Welcome to my Blog!

Welcome to my blog! Of course if we were visiting in person, I'd have the teapot out and we could sit and chat.
I'm honored you stopped by to listen to my thoughts and ponderings - and if you have a minute sometime, let me know you dropped by!

You can also find me on Facebook at Grace Notes, Thoughts and Prayers.

I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Living Lovingly in an Polarized World

It is election week in my world.  Civic elections happen in a few days in my town and in communities all around my province.

We are not the only ones faced with elections.  November elections in the United States are also in the news and it seems that much is at stake, for many.

Voting is a precious privilege.  It is challenging to get to know candidates and I'm reading as much as I can. I'm listening and paying attention.   It is one place where we can make a stand, where our decisions matter.

This blog however has been brewing for weeks.  Really it is a new twist on an old subject.  It seems to me that viewpoints are becoming more and more polarized.  Social media is probably partly to blame, but it also depends on your news feed, on which slant you believe; on what you hold true.

What saddens me the most is how polarized the Christian community has become.  People, deeply passionate about what they believe are at odds with one another.

There are a number of "issues" where there are deep divides.  One can throw labels on it, Liberal thinking versus Conservative is one.  I've always been confused by this.  My conservative friends find me quite liberal, and I think my liberal friends think of me as rather conservative.  I keep hoping that this will make me balanced!  All kidding aside, these rifts can be very painful.

There are some news stories that have affected me as of late.  The first is the "me too" movement, the movement of women who are speaking up and talking about abuse.  I've heard many conversations about Judge Kavanagh and Dr. Ford, but what has struck me the most is how this public event has deeply affected women who have experienced abuse.  Some of them have never had the courage to talk about it.  For others, it is the festering of an old wound and it is deeply painful.

Their stories need to be told, and listened to with compassion.  There is a need for healing.  I've read posts which have broken my heart - women who feel that they have not been listened to, who feel trivialized.  Abuse has been a deeply painful part of their lives, often hidden because there was no safe place to tell their stories.

Truth telling can be a painful process when a person does not feel believed.  And perceptions come into it.  My mother taught me this well... what she perceived and I perceived about the same event was often different.  But it is only in honest and loving conversation that we can begin to process what happened and find healing.

This becomes more complicated when a person of power takes advantage of another.  Denial and fear-mongering are troublesome weapons.  When an act of abuse is covered up and there is shame, truth-telling can become very difficult.

There are other areas of deep divide which trouble me.

If we truly believe that God taught us to love one another, do we put it into practice by truly listening to one another's stories?  We need to do this for the "other", for the person who is different than me.  For the street person who has no home.  For the person who has a different ethnic background than myself.  For the foreigner and the refugee.  For the person who thinks differently than I think and believes a different way.

I see this in our school system where many are threatened by changes in education and there are valid concerns.  What I see lacking is the ability to really listen to each other, to understand different points of view.  Sometimes I want to ask "What are you afraid of?"  Instead of defending "my position" can I listen to how another reached their point of view?  Can we reach a point of mutuality and respect even if we think differently?

I grew up feeling certain about many things.  I could easily get on a "soap box" and give my point of view, truly believing I was right.  What I have lost is my certainty about things.  And I don't see that as a bad thing.

What I AM certain of is that the God who created me, who created us all, is the Creator who loves me, and loves everyone.  We are called to love, not to division. Sometimes love is a decision, a way of responding even when I am uncertain. 

And certainly we need to voice concerns.  There is a place for healthy respectful debate.  We need to care about justice and mercy.  We need to protect the vulnerable. 

As I write this I am again reminded of the prayer of  St. Francis of Assisi. 
"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light,
and where there is sadness, joy."

A good prayer to pray in this election time, in any time! 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

My Life is like a Book and Self-Care for those who Grieve

I'm doing double-duty today, but as I was writing about self-care and grieving for the New Hope Support Group I facilitate, I realized that this might be helpful to others as well. 

I've also added a Poem/Prose piece I wrote about my life as a book... I've found this analogy very helpful.

All of us are affected by grief at some point in our lives.  If you know of someone that might find this helpful, please pass it along. 

The Importance of Self-Care

Grieving is hard work.  It is perhaps one of the hardest challenges a person can face.  It takes enormous energy and depletes you physically, emotionally, mentally, even spiritually.

I went to my pastor in despair, just weeks after my husband died. 
"Why am I so tired?" I asked.  He was a wise man, and drew a little diagram for me.  It was pie shaped, and in his opinion 95% of the pie was consumed by grief.  Which left 5% for everything else.

I was a busy mom, involved in my community, but grief brought me to a stand-still as I began to learn a new life as a widow, a single mom, as a grieving spouse.

I was asked just recently - how do people get over such deep loss?  My answer is usually the same.  You don't "get over it".  You learn to adapt, to live a new life, and come to a place of acceptance that this too is part of your story. 

Getting to that place of acceptance is a journey; a journey of hard work, of making good choices, of finding gratefulness and joy even in the midst of grief.

It involves self-care, perhaps more so in this season.  When our brains are consumed by any intensity in our life, we can go on auto-pilot.  Self-care at this point has to be very intentional.  Do I have nutritious food in the house?  Am I drinking enough water?  Perhaps this is a time to take those extra vitamins.  A walk every day is good for physical and emotional health. 

Reaching out to others is not always easy when you are grieving.  But choosing to make that call, reaching out to a trusted friend on a regular basis can make a big difference. 

Being kind to yourself, allowing yourself to rest and renew is critical to healing.  It might mean letting go of some things and focusing on the absolute necessaries.  Grief is not an illness, and yet we also need time to heal, with no time-lines.

My Life is Like a Book

My story takes a lifetime
it would fill a book
Some chapters full of laughter
and others very sad.
Each chapter filled
with learning
for Life's lessons
 come our way.
Do I cherish every moment
of every single day?
I sometimes read my history
for it is my life
I remember all that 
has shaped me
both the good times 
and the strife.
Today is a new day, a new chapter to write
I hold it gently, gratefully
and ask for wisdom; insight
to move ahead with courage
no matter what I face
The book that I've been given
the life that I embrace.
        © Grace Wulff

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Turning a Leaf This Thanksgiving week

I’ve been turning the pages... on my calendars that is, and am I the only one surprised that we are entering the 4th quarter of 2018?

Leaves are turning too.... in a hurry this year, it seems to me.  Tonight I scrambled to get the last of my tomatoes in before a forecasted frost which seems rather early to me.

My hubby watches that forecast carefully, trying to get his outside painting jobs completed before winter. And we are hoping the roof we badly need redone will get done too... we look to the skies to cooperate!

I’m sitting here cozy with my cup of tea, contemplating what I should write this week.  It’s random thoughts this blog, I’m afraid... conversational style!

Thanksgiving in Canada is only days away, and I’ve been thinking of what I’m grateful for. I’m excited that my new journal is finally at the printers after hours of work. I’ll be sharing more about that soon!

I’m grateful September is done... sometimes it feels like a month to survive... do you have months like that?  There are memories that invoke melancholy thoughts, and the intensity of start-ups of all sorts of committees and commitments. There is the garden that seems to need extra attention, and of course I tend to want to preserve tomatoes, plums, and bring in those greens. It is a month of busyness!

Perhaps too there is that desire to hang on to summer... to eek out every ounce of warm sunshine and take pleasure in being outside before the darkness of fall takes our light away.

Besides sorting tomatoes, I’ve been sorting out priorities. What is important?  Where do I want to spend my time this coming season?  Am I scheduling time for quiet, for reflection and prayer, for self care? I want to make time for friends and family, those moments to enjoy relationship.

One of the activities I’ve enjoyed most this year is creating a bullet journal... I have two pages for each week and start afresh each Saturday planning for the week ahead. There are my scheduled events, a menu plan, a record of the steps I’ve walked each day, and a verse for the week to focus on.  I have a to-do list too, and when I’m done here, I’ll check off that my blog for this week is complete. Don’t you love check marks?  I doodle, I use stickers... great fun...and I’ll paste in a picture or two, if I’m in the mood. I find it keeps me on track, in a creative sort of way.

I’m thankful for the life I live, for wonderful friends, for precious family, for abundance. I’m thankful for words... the ability to articulate, to speak, to write, to share. I’m thankful for faith, and hope, and love. I’m thankful for you.

So thank you for dropping by... and as always I love to hear from you, whether it is a comment here or on Facebook or a note by email. It makes it more conversational don’t you think?

With a grateful heart, in this Thanksgiving season.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

I love you to the Moon and back

The September moon was stunning last night.

My iphone camera cannot do it justice, but I'm sure there are many beautiful pictures captured that will be posted today.

What is it with the moon that evokes such emotion?  My hubby and I love to stare at the moon, there is romance in a walk under its eye.  One of our favourite books that we read to the kids is "I Took the Moon for a Walk".  I'm sure we've read this hundreds of times; the moon becomes a faithful companion in this delightful story.

I thought about that the other day, as the moon stared through our window.  I realized it was September 23, a day that has always been imprinted on my heart, since my first husband died on that day, twenty-three years ago.  He is the father of my children, and we were married for almost nineteen years.

He and I too stared at that September moon, that late summer before he died and pondered the eternity that awaited him, that awaits all of us.

I think of the gifts of those conversations, and even the sadnesses of my life, and what that has brought me.

I've sat, just recently, with people in that thin place of being here, yet so close to their heavenly home.  And we talk about what that looks like, feels like. 

I've comforted those who are grieving, and I understand a depth of grief as well. 

As I stared at the moon these past nights, I wrote this poem:

Full moon
September moon
Peering through my window
reminding me of Septembers past
the ancient moon
living, moving,
faithful presence.
Do you hold secrets, moon?
As you hang and float and peer
through my window?
You’ve lit a million skies
And many
Have pondered your mystery.
I think of shared moments 
under the moon,
memories never forgotten. 
Oh moon, you evoke
such emotion in me, 
as you peer through 
My window.

Thank you O Creator for the gift of the moon.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A melancholy life

Some years ago, I took a personality quiz where the outcomes were divided into four categories:

I ended up scoring high on the melancholy profile, not really a surprise.

Of course I romanticized it, thinking being melancholy likely meant being highly sensitive (in a good way of course), intuitive, reflective, artistic, just to name a few.  Some good traits indeed!

I had enough sanguine traits to take the edge off...

As I recall, the sanguine characters were outgoing, happy, charming...so a mix of the two is not a bad thing.  Although I always get confused whether I am an introvert or an extrovert... depends on the mood and the time of day. 

Cholerics are born leaders, bossy, take charge kind of people.  They get things done!

And Phlegmatics are those easy going sorts we all love... nothing much ruffles them.

At least that is the simplistic version of what I remember!

We were commenting on my bent for melancholy recently and I decided to look up this word.  I love words and I duly noted that the last part of the word is holy, that should mean something good!

But I was disappointed. The word in the dictionary is utterly sad... to the depths of despair.  Pensive sadness.. The synonyms listed are a sorry bunch:  discouraged, crestfallen, disconsolate, wretched, glum, morose... shall I go on? 

Just reading that was enough to crush my spirits.

So much for definitions.

I can be
What’s in a word?
It’s quite absurd
that labels thrust
can be unjust.
And yet I see
That I can be

Sometimes it is a good thing to laugh at oneself.

In seriousness, depression is a very difficult condition to live with. I recognize there are varying degrees and a sad state does not always equal clinical depression, which needs treatment. And those who are seriously depressed need hope.  This is an illness, not a personality trait. 

But some of us have a bent for sadness, the Eeyores of this world, longing for the carefree personality of Winnie the Pooh, or the bigger-than-life personality of Tigger. Life can often seem heavy, instead of light.  We can take things far too seriously.

It is good to understand ourselves. I have completed other personality tests, all helpful in understanding how I’m wired, my strengths and weaknesses.  It is good to celebrate strengths and work on weaknesses. 

Someone I loved used to tell me... I can't help it... it is just the way I am!  I disagreed.  I think we all can help it to some degree... and understanding ourselves is often the first step.  In no way can we use our personality uniqueness to be an excuse for bad behaviour. 

On the other hand, we do ourselves no favours by longing to be someone we are not. And on a day where I feel particularly sad or melancholy it is good to be kind to myself, as I try to be kind to others

We are wonderfully and uniquely made!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Things are Not Always as they Seem

We were having lunch at one of our favourite little restaurants, and I was fixing my tea.  I had ordered green tea, as I often do, and I absented mindedly opened the bag and put the teabag into the pot.

But wait a minute... this tea wasn't green as I had ordered.  It was peppermint.

My hubby and I burst out laughing... because our very young waiter had brought me tea in a green package... made sense.  And luckily I like peppermint.

What made it more funny was we had just seen a hilarious picture on facebook of a sign that said "Green Vehicles Only", in a parking lot.  Parked under the sign was a very green old pick-up, probably gas guzzling to the hilt.  Perhaps the sign should have said Electric Cars... or Hybrid Cars... or some other environmentally easy to understand instruction.  But the green truck was parked under the sign "Green Vehicles only" .. looked legit!!

Things are not always as they seem, that is for sure.

I was reminded of so many people who we come across every day who could be in pain, who could be struggling with a chronic illness, who could be grieving... any number of things.  They look fine.  They got up that morning, and they are going about their business as best as they can...

It reminds me to treat everyone kindly... gently.  We simply do not know what people are carrying, even though they may seem as if everything is well.

It also brought to mind about the labels we carry, and how they can be misinterpreted at times.  We all have grids with which we view the world, some good, some bad.  Our perceptions can be just that, a perception of how things are, and not always the truth.

Recently I became aware of how an individual responded to the label "Christian", in a very negative way.  And it made me ponder what was her experience of "Christians".  I wondered if she was hurt in some way by those who wear that label, and if so, I want to say "I'm sorry".

I know from the many conversations I have had in my work as Chaplain that the Christian label is not always welcomed, and in some circles quite suspect.  It is sad for me that it is often acquainted with judgement, with self-righteousness, instead of love.  This is opposite to everything I stand for!

I've come to call myself a Christ-follower, for those who find the word Christian difficult.  People are flawed, Christ was not.

I know I myself can be a stumbling block because I am also deeply flawed.  We all are.  What I DO know is that Christ whom I follow and love called us to love one another.

Labels are not always what they seem.  Sometimes we have to be reminded that what we perceive is not always true. 

And above all, in all things, to live a life ruled by love.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Finding Freedom in Unexpected Places

I've been on a learning curve this year.

Actually, I think this learning is a regular thing, and I'm grateful, for I'm learning when I'm NOT learning I become stagnant!  Kind of like the stinky mess I found in my pail of weeds this morning... I should have emptied that out earlier.  But I digress... :-)

Sometimes the learning is difficult, and as a preacher we listened to recently often said:  "We are all enrolled in pain university...".  From the moment we are born until we exit... into a world without pain!

But life can also be full of joy, and I've thought long and hard about this word freedom... a word I felt God was wanting me to dwell on this year.

It would be so nice to have freedom from the hard things in life... and we all have them. 

But I realized soon that freedom would not give me reprieve... for life happens.  I have my list of difficulties, and I'm sure you could name your own.  Sometimes we live with pain, with grief, with challenges that make us weep.

Every week I send a prayer list to a dear friend who prays for me and the work I do.  She is an important and valued part of my ministry.  This week, after I sent her my list, I added a couple of prayer requests that were weighing me down.

And I was struck by her answer...she told me not to become distracted by these things but to stay on course.

I needed those words... because so often I do lose my focus. 

The verse that sits on my desk is so precious to me; it is from Exodus 10:4.  It says "I carried you on eagle's wings and brought you to myself."

Yes, that is freedom.  It is rising above our problems and pain, and trusting in the One who created us, who loves us.  There is an old chorus I sang as a child and it comes to mind now:  "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face... and the things of earth will be strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace." 

Ah yes... living in the light of the One who sees the bigger picture, in the larger scope of eternity.  "In this world you will have trouble", Jesus said... "but take heart!  I have overcome the world."

This takes faith to believe.  And trust.  But there is freedom in that.  A letting go from what tethers me, and trusting that the God I love is watching over me.  This lesson is a daily one, I think.  Letting go, trusting, and soaring to new heights... this is freedom!