A bittersweet life

Life can feel as topsy-turvy as a rollercoaster ride.

One moment we are cresting the waves, reaching for the sky ~ the next we sink deep and plummet to earth with a bang.

Our emotions as changeable as the weather and just as unpredictable.

It doesn’t take much. Just check your phone, tablet or i-pad. See how many notifications, likes, comments, follows and positive responses there are ~ or not as the case may be.

Where’s the stability in a life lived by the varying opinions of others?

We are hardwired for love, security and approval. God put it into our DNA.

He expects us to receive the full approval we need from Him alone. Yet we go chasing empty cisterns when His well never runs dry.

How we hunger for validation. Look for any means to satisfy our appetites. Though, if we look in the wrong places,  it soon leaves us emptier than before.

‘Bittersweet’

Approval, compliments and favour

flow sweet as liquid honey

and we savour their soothing flavour

find ourselves craving so much more

to satisfy a desire inside where we

hide small ~ afraid we’re not enough

Disapproval, criticism and derision

sting brutal, sharp as lemon sour

and we shrink further back

into our shells, craven cowards

who lack a shred of self-worth

in our shrivelled disposition

So we swing ~ from pain to bliss

depending on our mood

and how much, or how little,

we feel loved, cherished and approved

Walls cracked as toffee brittle,

defences crumbling, gaping, split

©JoyLenton2014

“We can be sealed for eternity, Christ-bought and heaven-bound but still live like cowards, locked down by the chains of what people might think of us” ~ Jennifer Dukes Lee ‘Love Idol’

The approval monster is an insatiable beast. Offer him tidbits and he will lick his lips appreciatively for a while, but it won’t be long before he’s demanding a full-blown meal or a veritable feast to satisfy his appetite.

As an insecure child at heart, I have been greatly tempted to seek my worth and value in other people and other things.

Our best and most lasting way to find satisfaction is to see ourselves as we are in Christ. Look in the mirror of God’s word instead of sighing over the reflection in the glass.

When the world says:You’re a failure by our standards; you’re ‘less than’ until we say you’re ‘enough’; you’re rejected, unless you come up higher; you’re unworthy, just because we say so ~ how should we respond?

How would it look to live, love, work and write for an audience of One?

How would we feel if we could truly believe and receive how God perceives us?

I’m not sure as yet. I’m feeling stuck, stalled by situations and problems looming large. Sidelined by sickness. Derailed by doubt.

Yet despite these setbacks, I am choosing to study God’s word, relinquish and demolish my ‘love idols’, apply the biblical precepts, draw help from Jennifer’s book see how to grow into a deeper awareness of how much God loves and pre-approves of me, and discover who I already am in Christ.

And that’s the best way to start ~ with a hungry, open heart toward Him. God is a rewarder of all who earnestly and diligently seek Him.

I’d love you to join me as I chart my stumbling journey into wholeness. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

There’s a growing community here  seeking to live pre-approved. Would you join us? I hope so. We don’t have to live stalled lives, stuck in the people-approval trap. 

We can learn to release all that’s holding us back from living fully, freely and joyfully committed to God’s ways.

“He’ll validate your life in the clear light of day and stamp you with approval at high noon” ~ Psalm 37:6 ‘The Message’

Joining with friends Ruth Jennifer and Lyli

Living with shadows

This week I’ve had a wake-up call.

Ground has shifted beneath my feet.

Stirrings sit uneasy in my soul.

The life I thought I knew has become redefined.

As I reflected long and prayerfully on what my ‘love idol’ might be and the overcoming of it, some things have surprised me.

When you live in Shadowlands of sickness and pain, attempting to recover from a painful past,  it can be hard to see your way clearly. 

Now I have insight I wish I’d known about before.

God has pointed His finger at the familiar ~ people approval issues, insecurity, concerns about not being ‘enough’, putting other people and things before Him, spending too much time on social media ~ all painfully true.

Then another idea wove its way into my mind, threaded through my thoughts, and caused me to unravel.

How do I perceive myself? As a believer who is overcoming a challenging present and a painful past by the grace of God?

Or.. as an M.E and chronic illness sufferer who is still cloaked in shame, buried beneath pain, consumed by cares, ground down by the gritty reality of daily life?

A pit dweller, wilderness wanderer, valley-living soul longing to see daylight, scale mountain peaks, rest easy. 

Most of my days I aim to see glimmers of grace, maintain an attitude of gratitude, emphasise the positive.

But I still define myself as an ill person with problems ~ and that’s the problem. 

God is showing me I’m actually halting my own healing and preventing His full work in me by not seeing myself as I am in Christ.

I’ve stopped praying and saying out my healing in Christ. I’ve believed the lie that this is as good as it gets. I’ve made it my identity.

It’s become an idol because it steals my joy, inhibits faith growing, reminds me of where I came from rather than where I am going to.

And it has to stop.

‘Living with shadows’

A wrongly assumed identity

of living with shadows and infirmity

Christ calls me to believe I’m set free

unchained, unmarked, untainted, liberated,

whereas I see myself caught, ensnared,

decimated by childhood abuse, illness, M.E

As if I wore a label belonging to another

instead of one provided by my soul’s Lover

Living with pain and chronic illness over many years,

observing my career, hopes and dreams slip away

trickling with my tears as water down the drain

nothing quite the same, only weakness and fears

I’ve worn it as a shroud, death mask, daily dress

instead of clothing myself in His robe of righteousness

Feeling insecure, dis-abled, incapable

when God has gifts He wants to bestow

I’ve failed to receive and accept them all

while my thinking is focused on being unwell

We can only grow when we are willing enough

to let go of all that’s slowly killing us

©JoyLenton2014

I can’t deny the physical reality of my life; it’s effects are ever-present. Loosing and letting go of the idea of myself as chronically sick won’t be easy.

All the evidence is before my eyes. And the past is still pervading my days with its own anguish and pain. Abuse leaves a legacy, a scarring of soul, heart and mind ~ etched inky black stains. 

But I deny the spiritual reality unless I begin to call forth those things which are not yet as though they are.

Look into the mirror of His word and start seeing myself as healed, whole, restored, renewed. Speak out the promises. Live as though I truly believed them.

It won’t be easy. I’ve lived this inhibited, limited life with M.E for over 20 years. Lived far longer with the scars of my past. Yet I know nothing is impossible with God. And I’m ready (knees shaking, heart quaking) to do this.

Not to deny the reality I live with but to embrace the life Christ died to give me. 

Because when God won’t let something go, then neither should we. When He asks us to let go of something, we need to pay attention.

Those things He may be pointing to in your life? It could be time to #listentoyourlife and listen to His voice.

You too can join in with Jennifer and the Love Idol community as we seek to unearth our ‘Love Idol’, confess and address it.

I’ve been privileged to read a preview  of the first chapter of Jennifer’s  book. You can pre-order it here. And  for the free printable resources, click here.

I’ve also been greatly helped on my continuing journey toward healing from childhood sexual and emotional abuse by readingNot Marked’ by Mary de Muth.

I’ll be writing more about where this journey is taking me in the weeks ahead and I’d love you to join me.

Living freely

Aren’t you relieved there are no identi-kit Christians?

We don’t have to look or sound alike.

Having unity together is more about fellowship and being united in love than having full agreement on more than the fundamentals of our faith.

We are allowed to be ourselves. See wood where others see trees. Sense Holy Spirit’s presence in a variety of ways.

God meets us right where we are, at our point of greatest need.

He chased me and wooed me with His unconditional Love.

It was something I’d never encountered before, but my empty, old before its time, desperate-child heart yearned for it.

Here was safety. Here lay security. Here flowed acceptance and peace.

And I came to faith in a ‘happy-clappy’ environment where joy and exuberance were the order of the day.

I wore ‘Jesus Loves Me/You’ stickers, a big grin, innocent optimism in sharing my new-found life in Christ, and a profound gratitude toward God for the glorious gift of salvation.

So I continued for a little while until mental health breakdown, partial recovery, followed by life’s multiple challenges, another breakdown and a haunting legacy of childhood abuse sucked all the joy out of life.

Depression and emotional pain skewed my thinking, clouded my judgement, and left me lost in the wilderness for many years.

Where did God feature? Was His love enough? Was it my fault?

A slow recovery took place and I had a fresh revelation of grace. I drank it deep into my very being as soul manna and sustenance.

But having begun my faith journey majoring on love and forgiveness, I was still largely ignorant of sin and reluctant to speak or think about it. This woman was already stained by her past, full of guilt, shame, self-recrimination and condemnation. And God loved her anyway. 

Because, wasn’t God a God of love? Didn’t grace and forgiveness cover all?

Oh yes.

Though grace is cheapened if we fail to fully appreciate the price Jesus paid to secure it for us.

Now, a little older (and wiser maybe?), though I still struggle with self-esteem issues and will always veer the conversation round to grace and encouragement than otherwise, it is gradually dawning on me how sin cannot be ignored or swept away.

And I am still getting my head around how to achieve the balance between hating sin yet not hating myself. Maybe you get stuck there too?

My soul seeks freedom from all that chained me and those things enslaving me now.

I want to embrace grace and be free to give it to others.

So I am leaning into His love as I think. question, talk about sin’s effects and outworkings, see how fallible and tainted I am and yet (marvellously) so dearly loved and cherished by our heavenly Father ~ just as you are too.

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Here is a ‘Prayer Whisper’ which God poured into my listening heart last February. It still speaks volumes to me and I hope it will bless you too:

file000402181324“How easily you can fool yourself that you’re not sinning. To justify your actions with excuses and cover-ups.

Allow My Holy Light to shine upon your thoughts, words and deeds. Do not be afraid of its consuming power. It will not harm you.

I seek only to burn off the dross and detritus you carry. Such things weigh you down, sully your relationship with Me and sour your interactions with others.

I want to set you free, even from those burdens you have barely noticed as such ~ so familiar have they become.

It is only in the cleansing which follows letting go and laying down that real change and transformation can happen.

Bad habits pollute your mind and body. Once you are able to set them down before Me, you can begin the process of breaking free from them.

Open yourself. Be real before Me. I already know everything about you. Seek to live freely and lightly in the liberty of My Presence.

My purity and power are available to enable and equip you for the next stage of your journey.”

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“The fact that God is love, that He is pure, holy and righteous is the reason why He is angry at sin. It violates, distorts, and destroys what His purpose is. Wrath is inevitable to a God of love, otherwise the love would be tenuous and weak” ~ Charles Price ‘My Daily Journey with Christ’ 

Joining here with Diana and other questing souls as we are #LivingtheQuestions and #LivingintotheAnswers

This week’s question:”What’s with all this talk about sin?”  You are very welcome to hop over and join in the discussion.

Also linking with Mel and Laura