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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, 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.