What came first- the chickens or the blog?

Out with the Old and In with the New

It’s January. A new year, a fresh start. And yet, like the two-faced god Janus, a time to look back as well as forward.
Mr G, smallest Gillyboy and I spent a few days of what we call twixtmas in Portugal helping grandma start to pack up her beautiful home to move back to our damp and grey little island. Not an easy task for anyone to box up a lifetime of memories, embracing them in bubble wrap, hugging them with cardboard; deciding what to keep, what to pass on, what to discard.
We did take time to holiday in this most beautiful of holiday destinations too. How we loved the sunshine and a chance to recharge our solar batteries for the start of the New Year. There’s nothing I love more than the freedom of kicking off my shoes and walking along the shore.

On New Years Eve I had a chance to reflect on 2014 as the waves lapped at my feet. Last year here at The Coop there were big celebrations, excellent holidays, good times with old friends and family, as well as the challenges, worries, troubles, illness and losses that make life, well, real life. Looking back it was good to recall all those who walked alongside us, giving encouragement, support, even just by being there.

Looking ahead at a bright and shiny new year, there are many things to look forward to- planned holidays, significant anniversary and birthdays. There are challenges and issues that will need to be addressed; potholes, sinking sand, big waves that we cannot foresee standing here at the start of the year.

What footprints will we make through the year? What shores will we find ourselves on? Will life be calm or stormy?
Like grandma, we all have a new start this New Year. We may not be moving house or changing country, but we are all moving on. New jobs, new struggles, new babies, new challenges, new friends, new interests, new attitudes, new beginnings. We hope to make wise choices in what baggage from the past to carry with us and what to leave behind. The lessons of 2014 giving us courage to meet head on all that is to come in 2015.
2015. A new chapter. Maybe even for some a whole new book. It’s life.
Let’s Live it to the Max.


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At the Crossroads

Yesterday it turns out, was a Crossroads day.
For around four years, Gillyboy number two has set his heart on leaving home to study at a well known university. He has worked really hard, kept focused on his goal, prepared for interviews, identified weaknesses and worked out solutions. Yesterday morning, after a restless night for all of us, the results were out, and with fluttering hearts and trembling fingers, his dream plan for the next three years was made reality. It is a new path for all of us; for him, leaving home, starting a whole new adventure in another place; for us, adapting to life without him during term time, missing his wonderful music practices that can often take your breath away, those half empty coffee cups lying around, and long games of Pokemon cards (still at 19, bless) with his mates and Gillyboy number 4.
It’s very exciting, and daunting and we look forward to seeing what adventures this new journey will bring.
For around four years, a lovely lady and her family in our church fellowship have been learning to live with a terminal diagnosis. Yesterday she quietly moved on to a new stage in her journey. She has gone home, leaving an amazing example of strength and courage whatever battles are to be faced. She was always very open about her illness and its treatment, she had a wonderful ministry to others going through similar experiences, she was the go-to girl for organising rotas and finding church keys at the last minute within our congregation. She lived Life To The Full spending quality time with family and many friends with meals, coffees, cycle rides and badminton games, celebrations and holidays. Never angry or bitter, always directly spoken, a woman of strong and living faith, she faced her inevitable future with confidence and assurance. She prepared those closest to her for this outcome in the same manner. She was so encouraging to her children as they changed from their teens into the confident vivacious young adults that they are today, as they mourn her loss and move on in their journey without her beside them.
On Monday we will stand by them, and their father, her loving and beloved husband, as they give thanks for a wonderful life, a peaceful end, as she walks a new path into the Kingdom of her Saviour.

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Carrot, Egg or Coffee Bean?

I thought you might like this story I read today on the internet.


A young woman went to her grandmother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed that as one problem was solved, a new one arose. 

Her grandmother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to a boil. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil, without saying a word. 

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She then pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. 

Turning to her granddaughter, she asked, “Tell me, what do you see?” 

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied. 

She brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. She then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. 

The granddaughter then asked, “What does it mean, Grandmother?” 

Her grandmother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity — boiling water — but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water. 

“Which are you?” she asked her granddaughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?” 

Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity? Do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength? 

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart? 

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor of your life. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hours are the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate to another level? 

How do you handle adversity? Are you changed by your surroundings or do you bring life, flavor, to them? 
Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?Image

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Bad News Days


Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.

So says Fredrich Buechner.
It has been quite a week for terror, bloodshed, death, destruction, fear and inhumanity. Fires, earthquakes, war and rumours of war.
Ordinary people rush towards danger, queue to donate blood, push through fire and debris to rescue the trapped and wounded.
Peoples’ lives have been turned upside down in an instant.
There was a point when I just had to avoid watching any more bad news.

Growing up in Northern Ireland during the time called “the Troubles” our lovely green island made too many bad news headlines. Since my children were born we have moved into more peaceful period, and yet the ripples caused by bombings and murders to families spread on to this day.

And yet the beauty and the cruelty of nature is that the world keeps on turning, buds are bursting, April showers are sparkling in the warming sun, and hens keep on laying.

Today Colonel Saunders, who is still moulting heavily, has been badly pecked by the other hens. This can often happen, the problem being once a hen sees the colour red, ie blood, it can go into a pecking frenzy. To give them all a bit of space from each other they are free ranging in the garden. The Colonel is sitting apart very quietly, not scratching or dust rolling or any of her other favourite activities. I have sprayed her again with Anti Peck, and treated her wound on her shoulder, but she looks sad and sore. I did pick her up for a cuddle, but hens don’t appreciate too much handling and it was probably more to ease my distress rather than hers. Tonight I will keep her apart from the other two hens in the coop so she gets peace to sleep. I’ve consulted the chicken manuals, and there is very little else I can do.
Let’s hope she recovers quickly and tranquility is restored to the Gillybirds Coop.

As for the rest of the world we should never lose hope, and do what we can to make it a better place for us to live in.
The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it
Albert Einstein

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A little Daily Miracle

One of my favourite films is the Addams Family Values. There is a scene where Wednesday asks a visitor to pass her the salt at the dinner table. Her mother interrupts asking “what do we say when we want something Wednesday?”To which Wednesday replies “Now!”

It is a 21st century condition that generally people want everything now, if not yesterday. Time is speeding up, running away, passing through our fingers like fine sand on a beach.

Watch news as it happens live.
More internet data faster.
Lose weight quicker.
Reverse time and look younger.
Ready meals, fast food.

The day I saw ready grated cheese to buy I was dumbfounded, or as my mother would say “gobsmacked”. Who doesn’t have time to grate cheese?

Ok so I am not in the world of employment, being at home raising 4 boys is not a real job (apparently) so I probably have more time on my hands than most. I take pleasure in the making of things, chopping, peeling, grating. I love to bake, to root around the fridge and make soup out of whatever I find, to knead dough and wait for it to prove.
My greatest passion is for hand crafts – cross stitch, knitting and card making. It gives me pleasure to design and craft unique and I hope beautiful things which will give others pleasure. These take time. Some only minutes, some days, weeks, months. A card is probably enjoyed for a few days, a hat or scarf for a season. The wedding and baby cross stitch samplers hopefully for a lifetime. Not to be able to make time to do these things would trouble me. I take pride in each one of my own little creations.
What has this got to do with the hens? It takes a hen 25 hours to lay an egg. The shell only hardens in the last 10 seconds of its journey. I have discovered there is something magical about lifting a still warm egg from the nest it has been so gently laid in. Apparently, my hen- acquainted friends may well verify this, as she lays her egg a hen sings a bright song of triumph. How lovely. I think I would too. It’s wonderful. It’s a little daily miracle.


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