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 💜

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

tripping: how God meets with us when life gets tough – snapshot #3

tripping - how God uses everything we go through - snapshot #3

We’re caught by surprise sometimes on attempting things we used to do before with relative ease but now find challenging. I’m largely housebound and incapacitated by chronic illness, but I can still totter around my small home and navigate a few steps (albeit painfully and slowly) most of the time.

But set my feet on concrete, ask me to pound pavement, and I’m all over the place, unsteady as can be. I have bad balance, limb stiffness, weakness and pain to contend with, which makes walking very slow, arduous at best and impossible at worst, when the territory is uneven.

Years ago I realised that a wheelchair was the best mode of transport for me. Sadly, there wasn’t anyone reliably able, available and fit enough to take me out in one, so I only borrowed a set of wheels when it was absolutely necessary.

I made a trip to the city recently and thought I would try to get there by bus, knowing how hard it can be to park the car.  I wanted to try stretching my limbs and limits (maybe you can relate?) in the vain hope of being able to accompany my grandson home from his first day at school next week.

Dear reader, I struggled. Pain was severe and I nearly cried out loud. I halted several times and barely covered one third of the necessary distance to reach my school collection goal. We caught a taxi home.

Later on, as I sat with frustration, I looked at my photos and wrote a poem about the experience. It was a surprise grace gift, arising from a hard thing, such as God delights to provide for you and me. Things don’t seem so bad when viewed from God’s perspective. I can’t manage the walk but I can be the one welcoming our grandson home at the door.

God is constantly rewriting our stories, blending them into His greater narrative. What seems to be causing us to fall just might lift our souls more than we can know. I’m grateful for God’s keeping power and my dependence on Him, even if my story has taken several unwanted twists and turns.

tripping - God is constantly rewriting our stories quote (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Here’s the tanka pentaptych poem that arose from my tough time above…

Tripping

visit to the city
idle bus window browsing
I need new specs
I like my life blurry
not in such sharp focus

people mill
cluster around attractions
bright eared hares
decorating the pavement
we see them everywhere

I’m unsteady
my gait uneasy outside
like a drunk
I stumble and cling hard
holding on to stick and arm

these sea legs
wobble over cobbles
trip on the cracks
cannot go far without sinking
I feel like turning back

air is crisp
scent of leaves, fuel, flowers
August at an end
much is dead or dying
pain reminds me I’m alive
© joylenton

How has God met you at your point of need? Have you been able to trace His hand in the hard experiences of life? Let’s encourage one another in the comments below.

tripping tanka poem excerpt (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

rhythm: seeking a slower pace to truly savour our lives

I’m sensing a change is due. For far too long I have had a discordant inner rhythm and a jangling outer one. With nerves frayed, patience shot and a desperate need to slow right down.

I know my life would hardly be considered busy (never mind frantic) to others. Living with M.E and chronic illness involves a necessary daily pacing and rest to avoid burnout and overwhelm. But do I heed the signs of being wearier than usual? Do I stop instead of pressing on? Not always.

We’re all able to push ourselves more than might be wise, especially when the things we are engaged with truly matter to us, like writing does to me. Yet when we ignore the warning signs, we risk adopting an imbalanced rhythm where rest barely gets a look in and busyness of some description becomes a default state that’s hard to break.

It is possible to slow and savour the ordinary before our eyes. In doing so, we might gain gratitude and a deeper appreciation of those who share our days. Maybe conversation could be less like itching to get our point across and more about listening to the other person? Just a thought.

I have experienced the inestimable value of pursuing times of quiet, prayerful solitude with God on a regular basis. It pays to have seasons of slow whenever we sense God calling us to do so.

A different life rhythm

I need a different life rhythm if I am to become more fully myself
with increasing awareness of the sacredness of ordinary life events
and moments, as I welcome in and embrace whatever might chime
like the hours in their ability to remind me of God’s loving presence

as it permeates the everyday, saturating everything we might take
for granted in our haste to move on from one activity to another
without savouring life with our senses alive to its holy resonance
as it meets with us in its unique thisness of vibrancy being offered

for we move too fast, especially in our thoughts, as we hurry and rush
to get to the new and the next, expecting each fresh encounter will
entertain and distract us better than those we have left behind or
rejected with our muddied minds, which do not value being stilled

because we’re blinded by busyness and slaves to change, fearing
most of all to be left behind, to miss out on something, which we
soon discover is not all it’s cracked up to be and only serves to drain
and deplete, to sap our vitality and leave us feeling weary and weak

our souls require breathing space, pockets of set-aside time, a quiet
deliberation to pursue the most excellent way that God designed us
to live and move and have our being in him, while we rest all we are
and all we can be, with gratitude for our days and thankful praise
© joylenton

Friend, I am heeding these whispers to my soul and resting my poetic thoughts for a while, though I hope to share snippets on my Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter when I am able. I’d love you to join me in those places.

Blessings, love and hugs to you until we meet again in a few weeks time. xo 😊💜🌸

normal: living beyond our limitations

 

What does it mean to be ‘normal’? Is there such a thing? I guess it depends on your personal definition, doesn’t it? Because the world will always try to compartmentalise, squash us into boxes and confine us in its own straitjackets, if we let it.

The good news is God created each and every one of us unique. And we answer to Him alone, defined only by what His word says about us and who we are in Christ. That thought comforts me as I aim to live well with M.E and chronic illness.

You and I don’t have to fit within the world’s narrow (and frequently judgemental) parameters. We are special to God, understood completely by Him, if no-one else. God wants us to grow into the best version of ourselves we can be by His grace, to know we are His cherished Beloved.

I miss some of the activities I used to do before illness made being housebound a normality for me, especially spending summer days at the beach. Here in Norfolk we are blessed to have a few within driving distance.

However, they are often hard to access by foot (or wheelchair) once you’ve parked, with their steep inclines, long, winding pathways and uneven, pebbly stones to traverse, never mind distance from car to beach.

It’s been an outing I’ve had to forego for years because the car journey alone would exhaust me. Though I still travel there fondly in my memories, as in the poem below…

Normal for Norfolk

The sea tosses back and forth with wild, hyperactive
froth churning up thick rivers of mud, reflecting the sanded
character of a Norfolk beach, whose waters are latte-brown
with a side shot of espresso hiccupped out now and then

There’s a roar that steals away our words, deafening
as it drowns out all sound apart from its own
and we wonder anew at the way waves crash so
violently, yet dissipate into delicate filigrees

A surging wind stings our cheeks with saline drops
which wake us up, catch away our breath, bring tears
to stinging eyes and a gasp of surprise at its velocity
making unsteady, giddy skittles out of you and me
©joylenton

 

How do you view your life in terms of being ‘normal’ or otherwise?

What helps you to retain a positive outlook?

I’d love to hear in the comments below. 😊

PS: I’ve been writing about  the calming effects of the sea over on my Facebook page. You can find it here and read the #dailyhaiku #novembernugget posts being shared. May the soul snippets of poetry bless you, friend. ❤

morning: wake up and smell the coffee #thedailyhaiku 1

 

It’s no secret that I’m not a morning person. In fact, I am barely awake and alert by lunchtime. Part of the process of coming to and gaining mental clarity is aided by the consumption of coffee after my breakfast and morning cup of tea. I know it may not  be the healthiest of drinks but it does the trick for me.

There’s something about the smell of coffee alone that lifts my mood. I love to imbibe the freshly brewed, ground coffee variety. Instant doesn’t quite cut it, even a high quality one with a mix of ground added to it, unless I’m feeling too exhausted to wait until the coffee pot is clean and able to be used again.

I can’t always handle conversation either in the mornings, though on my better days my man and I gently converse on diverse topics like politics, the state of the world and theology – nothing too heavy, of course. He reads interesting snippets out to me from the daily newspaper, while I make a feeble attempt to read something else myself.

However, distraction only serves to lead to disrupted and broken concentration, especially in someone like me who is chronically ill with M.E, can barely think straight, never mind focus, read and listen to someone speaking all at the same time…phew!

Our first brewed, small shot of haiku offering is about that coffee experience. So whatever blend you like best, (be it tea or coffee), then put your feet up, inhale these words and imagine yourself having a cup of whatever you fancy. Aaahhh…..  🙂

Morning

Wake, smell the coffee

Inhale fresh breath of new day

Clear cobwebs away

©joylenton

ME: what it’s like to live with ME and chronic illness

 

How do you describe a life of continual illness, pain and profound fatigue? It’s hard, isn’t it?  We need empathy, compassion, and maybe someone who lives with the illness to show us. I’d like to be that person for you today.

Imagine wanting to be a vibrant, blooming flower for God, but you droop, fade easily, curl up with fatigue. You seek shade, because all bright light hurts your eyes. Sleep is fitful but it’s all you really want to do. So called ‘normal’ life is far too dazzling, hectic and loud for you to join in with for very long.

“Yes, I have M.E but it doesn’t have me; God does, and I am safe in His arms.” So runs the last line from a poem I penned to try to describe my life with M.E. Spanning over 25 years of sickness and weakness, M.E might have stolen my health and vitality but it doesn’t get to have the final say on who I am or, more importantly, Whose I am.

I’m housebound with M.E, fibromyalgia, arthritis and hypermobility syndrome. (You can see the myriad symptoms of M.E in this list.I rely heavily on God’s sustaining grace each day. I also have a Lottery winner tendency to spend, spend, spend whenever a little more energy or mental focus is present, instead of the usual resting and pacing after any activity!

 

As a writer and a poet I’m able to express some of the frustrations of living with such an illness. I’m hoping, as you read the poem below, that you might stop to contemplate just what M.E can feel like on this, M.E Awareness Day, part of raised awareness during the month of May.

Earthbound

A mind

blurred as fog

cloud of unknowing

sinking bog

slowed and stagnant

just tiny ripples rising

from the smog

vague on the horizon

 

A body

wearied beyond measure

bandage-bound

by pain, fatigue

long and profound

unrelenting weakness

rooting to the ground

muscle-chained down

 

A heart 

longing to be free

like eagles soaring

near the sun

to touch the heat

of healing rays

piercing us undone

from darkest days

 

A spirit

lifted up by love’s call

taken up to places

out of reach of all

that holds us prisoner

to the earth

united to the One 

who gives us life and birth

©joylenton

The poem above comes from my book, ‘Seeking Solace: Discovering Grace in Life’s Hard Places’, available on Amazon. Earthbound was actually its working title for a while. All proceeds from every copy sold go to Action for ME, a charity which raises awareness and supports carers and sufferers, while raising funds for research purposes.

Last year I wrote about life from the other side of living with M.E and chronic illness, singing my beloved husband’s praises as my carer. It was written before he became even more unwell himself. You can read that post here.

Thank you for being here, my friend, and for reading my words. Your sweet presence helps and encourages this weary woman more than you know!  🙂 ❤