Joy writes of life of faith and freedom
For somebody who is housebound and suffers from chronic illness, Joy Lenton’s life is one of remarkable freedom. The painful experience of abuse and mental health breakdown has generated beauty and vitality in her writing as Joy shows how God has pieced her life back together.
Helen Baldry reports.
Winner of Network Norfolk’s ‘Best Blog’ award in the Norfolk Christian Digital Communications Awards in November, Joy tells of how life’s challenges, and God’s grace, have shaped her writing.
Joy, who lives in Norwich and has been married to Phil for 40 years, has always enjoyed writing. As a child, she wrote stories and read them to her school friends at break time. Joy had a challenging upbringing in a dysfunctional family, with a particularly difficult relationship with her mother. Writing was a means of retreat from problems at home. She found putting pen to paper cathartic, although that is not the main reason she does it now.
Joy first started blogging three years ago. She did not disclose her identity at first as she felt very shy and nervous. Her son Sam encouraged her to share her writing Words of Joy, which includes poetry, personal reflections and thoughts inspired by ordinary life. Joy said, “To my surprise, my writing has morphed into a ministry offering hope and encouragement to others.”
God has given her a new perspective and inspires the words she writes. Poetry is Joy’s main means of expression and she has coined the phrase ‘prayer whispers’ as the way God speaks to her.
Day-to-day life is not easy for Joy as she suffers from the chronic illness ME which leaves her constantly exhausted and virtually house-bound.
She often hears from God when she is in bed resting. Sometimes she hears him say ‘write this down’ and words form into a blog post. She said: “It’s all from God. It’s not me trying to write a good poem. I write from the heart.”
A reader put her blog forward in the awards and a large number of people voted for her to win. She expresses disbelief at winning her category. She said: “It's a huge gift of grace to me. I sense God saying to keep going because He knows who needs to read the words I share.”
Attending a church is now impossible for Joy, but rather than becoming isolated, she belongs to a supportive online community. She said: “Church for me is everywhere and nowhere in particular.”
Although she is no longer physically going to a church, Joy feels she is not missing out on teaching and fellowship. A particular friend from church faithfully keeps in touch and she has found genuine friendship online and has developed an interest in contemplative prayer. Joy always tries to answer her readers’ comments. She said: “I sense God's given me a ministry of prayer and encouragement.”
When Joy talks about God, she makes him sound very immediate. Her close relationship with him is evident and she has learnt to listen to his voice. Although she writes about pain, her blog posts are positive. She said: “Healing is a process. We have to work through the painful parts but we don’t go through it alone. I want to pass that on to others.”
Joy has recently published a book of poetry, called ‘Seeking Solace’
The Words of Joy blog can be found here: http://www.wordsofjoy.me/
In every pew
sits a broken heart
In every church
we're falling apart
We're the haunted
by memories and shame
We're the wounded
by sickness and pain
In need of
God's mercy and grace
In hope of
change taking place
We reach out
with yearning tears
We sing out
Pictured above: Joy Lenton with Bishop Graham and Keith Morris