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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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Instrospection

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 know 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 Next Shiny Thing

IMG_2044Living without focus or hyper focusing on one thing until I’m tired, bored or burned out, while ignoring all other aspects of my life seems to be a pattern for me. You may have missed me, or perhaps you hadn’t noticed that I ignored you recently. Sorry that I ignored you. I was focused on writing a book, one that is completed now and fully edited. I sent out my first volley of queries for it this morning.
Before I hyper focused on writing, I was working toward my Distinguished Toastmaster’s M … – I don’t even know what the M stands for. I dove into that goal and rocked out all of my advanced speeches and my leadership requirements that were not time bound in about a year. I got burned out on Toastmasters. I struggled to attend at all. Then I gave another speech, participated in a contest actually – and I was nervous! All those speeches that I gave building on each other, strengthening that public speaking muscle until it was strong and chiseled. I could throw together a speech in a day and still polish it up to a point where I was satisfied. I have high standards for myself. Yet, I was nervous. I hadn’t been nervous, really nervous, in so long that I can’t even put my finger on it. Somewhere in my first set of ten speeches, I’d guess.
I managed to pull off that speech and then I practiced again, for an audience of one, at work. My nerves receding already. I gave the speech again in preparation for the next level of competition and my nerves were manageable again. The muscles just needed to be used again. I had nearly tossed aside that goal of DTM. I’m usually pretty focused until the last mile or so.
Before Toastmasters, we trained to run a half marathon. I was diligent in my process that Disney put out for those who are new runners that want to complete a half marathon. I built up my long run, week after week. We ran in 10Ks, and split a half marathon all to push ourselves to complete that goal. I got just a little behind on the schedule and had only ever ran 12 miles prior to the actual event. That last mile and a half was the worst.
That darn timer lady was there over and over again as a silent goal. Once she reminded those of us running just behind her, that if we weren’t in front of her at the mile marker, Disney picks us up. That’s the rules. I’m a slow runner but a long line at the bathrooms put me with her for the last three miles. I pushed thru at twelve and put some distance between us hoping that would make it easier. The last mile and a half was brutal.
I injured myself and haven’t really run well since, my muscles losing all that I had gained, so I threw my focus into Toastmasters, then writing.
What will I take on next? Why am I driven to focus and achieve something, anything, one more thing? I didn’t use to be like this. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been one to lose interest in things easily, my whole life – that’s a “functions as designed” thing.

It was really an unpleasant trait as a child and in the Navy. Detail oriented people don’t understand that there are those of us who aren’t actually lazy or malicious, we just miss details, even with check lists. It took me a long time to love that part of myself.
I have other talents that detail oriented people do not possess. I just have to remember to use my “powers” for good and not evil. Evil is shinier and catches my attention, my sense of humor. It gets me in trouble a lot. Still, I have learned to love that part of me.
Nonetheless living in this hyper focus and unbalanced life is taking its toll. I have to find a love for myself even if I don’t live up to my inner standards, even if I don’t finish my goal, even if I gain back all that weight. I’m still worthy of love. No one else seems to be telling me I’m not, just that inner me, that voice that pushes me to improve.
Somewhere along the way I became my enemy. Christ asks us to love our enemies. I need to include myself – my imperfect self. God’s not done with me yet … as the song goes. If you miss me, if I disappear again, it’ll be something else shiny. Perhaps the next time, though, I won’t apologize because that’s just how I’m hard wired and I learned to stop questioning God’s ways.

 

By Vicki L. Pugliese

110%: Too Narrow a View?

“I need you to give 110%!”  I just cringe when I hear that.  Even people who are not good at math have most likely been told that you can’t have more than 100%.  Percent makes it “of the whole”.  You can’t have more than a whole pie of a pie.  You can however have too narrow a view.  Perhaps you are really only considering a slice of the pie.  If you give 110% effort at work, or at a sport, what was the cost to the other pieces of your pie?  Did you give less at home, perhaps to a spouse or your children?  That will cost you in the health of your relationship slice of pie.  Did you negate your need for sleep or exercise?  Those things will eventually cost you in your health slice of pie.  Burnout is right around the corner if you ignore those.  Did you skip picking up, doing the dishes, or laundry, or other household functions?  Those will eventually catch up with you, so your ability to give 110% to whatever you are focusing on, is time limited.  Did you cut out your quiet time with God or your spirituality as a whole?  That will affect… well pretty much everything else in your life.  Somehow it’s usually the first thing we cut out, isn’t it?  Yet it’s kind of the crust to our pie. It’s what everything is built upon.

You could have been thinking about the other valid way to get 110%, though that is still an incorrect way of describing your level of effort.  You could be comparing your effort to an expectation level that is actually too low.  Did you compare your full effort to someone else’s full effort and determine you gave significantly more than they did?  The way that they slice their pie does not change how you sliced yours.  Did you expect to be able to do less and surprise yourself?  Therefore you feel like your effort was more than your ability to give?  I’m guessing you see the issue with the this immediately.  Your ability to do more than you thought you could, is either that you underestimated your time and talents, or you took from a different slice of your pie to be able to focus more fully on the task requiring your effort, thus putting it back into our “too narrow a view” idea.

Looking more closely at the estimation of our ability, that we often compare our actual effort against, can easily go both ways.  On some occasions we are proud of our selves for achieving more than we thought possible.  It was obviously possible, so our theory that it wasn’t was incorrect.  Nonetheless, we also berate ourselves when we don’t complete our self-assigned lists, or complete them to a lower standard than self-assigned as a perfect score.  My supposition is that often the second one is another piece of the pie catching up with us.  It needed our attention previously, but we stole from that piece of the pie temporarily, and now the piper needs to be paid.  Frequently the piper that shows up is the ones we can’t ignore such as poor health or need for rest.

The Bible gives us a great example where God clearly expects us to get enough rest and take care of our own needs in the story of Elijah.  Elijah had just killed all of those prophets of Baal.  He had been on the mountain top in his career, and here comes Jezebel and she’s out for blood.  She wants Elijah dead, and she’s the queen.  Being hated by those in charge, even feeling like you are disliked, is completely draining.  Elijah ran away and hid.  Good plan! I think.  God sends an angel and tells him to get up and eat, and then go rest.  A second time God sent an angel to instruct him to eat and rest.  Finally God tells him that he really needs to eat because the journey is too far.  This is where most of us think the story starts.  This is where Elijah listens for the Lord but the Lord is not in the wind, or the earthquake, but in the gentle whisper.  Elijah had to really be listening to hear him.

I often fail here because I was too busy being a storm of my own to stop and listen.  I’m also a regular steal-er from the health and rest pies, when I’m completing a different task.  It always catches up to me and then I berate myself for not meeting my own standards.

What’s your point already?  Right!

My point is we need that balanced life.  God designed us to need a balanced life.  He then made sure to give us examples in his word where He shows that He values our need to balance our lives.  We innately know that we need a balanced life, that’s not news to us.  But our need to take pride in our effort is the root of the problem.  We get unbalanced when we try to give 110%.  When we stretch ourselves in one area of our life and neglect another, we eventually pay the price.  Sometimes there can be long term consequences such as divorce or estrangement, or long term health issues that can not be resolved or can’t be resolved quickly.

I believe this pride issue, that gets us out of wack, starts with our thought process.  That need to be proud of ourselves or gain the approval of others by giving more than expected is the catalyst.  That desire to overachieve in one area of our life, without looking at the whole pie, is the first harmful action.  Comparing your slice of pie to how someone else slices their pie, on the other hand, only breeds apathy and disdain.  It is even less healthy.  Both are a battle in our minds.  Changing our thoughts to be kinder to ourselves and others is at least part of the answer.  Stopping the internal slave driver, who is fine with you skipping your exercise routine, but forces you to stay late at work.  Stopping that internal comparison to others which keeps you driven to be the best you can be, until the other parts of your pie come crashing in around you, never works out the way we want.  Instead of expecting 110% from yourself, or that you must always get an A, do your best without stealing from the rest of your pie.  Take the whole whole of your life into consideration.

You can’t sleep when you’re dead.  You need to do it now and you need to stop beating yourself up for needing to do it now.  You can’t have the best relationship with your friends and family if you neglect them now, not without taking from another slice of pie to restore it later.  So next time you feel the need to give 110%, acknowledge where you are stealing from.  Acknowledge that you are cutting into another needed piece of your life.  If you are honest with yourself about that and you choose to do that for a season, then give more.  Otherwise look at the whole whole and stop expecting someone else to divide their pie the way you do.  Then most importantly, start with your crust.  Start by listening to God.  Spending time with Him and in His word.  Look at your pie the way He does.  He’s the recipe holder after all.  Who else knows how to make your pie the best it can be?

 

By Vicki L. Pugliese

Anatomy of a Non-Hugger

There is a hidden group within our midst, the non-hugger.  I can count myself in their numbers.  We have a different anatomy than most.  You see non-huggers have a bubble.  You can’t see it unless you are very perceptive towards our body language.  Ok, that’s a lie.  Everyone notices our body language, they just respond to it differently.  You can peg a person with a bubble, or personal space issue quickly when you go to hug them.  We have our coping skills, the pup tent hug, the side hug, the three second, pat your back and let go hug, or occasionally we get a handshake in to block the hug.  If you get a wave, or the slight backup movement, sorry, that’s a defense mechanism.  We like to hide out amongst the extreme introverts and germaphobes.  They don’t want to hug either, for their own reasons.  Introverts who are huggers do exist, they just won’t hug you unless you are in their inner circle of people.  I am not in their numbers.  The germaphobe has to make a choice between touching hands or hugging, neither of which is comfortable for them.  They also can be mistaken for the non-hugger, bubble people, as they do have a bubble but their mindset is different and I can’t begin to speak to it.

Being a person with an extra sensitive bubble and need for personal space, who is not an introvert, and is very compassionate, I have had to do some soul searching on this issue.  I’m from a great small town, very safe, and very friendly.  I talk to strangers, much to my family’s dismay.  I have been a Stephen Minister at our church.  This lay person’s job is to come along side someone in a crisis and support them, for as long as they need.  You could consider it a one on one deacon.  My point being that I am compassionate, empathetic and caring.  I can be warm and bubbly, not to be confused with my personal space bubble.  Nonetheless, I am NOT a hugger.  I come from a long line of undemonstrative people, some of which are also very personable and loving.  I can’t say my personal space issue is a result of environment or just how I am designed.  I have not lived in that small town since I was a child, and there are an awful lot of huggers out here.  My intuition tells me that my bubble issue is more of a design thing.  I only call it an issue because this is a hugger’s world.  I am not broken.

First, I have to describe the hugger to the best of my observations.  The hugger shows their compassion, love and any other host of emotions via their hug.  “I haven’t seen you in a whole week”, I should hug you.  “You are upset over an event”, I should hug you.  “You just got a new job”, I should hug you.  “I just flat out love you”, I should hug you.  It’s the obligatory “passing of the peace” or “I should hug you” time in church, so I should hug you.  Additionally, huggers get their needs met via their hugs as well.  “I’m excited about something God has blessed me with”, I need to be hugged.  “I’m upset about a trying or sad event”, I need a hug.  “We just heard a horribly emotional story”, I need a hug.  “You shared with me and let yourself be vulnerable about a situation in your life which touches my heart”, I need to hug you to show you I understand and care.  “I haven’t seen you in a whole week and I love you”, I need to hug you to show you that love.  “I’m feeling a little needy or vulnerable myself”, I need a hug to know your acceptance and to receive the gift of your love and compassion.  You see, huggers freely give the gift they have in abundance, the gift behind the hugs.  Those gifts include love, compassion, empathy, acceptance and acknowledgment of an inner circle of friends.  Huggers receive those same gifts from giving a hug, it is a two-way delivery system for them.

Huggers receive energy from a hug.  It is a positive exchange for them.  It fills their tank.  That tank can become empty, and require hugs to be filled.  Hugs initiated by others, gives more energy than those initiated by themselves but most of the time they don’t realize they beat you to the punch anyway.  You even have your super huggers who hold you so tight and for so long until that gift they are giving you is fully received and returned.  It’s a super power much like Superman’s gift of flight, or Captain America’s inability to age.  The super huggers receive healing with their super powers, and are positive you will as well, if you just fully embrace the hug.  They can fill their tanks quickly but prefer a tank that is overflowing so that they can give to others freely.  We avoid you, unless you are in our inner circle. 

There are a lot of huggers in this world, or at least in America, as I have barely left this country in my lifetime.  At very least there are a lot of huggers, who hug those who are at least in their inner circles.  The degree of circle to hug intensity is often relational.  Since introverts can also be huggers, that leaves the non-huggers in the very large minority.

Let me describe the non-hugger now.  The non-hugger requires you to use your imagination to understand.  The non-hugger has a bubble of personal space that they maintain at all times.  Keeping the bubble intact requires the least amount of energy.  It’s a little like the old moat around a castle.  A non-hugger has to expend energy to allow you into their bubble.  The draw bridge has to be lowered.  It acknowledges that you are accepted or loved.  Just lowering the bubble, is a gift from the non-hugger, as well as a drain on our energy.  It does not refill our tank to hug you.  Let me repeat that, we do not get energy from hugging you.  We do receive the gift of love, compassion and empathy.  What appears to be the biggest difference from my point of view, is that we do not receive energy from it.  Much like the introvert who goes to a party and comes home drained.  They may have even had a great time, but they are exhausted, it does not build up their stores. 

The non-hugger is offering you the olive branch by simply lowering the bubble.  The longer the bubble remains down, the more energy the non-hugger has to expend.  It is a choice that we make because we live in a hugger world.  We know that huggers take the side hug, or the handshake move offensively.  We know that you can tell we hug you stiffly.  We may need that pup-tent space to keep from being completely drained.  We may only have three seconds of energy to give.  Our worst moments are when we care for someone so very dearly, who only wants to comfort us, but we do not have enough energy in our tanks to lower the bubble.  We feel your pain.  We know that you also have a need to hug us.  We have experienced this hugger world our entire life.  We are perceptive enough to know that our lack of energy feels like rejection to you.  It is not.  It is self-care.   We simply may not have the energy needed to give to you what you need.  We are used to being the giver.  That may shock you. 

It has been expected of us to choose to let down our bubble because of your needs.  We face that forced choice regularly.  No one would force a child with autism to hug them.  We understand that you are hurting that child not helping them or loving them.  We understand that to love that child, you meet them how they can receive.  Non-huggers do not get this understanding.  We get looks of hurt, judgement and dismissal when we make the choice to not expend our energy.  That choice may have nothing to do with our relationship with you, though it often takes far more energy to lower the bubble for those outside our inner circles.  Yet, the responses we get, regularly reinforces, that to make that choice we will offend you.  If we have chosen that, it was most likely not lightly.  We don’t like the judgement either.  We are perceptive enough to know, unlike the child with autism.  If we care about you, it hurts us even more.  That is a sign!  If you are in our inner circle of friends and family, and we are incapable of lowering our bubble, our tank is flat empty.  We have nothing to give you.  We will not receive the love, empathy or compassion that you are trying to give us to fill up our tanks, because we don’t have enough energy to maintain the bubble’s integrity.  It is not a positive exchange any longer for us.  That has nothing to do with our relationship with you, but with our own energy stores within our very spirit.

The East Coast has a tradition of torturing grieving families, called “Visitation Hours”.  This terrible tradition lines a grieving family up so that you can share in their grief and support them.  Which may work wonderfully for huggers, but is a lot like a nightmare for a non-hugger.  My dad was a very loved man in the small town I grew up in.  It’s a much larger town when you are forced to be in the receiving line at visitation hours.  Approximately 500 people came through those receiving lines.  Each with stories of how they knew my dad, and loved him.  Each with the offering, the gift of their shared grief in our loss; most of them huggers.  After the first ten or so people, my tank was beyond empty.  There was no longer any room for my own grief.  Luckily my oldest son arrived half way through, he was able to be light hearted and perhaps inappropriately silly with me.  I had nothing left to give those who came by that time.  It was a lot like immersion therapy.  It changed me.  My bubble was irreparably damaged, not necessarily a bad thing.  While the night itself was the worst thing I can imagine doing to a non-hugger, it has opened up an ability to receive the gift huggers have long been extending to me.  I have been known to initiate a hug since that night!  It’s quite the transformation, but only for my inner circle.  If I have hugged you, initiated the hug, that was a gift.  Not only did I lower the bubble, which still exists, but has changed, but I extended and received the gift of love, compassion and empathy that huggers intend.  Now if you aren’t in my inner circle, sorry that part of my bubble regenerated. 

So, my advice for huggers is to not immediately be offended by the pup tent hug, the side hug, the three second hug or the stiff hug.  You can go ahead and be slightly offended by the quick handshake or wave.  Instead if you know the person well, especially if you are in their inner circle, look for a deeper reason.  Maybe this person is a non-hugger.  Maybe this person’s tank is running empty for circumstances you are unaware of.  Understanding our emptiness with that overflowing compassion you can tap into, is greatly appreciated.  We know in those instances, it’s harder for you not to hug.  Choosing to help us maintain our energy stores, our depleted tank, is more loving.  Instead offer a prayer, or a simple touch on our arm or shoulder.  We will receive the intended hug.  We will appreciate, if not immediately, it will occur to us when our tank is replenished, that you respected our needs.  You see, it doesn’t happen often, so even if we are too drained to notice immediately, we will remember.  But most importantly appreciate the choice we make to show you how much we love you, when we do hug you.  You are special to us, worthy of our energy stores.  You are worthy to be given to, without a return for us.  The reasons for our bubble can be numerous.  Our anatomy remains much the same, it’s just that you can’t see part of it.  That bubble, and the energy store required to maintain it are just as real as our tears, our limbs, or our heart.  It excludes us, we wouldn’t keep it if we had a real choice.  We would choose to receive what you receive with a hug if we could.  Yet, we are not broken, we are designed differently.  We only ask for understanding and acceptance, like everyone else.  Dismissing, or making fun of our bubble is the opposite of what we would prefer, even if we acknowledge and make fun of it ourselves.  So, continue to offer us hugs.  Hug us as long as we allow, and as hard as we can return.  Nonetheless, do not take offense, we have offered all we can.

 

Signed

The Non-Hugger.

 

By Vicki L. Pugliese

My Father’s Daughter

I miss being my father’s daughter.  Dad has been gone two years and days over six months.  Most times I love to talk about him.  Some memories still bring tears.  Sweet tears.

I miss calling him.  Though anyone who knows me just laughed.  I’d rather chew off an arm than talk on the phone.  Nonetheless I miss his voice; his corny jokes even his pointed questions.  I miss making him proud.  I didn’t do that enough.

All that to point out how amazing it is to be a daughter.  Even when you could be closer, it’s a privilege.  One we take for granted until we no longer are our fathers daughter.  One we search for when that relationship is failed.  One we long for as a child from a broken home.  Daddy’s girl is no joke.  It’s a thing we girls covet.  It’s a thing many treasure and some miss.

Its so important that we make fun of it, as if that could possibly make it less important.  It does not.  We know.

As I think about missing my own father, I look at my daughter and my husband and my oldest son and his daughters, and I know how amazing being loved like that is.      My husband and son have done a better job.  Perhaps they have better daughters.

But I am still a daughter.  Though my own dad is gone and perhaps let me down in life as perhaps I did him.  I have the ultimate father, Abba Father.

I don’t call Him enough either.  I take Him for granted too.  But he doesn’t disappoint me and He isn’t disappointed in me. Satan may try to tell me different.  Satan may have loved that I got separated from my own dad from time to time in my life.  Separated emotionally as well as by miles.  Satan can only lie and hope I’ll fall for his lies when it comes to my Abba Father.

Christ understood the importance of that relationship.  He uses that name when the woman touches his cloak.  You may not know this story.  It’s in Mark Chapter 5.  They had just crossed the water after sending demons into a herd of pigs.  This was so amazing and scary that the people sent Him away.  They could not handle this person who is Christ.  There were crowds around when a ruler Jairus comes running in and begs Christ to come.  Begs for his daughter who was near death. She’s just 12 years old.  Still a child but in those days, almost not.  She’s still his baby girl.  He ran to beg for Jesus to come and heal her.  He’s a man of faith.  A leader in the synagogue.

And Jesus gets up to go.  The crowd pushing in on all sides just to get a glimpse.  So much so that when the woman reaches out and touches his cloak, the disciples completely dismiss Jesus when he asks who touched me.  Completely dismiss the notion that they could even determine who did.

But Christ knows power has gone out of him, healing.  The woman has been ill for 12 years, every year Jairus’ daughter has been alive.  She’s got a bleeding disease.  Technically that makes her unclean in Jewish culture and anyone who she touches or touches her is defiled by her touch.  Except Christ.  She is healed and made clean by His touch.  It goes the other direction there.  Instead of Him being made unclean she is made whole!  She knows it instantly too.  You can’t be sick, probably horribly anemic for 12 years, and when you are healed entirely, not know.  She knows and drops to His feet, afraid.  She’s been called out, Jesus knows.  No getting out of this now.  She had previously spent all of her money on doctors to no avail.  She’s desperate enough, yet has a tiny amount of faith.  She thought if I could just touch His cloak… but now she’s exposed.  And just like the defilement could not touch Him, and only good flowed out, He does not judge or cause her any shame.  Instead He calls her “Daughter”. The most precious word in the world.  She’s no longer an outsider and an outcast but wholly accepted by Him.

Abba Father means the same to His other daughters.  He’s not ashamed of us.  Though we may deserve that.  He does not label us outcasts, outsiders or unworthy.  He should.  He calls us not only child, but daughter.  Such a precious gift to be His daughter.  We are made whole, He is not made low by us.

Jairus’ daughter passes away it takes so long to get there.  Christ is rebuked by the family for saying otherwise.  He kicks everyone but her parents out.  Her dad is there but Christ knows she’s His daughter too. He heals her as well.  She was that ripe kind of dead too.  Jesus makes her whole.  No one questioned she was dead until Jesus says she’s just sleeping.  Why do they never believe Him?

Not only does He heal her returning her to her family, and to her dad.   Maybe to prove she isn’t a ghost or something, He tells them to feed her!  He cares for her health in multiple ways.  There before her dad.  Christ got how important it is to be the daughter.  How loved and special that title is.

Our Abba Father understands our need for that kind of care and love.  That kind of status of being adored.  He adores us.  Just as we are.  He heals us, makes us clean without shame.  Instead He adores us.  We must NOT listen to Satan.  Good flows out of Christ, evil does not touch Him.  Though we should never take this love for granted either.  Unlike my dad,  Christ will never leave us or forsake us. He will never let me down.  The perfect family umbrella.

Christ calls me daughter.  How sweet the sound of that word.  How amazing to be whole and clean.  Nothing I could do will drive Him away nor make Him love me anymore!  I am cherished.  Daddy’s girl.  No love can surpass this one.

Still I really should call to Him more…

 

Miss you Dad!

By Vicki L Pugliese

Did you know?

Did you know when you split our church, we’d end up feeling lost and disconnected?  Did it occur to you that your actions would cause so much pain?  When you planned and strategized how to push that train of change off its tracks, did you care that souls would bleed?  Holding on so tightly to a way to beat the vote, did you remember it was the majority?  Those you had worshipped with for years, decades even, did you pause?  Did you reject a possibility that your actions might hurt more than you anticipated? Or did you just not care?

The strong moved on.  Your actions just a bump in the road.  Their faith never wavered.  They shed the ties to just a place, and held fast to their beliefs and each other.  They never looked back, like Lot leaving Sodom and Gamorah.  They did their best to start new as they felt led.

But some of us faltered.  Some of us just ended in between.  Not looking back but not moving forward.  Somehow disconnected.  Searching for that home.  Searching for community.  Faltering.  Struggling to hang on to that need and desire to have a church home.  Wandering in and out.  Watching friends leave for good.  Fighting to survive by shutting down parts that care or were connected.  Did you even pause?  Did you foresee the aftermath of community torn.  Or selfishly cut your losses?

God will lead us.  We will get up and dust ourselves off.  Knocked down by the sucker punch you threw.  Slower to bounce back than some.  Wounded more deeply perhaps.  Though wandering and searching, still moving.  Not out yet.  <God lead us.>< God heal us.>. <Your will be done.>

When wounded soldiers are left behind, angels cry.

 

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

Unabandoned

She ignored the words of others,

Accepting abandoned lots, abandoned lives.

She saw beyond what others saw, what most could see.

She tended, pruned, cared for, and loved with all that she had, with her own two hands.

She took something wild, and weedy, and full of thorns.

She gently, and slowly transformed them.

With a master gardener’s sight, she watched and waited.

She patiently oversaw tiny growth that others missed.

And now what once was fallow, no longer is.

Both gardens and lives, quite plain to see.

Vibrantly blooming beyond all promise, all we believed.

A sweet fragrance of love from her own two hands.

Now and forever Unabandoned they stand.

 

by Vicki L. Pugliese

 

 

Stand and Face the Garden

Don’t rush me to the empty tomb! Don’t skip too quickly from His triumphant entry into the City to His glorious resurrection. I understand the significance. I understand how amazing both are. I am in awe of Palm Sunday. The beauty and celebration of our King entering Jerusalem. It is without a doubt an amazing story, from the donkey being exactly where it was supposed to be (Matthew 21:2) to the celebration of the crowd that would turn on Him in just a precious few days (Matthew 27:22). What disturbs me is when people jump from Happy Palm Sunday to Happy Easter. Wait a minute. You skipped a beat.

Where did my Garden go? I need my time in the Garden! Where did Good Friday go? Where is my dark weekend? I actually need that time.
Our church has a Maundy Thursday service. It is my second favorite service next to the candlelight Christmas Eve service. I even prefer it over Easter. I find I need a Maundy Thursday service to keep my year in balance. It’s a dark service which ends quietly and reverently. It leaves you in that evening place, with Christ facing the weekend to come. It has one rule… all of the music is in a minor key. I didn’t realize it had this rule until someone played a happy song. Apparently I am pretty fastidious about that rule. Don’t rush me to the empty tomb, let me linger in the darkness of the evening.

I don’t like to be rushed through the weekend without sufficient time in the Garden. I have to face the reality of my own selfishness, my own failures. Like Peter, I am sure that even if my Master begged me, I would have failed Him. (Matthew 26:36-45) I would have failed to see the magnitude of the moment until after it passed.

Without proper time in the Garden I think too highly of myself. I afford myself grace too easily or, the most egregious of all, I would allow myself mercy as if bearing the Cross was easy. I will sanitize the weekend if we skip from Palm Sunday to Easter without a second thought; happy to happy. I need time to remember the amazing and scandalous gift that was given to me. I need time to add weight to all of it, including my culpability in the matter… again. I need time for it to break my heart. There will be another year of sin that Christ has paid for, much to my dismay. There is another year to lay at his feet in sorrow.

Now I will be the first one to fall for Satan’s tricks and try and pick up the prior year’s sin. I know I should not touch that. Christ remembers it no more (Hebrews 8:12). He removes our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalms 103:12). That sin is paid for, dwelling on it, adding shame and guilt serves no one but the enemy. Now if the Holy Spirit is asking me to repent of an ongoing sin or I need to ask someone for forgiveness, that is different, but shame and guilt are tools of the enemy. He is just trying to weaken the most amazing gift that has ever been given. If he can add a little guilt, perhaps it will tarnish that gift a little. I sometimes have to work hard to not allow Satan to diminish all that has been done for me. This weekend is about facing new sins. Hopefully not sins which are chronic ones.

I need time in the Garden to right my heart. I need to face the dark and scary side of the Garden to see that it is also filled with love. I need to face that horrifying and brutal Cross to see that it carries mercy and grace. I need to look into that final resting place and face death to see that Christ had the last Word and it was love. I have to see His isolation, betrayal and how He bore my sins. I have to stand and face the weekend, the Cross, the Tomb, and all that it has to offer. I have to un-sanitize the horror so I can fully appreciate the beauty.

Then, and only then, I am ready to celebrate on Easter. Then and only then am I ready to say…

He is risen. He is risen indeed!

By Vicki L. Pugliese

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