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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 31, 2015

Mercy - a prayer for the New Year

This will be my last post for 2015.  As I was pondering the commencement of a new year, I thought about what I wold like to focus on this coming year.

I'm not going to list resolutions.  Most of the time they fail.  Earlier this year I bought one of those devices that track your steps.  I was so excited.  Then I became discouraged.  The little watch like monitor was not very kind, and I found myself short of the goal - many days.  I will even admit that there were days I paced the hall and ran up and down the stairs a few times just to say "So there!".

When I lost the thing, my husband laughed and said my guilt was gone.  So now I try to stay as active as I can - and don't worry about numbers.  For others it might work much better!

A few years ago I thought about a theme for the year, and I chose gratitude.  That was a positive spiritual exercise I would like to repeat.  When I was thinking about what word I should choose to dwell on the word "mercy" came to mind.

I have a funny story about mercy.  Years ago when my parents were vacationing at a family cabin in 108 Mile House, in the interior of BC, they had a dog trail them as they were walking home.  Definitely not "dog people" they tried to shew the dog away.  But she would not give up and clung to them in an unusual fashion.  "Mercy!" my mom kept saying, but this little dog had found them and wouldn't leave.

When their vacation was done, and all attempts to find an owner failed, they ended up taking the dog home.  And Mercy - yes, they named her Mercy, became their beloved dog for the next number of years.

My two girls, a long time ago!  Mercy is the dog on the right, a dog loved by the whole family.

Mercy is a beautiful gift.  Mom and Dad showed mercy to a helpless dog, and she gave us the gift of love and companionship for many years.

Mercy is a word used often in scriptures, describing God as a God of mercy, a God of compassion.  I draw great comfort from that.  

So as we close the chapter on 2015, and enter into 2016, I love to do it with a prayer.  Here is a wonderful one-line prayer from Jude, my prayer for each of us this year. 

"May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance."    (Jude 1:2 NRSV)





Tuesday, December 29, 2015

When the New Year Comes without You

It was twenty years ago that I faced my first year without my husband, a first for me and my children.  I remember it well, and I remember being surprised at the depth of emotion that welled within me.

I realized in my head that it was just the next day in the calendar, but walking into an uncertain future; my heart wasn't so sure.  The new year felt daunting and frightening.

I remember well the evening, New Years Eve of 1995.  We were at my parents, my grandmother still alive; and they were singing songs.  I couldn't sing for my sadness, and was an observer.  Grandma, who rarely was able to communicate fully anymore knew all the words.  Music can do that for people.  And I remember she had whispered, why not me?  At 91, she was quite ready for heaven.

And indeed, the following June, close to her birthday, she slipped away.

And the years too have slipped away, one after another, as they are apt to do.

Two years ago I experienced the first Christmas without my mom, and I think of her every day.  This time of year is especially tender, for she entered fully into the Christmas spirit, and we celebrated together.  Every New Years she would make "New Year's Cookies", a deep-fried Mennonite fritter, and just thinking of that brings smells to my nose and a taste to my tongue that is unique to this time of year.

This year, 2015, we said good-bye to several of my hubby's family, all within months of each other.  Brother Larry died in March after fighting cancer with all his might, our first Christmas without him.  And then their dad died, and an uncle.  A generation now gone.  A new year without them.

There are days when we feel young.  And then there are days, when the waitress slaps down the menu, seniors menu's conveniently placed on top, and we realize we are becoming the elders.

A New Year is always full of promise.  For us our little grandchildren hold the promise of tomorrow, with their bright and sunny faces.

I am always reminded, especially this time of year, for those who grieve.  For many, this is a first... a first Christmas, a New Year without someone who was deeply loved and who is dearly missed.  And as the sun sets on 2015, and will rise again, some will feel pangs of sadness.

And yet a New Year always comes with a gift of hope.  There is hope of spring, hope of new possibilities, hope of good things to come.  We hold on to the promise we will see our loved ones again.  We can trust in the promise that joy comes after mourning.

I'm always reluctant to say "Happy New Year".  Like "Merry Christmas" it can have a false jolliness that is not always genuine or felt.  These words run off our tongues like the rote greetings they are, and I sometimes long for old greetings like "Peace and Grace be yours", or "God be with you".  True beautiful words of comfort, more easily written than said.

And so, as we enter this New Year, peace and grace be yours, and if you are mourning, may you be comforted.




Sunday, December 20, 2015

They say "Merry Christmas"

I wrote this simple poem three years ago when I was searching for a poem to share at a Christmas service at the hospital.

We say "Merry Christmas" so easily, it has been on my tongue and spoken dozens of times in the past days.  But I know all too well that the "Merry" can be a painful word for those who are very sick, for those who are grieving, for those who are lonely, for those who long for connection, for those whose families struggle.

This is the truth of it.  We long for the perfect picture, the happy feelings, and want to be on the perfect Christmas card, feeling joyful and peaceful.

Here is the poem, and please feel free to pass it on if it strikes a chord with you.  And may your Christmas be gentle, filled with hope,  knowing you are loved.

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
Who 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 
written December 24 2011


These beautiful snow-covered branches greeted me near the hospital parking lot as I went to work this week.   God's gift - a beautiful Christmas greeting for all who walked by that morning.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Ode to Joy on a not-so Silent Night

I grew up listening to classical music, and "Ode to Joy" is the final movement of Beethoven's final symphony, Symphony No. 9.

It is a triumphant piece of music, the most amazing part being that Beethoven wrote it without being able to hear the actual music, other than in his own head, for he was stone-deaf at that time.

Years later, Henry van Dyke wrote the words to the familiar hymn "Joyful, Joyful, we Adore Thee", (1907), setting it to the famous melody "Ode to Joy".

The words are ageless, and powerful.  Verse four says:

Mortals join the mighty chorus
which the morning stars began;
Father-love is reigning o'er us,
brother-love binds man to man. (don't you just resonate with that?)
Ever singing, march we onward,
victors in the midst of strife
joyful music lifts us sunward
in the triumph song of life.

Oh yes.  Music that gives us hope, marches us toward victory, ever knowing that there is a Father loving us,
and we are bound, one to another in love... powerful, indeed.

In the midst of this joyful sound, I also thought of the favourite carol, Silent Night.  I wrote a blog some years ago, that was one of my most read pieces.  It talks about the not-so Silent Night.

Therein is the paradox - in the midst of a broken world, terror threats, both now and then, people yearning for hope, for a promise of a better life, joy breaks forth as the skies open with angels singing - joyful songs of peace.  I'm not too sure the night was silent on that occasion!

Do the angels sing today? As I pondered that thought, I was reminded of the amazing gift of music and how it touches a deep place in the soul.  Yesterday I witnessed a miracle - in a hospital ward, with patients with advanced dementia.   We were singing Christmas carols with them.  One precious lady tried to dance in her wheelchair, her eyes as bright as the sun, and two others whom I was told rarely spoke, were singing, full-on singing.  Another dear man, tears rolling down his cheeks, his heart moved by the music.

Oh yes, joyful music lifts us sunward, joyful sounds even in the darkest of places.  That is the gift of Christmas.  On a not-so Silent night, joy came, and hope in the form of a tiny baby, God among us, Emmanuel.



Saturday, December 12, 2015

Joy with an Exclamation Mark

I have a hard time writing the word joy... without an exclamation mark!

It just seems to belong - a word with exuberance, with deep emotion, a heart full of happiness and peace and love... this would equal joy in my thoughts.


Of course, joy can be elusive.

Especially at this time of year, and I know this well, as I work at a hospital.  Depression is common and debilitating.  Illness, loss of health, tragedy weigh heavily, and seem even more difficult around the Christmas season.

 I've experienced it myself. And wanting to be authentic and honest, joy is not always felt.  Although it is the desire of my and many a heart.

I remember well a Christmas in 1995, and I, a new widow with three teenagers had an aching heart.  And I could not sing the words that year "Joy to the World."  They stuck in my throat.

Shortly after Christmas, I remember asking a Hospice worker if I would ever be happy again.  For I was certain I wouldn't, that was the depth of my sadness.  And she assured me, yes... but it would take time, and that I needed to embrace my grief, as it was.

And so I did, one day at a time, choosing to live, choosing to love.

Two Christmases later my children pulled out some old slides and wanted a picture slide show.  My heart sank, for I knew for certain I would start to cry - and that bothered me... and them.  But to my surprise, as we rolled through our memories, beautiful pictures, I was able to laugh and smile as I remembered.  It was a moment of joy for me!  And a lovely discovery that grief would not always grip my heart.

Joy can come in the moments.  Life is a fabric of sorrow and joy, good times and bad, the sweet with the bitter.  If I've learned anything is that there can be wonderful moments, like rays of sunshine in the clouds that draw you to joy.

I've been drawn to the Christmas words this year... hope, peace, joy.  It was the angels who were exuberant that night in Bethlehem, shouting joy from the heavens.  Their joy, contagious for the shepherds, who were terrified at first, then found courage to go looking for a miracle!

To me, that is the miracle - finding joy in the darkest of places.  This is the message of faith, the hope that joy will come.  With an exclamation!




Saturday, December 5, 2015

Peace on Earth

When I started posting Advent Thoughts on my Face Book Page Grace Notes Thoughts and Prayers, this week, I didn't fully understand how sitting with these beautiful advent words would affect my own preparations for Christmas.

The ancient prophet Jeremiah said "When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and delight." (15:16)  When we sit with a word, or phrase, it can become alive, it can be like spiritual food!  And if you are not on Face Book, and want the daily thoughts on advent, let me know, I'll try to find a way to send them to you.

I've thought a lot about hope this week, how it turns our hearts toward eternity, how it strengthens our faith in things unseen, how a seed of hope can be planted in the darkest of places.

And now we turn to Peace, in this second week of Advent.

To be truthful, this word has troubled me this last week.  We use this word almost flippantly, and we see it often this time of year, on our Christmas Cards, on our decorations, in our media feed.

And in truth, we long for it.

But we know, in the images we see, and the news reports we read, that we are far from peace in this troubled world.  We still are shaken with the terrorism in Paris, and this week in California.  And often what doesn't even make the news are the atrocities in Nigeria, and Beirut and other countries, where violence almost seems a way of life.

The fact is, we become afraid.  We become protective.  And sometimes I am conflicted, because even as we so recently took solemn silence to remember our soldiers on Remembrance Day, and are so grateful for their sacrifice and for our freedom, the fact of the matter is that I absolutely HATE war.

In truth, I am at heart a pacifist, and I come by it honestly, with my Mennonite Heritage.  But I have always despised hurting another, and have a hard time even comprehending what would cause human beings to destroy other human beings.

When I was a young mother, I hated guns so much I banned my children from playing with them.  But kids are creative and before I knew it the Lego blocks became guns and the childhood games had begun.

Is there violence in our hearts?

When I look, deep inside, I see those tendencies to self-preserve, to protect.  I can become jealous or angry, or even rude.

So peace becomes a choice, a way of life.  As that beautiful song says "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me".

I love the greeting "Peace to You", I like it far better than "How are You?, but it seems awkward and archaic.  Perhaps I'll work on that this week.

As we enter this Advent week of Peace, it is my prayer.  May Peace reign in our hearts.   Peace to you, my friend.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Advent is for Adults too

The phrase "a Sacred Pause" has resonated with me this fall, particularly as I've been enjoying the book by April Yamasaki called "Sacred Pauses".  A wonderful book, by the way.

And as we enter this busy season with to-do lists, many activities, social obligations, shopping, parties, concerts and much much more, I'm drawn to creating the quiet sacred pauses, to still the heart, to ready myself for Christmas in a thoughtful way.

Advent can be a gift to us in this season - because it helps us to slow down and reflect.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the first Sunday of the Church Calendar.  Many churches will draw our attention to these holy rhythms, and today we sat with the word "Hope", hope for a broken world.

There is so much anticipation in this season.  We long for connection, for joy, for light in the midst of a dark world.  Often, in this advent season, we focus on four words: hope, love, peace and joy.  Over 2000 years ago there was great hope that a Redeemer would come as the Messiah, and his coming as the Christ Child is the reason Christmas is so sacred to Christians today.

And this Christ-child became the Saviour and is the embodiment of Love, of Peace, which brings great Joy. If you listen to the Christmas Carols that we know so well, you will hear this message over and over again.

So we celebrate in many quiet ways.  In churches many light the candle of hope today.  One church I know encourages families to get together to light a candle today, this first Sunday of Advent.

Or it can be in the quiet of my heart.  Perhaps you will doodle as I did, thoughts about the meaning of Advent, or you can list what you hope for, or what the word hope means to you.

There is always an anticipation, a longing, a hope... we hope for a better world, we long for peace and justice.  And in this waiting, it is good to sit, quietly, in reflection and give thanks for hope.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Preparing for Advent - for Children!

I love Advent.

The first year I remember creating Advent memories for my children was almost 32 years ago... oops, I date myself.  But I was pregnant with our third child, and preparing our children for the new addition to our family which was to come early in the New Year.

In the midst of that, I was given a wonderful book, now long out of print, about a woman who had created an advent time with her children - also around her pregnancy.  So following her guidelines, we created a simple tradition that helped us to prepare for the Christ-Child, a tradition that helped us to think about the first Christmas, and also taught the children to think of others.  And we also prepared for the birth of their little sister.

That little baby is now my beautiful adult daughter. and has just given birth to her fourth child!  So as I hold this precious new grand-baby in my arms, I'm drawn to those early Advent memories, and want to share that with our grand-children as well!

Today I found an old article I wrote for a Parenting Magazine in November of 1984, called "Spending Christmas Together".  I wanted to take a picture, but the quality of the old print is poor.  But what a treasure to find!

On the pages of this old article are pictures of my three little ones, gathered around the Advent Calendar, which then was made of old match boxes, decorated with wrapping paper and pasted onto a bell shaped piece of poster paper.  One match box for every day of December until Christmas Day.  And in each box was an activity for the day, whether it was baking Christmas cookies, or bringing some goodies to someone who needed cheer.

In later years I made a fabric Advent Calendar, complete with 25 pockets, which I still have to this day.  I put it away for a few years after the kids had left home, but lately I've been finding creative ways to bring it back into use.

 

Recently I saw a good idea on my Facebook Page which showed a felt Christmas tree, and there was an ornament for every Advent Day.  I knew I didn't have time to create this project, especially with all the felt ornaments, but I was inspired to try a paper one.  I was so excited about the project, I thought I would share it.  It is perfect for busy moms who don't have a lot of time.

Of course, the proof of the success will be how much the grand-kids like it, but I've fun creating this little Advent project for them - smaller ones for the little ones that live far away.

You just need green paper - card-stock or construction paper to create a tree which can be glued onto a white background.  I used letter card-stock size for the ones I mailed, and bought poster paper for the ones I will do locally. I found a tree template on-line and followed it loosely.  It doesn't have to be perfect!  And then have fun sticker-shopping!

I was looking for star stickers yesterday and remembered I had some sticker photocopy paper left from another project, so I actually made some of my own stickers which was fun, just using clip-art from the Internet.  You can buy sticker paper for printers and have a great time creating your own!



I had fun finishing this one to see if it would work out... but the whole idea is to create space in each day of Advent to talk about the coming of Christmas, and it is a fun activity for little hands.

For older children, I love the idea of including them in reaching out to others, whether it is bringing gifts to the Salvation Army, or to the Mission, or helping someone in need.  It is a good place to teach the love of giving, in this season of receiving, and these activities can be incorporated around an advent theme.

However you celebrate the season, may it also be a time where there is Advent Rest, and sweet times of fun with those you love.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Fighting Terrorism

I woke up with a dream in the middle of the night.  A nightmare actually.  What was amazing to me was that I was able to fall asleep again, quickly, but this morning I remembered...

We had moved.  Our first night, displaced, in a cavernous house, and I was missing my home.  In my dream, I awoke to noises, and as I peeked through where I was sleeping I saw people in black robes outside, heads covered, with machine guns pounding the house with bullets.  I saw bullet holes in the outer walls.  And in my dream I knew I was not safe, and that they would show no mercy.

And then I woke up.

We are all affected by terrorism.  By the images we see, and the terrible knowledge that hate and killing and anger seem to have no boundaries.

Beautiful cities like Paris, where people now tread softly, and don't feel safe.  And places like Lebanon, and Beirut, and Syria, and many places in Africa where violence has become a norm.  And you wonder, how does one live in the midst of war like conditions?  Of never feeling safe?  Of attempting to live normal lives in the midst of constant threats?

I was very touched by one story I read yesterday, posted by my friend, where she shares the story of three women who came upon a piano in Paris, the kind that is there for the public.  And there they began to play, and sing, songs of hope, songs of love, God songs to bring courage. And many joined them to sing.

And perhaps that is how we fight terrorism.  By singing songs, and refusing to hide.  By showing courage.  By fighting with words of kindness, and deeds of love.

I think, with tears, of the young lads, and even girls, indoctrinated with hate.  How can this be prevented?  I believe hate often comes from a wounded heart.  How do we offer healing for those broken hearts?

Perhaps by reaching out to refugees.  By sharing what we have.  By choosing to be a safe place for others.  Fear gives way to anger, and violence.  Love is a much stronger weapon.

Today is a new day.  And even though I might feel despair over the violence in the world, I can be part of the choosing. I was inspired by the quote of Fred Rogers who talks about looking for the kind helpers in the midst of tragedies instead of being afraid.  And I can choose to be a helper, to show kindness, to share love.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Waste

Our printer broke down earlier this year, and we dug out our warranty and replaced it... again.  And I was surprised by my anger, for it seemed that these machines were not built to last.

And I specifically asked for a printer that would use the same ink, as I carefully removed all the ink cartridges out of the old one, wanting at least to save the very expensive ink I had bought.

So this week, wanting to replace ink in our hungry printer, I placed one of those old cartridges in... and it wouldn't work.  In and out, I tried a number of times, but the printer would not cooperate.

So off to the store... where they told me... the old cartridges had a bigger capacity, and wouldn't work.  Same brand, same ink, wrong printer.

And as I fumed (in a friendly sort of way of course), the lad told me that he had actually asked the company why they didn't keep things the same... but was told that they change things... so the customer will have to buy new.

So as I watched the computer guy feed his recycle bin with my very good ink, which wouldn't work on my now machine, I was completely annoyed.  And in good taste, he was annoyed with me and we agreed it was a complete waste.  Although I then handed over money for ink cartridges that would work.

This is not isolated situation. We replaced our stove this year as well... less than two years old, just slipped by warranty, because the computer panel was too expensive to replace.  It was cheaper to buy a new stove.

And we throw things away, big things, and buy new because we are caught in a system that we can't control.  Or can we?

My husband sometimes teases me that I have become an environmentalist, and truly, I try.  I know we can do better.  But I have to start with myself.  We are a nation that throws away a lot of food.  Do I use my left-overs well?  Do I recycle?  Do I try to fix what is broken?

I've learned to make my own laundry soup and hand-soap, and other things, but there is always this weighing of time and energy versus convenience.  And often, like many things in our culture, convenience wins out.

I will admit I often forget my cloth bags at the grocery store when I am in a hurry, and are thankful for the plastic ones they provide.  And my house-painter hubby is happy to use those plastic bags for wet paint brushes... but I know the truth of the matter is that we use far too much plastic, and we don't always dispose of it properly.

And so I am challenged to do better.  And perhaps a rant about ink is not a bad thing, I might even write a letter to the company.

And in the big scheme of things, in a broken world, I choose how to live.  To choose to be kind, to take care of this beautiful earth we've been given to live in, to give thanks to God for life itself.

And as someone said, these are truly first-world problems.  But as a citizen of the whole world, I want to live in a way that is responsible and caring.  Even when it comes to ink.


Monday, November 9, 2015

Remembering the Gift of Celery Soup

Today I was reminded of the gift of celery soup.

Cream of Celery, that is, and it is over five years ago that I made a rather large potful.  

This is not a soup I make often, in fact I'm not sure I have made it since.  But that day I had brought home a large bag of celery, leftovers from my dear nephew's memorial service.

The memory is a sad one, but also one of God's provision.  For his sudden death devastated our family, and a wide circle of his friends.  He is in our hearts and lives in our memory.

And as families tend to do, we gathered together and each were able to help in his or her own way.  I was faced with the challenging task of organizing a memorial tea for 1500 people.  But the provision was great, and many groups and individuals stepped forward donating food in remembrance of my nephew, Chris.  

So much food in fact, that after we fed the many people who came to pay tribute to his life, we had enough for two van-loads of food to deliver to the Salvation Army.  And we sent another batch of sandwiches to the East Side in Vancouver that night, food for the hungry.

But there was still leftovers, and I came back to Vernon, where I live, with a bunch of celery, donated by one of the farmer's markets my brother knows well.

And I made soup.  Comfort food.

That week I visited a grandmother who was grieving her grandson.  A Canadian soldier who had recently died in Afghanistan.  How sad she was, and we looked at pictures, and thought about this dear young man she loved.  And in my own grief, we shared the common bond of mourning... of young life ended too soon...and I was grateful for the visit we shared.  And was glad to bring her some soup, I had lots!

And then she told me her favourite soup was... cream of celery.  It was one of those "wow" moments, where a little thing like soup was a gift of God's presence and comfort.

Today, as we approach Remembrance Day, I happened to run into this precious grandma.  Five and a half years later, just as we approach this day we honour our soldiers.  And together we reminisced about the story.  We talked of her dear grandson, and our shared grief over those we love.  


And it was good to be reminded how a bowl of soup brought comfort that day, and how our meeting again brought warmth to both of our worlds, as we remember.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Aging with Grace

It's a topic that is on my mind.  We are aging.

All of us are,  but a large group, of which I am part of; the tail of the Baby Boomers entering retirement with hopes and dreams and ideals.

But the reality of what I see, often, is the losses of aging.  And because our society does not prepare us for that, often we are ill-prepared.  We struggle with loss, the loss of our own parents, the loss of hearing and vision and health, and independence, and we fight the progression like crazy.

And perhaps the fight is good, we live as well as we can, and take good care of ourselves, but how do we, with peace, also embrace the reality of loss?

I wrote a poem about it a few weeks ago, my thoughts on aging.

Aging with Grace

The masks are removed
The ground lays bare
No pretension.

I stare into my aging face
The wisps of grey
The cheeks that have begun
To sag.

No, aging
does not culminate
in perfection.

And as I let my
heart lay bare
allowing the questions
the mysteries of life
the unsolved problems
to surface in my mind

and I can lift them up
like prayers.

I let go of
what cannot be

And smile
into the face of
Wisdom.


In honour of my mom, who died in June of 2013.  Aging was a challenge for her, but she also embraced her home-going with grace and dignity.  Sometimes when I look into my mirror, or into the eyes of my beautiful grandchildren, I see glimpses of her.

Friday, October 30, 2015

A trip down Halloween Lane

I've been cleaning out my closet today.  The study closet, full of old important papers, dozens of picture frames, and other assortments of things, and finding the most amazing treasures I forgot I had.

Old petit-point patterns, a half-finished piece, things I just couldn't throw away.

A pile of warranties, for things we no longer own.

And then there was the box of my writing.

So instead of cleaning, I sat, in the middle of the floor reading what I wrote in my teens and twenties...

I have always loved to write, and I remember an especially inspiring class, Writing 11. which inspired me, pushed me and prodded me to write in all different styles.  And among that collection I found of all things, tonight, on the eve of Halloween, a poem I wrote called T'was Halloween'en Night.

I actually found this highly amusing, because I have struggled with Halloween over the years, not enjoying the dark side, and as a young parent was fiercely protective of my children.  I am sure I voiced an opinion or two on this topic, and even wrote about it.  And while Halloween is still not my favourite holiday, the kids sure have fun dressing up.

And tomorrow, now grandparents of seven - can you imagine? - we will enjoy seeing these little ones have great fun in their costumes, and of course I will try to provide some healthy treats!

So here is the poem, written in my Grade 11 hand, about Halloween:

Twas Halloween night,
The air chilling and bitter
The streets dark and damp'ning
And filled with the litter
Small groups of children
Were thronging the streets.
Or rather, some witches
And white ghosts with sheets.
There were old men and ladies
And gypsies with finery
Some cats and some goblins
And angels all shinery.
Clowns with all faces;
Some happy, some sad.
And a dear old professor
who looked very mad.

They all rang my doorbell
some shy and some eager.
"We've come trick 'r treatin"
Said one little beaver.
So I'd plop them some candy
In pillow or sack.
They'd say thank-you with wide eyes,
Their lips would go smack.
And down the long street
their small footsteps would patter.
They'd giggle and laugh
With child's endless chatter.
I'd sit back and smile
And recall way back when
I was a child
And had fun like them.
by Grace Friesen - for my writing class: Grade 11

My friend Dawn inspired me to try my doodles on a pumpkin, so here it is.  

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

How are You? I am Fine.

How are You?

I've been thinking about this blog for about a week now, and often that is how it is, a lot of ruminating in my head, and then, my thoughts translate into words and escape into the screen.

But it was crazy, the more I thought about this common greeting and tried to STOP saying "How are You?, and answering "I am Fine", the more I became aware of how many times a day I do just that.

And I thought, this is really one of the most insincere greetings we use.

Because, really... instead of hello, we politely say "How are You?", and do we really want to know?  Do we have time to listen?  Are we genuinely interested?

And if I answer "I am fine", am I fine... really?  Well perhaps some of me is fine, but other stuff is not, and really, I don't always want to talk about it, and I might think you might not have the time to listen.  Or that would make me feel vulnerable, and it is really much easier to say "I am fine".  Perhaps some of us have this inner dialogue, but most of us just use the greeting like a common "Hello".

The crazy thing is, in my role as a chaplain,  I try to be very aware of my words, but sometimes I blurt this greeting to a patient... someone sick in hospital that I am meeting for the first time, and really it is not a great conversation starter.  And when I do that, I feel bad.

So I'm working on some new greetings...

"How is your day going?"

"Nice to see you!"  Really, it is!

And I'd like help with a few more...

Of course, meeting friends, co-workers, people on the street, people we meet in the workplace or community all can have various greetings that are suited to our relationship with them.

I also thought about my own answers to that question I field many times a day.  When my day is not so great, I might say I am OK.  Often I say I'm fine... it is just easier.  And the more I think about it, truly I AM fine.  I am breathing.  I am alive.  I am loved.  In fact, I'm really great!

I do love the prayer of the Examen, though, (inspired by St. Ignatius Loyola over 400 years ago)where I examine my heart at the end of a day, or a time period, and I ask myself:  How are you?  I can recall the tough parts of the day, the things that made me sad, that impacted me, words I heard or read that stayed with me.  I acknowledge how that made me feel.  I can talk to God about it.  Sometimes I share this with a trusted friend.

And the other part of the Examen is to recall what was the brightest part of my day, what brought me joy, filled me with peace, gave me hope.  And I lift my heart in gratitude.

And it is good to hold those two in balance, because our lives are like that.  There are the broken parts, the concerns, the worries we bring to God, we ask for prayer.  And there are the joys we share.  The blessings we are grateful for, every day.

So how are you, really?  Honest, I'd love to know.  Your comments and feedback mean the world to me.

How am I?  Not always great.  There are struggles some days.  I'm human, and I become discouraged.  I believe this is a reality for many, and we put on our strong fine faces and press forward.  I struggled with writing that.  But I am compelled to share it, because I think what our generation longs for is authenticity, for the safety to ask the questions, to say "this troubles me."  We live in a broken world and for some I know, things are very challenging indeed.  I long to bring hope to their discouragement.

The truth is I'm also good!  I'm thankful that even in the challenges, there is a deeper strength I can depend on, and grateful for my faith, and for my friends who cheer me on.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Gift Worth Giving

Some call it "Donor Fatigue".

I experienced this to some degree this week when I opened no less than four requests for donations, found in my mailbox, one day this week.

Two came with unsolicited gifts, the typical address labels (I have hundreds of these by now, saving for those letters I rarely send), some pretty Christmas cards, some of which I would not use.

A little guilt thrown in, and I have to admit most of this mail added bulk to the recycling pile we took out today.  Good causes, but not causes I feel I can support at this time.

How does one decide?

Websites like "Charity Navigator" help to navigate how organizations spend their money, and bring accountability to how I give. I want to know that money and gifts I give go directly to the source - to the child from World Vision, for instance.

It is a generous time of year... and I am grateful for Food Banks who need our help, and for those who collect for them.  I appreciate the work done in our community for the poor.  I applaud the work of the Hospital Foundation who raise money for endless medical equipment and give support where tax dollars do not.  There are many places to generously give...

This weekend we are going to two fund-raising events, one near and dear to my heart.  The first is for New Hope, an organization  I have been part of  for many years, I think coming up to 19.  They operate from a shoe-string budget, and week after week they seek to support, encourage, and provide resources for the widowed in our community and beyond.  You can check them out at www.newhope-grief.org

So if you are looking to do something fun this weekend, and support a good cause, Their "Gala" event which includes a dessert, dancers this year, and a silent auction is being held at Vernon Christian Fellowship, in Vernon, 7 pm, Saturday evening (Oct. 24).  You can get tickets at the door, only $10.

So there you have it.  My two cents worth.  Well, it might have to be nickels, no pennies in Canada anymore!

And may we all find wisdom and joy, in this season of giving.  It is good to know that no matter what we are able to contribute financially, we can give the gift of ourselves, the gift of time, a smile, some encouragement.  Because somethings are just not measured by money.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Bad Hair Day

I've never been photogenic.  Because it is culturally acceptable and all around us, I am attracted to people who are.  Those people who look great, even though the wind has whipped their hair, or they have run through a rain shower.  Usually I look like a drowned rat.  I'm not particularly fond of rats.

Even though I am learning to be kind to myself, especially as I age, I am quite good at using the "delete" button on my iPhone or camera if I don't care for the result.

So we were laughing this morning when we scrolled through the posts on Facebook, and inevitably the faces of our political leaders showed up.  And my hubby said, you can sure tell if they are in favour for a person or not by the picture they choose.

How true!  The unflattering pictures were those political leaders we were encouraged (by the person who posted it) to NOT consider, and their flaws, physical and political and and and... were shared.  I simply don't think I can vote for a person caught in an unflattering pose.  Can you?

I think it is a sign of our culture.  We hide the flaws.  We put our best foot forward.

And yet... as I sit here with rollers in my hair, warm fuzzy socks on my feet, thinking about life... I know I am deeply flawed.  I also know I am deeply loved.  And I hope I am not judged by a bad hair day.

And far from being a political statement, because I'm not sure which political leader has the best hair (just kidding), I was very impressed as I listened to Elizabeth May chat with Peter Mansbridge last night. (I think it was pre-recorded)   She might not win any beauty contests, but she is smart, dedicated, hard-working. and a wonderful role model for women. And in my eyes she IS beautiful.

But what impressed me most was that she refused to bash the others.  She talked about working together.  How novel!!

So this is NOT an endorsement for the Green party.  It is another reminder that I need to be kind, to carefully make my decisions not based on looks or charisma or promises, but on character, on kindness, and the ability to lead.

And even though the decision is difficult, I am so grateful that I, among my fellow Canadians get to vote.  Bad hair day or not!!


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Transitions

the time of year
I set my soup out on the porch
to cool in the chill of autumn
   steam rising

the flowers stare
  chilled
brilliant 
  knowing their time
is almost done
  and I pick the last blooms
cherishing their beauty.

And little feet guide me
   to the leaves piled on the edge
     of the road
And we jump
  admiring the crunch

And I wrap myself
   In my familiar
     favourite quilt
And even as I miss the
  longer days of light

I wrap myself cozy
  And ready myself

     for winter.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Election

This blog was created to be reflective, encouraging, uplifting, and hopefully to have some meaningful discussions.

Definitely not political in nature.

But I write, because that is how I often work things through, and because I believe there are many out there just like me who are conflicted, and the choices we have as Canadians are challenging indeed.

I used to think along Conservative and Liberal lines... and my faith would have me align with one more than the other, and that truly was my way of thinking for many many years.

But I fell out of the box, and started to despise the lines, both in political and religious circles.  I wanted to be a Christ-follower first, because my faith is everything to me, and I failed to see how many of the parties failed to acknowledge that God instructed us to take care of the earth, to care for the poor, to seek justice for those who need it.

No we have become more of a society that seeks to look after ourselves and guard our own best interests.

As I consider what is important to me, I find my lines are further blurred by moral issues.  And yet, I am not convinced that government should be legislating morality.

I would think that a government's job is to govern, to manage our country's resources, to take care of our land for future generations, to take care of the citizens that live here, as well as show compassion to strangers/refugees who need our help.

Of course, it is much more complicated, and I have many people near and dear to me, whom I love, with very varying and strong opinions on how I should vote.

There are times where I would rather not vote at all, but I so strongly believe in our wonderful privilege to vote that it would seem a travesty to not have a voice.

And so I struggle.  And I pray for wisdom.  And I pray for our country, a country I love.  I am so blessed to live here and call this place home.

And as Jesus said, we are to pray for those who govern over us.  We are called to be peacemakers.

And perhaps it is the wide differing of opinions, the name-calling, the put-downs, the accusations that bother me as much as anything.  This election is important to many people, but it often becomes divisive, and even mean.

And my prayer, as it often is, is simply, "May God have Mercy."  Amen.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Unexpected Places, Unexpected graces.

I'm not in the habit of writing travel blogs: in fact most who know me know I am a nervous traveller, and exploration and adventure is usually not high in my comfort zone.

So when hubby and I go jetting off without a whole lot of agenda, I'm suspicious that our children might be a little concerned. We actually had hoped to make more plans, but life got in the way.

To add to this we are small town people, and don't care for crowds or heavy traffic.

So the fact that we actually drove into downtown Montreal was a little daunting indeed, staying at a hotel we had found on the internet on our previous stop, and found ourselves in a chic modern hotel in the heart of the city, relinquishing our car to a valet who parked it who knows where.

Thankfully armed with travel maps and guides (yes, written on paper), we set out to walk Old Montreal, with its beautiful architecture and history.

Eating is another thing all together, everything pricey and feeling foreign, and we found help in the most unexpected of places.

We wandered into a fur store, (probably somewhat controversial from where we come from) and as we looked with fascination at the wares (raccoon hats and luxurious fur coats), the prioprietor engaged us in conversation and was one of the most friendly we had met. We discovered she was Montreal born, anglophone, but conversant in French, German and Spanish and knew some rudimentary Mandarin as well.

With no pressure to buy a thing, she advised us on good eateries (daunting in Montreal), and on her advice we found ourselves in a tiny out of the way Chinese restaurant in the Chinese district. We sat down, tired from our busy morning of exploring, and immediately are served a pot of Chinese tea, which we had not asked for, but at that point felt grateful.

Next came the complimentary soup, delicious and savoury and nourishing.

We each ordered one thing on the menu, sure that the $4.50 price was somewhat suspect, but also observed that the place probably had more locals than tourists. A good sign.

Plates full of rice and stir fry were delivered and ultimately enjoyed. All for under $10 for two. So if ever visiting Montreal, we would be happy to recommend the VIP restaurant in the Chinese district of Old Montreal.

Unexpected graces in unexpectant places. Part of the adventure of life, surprises to be savoured and enjoyed.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Yellow Roses

I write this for my children.

Yellow roses, they were the thing, between their father and I.

Yellow roses in the wedding bouquet, and every anniversary after, a rose for every year.

When Andy died, twenty years ago this week, on September 23, 1995, we bought 41 yellow roses.  One rose for every year of his life.

And we gave those roses away at his funeral... and found them later, many of them, strewn on his fresh grave.

I drove by Hope recently, in a Greyhound bus of all things, on my way to visit family and passed close to the cemetery.  I gazed at Mt. Cheam, the mountain we climbed, and it presides over Hope like a beautiful monument.  We had good times on that mountain, and challenging too..

You can see the mountain from the graveside, and for some reason that has always comforted me.

Years later, I wrote a book, and Steve, our oldest son helped me, and we created Yellow Rose Publishing.  It never went anywhere, as it often goes with the self-publishing world, but it was another way to acknowledge the past.

There are many good memories.  These were the wonderful years when the kids were young.  Andy was well respected in his career and an outstanding ambulance paramedic and unit chief.  He was an RCMP auxiliary.  And he had two honour guards at his memorial.

Yes, we need to remember.  The good times.

And we grow from the challenges we faced, the learning that comes from grief, the wisdom that comes from years.

I cried out to God in those years, and I believe my prayers were answered.  I was not abandoned, although there were times I did feel that way.

No, God was gracious and eventually our family expanded to include a wonderful step-dad for my children with two beautiful children.  Twenty years later, and I look back, and remember, but also am so very grateful for today, with our beautiful family including six - almost seven, adorable grandchildren.

In fact, Andy would be proud... one little grandson bears his name.

So here is a yellow rose... for my children, in memory of their dad.  And I'm grateful for them, each one and what they mean to me.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A troubled week

So last week I contemplated writing a tongue-in-cheek post about murder because I had destroyed a host of invasive bugs:  spiders, flies, fruit-flies, wasps. And was intent on getting rid of a mouse that had dared to cross my thresh-hold.

Life is messy at times, and these are pesky annoyances that most of us face at one time or another.

And because I hold life sacred, and even feel bugs have a place in Gods plan for this earth, I usually try to spare them. Until they become a problem.

But this whole week turned heavy, and when murder is in the news, and involves human life, and involves the young, my heart wants to bleed. And I know I am not alone.

There is no making sense of it, and I find myself questioning how people can do such vile things. It is beyond imagination.

What I am recognizing is the rise of mental illness and drug addiction -  for which we are resource poor,  and this seems to be a desperate growing segment of our population. And this is far from saying that those who struggle with these issues are all violent; I know most are not!!  But we don't have the resources to help them, to segregate some of them if necessary to protect the vulnerable.

I have no knowledge if this was a part of this weeks tragedy, but I am deeply concerned about the mental health needs in our community, our province, our country. There is such anger out there, we see it in the mass killings, we see it often on the news, and sadly we even become immune to it.

I think it is because we feel helpless. I know I do.

And like the surging crisis of the Syrian refugees, sometimes it takes one terrible tragedy to initiate the conversation, and say, how do I make a difference?

I'm open to ideas.  I know it deeply troubles me.  So for now, I write, I pray, and have conversations.

Because life is precious, and each person needs to know they are loved.




Tuesday, September 8, 2015

It's September!

I've been scrolling down my Facebook Feed and admiring all the Back-to-School photos.  My favourite so far is posted by my son's close friend, capturing his three children, including his little one holding a big sign that says she is NOT going to school.  Very cute.

And there they go... our eldest grandson seriously heading off to Grade One, and we wonder, where did the time go?

For us, September is always about birthdays and I am trying not to think that my two eldest are having birthdays celebrating their mid and getting to be upper thirties... ahem... and even my dad, cheerful at 84, wondered how he could have grandchildren that old.  (Sorry, kids!)

The the years turn round, and we mark another September on our calendar, celebrating people we love.  The joy of our little grand-daughter, just turned two was a particular delight this past weekend, and she brings a smile to my face like no one can.

My hubby also marks a milestone this month, and I always delight that he shares a birthday day with our son.
This month we also mark an important anniversary in our family, twenty years ago this summer Andy, my first husband, and my children's father died, of melanoma, on September 23.  So those memories are poignant and alive, especially at this time of year.

I remember one year, on that anniversary day,  my yellow rose bush produced a beautiful rose... and since he had given me yellow roses every year, that was especially meaningful.



A month of remembering.  A month of celebration.  A month of new beginnings.  A new year for many.

And as we turn the pages over, we are grateful for memories, for new opportunities and new starts, for birthdays to celebrate, for family,  for a hope and a future.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

God's Appointments

My pastor asked me recently if I had been able to connect with someone we both knew... someone who was going through a challenging time.

Yes, I said... I had.  In fact, I had three encounters, three visits.

And then I realized... not one of these visits were on my calendar, not one had been arranged, not one in my appointment book.

No, these were appointments set up by God... a chance meeting in a hallway, one in a waiting room... and we talked, and I sensed God had planned it all along.

I love the idea of God appointments.

Sometimes we just have to show up, and say... what is next?  Or we go about our day, and are surprised by the encounters that come across our paths.  And as one wise woman once told me, your interruptions are your work.

The other day I went to visit one woman, in a hospital room... and had a good visit with her, and as I was leaving, her bed-mate called out my name... how she knew it I was not sure, but I turned around, and spent time with her.  She was very sick, discouraged and our time was precious.  There was the gift of God's presence and care in the midst of challenges.  And I was so grateful she had called out to me.

Recently I went to see a gal in the hospital; someone who I didn't know, but her name had surfaced on one of my lists.  It turned out she was a friend of a friend!  And we enjoyed getting to know one another!

Her challenges were great, and after some time had passed I felt compelled to bring her a quilt... and  there are generous groups who give me prayer shawls or care quilts to give out to those who truly need an extra touch... and I always tell the recipient that these are reminders of God's care in a very tangible way.

So I felt compelled this day to bring a quilt... not a shawl, and I did that... another God appointment.  She loved the quilt.  And in the giving, she began to tell me of some of her history and some of her past friends.  And one of her past friends was one of my current friends... the very lady who organized the sewing of the quilts!

This was amazing to both of us!  It felt like God had organized a friend reunion, and that very afternoon, she was reunited with the lady who had made the quilt... a long-lost-friendship made new.

These encounters always encourage me greatly... because I see the incredible compassion of God who uses people, and circumstances, who knows our coming and going... and when we truly seek to follow Him and be a part of what He is already doing, amazing things happen.


Thursday, September 3, 2015

Quiet

I sit
  alone

The fan gently moving the air.

Construction, traffic noise
  muted in the distance

as I sit
  in silence.

Sometimes my mind
  is noisy.

And I want to YELL
  Be Quiet!!

Turn off the lists
  the shoulds
    the concerns that worry
       the heartaches that
          weigh.

Leave the fixing
  the striving
Can I let it go?

Just to have a few
  moments of

Silence

 and Refreshment

    with You.

@Grace Wulff 2015


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Smoke Screen

written on a very smoky day in the Okanagan.  

I can't see the mountains.

Oh I know
   they are there.

Smoke
  like a blanket
Wraps the air in grey
Fills lungs that long
  for cleaner air.

I wonder
...the earth as we know it
with immense and great beauty
  yet marred by imperfection
This is our reality.

Do we live with a smokescreen
  A veil
That separates us from the other side.

Have those we've said good-bye to

Emerged into a clean
  pure
    perfect world
That we cannot even imagine.

And one day
  - i try to picture this -
     It will be very clear.

And we shall emerge
     with JOY.

Friday, August 21, 2015

When Doors Close

I wouldn't do what I do today
If it were not for closed doors.

sometimes we look ahead
trying to figure out the mystery of tomorrow

But as I thought about it today, I realized with certainty
And clarity
That I wouldn't be here
now
Without doors closing
firmly
shut.

In 1993,
there was a job I wanted dearly
I didn't make the cut
But because of the connections
I made in applying for that job,
I was able to be part of starting a Women's Center
In Boston Bar.

That closed door gradually opened to
new possibilities and challenges
and learning
and wonderful gratification
and was part of the richness
I experienced living in that community.

It was also in Boston Bar, that
my dear husband died.

Almost 20 years ago now
one of those pivotal moments in life
where you do a 180
and life as you know it has ceased to exist.

As hard as that was
in the school of grief were enormous lessons for me.
And out of my grief
and the closing of that chapter
New Hope began.

New Hope now in it's 18th year
still providing support for
widows and widowers.

I was thinking today of my work as a chaplain...
when the door closed to the work I was doing
and I grieved that, how I grieved it.

I wouldn't have gone to school,
I wouldn't have started to work at the hospital...

And all the closed doors of my life
Have allowed me to learn and to grow
and to develop
  and to seek God in new ways
And I feel so very very thankful.

we all face doors that close behind us
and sometimes the future seems uncertain

and the waiting in between can sometimes be
  fraught with anxiety and questions and uncertainty.

I think it is in those times
  That the real learning becomes the gift,
a gift for the future
   and often gifts we can share with others.

And when we "get there"
  We will find that God was there...
    All along!!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

We won the lottery!

Now that I have our children's attention!.... (smile)

  And I guess it would help if we actually bought tickets.  But that rarely happens.

No, my hubby and I were sitting on the deck recently, enjoying our beautiful view, and he announced, "We won the lottery!".

And it is true.  As we gazed out at the hills across our valley, dotted with farms and orchards and beauty, with rolling colourful hills, and the lakes we know lie just beyond...  it is so easy to take this beauty for granted!!

How did we, of all people, get to be born in Canada, land of plenty?  To land up here, in the beautiful Okanagan, where we drink in beauty every day; it is all around us!

We live every day, without hardly a thought about what we will eat or where we sleep.  In fact our food choices are so varied, and the abundance so great, it is hard to choose some days...

We recognize that we are the privileged ones in the world, and most of the rest of the world cannot imagine such a lifestyle...

I have often thought how privileged I was to be born to parents who loved me, to be raised in a community who cared about me, to live in relative freedom, to be able to make choices and have religious freedom.

We, who are entering an election in Canada can focus on the angst.  And I know life is not perfect.  There are weeds in my garden.

But to have the privilege to vote, to choose, to speak freely!

And yet, if you really stop to really think about it, if we start to focus on all we have, on how incredibly blessed we are, it is good to give thanks.  It is an amazing country in which we live.

I run into grumblers at the hospital... and I get it, when you are sick, life can be incredibly challenging and frightening.  Yet to know we can seek medical attention without fear of going broke, and all of us, regardless of our pocket books have access to some of the best health care in the world.

This week I read of the amazing work of Doctors without Borders, and a story they highlighted was a patient, desperately sick, but could not afford both medication and transportation to and from the hospital.  I don't remember all the details, but we simply cannot imagine such lack...

And yet... while we are rich in possessions and rights and freedoms, we are often poor in contentment.  I wonder about this...And I think with riches also comes responsibility.

I'm not very good at this.  But I think about it more and more.  About how our possessions rule us, and take our time and energy.  And how do I shift that balance?

And I stare at the lovely china cabinet my mother had, so I can store her dishes which I love... and I am conflicted.  We like our things, our houses are full of them.  We like to be comfortable.

Perhaps it starts with awareness.  And cleaning out a room, one room at a time.  Sharing what I have.  Being grateful for all that I have.  And I don't need to win the lottery to know that we are rich, and privileged.



Wednesday, August 12, 2015

August

There is a weariness to August,
sweat a constant companion
the freshness of spring faded like
   the summer flowers.

Like the closing of a chapter,
And the summer we think we love
has become old.

Perhaps it is God's way
of preparing us for autumn

Restless and fickle
We tire of one season and long for another.

And laugh at pictures of snow
Like some long-forgotten memory.

Life is like that
As children we long for maturity

And when we get there
we long for the next stage...
  marriage, a career, achievements
    Retirement

Time passes unconcerned
 of my present longings
  or contentment.

And perhaps contentment
starts within
That quiet space
In the long span of time

That says
For today
I am thankful.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Ode to Pansies

I take them for granted
Little multi-coloured faces
Of brightest purple
And threads of yellow

They stand
Reaching out to the sky
Tethered by roots
Firmly tangled in soil
Held together

By the container

How many today
How many tomorrow?
Does one fade
And another slip into
It's place?

Today they fell
Thirsty
And I found them
In

Their muddled
Mess
Of colour
Fading fast.

Rescued by water
They forgave me
And saluted me
Once more.




Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Refreshment

Refreshment


Refresh
Reboot
Recharge

What does it take?





A cold glass of water.
A nap.

A kind word.
A smile.

I am grateful for what
refreshes

A hug
Words of encouragement.

A nourishing meal.

We all need
   to be renewed.

A prayer
   A poem
      
When I am empty
When I am thirsty
When I am weary

Refreshment is a gift
Restoration.

A gift received,
A gift gladly given.

- Grace 2015

Saturday, August 1, 2015

What are You Thinking?

 It is a favourite question of mine.

Usually asked of by me to my patient hubby.

Inflation set in this week... "a penny for your thoughts" became "a toonie for your thoughts."  Expensive!

But if you are kind enough to read my posts, you will know my thoughts are free.  Recently I passed the 300 blog mark and wondered how I ever had so much to say...

We all have things we love to do.  And the older I get, the more I realize that writing has always been a passion of mine.  I wrote poems in school and loved my English classes and dreamed of becoming a writer.

I had big dreams of writing books, and sent away manuscripts to magazines, (mostly rejected), and even was blessed to have a few small things printed, which was exciting for me.

But the writing has become more reflective as I have grown into this second half of life, when it isn't so important to be successful or to be known, as it is to develop ones own craft, and to continue to learn and grow and process.

Henry Nouwen is one of my favourite authors and he says: "One of the most satisfying aspects of writing is that it can open in us deep wells of hidden treasures that are beautiful for us as well as for others to see."

I find that encouraging.  Because sometimes writing is a risk... a laying open of the heart for others to see, and there is a vulnerability to it.

And I know that much of the learning I have experienced in life is through reading... reading others thoughts, their wisdom, and how they have overcome struggles.  I cannot imagine a world without something to read!

So thank you for reading this.  And I'd love to hear your thoughts.


What are You Thinking?

What are You Thinking?
my curious mind
wonders

Not to intrude
because
some thoughts
are too private
for words.

What are You Thinking?
just interested!
Because
what you
think,
who you are
matters.

I love the fact
that God knows
what I am thinking.

And loves me anyway!

Grace Wulff - August 2015






Thursday, July 23, 2015

Poison in the Pot

There is poison in the pot.

The wasps have built a nest in my bird-feeder.

The ants have found a home on my deck.  

Dust settled in, once again, and stares at me, glaringly, from my window sills, causing guilt.

Ah yes, my world not as ordered as I would like.

This morning, my view, our beautiful view from our bedroom where we have our morning coffee, and talk about life... this beautiful view disappearing as a house rises in its place.  The sounds of hammers filter in, and saws... and I actually said to my hubby... I wish I could just go and knock that over, like it was a lego tower.  
Happens in my living-room, all the time.  My grandsons taught me that.

He laughs...my hubby,  and wonders if I would like a BB gun.  

No, I reply. I am a pacifist.  

But not really.  In my heart, anger can reside, a claim to my rights, of wanting a perfect view.  A world without wasps, just honey bees.

My hubby, a wise and patient man, said, "Sometimes adaptation is better than confrontation".

We were talking about many things...

How sometimes, actually often, things get spoiled.  In a family.  In a church family.  In our relationships.

Like poison, life becomes marred.  By an unkind word.  Wanting things my way.  Not seeing the other's point of view.  Control issues.  

Perhaps that is why love is our greatest commandment.  

Of course, there are stories where confrontation is needed.  Like Hitler, for example.  I get that...

But for the most part, we are called to get along.  To live peaceably.  To choose love above all else.

The antidote to poison... is love.

And there is the hope of the eternal... an unmarred heaven, where the views will be unhindered, and our views on how the world should be run finally settled. No more arguments.

The wasps won't sting, and there will be an abundance of honey.

No more sorrow, no more pain.  

But until then, love is a choice I make... daily.  I love these verses I've been dwelling on recently, which are really a prayer:

"I pray that you, being rooted and established in love... to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.  And to know this love that surpasses knowledge."  (from Ephesians 3 17-19)

And that is my prayer... to be rooted and established in love... because love surpasses knowledge.  Good thoughts to dwell on today.



Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Day in Time

Seventeen years ago, my hubby and I were planning for our wedding.  Setting a date can be tricky, when considering the needs of those you love, and after much conversation and consultation with others, we settled on July 18.

"Is it written in stone?" he teased me, and I replied by giving him an actual stone... with July 18 clearly written on it.

We got married on July 25.

Plans change!!  And we adjusted quite well, I think, despite my little stone which I kept on my bookshelf for quite some time.

This week, July 18, another Saturday, another day in time.

We could be attending three memorials on this day.  Two precious women, unknown to one another, both died this past week, both in their 90's.  One of them I have known much of my life, she was a women of influence for me by her quiet way of living, and loving and giving.  We still exchanged Christmas cards!  Her memorial will be held Harrison Hot Springs, the home of my youth, and my heart will be with all who gather to remember her.

The other precious woman, a member of our church, and I have been privileged to know her through many hospital visits and more recently in the care home where she resided with her husband.  In fact, they were both at attendance at the last memorial service I held at their residence.  Sweet couple, side by side in their wheelchairs, joining in as we sang.  I've heard stories this week of her kindness to others, her sweet presence, and I know she will be missed.  Her memorial service also this coming Saturday.

But the service we will attend is for my hubby's father, who would have been 89 this August.  Amazing, after suffering a stroke more than twenty years ago that robbed him of communication as he had known it.  I was always sorry I had not met him prior to his stroke.  But he was still able to communicate in his own way, and today I can only imagine that he is having wonderful conversations in heaven!  So we will remember him, this Saturday, as the family gathers.

July 18, a day for remembering, and for celebration!

Our oldest grandson, coming up six, a serious little lad will be celebrating with his friends that day.  So my heart will be with him, and thinking of his special day coming up.

And a wedding!  July 18th is a good day for that, don't you think?  And someone we love dearly is getting married on Saturday, a small private affair, but our hearts will be with her and her hubby, on this very special day for them.

Ah, yes, a day in time.

"A time to weep, and a time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance..."  Ecclesiastes 3:4





Monday, July 13, 2015

A Grace Lens

It is easy to be critical.

I've had good practice this week, when I had a bee in my bonnet about a parking ticket... I will spare you the details but I bristled that someone had been given one - unjustly.

And because justice IS important, I set about to make it right.

But in this process, I began to realize that I was viewing the ticket-giver through a very critical eye.  And it was today I realized that even though he was the ticket-dispenser... my job was to be the grace-dispenser.  And I had failed.

My hubby and I were talking about this, this morning.  How do we choose to see people?  Often our filters are affected by pre-conceived presumptions, past hurts, stereotyping, even misunderstandings. We see people through a very small lens, of our own making.  We often don't take time to really know someone, or to hear their story.

To see someone from God's perspective however, widens the lens! God, the great grace-dispenser, who loves greatly, whose mercies never end, whose compassions fail not; can I aspire to see things from the Creator's perspective?

There is always a time for justice, but it cannot be of my making.  First I need to seek to understand, and to show kindness.  Because it is kindness that will often build a bridge to fuller understanding and communication.

I tried that today.  A conversation with a ticket-giver.  I heard a bit of his story.  I shared some compassion.  It was a small step.

In all these things we pray for wisdom.  Sometimes we need to seek justice.  But mostly, I believe, we need to pray for mercy, for ourselves, and for others, often wounded themselves.  And as God shows compassion and mercy, we can be ambassadors of grace in a broken world.




Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Gift of a Dream

The following story is one I have written for a new booklet I am hoping to publish this summer, a series of stories from my blog that will go into print, to encourage those who might be having a challenging time.
I hope this story will also encourage all who read it.

The Gift of a Dream

She was one of the most beautiful women I have ever met.  Deep color of ebony, radiant.  And very, very sick.
Her family faithful by her side, hoping, believing, waiting for a miracle.
Day after day, month after month, she lived her life as fully as she could, with a number of hospital stays.   I grew to love her, and look forward to spending time with her, as did many others who cared for her.
Her faith in God was real, and radiant.  As one health-worker told me. "She had no holes in her soul".  A beautiful description. 
But the disease raged on, and she was tired.  The battle long and hard.

The day before she died, her husband, whom she dearly loved, had a dream.  He longed for hope and healing, but this dream came to him.

There was a field.  It was a field of dying things, brown, withered. It resembled a war zone.  And in the midst of this field was one beautiful, red, ripe tomato.  Warm and inviting.  Full of life, and full of seeds to replenish the ground.
The dream, full of meaning, filled his mind and heart as he held his wife for the last time the next day.  And she slipped away to heaven.
But the gifts she left behind... seeds of love, hope, joy and faith, were gifts to everyone that knew her.  For her precious children and family, to devoted friends, to the health-care workers who cared for her. 
And her memory lives on, and the gifts she gave remain, to nourish those she left behind.  

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I love you to the moon and back!

  The other day I told my grandson this very thing... "I love you to the moon and back!!"... and he came back with he loved me to the sun!  And of course that was farther...

  It is wonderful to tell all our grand-kids that they are loved.  To the moon and back and much more.  And nothing more precious when they love us back, such words just melt the heart.

  I was thinking this week about how much I loved my children... and that nothing, absolutely nothing would ever change that fact.  It is a primal love, filled from the depth of my heart.  Oh yes, it is true, that in a mother's world, there is nothing like a child that will bring her her greatest joy... or deepest sorrow.  That is just the way it is.

  But no matter what ... they are loved, and welcome, and the door is always open.  We want to know them, hear their stories, care about their lives.

  I have friends like that... loved dearly, appreciated deeply.  People I can be real with, authentic, and no matter what I do or say, I know they will love me... I feel so safe with them.  Friends like that are treasures indeed.

  And I believe in a God who loves me just like that... unconditionally, splendidly, compassionately.  Some of my favourite verses are "I am sure that nothing can separate us from God's love - not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, and not powers above or powers below.  Nothing in all creation can separate us from God's love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord."  (Romans 8:38-39)

  Love is central to the message of Jesus.  If I am truly a follower of His, I choose to love as He loves... and I love those who are a part of my life, and those who come into my life.  This is truly a privilege.

  So no matter where you are, who you are, you are so loved... a beautiful thought I have been pondering today.