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.

stuck: facing storms and sailing into calmer waters

We all have times and situations where we feel stuck, when our circumstances hold us fast like mud, become seemingly stagnant, and we can see no relief on the horizon. Acknowledging where we are helps, but the most important thing is to realise, no matter how long it takes and how hard we might find it—this won’t last forever.

We won’t always be caught up in our past or chained to habits we long to break free from. If our life is rooted in Christ, then we can set sail for freedom at any time. Nothing is set in concrete when we surrender our lives to Him.

And even if our situation doesn’t alter one iota, we can. By God’s mercy and grace, we can learn to change our perspective, adopt a new way of thinking about things and sail into calmer waters internally as storms continue to rage around us.

Stuck

When I feel stuck in a place of shame or pain, a puddle of difficulty
or an ocean of longing, a river of uncertainty, I remind myself that
this too shall pass and I will rise again, with holy Hope billowing

from my rooted soul like a mainsail, and Faith holding hard as
an anchor for my hurting heart, steering me away from dangerous

shipping lanes toward the Rock, who I am stuck fast to and who
steadies us through every storm we might have to go through

It’s hard to sense our salvation at hand when we’re stuck on thorny
ground, riddled with doubt and can see no way out, or we’re fixated
on things that steal and captivate our souls, but prove to be leaky

vessels, nothing but holes, just sieves that sift, leave us thirsty and
drained, desiring more, as we lose ourselves and our grip on God

While we might sometimes get ourselves into a jam, let us seek to
remain glued to God, stuck fast on his endless mercy, forgiveness

and love, because he is the Centre of our hearts, the great I AM
who freely gives gifts of grace—and is eternally stuck on us
© joylenton

I’m thankful for not being stuck for words as I share my 5 minute poem with the fantastic #FMF writing crew today, using the prompt word: “stuck.” You are warmly invited to write with us and to read the great posts being shared. Just click here to join us there. Thank you! 🙂

story: owning the story of our lives #thedailyhaiku 31

 

I’ve lost count of the number of times I have wanted to disown the story I am living, rewrite it differently and choose an alternative narrative arc. Maybe you have too. So what does owning our story look like? 

As a woman of faith, I venture to suggest it looks like seeing our lives as a small but highly significant part of God’s greater narrative. In the story He is telling throughout history, we all have a part to play. You matter. Your life isn’t a mistake or an accident.

I grew up thinking (hoping?) I must have been adopted, such was the disconnect between me and my family of origin. Later on, hearing how my mother had taken measures to try to stop the pregnancy from continuing, my insecure feelings grew stronger.

Then God happened. He’d been there right at conception, of course, planned for me to live at such a time as this, to be born into the generation I belong to and the family where I arose from but failed to see myself as cherished.

I was born prematurely and against the odds. I was meant to be here. And to survive whatever life threw at me. I was also born to bloom and thrive because of belonging to the family of God. 

Once I came to faith in Christ, my  wounded soul brokenness was no surprise to Him, only a recognisable state we all struggle with to varying degrees. I finally woke up to the fact that I was unconditionally loved—by Almighty God Himself.

It has taken me a while to own the story of my life, filled with brokenness and emotional pain as the years have been, plus decades of health challenges. But that’s only viewing it from a purely human perspective.

Now I am able to see how God poured out His mercy and grace, loved me immeasurably, tenderly wiped away the tears and gave me a brand new start through Jesus.

I am incredibly blessed to have a husband who adores me, a loving family and close friends. I no longer want to disown the story of my life. Instead, I am willing to speak out about how much God has changed and glorified it by His grace. And He will do it for you too, my friend.

Owning my story

I claim this story
the life I live, holding it
shyly—out to you

you gather pieces
of my brokenness and give
them back to me—whole

and in your eyes, wide
as the ocean swells, I see
sweet mercy and grace

caught in a net of love
with no thought of escape, here
I will stay—always
©joylenton

We’ve made it! This is the last post in #thedailyhaiku series for October’s #write31days marathon reading/writing challenge. It’s been a joy and sweet encouragement to have your company here. Thank you! If you want to catch up with the rest of the posts, please click here.  And look out for a surprise bonus tomorrow!  🙂 ❤

shadow: hope for when your past clings on today #thedailyhaiku 21

 

Try as we might, we cannot erase our past. Only God can give us a clean slate, fresh start and a new heart. We soon discover that the worst of events tend to continue to haunt us in the present like a ghostly presence. They cling like an unwanted second skin, clammy and cold to our souls.

I’ve had to learn to relinquish my past to God, mainly because some of it is just too heavy and painful to carry alone. This doesn’t mean that it never enters my thoughts. Far from it. The enemy is always whispering venom to our hearts and minds. He loves to remind us just what we were, where we came from and how we’ve been wronged.

And when that happens we can get drawn back into the feelings we had back then, sucked into the swirling vortex of pain, while our minds relive it all over again like a never ending cinema reel.

But we have a powerful weapon against the enemy’s  wiles. As we read God’s Word it not only reminds us just who we are in Christ, it saturates us with beautiful, holy Truth and Light that drives out the dark and ugly lies we’ve bought into.

 

The more we believe the Bible over what our fearful hearts have clung to, and allow the Lord access to all areas, the better prepared we are to fight with spiritual weapons instead of caving in to pain, and accept we are redeemed and washed clean, a new creation in Jesus Christ.

It’s what gives us the resources and strength we need to move on, dwell on God’s mercy, forgiveness and grace instead of on our guilt-ridden and shame-filled past, while learning to live more joyfully in the present day.

a vanished shadow

a vanished shadow
yesterday clings ghost-like, grey
while we live today
©joylenton