Monday, 21 July 2014

Tasting normality

Today, I pick and eat fresh home-grown strawberries, collect a few dwarf green beans, dig nails into soil, bend knees, stoop low to ground to tug dead leaves off living green.

And despite the debilitating stiffness and pain pervading my body as it resists these exertions, it feels right and good to be alive, sitting close to earth with its juice running down my chin. 

Lounging in the garden, book propped open, birds chirruping and insects buzzing. Senses alert to loveliness surrounding me, scents assailing with their sweet freshness.

I breathe deep and easy, relaxed in sun's inviting warmth, a soft breeze playing with my hair, no worries, no cares.

Noises sound from afar as children raise voices and adults admonish and comfort in turn.

Resting, yet strangely more alive and alert inside than I've felt for a long while, it seems like holy ground as I touch base, touch reality, touch the healing hem of His garment spread to ground, and revel in sights and sounds to soothe the soul. 

Lift my eyes, tilt face and enjoy a gift of grace.

Here is normality I crave with all the yearning of an addict desperate for their next fix. An afternoon where I am well enough to spend a few minutes outside and pretend that this is what I usually do, when the reality is very different.

Much of my life is lived behind closed doors, housebound, confined and constrained, circumscribed with pain.

In listening to my life there is a continual background refrain, a hissed whisper of pressure to perform, to be as 'busy' as continual low energy and profound fatigue will allow, to be 'out there', to be seen and heard.

People approval issues still haunt my days with all their persuasive ways, but I am resisting it all....for now.

I'm just too exhausted to expend precious energy in that direction. Too weary to worry and so much in need of a rest that I can resist the call to action.

My mind is on a break from listening to those messages and it's taking a vacation to soak in grace, become revived and restored by God's peace, listen more deeply to His voice.

There is an increased desire in hot, sultry weather to seek leisure and a change from the norm. Our bodies and souls crave it and we desperately need a slowing down of pace.

Normality is subjective and will vary greatly for each one of us, depending on age, occupation, situation, health and routine.

Now, as I come to the end of my break I am seeing a shift change.

My new normality is starting to shape itself like this:
  • Making a gradual return to social media/blogging and resisting the lure of joining in everything all at once.
  • Viewing daytime rest/naps/sleep as sacrosanct, a vital and healing necessity rather than a waste of precious time.
  • Pacing, pacing and more pacing, because boring as it is it's preferable to the 'rush/crash/burn/collapse' cycle I was in before.
  • Saving valuable energy and 'spoons' to spend on engaging with family, friends and the outside world.
  • Seeking more sacred pauses and spiritual whitespace in the everyday.
  • Having a weekly social media sabbatical/fast in order to unplug from the virtual and touch base more with the actual.
  • Praying continually so that conversation with God becomes as natural as breathing.
  • Listening more attentively to my body, my life, Holy Spirit's voice.
  • Delving deeper into God's word, good books and uplifting music to soothe my soul.

I hope some of this has struck a chord with you too.

Maybe God is calling you to press pause on the busyness that swamps you?

Maybe it's time to re-evaluate how your precious time is spent?

Maybe our heavenly Father simply yearns for you to lavish attention on Him or to be more available for Him to pour out His Presence on you?

Maybe this is an opportunity to celebrate how God pre-approves of you just as you are, with no worries over performance or people-pleasing? 

This summer may be just the right time to rest, reach out, touch His greater reality and taste how sweet it is. 


I would love to hear from you, so feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. 

And I could really do with an 'accountability partner' or two to keep me on the new straight and narrow. Any offers? All gratefully accepted!

**Note** ~ It's great to be back to blogging, but I apologise for the rather bitty nature of this post. It was written in snippets as energy and inspiration allowed.Thank you for your grace.. :)

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Diving into the depths

These are days where I no longer want to skim the surface but go deep.

Dive into the depths with God. Dig in and seek treasure.

Give up splashing in shallow waters. Or making waves.

Rather, I aim to sink restful into His presence, float easy in His river of grace.

For too long now I have trod a pathway through thorny bushes, stepped painful on stones.

Kicked dust and sand in the wilderness, wandering aimlessly down weary pathways.

And now? I am dry as dust. Bone-tired. Run ragged.

Now I sense an urge to rise and heed the song of freedom as Holy Spirit's voice whispers on the wind.

Be in a place of rest and refreshment.

Wait a while. Sit by still waters and allow myself to drink deep.

Relax and let go the daily grind.

Life has a way of making us stressed out, depressed and worn out.

It is time to break loose. Ease away from daily cares.

Go where we sense God is leading us. A place of rest, renewal and refreshment for thirsty souls.

In order to remain fruitful we need to abide in The Vine.

I've discovered I am thirstier than I knew. Wearier than I want to be. Hungry for His Presence.

It's time to withdraw for a while in order to be replenished.

Not to packs bags and head off on a journey. That's all too exhausting by far.

This is a rest for the spirit, a recuperation, a period of 'being' more than doing, a leaning into listening to God and listening to my life.

What prompted it?

Well, general health/life challenges and prolonged fatigue have played their part, plus I've been greatly inspired by reading a post by Margaret Feinberg where she shares why she is logging off and shutting down for a week from blogging, Twitter and Facebook.

My heart leaped in recognition as I read it. I Need This! A sacred space to hear sacred echoes. A six month review of how well (or otherwise) my #oneword365 ~'listen'(ing) to God and to my life is going for me.

Would you like to join in? Do head over to Margaret's place to see what's involved. 

Maybe it's just what the Chief Physician of your soul has ordered for you too.

Then we'll meet up again on July 7th (or beyond as I'm joining in a bit late) and discover how God has met with us in the quiet places and spaces of our days.

Maybe the sound of silence will be the sweetest sound we know, where much is heard of lasting eternal value.

I hope so.

Until we meet again:

May you be blessed by a greater awareness of what God is saying to you, a greater desire to follow His still, small voice and an increased ability to know when to switch off and unplug for your sanity's sake.

Blessings and love,
Joy :) xx

Friday, 27 June 2014

Embracing change

Brochures at the ready. Many are tempted to leave the daily grind behind for warmer climes.

Going on a planned journey frequently means anticipation and excitement, plus a great deal of preparation.

We gather together all the essentials we cannot leave home without ~ backpack for some and several suitcases' worth for others. 

Though a rare traveller, I'm more of an 'everything bar the kitchen sink' type of person, always concerned I'll leave something vital behind.

Not all the journeys we make in life are ones of choice. 

Some are beyond our power to control the duration or effects they have on us.

In the poem below  (featured in Issue 7: The Journey edition of 'What the Dickens?' magazine) I am sharing such a journey with you.

The Journey

Jerked into wakefulness
by an express train 
roaring through me,
throwing off signals ~
of alarm,
of warning
In the darkness
nothing stirs
except the pounding
pulsating rhythm
Pinioned in place
by a sticky torpor
as drenching torrents
rain over me,
flooding body and brain
I'm an unwilling captive
on a journey
leading inexorably to
Decay ~
A heat-sodden
of my hormones

In case you hadn't guessed, I am describing some potential symptoms of the menopause here - albeit with a little poetic licence. Menopause is a uniquely personal yet universal journey that women the world over have to take, whether it occurs naturally or is pre-empted surgically by removal of the ovaries. 

It will not be exactly the same for any one of us, though certain features may be common to many. Young women take note. Someone close to you may be throwing open the windows and saying "Is it me or is it hot in here?" even as you read this.

In my own peculiarly female journey I am truly grateful for:

  • HRT 
  • Herbal/ alternative remedies
  • A multiplicity of articles and books to inform us 
  • The fact that it is no longer a hidden or taboo subject                           
  • Cool cotton sheets
  • Fans/air conditioning
  • Friends and others who companion me                                         
  • Less symptom severity as time goes on
  • An understanding and sympathetic Other Half!
Any guys reading this needn't think they get away scot-free. Men can experience their own version of menopause too (the andropause) though it is not so well recognised, written about or treated as the female one. 

Not only that, Your Woman Will Need You ~
Tea (or cold drinks), sympathy, considerately keeping your distance where necessary, putting up with clothes/bedclothes on and off (not as much fun as it sounds) and coping with erratic moods or irritability from lack of restful sleep are basic requirements.

A sense of humour and an ability to stay cool and calm yourself are greatly desirable and very much appreciated, thank you.

Just don't take this quote too seriously either:

"Male menopause is a lot more fun than female menopause, with female menopause you gain weight and get hot flashes. Male menopause - you get to date young girls and drive motorcycles" ~ Rita Rudner

More thoughts on the mid-life journey:

" The hardest years in life are between 10 and 70" ~ Helen Hayes (age 73)
"I refuse to think of them as chin hairs. I think of them as stray eyebrows" ~ Janette Barber
"There is no more creative force in the world than the menopausal woman with zest" ~ Margaret Mead
"Thirty five is when you finally get your head together and your body starts to fall apart" ~ Caryn Leschen 
"Life is a journey, not a destination" ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Journeys of various kinds are a common part of the human experience.

How we embrace the change they bring can affect how we feel about them.

Life journeys are made all the more pleasurable for the people who share them with us. I look forward to your company on further exploration of life and faith journeys I'll be making here.

You can read how it all began and why I'm exploring these themes if you click over here.

So until we meet again - do stay as cool, calm and collected as possible, oh, and pass me a glass of iced water, would you please? I can sense one of Those Glowing Moments coming on again. Phew!

**Note** ~ This is a little off topic for me as I usually write about faith issues rather than purely physical life experiences! But menopause affects us in every aspect of our lives, not least how we are perceived and how we feel. And I'm aware many suffer such things silently. It is always my aim to shed light on life's challenging themes in the aim of helping others feel less alone.

PS:If you enjoy my poetry, it is now being featured over at along with 'Prayer Whispers' and shorter reflections. You are very welcome to drop by and have a browse around.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Echoes of eternity

It's strange what triggers the memory.

Sights, sounds and scents combine to transport us back in time.

Years melt away and we are reliving heady days of youth, or revisiting childhood.

It doesn't take much to make us feel we are young again, maybe remembering our parents' influence.

I remember my mother most in terms of how she displayed and conveyed the essence of womanhood to me; a message I saw and absorbed unconsciously.

Alongside her inevitable scent of 'Tweed' perfume, there was a fragrance of femininity, odour of powder and paint to make a body and face more appealing.

There was a lingering trace on tissues ~ a smudged smile hovering like a ghostly presence ~ and a red wet lipsticked kiss staining my cheeks or clothing as poignant reminders of her presence.

I watched with fascination as she applied the swivel stick to her pouting lips, and I mirrored her action with the wetted end of a red Smartie, a dab from rose petals, crayon or felt-tip pen long before I was able to try the art for myself.

Here lay feminine mystique, grooming, making-up, a grown-up rite of passage I was yet to traverse.

I longed to join in with the rituals of womanhood even as my child body and mind refused to accept that I was already a reluctant participant in certain grown-up mystery and ways.

Adults left impressions on me that couldn't be wiped away. I have grown up wanting to scrub them out of existence, but they stay deep within the recesses of my mind.

Dark inky stains would remain from shadows of the past, mingled with a scarlet blush of assumed guilt and shame.

I'm a work in progress as I heal from the past, drawing strength from God each day, drinking deep from the river of His mercy, love, grace and forgiveness so that I can share it with other hurting, wounded souls.

I've crept invisible from being noticed, seen and paid attention to. Hid in corners. 

Desiring nothing more than to be left alone, left to my own devices and dreams.

But there's also an innate desire in us to be safe, secure, to be loved. And love means escaping our comfort zones, becoming available, open and vulnerable.

Then we find ourselves getting assessed, found wanting and rejected by some in order to be found by those who really matter.

How hard it feels at times to make an impression on others. To leave an imprint of our existence.

We want something lasting and tangible to show for just being here. Existing. Living.

We seek to make a mark, stir the air, sink our feet into the sands of time and leave lingering footprints behind, or maybe a monument or two.

Most of us feel like we're creating castles in the air that crumble into dust and ashes. Hopes and dreams, plans and schemes so often come to nought.

Yet I still hold out hope that I can leave a lasting impression to reveal God's hand at work in my life.

There will be signs of my sighing out. 

Breath patterning the air with poetry. 

Laced layers of grace seeping from my broken life and ways.

My story woven from strands of sickness and despair.

My life wrapped up in prose. Poured out to water other thirsty souls.

Painting beauty with ashes. Hope from helplessness.

Suffering redeemed by our Saviour. 

Hopefully, the best parts of me will be the family I leave behind, the legacy of a life lived for God, His story bleeding out through my history.

Immortality imprinting itself upon the present. 

Echoes of eternity in the here and now.

This isn't about striving hard to chalk up outward achievement; it's about having a resting faith, trust and expectation that God will make Something out of the detritus of our wounded, broken lives.

No matter what our external circumstances may be, or what inheritance our fathers and mothers left us with for good or ill, we can aim to leave a legacy of God's goodness and grace, a lasting impression of how one small life surrendered to Him can become a thing of eternal beauty in His tender loving care.

Linking here with Nacole for #concretewords. This week's prompt is:'lipstick' 
and with Charlotte for #spiritualsundays

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Life lessons from little ones

There's no denying that babies and young children have a zest for life and a thirst for knowledge.

As parents, grandparents, relatives and family friends, we are acutely aware of all they will need to know as they learn and grow.

Six months ago I became a grandma for the first time, and it's a beautiful thing to watch this young life developing before my eyes ~ his individual character coming through, self-expression making itself felt, joy being his default mood most days!

I look forward to cuddling and cossetting him as the young baby he still is.

He settles briefly, enjoying the contact, even as he yearns to wriggle free, grow away from protective arms and move independently.

He's ready for new experiences, some embraced swiftly and others he's more cautious about.

We think of all we can teach and help him with in the months and years to come.

But have you considered just how much little ones can teach us?

It's worth a thought.

Here's an example of what babies teach us:
  • What goes in must come out somewhere
  • Comfort = a full tummy, warm embrace and a personal slave 
  • Crying, kicking and screaming are great ways to get attention
  • Sleep is a luxury denied to new parents ~ most parents actually
  • Unpredictability is the name of the game ~ keep 'em guessing
  • Clothes are only worn to get them dirty
  • I may be small but you'll need a whole house/garage to store my stuff in
  • Babies rule, OK?
And now for the more positive things we learn from them:
  • Rest/nap when you need to ~ listen to your body
  • Be fully present and alert when you're awake
  • Embrace each new day as an adventure, arms open ready to receive, mind willing to learn
  • Know your limitations and seek to move beyond them at your own pace
  • Be sociable and friendly ~ everyone needs a smile
  • Hug those you love the most and who love you
  • Trust daily needs to be provided for
  • Learn how to listen and communicate with others
  • Be willing to try/learn/enjoy something new every day
  • Realise the importance of play as relaxation, therapy and education

  • Enjoy life's simple pleasures
  • Express gratitude
  • Be fully yourself
  • Be true to your feelings
  • Show love, give love and receive love
  • Remember that you're a unique, valuable, wonderful human being ~ just as you are
These are just a few things that infants and children can teach us. I'm sure you can think of some more!

My grandson is teaching me so much already, not least to embrace life with joy and enthusiasm, to appreciate things I would otherwise take for granted and to appreciate my loved ones all the more.

It is my dearest hope and prayer to leave him a lasting legacy of faith in God. He is already giving me a legacy of grace as he savours life with joyful trust, openness and abandon.

"He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me" ~ Matthew 18:2-5

I'm encouraged by the thought that even tinies have things to teach us. And as we stay teachable in our spirits, God finds numerous ways to make His wisdom known to us, to open our eyes to life anew, and reveal more of His grace and joy in the everyday.

Joining Holley and Jennifer as we seek to encourage your hearts and tell His story of redemption and grace.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Hope springs eternal

It is said that where there is life there is hope. Its rays of light and grace rise through the cracks and crevices of our days.

The resilience of the human spirit is a God-given gift we truly need.

We can endure far more than we think when God gives us hope and strength to do so.

Reason will only get us so far.

Faith and trust will enable us to go way beyond our limitations.

As we continue to place our hope in the God of all hope He will guide our paths, provide a way where there seems to be no way, and reveal His plans to us.

"Hope springs eternal in the human breast; man never is, but always to be blessed:the soul, uneasy and confined from home, rests and expatiates in a life to come" ~ Alexander Pope 'An Essay on Man'

As I dust down an old journal (which I began using in 2008 but ceased writing in after a series of family calamities concluding in the unexpected death of my brother), it is with the hope of reclaiming it anew, writing observations of life and faith and being able to move beyond the reminder of those painful times.

I also do so with the purpose of allowing God to speak to me afresh as I record daily (if possible) thoughts, reflections, snippets of poetry or prayers. 

I'm joining Dawn and other journaling friends in June as we seek spiritual white space and aim to draw near to God as He encourages us to #listentoyourlife more avidly in the month ahead.

You are very welcome and warmly invited to join us. For more info on journaling in June, click here to visit Dawn's site and find out what it's all about. There is space for you and grace to join in as you feel able to.

Let hope inform your days as you surrender them to His ways this week.

"Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without words ~
And never stops at all" ~ Emily Dickinson

Sunday, 25 May 2014

By quiet waters

Our hearts long for peace.

Though rest and ease don't always come easily.

We live with restlessness pervading our inner and outer world. Conflict and battle. Wars and rumours of wars.

Loved ones are conscripted or voluntarily go to war. 

Accidents, injury, permanent disability and death may result from the conflict.

This is a day for silent reflection as we join our friends across the pond in considering those who paid the ultimate price to secure our freedom.

To draw near to the Prince of Peace and receive His restoration.

Sit by quiet waters and refreshing streams of grace.

Meditate on all our blessings, allow gratitude to seep in and soothe us, bringing some solace to wounded hearts and minds.