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.

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

simplify: simplifying by expanding our holy joy #FMF

 

January invites us to set new goals and parameters, expand our plans and interests, or maybe mirror winter-bare trees as we try to simplify, pare back after the indulgence of Christmas excess, shake loose our encumbrances and embrace less.

Minimalism began to whisper my name a few months ago and (at a snail-like speed, of course), I began tentatively journeying towards it. However, I have been greatly hampered in my efforts to cut back and declutter, due to the usual depletion and weakness, higher priorities demanding attention and worsening health issues.

While my home has small areas that are trimmed back to basics, much of it is still very cluttered, messy and untidy. Although I haven’t given up on changing that scenario, even if my health and inner life look like they need to be a top priority right now.

Simplify

Looking around my house, I still see evidence

and detritus of Christmas, but is that a bad thing?

Shouldn’t the incarnation of Christ be at the heart

of my home, my life, my work and witness for him?

I need to simplify, I really do, not just remove the

mess and clutter but make God the primary focus

of my life, and try not to live in a me-centric way

where holy joy cannot get a foot in the door or stay.

I need to simplify, have a daily soul cleanse and

decluttering, plus a minute-by-minute awareness,

mindful walk of faith. If not, I am in grave danger of

creating islands of junk, falling foul of their stink

and letting rot sink into my soul, because my

perspective gets skewed. Lord, would you help me

to try to simplify, to place all that I am into your hands

and centre my thoughts more on living according

to the Light within? May I follow your footsteps, seek

hard after your heart, surrender to your loving plans

long created for me to fully believe and receive.

©joylenton

**This year my primary focus is simplified down to an essential, as I aim to prioritise my God-given word of “joy”**

Today’s joy notes…

  • my sore throat easing and pain being less invasive
  • a good night’s sleep for once, praise God!
  • energy and inspiration enough to write
  • flu symptoms abating a bit, yay!
  • a beautiful bright, sunny day, which lifts my mood immensely

I am also joyful to be joining with my lovely five-minute-friday friends after a long, long absence! You can find us sharing our words here. and you’re very welcome to join in too. This week’s word is ‘simplify’.

 

PS: In case you’re interested in the concept of minimalism, I’m getting a lot of useful tips and inspiration for a minimalist lifestyle from the ‘Becoming Minimalist’ blog, in reading Joshua Becker’s book ‘Simplify’ and dipping into his more detailed read, ‘The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own’.  🙂 ❤

Finding freedom

Living within the constraints of chronic illness, or other limitations, needn’t mean living a limited life.

We may have to be more creative in the ways we seek soul sustenance.

Have support and input from others, perhaps.

Imagination and insight play their part.

Freedom can be found in unexpected ways and places.

I am discovering how my mind and spirit can roam free even if my body cannot.

And how feeling chained is a state of mind.

Being captive to circumstances is a choice.

Being free is another.

‘Freedom’

I’m blue-sky

thinking,

dreaming, drifting,

white-clouded

pillow-sinking

A vast horizon

hones into view ~

inviting, enticing,

warmly beckoning

to me and to you

Feel the sand yield

beneath your feet,

salt-tangled breeze,

melting mists that

waft and greet

Wet pavements glistening

in the sun,

as we shuffle,

amble, or break

into a run

Noisy clamour of

a city-busy throng,

elbowing, thrusting

through crowds

to where we belong

Stinging crystalline snowflakes

bite our faces,

reshaping the familiar

into landscapes

of inaccessible places

Even when confined

to bed or chair,

my unfettered mind

is free

to roam anywhere

All it takes

is a pause, glimpse, a look,

with time to reflect ~

on the words and images

contained in a book.

©JoyLenton2012

freedom poem pin

**NOTE** As you can see, this is one of my ‘here’s one I made earlier’ poems for such a time as this. It originally appeared on this post on my blog, ‘Words of Joy’, where I spoke about adjusting to loss, and the freedom we can have in Christ.

National Poetry month 2014 image

 

Mighty to save

When we feel able and capable, it is all too easy to think we can handle whatever comes our way.

We neglect to depend on God. We act like we can manage alone.

Sometimes He literally has to throw us to our knees to reveal our neediness.

Lately, my M.E symptoms have magnified and been accompanied by a persistent viral infection.

All of which has shown me how frail I can be and how much I lean on the Lord for strength each day.

There is great Hope in our helplessness.

There is reason to rejoice when we allow God to be strong and mighty on our behalf.

I sink grateful before Him, knowing all inspiration and ability to write, all energy and strength, all ability to live and love are God-given gifts.

He encourages us to abide in Him, rest in His loving provision, be upheld by His word and comforted by His Presence.

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit,” says the Lord ~ Zechariah 4:6

‘Mighty’

Mighty oaks spring forth from tiny acorns

and each lake begins with a few drops

A swelling tide seethes from sprinkles

and you so easily forget such humble origins

or how My power is made perfect in weakness

as you despise your humanity, frailty

My hand will lift you out

of any quaking pit of fear

My arm will reach down

and hold you ever near

Standing strong in My strength alone

you are warrior-brave, courageous,

full of valour, confident, bold

Allow Me access to all vulnerable places

give Me the key to your heart

I see its quavering mustard-seed faith

and how it needs My power

to grow resilient,

unwavering ~ in every part

Let go your worries, anxieties, cares

and rest in My mighty cover of Love

shelter of protective prayer

equipping of grace from above

I will be strong in all the weak spaces

invading long-devastated places

to make you mighty ~ and to set you free

©JoyLenton2014

“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

Mighty FMF poem pin

Five minute friday image

Linking with Lisa-Jo, Mel and Lyli

Living with shadows

This week I’ve had a wake-up call.

Ground has shifted beneath my feet.

Stirrings sit uneasy in my soul.

The life I thought I knew has become redefined.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it has to stop.

‘Living with shadows’

A wrongly assumed identity

of living with shadows and infirmity

Christ calls me to believe I’m set free

unchained, unmarked, untainted, liberated,

whereas I see myself caught, ensnared,

decimated by childhood abuse, illness, M.E

As if I wore a label belonging to another

instead of one provided by my soul’s Lover

Living with pain and chronic illness over many years,

observing my career, hopes and dreams slip away

trickling with my tears as water down the drain

nothing quite the same, only weakness and fears

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

instead of clothing myself in His robe of righteousness

Feeling insecure, dis-abled, incapable

when God has gifts He wants to bestow

I’ve failed to receive and accept them all

while my thinking is focused on being unwell

We can only grow when we are willing enough

to let go of all that’s slowly killing us

©JoyLenton2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Treasure mined in darkness

Christmas may be over for another year; food supplies begin to deplete along with our flagging energy and enthusiasm.

Yet hope, love and grace are evergreen ~ lingering eternally in our hearts even through the darkest days.

We may clear away the debris of celebrations but we hang on to memories we have made.

Think of Love come down to earth and how that impacts the everyday with awe and wonder.

Admire our gifts and consider the greatest Gift ever given to us ~ our Lord Jesus Christ.

And we may ponder the worth and value of the gifts we have been given by God over the last year and beyond.

For a gift may come wrapped in sadness and sorrow, problems and pain, suffering and shame.

It can take some searching to see the light shining through the darkness.

Appreciate grace glimmers in hard places.

Such a gift came to me and it took me many years to receive, unwrap and appreciate its worth.

‘Hidden Depths’

It can be really hard

to understand

how weakness and fragility

that render lives

dependent, still and slow

may be gifts

from God’s right hand

that He, in infinite mystery

has chosen to bestow

And yet there lingers

surprising nuggets of His grace

glinting bright in dark

circumstance and place

we deem rightly painful, sad;

though from His loving fingers

we can trace joy and hope

rising through all that seems

heavy weighted-down and bad

For those who cling

desperate closer toThe Vine

can find strength beyond measure

as they seek to bring

their lives as daily offering

found in their struggle,

pain and suffering, it can

yield unexpected treasure

of hidden depths to mine

©JoyLenton2013

“I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” ~ Isaiah 45:3

This poem links with the theme of the blog post ‘When a gift doesn’t look like one’ that I wrote as a guest post on my writer friend James Prescott’s site. You can click here to read it.