New Year’s Greetings

Facebook is a procrastination to my life as a writer but it has come into its own for me this Christmas.

I had made up photo albums for my son and daughter as Christmas presents (with real printed photos!) and Facebook was there to appease some of the disappointment at my son not receiving his in the post. (I swear I’ll never post anything to the Czech Republic again if it doesn’t turn up soon!)

I had planned using my official time off from work over the festive season to complete the final edit of my short story collection, ready to send off to my proofreader friend prior to publication.  But with these photos not arriving for my son, I spent precious writing time sorting through and uploading JPEG versions of some of the photos onto Facebook.

It turned out to be time well-spent because not only could my son view them but the whole of my virtual family and friends could too.  It has been lovely to catch up with what everyone is doing over Christmas and read the comments the photos have attracted, thereby bringing alive shared memories from the past.

Now that I have travelled the nostalgic path of the past and got it out of my system (for another year), I can look forward to a New Year’s Eve that will not see me wallowing in the wine of self-pity.  Instead, I will be celebrating with a final read through of my short story collection before sending it off to my proofreader friend prior to publication.

Wishing you all a blessed New Year.


Christmas Blessings

After my last blog bemoaning my agony at Christmas because of estranged family relationships, I feel honour-bound to counteract it in part.  I am taking the act of counting my blessings more seriously to turn the negative aspects of my Christmas expectations into positivity, by simply saying that through an act of kindness shown to me by a friend I have my mojo back.  Having someone rooting my corner at Christmas makes all the difference.  And the best thing is this friend isn’t just for Christmas.  Having a friend in my life who is there when I’m down and there when I’m not down is the one constant that I can depend on.

You’re probably thinking I’m talking about Jesus and, in one way, I am.  This type of friend is a great example of how a Christian should behave.  She imitates the love of Jesus through her compassion, empathy, her kind and caring ways, and her willingness to help with anything, no matter what, without judgement of me or others.  I think we can all learn something worthwhile from that kind of behaviour.

Nelson Mandela is one of the greatest examples of how to show the love of Jesus Christ to others.  In one of his many speeches he said:  “(we are) born to make manifest the glory of God within us because by doing so we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” (based on an idea from ‘A Return to Love: Reflection on the Principles of A Course in Miracles’ by Marianne Williamson 1992).

I’m enjoying reading a children’s book at the moment by Jostein Gaarder called The Christmas Mystery that manages to capture the history of Christianity in simple terms.  It’s about a magic Advent calendar that tells how the story of Jesus was spread throughout the world.

A young boy called Jochaim tells the story in the present day, through the writings contained behind each day’s window of the old calendar.  His story is about a young girl called Elisabet who travels back in time to Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus.  The picture in each window portrays a character who joins the pilgrimage through the writings that day.  Every day, after each window is opened and the story progresses, Jochaim discovers the whole picture has changed – as he learns more about the mysterious stranger who made the calendar and of a young girl who went missing on Christmas Eve 40 years ago.

It’s an interesting narrative technique and the story contains many thought-provoking analogies to the Bible’s relevance in today’s real-life terms.  I am discovering some amazing insights into my own faith that I never thought about before.   The book has taken me on a personal Advent journey of rediscovery…  through the eyes of my child-self.   An added bonus is that the Advent calendar’s images bring back a happy childhood memory for me that I’d almost forgotten about. Clever stuff eh? There is so much in it to discover.  (If you know me personally and want to borrow my copy after the last window’s been opened – 24th December – please let me know via a comment on this post.)

A taster example: the wording at the onset of Day 17’s window… “many things have been done in the name of Jesus that Heaven is not very happy about…” (sound familiar?).  And the final paragraph ends that day’s adventure with Joachim saying to his parents:  “A Good Samaritan should have come to help them. Jesus wanted to teach people to help one another when any of them needed it.  For peace is the message of Christmas.”

It was this message that reminded me of the friend I spoke about earlier and encouraged me to count my blessings rather than dwell on things in my life that I (and Heaven) am not very happy about.  I aim to be more like my friend to others by being an imitation of Jesus through my actions… and thoughts too – because it’s thoughts that can drag us down sometimes and Satan really knows which buttons to push to test our faith once we’re down there.

To say I’ve been inspired by things I’ve come into contact with since my last blog is an understatement when I compare where I am now with where I was then.  I’m really focussed on Jesus and prepared for Christmas.  I’ve even bought a Christmas tree!

Just one thing remains for me to say and that is:  May you all have the kind of Christmas you’re hoping for.

Come Lord Jesus, come. 

The world is waiting for a love like yours.


Are you ready for Christmas yet?

We’re barely into December and already I keep being asked if I’m ‘ready for Christmas?’  I simply smile and, instead of saying what’s really on my mind, respond in the usual way with ‘oh I expect I’ll get caught up in the atmosphere soon enough.’  It’s because I don’t want to put a dampener on anyone’s Christmas preparations that I don’t come right out with it and say Christmas can make people miserable.

There are a lot of lonely people in the world and it is more common than we think to feel like an outsider looking in at Christmas – sometimes within your own family.  It’s probably because the commercial aspect of Christmas highlights the family unit as paramount at this time of year.  As a friend of mine once said, ‘For some, Christmas is a painful time of looking round the family table and being aware of absences, of looking back and remembering happier times.’ (Rev. Geoff Bowell, Scarborough Christian Fellowship).  These absences are not always due to death of loved ones either. They can be attributed to other loss, such as unemployment, homelessness, family estrangement – sometimes of many years duration.  The latter of these is true for me.

I make no apology for baring my soul here because, at the same time, I am hopeful for a solution.  My words are the silent prayers of my heart.  A personal prayer that maybe this year my brother will respond to the Christmas card I send him – thus bringing an end to years of bitter separation.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the build up to Christmas. The buzz of shoppers, carols in the town centre, reindeer parading around Alma Square, buskers rocking round the Christmas trees spreading merriment.  I love the church activities, being part of a church family, meditating the Advent labyrinth, and waiting… for the comfort and joy that celebrating Christ’s birth means.  I hope that one Christmas Day I’ll awake to choirs of angels, surrounded in bright light, singing a chorus in celebration of the second coming of Christ.

Yet I’m also waiting in hope for my prayer to be answered…

I accept God’s love through the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, and believe that healing through forgiveness of wrongs (past and present) is a real possibility… for all. I rely on this truth to ensure that Christmas for me is a time to appreciate what I have and not dwell too much on what I don’t have.  I remain grateful for unexpected moments of joy and small acts of kindness that I encounter, which encourages a choir of angels to sing in my heart every day of the year.

I’d like to invite you to pause between your preparations during the Christmas season – when we are often so busy that, when we do find time to talk to God, as soon as we say ‘Amen’ we rush off to the next thing and don’t give God the chance to respond.  Yet, in the smallest gap, God is waiting.  He longs for us to hear His voice in that space.

At the end of this prayer there is no ‘Amen’.  Simply sit in silence and talk to God from your heart… and listen for his voice in the stillness.

Waiting for God

Dear God,

help me to find a silent space.

I say ‘amen’.  Then I think again,
and instead of rushing away
to fill my day with this and that,
I stop. I sit. I wait. I stay
to listen to what you have to say
in-between the tick and tock
of my life’s busy, noisy clock,
and your voice fills the silent space.

Dear God,

help me to be still in the silent space.

I don’t say ‘amen’. I start again
because I don’t want to rush away
to fill my day with this and that.
I want to stop. To sit. To wait. To stay
and listen to what you have to say
in-between the tick and tock
of my life’s busy, noisy clock,
as your voice fills my silent space.

Dear God, help me to listen in the silent space.

Dear God, help me to hear you in sacred silent spaces.


(PS.  I have to ask… are you ready for Christmas yet?)


All text © Julie M. Fairweather 2012 – unless otherwise stated