courage: rising up to face life’s challenges

courage - rising up to face life's challenges @poetryjoy.com

We might think that being courageous is strictly for heroes and heroines. But we’d be wrong. Because all of us will face difficulties and challenges, need to access courage, develop resilience, and discover our inner brave as we take each small step of faith.

With God’s help, we can scale the mountains before us or find a way to go around them. Although the path might be thorny and hard, God will infuse strength and courage into our hearts. All we need do is ask.

“Nothing but encouragement can come to us as we dwell upon the faithful dealing of our Heavenly Father in centuries gone by. Faith in God has not saved people from hardships and trials, but it has enabled them to bear tribulations courageously and to emerge victoriously.” — Lee Roberson

courage - “Discouraged not by difficulties without, or the anguish of ages within quote - Helen Keller @poetryjoy.com

Courage

tugging at weeds
I disturb a sleepy beetle
he staggers out blind
moves drunkenly across grass
losing his way on hot tiles

I watch him
skittering unsteadily
like a skater
wobbling on the ice
thrown off their stride

before long
he seeks refuge again
a dark recess
lush, fresh greenery
a new, safe habitat

it doesn’t take much
a gentle tug alone
stirs us to move
out of our comfort zone
where courage awaits us

we might blink
unaccustomed
like moles in the light
having to leave behind
our familiar places

we recoil
grip tight on the usual
before reaching out
to touch the new and the next
we’re being called to embrace

eventually
however weak-kneed we feel
our fingers test walls
we probe possibilities
and find our way home
© joylenton

courage - emerging mole - courage poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“Down through the centuries in times of trouble and trial God has brought courage to the hearts of those who love Him. The Bible is filled with assurances of God’s help and comfort in every kind of trouble which might cause fears to arise in the human heart. You can look ahead with promise, hope, and joy.” — Billy Graham

Where are you needing courage today, my friend? Turn to God and seek His help. God will always rise to give us strength and help us face whatever is making us afraid. Hold onto God’s promises, and wait for Him to act on your behalf as you take the first tentative steps forward. Though your heart might quake and quail, remember that His courage never fails.

PS: I have a free pdf soul care gift for you today!

< – – Just click on the image here to download it.

It’s called Soul Shots: 31 Days of Pocket Wisdom for Your Hurting Heart, and is an eclectic mix of reflections and poetry.

May it bless and encourage your heart and bring back hope when life gets hard and dark. 🙂 ❤

light: how holy light lifts, heals and strengthens us

light - how holy light lifts, heals and strengthens us (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” — St Francis of Assisi

Light is here

One incandescent, invisible light
threads through our days like silver,
like a mercurial, rolling ribbon of life;

though matted by drifting cloud,
it has frequent glints of gold,
russet, rose, tangerine and indigo.

If you look up
you might find glimpses
of heaven itself, a pure light

altering with the hours
but never faltering
to shine on us.

When we experience the greyness
of mist and fog enveloping us
like a shroud, we can stay hopeful

that the sun still sits behind it all,
and will be revealed in glory again
when the mists have cleared.

And as you examine your days
you will be able to trace
the way light has arrived

in your life, in small slivers,
perhaps, in tiny amounts
but at just the right time.

Your darkness and weakness
can lift if you direct
your gaze toward the light

that surrounds you inside
and out with whispers
of holy grace and love.

Because our joy
doesn’t depend on things
or on our circumstances

but on knowing deep within
that we are seen, we are loved,
we matter to someone else.
© joylenton

“Grace comes into the soul, as the morning sun into the world; first a dawning; then a light; and at last the sun in his full and excellent brightness.” —Thomas Adams

light - sun - meadow - flowers - light is here poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

summer: the scent of it lives on in our memories

summer - roses - leaves - the joy of it lives on in our memories (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

A distinct shift. A change in the atmosphere. And grey, darkened skies linger, as rain and wind become the prominent feature of our days. This swansong of summer is predictably swimming in water because the UK tends to get a final flare of heat, followed by thunderstorms and a deluge of rain.

But we can still remember the golden days, the evocative scents, if we try. Let us think back or dig deep into our memories. I’m relying more on those childhood ones which always seem to stand out stronger than the others. Those endless, grace-laced summer days where anything felt possible and amusing ourselves was work enough to do.

“It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside.” — Maud Hart Lovelace

Concoction

In the garden, roses swell
like tea cups without handles,
frothy flowers eagerly spilling
over themselves, with some
drooping low to the ground.

I touch the tender petals,
marvel at their fragility,
while my stubby fingers
reach to pull them off—but only
the dying, little ones, of course.

Because I know my father
keeps a careful eye on
these, his pride and joy,
but my eyes are seeing
their potential for gathering.

Packing them tight into a jam jar,
heedless of the crush and mess,
ready to escort into our
house, to add some water.

A few drops. A shake. A finger
wet with shameful evidence
of rose gathering. A nose
wrinkling to try to catch the scent.

My homemade perfume
is faintly redolent
of summer hues, of grass
and leaves, with a slight
resemblance to a muddy brew.

Content and undeterred,
I dab, sniff, save, then rinse
this rose concoction once
again, and libate the waiting
ground with sudden rain.
© joylenton

summer - our garden nurturing us quote by Jenny Uglow @poetryjoy.com

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” — Henry James

I hope you have enjoyed my memoir poetry. What is the tail end of summer looking like for you? What special memories help to keep the scent, the lightness of it alive? I’d love you to share below. 🙂 ❤

waiting: when desire gives way to deeper surrender

waiting - girl sitting by the roadside - when desire gives way to deeper surrender @poetryjoy.com

I’m feeling fried and frazzled in a scorching August heatwave. As I’m waiting to cool down, I’m reminded that the earth itself is incrementally heating up. We sense the stirrings of earth’s birth pangs, the longing it has for deliverance, and considered attention from its custodians.

Our own hearts (never mind our bothered bodies) can feel unsettled by a yearning for change. Because waiting is hard, isn’t it? Our society and world at large are like life on speed, with a drivenness that doesn’t sit easily with being rested, calm and at peace.

We all sit with unfulfilled desires. One of  mine is to write more books before I get too ill, too old or lose my poetic touch. I long to unleash all the creativity that lies within me, rather than sitting on dusty files which remind me that those books are not going to write themselves… get a move on, girl! Only impatience isn’t conducive to getting a good result. 😉

“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

waiting - pocket watch - hourglass - rose - Our society and world at large are like life on speed quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Desire

desire at rest
cultivated by God’s grace
in the waiting room
where we learn to still our hearts
quiet the rush, quell our thoughts

the divine promise
gets birthed and earthed in us
in God’s timing
we will finally receive
an abundance of good things

in this posture
where submissiveness counts
where trust is formed
here we mature, learn and grow
develop patience in our souls

soul detachment
enables us to let go
of our wanting
and expectancy follows
when we embrace faith and hope

freedom of desire
might feel alien to us
it’s a holy thing
where our desires and will line up
with what the Father wants for us
© joylenton

waiting - desire poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy” — Romans 8:24–25 The Message

May I pray for you, my friend?

Dear Father God,

Thank you for your loving and protective care of us. Our days are an open book to you because you hold past, present and future in your hands. Help us to wait with patient expectation and confident trust when we desire to forge ahead with this project or that. If we’re in a season of being slowed, grant us the ability to stay encouraged and calm, and believe for better days to come. May we learn to go with the natural rhythm and flow of our days and remain sensitive to Holy Spirit’s gentle leading and guiding.

Amen

May we remember that however far we might stray, get impatient or fail to sense His presence, God is always eagerly waiting for us to turn to Him. 😊❤️

stilling: learning to love your ordinary life

stilling - choose joy - learning to love your ordinary life @poetryjoy.com

“This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.” — Maya Angelou

So often fear of change nibbles at our souls like a restless rat. It makes us fail to appreciate what we already have before us, right here, right now. I find myself falling into a dissatisfaction trap whenever I forget to live with mindful awareness and a joyful and grateful heart.

We can get so caught up in the challenges, fears and frustrating minutiae of life that we neglect to lift up our heads and appreciate where and how we are really situated. God is the giver of all good gifts, and He strews gifts of grace along each person’s daily pathway—but we need receptive eyes, stilled minds, and open hearts to see, sense and be thankful for them. 

Because each day presents us with an opportunity to taste joy, sense the marvellous in the mundane, express our gratitude, and give God praise for who He is and how He takes such great care of us. 

stilling - forest - trees - God is the giver of all good gifts quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“So much has been given to me; I have no time to ponder over that which has been denied.” — Helen Keller

Stilling

I hold my breath—as if I could
still the clock, hold back
the swinging seasons, perhaps,

call time on winter’s
cold, dark, muffled cloak,
the icy grip of SAD that sends
me to my inner knees.

Can I not simply
still time on this moment’s
pendulum, which I prefer

to those that have gone
before? Those lockdown
days, weeks and months
of great adaptation and change.

My mind (helpfully) reminds
me that nothing stays
the same. Each dull routine

still has to yield
to the unexpected,
the suddenness of the new
or the long neglected.

Yet something in me
feels as if I want
to remain rooted in Now,

to savour summer
before it segues into autumn,
get my fill of light, of warmth,
of hope, and snatches of joy.

Then another thing
comes to my remembrance,
and I muse on the way

each day has opportunity
to receive such gifts
if I remain receptive enough

to notice, and still
my heart to not reject them.
© joylenton

stilling - dandelion clock - stilling poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“As long as this exists, this sunshine and this cloudless sky, and as long as I can enjoy it, how can I be sad?” — Anne Frank

Although I frequently want to press pause on the moments I enjoy because they seem so fleeting, it isn’t a life of busy eventfulness I crave but a stilled, peaceful soul saturated in holy satisfaction, love and grace.  Keeping a daily gratitude journal helps us stay calm and content. Here are 3 things I’m grateful for:

  • having energy and focus enough to write this post
  • our tomatoes are greening at last, if not reddening yet
  • I prepared this before a scorching heatwave hit to fog my thoughts

What are you thankful for today, my friend? 🙂 ❤

wave: seeking to stay buoyant in life’s choppy waters

wave - beach - boots - sea - seeking to stay buoyant in life's choppy waters - (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you. You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them.” — Psalm 89:8-9 NIV

Each summer I yearn to go to the coast, inhale the ozone and watch waves rise, foam and fall. It would be such a soothing sight, calming and restorative to my soul. Who wouldn’t want to sit, observe (people-watch) and breathe in the view or swim and be cradled by lapping water and get wet through? Even a virtual non-swimmer like me relishes such thoughts.

Sadly, the limitations of having M.E and chronic illness, including impaired mobility, hypersensitivity to light, a pain-filled, uncooperative body that doesn’t cope well with exertion, humidity or heat, coupled with travel-induced fatigue, and Raynaud’s Syndrome causing shivers and blanching at the slightest sea breeze, make it rather problematical for me now.

Instead, I remember times past, decades ago, when I was able to enjoy watching waves without those restrictions. We spent several hot summer days on the local beaches, getting sand in our sandwiches, paddling or swimming in the sea, playing games with the children, and marvelling at our suntanned faces and limbs. Now I muse on waves as a poet might do because they have such great symbolism too.

waves - Who wouldn't want to sit, observe (people-watch) and breathe in the view or swim and be cradled by lapping water and get wet through_ quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

The wave we need

We are paddling furiously
as if it all depends on us,
not on the tide or the rhythm

of the sea. Fearing falling,
we forget to lean
into the waves, forget

to check our position
and what we might have
to depend on. Forget, too,

to relax our bodies
into suppleness,
cut ourselves some slack.

Instead, we waver,
like uncertain skittles,
wobble around,

choke, sink close
to drowning. Until we hear
a calming voice calling,

speaking softly
to our souls, then more
urgently than before. His voice

rises clearly above and cuts
across the choppy waters,
urging us to let him be

the wave we need, the support
to lift us when we fall, the one
who carries us effortlessly.
© joylenton

wave - “Perhaps this is the most important thing for me to take back from beach-living quote by Anne Morrow Lindbergh in Gift From the Sea @poetryjoy.com

If you, like me, would appreciate a reminder of hearing waves breaking on the seashore, maybe this short sea breathing technique video from former M.E sufferer, meditation  author and creative communicator  Liz Babbs will help, and relax your soul. 🙂 ❤

reality: what helps keep us grounded and at peace

reality - trees - sky - landscape - what helps keep us grounded and at peace (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

These are deeply unsettling times we are living in, aren’t they? They make us yearn for a sense of solidity and thirst for a firm grounding beneath our feet. Perhaps it exists as a present reality, closer at hand than we might think.

Creation breathes out its beauty and begs us to receive it as soul food, as a nurturing balm to help us stay grounded and calm. Each time we pay attention to growing flowers and plants we get to observe how nature deals with its own seasons of alteration and loss.

In the tanka sequence poem below, I invite you to take a journey of the heart, a pause to consider what nature has to teach us now, what lies ahead, and how we are all connected to the past.

May you receive an awakening of hope and faith that will help ground you in the realest of realities. Namely that God is still in charge, and all things are somehow being worked out for good even as our lives feel shaken to the core.

reality - red and yellow begonias - Creation breathes out its beauty quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Reality

what is real
is the soil beneath our feet
solidity
earth grounds us, holds us fast
when all else trembles into dust

the imprints
markers of every man
woman and child
who ever lived and died
are seeded, left behind

the earth
holds all our memories
in its DNA
it doesn’t forget how we lived
breathed and walked this way

every acreage
in the changing landscape
holds a legacy
it will keep the faith for us
when we are lost, faithless

reality - garden - flowers - gate - every acreage in the changing landscape holds a legacy - (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

nature sings
an eternal siren song
we strain to listen
unaccustomed to its melody
the way it reverberates and speaks

our reality
is so often shaped by lust
fuelled by greed
hot desire can set us on fire
we lose what we have coveted

we don’t need
all that much to survive
we do need
the insight to understand
just how to live, grow and thrive

reality - bee - yellow flowers - we don't need all that much to survive (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

the natural world
provides all our necessities
all we need to live
enough resources to share
if we were generous and fair

the ethereal
the mystical, intangible
lies within our reach
it’s already invaded earth
promising us new life, new birth

our souls
rooted to earth’s reality
become whole
when they are connected
to Father, Son, Holy Spirit

God made
all that is sensed and found
he gave
his life to open our eyes
to the unlimited beyond
© joylenton

reality - garden - pond - leaves - our souls rooted to earth's reality become whole (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“The calm of a summer night
embodies Your peace, O Lord.
The beauty of a sunset
embodies Your truth, O Lord.
Everything in all creation
shouts the reality of You.”

Transformed by Love: Prayers and Reflections for All Seasons by Liz Babbs

plea: for when you are in need of prayer and help

plea - woman praying - for when you are in need of prayer and help @poetryjoy.com

Prayer can take many shapes and forms, ranging from a simple, urgent plea for help to the intricacies of formal litany and liturgy. Prayer might be silent, spoken words or repetitive chant. Whether short or long, all our prayers are heard and answered by God, usually with a “yes”, “no” or “wait”, though not always in ways we might expect.

“Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.” — Max Lucado

The poem I’m sharing today was birthed in a place of extra weakness, weariness, anxiety and pain. When we feel that way it’s often hard to pray, isn’t it? At such times we might prefer to let our tears speak for themselves, ask family and friends for support, or turn to the written prayers of others for inspiration and help.

If anything resonates with you in the words below, feel free to use them for yourself. I’m always happy if others can see merit in the thoughts God gives me to share. And I’m always blessed if I can encourage someone else, which we can all do by our testimony and prayers, even when we’re struggling ourselves.

A plea

oh let me rest
lean my head on Jesus’ breast
and hear God’s heartbeat
pounding softly through my days
like a metronome of grace

oh let me stay
may I faithfully remain
listen well with love
keep a vigil by his side
the best place for me to thrive

oh let me know
become wise, not shallow
learn how to live
full of compassion, like him
ready to help and to give

oh let me accept
how to live without regret
while I stretch my faith
note my own limitations
empowered by his strength

oh let me wait
when prayer seems unanswered
make space for grace
for God’s perfect timing
and sense his peace within
© joylenton

plea - oh let me know become wise, not shallow - prayer - plea poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“God can handle your doubt, anger, fear, grief, confusion, and questions. You can bring everything to him in prayer.” — Rick Warren

You can pray about anything. Nothing is too small or too great to bring to God. He hears the cries of our hearts and never becomes wearied by our need of Him. If you are having a hard time of things, please let me know so I can pray for you. You could leave a message here or email me via my contact page instead. It would be an honour to support you, my friend. Blessings and love. xo ❤️🙏🏻🌺

memoir: an impressionistic voyage around my aunt

Today’s poetic offering comes straight from the heart. It’s an excerpt from my ongoing part poetry and part prose memoir writing. I’m sharing an impressionistic voyage around my Aunt, trying to capture an essence of who she was.

Aunt Madge was quite a character, and I haven’t depicted more than a fleeting impression of her here. I vividly remember coming across my Aunt in the subway of our main shopping precinct decades ago.

From a distance she looked like a mysterious Russian spy to me, with her sumptuous real fur coat (considered acceptable then) and matching hat, darkened glasses, stooped frame and patterned cane. But on seeing me, she swiftly reverted to being my beloved Aunt again.

My Mother’s elder sister, a Mathematics teacher by profession, she lived and taught locally and always had time for children, though she remained childless herself. Madge devoured books as if they were going out of fashion. She always had a ready, somewhat conspiratorial smile, full of warmth, impish charm and love.

memoir - We shared a great love of books, especially poetry, and a desire to retreat into them at the slightest opportunity quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

We shared a great love of books, especially poetry, and a desire to retreat into them at the slightest opportunity. 📚 Her home housed its own library—as in lots of shelves, books and accessibility—and I loved spending time in it. It’s where I first encountered poetry, and my love affair with it endures to this day.

Maybe it was the fact that she’d served abroad, including time in India during the Second World War, that gave her a certain aura. It certainly gave her an abiding fondness for Assam and Darjeeling tea! 😉

Most of my memories of her stem from when I was a girl. I was in awe of this magnificent woman who seemed to have come straight out of the pages of a novel herself, and who introduced me to Jesus by giving me a Children’s Bible to read when I was small. ✝️

memoir - a poetry book aunt madge bought and inscribed for me (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

My Aunt

A mountainous paper stack
sat beside her cluttered chair,
just tall enough
to rest a cup of tea, and maybe
space for an ashtray in-between.

Walls were decorated
floor to ceiling with books,
and piles sat precariously,
like fidgety children,
not wanting to be overlooked.

I remember how
cigarette ash wobbled tremulously
on her open lips, resembling
a volcano about to erupt,
ready to spill its contents.

She had a hacking
cough, a real blue-lipped, watery-eyed,
red-faced, grimacing
endless stream, as if to cause
her imminent demise.

Her bent body
wracked and shuddered alarmingly,
until the ship
finally righted itself and steadied,
as each spasm sank to sea.

What I remember most
about my Aunt
is her curious, twinkling
blue-eyed smile, her infinite warmth,
her endless kindness and love.

And she helped
instil in me a passionate, enduring
love of books,
spiritual awareness and burgeoning
faith, a trust I hadn’t yet discovered
with adults anywhere else.
© joylenton

memoir - my aunt poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

I hope you’ve enjoyed this slight deviation from the usual offering. Do you have any special memories of a relative who is no longer with you? Feel free to share below. I think their essence lives on in our minds and hearts, don’t you? 🙂 ❤