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

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

I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Entering Advent with Anticipation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A Song that Encourages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Grumpy Chaplain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Stacking Stones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your stones?