Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Out with the Old & In with the New

Christmas Eve night found me sitting beside one of Adrian's big open fires, with a glass of cranberry juice in hand and some chocolates nearby, The Christmas tree lights were flashing, the fresh fruit salad was made, some carols were playing and the Christmas mood began to dawn upon me as I focused on the incarnation of Christ. I'm thankful for all the Christmas wishes by card, text, whatsapp and Facebook. I must say that it made a pleasant change to scroll down Facebook to read all the Christmas wishes and verses, rather than having to endure the agony of scrolling through all the Christmas ads in my news feed. But Christmas Day and Boxing Day have come and gone.....and guess what? I'm back beside a big hot fire tonight thinking it will soon be out with the old year and in with the new year.
Christmas 2014

I got to thinking....What were some of the highlights in 2014 for me? Well, both my parents were 80 this year and it was a privilege to see them both reach this great milestone in their lives. And of course, as a family we celebrated both occasions by going out for meals. Another highlight of my year was getting a new kitchen installed. It took a while to get everything sorted but, thanks to all the talented craftsmen, it's in and I'm enjoying it! And I even got new glasses so I could see it better LOL! Another highlight for me was planning for and teaching at the Lifeboat Fellowship's Holiday Bible School for children in the summer. I was blessed in my own soul as I prepared the lessons on Prayer. I also enjoyed visiting my 2 favourite counties in Ireland again this year as well as Ayr in Scotland. It's great to have fun and fellowship with family and friends.
Mum's 80th
Dad's 80th

What did I learn in 2014? I really had to think about this question! First thought is 'Not much' but then that would be unappreciative. Here are a few things I reflected upon: 
  • I am far from perfect but God is so good to me
  • Sometimes it's my tears that brings me closer to God
  • God's ways are not my ways but His ways are best
  • Envy and greed can appear in many forms but I must not let a root of bitterness grow
  • I must encourage young people as they learn to do things, even when I think that I can do them better

What are my ambitions for 2015? I don't make New Year resolutions as they can turn out impractical to keep. I'm not a 'high-flyer' who boasts of doing great things, only to be deflated when I cannot achieve them. I'm a 'steady-plodder' who strives to fulfill dreams as God gives them to me. However, I do desire to know Christ better in 2015 and that the love of God will flow through me to others.

I encourage you to reflect upon your life in 2014 and about what you desire for 2015. I wish you a Happy New Year and may you experience God's blessings through Christ in 2015. 

Monday, 15 December 2014

What's it all for?

This time of year is often referred to as 'the run up to Christmas.' Shops are busy and people rush around trying to get everything they want for Christmas...presents, food, drink, clothes and party things. They even have rage over car parks! What's it all for? A couple of days of feasting? Is that it?
Lights in Rushmere shopping centre

It gives me a great kick when people ask me, 'Well, are you all sorted for Christmas?' to tell them 'I haven't started yet.' Don't get me wrong. I enjoy Christmas but it has become so commercialized. But, then, I suppose I can leave things to the last moment now that my children are grown up and their desired gift list is money (although I do have a request in for a mattress this year LOL). It used to give me great pleasure when they were small to see their excitement on Christmas mornings. The weeks of budgeting before Christmas were well worth it to see the expressions of joy on their little faces.
My Christmas tree

I love to see all the Christmas lights and to listen to traditional Christmas carols. But I think it's unfortunate that Christmas songs are replacing the carols that helped us focus on the birth of Christ. However, I do sometimes wonder if the lights and songs in shopping malls are really about getting us in the mood to buy plenty. Last year every time I went to Rushmere shopping centre there always seemed to be one song being played. It was a woman singing 'Santa Claus is coming to town.' Her voice was so annoying that I couldn't help thinking 'l wish he'd hurry up and come and then we wouldn't have to listen to you singing.'
Santa's grotto

Some years back when I lived in Cork, a neighbour woman used to tell me, 'Christmas is for children and men'....meaning it's a time of fun and new toys for children and a good excuse for men to get drunk, leaving all the preparation and cooking to the women. But to be fair I don't think that is totally true. Not all men must have alcoholic drink to enjoy Christmas and modern men are a bit more hands-on with preparations and cooking. And sadly, Christmas does have heartaches for children too. I was talking with some kids recently, asking them what they were getting for Christmas. Most were excited to tell me their 'list for Santa'....all the things they wanted like x-boxes, phones, toys, games, etc. But one little girl that I asked, looked with a sad countenance and answered, 'My Daddy'. This was not an answer I expected to get. My heart went out to her as I was challenged by the stark reality that Christmas doesn't fix all the problems of life....not even for children.

So, what is Christmas all about for you? Don't let it be the way of selfishness where it's only about you and yours. Spare a thought for others who are less fortunate than yourself.....those who suffer because of war, famine, poverty, ill-health, disease, homelessness, or persecution for their faith. Don't forget those who mourn and bear the heartache of a broken relationship. Remember the children who suffer in all these situations too! However, most of all, let this Christmas be a time when you reflect on what the LORD has done for you. The Lord Jesus Christ God's Son left the splendours of heaven to come down to this old sin-cursed world and was born in a stinking, dirty old stable. He came to die on the cross to pay the price for your sin and mine. Do you thank Him for all His love and blessings to you? Or do you leave Him out of all your celebrations?

Happy Christmas and best wishes for the New Year to you all.

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9v6

Saturday, 15 November 2014

It's not my game

This week I've had a completely new experience of game and would like share it with you. On Wednesday evening Adrian brought home two male pheasants (don't worry he didn't shoot them). They were dead so just had to be plucked, cleaned out and cooked. I thought to myself  'No problem plucking and cleaning them out. Sure I've often helped Mum to do that with turkeys and chickens. But how do I cook them?' Well, Mum got a phone call for some advice on that. Use orange, onion and herbs.
Dead Pheasants
After dinnertime I went to start preparing them. As I looked at them lying there on the floor I felt sorry for these beautiful creatures God had made. It seemed such a shame to strip them of those beautiful feathers. I started to pluck but the feathers didn't want to come away from those cold lifeless bodies. The hot water didn't seem to saturate their feathers to make them come away easily. No turkey or chicken was ever as hard to pluck! It took me ages to get all the feathers plucked off....and I did accidentally tear some of their skin. Then, it was off with the heads, feet and wings. Thankfully cleaning them out didn't take long for I'd spent all evening by this stage! Washed and cleaned, they were popped into the fridge for the night. Now it was over to Adrian to dispose of the feathers and internals.

Next day Jemima came in from college, looked in the fridge and asked, 'Did Granny give us those little chickens?' I replied, 'No, your Dad brought them home,' but didn't want to tell her they were pheasants in case she wouldn't eat them. However, she wasn't easily fooled. She could see they looked different. And when they started to cook in the oven she said, 'Mum, they smell off.' So I told her I'd put onions and herbs on them and poured lots of pure orange juice over them. 'Ugh, what did you do that for?' Now it was the moment for truth. I had to tell her they were pheasants....and I'd used pure orange juice as I didn't have any oranges.

So, how did they taste? Well everyone seemed to think they were OK but me. They tasted a bit like leg of chicken. I had the pickiest little bit for I just don't like the dark flesh of fowl....I prefer the breast. Adrian tells me that pheasants are the food of lords. Well the lords are welcome to them.....and I don't think any lord would employ me to prepare and cook pheasants! Needless to say, I don't plan to make a habit of having pheasant for dinner!

And what's my point? Well, God created those beautiful birds and allows man to eat them. But He's given us all talents. And as I certainly wouldn't win Chef of the Year for cooking game....I think I'll stick with using the talents God has given me!

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Unfinished Work

Have you ever started something and never finished it? I have. It was at least 10 years ago I started to crochet a little table mat....and look how much I got done:

Unfinished table mat
I started out with the best of intentions to produce a beautiful piece of crocheting but unfortunately I only did about a quarter of it before quitting. It wasn't because it was difficult or I didn't like doing it. But it was slow work using crocheting thread and a 1 mm crochet hook. It was time consuming and I'm not so sure that Adrian would appreciate me sitting each night crocheting! So I quit because I wasn't prepared to put the time and effort into it.

Then, about 3 or 4 years ago I decided to take the wallpaper off the walls in every room of our house and just paint much easier to keep. Sounds good but I've still two rooms never touched. You see, decorating is something that needs to be done from time to time but I don't enjoy doing it. My aim is to do it little by little over time. But I haven't finished the task because it costs too much to do it all at once and I don't enjoy doing it.

Look around and see examples of unfinished works.....building sites where foundations were laid and the houses were never built because the recession hit. You can probably think of a few examples in your own life too. I don't know your reasons for not completing some tasks but I'll suggest a few from my own experience. It may be because of bad planning, lack of funds, not enough time, bad health, failing strength and eyesight, too old, no longer interested, a broken relationship, got side-tracked, can't be bothered, too much effort, change of mind, or just don't like it.

However, like me, you may have started out with the best of intentions, hoping to do it sometime, maybe little by little, but not just yet. Remember the old saying, 'Procrastination is the thief of time.' So, what should we do about unfinished things in our lives? Stop and think! Is it what God wants you to do? If not, don't do it. Then, ask yourself....Is it worthwhile to complete it? Do I really want to do it? Is it needful, helpful and satisfying? Will it hinder my relationship with God and my family? Will it damage my health? Will it bring joy and blessing from God? Will it bring glory to God? I know that there are things that it is impossible to restart and complete but don't procrastinate on getting right with God.
"I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4v7 KJV)

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Thoughts on Halloween

I don't know about you but if there's one time of the year that I really hate, it's Halloween! Oh it's not the apples, nuts and pumpkins I hate. They are all part of the harvest that God gave us. I love the fresh assorted nuts and all the apple pies. In fact, I remember going potato-picking when I was a child and when the tea was brought to the field, I was thrilled to get the money inside the apple pie! But it is the dark evil side of Halloween that I hate and I cannot endorse it as a Christian.

Is it not all just a bit of innocent fun for children? Google 'Halloween' and discover for yourself its pagan origins, its history and the original meaning of various Halloween practices like trick-or-treat, pumpkin lanterns. But I'm not blogging about that. I look around me and see Halloween costumes for children to dress up as witches, wizards, demons, vampires and ghosts. This really grieves me because as I read God's Word I see very clearly that He hates all occultic satanic practices and has forbidden His people to have anything to do with them. I wonder if parents actually realize the significance of what their children dress up as.  I fail to see how it is fun to imitate and play with that which God hates and forbids. If children are given the impression that this is all innocent fun....who's to say that their 'childish fun' will not proceed to the 'youthful fun' of participating in seances, ouija boards, witchcraft, attending mediums, etc?

Halloween costumes
Is Halloween not just another pagan festival like Christmas and Easter? No it's not. There's a big difference, Christmas is a time of giving when we can remember the Birth of Christ, Easter is a time of new life when we can remember the Death and Resurrection of Christ. But while Halloween precedes All Saints Day (1st November), it is a time of revelry in satanic things. Satan is real. He is the arch-enemy of God. His powers are real and he will use them to destroy you. When people in the New Testament repented of their sins and turned to Christ for salvation, they renounced all sorts of satanic activity (eg Acts 19v18-19). They didn't play with it.

Did I not take part in any Halloween activities when I was a child? Well Halloween was not as big a thing back then, especially in the country. But here's the extent of my involvement: We made masks in school out of cereal boxes, cut holes in them for eyes, nose and mouth, stuck on a piece of egg cartoon for the nose, used elastic bands to attach them to our ears, and maybe even a bit of wool for hair. We ate nuts and apple pies and I remember my father letting off some fireworks for us once or twice. We were not allowed to trick-or treat. However, I do remember once taking the old tilley lamp and walking down the road to granny's. My grandfather was sitting sleeping, so we sat quietly wearing those masks we made. When he awoke he jumped, startled and we all had a great laugh.

Do I give to Trick-or-Treaters who come to my door? Yes I do. You may consider me hypocritical but the way I see it is that I will not be hard or unkind to any children who come to my door. Many of these children come from homes where they don't know the teaching of God's Word.  Last year I had a quick chat with kids who came to my door, gave them a few sweets and an invitation to Children's Hour.

Did my children take part in any Halloween kids activities? Yes they did but it was not with my blessing or encouragement. I never bought them Halloween costumes or took them to Halloween parties. I always made them aware of the evil satanic side to it. They were not allowed to watch scary movies that opened their minds to satanic practices or caused them to have nightmares. Halloween is becoming bigger every year and I understand that it's not easy guiding children right concerning it.

You may not agree with me but maybe you will spare a thought for God's Word before you dress your kids up as witches, demons, vampires etc. And don't forget that fireworks are dangerous if not handled correctly. Also, spare a thought for your poor pets as fireworks do scare them.

If this blog has been helpful to you perhaps you would share it for me please.
 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1v7 KJV

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Turn the Clock Back

Don't forget to turn your clocks back this weekend! British summertime ends. So that means the long, dark winter evenings are here. But for just this weekend it means I get an extra hour in bed. Yippee! Then, I must get up and get on with life this winter....and face whatever life throws at me this winter.

Turn the clock back!
I cannot help but think, as we turn our clocks back, about that old saying, 'If only I could turn the clock back....' But we all know very well that we cannot turn the clock of life back to relive certain events. Yes there's many things we would do differently if we could turn the clock back in our lives. But we can't, and even though there may be regrets or guilt, we've got to live with the consequences.
Maybe it's 'If only I hadn't got involved in that relationship that led to a broken heart.' Or maybe it's 'If only I hadn't taken that pathway that led to some addiction.' 'If only I hadn't said those cruel, unkind words.' 'If only I'd chosen a different career or a different place to live.' 'If only I hadn't got involved in some crooked dealing.' 'If only I'd listened instead of choosing a lifestyle that broke my mother's heart.' ' If only I'd studied harder in school.' 'If only I'd helped those people in need.' 'If only I'd said yes to God's call.' And so the list goes on and on....
And yet, sometimes we would just love to turn the clock back to relive some wonderful, lovely feel that young love again,,,,to hear the voice of a departed loved know that power and zeal that led to experience some joy and peace that enveloped our entire being.....etc.etc.
So as you turn your clocks back this weekend, remember the clock of your life is ticking away. You cannot turn it back, You cannot undo the past, no matter how much you'd like to. You may be wiser and on hindsight do things better. But you cannot relive happy experiences, no matter how much you enjoyed them. Start living in the present for the things that really matter. Take time to enjoy family and friends. Follow your dreams for good. But best of all follow the LORD and live for Him NOW!
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5v16 KJV

Friday, 17 October 2014

Knit Together with Love

I don't know if any of you are interested in knitting or not but when I think about knitting there's one scene that comes to my mind. Many years ago, when I was a little girl, my Great Aunt Lena used to come to visit my Granny Armstrong.  I will never forget the scene when Lena would pull her chair up real close to Granny's. These 2 old sisters would knit/crochet and talk about a host of other things.....and everyone in the vicinity of the house could hear what they said! They were sitting beside each other and shouting to each other for they were both hard of hearing. (Please excuse me for lovingly saying 'deaf and deafer'). To me, this was a comical picture of sisterly love.

However, they were both talented. Granny could knit and crochet.....socks, blankets, cushion covers and simple lace table mats. BUT wow you ought to have seen what Lena could do! She knit with special knitting thread some of the most fantastic lace tablecloths I have ever seen. I cannot recall her ever using a pattern. The pattern was a plan in her head and she was well able to knit it.
I cannot help but think that I am knit together with love. I'm not merely talking about my parents' love, although that is part of the overall pattern. I'm talking about God knitting me together with love according to His great pattern. God had a master-plan for my life. That plan originated with Him. He planned exactly what I would be like and even the very day that each of my body members would be fashioned. He wrote it in my DNA and then knit me together in my mother's womb. So the curl in dark hair, the thin feet, the strong voice, etc etc were all part of God's plan for me.

The pattern in a piece of knitting slowly becomes more evident as it gets larger. But the pattern isn't as clear on the wrong side. There appears to be loose ends of threads that don't make much sense. And so it is in life. There are a lot of loose ends in my life that I don't understand but as I grew up the pattern became a bit more clearer. I don't understand why I have bad eyesight, or why I inherited certain medical conditions, or why I wasn't born into a wealthy family. BUT one thing I do know is that these things have all helped me to depend more on my Creator. He didn't write these things into my DNA because He hated me. He didn't order my life to hurt me. No! He loves me and He's working His master-plan out in my life. One day the Lord will have His pattern finished on me and He'll show me the meaning of all those loose threads in my life. Then, I'll understand why and I'll be able to give Him all the glory.

"I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well." (Psalm 139v14 KJV)

Friday, 10 October 2014

The Seasons of Life

I walked through Windmill wood the other day on my way home from town. I took time to stop and admire the signs of autumn....and even managed to take a few photos. The trees are beginning to display a beautiful array of autumn shades and drop their leaves. Little squirrels are scurrying around searching for nuts. The air is cooler but I was engulfed in that feeling of autumn that is everywhere. 

However, while I can admire the beauties of autumn, it is not my favourite season of the year. It is leading down into winter when things look so bleak, cold, barren and dead. I love spring when everything is bursting into life....hedges and trees are getting greener, flowers are budding, farmers are planting seed, and beautiful baby animals are born. Next I love's warmer with bright mornings and light evenings, and that means day trips and holidays....time to enjoy and relax from routines.
I sometimes think of life as having 4 seasons....spring, summer, autumn and winter. Spring is our childhood when we are growing up and learning so much about life in the world around us. Summer is when we are in full bloom as young adults, 20, 30 or so and concerned with our career, marriage, having children. Autumn is middle age when the old body parts begin to wilt and just won't function as well as we'd like them to. Then, comes the wintertime of life when we go down into old age, failing health and eventually death.
As I reflect upon the seasons of life, I see myself as having a purpose to fulfil in each time of life. I accept that responsibility and recognize the wisdom of God's plan in it all for me. I'm in the autumn of life but I still have abilities that I can actively use for the Lord....and I've learnt a little bit through life's experiences which I hopefully can pass on to others. The old joints may not allow me to walk all the miles I did in the spring and summer of my life but I can still walk and talk and share God's love. I don't wish to whine or pine over the past or live in fear of the future. I'm content to live for God in the present.

When I consider the seasons, I think that the Almighty God who holds this planet Earth in His hand is spinning it around to give us day and night but He is tilting it to give us seasons. When He tilts it towards the sun we get summer. When He tilts it away from the sun we get winter. Spring and autumn are in between. This reminds me that God tilts our lives through different times....some we enjoy and others we endure BUT no matter what experience God tilts your life through, always remember He is in control and He will give you the strength you need to go through it. 

One final thought.....death can come in any season. The seedling, the sapling, and the fruit-bearing shrub can die as well as the old mature tree. So make sure you are ready to die for we all must meet our Maker one day.
"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven." (Ecclesiastes 3v1 KJV)

Monday, 29 September 2014

She's Arrived!

I've just arrived on Blogger so this is just a little introduction to me:

I arrived safely into this world on 10th February 1961, the first girl born to my parents Noel and Emily Armstrong and of course, delivered at home by my Granny Armstrong the district midwife. Moyard, Benburb would never be the same again!
Sadly a few months later my brother Norman died. While I was too young to remember him, I almost feel I knew him for my parents often talked to us about him. But we were raised with the knowledge that death is not the end and so the assurance of meeting him again was a great comfort to my mother....and I know that one day I'll meet him in heaven.

My eldest brother Raymond became 'the big brother looking out for his little sister.' But in due time my brother Leslie and then my sister Laura arrived. That was another girl to compete with, feel inferior to and even be jealous of at times. But it was as I grew older that I came to realize that God had made us different because He had destined us for 2 different roles in life. So it was a matter of getting on with being the person God wanted me to be....and use the talents, abilities and opportunities He gave me to glorify Him.
I inherited what I like to refer to as 'Armstrong determination'. I don't like to think of it as stubbornness. But I do like to think that I used it for good. I will do what I believe to be right even if it's hard and lonely at times. My 'Armstrong determination' has given me stick-ability in life to keep plodding on for the Lord.

So that's a brief outline of my arrival unto this scene of time. I plan to blog about some lessons I've learnt from life's experiences and share some thoughts that God has given to challenge and encourage me. They won't all come in the order they happened in life but I trust my experiences and thoughts will be a blessing to you. Let me know....