Welcome to my Blog!

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

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

I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

On the Subject of Healing - an Opinion Piece

There are times when I am compelled to write.

This is one of those times, and I am fully aware that not all might agree with my opinion.  I will respect that.

I speak from the point of a wounded healer.  I have experienced deep grief in my life, and some of my life story has been made more difficult by those who would convince me that physical healing is to be claimed.

I have prayed often for healing for myself, for various ailments, and found that God has helped me, but not always healed me.

How I have wrestled with this!  But I only tell my story.  When my first husband was dying there were a number of people who believed he would be healed.  They prayed that way, even to the point of putting time limits on it... he would be healed in three days.

Another wanted to take him to a Benny Hinn crusade, believing God would touch him,  My husband was in no condition to travel.  And we responded with the fact we knew, that God could heal anywhere, anytime, and didn't need to go to a healing service to receive God's help.

This was highly confusing for us.  Of course we wanted healing!!  He was only 41.  And it was a source of stress and even guilt when we questioned what was happening to us.  In the end, we had to put ourselves into the loving arms of God and trust Him for the future.

Years later, as I processed what had happened, I came to believe strongly in the sovereignty of God, that I can trust God with the whole picture of my life, and the timeline I and my loved ones have been given.

Do I believe in healing?  Yes.
Do I believe we all will be healed, or if we pray the right way we will be healed?  No.

We cannot control God.  Period.  Stuff happens.  To all, irregardless of faith.  We live in a messed up world, in a contaminated world.  Jesus himself said, "In this world you will have trouble, but I have overcome the world."  Is that a reason to say I claim this right now?  I don't think so...

This is a touchy subject with me.  Again when my mom fell ill, and was in hospice, very ready to go to heaven, there were some that wanted to claim her healing.  And it troubled her.
And it happened again with another close family member... to the point where those closest to him were deeply affected and even hurt.

The bottom line is that when people claim healing or force that kind of thinking... even if they are very kind and want the best for you... it becomes a kind of spiritual abuse.

I have seen this kind of thinking in my work as a hospital chaplain.   There are those who simply can't face their death, those who will claim healing right to the end.  And when it doesn't happen, their families are often devastated. There is hope, and then there is false hope.

Ultimately we all will die.  And I believe God is sovereign.

As I accompany dear folks through their last days on earth, I want to share with them a loving, caring God who is with us to the end, and stays with us through that journey of death to ultimate life.  There is assurance in the wonderful presence of a loving God, and we can rest in that.

And there are times where there will be healing.  And I do pray for that, as I feel led to.  But mostly I pray that God would be present, and that there would be comfort in resting in God's love, knowing we can trust Him.

I was triggered this week... triggered by those who would influence, and misguide the vulnerable.  To me it is false teaching and false hope.  Because ultimately we all need the best kind of healing of all, healing for our souls, and the knowledge that with God, we can fully trust any outcome.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Diversion Therapy - a Restful Escape!

I led a support group this week for New Hope, support for the widowed in our community.

The topic was grief and depression, and I wondered who would even show up on this frigid dark January day.  It is a documented fact that the bluest day of the year falls in January, and the rate of suicides spike.

Depression can have many contributing factors, but that matters little to the one in the depths of despair.  Usually one just wants relief in a world that feels weighted down with darkness and often hopelessness.

Depression can often be a byproduct of grief, not only grief of a spouse or loved one, but there are many forms of grief and loss that can trigger deep feelings of sadness.

Just like we take a pain reliever for pain or for a headache, sometimes we need ways to treat depression if only to bring temporary relief.  Temporary relief can bring much needed rest.

I'm not talking about "self-medication" methods such as alcohol overuse or drugs of any sort.  Those are easy-outs with high risks for addition and other afflictions.

But it seems to me that we can bring some relief to our tired brains by re-routing the circuits and I have to say I speak from experience, knowing bouts of depression in my life.

My earliest depression was in my teens when I experienced rapid hormonal change and other physical difficulties.  Before we understood the causes, all I knew that I was in a dark tunnel of despair.  Even then I read all I could on the subject, trying to understand what was happening to me.

As we looked for causes and answers, I remember two things that brought me a lot of relief.
The first was a jig-saw puzzle.

I kid you not, the act of putting together this puzzle, piece by piece, and seeing the finished product was a great relief for my tired mind.

The other was to practice gratitude. I drew about the word gratitude this week, but I remember back then that my dad, who had also experienced deep depression in my life assigned me a task of writing thank-yous of gratitude... ten of them I believe.  This task helped re-orient my mind, and gave me much relief.

As we chatted in our group at New Hope this week, we discussed about the many diversions to give our mind a rest from deep grief, or depression.  My list might be different than yours but here are a few ideas:

1.  Reading an novel... planting myself in another world, for me, is something positive and restful.  A good story is a great escape!  My favourites are my book collections:  Anne of Green Gables and the Mitford Series; both are delightful.
2.  Creating something.  A puzzle, a doodle, a piece of art, or tackling one of those popular colouring books.  It is well known that these activities can change our thought patterns and help us to rest.  Picasso said: "Art washes way from the soul the dust of every day life."  A good dusting might be a good thing!

3.  Exercising.  This is probably the hardest for me this time of year.  I don't like the cold.  But a brisk walk, some sunshine, or even dancing in the living room to something lively can literally help to chase off the blues.
4.  Creating a place of beauty.  I find clearing off my table and doing something as simple as placing a bowl of fresh lemons or fruit can lift my spirits.
5.  Taking care of ourselves can involve simple indulgences as buying a new kind of tea or coffee and enjoying a drink from a special cup.  Epson salt baths are soothing and remove toxins.  Allowing ourselves to rest, even when sleep is illusive is a great thing.
6.  Writing or journalling has proven therapeutic for many.  My word for the year (as stated in my last blog) is Joy!  I choose joy.  One of my girlfriends said she had a joy journal and I'm inspired to start one of my own... writing about something for every day that has brought me joy!
7.  Reach out for support.  This is not always easy to do when one is depressed.  Isolation is common, but if we can reach out to a trusted friend and share our hearts, that can make all the difference in the world.
And if depression lingers or becomes chronic, it might be time to turn to professional help.
8.  Encouraging scripture verses or inspirational quotes can be food for the soul.  I like to often write these down and have them where I can see them and think about them.

So, in this season of shorter and colder days, we can find diversions to bring us joy!  I brought out my seashells, dreamt of the sea, and I'm thinking I might pour myself a little pineapple juice and dream of warm climes.

As always, I'd love to hear from you... and hope this might have helped someone to chase those winter blues away!
 <3 Grace

Friday, January 6, 2017

A Word for this Year

Six days in, and the New Year has settled in, the newness gone, and reality come to stay.

Are you idealistic... like me?  I have to work at shaking it off, to embrace my idealism with a balance of reality.

And so I almost hesitated to share my word for this year.  In recent years I've picked a word... a word to think on, to live by, to motivate me, and learn from.

Even before 2017 rolled around, I knew that my word for 2017 was Joy.  I was quite excited about it, such a strong, positive, hopeful word.  I felt God had planted it right in my heart, to live out this coming year in a fresh way.

To be honest, the year didn't start off quite like I had hoped.  I had hoped for a peaceful, joyful, prayerful beginning, but that just didn't happen.... and as I processed how I felt about that, I realized I would need to make some decisions.  

Joy doesn't just happen, it is often something we choose.  

And I say that carefully, because I work with grieving people.  I myself have grieved this past year.  The Bible verse talks of joy in the morning, but first there is the travail of the night.

I love the verse quoted on this little piece of art:  "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." (Romans 12:12).  A great recipe for joy.

So how does one achieve a joyful heart?  How does one experience freedom from fear?  

Living gratefully is a key to joy, I think!  When I approach life with a thankful heart instead of a grumbling heart, my whole outlook changes.  

Choosing to trust is also key to joy.  "Radical trust" is an interesting way to look at it.  Radical trust is a choice to give our circumstances, our emotions, our heartaches, our pain, - and trust God to carry us through.  This trusting is a wondrous letting go... because I can't control it anyway.

And I'm learning - and it is a constant learning - that surrender, and letting go into the loving arms of  God whom I trust, believing God wants the very best for me; this is the pathway to freedom and joy.

So there you have it... my word for 2017!


Perhaps you have a word too?  I'd love to hear from you.

<3 Grace 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Prayers for a New Year

So I had two blog posts in my head... one a word I've been thinking about, a word I want to be my theme for this coming year.

But before I get to that... I was drawn to prayer, and praying for this gift of a New Year.

And so as I doodled the year 2017, I was drawn to prayer.

Years ago, as a little girl, our "Watch-Night" service, as we called our New Year's Eve Party at our little church always ended in prayer.

I remember those nights with fondness, church families gathering from young children to grandparents for a very fun night of games, and awesome food.

And then, a movie, of all things, a film reel, and we were all fascinated with this amazing technology that would allow us to watch a move in church, of all things!

And then as the old year came to a close we gathered in a circle, often little ones sleeping in their mother's arms, and we might sing a song or two, and then spend time praying.  And the New Year would be birthed in prayer.

I have to admit the long prayers often bored me, and I probably wasn't too engaged in the words.  But it was the Presence, the seeking of our God to give us wisdom and help us through the New Year that deeply moved me, and I remember it each year.

So as I drew these simple numbers which form our year, I thought of what I would pray for... and it isn't all about asking.    Part of prayer is just to acknowledge God's presence, to sit with God, to rest my heart.

As I think about this coming year, I pray for hope.  For many 2016 has not been an easy year.  We need hope to face an uncertain future.  And as our pastor spoke of this morning, we have a certainty that God is with us, even in an uncertain future.  That brings hope!

Our Advent season is complete, and I continue to pray for peace, for joy, for love.  Within my own heart, for those I love, for those I experience life with, for my community both local and global.

I pray for a life filled with faith, even when I might not fully grasp the mystery of it.

I pray for wisdom.  Wisdom that comes from the One who created me, not my own wisdom.

I pray for serenity.  I'm drawn again to the Serenity prayer, which I pray, often:
A good way to "pray in" the New Year:

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference."
- Reinhold Neibuhr

Would you join with me in this prayer as we walk into this New Year?
with gratefulness,
<3 Grace

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Poetry for Christmas

This time of year I find myself looking for resources for Christmas events and services, and I have created some of my own.  It seems like a good time to share them!

Sometimes I just like to write about the weather!  :-)
Us Canadians are good at that, it is a common theme and topic for our conversations.  And right now, it is very very cold.

So I wrote this:

On a Cold December Morning

We wake in the dark
Early winter morning

As we stare out the windows
Christmas lights blinking
in the shadowed
vapoured mist.

Frost creeping
up those windows

and darkness fades
to muted light
through clouded panes
of glass.

A world of greys
   and shades of blue
with glimmering sparkles
of Christmas

It's cold.
We dress in layers
Wrapping up
Insulating against
 the bite
      of winter.

A snug inside day
Hot steamy drinks
And the warm glow
  of the fireplace
Cookies in the oven
 and the inviting smells
of Christmas.

these are the moments
  that make memories
warm and dry
  on a cold
Canadian December day.

- Grace Wulff 2016

I wrote this next short poem last year and it is part of my new little booklet: Poetry for the Heart, inspired by the Seasons.

Christmas Comes

In all the hurrying
In all the scurrying
For some even the worrying
   Christmas comes.

Right on time.

And as I let go
And shift
From the doing

To the being.

Enjoying the moments
cherishing each one
who enriches our lives.

May the love of Christmas
The hope of Christmas
Bring you peace and joy.

-Grace Wulff 2015

And the last poem I will share here is one I wrote for a Christmas Service:

A Not so Merry Christmas

They say “Merry Christmas”
but not all is so bright
somewhere there are soldiers in terrible plight
somewhere there is a child who is hungry and cold
And doesn’t know Christmas the way it is told.
There are those who are grieving someone who has died
And the empty space in their hearts cannot be denied
Oh they say “Merry Christmas”
but not all are well,
For those who are sick, in body and soul
Christmas can definitely take a great toll.
And yet, if you think to that first Christmas morn
Not all was that merry before Christ was born.
Mary and Joseph a long journey to take
A baby was coming, much was at stake
No room to be found, no comforts of home
The Christ child was born in the midst of a barn
The mystery of Christmas, that God would be man
Could Mary and Joseph really understand?
We look back to that Christmas with awe and with wonder
And like Mary, we stop and we ponder
Perhaps the true Christmas begins in the heart
Not always merry, but where hope finds its start
There is hope in the Christ child,
And faith, peace and love
May the true spirit of Christmas
Touch us from above.
  –Grace Wulff  December 24 2011

If you resonate with these poems you are welcome to use them.  I do appreciate that you acknowledge the author and let me know how you have used them.. 

I have blogged pretty regularly once a week, but will take a break now until the new year.  So if you receive these posts, I want to extend my warmest greetings through this Christmas Season, and may the warmth and light and love that God brings be very close to you this coming year!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Extravagant Gifts

I've been the recipient of a number of gifts lately - extravagant gifts!

Some of them have been for my workplace, the hospital where I serve as a chaplain.   Recently I was given a number of quilts, and I am always amazed at the women who quilt in our community.  Beautiful hand-crafted labors of love, and I am usually the one who hands them out!  There are no words for gifts like these, simply gratitude.  Others bring me shawls, prayerfully made, and the impact for those who receive these comfort gifts is precious.

A few weeks ago a parcel arrived at my door.  It was a big box, from my dear friend who lives on the island.  It was heavy!  And I wondered... what could it be?  And inside it was LOADED with her precious little books for children, and a pile of crayons and pencil crayons.  Her generosity filled me with delight!

It is such a pleasure to provide colouring books, crayons, and stuffed toys for children at the hospital.  These are all gifts, generous gifts.  Another group has created bags for me to put them in!

Other grandmothers lovingly put together bags of toiletries for those who need it in the ER.  The gifts are never-ending...

This Sunday (tomorrow as I write this) is the third Sunday of Advent.  And I've been thinking about Joy!  Joy often comes in the midst of challenges, and brightens our lives.

One of the bookmarks I made this year was a bookmark about Strength.  I've handed out many of these bookmarks, and spoken on this subject a couple of times this past summer.  The bookmark includes beautiful scripture verses, reminding us that even in our weakness God gives us perfect strength.

So it was a great surprise one day when I arrived at the hospital chapel to find a parcel with my name on it.  I love surprises!  And inside was this amazing little box... with the artwork from that bookmark etched on it.

I was moved to tears... that someone, who chose to remain anonymous, would give me such an extravagant gift.  I was encouraged and thrilled.  And grateful that this powerful word - strength - had also impacted another, and was inspiration for such a lovely art project.

The verse on the bottom right reads:  
"For my grace is sufficient for you... for my power is made perfect in weakness."  1 Cor 12:9  
I have experienced the truth of this, over and over again!

 ....and then I have to tell you about the boots.

We went to Banff recently for a conference.  Another dear friend was concerned about my footwear in the mountains.  So she generously offered to loan me her boots.  She thought they would be better than my options.  :-)

I was a little hesitant to accept.  Her boots, especially the RED ones were beautiful and funky and fun.  But I said yes, gratefully, and took them to Banff.  I wore them only once, and they were comfortable, and I felt, well quite fashionable!!

I returned them the following week... with gratefulness for her generosity.

A couple of weeks went by... and I was home recovering from a minor surgical procedure on my back.  To be honest, I had a mole removed, and I was feeling a little sore... but it also triggered a lot of memories... my first hubby died of melanoma... and in 2000 I had a melanoma removed as well.  I get a little edgy around suspicious spots.

And even as I tried to let it be, to rest in God's care for me, I felt fragile that day.

So I sat there... that afternoon and a delivery truck drove up.  "I didn't order anything" I told my hubby, but he said... it's for you!  And inside?  My very own pair of red boots.

Such an extravagant gift.  I knew immediately my dear friend had ordered them for me.  And again, I was moved to tears.

And I thought about God, who loves me so, who loves each one, how well God knew I needed some extra care that day.  The timing of such a lovely gift could not have been better.

So I wear my red boots... and laugh!  Because it is fun, because I have lovely extravagant friends, and a God who lavishes love on me when I need it most.

And I need to say... my spot was completely benign, as I found out ten days later, and I was so very grateful all over again.

This is rather personal... but I think we all need encouragement.  And I am again inspired to be generous, to give extravagantly, to live life with joy.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Peace in a Troubled World

I light the candle of Peace.
And I long for it to burn fiercely.

If I look at history, or current world affairs, peace seems illusive, a wonderful sentiment this time of year, and one I love to use on my Christmas cards.

For while we sit in our comfortable homes, and enjoy warmth and good food I am also more aware of those around the world who have so much less.  I think of the stories I've read this week about Allepo and other parts of the world.  My electronics bring the world into my living space and there are scenes I can't erase from my mind.

We've all endured the troubled times of the US election, and even us Canadians have felt the angst, the division, and the uncertainty of our future.  I think of Standing Rock today, where 500 faith leaders will join the peaceful protesters, and no matter what "side" you are on, there doesn't seem to be any peaceful solutions, but a war of wills.

And just the preceding paragraph will ignite passion no matter what side you are on.  People in families, sitting down to eat Christmas dinner and many deeply divided.

Peace on Earth? It seems a scarce commodity.

I love that Bible verse from Romans 12 which says: "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." 

Yes, peace begins with me.  I light my candle and join it to yours.

There are many glimmers of hope, and I am grateful for faith.

And so I sang with gusto this morning:

"He is our Peace... who has broken down every wall!
Cast all your Care on Him... for He cares for you!"

The song refers to Jesus, of course, also known as the Prince of Peace.  He came as a little baby, helpless, in an upside down world.  God's ways are not ours, and I'm grateful there is a greater picture, and a promise of Peace for all time.

That is where faith comes in.

And in the meantime, I light this candle.  I choose to live a life of peace.

Peace to you, in this special Advent Season.