life and faith

When retreating looks like the best way forward

Hope this week finds you well, my friend.

Sadly, I’m feeling dog-tired. Reading feels like too much effort, let alone writing.

Words blur, eyes see double and hands cramp stiff.

The last few days have been a huge effort just to wake up and keep going with a body that only cries out for rest and sleep, yet is refreshed by neither.

As I’ve struggled, fought and wrought to find words to fix on a page – and come up empty – it has reminded me afresh how much I need Holy Spirit inspiration and enabling to do this at all (Okay, to do Everything). 

Ideas were there. But the execution of them was sticky as treacle, stodgy and heavy with a mind like porridge. 

I’ve thought, prayed and thought some more. The praying yielded better results as always. I sensed God saying, “Just write about how it is and I’ll supply the words”. 

At least He didn’t say, “Do nothing”. Much of life with M.E consists of saying “No” to some good things in order to say “Yes” to the better thing – which is usually more rest.

So here goes…let’s start again. Lord, please show me what to say..

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Six months ago I experienced burn-out and drain-out. I was totally depleted in mind, body and spirit.

Having struggled for a few years to keep going with the Women’s Fellowship Group I was leading, it was obvious I was floundering, fatigued, and very near collapse, despite the clear supernatural anointing, enabling and equipping that had made it possible at all.

It was the only church-related act of service I had done in years. Attendance at anything else (including Sunday worship itself) was extremely unreliable at best.

So I took time out. Committed to rest. Committed to finding out what God might be asking me to do in the future.

Only I didn’t completely rest. I was already fully engaged with social media and blogging by then. Soon, it became my main outlet, source of friendship, fellowship, church, and interest – and it still is. I rushed into everything like a child let loose in a sweet shop who runs eagerly up and down every aisle trying to grab at all the goodies on offer.

God-sized dream? Yay, why not? Living Wonderstruck challenge? Oh, yes, count me in. Join an on-line writing course? Just the ticket. Take up a 30 day Uni-tasking challenge? Great idea. Just what I need. Join lots of Facebook groups? Why not? I love to belong, connect, be a part of what’s happening…

And these are all good things. Great ideas. Lovely ways to connect and learn. I’ve benefited hugely from being involved. Though enthusiasm will only carry us so far if there is insufficient energy to see things through.

But are they God’s best for me? There are so many voices speaking into my life, clamouring for attention,  that I’m in danger of failing to heed the One Voice who has been seeking my attention all along.

I felt desperation to stay connected to the world as mine shrunk to four walls,  a deep desire and need for friendship with fellow M.E/chronic illness sufferers in particular, a real enjoyment of sharing thoughts and ideas with writers and bloggers.

But I have run into a problem: more burn-out, very little recovery to speak of, and confusion over what I’m really supposed to be giving my very depleted energy and limited ‘active’ time to. Sometimes we can spread ourselves so thin we’re at risk of tearing into tiny, fragile pieces that are incapable of bringing substance to anything.

How do I decide the best way to move forward? God is showing me that it is only achieved by first stepping back, retreating a little, if you like.


Crashing and burning is an all too common phenomenon for M.E sufferers. The temptation to over-do things is irresistible when precious energy is available, but it leads to an urgent need for more rest, pacing, scaling back of activities and prioritising. That’s where I’m at right now.

I don’t often write about my life with M.E. (you can click on the link to see the main symptoms). It sits hovering in the background like an inconvenient truth I’d prefer to ignore, even if profound daily symptoms are an ever-present reminder. 

When they become as intrusive as they are now (I suffer from over 80% of the listed symptoms), they shout for attention and completely take over everything. Any semblance of the ‘normal’ life I crave is then impossible to hang on to.

Just recently I wrote a poetic lament about how unjustly those with M.E (and, indeed, other chronic physical and mental illnesses) are often perceived. Today, I am sharing my struggles in a different way.

I’ve not given up on anything yet (just dis-engaged and slowed down considerably), though I will have to soon to avoid further relapse.

What I am doing now is actively seeking to be quiet for a spell. And to facilitate this I am going on a retreat for a few days. They have no wi-fi, so it also means going ‘cold-turkey’ with social media…gulp!! My phone may not get a signal either…more gulping.


In the way with God-incidences, this was planned a few weeks ago when the only pressing need was a soothing, helpful environment to house and take care of me for a few days while my beloved (husband, carer and personal slave) goes to visit our youngest son. It was clear even then that I couldn’t cope with the necessary 5+ hour (including stops) car journey there and back, the noise and disruption of planned DIY, nor the social interaction.

So this retreat is literally a god-send for all concerned. It involves taking a step back to evaluate where I am now and what may need changing, for we can get so caught up in comparing or competing with the ways, words, or works of others, that we fail to see what God is asking us to be, say/write, or do.

This side of it I have no idea what a retreat will look like, what I will do or achieve.

I hope to:sleep, rest, relax, switch off, unwind, listen to God, pray, read, write, drink in the peace and quiet, receive some spiritual mentoring. At this point it looks like sleep may be my main activity.

I am wary of even temporarily leaving the world of social media and the blogosphere that has been such a lifeline. The friendships and support gained there are invaluable to me as a housebound person who longs for connection, and the flexibility to dip in and out at a time of my choosing.

Even so, I recognise that my soul and body currently crave peace; stimulation of any kind is exhausting and silence is beginning to look like a very attractive option indeed.

The company of like-minded souls (and Anglican nuns) also sounds very appealing.

Knowing that I am one who devoured books about convent life and loved ‘The Song of Bernadette’ film as a child, my husband feels a bit worried that I may not want to return home again at the end of my stay!

Entering the novitiate may be tempting. Hmm…

But I love life, even one limited and constrained by chronic sickness. I love my family, friends, people, social interaction, chatting and being part of things too much to want to lose contact completely.

And I know too much silence may just drive me crazy

Balance is what it’s all about.

Meanwhile, I know I will benefit from the break, but I’m also going to miss you all dreadfully.

And I need your help:
Please would you pray for me to make the best of this opportunity, to hear from God concerning my present and future calling, and to be able to discern the right way forward when I return? Thank you so much.

It has taken me a long, painfully slow, grinding week to write this in tiny snatches and if you have made it to the end of this rather long, meandering post, I congratulate you! 

There will be better days. I will write more eloquently. I will feel less sick and incapacitated. And I hope to record the retreat experience on a blog post near you very soon – God willing – if this is a temporary blip rather than a more serious setback.

So take good care of yourselves, my friends. I really look forward to catching up with you in a week or so.

May God greatly bless and keep you all in His tender loving care until we meet again.

PS:I love reading and replying to your comments. Please feel free to leave one below and I’ll do my best to catch up with them when I return and (hopefully) normal service of sorts resumes. Thank you.

24 Comments

  1. Eileen 25th May 2013
    • Joy Lenton 9th June 2013
  2. Anne Peterson 25th May 2013
    • Joy Lenton 9th June 2013
  3. Joan 25th May 2013
    • Joy Lenton 9th June 2013
  4. kimmie stuckinscared 25th May 2013
    • Joy Lenton 9th June 2013
  5. Jobiska 25th May 2013
    • Joy Lenton 9th June 2013
  6. Anonymous 25th May 2013
    • Joy Lenton 9th June 2013
  7. Sharon Gibson 25th May 2013
    • Joy Lenton 9th June 2013
  8. Lynda Alsford 26th May 2013
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  9. kathunsworth 27th May 2013
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  10. Jedidja 28th May 2013
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  11. Ruth Povey 28th May 2013
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  12. Tanya Marlow 3rd June 2013
    • Joy Lenton 9th June 2013

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