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Introspective Sojourner

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

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Gratitude

If I had only known…

I wish I would have known while my dad was alive. I only traveled home about yearly, or bi-yearly. I only called about monthly, sometimes longer. Every time I would go to his house, he would invite me into the living room and ask me to catch him up on what was going on. My parents made me nervous. I felt like I never shut up around them. I felt like no one could get a word in edgewise. I was instantly tossed back in time, just a kid struggling for attention. I wasn’t a neglected child but there were six of us, and I was not the golden child – ever.

Still, every time I called, every time I visited, dad would focus on me, and ask about the details of my life.  How was my job, my kids, and my husband? What did we do for fun? He would get me started and a year’s, or a month’s worth of data would vomit out of my brain. I even asked my husband to give me a subtle nudge if I was talking too much. I don’t talk that much at home.  Oh, I’m not completely silent, but I don’t go on and on – most of the time. When I was around my parents, I couldn’t seem to stop myself.

I worried that they thought less of me because I couldn’t shut up. I tried to ask about their lives too, but they always turned the focus back on me. I never seemed to know much about their lives. I worried it was my fault. I wish I would have known. I would have called more.

My kids are grown now, with lives of their own. Still connected to mine, but separate. It’s wonderful when we get together and just talk about what’s going on in their lives. I want to know about their jobs, their friends, their kids, and spouses. I want to know about their dreams, even if they never come true. I want to know about their struggles and heartaches. Everyone has them. I don’t think less of them for having them too. I cherish the fun we have in group texts, and out for pizza, or playing cards. I cherish family gatherings. Mostly I love hearing about their lives, even the mundane things, because I’m not there, and it makes me feel connected. I wish I would have known.

You grow apart too easily. Life slips by too fast. There are too many chores, and not enough free time. There are too many good choices, and too much life to live. I want to hear about it all. They could talk a mile a minute – I wouldn’t care. They could tell me the same story two and three times over; I like hearing their voice. I like being with them.

To those of you out there who still have your parents, call them, write them, text them, keep in touch. Never feel like you talk too much. Stay connected. I say this knowing I need to call my mom, and my step mom. I need to catch up. I say this, missing being able to call my dad. I wish I had known. We weren’t super close but we weren’t estranged either. I was blessed. I am blessed with family connections that will always be there, even after a month or two, or a year. We get together and pick right up where we left off. Catch me up. Tell me your stories. I want to hear.

You could never talk too much. I wish I would have known.

Tell Me Your Story

I want to hear your stories.
I want to hear about that time.
Tell the one that made you laugh,
The one with your partner in crime.

Tell me how you took the train,
Across these great big states.
Tell the one about Uncle Horace,
And the cows getting through the gates.

I want to hear about it all,
To live a thousand lives.
To meet one hundred characters,
Get on memory lane and drive.

I want to hear your stories,
I’m waiting patiently.
You pick the topic, I’m all ears.
Oh won’t you please tell me…

By Vicki L. Pugliese

What’s Wrong with Anticipation?

The act of anticipation keeps us from living our present fully.  We look forward to going to school, turning 16, graduating High School or turning 21.  We long for finding that special someone, having children.  Once we have children, we can’t wait until the crawl or walk or talk.  We look forward to them going to school finally.

We get excited about the stages of their life that are in the near future for them.  We dream about the kind of people they will become.  We invest our thoughts in a new job or promotion and how that would affect our lives.  We day dream about getting new cars or a new house.  We even get caught up in holidays.  We anticipate how the holiday will be with family and presents and what food we will eat.  We think about the conversations we will have.  Sometimes down to what we will say if we are asked an uncomfortable question, that we don’t really want to answer.  We know exactly what the other person is supposed to respond, don’t we?!  They never do respond that way though.

We fantasize about what retirement will be like, or winning the lottery even.  We yearn for “empty nest-er” days.  We worry about every little detail that “could” happen.  We refuse to believe something good actually is coming our way until there is no other way for the other shoe to drop.  We are cynical in nature some of us, believing the worst probably will happen.  Meanwhile our thoughts may give us hope but keep us from really enjoying exactly where we are now.

We don’t have any reference when we are children, but we spend less time truly thinking “What if”, when we are kids.  As adults we can spend a significant amount of time, thinking about it, day dreaming or worrying about it.  We get dissatisfied with the here and now, as we propel ourselves into the future in our thoughts.  We pray and long for God to assist us in accomplishing our dreams and hopes.  We ask if He could just help us with this one thing that we are worrying about.  We can even pray fervently for a positive outcome that will occur in the future.

Now there is nothing wrong with those prayers.  We are told to stand before Him and ask, even to ask fervently, and to be persistent.  The issue I have with all of this anticipation, with all of this day dreaming is that, at least for myself, it pulls me out of the here and now.  Sometimes that’s what I think I want.  Things get hard and I would rather dream about how it will be.  That dream is often a lot like those conversations where we give someone else their lines.  Our dream view of the future leaves out all of the things that will make that less than ideal.  We leave out all the bills that come with that great house that we want or having to work harder to earn the mortgage.  We pray, “Could I just win the lottery this once?”  We all know the math behind the lottery.  They wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t tilted heavily in their favor.  Your chances of accidental death are most likely better than your chances of winning.

What is a problem in this, even in the Christian version where you pray fervently for an outcome or to be rescued from some issue, expecting great things from God?  We forget to focus on being grateful for what you have.  Now I have been in places in my life that felt like there was no way I could be grateful for anything, it was so overwhelming.  We are instructed in the Bible to pray fervently as well, to knock on the door until it is opened.  We are told to expect great things from a God who loves us dearly.

But we forget that little part where we ask God, not my will but thine.  I think I’m not a big fan of that concept, but God has shown me over and over that his plan is better than mine.  It may be more painful in some ways but when I look back in hindsight, I can easily see where His plan far surpasses my own.

Trusting in Him is hard.  Occasionally those periods of time in my life that are extremely difficult produce blessings that later are some of the best in my life. I have been blessed by the friends I found during times of struggle; the characteristics in my personality that changed dramatically, the goals I obtained to remove myself from a situation.  All of those are blessings in disguise, where God used a struggle to produce great outcomes.  I would not have chosen that for myself but I’m glad I am who I have become.

Perhaps today, I could anticipate tomorrow a little less and just enjoy today.  I will choose to focus on the many blessings in my life instead of the strife.  I will remember they often happen in tandem.  Even some of the most memorable stories in the Bible show that struggle and blessings may occur in tandem.  He is good.  He is able.  Today though, what He has already given me is enough.  I will worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.

 

By Vicki L. Pugliese

The “Hat Lady” – my friend

We knew her first as the “hat lady”. She was a breath of high society at our little Presbyterian church.  She wore a different and fabulous hat with amazing coordinating earrings every weekend to earn herself such a title from my family!  She came every week with her granddaughter Stephanie, who was beautiful, well behaved and a quiet child.

Margaret later joined the choir and we became fast friends even though there’s an age gap. It was quite a sacrifice for her to give up her hats but she loved to sing.  I enjoyed immensely her marvelous snarky sense of humor.  Margaret always had a smile on her face.  It was clear as well that she adored her granddaughter Stephanie.  Where ever one went the other went as well.  Although Stephanie never joined the choir, that was her grandmother’s thing.  Nonetheless they did attend services together through-out the years.

Margaret volunteered in many ways over the years. She was even our children’s choir director until an accident nearly “did her in”.  She tripped over a stray child, who wasn’t where they were supposed to be.  I don’t believe she was ever truly sturdy again, although she never complained.  Only she could make a cane a true fashion accessory!

In this last year or so Margaret has not been able to attend our church and yet we have become closer than ever via Facebook. As was her nature, she quickly volunteered to assist me in editing my blog.  My family had had about enough of forced reading of things I had written.  They were tired of missing commas, run on sentences, and inappropriate lead in words.  Margaret was ever diligent at reading and editing my work.  She always had a cheerful demeanor and was gentle in her corrections.  Once I even sent an email late at night, assuming she would find it in the morning.  She was still up. She stayed up to finish editing before calling it quits for the night.  She had been an executive secretary.  Some habits die hard.  She amazed me always.

She would privately message me stories about her beloved husband and some of their adventures. She always spoke kindly of her family and adoringly of her granddaughter.  I stole… **&^%*^^^^  ooops I fell off my brag box from her, with her permission of course.  She took great pleasure in me using her ideas and phrases.  She was an excellent editor.

Mostly Margaret was a dear and sweet friend that I will treasure forever. I know my blogs will be plagued with missing commas, run on sentences and other grammar and punctuation issues.  More importantly I know she is with our Savior right now demanding better hats with more unique accessories!  She was one of a kind.  She was inspiring.  She was my friend.  Rest in Peace Margaret Ascue.  You were loved.  Save me a spot at the good table!

 

By Vicki L. Pugliese

You Take You With You

She cast her eyes down and attempted to dissolve into the woodwork, removing herself from the line that had been moving her steadily toward the ticketing window. Only the man behind her, even briefly looked up as she wandered away counting her cash. She had been so sure this was the answer to the downward spiral her life had recently taken. She just wanted to run away, start over. She could picture so vividly her beloved grandfather’s porch and the rocking chairs facing the quiet small town road. Hardwood chairs with small tables beside them for your tea, with barely any room to pass. No frills, just peace and quiet and no judgment. A twinge hit her heart as she realized that her grandfather would no longer occupy the other chair. His passing was actually one of the catalysts to the events in her spiral. It hit her hard. She hadn’t been prepared.

Now her strong desire to run to that quiet place and start over gave her pause. Not that her grandmother would turn her away, but she could hear her grandfather’s voice. “You know, no matter how far you run, you take you with you.”

He had been such a wise man. He knew her so well. He gave her time to think, but nudged her in the right direction when it was time to go. Could she really start over? She had had just a little more than enough. She would indeed still take herself with her. She’d made such a mess of things since his passing. All of her relationships were strained. Now she had lost another dead end job. She just needed a break. Life didn’t like to give us that did it.

She could just sit and watch the neighbors go by with a cup of tea, but it wouldn’t be the same. The fog she had been in, that numbness might be worse near his things. Maybe that was being extravagant with her money. Tears started to roll down her cheeks. Somehow she had wandered upon a bench and she sat down, facing the busy street. The buses pulled out in front of her as she struggled with what to do.

A homeless man that was sitting facing her smiled. She thought how she should just get up and hike to her parents’ home. It would be a long trek and not a pleasant welcome. Sure they would lecture, but they would get her on her feet. She realized the little more than bus fare in her hands and some grace was all the difference between her and the man in rags before her.

Silently she cried out in her heart, “God help me! Please just tell me what to do!”

Almost immediately the homeless man spoke to her through a toothless smile, “God goes with you too.” He said. “Wherever you run. God’s still there.”

Tears streamed now as she looked at him with soft eyes and a quivering lip. She peeled the extra ten off of the exact bus fare to her grandmother’s handing it to him as she left to get back in line.

 

By Vicki L Pugliese

 

Story and characters are fiction any resemblance is purely coincidental.

Be Still

Social media is filled with motivational quotes, tips, and tricks. We are obsessed with fulfilling goals and moving ourselves toward our idea of perfection. In some cases we do actually need to be better stewards of our time and gifts, as well the portion of the world we can impact; at the top of which is ourself. It’s my opinion that all of those motivational tricks really make very little movement or that the movement is not long lasting. That was our goal, right?! We want to make life long changes. Those things that were life long changes in my life were rarely anything but the hand of God. Oh I was willing! I stepped out in faith. I made those first timid steps and said, “Lord use me!” or “Lord change me.” Sometimes those were daily prayers. Once that was a moment by moment prayer. Never in my life have I made significant life changes that lasted on my own.

Be Still and Know that I Am God

Not me! I am not God! I can want and desire and pin up motivational vision boards all day long. I can make resolutions and promises, but I am not God. Now, I can switch one habit for another and start making progress in a positive direction, but by the grace of God, I manage to avoid major life incidents. Those incidents can send you spiraling backwards and knock you on your butt. If they do, then I know the God who has the grace and mercy enough to see me in my downward fall. I know the God who has the love enough to gently pick me up and help me start again. I know the God who knows the hairs on my head. I know the God who knows my name before my parents ever spoke it. I am not Him, but He has my back.

Be Still and Know that I Am

I know the God who is everything that I need. He is the God of mercy when I fail. When I choose to fail. When I just can not get it right. He is the God of grace who gives freely what I never deserved and could never earn. I was born in this wonderful country, to a family who valued education, music and arts, and a good work ethic. All of those things play a part in who I became. I can’t take credit for any of that. The Great I Am has given me this amazing blessing. I am grateful for this start and those values and the life they have given me.

Be Still and Know

I know without any hesitation that I am loved! That the Father loved me beyond all I could imagine. And as we head into Lent, our response is to know; our response is to remember that unfathomable love for us. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” John 15:13 I know. “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 I know. Every belly laugh from my grand children, I know. Every smile and hug from my kids, I know. Every inside joke, knowing glance, soft touch or kiss from my husband, I know. I have been immeasurably blessed.

Be Still

As I wake up or lie down, the momentum and motivation that has been the most lasting and life changing has come from Him. It has come in prayer. It has come in the waiting, in the stillness of my soul, when I am willing to just be. That is when I find the Lord changes me.  I just had to be still. The rest was up to Him.

By Vicki L. Pugliese

Media by Melanie Brooks

There is a Mountain

She opened the journal and instantly knew which one it was. Only once in her lifetime had she ever used time stamps. This journal had meticulous times and was written in an odd magenta pen that looks pretty at first but angry as her writing disintegrates.

This story actually starts 13 years prior. An injury left her with bone spurs in her shoulder’s AC joint, so every time she moved it the bone spur caused a burning sensation. The burn was constant. At first the doctors gave her Vicodin that she used occasionally during the month. But at one point she recalls thinking maybe she could take a little more pain and a little less pain medication. She was persistent in seeking help but the shoulder was more persistent in progressing. She saw a plethora of specialists, Physical Therapists, Pain Management and had every sort of test. But right up front she saw a surgeon who turned her away determining these bone spurs were not serious enough to warrant surgery. Her descent was slow but constant.

In the end she took 30mg of OxyContin twice a day with Darvocet for breakthrough pain. There was always breakthrough pain. Then they took Darvocet off the market due to causing liver problems. She was already having difficulty functioning and she was sleeping away her life. When Darvocet went off the market they switched it out for Vicodin. She could barely stay awake on her drive to work. She lived 25 miles away and was terrified she would kill someone. She fell asleep at every red light. Every single one!

She went back to that surgeon. He didn’t see her; he sent in his assistant again. His assistant told her to try acupuncture which wasn’t even covered under her insurance. She just lost it! She told the assistant about her drive to work and falling asleep. She told him they were going to be just as responsible for whomever she ended up killing. She said her family would follow through because her family also thought they were culpable. She was scheduled for surgery in just a little over two weeks later. People at work thought she didn’t like her new position. They had no idea the true story. She told them she’d been waiting for surgery a long time. She could tell they didn’t believe her. She didn’t care. She wasn’t sharing more, except with her manager; he was amazingly supportive through the whole ordeal.

She woke up from surgery and the burn was gone! Completely gone! 13 years of pain and it was gone. She still struggles to forgive the surgeon that made her wait so long. She managed to get off the Vicodin on her own but stepping down off the Oxy was a whole knew ball game.

If you’ve never taken Oxy, you won’t understand. You have to pick up this prescription at your doctors office, every month, in person and hand deliver it to your pharmacist. If anything is wrong on that prescription, you take a drive back to your doctors office to get a new prescription. If you were unlucky enough to have picked up that prescription at the end of the day, you will wait until morning; the on-call Doctor is not fixing that prescription for you. If you picked it up on a Friday or a Thursday, or if your doctor doesn’t work on Fridays, you will be waiting until Monday. You can go to an Emergency Room and beg for exactly how much of that prescription you need to make it to Monday. No more. No one goes through the annoyance of an Oxy prescription that doesn’t have to. Her doctor had made several of these mistakes over the years. She found it frustrating and demeaning.

As she was trying to step down her doctor forgot to fill out the prescription altogether! The woman was a little ahead on her prescription and it was a Thursday. Her doctor didn’t work on Fridays.

She called her husband and told him she didn’t get her prescription and she was planning on going cold turkey off the pain meds. She let her boss know.

In pink pen that journal tells how she stopped off and picked up two bottles of wine and a big bottle of aspirin. She wasn’t much of a drinker. It didn’t much matter. Within 24 hours none of that was staying down anyway. The doctors office called later the next day, apologizing profusely. They were willing to write the prescription even though her doctor wasn’t in. They had not realized she was out. She told them she had just been through the worst night she could imagine. She certainly wasn’t doing that again. That’s because she couldn’t imagine much. Oxy is a time released medication and it wasn’t even out of her system yet. She really hadn’t started her battle at that point. You can’t really imagine, even if you have seen it on TV. The reality of it is beyond what you can imagine. Her husband asked her if she wanted him to pick up the prescription just in case. She told him that he better not or she would give in. That ended up being a wise choice.

Her daughter stayed with her through the night while others had to sleep. One son who lived across the country texted silly random jokes to distract her because she could not sleep at all. Her body lost the ability to regulate temperature. It could not keep anything down or anything in, not that food was appealing. She could barely sip water. Her limbs shook uncontrollably and ached beyond imagine. She had actual rug burns on them from them moving involuntarily against the sheets. Her daughter would try to get her to make it through just one more song on KLOVE. But by the end of the third day they were afraid she was going to have a heart attack and they took her to the Emergency Room.

The ER doctor asked if she wanted to go back on Oxy. She refused. They gave her something to stop the vomiting and to keep her from having that heart attack. She might have actually had one if she had stayed home. They put her on a second drug that she also had to wean off of. She was diligent about doing so. Four weeks later as fragile as a butterfly she was clean for the first time in 13 years. She was also totally out of sick time that had just accrued for the year just a few weeks before, but she was fine with that.

Her journal talks about the fog being lifted at about day two. She recalls this experience feeling as if she had always heard people talk about the sun and the moon, and she knew what they looked like; she could see them. But she lived in a heavily smoggy polluted city. Without knowing that her experience was polluted, she really could barely see them. She could see the idea of them but she could not see them.

As she left this metaphorical city, she felt, more than she saw, that the fog was being lifted. At the end of her journey she was on the mountain top. The skies were clear and clean, no smog, no pollution. You could see clearly the sun and the moon and now … there were stars! Thousands and thousands of beautiful gorgeous stars! Overwhelmingly beautiful clear skies and fresh clean air. How did she ever live in the city?

She had no idea that what she saw was so different from what others saw. That what she breathed was so filthy and unclean because her descent into the city had been so slow.

But now that she’s back on the mountain, she wants everyone to know! There is a mountain! There is a mountain! The air is clean and fresh and the skies are beautiful. And there are stars! So many stars! If you don’t live on the mountain, come to the mountain!

Perhaps her path is not yours. But she needed to fight to get to that mountaintop so that she would never think of leaving. Talk to her, there are programs, she will help you find the mountain.

Four years and six months ago today, I made it to the mountain top. Six months ago I found that journal in the pretty pink pen. While my mind has softened some of the edges of those weeks, I don’t need a journal to remind me. I won’t ever forget the agony that I went through those weeks. I won’t ever forget the fog. I won’t ever leave the mountain!

Because there is a mountain! The mountain is real! And the mountain, the mountain is beautiful!

Crisis of Significance

There is a disturbing trend in our country. We are losing our true sense of significance.  Oh we have a strong “false sense of confidence” and “fake bravado and brazenness”.  But what we are truly feeling is a crisis of significance.  Who am I important to?  Who knows my name?  Why do I matter?

We try desperately to fill a void that is ever increasing with social media.  How many “likes” can I get?  Does this blog have enough followers?  Is my tweet trending?  Am I relevant? It’s something that changes in the blink of an eye and that can be so elusive.  People struggle to understand how to capture and maintain the attention they seek.  They long for significance.  We believe we desire that from only one person but social media tells us that casual attention by many is just as satisfying.  Youtubers and bloggers long for more comments and followers.  Even I look for more followers.  But the numbers do not change your value.  It does not change my value.  It never had the power to do so in the first place.

Even if you are the most followed Youtuber with several viral video’s, even if your Facebook posts are constantly reshared and have dozens of “likes”, your value is no different.  It has not changed.  This blog could “blow up” and still I would have no more worth than I did before that occurred.  I would be shocked! But I would have no more value.  I am not and you are not, entitled to special treatment of any kind.  Sorry!  Perhaps you might earn payment from Youtube.  That payment does not define your worth.  It only defines your bank account.

Your worth is no greater than the mom who is raising her children quietly in her home.  Your worth is no greater than the teenager being bullied for her body shape.  You’re not more valuable than an elderly man with no one left to visit him in the nursing home or the foster kid who aged out of the system and is now living on the streets.  We are not an ounce more valuable. We are not more worthy of love and dignity than the man in prison convicted of crimes.  That one slowed you down, didn’t it!

Because we are all but one prayer away from being redeemed, just one prayer from being flawless in God’s eyes.  We are the same me, you, the wealthy man, the homeless kid, the prisoner, the terrorist.  We are all the same, just one prayer from being redeemed and forgiven.  We are all made in His image, each and every one of us.

And we should treat each other as if we have the same value.  Priceless. We should treat each other the way that our creator sees us because we are supposed to be His hands and feet. We are called to be an extension of His love.  We are His church.  We know it.

There is a crisis of significance going on out there.  We are looking at the wrong indicators to determine our worth!  There are no ordinary people.  We are all one prayer from redeemed.  That is God’s design, that the whole world be redeemed.  Acts 3:2 1 talks about restitution of all things. Since the world began.  He wants to redeem us all, each and every one of us!  Romans 5:18 sAustin  the transgressions of one man led to condemnation for all men but so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.

Just one prayer.  What greater value could there possibly be?  How much more significant could you be?  He knows your name!  How much more adored could you be?  Jesus died so you could be forgiven, redeemed, justified!  Jesus died so you could be flawless in His eyes!  Priceless!  You are worthy beyond any measure with just one prayer.  Just one.  He knows your name!  Now that’s significant.

 

by Vicki L. Pugliese

Not Designed for This World

The way I see it we weren’t made for this world anyway.  Our design is all wrong.  We are designed to fit into the next world and some of our gear, might make this world just a little more difficult.  Think about the brand new diver getting ready to go scuba diving for their first dive.  They put on their wet suit.  They put on their weight belt, flippers and mask.  They put on their tanks.  Their instructor checks their tanks to make sure it’s sitting on their backs correctly.  He makes sure that their weight belt is on securely.  He checks to make sure that there is as much air in the tanks as planned.  He has them try on their masks and try to breathe through the mouth piece to make sure everything is hooked up correctly.  He instructs them to breathe slowly and calmly.  Then they have to take all this heavy gear and possibly walk backwards down the sand to get into the water.  It’s awkward and clunky.  They can’t walk forward because they already have their flippers on.  Their weight belts are heavy and so are their tanks.  Their wet suit is hot in the sun.  Because all of this gear is not designed for them to hang out on the beach, it’s designed for them to have their first scuba dive.  Even if they are walking down to get on a boat, it’s still very awkward.

Then once they enter the water, the instructor makes sure they are still breathing calmly and slowly.  They push off with those flippers, in the water where they are designed to work.  And ahhhh that’s what those flippers are for!  They make all the difference in how you move in the water.  The weight belt and tanks help them to descend to this new world they have only seen pictures of.   You can’t descend the way you need to without them.  They are necessary in the new world.  All of that preparation the instructor did on the beach was for this moment in the water.  Wow, that’s a real live turtle and there goes a dolphin.  Oh my goodness a dolphin!  I love dolphins!  The coral is more amazing than you could have imagined.  This is a world pictures don’t capture well, you have to see it for yourself.

That’s kind of how I see this world.  Christ is preparing us for the next.  We don’t always fit so perfectly here.  Some of our gear really will work better in the next world.  He told us that as Christians this world would hate us, like it hated him.  We are designed for the next world.  Some of our gear really is better suited for the next world.  Make sure all of your gear is on the way the instructor showed you.  Breathe slowly.  But the real show, the dolphins and turtles and whales and all that great new world that you have only seen pictures of, all of that is waiting for you on the other side of the veil.  When you are ready the instructor will wade you in and you will experience more than you can ever imagine or hope for.

Until that time, enjoy the time on the beach.  I know that you might be hot, and the belt might be heavy.  But we can have fun falling over in the sand as we are headed toward the waves.  You just have to have a great attitude about the process.  You have to enjoy hanging out with the instructor.   The Master he is making sure we are all set to go.  That we won’t breathe in that full tank in the first 30 seconds but we will breathe slowly and calmly.  That our tanks are on properly and our weight belt is secured.  He’s the perfect instructor.  He wants to make sure we are perfectly ready to experience the next world.  He wants to make sure we are ready because the next world, the next world is WOW!

God Doesn’t Write Disney Endings

God doesn’t write Disney endings. God doesn’t write “… and they lived happily ever after.” Sometimes we wish He would but He doesn’t. In the Bible our big God moments often come in the midst of struggle! I’ll let that sink in. God doesn’t even wait until the struggle is ended. He doesn’t end the struggle, He brings His amazing grace and mercy in the midst of struggle. Now look back at your life and how many times have you just wished that things could go right at work and at home at the same time? How many times have things finally went right at home and work and then your kid’s or parent’s lives start to fall apart? Struggle is part of the human condition. We are built to have concerns for one another, to be relational, just as God himself is relational.

So let’s take an example from the Bible, Joseph. Joseph was used to save God’s people. Without him there would be no Israel, no Jews, no Jesus. Powerful right! He’s a big deal. But Joseph starts out in a family full of jealousy; one big blended family mess. And Joseph is as far from a blessing or an inheritance as you can get, but he’s dad’s favorite. Dad even gave him a fancy coat. You know things like that never go well with siblings. Favoritism is never unnoticed. Then God gives Joseph these awesome dream’s about how important he is going to be and that his brothers are going to bow down to him. Of course Joseph in his 17 year old wisdom doesn’t keep that to himself. Hindsight might have helped him here. Although in Joseph’s case I think his brother’s kind of go a little off the deep end, plotting to kill him and selling him into slavery. After all did they think he made it up? Do you really want to mess with God’s plan? Joseph went for years faithfully following this crazy plan of God’s. He even goes to prison under false accusations and serves God to the best of his abilities there. The cup bearer forgets him for two years and yet Joseph is faithful. Now would you be? I’m such a big whiner that I’m sure way back in the “sold me into slavery”, I would have messed up. Not Joseph, he is faithful until the end.

And God fulfills those dreams. Joseph saves a nation; God’s nation.  He is so important that he over sees all of the store houses. That’s his job. That’s his big happy ending. Sure he gets to save his family too and all of Egypt. But he gets his happy ending in the midst of a seven year famine! Hungry people are showing up at his door step wanting what he saved to save Egypt and his family. He is making life and death choices every day. People on forced diets. That must be a great job. Who wouldn’t sign up to turn away people on a forced diet? That’s his reward for being faithful for years and years! Well he does get to save a nation. He does get to redeem a family. He is a very important story in the Bible. God loves redemption and Joseph’s story is all about redemption and waiting on the Lord.

But there is a whole lot of “just be content with your life in the midst of your struggle” woven into Joseph’s story. God’s story isn’t written like a Disney movie. Life doesn’t work like a Disney movie. We wish it would and so we miss out. Your story connects to your neighbor’s story. Their story connects to their sister’s story and her coworker’s story and their kid’s story. All of these stories weave together in a beautiful symphony that only God truly sees the entire score. This masterpiece that still plays on, that ebbs and flows. This song that is written to glorify His name, has more depth than we can possibly be aware of. Only God can truly understand the full connections. Joseph could never understand that saving his family would lead to the birth of a Messiah and saving the world. Only God could do something that cool.

Don’t forget to celebrate all of the successes in the midst of your struggles. All of the things that you know you should be grateful for. Don’t focus on the struggles they are just a small portion of the overall symphony. Just a minor key change. God uses all of it for his glory, even the times when you are in prison or in slavery. He uses those times when you are falsely accused. He is a God of redemption and all things must be redeemed. As we move from the Garden of Eden to the great city in Revelation. All things must be redeemed. Your part of the story is important, the light and the dark. You will see there is much to be grateful for. And you will be more content with your life even midst your struggles when you do.

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