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.

confident: gaining the courage to write by faith

confident - gaining the courage to write by faith @poetryjoy.comCan I tell you a secret, friend? Listen close and I’ll whisper it to you: I’m not a confident person. Not. At. All. Just ask my family. Although I wrote reams of poetry in my late teens and 20s, shared them in church magazines and had a few published, any belief in myself vanished soon after.

Because I splintered inside after a major mental health breakdown. It took years of cooperating with God and counsellors to slowly piece myself back together again. But some things went missing. Including my ability to write like I used to.

My creativity became diverted into mothering and making a home. The writer inside lost her voice. She died for years. And it wasn’t until one of my sons began to write poetry himself and started a blog that my poetic fire was reawakened, if not the courage to begin again.

Thankfully, God (and family) gave me the impetus, courage and confidence to make a start. Now I can write about personal stuff in a public sphere and don’t get too anxious before I press publish. Because I’ve learnt to trust. To believe words will come as and when they need to. To rest my shaky confidence in God alone, while seeking to exercise the gift He has given me to share.

And I want to encourage you too. Especially if you’re at the hesitant stage of wondering if you dare release your words. If timid old me can do that quite happily, manage two blogs, write a book and be working on my next, then so can you. Or something similar, of course.

As we ask for God’s help, and trust it to come, we’re enabled to take the first step forward and so on. Your calling might look very different from mine, and that’s okay. Our part is to stay faithful to the unique-to-us gifting we have been given.

Courage to write

Thank you for the gift and grace
of newly formed words
taking shape in my head,
for the wisdom you give to decide
which to retain or reject,
what to discard or include
in a future work.

Thank you for these fledgling things,
these tiny chicks
with tender covering and barely
formed wings, these baby steps
towards a mature offering
and the joy they already bring.

Thank you for providing insight
and inspiration to my mind
and the courage to write,
the confidence that comes
from knowing you are on my side,
giving grace and giving light.

Thank you for the community
of fellow wordsmiths, who dip
their toes into the water with mine,
and for the love and concern we share,
the hopes, dreams and prayers.

Thank you for reminding me
of my place
in this vast ocean of creativity,
the smallness of it,
but how each tiny offering is
magnified and reaches all
who need to see and receive.

Thank you, too, for the dry seasons
when I lack energy, strength
or inspiration to create,
because then I sense you holding
me closer than before, while I rest,
become refreshed and restored.
© joylenton

confident - courage to write poem excerpt (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

PS: Another little secret: I wrote this poem a while back. It took more than five minutes but I’m sharing it in response to this week’s five-minute-friday prompt of “confident”. You’re welcome to join in here and read the great variety of posts being shared.  🙂

build: having a strong foundation and fortification of faith

build - having a strong foundation and fortification of faith (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Maybe it’s not too surprising to be wistfully thinking of summer when a wintry wind is howling outside your window and rain sweeps like stiff  brushstrokes against the pane. Or to be caught up in savouring sunny memories at a stage in life when they feel far more precious than before.

God has a wonderful way of infiltrating the harsh, wintry aspects of our days with the summer-bright laser beam of His light and love, His goodness and grace. Then the bleak emptiness, weariness, weakness or pain we might be experiencing seem to lessen a little, as we absorb the warmth of God’s presence in our hearts.

It begins to thaw our cold souls and infuse hope into our hurting places. Because there is always opportunity to start again, to rebuild, at least in how we might perceive our situations. We can build a new foundation any time we need to, aided by God’s mercy and grace, and with His help and equipping.

I was musing on a memory when I wrote the poem below a few months ago. It probably took longer than five minutes to write, but I am sharing it today like a “here’s one I made earlier” kind of offering, because it fits pretty well with this week’s five-minute-friday prompt. And it’s all my tired mind can currently conjure up! 😉

Fortification

I sit, surrounded by mounds
of sand, clumped yet dry as a bone,
sieving it between my fingers like an
hourglass filling up,

little knowing how swiftly years
would pass, how soon this tanned,
tender, smooth-skinned toddler

eating sand sandwiches would grow
up, become a hirsute man, with voice
gruffly smooth and deep, like gravel
being gently washed by sea.

My small son wears sunscreen, sunhat
and a nappy, protected by pants,
plus a cautious, bemused

expression on his face, as though he
can recall being a few months old,
new to beach and sea, fearing rollicking
waves would sweep him away,

just as they do to the crumbly castles
he builds with help, joy and pride,
which don’t stand a chance against
pulsating power of tides.

I smile at his mild discomfiture, as it’s
always valuable to learn these lessons
young, to grasp how easily

life can change, and how the things we
seek to build our lives upon must have
a strong, secure foundation

to uphold us in future days, in harder
times when problems arise or walls come
tumbling down, and we are required
to be safe and fortified.
© joylenton

build - building a new foundation with God quote (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

There’s nothing quite like a supportive writing community to build us up with encouragement and give us the courage and confidence to share our words. Such as the fabulous five-minute-friday crew gathering at Kate Motaung’s site. This week’s prompt is “build”. You are welcome to join us here and read the great variety of posts being shared.  🙂

influence: our words and deeds become a living legacy

influence - our words and deeds become a living legacy - butterfly freed @poetryjoy.com

Sometimes it takes a death for us to appreciate the way someone’s life has affected, shaped and  influenced us. While we mourn their passing, we reflect on the bright spark of their soul, their mark on our lives, and all that their cherished, unique set of quirks and characteristics meant to us.

Hearing that Pulitzer prize-winning poet, Mary Oliver, had passed away was a sad moment for me. Her magnificent poetic word wrangling awes me and has inspired my own poetic endeavours. I will be reading her words again with fresh enjoyment and deep reverence.

It is with Mary Oliver in mind that I wrote the five-minute-friday poem below. It is written in her memory but also to honour all writers and poets, who dare to pen their thoughts and bravely share them with others.

Do not lose heart, dear creative/artist/poet/writer friend. May you know your work is not in vain. Traces of you linger on as influence and legacy. Your words, marks and thoughts have a shape and life of their own.

Your audience, readers and reach might be small, but your heart offering will make its home in those it is intended for. God knows just who that is, and how the words you write and the art you create are a powerful weapon for spreading His love, goodness and grace, His hope and encouragement to others.

Influence

A poet wields a pen, not a sword
or a hammer, but her blood pours
out in sweat and tears, wrung
from a deep-seated well within,
from the ache of yearning years.

She might be sharing a personal
insight, a pain expressed, a glimmer
from her arsenal of words,
or a view of the created world,
to open our eyes to its need
to be appreciated, preserved.

Her gift lies in a giving from the heart,
whereby the everyday will begin
to look quite extraordinary
when viewed from her perspective
and via her perceptive lens.

She writes because she must,
because she’s been entrusted
with an unfolding of treasure,
a lifting of the curtain
to reveal the sacred uncertain.

And despite her quiet labour being
publicly shared, she remains
an observer, knowing the work
itself is what fires her heart,
fills her soul and saves her.

The thought of having an influence
on others barely crosses her mind,
because her focus is on the shape,
the sound, the sight of words
moving from head to paper.

Yet the very act of vulnerability itself,
the laying bare seems to open up
her soul, her life as offering,
as gift, as influence and legacy,
and it leaves a deep impression
surviving beyond the ink.
(C) joylenton

influence - writer - poem excerpt (c)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

I’m linking my longer than five minutes poem (because sometimes clock-watching doesn’t suit the flow) with the fabulous writing community at our host Kate Motaung’s place. You can join in here with this week’s prompt of ‘influence’ and read the great posts being shared.  🙂

mantle: Mary’s covering and our own God-given calling

mantle - the virgin mary @poetryjoy.com

Mantle is a quaint, rarely used word that still has relevance for us today. As well as being a literal coat or cloak, mantle also means the passing on of an important role or responsibility from person to person.

In a biblical sense, mantle can imply a covering of grace, a specific calling on our lives, as in Elijah’s prophetic mantle falling onto Elisha in a literal and metaphorical handing over of his cloak and anointing.

“So he departed from there, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he was with the twelfth. Then Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle on him.” – 1 Kings 19:19 (NKJV)

Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was cloaked and enveloped by God’s grace. She was overshadowed by Holy Spirit for the pivotal role she would play in bringing about God’s purposes on earth.

mantle - Mary's covering and our own God-given calling @poetryjoy.com

Mary’s mantle

Her charisma,
a divinely conferred
gift, was pure, bright,
a vibrant inner light
to bathe heaven’s child.

Her character brooked
choice of none other
for she was resilient,
demure and mild.

A willing and yielded
obedient servant,
a fledgling woman,
youthful, innocent,
betrothed while still a teen.

Whose womb was home,
whose heart was rent,
who hosted holiness
quietly and unseen.

A young woman
full of divine favour,
subject to rejection
and society’s reproach
for her great faithfulness
to Father God.

Became chosen
earthly mother
for our Saviour,
to give him birth
and spread his love abroad.
© joylenton

mantle - mary's mantle poem excerpt (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

How does Mary’s mantle relate to us? I think it shows that God always prepares people for the specific tasks He has appointed them to do. God fully anoints, equips and qualifies us for everything He calls us to.

Years ago, my major responsibilities were as nurse, wife and mother. Then I developed M.E and chronic illness which made it impossible to work and fully take care of myself, never mind the home and family. My perceptions of role, calling and identity shifted to meet my limitations and reduced expectations.

I am still sick and struggle with tasks, but my calling has morphed into being a writer, poet and encourager to others. Those gifts lay dormant for years but God resurrected them at just the right time.

God never forgets the mantle He has chosen to place over us. Mine might look very different to yours, because we all have a unique offering to bring to the world. One thing I have learnt: Our inner landscape can be vast, unlimited and rich even if our physical capabilities shrink.

mantle - Our inner landscape quote (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

This Advent, as you sit with hope and wait with increasing longing in your heart, try asking God what His desires are for you in the year ahead. What assignment has your name on it? What is He birthing in your soul? Is there a specific word that will define 2019 for you?

I’m currently hearing a call to rest myself more and lay aside my pen for a while. So I am taking a writing break until early January. May God bless you and keep you in His loving care until we meet again. Meanwhile, you can catch up with the poetic Art of Advent series profiling on my Words of Joy blog. 🙂

mantle - advent - trees - wreath - Christmas greetings (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

complete: God has the answer to our brokenness and pain

complete: God has the answer to our brokenness and pain - girl sitting with dried autumn leaves

Do you ever get times when you find you dwell far more on your brokenness than on God’s grace? When one more failure seems to suggest you’re unworthy in yourself? And social media, coupled with advertising, constantly reminds you how flawed, inadequate and incomplete you are? I do.

Your triggers might differ from mine, but whatever the cause it’s often hard to move on from our brokenness or fight back against discouragement, isn’t it? We can forget how very broken we all are before God and that He doesn’t demand perfection from us. We can forget that God’s grace covers all our sins, failures and mistakes.

We can forget what powerful discouragement fighting weapons we have in the practice of gratitude, prayer and praise. In seeking solace in Scripture’s rich promises. In simply asking someone for help when we’re out of our depth or find it hard to pray for ourselves.

I don’t like inhabiting the doldrums for long. And I am always relieved when God offers a loving arm to pull me out, especially when it comes unexpectedly through a five-minute-friday word prompt.

I am always lifted as I find a poem taking shape that expresses my feelings and reveals the solution as well, while God whispers Hope to my soul. He will do the same for you, too, my friend, in the way your heart needs to receive it.

Made complete

there’s a hollow ache
rattling around inside
issuing from the place
where I often seek to hide

it’s calling out my name
telling me I’m not enough
fuelling me with shame
I’m unworthy to be loved

then I hear another voice
warm as honey in my soul
filled with hope and grace
promising I can be whole

my deep brokenness
is no deterrent here
it’s a vehicle via which
my Saviour will appear

he knows all about my pain
whispers solace to my heart
makes me complete again
frees me from sin and dark

all I considered lost
broken beyond repair
is redeemed at the Cross
a gift beyond compare
© joylenton

I’m grateful God doesn’t wait for us to clean up our act before coming to Him, and He always has a place in His heart for the prodigals, the broken and lost.

complete - poem excerpt (C) joylenton - sad girl sitting on a bed @poetryjoy.com

I’m thankful for being given the means to share my poem with the wrangling wordsmiths that make up the fabulous #fiveminutefriday community. You are very welcome to join in or click here to read the great posts being shared. This week’s prompt is: ‘Connect’.  🙂

anamchara: appreciating our soul friendship with Jesus

Do you have a soulmate? Someone who you are completely comfortable and truly yourself with? A soul friend who has always got your back and who understands what makes you tick? A person you can totally rely on?

True soul care friends are a rarity but all the more appreciated for being so. As far as a soulmate is concerned, I’m blessed to have that in my husband. No one else quite sees or reads me with such searing acurracy, yet loves me just the same. He has proved loving and faithful for many years and I have no reason to expect that to change.

However, as a fellow flawed human being like me, he is still subject to times when he is less available to me or less able to listen as well as I might want him to. We have to give one another grace for being broken, imperfect people who are just trying their best to meet the other person’s needs.

Thankfully, God has made provision for each and every one of us to have a close soul friend, a totally reliable, loving and faithful friend whose character is unchangeable and whose ability to be there for us is unlimited.

He is able to walk with us every day. To mentor, lead and guide. To sit besides. To love us unreservedly and unconditionally. To patiently wait for us to return when we ignore him for days on end or decide to charge off without him, thinking he won’t notice if we’re missing. To comfort us when we feel sad. To rejoice with us always. To talk to us day or night if we want him to.  Sounds pretty perfect, right?

That’s because He is. Our best soul friend is Jesus Christ. He always has been and always will be. Once we learn who He is, why He came to earth and why He cares so much for us, and invite Him into our heart and home, then we begin to discover just what a treasure He is and why we need Him in our lives.

Anamchara

my anamchara
constant companion, soul friend
beyond this life’s end

you’re my earthly guide
walking by my side, you smile
there’s no judgement here

only perfect love
and total care radiates
with amazing grace

as you gaze my way
at any time, day or night
precious in your sight

I have always been
whether I knew it or not
blowing cold or hot

though you have remained
without alteration or change
faithfully the same

mentoring me still
in ways of grace, love and faith
teaching me your will

helping me to grow
more dependent on you now
yet freer somehow
© joylenton

Note: Anam cara or anamchara’s full meaning can be found here. I have used it in this haiku sequence to reflect our relationship with Jesus Christ.