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

opportunity: when rest is an opening to God’s presence

Do you struggle with having tunnel vision of the kind where you get so focused on the tasks before you that you miss a golden opportunity for rest that is sitting within reach? I do. We struggle to see the light as our vision narrows and there seems to be no way of escape from where we are situated.

It happens frequently when my work with words consumes me. It’s hard to pause or come up for air when we’re dying to get things done and putting pressure on ourselves, even if our energy is limited and we’re chronically ill.

woman in a tunnel can see no way out - opportunity - quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

But what if we could seize an opportunity to stop, breathe, be in the moment, would we welcome it? Might we begin to notice more than we did before? Though I long to press on with those things that are important to me, I quickly tire and reach burnout before I know it. Before that happens, I need to slow my soul and take a break. We could all benefit from seeing times of rest as opportunity, rather than sheer necessity.

As I recently pulled myself away from a thorny writing problem I was wrestling with, and sat resting in my bedroom, I could feel sun’s warmth on my neck like a soft caress. It felt like an invitation and opportunity rolled into one. Soul-care spots are like refreshment stations, refuelling us when we get dry, depleted and drained.

While I rested, I sensed God’s holy presence permeating my soul, His voice whispering wisdom, and His love wrapping me in a holy hug. Just as the sun was relaxing my tense neck, God’s presence was ironing out the knots in my mind and heart.

opportunity - quote - Soul-care spots are like refreshment stations, refuelling us when we get dry, depleted and drained - garden - bench (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Though taking opportunity to pause is something I have to practice on a daily basis, there was something different about this one. In sensing presence, I was reminded of other times and places when God speaks to me. And He will do the same for you too.

Sensing presence

You are sun’s warm caress upon my neck
wind gently rustling through spring leaves
chattering voices as people go off to work
each day’s gift of grace and opportunity

I sense you in the womb of my bedroom
I sense you when I am weary as can be
I sense you in days hard to get through
I sense you softly speaking love to me

You’re in the marvellous and the mundane
your footprints are just waiting to be found
my responses to you may not be the same
but we always meet on your holy ground

I sense you less when my soul is darkened
I sense you more when I’m washed clean
I sense you most when I’m not hardened
I sense you speaking in my dreams

You are reaching out continually
seeking to gain my soul’s attention
hoping I will finally hear and see
develop deeper comprehension
© joylenton

opportunity - sensing presence poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my five-minute-friday poem in community here, as we write on this week’s prompt of “opportunity.” You are welcome to join us and read the great variety of posts being shared here.

Let’s conclude by giving praise to the God of all our days, all our ordinary moments, whether they’re busy or restful, hard or hope-filled. God delights to provide the shelter, strength and wisdom we need to carry on.

more: experiencing life’s abundance while living with chronic illness

more - experiencing life's abundance while living with chronic illness - tulips @poetryjoy.com

What might having an abundant life look like to you? Is it possible to have a “more than” existence with less? I believe it is. Although it has taken years of shifted thinking and spiritual digging to discover the truth of a less is more kind of life.

When I was a nurse, running madly around a ward all day, with a home and family to take care of as well, the idea of more meant extra time out and time off. Having a hot, undisturbed bath. A book to read. An ability to rest. A meal cooked by my husband. Those were luxuries to me.

But when I first became sick with M.E, I saw that time itself wasn’t such a gift. It’s how we spend our hours that counts. If you spend your days flat-out with fatigue in a darkened bedroom, unable to participate in life and full of pain, time seems like a cruel punishment, while the hours stretch endlessly. I felt like an 80-year-old in a 30 something’s body.

more - hourglass- #FMF - living with M.E quote (c) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

As my condition became less severe sometimes, quality time with loved ones became my most precious priority and sought after soul resource. Then my insecure soul felt that the essence of more was encapsulated in purchasing and accumulating stuff. It’s not. Because I was trying to plug an unaddressed sense of pain and loss.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in fields of green grass and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water. He gives me new strength. He guides me in the right paths, as he has promised. Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me. Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.” – Psalms 23 GNT

Consumerism is a vicious hamster wheel kind of circle, whereby enough is never enough to try to assuage or feed our inner hunger. And it’s left me with a huge decluttering problem to tackle too.

Eventually, with additional physical health challenges and concerns, my eyes were opened to the inestimable worth of Simply. Being. Alive. I’ve realised I have more than enough because I already have all I can access of God’s mercy, grace and love.

more - rose - I have more than enough quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].” – John 10:10 AMP

Shifts

as I age
hidden benefits emerge
like buried treasure
with inner leanings, a shift
toward the contemplative

I notice
far more than I did before
when preoccupied
with life and busyness
instead of seated stillness

my awareness of
inner and outer landscape
is magnified
their shifting moods noted
as seeing is more acute

their preciousness
gets highlighted by loss
cycles of death
repeat – fallenness of leaves
causes heartache and grief

although I see
intimations of hope
in the release
for we will both rise again
in newness of life and limb
© joylenton

I’m linking my five-minute-friday tanka pentaptych poem in community with fellow writer friends here as we share our thoughts on the prompt of “more.” May we all believe we are more than enough even when we feel like our lives or words are insufficient. And seek God Himself more than anything else.

begin: for when you can’t quite hit the new year running

begin - for when you can't quite hit the new year running - @poetryjoy.com

Dear reader, I’m curious about something: did you hit the new year running, eagerly embracing resolutions, ready for the new and the next, planning and pushing ahead to your heart’s content? If so, that’s great and I rather envy you. 😏

Or are you more like me: crawling on your knees, flattened with illness and fatigue, and sighing because January finds you less than fit and able? The latter? Please raise  or vaguely wave your weary arm in my direction. It’s good to know we’re not alone.

For years, without fail, I’ve always succumbed to flu or a heavy cold before the Christmas and New Year celebrations are over. Each January I’m hugging the duvet, coughing into my pillow and barely surfacing.

Sadly it’s not due to enjoying myself, but because I have a faulty, inefficient immune system that easily succumbs to viruses and overexertion of any kind. I keep hoping things will improve. But they haven’t. Not yet.

Experience has taught me to listen and act on the information I hear from my depleted body. Namely to rest and take care of myself. Because trying to press on in the face of increasing debility has never been a good plan for me. It only exacerbates my pre-existing chronic conditions.

One thing that never stops being active and running like a mad thing is my mind, even when my body stills due to increased sickness. Yours too, perhaps? It chunters on like it’s got something really important to process, while my weakened body is trying to shush it into silent, restful submission.

begin - god replenishes, restores and revives quote (c)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

And I’ve been mulling over what to write. How do we begin again when we’re feeling lethargic, muddy-headed or uninspired? The wonder is that whenever our well, our energy, inspiration or abilities run dry, we only need to ask and God replenishes, restores and revives our limited supplies. And we can begin again with Him any time we need to.

The poem below came to me as I was resting. May it speak to all who are in the throes of illness or lack creative inspiration. I’m also rejoicing that my current ailment seems to be more of a persistent cold than full-blown flu this time. Hooray! Progress!

Writer’s woes

I want to begin
make a mark on this page
this year
on the lives of others
with my thoughts and words

I don’t know how
to begin to write a thing
without assistance
because my brain is muffled
and my thoughts are befuddled

I am uncertain
wondering how to choose
what will speak
louder than my husky voice
of love and grace, hope and faith

in the end
all I have is willing hands
empty though they be
just waiting to be filled
before a drop can be spilled

holy whispers
encourage me to start
right where I am
with surrender, trust and truth
as inspiration filters through
© joylenton

begin - writer's woes poem excerpt - new year (c)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Praise God for gifting this snuffly writer with something to say when she felt empty! Hopefully normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. 😉 Do let me know how you are, especially if you’re also below par, and we can pray for one another.

Never forget that rest, recovery and healing are vital soul and body work. You and I might begin this year slow like tortoises but we can still end strong by the grace of God. With love and virtual (germ-free) hugs to you. xo 💜

burden: chained by circumstance but freed by grace

burden - chained by circumstance, freed by grace @poetryjoy.com

There are days when our burdens, be they physical or emotional, become impossible to ignore. Days when we feel consumed by the weight of them. Chained to our hard circumstances. Dragged down into a dark place.

I prefer not to talk too much about having chronic illness, although it’s an inescapable fact that faces me each day. It demands enough. It has stolen too much. So much that I tend to want to ignore its presence and pretend I am fine, doing okay, even when I’m not.

It feels better to plaster a smile on my face and seek to maintain a positive outlook on life. It seems less bothersome, less of a burden to fight the good fight of faith and try not to yield to dismay. Or give in to self-pity.

But sometimes? Sometimes I am just too tired to fight against the pain. Sometimes I just want to sit and cry. Sometimes I lose sight of my loving Saviour sitting in the ashes with me, holding out His hands to receive.

Because God doesn’t want us to bear our burdens alone. He longs for us to turn to Him. To offer up our pain and problems like a fragrant thing. Because sometimes it’s truthfully all we are able to give to Him. And that’s okay. It really is.

Burden

fear nibbles at the edges of her soul, like a rat
aboard a sinking ship that leaks, lists and tips
because she has woken to face yet another
pain filled day, unrefreshed in every way

her spirits are plummeting fast and her heart
contracts as she thinks about the future, for
she longs above anything else not to become
a burden to others or to those she loves

during these days of increasing debility
and weariness, she can often forget
just who she should be handing all her
heavy burdens over to—until he speaks

with whispered reassurance in his voice
to her hurting soul—while he pours the balm
of hope into her heart, forcing fear and
discouragement to flee, and she falls

further, on bended knee, when Jesus
tenderly reminds her once again that
every burden handed over to him will
not only lessen the load on her soul

it will also miraculously transmute
into a blessing by faith, shaping her
perception, if not her situation in life

and so she prays, tears welling up in her
eyes, and she gives praise like a willing
sacrifice—in spite of nothing visible yet

taking place, she has already tasted his
goodness and grace, and sensed the difference
inside, where calm and peace now abide
© joylenton

We might not feel like it but we can learn to praise God in the storm, sense His presence with us and gain comfort in knowing we are not alone.

I’m so grateful for God’s grace in my life. His comforting embrace. His enabling when I am weak. For words coming when I feel drained and dry. And for being able to share my 5 minute(ish) poem with the fabulous five-minute-friday crew. This week’s prompt is “burden” and you can join your words here. 

burden - #FMF - burden poem excerpt (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

tripping: how God meets with us when life gets tough – snapshot #3

tripping - how God uses everything we go through - snapshot #3

We’re caught by surprise sometimes on attempting things we used to do before with relative ease but now find challenging. I’m largely housebound and incapacitated by chronic illness, but I can still totter around my small home and navigate a few steps (albeit painfully and slowly) most of the time.

But set my feet on concrete, ask me to pound pavement, and I’m all over the place, unsteady as can be. I have bad balance, limb stiffness, weakness and pain to contend with, which makes walking very slow, arduous at best and impossible at worst, when the territory is uneven.

Years ago I realised that a wheelchair was the best mode of transport for me. Sadly, there wasn’t anyone reliably able, available and fit enough to take me out in one, so I only borrowed a set of wheels when it was absolutely necessary.

I made a trip to the city recently and thought I would try to get there by bus, knowing how hard it can be to park the car.  I wanted to try stretching my limbs and limits (maybe you can relate?) in the vain hope of being able to accompany my grandson home from his first day at school next week.

Dear reader, I struggled. Pain was severe and I nearly cried out loud. I halted several times and barely covered one third of the necessary distance to reach my school collection goal. We caught a taxi home.

Later on, as I sat with frustration, I looked at my photos and wrote a poem about the experience. It was a surprise grace gift, arising from a hard thing, such as God delights to provide for you and me. Things don’t seem so bad when viewed from God’s perspective. I can’t manage the walk but I can be the one welcoming our grandson home at the door.

God is constantly rewriting our stories, blending them into His greater narrative. What seems to be causing us to fall just might lift our souls more than we can know. I’m grateful for God’s keeping power and my dependence on Him, even if my story has taken several unwanted twists and turns.

tripping - God is constantly rewriting our stories quote (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Here’s the tanka pentaptych poem that arose from my tough time above…

Tripping

visit to the city
idle bus window browsing
I need new specs
I like my life blurry
not in such sharp focus

people mill
cluster around attractions
bright eared hares
decorating the pavement
we see them everywhere

I’m unsteady
my gait uneasy outside
like a drunk
I stumble and cling hard
holding on to stick and arm

these sea legs
wobble over cobbles
trip on the cracks
cannot go far without sinking
I feel like turning back

air is crisp
scent of leaves, fuel, flowers
August at an end
much is dead or dying
pain reminds me I’m alive
© joylenton

How has God met you at your point of need? Have you been able to trace His hand in the hard experiences of life? Let’s encourage one another in the comments below.

tripping tanka poem excerpt (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

ME: what it’s like to live with ME and chronic illness

 

How do you describe a life of continual illness, pain and profound fatigue? It’s hard, isn’t it?  We need empathy, compassion, and maybe someone who lives with the illness to show us. I’d like to be that person for you today.

Imagine wanting to be a vibrant, blooming flower for God, but you droop, fade easily, curl up with fatigue. You seek shade, because all bright light hurts your eyes. Sleep is fitful but it’s all you really want to do. So called ‘normal’ life is far too dazzling, hectic and loud for you to join in with for very long.

“Yes, I have M.E but it doesn’t have me; God does, and I am safe in His arms.” So runs the last line from a poem I penned to try to describe my life with M.E. Spanning over 25 years of sickness and weakness, M.E might have stolen my health and vitality but it doesn’t get to have the final say on who I am or, more importantly, Whose I am.

I’m housebound with M.E, fibromyalgia, arthritis and hypermobility syndrome. (You can see the myriad symptoms of M.E in this list.I rely heavily on God’s sustaining grace each day. I also have a Lottery winner tendency to spend, spend, spend whenever a little more energy or mental focus is present, instead of the usual resting and pacing after any activity!

 

As a writer and a poet I’m able to express some of the frustrations of living with such an illness. I’m hoping, as you read the poem below, that you might stop to contemplate just what M.E can feel like on this, M.E Awareness Day, part of raised awareness during the month of May.

Earthbound

A mind

blurred as fog

cloud of unknowing

sinking bog

slowed and stagnant

just tiny ripples rising

from the smog

vague on the horizon

 

A body

wearied beyond measure

bandage-bound

by pain, fatigue

long and profound

unrelenting weakness

rooting to the ground

muscle-chained down

 

A heart 

longing to be free

like eagles soaring

near the sun

to touch the heat

of healing rays

piercing us undone

from darkest days

 

A spirit

lifted up by love’s call

taken up to places

out of reach of all

that holds us prisoner

to the earth

united to the One 

who gives us life and birth

©joylenton

The poem above comes from my book, ‘Seeking Solace: Discovering Grace in Life’s Hard Places’, available on Amazon. Earthbound was actually its working title for a while. All proceeds from every copy sold go to Action for ME, a charity which raises awareness and supports carers and sufferers, while raising funds for research purposes.

Last year I wrote about life from the other side of living with M.E and chronic illness, singing my beloved husband’s praises as my carer. It was written before he became even more unwell himself. You can read that post here.

Thank you for being here, my friend, and for reading my words. Your sweet presence helps and encourages this weary woman more than you know!  🙂 ❤