Saturday, 28 February 2015

When creativity lies dormant

Words sing in my spirit, seeking their exit. Ready to explode upon the page. 

I hug some close, for now is not their time. They must lie dormant and wait a while.

A poetry anthology (or 2) sit on the back-burner, simmering slow.

A set of prayer whispers and devotional prayers lie stagnant.  

A memoir meanders round my head, only partly started. Will I be here to complete it?

I sit impatient, twiddling my thumbs at my ineptitude and inability to complete those things I long to bring forth. 

God whispers:Everything has its moment to arise and be seen. Not yet.. patient a while longer.

All that is within me cries out "Really?", until I remember how seeds lie dormant before they burst into glorious life, how ground seems dead and fallow until it is ploughed.

Watching while others gain their harvest can be painful. 

Waiting for God to say "Yes" to us can seem endless, can't it?

I feel my years slipping as sand and wonder why it takes so long to see fruit appearing.

Once again, I sense a holy reminder of how much fruit is invisible to us, but He knows.

He knows how to shape the things we create until they are ready to be a blessing.

He knows who needs to read our words, receive our art, and when they should be shared.

He knows how things that seem ready to us still require His refining touch.

And He's more interested in growing Holy Spirit fruit in our lives than making sure we see tangible evidence of the works of our hands.

They will have their day. Even if all looks barren and bleak, cold as ice and deep as snow.

New life, new birth returns to earth after winter's chill, after long periods of seeming inactivity.

So will our work, our words, our creativity rise anew when God breathes His life into them and whispers, "Now".

A tiny germ of life beats slow
beneath frozen depths of snow
Unseen by mere mortal eyes
it sits patient, waiting to rise

Heeding the call, clear and deep,
shaking off sonorous sleep
it pushes its way through icy ground
blanketed by silence all around

Drawn out of shadows dark
into earth hostile and stark
Arising in white fragile purity
A reminder of new birth breaking free

The same is true of our hopes and dreams, goals and schemes.

If they are God-given ones, then they will rise strong at Just The Right Time ~ His timing.

I know I've felt stagnant and stalled, stuck in the mud lately, mainly due to the daily health challenges I face and the weariness they bring.

Your reasons may differ. What we will have in common is a great desire to unleash our creativity and have it positively impact the lives of others.

And as I ponder these things, I actually sense God asking me to pull back from sharing my words here (and on 'Poetry Joy'), just for a while.

To let them deliberately lay dormant. To desist for a bit from sharing them on a blog. 

Because He knows things, you see.. He knows how much I need to lean into Him this Lenten season, to rest and recover energy and strength, to become restored, refreshed, revitalised by His Spirit. 

Am I giving in gracefully? Surrendering with serenity?

Hmm.. a little, although those insidious people-approval issues and "What ifs?" make this a hard choice for me, albeit a necessary one.

My priorities are to draw closer to God, regain some needful health and strength and be more available to my family.

While I am away (having some extra catnaps Zzz...), please feel free to dig into the archives, especially if you are new around here. I hope and pray you will come away blessed and encouraged by what you read.

I will continue scribbling out my words, and some may even find their way onto my Facebook page in the interim should God inspire and equip me to share them.

Maybe you're in a season of hibernation, sitting out a time when sap will rise again?

Take heart, friend. God isn't finished with you yet. While we have life and breath we are on active service in His kingdom. Age and circumstance are no barrier in His eyes.

One day, it will be your time and your turn and your work will have the audience it deserves. Hang on in hope. Our God is faithful.

God bless you all until we meet again. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Feel free to leave a comment or prayer request here. Love, Joy :) <3

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

A friend in need

Sometimes God answers a prayer you didn't pray.

In becoming the answer to another person's prayer, we can find our own needs addressed in ways we least expected.

It happened to me a few months ago.

The Philosopher (husband/carer/general dogsbody) and I found our health problems escalating over the last year and his ability to care for me/the household exponentially diminishing.

We felt overwhelmed and drowning, so we sought help and support from our church.

Before very long, it became clear that there was no-one both able and willing to come to our aid.

Finally, a casual conversation the Philosopher had with a friend brought a possible solution.

His wife was lonely and in need of close Christian fellowship and friendship with someone near at hand. She was also pretty nifty with an iron, vacuum cleaner and duster ~ hooray!

The couple called round unexpectedly one day to state their intent.

It was after lunch. I'd made it downstairs but I was feeling exhausted, wearing my oldest PJ's, hair awry, in need of a shower, and decidedly discomfited to be seen in such a mess.

I knew the husband pretty well but his 'late-in-life-God's-gift-of-a-wife' was almost a stranger to me. 

However, she was charming, kind and concerned. We decided to make arrangements and see how things went.

I thought if she'd already seen me (and the house) at our worst, then there wasn't much left to be concerned about, was there?

A few months down the line, and I am awed and amazed at how well it has all turned out.

Despite our different nationalities, culture, language, experiences and expectations we clicked straight away. Deep at heart, where it all counts, we are soul sisters in Christ.

Both of us know what it's like to be wounded (yes, even by fellow believers), to feel marginalised, ostracised, rejected and lonely.

Both of us needed a close, spiritual, giving and receiving, prayerful faith-sharing relationship, only she had been fervently asking for it and I was unaware of my need until I had it.

We came together cautiously and soon became good friends. Our common ground far outweighs our differences, fascinating as they are.

She knows I am an unreliable friend in terms of making definite arrangements to get together. But it's always worth it when we do, even if no housework gets done.

Although all forms of communication in general drain me considerably and have to be a paced event, our sharing time can vanish in a flash because it feeds my spirit and energises me briefly to be in her company.

She is a calming influence, a prayer support, an encourager and a great reminder of God's love and grace.

The main topic of conversation is our life with God, His goodness, mercy and amazing love, especially in the midst of life's challenges.

If you'd asked me a few months ago if I needed another female friend I would probably have said No. 

My life seemed full, rich maybe with such friends... even if the great majority are on social media due to the limitations of living with M.E and being largely housebound.

But in answering my need for help in the home, God allowed me to answer her need for friendship.

Nothing beats having a Jesus-with-skin-on real life friend and soul companion. They are precious indeed.

There may be more new friends to come who I have yet to meet, because who ever has enough genuine friends or grows out of the need to be a true friend for others?

That's the wonder of God. He knows our inmost needs before we're capable of giving them shape or thought. He is a friend in need and our best Friend indeed. 

And those inner heart cries for help? The ones we fail to voice? We can be reassured He hears, records and answers every word.

Not all answers are as unexpected as mine was, nor swift either. But we can trust God's heart even when His hand seems slow to save.

Don't give up hope, my friend. God is well aware of your needs...yes, even the most practical and prosaic ones..and will meet them in His own way and timing as you wait upon Him. 

Over to you:**How has God answered a prayer in an unexpected way for you? 

                  Have you had a new friend come into your life when you least expected it?**

Please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.Your words matter. I love to hear from you, even if I may be slow to reply sometimes.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Awakening to potential

A quivering occurs deep in our souls. An inviting ripple on the waters, an opportunity to stretch our wings and fly free.

This one won't go away. It resurfaces when we least expect it.

Our lives are about to change and we run scared instead of running toward it with open arms.

Not all of us can greet change with cheer, or equanimity at least.

It feels unsettling, ground shifting, mould-breaking, day-defining and life-liberating all at once.

It calls for a new challenge, a new level we feel unprepared for.

So we quake. Even if we know those soft spoken sounds are Holy Spirit sighs.

I'm in a time of transition, waiting to walk into a more spacious place emotionally and spiritually. It requires recognition of what's being said, and response to all God is currently asking of me.

And, truth be told, I. Don't. Feel. Ready. I want to rewind time to one of blissful ignorance.

Those urgings are calling me out of a place of seeming safety, a place where I was bound but couldn't see it, and leading me into the Light, into Truth, into freedom, into God's presence and rest.

The slumbering season is over. Our souls need to wake up to the potential all around. When God is speaking, we do well to listen.

He gentles us forward saying this isn't all or nothing, impetuous crash and burn; this is a slow growth in the right direction as I lead and guide you. This is a warming to My words, an inner alertness to My voice, a gradual unfolding of My plans for you. Trust Me to keep you, to hold you safe throughout.

Maybe you're in this unsettling place too? 

Hearing and trying not to heed it?

We can be deep-bone weary from all types of pain, yet strangely wary and reluctant to move away from its suffocating embrace if it means treading into new territory.

Because what we know, what we are familiar with feels like home to us, however dark it may be in reality. Our pain is our pain. We live and move and have our being in it, don't we?

Actually no. We live and move and have our being in God. He is our Strength, our Hope, our Deliverer and Healer

Healing frequently comes in stages, by degrees, by unloosening, yielding and surrender rather than by sudden illumination and ability to receive it.

I've had God close some powerful doors in my life recently, doors which I'd inadvertently opened to the enemy when I was younger in years and understanding.

Once he has been denied access to areas he has tormented us in for years, the enemy will do everything in his power to try and regain that territory.

Doubt, fear and unbelief insinuate a way in, wrapping their tentacles around our souls. We need to guard our hearts, wear the full armour of God and be vigilant.

We have a spiritual battle on our hands and a continual need to reaffirm our new position, make declarations of faith from God's Word and sow seeds of positivity into areas that were always negative before.

Yes, we rest secure on the promises of God, but we also have our part to play in holding on to our healing and deliverance.

It's hard work but it will be so worthwhile to see results, to be prepared for The Next Big Thing God wants to do in your life and mine.

Some days I feel scared of transition and transformation. When we've believed lies for years, then our minds have to slowly become renewed by the Word and our hearts grow strong in faith.

Here's a prayer for all who are where I am now, or sense they soon will be. Let's begin to embrace hope, embrace the light, and embrace joy in knowing we are already victorious in Christ.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

A fresh perspective

Not many of my childhood memories are viewed through a warm sepia-lens hue. Most shade to grey, blur into dark images I prefer not to examine too closely.

I remember this moment though, because new toys (yes, even a piggy bank money-box) were rare and usually saved for Christmas or birthday, but this was an unexpected summer gift and I was keen to show it off. 

So I sat proud on the lawn my father lavished great attention to, midst the scent of roses and buzz of honey bees, grinning unselfconsciously for a change.

Recollections aren't always reliable. A hint remains:a shade, a shadow, a stain, a scent, a touch too much.

Feelings capture more than a camera can. Haunt us down the corridors of years.

When Bonnie asked us to "picture yourself as a little girl with Jesus. How do you picture her and what is she doing? How does she feel? What does she want?" I began to back away from revisiting the past, a country where I fervently wished my visa had expired but which pervaded the present.

We were also asked to express what was on our mind and heart to Jesus. Tell it all to Him. Look into His eyes and be aware He is listening. I gulped, prayed and spent some time sitting with Jesus.

This was the result:

"I'm sitting on a wooden bench in our garden at home, wriggling a bit because of the splinters. Jesus is right beside me. I am looking wistfully into the distance, feeling sad and alone. As I turn to face Jesus I share how I've forgotten how to play and enjoy my life. There feels a heavy weight on my heart, like a dark cloud is suffocating all the joy out of me.

Jesus smiles, takes my hand and passes something to me. My eyes light up at the sight of a jar of bubbles, and I look up at Him curiously. He encourages me to open the lid and blow some bubbles at the sky. So I do. 

And they grow huge even as they float with ease and care-free abandon. I can't help but smile back at Him now.

He points to a dark cloud partly obscuring the sun. We watch together as a giant bubble rises, gathers momentum, nudges into the cloud and pops it softly. I gasp, laugh and Jesus joins in. 

'Look', He says, 'Your cares and concerns overshadow your days like that dark cloud and it feels like no heat, light or warmth is reaching you. It makes you sad and steals the joy out of your life. But I offer you joy unspeakable and full of glory, life and vitality. All you need to do is ask Holy Spirit to blow on your wand of faith, and joy will rise like this bubble. And instead of the bubble being broken by the air pressure all around, you will see the dark clouds disperse and sun will fill and flood your day again'

I begin to feel warm all over as a glow spreads from inside my tummy outwards. The air shimmers and I shield my eyes against the brilliance of rainbow-coloured flares. However, doubts still surge through my child-like heart as I long to trust and believe, but have to voice my fears first. 

'Where will you be, Jesus? And what happens if the sky stays cloudy?' He tilts my chin toward His sweet face and I look into the most tender, loving gaze I've ever seen. His voice whispers deep to my toes and reverberates through the sun's haze as He reminds me that He's always right here beside me, and says no cloud will ever cover up His Light, for it shines even in darkness.

I'm to expect Him to brighten up each day whenever I seek His face, and to look for the rainbow appearing after stormy skies have passed by. That will be a sign of His promise to restore life, light, colour and joy to my world once again."

And I did have times of blowing bubbles as a child, enjoying their tactile magic. In the image above I'm overshadowing my twin sister and cousin as I hog the bubble-blowing, sitting on the edge of the bench in my eagerness to make them go higher and further.

I also remember my mother using a green bar of 'Fairy' soap as she scrubbed laundry stains, causing lather bubbles for us to wonder at, as well as concentrated 'Fairy liquid' washing-up liquid agitated into lovely, multi-coloured rainbow foam-squirts sparkling in the sink.

Those memories are given a fresh perspective from the lens of age and grace. 

If my parents were usually overly busy, anxious, stressed, angry, neglectful and dysfunctional custodians, they were also able to relax and be surprisingly attentive ~ if only for split seconds, mere moments in time, brief precious periods in my personal history.

Yet is is those positive snapshots I am choosing to cling to as I walk with God along the path of healing my wounded emotions, one tiny, faltering step at a time. 

Each grey day can have a better outlook in His eyes as He helps us to see His continually reassuring presence through it all, to rest in His provision even In This

Because God knows us intimately; He sees all we go through in the span of our lives and knows the truth of who we can become in relationship with Him.

My recollections were stirred by reading 'Finding Spiritual Whitespace:Awakening Your Soul To Rest' by Bonnie Gray. 

Confession:I have been stopping and starting this book over the last few months because it is working soul deep and re-visiting childhood pain again is, well, pretty painful. Now, I sense God calling me to persevere with it and allow Him to awaken me fully to how I can rest my restless, anxious soul more in Him. 

You can read this truly helpful book as I'm doing, quietly, slowly and privately by yourself, dipping in and out as needed, or alongside others in Bonnie's book club on her Facebook page.

Over to you:

How do you feel as you look back on your childhood? 

Have you been given a fresh perspective on it as you've grown older?

Joining with other writing friends at these grace-filled places:

Bonnie ~ Beloved Brews

Holley ~ Coffee for Your Heart

Jennifer ~ Tell His Story

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Moving toward the light

I'd woken early that day, managed to catch the first tentative rays of incipient dawn breaking into the grey leaden gloom of a winter morn.

My soul was soothed by the sight of sky sighing out its pale-rose beauty.

Marvelling anew at the glory signs, my thoughts tumbled out in these poetic lines:

"Early morn
Earth speaks
with whisper
Dawn of a new day
Soft skies yawn
Make way
for silver streaks
of muted grey"

So far, Winter has wrapped itself round me like a duvet, a smothering, muffling cover. 

It's been an invitation to rest, to sleep, to recover from a month of being flu-filled, bed and housebound, hibernating and waiting for a semblance of life to return to these weary bones.

Though, no matter how weak and worn we may feel, God is always whispering through each day to ears, eyes and heart ready to receive His voice.

In the natural, my own morning-misted eyes see poorly with the softened, blurry, distorted vision of myopia, but my inner spiritual lenses enable me to see life more clearly.

I can see and sense enough to grasp that here lies invitation to embrace new beginnings, a new day, a new season, a new perspective even if only faintly seen and understood. 

Sometimes, we yearn to bring things into brighter focus, at others we are glad to see imperfectly.

Maybe prefer to turn our faces to the wall, hide in the dark, bury ourselves in anything rather than looking with a clear-eyed gaze at all that fills our lives, and all that lies beyond our current state of knowing.

We feel like we can barely handle the minutes before us, never mind hours, days, weeks or months. And who knows what the future may hold?

Life can weigh heavy and tip us sideways. It can be a real effort to remain stable.

I've felt like that lately. Have hardly had the wherewithal to face the day, let alone the next, and so on. Each one bleeding slow into another, seeping away into dark corridors of sickness and pain.

And now? I have been resting beneath the shadow of Abba Father's wings, pausing to be at peace, to receive all the comfort and protection I need from the One whom no foe can withstand. 

Externally, wintry weather persists, but internally I feel like I'm having an early Spring, a surfacing of sorts, a moving toward the light.

Hope is rising. There is (finally!) far more to life than a bed full of soggy tissues, the smell of eucalyptus and menthol permeating the air, painkillers, throat soothers and hot lemon drinks (with honey) at hand.

There is a future to this year beyond influenza. God is healing me, slowly but perceptibly. Some measure of strength and energy is returning ~ hooray!

As I come alive to life again, I have a deep gratitude for being able to breathe easy, to sniff scents other than medicinal ones, to eat with some appetite and without food tasting like cotton-wool, to have a voice that isn't always too croaky to have a conversation, or ears too blocked to hear.

My mind is ready to read a bit more, to begin to think clearly, to focus, prepare for the new things God wants to reveal to me.

Yes, I will still need to rest, pace and pause from too much interaction or busyness of mind and body to avoid relapsing. That's a given for someone with M.E and chronic illness. 

I won't stop learning more about being thankful, recording the positive in the midst of adversity, seeing God's hand at work in the everyday minutiae and being grateful for small mercies.

Because they are always there. We don't always need to put glasses on or contact lenses in to see them. He finds a way to make things clear when we look to Him and ask Him to make our hearts tender and receptive.

Dependency and weakness may feel challenging to our independent souls, whereas they can become the very vehicles God uses to reveal His goodness and grace to us most of all, an opening to deeper knowing.

"My grace is enough; it's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness" ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9 (The Message) 

Over to you

How has God manifested His grace and strength to you recently?
Have you been able to see God's hand at work in your trials and tribulations?

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Plumbing the depths

Just a few simple words. Nothing more, nothing less.

Sometimes, that's all it takes to make or mar a day. A drop here and there.

When words rise to our pool of consciousness and hover a while close to the surface, it is well worth asking God if these are ones He wants us to pay particular attention to.

Although God mainly speaks through Scripture, He also invites us gently to notice our lives, heed the world's sounds, and hear Him in the everyday, e.g via books, blogs, poetry, music, films and the spoken word.

These had a life of their own, shimmering with vibrancy like ripples in a pond spreading wide to touch others.

My breath caught as they reached to my core. Here were words to confirm the 'word' I'd received for 2015 and set me thinking soul-deep.

They came from a new book, 'Centering Prayers:A One Year Daily Companion for Going Deeper into the Love of God' by Peter Traben Haas.

These words (underlined) were part of a contemplation:"I begin the year with the simplicity of silence. Resting in you, I become myself again" which were simple but profound, with echoes of eternity in them.

As I pondered their significance, I reflected how my early life experience had already revealed the world to be a place where I invariably felt lost, drowning under the weight of expectations and pressures, splintered and fractured, fragile and out of sync.

To have a chance of becoming and feeling whole (and safe) again, I needed to connect to God. And I feel so blessed He called me to faith as a late teenager so I could spend all my adult life getting to know Him. 

Because, not only do we find God the Father in relationship with Jesus, we also find our true selves.

Become more fully human and fully alive than ever before.

Become more truly who God created us to be, beautiful in Him.

Function more freely with the flexibility of grace.

Fulfil God's greater plans and purposes for our lives as we co-labour with Him.

Discover our full potential.

Embrace our new identity In Christ.

Waken to our worth as God's beloved child.

See ourselves, via eyes of faith, as already healed, restored, beloved and forgiven.

Rest in the knowledge of being united with The One who knows us inside out and loves us just the same ~ even as He's transforming us from the inside out.

In some inexplicable way we grow to become more like Jesus as we learn to live and abide in Him on a daily basis.

Yet, amazingly, we also become more of ourselves, more true to the essence of God's intended blueprint for us.

All this from one line or two, just a few words? Yes, indeed. Words have power to change a life.

And I wouldn't mind guessing that I have only touched on a small fraction of what it means to "become myself again" as I rest in Him. 

Many words have been inspiring my soul lately as God has been speaking to me, and I'm sitting with them for a while before sharing, letting them rest in me and do their work.

Because I have all year (a lifetime?) to plumb the depths, to mine for treasure and discover the riches of resting in God.

And you, dear reader, can learn along with me as we share the journey of faith together.

Linking here with BonnieJennifer and friends

Over to you:

What words have greatly impacted your life recently?
How hard do you find it to see yourself as God sees you?

Please feel free to join in with the comments below. I really appreciate your input. Your words matter. Thank you.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Painting beauty with ashes

I sat on the bed, desultorily dusting the few objects I could cope with while my energetic friend breezed her way around the room, almost knocking things over in her enthusiasm to get the job done.

Our soul conversation more than made up for any lack of application on my part.

She grinned as I pointed out the family photos, recalling births, marriages and proud family moments in my life.

And we pondered on the passing of time turning me from young woman to grandma and her to wife.

Finally, she reached a set of drawers where much paraphernalia is stored.

Pulling at them one by one, I revealed their contents and why they'd sat neglected for many years.

Here lay gifts from family and friends to aid my creativity. Long before I painted pictures with words I put pencil, brush and paint to paper for another purpose.

I drew, sketched, dabbled with pastels, felt-tip pens, ink and coloured pencils, painted with water-colours.

Here lay treasure, if only I could remember how to mine for it again.

Somewhere along the way I lost my true self, and the hope of my beloved family and friends was that these things might somehow 'restore me' again.

The very real fear of failure kept me captive to all but creativity.

Captive to shame. Captive to deep emotional pain. Captive to the past. Captive to fear itself.

How could I risk further proof of my incapability? This would only be evidence of shame and failure once again.

So these gifts were received with a shy, watery smile, tried out briefly then placed together in this cabinet, pushed away out of sight and out of mind.

I sighed at the waste but believed it to be confirmation of my ineptitude.

Now, what to do? As I marvelled over this unexpected treasure trove I felt a pang in my heart. And a 'What if?'

What if I actually dared myself to try again, to pick up these parts of me, dust them down and use them for the purpose they were created for?

Prior to opening and revealing the contents I would have felt it was a 'no go' area, a Pandora's Box to steer well clear of.

Who knows what it would unleash? Most likely guilt and sadness. 

But what if also freed up a fresh wave of hope and optimism? A desire to start again?

Maybe you have a similar drawer or space like this in your life to reclaim?

Maybe the enemy of our souls has persuaded you it's too late, it's time to move on?

Maybe there's an emptiness inside where creativity seems to have died?

I thought my creativity was lost until I began expressing it writing poetry and prose on a blog, and taking snapshot images to make memory markers of my days. It feeds my soul to read, to write, to capture, to create. 

So, have I picked up where I left off, brandished brushes and pottered around with paint?

Erm... not quite. This uncovering occurred a few weeks ago and I've been in the throes of flu for almost a month. But I am determined to make a start when energy and inspiration are there.

There have been too many years sitting by while creativity slowly died, too much time already wasted to want to waste another second.

All it takes is the ability to be willing to start over again. I'm trusting God to help me with the rest.

We can allow God to paint beauty with the ashes of our lives as we busy ourselves being creative.

The same is true for you too. As we venture forth in faith God leads and guides us into the places where we can be most effective for him and become all He intends us to be.

Sometimes He will sit and smile as we make progress; sometimes He will point out the way ahead, maybe instruct us how to add a touch here or there, and sometimes He might just hand us the brush to paint new things on the canvas of our lives.

I've got my metaphorical brush in my shaky hands. In time (not too long, I hope) I will wield it again and lose myself in the art of making art with my life.

Are you ready to wield yours too? Willing to become open as a child again? 

Revisit the art room as eagerly as we did before we got too grown up and self-conscious. Become reacquainted with our inner selves and the expression of them.

Let's learn to press pause on perfectionism. See beauty in all we're still becoming.

The reassuring thing is, God still approves of us no matter what mess we make. He gives grace upon grace to start over again.

Our task is to see ourselves as already pre-approved, rest in believing we're beloved Just As We Are. Because that's a beautiful thing in His sight.

Linking here with Bonnie, Holley, Jennifer and friends as we share what feeds our soul, provides coffee for our heart, and encourages us as we live out our faith in the telling of His story.