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.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Life is Hard AND Life is Beautiful

It is over twenty years ago now that my friend Carol died tragically in an ambulance accident.  She was a paramedic, and was coming back to her ambulance station from a transfer to the city.  It was pouring rain, a miserable night in January.

The next evening we gathered at our church, shocked, and grieving.  Carol and her husband had four children, all at home.  We had walked together and studied together.  It was hard to take in; to believe she was actually gone.

And I remember well our Youth Pastor uttering these words that night, "Life is hard, and then you die."

I have never forgotten those moments.  How we all grieved, as we also tried to be the helpers, the comforters.  And we also tried to make sense of it.

Sometimes life IS hard.  As a chaplain, I see it regularly.  And as I seek to bring comfort and hope and faith, I find it is also helpful to just admit it...life can be HARD.  It is hard when a person struggles with unbearable pain or depression.  It is hard when a young child struggles with a difficult disease.  It is hard to sit at the bedside of your parent and know you are saying good-bye.

Life is messy.  We see it in the political storms around the globe.  We see it in a world rocked by terror.  We see it in the youth who I've read about recently who experience child-labour and slavery.  It is hard for women in the middle East and other places who don't have a voice, and we were shocked to hear lately that some are still stoned... these things are horrific.

There are days it would be nice just to bury one's head in the proverbial sand and pretend it isn't happening.  I'm so incredibly proud of my niece Jessie who flew to Africa this week with International Justice Mission to help some of the most marginalized children who have come from slavery.

Recently I read this incredible book The Color of Grace by Bethany Haley Williams, where she chronicles the stories of children who have come from horrific torture in the Congo.  She believes their stories need to be told, and she seeks to bring healing to their lives.  It is not an easy read, but an important one.

This week my hubby encouraged me to doodle the words, "Life is Beautiful". I struggled with that at first, as my heart had been full of concern this week for loved ones, with sadness for many I knew who were going through difficult times, with anger at some of the injustices we see and hear about.

And yet... I thought back to the amazing movie "Life is Beautiful" about a Jewish family who become victims of the Holocaust, and their incredible courage and passion for living; you watch it and your life is changed because you realize that even in the hard times... Life is beautiful.

My hubby was also inspired by the life of Etty Hillesum, also a Holocaust survivor who is called a Celebrant of Life.  Isn't that beautiful?  Her writings and journals of her positive spirit under horrific circumstances are documented in the book: Etty Hillesum: An Interupted Life and Letters from Westerbork.

I wandered outside the other day, thinking about these things, and was immediately captured by a birdsong.  We have one larger tree in our front yard, full of green, but at the top a naked branch reaches out to the sky.

Atop this branch sat the most beautiful little yellow bird, and I was convinced it was singing to me.  I stood there, entranced, and the bird sang on...it was one of those mystical moments, personal, comforting and it felt to me that God was singing... or at least sending me the message "I see the bigger picture.  I care."

As I enjoyed the beauty of this song, I was truly grateful.  And mindful.  That even in the hard times...

...that life truly can be beautiful.

The LORD your God in the middle of you is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over you with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Accessible Strength

It is Sunday as I write this, and I spoke this morning of strength, something I've been sitting with and meditating on this summer.

Instead of a lengthy blog, I thought I'd share some of the verses that have spoken so deeply to me as of late:

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Phil. 4:13

"He gives strength to the weary.  And to they who lack might, He increases power."  Isaiah 40:29

"The Lord will give strength to His people, the Lord will bless his people with peace."  Psalm 29:11

"Do not fear, for I am with you, do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, surely I will help you.  Surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isiah 41:10

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Cor. 12:9

"I pray that out of the riches of His glory, He may strengthen you with power through His spirit in your inner being."  Ephesians 3:16

May these sacred words encourage you this week!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

A Cry of the Heart

My heart has been sad this week, on many levels, and as I was reflecting on some of this, this past weekend, these words came to me.

I grew up believing Christians should be happy victorious people or something was wrong with them.  It was a deeply flawed way of thinking, part of the culture I was part of.

As I have sat with many who suffer, and have gone through my own difficult challenges, I have come to appreciate the laments of King David and Job who dared to ask the hard questions.  I often refer people to Psalm 13, a wonderful Psalm where David pours out his heart... and ends with trust... trust that God is faithful, even in the hard times.  Yes, I too have come to that place...

So my ponderings this last few days:

Sometimes I want to cry
I do.
And if I emptied myself
of all the tears
It would not be enough.

for even my small
of the world.

seems to come in

Those I love
Friends I care about
Those I meet

Tear-stained mothers
on my TV screen
over their lost children.

Some-days it is too much to even

Come to me
Jesus said

I go

Knowing that my God
  can handle my questions

And hold the pain.

We can come
come as we are

Holding hands open.

And find rest
  for our souls.

-July 2016

Psalm 13
How long, Lord?  Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord, my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say "I have overcome him"
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
and my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord's praise
for he has been good to me."
- a Psalm of David

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Reflections by a River

River running
The water sings
A summer song
Refreshed by rain
Flowing swiftly

We sit at rivers edge
This is the place of
My hubby's childhood

And like the river
Ever moving, ever changing

Years flown by
Faces once young
Now held by memory

We talk about old times
And wonder where people are now.

Moving along...

Just like us
Here today enjoying the river

Because tomorrow comes
often too soon.

We hold these moments
An evening beside a river
Air fresh after summer storms

Flow by.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

While You Wait

I've been writing a new brochure this week, one I hope to use in my work as a hospital chaplain, but also want to make available to others if it would be helpful.

Much thought and prayer has gone into this project, as I visit with people in waiting rooms, or have conversations with those who wait.  It is not an easy time.  I know well from the waiting seasons of my own life.

Waiting is not confined to hospitals and doctors offices.  There are so many kinds of waiting.  Waiting to grow up, waiting for pain to end, waiting for big events such as marriage or the arrival of a child. It might be waiting for reconciliation with someone we love or waiting for doors to open when others have shut behind us.  Sometimes we don't know the outcome of our waiting, but find ourselves in a "Waiting Room" period of our lives.

There are many verses in Scripture that I find comforting around this subject... and King David was probably the most prolific in writing about waiting... in fact he waited a dozen years to be king as he fled from the wrath of King Saul.  Psalm 62 is one of my favourites...

The verse that I have sat with this week as I thought about waiting is this:... "Those Who Wait on the Lord shall renew their strength!".  From the prophet Isaiah, who also knew waiting well...

So this is a part of the brochure I hope to print.  I would love your feedback.

... just a bit about the doodle-art... as I drew this word, WAIT, I began to see the word in an enclosed room... and sometimes the waiting is so large, we can't see the way out... but there always is.  I drew a path... with surprises along the way... so we take time to find joy in the present, there are flowers, and words of comfort.  These were my reflections as I doodled...

From the brochure:
 While You Are Waiting
We live in an instant culture.
As a result it can be hard to be patient.  And it can be very hard to be a patient.  Or perhaps you are the caregiver.  Everything has stopped while you sit and wait. 
Here are some simple strategies that might help:
1.  Breathe.… take time to breathe, being aware of your inhaling and your exhaling.  Breathe deeply.  It calms the body down.  It is good for you.  You can try breathing exercise like breathing in love or peace.  Imagine it entering your body.  Breathe out anxiety and fear. 
2.  Live in the moment.  Sometimes the worry scale goes way up when we don’t know the outcome.  It can be easy to imagine the worst.  Bring yourself to today.  Look around at beauty, at people you love and who love you.  Notice the kindness of others, and practice acts of kindness.  Smile at someone, and they will probably smile back at you. 
3.  If the waiting is days or weeks or months, plan each day.  Schedule good things, like reading an uplifting book, listening to encouraging music, taking time to call someone and talk to them.  Take time to create a gratitude journal.  Write things you are grateful for each day. 
4.  If your wait is in a waiting room, or hospital bed, find creative ways to spend your time.  Sometimes what we really need is sleep!  Ask for earplugs if needed!  Simple creative projects such as doodling, knitting, or writing can bring a sense of accomplishment. Ask for paper if needed and a pen.  One patient I met unfolded her paper medicine cups and created little pieces of art.  They brought her joy and helped her to pass the time.
5.  Praying.  If faith is part of your life, prayer can be a way to connect to God the Creator and Healer.  Sometimes it is hard to pray when we are afraid or angry, or uncertain.  Praying the Psalms or a Prayer Book can help to guide our thoughts and prayers and can lift our spirits. 

6.  Talk to someone.  It might be a conversation in a waiting room, or finding an advocate to speak on your behalf.  There are many helpers.  Counselors, social workers and chaplains can listen or help guide you to resources.  Sometimes a simple respectful request of “I need help” can go a long way. 

I hope to print this brochure soon, and have it available at the hospital where I serve.  I also print all of my brochures and booklets for availability elsewhere.   
To date I have written four other brochures:
1.  Exploring the needs of those who grieve
2.  Poetry for the Grieving Heart
3.  When Tragedy Comes
4.  When Staff are Impacted by Grief
and the 5th will be: While You Wait.

Also available are two other resources:
A booklet of my blogs:  "Gifts for the Journey"
and a guided Journal:  for Hope and Healing.

If you are interested in any of these resources, I can always be contacted at grace@gracewulff.com