normal: living beyond our limitations

 

What does it mean to be ‘normal’? Is there such a thing? I guess it depends on your personal definition, doesn’t it? Because the world will always try to compartmentalise, squash us into boxes and confine us in its own straitjackets, if we let it.

The good news is God created each and every one of us unique. And we answer to Him alone, defined only by what His word says about us and who we are in Christ. That thought comforts me as I aim to live well with M.E and chronic illness.

You and I don’t have to fit within the world’s narrow (and frequently judgemental) parameters. We are special to God, understood completely by Him, if no-one else. God wants us to grow into the best version of ourselves we can be by His grace, to know we are His cherished Beloved.

I miss some of the activities I used to do before illness made being housebound a normality for me, especially spending summer days at the beach. Here in Norfolk we are blessed to have a few within driving distance.

However, they are often hard to access by foot (or wheelchair) once you’ve parked, with their steep inclines, long, winding pathways and uneven, pebbly stones to traverse, never mind distance from car to beach.

It’s been an outing I’ve had to forego for years because the car journey alone would exhaust me. Though I still travel there fondly in my memories, as in the poem below…

Normal for Norfolk

The sea tosses back and forth with wild, hyperactive
froth churning up thick rivers of mud, reflecting the sanded
character of a Norfolk beach, whose waters are latte-brown
with a side shot of espresso hiccupped out now and then

There’s a roar that steals away our words, deafening
as it drowns out all sound apart from its own
and we wonder anew at the way waves crash so
violently, yet dissipate into delicate filigrees

A surging wind stings our cheeks with saline drops
which wake us up, catch away our breath, bring tears
to stinging eyes and a gasp of surprise at its velocity
making unsteady, giddy skittles out of you and me
©joylenton

 

How do you view your life in terms of being ‘normal’ or otherwise?

What helps you to retain a positive outlook?

I’d love to hear in the comments below. 😊

PS: I’ve been writing about  the calming effects of the sea over on my Facebook page. You can find it here and read the #dailyhaiku #novembernugget posts being shared. May the soul snippets of poetry bless you, friend. ❤

vanish: letting go of our cares and concerns

November comes in shyly, concealing its icy depths in a cloak of mist. Many days are washed in vapour, made mysterious by the hiddenness of things, the way the familiar can vanish in an instant.

Reducing, darkening daylight hours make us yearn for the light, seek colour and warmth and savour each tiny bit of golden, autumnal glory while we can.

Maybe we could view this concealment as invitation to turn away for a while from the allure of the world around us. To let go of our cares and concerns, and begin to mimic these chillier days by being still and rested in our souls.

Vapour in the mist

Sky shades to silver as a veil of grey
falls like a leaden blanket, allowing
mere slivers of azure blue hues to
filter through

This pale, dove-grey covering conceals sun’s
heat with filmy rays, and invites us to
come aside from busyness and rest
here instead

So we pause a while, breathe a little freer
as we let loose constraints of the day
and watch worries vanish as vapour
in the mist
©joylenton

Father,

When skies shade to grey and our emotions are tempted to follow suit, help us instead to focus on your bright, shining Light that is always with us. May we see mellow, misty moments in these darkening days as an invitation to come aside, breathe, pause and pray, trusting that all our cares and concerns are safe in your hands.

May we reflect on the colour and vibrancy that surrounds us. Give us eyes open to receive and  hearts able to appreciate the onset of winter, sensing awe and wonder in the stark beauty it brings to everything.

Fill our souls with gratitude for the gifts to be found in each season of life and faith.  And remind us how one season will slowly segue into another, eventually vanish from our memories, until it returns in its own form of splendour, with joys we hadn’t anticipated.

Amen

nugget: news about a poetic feast for November #thedailyhaiku bonus

 

As we embark on the month of November, I am reflecting on how writing each day during October has revealed a few things to me, and  sharing about a poetic bonus for you to enjoy in the days ahead.

Here’s a (non-haiku) description of what I have learnt during the #write31days writing challenge:

A writer reflects

Pondering is my natural state

I’m so thankful for God’s grace

I tend to write deep, not light

I try to be hopeful, bright

Short posts are definitely best

A tired writer needs her rest

It’s a wonder to be sustained each day

God always gives us His help and strength

Interest in our words may wax and wane

We can rely on God to be the same

Faithfulness means dependence

God faithfully provides the means

Persistence is necessary and fine

I love to write, especially in rhyme

Haiku are a joy and delight for me

I would love to carry on, okay?

©joylenton

God has very generously given me more haiku than I could fit into this series, and I have had a lot of creative fun gathering them together as a bonus for my readers. I’m calling each one a  ‘November Nugget’ – a little soul food snack to warm your heart and see you through the colder days ahead.

They will usually consist of just a helping of haiku, plus a photograph, and will be mini reflections on life, faith, gratitude and grace. Because I need to rest my words here for a while, you will find these poetic nuggets on my Poetry Joy Facebook page. I also hope to share them on my ‘The Daily Haiku’ board on Pinterest and on Instagram.

It would be lovely to have you join me in those places. When you drop by you can gulp one down like an espresso shot for the soul and be on your way in no time, or you can stay and savour a long latte’s worth, and maybe share them as well.

Each November Nugget is already pre-prepared (thankfully!)  and I aim to share one daily. They will be served with love, and be light and easy to digest. You can find the first one here and follow best by liking my page. Thank you! See you over there, friend… 🙂 ❤

story: owning the story of our lives #thedailyhaiku 31

 

I’ve lost count of the number of times I have wanted to disown the story I am living, rewrite it differently and choose an alternative narrative arc. Maybe you have too. So what does owning our story look like? 

As a woman of faith, I venture to suggest it looks like seeing our lives as a small but highly significant part of God’s greater narrative. In the story He is telling throughout history, we all have a part to play. You matter. Your life isn’t a mistake or an accident.

I grew up thinking (hoping?) I must have been adopted, such was the disconnect between me and my family of origin. Later on, hearing how my mother had taken measures to try to stop the pregnancy from continuing, my insecure feelings grew stronger.

Then God happened. He’d been there right at conception, of course, planned for me to live at such a time as this, to be born into the generation I belong to and the family where I arose from but failed to see myself as cherished.

I was born prematurely and against the odds. I was meant to be here. And to survive whatever life threw at me. I was also born to bloom and thrive because of belonging to the family of God. 

Once I came to faith in Christ, my  wounded soul brokenness was no surprise to Him, only a recognisable state we all struggle with to varying degrees. I finally woke up to the fact that I was unconditionally loved—by Almighty God Himself.

It has taken me a while to own the story of my life, filled with brokenness and emotional pain as the years have been, plus decades of health challenges. But that’s only viewing it from a purely human perspective.

Now I am able to see how God poured out His mercy and grace, loved me immeasurably, tenderly wiped away the tears and gave me a brand new start through Jesus.

I am incredibly blessed to have a husband who adores me, a loving family and close friends. I no longer want to disown the story of my life. Instead, I am willing to speak out about how much God has changed and glorified it by His grace. And He will do it for you too, my friend.

Owning my story

I claim this story
the life I live, holding it
shyly—out to you

you gather pieces
of my brokenness and give
them back to me—whole

and in your eyes, wide
as the ocean swells, I see
sweet mercy and grace

caught in a net of love
with no thought of escape, here
I will stay—always
©joylenton

We’ve made it! This is the last post in #thedailyhaiku series for October’s #write31days marathon reading/writing challenge. It’s been a joy and sweet encouragement to have your company here. Thank you! If you want to catch up with the rest of the posts, please click here.  And look out for a surprise bonus tomorrow!  🙂 ❤

denudement: paring back to necessities #thedailyhaiku 30

 

Trees are slowly becoming divested of their covering. Layers are being removed by the elements. It’s a stripping off, losing a covering of leaves, a paring back to skeletal form, especially as wintry winds take hold.

There’s a strange kind of bare-bones beauty in the removal of a tree’s raiment, decorative as it is. Twisted branches speak of weight-bearing under strain, with an arthritic suggestion extending to the depleted spindliness of twigs, one I can relate to in my own weakened frame, with joints distorted by arthritis.

Life itself has a way of paring us back, and we notice it in particular when our bodies grow slack and bones protrude with lengthening years. It’s as if we are being issued with a salutary reminder that life consists of so much more than the physical. Which it does, of course.

Then I think of how stiff and resistant our souls can become, needing the wild winds of Holy Spirit to blow upon them like a wake up call. Extraneous leaves that have littered our thinking are denuded. We are brought back to simple necessities.

We learn how it is always better for us to remain pliant and flexible in spirit, able to surrender, bend and stretch to life’s challenges, aided by God’s grace. His Holy tune is the one that plays on human hearts. We are encouraged to listen to what it is saying and to yield to the wind of heavenly Love as it shapes us from season to season.

denudement

arthritic branches
bend and stretch to wind’s wild tune
denuding their leaves
©joylenton

summer’s ghost lingers #thedailyhaiku 29

 

Do you have a favourite season? I’m particularly fond of autumn and spring. I favour the former for its burnished leaves and ethereal mists, the cooling down (yet not too cold for being outside) aspects it has, as we hunker closer to cosy home comforts.

Spring suggests a freshness, a blowing away of cobwebs, an awakening to emerging light and new life after winter hibernation, slumber and lengthy darkness. It’s when we celebrate Christ’s resurrection, bringing holy Hope and Joy to winter-weary hearts. It’s a gentle precursor to summer, a herald in the heart of better days to come, even as frost rimes the ground.

I’m looking forward to seeing spring again, while remembering summer’s passing. Here we are in the thrall of golden autumnal days, mellow haze and crisping of leaves. Summer is receding into the background of our minds, becoming ghost-like, made delicious by fond remembrance, like a warm hug from a distant friend.

God has given us a great variety of seasonal delights to savour. I’d love to hear how the seasons speak to you, how they affect your thinking, inform your creativity or simply make you happy. Feel free to leave a comment below…  🙂

summer’s ghost lingers

summer’s ghost lingers
tasting like wine on the tongue
now autumn has come
©joylenton

Sabbath: space to rest, breathe and be still #thedailyhaiku 28

 

Today, I invite you to come aside from busyness for a while, slump easy on the settee, crash out in a chair (or grab a log) and join me in finding a few moments of rest for our restless souls. We don’t have to wait for a special day to have a Sabbath mindset and heart. Because God is always available to us.

Being holy isn’t about trying hard to achieve a state of perfection or keeping to a set of rules. It’s a way of life and a relationship of knowing Holy Love. Recognising we are set apart for God’s glory, while we live in a fallen world. It means having a surrendered soul and a disposition of faith and trust, knowing God abides within by His Spirit and is willing to work in and though us, despite our weakness and brokenness.

We come aside to spend time in God’s presence because we can. It’s a Holy privilege given to us. God longs for us to meet with Him. We don’t have to wait for Sabbath to arrive or a gilt-edged invitation to come in the post, because Jesus is the ever-open Door into the Father’s presence. 

And when we do see ourselves as God’s Beloved ones, realise just how much our Father desires to be with us, then we approach Him with due reverence and awe, coupled with a grateful, childlike heart that eagerly runs to the throne and delights to be in her Abba’s arms again.

keeping Sabbath

time to be holy

set apart for God’s glory

space to breathe and Be

©joylenton

Let’s listen to the hope filled words of the song below, still our souls, breathe freely, simply Be and rest in knowing we are loved Just As We Are and blessed beyond measure by God…