awareness: noticing the marvellous in the mundane

“Nature is too thin a screen; the glory of the omnipresent God bursts through everywhere.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Awareness

 I might sense
 the slight tightening 
 of a stitch,

 an awareness
 of being hemmed in,
 then easily miss

 the way you weave
 your miracles
 in the mundane.

 Unless my eyes
 are open, noticing,
 ready for

 a surprise, prepared
 to watch and see
 what lies behind

 the ordinary,
 then I could glimpse
 the deftly woven

 warp and weft
 of your holy threads,
 your embroidering. 

 Although it is more
 than a visual
 response, more than

 a second glance
 required to 
 observe a sacred

 hand at work,
 a gentle touch
 igniting the humble
 soil of earth.

 Because you ask
 me to look 
 inwardly as well

 as outwardly,
 to catch the softest
 tread of your

 footsteps inside 
 my expectant heart
 as you walk,

 fill it with your love,
 your presence,
 and your thoughts. 
 © joylenton

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God… As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.” ― Anne Frank, The Diary of A Young Girl

Prayer

Loving Creator God,

We give you thanks and praise for creation’s stunning beauty and the soul soothing, calming effects it has on our minds and hearts. May we sense the safety of being hemmed in by your grace and love as we face tough situations and challenging circumstances. Help us to notice the way you skilfully weave the marvellous into the mundane for us to enjoy each day.. Heighten our awareness of being part of the miracle as we learn to appreciate these gifts to the full.
Amen

silence: stirred to listen harder to our lives

“In the silence of a midwinter dusk, there is a sound so faint that for all you can tell it may be only the sound of the silence itself. You hold your breath to listen. You are aware of the beating of your heart. The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment.” — Frederick Buechner

Stirred

 Angels stir the waters
 and we awaken, roused 
 at last from slumber

 deep. We’re getting ready 
 to receive. Our inner spirit 
 had been sleeping,

 blissfully unaware, now 
 it seems that God is calling.
 He is close—he is near. We can

 hear his holy footsteps 
 because an unfolding advent,
 a season of awakening 

 begins with this—this sudden
 impartation, this stirring
 of mind and heart. This call

 to listen, pay attention,
 and respond. Yes, yes, our souls 
 sing silently as the mists part,

 the darkness yields itself 
 to light, the shadowed dullness 
 flees, replaced by illumination,

 bright luminosity is seen. To what 
 end are we stirred like this,
 awakened, we know not yet,

 but still we rise inside, 
 propelled by a holy purpose
 waiting to be revealed to us.

 Great change is in the air
 we breathe, scenting the atmosphere 
 with silvery notes of promise,

 with hope, with an opening, a hint
 of blossoming to come. If only 
 we would notice, and follow

 the path set out before us,
 be it rocky, smooth or hard,
 get ready to walk, leap or jump. 
 © joylenton

“The Lord is coming, always coming. When you have ears to hear and eyes to see, you will recognize him at any moment of your life. Life is Advent; life is recognizing the coming of the Lord” — Henri Nouwen

Friends, it is a time for awe and wonder to predominate. A season in which we watch and wait. A moment to pause and catch our breath before we become too embroiled in Christmas busyness. And it’s a time to thank you from the bottom of my heart for being here, for the shared conversations, thoughtful comments, and prayers.

I look forward to sharing life’s poetic rhythms with you again on January 14th, when I will have some special news to share! 🎄🌟May your Christmas and New Year celebrations be full of joy, and may you life be blessed with abundant hope, healing, and peace in the year ahead. 🌟🎄Blessings and love. Xox 😊💟❤️

seasons: sensing the sacred in our midst

seasons -

“Spring, summer, autumn, and winter each have particular gifts and invitations. Paying attention to the rhythms of the natural world helps us to recognize the place within us that calls for blossoming, fruitfulness, releasing, and resting.” — Christine Valters Paintner, The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom

Can you feel the tug, or is it just me? Can you sense the added pressure in this season when we’re unable to stay on top of our tasks? The urgent vies for our attention with the important because there’s just so much to do, and so little time left to do it in. We want to drop everything and go lie down in bed. Perhaps our weary bodies and anxious minds are telling us something valid we need to listen to.

Because we can become so wilted and jaded by all we want to complete before Christmas comes that we fail to fully appreciate the holy extraordinary event of Jesus being born on earth. But what if we paused? What if we stopped for microseconds at a time, or more? Let’s take a few slow, deep breaths and try. Let’s seek to listen to what our burdened souls, our fractured lives are saying to us.

seasons - sunset - trees - but what if we paused quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” — Matthew 11:28-29 NIV

Sacred seasons

 It is autumnal dusk,
 let us give ourselves
 a sacred moment to sit,

 rest, exhale, pray, pause,
 a space to breathe 
 and be. Because there is 
 an opportune moment

 for everything, a kairos 
 time for everything 
 on earth, a season 
 covering soul growth,

 activity, stillness 
 and deep soul rest.
 Even our hearts 
 have an innate knowledge

 of rhythm and purpose,
 where we sow seeds,
 we wait, we grow, we reap.

 So let us learn 
 to accept, relinquish,
 surrender, and appreciate 

 the abundant, the slow,
 the meagre, the painful 
 growing times which we detest,
 when we must stop and wait,

 the fleeting joyful moments 
 we all cherish and adore.
 Because they all count,
 far more than we might know,

 they all matter to God,
 no matter which season
 of the year, of life, of the heart
 we might currently be in,

 for we can all grow 
 and flourish inwardly
 when we pause to listen
 and fully trust in him.
 © joylenton

“God has so much to speak into your life. But if you don’t draw apart from the busyness of your day and spend time alone with Him in quietness and solitude, you will not hear it. Jesus himself spent much time alone with God. If anyone could get away with not doing it, surely it would have been Him. How much more important must it be for us?” — Stormie OMartian, The Power of a Praying Woman

Gracious Jesus,

Rather than allowing ourselves to be stressed and rushed, draw us deeper into the quiet restfulness of Your love. Help us focus less on festivities and presents, and more on spending quality time in Your presence. Revive our weary bodies.

Renew and reorient our anxious hearts. Even though our celebrations this year might be pared back and muted, compared with how they usually are, reignite the sense of wonder, joy, and hope wrapped up in this special season, and beyond.
Amen

waiting: the holy work of Advent and beyond

“Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.” ― Elisabeth Elliot

Waiting 

 sunlight weakens
 colour fades as mists descend
 December's here
 wrapping us in thick fogginess
 hunker down, it's nearly Christmas

 days slide by
 in a rush toward the night
 our souls moan and sigh
 darkness outside increases
 the onward march is ceaseless

 we become hungry
 for hope, for warmth, for light
 a safe place to abide
 while our souls grow accustomed
 to the season we are in

 clothed with silhouettes
 the trees stand sentinel-bare
 like bereft soldiers
 guarding the fort of their thoughts
 waiting for spring's reward

 maybe you and I
 can keep the vigil with them
 our hearts tuned to spring
 as wintry winds whistle hard
 let's remain patient and calm
 © joylenton

“This is the most precious answer God can give us: wait. It makes us cling to him rather than to an outcome. God knows what I need; I do not. He sees the future; I cannot. His perspective is eternal; mine is not. He will give me what is best for me when it is best for me.” ― Vaneetha Rendall Risner, The Scars That Have Shaped Me: How God Meets Us in Suffering

Friends, you’ve been waiting several weeks to see when I might return to writing in this space. Thank you for your patience! I’m so glad to be back. We seem to spend much of our lives waiting for this and that, don’t we? The season of Advent highlights how to wait with intention, with purpose, with hope and expectation in our hearts.

May we begin it with such anticipation. And may we aim to listen harder for God’s soft footsteps in our hearts. He longs to draw near to us and whisper His wisdom to our receptive souls but so often we become weary in the waiting and slow to respond. Let’s ask God to increase our ability to stay, to be open, to wait, and to receive. Because Jesus, our Light-bringer is well worth waiting for.

waterfall: being drenched by God’s waterfall of grace and love

waterfall - being drenched by God’s waterfall of grace and love @poetryjoy.com

Many years ago, God gave me an unforgettable vision, a foretaste, perhaps, of life in the Kingdom-to-come. I saw myself joyfully frolicking and laughing under a waterfall.

There were others with me who were equally enchanted by the beautiful place we were in, and overjoyed at the absence of darkness and pain. I had zest, energy, and ability in abundance, as I jumped and danced and immersed myself in the gushing water.

I felt alive, fully alive for the first time, as I dipped myself under the powerful, pounding flow again and again. Yes, little ‘ole me, who hates water and can barely swim! 😉

There, I had no fear, no worry or anxiety whatsoever. It felt like I was bathed and saturated in life itself, in love, in grace, in light, and goodness. There was an endless supply of it. It was marvellous.

“Grace is finding a waterfall when you were only looking for a stream.” — Vanessa Hunt

Waterfalls
each day
requires us to receive
linger long
under waterfalls of grace
get saturated, satiated

but it's not
to satisfy our souls alone
we receive enough
so we can pour out to others
from our excess and overflow

every dry spell
requires us to pause, to refuel
we must stop
surrender to the rest of God
keep a regular Sabbath break

we come apart
before we fall apart from fatigue
we might need
a longer season of rest and peace
for our soul's full recovery

let us breathe
let go of excess busyness
let us receive
the very best we have on offer
for our body, mind and soul's sake
© joylenton
waterfalls poem excerpt - waterfall - landscape - (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“Christianity is about water… It’s about baptism… It’s about full immersion…. Most of what we do in worldly life is geared toward our staying dry, looking good, not going under. But in baptism, in lakes and rain and tanks and fonts, you agree to do something that’s a little sloppy because at the same time it’s also holy, and absurd. It’s about surrender, giving into all those things we can’t control; it’s a willingness to let go of balance and decorum and get drenched.” — Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies

My friends, it’s time for me to linger longer under God’s waterfall of grace because I’m experiencing greater health challenges. I’m more depleted than usual and in need of a break.

So I will be resting my words here for a few weeks. I hope to become refreshed and restored enough to return by mid November, God willing. May God bless you and pour out His abundant grace on you until we meet again. xo ❤️💜

waterfall - blessing - May God bless you and keep you blessing (Numbers 6_24-26 TLB) @poetryjoy.com

Mind if I pray for you?

Father God,

We so often allow ourselves to become drained, dry, and depleted by life. It can be hard to stop or even pause long enough to breathe freely sometimes. We ask for the wisdom to know just when to pause and take a break, maybe a little bit each day, or longer, so we can become strengthened and healed.

Would you graciously refresh and restore us as we pull back from busyness and rest ourselves in You? May this time of coming aside, however long it might take, be a precious oasis offering us a saturating waterfall of Your strengthening love and grace.

Amen

beauty: how it draws our hearts toward God

“God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.” — Martin Luther

Mountainous

In the distance 
there is an indigo,
dark-shadowed, snow-crested

mountainous ridge rising
on the horizon,
tinged with soft sunset-pink.

It glows with invitation
to pause, to admire,
as the sky ripples with joy,

with beauty and celebration,
a daring dusk declaration,
as the dark mountains

dissolve and morph back
into the clouds
from which they are formed.

While we travel forward,
leaving a blaze of sun
golden-streaking the sky 

far behind us, 
like a final farewell,
a golden hurrah, perhaps.

And I crane my neck,
unwilling to lose
the sight or miss

the significance
of creation once again
stirring mountainous

hope in my heart,
because as this day sighs
its dying breath,

I know that dawn 
will come, light will return
to bathe the earth 

in grace, and leave us
always wanting more
of beauty, wonder, awe.

Even as I mourn
my lack of evidence,
with no photographs to show

what I saw, it has burned itself
upon my retina, with a
defined, sharpened focus 

in my mind, to become
fully developed in my soul,
as I reflect and scribe it all.
© joylenton

“Beauty reminds you of an Eden you have never known, but you somehow know your heart was created for it. Beauty says, There is a glory calling to you. And if there is a glory, there is a source of glory. What great goodness could have possibly created this? Beauty draws you to God.” — Restoration Year: A 365 Day Devotional by John Eldredge

beauty - how it draws our hearts toward God - clouds - sunset - glory (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

hope: when whispers reach us in the darkness

hope - rain - trees - countryside - car window view - when whispers reach us in the darkness (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Do you feel that? It is a calm shift in the wind. Do you hear that? It is a soft whisper of hope. Do you see that? It is the divine hand of guidance, mercifully extended to aid our good fight.” ― Richelle E. Goodrich

Times of darkness within and without can disappoint, defeat and drag our souls down. It feels as if we’re saturated in sadness and sorrow. But when we’re low and downcast, that’s when we most need to seek after God.

If we can train ourselves to listen to the small whispers of hope He offers us, and deliberately look for the tiny glimmers of light shining in the darkness, then we’re on our way to becoming brighter, bolder and stronger, as our faith and courage rise up.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” — Psalm 42:5 NIV

Whispers of hope

I am determined
that these dismal, dull and drear,
unrelenting rainy days

will not steal my joy
or dissipate the fragile 
faith I retain that they

will pass, and we will see
radiant glimpses of sunlight
breaking through at last. 

Because nature whispers
songs of hope
into my ears, lingering

long after the singing
dies away, but the message
I retain is stronger,

more vibrant than the dirge
of prematurely darkened
days, replete with heavy rain.

There's a thundering
of wetness against glass,
of wind hissing through the eaves,

seeking admittance
through snaking draughts
and damp, chilly air

that makes us want to wrap 
ourselves in warmth 
from autumn 'til spring will come.

But faith will have her way,
weaving a thread of hope
through the darkest of days,

sighing in our souls 
in harmony with grace,
an eternal melody of light

and a kind of hope-fuelled
joy nothing can steal away;
dim as the wick might be

sometimes, it's still more
than a match, more than 
enough for life's storms.
© joylenton
hope - rain - storm - whispers of hope poem excerpt (c) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“God is the only one who can make the valley of trouble a door of hope.” ― Catherine Marshall

autumn: a child’s eye view of the season

autumn - a child's eye view of the season (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

As we enter a new season, I’ve been wondering: what if we tried to see the onset of autumn through the eyes of a child? Or the beginning of any new season of life, perhaps. How might we react or sense it differently?

I’m usually inclined to look at the onset of autumn through rather wary, SAD-afflicted adult eyes, even as I try to enjoy any glints of ochre, russet, burnt umber and gold I can find. What if God intends us to go through our days with childlike trust, hope, wonder, and expectation in our hearts, no matter what our actual circumstances are? 

“Childlike surrender and trust, I believe, is the defining spirit of authentic discipleship.” — Brennan Manning

To a child

Autumn may speak
of death and decay
to us, but to a child
it’s an invitation

to throw themselves down
and roll around on any
leaf-carpeted ground.

Autumn might signal
summer’s ending
but to a child it’s a time
of returning to school,

new shoes, equipment and clothes,
friendships rekindled, joyful
reunions, and fresh beginnings.

Autumn has many
moments of mists,
and moods we prefer
not to have to battle through,

but to a child
the veil becomes
a different kind of curtain,
mysterious, uncertain.

Autumn might suggest
a season of falls,
of decline and loss
of capacity, but to a child

it speaks of tumbling
deliberately onto chilly grass
and crunchy leaves.

Autumn hints at mellow
fruitfulness now being passed
its best, as darkness
increases and living things

are dying, but to a child
it’s just another day closer
to anticipated Christmas bliss.

Autumn brings increasing
cold, wind and sleety rain,
as trees become denuded

and winter creeps in,
but to a child each change
in the weather is just

another new way
of experiencing, touching,
tasting, seeing, and doing.
© joylenton

autumn - to a child poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“I think that’s the true litmus test for someone who has become closer to Jesus: their heart is more loving, accepting, childlike, less believing that they have all the answers and more believing in Him.” — Donald Miller

It can be a hard calling and a tough surrender to trust God for better or be able to sense beauty and joy more than we sense the darkness, hardship and pain. It can be difficult to pay more attention to the good, can’t it? Especially when pain shouts so loud it seems to drown out all else.

But joy still exists in every dark moment we go through, and it’s so worthwhile to try to be more childlike by awakening to the joy hidden in plain sight. I’m inspired by my grandson’s attitude and I’m willing to try. How about you, my friend? 

PS: You might be interested in: 50 Autumn activities for parents and kids, plus an inspiring creative guide to surviving the winter months by Emma Mitchell or her nature remedy book to help with SAD symptoms. 🙂 ❤

autumn - child sitting in leaves - it is so worthwhile quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

darkness: how it reminds us to seek out the light

darkness - dawn breaking - how it reminds us to look for dawn's light (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Autumn has just arrived in the Northern Hemisphere and I’m already getting twitchy about the imminent lack of light. Those of us who struggle with SAD symptoms can find ourselves at summer’s end mourning the diminishing daylight, while hating the longer, darker evenings and the realisation that clocks will soon go back an hour. But there is hope.

Because each season has its own beauty, its own story to tell, its own wondrous way of speaking to our souls. While we might deplore the lack of daylight hours autumn and winter present to us, we can try to deliberately aim to look for the positive in them as well.  Every drop of encouragement we can find will help nurture our souls.

We could note the beautiful golden hues and observe the altering landscape with eyes of intrigue and awe, rather than anxiety and fear. We could remind ourselves that hope, joy, and light can be found if we expectantly search them out and ask for God’s help. Because the dawn will rise faithfully, as always, even if we prefer to hunker down and hide under the duvet… 🙂

“Not knowing when the dawn will come,
I open every door” — Emily Dickinson

Darkness and Dawn

Darkness scares me,
seeping into my bones,
these walls, this soul,
the landscape, this home.

Autumn arrives
like a swiftly fallen curtain
extinguishing the light,
making things uncertain.

What if I could
see beyond the black,
penetrate the dark,
seek to hold it back?

Is it futile
to want the light
to linger here, where my
soul is edged in despair?

Perhaps I should
remind myself to pause,
open up the doors, each
room of house and heart.

If we allow
our spiritual sight
to see beyond it all,
this gaping void,

perhaps we would
find a place of hope,
of renewed joy,
saturated with light.

Because the dawn
must be breaking
somewhere now across
the sleepy globe,

spreading its rays
of hope, its flash of fire
into our anxious hearts,
our sad and fearful souls,

where it warms us
up, cheers our thoughts,
as it reorients them
back to life—back to God.

And so I bask
in this golden glow of grace,
rising faithfully
day after day.

It will not pause
because light and dark
exist to make us seek
and live lives of fearless faith.
© joylenton

Darkness and Dawn poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“Things grow in the darkness: seeds, bulbs, dreams, babies. Can we trust that if we dare to probe the darkness we may discover things about ourselves that we might prefer not to know, but need to learn?” — Margaret Silf, Compass Points: Meeting God at Every Turn

Some useful resources you can access to help alleviate the darkness:
  1. Inspiring bible verses about light and darkness from OpenBible.Info
  2. 7 Little Shelters In The Storm Mood Boosters from Courtney Carver
  3. Embracing Hope: Soul Food to Help Chase Away the Blues from yours truly
  4. Self-Help Strategies for SAD from Psych Central
  5. Soul Shots: 31 Days of Pocket Wisdom for Your Hurting Heart my latest (free!!) pdf ebook to download ❤

prayer: it makes a greater difference than we know

prayer - paper aeroplane - it makes a greater difference than we know - Joy Lenton @poetryjoy.com

So often we think of prayer like sending flimsy paper aeroplanes into the ether, where they act like drifting darts that fail to hit their intended target. But what if we saw each prayer more as an arrow that reaches straight to the heart of God? 

Might that make a difference in our willingness to pray, and encourage our hope that all prayer is heard and answered in some way? I think so. Because the bible urges us to pray at all times and in all seasons, while it declares how our prayers can rise as fragrant incense to God’s throne above.

”Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.” — Max Lucado

prayer - “Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden.” quote (C) Corrie Ten Boom @poetryjoy.com

Prayer isn’t something to be feared because of our perceived failure at it. Rather, prayer is to be welcomed as a wonderful, privileged part of our relationship with God, as we maintain an open dialogue with Him. And when we take all our worries and concerns to God, we get to experience His rest and peace.

The poem below describes the frustration we might experience when we seemingly get no answers to prayer. It also points to the biblical hope and promise we have of our prayers actually landing up where they should—straight to the loving heart of our Father God.

Paper aeroplanes

I try to shoot
paper aeroplanes
into the ether

but they fall,
floating aimlessly,
landing languidly
at my feet,

while others curve,
slither and slide
across the ceiling,

darting like flies,
getting nowhere
it seems.

I cannot see
why they don’t hit
their intended target,

pierce through layers
of fluffy cloud,
this veiled curtain

of azure blue shroud
where hope enough
exists to send them off.

I can only assume,
more and more
as time passes,

that they are too small,
deemed unworthy planes,
perhaps, tipped off

balance, somehow,
sent careening
sideways, adrift,

instead of being
faithfully received.
Yet the eyes of faith

suggest I look further,
try to see beyond
and believe

there is a place
where clouds will part,
open up for this

faithfully sent
aerial fleet,
these fragile, tentative

aeroplanes of prayer
to actually penetrate
the air, the heavens,
where they are

joyfully received above,
carefully curated,
acted upon with love.
© joylenton

prayer - Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance... quote (C) Martin Luther @poetryjoy.com

“Prayer lays hold of God’s plan and becomes the link between His will and its accomplishment on earth. Amazing things happen, and we are given the privilege of being the channels of the Holy Spirit’s prayer.” — Elisabeth Elliot

Where has prayer made a difference in your life or the lives of those you’ve prayed for? Let’s rejoice in it together… 🙂 ❤