loved: you can rest in being the beloved of God

loved - you can rest in being the beloved of God - hearts - mailbox @poetryjoy.com

Love is in the air, you hope, as you eagerly check your physical and digital mailboxes for signs suggesting you are loved. Perhaps you’re hoping to hear from that one special person whose devotion means so much to you, if only they would let you know?

Maybe you are nursing a broken heart as you sit grieving for the love you have lost? Or you feel lonely, distant from family and friends, wondering if anyone thinks of you now and then. Perhaps life has wounded you, given you deep inner pain and a growing unease because you think you don’t deserve the kind of love you want to receive?

loved - being the beloved - father and son - two voices compete quote by Henri Nouwen @poetryjoy.com

However this day finds you, my friend, may you be encouraged by knowing you are very much seen, paid attention to, and devotedly loved 24/7, year in year out by God. He longs for you and I to sense His loving presence and love Him back.

God yearns for us to know that even if we’re rejected by the world, unwanted by our families or distant from anyone who truly cares for us, He is here. He waits for us with deep longings in His heart. God has cherished us since before our birth. You are special to Him just because you exist.

loved - baby's hand in father's palm - God has cherished us quote @poetryjoy.com

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed  body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” — Psalms 139: 13-16 NIV

Crafted with love

I read the words,
scanning all too quickly,

and then I pause
as I allow them to sink in.

They tell me I am seen, noticed
by God, deliberately made,

lovingly shaped before my birth,
I’m given love, value and worth.

Knowing my own history,
the way I came into the world

was not the best—born too early
and unwanted by my family.

They brought me up
with great strain and stress,

more than lavish love and grace
or tender care and kindness.

Maybe you, too, sense
a kind of disconnect

and fail to love yourself
because you’ve been rejected?

Maybe you have also known
the painful sting of not fitting in,

how you felt like a lost stranger
and yet you longed to belong,
to be at home in your own home?

May we take comfort from this:
that our existence is not a mistake
for we are unconditionally loved

by God, and enabled to rise above
the shame and pain of our past.
© joylenton

loved - one child comforting another - may we take comfort quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

May you know how very special you are, dear one. Simply because you exist. God calls you His beloved. Have a listen to the Father’s Love Letter that was written for you. Let the words sink deep into your heart. Because you are known. You are cherished. You are unconditionally loved, today and always. ❤ ❤

searching: the eternal quest for meaning and significance

“When God has become our shepherd, our refuge, our fortress, then we can reach out to him in the midst of a broken world and feel at home while still on our way.” — Henri Nouwen, from Reaching Out in You Are the Beloved: Daily Meditations for Spiritual Living

Searching

Your soul yearns
as you search
for an opening of sorts,
a place to belong
a haven on earth
where you can finally soar.

There are moments
when you forget yourself
because you’re too caught up
in the act
of survival alone,
in simply staying the course.

And there are times
when you wish the earth
would swallow you whole,
like Jonah, gulped down
quick in the belly of a whale
before he was vomited out.

Then you could disappear
with no thought
about making a mark,
getting noticed, perhaps,
a tiny dent to suggest
you were here, you exist.

But if you stop and pause
you might reflect
that you are seen, you are heard
and you are known
by others—you are loved
and infinitely precious to God.

And you can remind
yourself on the greyest of days
that the sun won’t forget
to rise and shine again,
and bathe you in its golden rays
even if it’s pouring with rain.

Each small, positive thought
counts because it builds
on the rest,
as it gathers momentum
and swells its support
like a warm hug in your chest.
© joylenton

searching poem excerpt (C) joylenton - landscape - sky @poetryjoy.com

May you remember, my friend, that you are not as alone as you might sometimes feel while journeying through life, because fellow travellers walk beside you and God companions you too.

We also have the joy of belonging to the family of God through adoption by faith in Jesus Christ, who is the beginning and end, the Alpha and Omega of all things, including all our seeking and searching.

“True joy is hidden where we are the same as other people: fragile and mortal. It is the joy of belonging to the human race. It is the joy of being with others as a friend, a companion, a fellow traveler. This is the joy of Jesus, who is Emmanuel: God-with-us.” — Henri Nouwen, Daily E-Meditation from Henri Nouwen Society

In his poem ‘Little Gidding’, T.S. Eliot says that we shall not cease our exploring until we “arrive where we started, and… know the place for the first time.” May that thought encourage your heart in all your searching and finding. ❤

slow: heart work that reaps benefits

“As I live and move and have my being today, show me where you are. Keep my ears attuned toward your voice. Open my eyes to your activity in my life. Help me slow down enough to experience you in the mundane.” — Jesus Every Day: A Journey Through the Bible in One Year by Mary DeMuth

Heart work

Discipline of the heart
sounds like it could be harsh,
but what if it involves a slower pace
and heightened awareness?

Could you and I learn
to discern when it pays us
to cease from our activity,
to be still and quiet, at peace?

Might a letting go of busyness
be a hidden blessing for us,
and just what the doctor
ordered for our harassed hearts?

I believe it is definitely
a great soul benefit
to release our pain, our hurts,
and to freely cast our cares.

We can pause at intervals
throughout the day,
microseconds maybe
where we stop and pray.

It could become second
nature to us as we reap
soul rest and peace, coupled with
the rewards of receiving grace.

We might discover we are also
less inclined to stress about this
and that, if we desist and find
we become more centred and calm.

It would deepen and strengthen
our relationship with God, and with
one another, as we learnt how to
honour the hours and sense his love.
© joylenton

“My strength comes in quietness, in those unseen places where I refuel with you…. In my weariness, thank you for showing me again that every other avenue of help is lifeless. Only you bring genuine rest and life.” – Jesus Every Day: A Journey Through the Bible in One Year by Mary DeMuth

slow - swans on a lake at sunset - heart work poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

PS: if you’d like to know more about the spiritually mindful practice of slowing down, this post might help. 🙂

connections: why they are vital for the health of our souls

connections - hands reaching across the world

There is nothing quite as reassuring to our souls than to know we are not alone with our world view, thoughts, pain and hurts. And if we can find close connections with our family, friends, neighbours or those who live far from us, then that is a great gift to treasure.

It is one we need more than ever when life gets tough, our focus is fractured, social media “friends” might be anything but, and real life friends can disappear at the drop of a hat. Everyone is so busy and hard pressed that it takes real commitment to stay in touch.

My years of internet life and blogging have been greatly enriched by making close connections and friendships with others. It’s one of the things I miss most when I need to pull back due to health relapses.

I cherish hearing from those who maintain contact with me when I’m out of action and particularly unwell. Because we could all use friends who keep the faith and do not give up on us.

It’s when we’re more adrift than usual due to chronic illness, extra health challenges or excess pressure that we really value the connections we have with others and with God. Our relationship with God especially acts as an anchor for our restless souls and a life raft to cling to when we feel lost and alone. 

Making connections

Across the curve
of this sprawling earth,
through different time zones,

straddling deep oceans,
instant communication comes
across the vast continents,
and hope gets birthed.

It comes from close
connection forged across
the pond, home to home,
where hand holds hand,

where hearts beat as one
and prayers ascend
to our online friends
via the Father’s throne.

We discover others
who think like us,
whose souls are in harmony,

united in the bond of humanity,
criss-crossing the world
with ease via our screens,
revealing expressions of love.

This great privilege
enables us to visit
without boundaries of time,
distance and space,

as we bring companionship
to our isolated, lonely friends
and receive a joy and peace
which nothing can transcend.
© joylenton

connections - earth - globe - network - making connections poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Wouldn’t it be good if what unites us proves to be stronger than what divides us? I’m praying it will be so as my country begins to live with the outcomes of Brexit. And for the world as a whole so that greater harmony and peace might result.

Maybe if we realised that reaching out with understanding, compassion, grace and love was preferable to distancing ourselves because we cannot all agree on something, maybe we could rediscover the joys of making life enhancing connections with one another. PS: My poetic friend, Jenneth Graser, has written a beautiful prayer for connection here.

connection people in a circle - Wouldn't it be good if what unites us proves to be stronger than what divides us quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

thirst: quenching a thirst we might ignore

thirsty - cat drinking from a fountain -quenching our thirst @poetryjoy.com

It doesn’t take much to remind us we are thirsty and to find the means to quench it. Whether we snuggle up with a steaming mug of coffee, hot chocolate or herbal tea on a cold winter’s day, or gulp down cool, refreshing glasses of water, juice or lemonade in reaction to increasing heat, we can easily satiate that need.

But we might be less aware of our inner soul thirst. Not just the drives and desires, the passions that fuel and fire our activities, but a gnawing spiritual awareness of our emptiness and how to fill it.

Even if our eyes are opened, we might choose to satisfy the insatiable thirst inside with physical things or with compulsive behaviour that could end up harming us, if not our purse.

During my recent stint in the soul desert wilderness, it took me a while to register my need to reach out to God and to realise how thirsty I was. At first, I was too lost in my thoughts. Too pulverised by fatigue, weakness and pain, and too discouraged to see light at the end of the tunnel.

Thirsting,

A voice calls across the desert
sitting in our souls,
encouraging us to listen,

to pause and bend down low,
prepare ourselves to drink
as much as we might need

from a Well that never dries out,
from the Fountain of Life himself,
from a place where all must kneel

in order to receive
because we thirst for more
than life’s bare necessities.

And we come as life’s lost
and lonely wounded ones,
the broken people

who are depleted and undone,
barren, empty and incomplete
and dying on our feet,

because our souls have shrunk
to fit the world we’re in
instead of being wholly

comfortable in our own skin,
as it stretches to the heavens
and back again.
© joylenton

thirst - woman drinking from a jug - thirsty poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

In the desert of depression and ditches of discouragement we get into, we can be slow to cotton on to the fact that God is already present with us in our struggles. He tries to attract our attention in numerous ways, yet we can be too self-preoccupied or stressed to notice. We thirst, but we don’t always know what for.

“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” – Jeremiah 31:25 NIV

God might lead us into the desert for some necessary soul maintenance work, as He did with me, but He won’t abandon us to our fate. Rather, He stays, encourages, whispers hope and healing to our hearts and gently leads us out again when the time is ripe.

Then when we emerge from the desert, from our painful places, we discover our thirst for God’s presence has grown. We thirst for His Word and His voice. He is the Well we keep searching for, and it never runs dry.

wilderness: a place of refuge, restoration and grace

Have you ever been in a wilderness? A bleak, barren desert place where you felt lost and alone? I have. Many times. But mine, and maybe yours too, is more of a soul state than a physical place.

It’s an arid environment we don’t want to linger in. Many of us face deserts of discouragement, depression or despair. And they feel just as real to us as if we were in a sun-scorched land where very little signs of life exist.

When escape is possible, it’s a huge relief because we’re longing to move on. And, at first, as we begin to enter new territory, it can seem like a huge waste of time to have been there at all.

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.” – Hosea 2:14 NIV

However, these wilderness places could be areas of soul refuge, restoration and grace, spiritual training grounds that God leads us into, or an oasis of enforced rest because we’ve become too exhausted to carry on with our usual pursuits.

If we can learn to not resist but see the wildernesses we experience as necessary pausing places in which to catch our breath, mature and grow, our fears lessen at being called to endure them for however long it takes. Then we begin to assimilate the lessons we have learnt in this seemingly inhospitable environment.

Wilderness

This is a desert
in all its barren beauty,
where we wilt,
desperately seeking shade,

while sun’s fierce heat
scorches our souls
and we wither within
at losing the life
we used to know.

Here we might feel alone
but a holy shadow
accompanies us as we choke

on dust, stumble and fall
because we see no way out
and do not know
what direction we should go.

All is swirling winds
that sting our faces like flint
and bring us deeper pain,

as we shield our eyes
while we’re walking blind,
full of longing inside
to move forward again.

We think we’ve become
deaf to God’s voice
in this wild wilderness,

but it has somehow
penetrated us soul deep,
as if his wisdom

has been instilled by soft
osmosis in our hearts
and we discover it as we depart.
© joylenton

desert - sand - wilderness poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“Who is this coming up from the wilderness leaning on her beloved?” – Song of Songs 8:5 NIV

God keeps us company and waters our souls in the wilderness so we are never as alone or deprived as we might feel. After six long months of absence, He unexpectedly released me back into blogging last week over at Words of Joy – which can now be found at joylenton.com. And He has graced me to resume here too.

I was amazed to still be standing after the Christmas holidays, never mind receiving a fresh supply of cognitive if not physical energy! So to be coming up from the wilderness is a gift I don’t take for granted.

As always, I’m completely dependent on God for the ability, strength and focus to write. But I hope you will stick around, wait for the words to come, maybe peruse the archives if you are new here, and allow me a bit of settling in time as well. Thank you! 😉💜

goal: when our priorities get shifted by life and chronic illness

Life can be reduced to goal after goal. We can get so hung up on achievement and ticking things off our list that we forget to pause, breathe or appreciate it. It’s like a never-ending treadmill.

If we’re too goal oriented, our hearts can become frantic, our minds cluttered and our ears resistant to listening to what’s wisest for us right now. And it can happen without us noticing because we’ve failed to pay attention to the signals our bodies and souls have been frantically sending us. Then we end up in overwhelm, with no way out, or so it seems.

At that stage we have choices to make: do we pause/stop/reduce our expectations/stick with more manageable, achievable goals/reset our thoughts or move the goal posts wider apart than before? If we have chronic illness, then this kind of quandary occurs pretty frequently, if not daily, because the ability well runs dry with alarming speed. With relatively minor tasks, exhaustion and depletion set in and we are forced to pause.

Over the last few months, I’ve been caught up in completing and publishing my latest book. Fuelled by adrenaline. High on the rush of getting something done. Trying to drive this slow carriage of mine full steam ahead. But it soon protested.  And crashed. Just when I had completed the task… phew!!

As I saw the word for five-minute-friday, I smiled wryly. And searched out my folders for something to share because I’ve got very little fresh creative juice left. The poem that made the cut took longer than five minutes to write but it perfectly encapsulates what my next priority should be.

Pausing

My worth and value
do not lie
in the words I write
or the thoughts I share
on social media,

or how I might
be perceived by others
who view my life,
my deeds and tasks.

But they are rooted
in my relationship with God
as he creates, shapes and takes
each thought
and provides the reassurance

that I need for strength,
as his cherished child
and his dependent, sufficient
beloved one.

So I will not blanch
or pull back
from what he asks of me
with quiet persistence
but offer him

my surrender willingly,
as he invites
me to pause again and taste
his holy rain.

Even though it hurts
to become invisible
to others,
I already know I can only
give of my best

when I yield to his grace,
accept this season
of online inactivity
and simply rest.
© joylenton

goal - pausing poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com - girl at the beach - worth and value

“In the drivenness of our society, it’s hard to make time to relax our efforts and find transforming energy. That’s why we need this particular posture of waiting so much. When we sit in this way we’re relaxing the bow; we’re coming to rest in a very deep way in God, allowing ourselves to be cradled in the sighing mystery of Christ’s prayer.” – When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions by Sue Monk Kidd

I’m thankful for a stack of unpublished poems to draw from and the ability to join the fabulous five-minute-friday writing crew as we share our thoughts on this week’s prompt of “goal.” Come join us here and read the great variety of posts being aired.

Friends, sooner than planned, I’m needing to lay down my poetic pen here for a while to recover from my latest M.E relapse. I want to embrace a season of rest, coupled with the goal of paying closer attention to God, my health and family. I’m seeking to savour summer relaxation and sort out my cluttered soul and home.

PS: Any poetry shared over the coming few weeks will be on my Facebook page and/or my Instagram page. I’d love to connect with you in those places! 🙂 You can check out my new book, Embracing Hope: Soul Food to Help Chase Away the Blues in the sidebar here or on amazon. Sending you goodbye hugs until we gather here again. xo ❤ ❤

goal - If something is worth creating space for in your life, it’s worth your full attention #quote #openarms #sun #opendoor @poetryjoy.com