Journeying into joy when you feel joyless

journeying-into-joy-write-31-days

 

Joy may be my name but it doesn’t always describe my nature. I’m inclined to let my feelings run away with me sometimes, especially those that slide toward life’s dark side.

This season of diminishing light usually means I sit more with sadness and SAD becomes my defining characteristic, as well as a condition I battle with.

And it’s probably because of this propensity that God has lain a word on my heart about the need to deliberately pursue joy in the midst of challenging circumstances.

My journey into joy may sound easy and delightful, (and I hope it will be!), but experience tells me I have a natural bent toward discouragement. It’s one I fight continually in my desire to reveal God’s hope and joy to others.

So I am going against my feelings, aiming to see joy as more than an emotion, and seeking to unearth the fruit of it as a woman of faith who could really use a fresh infusion of joy in her mind and heart. Maybe you do too?

Before we start (October 1st, God willing), I am sharing a poem written at a time when feelings overwhelmed and faith had a fight on its hands. Because we need to acknowledge where we have a joy deficit before we can move forward toward a greater awareness of what sparks joy for us.

Joyless

Today’s events tied me up in knots of stress,

taking captive the better part, no less,

while my worst emotions became unravelled

loose like string, leaving patience looking

patchy, worn and thin. Life will leave

us lifeless, fired up with feelings

which dissipate like a fading wind

 

And I seem to have swallowed a stone

I can’t shift. It sits heavy as iron,

wrinkling up my soul, pressing sharp

edges into my insides. A sour

twisting, turning acid with each

remembrance of how I have failed

to live with joy – as one already blessed

JoyLenton2016

As you can see from the poem above, I really need to fight for joy, to make space each day for happiness and contentment.

It’s not going to be plain sailing because my current life and health challenges make for choppy seas, and daily writing is a big ask for me. However, this wobbly faith warrior has a steel core of confidence in God seeing her through. I believe God has inspired me to undertake this journey and I trust Him to provide as I depend on Him.

I greatly value your prayers, and would love your company here as we learn how to walk with more joy over the days ahead via an eclectic mix of poetry and prose. Come join me? If you would like to follow along, you can do so by signing up via email. See you in October!🙂

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Hope manifests in Jesus

hope-manifests-in-jesus-pj

 

Hope has felt rather elusive this week, as I’ve been battling several puzzling and frustrating technical issues which have succeeded (so far) in locking me out of my Words of Joy blog. Yes, really..😦

If anything, despair has been my constant, unwelcome companion over the last few days. Despite my best efforts to resolve the matter, it remains a mystery to me. It’s also been far easier to sink with discouragement, admit defeat, rather than see the positives.

Thankfully, sharing this burden with others and getting prayer support, as well as sitting quietly with Jesus, has helped tremendously to shift my perspective.

All the same, the poem below came out of a painful place where I am learning to fight back with joy, to rest in God’s provision (I still have this place to write in – hooray!) and calmly work toward a resolution.

With a fresh measure of hope, I offer these words to you, with the prayer that you will begin to rediscover hope for yourself if it’s been a bit absent recently…

Hope manifests

We carry the world’s echo within, its resonance

stretching hope thin. Life weighs heavy as stone

and we scratch like hungry hens seeking seeds,

paw at parched ground before us – come up empty

 

Lifting our eyes to a larger horizon, we sense

a gentle presence like soft fronds of a feather

tickling our souls. No harsh shouting here,

no risk of being swallowed whole, of disappearing

 

down a black hole of loneliness. Instead,

we see Light shining in crevices, lifting gloom

with glory markers. And as we turn again

to feel its refreshing rain, Hope manifests

 

as the eyes and arms of Jesus, bringing

joy and comfort to weary hearts – wrapping

snug like a warm duvet on a winter’s day

 

We nestle within the folds of hope, held

fast, secure at last, while chaos still

reigns, but calm is now restored within,

because we are resting our souls in Him

JoyLenton2016

I’m so thankful for these grace gifts:

  • God’s continual goodness and grace
  • hope in life’s dark places
  • supernatural calm displacing anxiety and stress
  • patient endurance to get through trials
  • kind friends, loving family, help at hand
  • prayer support just when I needed it
  • inspiration coming
  • words to write

Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul,

And sings the tunes without the words,

And never stops at all

~ Emily Dickinson

hope-manifests-poem-pj

Seeing life through the eyes of a child

elliott-meets-a-tortoise

 

Through the eyes of a child

I want to examine life with the eyes of a child

Look with serious, curious intent, gaze

 

with playful interest at all that’s spread

out within reach like a rich banquet feast

 

Ruminate as I cultivate creative vision

which enhances down-trodden and soiled

 

See beyond what lies before me in the everyday

Experience God’s hand at work while admiring

his handiwork. Step bright and bold with joy

 

as I begin to sense a sacredness unfolding

Discover life as a great adventure, dying

to be explored by those who can see more

©JoyLenton2016

When do we lose our sense of wonder? How long is it before we become complacent about the daily grace gifts before us? What shrinks our vision to that of an endlessly dark tunnel, rather than extending beyond what eyes can see?

All too soon for most of us, it seems. Yet the longer I live, the more I long to hold on to those things which are ordinary-extraordinary, to be aware of God at work in the daily, His majesty invading our mundane.

Because the more intently we look, the more joy we will have in each day’s grace offerings. They are there to be glimpsed, seen and savoured by hearts full of gratitude, but our attitude tends to throw us off course when we become totally absorbed by the pain and problems of today.

We will soon be entering a season I struggle with, where darkness pervades and seems to invade me outside and in, when my soul seems to shrink, curl and die like autumnal leaves become lifeless.

Maybe we can learn to intentionally look for the light at the edges of everything? Watch for its slim fingers infiltrating the hard, opening them up, sliver by sliver, to the radiance of God’s presence, discover His Light burning brightly all around.

All too often I write about the painful things, the hard places where grace seeks us. And that’s well and good, because we can all be held captive to pain. However, my main aim in the next few months is to focus more on the goodness, beauty and joy before me, difficult as it can be to discern, sometimes.

It would be good to have your companionship as I try to embrace the sunshine in these darkening days while we slide toward winter. We can support and encourage one another to stay positive, to remain hope-filled and joy-seeking souls in the midst of life’s all-pervading darkness. Will you join me? Please consider subscribing by email here and over at my main blog, ‘Words of Joy’. I would love to partner with you!🙂

seeing-life-through-the-eyes-of-a-child-poetryjoy

 

Maintaining a higher perspective

maintaining a higher perspective - PJ

 

When life’s demands send us to our knees, or lay us low with illness and fatigue, we receive all the help we need when we look beyond our current circumstances and look up to God.

In the realisation that we have no resources left we are thrown upon God’s mercy and grace, His unlimited strength, stable unchanging character and limitless love.

During the long summer days when I have been absent here, flat-out with fatigue and often too preoccupied to see more than is before me, I’ve found my greatest peace in knowing God has got me covered.

He has given me supernatural strength to care for my husband after his spinal surgery, and energy enough to take on some of the household tasks I usually need to leave in his capable hands.

Yes it’s been tough, really hard and challenging for this woman with M.E. I’ve ached to resume our  normal routine again, because my husband’s recovery has been slow and support from others naturally lessened as the weeks went by.

I couldn’t write or be present on social media like I used to. My life shifted into a new gear,  demanding all I could give and more besides.

But I always knew (and still do as things ease a little) God was with me, with both of us as we adapted to our challenging changing circumstances.

The cloud of God’s presence overshadows every moment, even as His radiance invites us to look for the glints of light peeking through our own clouds.

He sees all our days. They’re spread out before Him  – a tapestry of grace in all its messy, tangled, colourful glory.

He paints beauty within the commonplace and yearns for us to see and sense it, too, those gentle footprints of His presence.

Some days I’ve looked up and watched the glory in the heavens. I’ve also caught a glimpse of things closer to home.

I’ve deliberately been trying to listen to my life, taking photographs of the beauty surrounding me, seeing things from a fresh perspective.

The poem below reveals the advantage of having a lofty perch mentally, if not physically…

A lofty perch

a lofty perch - PJ

They hover on the brink

close to the edge where

talons meet tile.

Their plump grey plumage

mirroring cloud covering.

Eyes scan the horizon

for a soul mate

to share a lofty perch.

A close companion

become a pigeon pair.

And in the courtship dance

they bill and coo their way

upon life’s stage.

Entranced by heights

they stretch and fly

together now, soft dots

against bright curtain swag

of sun and sky

©JoyLenton2016

Friends, it’s  good to be back to writing and sharing here again. I’ve really missed you! Thank you for your patience. Hope you like the new look. The header image is from an arty-style photo of mine taken this summer – an experiment in expressing creativity differently.  What has God has been revealing to you this season? I’d love you to share in the comments below.🙂

Learning how to yield to rest

cat- yielding to rest PJ

It’s natural for cats (and babies) to yield to rest at every given opportunity. They swiftly switch off from the world for a while, whenever they feel like it. But it is not always so easy for the rest of us.

I sense God urging this weary woman to desist from her online labours and rest a while. I’ve already had to pull back from so much, including writing as often as I want to.

Yet I sense a sliver of resistance within, even though I am desperate for rest.

The struggles are manifold for a person with M.E who has to carefully consider the use of all (or any) available energy, engage mindfully, pace and rest regularly on a daily basis. To be asked to do so for weeks at a time seems daunting.

Because rest so often feels like a giving in to insignificance rather than a gentle yielding to necessity.

This feels especially true for writers, who are meant to develop and maintain an online presence, retain their visibility.

Questions arise when we have to withdraw for a while: Who am I if I am not present to the world? How can taking time out be such a blessing to me?

And that’s when God steps in with His thoughts to help still our anxious ones…

Prayer Whisper: ‘Yield to rest’

prayer whisper image

“In rest and repentance lies your strength. In surrender to Me you find your true significance.

Time may be of the essence, but do you not know that I stand beyond its confines?

Have you not considered how I also wrote eternity into your heart so that you would seek Me with an open mind and embrace My love to infinity?

When you resist rest, you resist opportunity to witness My deeds and to hear from Me in the quiet spaces of your day. 

Unless you can release the drive and desire to succeed or to be seen into My hands, you will wear yourself out in circles of comparison and slip into ditches of discouragement.

Come, My child. Come and rest those ambitions, dreams, hopes and plans as you yield them to Me. I am the One who will exalt you in due time when you humble yourself before Me.

It is My greatest desire for you to walk in daily dependence on Me. Watch and see what the Lord will do. No good thing will I withhold from those who love Me and walk according to My precepts.

Come closer. Relax your hold on life and allow Me to carry you as I also keep all things safe. Here, in My Presence, you will find deeper rest and peace than ever before. A peace only I can give you; peace which no-one can take away.

Trust that all your cares and concerns are safe in My capable hands. I know what you can bear and what is too heavy for you to carry.

Seek My face at intervals throughout your day. I made you and I will sustain you.”

Such words bring me up short. They also allow me to exhale, breathe easy again.

This is a season for slowing down, a time to rest, recoup, recover, become restored. You may find yourself in a similar situation.

We can relax better into a season of rest when we realise how much God looks forward to us spending quality time with Him.

He longs to infuse fresh energy into weary bodies, instil new inspiration into dulled minds. God also requires our willing submission when His Spirit urges us to draw aside for a while, take a break with Him.

I need more rest, more of God’s best for me in every way, and I feel ready to relinquish my hold on other things to make it possible. Will you join me? 

We can meet up here again (and over at Words of Joy) and see what God has worked in us when we’ve become less concerned about our own accomplishments, or the lack thereof.

Forgive me for running way over time for my last #FMF and #letusgrow post for a while. The prompt, ‘rest’ was a beacon to my brain.

Here’s a tiny helping of haiku to set us up for more restful days ahead…

sleep haiku - poetry joy

That’s how the light gets in

how the light gets in - PJ

Light infiltrates a forest. Its fingers spreading wider as it turns from spotlight to flood.

What began as just a small reveal soon illuminates everything. That’s how light works if we let it in.

Brightness beams its way into each day. We may not always see or sense it if our eyes or soul are dulled.

God sends His presence forth in rain and thunder, blaze of creation’s beauty and soft foggy breath of subdued sunlight.

There isn’t a place, space or person that can remain permanently indifferent to His penetrating, laser-light gaze.

Light will find a way to penetrate our days. The tiniest crack in the surface of things becomes an opening to grace. 

“Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in” – Leonard Cohen lyrics from ‘Anthem’ 

God loves us too much to leave us alone to stew in our situations, or become derailed by challenging circumstances.

As our loving heavenly Father, He cares tenderly and compassionately about how His children are and how we feel.

I’ve been laid low lately with increasing physical and mental health challenges. It’s still hard at times to see the positive.

Each day is a fight to choose joy. To choose hope over despair, courage to go on instead of discouragement to grind to a halt.

Being mortal can seem like a burden on days when I yearn for a life beyond the one I am living. Maybe you’ve been there too?

But God… – two of the most important words in the universe – reminds me that you and I are birthed for a reason, here for such a time as this, destined for a purpose we can barely sense or taste the fullness of even as we’re living it.

All God asks is that we allow His Light and Love admittance, one small sliver at a time, letting it warm our hearts, restore gratitude and illuminate the path before us.

As God shines His goodness and grace into our hearts we begin to see how our very weakness and brokenness, the cracks in our earthly existence, are the means by which He enters in. So there is hope for us all.

A small reveal

There’s a sliver of light

snaking through these dark

curtains of discouragement

Barely a beam can be seen

but a softening ray may

just be discernible

It’s thawing shivers of ice

Cracking the surface

of seen things, making way

for the Unseen realm

to penetrate my

feelings of overwhelm

We think we need a road

to Damascus experience

But sometimes God shines

a tiny, subdued light instead

Enough for us to see and kneel

marvelling at this small reveal

©JoyLenton2016

How is God revealing Himself to you in this season? 

What helps to keep you stable in life’s storms?

A small reveal poem pin - PJ

Because he does it all for love’s sake

celebration in Thailand 4

Let me tell you about my man. He’s not one of life’s movers and shakers, a risk or glory taker. He’s more of a shake-and-move-slow and an all-for-love’s-saker.

A man who played competitive football with zest, zeal and energy into his 50s. Only pausing to be able to take better care of me.

He was athletically inclined, sporty and strong, lithe and nimble, able and capable of doing most things he turned his practical hands to.

And now he bends under the strain of life’s burdens, the repercussions of workplace bullying and having a severe mental health breakdown; made lower still with spinal problems and Parkinson’s disease.

He’s too sick to hold down a job, but he is (thankfully) more mobile and capable than I am of taking care of the household tasks.

A lot of things have stopped him in his tracks. Life’s trials have emptied him of his previous vigour and vitality. Yet he gives to me so freely and willingly.

Because his heart is full. Full of love and care and kindness and compassion. Full of faithfulness. My man is tender, loving and servant-hearted, exemplifying Jesus to me.

We struggle on together. And during this week when M.E has a greater international awareness than usual, I wanted to write in praise of him. Most M.E sufferers would find their lives far more challenging without assistance from their carers. And he is that for me, despite his own disabilities.

My man may not be publicly acclaimed. He isn’t one to seek the limelight. He may not be much in the eyes of society, but he means the world to me.

My love – this poem is for you, with deep gratitude for all you are and all you do each and every day…

All for love’s sake

love is - all for love's sake PJ poem pin

He climbs the hill that grows

ever steeper by the week

Breath escapes in gasps as he pauses

now, aware of curious glances

But conscious more of his own

growing astonishment; how did

he come to this? A man made

small, constrained in movement

that once felt fluid, as smooth

as water – rendered turgid

And still he presses on because

errands need to be run, and

his are the legs to reach their

destination with comparative ease

His wife relies on him in ways he

wishes didn’t exist; her life now

bound to the house with M.E

and his tied to love’s desires,

life’s great demands and needs

Devotion steels his spine again

He straightens an aching back

and faithfulness becomes

the rack on which he stretches out

Extending and spending himself

in numerous little ways

as one who willingly acts,

he shakes – though firm with resolve,

giving his all for love’s sake

©JoyLenton2016

awareness_ribbons for ME

An often overlooked aspect of raising awareness for M.E  and chronic illness is not only our need for extra help and support with life’s daily tasks, but  also publicly acknowledging the ones who actually and actively meet that need for us. Hopefully my words have helped you to see a slice of life from the carer’s side as well, although everyone’s circumstances will differ, of course.

International ME Awareness Day is on May 12th, 2016. The whole month is devoted to it too.

Thank you for reading, and for your patience with the paucity of posts of late. I may not have had much spare energy to write here as often as I used to, but you can find me spilling forth words at my main site – Words of Joy – instead. I’d love to see you there.🙂 x