Looking at love, loss, life and faith

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

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

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

starting over - PJ

What if we could start over again? What would it look like to wipe the slate clean, rewind time and take out the flaws and failings of our lives?

Sadly, we would soon discover that the fault lies within. A flawed heart means faulty choices and actions. An unredeemed mind leads us into toxic thinking and bad behaviour.

And only God can fully address humanity’s needs and offer us a fresh start when we place our faith in Jesus Christ. We can begin again by God’s grace.

Then each day becomes opportunity for starting over. Each hour breathes out potential of the barely begun.

When I reflected on this season, it became clear that I’ve been stuck in a ditch of discouragement for several weeks. Led by my feelings and fast losing any joy I had before.

I wondered why joy was so elusive, where God was in the midst of my distress, why I couldn’t seem to get out of this cycle.

There were no pat answers. But God gently urged me to write a bit about joy, little snippets He whispered during my prayer times.

It seems joy is like a bright light glimpsed in the distance and we often miss the fact it’s also shining in us.

It felt elusive until I realised it doesn’t depend on my feelings at all. Because joy is a gift of grace weaving through our painful circumstances and giving us hope in dark places.

Once we realise how joy is always hovering close by, then we can start to discover it in numerous ways, such as: a slow unfolding realisation of its presence, a heart’s gratitude, an attitude of praise, a smile from a loved one, laughter bubbling up, a beautiful view, hearing God speak comfort into our weary souls.

How have you discovered or rediscovered joy hiding in plain sight? I’d love you to share in the comments below.

I’ve found that joy is a choice. As we read God’s word, receive and believe it, we start to notice how the life of faith is a series of conscious decisions we make every day. And we can waken to that hope with each new dawn.

Friends, I’m sorry for being missing here for a while. Too much life slowed me to a standstill. Thank you for your grace and patience.❤

dawn beach tanka poem pin

a renewed view cross - PJ

It’s Holy Week and we come with a renewed view as we approach the calendrical remembrance of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Two thousand years of history as a body of believers marks us out in society as souls who have accepted salvation in Jesus and surrendered to God’s work in us.

We bear a banner of faith and hope to hurting souls, a breath of Holy Spirit air to those dying on the inside, a haven of peace and rest to the stressed and depressed as we share The Way to become eternally set free from the fear, sin and pain of our fallen humanity.

We are Christ followers, His grace revealers, Truth sharers and burden bearers as we carry the holy weight of the cross before a waiting world, and the sorrows etched within it to our loving Saviour.

We are also eager for them to see the other side of the cross and the new life ready to be birthed on the inside by believing in Him.

In the sharing of His Passion and suffering, we too walk the lonely road toward crucifixion, ours being a spiritual one – a daily dying to self and the resurrection powered, liberating living of a Spirit-led life.

We come with hearts heavy at the enormity of the task before our Lord, and with hearts made free by the very act of His willing surrender.

Each day we live with the potential of life transforming change wrought by the cross, and the glory of the empty tomb before us, but never more so than during a week of walking the path of remembrance with Jesus.

Our view is renewed in the remembrance, hearts are made warm with wonder and minds remain amazed by the selfless act of pure unmerited grace that has bought our freedom at such a great price.

A renewed view

We come with a renewed view

as we gain sight of the road

rising up to meet us,

the long one paved in agony

on which we have placed our feet,

soled in faithful pilgrimage.

Blood marks the path before us

as Via Dolorosa rises strong

to claim our heart’s affections

for what Christ wrought true

as He courageously fought

on a cross carved out of wood.

Staked out on this lonely hill

where His disciples gather still

JoyLenton2016

a renewed view poem pin PJ

brevity - transparency PJ

Transparency has been my hallmark ever since I began shaping words to share publicly.

Whether it be prose or poetry, I tend toward a confessional, soul baring and sharing style of writing.

And that’s no bad thing when I aim to be as authentic as possible, even if it can lead to surprising things arising from the deep.

My pondering can take me places I never intended to go as I wait on God for inspiration and try to follow His leading.

And you know what? Transparency can make you feel paper-thin, vulnerable and fragile.

Sometimes a little light relief is called for – hence this brief poetic look at brevity and how it might be the way forward for a while.

Because my poetic hat is wearing itself ragged at the moment as I put the finishing touches to a debut poetry collection which I hope to self-publish fairly soon.

Could brevity be a way forward perhaps? It is said that less is more, after all.

Would you prefer a helping of haiku or some micro-poetry here instead of the usual fare?

Read and judge for yourself and let me know what you think…

Brevity

I must confess

that brevity

is not my forté

nor does it

come easily

to one as

verbose as me

Rather, I tend

(though I aim to say less)

toward long lament

Intense soliloquy

instead of

snappy eulogy

Perhaps I should refrain

from pouring out words

falling through my head

And aim to discipline,

confine, constrain myself

(in an Oriental way)

by trying to write

some haiku instead?

©JoyLenton2016

It’s not often that I write about the writing process itself as I am doing here, but sometimes the nuts and bolts of being a writer make it necessary to reflect on how to go about it.

You may also be interested in my latest Association of Christian Writers (ACW) group,  ‘More than Writers’ guest post on how free writing can help fire and inspire our creativity. It can be found here.

Dear reader, normal service will (hopefully) be resumed as soon as possible! Thank you for your grace.:)

brevity PJ pin

ash berries - life PJ

I belong to a faith tradition that makes no specific preparation for Lent within its practices.

It’s a relatively new thing for me to take note of Lent and consider how to prepare my heart for the journey.

And I’ve come to realise I cannot fully undertake it without surrender, intention and deliberation.

Life itself invites us into a gentle awareness of days and seasons of the heart, an opening to the sacred within the secular.

As nights draw in and days become dark and cold, we may gather dead, dry and dying plants together to make a bonfire. From the embers grey ash rises, ripe for garden mulch.

Ash is precursor to new life, new growth. A potent symbol of the dying and rising we experience within.

Likewise, Lent provides opportunity to sift out dead wood we’ve unwittingly gathered over time, consign it to death and seek the restoration and renewal God offers us through a transformed mind and heart.

Ash Wednesday

Absent from this temple

is smudge and ash of grey

reminder of and reason

why our Saviour came

But deep within this heart

remains a cloak of black

as sin still crouches there

ready to ensnare, attack

Deeper still within this soul

shines a Light without limit

where God’s Love resides

bringing wholeness to my spirit

And as I journey forth

leaning closer into Lent

my value and my worth

become ever heaven-sent

©JoyLenton2016

You can’t get a better companion to walk you through Lent and into Holy Week than Malcolm Guite as he invites us to become immersed in poetic reflection with ‘Word in the Wilderness’.

I’ve also downloaded a pdf file: ‘Hungering for Life – Creative Exercises for Lent’ compiled by Christine Sine, with Jean Andrianoff. Here, contrary to the usual emphasis on fasting, we are being asked to consider what we are hungering for during Lent.

You can find myriad resources for Lent on the Godspace blog, including prayers, ways of celebrating with children, musical and creative resources. Click here to discover them. Ignatian Spirituality also has 10 great ideas for Lent here.

This preparation will hopefully lead to deeper reflection on new life rising from death rather than focussing most on loss and death itself.

The words below speak into our need to focus on the positive. They came from ‘Morning, Noon and Night – Poems and Prayers’ and can be found in various forms in Lenten reflections. I’d love to hear how you prepare for Lent and make space for Easter.

“Fast from criticism, and feast on praise.

Fast from self-pity, and feast on joy.

Fast from ill-temper, and feast on peace.

Fast from resentment, and feast on contentment.

Fast from jealousy, and feast on love.

Fast from pride, and feast on humility.

Fast from selfishness, and feast on service.

Fast from fear, and feast on faith.” 

ash fast and feast - PJ

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