by Tracy Truesdale
The Thuja Plicata is a tree that caught my eye because it is not only unusual in shape, but it demonstrates yet another thing that God created. This tree is known to survive best in mild wet climates with heavy wet soil. So If you are anything like me, you may wonder what was on God's mind when He spoke the above tree into existence all the way down to its very roots? A question I intended to find an answer too.
The Rock of Cashel, Kylemore Abbey, the Tralee Rose Garden, Clogher Beach, The Bantry House, the Fishers of Men, the Ring of Kerry, Grafton Street, Aughnanure Castle, Cong Abbey, Gallarus Oratory, Poulnabrone Dolmen, the Kenmare Stone Circle, the Blarney Castle, the Kings of Munster, Ventry Beach, Mount Brandon, etc., are just a few of the places I visited during my trip to Ireland a few weeks ago. When I first saw the Thuja Plicata tree at the Blarney Castle, I can't even describe to you what it felt like to see this tree in person. The above picture only captured a small essence of the tree, but its presence was jaw dropping. I mean really how does a seed turn into all of this?
Irish Street Performers
Ireland is not known to be an extremely large country, but it's beauty and green landscapes are breathtaking to say the least. Every town, scenic route, or county I visited was unique in its beauty. From Lisddonvarna, Tipperary, Curragh Racecoures, Killarney, the Dingle Peninsula, Clare, Wexford, Dublin, Galway, Kerry, Dingle, Cork, Aran Islands, Connemara, the River Shannon, Glengarriff, Limerick, Castletownbere, etc., to the highest mountains in Ireland one could find beauty any moment of the day. I even found such beauty in a very poisonous plant, and you will never guess what it's called? The lily of the valley. Yep, you heard me right the lily of the valley which is spoken of throughout the Bible. I saw the lily of the valley plants at the Blarney Castle Poison Garden which houses some of the most toxic plants from all over the world. As beautiful as the lily of the valley is, it is quite poisonous if certain parts are eaten. On one hand, there is beauty in the deep roaring green land found in Ireland, and there is also beauty in poisonous plants growing from that same land. So is beauty truly in the eye of the beholder?
During my time in Ireland, I quickly realized that the Irish people were so warm and welcoming. I met so, so, so, so, so many people. In getting to know a little more about their culture, it was evident that the Irish people loved to tell others about their country, their history, and the richness of the Irish music. I learned a lot from the Irish people. One thing that I learned is that the Irish people really like story telling, and I was intrigued by their many stories. In particular, I was told about the stories of how the sleeping giant located in the Atlantic Ocean and the three sisters mountains came to be. I will tell you that both of these sites I saw personally. It was also very clear that the Irish people cherish their land. See owning land in Ireland says a lot about your heritage and finding available land is no small task. Once land is owned, it stays in a family and is passed down from generation to generation. An example of this is when I got a chance to visit a shepherding farm. I was able to talk one on one to a very passionate farmer who was young yet serious about his land and responsibilities. I witnessed how he taught his dog to herd the sheep by listening to the sound of his voice. I must point out to you that the dog took no other commands from any other voice no matter what you said to the dog. Let me tell you this was so amazing to watch in person. Learning from the farmer how he selected the dog, the training required, and the length of training the dog must complete requires much patience.
The food in Ireland was tasty and hearty. I ate a traditional Irish breakfast every morning during my stay. The Irish people are very serious about their traditional Irish breakfast without wavering. One thing I didn't eat was the Irish version of black pudding. If you don't know how the Irish prepare their black pudding, then I am asking you not to Google it. If you are ever in Ireland give it a try, because I just didn't have the heart to eat the black pudding. What I did have the heart to try and loved was the Irish fish n chips. Now most people have eaten fish n chips, but until you eat fish n chips in Ireland you haven't eaten the real deal. The fish was so fresh as it was locally sourced as almost all food in Ireland. Which brings me to the reason I couldn't eat beef while I was in Ireland. See cows are everywhere, and seeing the cows and sheep grazing on the green land each and every day got to me because it felt like I would have been eating a friend. Now remember what I said don't Google Irish black pudding.
Aside from staying in the exquisite Grand Canal Hotel in Dublin, the rest of my stay occurred in some nostalgic houses and even a castle. I had the privilege of lodging at the Emlagh House, the Glengariff Park Hotel, the Wild Atlantic Lodge, the SeaView House, etc., to name a few. All of these places were simply AMAZING. I also enjoyed a spectacular award-winning fine dining cuisine at the SeaVew restaurant. Their food opened my eyes to another level of eatery. I can't say enough about my lodging at the Abbeyglen Castle. Staying in a real life castle built in 1832 made me a little nervous and excited all mixed into one. However, my nervousness was immediately calmed upon arrival as I was treated like a real life queen. The castle was meticulously kept, and the castle staff prided themselves on excellent customer service, and let me tell you it was EXCELLENT. I really enjoyed an evening event which was designed just the way royal families lived that included a castle reception. During this reception, all guests came together in a fireplace room to enjoy a full historical monologue by one of the individuals who inherited the castle. I made a lot of cherished memories and met some great people at the Abbeyglen Castle.
Now what about this green in Christmas? Well, I'm glad you asked. The color green is often described in the Bible as symbolizing life. This my friend is what Christ gives us---life. Every single day while I was in Ireland, I was surrounded by the most deep rich colors of green. I could see how the land sustained the life of those Irish people whose livelihood was dependent upon their land. So just like I discovered so much more during my trip to Ireland, I want you to trust that God already knows what you need this Christmas season even if your life is a bit unusual like the Thuja Plicata tree. It's not about what you don't have, but what Christ has already given you which is life more abundantly (John 10:10).
Of course, doing God's work was definitely not absent as I volunteered some of my time to one of the local ministries during my visit. How could I go to Ireland and miss an opportunity to serve alongside my brothers and sisters in Christ in this country. What I do want to share with you regarding this experience was after completing our work, the pastor asked me if there was one passage in the Bible that I would like to hear in their native Irish Gaelic language what passage would that be? Without hesitation, I blurted out John 1. As God's word was being read in Gaelic, I eventually began to cry. Unexpectedly and out of no where, I couldn't control the tears. You know the kind of cry that just sneaks up on you and as much as you try to control the tears, it becomes impossible. Well guess what that was me, and I was bawling like a six month old baby. Don't ask me why I was bawling, because I don't have an answer BUT you know what, I felt so much better after that. God knew I needed that cry even though I didn't know I did. So why am I telling you this? Because although I didn't speak Gaelic, the Bible transcends any language. I mean I didn't know when versus 1, 5, 12, etc., was being read, but what I did know was that there is power in the name of Jesus regardless of the language.
No trip to Ireland is complete unless you visit the Cliffs of Moher by the Atlantic Ocean. The below picture is of me at the Cliffs. Trust me this is not my finest moment LOL. You know we women like to make sure everything is in place before we take a picture. However, the wind speed at the Cliffs this particular day was so intense as you will hear if you turn the volume up in the below video. I had to put a hat on, because the wind made my hair stand up on my head as though I was being electrocuted. Matter of fact, you could not even hear other people talking normal without screaming to be heard. The only word I can use to describe the Cliffs is MAJESTIC.
As I conclude, I hope you enjoyed this article and that you would consider visiting this beautiful country if you haven't already. Maybe this could be a bucket list item for you? I also want to wish you well, and I pray that you are living the abundant life. Lastly, after all the crying that I did, I felt it was my duty to learn a few words in their native language so that I could say this to you in Gaelic, "Is féidir dia duit."