Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Passing on the baton

If writing were a relay race then you could probably rely on me to fumble, drop the baton, fall over my shoelaces and grind to an undignified halt. Such is my lack of strength and agility on poor health days especially.

Thankfully, writing isn't a race for me, nor one I need only my own levels of fitness to equip me for the task. All energy, ability and inspiration is God-given and He alone equips, enables and sustains me.

There are also many wonderful companions on this journey who urge me on, cheer from the sidelines, encourage and support me prayerfully too.

I was greatly blessed recently by three writer friends profiling me on their sites as part of a general writer blog hop:

Dawn Paoletta has a tremendous zest for living and writing out her faith. She is an avid journal keeper, and not averse to speaking about the dark side of life either as she chronicles her spiritual journey with grace, authenticity and truth over at 'Enthusiastically, Dawn'

Heather Mertens is avidly all in for Jesus. She shares from her generous heart in the hope of encouraging others and bringing them together in community. Heather connects with me on many levels as she shares her trials and the miraculous overcoming of them by the grace of God. She writes out her heart at '40 Year Wanderer'. 

Rebekah Gilbert is another searching soul who is open about her doubts and fears. She is a beautiful singer/songwriter and one who lives into the answers even as questions about life and faith fill and flood her heart. You can find her sharing her vulnerable journey of spiritual awakening at  'A new song to sing'. 

Now it's my turn to hop in and answer these questions...

1) What am I writing or working on?

Over the years I have contributed poetry to various anthologies and a few months ago I sensed God suggesting I write my own (gulp!) and helpfully providing a title to work with, which shall remain secret for the time being. 

This poetry book will speak of my life and times as an M.E and chronic illness sufferer as well as exploring universal themes of life, love, loss and faith.

It is my dearest hope to self- publish it in the near future (God and health willing) and for proceeds to be given to a charity which is close to my heart.

Apart from this, I am also working on a devotional book which will feature some of the 'Prayer Whispers' God has spoken to me over the last few years.

Further on the back-burner is a memoir which is unfolding slowly as I add to it on a gradual basis.

2) How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I believe the calling on my life, the way I share my journey as a Christian believer, writer/poet, M.E and chronic illness/childhood abuse sufferer is uniquely personal to me. My reflections, prayers, poetry and deep delving into dark areas of life are a composite mix of the way God has gifted and called me to write.

God takes all our experiences and personal stories and weaves His greater narrative from them. I'm one of many, yet also a single individual who shares her story in the way God encourages her to.

3) Why do I write what I do?

As a child who went through emotional and sexual abuse, had a dysfunctional family and was never encouraged in her creative endeavours, my writing was a cathartic, private activity and rarely shared with another. 

This creative light was hidden under a bushel for many years until my two sons began to make inroads into blogging, writing poetry, monologues, plays and novels (Sam) and blogging, writing bible studies, lay preaching and devotional work (Joe). Their encouragement and enthusiasm partly inspired me to 'go public' at last with my own work. 

I also sensed a strong call from God to share my reflections and life story by combining prose with poetry as I looked at life and faith issues. Then the poetry writing took off exponentially and seemed to be demanding a site all by itself. Thus, 'Poetry Joy' was born and expanded into shorter reflections and 'Prayer Whispers' as well. 

My main aim is to speak from the heart of all that God is doing in my life, share my walk of faith, encourage others who are going through health, life and faith challenges, and to leave a legacy of faith to pass on to future generations.

4) How does my writing process work?

My writing is fuelled by Holy Spirit inspiration, coffee and dark chocolate ~ in that order.

I have no study, desk, or scenic view, and very little energy or strength. Much of the process involves writing in pyjamas, sitting hunched over while fingers type slow and stiff on the keyboard. 

And it also looks something like this 'PLAY'  template:

Pray   ~ This is the foundation of all I do, an ongoing conversation with God. Many rich 'Prayer Whispers' have arisen from these times of surrendered intimacy and snatched moments. 

Listen  ~ to God's voice, my life, my body, and heed what they're all telling me. Pacing and resting are essential for me to have any energy to write at all.

Attend  ~ Being aware that God often speaks when I am resting (or frequently when using the bathroom) or otherwise disengaged mentally. Sometimes a few words rise to my consciousness, snatches of conversation, a snippet from a book or a film I'm watching. All provide a creative spark that may become a poem or blog post. So I always keep a notepad handy wherever I may be. It's impossible to guess when inspiration will strike!

Yield  ~ to God's will. Be obedient to what He is asking me to do. Sometimes taking a nap (or 3) is the most valuable and holy thing I can do in a day. It also means resting faith and confidence in His provision. It doesn't depend on my health or ability as much as a willingness to show up, hear His voice, write, and release.

Now I am delighted to pass the baton on to three dear writer friends who have not only been there for me emotionally and creatively but have also impacted and inspired my life and faith journey. I encourage you to check out their sites. 

Keren is a fellow M.E sufferer, contemplative Christian and deep thinker. I love her mystical side and openness to listen to the insightful words and images God shares with her. We support one another prayerfully and she has a generous heart to help others, especially those going through challenging circumstances. She describes herself thus:

"I’m a fairly quiet soul, beginner mystic and Christian contemplative. Soon after gaining my degree in  Literature I became ill and have suffered with M.E. ever since. After turning forty, I finally found my vocation in writing. The Lord is now leading me deeper into prayer and into his heart, and teaching me how to share the stories, “seeings,” understandings and theology that he graciously gives me.  I have a passion for the edification of women, church unity and the leading of people by quiet waters. I’m married with a stepson and a neurotic black and white cat."

You can connect with Keren at her prayerful, contemplative blog, 'Still Waters Ministries' or at her 'The Garden of God's Heart'  blog where she shares daily delight in creation and life around her. Keren's writer page can be found here at Facebook. 

James was one of the first writer friends in the social media/blogging sphere to offer not only a hand of friendship but also support, encouragement, practical suggestions, and prayer to me. He is a great friend to have on your side!

James writes about finding identity, divine hope, grace and encouragement in the messiness of an imperfect world. 

As a person challenged by life's circumstances, he writes with honesty about his own struggles, doubts and fears and the overcoming of them. He's not afraid to ask the hard questions, to say he doesn't have the answer or to debate painful issues.

You can find James writing at his blog,  'James Prescott', or you can connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

Bob is an encouraging friend and a man I admire as a person of great spiritual insight and depth. He reveals, shares and lives a contemplative Christian lifestyle and is the least likely person to sing his own praises.

His major purpose in writing is to encourage other believers to not settle for anything less than all that Jesus died to give them ~ namely a wonderful, warm, close love relationship with the Father.

As he says in a recent blog post: 

"My purpose is not to shock, but to wake up Believers to God. Mysticism is one of those knee jerk words we’ve rejected...Mysticism is when the incarnation of God invades our lives, however God reveals Himself. It’s beyond and bigger than we could ever imagine."
He shares his insights about spirituality that transforms at 'Contemplative Monk' and can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.
If you have made it thus far then you deserve a medal or a (2nd?) coffee break at least. Thank you for reading this ramble about writing. Future posts will be more concise, I promise! I leave you with a quote that echoes my own feelings and desires about writing:

Friday, 22 August 2014

Grit and grace

Ageing well requires grit and grace.

Plenty of perseverance and endurance. 

It is definitely not for the faint-hearted.

A significant birthday looms large on the horizon. 

Yes, this blog is nearly two years old and its sister blog (Poetry Joy) is almost one, which is good reason to celebrate!

But it's their writer who is approaching a more important landmark.

A stop-gap pause in life's breezy proceedings.

Will I embrace or hold back? Accept the (mostly unwelcome) change that growing older brings?

Will this silver-surfer slide inexorably into senility or will I grow more in insight, wisdom and creativity?

Only time will tell. I hope the years will be kind. 

And I hope to embrace the hard parts as they help shape and make me.

Here's the thing, not all change is welcome, invited or appreciated.

Though I will still aim to:
  • Pour out my heart in poetry and prose and share His story in the process. 
  • Lean hard into grace every day.
  • Walk the painful path of dying to self and living for Christ.
  • Crave God's Presence.
  • Listen for His voice.
  • Dive deeper into healing as I dip back into my painful past.
  • Encourage others on the journey.
So I may alter a little on the surface, but deep inside ~ at the heart of the matter ~  I will grow into joy and become more fully myself as I allow God to make me more like Christ.

Change lies on the doorstep of each day. It hangs heavy for some and signals freedom for others.

Are you ready for all it may bring? 

Much depends on what or who is changing you, where you are heading to, and who walks with you.

" whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried you since your birth. Even to your old age and grey hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you" ~ Isaiah 46:3-4

Just for a change, I am joining in here instead of on  (because the usual poetic offering gave way to prose) with  Kate Motaung and other brave writer friends for five minutes of free writing on the topic of 'Change'. 

*And if you like my poetry you can read one about change here.*

Friend, may you see each new day as opportunity to grow and to live, learn and listen in your walk with God. And may He bless you with peace as you leap by faith into the unknown territory of the now and the yet-to-come. For we travel with Him into a future rich with promise and blessings as yet unseen but full of grace and glory.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

If you are weary and wounded

It doesn't take much to make us feel hurt sometimes. Sensitive people bleed easy and bruises remain.

Some wounds scar deep. The past pervades the present and we feel worn out and weary of fighting for another day.

Other wounds may be raw, fresh, scalding mind and body alike with their intensity.

Living joyfully and freely looks so enticing but how do we make the leap and traverse the chasm between where we are and where we long to be?

I've been a walking, crawling wounded one for many years now and some days I just want to curl into a corner, squeeze myself as small as I feel on the inside and hide away.

I love to encourage others, yet sometimes find it hard to encourage myself. Maybe you too?

When that happens, I aim to be David-like in strengthening and encouraging myself in the Lord during adverse circumstances. There is more going on than eyes can see or heart and mind realise. 

Worldly lenses need to be removed and spiritual ones applied in order to see and sense the miraculous in the mundane, extraordinary in the ordinary, sacred in the secular.

And we need intercession and compassion for others to overrule dwelling on our own limited perspective of things.

Because aren't we all hurting people in some shape or form, and doesn't it take more than a measure of faith and grace to get through to a place of deliverance and praise?

I've been reading 'Finding Spiritual Whitespace:Awakening Your Soul to Rest' by Bonnie Gray rather sporadically over the last few weeks because I have needed long pauses to pray and work through the suggested activities in my own time.

In chapter 5 Bonnie asks us to:

'Write a letter from Jesus to the little girl in you. What does He want to say to her? What does He see that she needs? Give yourself permission to write this letter. Allow God to love her through you.'

Here's the result of my prayerful cry and God's reply. As my inner child cried out to be heard, Jesus breathed these words into my mind and heart so they could find their way on to the page.

If you can relate to feeling rejected, neglected, weary and wounded, abused or refused in a deeply personal way, then this love letter from God may be helpful to you too.

I have removed a few lines destined for my heart alone, but enough remains to be shared. May it speak to the child in you, the one who remains lost and lonely, with low self-esteem, craving approval and acceptance.

May you see and believe that you already are accepted, loved, pre-approved and precious to God.

'Letter from Jesus'

"I want you to know there is nothing to be scared of when I walk with you; nothing shall in any way harm you. You have the Light of the world living on the inside of you and the One who exchanges beauty for ashes and joy for despair.

I give you a robe of righteousness to wear and a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness. The troubles and cares of life have sucked joy out of you, leaving an empty, hollow shell. I have come to refill you with a holy joy that no-one can take away. 

This oil of joy pours from being in My Presence, seeps into the fabric of your whole being and lubricates an attitude of gratitude.

As you linger with Me, take time to rest, relax and let go your burden of care. I will refill and refuel you to shine for Me.

Those broken places and ancient ruins long devastated will be restored, rebuilt into a habitation fit for the King of kings to dwell in. 

I have never left your side for a second. I have bottled all your tears, lovingly collecting them drop by drop. I have witnessed the pain of rejection and abuse you have suffered and I wept with you.

Come, My child, come close. Lay your weary, anxious head on My shoulders and let Me soothe and comfort you. You feel old beyond your years yet full of child-like yearning and longing that no-one and nothing else can satisfy.

I see the ache in your heart and I long to fill it for you. But first the ache and pain must be accepted and acknowledged, the emptiness, joylessness, guilt, shame and despair seen and confessed so I can address them.

You hold back from fully loving those closest to you because you feel afraid that deep down you are unlovable and they'll reject you if you open yourself fully to them. This fear is unfounded. They see the 'real' you and, just as I do, they love you for who you are, as a person of worth and value in her own right ~ yes, even as a flawed and fallible 'work in progress.'

Do not be so hard on yourself or critical of who you are. I made you, created you to fill a role and live a life tailor-made that only you can fill and live out to fulfil My plans and purposes. See yourself through My eyes, believe you are beautiful in My sight and precious to Me just as you are

Take My hand and walk with Me. I will lead you to safe pasture. I will give you rest and ease, bring a lasting peace no matter what circumstances you go through. Trust Me to take very good care of you all the days of your life and beyond into eternity.

One day you will laugh and dance with Me. One day you will be free from wounds and pain, and your tears will only be those of joy and delight in My constant Presence.

You will know and be fully known, love and be completely loved for ever. I promise.
Love always, Jesus."
Linking here with encouraging friends, Holley and Jennifer as we seek to share coffee for your heart and tell His story in the process. You are very welcome and warmly invited to join in.