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.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Resting in the Father's love


When life's challenges knock us sideways, instead of rocking ourselves back and forth with worry, we need a solid Rock to lean on.

A breathing space.

A place of shelter.

A refuge from the storms.

A haven of rest.

A place of dependency from where we are enabled to grow strong, become free.

Someone who we can rely on above all others.

We need a Saviour. We need Jesus. We need His joy. We need His peace.

We need grace to see, believe and receive how much God loves us beyond words, beyond our wildest imaginations, beyond life itself.

It can be so hard to believe we are the beloved of God when calamities come strong against us, can't it?

It can be hard to stay stable and remain calm in the mud and mire of our mess and miseries.

To fight the urge to give in to discouragement, to give up in despair.

To avoid cynicism creeping in. 

To stay more focused on God's face and His amazing grace to help us live as overcomers, instead of pointing to our problems.

Much depends on what or who are we listening to. 

Voices crowd our mind from our inner fears, from the past, the world, the enemy, from those who have hurt us.

Yet it is the gentle whispered words of Holy Spirit which our souls most need to listen to.

And His is the one voice we tend to lose most easily in the daily grind, in the swirl and whirl of noisy sound all around.

How might it look if we had a revelation of how much God loves us?

How might we live in the light of that knowledge?

I'm not sure yet. But I hope to find out in the months ahead.

Currently, my body needs more physical rest than usual as I recover from having flu, and my mind craves it too.

I'm aiming to devour God's word, meditate on its soul-transforming truth, seek more spiritual whitespace, embrace all that assists the process, and gradually learn to draw aside from all that hinders me from being fully at rest in Him. 

As I try to rest grateful on His grace, rest in knowing who I am in Christ, rest in being a daughter of the King of kings and a woman of God, maybe I will grow to live more at ease with accepting how deeply loved I am by Him. 

It would be so freeing to do that, wouldn't it? Maybe you have struggles in this area too. Let's share and learn together, shall we?

The song below is a great reminder of how our heavenly Father rejoices over each and every one of us and stills our anxious hearts with His love.

"The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing" ~ Zephaniah 3:17




Sunday, 4 January 2015

Entering His rest



There's something special about listening for God's voice. Making way for the mellow moments of sacred pauses in our days.

Something infinitely precious when He speaks so hearts can hear Him and draws us close to His beautiful, compassionate and loving, Father-heart.

When I received 'Listen' as my one word last year, I found myself spending all of 2014 trying to hone the skill, and I ended the year still awed and amazed when He whispered close with words He longed to impart.

There wasn't a predictable pattern. God cannot be boxed. He is calm and loving but also gloriously wild and free. The Spirit goes where He wills.

Most times, I sat expectant with Bible, pen and prayer journal at the ready, at others He spoke soft during the mundane, messy moments of my day ~ whenever He had something vital to say.

The more we practise the art, the more we become a little bit accustomed to His voice and better able to discern it above all others.

Those times of quiet listening bore fruit inwardly, teaching greater inner restfulness, peace and patient endurance that He knew I so desperately needed, and still do.

They also yielded fruit to share with others in the form of 'Prayer Whispers' to help, encourage and bless. Some have made their way into the blogging arena and others I hope to eventually make more public via a compilation to share.

So you might think I was getting seasoned in the ways of listening to God and easily able to tell what He was saying to me, wouldn't you? If only...

Well, yes, occasionally that was the case. But my own wayward heart, doubts and fears so often tripped me up... just as they're doing now.

Because, after praying for several days, I was no nearer hearing God's 'word' for me for 2015 than I was before. Various thoughts played themselves out in my head then slid silent away.

Eventually, one word made its presence known more strongly than the others.

And I was quick to reject it as a mis-hearing, because it felt wryly ironic to be hearing 'Rest' shaping itself as my defining word for 2015 while laid up in bed with an unexpected, unwanted Christmas gift of a ferocious, fluey cold virus!

I prayed, doubted and prayed some more. Gradually, God penetrated the thick mucus curtain where my brain seemed to be lodging and made Himself known. 

Yes, there was no mistake. Far from being just my usual state as an M.E and chronic illness sufferer ~ where rest and pacing are the order of the day, and a particularly necessary one right now ~ rest was going to be a strong feature of the year ahead too.

Only... I had to appreciate its nuances more than ever before. Rest means different things to each one of us.




At this early stage I can already see the type of rest God has in mind for us is so much more than a Sabbath break in our week, ceasing from physical activity, putting our feet up, taking a nap, being on vacation.

His plans for us are complete, holistic, changing from the inside out. I sense rest is no exception.

My soul needs to learn how to rest easy in His word, truly believe who it says I am in Christ, lean peaceful on His love and grace.

Maybe discover how to actually live like I'm freed from guilt and anxiety, stay rooted and grounded in faith, develop trust that replaces tension.

Rest in the finished work of Christ rather than relying on self-effort and works to somehow complete the deal.

Rest in seeing myself as pre-approved, deeply loved and called to make a difference.

Quite a bit to mull over here! No doubt more will be revealed in time to come.

And it feels as if my main priority is physical rest right now as I seek to recover from the horrible cold symptoms and try to claw back some precious energy.

Perhaps priorities will loom large as I endeavour to save energy for all I am called to do rather than all I may want to do.

Maybe there will be encouragement to make room for more spiritual whitespace, for contemplative prayer, for continuing to listen to prayer whispers and to seek His face?

I hope so. 

My soul craves deep rest; my body cries out for it and my mind desperately needs it too.

One way or another I hope to enter His rest, in fact I long to; I need to. 

One thing I am certain of:as God gives me inspiration and strength I aim to be sharing the journey here and over at 'Poetry Joy', just as I did with 2014's word 'Listen'.

Here's a 'Prayer for Rest' that you can take and make your own. Feel free to pin or use as you need to:


Over to you:

Have you had benefits (as well as challenges) from listening to God?

Has God given you a new word to ponder over for 2015?

Whether or not you've heard a 'word' yet, what do you think your main focus will be for the year ahead?

As always, I really appreciate and welcome your input here and would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Basking in the afterglow



I wasn't ready for Christmas, despite every good intention, a beautiful book list, devotions to dive into and expectations high during Advent.

Presents were wrapped, all was ready on the surface, family had arrived and my husband had the catering in hand.

I was as rested as I could be and not as flat out with fatigue as I often am as Christmas arrives.

Plenty of reasons for rejoicing yet my heart felt strangely weighed down.

All I seemed to be left with after a period of extra busyness was anxiety and stress. Maybe you can relate?

My Advent preparations had been good, though somehow I had lost sight of their purpose as I lost myself instead in worry and weariness.

I also wasn't ready for Christ to speak to me on Christmas Eve in the sadness of feeling unprepared for Him. To offer solace and reassurance that it's not about my/our efforts at all but about His.

As the great I AM, Jesus is always with us, always present, always close to hurting hearts.

He sees the way we wrangle to squeeze Just One More Thing in until we nearly squeeze Him out, and how we are desperate to make something big out of our smallness.

He witnesses our struggles for perfectionism and answers with His grace.

Jesus whispered words of comfort as I sat on the bed with tears in my eyes, sorrowing once again over how flawed I am, how impossible it is to feel my way into worship (or worth-ship) most of the time.

He met me in my weariness. He strengthened me in my weakness. 

He spoke in the silent places and gifted me with the glowing fire of His love.

Reminded me how He came for those who were needy. How His gift to us is Presence and our gift back to Him is simply sharing all of our lives, hearts and minds with Him.

Yes, especially the messiness, the muddles, the sadness, confusion and pain.

And now? We sit between Nativity and New Year, pause in the gap to catch our breath.




Depleted, satiated and weary, we wait in the interim to rouse ourselves for another celebration to begin.

It's a time to reflect and wonder anew about opportunities ahead. But, instead of seeing it as Christmas being all over for another year, how about considering: Isn't this the best bit as we bask in the afterglow of God's great Love come down?

Truly believe we already are pre-approved and loved beyond measure.

Rest grateful in those arms which threw stars into space, brought life to everything and sustain us in their safe embrace.

Be comforted by the voice of One who soothes fretful hearts, brings the joy and peace of His Presence back to lives made dull by distance.

Relax to know Jesus can be celebrated all year round in our hearts and lives. He isn't just for Christmas.

Because He is right here, right now ~ omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent Incarnate God.

His Light shines in every dark circumstance and place.

His grace is new every morning.

He is always ready to receive us even when we feel ill-prepared to receive Him. 

To pour His Love-light upon souls longing for a touch from His hands. All we need to do is ask, and Jesus will respond.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Between Narnia and Nativity



Winter isn't for wimps. It's prime time for hibernation.

It's weighty heaviness can steal joy right out of weary hearts.

Fog-leaden and snow-laden lands lead to low moods for many.

Misted breath and frosty fingers steal in, seep through the window pane and wrap themselves around my brain.

I succumb to the numbing, become muffled and mournful.

Such tenacious chill of mind and will could take some shifting. Just like my duvet, I sink into its sonorous depths.

Even creativity is being capricious, wearing a sly smile as she slides away evasive.

Poetry usually flows like a babbling brook before singing itself onto the page.

But now? It lies turgid, a murky pond of indifference where I dredge hopeful for silver in the silt.

Words have become as weeds clinging to the reeds, refusing to rise obligingly to the surface.

Here we are:caught between Narnia and Nativity, aching for Light to come.




Can it really be winter all the time and never Christmas? Surely not. Our souls crave celebration.

And won't Light and Joy seep their way through the grey-gloom, soften cold hearts, draw back the dark?

Oh yes, they will. 

We may be overshadowed by our circumstances but we're covered by grace, nevertheless. 

Because the One who came into Mary's womb is the same One who comes into our deep and silent places.

She pondered how that could happen, much as we wonder when.. this pain will ease, this burden will be lifted, this sickness will leave, this problem will be shifted.

I read:"'How will this be,' Mary asks the Angel, 'Since I am a virgin?' The Angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you'" ~ Luke 1:34-35

And these words hover in my head, shape themselves into a poem:

"Overshadowed
Heavy cloak of holiness
wrapped with softness
Burning light of purity
lies sealed within
Revelation promises
fulfilled in Him
Developing Christ-child
swims in the womb
Stretching over time
to give Him room
Waiting for the right moment
in which He'll come
Angelic hosts sing
a welcome song
Mantle of mercy and grace
drapes lightly on
all who receive and embrace"
©JoyLenton2014

As words flow once more so does insight, inspiration and gratitude.

For we also are overshadowed; we have Holy Spirit, The Comforter Himself, wrapping arms of Love around us all the time.

We have His continual, Light-filled presence, His fire, His infilling.

As gentle dove, He speaks soothing balm to winter-weary hearts and whispers, 'Soon'



"Soon, My child, your waiting will be over.

Soon, those inner longings will be met.

Sooner than you know I will reveal His Light in your darkness, His Peace in your perplexity.

Hold on for a little bit longer.

Keep the flame burning in your heart; keep Hope alive.

A faltering wick He will not quench or snuff out.

Hide yourself in the shelter of the Father's wings for He is your refuge and shelter against every storm.

Allow Me to pour the oil of Joy on your troubled soul.

At just the right time the Christ-child will be birthed anew in hearts ready to receive Him.

New life will spring from the old."

And as we listen to His voice, as we breathe the Peace of His Presence, as we respond to what we are hearing we are slowly filled with life again. 

Chilled hearts thaw. Minds become enlightened, grasping Truth. 

Our world becomes brighter with expectation. Hope of renewal and change.

Jesus is coming. God is with us. Emmanuel is here. 

We can breathe easy. Our dark winter of discontent is coming to an end.

I'm joining here with Janis and other like-minded friends for #sundaystillness as we press pause in the midst of the busyness.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Awakening to purpose



Mary heavy with child and the strain of labour.

Feeling it in every fibre of her being.

Preparing herself to birth our Saviour.

Carrying a weight of wonder in mind and body.

Caught up in a purpose beyond herself, stretching into the reaches of heaven and eternity.

Pregnant with possibility. Potential. Plans beyond her knowing.

Given tiny glimpses into this infant's future.

Quietly relying on God's light revealing The Way.

Aware of her frail humanity. A woman's body tearing with the heat of it.

Labouring in a fallen world's curse of pain, of blood, sweat and tears.

Her body writhing as each spasm shoots flames of fire. Every sense heightened, more alive than ever before.

This baby, born to live unlike any other, being birthed in hardship and distress, struggle and duress much as any other.

No fancy room. No royal crib fit for this King of kings. Only a humble manger to lay Him in.




Just a bare stable. Hay to catch the blood and mucus. Snuffle and odour of animals close by.

Here she labours on in the messy marvel of impending motherhood.

Awed by the dawning realisation of responsibility.

Deeply humbled. Deeply grateful to be part of God's unfolding plans.

Leaning heavy on her husband, tightly gripping his reassuringly strong carpenter's fingers.

Gasping for breath as Holy Spirit breaths life for the Christ-child to come.

Nearly here...

The pain and strain would soon be over.

This child was due. He would come soon.

No more pointing fingers. No more accusations for Joseph to bear. No more life as they know it now.

All things would change.

Mary sighed. She was embracing the new while feeling uncertain about the future.

Who knew what might lay ahead?

What depths her soul might dip to, what heights her emotions would scale.

But one thing she knew...God brought her to this point and He would see her through.

She rested as the contractions eased, stroked her tightly swollen abdomen and smiled.


Maybe you and I have something big to birth ~ big dreams and schemes ready to take wings, hope rising in our souls.

Maybe God is singling you out for a future that looks fearsome from where you're standing.

Maybe you yearn to be delivered of a God-given dream, but the timing isn't right yet.

Each day we can awaken anew to God's purpose for our lives.

Each moment is an opportunity for His grace, for new life to be birthed from the old.

And if you don't yet know what the purpose might be?

Well, rest easy, my friend. It will come.

We cannot see what lies ahead but we can trust an unknown future to a known God.

Be reassured by His word.

Be guided, led and comforted by His continual Presence.

And know that God-given dreams don't die on The Vine.

No, they await their God-given timing. He hasn't given up on you and He never will.

God has great things He intends to do in and through you now and in the days to come.

Our task is to be aware, be ready, be willing, be faithful. Keep listening and praying.

The One who leads us to will also bring us through as circumstances shape themselves to His will and ways.

Let's begin awakening to purpose, knowing that the time of waiting may soon be over for us too.

Joining Holley and Jennifer and other like- minded friends as we seek to bring coffee for your heart in the telling of His story. 

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Out of darkness




A child develops in darkness. Entombed in the womb. 

Cushioned and cradled within its comfortable confines.

They grow toward the day when they will emerge, blinking, into the light.

Stretch tenuous fingers toward all that awaits to embrace them.

At a point in time they will draw in air, breathe independently and become a living, wriggling, blood-stained crying reality to those who have anticipated their arrival.

Each new birth holds a degree of mystery and wonder, unfolding of a life that is as yet unknown, unfamiliar, no matter how well prepared the parents may feel beforehand.

Scripture speaks of the anticipated arrival of Messiah, Servant-King, God Incarnate.

Years of waiting culminating in "to us a child is born, to us a son is given", a child like any other in appearance yet with a huge weight on his tiny shoulders.

This Christ-child is to be called "Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 42:6) and One who will "reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and for ever" (Isaiah 42:7).

He developed and grew in the secret place, in the deep dark space, in the area where only God sees and meets with us.

He came to be the Light-bringer, Light-bearer and Light-giver to all who walk in darkness.

His time encapsulated in the womb echoed His desire to fully enter into all our frail humanity, to lay aside His majesty, come into our darkness.

It is said of Jesus' coming, "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned" (Isaiah 9:2).

I wrote this little poem recently about being in a time of darkness:






















In coming to earth as a tiny, defenceless, dependent baby, Jesus identifies with our weakness and fragility.

In coming to earth as a bringer of holy Light, He reveals God's desire to overcome the darkness that exists both within and without us. 

In coming as a child, developing in the depth of a warm, watery womb, He experienced a taste of being without visible light yet still intimately and vitally connected to God the Father.

He had the light of life within Him continually, just as we can experience when we come to faith in Him and His Spirit comes to live within.

Here's the thing:Don't we get to know and experience God most in the dark side of life, in the painful circumstances, the challenges and hardships we face?

Aren't we more aware of Him when we need help rather than when we feel confident and capable?

Our heaviness of spirit tips hopeful toward the light of His presence, wanting to feel lighter, to loose the load we bear and hand it over to God, our Burden-Bearer.

"Anyone who has ever known him has known him perhaps better in the dark than anywhere else because it is in the dark where he seems to visit us most often" ~ Frederick Buechner in 'Listening to Your Life' 

And just as we long to gather our own children to safety and shelter, to comfort, reassure and give them support, so God calls us out of the dark ways that threaten to kill and destroy our very souls.

"I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth" ~ Isaiah 42:16

As we await the celebrations of Christmas there is much to ponder in the interval.

Advent speaks of a coming, a watching and a waiting. It also speaks of an arrival.

The curtain is lifting. The stage is set. God enters human history as one of us.

We live the other side of the blind darkness, of the deep distress, of the lost hopes and dreams.

We are chosen, redeemed, beloved and precious to God.

We are a people called out of darkness into His glorious light.

We are destined to be light-bearers and light-bringers for those still in darkness.

Once we see the great hope we have from being in Christ, there is every reason to have joy in this season and beyond.

Let us look beyond the confines of our circumstances, breathe deep of Holy Spirit power, stretch wings of faith and hands of praise toward the One who brings light, love, hope and joy into each and every day ~ if we allow Him to. 

Jesus sees and knows our every weakness. He came to save, to suffer, to die for you and me. We have the challenge of letting Him live in and through us.

You and I can be born again, brought into the light, freed from the grip of death and darkness, given a fresh start.

Thank you for joining me in my Advent reflections which began here.

I look forward to sharing with you again soon. May God bless you and keep you, and shine His light strong in the dark spaces and places of your life.