confident: gaining the courage to write by faith

confident - gaining the courage to write by faith @poetryjoy.comCan I tell you a secret, friend? Listen close and I’ll whisper it to you: I’m not a confident person. Not. At. All. Just ask my family. Although I wrote reams of poetry in my late teens and 20s, shared them in church magazines and had a few published, any belief in myself vanished soon after.

Because I splintered inside after a major mental health breakdown. It took years of cooperating with God and counsellors to slowly piece myself back together again. But some things went missing. Including my ability to write like I used to.

My creativity became diverted into mothering and making a home. The writer inside lost her voice. She died for years. And it wasn’t until one of my sons began to write poetry himself and started a blog that my poetic fire was reawakened, if not the courage to begin again.

Thankfully, God (and family) gave me the impetus, courage and confidence to make a start. Now I can write about personal stuff in a public sphere and don’t get too anxious before I press publish. Because I’ve learnt to trust. To believe words will come as and when they need to. To rest my shaky confidence in God alone, while seeking to exercise the gift He has given me to share.

And I want to encourage you too. Especially if you’re at the hesitant stage of wondering if you dare release your words. If timid old me can do that quite happily, manage two blogs, write a book and be working on my next, then so can you. Or something similar, of course.

As we ask for God’s help, and trust it to come, we’re enabled to take the first step forward and so on. Your calling might look very different from mine, and that’s okay. Our part is to stay faithful to the unique-to-us gifting we have been given.

Courage to write

Thank you for the gift and grace
of newly formed words
taking shape in my head,
for the wisdom you give to decide
which to retain or reject,
what to discard or include
in a future work.

Thank you for these fledgling things,
these tiny chicks
with tender covering and barely
formed wings, these baby steps
towards a mature offering
and the joy they already bring.

Thank you for providing insight
and inspiration to my mind
and the courage to write,
the confidence that comes
from knowing you are on my side,
giving grace and giving light.

Thank you for the community
of fellow wordsmiths, who dip
their toes into the water with mine,
and for the love and concern we share,
the hopes, dreams and prayers.

Thank you for reminding me
of my place
in this vast ocean of creativity,
the smallness of it,
but how each tiny offering is
magnified and reaches all
who need to see and receive.

Thank you, too, for the dry seasons
when I lack energy, strength
or inspiration to create,
because then I sense you holding
me closer than before, while I rest,
become refreshed and restored.
© joylenton

confident - courage to write poem excerpt (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

PS: Another little secret: I wrote this poem a while back. It took more than five minutes but I’m sharing it in response to this week’s five-minute-friday prompt of “confident”. You’re welcome to join in here and read the great variety of posts being shared.  🙂

build: having a strong foundation and fortification of faith

build - having a strong foundation and fortification of faith (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Maybe it’s not too surprising to be wistfully thinking of summer when a wintry wind is howling outside your window and rain sweeps like stiff  brushstrokes against the pane. Or to be caught up in savouring sunny memories at a stage in life when they feel far more precious than before.

God has a wonderful way of infiltrating the harsh, wintry aspects of our days with the summer-bright laser beam of His light and love, His goodness and grace. Then the bleak emptiness, weariness, weakness or pain we might be experiencing seem to lessen a little, as we absorb the warmth of God’s presence in our hearts.

It begins to thaw our cold souls and infuse hope into our hurting places. Because there is always opportunity to start again, to rebuild, at least in how we might perceive our situations. We can build a new foundation any time we need to, aided by God’s mercy and grace, and with His help and equipping.

I was musing on a memory when I wrote the poem below a few months ago. It probably took longer than five minutes to write, but I am sharing it today like a “here’s one I made earlier” kind of offering, because it fits pretty well with this week’s five-minute-friday prompt. And it’s all my tired mind can currently conjure up! 😉

Fortification

I sit, surrounded by mounds
of sand, clumped yet dry as a bone,
sieving it between my fingers like an
hourglass filling up,

little knowing how swiftly years
would pass, how soon this tanned,
tender, smooth-skinned toddler

eating sand sandwiches would grow
up, become a hirsute man, with voice
gruffly smooth and deep, like gravel
being gently washed by sea.

My small son wears sunscreen, sunhat
and a nappy, protected by pants,
plus a cautious, bemused

expression on his face, as though he
can recall being a few months old,
new to beach and sea, fearing rollicking
waves would sweep him away,

just as they do to the crumbly castles
he builds with help, joy and pride,
which don’t stand a chance against
pulsating power of tides.

I smile at his mild discomfiture, as it’s
always valuable to learn these lessons
young, to grasp how easily

life can change, and how the things we
seek to build our lives upon must have
a strong, secure foundation

to uphold us in future days, in harder
times when problems arise or walls come
tumbling down, and we are required
to be safe and fortified.
© joylenton

build - building a new foundation with God quote (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

There’s nothing quite like a supportive writing community to build us up with encouragement and give us the courage and confidence to share our words. Such as the fabulous five-minute-friday crew gathering at Kate Motaung’s site. This week’s prompt is “build”. You are welcome to join us here and read the great variety of posts being shared.  🙂

where: seeking a place where we can belong #FMF

where - seeking a place where we can belong @poetryjoy.com

We all need to belong somewhere. It’s an innate desire from infancy. We crave a place where we feel safe and secure. And we make our home with loved ones, family and friends, plus groups, clubs, community and causes that are dear to our hearts.

This blog is one of my safe places on the internet. Here I can gather with fellow poets, writers and friends. It feels like my creative family. A source of support and encouragement, help and peace. A haven I miss when illness keeps me from staying connected with you all.

I’m not well enough to get to church, and haven’t been for years, so my spiritual home isn’t a building or place where people physically gather. Instead, church, in the sense of being the Body of Christ, is everywhere and nowhere in particular as well. I’m in touch with fellow believers around the world, who have a diverse range of expressions of faith, like I do myself.

We gather on the internet and via email. Our service to one another is to show love and care, have conversations, enrich thought, offer a listening ear and pray for one another’s needs. It’s a gift I am truly thankful for.

I wonder, where is the place you feel most at home? Who is your tribe, your people, your comfort zone? Those questions can be tricky to answer, can’t they? Depending on our circumstances and stage of life. So many people feel isolated, lost and alone, with no particular base and reference point.

Maybe they’ve become displaced, lost the physical home they knew before or lost the loved ones who anchored them there. Even if our circumstances differ, we can still feel fractured and out of sync with others at times. Such thoughts inspired the poem below.

Belonging

sense of belonging:
making sense of who we are
where we have come from
where we are journeying to
where we will make our home

we easily lose
our bearings and direction
give our hearts
to those who scorn or break them
resist acts of affection

perhaps we could
view life in another way
spiritually
note how we are created
to always seek after God

we see how he longs
wants us to be yearning
to be longing
a present continuous
act of obedience, faith

there’s nothing better
than to share our lives with God
come empty, dry
desiring to be filled
as his fountain rains on us
© joylenton

I’m happy to belong to the fabulous five-minute-friday community where we share our words inspired by a prompt. This week’s creative instigator word is “where”. You can join in here and read the great variety of posts being shared.  🙂

influence: our words and deeds become a living legacy

influence - our words and deeds become a living legacy - butterfly freed @poetryjoy.com

Sometimes it takes a death for us to appreciate the way someone’s life has affected, shaped and  influenced us. While we mourn their passing, we reflect on the bright spark of their soul, their mark on our lives, and all that their cherished, unique set of quirks and characteristics meant to us.

Hearing that Pulitzer prize-winning poet, Mary Oliver, had passed away was a sad moment for me. Her magnificent poetic word wrangling awes me and has inspired my own poetic endeavours. I will be reading her words again with fresh enjoyment and deep reverence.

It is with Mary Oliver in mind that I wrote the five-minute-friday poem below. It is written in her memory but also to honour all writers and poets, who dare to pen their thoughts and bravely share them with others.

Do not lose heart, dear creative/artist/poet/writer friend. May you know your work is not in vain. Traces of you linger on as influence and legacy. Your words, marks and thoughts have a shape and life of their own.

Your audience, readers and reach might be small, but your heart offering will make its home in those it is intended for. God knows just who that is, and how the words you write and the art you create are a powerful weapon for spreading His love, goodness and grace, His hope and encouragement to others.

Influence

A poet wields a pen, not a sword
or a hammer, but her blood pours
out in sweat and tears, wrung
from a deep-seated well within,
from the ache of yearning years.

She might be sharing a personal
insight, a pain expressed, a glimmer
from her arsenal of words,
or a view of the created world,
to open our eyes to its need
to be appreciated, preserved.

Her gift lies in a giving from the heart,
whereby the everyday will begin
to look quite extraordinary
when viewed from her perspective
and via her perceptive lens.

She writes because she must,
because she’s been entrusted
with an unfolding of treasure,
a lifting of the curtain
to reveal the sacred uncertain.

And despite her quiet labour being
publicly shared, she remains
an observer, knowing the work
itself is what fires her heart,
fills her soul and saves her.

The thought of having an influence
on others barely crosses her mind,
because her focus is on the shape,
the sound, the sight of words
moving from head to paper.

Yet the very act of vulnerability itself,
the laying bare seems to open up
her soul, her life as offering,
as gift, as influence and legacy,
and it leaves a deep impression
surviving beyond the ink.
(C) joylenton

influence - writer - poem excerpt (c)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

I’m linking my longer than five minutes poem (because sometimes clock-watching doesn’t suit the flow) with the fabulous writing community at our host Kate Motaung’s place. You can join in here with this week’s prompt of ‘influence’ and read the great posts being shared.  🙂

begin: for when you can’t quite hit the new year running

begin - for when you can't quite hit the new year running - @poetryjoy.com

Dear reader, I’m curious about something: did you hit the new year running, eagerly embracing resolutions, ready for the new and the next, planning and pushing ahead to your heart’s content? If so, that’s great and I rather envy you. 😏

Or are you more like me: crawling on your knees, flattened with illness and fatigue, and sighing because January finds you less than fit and able? The latter? Please raise  or vaguely wave your weary arm in my direction. It’s good to know we’re not alone.

For years, without fail, I’ve always succumbed to flu or a heavy cold before the Christmas and New Year celebrations are over. Each January I’m hugging the duvet, coughing into my pillow and barely surfacing.

Sadly it’s not due to enjoying myself, but because I have a faulty, inefficient immune system that easily succumbs to viruses and overexertion of any kind. I keep hoping things will improve. But they haven’t. Not yet.

Experience has taught me to listen and act on the information I hear from my depleted body. Namely to rest and take care of myself. Because trying to press on in the face of increasing debility has never been a good plan for me. It only exacerbates my pre-existing chronic conditions.

One thing that never stops being active and running like a mad thing is my mind, even when my body stills due to increased sickness. Yours too, perhaps? It chunters on like it’s got something really important to process, while my weakened body is trying to shush it into silent, restful submission.

begin - god replenishes, restores and revives quote (c)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

And I’ve been mulling over what to write. How do we begin again when we’re feeling lethargic, muddy-headed or uninspired? The wonder is that whenever our well, our energy, inspiration or abilities run dry, we only need to ask and God replenishes, restores and revives our limited supplies. And we can begin again with Him any time we need to.

The poem below came to me as I was resting. May it speak to all who are in the throes of illness or lack creative inspiration. I’m also rejoicing that my current ailment seems to be more of a persistent cold than full-blown flu this time. Hooray! Progress!

Writer’s woes

I want to begin
make a mark on this page
this year
on the lives of others
with my thoughts and words

I don’t know how
to begin to write a thing
without assistance
because my brain is muffled
and my thoughts are befuddled

I am uncertain
wondering how to choose
what will speak
louder than my husky voice
of love and grace, hope and faith

in the end
all I have is willing hands
empty though they be
just waiting to be filled
before a drop can be spilled

holy whispers
encourage me to start
right where I am
with surrender, trust and truth
as inspiration filters through
© joylenton

begin - writer's woes poem excerpt - new year (c)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Praise God for gifting this snuffly writer with something to say when she felt empty! Hopefully normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. 😉 Do let me know how you are, especially if you’re also below par, and we can pray for one another.

Never forget that rest, recovery and healing are vital soul and body work. You and I might begin this year slow like tortoises but we can still end strong by the grace of God. With love and virtual (germ-free) hugs to you. xo 💜

Blogging and “The Accident of Touching”

It’s especially true of writers and creatives that our hearts long to touch others with our words, our art, ourselves. We savour times when our souls collide and our lives are enriched in the sharing. Even if we pause to like a person’s blog post and do not stop to leave a comment, that very act is enough to bring a smile and give encouragement to them, as it reveals a connection has been made. Isn’t that why we all want to write? To breathe out the essence of who we are and hope that others will be able to relate to it? Deborah’s post puts this way of touching another through our art so beautifully. Enjoy the read and do check out her stunning art work, thoughtful poetry and prose in other posts. 😊💜

Deborah J. Brasket

The_Creation_Michelangelo“The accident of touching /is so rare! Sometimes /I pause my hand on purpose / and hope to find yours there.”

These are the last lines of a poem I wrote long ago.

But I realize now that’s what this blog is all about, a way of “pausing my hand on purpose,” and hoping to find you there.

It’s all about touching, isn’t it? Touching others with our lives, ourinsights and understanding, our memories and dreams, our poetry and art. Blogging meets this basic human need—to touch others and be touched in return.

Peter_Paul_Rubens_105_1We’ve all heard how physical touching is essential to human health and happiness. They say people can shrivel up and die for want of being touched or having someone to touch. A simple pat on the shoulder, a hug, ahand squeezecan make all the difference. Merely having a pet, they say, saves lives.

But there’s a basic…

View original post 577 more words

mantle: Mary’s covering and our own God-given calling

mantle - the virgin mary @poetryjoy.com

Mantle is a quaint, rarely used word that still has relevance for us today. As well as being a literal coat or cloak, mantle also means the passing on of an important role or responsibility from person to person.

In a biblical sense, mantle can imply a covering of grace, a specific calling on our lives, as in Elijah’s prophetic mantle falling onto Elisha in a literal and metaphorical handing over of his cloak and anointing.

“So he departed from there, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he was with the twelfth. Then Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle on him.” – 1 Kings 19:19 (NKJV)

Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was cloaked and enveloped by God’s grace. She was overshadowed by Holy Spirit for the pivotal role she would play in bringing about God’s purposes on earth.

mantle - Mary's covering and our own God-given calling @poetryjoy.com

Mary’s mantle

Her charisma,
a divinely conferred
gift, was pure, bright,
a vibrant inner light
to bathe heaven’s child.

Her character brooked
choice of none other
for she was resilient,
demure and mild.

A willing and yielded
obedient servant,
a fledgling woman,
youthful, innocent,
betrothed while still a teen.

Whose womb was home,
whose heart was rent,
who hosted holiness
quietly and unseen.

A young woman
full of divine favour,
subject to rejection
and society’s reproach
for her great faithfulness
to Father God.

Became chosen
earthly mother
for our Saviour,
to give him birth
and spread his love abroad.
© joylenton

mantle - mary's mantle poem excerpt (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

How does Mary’s mantle relate to us? I think it shows that God always prepares people for the specific tasks He has appointed them to do. God fully anoints, equips and qualifies us for everything He calls us to.

Years ago, my major responsibilities were as nurse, wife and mother. Then I developed M.E and chronic illness which made it impossible to work and fully take care of myself, never mind the home and family. My perceptions of role, calling and identity shifted to meet my limitations and reduced expectations.

I am still sick and struggle with tasks, but my calling has morphed into being a writer, poet and encourager to others. Those gifts lay dormant for years but God resurrected them at just the right time.

God never forgets the mantle He has chosen to place over us. Mine might look very different to yours, because we all have a unique offering to bring to the world. One thing I have learnt: Our inner landscape can be vast, unlimited and rich even if our physical capabilities shrink.

mantle - Our inner landscape quote (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

This Advent, as you sit with hope and wait with increasing longing in your heart, try asking God what His desires are for you in the year ahead. What assignment has your name on it? What is He birthing in your soul? Is there a specific word that will define 2019 for you?

I’m currently hearing a call to rest myself more and lay aside my pen for a while. So I am taking a writing break until early January. May God bless you and keep you in His loving care until we meet again. Meanwhile, you can catch up with the poetic Art of Advent series profiling on my Words of Joy blog. 🙂

mantle - advent - trees - wreath - Christmas greetings (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com