goal: when our priorities get shifted by life and chronic illness

Life can be reduced to goal after goal. We can get so hung up on achievement and ticking things off our list that we forget to pause, breathe or appreciate it. It’s like a never-ending treadmill.

If we’re too goal oriented, our hearts can become frantic, our minds cluttered and our ears resistant to listening to what’s wisest for us right now. And it can happen without us noticing because we’ve failed to pay attention to the signals our bodies and souls have been frantically sending us. Then we end up in overwhelm, with no way out, or so it seems.

At that stage we have choices to make: do we pause/stop/reduce our expectations/stick with more manageable, achievable goals/reset our thoughts or move the goal posts wider apart than before? If we have chronic illness, then this kind of quandary occurs pretty frequently, if not daily, because the ability well runs dry with alarming speed. With relatively minor tasks, exhaustion and depletion set in and we are forced to pause.

Over the last few months, I’ve been caught up in completing and publishing my latest book. Fuelled by adrenaline. High on the rush of getting something done. Trying to drive this slow carriage of mine full steam ahead. But it soon protested.  And crashed. Just when I had completed the task… phew!!

As I saw the word for five-minute-friday, I smiled wryly. And searched out my folders for something to share because I’ve got very little fresh creative juice left. The poem that made the cut took longer than five minutes to write but it perfectly encapsulates what my next priority should be.

Pausing

My worth and value
do not lie
in the words I write
or the thoughts I share
on social media,

or how I might
be perceived by others
who view my life,
my deeds and tasks.

But they are rooted
in my relationship with God
as he creates, shapes and takes
each thought
and provides the reassurance

that I need for strength,
as his cherished child
and his dependent, sufficient
beloved one.

So I will not blanch
or pull back
from what he asks of me
with quiet persistence
but offer him

my surrender willingly,
as he invites
me to pause again and taste
his holy rain.

Even though it hurts
to become invisible
to others,
I already know I can only
give of my best

when I yield to his grace,
accept this season
of online inactivity
and simply rest.
© joylenton

goal - pausing poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com - girl at the beach - worth and value

“In the drivenness of our society, it’s hard to make time to relax our efforts and find transforming energy. That’s why we need this particular posture of waiting so much. When we sit in this way we’re relaxing the bow; we’re coming to rest in a very deep way in God, allowing ourselves to be cradled in the sighing mystery of Christ’s prayer.” – When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions by Sue Monk Kidd

I’m thankful for a stack of unpublished poems to draw from and the ability to join the fabulous five-minute-friday writing crew as we share our thoughts on this week’s prompt of “goal.” Come join us here and read the great variety of posts being aired.

Friends, sooner than planned, I’m needing to lay down my poetic pen here for a while to recover from my latest M.E relapse. I want to embrace a season of rest, coupled with the goal of paying closer attention to God, my health and family. I’m seeking to savour summer relaxation and sort out my cluttered soul and home.

PS: Any poetry shared over the coming few weeks will be on my Facebook page and/or my Instagram page. I’d love to connect with you in those places! 🙂 You can check out my new book, Embracing Hope: Soul Food to Help Chase Away the Blues in the sidebar here or on amazon. Sending you goodbye hugs until we gather here again. xo ❤ ❤

goal - If something is worth creating space for in your life, it’s worth your full attention #quote #openarms #sun #opendoor @poetryjoy.com

well: how we can achieve a state of soul wellness

What might wellness look like to you? I like to imagine myself fit and healthy, resting, relaxing and reading at the beach, feeling calm, unhurried, unworried and happy. Preparing to stretch my limbs and swim or run along the shore, perhaps. The reality? Quite a bit different, actually.

There are numerous organisations and activities solely aimed at showing us how to achieve a beach-honed body and a relaxed mindset. Yet any change they provide is often transitory. Because most of us have a way of falling back into the bad habits that got us unhealthy and stressed in the first place. Sad but true.

Truth is, I would love to be strong and well. Many have prayed for that to happen over the years, and on the surface it looks like their prayers were in vain. But that’s not true. While I still battle with having M.E and chronic illness, I have a soul balm that soothes me on the inside, found in my relationship with Jesus Christ. 

What if being well, healed and whole was more of an inside job than we imagine? With external and internal assistance from God. Because the greater miracle, the alternative healing could be learning to live well with our problems and challenges, instead of being cured. And that is a path that will lead to our soul’s deeper wellness and tranquillity.

Wellness could look like having faith enough to trust all will be well even if it doesn’t look like it yet. God will always help us to be well equipped for everything we might face. We just need to ask for His help and receive His grace. You and I may not be “in the pink” or have everything “coming up roses” but we can rest in being perfectly known, cared for and loved by God.  And in knowing He will eventually make all things well for us.

All shall be well #quote from Julian of Norwich - roses - garden @poetryjoy.com

Longings

I want to sit
in the safest of places
cradled close
where your soft love-light is
where genuine peace exists

I want to abide
branch out with Spirit fruit
gaining strength
trust in your providence
stay rooted deep in Christ

I want to rise
like a bird freed from her cage
with hope and joy
well equipped and supplied
ready to face all of life

I want to stand
give my testimony of faith
and have courage
to go where you direct me
to minister to others
(C ) joylenton

well - cage - freed bird - longings poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Once again, I’m delighted to be joining my five-minute-friday poem with the talented community of fellow wordsmiths gathering at our gracious host Kate Motaung’s place as we write on this week’s prompt of “well.” You are warmly invited to join us here and read the great variety of posts being shared. 🙂

name: discovering where your true identity lies

name - discovering where your true identity lies - id badge @poetryjoy.com

What’s in a name? Quite a lot, actually. It matters. Most parents spend a long time choosing their offspring’s name/s, although some of us might wish we didn’t have the one we ended up with.

I came into the world earlier than expected, born to parents who could barely agree on anything. Legend has it that my father simply pointed to the two tiny scraps in incubators and named us as he saw fit. My sister was swiftly named after stars and my name became a diminutive of my mother’s.

It felt like I needed to be like her, at least a little as I grew up, but we were chalk and cheese. So it wasn’t until I came to faith in Christ in my teens that I saw any merit in my name. It was in the Bible, after all, and a fruit of the Spirit no less! 🙂

Yet the name that means the most to me is that of Jesus, who has many titles and attributes as well. Jesus is the Name above all names. His is the name we whisper in prayer and seek out in anguished despair. Our commission as believers is to make the name of Jesus known to others as we demonstrate His mercy, grace and love.

name - Our commission as believers quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

I have a light

I have a light
given to me from birth
recessed in dark
it was sparked by holy love
making a home in my heart

I have a light
flowing out of my spirit
it’s often dim
or at least I cannot see
how it might shine out of me

I have a light
it flickers when the wind blows
it’s barely alive
but a mere candlewick
you can hardly tell it’s lit

I have a light
which God wants me to let shine
just as it is
because he fuels the flame
so his name can be proclaimed

I have a light
glowing on the inside
burning bright
revealing Christ within
and how I might live for him
© joylenton

name - candle flame - I have a light poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

May you take hope from knowing you are more than your name suggests, more than your weakness or illness, and more than the spurious names or labels others have identified you as or you have spoken over yourself.

You and I are more than society says we are because our true identity rests in being wholly beloved and precious children of God.  And we are called to be His disciples, acting as a healing gift of salt and light to a needy world.

I’m honoured to be adding my poem to the five-minute-friday community posts as we write out our thoughts on this week’s word prompt “name.” You are welcome to join us here and read the great variety of posts being shared. 

Not all of us have had perfect parenting or happy families. Solo artist (and previously lead singer for Creed) Scott Stapp’s story is a painful one, but as he shares in the song below, he is determined to make things different for his own son, because God has turned his life around. That’s the hope for all of us as we live out our redemptive stories here.

culture: where flying solo takes focus and courage

Our culture may not define us but it affects how we think and act, what we become accustomed to and decide to join in with or not. We can deliberately set ourselves apart from the norm or allow the thoughts, words and opinions of others to shape how we behave and react to a certain extent. It can be hard to walk an independent path.

As a Christian in a mostly secular society, I’m often made aware how my inner life can differ from others. Because my faith affects how I think, what I believe, the choices I make, and what I decide to allow into my life. Although we cannot totally gate-keep our souls from every unwanted influence or temptation, it’s always worth trying, with God’s help.

Jesus lived a singular life. He wasn’t completely a product of the society He grew up in. He flew solo with courage and focus, walked an often lonely path of total integrity and obedience to the Father’s will. Jesus lived a life of deepest compassion, with a selfless kind of love we’re not fully capable of.

Yet the Good News He came to proclaim reveals the way to a changed life, mind and heart.  We can experience transformed thinking and have the gift of Holy Spirit living within, empowering us to be the best possible version of ourselves by God’s mercy and grace.

Countercultural

You were bold and unafraid
to challenge the status quo
the culture you grew up in
the way of life a Jewish man
would follow as closely as he
said his prayers and read the Torah

To outside eyes you seemed
reckless sometimes, different
from the others, one of a kind
because of how you lived and loved
and welcomed women disciples
into your teaching and your heart

For you appreciated each person’s
uniqueness, what made them tick
even if they couldn’t always behave
in ways the culture and society itself
condoned or thought was appropriate

Your very self-possession led others
to mark you out as special, unafraid
to challenge the wrongs you saw
and the injustices you knew deep
down you had come to right at last

As our Messiah, not everyone would
welcome you with open arms but you
didn’t let it deter you from your task
of living out God’s mission, and revealing
his glorious grace, forgiveness and love
© joylenton

culture - countercultural poem excerpt - As our Messiah quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

My poem has been inspired by this week’s five-minute-friday prompt of “culture” and also by viewing the History channel’s part drama and part documentary series about the life of Jesus. It’s well worth seeing because it offers a perspective from a selection of the gospels’ major characters, plus thoughtful comments from ministers, theologians and historians.

Each episode uncovers a personal insight into what it might have been like to encounter Jesus during His time on earth. You can find out more here. And you are warmly welcome to join in with the fabulous #FMF writing community here.

Let’s be confident in God’s ability to be here with us, to make a way no matter what obstacles and challenges we might face. He will equip us to live in the world without being one with the world in the areas where faith says no.

promise: God’s promises shine rainbow-bright

Promises are made to be broken, say the cynical, world-weary and heart-torn. Perhaps they are right. It’s hard to keep our word sometimes, to hold onto the original hope and enthusiasm we once had and to see things through.  Maybe we promise things too readily? Maybe a promise shouldn’t be given unless we know without a doubt that we can meet it.

Because making a promise comes down to trust. Our word is only as good as we are and our ability to perform. If we fail it’s often due to unforeseen circumstances or illness, yet we feel like we let others down by breaking a promise we couldn’t keep. Those we make our promises to need to trust in our integrity and faithfulness.

I remember making promises as a Brownie and Girl Guide which included God in the equation. Though I barely had a faith or knew just what it meant to trust in Him. Looking back, I probably broke those promises time and again, without knowing the commitment required in saying I would “do my duty to God and the Queen.”

Maybe we promise quote - couple sitting on boulders by the sea (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God’s Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete.”

2 Corinthians 1: 20-22 The Message

And now? I might feel like an impostor as I seek to live out my faith in a secular society, where the mention of God can be inflammatory. I might not keep all the promises I make to God and others or live as a great example of His goodness, grace and love. But I am grateful God forgives us, just as He says He will. Because God has never broken—or will ever break—a single one of His promises to us.

bible open on a table - God has never broken his promises to us quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

I might

I might feel
like a fake, an impostor
in life, love and art
but a bright holy purpose
declares itself in the dark

I might fail
to live graciously, kindly
with those I love
but the essence of grace
runs vein-deep in my blood

I might try
declaring my intentions
with courage
though it only arises
as a gift to be nourished

I might fly
away from earthly concerns
but I don’t
because hope tethers me close
and catches me by the throat

I might sail
toward calmer waters
lush with promise
where the wind takes me forward
as it whispers soul solace
© joylenton

“Don’t beat yourself up today with your weaknesses and sinful failings; instead, find hope in the promised presence of Christ living through us. He is all we need. He provides all we lack. We live for his glory, not our own.” – from Holy Available, in Simply Sacred: Daily Readings by Gary L. Thomas

I cannot promise to have a poem to share each week with the fabulous five-minute-friday community, but I am grateful when it happens. Come join us here as we write out our words on this week’s prompt of “promise.” 🙂

practice: managing the art of life and faith

It takes determination and dedication to practice until we become masters of an art. I lacked the ability to do it well with the violin when I was a child. Or maybe the pained and irritated expression on my parents’ faces was a deterrent.

And I have never overcome my fear of water or been able to swim with any confidence or ease. Sadly, my life is littered with the taking up and laying aside of numerous activities I felt insufficient at.

Somehow, the thought of not being good enough (or perfect) meant I was unwilling to persevere with gaining proficiency. My insecure soul was easily crushed and deterred. Except in my career as a nurse, in being a mother and in one creative area alone.

I’ve never lost the desire to wrangle with words and write out the poetic. I am content to practice because I love it. Writing makes me come alive on the inside and it’s also where I feel reasonably adept. Though I’m as prone to bouts of insecurity, doubt and comparisonitis as anyone else.

practice - baby with tambourine - God gifts each one of us with talents quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

God gifts each one of us with talents, and He also instructs us in the art of living itself. God’s grace means we are forgiven when we mess up, and we can learn to forgive ourselves and move on. Our progress in the spiritual life is far from linear but it is progress, nevertheless.

We’re often not aware we are practising becoming Christ-like but that’s exactly what is happening every day of our lives. As we yield and yield over again to God, we submit our souls to His authority and supreme love. And allow Holy Spirit to do a transforming work in our hearts.

Though perfection is overrated, it’s also an unattainable goal for imperfect people to reach. Maybe if we spent most of our time and energy on being faithful followers of Jesus Christ, then the rest would fall into its rightful place. We could accept being imperfectly perfect in God’s sight, and those who are daily practising the art of a surrendered life.

Let’s seek to practice the art of life, the art of loving others, as we hone the music in our souls and release our gifts freely into the world. Don’t worry about being perfect. Simply rest in being perfectly loved by God.

practice - child playing piano - Let’s seek to practice the art of life, the art of loving others quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Practice

Practice makes perfect
or so they say
but I’ve been practising
the art of living
for six decades
without perfection
in any way.

As I reflect, look back
down the long, dark corridor
of time, what has saved
my soul has been
life’s poetry, metre,
rhythm and rhyme.

It’s revealed in holy script
in my very breath
in wonder and awe
in remembrance
of the One who holds
it all—with great reverence
in the palm of his hands.

And he releases tiny glimmers
of grace into our hearts
and minds, our everyday lives
so we can receive, believe,
think and pray, live out
our lives with gratitude
and hope and joy.
© joylenton

I’m grateful for the weekly practice of flexing my poetic muscles by writing for the fabulous five-minute-friday community. This week’s prompt is “practice”, and you are welcome to join us here as I link my poem with the great variety of posts being shared.

practice poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

opportunity: when rest is an opening to God’s presence

Do you struggle with having tunnel vision of the kind where you get so focused on the tasks before you that you miss a golden opportunity for rest that is sitting within reach? I do. We struggle to see the light as our vision narrows and there seems to be no way of escape from where we are situated.

It happens frequently when my work with words consumes me. It’s hard to pause or come up for air when we’re dying to get things done and putting pressure on ourselves, even if our energy is limited and we’re chronically ill.

woman in a tunnel can see no way out - opportunity - quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

But what if we could seize an opportunity to stop, breathe, be in the moment, would we welcome it? Might we begin to notice more than we did before? Though I long to press on with those things that are important to me, I quickly tire and reach burnout before I know it. Before that happens, I need to slow my soul and take a break. We could all benefit from seeing times of rest as opportunity, rather than sheer necessity.

As I recently pulled myself away from a thorny writing problem I was wrestling with, and sat resting in my bedroom, I could feel sun’s warmth on my neck like a soft caress. It felt like an invitation and opportunity rolled into one. Soul-care spots are like refreshment stations, refuelling us when we get dry, depleted and drained.

While I rested, I sensed God’s holy presence permeating my soul, His voice whispering wisdom, and His love wrapping me in a holy hug. Just as the sun was relaxing my tense neck, God’s presence was ironing out the knots in my mind and heart.

opportunity - quote - Soul-care spots are like refreshment stations, refuelling us when we get dry, depleted and drained - garden - bench (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Though taking opportunity to pause is something I have to practice on a daily basis, there was something different about this one. In sensing presence, I was reminded of other times and places when God speaks to me. And He will do the same for you too.

Sensing presence

You are sun’s warm caress upon my neck
wind gently rustling through spring leaves
chattering voices as people go off to work
each day’s gift of grace and opportunity

I sense you in the womb of my bedroom
I sense you when I am weary as can be
I sense you in days hard to get through
I sense you softly speaking love to me

You’re in the marvellous and the mundane
your footprints are just waiting to be found
my responses to you may not be the same
but we always meet on your holy ground

I sense you less when my soul is darkened
I sense you more when I’m washed clean
I sense you most when I’m not hardened
I sense you speaking in my dreams

You are reaching out continually
seeking to gain my soul’s attention
hoping I will finally hear and see
develop deeper comprehension
© joylenton

opportunity - sensing presence poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my five-minute-friday poem in community here, as we write on this week’s prompt of “opportunity.” You are welcome to join us and read the great variety of posts being shared here.

Let’s conclude by giving praise to the God of all our days, all our ordinary moments, whether they’re busy or restful, hard or hope-filled. God delights to provide the shelter, strength and wisdom we need to carry on.