interlinked: how mourning and joy are closer than we think

interlinked - how mourning and joy are closer than we think - girl dancing in sunlight @poetryjoy.com

“For everything there is a season. . . . a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” — Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4 NRSV

Interlinked

We mourn,
thinking we might never
rediscover joy, never
laugh or dance again,

but we are wrong
because they are all
interlinked, entwined

parts of one another,
shared segments
of our soul’s deepest needs.

While we weep
we also prepare
to dance, to feast,

although it doesn’t
necessarily cross our minds
that one could follow on,
like day follows night,

or be the shadow of the other
as we try to hold these
disparate thoughts together.

Even here,
even now, when grief needs
closure, there are glimmers,

conjoined glimpses of hope
which support and enable
us to look up,

to go on with courage,
because a slight lifting
of lockdown might signal
a slow return to peace.
(C) joylenton

interlinked - woman watching the waves - poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Once we return to a semblance of normality in our nations, our “ordinary” might feel scarily different but it will have a fresh lustre and glow of grace about it too. Because we are limited in what we can do now, we appreciate the joyful, sacrosanct and sacred moments that exist and long to keep them fixed in our hearts.

“Mourning and dancing, grief and laughter, sadness and gladness—they belong together as the sad-faced clown and the happy-faced clown, who make us both cry and laugh. Let’s trust that the beauty of our lives becomes visible where mourning and dancing touch each other.” — Henri Nouwen, in Faith That Matters: 365 Devotions from Classic Christian Leaders

Maybe we will dance in our hearts or gardens, if not in the streets. Like a butterfly being joyfully released to fly freely, instead of being restrained and shut away, confined to a limited environment, mourning the freedom it has lost.

A lingering sadness and wariness will exist because so much has changed, so many lives have been cut painfully short, so many of us are in a prolonged recovery mode. We will need faith and trust to carry us through the days of difference that lie ahead.

“I have told you all this so that you will have peace of heart and mind. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows; but cheer up, for I have overcome the world.” — John 16:33 TLB

Where are you seeing glimpses of joy during these unsettled times? What makes your heart sing or helps keep you comforted and calm? 🙂 ❤

hope: listening for the sound of hope in your soul

hope - blackbird singing on a tree - listening for the sound of hope in your soul @poetryjoy.com

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words — And never stops at all.” — Emily Dickinson

Notes of hope

A blackbird’s throaty warble
rises above the voices
on the street, making conversation

because we’re all hungry
for company, for solace,
even at two metres apart.

But I’m listening more
to the notes of hope and joy,
bringing a reminder
that this too shall pass,

time will move on as it
always does, and we will return
to a new normality at last.

My solitary blackbird
friend has no soul companions
but it doesn’t deter him

from belting out his song,
from shrugging off the sadness
because he’s on his own.

He is staying put—for now,
to bring cheer to our hearts,
hope for the housebound
and isolated, while he sings

of spring, of life and birth, burgeoning
earth, of newness, of growth and hope
continuing beyond this moment.
© joylenton

hope - blackbird on a garden fence - notes of hope poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” — Corrie Ten Boom

release: the pain and the gain of letting go

release - the pain and the gain of letting go - birds freed from a cage

These strange times we are in call for an eventual release, don’t they? Getting back to the world of school and work, perhaps. Returning to our usual activities in a new normality we’re still uncertain about.

I’ve been thinking about life’s many moments of small release, adjusting to our losses, a necessary  moving on and moving forward, including the great letting go we will all experience one day.

When the time comes

When the time comes, let it go,
learn to release each care,
each sorrow like so much
wheat chaff blowing in the wind,
being carried who knows where
or who knows when.

Do not cling too tightly to life
as if it were all you had
because a greater life, a better
love, a softer peace exists,
waiting beyond the blue
with its arms open for you.

Seek to live as truly, fully
and freely as you can,
while you stay mindful
of its transitory state,
of its preciousness,
its wonder, colour and grace.

Learn to love the sacred
ordinariness each day offers
you like a gift,
holding it close but not too
close, knowing it will end
swift as sun sinks vermilion
and a curtain of dark descends.

When the time comes
try to be prepared, ready
to release, as you thank
each gift, each person, each thing
that has meant something
for being part of your life.

Before it happens,
make sure that you get
to notice it all,
everything good, bad, indifferent,
because it has helped
to shape and form
the person you have become.

In the early years
you can be forgiven
for your nonchalance
and insouciance, but not
as you gather to your breast
loved ones, special relationships.

Later on, when the dandelion
clock is looking a little
threadbare, pared back,
let yourself reflect
on what has gone, what has
passed to bring you to Now.

As time elapses, seek to hold
lightly to it all,
to anything you value
and all you don’t
because they all count, they all
add up to sand in the hourglass.

So when the time comes
remind yourself of this:
how you have lived,
how you have loved,
and try to forgive yourself
if you think it isn’t enough.

Give yourself grace for being
a flawed human being
who is a delightful mix
of pulled together and mess,
because you’re learning to grow
before you can let go.

Finally, release all your worries,
concerns and stress, let them
tumble off your burdened back
and feel the weight
of your soul’s sheer emptiness.

As the hours nudge closer
to the time you half expect,
even as you look back
with a few regrets, may you
be light as air, bright and happy,
because from hereon? You are free.
© joylenton

release - when the time comes poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Our faith journey is a continual process of letting go of our extraneous stuff and holding tight to the hand of God. We release what doesn’t serve us well and receive the best He has in mind for us.

It takes wisdom and courage to let go but we don’t have to do it alone. God’s help is only a breath, a prayer away. Can I pray for you today, my friend? A load shared is a load lifted… ❤

release - letting go prayer (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

melody: how it echoes through nature and life

“There’s a melody in everything. And once you find the melody, then you connect immediately with the heart.” — Carlos Santana

Nature’s melody

I long to hear
the call of ancient sounds
from our primeval ancestry,
echoes of days
before our history scrawled
its way upon the page.

May birdsong beckon
me to a deeper
sense of belonging
and connectivity
to all sentient things.

May the swish
of sea washing waves
on sand become
a rhythmic melody,
like a heartbeat.

Let whispering wind
speak hushed words
I can only sense if I listen
mindfully, carefully,
with greater intent.

Let me allow
more space for creation’s song
to sing loud and long
repeatedly into my depleted
soul creativity.

May I ache for
understanding of nature’s
melody, while it breathes
and speaks soft
to every living
creature—and to me.
©joylenton

“Nature is man’s teacher. She unfolds her treasure to his search, unseals his eye, illumes his mind, and purifies his heart; an influence breathes from all the sights and sounds of her existence.” — Alfred Billings Street

“I arise today through
The strength of heaven:
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon,
The splendour of fire.
The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth,
The firmness of rock.”
— Saint Patrick, an excerpt from his Breastplate Prayer

melody - excerpt from Saint Patrick's breastplate prayer @poetryjoy.com

Much evidence exists, anecdotal and otherwise, that spending time in nature is healing for body and soul. Forest bathing is being touted as a good thing, as is gardening, because nature has the ability to lift us out of our daily preoccupations and worries. It’s even been said to help alleviate the symptoms of depression.

Listening to the sounds of nature is also beneficial and freely available to all. Because even in city life there are plants, trees, clouds, birds and sky.  Creation continually sings its melody to us, and we hear it if our ears are receptive enough to listen.

And if, like me, you cannot get out into a natural environment as much as you want to, the video below might help you feel like you are there, and possibly relax you as well. Because we could all use an extra bit of stress relief right now… 😊❤️🌿

melody - trees - leaves - sunlight - nature's melody poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Walk with Him

A wise and inspiring prayer from a gentle, discerning soul. Thank you, dear Elizabeth. I love the invitation you offer here and I pray others are blessed by it too. 🙏🏻🦋💜

The Contemplative Path

Walk gently towards Him

Every day

No striving or straining

Simply looking to Him

Seek to follow Him

With a quiet trust

And a desire in your heart

To walk with Him always

His Footsteps will guide

And His Hand will hold

He will pick you up when you fall

And hold you in His Loving Embrace

Seek to serve His Kingdom of Love

In every small way you can

Let His Love so fill your heart

That you may always give love to others

This day and every day

Amen

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The Quarantine Quatrains: Birdsong for May Day

This beautiful celebration of the hopeful sound of birdsong and the way it lifts our hearts is part of Malcolm Guite’s contemplative Quarantine Quatrain series. Do check out the rest on his blog. His poetry is sublime… 😉💜

Malcolm Guite

Blossom in Girton’s Orchard. Photo by Liliana Janek

The first of May, that magical turn of the year, that full opening of spring which must always bring hope, seems like a good day to share an episode of my Quarantine Quatrains which celebrates the experience of listening to birdsong. I hear it when I am sitting, writing in my hut, and again drifting through the open window as I sit in my study, and always, as Hopkins says ‘my heart in hiding’ stirs for a bird’.

I have now completed the whole Quarantine Quatrain series, which consists, as the word Quarantine implies, of forty quatrains. These are arranged in to seven sections, one for each day of the week, and tomorrow, the 40th day of our lockdown, I will post the whole poem in its proper order. But here in a little May Day preview, is the little section that…

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calm: practising gratitude during the pandemic

What if we refused to join in with the grumbles, moans and complaints on the internet and other place during the pandemic, even in our own homes, perhaps? We could choose to keep calm, encourage others, and speak of hope, faith and love in adverse circumstances.

How can we best support our souls during these stressful and strange Covid-19 days? Maybe by enjoying the little things: feed our faith, practise gratitude, aim to savour extra time with our loved ones, rest for our health’s sake, maintain our creativity, and withdraw from information overload and overwhelm.

We can pray for family and friends,  health care workers and governments, as well as the world situation in general. Another thing that might help keep us sane, especially if we can’t exercise, is stepping outside now and then for a slow, 30 seconds or more, fresh air inhale/exhale.

Because nature has healing powers. Yes, even if our garden or balcony growing space is a tiny or weed-ridden plot! 🙂 Size doesn’t matter. What counts is seeing living greenery.

Creation’s calming beauty helps soothe our frazzled souls, and opens our hearts to the simple gratitude of being alive. I always appreciate rare days when I can get outside for a while because enjoying the little things counts.

converse - landscape - hills - sky - sunset - Creation's calming beauty helps soothe our frazzled souls quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Life in the time of the coronavirus

I hear the flaxen-haired toddler
from two doors away
chattering nineteen to the dozen

as I peg light laundry to line, with sun
warming my arms for the very first time
this year, this spring, in a sudden
burst of seasonal heat.

She is running, running, running
the length of her small garden
and back again, as if her tiny feet

don’t know how to stop
their forward momentum, their racing
along to an inner beat.

We’re meant to be avoiding others
as our country struggles
with the coronavirus and its effects,
and I think we are far enough apart

even though I can just make out
the top of her hurrying head
across our low garden walls.

Her parents smile up at me and speak
in their broken English, nuanced
as it is with a Polish dialect,

while I reply and smile at them
and watch their delightful
little daughter running again.

Such sacred holy ordinary moments
still exist but we have to make
a deliberate effort

to notice them and let our anxieties
slip, as we converse at a distance
with the international language
of hope and joy and love and peace.
© joylenton

calm - woman looking out a window -practising gratitude during the pandemic (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Gratitude helps us appreciate all our days, whatever they might bring to us. Because the altitude of our hearts determines the attitude we will have.

If we’re able to live more in the moment, then we can welcome it, whether outwardly good or bad, as we seek to live with our eyes open to the potential it might bring.

You might benefit from these 10 soul care suggestions for maintaining calm. Brother David Stendl-Rast also offers a glimpse of how we can be gratefully mindful for each new day.

What’s helping you feel more like a human being and less like a potential repository for a horribly invasive virus? What’s aiding you to stay calm and keeps you on an even keel in these shaky, uncertain times? Do share below so we can help one another.

window: finding an opening for joy to flourish

window - blinds - sunset - trees - what your longings and feelings might be saying to you - (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Joy is a bit thin on the ground at the moment, isn’t it? So many of us are feeling overwhelmed by individual and collective sadness and grief, with longings for change going unmet and unaddressed.

It’s like the whole world is in a state of mourning and we don’t know how to get through it or where to find joy anymore. Or maybe we do. Perhaps joy is much closer to home than we anticipate.

Indoors with our loved ones, or just outside our window, perhaps, even if we can’t see a great deal because it resembles a concrete jungle. You may be wondering: What kind of joy can those things bring to me?

More than you might think, my friend. Due to decades of being housebound by chronic illness, and suffering episodes of depression, I try to discover any window, any opening to joy I can find.

I seek to focus on my heart’s longing for joy and what encourages it to flourish, which means looking at the simple, small, and often overlooked. And it includes developing a deeper gratitude for my loved ones.

window - wildflowers - I seek to focus on my heart's longing for joy quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Longings

Window watcher that I am,
let my gaze linger with sacred awe
longer than before,

to truly see each tree
and flower and leaf as portents
of hope and promise.

I want to drain
the last ounce of joy I find
in every day,

drink the cup dry of it,
keep memories as dregs.

I long to hold
the wonder found right here
and right now,

like a fragile butterfly,
let it loose to climb the sky.

I seek to find
the holy ordinary
in people, trees

and leaves, clouds, fiery sunsets,
in everything light reflects.

I desire to dream
with intentionality,

let purpose unfold
like a story I have known,
full of hope beyond this world.

I yearn to touch
earthly things stamped with grace,

trace God’s footprints,
sense them moving in my soul,
where I will never grow old.
© joylenton

window - butterfly - longings poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

The view outside my window is far from scenic, but I do take pleasure in watching sky changing colour, seeing variable shape and type of clouds, noting emergence of greening tips and flowers on plants or observing a solitary tree as its leaves alter with the seasons.

Even a concrete wall can be interesting because it attract insects, has different patterns of stone within it or changes shade, depending on where the light falls and catches it.

Having chronic illness has taught me not to despise the tiny, mundane things of life. Whether in lockdown or not, it helps to appreciate the blessings before us rather than dwell on what we’ve lost.

Your longings are a window into your soul too. What are you longing for, my friend? Where are you experiencing your longings being met in these challenging times? May the joy of the Lord be our strength today, and always.

PS: This post was inspired by Chronic Joy Ministry’s Poetry Prompt: Windows and TreesDo check out their great resources! 🙂 ❤

window - longings - solo poppy - wooden fence - having chronic illness quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

shift: adjusting to a new normality

We might be tempted to think that there wasn’t too big a shift in the atmosphere and that life went on pretty much as normal for the ordinary citizens who lived at the time of the resurrection of Christ. But what if it didn’t? What if nothing ever felt quite the same afterwards?

Such a cataclysmic event was earth and world shattering in its effects. The news about it spread over the whole known world. The story of the resurrection got shared year after year, retold with wonder, speculation and awe to future generations. And it still is.

Because God’s evident, sacrificial love for us and the hope it brings to human hearts has spread faster than any virus can, multiplying exponentially nation to nation.

It affects everyday people from every stratum in society, turning humdrum lives upside down in the process. The message the resurrection imparts brings us deep rest when all else is unsettled and shaken, including our emotions.

So let’s consider how one ordinary person, just like you and me, might have reacted to the resurrection, to this shift in their expectations and experience, followed by an adjustment to a new normality.

“At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people.” ― Matthew 27:51-53 NLT

A shift

There’s a shift
where identity used to sit
like an old cardigan,

well-worn, moth-eaten
but familiar
because it became part
of me, what I always wore.

Now I don’t know what fits
me anymore
or suits the woman

I have become
since the earth shook, since Sunday
and a man took
on death to set us free.

Tombs broke open
and people were raised
to life again
like they had never died,

restored to their
loved ones, their families
as if they’d
never left them bereft.

And it is whispered
that this world
is just a stepping stone
to somewhere
better, a place of beauty

where we can sit
and think and dream and breathe
and bask in who we are,
who we were created to be.
© joylenton

shift - envisioning eternity - shift poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

God Himself changes not. He is totally dependable and faithful to His Word. His promises can be relied upon. God doesn’t shift like the wind, alter with circumstance or sway from continually pouring out His love, mercy and grace for us. 

“‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” ― Isaiah 54:10 NIV 

Whatever fears or uncertainties might be shaking your world right now, my friend, remember the unshakeable power of God to rescue and save us. He is the still, calm centre of every storm we encounter, and our souls’ peace, always. In the valley of the shadows, God is with us and fighting for us as the core strength of our hurting hearts. 

lift: for those times when you need to be carried

Give me the Love that leads the way, Faith that nothing can dismay, Hope no disappointments tire, Passion that’ll burn like fire, Let me not sink to be a clod, Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God. ― Amy Carmichael

News alerts and alarms are the hallmarks of our hours. We’re struggling not to drown in discouragement, anxiety, sadness and grief. We’re in the grip of a deadly virus and a state of soul overwhelm. Our flesh is weak. Our hearts quake.

Our minds spiral into worse case scenarios. It’s hard to relax and get a grip when the world feels so out of control, isn’t it? How can we stay stable in this storm? Who can lift us up and keep us safe? Our God can and He will. Nothing is too difficult for Him.

God carries us when we sink low and cannot carry ourselves. He lifts us up when we stumble and fall. He infuses strength into failing bodies and hearts. Let us look to the Lord to lift us up and hold us close, like the loving Father He is, full of compassion and love.

“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” ― Isaiah 58: 11 NIV

lift - father and child - Let us look to the Lord to lift us up quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Being lifted up

Are you feeling crushed,
dear hurting soul?
Do you feel discouraged and sit
with your head bowed low?

Take heart, dear one, for hope
is here and help will come.
Your tears are not unseen
but are caught lovingly.

They are held in the heart
of a compassionate God
who cries, gives grace,
and feels and aches with us.

You, too, are being upheld
by his power and by his love
as he carries you
when you’ve had enough.

When you can’t go on
and feel far from strong,
fear not, my friend, because
this is not the end.

God will comfort you
as only he can, and cradle you
close until you can walk
with confidence again.

All who fall are not despised
but are souls to save, to hold,
heal and make strong once more
in our merciful Father’s eyes.

You will learn to breathe and rise
above your current woes and pain,
while you lean on the One who suffers
alongside us with our wounded feelings.

He opens his hands,
seeking to satisfy your needs,
every good desire of the human
heart is fully met by him.

So do not despair, my friend,
as you mourn a significant loss
or the pathway you knew before is gone
because God stands ready to lift you up.
© joylenton

lift - being lifted up - sad girl in a forest - Are you feeling crushed poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.” — Psalm 145:14-15 NIV

Friends, in these demanding days, let us acknowledge our weakness and frailty and ask God to carry us when we’re unable to go on without His help. He stands ever willing to lift us up, give us Hope, and fill us with His compassionate love.