Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Castlewellan, Here We Come!

Castlewellan Christian Center, site of Castlewellan Great Banquets, 1 and 2, November, 2014
It's been about a year since I last posted to the blog. My own life has been kind of routine with the exception of a great trip to Cuba last April! I was invited to speak to a women's conference in Holguin. That trip was a delight! After the conference, I with 3 travel mates, visited another eight Friends' Churches in the eastern part of Cuba. We were warmly received at each one and had lovely visits in spite of our lack of Spanish and most Cubans lack of English.

Routine is good sometimes and working at the church, participating in Bible study and having half a day every week with Berkeley is a good way to spend my time these days.

I will soon (25 days) be traveling to Northern Ireland with a team of over fifty men and women from several communities. We will be going to serve on the first Great Banquet in NI. It will be held at Castlewellan Christian Center. There is a castle which accommodates 80 or more. The guests have been invited and the teams have been preparing. The excitement is building!

I plan to blog about our trip, our impressions of Northern Ireland and some of our experiences before and after the weekends. I will not share about the actual Great Banquet events. The men's weekend will be Nov. 13-16 and the women's, Nov. 20-23. The teams will be arriving and departing at various times. Some folks are going for one week, some for two. I will leave Nov. 10 and return Nov. 25. The travel itself will be quite an adventure! Ted and Jean Merrill have arranged for a bus to take those of us traveling on the 10th from Howard County to O'Hare Airport in Chicago. So the fun will begin in the church parking lot! We would ask your prayers for safe travel and for all those details to work out so that everyone arrives on schedule with all the baggage! We'll have lots of "banquet stuff" as well as our own personal items.
The dining room at the castle
 The photos are especially for those who will be going on team but have never been to Castlewellan. The "survey" team of six women were there last September. I went a week ahead of the "survey" team and stayed at Castlewellan visiting dear friend, Deirdre Graham.
Baking crumble for dessert for a large group last year at the castle. David, a cook, standing in the background. 

View from the dining room. Small lake at the castle.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

To the North Coast!!

On Sunday night we went to Fifth Sunday as I mentioned before. We were almost "chased" out of the city centre as we chatted with different ones who had  been to our presentations. I think I counted at least ten who were there so it was a time to answer a few more questions and just get to know them better.

We went back to RIOT to debrief with Richie and make plans for Monday...our day at the North Coast. After that we had our devotions and discussion from Jesus Calling (we did have devotions every day in case I've not mentioned that!). All of us then spent some leisure time with popcorn for our late night snack and all of us doing Facebook, Facetime and email. It has been wonderful to have wifi at RIOT!

We were able to sleep in a wee bit as we didn't leave for the coast until 9 am. We had packed lunches in tow as we boarded the mini-bus. Bebe had stayed with her friend Cynthia. The interns, Jenna and Danielle, joined us but Nick had stayed at the castle with Andrew and Lorna's son, John, so there were the five of us, the two girls and Richie.

We drove up stopping for a few "scenic views" and "photo ops" There is a beautiful spot on a bridge but my vantage point in the van does little to highlight that! We made an actual stop at Larne for a restroom stop, purchase snacks to supplement our packed lunches, and see the harbor.

From Bridge over River

Jean at Harbor

Marker at Larne--a small community/harbor.

We continued north with so  many beautiful scenes, looking back along the shoreline, ahead at rock arches across the road, down into the Glens of Antrim. It was clear and bright and lovely beyond words!
 We ate our sack/packed lunches on the way. There were ham sandwiches, crisps (chips) and fresh fruit, apples and pears. I had a variety of crisps that would be most popular in the US.... and yes, they were quite good!!

Our next stop was the Carrick-a-Rede Swing Bridge. I had done this last year and knew it was an arduous climb so I opted to stay behind in the mini-bus. But first, I stopped in the tea shop for a cuppa' and a scone. It was called a cream scone but there were several different flavors on the tray. I order a cherry scone and it was served up with a generous bit of cream, hence, the name. What's better than a cup of tea with a warm cherry scone piled with whipped cream? Not much!
With black currant jam and cream!!!

After the swing bridge, we headed up to Giant's Causeway. The new visitor centre is stupendous! It is so beautiful and mimics the stones of the causeway.  We took the bus down from the parking lot to the sea....all but Richie; he walked. The stones are incredible. This is my third visit and I am still overwhelmed by this natural wonder of the world! It is basalt, solidified lava. The columns have five and six sides, some have four, seven or eight and it is believed that there is one with only 3 sides. Along with being a marvel, there is a delightful fable attached to the location about one Finn McCool.
 These pictures don't begin to show the formations so please do look at this video. It's only 2 minutes!

This is when the battery on my camera died so I don't have more pictures...and I haven't figured out how to get others' pics from FB to my blog...need another learning session with someone!!

We went to Bushmill's, the oldest legal/licensed distillery in the world! We saw the distilling process for Irish whisky from the beginning of barley to the finished product bottled. We learned that Irish whisky is different from Scotch whiskey in more than the spelling. The Irish is distilled another time giving it a smoother taste. There was a bit of history--the distillery is on the Bush River and Bushmill's cannot be made anywhere else because of the distinction of that water. The waste water from the distilling process is used for feed for hogs and some is reclaimed.

We did a "photo op" at Dunluce Castle and began the wild ride home! Richie drove to his home and we traded drivers. He stayed home with the little girls and Jen joined us for a GNO-Girls' Night Out at Maghera Inn. Deirdre was already there and Bebe had joined us. It was great craic with good food (I had sea bass with champ which is mashed potatoes with green onions) and for dessert we all shared Pavlova and the Sticky Toffee Pudding.

We were back at RIOT by 11 pm and had bags to pack! Our Tuesday flight from Dublin was at 11 am but we needed to leave Dundrum by 5:30. Emy and I didn't hear our alarm so we had to be quick but we were all ready when Richie arrived. I had charged the camera so took a couple pics of RIOT...the sitting room and dining room...
Chairs, loveseats, sectionals! 

We had devotions in the airport after we cleared security and US customs. Yes, there are US customs officers who live/work in Dublin. All of our checks were done in Dublin so when we arrived in Chicago, it was so simple. No lines, just pick up the baggage! 
A work in progress...old wallpaper removed

The driver arranged by Emy's son picked us up at the airport and delivered us to Jean's vehicle. We loaded up 5 bags, 6 carry-ons, and another 6 personal bags and were on our way. As we drove back to Howard County, we recalled all of our contacts in N. Ireland and shared more stories. It was a grand trip with lots of great memories. Even more important, we really felt that it had been a mission and that God has been preparing hearts and working out details for this for the past several years. We also talked about our connections with CSI, with other mission experiences, with the Great Banquet and with each other. It is a truly amazing story how God brought the six of us together for "such a time as this". We are in awe of our God who is using each of us in this !!

And He just keeps working it out! Ladeana was trying to work out a simple way to get home to Peru. She contacted her husband who was working...he referees soccer. Wouldn't you know that he was ref'ing the very game my grandson was playing so Jean dropped us both in Greentown! Easy peasy!!

This Language We Share...

Even though English is the spoken language in many places, it is also a very regional tongue. We recognize that in accents across the US and more so in other countries. But even more than the accents are the words that are used in a different manner. Traveling to the UK, we expected to hear "boot" instead of "trunk" (on the car) and were amused that the Irish have "boot sales" in parking lots...a sort of flea market from the car. We also were not surprised to hear Charley and Addy's "diapers" referred to as "nappies". But there were words and phrases that gave us pause.

One word often used is "brilliant" as in "excellent", "wonderful", "good job", etc. "Epic" is also used more than in the US.

When we went to the concert given by the Uganda choir, the leader talked about "buck ejit". We had a fun time trying to first, understand what they were describing and then seeing where it would fit. We even saw t-shirts at St. George's Market with "buck ejit" so we know it's a popular term.

"Craic" pronounced "crack" simply means a good time or some fun. We enjoyed many moments of "craic" and then learned that a really good time was "quer craic". I doubt if any of us will use the term "craic" when telling our Indiana friends about our trip. It would be too difficult to explain that we had some good "craic"....knowing that they would be hearing good "crack"!

Walking about is a "wee dander". The four younger ones of our little group took many wee danders around Dundrum. They especially loved the castle, walking up there several times. The guide was a delight and the castle ruins amazing. However the main reason for the treks was to take pictures of the bay and the distant mountains with no mist.

We were "chuffed" many times...."delighted". Irish phrases just roll off the tongue of our friend Deirdre! Emy was our naive one, believing whatever tale Richie would weave. Deirdre told Emy, "you're not nearly as green as your cabbage looks." Another time we were telling about someone who had their priorities a bit mixed...Deirdre said they had "a fur coat but no knickers!" And yet another time, she got us back on track when we were headed into a bit of gossip by saying...."that's past remarkable" meaning we should stop our remarks!

There were other words and phrases but one that we all used the same is "I will miss you so much!" And we all can agree on that!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday in Ireland

Sleeping in was good. I was up just as early (7:45) but had longer to get ready. We didn't leave for church until after 10:30! It was a good service. We connected with several who had been to our presentations. Newcastle Presbyterian is between ministers just now so there was a visiting one. He was very good...a most effective children's message! They honored two elders who were retiring...the one who sat near me had been an elder for 37 years...apparently no "term limits" on that role. They serve tea, coffee and biscuits (cookies) in the narthex after services. We chatted with several folks.

There was a surprise for us next. Andrew had invited us back to the castle for lunch. They were booked full but one group left early so adding another ten for lunch was not a problem. Chris had joined us for church and now lunch. The interns were also in the van. Andrew and Lorna's son, John, is an intern at Kairos and all the interns in town hang out together.
We ate in the library.

Chris who helps Jen in the kitchen joined us.

Lunch of roasted potatoes, mash potatoes, roast beef, cabbage, parsnips and carrots.
Dessert was Apple Crumble with Custard

 Lunch was very nice! After lunch we said our farewells to the Forsons and headed to the bus. We went down to walk the Peace Maze. It had been constructed to have people work together to find a way out. The hedges were lower then and they could look over the hedges and help one another. When you get to the center, you ring the bell...except there is no longer a bell there. I have done the maze before so I went up to the bridge to take photos.

A glorious view of the area with the Mourne Mountains in the background

Tonda in the maze
Jen in the maze

We went home for a while after the maze and then to Fifth Sunday, a unified service in Newcastle for all the churches. It's held in the town center and tea, coffee, biscuits and traybakes are served. The speaker was the bishop of the Church of Ireland. Again several of those who had heard our presentations were there. The enthusiasm seems to be growing already! 
Friday and Saturday

We had a busy day of presentations planned for Friday and only a few hours for sight-seeing. Richie took us to Tolleymore Forest...a beautiful mystical magical forest with bridges over 300 years old. I had been there before but went along for the ride. I stayed in the bus in the parking lot and read and did some people watching while the others enjoyed the forest. It is thought that Tolleymore was the inspiration for the forest in Narnia.
Sign at Tolleymore

We were back at RIOT just a bit late as our guests had begun to arrive. We quickly joined them for a lovely lunch and then gave our presentation. We are so encouraged by the participation of our guests. We are sensing that this is, indeed, God's timing.

There was time for walks and conversations, then the women were arriving for tea (5:30, meal). Again we sensed that the reception was more than simply Irish hospitality. This group was still visiting with us e as the 8 pm guests began arriving. As they left a couple hours later, we were certainly tired from three presentations but also greatly encouraged and yes, energized!

Later Richie came in from RIOT to remind us it was Danielle's birthday. He and the other interns, Nick and Jenna, were going out for a bit and we were invited. I opted out as did Bebe but Ladeana, Emy, Jean and Tonda joined them. They were out very they experienced the "after hours" of Newcastle. Because of of alcohol and possibly weed, the scene was harsh. Richie gave rides to some and talked with several. There were some who have been in his youth groups. And there were some who are only 14 or 15. The bars serve these kids and the police turn their head. It's complicated but certainly sad. Alcohol and drugs lead to wrong choices and moral lapses. Tonda described it as depravity. If you wonder about how to pray...this is definitely one area that needs the touch of God.

The night was short but we were up and about by 8 am on Saturday! Richie arrived with an amended schedule and we were off to Belfast. We went first to St. George's Market. It was in a large hall of sorts. with entry at either end. We went in by the fish market.  I noticed a bag of purple stuff that looked like seaweed. I asked and he gave us all a sample. It was very salty!! He said it had more nutrition than seaweed. It might have been called dulse or something like that.

 There were dozens of booths selling food, crafts, jewelry, pottery, water color paintings, accessories, flowers and more. We did what five American women excell at...we shopped! I found a purple watch and a lovely purple scarf--two of my weaknesses. Others bought Christmas ornaments, cards and pictures. In the middle of the market, there were seats and some entertainment.
We left St. George's Market and headed for the new Titanic Exhibition! This is four floors with so much information about the Titanic.We took a wee ride that carried us past panels and short videos explaining the construction of the hull and showing the riveters at work. The scaffold for the Titanic was equivalent to 21 stories tall. The reconstructed one is only 7 stories tall. We saw letters, telegrams, dishes, period clothing and more from the Titanic or another of the Olympic lines ships. We missed the grand staircase...apparently it was closed off. It was a great tour and the only place in the world to see the shipyards where "she" was birthed. "She" added a lot to the economy of Belfast for the six years while it was under construction. It was launched and the interior "fitting" was done out in the sea. That was another year of adding boilers and smokestacks and the actual rooms. The Titanic left on this supposed six day cruise with linen for the whole trip as there were no laundry facilities on board. That included 18,000 dinner napkins. Imagine a change of sheets for the entire ship and all the other linens needed. They also had all the food on board...tons of potatoes and onions and meat and veggies and fruit!
In front of the museum

The museum itself has the look of a ship
From the museum we went downtown for a quick pop in at a Money Exchange and "hole-in-the-wall"(ATM), then shopping at Avoca (lovely woolens at a dear price!) and Cath Kittson's (purses, totes, p.j.'s, tea sets, and stationery items), lunch at a Mexican restaurant (similar to Chipotle's) and then to the Ulster Museum. This had art, natural history and the history of Ireland. This is a long and rich history! There are so many layers of history that a simple visit to the museum only whetted our appetite for more. We bought books and will study!!

Queen's University

Stained glass ...wisdom, education and others!
We made a quick trip through the gardens and greenhouses at Queen's University behind Ulster Museum.
Long pods are insect collectors...

Purple hot peppers!!

 Then it was to Castlewellan to collect Deirdre and then to Richie's home where Jen welcomed us to a yummy supper of fish chowder and wheaten bread with strawberry mousse for dessert. We enjoyed the gorgeous view from their sitting room of the Mourne Mountains and the Irish Sea. We had a little time to play with the babies. Then we left and were home early and had the promise of a sleep in on Sunday as services at Newcastle Presbyterian do not begin until 11 am.
Addy--7 months

Charley--19 months and Jen

Friday, September 27, 2013


After breakfast we set off for Downpatrick to see the Centre and St. Patrick's memorial grave. Downpatrick is about 25 miles from Dundrum. The Centre has a nice gift shop, a new (less than 2 years because I missed it in 2011) audio/video display, and a 5 screen video presentation. I think I might want to read Patrick's Confessions (Of Faith). After the centre we went to the cathedral. It is Anglican/Church of Ireland and located behind and above (hill).
Entrance to Holy Trinity Church in Downpatrick

Bell Tower at Holy Trinity
Cemetery at Downpatrick

Stone that marks St. Patrick's Memorial Gravesite

Charlotte (Charley) Shilliday

 After the morning in Downpatrick we were back at RIOT for lunch.  Charlie ate a good lunch and then settled in with a Veggie Tale video...have you ever seen such curls? Such a sweetheart!!
 . After lunch we went into Newcastle for a bit of shopping. It was "soft  weather" (drizzling rain) but not enough to deter any serious shopper! We made one the Police Station...for a photo op for Tonda! Then we were off to the castle! Castlewellan is only 3-4 miles from Newcastle. We arrived after four and there was time for a quick look around. Then we met Andrew for "the Tour". He . showed us around outside and then we went in; first to the "cellar".
Jean, Bebe, Andrew

This is the lower level, a great gathering spot (it has a 40 inch tv on one wall) with comfy sofas all around. Belinda, one of the castle employees, used the cellar as a backdrop for her daughter's wedding photos. I saw them last week. Stunning!!

Fireplace and mirror in library now used as a dining room
 We climbed up to the top of one of the turrets. Andrew challenged us to count the steps as we went round and round and round. At the top, he asked. We answered with "74" "78" "76". Now how can 6 educated women have 3 different answers for such a simple question? Well...apparently the closeness of the turret and other things distract one's attention. And...there were 76 steps.

We learned the difference between family and servants' stairs and saw the difference in size in family and servants' has oak stairs and banisters, servants have stone stairs and NO banisters. Family has a huge bedroom and a large dressing room. Servants have a tiny room.
One side of library/dining room. Massive doors open to ballroom
Andrew told us there was a secret passage out of the library . We looked and looked and finally our detective, Tonda, said, "these books are fake!" They were! So after saying the magic words....the door slowly opened! 

Watching the door open into yet another dining room...

Deirdre and David in the kitchen at Castlewellan. They prepared our meal and joined us for dinner and joined us for the presentation. We had a lovely dinner of Irish stew followed by our choice of either raspberry or caramel cheesecake. Jean and I took a slice of each! Yum!! After dinner, we gave our presentation. It was well received and our guests stayed to chat for quite a while. After they left, Deirdre brought out more dessert and made another pot of tea so the team, Deirdre, Richie and Jen, Alan Cousins, 
and the Forsons had the "party after the party." Jen left with the children and Rintchie took us back to RIOT. He came in and we "debriefed" for a while. He left at 1 am and then the six of us continued the conversation until after 2. Others went to sleep but there I was...doing FB until 3 am. Needless to say, I was the last one up on Friday morning!! 
Richie and Addy, Ladeana standing at left, Belinda, Lorna, Deirdre and Marlene at front of photo. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Quiet but Productive Day!


No pictures, no outings....just a busy day at RIOT. Have I told you that the youth ministry here is called RIOT...Revival In Our Town.? We did visit a bit on Tuesday evening with some of the kids at RIOT. They were meeting in the chalet next door. Tonight the boys met with Richie and Nick playing football (soccer) and then having their meeting. Over twenty girls came to the Manse/RIOT and met with the interns, Janna and Danielle, and Leigh Ann. They met first in the sitting room, then moved to the hall and dining room.

We were expecting guests for our second presentation so our team needed the sitting room. The guests arrived. We served tea and biscuits (cookies) and shared the vision with them. After that we met to evaluate our day, had devotions and chatted....for a long time! Bedtime is still a ways off as three of us are back in the sitting room to check email, do FB and yes, blog. The other three are upstairs...maybe asleep, maybe chatting.

So now you know how our day ended so let me backtrack and recount the earlier part. Some had planned to get up early and take a walk before our 9 am breakfast (you know I was not in that group) but I think they underestimated how very tired they would be from the travel and time adjustment. Most of us didn't wake until after 8:30! We barely made it down for breakfast.

After our meal and shared cleanup, calls were made to confirm that our lunch guests were coming. We then assembled in the sitting room to review our portions of the presentation and play with Charlie and Addy. The morning slipped away, everyone managed to take showers and we fed the babies while Jen prepared lunch for us, the interns and the seven guests who came to hear our first presentation. The guests did arrive and we had a good time together over lunch. We shared the vision for a Great Banquet in North Ireland. We were excited at how well it was received! They had several questions and many constructive comments.

With only 2 hours between the time our guests left and tea (evening meal at 6 pm) and with the clouds still low and heavy, the only viable option was a walk in Dundrum. Shepherd's Pie for tea and cleanup and then the youth began arriving for their evening. {Definition time: Breakfast and lunch in Ireland are the same as in the US. However...."tea" is served at 5 or 6 pm which is a meal. "supper" is eaten at 10 pm or so...just before bed.}

And that takes you to the beginning of this post...when the kids were playing soccer and meeting in the sitting room! Tomorrow afternoon we go to the castle!

Today was all about the mission. Our efforts have been bathed in prayer. We have seen so many confirmations as we shared. We see that this is all a part of God's plan and we will trust the timing to Him.