Friday, 10 July 2015

Letting go and moving on



Much of my life lately has felt like a waiting season where I gaze wistful as others go about their days.

A place where quiet speaks loud of all God desires me to hear.

For several months now I've been asked to sit still, to rest, to learn the value of silence and contemplation as I pace and recover from a relapse in the M.E symptoms.

I ache to birth the books within, to engage more fully socially, to be a more active participant in life's journey.

Summer's vitality and colour spring up in abundance all around me, offering invitation to embrace, join in. And it's been hard feeling set aside, being less active than before.

But I've needed to learn to heed what is required of me and what needs to be let go of.

And as I listened more closely, I sensed God asking me to widen my vision for this blog and writing in general. He has more planned for me than I ever imagined.

His timing may not be one of my choosing but will bear the most fruit for the future.

A new home has been developed for 'Words of Joy' on WordPress. It seems I've outlived this space. 

It's time to move on, stretch out faith-fingers toward an unknown future.

It feels scary, uncertain and strange right now. Change doesn't come easy for me. I ache for safe and familiar. Maybe you too?

But truth be told, without the stir of change I'm in danger of stagnation and sinking into an unthinking, albeit comfortable, routine.

We all need change. It's inevitable and essential for opportunity and growth, learning, maturation and adaptation, for all the new things God wants to reveal to us.

Change will look different for each one of us but it will stretch and teach us just the same. So I am readying myself for the inevitable as God calls me elsewhere.

Meanwhile, letting go and moving on also feels quite liberating and strangely exhilarating too. 

An act and leap of faith into the unknown...

A new home. Fresh start. Trusting that words will come as before. Trusting God knows what lies ahead.

It won't be an all-singing-all-dancing site - I'm not tech-savvy enough for that. But it will have a warm welcome waiting for you just the same.




Because home is where the heart is, right? And my heart is always in my writing.

The new place is still very much a work in progress, just like me.

I hope you'll extend grace as we make it a comfortable space to be together.

The paintwork is still a bit wet behind the ears, much like its owner.

There may be several alterations to come, some furniture to shift around.

But I sense I should move anyway and trust God to show me how to shape it as I write.

Because without Holy Spirit inspiration, grace and equipping I wouldn't be able to write at all.

Come and join me at the new look 'Words of Joy'I'd love to have your company.

Please re-subscribe there to get new posts delivered to your in-box. 

Here's my new address: wordsofjoy.me

Coffee's on..see you soon! Blessings and love, 
Joy :)


Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Knowing and being known




Silence is a space where our thoughts fly free as birds and we watch them circling wild.

They feel impossible to ignore or pin down. Grow larger as we give them room to move around.

Once we snare one, then ten others rush as an angry horde in our heads.

And we sigh because we thought that being still and being quiet physically would also somehow impose a little rest in our mind.

Isn't that why we draw aside and seek tranquillity? It will come in time. Patience is its own reward.

What I am learning as a beginner in the art of contemplative prayer is to be able to welcome the thoughts, observe their presence and gently release them again as I remain at rest.

But some thoughts linger like dark intruders trying to cloak us in their presence, stifle life and vitality.

They leave overwhelming and painful feelings behind.

And when they arrive we seek to eliminate them as quickly as possible because who wants to be reminded of the state of their heart where worry sits deep, anxiety is anchored and fears float free?

There seems to be enough darkness in the world for us to be willing to admit to it within our souls. Such knowing seems to be a step too far most days.

Little do we know that such self-awareness is a doorway to finding freedom.

Discouragement sits at the door of our heart, with despair and depression hot on its heels, and we can feel swamped by it unless we fully know and accept who we are and Whose we are.

Such pondering was in my heart this morning when I prayed and asked God to speak to me.

And He did, in the words below. My hope and prayer is that this prayer whisper will encourage you too as you seek to know and be known by God.




Prayer Whisper:Know yourself and know who you are in Me

"Know yourself. But do not grieve or become discouraged by who you are and how you act or react. Such inner understanding of your drives, desires and passions is essential in harnessing their energy for good purposes rather than evil.

Take time to sit with silence. Heed what rises to the surface of your conscious mind. Do not fear those things which appear. Acknowledge these depths of your being; welcome them as guests and guides who have come to teach you a better way to live.

Discernment begins with knowing who you are as a fallen human being made alive and righteous in Christ. 

Try not to dwell on the negative. See those aspects of your character and behaviour as wounds. 

Each wound bears the piercing of blood-red nails, an imprint of cross-inflicted agony I willingly endured to set you free.

Aim to live lightly as you address your woundedness and its revelation of divine Love's response

Aim to be cheered and of good courage as you reflect on the pearl of great price which was paid for your redemption.

Sin still sits within like a recalcitrant lodger but it doesn't take full residence in your heart.

The more you look to Me and wonder at My love, marvel at My mercy, are filled with gratitude for My grace, the more you will see how sin no longer enslaves or has full dominion over you.

I live and move and have My being in you, and you are seated in heavenly places with Me. 

These dark earthly passions are slowly being transformed into power for good and furtherance of My Kingdom.

Yield and surrender to Me and I will gradually change your lowly desires into heavenly ones.

Never forget you are My beloved and the joy of My heart Just As You Are. Nothing and no-one can take that away from you. 

Let your soul rejoice in its resurrection to new life. Little by little, day by day, I am pouring grace into the cracks and crevices and revealing My glory through your weakness. 

Take heart, My child, you are made strong, whole and beautiful in Me"



Friend, you and I are on a lifelong journey toward becoming whole and healed. There are times when it feels like no progress is being made, but every day we are moving forward and learning to live and love as God wants us to.

It starts with learning to accept and love ourselves (in a balanced, God-inspired way) and continues as we reach out to others with empathy and compassion.

Our hurt and pain can become the pathway to another soul feeling less alone with their own situation as we share who we are on the way to all we are becoming.

May you have renewed hope as you follow hard after God's heart and rest in all He is doing within your soul. 

Blessings, love and prayers, 
Joy

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Out of darkness



I sense my soul leaning toward the light as I sit in situations of struggle.

Stretched yearningly like a plant desperate for its source of warmth and nourishment.

And I'm encouraged by things stirring in the muddy undergrowth, tentatively appearing as signs of life in dark places.

Sun's rays are starting to steal bright across azure-blue of sky and hope's fingers reach for better tomorrows.

Because we're built for this. To lean toward the light. Made for mercy and grace. Destined for different. 

Children of darkness weaving our wobbly way toward light-filled days.

Our souls seeking after salvation, resurrection and restoration.

Our inner needs lie dormant as seed, waiting for their moment to erupt and burst forth.

God sees. He hears the unspoken cries of hurting hearts and witnesses the fall of tears.

Our heavenly Father longs to rescue us from the kingdom of darkness we inhabit and scoop us eagerly into His Kingdom of Love and Light... if we're willing. 

There are days where I sit with one foot in the world and one in His kingdom.

Hover on the brink, fear-filled and uncertain, weary and wary. Knowing the way to proceed but still tempted by the deceptive lure of worldly riches.

I crave acceptance like an addict.

I desire to achieve. 

I want to leave a footprint of my passing.

I long to belong.

And I so often search for it in all the wrong places.

Think that the world's approval is a sign of arriving - when it signals my soul is dying.

I'm dying to be seen and heard, but above all I'm dying for God's word.

Being ignored feeds our insecurities, fans the fear.

Being side-lined reminds us how insignificant we think we are.

But being 'invisible' in the world doesn't make us invisible to God. Far from it.

Because we're always significant to Him.



Only God can fully nourish a hungry, hurting heart.

He alone will fill and flood an empty soul.

He alone has compassion to meet every human need.

He equips us to live well and to die well in the reassurance of His goodness and grace.

And He alone will enable us to leave a lasting legacy behind:
  • Gifts of grace
  • Cords of compassion
  • Deeds of mercy
  • Echoes of His love
  • Encouragement and hope
  • A witness to lost souls
  • A testimony of love overcoming against the odds
But we first have to be willing to ditch the darkness in our own souls.

Willing to face up to our need of God - His grace, forgiveness and mercy.

Willing to be made new, be born again.

Willing to move closer in dependency, in good times or bad, ever nearer to Him.

Willing to sacrifice our own agendas.

Willing to surrender to His plans.

Willing to live out our faith day by day.

Willing to make a difference in the lives of others.

Live as obedient children of God in a perverse world as He slowly transforms us into the likeness of His beloved Son, little by little, from the inside out.

It's a steep learning curve. The biggest one we ever negotiate. And it will take the rest of our lives to live it out.

But its rewards are exceptional and eternal. Its worth beyond compare.

Can you sense God calling you?

Are you ready to come into the Light of His presence?

If so, then here's a prayer to help you surrender and commit to Jesus anew, or for the first time perhaps:



Do let me know if you have prayed this type of surrender prayer for the first time and I will send you extra resources to guide you on your journey of faith in Christ.

It's a journey I've been on for all my adult life, and one where we really value and need the companionship of others to support and encourage one another along the way.

Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.

I'm linking here with Holley, Jennifer, and like-minded friends as we seek to offer coffee for your heart while we tell His story. Come join us?

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

On holy ground



Evidence of life was springing up all around.

I breathed deep of scent and sight.

My heart cheered by colour and lively vibrancy growing root beside me.

And on reaching the entrance to our meeting room the atmosphere hung heady with incense.

A holy cloud seemed to hover in the air, signalling mystery and invitation, its message mingling with soft smoke-curls wafting out the window.

I hesitated in the doorway and was soon met with a warm, welcoming hug and friendly smile.

We were ushered into the room where preparations were already in hand.

Little did I know how participatory the service would be, or how much it would both exhaust and exhilarate me.

My eyes were drawn to an intriguing array of musical instruments on the floor, alongside books, sheets of paper, artwork, cup and bowl at the ready to play their part.

Anticipatory excitement and nerves shot through me.

It had been way too long since I'd met with other believers like this.

It had felt like grace abounding to be able to make it out to an evening talk (on Hildegard of Bingen)  held there two days previously.




Little did I expect to be blessed to attend this Eucharist service too, partly helped by my husband's gentle persistence and assistance, and a better sleep than usual.

Two years ago, I had been offered a quiet, individual holy communion in my room by a priest when I was on retreat at All Hallows, Ditchingham.

It's been longer still since having bread and wine at my home church, because having M.E means fellowship has become more of an on-line occurrence than being physically present with others gathering together in God's presence.

Here, we read together, learnt new songs, sang (I croaked) unaccompanied, hummed (out of tune), played an instrument of our choice (I picked maracas) to a sung poem, shared art work some had done the day before, served one another bread and wine, offered praise, gave responses and a concluding peace blessing.

I sat as usual, my limbs not up to the task of rising and standing, and the more able-bodied made sure I was included in everything.

These days, attempting singing alone (even while seated) leaves me worn-out and breathless, and to have so many different things to join in with left me flat-out with fatigue as things came to a close.

Tears pricked my eyes; I didn't try to hide them. They felt fitting and releasing somehow.

I cried because... it was so overwhelming to be part of a worshipping community again, to participate in holy communion, to feel loved and accepted by soul-sister relative strangers, to unleash creative expression.

I had no strength left for anything else, could barely speak for the effort. Needed time to drink some water, wait a while and recover before I could articulate what had made me emotional.

And I sensed a touch from God as words spoken in a reading resonated in my soul.



God reminded me that I was precious to Him just as I am, and although the locusts may have stolen years and health, my latter days could be more fruitful than the former - yes, even now, late as I am to pick up a pen, master a PC, open heart and life to offer hope and encouragement to others who are struggling.

As those who have walked a challenging, painful path before me could attest, these latter years can be our best yet because we finally think, "Why not?" instead of "Why me?"

Why not... write a blog, write poetry, belong to on-line communities, join in, get involved, stand up for something you feel passionate about, be generous, be compassionate, encourage, make a difference in the lives of others?

My outing revealed how little it actually takes to make me feel truly blessed (and weary), and how thankful I am for the rare occasions when I can leave the house and enjoy meeting up with people.

Just seeing the landscape unfurling before me on the drive there was a thing of wonder. Beauty wears many faces.

Holy ground is all around because God is everywhere in the normal, run-of-the-mill, prosaic and practical everyday.

Sometimes, all it takes is a special gift of grace for us to appreciate just how much He inhabits the mundane moments which we are all in danger of taking for granted.

My friend, I pray that you may sense Him in those times, hear His voice affirming His great, unconditional love for you, and open your heart to the holy ache of ordinary.

**NOTE** ~ As so often happens, first thoughts about this experience were poetic because that's my usual medium for quick expression. You can read my poem here on 'Poetry Joy'.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

You're not invisible


If someone told you you're not invisible would you cringe with embarrassment and look for the nearest hole to hide in, or sigh with relief?

Much depends on what you want known or what you desire to hide.

In this over-exposed world we live in, where every celebrity sneeze is recorded and all our achievements (and the lack thereof) are public property, it's hard to melt into the margins unless we work at being separate and seek ways to come apart from the crowd.

Although, from time to time all of us can feel like ghost-shadows passing in the street as we hover around with no discernible sign of our presence being found.

Social media works fine if you want to be sociable, although it's possible to feel more isolated than ever as we get snared in the comparison trap, checking our lifestyles with one another and seeing how we fall short of the perceived ideal.

Healthy interest can soon become snide comparison, envy and jealousy.

And many feel invisible, lost and alone with their shame, pain, illness and distress. They don't desire to be ignored, yet often are.

Society has a way of stigmatising and labelling people which fails to take into account their unique human perspective, struggles and challenges.

But they are human beings just like you and me - made in God's image, precious and beloved in His sight.

They actually want nothing more than the right kind of attention:understanding and appreciation, a friendly listening ear, consideration, thoughtful and loving care.

God sees, hears, witnesses all we go through, all we are and all we're in the process of becoming. He knows our life's end from its beginning.

He extends grace and mercy toward all, especially the down-trodden, disabled, despised, destitute, discouraged and depressed.

And that's good news, isn't it? It's gospel news - liberating, life-changing and transforming.

Each moment is an opportunity to begin again.

Every day is a fresh breathing space of grace.

Our situations may remain the same; life may be a tremendous struggle just to keep head above water - and we still have this to cling to.




We are outrageously, unconditionally and mercifully loved by One who knows us better than we know ourselves, whose Spirit lives and breathes within, whose mantle of righteousness covers every stain of sin, guilt and shame.

My friend, you are not invisible to Him. Every hair on your head is counted. He doesn't miss a thing about you.

I've clung to these truths in my daily battle with M.E and chronic illness, living a life overshadowed by childhood abuse and its repercussions, experiencing profound physical weakness, pain and fatigue.

I'm aware that many misunderstand my illness, fail to see how writing a blog post may be the only active thing I can do in a day and how a simple task like taking a shower can leave me pole-axed for hours.

They may also shrink away from the painful personal things I've shared and fail to see how God equips and inspires my words to help others feel less alone with their own struggles.

Because we're all too quick to judge one another rather than stepping inside their shoes with eyes of empathy and compassion, aren't we? 

I'm not exempt. Insecurity can make me cling to what's familiar and shy away from different.

What if we tried to see others as God sees them?

How would it be if we made an effort:

To listen closely without interruption or planning what we're going to say next.

To offer time and attention.

To withhold from judgement and criticism.

To be kind.

To notice their needs.

To offer grace, forgiveness and mercy.

To pray for them and with them.

To recognise that we're all in a battle and other people are not the real enemy.

To lean heavy on grace and lightly on guilt-tripping.

To be the voice, the hands and feet of Jesus in this world.

Maybe... just maybe... we will offer His visibility and help them see how He sees them too. It's worth a try, yes? 

And as we do so we will find how deep down, at soul level, we are more alike than we knew.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Singing the blues



Here in the UK we seem to have an endless fascination with the weather.

Which way is the wind blowing? Will or won't it rain? 

Do I need a brolly? Better carry one just in case.

It's a great conversation opener and very much the topic du jour. 

On a day when we've had sheeting rain, clear blue skies and everything in-between it feels apt to be writing on the topic of 'Blue' for today's Five Minute Friday exercise.

START...

Life is threaded through with colour and hues that offer our eyes a different view.

There are so many days that shade neutral pale, indistinct amidst the gloom.

Interminable as sheeting rain cascading down our windowpane.

I find myself blazing angry-red, firing hot with searing heat and temper rays 

or surging strong into orange with surprising energy on better M.E days.

Many are spent in a dark, black tent of pain or grey-fog 

swirls of cognitive loss and discouragement.

The days I lean toward, the ones I prefer above all other are the royal purple patterned,

the sunny yellows and the glades of green, the calm of blue seen in heaven's canopy.

Aaahh, blue...


Blue is a bold rise of turquoise, a soft scene of aquamarine, a steal

of teal, a crisp, bright bolt of cobalt or a mellow azure light.

Blue means rest, coming apart to be a part of the calm of God's heart.

Blue means sweet soul-ease, still pools of peace to dip fretful toes into.

Blue signals less stress, less worry and hurry, expansive skies and less heart-sad cries.

Blue is contentment of warm sunny spells and a daily cloud-gift of God saying all is well.

Blue is indigo deep, mystical and magical as night softly creeps.

I won't let myself sink into 'the blues' today but appreciate

the nuances at play in the varied hues as they come my way.

STOP.

Well that was fun! It's good to write something less deep for a change.

Do stop by at Kate's place and check out the what other writers have to say about 'blue'. Who knows, you may be tempted to join in too.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

In the heat of it all



In the heat of life's battles it's easy to become burnt, hurt,

scorched by circumstances, flayed, distraught.

We all need resources beyond ourselves.

We need the Source of life Himself.

In the darkness and the fray,

we need One to show us The Way.

Bring comfort and calm,

oil of joy and Gilead's balm.

Bring beauty out of ashes

as we sit in the embers.

Equip and enliven.

Breathe life from within.

Change and healing.

Grace all revealing.

Support, encouragement, help and hope.

A rescuer when we're dangling on rope.

And He's here.... Jesus, Saviour, Immanuel.. God with us.

Living within by His Spirit.

Celebrated at Pentecost. 

So let's draw near with a petitionary prayer:

Holy Spirit,
You are fuel, flame and fire
Ignite our weary hearts
Encourage us to come up higher
as You refuel and inspire
our lives in every part

Where higher means a lessening
of ourselves and life's busyness
combined with deeper faith,
hope, confidence and rest

Be the wind beneath our wings
Be the heat of our desire
Be the One who makes us sing
Be the flame of burning love

Be our rest and be our peace
Be our covering from above
Be our soul's deepest ease

Be Lion of Judah in our fight
Be Lamb of God to calm our fears
Be strength, all power and might
Be all we need throughout our years
Amen




I'm joining Barbie and friends at the Weekend Brew today. Come and join us? 

Regular readers may wonder at the poetic offering featured here instead of at 'Poetry Joy' as usual. 

Strangely, I seem to think better in poetry than prose when I'm extra tired, so here we are. Hopefully, normal service will be resumed as soon as possible!