A few weeks ago, Paul Gibbs from NoteSpire radio interviewed me about faith and being creative. We discussed using life experiences in our songwriting in order to help others, the post creatives blues, creating the Thaw painting and the role of music teaching. We also talked about my song I Won’t Rush You which you can find here.

NoteSpire radio is based in the USA in York, Pennsylvania, so we had challenge with the time difference, and the interview was recorded at midnight here in England. However I was wide awake!

The interview is being broadcast live on the radio station from Wednesday 7 June, however it is also available as a podcast to listen to now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and all main podcast sites. Grab and a cup of tea and enjoy!

Listen here

Painting: Thaw by Helen Sanderson-White (Copyright 2023 Helen Sanderson-White. Do not reproduce without permission). 

A few months ago, I was asked to create some artwork for an exhibition that my church is hosting in Holy Week entitled The Journey. Over the last ten years I have been on a journey. It has taken me through many low valleys, difficult circumstances and tested my character to the hilt. I survived domestic abuse, divorce, the loss of a career, the death of many friends and the list goes on… What kept me going was the fact that at some point this season would come to an end. The Lord made me a promise in the autumn of 2013, that if I walked with him through this difficult time, the new season of singing for joy would eventually come. That new season has taken a decade to materialise.  

Just before Christmas I was sat at the piano working on some new song ideas, when I sensed that the Lord was saying the word “thaw” and he gave me the verses from Song of Songs 2:11-12: 

See! The winter is past; 
    the rains are over and gone. 
Flowers appear on the earth; 
    the season of singing has come… 

I immediately I had an image of a garden thawing out after a freezing season covered in snow. Everything changed from frozen to flourishing, and there was a vibrancy to the new colours that were shining through in the spring sunshine. A new season has begun after a long, dark winter; life is sweeter in the newly revealed season. I wasn’t sure about the image so asked the Lord for confirmation that I really was leaving the long, dark season and that change is coming. Twelve hours later I got it! I was in a prayer meeting later the same day when someone had a picture for me of a winter snow scene that suddenly turns to spring and a beautiful garden is revealed! 

So why has it taken so long for the season to change? Firstly, the Lord is always working on our character; we need to be God-built so that we can carry the new things he has for us. If he promoted us before our character is strong enough, it would crush us. Secondly, sometimes the Lord has to position us for the new to begin. This may mean stepping out and doing something scary or leaving things behind that are no longer fruitful. All of this takes time and obedience before we are in the right place at the right time. 

In the painting, I wanted to reflect the ice from the last season melting away to reveal the new season’s beautiful garden with new, fresh flowers and fruit to enjoy. Although we can’t see what the future holds, we know that God’s hope does not disappoint and that he is always moving in our lives. Difficult seasons come to an end, and bright futures begin.  

The best is yet to come.  

The exhibition is free to view at Gold Hill Baptist Church, Chalfont St Peter, Bucks from Monday 3rd and Tuesday 4th April from 9am-8pm and Wednesday 5th April 2.30-8pm.

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Tonight (25.9.22) Rosh Hashanah begins: the Jewish new year 5783, a fresh start and reset in the spiritual calendar. This morning while I was driving to church, I saw a massive cross that the clouds had made in the centre of the sky. At first I dismissed it and thought that it was just a lovely cloud formation but seven miles down the road the cross was still in front of my car as though it was fixed in the sky. At that moment the Lord said to me 

 “the cross was the ultimate breakthrough”.  

I knew that this was a sign for us in this new spiritual year, that the Lord is creating breakthrough in our lives personally and corporately. Just as the cross made a way for us to have a relationship with Christ, the Lord is making a way for us to move into a new season in communion with him. Obstacles that have blocked our way are being overturned, restoration of lost seasons and relationships will begin and there will be a resurrection of dead hopes and dreams.  

In accordance with Ecclesiastes 3:1, the times and seasons are changing. Last Friday was the autumn equinox and we entered a new season in both the physical and spiritual worlds. Here in the UK, we have experienced a physical shift from the reign of Elizabeth II to Charles III; this was not only a seasonal change but a shift into a whole new era. I and others have sensed that we are about to experience many changes in society and across the world; some of this new era will not be easy and there will further unrest to come, but I believe that the Lord was reminding me that the cross offers us protection for a new season and ventures. Whatever happens around us in the world, if we look to the Lord for guidance and strength, we will experience the Lord’s protection. By living in faith that he is with us, we reject the fear that the world is living in. Whenever we feel afraid, we should focus on the breakthrough of the cross.  

A few months ago, I heard the Lord say “anointing for change”. This new season requires a new anointing to carry us through to our Promised Land. When we commission people for God’s work, we traditionally anoint them with the sign of the cross on their foreheads. Isaiah 10:27 tells us that 

“and the yoke will be destroyed because of the anointing oil…” 

I believe that the Lord is anointing us for breakthrough to destroy the chains of the last season that have been binding us; this includes everything from relational, emotional, physical and spiritual chains. The anointing that Jesus carried enabled him to give us the ultimate breakthrough through the cross. I sense that he wants us to ask him for the anointing that changes circumstances for the better. Our lives are to be a living testimony of God’s goodness; as the anointing breaks out in our lives, it will attract the attention of those who do not know Christ and lead them to him. I believe also that the cross I saw today, is a sign that revival is coming across our land. This is not a time to shrink back and hide but to allow the Lord to unveil us to those who need God’s love. The anointing and breakthrough of the cross will bring many Kairos moments that will change our lives and those around us and bring us into alignment with the Lord. 

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“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…” Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV) 

Life is full of different seasons: short and long, good and bad, boring and exciting. Sometimes we have control of the timing of these seasons, and sometimes they come and go as they please. The death of one season may mean that a lot of change occurs, but it can also mean that we’re entering a time of growth and self development. Whether the season ends well and badly, we need to enter the new era in the right frame of mind. Here’s a few thoughts on how to end the season well: 

1. Complete unfinished business. It is important that we have no regrets when entering a transition period between seasons. Two years ago, I couldn’t stop thinking about completing my Licentiate in Instrumental and Vocal teaching.  I felt aggrieved as this qualification had previously been blocked by various issues, I’d been hurt by the situation, and I couldn’t progress without it. The thought of not completing this qualification was keeping me up at night, and I knew that God was saying that it was time to put things right. I needed to end a difficult time well by doing something for myself that put me in control and brought something good out of something bad.  

2. Let go of dead things. Not everything (or everyone) can go into your new season with you. You might need to let go of your house, your job, or even some of your friends. As we enter new territory, we change and develop to fit where we are going; this means that certain things cannot come with us because they won’t fit or work in the new place. This can be hard to accept, especially when those around us don’t share the same vision and we know that our relationships are dying because we are changing. It would be unfair to take those people with us as they would hinder us, and we would hinder them from reaching their full potential too. It can be daunting to step out on our own or with a smaller circle of friends, but God is always with us as we pioneer into the new. At the beginning of Joshua 1, Moses was dead; as Joshua became leader of the Israelites, he had to let go of his leader, mentor and friend at the border of the promised land so that he could lead the Israelites into their destiny.  

3. Accept that it might not end the way you want it to. Sometimes things end well, we feel we can leave fulfilled and with projects intact or friendships that will continue. However, there are times when a season will end with grief and disappointment. I always think that these difficult endings are there to help us leave quickly. There are places where we would linger too long if left to our own devices. Sometimes God wants to move us on quickly and the short, sharp shock makes us focus on moving forward rather than becoming distracted. One of my friends always reminds me to “shake the dust from our feet” as mentioned in Matthew 10:14 when dealing with discouragement. The same too can applied to exiting a situation; travel lightly and don’t take too much of what has happened to heart. Easier said than done, but if we become trapped by bitterness, a blocked heart and mind will make us miss what the Lord has for us.  

4. You don’t need to have all the answers. When Joshua became leader of the Israelites, the Lord told him to get going and cross the river Jordan, after that the Lord gave him every place that he stepped into. The Lord didn’t say “here’s a map, I want you to go to X, Y and Z and do the following.” He just gave Joshua an initial command “go” and that if he followed the Lord’s word he wouldn’t fail. We’re often late leaving one season and entering the next because of fear. We want to know what the plan is, and what to do and when, but the Lord wants to build our faith and trust in him so he only gives us part of the details. This doesn’t mean that we’re under prepared, more that we’re in a good place to grow our faith and trust in Jesus. Each piece of the puzzle comes as we need it.  

5. Make peace with the past. Whatever has happened cannot be undone: we have to live with it. If we make peace with our feelings, memories and actions, we enable ourselves to move on in a healthy way. If we learn from our history and mistakes, we are better equipped for our future. What has happened in the past no longer defines us but informs our future plans and choices. This helps us to forgive ourselves and others, and brings healing and freedom to pursue the new. You cannot move forward if you are always looking back.  

Wherever you are at in the change of season process, keep moving forward and listening to what the Lord is saying. The preparation of our hearts and a change of mindset for the new is required to help us become all that the Lord wants us to be. Whichever way you leave this season, be ready for the next one.  

I’ve been pondering on a word for the coming season and something that has come up again and again is the word JOY! We’ve all been through a difficult couple of years and now I sense that it is time to live with good expectation for the coming year. The things that have been stalled, damaged or robbed from us will be restored by the Lord. It’s a season of JOY! We are now in the first season of a new era. I asked the Lord to confirm this word and earlier today as I walked into Primark, the first thing I saw was this ornament. It was the last one on the shelf and it had no price: it was priceless! In the end the manager sold it to me for 50p! In reality, JOY is priceless and that’s want the Lord wants to give us this year; his priceless JOY.

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Twenty-four years ago I was given a promise by the Lord. I was walking across the common to church when the Lord started a conversation with me that would change the course of my plans for my life. At the time, (and being very young) I presumed that this promise would manifest quite quickly in my life, however as time went on, I wondered if it would ever happen. For decades I felt that I hadn’t reached the correct timing of this word as the right people and circumstances weren’t in place and quite frankly neither was my maturity, character or faith. I parked the word and assumed that it would be something that happened much later in life.  

Earlier this year, a series of closed doors led me to a dead end with seemingly no way forward. If it hadn’t been for a relative encouraging me to review that word from 1997, and a significant conversation with an old friend, I might never have considered moving forward into new territory. Sometimes the Lord sends a difficult situation into our lives to drive us forward to our Promised Land. Without that, we get comfortable in a place that is no longer suitable and it can rob us of reaching our God given destination. In Exodus 9, 10, 11 and 14, we are told that the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart; this happened so that a) the Israelites were so uncomfortable they had to move and b) so that God’s glory could be displayed. The misery that Pharaoh inflicted on the Israelites literally pushed them to seek the Lord’s help and go after the Promised Land. In this we can proclaim that all things work for our good under God’s authority and will (Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28). The Lord quite literally gave me an “Almighty shove” that moved me into position.

The unfamiliarity and strangeness of the new can make us think that we’ve misunderstood the word. In recent weeks I have questioned what the Lord had said to me. Perhaps this isn’t what the Lord said? Have I got this wrong? Is this new season meant to be this difficult? Hebrews 11:9-10 tells us that Abraham was a stranger in the land that had been promised to him. He stuck out like a sore thumb in the place that was promised to him as home. The land was still occupied by someone else and wasn’t yet his, but the Lord clearly asked him to move there and set up home. Yet after he had settled in the promised land, the promise of a child was fulfilled, and the long time promise of many descendants began its course.  

I think what we can now see is that through the pandemic, the Lord has ended some seasons ended and begun new ones. He has moved people around and opened new doors. In my case, the new door was quite literally an old one that had been waiting for the right time to be opened. Although the new may not be what you’re expecting, in time the Lord will deliver what he promised. I am now in place, waiting for what the Lord promised me. And that’s the key, positioning ourselves to receive what was promised: mentally, spiritually and in some cases physically. The promise will not come about until we are ready to receive. There is a kairos moment for all God’s words and when the conditions are right, the timing becomes opportune.  

For Abraham, the timing was slower than he anticipated, and the new home was not handed to him on a plate. His promise may have been slower than he would have liked but in the fullness of time, it came to fruition and God’s purpose was worked out. If anything, this should encourage us that God is in control and that he always delivers on his word.  

Promises are not so much about receiving what was offered but they are about developing our character in order to receive what was promised. Equally our faith must grow to accommodate God’s blessing, and this is the most crucial part of the process. If we keep going under pressure, our faith develops greater than we can ever imagine, and that is God’s ultimate goal for us. All God’s promises bloom in the fullness of time. 

(Painting: Bright Rainbow Flower by Helen Sanderson White. Copyright 2021 Helen Sanderson White)

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We are standing at the edge of a new season. We’ve never lived in this way before, and we don’t know how life will work out over the next decade. There is still a lot of fear and anxiety coupled with “are we ready to move on?”. We are mourning for people, situations and things that have gone, yet longing to move onto a new season of joy and hope.  

Earlier this week I was reading Matthew 9:17 (CEV) when something struck me that I hadn’t noticed before: 

“No one pours new wine into old wineskins. The wine would swell and burst the old skins. Then the wine would be lost, and the skins would be ruined. New wine must be put into new wineskins. Both the skins and the wine will then be safe.” 

Safe. That’s something that we haven’t felt in a while. The Lord impressed on me that this new season is a new wineskin and that as we move with him into this new wineskin, we will be safe. Without knowing, he has been preparing and equipping us throughout this trial for the new season. Carefully drawing us closer to him and making us more tuned to his voice and leading. We have become flexible, and the shake up has helped us to see life in a different way. The shaking has removed things that we no longer need to carry and has helped us to retain only what we consider to be important. The old wineskin is finished and the old things can’t come into the new with us. We have mourned but we are being encouraged that joy is coming!   

What I feel the Lord was impressing on me is that the new wine that we carry within us, will be poured into a wineskin that is SAFE. Everything that we value is safe if we keep trusting the Lord. Things that are precious to us: our worship, communities, families and future are protected and secure as we continue to trust him. This may mean accepting hard choices and difficult situations, we may need to surrender what we don’t fully understand, but God sees things differently and we are protected in his cover. Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV) tells that God’s thinking is different than ours:  

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, 

    neither are your ways my ways,” 
declares the Lord. 

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, 
    so are my ways higher than your ways 
    and my thoughts than your thoughts. 

If you’re concerned about your future, be assured that you are under God’s protection. He will not be pouring the old issues and problems into the new season, that has been left behind. What worked for us before, will no longer work now. He is always doing a new thing, and we need to be attentive to see what good things he is doing in and through us. I am not suggesting that the issues will totally disappear, but I do believe he is calling us into the new and giving us the invitation to join with him in what he is doing. The Lord only does good things that are in our best interest and if we move forward, we will see his goodness and grace in this new world. We need to dare to say, whatever happens the Lord’s ways are good. Be encouraged that the Lord sees the people, dreams and things that you consider to be valuable, and he will carry you through to safety on the other side. 

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One area of life that artists are good at tracking is the change of seasons, not just in the natural world around us but in our life seasons as well. In the UK we are heading into springtime but there’s also something in the air of new spiritual season emerging. There’s excitement in the air!

I have been in a wilderness period for a long time; this season of my life has been about pruning and getting rid of things that I no longer need. A time of evaluation, contemplation and preparation in readiness for new life and waiting for opportunities and breakthroughs to come forth. Over the last few months, there have been signs in my life of a new season blowing in; little changes that seem fresh and unfamiliar. Often we feel the advent of a new season before it begins, and I certainly felt this change coming about 18 months ago. Recently, I have been offered some interesting opportunities from my music work; some things that I have waited for a long time to be asked to do. They are only small opportunities, but I realised the other day, that a prophetic word that I was given 5 years ago was beginning to show signs of fruition through these requests.

When we enter a new season, the old way of doing things no longer works. We have to move on and try new ways of doing things. The pandemic opened up a world of online concerts, church services and meetings in a way that we hadn’t experienced before. This for me was the turning point as I have been able to meet new people via Zoom without having to travel. It presented a new way of doing something I was well used to, but I had to change the way I worked to make it happen. It has broadened my audience and made meeting new audiences much easier for me.

These new music opportunities have made me excited about my work for the first time in a very long time! And I’m holding on to the things that God promised me many years ago and that he will complete the work that he started in me. Whenever new growth appears, we need to remember not to take our old wilderness mindset into the new season. For me, that means holding on to the fact that things are changing for the better and that there are great things around the corner! So rejoice with me, my season is changing! There is a season for everything, and this is a season to grow and flourish.

Hopeful Heart by Helen Sanderson White (Copyright 2020 Helen Sanderson White)

Earlier this week, while I was walking into the bank, a woman approached me and asked me outright “this won’t last forever, will it?”. While I was a little taken aback with her directness, I sensed an opportunity to speak the truth about hope and replied with “no, it will pass, things will get better”. And with that, she looked relieved and walk away. While it might sound flippant to say that in the middle of a pandemic, the truth is that everything comes to an end at some point and life moves on. The longterm effects of the stress of the pandemic can be seen in the nation’s outlook and mental health. Eurythmics once sang “everybody’s looking for something” and right now, we’re all looking for HOPE.

So how can we feel hopeful when everything around us looks bleak? Hope is something that has to be worked at; sometimes it flows easily and other times it seems far off and inaccessible. It is not some magical element that is unobtainable though. The truth of the matter is that we have to foster a hopeful and expectant mindset. Hope is sparked when we recall how something worked out well in the end, or we look on the positive side of a situation. We have to train ourselves to believe and expect good things for our lives; human nature tends to believe that bad seasons hang around forever, when in fact it is just a passing season. We live in a world where fear and negativity is prevalent, but if we believe that God is love then we have nothing to fear, as he has our best interests at heart and a plan for our lives. 

The media is full of hearsay, doom, gloom and negative views; provocative headlines sell newspapers but they don’t necessarily represent the truth. A huge amount of damage can be done by scaremongering: it divides and isolates community and focusing on despair will corrode the nation’s attitude and resolve over time. What we know from history is that the human race has survived some of the most horrific events; the human spirit has found resilience and strength to keep going. If you fill your mind with bad reports it will affect your perspective on life, and in the long term make you depressed, and to some extent this all becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. You get out of life, what you put in. 

Everyday is one day nearer to the end of the season and new beginnings. Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us that there is a time and season for everything; nothing is forever, and an end to difficult seasons will come in time. What we can do is work together to make things easier for each other. Spreading fear and gloom does nothing to help people, it leaves them in a place of despair and helplessness. We have a duty to ourselves and others to be agents of hope; the change starts with us. What we know from the Bible is that the Lord always comes through for his people, and he loves to bring new life to dead situations that have gone way past the point of no return. If nothing is too hard for the Lord, perhaps we need to remind ourselves not to limit him and his power. He can do far more than we ever dreamed of and that in itself is reason to have hope. If we hand our own situations and even the pandemic over to the Lord, we release ourselves from carrying the burden on our own and give him the opportunity to bring our chaos into his good order. Letting go requires bravery and courage but it leads to a place of peace, and in that peace is the small spark of gritty hope.

After five weeks of quarantine, the COVID-19 situation is no longer a surprise to the nation. We’re settling into new routines, ways of working and communicating, and accepting that life is going to be very different for the next few months at least. For some people life hasn’t changed at all: key workers are working harder than ever to keep essential services going, whilst others have found themselves unexpectedly unemployed. This has led many people to raise questions as to what this season in life may be all about…

For some time, I have felt that this is a season of rest and resetting. On an international scale, we’ve never had a period of time where so many nations have come to a halt all at the same time. We no longer need to travel to work, school or church. There are no social activities available to entertain us outside of our homes, and our travel footprint has been reduced to one trip a week to the supermarket. We now have to time to stop, think, reflect and enjoy where we are. There is no doubt that we will come out of this lockdown wanting different things in our lives, most importantly, a much simpler existence. The resting period is teaching us that there so many things in life that we don’t need: no non-essential items cluttering up daily living. Things that stop us being who we are, drain our energy, or divert our attention into needless causes. 

This is also a period of incubation. New hobbies have been found, new business ideas developed and there is space for artistic and creative exploits. Even the way we work, shop and reach out to our families and friends has evolved. Technology is almost struggling to catch up with us. There is no doubt there will be an explosion of innovation and development from this period of lockdown. But all of these things emanate from rest. The space to be able to stop, think and relax in order to let the mind wander and create. 

The reflection also helps us to let go of failures and hurts form the past. We have an opportunity to deal with the things that worry and hound us. If we let go of those things now, we will be fit and ready for a new season. Our “busyness” has stopped us from dealing with past issues and now is the time to be healing and forgiving ourselves and others. This truly is a time of divine reset, starting over and rebuilding from scratch. Forgiveness flows from resting in the knowledge that the past has gone, and resetting ourselves by letting go of the past. Forgiveness leads to a fresh start. 

Air pollution is at an all time low for the first time in decades, probably even a century. The earth is recovering from the ordeal that we have put it through. One of my friends commented that “..while humanity struggles to breath with COVID-19, the earth can breath for the first time in years.” An unexpected positive side effect from the lockdown is that our environment is cleaner and safer than ever; humanity is being forced to let the world heal and flourish. 

Although this period of time is frightening and frustrating in many ways, the outcome of resting and resetting life will benefit humanity long after this season is over. If you can take anything from this strange season of confinement, it’s the rediscovery of who you are, and the preparation for the next season ahead. A new season is loading, and this is merely the buffering while the season downloads. So rest ready for the reset. 

Photo by hammondgower.co.uk