Finding my way

I woke this morning with ideas for mapping my life story in readiness for a writing project I’m undertaking in January and, as if reading my thoughts, Facebook had produced a video highlighting events from 2016. This cheered me immensely as it proved that I did indeed have some wonderful memories to celebrate in my writing… in-between the days that I had been dogged with depression (as yesterday’s personal journalling informed me).

I pinned a copy of an old map of Manchester on my office wall as a starting point to the planning of the project, ringing the places that mean something to me. (The map is one of many that will inspire The Studio’s Art Exhibition early next year – my own contribution will be a simple book of appropriate Manchester map poems on hand-made paper.)

That decided, I embarked on a personal journey through the Advent Labyrinth at Holy Trinity Church in Eastfield. There’s no doubt that my current mood has an affect on how I embrace this annual journey and life experiences I hold on to do tend to come to the fore during part it.

The first station was a star – a symbol of God’s light. I was invited to light a lantern and carry it with me as a guide to show me the way. I thought about the darkness of the depression I’d written about in my journal the previous day. It’s comforting to know that God can lighten whatever feels dark for me… when I remember to ask for His help that is.

At the station of burdens, I picked up the large, heavy stone and imagined an image etched into it of God reaching out to me saying, ‘take my hand’. I poured out my pain in connection with my brother’s alienation of me and realised (yet again) that I can’t change him or the situation so I gave the stone to God to carry for me. I picked up the holding cross and the contrast in weight was such a relief that I had to admit to knowing that all I needed to do was hold on to the cross instead of the stone. I asked God to break down my brother’s barriers to forgiveness and left the station with the weight of that lifted from me.

At the gift box station, I gave thanks for the gift of writing and how I had been drawn to use it as a voice for prisoners of conscience on behalf of Amnesty International. I am grateful that this opportunity enhances my gifts of understanding and compassion for others and, through this, I am being led towards becoming involved with welcoming refugees to the town where I live. I want to be part of a people who belong to one another.

At the final station I visited, I reflected of my journey and confirmed my trust in God that He can help me make sense of and heal my memories so that I can move towards reconciliation of self to enable me to help others more effectively. Therefore, in God’s hands I place all these things today.

It’s hard to let go and let God and I was tempted to revisit the burdens station and pick up the stone but I resisted because I prefer the weight of the cross.

On my return home, I received a beautiful Christmas card from a friend which reads: ‘Christmas is more than just a season. It’s a feeling of hope in our lives. It’s the promise of peace in the world. It’s the blessing of God’s love in our hearts.’(author unknown)

I’d like to add that Christmas is about Christ… and realising that truth can set us free.

Rain Dance

 The Inspiration behind Rain Dance

(a short story of fiction influenced by life memory)

Given the subject of ‘the weather’ as a theme for the Scarborough Writers’ Circle’s latest competition, I wanted to write about the rain because it hadn’t stopped for days. I began by writing a statement to that effect, and produced a rough draft straight off. This took into account my personal feelings of how the rain affected my thoughts in relation to a current life event – over which, like the weather, I also have no control.

This initial draft constituted three-quarters the allotted word count of 1,000 words. On re-reading, the middle section didn’t quite gel. It veered off slightly from the main theme, which could have become a sub-plot if I was writing a novel. For such a short story there is no room for meandering within the time frame. Thus, I turned over possibilities of connections to the beginning that tied in with how I, more-or-less, wanted it to end, though I remained open to changes – as is my usual writing process.

I had taken part in two May Day dances during the week of this rainy weather, thus a strong memory of my sister being crowned Rose Queen of May from our childhood was prominent in my thoughts. I wanted to explore this a bit more in connection with my story, as my sister is very much at the forefront of my mind since her diagnosis, so I went along these lines and used an edited first section of my story’s draft as a lead in.

Many words and phrases presented in relation to that May Day as I was writing. I jotted these down to capture the image and emotion of it on the page in a higgledy-piggeldy way. Next was the task of connecting the memory to the present day beginning of the story. I remembered the smell of the paper roses we made for the head garland and used this as the glue to bring it together in the middle section. I felt I was on the right track when my husband, knowing nothing about what I was writing, walked into the room singing Paper Roses (remember the song by Marie Osmond?).

After much exploration of the theme and going to and fro’ with various connections from the May Day memory to my current emotional state, I played around with words until I had enough material to write a final draft. This then lived in my head for a week and, whenever an additional piece of information occurred, I incorporated it into the draft. I read it through again after a two-day break from writing, making adjustments where necessary. I continued in this pattern until I reached the point where I was able to finally say ‘this is a story’. I didn’t feel the need to alter anything in the main thrust of it but waited another day for any stray ‘gems’ that could enhance it in any way.

The link between my memories, my creativity and my faith is a never-ending cycle of circles and, during the waiting period for any stray ‘gems’ to emerge, I attended a church testimonial service where the title of the talk was offered as ‘Praying in Circles’. As the talk progressed, I recognised this as being a God-incident with it being delivered on the very eve of the completion of my story which, incidentally, is about dancing in circles. Influenced by the talk, I did make one phrase change in the story that illustrated circle dancing as an analogy to circle praying­­­. It felt like a missing piece of the jigsaw.

If you ask me the question ‘what’s the story about?’, the answer will be ‘dancing in circles’, but if you ask me the question ‘what’s the story really about?’, in the context of what’s going on for me I would have to answer ‘it’s about coming to terms with my sister’s diagnosis.’

The experience of analysing my story in line with the talk has given me a great insight into the way I’m dealing with my sister’s illness. It has shown me a way forward in that I can use a prayer circle instead of merely accepting the inevitable. Prayers have already been answered that my sister remains positive, and the tumours have shrunk considerably to afford her more time. Yet, until the delivery of this talk, I no longer knew what to pray for in respect of the situation. The outcome of the talk’s influence is that I am going to be bold in my prayers and circle pray without ceasing for the miracle I want.

Written 22 May

(Competition closing date 24 May – Results announced 21 June)


Posted on the Scarborough Writers’ Circle Facebook Page:

Yesterday evening we had the Nikki Barker competition results. For the first time (well since I’ve been a member, at least) the entries were judged by people outside the Circle. Thank you to the Scalby Reading Group.The winner was Julie Fairweather with her story ‘Rain Dance’. It was a very moving story – and a bit of a first for Julie – it had a happy ending! Sort of.

Post penned by Chair of the Writers’ Circle, Dorinda Cass, on 22.6.16

I would say Rain Dance has a hopeful ending…  Julie F


Doorstep Daffodils

Yesterday, I walked along the roadside taking in my turmoil of thoughts – the result of a traumatic few weeks’ events… and I prayed with each step to regain my peace of mind. I prayed for the return of that sacred space in my heart that brings me close to a spiritual presence. I didn’t notice it happening. I didn’t notice anything on my journey as I was intent in my prayer. I came to a bench where I decided to sit and wait for my bus into the busy town.

As I gazed at the green fields on each side of the road, a watered down sun appeared and its rays began to filter through – startling the green meadow into life. Horses trotted playfully across the wide open space facing me. The birds’ intense conversations filled the air and, in the distance, their songs welcomed in the morning.

My ears were deaf – dulled with age perhaps – to the occasional whoosh of a passing car, only noticed because, in their passing, my eyes were alerted to the daffodil-lined verges. I hadn’t noticed them before. How could I have missed such a display of yellow happiness dancing in the day as I’d walked that route moments before?

If I hadn’t stopped to sit and stare I would have missed all these things.

I gathered in the peace that I’d prayed for and, as the bus pulled in to the stop, I took the peace with me for the remainder of the day.

At the end of a perfect day, I arrived home to find an anonymous gift of daffodils on my doorstep.

With love and gratitude,


Doorstep Daffodils

Sacred Space at Lent

 Welcome to Sacred Space Prayer Station (Lent 2016)

Burniston Methodist Church, Scarborough, North Yorkshire

SS lent Week 1.201614th February – Purse of Betrayal
21st February – Bowl and Towel
28th February – Bread and Wine
6th March – The Whip
13th March – Crown and Robe
20th March – Palm Branches
24th March – Maundy Thursday
25th March – Good Friday
27th March – Easter Day

On Easter Day there will be a vase of water available in which you are invited to place a flower in celebration of our risen Lord.


Read about Jesus’ Betrayal, Arrest, Crucifixion, and Resurrection here (John 18:1 to John 20:31)


New Year’s Eve

The end of the year feels more like the end of my life as I know it. I am unable to engage with my in-depth writing on social media for the foreseeable future and will be using my private journal. I am too wounded to share.

I leave you with this thought:

It is better to come to the Lord in prayer with a heart full of love and no words than many words and an empty heart. 

Jesus bauble




1st Sunday of Advent

‘Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for him.’ (Psalm 37:7)

We think of Advent as a time to take stock of our faith journey – to see how far we’ve come and how far we’ve yet to grow. This year why not let go to let God decide what we’re waiting for – instead of having something of our own to contemplate. Therefore, instead of rushing around trying to be still long enough to think what it is we’re waiting for, let’s wait inside a silent prayer each day to listen to what God wants. In taking one day at a time through Advent in this way – like an Advent calendar not to be opened prematurely – we will not miss a single moment of the present day – a day that the Lord has made and given to us as a gift to enjoy with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness.

Dear God, help us to find a silent space.

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

Dear God, help us to be still in the silent space.

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

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

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

It’s time to claim back my butterflies

Since retiring in March, I’ve thrown myself headlong into various activities. I had many of these interests during my working life but, like so many new retirees, I thought I would have more spare time so added new interests to those. Hence, I have taken on so much that I am no longer enjoying my freedom from the routine of a working life. I realised this when I reached my birthday recently, a number that does look quite attractive, and took stock of myself. I looked at what I’d committed myself to and compared it to what I was actually enjoying. And it was a chance encounter with a friend that helped me reach a decision about taking drastic action to cut down on activities.

My friend’s name is Julie too – and she asked, ‘Julie, where have all your colourful butterflies gone?’ She went on to explain this as being the aura I usually carry around with me that she was so used to seeing and it is what makes me… well, me.

I thought about this some more when I got home and looked in the mirror. I looked tired and dull and there was definitely no sparkle. I’d confided in my friend about a stressful period I’d been going through in recent weeks and how I’d felt quite unwell, both physically and mentally, at times. She advised me to stop pleasing others and please myself more, to encourage my butterflies back. Looking in that mirror again, I think I saw what she saw: I was surrounded by dark moths that had taken my light and they were flying around me like prophesies of doom.

Over the next few days, as people made demands on my time, it finally came to a head with me reacting badly to a situation. I demonstrated traits of my character that I do not like. I knew I had to do something immediately. Once I’d made that decision, it was easier to sort out what I would keep and what I would let go, and I felt in control again.

At the moment I am honouring two commitments that end in mid-December, have dropped two things I am no longer enjoying, and I have two commitments to honour in early 2016. I feel refreshed knowing that after this I will have a clean canvas to work with. I have already started saying ‘no’ to things I’ve been asked to do that I really don’t want to do. And I owe it to myself and my butterflies to continue with that promise to myself.

At the Scarborough Writers’ Circle this week, one of the members led a session in celebration of Thanksgiving Day. The remit was to bring a piece of writing to read on the night illustrating the subject of ‘giving thanks’ by way of our own interpretation of that.

This was my offering:

I’m thankful that I am able to express my creativity through writing, painting, music and dance; I am grateful that I am blessed with the means to do this because of my sense of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch… thus enabling me to use the therapeutic qualities of my creativity as a celebration of my life.

I give thanks that my response to this creativity highlights what is important to me, and it is through the gift of my creative self that I recognise my belief in a God who gave His only son as an atoning sacrifice to pay for my sins… so that I may be forgiven and receive salvation for my soul.

I give thanks for the people I encounter on my life journey who help me grow into the kind of person fit to serve a loving God… and I also give thanks for those I encounter who bring out distasteful traits in me by their challenging behaviour, because this helps me strive to change my own reactions to that behaviour.

Mostly I give thanks that in His mercy God does not look on what I am now nor on what I have been but on what I desire to be.

I am grateful that in this world of manmade rules and regulations there are none that govern how I should pray; there is no right or wrong way. I simply talk to God, sometimes baring my soul and falling before Him like an open wound. And He picks up the pieces and fixes me within the boundaries of my broken life.

And in the midst of all this, there is love.

I give thanks for the love I’ve known; the contented feeling of loving arms; the warmth of a human heart from a random act of kindness; a loving touch of support from a friend; a visit or phone call from a prodigal – returning home – and I’m grateful for a bond so strong that time apart has allowed for a reconciliation and a rebirth of that relationship.

I give thanks for the love of my partner; my children; my family; my friends; the people in the places where I work, rest and play – yes, even those who are ‘not like me’. I give thanks for our individuality – our diversity – and that I am surrounded in love, completed in love and enabled to share my love with others.

So then at the end of each day… when I’m stripped of myself – of my expectations – of others’ expectations – of what I am or should be, and love, even love for myself, flows down like grace into my empty vessel, I can become full of what God intended me to be – for His purpose, His plan – not mine, or yours.

And I pray that God’s glory will shine from me, reflecting the love I have received, so that others who touch the edge of that radiance will know that they are in the presence of God – because God is the essence of me.

At the end of my reading I sat down and I knew that I’d just described what my butterflies look like.

And I want them back!


Circle of Love as a Celebration of May Day (With God at the Centre)

A brief glimpse of the May Day celebration held at Cross Hill Methodist Church, Hunmanby on Saturday 16th May 2015 from 11.00 a.m. until 3.00pm.

Central Focal Point Candle for May Day Celebration.16.5 (1)A lighted candle was the centrepiece of a circle of chairs on which those attending were seated. The candle flame was there to remind us of the light of Christ and how the darkness can never put it out.

Our day was spent weaving in, out and around this circle of love – symbolic of a maypole dance – through quiet reflection… activities… prayer… and interaction with one another. As we weaved around God at the centre it reminded us that God is the centre of us. And through weaving in, out and around the circle throughout the day, during various activities, we were able to contemplate on the greatness of God’s love for us and recognise our own love for God.


Central Focal Point Candle for May Day Celebration.16.5 (2)We celebrated the dance of creation with a dance around our maypole (above). Those who chose to remain seated danced in the spirit by mirroring/improvising the actions of those dancing in the circle, thus enabling full inclusion, as the light of Christ radiated from the core of it.

This meditative dance afforded time and space to focus on the day’s silent prayers of our hearts and our offering of them to God from within our shared creativity.

A good day of fun and fellowship with love at its heart.


(top photo: candle is shown as unlit for its return to my home)

Sacred Space of the Heart

Poustinia is a place where you can physically go and shut the door on the world to be alone with God – it’s a desert place where you can meet with God in silence, solitude and prayer to listen to what he is saying to you.

The following is an adaptation of Poustinia for Sacred Space Prayer Station, Burniston Church (Scarborough) during Easter. I pray that people who visit the prayer station over the Easter period will find their Poustinia waiting.


Sacred Space of the Heart (Poustinia)

Seek the open heart and listening soul of a silent contemplation by locating a sacred space within your heart. This is a desert place where you can meet Christ in silence, solitude and prayer. This type of stillness can fulfil a yearning for those who desire communion with God.

Leave the noise and harried pace of daily life to enter your place of silence and solitude – and shut the door on the world around you. Contemplate the Easter story in visual form at the Sacred Space Prayer Station. Maybe this will be the place where you encounter Poustinia, your personal desert where you can return whenever you need silence, solitude and prayer.

Once you find Poustinia within your heart you will have it with you always and everywhere – God within you (Immanuel). You can return to that sacred space anytime in your imagination: in the marketplace, in the midst of countless conferences, traffic jams, bus trips, or a hospital ward – and find consolation within your vision of a personal desert that can bloom in simple, profound prayer.


text adapted from where you can read about Poustinia in its entirety.


Cruel Thorns

Lent 5 was on 22.3.15: Sacred Space Prayer Station Symbolism at Burniston Church:

A Circle of Thorns and A Purple Robe

I thought retirement during the Lenten period would be a fitting end to my working life as Administrator for the Methodist Churches in the North Yorkshire Coast. This particular role in my employment history began in Lent 2007 (the same time as my journey to becoming a Christian began). On reflection, I don’t think it was the best time of year for me to retire. I’ve found it difficult to hold space for these important things in my life at the same time and have been caught up in a whirlwind of chaotic anxiety – trying to balance them for the past 5 weeks – as well as keep on top of my creative writing projects. Impossible!

I processed and justified the emotions I’d been through since my notice of intent to retire in 7 points – which felt a bit like stages of grief. Without elaboration, these were:

1. Admitting I was old enough.
2. Denying it was happening.
3. Challenging self and others.
4. Accepting.
5. Acknowledging value of self.
6. Disassociating.
7. Letting go.

I hadn’t been prepared for my unexpected mood swings and behaviour in response to a backlash of comments from other people. This is ongoing as people seem to think they have to tell me what I want from my retirement – as though I have suddenly become incapable of making a decision and am unable to discern what’s important to me in my own life! I know they are trying to help but it is winding me up further – so please stop if you are reading this and are one of those said people.

Therefore, it was appropriate today that I could spend a day of reflection with the resident staff at Madonna House, Robin Hood’s Bay, to try and catch up with myself or, to be more exact, for my soul to rest in stillness and hold the space so I could simply ‘be’.

For the last 5 weeks I have been so busy planning my retirement (or trying to without being influenced by what others think my retirement should consist of!) that I have failed to spend quality time listening to God. So, I prayed and meditated on what stood out for me in The Little Mandate – a creed lived out by the Madonna House Movement and instigated by its founder, Catherine Doherty.

I began with the line: ‘Pray – I will give you rest.’ I needed that. I prayed for God to bring me rest and peace so that I could find some space to hold and allow my soul to catch up with me. Then, when I was ready, I moved on to pray and meditate on the first words: ‘Arise! Go.’ When I was ready, I walked down the stairs of the building and was drawn to a shelf that housed cards, reflections, inspirational books, pebbles and icons. I picked up ‘Peace Will Abound’ an inspirational booklet published by Salesian Missions. When I opened a random page, a poem by Steven Michael Schumacher, entitled ‘Love shall lead you home’, found me.

It read:

Love shall lead you home,
When you’ve lost your way;
Love kneels down beside you,
When you need to pray.
If it’s very dark,
Love will hold your hand.
There’s no need to speak,
For love understands
When it’s just all wrong,
Love will make it right,
Love is God himself,
The fullness of life.

Enough said…


poem © 65837 Salesian Missions

Next: Lent 6 (29.3.15): Palm Sunday Sacred Space Prayer Station Symbolism at Burniston Church:Palm Branches. Blog re Postenia Prayer.