fruit picking: revisiting memories of previous summers

Rather like the ravenous, darting wasps who seemingly cannot get enough of the windfall apples in the orchard we look out on, I’m a self-confessed fruitaholic who revels in the wider choice and bounty that summer brings to us.

But the best way to appreciate fresh fruit is to either grow your own—says she, happily munching on yummy home-grown greengages from her son’s garden—or to pick your own (pyo) fresh from the field, like I used to do as a girl.

Though I furtively ate a fair share, fruit picking was done mostly in pursuit of extra money in my pocket, to savour the sun and fresh air, and to helpfully keep out of my parent’s way during the long summer holiday. Here’s a glimpse of that experience… 🍓🍒🍐🍏

Fruit picking

I bend to the task before me 
with inky-blue stained fingers 
cradling soft, squishy currants 
with increasing expertise.

My mahogany neck
is a fragile stem, 
crisped by sun’s fierce heat, 
with my hair bleaching 
blonder by the day.

Summer was mostly lived 
outdoors. My sister and I 
could disappear for hours
and venture further 
from home’s confines.

It was a needful breathing 
space in the school year, 
where being yourself 
was easier to bear. 

Stretching like a lazy cat 
warming herself, I smile 
at the heavy weight of fruit 
sat down by my feet. 

A good crop means more 
money in my pocket,
and enough for the full
bus fare home, at least.

Despite the exertion,
it beats potato 
or strawberry picking 
because here I can stand up
to reach the glistening crop.

Wiping beads of sweat 
from my forehead,
I notice how grubby 
my white gypsy top looks, 
smeared with grime 
and smatterings of juice.

Soon I spot someone 
glaring in my direction 
as the line checkers move 
our way. They don't like 
unaccompanied children,

unless they see you working, 
filling baskets instead of 
bellies. I dutifully bow my
head back to the bushes, 

knowing that when I close my 
eyes tonight I will see a vast 
spread of blackcurrants, 
hanging like dark lanterns 
on my closed eyelids.
© joylenton

What childhood summer memories linger in your mind? Can you still savour the sight, sound, taste or smell of them? Do share in the comments below. Xx 🙂 ❤

PS: This poem was created by adapting an excerpt of a post previously shared on my Words of Joy blog and the ACW More Than Writers blog.

Gethsemane: a place of anguished obedience, prayer, and grace

“Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, ‘Sit here while I go over there to pray.’ He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, ‘My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.’ Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, ‘Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour?’” — Matthew 26:36-40 NLT

Gethsemane

To remain, stay awake, and pray,
these are the tasks
assigned to the disciples

and to us
as well, even now,
as we face our own battles.

Yet we brag, big ourselves up,
and anticipate greatness
from souls of dust,

or we cringe and creep
because we feel
like worms without worth.

But God knows the state of us
all too well,
and he grants us the grace

to have a fresh start
if we're willing
to ask for his help.

Jesus sought support himself
but found his friends
deeply lacking

in their ability to keep alert,
to pray faithfully
and to stay awake.

In the depths of his humanity
he identified
completely with you and me,

and he still gives 
us grace when we mess up
because he knows
just what we are made of.
© joylenton

Reflection

Picture yourself in this scene. Jesus, your close friend, teacher and miracle worker, is approaching his darkest hour. You’re aware that he is special, and talking about being crucified, but your mind hasn’t yet fully grasped the reality of who he is and why he came, though you long to please him.

But it’s been a long day, with a seemingly wasteful anointing at Bethany, an unexpected betrayal by Judas, a denial, a final supper together, and now this period of praying in the garden of Gethsemane. You’re just plain exhausted. Jesus gently scolds you, and you feel dreadful because your tired body has let you down.

Prayer

Suffering Saviour,

As we read these words, we wonder if we would have been any better at watching and praying with you than the disciples were. Sadly, their fatigue caused them to slumber in your hour of greatest need. You faced this ordeal alone because your friends failed you at this final hurdle.

Even so, you understood their weakness and gave them grace. Just as you do for us. From our post-crucifixion perspective, we know how it ends—how these failing, faltering disciples became devoted, faith-filled men with transformed minds and hearts. Oh may we have an ending like this too!
Amen

This post has been excerpted from my ‘Experiencing Lent: Sensing the Sacred in Our Midst’ book. You can discover more about the meaning of and the biblical context for Gethsemane in this article. Blessings and love to you! Xx 🙂 ❤

rootedness: rooted deep in faith just like the trees

“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” — Simone Weil

Rootedness

A sweep of trees sway 
above me, with a deep rustling 
reverberating through each leaf, 

murmuring a message 
of presence, of being, 
of hidden strength and timely

wisdom encircling each trunk, 
as ageing rings mark out
the seasons, and bark folds 

itself into gnarled whorls
that speak of mysteries 
only trees can see and know.
Standing still beneath 
a canopy of branches, arching 
protectively above 

my head, I am entranced 
and given over to awe, 
marvelling in their statuesque 

beauty and grace, 
their manner of connectivity 
in this dark and sheltered place, 

where I am but a visitor, 
awed by their centuries’ 
old stability, peace, 
and lofty splendour.
There is a stillness here, 
a sense of timelessness, where
breezes stir the structure
 
of each tree yet cannot affect
their invincibility, their very 
rootedness into the ground,

which spreads much further 
than eyes can see, making
channels through this forest 

that help to keep them all
alive and vigorous, sturdily 
enduring as our lives unfold.
© joylenton

“If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence we could rise up rooted like trees.” — Rainer Maria Rilke

“And now just as you trusted Christ to save you, trust him, too, for each day’s problems; live in vital union with him. Let your roots grow down into him and draw up nourishment from him. See that you go on growing in the Lord, and become strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with joy and thanksgiving for all he has done.” — Colossians 2:6-7 TLB

I close with a few forest sights and sounds to help soothe the stress away and bring you a few moments of relaxation and peace…. Enjoy. 🙂 ❤

change: on yearnings, adaptation, and gratitude for where we are now

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” — Henry David Thoreau

Yearning for change

These naked limbs, 
licked and warmed 
by sun’s soft caress,
have their arms open 

for an early entry 
of spring, longing deep
at the heart 
for sap to rise again 

and the blooming
of buds to start
to burst forth, giving them
a new dress, new chorus.

Each branch,
every stem 
and arthritic twig reaches
up to the heavens,

like a prayer, a plea
to be noticed,
to be spared the worst
of winter’s onslaught,
and to have a fresh
covering of leaves
as chill winds blow,
leaving them drawn taut. 

But even so,
they might forget just how
majestic they are 
in their pared back 

barrenness, their state 
of cold undress,
which has its own perfect 
beauty we observe, its own

form of sculptural loveliness,
as we stop and pause
from our labours
to watch nature at work. 
© joylenton

“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” — Rachel Carson

This poem arose when I paid attention to the apple tree outside our living room window. The more I studied it throughout the day, the more my sympathies were engaged and my gratitude enhanced for simply being here, acting as a silent observer of its wintry state and potential future growth. Because immersing ourselves in nature, in small ways and large, is a great way to stir creativity and bring us a deeper measure of soul peace.

“Change” happens to be my #oneword365 for Poetry Joy this year. Where are you receiving reflective thoughts from the created world as it beds down for winter yet retains a new kind of beauty in its structure, its place of peace and quiet repose? Do share below. 🙂 ❤

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” — Eckhart Tolle

fear: from scared to secure

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” — Isaiah 41:10 NIV

From scared to secure

Fear comes whispering 
in your ears
but it doesn’t sound
like fear at all. Oh, no,

it’s more like the voice
of reason, of questioning,
of common sense.

It brings all the what ifs,
what abouts, oughts and shoulds 
which are hard to ignore,
harder still to justify 

when faith feels a stretch
too far, while trust 
is asking you to take

a great big leap
into the abyss—into the 
dark. Our human hearts
are so easily 

alarmed, unsettled, made fraught
with worry and concern,
by scary thoughts,

by being asked for more
than we are capable 
of. But that’s only if
we rely on human

reasoning alone,
and forget to factor
in the power 

of our amazing,
death defying,
grace and hope 
supplying God. Because then

we’re not facing
anything all by ourselves 
or trying to make

important decisions 
without his help. But we are
relying, depending for all
we are worth,

on God’s mercy 
and wisdom 
to gently guide

and steer us forward.
It takes the sting 
out of whatever we
might be facing. 

The anxiety will leave,
be released
and slowly dissipate

as we move from being 
scared to securely 
dependent on God’s 
foresight and grace.
© joylenton 

“God hasn’t lost courage. God isn’t wavering on endurance. God doesn’t fear another day or another test, and God is standing behind me. He is making available for me all that he is. By grace through faith, I have nothing to fear, no reason to feel defeated.” — Gary L. Thomas ‘Simply Sacred: Daily Readings

Fear tends to infiltrate us out of nowhere. One minute we’re happily going about our days, and the next (or so it seems) we become scared of this or that, stuck in the muddy quagmire of worry, and consumed by anxiety and fear. A wall goes up and we cannot scale it, despite our best efforts.

I’ve experienced this over the last few months with the added stress of moving house before our previous property is sold. It’s the plethora of changes and extra admin that sink me, alongside the sheer weary overwhelm of being busy beyond my body’s capacity to cope. But there is hope and there is help for all troubled souls.

No scary situation we might face is a match for our matchless, fear-less heavenly Father’s grace.

God sits beside us, gently nudging us back to trust, softly reminding us of His all-encompassing Presence, great faithfulness, and constant love. And more than that, we have the gift of His calming and comforting Peace to keep us from staying afraid. May our faith be above every fear as we hand each one over to God.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” — John 14:27 NIV

world: a voyage of holy discovery

“If you have been in the vicinity of the sacred – ever brushed against the holy – you retain it more in your bones than in your head; and if you haven’t, no description of the experience will ever be satisfactory.” ― Daniel Taylor, In Search of Sacred Places

A world within a world

Some can see a world 
in the labyrinthine 
whorls of a rose,

while others sense it
contained within
the smallness of a hazelnut.

Although it is too vast
and complex to be confined
inside one thing or one mind,

there remains a simplicity
bequeathed and revealed 
to the soul of you and me.

A sacred space opens up
to the fathomless,
the infinite, the large,

as our tiny hearts 
become receptacles 
enlarged by holy love.

A whole universe exists 
within each one of us,
ready to be explored.

All we need to offer 
is our openness,
our receptivity is the path

whereby universal truth
can inhabit our hearts,
to be accepted—or ignored.
(C) joylenton

“And in this he showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’”

“I marvelled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God. In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it. The second that God loves it. And the third, that God keeps it.” — Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich

My friend, you might be feeling alone and far from God right now or fear that He has forgotten you somehow, but that just isn’t true, because we can rely on the promises in His Word that keep us safe and secure.

God never leaves our side for a second, and He finds a million little ways in which to demonstrate His constant presence, tenderness and love to our fragile, hurting hearts.

May you rest in His unconditional love today as you ask Him to open your eyes to the voyage of holy discovery and joy He wants to take you on. With blessings, love, hugs and prayer from this fellow voyager. Xx 🙂 ❤