simplify: simplifying by expanding our holy joy #FMF

 

January invites us to set new goals and parameters, expand our plans and interests, or maybe mirror winter-bare trees as we try to simplify, pare back after the indulgence of Christmas excess, shake loose our encumbrances and embrace less.

Minimalism began to whisper my name a few months ago and (at a snail-like speed, of course), I began tentatively journeying towards it. However, I have been greatly hampered in my efforts to cut back and declutter, due to the usual depletion and weakness, higher priorities demanding attention and worsening health issues.

While my home has small areas that are trimmed back to basics, much of it is still very cluttered, messy and untidy. Although I haven’t given up on changing that scenario, even if my health and inner life look like they need to be a top priority right now.

Simplify

Looking around my house, I still see evidence

and detritus of Christmas, but is that a bad thing?

Shouldn’t the incarnation of Christ be at the heart

of my home, my life, my work and witness for him?

I need to simplify, I really do, not just remove the

mess and clutter but make God the primary focus

of my life, and try not to live in a me-centric way

where holy joy cannot get a foot in the door or stay.

I need to simplify, have a daily soul cleanse and

decluttering, plus a minute-by-minute awareness,

mindful walk of faith. If not, I am in grave danger of

creating islands of junk, falling foul of their stink

and letting rot sink into my soul, because my

perspective gets skewed. Lord, would you help me

to try to simplify, to place all that I am into your hands

and centre my thoughts more on living according

to the Light within? May I follow your footsteps, seek

hard after your heart, surrender to your loving plans

long created for me to fully believe and receive.

©joylenton

**This year my primary focus is simplified down to an essential, as I aim to prioritise my God-given word of “joy”**

Today’s joy notes…

  • my sore throat easing and pain being less invasive
  • a good night’s sleep for once, praise God!
  • energy and inspiration enough to write
  • flu symptoms abating a bit, yay!
  • a beautiful bright, sunny day, which lifts my mood immensely

I am also joyful to be joining with my lovely five-minute-friday friends after a long, long absence! You can find us sharing our words here. and you’re very welcome to join in too. This week’s word is ‘simplify’.

 

PS: In case you’re interested in the concept of minimalism, I’m getting a lot of useful tips and inspiration for a minimalist lifestyle from the ‘Becoming Minimalist’ blog, in reading Joshua Becker’s book ‘Simplify’ and dipping into his more detailed read, ‘The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own’.  🙂 ❤

year: where our hopes and dreams coalesce with God’s intentions for us

 

As we enter the second week of this new year, hope, if not energy enough, is still fresh and alive. Maybe our hopes and dreams will coalesce with God’s divine intentions for us? Perhaps this time we will stick to our resolutions, goals and plans? Or is that just wishful thinking?

Maybe this will be the year when our life alters in all the best possible ways. Such are the optimistic murmurings of our hearts and the fleeting thoughts that cross our mind. Because change of the positive kind is usually welcome, even when it might also bring demanding things to our attention.

It helps to have one small, achievable thing to focus on as a year begins. For me, it is a yearly God-given word that suggests the theme and shape of the days and months to come. My word varies each year but every one builds on the next like holy stepping-stones. Although it takes time and hindsight to see and appreciate it.

When God whispered this year’s defining word to me I gasped in surprise, because last year I had actually grumbled inwardly, wondering why God wasn’t giving me a more salubrious word like joy, instead of the challenging ones I tend to get. Turns out He was listening carefully to me. Who knew?! 😏

I began pondering if there was more under the surface of this delightful word than I might know as yet. In digging deeper into its potential implications, I am seeing my word “joy” as a sweet grace gift and also no less of a challenge to me than any of the rest.

This is a year

This is a year where I long for joy to break open my low, jaded
and wary soul, pouring itself freely as sweet libation from
heaven, one that can drip lightly through my days and surprise
me with a fresh downpour sometimes, that will make me gasp
like a child splashing in puddles or standing under a waterfall

This is a year when fear can take a backseat and holy courage
will flood, hold sway, shape my thoughts and conform me more
closely into the image of Christ by a healing of heart, a move
of God and an inner work from Holy Spirit that continues here
without limit, as I learn to yield, surrender and do my part

This is a year when healing will begin and pain will no longer
define my days. Instead, I expect to move forward more
than looking back, casting the past behind me, as I learn to
grasp fresh hope, grace and opportunities that God has
lovingly prepared for me to accept and embrace by faith
©joylenton

 

Hope you’re keeping as well as possible, my friend. Sadly, like many others, our household has succumbed to flu. :/  Thankfully, this post was mostly written in advance. Praise God for His timing and grace to enable me to share it today!  🙂

Do you have a word or major focus for 2018? Please share in the comments below. I love to hear from you. ❤

warmed: cold hearts are warmed by God’s amazing love

 

We’re on the threshold of an arrival. Are we waiting with eager expectation or indifference? Although external temperatures might be low, are we being warmed on the inside by the thought of Christ’s immanence with us?

Will we greet Jesus with joy? Or might we ignore Him, like a sideshow we don’t have  time for as we busy ourselves with preparations? It’s possible to press our noses close to the manger, be captivated by the Nativity, yet miss the wonder of the infant Incarnate Christ within.

Will we allow our cold, wintry hearts to become warmed by the love of God? I hope so. Because He desires our heart’s devotion above all things and longs for us to open the door to Him.

I am like most of you: knee-deep in extra busyness, weary while waiting and exhausted by the preparation. But as I pause to ponder just what we are about to celebrate and Who this feast is really about, I see how easy it can be to slide into secularism and neglect the most important thing.

Maybe, as we wrap presents, ready ourselves to exchange gifts and attend to last-minute activities, we can try to focus our attention on recognising the presence of God in our midst.

Because He breathes out His beauty every day. He is ready to rule and reign, starting with one surrendered heart at a time. Jesus is the Gift. Jesus is all we ever truly need. 

I have taken an imaginary winter walk in the sonnet below. Come join me? Together we can discover grace being showered on us liberally like snow from heaven above, thawing out our chilled, distracted hearts.

Hearts are warmed

We walk, crunching grass crystal shards beneath our feet,
Seeing hoar frost sparkle like diamonds twinkling in the dark,
While air swirls breath into a misted fog and fingertips freeze.
Icy ground is too frozen hard for footsteps to leave a mark
But these wintry sights enliven a chilled environment.
And hearts are warmed by creation’s breathed out beauty
Where heaven’s wings touch earth out of love, not duty,
And sprinkle shining stardust by angelic intent.
Maybe the human mind should wonder on seeing snow,
Become captivated and charmed by how a landscape
Can alter in a moment, setting cold hearts aglow,
Initiating a thaw within, making way for God’s grace.
A melting of minds begins a bonfire of the vanities,
Whereby space is created to believe and receive.
©joylenton

Dear friends, I hope and pray you will have a happy and blessed Christmas celebration, with your hearts warmed by God’s amazing love. I’ll be sharing my 4th Sunday in Advent poem on Poetry Joy’s Facebook page this weekend, then I am taking a break until the new year. You can read the offering to come and catch up with the rest of the Advent poems here. Lots of love, Joy xo ❤

small: Jesus made himself less than to be like one of us

 

Do you feel small sometimes? It can be hard to fit within society’s constraints and confines. We’ve all felt boxed in by other people’s opinions, their flawed idea of who we are. It hurts to feel small, set aside or marginalised. We feel the sting shredding away at our worth.

Advent invites us to think about the infant Jesus, divinely conceived in Mary’s womb, helpless and tiny as all newborns are. But if we leave our thoughts of God at the manger, we are in danger of making Him too small, too sweet and too slight to be of any significance to us.

Jesus took on human flesh and allowed Himself to be made small in order to reveal the greatness of God to us via His life and painful, surrendered death on a cross. He came to rise again and grant heaven’s grace to unworthy sinners just like us. A gift beyond price. Eternal compassion writ larger than life itself.

Like one of us

He seems too small and insignificant, this suckling infant groping
for sustenance, too tiny to count for much, too little to be able to slay
demons at a word, make miracles occur, heal the sick, feed hungry
and thirsty in mind, body and soul, help the broken become whole

He’s a dependent, drooling, crying child who has no say in anything, yet
is in fact the incarnate Word who breathed creation into being and made
everything that has been made, including the shining stars he scattered
into space, and these people who watch over him with wonder, sore amazed

Their finite minds cannot conceive his immaculate conception
wrought through Spirit touching flesh, no man’s assistance, only that
of Father God, who planned in advance for the way his only begotten
Son would one day become like one of us, though he is perfect, sinless

For now he blinks his eyes, squints at emerging daylight, knowing only a
mother’s arms of love cradling him with such tenderness, mixed with sweet
awareness growing inside her mind, that this babe is Messiah, no longer
kicking inside her but wriggling, sighing, nestling close, real and alive
©joylenton

If it hurts our sensibilities to think we might be less than in any way, we might want to consider  how “our God” became “contracted to a span” and was “incomprehensibly made man” as the lines from Charles Wesley’s hymn ‘Our God Contracted to a Span’ state.

As we ponder the wonder of the child born to us at Bethlehem, let’s try to include the awe of our Majestic God deliberately making Himself small for us, that we might know His might and power, His endless love, His mercy, grace and exceeding goodness in our ordinary, everyday lives. Let’s worship Him for being our risen, ascended Lord and Saviour of the world.

rigidity: when God needs to soften our cold hearts

 

Winter creeps closer and my fingers and toes act like a weather barometer. They blanch to match the snow, with white tips and stiff rigidity, a bit like icicles needing thawing. ⛄❄

They can become frozen by nothing much at all— like the merest drift of cool air, even during summer months—and remain that way until the stinging throb of feeling returns again, with a bluey-red flush of blood.

It’s a bad circulation problem I’ve had since childhood, when chilblains were a literal pain and paved the way for seasons of chilled numbness thereafter. It is known as Reynaud’s disease or syndrome/phenomenon. I’ve got minor, permanent nerve damage in some fingertips due to the changeable blood flow over many years.

Contributory factors include having a mother who smoked throughout the pregnancy and being born prematurely. The good news is my heart stays hot because the core of who we are always gets the best blood supply! 💓😏

Being cold-hearted is not a helpful way to live. 💙 Having coldness or rigidity in our hearts and minds is an unattractive attribute and an indicator that we need supernatural help from God to thaw and warm us up again.

Rigidity

Flake by flake falls, blanketing a world in white, signalling
virginal innocence, and as yet untouched softness blessed
with holy awe, as we watch it fall and marvel at the miracle

Before long, newly cold wintry ground gives up its hold, turning
snow and ice to slush, rendering a hushed wonder into mud
and ridges of rigidity, much like our hearts when left alone

And there’s danger afoot when icy patches remain rock hard
causing many to curse, slip and stumble their way on slippery
soled, treacherous ground where no firm footing can be found

Months can slide by and the ground remains hard, unyielding
and resistant to touch, until a thaw of sorts takes place, sun creeps
higher in the sky of our thoughts and we creep closer to arms of love
©joylenton

 

Heavenly Father,

May you brace us to face each season with equanimity, despite chill winds of adversity blowing. Help us to not stay frozen in our emotions, or chilled within by pain, but have hearts receptive to and softened by your love.

Enable us to avoid cold rigidity in our thinking. May we be grateful for what we already have and open to receiving and welcoming the new and the next you are leading us into.

Most of all, Lord, thaw our attitudes and thoughts where they have become hardened, wearied by waiting. Remind us that during Advent, especially, there is a Holy purpose behind our pain and that new Life and Hope can be birthed in us again.

We give you our grateful thanks and praise as you lead us warmly back into experiencing your love, your wonder, joy and peace anew during the demands of this season.

Thank you. Amen

how an ending always signals a new beginning

A year draws to a close. An ending is in sight. These are days of increasing darkness in every way. No wonder Advent makes us long for the coming of the Light of Life Himself to signal a new beginning for all of us.

Creation itself mirrors our hope. We see death all around us as trees give up their leaves and plants die to make room for the green shoots of spring. Because renewal is built into their very DNA, just like it is in us as we surrender our darkness to God and watch how He brings His light and life to bear on what seems dead.

Although our bodies may wither and lose vigour as we age, and our health fail to the point of decay and eventual death, we always have an eternal, resurrection Hope of newness of Life with God.

We, and our loved ones will live again, my friend. We have a Hope that is steadfast and certain. We are destined for more than dust and ashes. We are destined to receive beauty for ashes.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the suffering and afflicted. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted, to announce liberty to captives, and to open the eyes of the blind. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of God’s favor to them has come, and the day of his wrath to their enemies.To all who mourn in Israel he will give: beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness. For God has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory.” ~ Isaiah 61:1-3 TLB

We are God’s Beloved children. He is with us from start to finish here on earth and eternally in heaven, overseeing our lives with loving care and attention, bringing new life from sorrow and death.

Death and life

I’m a tinder-dry autumn leaf

fallen to the ground

where oblivious feet crush me

dead with a satisfying

crisp-crunch sound

My life was brief but beautiful

in its dying glory flame

and I can still remember how

I would bend and sway

as the wind sang over me

with its sighed lullaby and

stole my breath away

on blustery nights and days

Now, while I lie as dusty ash

victim to every breeze

I yearn to return to my home

branching on the tree

Then an image comes to me

of sap rising high in spring

producing buds fresh and green

filled with new life and hope, new birth

I know I will grow and bloom again

to reveal God’s splendour

here on the earth

©joylenton

moment: discovering wonder in the here and now

 

Life is a series of moments. Things waiting to be discovered and experienced. Heightened hours to enjoy to the full and times of dark trial, trouble and tribulation. We’re on a journey where we find ourselves along the way. And a veritable trail of wonder, hopefully.

Though I usually attempt to freeze-frame wonder moments in a camera lens, God often whispers for me to desist, slow down and simply savour what I see. It’s as if those wondrous clouds, that scenic sky, floral beauty and trellis of trees were made just for me.

And in a way, they are. Because Jesus would have willingly gone to the cross if there had been only one of us in need of a Saviour. God spills out creation’s beauty as though it’s tailor-made for you and me. 

I’m a woman on a mission, without leaving home. A soul on a quest to pursue beauty and seek wonder in the commonplace, as I look to discover God  in the minutiae of my days.

He is here. The Holy One, King of heaven and earth , inhabits the ordinary. He’s longing to be found by questing minds and hearts. Is it easy? Not always. It takes determination and dedication to keep pressing in to sense the sacred in the secular. Is it worth it? Oh, yes!

In this moment

Lord of all life,

you are in this moment and that moment

In the weary, bleary half-awake

pyjama-clad, messy, undressed state

In all the dreary length of days and

heights of excitement along the way

In shrouded, clouded, muddled mind

and clarity bursts of the sudden kind

In biting tongue after harsh words

releasing good thoughts to be heard

In discouragement, hiding of face

then eyes lit up by glimmers of grace

In loneliness, absence of sound, and

having our friends and family round

In all our living, loving and giving

we rely on you for all receiving

Be in this moment and this hour

equip us with your wisdom and power

©joylenton


Sometimes our eyes need things enhanced or altered a little, as in the arty style photo of yellow roses below. They are enchanting in their own right, of course, though we can become jaded by the familiar and satiated with sameness. A little tweak from us (or a wake up call from God) is enough to awaken our hearts anew to the beauty of this moment, being present to His presence.