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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.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Rejoice, yes, rejoice!

The dark gloom of winter overtook me,
 the grey skies,
with cold slivers of wind that  threatened to shake the fabric of my soul. 

This is the voice of depression, and if the statistics are right, a great deal of us will taste it in one way or another.  Some will hold it in, and carry on, living in pretense.

Others will reach out for help.

Most will feel misunderstood and very alone.  "Shaking it off", or "focusing on the positive" doesn't always cut it.

For this is the happy time of year, right? 

Recently I read a very powerful interview by Parker Palmer who is known for his wise writing and speaking.   He openly talks about his own depression, and has had three clinical episodes which were very dark times for him.  His sharing helped me a great deal, to understand those I know, and those I work with, who battle the dark night of the soul.  (You can follow the link for this interview)

I too can suffer from depression, and I don't use the word lightly.  Too often we don't acknowledge each others suffering.  We gloss over it, looking for the happy, the light.  It is simply easier.  We don't want to see, we don't want to acknowledge.  It is too painful.

Writing these thoughts can be vulnerable, but I have to be honest about it.  I am prone to depression, aware of it, and sometimes even frustrated with my melancholy soul.  And yet, I realize that it gives me the deep gift of compassion, of being able to sit with another and truly "get it". 

I am not a fixer... none of us are.  But I can be a companion to others who hurt in this grieving world.

If you've read thus far, you might think I might have messed up the title. 

But when I was working through my advent devotionals, and faced with drawing about JOY, it was a challenge for me!  Depression certainly had been lurking at my door, and I could name various triggers. 

So I looked for another word, as I starting researching the word "JOY".  And the word "rejoice" came up, and then this beautiful verse from the ancient book of Habakkuk.  He writes "Yet I will rejoice"... the emphasis on yet is mine.

This was God speaking to me, and I soaked it in.  "Yet" implies whatever you are going through, whatever your situation, however you are feeling, whatever the state of our world... yet I will rejoice! 

This is not a denial of present circumstances, but a wonderful choice to make in the midst of it.  When we choose joy, choose to trust, choose to rest in the arms of a God Who loves us, our perspective can change. 

When you think of the circumstances of that first Christmas, the world then was in turmoil.  The people ached with waiting for a Messiah, for relief of their circumstances.  And then skies blew open and angels appeared and there was this triumphal glimpse of God revealing holy wonder and calling us to Rejoice! 

Rejoice, because Emmanuel, God is with us!  We are not alone.  This is an action verb, a call to action not based on feeling.  I can sing the carols and mean it.  This is not a denial of suffering.  No, it is a medicine for the soul, a lifting of the heart. 

I'm grateful for the gift of Advent... the yearning, the waiting, the conversations about peace.  And rejoicing that God our creator is a provider for all we need.  So, rejoice! 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Not So Silent Night

The blog I wrote a few years (2012) ago has become a favourite of mine, and I re-read it each year and it still rings true.  So I offer it again tonight, as an extra blog post for this week, as we continue to think about peace in our broken world...

Silent Night

   I woke up to the sound of sirens.  It happens often; we live on a hill, and the sounds of sirens often echo in the valley below.  It seems to happen regularly in the wee hours of the morning; and I start the day with a prayer as I wonder who might be hurting, who might be frightened, for the paramedics who rush in to help.

  Sometimes I drift off, but usually I am half awake until the radio alarm jars my half-dreaming, and mercifully my hubby reaches to turn it off.  I'm not quite ready for the days news and love to nestle in and enjoy the quiet.

  Most of our lives are not quiet.  The TV blares, and sounds of cell phones, and chatter and traffic and machines of all descriptions color our days.

  And I think about that much loved Christmas Carol, Silent Night, and wonder - was it really so quiet?  If you listen in your head, you can hear the donkey's braying and the sheep bleating, and if your senses are really tuned, the barnyard smells drift in.  Perhaps a rooster crows in the distance.  The sound of large groups of people gathering, taxes to be paid and a bustling unsettled community there to do Caesar Augustus' bidding.

  And then you hear it, the mother's gasps of pain, the baby's cry.  A Saviour is born.  It is romantic to us, looking back from the twenty-first century, etched on ornaments, painted on cards, sold in a million varieties, the nativity how ever you want it!

  But I think it was far from romantic that night.  It was sweat and tears and noise and smells, and in the middle of all of it... unspeakable joy.  So full of joy that the heavens opened and angels sang!  Hardly silent, I think!!

  So where is the silence?  In this waiting for Christmas, this beginning of Advent Season, I long, more than ever for the stillness of my heart.  To stop, to listen, to rest.  I was reading a devotional this morning by Rob Descotes from Psalm 46:10, which says  "Be still... and know that I am God."  I've been thinking about that all day... Descotes suggests that these words were given as a command in the midst of chaos, of war... and God was reminding them that He was in control...

   And I thought... how appropriate.  In the middle of the chaos of the First Christmas there was a far greater plan... and in my life, in all of life, there is a bigger plan.  God says to me... Be still...there is holy silence in the midst of all the noise and distractions.

  So, "Silent Night"... as we enter into this which can be the busiest of seasons, full of noise and hustle and expectations and spending, and overindulging... I just want to stop.  To savor the silence, to be grateful for all the gifts life brings, to be thankful for a God who sends a little baby to be human, just like us, so that we can be known and loved by a God who cares.  I quiet my heart... and listen.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Peace Offerings


Unattainable in our world?

I'm still hanging on to hope, and with that hope
can I cultivate
the seed of peace?

I've been thinking about the gifts we bring, and I have always loved gift-giving.
When I was a young girl, one of my favourite Christmases was wrapping little gifts for everyone and hanging them on the Christmas tree. 

This gift giving and the hanging of gifts, even as a young teen, was symbolic of my faith... Jesus, who I loved, had given the gift of life, of love, and had "hung" on a tree... this ultimate gift-giving impacted my soul. 

Now, as a grown-up, I love that I can "give" the gift of words, or simple drawings to express my faith. 

I love the advent words, the words we focus on during this waiting season.  They too are gifts we can give to one another.

So many people need the gift of hope.  I know I do some days, when things seem hard.  And then someone gives me a loving hug, or a word of encouragement, and hope renews my soul, quickens my step.

We will enter the second week of advent with the gift of peace.  And yes, some days it seems unattainable.  But the choice to be a peacemaker, to live peaceably, to give the gift of peace is always mine to give. 

I've been drawing about peace, and ended up with two little pieces.  The first one depicts a globe, and the image of being held by God.  There is that hope of peace, peace that surpasses our understanding.  That is the kind of peace that produces calm in the storm, and brings quiet to the troubled heart.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Entering Advent with Anticipation

Last week my hubby and I entered one of our local drug stores, you know the kind which sell everything from groceries to cosmetics to drugs.

And we were greeted upon entry by a very large display.  It seemed that Advent had gone viral, in a commercial sense.  It was so blatant, I was shocked.  I could buy an "advent" calendar with a lego theme, an NHL theme, and a variety of Disney characters.  I went on line, and just in case you don't want to know, there is an advent calendar for alcohol, and even for marijuana.  This was even reported on the news. 

For tea lovers like myself, I can go to my favourite tea store and buy a calendar with a new tea for every day in December until Christmas.  This is a bit tempting.

But quite frankly, the commercialiation bothers me.  The time of Advent has always been a sacred one in my eyes, and it has become obnoxiously secular. 

I have participated in the Season of Advent for years, and written about it, if you look up past blogs.  I enjoyed creating an Advent time with my kids when they were little, the emphasis was on doing things together and looking for ways to bless others. 

Advent is a Latin word from the word "adventus", which means coming.  In the church, this word Advent was used to speak of "the coming of the Saviour".  Thus the origin of the Advent season is about waiting... waiting for this "coming".

When someone is coming, there is a waiting, and also a time of preparation.  I like to think of Advent in those terms. 

With waiting, there is also a "yearning" which I doodled about this week, as I began my own Advent preparation of the heart.  We yearn with hope for a better world, for healed relationships, for good connections with people we love. If you have an Advent wreath with the candles, the first candle usually represents HOPE.

Recently, I had a difficult conversation with a patient who had lost hope, and this person told me quite frankly that my prayers were not working anymore.

As I digested that information, I recognized the yearning... the longing for health and wholeness.  It is not easy to feel lousy much of the time and my heart ached with this person.

We live in a broken world, and encounter suffering all around us.  Sometimes that suffering is our own.  And I thought about yearning... and longing for the Advent of One who comes... and who also gives us the great hope of life beyond this broken world... where there will be no more pain or suffering.

We start advent with Hope.  With yearning for the coming of a Saviour who promises hope, the forever kind.  And as we live in that hope, it gives us courage to live each day with meaning and purpose.

I'm including some resources here for an advent season minus the chocolates.  Pray-as-You-Go has a advent devotional you can follow on-line, and I plan to participate in that.  This is a lovely reflection offered by the Jesuit community.  https://pray-as-you-go.org/prayer-resources/messengers-of-joy-advent-2017/

There are also many other advent devotionals on-line and in print, if you have a favourite, feel free to comment and share!

I've also created two art pieces where you can jot a word, a thought, or a verse for every day.  If you want the full jpgs, you can e-mail me at grace@gracewulff.com and I will e-mail them to you.  These can be printed on a sheet of paper and each have a space for the 25 days leading up to Christmas.  For the children, I found stickers to use, and they could participate that way.

However you participate in this season, may it be filled with hope. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A Song that Encourages

A couple of weeks ago, my hubby let me know we were to pick two songs for an upcoming worship event.  He picked this song that had meant a lot to him from a Promise Keeper Album, and though I was familiar with it, it had been a while since I had sung it.

The song comes from Psalm 3, verse 3.  It brought me back to the years when my dad, the pastor of our church in Harrison Hot Springs, bought song books for our congregation, all Psalms put to music.  The Psalms came alive for me when we sang them regularly, and really, they are songs, poetry that King David and others wrote, set to music for the people.

I love songs and Psalms that are prayers, and this one is no exception.  Psalm 3:3 says: "Thou O Lord, art a Shield about me, my glory, and the lifter up of mine head."  This is the King James Version, but somehow this language fits the poetic words. 

We sang the song, which came from these words,  and it has come to surface many times in my head since.  I'm learning to pray it.  I doodled it, which has become a devotional exercise for me, helping me to focus on the words.

Thou O Lord are a Shield about me:  When I think of God as a shield, we can go to the imagery of war.  To understand the setting of the Psalms, it was a tribal culture;  wars and protection of territory was the norm.  I'm glad we don't live in such brutal times... but again, maybe we do, just in different ways.

I love the visual of seeing this incredible image of God as a covering, a protection, a hiding place.  Then this picture came of a safety net... sometimes we can feel like we are leaping into the unknown, or entering difficult circumstances, and there is an assurance that God's arms are always ready to catch us, even when we fall.

"The lifter of my head.":  The last part of the verse also spoke loudly to me, when I think of the Creator as one who wants to lift my head.  "Why are you downcast my soul", the psalmist laments in another Psalm, and there are times where we feel bent over, misunderstood, weary, and are our heads can tell the story.

I see this especially with friends who struggle with depression, and I ache for them.  This week I shared with one... here is good news!  God, who loves us, desires to lift up our heads, to give us hope, to give us renewed confidence! 

Such is the power of one little verse, which is now a regular prayer and a song I can sing.  This is a verse and song that encouraged me this last couple of weeks, and I hope it will do the same for you.

The lyrics we sang are by Donn Thomas and Charles Williams, you can find the music on the internet.  

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Grumpy Chaplain

Now that I have your attention, I'd like to assure you I'm actually having a pretty good day.

My hubby and encourager often makes suggestions about what I should write about and yes, the title is his.  I wonder why?  :-)

The truth is, yes, there are times I am grumpy.  It is pretty rare I would show that in my work, but it has happened.  Far more often it is my hubby who hears the brunt of my frustration, and I have to say, he is a pretty good listener.

For those who suffer chronic pain, or live with difficult circumstances that seem to have no end, they have my full empathy.  It is very hard to be up all the time when life is hard.  We need to acknowledge that.

We all respond differently to life's pressures, and I've always known I fall into the melancholy camp.  Most artists do, I think.  This time of year when the days are short, and the cold sets in, I can be prey to SAD, which is Seasonal Affective Disorder. 

Thinking about Grumpy made me think of Snow White and the seven dwarfs.  I loved that fairy tale.  There is Happy and Sleepy and Doc and Bashful, Sneezy, Grumpy and Dopey.

Apparently these were not the original names the Grimm brothers gave them, but that is fodder for another blog...I was thinking that I can be all of those at some time or another.  I also love the children's tale of Winnie the Pooh, where I very much like the character of Pooh, so easy going and kind.  Everyone wants to be his friend.  But I joke, I might feel more like Eeyore some days... a little sad, but I still show up.

And I have some wonderful friends like Tigger, who is crazy and energetic and frankly quite exhausting, and I admire all his endless energy and passion.  No, I was built to move at a slower pace!

So when I recognize Grumpy emerging, what do I do?

It is a bit like anger... really all emotions are not wrong, and it is good to be authentic and own how we feel.  It reminds me of what I used to tell my children when they were young... it is not wrong to be angry, but it is wrong to hurt others in your anger.  I still believe that.

If I walked around with a scowl, that could be contagious and not really conducive to caring for others!  I've discovered a smile is also contagious, and when in doubt, I practice in the mirror.  A smile can make all the difference in the world.  So can laughter.  I can choose to smile!

Gratefulness is another wonderful antidote to a sad state, because there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for.  So there is plenty of medicine in my mental cupboard to help turn things around.

Sometimes that takes time... and this time of year I am even more aware of practicing self-care, as I also encourage others I meet to do the same.  Getting exercise, drinking enough water, eating well, quiet moments, prayer, positive thinking... all can help, especially when we are in a crisis, or under a great deal of stress.

And I'm grateful for a hubby who makes me laugh... even if he might call me a "grumpy" chaplain at times.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Stacking Stones

I've had a love affair with stones and rocks for a while now. 

Perhaps it started with this one, as I began a significant spiritual journey, seven years ago.  This rock sits in a labyrinth on Bowen Island, and I found it again this summer!

Since then I've collected them, written words on them, even painted on them,  from the silly to significant.

I've read some great pieces and poems on living in the present... you know that saying where one shouldn't live in the past, or the future... but cherish today!

There is truth in that, but I want to offer the value of looking to our past.  Sometimes we need to revisit the painful places and ask for healing.  This can be a difficult task, easier said than done.  But it can be critical for our well being, and even understanding what shapes us, what triggers us, and understand the relationships that have affected us.  

While we can't live in our past, we can definitely learn from it!

There is another story that I love, which comes from the book of Joshua.  When the Israelites came to the Jordan after forty years of wandering in the wilderness... and some very painful experiences... Joshua was instructed to have them build piles of stones.  These stones were to be reminders of their past.  They were to look back and see how God had led them, God had never left them.  

When I look back, I can see how God has led me...  and I recognize that it is in the places of suffering that I learned the most.  I also see the goodness of God... the faithfulness of God... and as I build my own pile of stones, I can offer gratefulness with a very thankful heart.  

I had fun recently drawing my pile of stones, and named them.  These are the markers of my life, gifts God has given me, even through pain at times.  I called them teachers on my life's journey.

What are your stones?