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!  🙂 ❤

about calling, priorities and sensitivity to Holy Spirit

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Like a flock of noisy seagulls, voices come at us from all directions, urging activity, challenge and change. What (or who) are we listening to? How do we sift the gold from the detritus, make choices we can live with and trust? In a world vying to be heard, how do we make sure we only take in what we need to?

It’s not easy to avoid all that is clamouring for our attention, or discern the times and tides, especially when so many fresh opportunities are coming our way.  A new year is rife with resolution, full of possibility, potential and hope.

As I try to recover from the festive season, my body is signalling a need to rest but my mind is inclined to pursue the enticement of the Now and the New. Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a real issue for many—me, too, sometimes. We can become stalled by indecision, paralysed by too much choice and derailed by the very real possibility of disappointment.

At the risk of lagging behind, disappointing or letting people down, it’s better for us to be true to how we’re currently situated and what we’re capable of without jeopardising our physical or mental health.

My spirit longs to listen to what God is saying to me first and foremost , knowing His ways—though seemingly counter-intuitive at times—are always the best. It pays to heed holy whispers. If He is whispering caution, waiting and rest, then I hesitate to press ahead with the next big thing, because in the end it will fail or I will falter, crash and collapse if I ignore the warning signs.

I love to write and in order to do so I have to prioritise, make creative space, rest, pace and avoid doing anything else for the day that’s an exhausting activity for me. It’s all about calling, priorities and sensitivity to Holy Spirit’s leading and guiding, and giving ourselves permission to rest and recover when we need to.

It won’t wash with me

Political spin

won’t wash with me; I’m resting

in God’s plans, you see

haiku-it-wont-wash-with-me-pj

 

No spin

Life’s waves wash over

my still frame—caught fast by pain

I refuse to spin

haiku-no-spin-pj

 

Wash me radiant

Wash me radiant

Let your love spin in my heart

Warm from dawn to dark

haiku-wash-me-radiant-pj

 

Today’s haiku have been inspired by the prompt of ‘Spin&Water’ —(which my tired brain somehow interpreted as ‘Spin&Wash’ instead… oops… so that’s what I’ve based these poems on!)—from our poet master, Ronovan, of ronavonwrites.  Just click here to see the rest of the posts and join in if you’d like to.

How are you sifting the wheat from the chaff as you make plans for 2017?

What new thing (or word) has God given you for the days ahead?

a deeper journeying toward the light

write31days-journeying-into-joy-when-fragility-paves-the-way-for-joyful-dependency

 

Our journey toward the Light of God’s presence will be fraught with detours along the way. Life’s darkness steals around the edges of our days as it seeks to blot out the light. A sweet-pea flower’s fragility reminds us how our lives often feel like a transient, tender flare of brightness set within dark and gloomy circumstances.

Where do we turn to when things go awry? Who do we seek out when in need of soul solace?I’ve found that failing to turn swiftly to God only brings deeper misery. But if we make Him our first port of call, pray instead of trying to cope alone or pushing Him away, then He is ever faithful to come to our rescue.

I’m discovering the dependence which having chronic illness brings can cause frustration,  resentment and unwillingness to yield, but over time it begins to change our perception of surrendering.

The poem below depicts a dragonfly’s journey and also mirrors our human one as we learn to arise, lean toward the light,  become less dependent on self, and sense a bright, joyful welcome in God’s presence.

As dragonflies

dragonfly

We begin

earth grubbing silt and sludge dwellers

stuck mud-deep, dark glooming

in humanity’s squall,

little realising there is a way to climb

free from such insanity; drenched in

slime, smell of death clings fast,

seeping into all

We are

earthbound, plodding through endless days

of toil, rooted in routine, shielded

from questing thought

by the sheer monotony of the way

life trundles on, one day following

another in repetitious refrain, yielding

far less than it ought

We sense

a glint appearing; light wavering

glows slow with fronds emerging

for us to climb upon

Slim reed of hope, discovery,

shoots into view, enticing us to seek

rescue, release from watery grave

echoing a saving song

We rise

blinking in great wonder and delight

As dragonflies, our wings unfurl,

breaking free in dance

of grace, coloured and caught by Light

Every part on fire, shimmering bold,

aswirl with joy untold, glimmering

soul and spirit entranced

©JoyLenton2016

We wear faith like a fragrant garland around our weary necks while we press hard into each day’s demands, and we learn how to look for the Light, shake off the dust that clings tenaciously and lean on God for everything.

Our very weakness and fragility, far from being limiting things, become a special means of grace, an opening up to seeing God’s gracious hand at work in the commonplace.

It involves listening with spiritual intent to all our lives are saying to us, hearing the ways God reaches out in love to speak His wholeness into our brokenness.

God is always inviting us to join Him in the Light, to marvel as our beauty unfurls in the warmth of His presence, to see and sense what we have come from and where we are going to.

As we draw closer to Advent, I will be sharing more about our dark, earthbound condition and how God invites us into the airborne freedom of His Light. I’d love to hear how this season is speaking to you.

write31days-journeying-into-joy-fragility-beauty-dependence

enjoying a feast of grace gifts

write31days-journeying-into-joy-a-feast-of-grace-gifts-travel

 

While we are being encouraged to ‘Go Sober for October’, slide ever closer toward ‘Movember’ and anticipate ‘Dry January’, this month is fast becoming ‘Wet-tober’ for us. As a family we have extra cause for raising our glasses in celebration, because our daughters-in-law have birthdays this month. One of them is celebrating a particularly significant year, and the other also has a new job to rejoice over – cheers all round!

And as we think about the passing of time, our days are being framed by a continual downpour of rain. In learning to enjoy the journey I am on, I’m also finding ways to love the life I have. Part of that includes appreciation for seemingly small things, life’s little moments and everyday marvels which are so easily missed or go unmarked.

This summer we had an enforced stay-cation where housebound took on a whole new level of feeling like we’re missing out. So each short journey currently undertaken in the car feels like a triumph of sorts, a cause for celebration – yes, even when it pours with rain! The poem below emerged after such an outing  when visiting our elder son and his wife.

It reminds me that in every life a little rain will fall, heavy clouds will temporarily obliterate the sun, days may feel dark and cool, but light and warmth and love and joy are close by, just waiting to be found by receptive heart and eye

A veritable feast

write31days-journeying-into-joy-a-feast-of-grace-gifts-rain-while-driving

 

Day’s brightness reluctantly gave way

to leaden grey, as skies poured forth

water from heaven’s hoses; sprayed

liberally now on car windscreen,

washing road, gleaming drops sit

on leaves with pearlescent glow

write31days-journeying-into-joy-a-feast-of-grace-gifts-emerging-rainbow

 

And I watched in wonder while clouds

parted to reveal vivid rainbow

curve of colour; God’s reminder

to Noah of flood. Then his everlasting

covenant with Abraham – made manifest

to us in Jesus Christ’s sacrificed blood

write31days-journeying-into-joy-a-feast-of-grace-gifts-rainbow

 

Joy has already embraced me

in hugs with family, shared news,

coffee and chocolates, exchange

of views and provisions from their

abundant garden. A veritable

feast for us to journey homeward with

write31days-journeying-into-joy-collage-of-grace-gifts

 

We can soon become replete when

considering God’s daily grace gifts

seen in sky, its ever changing scenery

altering by the hour. Or found in

goodness closer to  ground, in our home,

friends and family – in every living thing

©JoyLenton2016

PS: Just in case you are curious to know more, here’s some info on Go Sober for October, how to become  involved in Movember, and a little bit about Dry January in the UK. Wet-tober is a phrase I’ve coined today, though it may well be in use for all I know!

31-days-of-journeying-into-joy-badge

Welcome to #day21 of #write31days of journeying into joy.

What are you seeing, appreciating or celebrating this month? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

write31days-journeying-into-joy-a-feast-of-grace-gifts-rain

how to experience joy for those fading days

write31days-journeying-into-joy-joy-for-those-fading-days

 

When energy flags and health fails or fades, how do we keep joy in our souls? it’s something those of us with chronic illness have to consider, as well as all who are exhausted, stressed and depleted.

I know that having M.E and other health challenges has affected not only my ability to carry out daily tasks but also made me more prone to feeling downcast. Physical depletion can lead to soul weariness too.

Attainment of joy begins with recognising our joy stealers, those things that detract and distract us from God’s best for us. You can probably spot your own if you investigate a bit.

Here are some of mine:

  • times when I neglect to prioritise prayer as much as I need to
  • reading Christian books and blogs more than I read God’s word
  • failing to pace well or take adequate rest periods
  • missing small Sabbath pauses in my day/week where I listen to God
  • forgetting to have one whole day a week devoted to switching off
  • spending too much time on screens and on social media
  • neglecting to make real life relationships a top priority
  • pushing on regardless whenever some energy and strength are present

If I allow these things to drain me, my already severely limited energy levels dip alarmingly. Weakness and weariness invade my mood and attitude, leading to impatience and irritability – it’s not pretty. Maybe you can relate?

As we age, have health problems, extra life challenges and demands, we women, especially, can feel like faded flowers wilting with fatigue – though we often try to battle on regardless, don’t we?

Flowers are beautiful but fragile. They each have their season to shine, days when they delight with sweet fragrance and soft beauty, but all too soon they wilt, dry and die. A stark reminder of our own fragility and mortality, as well as our innate loveliness.

The roses above were photographed in evening light, making them glow and look lively, curled and furled as they may be. Day’s bright rays revealed their ragged state, now they exude an inner zest as they hang on to their life by a slender thread.

They speak to me of the way we begin to droop and stoop low with lengthening years, slump and slide with fatigue,  but are still able to glow with an inner warmth that only time and experience can provide.

We shine still in our softer, radiant way, giving off the sweet fragrance of Christ’s gentle presence within, hints of His grace that grow more perceptible the longer we have known and grown in His love.

“[Growing in grace] they will still thrive and bear fruit and prosper in old age; they will flourish and be vital and fresh [rich in love and trust and contentment]; They are living memorials to declare the Lord is upright and faithful [to His promises]; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him” ~ Psalm 92: 14-15 Amplified Bible

We have joy in knowing we never outgrow our purpose and usefulness in God’s Kingdom. We are His beloved  children, growing in grace and joy the more we look to God for help and wisdom.

*to read more about the challenge of understanding and living well with chronic illness by listening to what God is saying to us, do pay a visit to my friend Bettie’s beautiful blog, because this month she is focusing on just that theme. Here’s the intro to her series*

31-days-of-journeying-into-joy-badge

Welcome to #day17 of #write31days Thank you for joining me as we journey into joy!

Feel free to share what you are learning in the comments below.

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seeing by the light of a silvery moon

write31days-silvery-moon

 

I prefer subdued hues. Bright light doesn’t feature much in our house as I live with my mole-like tendencies. Others adjust – or offer a few seconds warning if they actually want enough light to see something properly.

It’s a hypersensitivity thing induced by having M.E, and it’s a personal preference when a world seems to shout for attention. I love deep and muted shades, softness and calm, though the world invades all too frequently with harshness, glare, noise and storm.

So I tend to want to lower the lights, dim things in my home, turn away from loud and fast and furious. Maybe that’s why I love clouds so much. They’re soft white fluffy pillows floating in azure seas, gilded golden layers revealing sunset’s splendour, or dark brooding heaviness waiting to rain refreshment on us.

My window watching and cloud gazing bring me joy. I could easily lose myself in them, desire to float serenely like they do. I also enjoy clouds when they’re stirred by wind’s breath, blown asunder at the onset of thunder, shredded by strong wind, torn into wispy cotton-wool threads on gentler days.

The moon also brings me joy. Each varied cratered face she shows is a marvel to behold. It doesn’t matter what stage she is at, if she’s displaying a crescent curve smile, suggestive half halo or full gleaming globe, they are all lovely in my eyes.

This poem grew out of observing a silvery moon…

Silvery moon

Sky hangs heavy with shades

of liquid milky-grey

as silvery moon swims and

bathes her benevolent gaze

upon a world melting

all too soon into fading

light while night usurps the day

©JoyLenton2016

Today, I invite you to spend some time looking out the window, or going outside. Take a while to breathe and enjoy the moment, to see and savour signs of creation’s beauty.

And if that seems impossible or invisible to you because of your less than salubrious surroundings, I understand the dilemma, I really do. Few of my photos get shared before being cropped and edited.

Maybe you could try to aim your gaze higher or zoom in on smaller things in the frame of your fixing. Keep looking, say a prayer and ask God to reveal what grace gifts lay literally at your feet, or out the window for you to view.

We journey deeper into joy whenever we can see creation’s beauty and become more appreciative of the world around us. Maybe it will stir gratitude, a prayer, a few whispers from God, a desire to try to capture something in words or via a lens. I’d love you to let me know what you discover, and how joy is unfolding for you.

write31days-silvery-moon-poem

 

31-days-of-journeying-into-joy-badge

Welcome to #day12  of #write31days – where we are discovering ways of  journeying into joy.

I so appreciate you being here, supporting and praying for me as I aim to write more frequently this month. 🙂

Journeying into joy when you feel joyless

journeying-into-joy-write-31-days

 

Joy may be my name but it doesn’t always describe my nature. I’m inclined to let my feelings run away with me sometimes, especially those that slide toward life’s dark side.

This season of diminishing light usually means I sit more with sadness and SAD becomes my defining characteristic, as well as a condition I battle with.

And it’s probably because of this propensity that God has lain a word on my heart about the need to deliberately pursue joy in the midst of challenging circumstances.

My journey into joy may sound easy and delightful, (and I hope it will be!), but experience tells me I have a natural bent toward discouragement. It’s one I fight continually in my desire to reveal God’s hope and joy to others.

So I am going against my feelings, aiming to see joy as more than an emotion, and seeking to unearth the fruit of it as a woman of faith who could really use a fresh infusion of joy in her mind and heart. Maybe you do too?

Before we start (October 1st, God willing), I am sharing a poem written at a time when feelings overwhelmed and faith had a fight on its hands. Because we need to acknowledge where we have a joy deficit before we can move forward toward a greater awareness of what sparks joy for us.

Joyless

Today’s events tied me up in knots of stress,

taking captive the better part, no less,

while my worst emotions became unravelled

loose like string, leaving patience looking

patchy, worn and thin. Life will leave

us lifeless, fired up with feelings

which dissipate like a fading wind

 

And I seem to have swallowed a stone

I can’t shift. It sits heavy as iron,

wrinkling up my soul, pressing sharp

edges into my insides. A sour

twisting, turning acid with each

remembrance of how I have failed

to live with joy – as one already blessed

JoyLenton2016

As you can see from the poem above, I really need to fight for joy, to make space each day for happiness and contentment.

It’s not going to be plain sailing because my current life and health challenges make for choppy seas, and daily writing is a big ask for me. However, this wobbly faith warrior has a steel core of confidence in God seeing her through. I believe God has inspired me to undertake this journey and I trust Him to provide as I depend on Him.

I greatly value your prayers, and would love your company here as we learn how to walk with more joy over the days ahead via an eclectic mix of poetry and prose. Come join me? If you would like to follow along, you can do so by signing up via email. See you in October! 🙂

take-the-write-31-days-challenge-500x500

Maintaining a higher perspective

maintaining a higher perspective - PJ

 

When life’s demands send us to our knees, or lay us low with illness and fatigue, we receive all the help we need when we look beyond our current circumstances and look up to God.

In the realisation that we have no resources left we are thrown upon God’s mercy and grace, His unlimited strength, stable unchanging character and limitless love.

During the long summer days when I have been absent here, flat-out with fatigue and often too preoccupied to see more than is before me, I’ve found my greatest peace in knowing God has got me covered.

He has given me supernatural strength to care for my husband after his spinal surgery, and energy enough to take on some of the household tasks I usually need to leave in his capable hands.

Yes it’s been tough, really hard and challenging for this woman with M.E. I’ve ached to resume our  normal routine again, because my husband’s recovery has been slow and support from others naturally lessened as the weeks went by.

I couldn’t write or be present on social media like I used to. My life shifted into a new gear,  demanding all I could give and more besides.

But I always knew (and still do as things ease a little) God was with me, with both of us as we adapted to our challenging changing circumstances.

The cloud of God’s presence overshadows every moment, even as His radiance invites us to look for the glints of light peeking through our own clouds.

He sees all our days. They’re spread out before Him  – a tapestry of grace in all its messy, tangled, colourful glory.

He paints beauty within the commonplace and yearns for us to see and sense it, too, those gentle footprints of His presence.

Some days I’ve looked up and watched the glory in the heavens. I’ve also caught a glimpse of things closer to home.

I’ve deliberately been trying to listen to my life, taking photographs of the beauty surrounding me, seeing things from a fresh perspective.

The poem below reveals the advantage of having a lofty perch mentally, if not physically…

A lofty perch

a lofty perch - PJ

They hover on the brink

close to the edge where

talons meet tile.

Their plump grey plumage

mirroring cloud covering.

Eyes scan the horizon

for a soul mate

to share a lofty perch.

A close companion

become a pigeon pair.

And in the courtship dance

they bill and coo their way

upon life’s stage.

Entranced by heights

they stretch and fly

together now, soft dots

against bright curtain swag

of sun and sky

©JoyLenton2016

Friends, it’s  good to be back to writing and sharing here again. I’ve really missed you! Thank you for your patience. Hope you like the new look. The header image is from an arty-style photo of mine taken this summer – an experiment in expressing creativity differently.  What has God has been revealing to you this season? I’d love you to share in the comments below. 🙂