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

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.

burden: chained by circumstance but freed by grace

burden - chained by circumstance, freed by grace @poetryjoy.com

There are days when our burdens, be they physical or emotional, become impossible to ignore. Days when we feel consumed by the weight of them. Chained to our hard circumstances. Dragged down into a dark place.

I prefer not to talk too much about having chronic illness, although it’s an inescapable fact that faces me each day. It demands enough. It has stolen too much. So much that I tend to want to ignore its presence and pretend I am fine, doing okay, even when I’m not.

It feels better to plaster a smile on my face and seek to maintain a positive outlook on life. It seems less bothersome, less of a burden to fight the good fight of faith and try not to yield to dismay. Or give in to self-pity.

But sometimes? Sometimes I am just too tired to fight against the pain. Sometimes I just want to sit and cry. Sometimes I lose sight of my loving Saviour sitting in the ashes with me, holding out His hands to receive.

Because God doesn’t want us to bear our burdens alone. He longs for us to turn to Him. To offer up our pain and problems like a fragrant thing. Because sometimes it’s truthfully all we are able to give to Him. And that’s okay. It really is.

Burden

fear nibbles at the edges of her soul, like a rat
aboard a sinking ship that leaks, lists and tips
because she has woken to face yet another
pain filled day, unrefreshed in every way

her spirits are plummeting fast and her heart
contracts as she thinks about the future, for
she longs above anything else not to become
a burden to others or to those she loves

during these days of increasing debility
and weariness, she can often forget
just who she should be handing all her
heavy burdens over to—until he speaks

with whispered reassurance in his voice
to her hurting soul—while he pours the balm
of hope into her heart, forcing fear and
discouragement to flee, and she falls

further, on bended knee, when Jesus
tenderly reminds her once again that
every burden handed over to him will
not only lessen the load on her soul

it will also miraculously transmute
into a blessing by faith, shaping her
perception, if not her situation in life

and so she prays, tears welling up in her
eyes, and she gives praise like a willing
sacrifice—in spite of nothing visible yet

taking place, she has already tasted his
goodness and grace, and sensed the difference
inside, where calm and peace now abide
© joylenton

We might not feel like it but we can learn to praise God in the storm, sense His presence with us and gain comfort in knowing we are not alone.

I’m so grateful for God’s grace in my life. His comforting embrace. His enabling when I am weak. For words coming when I feel drained and dry. And for being able to share my 5 minute(ish) poem with the fabulous five-minute-friday crew. This week’s prompt is “burden” and you can join your words here. 

burden - #FMF - burden poem excerpt (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com