would be a few small pieces of cod and a few chips!  The lady noticed my surprise and quickly reassured me that the portions are the same but it is cheaper.  She was being kind.
 This was the first time I realised that other people see my age, but I had never considered how I look to other people.  I feel young inside and think I am young on the outside too.
 A few days later, in another village I was looking at some outdoor plants for sale.  I heard this voice hail me saying “Young lady, can I help you?”  I looked around to see if there was someone else he was talking to.  He was talking to me!   I smiled and picked out a pot plant to buy.  He was a good salesman.
When I look back I remember when I was ten years of age I thought my mum was very old.  She was only forty at the time.  That was not old.  My eldest child is over forty now and I think of her as thirty something.
I was married at twenty.  In my generation it was common to get married young.  Nowadays young women and men find it difficult to meet a suitable partner and the average age for marriage is around thirty.  I think it is harder to raise children today because of the pressure on the family unit.
I have a friend who is sixty five.  She looks like fifty.  I put it down to her mother and father living into their nineties.  She always knew there was someone looking out for her.
When my husband and I attended parent teacher meetings for our younger children, we were the only grey haired parents there.   The other parents were much younger.  I hope my children were not embarressed letting their friends see us.  From my perspective I was a parent and my age did not matter to me.
My children told their teachers when their first nephew was born.  I attended an event at the school soon afterwards.  I was congratulated for being a grandmother.  I had never been celebrated as much for having my own children.  There must be something special about getting to see one’s grandchildren.  Thankfully I am alive and have survived cancer, to see twelve grandchildren so far.
The scripture in psalm 127 says “May you live to see your children’s children.”  It is a blessing.
I  realised my age when I did not have the strength to work in the garden for long.  A few years before I was clearing ground, digging up my vegetable patch or mowing the lawn.  I now plant up pots.  I know my limits.
My husband and I have been considering moving from this big home for a couple of years.  We now see it is too much work for us.  We are delighted to be moving to a smaller home that suits our needs.  God has guided us in this new move.
As one is older one has a perspective on life that is coloured by experience, mistakes, pain and how one copes with what life throws at you.  Younger people have less experience and generally are influenced by their peers rather than experience gained over many years.  Like the child who burnt his hand he knows not to touch the hot stove again.  The Word of God says we learn obedience through the things we suffer.
Jesus said to Peter, who was a bit head strung, “When you are young you will go wherever you want but when you are old others will lead you.”
God made us and he realises our vulnerability and weakness as we get older.  We may be concerned about a loved one or our health may fail.  One is not in control.  But if one trusts God he will give us courage and strength to keep going.  Jesus said “Cast all your care upon me because I care for you.”  He is our refuge in time of trouble.
The bible is full of promises about when one is old.  Here are a few that give me hope in the goodness of God.
Psalm 91 says “With long life will I satisfy you”
“Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone.
Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.” (Psalm 71:9, 18 NIV)
Psalm 90 promises we can live till we are seventy.  As one believes God’s word one can expect to live to seventy at least.  Too often we listen to what doctors or others tell us instead of listening to what God says.
“Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble.  Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. (Psalms 90:10, 12 NLT)
I believe being there for my children and grandchildren is important.  It gives security, like my friend, that someone cares.  Can a mother forget the child she bore?  I am staying alive because I want to see the promises that God has given me about my family and destiny fulfilled.
I am blessed to have a loving, caring husband for companionship for the latter part of our lives.  He often tells me the best is yet to be.  I agree with him.  The work of looking after my children is over.  I will still pray for them.  I am looking forward to my new home and new beginnings.
I can say that God is faithful.  He has cared for me during my younger years and even to my gray hair.  I can truly say God is good all the time.
From my perspective as I am older it is good to rest, value life and be thankful.  Love covers and protects us all and helps us to live together even though we have different perspectives.
dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/weekly-writing-challenge-golden-years/