Friday, March 17, 2017

I'm handing you no blarney....

Back to that time I was actually in Ireland (this is a long one, so take a deep breath and dive in... I hope you'll find it worth it!) ...when I left off in the last post, we had just put our toes into the Irish Sea at Newcastle.  After we had a lovely walk through town where we got coffee and ice cream, we re-boarded the minibus and sped (and I do mean that quite literally) toward our home for the week near Crossgar, Northern Ireland.  On the way to Crossgar, we just happened to pass another ancient ruin, Dundrum Castle.

Our ballerinas stopped to pose for us under this gorgeous flower-filled arch leading up to the castle!  We truly had entered a fairlyland!

It's clear from the photo above why they chose this spot for the castle.  It's atop a hill with a lovely river to one side and rolling mountains on the other.

The above picture (you can click on it to enlarge in a slideshow) gives you a bit of perspective as to how large the ruins are because you can see them in relation to how small the people in the photo are.

 That's my daughter standing on the steps... again pinching ourselves that we were breathing the air of the stunningly gorgeous Emerald Isle!

Above is the amazing view from the other side of the castle with the Mourne Mountains in the background.

Then we were off to another lovely spot, and an appropriate one for me to share with you today.  Right on the way to our home for the week was the lovely town of Downpatrick, which should give you a hint as to its namesake!

We saw the beautiful Downpatrick Cathedral rising toward the sky at the end of the street (above) as we approached it.  It sat atop a hill, so it was easy to spot.  As we neared, we could really see the beautiful architecture.

Above, outside the rear of the cathedral, you can see a minibus like the one in which we traveled the Northern Ireland countryside, much too fast.  We had wonderful drivers, but I will never understand how they travel at the speeds they do around winding roads with barely two lanes (and in many spots one lane) with giant hedgerows on either side (i.e. no "shoulder" to pull over lest you meet an oncoming vehicle.) I never got used to it the entire trip!

As you can see in the photo above, this is the legendary burial place of St. Patrick. 

"One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all..."

(Below) The beautiful view from the top of the drumlin (click the link to learn what that is) is an appropriate one for such an inspirational spot.

So much is made of St. Patrick's Day in our country, but so few really understand who he was and what he really did.  It is SO not about wearing green and drinking alcohol as so many do these days.  This man was taken as a captive to Ireland, sold into slavery there, and then after escaping to France and gaining his freedom, decided to return so that he could share Christ with those who had enslaved him. Legend has it that he used the shamrock to teach of the Holy Trinity. His was truly an amazing story of faith, obedience, and unconditional love, and yes it does deserve to be celebrated. So, happy St. Patrick's day to you my friends! ☘

The Breastplate of St. Patrick

I arise today through
God's strength to pilot me, God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me, God's eye to see before me,
God's ear to hear me, God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me, God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me, God's host to secure me –
against snares of devils,
against temptations and vices,
against inclinations of nature,
against everyone who shall wish me
ill, afar and anear,
alone and in a crowd...
Christ, be with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit,
Christ where I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.
Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of the Christ.
May your salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.

Monday, March 13, 2017

This little fellow and his mama and family are on my heart....

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Take one look at these precious faces (right).  They have been through some of the hardest things this past year and a half.  On the left is Riley, the oldest of four brothers, who was diagnosed with brain cancer two Christmases ago... unbelievably, (unless you lived it) on that same day his dad found out his colon cancer which had been "successfully" surgically removed twelve months before was not only back, but stage 4.

This past July, Riley lost his dad after a short and miserable fight of 6 months.  He watched him suffer but believe until the very end that God would heal him.  His dad IS healed and whole now, but not the way he believed.  Over this past year Riley has been bravely receiving various treatments for his own cancer. The past two MRIs showed a slight reduction in the size of the tumors.  Yet, after he had been experiencing numbness in his legs and pain in his tailbone recently, this week they have discovered tumors in his brain on the other side and a new one on his spine. He is my step-nephew.  His mom is in the middle and next-oldest brother Ethan on the right. His mom is the picture of grace under fire. I cannot imagine how she continues to put one foot in front of the other, except that you have to when it's your child and your husband.

Riley will start his radiation treatments today.
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Riley's grandfather married my mom 15 years ago, after being a widower for 20 years following his wife's (Riley's dad's mom) death at age 36 when his boys were still in elementary and jr. high school.  So, my stepfather has lost his wife at 36 and his son at 43 to cancer and is now watching his grandson of 13 years battle it.  It is completely heartbreaking... really too much for one person to bear.  My mother is the only grandmother (on their dad's side) that these boys have known, and believe me -- she has been "all in" as their step-grandmother.  The four boys have spent numerous nights and weekends at Papa and Nonnie's house since they were babies.  And their dad really considered and even called my mother "Mom" up until his death last July.

Because of the busy nature of both our families, as a step-sister who doesn't live close and given the busyness of caring for my own family, I have not personally spent a lot of time with these precious ones.  But I keep up through my mom, and as a way to help people know how to pray and support them, I created a website chronicling their journeys: I would really appreciate it if you would lift them all in prayer as the Lord leads you to.  It is a heavy burden, too much to bear alone... but the prayers and support of the family of God have at times literally and figuratively carried this family over the past 15 months.  We are grateful.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Flashback to that time I stood among ancient castle ruins...

I have determined to post some encouraging things, and since there was a very prolonged blogging break with some really wonderful adventures that I'd love to share with you during the past few years... I will be posting some of that.  So, I will begin with this flashback to that time I hopped across the pond for two and a half weeks and had a wonderful adventure in the land of leprechauns and castles.  This journey for my daughter and me ~ along with 5 of her friends, two other moms, and three young adults ~ was to be a mission trip for my daughter's ballet troupe in which we would aid two churches in having a Summer Bible Club for the children in their areas.  They, in turn, would take us to see all the sights that we could cram into our mornings before time to get ready for Bible Club in the evenings.  There is too much to share in just one post.

Our first glimpse of the Emerald Isle from the airplane looked exactly as I had imagined it... a glorious patchwork of green.

And on closer inspection... the most beautiful green fields and hedgerows.

Upon landing, we knew we were in the right place when we saw this:

Once we disembarked and made it inside the Dublin Airport terminal, we got our bearings, got some coffee, and went to wait on a double-decker bus which would take us from Dublin to Northern Ireland. The drive from Dublin through the countryside was amazing... so many beautiful things to see.  And, the drive was so swift that it was hard to take everything in before it whizzed by.

Isn't it incredible?  This (photo above and 3 below) was Clough Castle ruins (pronounced "clock"), our first stop in Northern Ireland after we were picked up by our hosts on our way to the Irish Sea at Newcastle.  We smelled the Irish air, really breathing it in for the first time (really lovely because we had spent over 24 hours between flights and bus trips and without a bath!)  We were so excited to be putting our wee toes in the wee beautiful grass of the Emerald Isle. (You see, in Ireland everything is "wee" -- denoting its diminutive nature... the wee boys and girls came to the wee church for Bible club, and we went for a tour in the wee van. You get the idea.)

After a very short and happy visit with the castle ruins, we continued on to Newcastle, a lovely coastal town where many of the locals spend "holiday" and visit for special occasions.  The Slieve-Donard House is a gorgeous hotel that sits on the Irish Sea.  We loved how the mountains met the sea along the coastline there.  

My sweet daughter and I were PINCHING ourselves that we were IN Ireland about to put our toes in the Irish Sea.  We had a lot more fun ahead of us, including a visit to the place of St. Patrick's (reported) burial!  Look for it in a future post.

On a personal note, I had a birthday this week... we are delaying the REAL celebration until I can actually chew something I will enjoy.  But, in the meantime we had little celebrations throughout the week which made it very nice!  The wrinkles and gray hairs are coming fast and furious, but I am thankful that "my people" still love me in spite of them.