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… 🙂 ❤

courage: rising up to face life’s challenges

courage - rising up to face life's challenges @poetryjoy.com

We might think that being courageous is strictly for heroes and heroines. But we’d be wrong. Because all of us will face difficulties and challenges, need to access courage, develop resilience, and discover our inner brave as we take each small step of faith.

With God’s help, we can scale the mountains before us or find a way to go around them. Although the path might be thorny and hard, God will infuse strength and courage into our hearts. All we need do is ask.

“Nothing but encouragement can come to us as we dwell upon the faithful dealing of our Heavenly Father in centuries gone by. Faith in God has not saved people from hardships and trials, but it has enabled them to bear tribulations courageously and to emerge victoriously.” — Lee Roberson

courage - “Discouraged not by difficulties without, or the anguish of ages within quote - Helen Keller @poetryjoy.com

Courage

tugging at weeds
I disturb a sleepy beetle
he staggers out blind
moves drunkenly across grass
losing his way on hot tiles

I watch him
skittering unsteadily
like a skater
wobbling on the ice
thrown off their stride

before long
he seeks refuge again
a dark recess
lush, fresh greenery
a new, safe habitat

it doesn’t take much
a gentle tug alone
stirs us to move
out of our comfort zone
where courage awaits us

we might blink
unaccustomed
like moles in the light
having to leave behind
our familiar places

we recoil
grip tight on the usual
before reaching out
to touch the new and the next
we’re being called to embrace

eventually
however weak-kneed we feel
our fingers test walls
we probe possibilities
and find our way home
© joylenton

courage - emerging mole - courage poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“Down through the centuries in times of trouble and trial God has brought courage to the hearts of those who love Him. The Bible is filled with assurances of God’s help and comfort in every kind of trouble which might cause fears to arise in the human heart. You can look ahead with promise, hope, and joy.” — Billy Graham

Where are you needing courage today, my friend? Turn to God and seek His help. God will always rise to give us strength and help us face whatever is making us afraid. Hold onto God’s promises, and wait for Him to act on your behalf as you take the first tentative steps forward. Though your heart might quake and quail, remember that His courage never fails.

PS: I have a free pdf soul care gift for you today!

< – – Just click on the image here to download it.

It’s called Soul Shots: 31 Days of Pocket Wisdom for Your Hurting Heart, and is an eclectic mix of reflections and poetry.

May it bless and encourage your heart and bring back hope when life gets hard and dark. 🙂 ❤

light: how holy light lifts, heals and strengthens us

light - how holy light lifts, heals and strengthens us (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” — St Francis of Assisi

Light is here

One incandescent, invisible light
threads through our days like silver,
like a mercurial, rolling ribbon of life;

though matted by drifting cloud,
it has frequent glints of gold,
russet, rose, tangerine and indigo.

If you look up
you might find glimpses
of heaven itself, a pure light

altering with the hours
but never faltering
to shine on us.

When we experience the greyness
of mist and fog enveloping us
like a shroud, we can stay hopeful

that the sun still sits behind it all,
and will be revealed in glory again
when the mists have cleared.

And as you examine your days
you will be able to trace
the way light has arrived

in your life, in small slivers,
perhaps, in tiny amounts
but at just the right time.

Your darkness and weakness
can lift if you direct
your gaze toward the light

that surrounds you inside
and out with whispers
of holy grace and love.

Because our joy
doesn’t depend on things
or on our circumstances

but on knowing deep within
that we are seen, we are loved,
we matter to someone else.
© joylenton

“Grace comes into the soul, as the morning sun into the world; first a dawning; then a light; and at last the sun in his full and excellent brightness.” —Thomas Adams

light - sun - meadow - flowers - light is here poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

summer: the scent of it lives on in our memories

summer - roses - leaves - the joy of it lives on in our memories (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

A distinct shift. A change in the atmosphere. And grey, darkened skies linger, as rain and wind become the prominent feature of our days. This swansong of summer is predictably swimming in water because the UK tends to get a final flare of heat, followed by thunderstorms and a deluge of rain.

But we can still remember the golden days, the evocative scents, if we try. Let us think back or dig deep into our memories. I’m relying more on those childhood ones which always seem to stand out stronger than the others. Those endless, grace-laced summer days where anything felt possible and amusing ourselves was work enough to do.

“It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside.” — Maud Hart Lovelace

Concoction

In the garden, roses swell
like tea cups without handles,
frothy flowers eagerly spilling
over themselves, with some
drooping low to the ground.

I touch the tender petals,
marvel at their fragility,
while my stubby fingers
reach to pull them off—but only
the dying, little ones, of course.

Because I know my father
keeps a careful eye on
these, his pride and joy,
but my eyes are seeing
their potential for gathering.

Packing them tight into a jam jar,
heedless of the crush and mess,
ready to escort into our
house, to add some water.

A few drops. A shake. A finger
wet with shameful evidence
of rose gathering. A nose
wrinkling to try to catch the scent.

My homemade perfume
is faintly redolent
of summer hues, of grass
and leaves, with a slight
resemblance to a muddy brew.

Content and undeterred,
I dab, sniff, save, then rinse
this rose concoction once
again, and libate the waiting
ground with sudden rain.
© joylenton

summer - our garden nurturing us quote by Jenny Uglow @poetryjoy.com

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” — Henry James

I hope you have enjoyed my memoir poetry. What is the tail end of summer looking like for you? What special memories help to keep the scent, the lightness of it alive? I’d love you to share below. 🙂 ❤