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Introspective Sojourner

The journey inward following Christ’s path to that person I was uniquely created to be.

Pray, Watch, Squirrel

My Why statement would be that God might use me to allow someone to feel His love. Which is slightly different from being His hands and feet, both in who gets credit as well as follow through. I have an issue with follow through. My little ADHD brain gets distracted easily, and if it doesn’t, my warped sarcastic sense of humor would surely jump in and muck stuff up.

All my life, as a Christian I’ve been taught to consider where I am as my mission field. God placed me there for a reason. I don’t need to go to Mexico or Africa – there are people right where I am that need to feel God’s love. At one of the churches that I attended our pastor encouraged us to wake up every morning and pray that God would show us how He could use us. Watch for His direction and step out in faith when we felt Him lead us (Pray, Watch, Step). While this sounds great on paper, let me tell you, that is way too many steps for this old girl. There are far too many squirrels in life to distract me, and at one point, this discouraged me.

I have friends that I have prayed about for a very long time. When we put up our new church building, we wrote names that God laid on our hearts on the dry wall before the walls were put up so that they would always be there and prayed over them as a church. Looking back my guess is that when I talked to those friends about Jesus, I did more harm than good. When I’m intentional – somehow it doesn’t work out for me the way I might hope. It’s not a bad practice. It’s a great practice even, for some people.

But God knew how He created me. He knew I’d wander off and say something sarcastic at just the wrong moment because it struck me as funny, and I didn’t think it through. Execution has never been my strong suit. I have great ideas, but my results usually don’t resemble what I intended – even with my words. God knows exactly how to use all my mess ups; all my miscommunications and distractions.

I have a lot of long-time friends; school, Navy, work, various churches. As I have reconnected with old friends over the last few years, what I am finding out is that the moments where God breathed His love into their lives through me, I barely remember. They’re moments when I was just being me, not even being mindful of God. They’re moments I would look at and say, “Of course I did that.” I can’t imagine not doing that.

And that’s the point. God knew.

God knew I wouldn’t even imagine not doing that in that moment. He knew what that friend needed and maybe hadn’t even communicated to me. One of my friends was diabetic and we didn’t even know. I just knew when she needed to eat, she really needed to eat. And since I was in charge of lunch schedules, I worked around that. I can’t imagine not doing that. I wasn’t trying to be kind or thoughtful – it just was the only thing to do.

I can’t take credit for any of those moments I’ve learned about recently, because it wasn’t me. It was how God designed me. I couldn’t mess it up. He didn’t need a plan B, because He wired me to do what I needed to do to show His love. He had a plan and I got to breathe His love into that friend without even being aware it was important.

I’m sure even my children, if asked, would point out moments that I would never think of. And they’ve forgotten all those moments I thought I was rocking that “Mom” thing. That’s how God has used this weird brain and really warped sense of humor of mine. He planned all of it, long before those moments arrived, and planted what I needed in my very DNA. All I ever needed was to love Him and want others to know His love the way I do.

So don’t worry if you feel like you didn’t make a difference the way you thought you were supposed to. God doesn’t have a Plan B. His plan was always going to work, and you might never even notice that it happened.

By Vicki L. Pugliese

Good Morning Lord

By Vicki L Pugliese

You Never Had a Choice

I didn’t realize my worth,
That I’m precious as any gem.
So I didn’t expect to be valued,
And I wasn’t offended by him.

Instead I believed – deep inside,
What he said could not be lies.
I just wanted to find love,
So I took everything in stride.

And when he left, I thought to myself
Surely this is what I deserved,
It must have been all my fault.
I just didn’t know my worth.

So I believed the final lie,
And now I hated me.

 

But there was you and suddenly,
I couldn’t just walk away.
I wanted to forget it all
But you tied my past to today.

And I believed all of the lies,
No soul, and there’s no pain.
This is my life and my choice.
Putting me first in vain.

I couldn’t see that I was tied,
To how I valued you,
The way that I see all life,
So my past is my future too.

And because I hated me,
I had to hate you too.

 

I knew they were lies,
Deep inside somewhere.
The biggest of them was,
That I wouldn’t care.

My life would move on,
I could put you behind,
A much brighter future,
I was so sure I’d find.

But stripping you of your value,
Now I would never find mine,
I never fixed the problem,
It was all just a matter of time.

And because I hated you,
Now forever I’ll hate me.

 

I stole your voice,
I dismissed your worth.
I made a choice,
I denied your birth.

My smile is just a mask,
And the world may never see
The biggest lie I hide,
Is just how much I hate me.

I wish I’d knew my value,
That someone would see me.
And love me just the way I am,
Instead of how I should be.

You never had a choice,
Dear God, please forgive me.

By Vicki L. Pugliese

I made the other choice, for which I’ll always be grateful, but I believe perhaps I understand. I hope you find your value, and you find it in our Lord. If this is not your story, and you can’t identify; I hope you will be gentle to those who cry inside.

The Pruning of Me

Pruning my roses is cathartic for me. I love searching out the right spot to trim back to. I know that trimming the bushes will allow them to bloom again; fuller and stronger. I see the deep color of the new leaves. I see the thicker, heartier stems pushing through and hints of blooms to come. 

There are parallels to my life and faith. I’m not always happy when God prunes – especially when the decay goes deep. Things I’ve struggled with for a long time that I know need to be cleared away for me to grow. They are familiar and I get anxious when He says they have to go. 

I look at my childhood and see the blooms I once had. I miss them. 

“Remember when I prayed all the time and ran around singing hymns, God?” 

He tells me that He loved those blooms too, but to trust Him, the new blooms will be even better. I worry that my faith was stronger and might never be that way again. He reminds me that I needed that faith to survive the childhood ahead of me and the trauma I would go through.

I learned to go to Him at a very young age, afraid that everyone would abandon me. I would need to know to turn to Him and believe He would always be there even when my world shifted under me.  I would need that when my mom was institutionalized again. 

I learned to be grateful for my life and my wonderful friends. I have been blessed with the best friends my whole life. He shows me that I needed them to counteract the hate I experienced from my family. I needed their kind words to hear Him tell me that I was enough – that I was loveable. 

Now my faith is my own, not words of others that I believed without question. I have gone through deep seasons of doubt. My faith has been tested, and He has proven Himself faithful. I have so much to be grateful for. Even during my biggest struggles, He brought me joy. I know this without question now.

He is the author of the new growth in me. He created the new blossoms ready to bloom. I have had my share of pain – often at my own doing, avoiding the deepest cuts He needed to make. 

I find myself grateful tonight for the blooms that once were, now cut away. I see the beauty in them as they were at their peak. That beauty lets me trust in the promise of what God is yet to do in my life. I see the new leaves. I see the stronger stems. 

I’m sure there will still be whining about the cuts – after all I am still me. But I know I can trust Him because He sees the me He designed me to be.

 

By Vicki L. Pugliese

A Different View

Do not point out my flaws, my weaknesses, where you see that I have failed. I will only put up walls. Raise my defenses. See your flaws. I will not hear. I will return judgment.

Instead stand me before a mighty creator and show me the intricacies of His creation.

Let me see how small and insignificant I am before the vastness of space or at an oceans shore.

Let me struggle with how frail and fragile life can be on the top of majestic mountain, or at the moment life begins.

Instruct me on the wonders of just how similar and just how different things look under a microscope, so I can understand how little I understand.

Show me the beauty my busy life has had me missing. Let me drink in the colors of a sunset, the softness of rain drop, the sweetness of snow flake.

Let me see myself before the great I am, and I will naturally bow before Him.

Then tell me that He loves me beyond compare. That though I dare not raise my face before Him, yet He died to bridge the gap. His love so immeasurable, I can not comprehend.

Tell me the story of His life. His death. For me. Because of this love. And my heart will crumble when I take it all in. When the story seeps in, my heart will break beyond words.

When I am face down before Him, broken hearted. I am ready for Easter, for the celebration, the gratitude, to go and spread the good news.

Then may I remember to show others the great I am in all His majesty, beauty, unfathomable creativity and immeasurable wonders, and unstoppable love so that they might truly be ready for Easter too.

By Vicki L Pugliese

Lawn Chairs in the Living Room

Struggle = Desired State – Current State.   Our pastor often asks, “Who is on the throne of your heart?” There’s occupancy for one, even though I often try to one-cheek it and just help Jesus out a little bit. He is faithful to let me take control, and faithful to take control when I vacate the seat for Him too. 

Currently I am on and off that throne so much I have bruises on my soul. You see, we recently moved to Ohio. We had big plans. We’ve been so excited about this for months. My family is close to where we moved, as are all of my grandchildren, and half of my kids. We’ve been looking forward to the slower pace and less financial stress due to the cost of living differences. Step by step we prepared to move.

Now both of my realtors were amazing – and came recommended by a friend or family. That’s an important point. Our California realtor helped us secure an electrician, general contractor, section one company and we easily completed the minor repairs needed to sell our home. It sold very quickly.

Our Ohio realtor helped us find a house beyond our dreams on a two day whirlwind house hunting trip and we put in an offer that was accepted. So we began the process of packing to get ready to move.

I called several movers, as well as PODS. I had PODS all set up, along with hiring muscle on either end to lift the heavy stuff. Then PODS told us the earliest date we could receive our belongings was December 14th. We have a blue and gold macaw that would be riding with us as we crossed the country and staying with us in a large dog kennel – which is still significantly smaller than his cage. An extra week in the kennel seemed unkind, so I went back to the movers I had already researched.

One mover stood out. They were a family run business. We would be purchasing the full 26ft truck for a flat rate, so that it would be unlikely that our belonging would get lost. The same movers would show up at my California home as would deliver to my Ohio home – in uniform. They couldn’t drive more than 500 miles a day but they could deliver our belongings on the 6th or 7th of December. They were perfect – and too good to be true. I had a feeling they were too good to be true before we hired them but I wanted Rio out of that kennel as soon as we could. So I ignored my gut reaction.

Here we are on December 21st and this moving company has been everyone’s worst nightmare. They didn’t show up when they promised, or with the size truck they promised. They sub contracted out to another moving company to do the work. The new owners of our California home would arrive at 6PM on the day the movers did show up. And the cost was astronomically higher than promised. The contract had been wrong and we had asked the movers to correct it but there was so much to do between the two sales that making sure we had the right contract fell through the cracks. When the subcontractors arrived we had no choice but to sign the contract, or they would not load our belongings. The new owners were coming. We signed the contract.

We managed to get a photo of the first page of the contract but the mover would not let us take pictures of the remaining pages. They would email it to us. They did not. They took down the contract from the emails they had sent previously with the incorrect contract so we couldn’t even compare them to each other.

Every day we text, call and remind the movers that we need our stuff and that Rio is still in a dog kennel. Every day they evade, half answer and make promises they aren’t going to keep. Apparently they have 30 days, or 21 business days to deliver our belongings legally. Of course this is what they tell us – we don’t really know that for sure.

My emotions have been all over the board. Sometimes I can lay this fiasco in God’s hands – after all there is nothing I can do that is making any difference in the outcome. Sometimes my emotions push me to yell and berate the movers – which I’m sure does nothing to help our cause.

I’m definitely experiencing struggle. What I pictured as my desired state of kicking back in our new house and starting this new phase is not the same our current state of not knowing if our belongings will ever arrive or arrive in one piece. Turns out, being the only family on one truck was also a lie. They informed us we would be unloaded somewhere in California and loaded onto a much bigger truck headed for New York and then from there be unloaded and loaded on a smaller truck to deliver. So many chances to break our belongings. I find myself panicking off and on.

But when I do vacate the throne of my heart and leave this mess in Jesus’ hands, I am reminded that we made the trip without incident. It was actually a nice trip – even with a dog that gets car sick and a macaw. Rio was so good – I really am shocked. Everyone is settling in. Even though we’re sleeping on an air mattress and have borrowed lawn chairs in the living room.

Neither of us got sick, even though this pandemic was kicking into high gear as we traveled and people on both ends of our move tested positive. All of our friends are recovering, and none had severe symptoms. We have much to be grateful for.

This house will not be perfect and we will have to deal with all life throws at us. That’s not different. We expected that.

Our pipes backed up into our basement and we had to call RotoRooter out to handle it. The sewage water that soaked several carpet tiles – that’s where many of our belongings would have been stored waiting to be unpacked had things gone by plan. We got the problem fixed in just a few hours. Because our things hadn’t been delivered nothing else was destroyed.

What is different is I never expected to be sitting on lawn chairs in my living room wondering when or if my things would arrive. Already though God has proved that even though this has been unbelievably stressful – I can see He is with us. The more I turn my heart over to Him – the less stress I feel.

I’ve been through a lot in my life. God has always been faithful. There has always been struggle but when I look back, I have so much to be grateful for.

This has been a difficult year for so many – far more difficult than my stuff being delayed. After all, it is just stuff. Next year – even though it won’t be 2020 – will have its own set of struggles. As will the year after that. That’s kind of the gig. Our pastor asked what the difference was between being buried and being planted. Trusting the gardener. What a great visual.

I do trust Jesus, maybe just not enough. I know I’m not alone but perhaps my introspective journey will help you as you traverse yours. Trust Jesus – even when you are using lawn chairs in your living room. Then step back and appreciate how you grow where you were planted.

By Vicki L. Pugliese

Conversation with a Friend

Friend: I’m lost.

Me: I am too. Follow Him.

Friend: I don’t know if I can trust Him.

Me: You can.

Friend: But you aren’t following Him and I knew another guy who said to follow Him and he wasn’t following Him.

Me: I know it doesn’t look like I’m following Him but He went through that dark valley. I was afraid, so I’m going around. But I am following Him.

Friend: That little gully right there, with all the sunshine?

Me: It looked darker to me. I was afraid.

Friend: So you don’t trust Him?

Me: I do… but maybe not enough.

Friend: I’m gonna kinda follow you but my own way. Just in case.

Me: Don’t follow me. I’m lost too. Follow Him.

Friend: I’d rather watch you. I think you’ll let me down and I can get back to that easy trail everyone else is on, then I’ll be sure I made the right choice.

Me: How will you know that you made the right choice, if you don’t follow Him for yourself?

Friend: Because I know I’m lost. (pause) But everyone I know is going that way.

Me: If everyone is going that way and you’re sure you’re lost, then aren’t they lost?

Friend: Hmmmm I guess so, but at least we’re together.

Me: I want to be with Him. Maybe I will go through that dark valley. It might be a small gully. I should trust Him more.

Friend: Wait – if you’re going this way – maybe I’ll follow you.

Me: Don’t follow me. Follow Him.

Friend: I don’t understand. Why not?

Me: Because I’m stubborn and I take my eyes off of Him. If we both try to follow Him, we might not get lost so easy.

Friend: I don’t know how to start.

Me: Just follow Him. He’s easy to find if you look for Him, and when things get really hard, He’s always right beside me.

But you’re gonna have to take your eyes off me.

Friend – looks for Jesus taking a tentative step in that direction.

Jesus to my friend: I’ve been waiting for you to follow me. I knew you would. That was me that called softly to you, so that you would know you were lost.

Friend to Jesus: I don’t know how.

Jesus to both of us: That’s why I brought you together. You can help each other follow me and not be afraid to go where I go. Just remember to keep your eyes on me. I’ll never be far.

And so our journey following Jesus converged for a while and we were strengthened as we helped each other – to follow Him.

To all my readers – follow Him.

By Vicki L Pugliese

Open Letter to the NFL

Dear NFL, it’s time to have a Dr. Phil moment. “How’s that working for you?” We’ve spent so much time and energy fighting over ‘how’ this important message gets made. Players boycotting the anthem. Fans boycotting the games. Owners supporting and openly standing against the ‘how’ – on a very basic right to protest. Give the players a time and place to make this statement.

The issue has never been that you don’t stand against racism or police brutality. The issue was always the ‘how’.

Colin Kaepernick wasn’t wrong that football games are a far reaching mechanism to get the word out. He wasn’t wrong to risk his career defending a desire to make this country better for all.

The misstep was in the ‘how’ and YOU have the power to not only bring us together but to show us you believe in the message.

Kneeling during the anthem will never stop offending certain groups such as veterans. They too have a valid point, paid for by the blood of their fellow veterans. It’s not okay to dismiss their sacrifice, but until the anthem is for all of us – it’s true meaning is lost.

What if the NFL sponsored the protest – provided a time and place? What if before we sing the anthem, we show all Americans that the anthem is for them. Allow players to meet at the center of the field, perhaps wearing black hats. Both teams, all races coming together for a minute of silence on their knees.

Toss out fans who are disrespectful or unsupportive. Putting a stop to racism is that important. Let’s find our solidarity.

When the minute of silence is over, let the players stand united for one country. The land of the free and the home of the brave. Sing the anthem that should be an anthem for all of us.

Respect the message Colin was trying to make while respecting the sacrifices of those who fought for his right to say his message, and his right to protest. It’s an important message.

Maybe if we look at ‘how’ we say our words as well as how important the words are, we can say even more. The ‘how’ speaks volumes by itself.

Let’s end the division and fight for our unity. Let’s kneel together for an America that is better for us all. MLB, NBA, NHL feel free to join the movement.

Maybe this idea still needs to be refined. It’s a great jumping off point. Help us stop fighting over a message we agree upon!

Sincerely,

Vicki L. Pugliese

Lessons from a Puppy

My puppy is teaching me lessons I should already know about love. She is needy. Plain and simple. And there are consequences to not filling those needs. When I’m not watching closely enough, like most puppies, she’s destructive.

She has needs, like everyone. She needs to be fed, preferably on or before 5:30 pm, in her opinion. She needs to burn off her energy and if I don’t provide that she gets needy in other ways, or she destroys things.

It’s my own fault during this shelter in place, when I don’t meet those needs, if she acts out. While I do get frustrated when she destroys unacceptable items, especially since we have provided her a plethora of acceptable ones, I believe often, her destructive ways are a response to her unmet needs.

She’s a terribly picky pup, as well. She loves to have her face kissed. She wants my full attention, and to have both hands surrounding her enormous head, while I look directly in her eye and smother her face in kisses. One handed, while I’m still looking at my phone, will simply not do. She will drown me in slobber showing me what she needs. I am trying to teach her one kiss is plenty.

Although she prefers butt rubs and belly rubs, she first needs to know that she has my undivided attention. Sometimes I’ll try to get away with rubbing her head or behind her ears while continuing what I was doing, but she is quite frankly the most persistent being I have ever met. She wants love the way she receives it, and she is patiently, or persistently, teaching me how to fill that need.

I wonder today, staring at yet another dog bed with a hole in it and fluff scattered everywhere, why it’s taking me so long to figure this out? Why do I stubbornly insist on loving her differently than how she needs? Why do I call her needy when she has plainly shown me how she wants love and asks for it repeatedly. Maybe it’s time to wonder why I stubbornly withhold what I want to give her anyway?

The parallels in my life elsewhere are easy to see. I receive love in words of affirmation and acts of service. You can bring me presents all day long and not only will I not receive the love you are showing me, eventually it will make me uncomfortable. I have a dear friend who receives love in gifts and sometimes I wonder how we’ve remained friends for so long when we struggle so much to show each other love in the manner that we each need. Yet I love her dearly.

I have this “thing” about adult birthday parties. I can’t explain how uncomfortable they make me, but I am learning to put aside that uncomfortableness to show the people I love who receive love this way, that I care.

Why is that so hard?

It took me years to figure out that I could do my own thing as long as I did it near my husband who just wants proximity and quality time. Sometimes I still stubbornly withhold even that. Why? We’ve been married thirty years, why do I withhold what he needs when he’s my person? I honestly don’t know but I am grateful he loves me anyway.

God is so patient with me. He too, wants my time. Over and over He nudges me to think of Him. Over and over He shows me such grace. His is the love that truly fills me. His is the love I receive best – I simply need to accept it. Like my puppy, God doesn’t tire of my weird obsession to do it my own way. He only needs me to be still for just a moment. Just a moment. Why is that so hard for me?

This afternoon as I sit quietly in my yard, I feel Him near. I feel His love and I feel filled.I am grateful for His persistence and His pursuit of my attention. I am grateful for the puppy He brought into my life to help me learn to love others as they receive and not begrudgingly, forcing them to receive as I do. Only God could show me through a stubborn little Pit Bull, how truly ridiculous I can be.

By Vicki L. Pugliese

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