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? 🙂 ❤

enchantment: regaining our sense of wonder and awe

enchantment - sky - trees - landscape - sunset - regaining our sense of wonder and awe @poetryjoy.com

“Practicing enchantment is a commitment to seeing the world through new eyes. It means shaking off our cynicism and numbness and rediscovering the world that shimmers behind the everyday.” — Christine Valters Paintner, Earth, Our Original Monastery: Cultivating Wonder and Gratitude through Intimacy with Nature

Life can quickly become humdrum and routine, can’t? Especially after several weeks of the same old same old of being in lockdown. The novelty of being at home full time soon wears off, as those of us used to being housebound know all too well.

With the disenchantment that sets in or the stress of life with covid-19, we can miss the ordinary wonders before our eyes. So as I browsed my poetry files, wondering what soul soothing words I could share with you, I found myself drawn to a poem which features the daily glory of sunset.

My nature poems remind me how dulled my mind has become over the last few weeks, and my heart neglectful in noticing the daily beauty that exists. Maybe you, too, could use a reminder to pay attention?

“Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes – The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.” — Elizabeth Barrett Browning

It’s good to look outside the window or take a walk if you’re able to, and really notice sky, clouds, leaves, trees, birds and flowers, and appreciate each ordinary day, filled with holy enchantment, for the miracle of creation it actually is.

Evening

it begins
slowly, hushed silence reigns
twilight comes
the poet’s pondering hour
sky is midnight-blue wool skeined

it gives way
yields to misty dove-grey hues
dusk invites
lifting the thin curtain
listening to heaven’s news

I watch and sigh
sky gazing, looking lazy
magnetised
by all this night offers us
and let it amaze me

warm rose tint
seeps into my consciousness
filling clouds
I drink in pale burgundy
while tumbling into rest

ash and embers
tangerine glow tinged with red
a burning fire
vivid sky lit up for miles
I put my troubles to bed
© joylenton

enchantment - evening poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” — Rachel Carson

Relax, kick back, my friend, and enjoy these soul soothing sights of nature’s sunrise and sunset. May you regain awe and enchantment at the wonder of it all. 🙂 ❤

calm: practising gratitude during the pandemic

What if we refused to join in with the grumbles, moans and complaints on the internet and other place during the pandemic, even in our own homes, perhaps? We could choose to keep calm, encourage others, and speak of hope, faith and love in adverse circumstances.

How can we best support our souls during these stressful and strange Covid-19 days? Maybe by enjoying the little things: feed our faith, practise gratitude, aim to savour extra time with our loved ones, rest for our health’s sake, maintain our creativity, and withdraw from information overload and overwhelm.

We can pray for family and friends,  health care workers and governments, as well as the world situation in general. Another thing that might help keep us sane, especially if we can’t exercise, is stepping outside now and then for a slow, 30 seconds or more, fresh air inhale/exhale.

Because nature has healing powers. Yes, even if our garden or balcony growing space is a tiny or weed-ridden plot! 🙂 Size doesn’t matter. What counts is seeing living greenery.

Creation’s calming beauty helps soothe our frazzled souls, and opens our hearts to the simple gratitude of being alive. I always appreciate rare days when I can get outside for a while because enjoying the little things counts.

converse - landscape - hills - sky - sunset - Creation's calming beauty helps soothe our frazzled souls quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Life in the time of the coronavirus

I hear the flaxen-haired toddler
from two doors away
chattering nineteen to the dozen

as I peg light laundry to line, with sun
warming my arms for the very first time
this year, this spring, in a sudden
burst of seasonal heat.

She is running, running, running
the length of her small garden
and back again, as if her tiny feet

don’t know how to stop
their forward momentum, their racing
along to an inner beat.

We’re meant to be avoiding others
as our country struggles
with the coronavirus and its effects,
and I think we are far enough apart

even though I can just make out
the top of her hurrying head
across our low garden walls.

Her parents smile up at me and speak
in their broken English, nuanced
as it is with a Polish dialect,

while I reply and smile at them
and watch their delightful
little daughter running again.

Such sacred holy ordinary moments
still exist but we have to make
a deliberate effort

to notice them and let our anxieties
slip, as we converse at a distance
with the international language
of hope and joy and love and peace.
© joylenton

calm - woman looking out a window -practising gratitude during the pandemic (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Gratitude helps us appreciate all our days, whatever they might bring to us. Because the altitude of our hearts determines the attitude we will have.

If we’re able to live more in the moment, then we can welcome it, whether outwardly good or bad, as we seek to live with our eyes open to the potential it might bring.

You might benefit from these 10 soul care suggestions for maintaining calm. Brother David Stendl-Rast also offers a glimpse of how we can be gratefully mindful for each new day.

What’s helping you feel more like a human being and less like a potential repository for a horribly invasive virus? What’s aiding you to stay calm and keeps you on an even keel in these shaky, uncertain times? Do share below so we can help one another.

practice: managing the art of life and faith

It takes determination and dedication to practice until we become masters of an art. I lacked the ability to do it well with the violin when I was a child. Or maybe the pained and irritated expression on my parents’ faces was a deterrent.

And I have never overcome my fear of water or been able to swim with any confidence or ease. Sadly, my life is littered with the taking up and laying aside of numerous activities I felt insufficient at.

Somehow, the thought of not being good enough (or perfect) meant I was unwilling to persevere with gaining proficiency. My insecure soul was easily crushed and deterred. Except in my career as a nurse, in being a mother and in one creative area alone.

I’ve never lost the desire to wrangle with words and write out the poetic. I am content to practice because I love it. Writing makes me come alive on the inside and it’s also where I feel reasonably adept. Though I’m as prone to bouts of insecurity, doubt and comparisonitis as anyone else.

practice - baby with tambourine - God gifts each one of us with talents quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

God gifts each one of us with talents, and He also instructs us in the art of living itself. God’s grace means we are forgiven when we mess up, and we can learn to forgive ourselves and move on. Our progress in the spiritual life is far from linear but it is progress, nevertheless.

We’re often not aware we are practising becoming Christ-like but that’s exactly what is happening every day of our lives. As we yield and yield over again to God, we submit our souls to His authority and supreme love. And allow Holy Spirit to do a transforming work in our hearts.

Though perfection is overrated, it’s also an unattainable goal for imperfect people to reach. Maybe if we spent most of our time and energy on being faithful followers of Jesus Christ, then the rest would fall into its rightful place. We could accept being imperfectly perfect in God’s sight, and those who are daily practising the art of a surrendered life.

Let’s seek to practice the art of life, the art of loving others, as we hone the music in our souls and release our gifts freely into the world. Don’t worry about being perfect. Simply rest in being perfectly loved by God.

practice - child playing piano - Let’s seek to practice the art of life, the art of loving others quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Practice

Practice makes perfect
or so they say
but I’ve been practising
the art of living
for six decades
without perfection
in any way.

As I reflect, look back
down the long, dark corridor
of time, what has saved
my soul has been
life’s poetry, metre,
rhythm and rhyme.

It’s revealed in holy script
in my very breath
in wonder and awe
in remembrance
of the One who holds
it all—with great reverence
in the palm of his hands.

And he releases tiny glimmers
of grace into our hearts
and minds, our everyday lives
so we can receive, believe,
think and pray, live out
our lives with gratitude
and hope and joy.
© joylenton

I’m grateful for the weekly practice of flexing my poetic muscles by writing for the fabulous five-minute-friday community. This week’s prompt is “practice”, and you are welcome to join us here as I link my poem with the great variety of posts being shared.

practice poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

labyrinth: discovering beauty and grace in the maze of our ordinary days

labyrinth - discovering beauty and grace in the midst of our ordinary days @poetryjoy.com

Life can feel like a maze. A place strewn with pathways that lead us astray. Somewhere with  high walls and hidden depths, where we can easily lose ourselves. People who have once loved us can drift away, out of sight. We wonder if we’ll ever find our way back to the calming centre of things.

Living can overwhelm our senses. Too much noise. Too much light. Too much haste and hurry. Too many people. Too much of everything. We just want to stop. Get off the merry-go-round and find ourselves. Breathe freely again. Relax.

Let me take you back to a Centre of calm and peace that never fails us. Come with me on a gentle, poetic labyrinth prayer walk that leads us straight to the heart of God. And appreciation and gratitude for where we already are.

Labyrinth

gracious God,
unfold your life in me

unfurl it turn by turn
that in each curving spiral

I may pause and see
the labyrinth of your love

the wonder of your grace

a touch of heaven above
the beauty of your face

infuse these ordinary days
dull as they may seem

with deep holy joy
extraordinary peace
rich gratitude and praise
© joylenton

labyrinth poem (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Let us pause. Breathe. Pray. Savour the silence. And experience one of the most holy times of day. Twilight is a thin place where heaven appears to touch earth with greater intensity. In the dimming of the light we can experience restfulness and peace. Allow these words to soothe your soul. Let us greet this moment with gratitude. Then extend that feeling to the richness of love and life God gifts us with each day.

Twilight

every day
invites, offers us a gift
time to wonder
we get ready to receive
a moment to ponder

eyes lift
conscious of a slight change
something shifts
sun tips her hat toward the horizon
while the scenery gets rearranged

ethereal
suspended fine as mist
twilight
hovering between day and night
softly spilling heaven’s secrets

a thin veil
brief lifting of the curtain
gossamer-fine
nothing feels so certain
while heaven touches earth

prayer comes
with tender dying of the day
vespers
gratitude rises to our lips
we savour what’s before us
© joylenton

labyrinth - twilight poem excerpt (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

We close with a song expressing wonder over the freely given, undeserved goodness and grace of God.

I’m honoured to be sharing my words with Chronic Joy’s Poetry Prompt, based on A harvest of Grains, initiated by Tweetspeak Poetry.  The topic is “gratitude” and the theme is to reveal our appreciation of the holy ordinary. Come join us here?  🙂

sharing summer snapshots as a means of expressing gratitude #1

As we bask in a fresh wave of summer heat and I consequently melt and wilt, remaining more tired than I want to be, I thought I might share a few small snippets with you over the next few weeks, instead of writing a lengthier post. Hooray, do I hear you say? 😏

Today’s snapshot of summer tanka arrived hot on the heels of celebrating a relative’s 50th wedding anniversary in June. It was a glorious day, hot enough to don a summer dress and with no draining humidity to make it unbearable. A rarity this year!

The event itself was held in a splendid house and garden and we were able to eat comfortably outside.  In the photo above you can get a glimpse of the window view I had while waiting for the celebratory lunch to take place. 😎

I praise God for the couple’s marvellous marriage (my brother-in-law law and his lovely wife) and the people it has impacted positively over the years, including me. I’m also beyond grateful for the help I was given and for being well enough to attend and enjoy it all!

It’s ready 

a marquee
set up for celebration
it’s ready
we drink and feast within
an English country garden
© joylenton

 

clouds: confessions of a not so secret cloud watcher

I love looking at clouds. Watching them drift and separate. Seeing them moving slowly or travelling at speed, while wearing dream-like, ethereal, cotton-wool threads, filled with glory from sun’s splendid rays or dressed in drab, dark robes of thunder and rain.

Clouds are entrancing however and whenever we choose to view them. Although you might think cloud watching is only possible for those who have day-dreamer hearts and look up as they walk along, or who, like me, are largely housebound and have time on their hands for staring out of windows.

But I don’t think that’s entirely true, because clouds are freely available for all of us. All we require is the incentive and interest to take a look. In doing so we might discover just how fascinating they are and how watching them helps relax and calm our mind and heart.

In looking at and considering the heavens (including clouds) we see ourselves in relation to their vastness and splendour with a different perspective, and are awed anew by God’s amazing love and concern for us.

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honour.” – Psalm 8:3-5 (NIV)

Clouds

Clouds drift by with calm intention, knowing their position
and place in the heavens, while willing to be blown about
by the wind or be stilled and lulled with peaceful precision

There’s no pressure on them to be anything but what they are
as they move to the vagaries of the weather, splitting into soft
threads with wispy, cotton-wool edges or piled into heavy ridges

They look translucent as they dance in the changeable atmosphere
and bow down as if weighted with lead, become foggy and thick
as they take on a dense, dark and malevolent kind of character

Sunlight brings out their brilliant white, lacy virginal style when
it’s full and bright in daylight hours, then transmutes into a vivid
palette during sunrise and sunset, painted indigo, gold and red

Vastness of sky would be far less interesting to us if we didn’t
have such an eclectic scenario of clouds, altering before our eyes
in all their varied shapes and hues to inspire, intrigue and amuse
© joylenton

And one day , when the time is ripe, we will look up at the sky and see Jesus coming on the clouds of glory, ready to rule and reign in splendour.

“At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” – Mark 13: 26 (NIV)

seagulls: seeking to trust in God’s provision for us

Living within driving distance of the sea means that we often have times when there’s an invasion of seagulls inland, especially when it’s inclement weather where they live or they just feel like spreading their wings.

They make a racket as they fly everywhere, hoping we’re going to be as generous providers of sustenance as their seaside audience are. Little do they know that we’re unlikely to be a good source of food for them, unless they scavenge our leavings.

It’s like the seagulls don’t quite trust they’ll be taken care of. Do birds actually forget that God makes sure they are fed? They have no need to fret. And does some of that doubt creep into our own souls as we hunger after things only God can supply?

“And the food became known as “manna” (meaning “What is it?”); it was white, like coriander seed, and flat, and tasted like honey bread.” – Exodus 16:31 TLB

Maybe we just need to remind ourselves of how wonderfully God has provided for us in the past to stir us toward intentional noticing and being thankful for all we receive today.

“He fed you with manna in the wilderness (it was a kind of bread unknown before) so that you would become humble and so that your trust in him would grow, and he could do you good.” – Deuteronomy 8:16 TLB

Seagull-minded

Are we seagull-minded, screeching and squawking over
one small crust of bread, as though that was all we had
and we’re worried we won’t be fed?

Do we not remember how God provided daily manna
in the wilderness, and how he never leaves his children
wanting, weary or downcast?

Have we forgotten how he lifts the weary and seeks out
the lost, giving us his strength and help when we are weak
and mending our broken hearts?

Are our minds dulled and negligent in considering God’s
magnificent provision for everything, and just how much
we need his presence and his touch?

Maybe we require a shift in our thinking so we don’t sink
into discouragement but are instead encouraged by his
word, and thankful our prayers are heard

Then our souls would veer into an attitude of gratitude
that lifts and sustains us, and treasure each slide into
deeper dependence and trust
© joylenton

“Jesus replied, ‘I am the Bread of Life. No one coming to me will ever be hungry again. Those believing in me will never thirst.'” – John 6:35 TLB

remember: practising mindful awareness to enhance gratitude

 

Winter is a season many of us shy away from, as we seek to hunker down and hibernate while we wait for warmer days. But what if we made a conscious effort to remember when things were different? Does the process of remembering actually make a difference in how we deal with today?

I think so. Because when our lives are less than inviting it helps to lift our spirits if we invite our souls to focus more on gratitude than grumbling. Our heart attitude helps to determine how our days shape themselves.

Autumn is one of my favourite seasons. I love the sheer exuberance of colour as God splashes vivid hues to decorate each dying leaf. It’s as if our generous Creator is asking us to take it all in, to remember this bounty before it all falls to ground.

God reminds us to practise daily gratitude for this moment, because this moment is all we really have to appreciate, here and now, while it is happening. Although it is possible to stay centred in the present, with an awareness of goodness in the past actually enhancing all we are currently experiencing.

“Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” ~ Genesis 9:16

A new year usually finds us looking forward, but if we remember God’s faithfulness toward us in the past it gives hope for days yet to come. When we do allow ourselves to consciously remember, meditate on the goodness of the Lord and the abundant blessings that He provides, we’re well placed to have a more positive mindset.

We can bask in a golden, autumnal glow, see it as a dying season’s last hurrah before the chill of winter seeps into our body, mind and heart, knowing how God so wonderfully sparks renewed life in what seems dead in us, as well as in trees and plants.

Although winter has its own stark, stripped back to the bones beauty, I enjoy reminding myself of days when leaves are in their final death throes and creation shows off its splendour for us to savour and hold in our hearts.

I remember russet

trees dressed in winter
but I remember russet
a golden arbour

stretching leaf to leaf
as autumnal splendour spread
an ochre blanket

and mantle of mist
delayed a breath of decay
for the last hurrah
©joylenton

A few joy notes…

1) A roast chicken dinner cooked by my man
2) Seeing our grandson togged out in his Rugby Tots kit
3) Being able to rest well today after a pain filled night
4) Supplements arriving to help boost my health
5) Having enough heat, snuggly blankets and warm clothes to wear
6) Creativity flowing although I am low on energy
7) God’s grace enabling me to write this post

vanish: letting go of our cares and concerns

November comes in shyly, concealing its icy depths in a cloak of mist. Many days are washed in vapour, made mysterious by the hiddenness of things, the way the familiar can vanish in an instant.

Reducing, darkening daylight hours make us yearn for the light, seek colour and warmth and savour each tiny bit of golden, autumnal glory while we can.

Maybe we could view this concealment as invitation to turn away for a while from the allure of the world around us. To let go of our cares and concerns, and begin to mimic these chillier days by being still and rested in our souls.

Vapour in the mist

Sky shades to silver as a veil of grey
falls like a leaden blanket, allowing
mere slivers of azure blue hues to
filter through

This pale, dove-grey covering conceals sun’s
heat with filmy rays, and invites us to
come aside from busyness and rest
here instead

So we pause a while, breathe a little freer
as we let loose constraints of the day
and watch worries vanish as vapour
in the mist
©joylenton

Father,

When skies shade to grey and our emotions are tempted to follow suit, help us instead to focus on your bright, shining Light that is always with us. May we see mellow, misty moments in these darkening days as an invitation to come aside, breathe, pause and pray, trusting that all our cares and concerns are safe in your hands.

May we reflect on the colour and vibrancy that surrounds us. Give us eyes open to receive and  hearts able to appreciate the onset of winter, sensing awe and wonder in the stark beauty it brings to everything.

Fill our souls with gratitude for the gifts to be found in each season of life and faith.  And remind us how one season will slowly segue into another, eventually vanish from our memories, until it returns in its own form of splendour, with joys we hadn’t anticipated.

Amen