thirst: quenching a thirst we might ignore

thirsty - cat drinking from a fountain -quenching our thirst @poetryjoy.com

It doesn’t take much to remind us we are thirsty and to find the means to quench it. Whether we snuggle up with a steaming mug of coffee, hot chocolate or herbal tea on a cold winter’s day, or gulp down cool, refreshing glasses of water, juice or lemonade in reaction to increasing heat, we can easily satiate that need.

But we might be less aware of our inner soul thirst. Not just the drives and desires, the passions that fuel and fire our activities, but a gnawing spiritual awareness of our emptiness and how to fill it.

Even if our eyes are opened, we might choose to satisfy the insatiable thirst inside with physical things or with compulsive behaviour that could end up harming us, if not our purse.

During my recent stint in the soul desert wilderness, it took me a while to register my need to reach out to God and to realise how thirsty I was. At first, I was too lost in my thoughts. Too pulverised by fatigue, weakness and pain, and too discouraged to see light at the end of the tunnel.

Thirsting,

A voice calls across the desert
sitting in our souls,
encouraging us to listen,

to pause and bend down low,
prepare ourselves to drink
as much as we might need

from a Well that never dries out,
from the Fountain of Life himself,
from a place where all must kneel

in order to receive
because we thirst for more
than life’s bare necessities.

And we come as life’s lost
and lonely wounded ones,
the broken people

who are depleted and undone,
barren, empty and incomplete
and dying on our feet,

because our souls have shrunk
to fit the world we’re in
instead of being wholly

comfortable in our own skin,
as it stretches to the heavens
and back again.
© joylenton

thirst - woman drinking from a jug - thirsty poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

In the desert of depression and ditches of discouragement we get into, we can be slow to cotton on to the fact that God is already present with us in our struggles. He tries to attract our attention in numerous ways, yet we can be too self-preoccupied or stressed to notice. We thirst, but we don’t always know what for.

“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” – Jeremiah 31:25 NIV

God might lead us into the desert for some necessary soul maintenance work, as He did with me, but He won’t abandon us to our fate. Rather, He stays, encourages, whispers hope and healing to our hearts and gently leads us out again when the time is ripe.

Then when we emerge from the desert, from our painful places, we discover our thirst for God’s presence has grown. We thirst for His Word and His voice. He is the Well we keep searching for, and it never runs dry.

wilderness: a place of refuge, restoration and grace

Have you ever been in a wilderness? A bleak, barren desert place where you felt lost and alone? I have. Many times. But mine, and maybe yours too, is more of a soul state than a physical place.

It’s an arid environment we don’t want to linger in. Many of us face deserts of discouragement, depression or despair. And they feel just as real to us as if we were in a sun-scorched land where very little signs of life exist.

When escape is possible, it’s a huge relief because we’re longing to move on. And, at first, as we begin to enter new territory, it can seem like a huge waste of time to have been there at all.

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.” – Hosea 2:14 NIV

However, these wilderness places could be areas of soul refuge, restoration and grace, spiritual training grounds that God leads us into, or an oasis of enforced rest because we’ve become too exhausted to carry on with our usual pursuits.

If we can learn to not resist but see the wildernesses we experience as necessary pausing places in which to catch our breath, mature and grow, our fears lessen at being called to endure them for however long it takes. Then we begin to assimilate the lessons we have learnt in this seemingly inhospitable environment.

Wilderness

This is a desert
in all its barren beauty,
where we wilt,
desperately seeking shade,

while sun’s fierce heat
scorches our souls
and we wither within
at losing the life
we used to know.

Here we might feel alone
but a holy shadow
accompanies us as we choke

on dust, stumble and fall
because we see no way out
and do not know
what direction we should go.

All is swirling winds
that sting our faces like flint
and bring us deeper pain,

as we shield our eyes
while we’re walking blind,
full of longing inside
to move forward again.

We think we’ve become
deaf to God’s voice
in this wild wilderness,

but it has somehow
penetrated us soul deep,
as if his wisdom

has been instilled by soft
osmosis in our hearts
and we discover it as we depart.
© joylenton

desert - sand - wilderness poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“Who is this coming up from the wilderness leaning on her beloved?” – Song of Songs 8:5 NIV

God keeps us company and waters our souls in the wilderness so we are never as alone or deprived as we might feel. After six long months of absence, He unexpectedly released me back into blogging last week over at Words of Joy – which can now be found at joylenton.com. And He has graced me to resume here too.

I was amazed to still be standing after the Christmas holidays, never mind receiving a fresh supply of cognitive if not physical energy! So to be coming up from the wilderness is a gift I don’t take for granted.

As always, I’m completely dependent on God for the ability, strength and focus to write. But I hope you will stick around, wait for the words to come, maybe peruse the archives if you are new here, and allow me a bit of settling in time as well. Thank you! 😉💜

more: experiencing life’s abundance while living with chronic illness

more - experiencing life's abundance while living with chronic illness - tulips @poetryjoy.com

What might having an abundant life look like to you? Is it possible to have a “more than” existence with less? I believe it is. Although it has taken years of shifted thinking and spiritual digging to discover the truth of a less is more kind of life.

When I was a nurse, running madly around a ward all day, with a home and family to take care of as well, the idea of more meant extra time out and time off. Having a hot, undisturbed bath. A book to read. An ability to rest. A meal cooked by my husband. Those were luxuries to me.

But when I first became sick with M.E, I saw that time itself wasn’t such a gift. It’s how we spend our hours that counts. If you spend your days flat-out with fatigue in a darkened bedroom, unable to participate in life and full of pain, time seems like a cruel punishment, while the hours stretch endlessly. I felt like an 80-year-old in a 30 something’s body.

more - hourglass- #FMF - living with M.E quote (c) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

As my condition became less severe sometimes, quality time with loved ones became my most precious priority and sought after soul resource. Then my insecure soul felt that the essence of more was encapsulated in purchasing and accumulating stuff. It’s not. Because I was trying to plug an unaddressed sense of pain and loss.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in fields of green grass and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water. He gives me new strength. He guides me in the right paths, as he has promised. Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me. Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.” – Psalms 23 GNT

Consumerism is a vicious hamster wheel kind of circle, whereby enough is never enough to try to assuage or feed our inner hunger. And it’s left me with a huge decluttering problem to tackle too.

Eventually, with additional physical health challenges and concerns, my eyes were opened to the inestimable worth of Simply. Being. Alive. I’ve realised I have more than enough because I already have all I can access of God’s mercy, grace and love.

more - rose - I have more than enough quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].” – John 10:10 AMP

Shifts

as I age
hidden benefits emerge
like buried treasure
with inner leanings, a shift
toward the contemplative

I notice
far more than I did before
when preoccupied
with life and busyness
instead of seated stillness

my awareness of
inner and outer landscape
is magnified
their shifting moods noted
as seeing is more acute

their preciousness
gets highlighted by loss
cycles of death
repeat – fallenness of leaves
causes heartache and grief

although I see
intimations of hope
in the release
for we will both rise again
in newness of life and limb
© joylenton

I’m linking my five-minute-friday tanka pentaptych poem in community with fellow writer friends here as we share our thoughts on the prompt of “more.” May we all believe we are more than enough even when we feel like our lives or words are insufficient. And seek God Himself more than anything else.

build: having a strong foundation and fortification of faith

build - having a strong foundation and fortification of faith (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Maybe it’s not too surprising to be wistfully thinking of summer when a wintry wind is howling outside your window and rain sweeps like stiff  brushstrokes against the pane. Or to be caught up in savouring sunny memories at a stage in life when they feel far more precious than before.

God has a wonderful way of infiltrating the harsh, wintry aspects of our days with the summer-bright laser beam of His light and love, His goodness and grace. Then the bleak emptiness, weariness, weakness or pain we might be experiencing seem to lessen a little, as we absorb the warmth of God’s presence in our hearts.

It begins to thaw our cold souls and infuse hope into our hurting places. Because there is always opportunity to start again, to rebuild, at least in how we might perceive our situations. We can build a new foundation any time we need to, aided by God’s mercy and grace, and with His help and equipping.

I was musing on a memory when I wrote the poem below a few months ago. It probably took longer than five minutes to write, but I am sharing it today like a “here’s one I made earlier” kind of offering, because it fits pretty well with this week’s five-minute-friday prompt. And it’s all my tired mind can currently conjure up! 😉

Fortification

I sit, surrounded by mounds
of sand, clumped yet dry as a bone,
sieving it between my fingers like an
hourglass filling up,

little knowing how swiftly years
would pass, how soon this tanned,
tender, smooth-skinned toddler

eating sand sandwiches would grow
up, become a hirsute man, with voice
gruffly smooth and deep, like gravel
being gently washed by sea.

My small son wears sunscreen, sunhat
and a nappy, protected by pants,
plus a cautious, bemused

expression on his face, as though he
can recall being a few months old,
new to beach and sea, fearing rollicking
waves would sweep him away,

just as they do to the crumbly castles
he builds with help, joy and pride,
which don’t stand a chance against
pulsating power of tides.

I smile at his mild discomfiture, as it’s
always valuable to learn these lessons
young, to grasp how easily

life can change, and how the things we
seek to build our lives upon must have
a strong, secure foundation

to uphold us in future days, in harder
times when problems arise or walls come
tumbling down, and we are required
to be safe and fortified.
© joylenton

build - building a new foundation with God quote (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

There’s nothing quite like a supportive writing community to build us up with encouragement and give us the courage and confidence to share our words. Such as the fabulous five-minute-friday crew gathering at Kate Motaung’s site. This week’s prompt is “build”. You are welcome to join us here and read the great variety of posts being shared.  🙂

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.  🙂

begin: for when you can’t quite hit the new year running

begin - for when you can't quite hit the new year running - @poetryjoy.com

Dear reader, I’m curious about something: did you hit the new year running, eagerly embracing resolutions, ready for the new and the next, planning and pushing ahead to your heart’s content? If so, that’s great and I rather envy you. 😏

Or are you more like me: crawling on your knees, flattened with illness and fatigue, and sighing because January finds you less than fit and able? The latter? Please raise  or vaguely wave your weary arm in my direction. It’s good to know we’re not alone.

For years, without fail, I’ve always succumbed to flu or a heavy cold before the Christmas and New Year celebrations are over. Each January I’m hugging the duvet, coughing into my pillow and barely surfacing.

Sadly it’s not due to enjoying myself, but because I have a faulty, inefficient immune system that easily succumbs to viruses and overexertion of any kind. I keep hoping things will improve. But they haven’t. Not yet.

Experience has taught me to listen and act on the information I hear from my depleted body. Namely to rest and take care of myself. Because trying to press on in the face of increasing debility has never been a good plan for me. It only exacerbates my pre-existing chronic conditions.

One thing that never stops being active and running like a mad thing is my mind, even when my body stills due to increased sickness. Yours too, perhaps? It chunters on like it’s got something really important to process, while my weakened body is trying to shush it into silent, restful submission.

begin - god replenishes, restores and revives quote (c)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

And I’ve been mulling over what to write. How do we begin again when we’re feeling lethargic, muddy-headed or uninspired? The wonder is that whenever our well, our energy, inspiration or abilities run dry, we only need to ask and God replenishes, restores and revives our limited supplies. And we can begin again with Him any time we need to.

The poem below came to me as I was resting. May it speak to all who are in the throes of illness or lack creative inspiration. I’m also rejoicing that my current ailment seems to be more of a persistent cold than full-blown flu this time. Hooray! Progress!

Writer’s woes

I want to begin
make a mark on this page
this year
on the lives of others
with my thoughts and words

I don’t know how
to begin to write a thing
without assistance
because my brain is muffled
and my thoughts are befuddled

I am uncertain
wondering how to choose
what will speak
louder than my husky voice
of love and grace, hope and faith

in the end
all I have is willing hands
empty though they be
just waiting to be filled
before a drop can be spilled

holy whispers
encourage me to start
right where I am
with surrender, trust and truth
as inspiration filters through
© joylenton

begin - writer's woes poem excerpt - new year (c)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Praise God for gifting this snuffly writer with something to say when she felt empty! Hopefully normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. 😉 Do let me know how you are, especially if you’re also below par, and we can pray for one another.

Never forget that rest, recovery and healing are vital soul and body work. You and I might begin this year slow like tortoises but we can still end strong by the grace of God. With love and virtual (germ-free) hugs to you. xo 💜

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