Living the ordinary-extraordinary

awakening to wonder PJ

My eyes are still awakening to wonder. A mind and heart engaged on an endless quest.

I ponder purpose and intent, meander around the messy middle of my days and so often still fail to see them for the sacred glory they really are.

Pain can pervade and pull our days out of shape; problems press in on every side and challenges abound.

But this ordinary life so many of us live has extraordinary revelation if we let it speak to us.

Pay attention to its message. Sense the essence of our days. Listen to what they’re saying.

I’m slowly unfurling my winter-weary soul toward the brightness of summer light as I embrace the new and the not yet of my existence, the tentative unfolding of plans which have been long-awaited.

And nothing brings me closer to awareness of God’s presence than to see Him active in the everyday.

Wearing worldly lenses can dull our senses, but spiritual one? They alert us to presence and purpose behind the pain, the ache of holy behind the familiar, the grace seen in hard places.

So this theme is ringing in my heart and I lean toward its refrain like one who never tires of its melody.

Because it’s a song God sings over His children unceasingly.

“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” ~ Zephaniah 3:17

Ordinary-extraordinary

God can be found in the everyday

ordinary-extraordinary of life

with all its wonder and ways

We count the moments because

moments count, and we count

blessings because we give freely

and they return easy – spilling

forth as gifts in the lap of time

Our eyes peel slow, waking

to wonder as we sip and savour

this coffee held in hand

this paper rustling conversation

this relating and waiting and enjoying

lost in the ether if we let it

become mangled by stress

tangled up in busyness

So we pause, catch our breath

release our reservations

snatch back each holy second

and see it for the sweet soul

sacred beauty and glory

mirrored reflection of

God’s story that it is

and we give praise

©JoyLenton2015 

“By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me – a prayer to the God of my life” ~ Psalm 42:8

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When manna fell

poppy PJ pin

Manna fell

I brought my weakness

and vulnerability

joining soul-sisters

in community

And I found my voice

while notes wafted round

redolent and full

as incense in the room

Each vibration seemed

like it was sounding

a death-knell to loneliness

a call to unity

a warm, welcome caress

I drank proffered cup

swallowed bread offering

sensed a hum of healing

hovering inside of me

And my heart opened up

embraced gift of grace

made way for Presence

savoured His essence

As I took a sip of Life

and Love, manna fell

freely and I found my

grateful soul kneeling

©JoyLenton2015

It is said that every picture tells a story.

Much lies concealed, known only to the creative source behind it, though a hint of mystery still remains.

As I paint pictures with words and images here,  I’m also unfolding some of my life story and the greater narrative behind it which God is continually writing, and which I need to keep eyes wide open to see its gradual revealing.

The poem above was inspired by a gift-of-grace event I’ll be talking about on ‘Words of Joy‘ later this week. I’d be honoured if you’ll come over and take a look in a day or two.

poppy PJ poem pin

Gifts of grace

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Day by day we are writing out our story, a living tale of all that takes place and a living testimony of God’s sustaining grace.

A birthing can occur at any moment in hearts receptive to the new and the next and the in-between.

What seems dead can be enlivened and resurrected by His power – brokenness made whole, beauty brought forth from ashes.

Although many days are shrouded and clouded by painful circumstances, God is still writing out His good and greater narrative into the margins of our lives.

Yes, even as we hover crazy-busy on this edge of space, time and eternity and so often fail to see or sense His continual presence.

We need to remember how we live and breathe and have our being in Him and He lives and breathes in us by His Spirit.

Nothing is incidental, or irredeemable. Nothing is forever lost or wasted.

All is gift and all is grace, but we need eyes to see the sacred in the secular and appreciate its daily nuances.

As we listen closer to our lives we begin to piece together the story they are telling us.

Such thoughts are shaping my daily living and making their way into today’s Five Minute Friday poem.

Grace gifts

Each day we are alive is a gift,

an unfurling, unfolding kernel

mirrored in tender bud and leaf,

so our hearts remain hopeful

of seeing a good ending

I long above all to recapture

a sense of child-like wonder,

become captivated, entranced

by delight seeded within

as this daily sacred dance begins

Each moment we linger longer

to appreciate The Moment

will help peel back layers

to reveal a gift of grace,

open our eyes, blinded by

cultural excess, dulled by stress

and wearied by naysayers

For we are the revealers

unwrapping the Gift of God,

the Truth-sayers, the Way-sharers,

keepers of Light and Love who

employ a deeper discerning

as we dive expectant into the true,

hopeful, bright-blue waters of each day

©JoyLenton2015

I’m blessed to be joining in with the wonderful writing-free-from-the-heart community of ‘Five Minute Friday’ writers over at Kate Motaung’s place as we give our best on the topic of ‘Gift’. You’re very welcome to join in. Do hop on over and check out the other posts there. It’s amazing what a rich variety of thought is stirred by a one word prompt!

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Getting off the treadmill

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‘Pausing’

In a frantic 24/7

treadmill life, it’s no heaven

to have stress, strain and strife

Because we gradually learn

how it makes us crash and burn

In order to still our body and mind

we may have to be cruel to be kind

Discover what helps or hinders us

as we step off the ‘always busy’ bus

And as we try to do our part

we’ll find the calm of the Father’s heart

is found in silence and in rest

In listening, pausing, seeking His best

Placing ourselves into His hands

Yielding our motives, goals and plans

Reading the wisdom in God’s word

Absorbing its truth seen and heard

Finding peace-pauses in each day

to simply be, breathe, and pray

Then stillness will soothe, fill and flood

our hearts with God’s peace and love

©JoyLenton2014

On a weary, M.E symptom-heavy day when I’ve spent several hours in bed, I’ve wished I could press ‘pause’ on the thoughts in my head. A body can be experiencing a degree of rest and ease while a mind spins like a hamster on a wheel. However, some thoughts are welcome ones and I am grateful to God for the unexpected gift of words to write and share on such a day as this.

Joining here with Kate and other ‘feel the fear and do it afraid, brave and bold, no worries about perfection’ writer friends for #fiveminutefriday You are very welcome and warmly encouraged to join in. This week’s prompt is:’Still’

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A wintry perspective

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As one in the autumnal season of her life, I feel the cool approach of winter as something of a reproach.

The harvest season is over for another year. All fruitfulness is vanishing.

Time slides inexorably onwards and the hour-glass gets bottom-heavy.

Minds seize and freeze over and opportunities seem to have died on the vine.

But what if we looked at it differently?

See winter season (physical and otherwise) as one of taking a pregnant pause.

Ground may feel unyielding and hard but much activity goes on beneath the surface.

Dormancy paves the way to expectancy. Spring will come again.

Sometimes we fail to see the wood for the trees. Sap will rise anew.

Each stripping bare, dying back and lying fallow are ways to seek soul sanctuary in God alone.

A season of rest and retreat may be called for. A season to press ‘pause’ on the pursuit of busyness.

A gathering of words and ideas ready to share at Just The Right Moment. I’m heavy with some.

I have a book (or three) I long to give birth to.

A poetry anthology has been a while in the making, compiling and sorting. A devotional book of Prayer Whispers. A memoir.

But nothing is quite ready yet. My physical and mental energy are low, many other demands are being made on me, and God seems to be saying He’s in no rush.

So I wait and lean and learn as my seed sits in the ground growing slow and steady.

Because the best part of a wintry season is the hope is produces in stilled hearts and minds. It holds purpose in the pauses. God is still at work on our behalf. There is beauty in every season of life.

‘A wintry view’

You sit with an autumnal life

surrounded by abundance bright

as you wait for a gradual dying-back

harvest to fall into your thankful lap

Yet hopes can wither over time

unless they’re rooted in The Vine

From my perspective of a wintry view

life takes on a slower, softer, mellow hue

You’re grateful for these lengthening days

as further opportunity to praise

Friends and family remain the greater part

of all you hold dear within your heart

Though there is a Friend, just like a brother,

who sticks closer than any other

He is the One who lights your days

with His constant love and grace

You’ve grown calmer, more serene,

with wisdom visible within

because you’ve learnt it all from Him

Pain and fatigue still pervade your days

You’re grateful when good sleep comes your way

Insecurity stalks you less and less

as do impatience, strain and stress

For you have learnt to relax, yield your life,

found peace is better than struggle and strife

Your dreams, hopes, goals and plans

became a reality in God’s hands

So rest easy, dear fretful, younger version of me,

getting older is not as bad as it seems to be

©JoyLenton2014

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him” ~ Psalm 92:12-15

A wintry view poem pin PJ file image

My wintry perspective is a poetic twist inspired by the challenge set here by my writer friend, James Prescott. Do take a look at his amazing post and be inspired!

I have imagined myself as a more senior woman (around 20 years older than my current age) writing a letter to myself as I am now.

It’s lent itself to a great deal of reflection and may also morph into a post on ‘Words of Joy’ in time to come. 

While we are waiting

savour the moment waiting post file image PJ

Life offers us scope to savour the moment. Pauses abound with potential and promise, breathing places where we can exhale the cares of the day.

There are those who deliberately seek sacred spaces and long for snatched time to enjoy them.

Though in a continually busy 24/7 society where instant gratification reigns, and express delivery is the order of the day, we find ourselves easily upset at any delays to our schedules.

Waiting for anything or anyone can feel like a monumental waste of time.

Our fingers tap impatiently when the PC/mobile/tablet etc fail to perform as they should.

Deep sighs accompany delays of every kind. We want to access this and we want it NOW.

Isn’t the latest technology meant to shorten the time we spend doing things? It only seems to further our impatience when it fails to work aright.

But what if we tried to view things differently? Could we find ways to enjoy and appreciate the stop-gaps in our lives?

I was inspired to write the poem below during a recent stint in a hospital waiting-room.

Rather than keep my eyes glued to a screen I prefer to ponder all I am seeing. It has the added benefit of reducing anxiety.

People-watching is a great interest of mine and I indulged discretely, not in a nosy sense but simply because people are fascinating.

We all share a common humanity and many common experiences, even if our reactions to them may differ greatly.

If we allow our souls to quieten we can see and hear far more than usual in the secular and sacred realms.

This is the result of a few minutes watching while I waited…

‘Waiting’

They stride

bold, with daunting efficiency

heels clip-clopping hard

down corridors long

hiding their frail humanity

beneath a veneer of

swift strong competency

While we

hold ourselves submissive

Seek to hide

our strain and stress, pain,

weakness and duress behind

a meek subordination

to their authority

But inside

we quake and tremble

pretending to be

patient patients

while in the thrall

of medical disinterest

or rapt attention

We abide

in whispering gloom

furtive glances

checking of watches

time slowed to a crawl

anxious for the call

in this waiting-room

©JoyLenton2014

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I have written more about the challenge of seeking the sacred in the in-between seconds of life in ‘Minding the gap’ over at ‘Words of Joy’. It was inspired by reading Jeff Goins’ book, ‘The In-between:Embracing the Tension Between Now and The Next Big Thing’.  I can highly recommend it as a great  source of insightful thoughts on this topic. 

More than meets the eye

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I had an outing today as I accompanied my husband to a hospital appointment.

There is always a silver lining to such excursions, fraught as they are with anxiety and stress (him), weakness and pain (me).

We didn’t have far to travel but it was enough to alter my perspective.

Four wall living can become my default mode once Winter sets in.

I aim to get out and about as much as I can manage in the warmer weather, despite protesting limbs and weariness setting in so quickly.

And I was glad of the opportunity to see a change of scenery.

So I took a few photos to file away as memory markers on gloomier days.

Saw an electricity pylon stretching metal arms to a cobalt sky like a praise song.

Watched the interplay of light falling as beams across the clouds, with hints of glory sneaking through.

Marvelled anew at the beautiful, creative display God puts on day after day.

Engaged in a spot of people-watching safe in the confines of the car and shared furtive glances of a waiting room.

The poem below was a result of a few seconds’ glimpse where my imagination pierced through to a woman’s soul.

For there is always more than meets the eye with everything and everyone we encounter.

‘Hidden core’

A pale blue sun-hat

sat deep upon her head

as she marched forward

with fast, determined tread

At odds with the autumnal

coat she loosely wore

reminiscent of tides,

ice-cream, sand and distant shores

Her eyes turned downward

as she pounded city streets

No betrayal of emotion

in her persistent, plodding feet

Yet in the corners

of her heart there washed

a sea of thoughts and words

inexplicable, unseen,

unvoiced and unheard

Just like each one of us

she had a hidden core

where pain and sorrow mingled

and joy sat at the door

A place of whispers, shouts,

an appalling weight of tears

A place of silence, doubts,

where she carried secret fears

©JoyLenton2014

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Because of Him

child writing file image PJ because of him post

Writing is a strange occupation. Not one for the faint-hearted.

There are days where words flow freely and we write out our hearts.

On others, it feels like the tap has run dry and ceased its outpouring.

We squeeze and coax them to appear like getting blood out of a stone.

Some days they demand a great deal of energy to pin down on the page.

I’ve been trying to save energy because it will only stretch so far when you have M.E, and  life has recently become much busier for me in many ways.

If I extend myself too much it leads to a ‘crash and burn’ reaction which can cause further relapse in symptoms.

So I took a mini social media and blogging break to recoup some strength.

Pain has been pervasive and leached more life out of this weary frame. And sleep/rest/pacing have become the order of the day.

But I felt a creative itch and urge simmering beneath the surface. It’s never far away though it hibernates sometimes.

Little snatches of verse have been born (and some made public) as I joined in with poetic prompts on Twitter both prior to and since ending my needful break.

Listening and leaning are the new watchwords of my life this year and they are bearing fruit as I abide closer to God.

There is far less urgent clamour about my writing and a lot more trust that words will appear when they should.

I’m discovering it’s a restful place to be in as I surrender the whole process to God. He gives me all the inspiration and words I need.

I long to break free from rigid conformity, from formality, from ought and should, from comparison and feeling ‘less than’.

Joining in with Five Minute Friday has given me permission to ditch perfectionism and embrace the gift of the inspired moment as I offer my words to public scrutiny.

Here I am again, with renewed gratitude that stems from seeing how God uses weak, weary and wounded ones like you and me to speak out for Him.

I can write again. Words have come when I least expected them to….because of Him.

START…

‘Because’

Lord,

I don’t want to write

just because

it is what

I usually do

or because

I want to have a say

These words should come

because You

have thoughts You desire

me to convey

And You know just who

needs to be

encouraged by You

in prayerful offering

which becomes

sacrificial giving

surrendered in this way

So I come willingly

because that’s

how things ought to be

and happen naturally

Here is my pen, my mind,

my heart, my soul

Please take and use them

to bless, heal and help

make others whole

Write Your Word

upon my heart

Inscribe Your ideas

as I start

to write, and allow

them all to flow

because I

have surrendered them

into Your hands

and for Your plans

©JoyLenton2014

STOP.

pen and journal file pin image PJ

Joining here with Kate and fellow #FMF writers as we write bold and brave today. You are very welcome and warmly invited to join in and to discover how you can write this way every day for a whole month if you want to.

Show and tell

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As writers and poets we aim to show rather than tell.

Describe and entice. Provide and hold back.

To reveal something and conceal another.

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass” ~ Anton Chekhov

To stir emotions. Leave a lingering essence to savour.

Draw the reader in and leave them wanting more.

Make space for senses to fill in the gaps.

For imagination to take over and inspiration to remain.

Yet in living out our faith in Christ we need both ‘show and tell’.

Demonstrate His hand at work in our lives.

Reveal His character and our need of Him.

Make as clear as we can those things which we know and understand.

Admit to a cloud of unknowing where we give way for mystery. What is now concealed will one day be revealed.

Share our testimony and share His story ~ the best news of all cries out for voices to declare it.

Such thoughts were in my mind as I wrote the poem below.

‘Show and tell’

Let your life reveal your faith in Me

Show forth My goodness and grace

in your character and face

Tell your healing testimony

to encourage others, bring Me glory

Tell My people I love them dearly

and ache for them to see it clearly

No matter what sorrows they go through

I have power to make all things new

Tell out My greatness among the nations

Reveal My kindness, proclaim My worth

Offering salvation with new birth

Give them hope of making a brand new start

as I transform their mind and heart

My arms reach out, My hand is ready

to save, protect, restore and steady

Urge them now to yield and to Come

to listen and trust in Jesus, My Son

©JoyLenton2014

show and tell poem pin file image PJ

Linking here with Kate  and other brave souls for #fiveminutefriday as we all write bold and free, share our stories and encourage one another. You are very welcome and warmly invited to join in. 

Forgetting and remembering

Evening rails

In taking a step back we often see the way to move forward.

Perspective and hindsight combine to reveal what lay concealed.

Sitting too close to something can make it overly familiar, a thing of dependency and routine.

And we forget what lies on the other side.

So it was for me with social media a few weeks ago. I became burnt-out, exhausted and yet afraid to loose the hold.

It took time (and increasing health and life challenges) to make me see that in desiring to be in the thick of things I was missing the most important thing of all ~ time to simply ‘be’.

In the drawing back I gradually regained a sense of the ‘normality’ that used to be there for me when I wasn’t so caught up in the being out there, heard and seen aspects of life.

It began with restlessness, then as I relaxed more there was profound fatigue and deep bone weariness to contend with, as if I was finally giving my body permission to let go instead of running on continual adrenaline.

Then the silence was filled with a greater measure of hearing from God as He held me in my weakness and pain, helping me see my worth and value are nothing to do with my productivity or the lack thereof.

As an M.E and chronic illness sufferer, being ‘busy’ for me looks like another person’s chilling-out time; but it was a huge change for me to stop those activities and drop all concern about blogging and having some kind of online presence.

Freed from all expectations or demands, writing became pure joy. Poetry and prayer whispers proliferated. Snippets sank into my mind when I was resting, and God encouraged me to release it all to Him without worry or fear.

And I discovered that it’s only in the letting go of all we hold tight to that we are free to fully enjoy it in the way God intends us to.

So I have been delving deeper into His word, praying longer, reading more books and poetry than before, spending quality time with loved ones and ‘in real life’ friends, and realising how shallow my life had become.

Now I want to remember what it’s like to touch reality rather than living a large part of my life in a ‘virtual’ world.

I want to remember how God’s opinion of me is the only one that really matters and I write primarily for an audience of One.

And I want to continue to forget about people-approval issues, performance, perfectionism or pressure, and just concentrate on resting in God’s Presence where I am already beloved, accepted and pre-approved ~ just as I am.

‘Forgetting’

I’d forgotten what it’s like

to lose myself completely

within pages of a book

where time ceases to exist

and eyes are deeply fixed

on drinking in the words

upon which my soul is hooked

I’d forgotten what it’s like

to pray with no clock-watching

allowing time to listen

wait patient for God to speak

within this hour, day and week

seeking nothing more or less

than drawing closer to Him

I’d forgotten what it’s like

to heed Holy Spirit’s voice

so close in the minutiae

or to savour the rhythmic flow

as each moment comes and goes

and He whispers soft and low

to inform and guide my day

©JoyLenton2014

Gift and grace as social media and blogging are to me, it has been good to learn there is life beyond the laptop.

You can read more about how this experience has affected me in this post on ‘Words of Joy’.

How about you? Have you considered unplugging or experienced relief from doing so, even for a short while?

Feel free to share your story in the comments below.

Linking here with Beth, Holley and Jennifer. You are very welcome to join in. 

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