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.

Friday, December 28, 2018

A Christmas Story from the Heart, last blog of 2018

I don't often write fiction, but this story came to me after an experience I had recently.  There is some truth, but it is mostly fiction.  I hope you will enjoy it, as we enjoy these days of Christmas, and think of the beautiful miracle of Christmas - love came down to dwell among us.

A Christmas Story - a story of the Heart 

This is a story of the heart.

A heart that feels deeply, loves deeply.  And on this day it ached deeply.

We were approaching Christmas, the busy season of lists and shopping, and baking and decorating.  I struggled to find the quiet times to soothe my heart, to listen to the longings.

I missed my children, far away, and longed for relationship with them.  I packed bright cheery parcels and spent a fortune at the post office. 

I missed my husband, now in heaven just two years, and the heart ache was real, the loneliness physical and heavy at times.

Oh, I could cover up well.  I attended the office parties, attended the church choir concerts and pasted a smile that didn’t always go deep.  People thought I was doing pretty well.

But one day the ache wouldn’t leave, causing pain to stretch down into my arms and around my back.  It was hard to breathe.

Another panic attack, I thought.  This was annoying, I should handle this better! 

But the ache persisted, and finally I called a friend.  Something is wrong, I admitted.

And so here I found myself, in the hospital, just before Christmas.  Trees decorated in the hallways, Christmas music drifting out of speakers, but very much a hospital.  IV poles and IV lines were part of my landscape, along with monitoring equipment, blinking like tired Christmas lights.

I was absorbing the news that my heart was in trouble.  I’d need surgery.  And I was afraid.

Where was my husband when I needed him?  Would I be seeing him soon?  What about my children, and the grandchildren I hoped to hold one day?  The thoughts swirled unceasingly in my tired brain.

Christmas came, and the ward was quiet.  I was alone, in my room.

And then the visitor came.  She was a chaplain, she said. 

She introduced herself and asked if she could give me an ornament, and held it out, shiny and red.  I couldn’t believe it…It was in the shape of a heart.

I held the heart, its soft fabric in my hands.  “It is a heart”, I said.  And then I told her… “I’m waiting for heart surgery… and you brought a heart.”  Tears came to my eyes.

The chaplain was amazed, for it was the only heart shaped ornament she had.  And somehow, it was the one she had chosen to give.

She asked, could she pray for me?  And in that moment, I knew that I was not forgotten.  I knew my broken heart was noticed by God, who cared about my pain.  “Yes”, I said, and I listened as we prayed for God to be with me as I waited for surgery, to be with the surgeons, to bring peace to my tired heart.

Christmas was different that year.

I received the gift of surgery with a heart beginning to heal. 

But even more important, I received the gift of love and knowing that God was watching over me – as he guided someone to bring me a heart shaped ornament and pray – on a day when I needed it the most.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Celebrating Joy, Renewed by Love

Last week I jotted in my journal "Where will I find Joy this week?"

And it was found in unexpected and precious moments.  Our little grandson leaping from rock to rock in a nearby playground, saying, "Yes, Grandma, I know this is dangerous!" hit our funny bone.  Dangerous or not, he did it anyway, joyously living life.

There was joy in places of sadness, bringing in a Christmas tree to a young friend of mine, in last stages of cancer, and celebrating the light and joy that brought.

There was joy in the gift of a meal from our Korean friends and sharing life with them.

There was joy in the skies, as the light filtered through the winter days, making the clouds dance, against the winter blue.

This weekend we turn our focus on Love, the fourth word in our Advent Journey.

I loved this verse from Zephaniah, which I have been reading all week.  It says:  "Do not fear, O Zion!.  (I slipped in my name instead of Zion, and it became very personal). 
"Do not let your hands grow weak!  The LORD your GOD is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory;  He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will renew you in His Love!".  

Our Creator God rejoices over us... what a wonderful thought, and we can be renewed in love. 

In the craziness of this week it was good to keep coming back to these words, which were food for my soul. 

So as we light the fourth candle, the candle of love, I thought of these words, the final acrostic for Advent:

LOVE, is GOD, in our midst
  Light for our way, giving Life
Oh to rest in this love
  washing over me, from the One who gives
Victory, manifest in weakness,
  yet triumphant
Eternal and Everlasting. 

Monday, December 17, 2018

Reflecting on Joy

Joy is the next step on this advent journey, the weeks slipping by in this season of parties, concerts, gatherings and preparation.

We sang about joy yesterday and it was very clear to me that JOY is not the outward emotion of happiness, but something much deeper, that comes out of gratitude for all we are given.

If you've been following along in this little series, I've been working on an acrostic for each week.  JOY is very short! 

The old acrostic I grew up with a child was this:
Jesus first
Others second
Yourself last.

I've had to rethink that... in the "helping" world that I and many of my friends are, putting others first can have some drawbacks.  Indeed, we need to look at taking care of ourselves to fully serve others.

Joy has everything to do with gratitude.  When we live thankful lives, Joy just bubbles out of gratefulness.

And there is much to be grateful for.  Faith and hope.  Love.  Shelter and food in abundance.  Beauty all around.  The laughter of children.  The list is endless. 

But I'm limited to three letters so here goes!  :-)

Joy is Jubilant, and yes, it is about my friend Jesus, the reason for Christmas. 
Omnipotent describes this gift of Christmas, God with unlimited power, able to do anything!
Yielding to the God of hope and peace, with trust.  Mary choose to do that, yielding to the miracle of Life within her, trusting in God's plan for her.

How would you describe Joy? 

It is a beautiful gift, in the season of Advent.  It is promised to us... Joy will come, as sure as the day follows the night.  Joy to the World, the Lord has come... Joy is Emmanuel, God present with us.

Monday, December 10, 2018

an Acrostic Poem of Peace for Advent

The second in words of Advent, this is an acrostic poem about peace.


  a Promise
by the ONE
   Who Is PEACE.
"My Peace I leave with you,
   do not be afraid!"

Even in the midst of
Emmanuel - God with us
   entering our world

  "I am with you, always", 
     Jesus said.
Able, Ageless, Abundant

as Close as our breath
Creating Calm
our Creator cares and provides for us

Everything we need,
   in the light of

-grace wulff 2018 advent thoughts

Monday, December 3, 2018

An Acrostic Advent

In my ponderings of Advent this year, I thought I'd attempt to write an acrostic poem each week to enter into this season of waiting.  

Here are my thoughts on this beautiful word "HOPE".

Hope involves the Heart
   a response
   of Yes
   in the midst of unknowing
   Yet, believing
   that all will be well.

   choosing light
      however faint
   over darkness.

   with trust and faith
      and courage to take
          the next step.

Ever present
   Encouraging, a knowing
   that we are held, loved
   by the One who is

-grace wulff 2018 advent thoughts

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Generous Gifts

It is the season of giving gifts.

I am always blown away by the generosity of others.  Since the first year of handing out little gifts made of Christmas Cards at the hospital, people have jumped on board, saving old Christmas Cards, and stitching them together. 

Every year now for the last five years we have handed out these hand-crafted Christmas stockings recycled out of old cards.  They are "stuffed" with a hand-made bookmark and a candy-cane and bring cheer to those who would receive it.  It is a small thing but it is precious.  Last year we handed out around 400.

The first year I spend hours making them, now they land up on my door-step, or in my office... dozens at a time... little stockings ready for the giving.  It is beautiful, generous gift of time and love.

Last Sunday I rounded up a wonderful crew who helped me to stuff this year's paper stockings.  And they are ready to go!

The generosity doesn't stop there.  I wrote about my friend in a story printed in "Christmas with Hot Apple Cider". (Published in the fall of 2017).  My friend supplies me with beautiful ornaments and little gifts each year to hand out to those who need it most.  These gifts bring an extra measure of cheer and love to those who find themselves in hospital during the Christmas Season.

This story, called "The Christmas Ornaments", is one of a collection of stories in this book, and tells of how we handed out these little ornaments in our local hospital and even hung them on IV poles.  It was a privilege to share about this wonderful gift-giving in this lovely book of Christmas stories and poems, all written by Canadian authors.

And there is more...  some of the most treasured gifts I receive year round are the beautifully crafted prayer shawls and quilts that I give to those whom I meet - it might be for those who are grieving, or someone with a new and difficult diagnosis.  One precious woman to whom I gave a shawl kept it close to her until the day she died... for her it was a treasure, and reflected the presence of God comforting her in her last days on earth.  These stories always move me, and I'm grateful for those who sew and knit, stitch by stitch, prayerfully and lovingly crafting a gift that will be a symbol of love and comfort. 

Another dear friend puts toiletry items together in bags which I am able to pass on to Social workers to give to those in hospital in need of these items.  Others supply me with crayons and new little stuffies to put in bags for children waiting in the ER.  Others create cloth bags to put these treasures in.  Anther artist friend has supplied me with beautiful little books to add to those bags, especially for the children.

All of these beautiful gifts are tangible reminders of a caring heart, of those who want to make a difference in real tangible ways.

As Advent approaches, it is good to think of the simple things we can do to show love to others.  It might be as simple as a smile, or a phone call, or checking in with someone who has been having a difficult time. 

And I want to THANK YOU... to all who have donated and given - some have given money to buy supplies, others old Christmas Cards, others have spent much time and resources creating resources.  Each is a generous gift and I am grateful.

This time of year can be hard.  This season evokes emotions for many.  I find what brings the most joy is to bring joy to others, and as you can see I am very blessed indeed, by the community of generous givers I find myself among. 

I'm reminded of this little verse from Galatians 6 which says:  "Let us not become weary in doing good, for a the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."

Here is more information on the book, "Christmas with Hot Apple Cider", which is published by "That's Life! Communications", edited by N.J. Linquist.
I have copies available from my website www.gracewulff.com or you can purchase them from me personally.  (I have a limited supply).  They are also available on Amazon.

Monday, November 19, 2018

A Wish List I Don't Really Want

If I had what I wished for
I'd wish for a world without pain
No heart-ache, no sorrow
All sunshine -  no rain.

Yes, there are days that this is what I wish for.

Remember the good old days of the Wish Book?  Sears put it out for years, and it would be well-eared by now, creating all kinds of fantasies about the perfect Christmas.  It was a sad day when Sears closed its doors and the ways of paper catalogues full of dreams and wishes gave way to the great world-wide web.

Today it is Amazon on-line, and a host of other retailers.  Our wish is their command... and the delivery trucks are busy this time of year.  Perhaps we have to remind ourselves to get out, take a walk, and shop local.

But the true things of life really wished for go far deeper than the material things.  We buy into the lie that stuff will make us happy, but deep down, we know it isn't true.  And as we ramp up to Black Friday .... and I can't believe all the PRE-black Friday sales that have been heavily advertised, we can get swept into the world of good deals, and the desire that perhaps I do need this stuff...and it seems to get blacker every year. 

In the hospital corridors that I often roam in my line of work, I see a far greater need, or wish, if you like.  And all the health dollars in the world can't often create the outcome we desire, or speed up the system, or change some really hard news.

I've been thinking lately... is what I wish for truly what I really want... or need?

I do know that is has been the most difficult things in my life that have taught me the most.  Things about beauty, and the fragility of relationships, and about noticing the little things.  When you think of that pearl that is developed in the darkness of the oyster, it is not without the friction and darkness and challenge that beauty emerges.

I don't say that lightly.  I heard stories just today about what is so hard about a challenging illness.  It wouldn't be wished on anyone.  And yet, over and over, I hear those who say that their illness was a gift, a teacher, and that good things happened because of it.  Families come together, people help people, what is really important emerges.

I remember well how I felt when I was newly widowed and watching other couples fight over trivial things.  It made me crazy.  I wanted to shake them and say... don't you see what you have?  And I knew in my loss that I never cherished what I truly had all along.

Yes, we can wish for a comfortable, easy life.  I sometimes wonder what a bored life would look like.  But then I realize how rich I am, and give thanks for the full life that is mine. 

Sometimes we want a church that is comfortable too... a church where we "fit" in.  But the truth of it is, we bring our messy lives, we hold tension of not always being the same, we learn to live with unity where there is not always sameness.  This is the beauty of communion, the sacrament of eucharist.. we are thankful for what we all share together, broken as we are.  We are filled with gratitude for the One who calls us all to live in unity.

So, perhaps I don't wish for a world without pain.  Pain draws attention to what needs attention.
Heart-ache reveals that I have loved deeply and I can bring my cares to God.
We need the rain as much as we need the sun...

And right now as we approach the Advent Season, we bring our longings and our yearnings and what we wish for and ask God what we truly need.  For that is where our strength comes from.  Not from wishes fulfilled, but knowing we are the beloved and we can say, "The Lord is My Shepherd, I have everything I need."  As Teresa of Avilla said it so well... "God is enough."

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Remembering Mom

This week mom would have her 86th birthday, her 5th birthday in Heaven.

Recently I held the hand of a precious woman as she took her last breath. Her room just across the hall from where my own mother died, in hospice. Those are sacred moments and I’m grateful for the work of hospice who create space and provide such good care for the dying.

I’m so grateful for the time we had at hospice with my mom... three months of sharing memories, conversations, loving. The blog I wrote on June 13, just days before she died has become my most read post.

So I’m reposting it here, happy birthday week, mom. I miss you every day.

Conversations with Mom

  We have passed the three month mark.  Three months at Hospice, an epic journey for mom, for all of us.  The highs and lows have reminded us of that roller coaster ride... yes  there are discouragements, but also joy and love and even laughter.

  I was thinking this morning, as I couldn't sleep... of all the lovely conversations I've had with mom... just this week!!  And I realize that these are gifts I might have missed... and I am grateful.

  So with her permission, I'll share some of them with you...

  Mom sleeps a lot these days.  The other day, I was busy by her bed, texting my siblings and thought she was fast asleep.  All of a sudden she says with a start..."How are my beloved children today?"  I wondered how she even knew I was just communicating with them!  "Just fine, Mom"... I say, and then I think about that... am I really fine?  Part of me wants to answer NO!  I am tired, and I don't want to say good-bye... we all don't want to "lose" our mother... and yet... it is true.  We ARE fine... so very fine.  We have had this gift, the gift of a loving mom, who even in these days her first thought is of us, of her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren.  I've heard her whisper their names in her sleep... we are fine because we are loved, because we have each other.  And we are rich.

  The other day, she apologized to me... "I keep forgetting things."  Honestly, we are amazed how good her memory is with blood levels in the basement.  "You remember the important stuff, Mom", I reassured her.  She sank back into her pillow.  "I love you,"she said.  "See?... you remember the important things!" 

  She is always concerned about others... "Watch the clock", she told me the other day... "I try not to bother the nurses during shift changes"... my mom, the nurse, so aware of others.  I assured her that if she needed help during shift change we might ask for it anyway!  But she has taught us consideration of others... and displays such a grateful attitude to all staff who walk into her room.  (And the staff at Hospice ARE wonderful).

  "I don't want to see June!" she said frequently as the days of May closed in on us.  May passed by... we walked into June.  "I didn't want to see June", she said to me this week... "but then I would have missed the roses.  Thank you, God for the roses!"  Last month she read Ann Voskamps book "A Thousand Gifts".  It is all about gratitude.  I highly recommend the read.  The book encourages us to count the gifts, to live in gratitude.  Even in dying, Mom looks for the gifts, and is grateful.

  Mom has spunk, even now... "how should we plan this day?" , she said to me this morning.   She has no strength left for any projects.  The crocheting has been put away.  The books lie beside her unopened.  "I will sleep", she said... and then I might eat a little... Oh, I need to make some time for washing up!"  She smirks at me... the days plans are set... and I read to her from the Morning Prayers..."The night has passed, and the day lies open before us; let us pray with one heart and mind.... As we rejoice in this gift of this new day, so may the light of your presence, O God, set our hearts on fire with love for you."

  A new day, a new gift...another conversation.  And we are grateful.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Breathing a Prayer

Prayer can be a comforting thought, or a foreign practice.  We think of prayer in so many ways; we learn rote prayers as children... now I lay me down to sleep... and in my era we prayed the prayer that Jesus taught every morning as we started our school day:  "Our Father, who art in heaven..."  This is a wonderful prayer to pray.

I grew up learning different ways to pray - and although some of these "formulas" were helpful, not all were.  I remember being in a camp as a ten year old and criticized for how I ended my prayer.  I was told that if I didn't pray in Jesus name, my prayer was not effective.  As a ten year old I knew that wasn't true, but didn't have the words or courage to defend myself.  I do pray in Jesus name often, but I don't think it is a mandatory ending, or magical formula for God to answer my prayers.  God is so much bigger than that.

What has been most helpful for me is the word "conversation".  Another word I love is "communion".  To me, prayer is entering into an awareness that God is with me and that I can communicate with him freely, just as a child would to their loving parent.  I come as I am. 

This awareness can start early in the day as I awaken... and it is a wonderful practice to just say "Good morning" to the One who created me, who gives the gift of breath, and beauty, and life.

Before you come to any conclusion of my having it all together with prayer, I will assure you that I struggle at times.  There are times where I rant and complain, much like the Psalmist.  There are things I don't understand, and these are part of the conversation at times. 

As a hospital chaplain, I am with many who struggle with prayer.  Their cries might feel unanswered, or in their pain or grief it is hard to express words.  I am reminded of that beautiful verse from Romans 8:26 which says:  "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans."

Sometimes when we don't know how to pray it is helpful to pray the prayers of others.  I have learned to love written prayers that I can say yes, I pray that too.  In my Baptist and Mennonite heritage, we learned to pray freely, using our own words.  I am grateful for this.  But I have also come to love and respect liturgical prayers and practice - there is a beautiful rhythm of praying and agreeing with others as we draw close to God.

Some of the most amazing prayers to pray are those of scripture.  You can just "google" Scripture prayers to pray and you will have a list of prayers to pray.  I love the prayer from Psalm 19:14 which has also become one of my favourite songs:  "May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer."

A few years ago I heard the concept of breath prayers.  These prayers are lifted as we breathe, helping us to focus on God.  One of the most beautiful breath prayers is to pray the Hebrew name of God" Yah-weh".  This name was so sacred that the Hebrews would not say it out loud.  When we breathe this beautiful name of God, we invite this beautiful Holy presence to be with us. Breathe in Yah, breathe out Weh, focus on God's beautiful presence. 

In my devotional journal, "Words of Faith to Live By", I write several breath prayers for each word. 
Here are a few:

"Lord, here I am, sitting with You."
"I rest in Your Love.
"My hope is in You."
"Yahweh, I am here. Yahweh, You are Here."

We often think of prayer as a request time, and there is a place for that. 

But just as we wouldn't go to our friends with requests at the top of our list, we would want to just be with them, to get to know them, to be grateful for them.

I truly believe God is a personal God who is just waiting for us to have conversation.  The whole earth is testament to the beauty of creation, and one can just sit by a beautiful lake, or view a majestic mountain, or even be taken with the beauty of a rock or flower or tree and pause... pause to take in the beauty, to give thanks.  This too is prayer. 

Prayer is awareness, prayer is listening.  Prayer is trusting in the One who created me.

"Words of Faith to Live By", the devotional journal, is available through my website www.gracewulff.com, or through me personally.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Words of Faith to Live By - finding REST

Over the last few months I have been pondering words to live by.  Actually words have become a bit of a theme for me - I love doodling them, dwelling on them, and being encouraged by them.

There is power in words!  Words can bring healing, hope, encouragement.  Or they can tear down.

I was excited to put twelve of these words into my new devotional journal, which is available now.  This project is dedicated to the beautiful women I meet with each month who live with cancer, and each month we talk about a word to encourage us.

But these words are for everyone. 

I thought I would share a little excerpt from one of the words in the devotional journal, in this week's blog.

In our busy world rest can be seen as a luxury,
but truly, it is a necessity.
God teaches us to rest, giving us the first example as the Creator rested after creating the Earth.
How do we quiet our hearts, our bodies, and our souls?
As we still ourselves, practice deep breathing, take in beauty around us, we can begin to relax.
Our blood pressure goes down.  

Find rest, Oh my soul,
that I may be nourished in You!

Breath prayers:

Jesus, I relax into your loving arms, let me rest there awhile.

Let me be quiet with You, Lord, in You I trust.

Yahweh, I am here.  Yahweh, You are here.

Each chapter has a number of scripture verses to go with the word, some breath prayers, which are simply taking a simple sentence prayer and incorporating it with your breathing.  It helps us to slow down and focus on prayer. 

If you are interested in buying a devotional journal, they are now available on the website:  www.gracewulff.com

I'm hosting an open house this weekend  in Vernon, (Nov 2-3)  if you live close by, connect with me and I'll send you the details.  Besides the new journals, my other books, calendars, cards etc. will be available.  And some of the funds will go to the Chaplaincy Program at VJH.

Praying you find rest in your day, your week.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Pondering the Journey of Self-Care

The other day, my hubby and I were sitting outside in a beautiful place, looking at the lake after a brisk walk.  It was beautiful, and it felt so good to sit with him, sipping my cup of tea. 

I then said this bizarre thing:  "My life is so large in some places, I need to create smallness in other places." 

"Does that make sense?" I asked my hubby.... and because he is very kind, he said yes!

I had to think about what I meant.  My life is large, it is full, it is blessed.  At times, it is exhausting.  I know I need to create times of quiet, of rest, of reflection, of intimacy with God, with creation, with my husband.  Perhaps small isn't the right word for it, but it is a place with boundaries.  Spending time there, gives me freedom and energy to live my larger life.

I have almost completed April Yamasaki's new book "Four Gifts - Seeking Self-Care for Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength."  It is a great read and I would recommend it, especially for those with full lives.

I received my e-book this summer and it has taken me a while to read it, to spend time with it. 

One of the first things that spoke to me is that we can become preoccupied with caring for ourselves and lose sight of the fact that God wants to take care of us!  Yamasaki writes "Instead of focusing narrowly on caring for myself, I can cast all my cares on God, who cares for me and who cares for all of us."

There is freedom in pondering that.  I have long believed that if God calls you to do something, there will also be provision to do it.  So there can be a trusting in God's care, and asking for wisdom to manage our time, our schedules, our lives.  There is the provision for the work at hand, and also a call to rest.

Recently I was called to the hospital after a busy morning at church.  I was tired; I had just completed a full and intensive week.  But I went, and the joy I experienced being with this young patient was nourishment for my soul.  It was later that afternoon that we took time for a walk and a tea... and I recognize now that God gave me what I needed, joy in the giving, and also provision to rest and rejuvenate afterwards.

Setting spaces for quiet and rest is a challenge in our busy world.  The world can be loud, with many distractions, including social media, TV, lots of voices vying for our attention.  Can I be intentional about finding quiet corners to renew? 

I have found spending time with April's book refreshing.  It calls me from what I would could consider "selfishness" to "self-awareness".  Paying attention to the needs of my heart, my soul, my mind and my body (which she terms as strength) is a life-long learning.

I lean toward doing, I enjoy those ticks on my to-do list.  My mind is active.  As I get older, slowing down is no longer an option, but a necessary calling to care for the body God created, so I can also care for others.
"Be Still and Know that I am God.", is one of my favourite verses.  It is easy to recite, much more difficult to practice.  I know that becoming still and spending time with God gives me strength for my day.

Balance comes to mind, and April addresses that.  She writes: "Given both the strength and frailty of our physical selves, caring for our bodies would seem to require two movements".  She talks about building up our strength, and resting.  We need both. 

So I encourage you to read this book, if you are able.  To have a cup of tea, to enjoy a walk in the autumn air, and I'm feeling the need for a nap this afternoon.  Just saying...

A Sacred Pause in a full life... and thanking God for loving care and provision.

This drawing was originally inspired by April Yamasaki's other wonderful book: Sacred Pauses.  Also a wonderful read.

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!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

God is not in a Hurry

We've been listening to Pastor Bobby Schuller of Hour of Power most Sunday afternoons and he has a creed he recites with his church every week.  One of the statements they repeat is "I don't have to hurry, I don't have to worry". 

I have been repeating those words because they are good for me.  The creed goes on to say that our friend Jesus is with us, helping us on the journey. 

"I don't have to hurry, I don't have to worry" are good words for slowing the steps, for slowing the heart, for taking deep breaths, for paying attention. 

Last night I was doing some calendar planning.  September can come upon us like a moving train with all sorts of start-ups and programs.  For years I have felt like I need a holiday after September, there is so much to do, from harvest to meetings, and everything in between.

And I think, how can I do this better?

Deliberately slowing down is a start.  Sometimes I have to break this down, do I take time in between tasks to have that cup of tea, to be still?

Planning ahead has also made such a difference in a full life. 

As I look at my September calendar I can have that conversation with God... where do I take time to rest?  What do I need to prepare for so I am ready?  Do I have spaces in my life so when the unexpected comes I am not exhausted?

These are the questions I ask myself, and wrestle with at times.

And I think of my Heavenly Father, our Creator who is NOT in a hurry.  I see that in the garden, where there is growth, but we cannot see it. 

Sometimes we want to rush God a bit... it is hard when we are in a waiting place and want to see results.  There was one prayer request I prayed that God took twenty five years to answer... and I despaired at times. 

"In His time" is a song we sing... and it is true.  God makes all things beautiful in His time.  If we rush it, like helping a rose to bloom before it is ready, we spoil the beauty. 

There is surrender in that... and peace.  We can relax, knowing that life will enfold as it should, that we can trust God with our very lives.  "I don't have to hurry, I don't have to worry", words I am humming these days... because we can trust our Creator who sees the bigger picture!

Monday, August 20, 2018

An Ode to our Beautiful Province... that is burning

I wrote about smoke last week.

It is the topic of conversation everywhere... smoky skies, fire and how it affects us.

These words came to me today:

Beautiful British Columbia
on fire
My home

there is a heaviness in the air
It seems our world has become

Black and white
We long for colour
We are known for colour!

Flowers still blooming, 

trees rise up to greet the day, 
do they feel the smoke?

Other trees give way to torches, 

lighting up the sky
sacrifices to the great fires that 
cannot be contained.

There is a soberness we feel, 

a somberness
for as we live and breathe, 
we are all affected.

we feel it, 

we see it, 
we even smell it.

this can't be turned off like
tonight's news which just has more
of the same.

clogging our lungs
threatening our health
impacting our world.

This too shall pass

we look for hope. 

grateful for all the helpers
praying for their endurance
and health
and safety.

prayers for all affected.

Beautiful BC
We often take our home for granted
may we have wisdom
to be good caregivers
as we live in this place
of beauty.

smoky skies in Vernon earlier this week
on Saturday they said the air quality was worse that Beijing.

In Northern BC it is worse.

Praying for all our friends who are affected.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Pausing to give thanks on a Smoky Day

There are many tributes and gestures of thanks to firefighters this time of year... and there should be. I can’t imagine fighting in the heat, breathing in the acrid air, charging into dangerous areas encumbered with heavy protective garb and hauling heavy equipment.

This year there are so many fires and not enough manpower. The task is enormous and the threat real.  We can't thank firefighters enough for risking their lives to fight those fires.

We also offer thanks to those who must manage all these logistics... sending out crews, informing the public, making decisions about evacuations. Often a thankless job.

There are so many to thank, if you think of it.

First responders, search and rescue, ambulance crews all deserve our gratefulness. Being the first on tragic scenes takes a toll.

Hospital ER staff, Victims Assistance personnel, and support staff  all experience things we cannot imagine, seeing the rawness of life unfolding.  They respond to tragedy with professionalism and calm.  They are appreciated!

Working in a hospital, I often observe the challenges health providers face.  Vomit basins, bed pans and wound care are  just part of the job. What I am touched by is the sense of dignity a nurse can offer when a patient is most vulnerable. This takes inner strength and compassion.  Doctors make decisions we can't even fathom, the responsibility that rests on them is great.  The body and mind is complex and we expect much of them, not often giving thanks.

A whole blog could be dedicated to social workers; their workloads often overwhelming and the needs are great.. I’d like to thank those who clean surgical equipment (did you ever think about that), and those who keep the hospital clean.

While we are mindful of those who risk their lives, there are many who work challenging jobs that benefit us all. 

After a plumbing disaster last month I find myself very thankful for plumbers. I can’t imagine that is a fun job, but I was so thankful for the help I received that day. Watching roofers working on our neighbours roof last week got me thinking about the risks they face, working on steep roofs in all kinds of weather. It makes me think of my own hubby often climbing ladders up high to paint houses, and I pray for his safety!  These are all professions we can take for granted, but when we need them it makes all the difference.

Have you ever been thankful for a dentist?  Given my love for visiting them, I can’t imagine choosing that profession. But when I get a toothache... a year ago I had a weird growth in my mouth that even perplexed the dentist. But his calm manner and gentle treatment put me at ease and he was able to resolve it.

And then there are undertakers. Have you ever thanked one?  Or a coroner?  They too are touched by tragedy and offer professionalism while caring for bodies that held life...

So thank you... to the helpers. Too many to mention. To those who face the unimaginable, to those who face danger, to those whose jobs might be mundane but keep us safe or healthy, or provide the things we take for granted.

As I sit here on this smoky day, gratitude is a good exercise. Grumbling is easy, gratitude changes our frame of mind.

So, thank you!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

To the End of the World and the Top of the World

It started with a walk with my grandsons some years ago now; my hubby and I had taken them on a wagon ride in our neighbourhood and at the end of the street, there is a deep gully and magnificent views of the lake and hills.

"Are we at the end of the world?" the oldest one asked.  In his four year old eyes, it certainly seemed that way. 

So the end of the world it became, and we have taken many wagon rides with them enjoying the world of imagination.  I even wrote a little book for them about it, complete with pictures. 

The story is about the little green wagon and how it finds the end of the world.  Of course all the grandchildren want to go, but some live far away. 

This past week two more little grandchildren got to see the end of the world.  They live far away and it was so wonderful to have them here.  The littlest one wasn't even born when I wrote the story. 

"Would you like to go to the end of the world", I asked the five year old?  I showed him the book.  "Oh, we have that book," he said!"  Well of course, I had sent it to them!  But now we dusted off the green wagon and with their daddy's help navigated our way to the end of the world.  So much fun!!

This spring we took three of our grandchildren on another walk on the hills behind our place, and as we climbed, I casually mentioned we might be now going to the top of the world.  Another place of imagination!  

I walked there myself today... the views from up there always stun me; the everchanging cloud formations, the birds soaring overhead, the grasses dancing in the mid-summer heat, the lakes shimmering below.  

It fills me with gratefulness.  And even though I can jest with the little ones that we are on top of the world, I'm also taken in with the vastness of God's beauty, the depth of the skies, the beauty as far as I can see.  And I know this is just a small corner of the world, and an even smaller corner in the vastness of the universe.  

And yet I am seen... and loved... by the Creator who made it all.  "I'm on the top of the world" goes that Carpenter song... yes that is true. Wherever I am, the One who made me is there too.  There is so much comfort in that thought.  

from the "top" of my world, August 8, 2018