pilgrimage: a journey of faith, hope and trust when the going gets tough

pilgrimage - mountains and valleys - a journey of faith, hope and trust where stout shoes are required @poetryjoy.com

“Life is a pilgrimage. Each moment is to be lived in depth, because each moment contains God, hidden within it.” ― Banani Ray

pilgrimage - mountain top view - God never said that the journey would be easy quote by Max Lucado @poetryjoy.com

“Happy are those who are strong in the Lord, who want above all else to follow your steps. When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of springs where pools of blessing and refreshment collect after rains! They will grow constantly in strength, and each of them is invited to meet with the Lord in Zion.” ― Psalm 84: 5-7 TLB

When we’re struggling with life’s many challenges, and the road ahead looks steep, daunting and dark, we can still rest in the fact that God is with us every step of the way. He is always able to come to our aid, fill us with His peace, rescue and save.

God holds us close, pours out His love, gives us His mercy and grace, whispers solace to our souls, calms our fretful hearts, and encourages us every step of the way. May we hold onto that thought when we are weary and the going gets tough.

We might get to the end of our rope but we are always given the means and strength to cope and go on. When we go through deep waters, Jesus is the lifebelt we need to stay afloat.

Pilgrimage

this pilgrimage
this journey we are on
has its twists and turns
there are potholes and caves
places where we will be safe

we’ll face high crags
and mountainous terrain
for us to traverse
if our shoes are stout enough
and we refuse to give up

endure the desert
barren, dry, dusty places
where our feet will burn
and our souls become parched
as hope dips low in our hearts

we might get to swim
in refreshing ocean depths
in purer air
calmer waters than before
glimpsing sight of land and shore

let us not give up
when heavy tests and trials come
when life gets tough
but hang in and hold on tight
victorious in the fight
© joylenton

pilgrimage - desert island - beach - poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

God dries our tears when we cry, comforts us when we’re anxious and afraid, and gives us His Hope in the darkest circumstances of our Christian pilgrimage. We can fully trust in Him, as in the song below. May it bring you hope, my friend. ❤

“When You don’t move the mountains
I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters 
I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers
As I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You”

― Trust in You by Lauren Daigle

healing: from broken shards to restful heart

healing - mosaic - labyrinth - stained glass - from broken shards to restful heart - poetryjoy.com

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” ― Rumi

Healing

it’s a mystery
all I had to offer you
was broken shards
you made it a thing of beauty
a shimmering stained glass

now it reflects
the light of your presence
hidden deep within
this life of mine is hid in Christ
because I trust in him

sometimes I sense
a pricking of the pieces
in my heart
where your healing takes place
though incomplete in parts

at times like that
I am apt to hurt, forget
this mending process
is ongoing and prolonged
it can take years and years

but if I stay calm
and trust in change itself
the rest will come
trailing your peace and joy
just as darkness yields to sun
© joylenton

Healing is a process. It’s also a mystery as God takes our brokenness, our shattered shards, and turns them into something of great worth. Beauty can arise from the ashes of our lives if we turn to and trust in Jesus Christ. He will freely give us His rest and peace in exchange for our problems and pain.

healing - True Healing quote by John M Sheehan @poetryjoy.com

“The church is not a select circle of the immaculate, but a home where the outcast may come in. It is not a palace with gate attendants and challenging sentinels along the entrance-ways holding off at arm’s-length the stranger, but rather a hospital where the broken-hearted may be healed, and where all the weary and troubled may find rest and take counsel together.” ― James H. Aughey

healing - circle of stained glass - cross in the background poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“People start to heal the moment they feel heard.” ― Cheryl Richardson

hope: it’s closer to home than we might think

“Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

hope - Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher - quote @poetryjoy.com
Finding hope

Can my soul dance
at the sight of a single, gently
swaying, humble dandelion?

Can I see hope
in such a small, small offering,
more a weed than anything?

Some days it is
beyond me to catch the briefest
glimpse and be fully satisfied.

Because I hunger
after beauty and colour, of which
my yearning soul never tires.

I long for hope
to reveal itself in the bold, whereas
it often comes unawares.

It winds itself
into our consciousness
waving a filmy, fragile flag.

No sudden white
flare or something more rare
but a simple garden sighting.

A tiny thing, perhaps,
a mere slender seedling, and yet
it calls us to pay attention.

Here, here, it says,
I have arrived again,
I never completely disappear.

Let your eyes scan
the world or come closer now
and find me in the infinite.

Maintain openness
and you will soon discover
hope never leaves you bereft.
© joylenton

Yellow is not only a humble dandelion’s distinguishing hue, it’s a colour associated with the positive traits of happiness, optimism, hope, creativity, sunshine and spring. It cheers our hearts and adds a welcome dash of brightness wherever it appears, especially when we encounter it in daffodils.

“Just living is not enough… one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.” Hans Christian Andersen

hope - solo dandelion - garden - finding hope poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Dandelions—those persistent, thriving little wildflowers/weeds and intrusive curse of gardeners—actually come with a vibrant message of hope for us. They symbolise the warmth and power of the rising sun and healing from emotional pain, to name but two of their suggested characteristics. You can find out more here.

I love dandelions because they’re such a cheerful colour and often the only flowers in our tiny garden for months. They’re also a hopeful sign of spring’s imminence. Maybe it’s worth leaving them alone for a while so we can enjoy their vivid brightness before we replace them with more favoured flowers and plants to grace our gardens with, like sunflowers, perhaps? 😉💚🌻🌺

hope - Where flowers bloom, so does hope quote @poetryjoy.com

interlinked: how mourning and joy are closer than we think

interlinked - how mourning and joy are closer than we think - girl dancing in sunlight @poetryjoy.com

“For everything there is a season. . . . a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” — Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4 NRSV

Interlinked

We mourn,
thinking we might never
rediscover joy, never
laugh or dance again,

but we are wrong
because they are all
interlinked, entwined

parts of one another,
shared segments
of our soul’s deepest needs.

While we weep
we also prepare
to dance, to feast,

although it doesn’t
necessarily cross our minds
that one could follow on,
like day follows night,

or be the shadow of the other
as we try to hold these
disparate thoughts together.

Even here,
even now, when grief needs
closure, there are glimmers,

conjoined glimpses of hope
which support and enable
us to look up,

to go on with courage,
because a slight lifting
of lockdown might signal
a slow return to peace.
(C) joylenton

interlinked - woman watching the waves - poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Once we return to a semblance of normality in our nations, our “ordinary” might feel scarily different but it will have a fresh lustre and glow of grace about it too. Because we are limited in what we can do now, we appreciate the joyful, sacrosanct and sacred moments that exist and long to keep them fixed in our hearts.

“Mourning and dancing, grief and laughter, sadness and gladness—they belong together as the sad-faced clown and the happy-faced clown, who make us both cry and laugh. Let’s trust that the beauty of our lives becomes visible where mourning and dancing touch each other.” — Henri Nouwen, in Faith That Matters: 365 Devotions from Classic Christian Leaders

Maybe we will dance in our hearts or gardens, if not in the streets. Like a butterfly being joyfully released to fly freely, instead of being restrained and shut away, confined to a limited environment, mourning the freedom it has lost.

A lingering sadness and wariness will exist because so much has changed, so many lives have been cut painfully short, so many of us are in a prolonged recovery mode. We will need faith and trust to carry us through the days of difference that lie ahead.

“I have told you all this so that you will have peace of heart and mind. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows; but cheer up, for I have overcome the world.” — John 16:33 TLB

Where are you seeing glimpses of joy during these unsettled times? What makes your heart sing or helps keep you comforted and calm? 🙂 ❤

hope: listening for the sound of hope in your soul

hope - blackbird singing on a tree - listening for the sound of hope in your soul @poetryjoy.com

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words — And never stops at all.” — Emily Dickinson

Notes of hope

A blackbird’s throaty warble
rises above the voices
on the street, making conversation

because we’re all hungry
for company, for solace,
even at two metres apart.

But I’m listening more
to the notes of hope and joy,
bringing a reminder
that this too shall pass,

time will move on as it
always does, and we will return
to a new normality at last.

My solitary blackbird
friend has no soul companions
but it doesn’t deter him

from belting out his song,
from shrugging off the sadness
because he’s on his own.

He is staying put—for now,
to bring cheer to our hearts,
hope for the housebound
and isolated, while he sings

of spring, of life and birth, burgeoning
earth, of newness, of growth and hope
continuing beyond this moment.
© joylenton

hope - blackbird on a garden fence - notes of hope poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” — Corrie Ten Boom

release: the pain and the gain of letting go

release - the pain and the gain of letting go - birds freed from a cage

These strange times we are in call for an eventual release, don’t they? Getting back to the world of school and work, perhaps. Returning to our usual activities in a new normality we’re still uncertain about.

I’ve been thinking about life’s many moments of small release, adjusting to our losses, a necessary  moving on and moving forward, including the great letting go we will all experience one day.

When the time comes

When the time comes, let it go,
learn to release each care,
each sorrow like so much
wheat chaff blowing in the wind,
being carried who knows where
or who knows when.

Do not cling too tightly to life
as if it were all you had
because a greater life, a better
love, a softer peace exists,
waiting beyond the blue
with its arms open for you.

Seek to live as truly, fully
and freely as you can,
while you stay mindful
of its transitory state,
of its preciousness,
its wonder, colour and grace.

Learn to love the sacred
ordinariness each day offers
you like a gift,
holding it close but not too
close, knowing it will end
swift as sun sinks vermilion
and a curtain of dark descends.

When the time comes
try to be prepared, ready
to release, as you thank
each gift, each person, each thing
that has meant something
for being part of your life.

Before it happens,
make sure that you get
to notice it all,
everything good, bad, indifferent,
because it has helped
to shape and form
the person you have become.

In the early years
you can be forgiven
for your nonchalance
and insouciance, but not
as you gather to your breast
loved ones, special relationships.

Later on, when the dandelion
clock is looking a little
threadbare, pared back,
let yourself reflect
on what has gone, what has
passed to bring you to Now.

As time elapses, seek to hold
lightly to it all,
to anything you value
and all you don’t
because they all count, they all
add up to sand in the hourglass.

So when the time comes
remind yourself of this:
how you have lived,
how you have loved,
and try to forgive yourself
if you think it isn’t enough.

Give yourself grace for being
a flawed human being
who is a delightful mix
of pulled together and mess,
because you’re learning to grow
before you can let go.

Finally, release all your worries,
concerns and stress, let them
tumble off your burdened back
and feel the weight
of your soul’s sheer emptiness.

As the hours nudge closer
to the time you half expect,
even as you look back
with a few regrets, may you
be light as air, bright and happy,
because from hereon? You are free.
© joylenton

release - when the time comes poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Our faith journey is a continual process of letting go of our extraneous stuff and holding tight to the hand of God. We release what doesn’t serve us well and receive the best He has in mind for us.

It takes wisdom and courage to let go but we don’t have to do it alone. God’s help is only a breath, a prayer away. Can I pray for you today, my friend? A load shared is a load lifted… ❤

release - letting go prayer (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

window: finding an opening for joy to flourish

window - blinds - sunset - trees - what your longings and feelings might be saying to you - (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Joy is a bit thin on the ground at the moment, isn’t it? So many of us are feeling overwhelmed by individual and collective sadness and grief, with longings for change going unmet and unaddressed.

It’s like the whole world is in a state of mourning and we don’t know how to get through it or where to find joy anymore. Or maybe we do. Perhaps joy is much closer to home than we anticipate.

Indoors with our loved ones, or just outside our window, perhaps, even if we can’t see a great deal because it resembles a concrete jungle. You may be wondering: What kind of joy can those things bring to me?

More than you might think, my friend. Due to decades of being housebound by chronic illness, and suffering episodes of depression, I try to discover any window, any opening to joy I can find.

I seek to focus on my heart’s longing for joy and what encourages it to flourish, which means looking at the simple, small, and often overlooked. And it includes developing a deeper gratitude for my loved ones.

window - wildflowers - I seek to focus on my heart's longing for joy quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Longings

Window watcher that I am,
let my gaze linger with sacred awe
longer than before,

to truly see each tree
and flower and leaf as portents
of hope and promise.

I want to drain
the last ounce of joy I find
in every day,

drink the cup dry of it,
keep memories as dregs.

I long to hold
the wonder found right here
and right now,

like a fragile butterfly,
let it loose to climb the sky.

I seek to find
the holy ordinary
in people, trees

and leaves, clouds, fiery sunsets,
in everything light reflects.

I desire to dream
with intentionality,

let purpose unfold
like a story I have known,
full of hope beyond this world.

I yearn to touch
earthly things stamped with grace,

trace God’s footprints,
sense them moving in my soul,
where I will never grow old.
© joylenton

window - butterfly - longings poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

The view outside my window is far from scenic, but I do take pleasure in watching sky changing colour, seeing variable shape and type of clouds, noting emergence of greening tips and flowers on plants or observing a solitary tree as its leaves alter with the seasons.

Even a concrete wall can be interesting because it attract insects, has different patterns of stone within it or changes shade, depending on where the light falls and catches it.

Having chronic illness has taught me not to despise the tiny, mundane things of life. Whether in lockdown or not, it helps to appreciate the blessings before us rather than dwell on what we’ve lost.

Your longings are a window into your soul too. What are you longing for, my friend? Where are you experiencing your longings being met in these challenging times? May the joy of the Lord be our strength today, and always.

PS: This post was inspired by Chronic Joy Ministry’s Poetry Prompt: Windows and TreesDo check out their great resources! 🙂 ❤

window - longings - solo poppy - wooden fence - having chronic illness quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

shift: adjusting to a new normality

We might be tempted to think that there wasn’t too big a shift in the atmosphere and that life went on pretty much as normal for the ordinary citizens who lived at the time of the resurrection of Christ. But what if it didn’t? What if nothing ever felt quite the same afterwards?

Such a cataclysmic event was earth and world shattering in its effects. The news about it spread over the whole known world. The story of the resurrection got shared year after year, retold with wonder, speculation and awe to future generations. And it still is.

Because God’s evident, sacrificial love for us and the hope it brings to human hearts has spread faster than any virus can, multiplying exponentially nation to nation.

It affects everyday people from every stratum in society, turning humdrum lives upside down in the process. The message the resurrection imparts brings us deep rest when all else is unsettled and shaken, including our emotions.

So let’s consider how one ordinary person, just like you and me, might have reacted to the resurrection, to this shift in their expectations and experience, followed by an adjustment to a new normality.

“At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people.” ― Matthew 27:51-53 NLT

A shift

There’s a shift
where identity used to sit
like an old cardigan,

well-worn, moth-eaten
but familiar
because it became part
of me, what I always wore.

Now I don’t know what fits
me anymore
or suits the woman

I have become
since the earth shook, since Sunday
and a man took
on death to set us free.

Tombs broke open
and people were raised
to life again
like they had never died,

restored to their
loved ones, their families
as if they’d
never left them bereft.

And it is whispered
that this world
is just a stepping stone
to somewhere
better, a place of beauty

where we can sit
and think and dream and breathe
and bask in who we are,
who we were created to be.
© joylenton

shift - envisioning eternity - shift poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

God Himself changes not. He is totally dependable and faithful to His Word. His promises can be relied upon. God doesn’t shift like the wind, alter with circumstance or sway from continually pouring out His love, mercy and grace for us. 

“‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” ― Isaiah 54:10 NIV 

Whatever fears or uncertainties might be shaking your world right now, my friend, remember the unshakeable power of God to rescue and save us. He is the still, calm centre of every storm we encounter, and our souls’ peace, always. In the valley of the shadows, God is with us and fighting for us as the core strength of our hurting hearts. 

lift: for those times when you need to be carried

Give me the Love that leads the way, Faith that nothing can dismay, Hope no disappointments tire, Passion that’ll burn like fire, Let me not sink to be a clod, Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God. ― Amy Carmichael

News alerts and alarms are the hallmarks of our hours. We’re struggling not to drown in discouragement, anxiety, sadness and grief. We’re in the grip of a deadly virus and a state of soul overwhelm. Our flesh is weak. Our hearts quake.

Our minds spiral into worse case scenarios. It’s hard to relax and get a grip when the world feels so out of control, isn’t it? How can we stay stable in this storm? Who can lift us up and keep us safe? Our God can and He will. Nothing is too difficult for Him.

God carries us when we sink low and cannot carry ourselves. He lifts us up when we stumble and fall. He infuses strength into failing bodies and hearts. Let us look to the Lord to lift us up and hold us close, like the loving Father He is, full of compassion and love.

“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” ― Isaiah 58: 11 NIV

lift - father and child - Let us look to the Lord to lift us up quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Being lifted up

Are you feeling crushed,
dear hurting soul?
Do you feel discouraged and sit
with your head bowed low?

Take heart, dear one, for hope
is here and help will come.
Your tears are not unseen
but are caught lovingly.

They are held in the heart
of a compassionate God
who cries, gives grace,
and feels and aches with us.

You, too, are being upheld
by his power and by his love
as he carries you
when you’ve had enough.

When you can’t go on
and feel far from strong,
fear not, my friend, because
this is not the end.

God will comfort you
as only he can, and cradle you
close until you can walk
with confidence again.

All who fall are not despised
but are souls to save, to hold,
heal and make strong once more
in our merciful Father’s eyes.

You will learn to breathe and rise
above your current woes and pain,
while you lean on the One who suffers
alongside us with our wounded feelings.

He opens his hands,
seeking to satisfy your needs,
every good desire of the human
heart is fully met by him.

So do not despair, my friend,
as you mourn a significant loss
or the pathway you knew before is gone
because God stands ready to lift you up.
© joylenton

lift - being lifted up - sad girl in a forest - Are you feeling crushed poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.” — Psalm 145:14-15 NIV

Friends, in these demanding days, let us acknowledge our weakness and frailty and ask God to carry us when we’re unable to go on without His help. He stands ever willing to lift us up, give us Hope, and fill us with His compassionate love.

antidote: how God’s perfect love helps cast out fear

antidote - sos - love as the remedy for our beleaguered souls @poetryjoy.com

Hello Dear Friends, we are living in strange times, aren’t we? Nothing feels as safely familiar as before because we’re all having to adjust to a new “normal” as we adapt to living with the threat of the coronavirus and its worldwide impact for ourselves and our nations.

It’s a new, unstructured way of living we’re not accustomed to, and don’t care to experience for long. We’re having to be imaginative and proactive to help conquer our fears because this virus casts a weighty shadow over everything, especially with alarmist news reports.

So how do we cope when the life we knew before alters by the day? To assist with lessening anxiety, it helps to focus on the positive, and on what we can do rather than what we can’t. These things are helping me: praying, breathing deeply and slowly, meditating, exercising gratitude, resting, and keeping a sense of perspective.

I’m also looking to God as my major means of soul help and support. God’s love is the antidote to fear and the answer to all inner restlessness and dis-ease. It’s the healing balm we need to comfort our sad and sorrowing souls. It’s the anchor of our lives, the compass of Hope our hearts long for.

“God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us….There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.” — 1 John 4:18 The Message

antidote - virus - hearts - God's love is the antidote quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

God’s love provides the safety valve and soul exhale we need in swirling seas of uncertainty. It’s freely given, available to all, and abundantly nourishing for our souls. God’s love triggers remembrance of His faithfulness to us in the past and His sustaining grace available for us now.

Antidote

As the days segue into sameness
yet feel strangely unfamiliar to us,
can you see, can you believe
that what nourishes and sustains
us, deep in our souls, is holy love?

It is the antidote we seek,
the destroyer of anxiety, fear
and hate, the balm for every
chaotic change, every virus
that eats its way into our hearts.

Love came to earth in the shape
of an infant boy’s messy birth,
crying out for us to see his worth
while we open our arms, our eyes,
our minds and hearts to his love.

It calls us now to pay attention
and to fix our eyes more on its
solution to sin and sickness, to all
dis-ease of the human heart,
rather than allowing fear to build up.

If we can lift our heads and listen
to the sound of love seeping through
the filter of our souls, we might find
a different kind of focus taking place
as we surrender to peace and grace.
© joylenton

Antidote poem (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Do let me know how you are managing. I’m praying for all my readers and friends. You might like to check out my timely book Embracing Hope: Soul Food to Help Chase Away the Blues which is free on Kindle today. May God bless you and meet all your needs as He surrounds you with His all-encompassing care, comfort, protection and love. ❤