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. 🙂 ❤

stilling: learning to love your ordinary life

stilling - choose joy - learning to love your ordinary life @poetryjoy.com

“This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.” — Maya Angelou

So often fear of change nibbles at our souls like a restless rat. It makes us fail to appreciate what we already have before us, right here, right now. I find myself falling into a dissatisfaction trap whenever I forget to live with mindful awareness and a joyful and grateful heart.

We can get so caught up in the challenges, fears and frustrating minutiae of life that we neglect to lift up our heads and appreciate where and how we are really situated. God is the giver of all good gifts, and He strews gifts of grace along each person’s daily pathway—but we need receptive eyes, stilled minds, and open hearts to see, sense and be thankful for them. 

Because each day presents us with an opportunity to taste joy, sense the marvellous in the mundane, express our gratitude, and give God praise for who He is and how He takes such great care of us. 

stilling - forest - trees - God is the giver of all good gifts quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“So much has been given to me; I have no time to ponder over that which has been denied.” — Helen Keller

Stilling

I hold my breath—as if I could
still the clock, hold back
the swinging seasons, perhaps,

call time on winter’s
cold, dark, muffled cloak,
the icy grip of SAD that sends
me to my inner knees.

Can I not simply
still time on this moment’s
pendulum, which I prefer

to those that have gone
before? Those lockdown
days, weeks and months
of great adaptation and change.

My mind (helpfully) reminds
me that nothing stays
the same. Each dull routine

still has to yield
to the unexpected,
the suddenness of the new
or the long neglected.

Yet something in me
feels as if I want
to remain rooted in Now,

to savour summer
before it segues into autumn,
get my fill of light, of warmth,
of hope, and snatches of joy.

Then another thing
comes to my remembrance,
and I muse on the way

each day has opportunity
to receive such gifts
if I remain receptive enough

to notice, and still
my heart to not reject them.
© joylenton

stilling - dandelion clock - stilling poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“As long as this exists, this sunshine and this cloudless sky, and as long as I can enjoy it, how can I be sad?” — Anne Frank

Although I frequently want to press pause on the moments I enjoy because they seem so fleeting, it isn’t a life of busy eventfulness I crave but a stilled, peaceful soul saturated in holy satisfaction, love and grace.  Keeping a daily gratitude journal helps us stay calm and content. Here are 3 things I’m grateful for:

  • having energy and focus enough to write this post
  • our tomatoes are greening at last, if not reddening yet
  • I prepared this before a scorching heatwave hit to fog my thoughts

What are you thankful for today, my friend? 🙂 ❤

wave: seeking to stay buoyant in life’s choppy waters

wave - beach - boots - sea - seeking to stay buoyant in life's choppy waters - (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you. You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them.” — Psalm 89:8-9 NIV

Each summer I yearn to go to the coast, inhale the ozone and watch waves rise, foam and fall. It would be such a soothing sight, calming and restorative to my soul. Who wouldn’t want to sit, observe (people-watch) and breathe in the view or swim and be cradled by lapping water and get wet through? Even a virtual non-swimmer like me relishes such thoughts.

Sadly, the limitations of having M.E and chronic illness, including impaired mobility, hypersensitivity to light, a pain-filled, uncooperative body that doesn’t cope well with exertion, humidity or heat, coupled with travel-induced fatigue, and Raynaud’s Syndrome causing shivers and blanching at the slightest sea breeze, make it rather problematical for me now.

Instead, I remember times past, decades ago, when I was able to enjoy watching waves without those restrictions. We spent several hot summer days on the local beaches, getting sand in our sandwiches, paddling or swimming in the sea, playing games with the children, and marvelling at our suntanned faces and limbs. Now I muse on waves as a poet might do because they have such great symbolism too.

waves - Who wouldn't want to sit, observe (people-watch) and breathe in the view or swim and be cradled by lapping water and get wet through_ quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

The wave we need

We are paddling furiously
as if it all depends on us,
not on the tide or the rhythm

of the sea. Fearing falling,
we forget to lean
into the waves, forget

to check our position
and what we might have
to depend on. Forget, too,

to relax our bodies
into suppleness,
cut ourselves some slack.

Instead, we waver,
like uncertain skittles,
wobble around,

choke, sink close
to drowning. Until we hear
a calming voice calling,

speaking softly
to our souls, then more
urgently than before. His voice

rises clearly above and cuts
across the choppy waters,
urging us to let him be

the wave we need, the support
to lift us when we fall, the one
who carries us effortlessly.
© joylenton

wave - “Perhaps this is the most important thing for me to take back from beach-living quote by Anne Morrow Lindbergh in Gift From the Sea @poetryjoy.com

If you, like me, would appreciate a reminder of hearing waves breaking on the seashore, maybe this short sea breathing technique video from former M.E sufferer, meditation  author and creative communicator  Liz Babbs will help, and relax your soul. 🙂 ❤

pilgrimage: a journey of faith, hope and trust when the going gets tough

pilgrimage - mountains and valleys - a journey of faith, hope and trust where stout shoes are required @poetryjoy.com

“Life is a pilgrimage. Each moment is to be lived in depth, because each moment contains God, hidden within it.” ― Banani Ray

pilgrimage - mountain top view - God never said that the journey would be easy quote by Max Lucado @poetryjoy.com

“Happy are those who are strong in the Lord, who want above all else to follow your steps. When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of springs where pools of blessing and refreshment collect after rains! They will grow constantly in strength, and each of them is invited to meet with the Lord in Zion.” ― Psalm 84: 5-7 TLB

When we’re struggling with life’s many challenges, and the road ahead looks steep, daunting and dark, we can still rest in the fact that God is with us every step of the way. He is always able to come to our aid, fill us with His peace, rescue and save.

God holds us close, pours out His love, gives us His mercy and grace, whispers solace to our souls, calms our fretful hearts, and encourages us every step of the way. May we hold onto that thought when we are weary and the going gets tough.

We might get to the end of our rope but we are always given the means and strength to cope and go on. When we go through deep waters, Jesus is the lifebelt we need to stay afloat.

Pilgrimage

this pilgrimage
this journey we are on
has its twists and turns
there are potholes and caves
places where we will be safe

we’ll face high crags
and mountainous terrain
for us to traverse
if our shoes are stout enough
and we refuse to give up

endure the desert
barren, dry, dusty places
where our feet will burn
and our souls become parched
as hope dips low in our hearts

we might get to swim
in refreshing ocean depths
in purer air
calmer waters than before
glimpsing sight of land and shore

let us not give up
when heavy tests and trials come
when life gets tough
but hang in and hold on tight
victorious in the fight
© joylenton

pilgrimage - desert island - beach - poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

God dries our tears when we cry, comforts us when we’re anxious and afraid, and gives us His Hope in the darkest circumstances of our Christian pilgrimage. We can fully trust in Him, as in the song below. May it bring you hope, my friend. ❤

“When You don’t move the mountains
I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters 
I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers
As I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You”

― Trust in You by Lauren Daigle

hope: listening for the sound of hope in your soul

hope - blackbird singing on a tree - listening for the sound of hope in your soul @poetryjoy.com

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words — And never stops at all.” — Emily Dickinson

Notes of hope

A blackbird’s throaty warble
rises above the voices
on the street, making conversation

because we’re all hungry
for company, for solace,
even at two metres apart.

But I’m listening more
to the notes of hope and joy,
bringing a reminder
that this too shall pass,

time will move on as it
always does, and we will return
to a new normality at last.

My solitary blackbird
friend has no soul companions
but it doesn’t deter him

from belting out his song,
from shrugging off the sadness
because he’s on his own.

He is staying put—for now,
to bring cheer to our hearts,
hope for the housebound
and isolated, while he sings

of spring, of life and birth, burgeoning
earth, of newness, of growth and hope
continuing beyond this moment.
© joylenton

hope - blackbird on a garden fence - notes of hope poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” — Corrie Ten Boom

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.” 🙂

confident: gaining the courage to write by faith

confident - gaining the courage to write by faith @poetryjoy.comCan I tell you a secret, friend? Listen close and I’ll whisper it to you: I’m not a confident person. Not. At. All. Just ask my family. Although I wrote reams of poetry in my late teens and 20s, shared them in church magazines and had a few published, any belief in myself vanished soon after.

Because I splintered inside after a major mental health breakdown. It took years of cooperating with God and counsellors to slowly piece myself back together again. But some things went missing. Including my ability to write like I used to.

My creativity became diverted into mothering and making a home. The writer inside lost her voice. She died for years. And it wasn’t until one of my sons began to write poetry himself and started a blog that my poetic fire was reawakened, if not the courage to begin again.

Thankfully, God (and family) gave me the impetus, courage and confidence to make a start. Now I can write about personal stuff in a public sphere and don’t get too anxious before I press publish. Because I’ve learnt to trust. To believe words will come as and when they need to. To rest my shaky confidence in God alone, while seeking to exercise the gift He has given me to share.

And I want to encourage you too. Especially if you’re at the hesitant stage of wondering if you dare release your words. If timid old me can do that quite happily, manage two blogs, write a book and be working on my next, then so can you. Or something similar, of course.

As we ask for God’s help, and trust it to come, we’re enabled to take the first step forward and so on. Your calling might look very different from mine, and that’s okay. Our part is to stay faithful to the unique-to-us gifting we have been given.

Courage to write

Thank you for the gift and grace
of newly formed words
taking shape in my head,
for the wisdom you give to decide
which to retain or reject,
what to discard or include
in a future work.

Thank you for these fledgling things,
these tiny chicks
with tender covering and barely
formed wings, these baby steps
towards a mature offering
and the joy they already bring.

Thank you for providing insight
and inspiration to my mind
and the courage to write,
the confidence that comes
from knowing you are on my side,
giving grace and giving light.

Thank you for the community
of fellow wordsmiths, who dip
their toes into the water with mine,
and for the love and concern we share,
the hopes, dreams and prayers.

Thank you for reminding me
of my place
in this vast ocean of creativity,
the smallness of it,
but how each tiny offering is
magnified and reaches all
who need to see and receive.

Thank you, too, for the dry seasons
when I lack energy, strength
or inspiration to create,
because then I sense you holding
me closer than before, while I rest,
become refreshed and restored.
© joylenton

confident - courage to write poem excerpt (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

PS: Another little secret: I wrote this poem a while back. It took more than five minutes but I’m sharing it in response to this week’s five-minute-friday prompt of “confident”. You’re welcome to join in here and read the great variety of posts being shared.  🙂

begin: for when you can’t quite hit the new year running

begin - for when you can't quite hit the new year running - @poetryjoy.com

Dear reader, I’m curious about something: did you hit the new year running, eagerly embracing resolutions, ready for the new and the next, planning and pushing ahead to your heart’s content? If so, that’s great and I rather envy you. 😏

Or are you more like me: crawling on your knees, flattened with illness and fatigue, and sighing because January finds you less than fit and able? The latter? Please raise  or vaguely wave your weary arm in my direction. It’s good to know we’re not alone.

For years, without fail, I’ve always succumbed to flu or a heavy cold before the Christmas and New Year celebrations are over. Each January I’m hugging the duvet, coughing into my pillow and barely surfacing.

Sadly it’s not due to enjoying myself, but because I have a faulty, inefficient immune system that easily succumbs to viruses and overexertion of any kind. I keep hoping things will improve. But they haven’t. Not yet.

Experience has taught me to listen and act on the information I hear from my depleted body. Namely to rest and take care of myself. Because trying to press on in the face of increasing debility has never been a good plan for me. It only exacerbates my pre-existing chronic conditions.

One thing that never stops being active and running like a mad thing is my mind, even when my body stills due to increased sickness. Yours too, perhaps? It chunters on like it’s got something really important to process, while my weakened body is trying to shush it into silent, restful submission.

begin - god replenishes, restores and revives quote (c)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

And I’ve been mulling over what to write. How do we begin again when we’re feeling lethargic, muddy-headed or uninspired? The wonder is that whenever our well, our energy, inspiration or abilities run dry, we only need to ask and God replenishes, restores and revives our limited supplies. And we can begin again with Him any time we need to.

The poem below came to me as I was resting. May it speak to all who are in the throes of illness or lack creative inspiration. I’m also rejoicing that my current ailment seems to be more of a persistent cold than full-blown flu this time. Hooray! Progress!

Writer’s woes

I want to begin
make a mark on this page
this year
on the lives of others
with my thoughts and words

I don’t know how
to begin to write a thing
without assistance
because my brain is muffled
and my thoughts are befuddled

I am uncertain
wondering how to choose
what will speak
louder than my husky voice
of love and grace, hope and faith

in the end
all I have is willing hands
empty though they be
just waiting to be filled
before a drop can be spilled

holy whispers
encourage me to start
right where I am
with surrender, trust and truth
as inspiration filters through
© joylenton

begin - writer's woes poem excerpt - new year (c)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Praise God for gifting this snuffly writer with something to say when she felt empty! Hopefully normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. 😉 Do let me know how you are, especially if you’re also below par, and we can pray for one another.

Never forget that rest, recovery and healing are vital soul and body work. You and I might begin this year slow like tortoises but we can still end strong by the grace of God. With love and virtual (germ-free) hugs to you. xo 💜

one: encouraging incidences of the number one

one _ encouraging incidences of the number one - magpie on the edge (C)joylenton @poetryjoy.com

So many of us mistakenly think that our lives don’t amount to much. We wonder if we make any mark on the world at all, or if we simply exist as lost and invisible souls. No more than a fleeting mist or blip in the universe.

Can I encourage you today, my friend? Can I help you to see past the easily swallowed lies of the enemy? Because the holy truth you need to hold on to is that you are infinitely important and precious. Yes, you really are. Despite what your unhappy upbringing, challenging circumstances or painful past might be saying to you, you are very much loved and wanted by God.

The mathematics of heaven are totally different to the arithmetic of earth. Here, one as a number seems too small, too insignificant to count. But in heaven? One person, one act or thought becomes highly significant in God’s economy.

one - Mother Teresa quote - “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” @poetryjoy.com

Here’s what I have discovered:

  • A word of encouragement can turn a day, if not a life around.
  • A whispered prayer can summon angels, demolish evil strongholds, heal and bless souls.
  • A thoughtful act can alter a person’s perspective for life.
  • A kind deed has the power to sow kindness seeds in others.
  • A single person can become a precursor for change.
  • A solo individual is never as alone as they may feel.

Incidences of the number one

We have one solo magpie,
one solitary bird,
quite happy in his loneliness

as he sits upon the tiles,
gracing our neighbour’s rooftop
edge with his dancing moves.

And we have one small child,
who lives across the street from

us, whose smiles and constant
chatter are like joy personified.

We also have one precious grandson in
our lives, who gives us deep soul delight.

And there’s far more than one chance to live
aright in this one wild and glorious life.

But most of all, I am grateful to know
the One who holds the world within his
hands, who spins planets and stars and

pours his grace out on one and all, with
joyous abundance and exuberance.

For he spreads his arms cruciform-wide
to encompass every nation and tribe.

And he treats each and every one of us
as his precious, esteemed and redeemed
child – one who is unconditionally loved.
© joylenton

We may feel inadequate and small but we can still have an influence and make a difference in the lives of others. Don’t let thoughts of lack deter you from pressing forward in life and faith. You count. 

I’m grateful to be sharing my poetic thoughts with the fabulous five-minute-friday community today. Just click here to join us there. 🙂 

one - Mother Teresa quote _We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop._ @poetryjoy.com

seagulls: seeking to trust in God’s provision for us

Living within driving distance of the sea means that we often have times when there’s an invasion of seagulls inland, especially when it’s inclement weather where they live or they just feel like spreading their wings.

They make a racket as they fly everywhere, hoping we’re going to be as generous providers of sustenance as their seaside audience are. Little do they know that we’re unlikely to be a good source of food for them, unless they scavenge our leavings.

It’s like the seagulls don’t quite trust they’ll be taken care of. Do birds actually forget that God makes sure they are fed? They have no need to fret. And does some of that doubt creep into our own souls as we hunger after things only God can supply?

“And the food became known as “manna” (meaning “What is it?”); it was white, like coriander seed, and flat, and tasted like honey bread.” – Exodus 16:31 TLB

Maybe we just need to remind ourselves of how wonderfully God has provided for us in the past to stir us toward intentional noticing and being thankful for all we receive today.

“He fed you with manna in the wilderness (it was a kind of bread unknown before) so that you would become humble and so that your trust in him would grow, and he could do you good.” – Deuteronomy 8:16 TLB

Seagull-minded

Are we seagull-minded, screeching and squawking over
one small crust of bread, as though that was all we had
and we’re worried we won’t be fed?

Do we not remember how God provided daily manna
in the wilderness, and how he never leaves his children
wanting, weary or downcast?

Have we forgotten how he lifts the weary and seeks out
the lost, giving us his strength and help when we are weak
and mending our broken hearts?

Are our minds dulled and negligent in considering God’s
magnificent provision for everything, and just how much
we need his presence and his touch?

Maybe we require a shift in our thinking so we don’t sink
into discouragement but are instead encouraged by his
word, and thankful our prayers are heard

Then our souls would veer into an attitude of gratitude
that lifts and sustains us, and treasure each slide into
deeper dependence and trust
© joylenton

“Jesus replied, ‘I am the Bread of Life. No one coming to me will ever be hungry again. Those believing in me will never thirst.'” – John 6:35 TLB