deep: seeking solace, hope and joy during Advent

deep - seeking solace, hope and joy during Advent - FMF @poetryjoy.com

Advent is on the horizon. It invites me to go deep in my devotions. To sit with Mystery. To wait with expectancy. Look for the hidden gems of joy. Be thankful. But my soul isn’t being compliant. I feel restless. Lacking peace. I’m scratching around for hope and encouragement. Maybe you feel like this too? Out of sync with a season supposedly full of joy?

These are days when I struggle with the sluggish, depressive symptoms of SAD. I have to resist the urge to hide in bed, to retreat from life. Diminishing daylight can make us miserable. Days of grey-fugged skies infiltrate their gloom into our hearts. Yet we can also burn with frustration and an increasing desire to get things done as we join the manic, pre-Christmas rush and race against the clock. How can we alter the falling and floundering? Is there a way to slow, rediscover hope and grow? I think so.

I resist yielding to the oppressive clouds of continual discouragement that hover over and sink me emotionally, and tell me I am nothing. My soul stirs its sleepy self and says: This. Is. Enough. No more. I cannot tolerate another winter of discontent. Something has got to change. And that means I have to look for help outside myself. I need to go deeper into God. To reach out to others. To pray. To learn to love myself and my life in a balanced way, instead of feeling worthless and out-of-place.

When we are in a deep, dark place God remind us of this:

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” – Isaiah 43:2 NIV

Another way I recover my equilibrium is to write poetry, as I have in this five-minute-friday poem, where I let loose and forgot about the clock for once!

Deep 

She was tired of living a surface,
superficial life, her soul ached
for a deeper reality, for authenticity.
Though it’s not free, it comes at a price,
and she needs to be willing to pay.

For all growth in our wayward souls
requires surrender to a higher
power—to God himself.

Going deep might be easy for some
but she has learnt it will take all
she has got, all of her heart.
God calls across the clamour
inside her soul, into the place
she hides when she feels broken.

And he lures her oh so tenderly,
with a look of love, with a whispered
word, with truth and promises.

But trusting is hard because
she’s been dry and closed inside
too long—can she really open up?
He soon reveals hidden, sparkling
gems, glittering bright, previously
unseen, now glowing in his light.

These are yours, he says, my heart gift
to you, just lift up your head and see
what I will do if you will believe.
I abide in a deep and holy place
but I also reach down to my child,
to offer you my gifts of grace.
© joylenton

deep - deep poem excerpt (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“I will give you treasures hidden in dark and secret places. Then you will know that I, the Lord God of Israel, have called you by name.” – Isaiah 45:3 CEV

Friends, thank you for allowing me to vent in this small, safe place on the internet. Feel free to reply and let me know how you are too. We can pray for and support one another. I’m sharing my words with the fabulous five-minute-friday writing crew today. Just click here to follow me there. Thank you! 🙂

PS: If you’re curious or need help, here are the symptoms of SAD and these are potential self-help measures and treatment plan. I pray they will be a blessing to you.

Being thankful

gratitude thanksgiving PJ file image

As I type these words I imagine some of you are celebrating Thanksgiving, hearts heavy with thankfulness, faces glowing with candle-light and closeness, enjoying family, friendship and fine food.

Or maybe the meal is over and you’re sitting sharing more intimate conversation, listening and laughter. Maybe squabbling (amicably, of course, we are just imagining the best scenario) over who does the dishes and who gets to choose the TV programmes, and will you pass the chocolates, please?

All good gifts. All grace. All manifestations of the myriad ways we are given holy moments in the everyday. Touches of mercy to warm our hearths and hearts.

For it’s in the simple things of life, eating, drinking, breaking bread together that we become connected, members of God’s big family.

United in His love, and by His provision for us, joined by joy in giving and receiving, in encouraging and sharing.

In the daily grind there is always space for blessing, for gratitude, for being kind, recognising grace and giving it to others.

We may just need to ask God to help us to see it and pass it on.

‘Gratitude’

God’s golden-glimmer gifts of grace

discovered in the commonplace

Rest and sleep, deep peace and ease,

soft wind of Holy Spirit breeze

All our hearts desire and need,

awareness of our pride and greed

Trust and faith will light the way

on discouraging, darker days

Invitation, inspiration ignite

the fire to come up higher

Truth seen, received, believed and heard,

witnessed in Jesus as The Word

Understanding of all our faults and flaws,

underpinning of God’s righteous laws

Divine encounters opening heaven’s door

as death is defeated for ever more

Embraced by Love, encouraged

and comforted by God above

©JoyLenton2014

gratitude poem pin file image

Cultivating an attitude of gratitude is greatly helped by deliberately noticing and counting blessings. One of the best resources I know for this is Ann Voskamp’s lovely book, ‘One Thousand Gifts’.

In fact, because this book has had such a beneficial effect on my life, I have a free copy to give away, chosen at random from those leaving a comment below.

I’ll kick things off with my own grace gifts for today:

1) As I pulled the curtains back after a wakeful, pain-filled night, I saw a blaze of heart-shaped light filtering through the gloomy grey outside, edging the clouds like a living thing. It felt like God was saying it’s OK, My love-light can seep through the most challenging nights and days and bring hope back to you.

2) The poem above falling into my head as I pondered on God’s goodness and grace. 

3) Having a husband who holds me close even (yes, especially) on my tear-filled, over-tired, angsty days when I feel so unworthy of his love. He is a living reminder of the love of God continually poured out, always giving, faithful and unconditional.

Now over to you:What 3 things are you thankful for today? (you can add more if you wish) 

Just leave a comment below to be in with a chance to win a free copy of ‘One Thousand Gifts’. (Offer limited to UK residents only due to postal charges – sorry) But please do leave a comment anyway so that we can share in praising God together for His gifts of grace. PS: I am so thankful for all of you who read and follow this blog. Have a blessed Thanksgiving Day! 🙂

Autumnal days

There is a special beauty in autumnal days.

I love to watch as leaves give out a dying blaze before they crisp and curl then fall away.

And this week I have a wonderfully familiar yet completely different outlook.

My son’s garden and surroundings speak soft of summer’s ending, autumn’s kaleidoscope colours signalling the approach of colder days.

So as I’ve window-watched and pondered, taken images and enjoyed the views, it seemed good to share them with you too.

Because there is a bevy of beauty in the everyday as God pours out His glory and grace.

‘Autumnal days’

autumnal rain and trees

Autumnal days have a sacred blaze

They glow with mystery and a hint of history

Glistening raindrops gather soft light

as they turn liquid gold and rusty bright

crack where light gets in

Landscape misted by a foggy haze

in deepening darker rain-soaked days

No matter how dim and dull it may seem

there’s always a crack where the light gets in

garden squirrel file image PJ

And familiar green can become a scene

where a squirrel hides himself in plain sight

before he scampers clean away

having made his mark on the day

©JoyLenton2014

This poem shaped itself as I looked at the images I had taken this week. It is part of my aim to see beauty in the everyday and God’s grace in the commonplace during my  #31days of #writingbraveandfree here and at Words of Joy

Posts have of necessity been rather sporadic due to many health challenges and the extra fatigue from making a journey, but I hope you will enjoy what I’ve managed to write so far. 🙂

Seeing beauty in the everyday

countryside flowers ~ file image WoJ

Sometimes we don’t have to travel far at all to see the wonder of the world.

It’s right here, on our doorstep.

Well within our vision.

There is beauty in the everyday.

Cause to celebrate the commonplace.

Eyes enhanced by grace see more than meets the eye.

Blessings abounding for the discerning.

We learn to marry the marvellous with the mundane.

I have had my eyes opened to enchantment.

My soul woken to the wonder woven through each day.

Being housebound means that each opportunity and ability to leave the confines of four walls is reason to rejoice.

Yes, even in a hospital waiting room, a trip to the doctor or the dentist! Surprising encounters can lift our days if we look for them.

I record #beautyintheeveryday on my Instagram feed as memory markers for darker, gloomier days.

All around we are offered opportunities to see life and to see it whole, to witness the outpouring of God’s goodness, glory and grace.

A short journey gives me a chance to see abundance of new life as sap rises in Spring, sultry, hazy, lazy days of Summer unfold, Autumn reveals her golden-clothed splendour, and Winter creeps its silvery, icy fingers on the land.

The poem below is celebrating my brief trips out in recent months, with a wistful looking forward to future ones.

‘Sightseeing’

countryside view

I didn’t travel far

beyond my front door

Just sitting in the car

delighting in the things I saw

Landscapes, clouds and sky

spoke out God’s beauty

to me as I watched

and sighed. And trees

bloomed fresh and green

then shed their coat of leaves

in russet-gold of varied hues

midst fluffy-white and cobalt-blue

I didn’t get to see

or smell the salt-tanged air

of sea, or watch as

waves rose and fell

upon the sand

Though my heart desires

to see the coast

and ponder on eternity

as life swells forth

in ebbs and tides

amongst the surf

unto infinity

©JoyLenton2014

coast ~ PJ file pin image