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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

Don’t Judge My Snapshots

“You’re so pulled together! I need to be more like that.”  This young girl said to me at a Weight Watchers meeting after I had just destroyed my week.  I had completely gone rogue to the point of having cookies for dinner.  In that exact moment, I was executing a plan for my upcoming anniversary.  It’s a great plan actually.  It’s thoughtful and seems wise to this young unmarried girl.  She longs for married life even though she is in a long term relationship that is probably headed in that direction.  The uncertainty is ruining it for her, as is her biological clock.

In that exact moment, I seemed like someone to follow.  She planned on stealing my idea.  I encouraged her to do so.  The irony of the previous week was just too much for me.  I told her how my week started off badly, and then plummeted into terrible.  She didn’t care.  She was looking at the snapshot of the moment, the cover and she was impressed.

I had been at a work conference where I had no control over what food I was being served.  I could bring some snacks with me, and did after the first day. I found myself irritable for reasons I could not explain.  I was more irritable than my normal lovable self.  Then the second day, in the first session, I walked into a room I recognized, sadly.  I found myself in the room where two years previously I had received the call that it was “time to come home”.  My father was ill and was going to pass away.  Just a couple of weeks later, in a hospital room, while other family members and I were at his side, he left this world to be with our Savior.

While I know he is no longer in pain and, for the most part, I grieved conventionally.  I still miss him terribly from time to time.  This moment at the conference, as the memories flooded back, I realized why I did not want to be in this building at all and certainly not in this room.  My emotions overwhelmed me.  I handled my emotions fairly well that day, during the day.  I went directly to a Weight Watchers to pick up snacks for the next day on my way home. Then I went to a Starbucks and my week took a wrong turn.  I brought several Weight Watcher choices for snacks for the next day to keep away from all of the bad choices that the conference provided.  Instead of picking from the choices I brought, I ate them all.  The third day I brought less snacks, learning my lesson.  I had an event that evening and had very little time for dinner.  I had cookies for dinner.  Nothing else in the grocery store looked good.  I had given up by now.  I was experiencing a melting down. We went out to dinner on Thursday, I ate somewhat lightly, but had dessert.  By weigh in, if I had not already paid for three months, I might have high tailed it and not showed up to face the music at all.  The wonderful check in lady hugged me.  I had only gained half a pound.  I COULD actually come back from that.  I can pick myself up, dust myself off and shake off that week.

Here comes this sweet young girl watching me in this moment.  She didn’t see the video of my complete mess of a week.  She readily forgives me for my half a pound.  “You’ll do better this week.”  She’s really super sweet.  I love this kid.

I’m thinking to myself, how many times have I seen a friend or coworker or even a stranger in a moment and longed to be them?  How many times have I watched a couple that seem to have it all together and wished our relationship could be like that?  How many woman have I gotten just a glimpse of them all put together in the best moments and wished I was more like them?  How many Facebook posts have I seen and thought… I need to do that or be like that or start doing that?  I fall for all of those things immortalizing a moment.  I fall for all of those things showing the cover of a story but not the whole story.  I’m just falling for the marketing.  I know my whole story.  I know all of my ups, and all of my deep dark downs.  I’m very familiar with them.  Actually I quickly forget my successes.

I once read that being proud of yourself was like being proud of an organ functioning.  That resonated with me.  Let me explain.  I was born in this country to a decent family that valued education, a relationship with the Lord, family ties and a hard work ethic.  All of those things added to who I am.  I can’t take credit for them.  I can’t look at myself compared to you, not knowing your journey, and assume that those things didn’t impact that journey.  I would be looking at the cover, not the whole story.  I can’t even look at my siblings and make that assumption because I don’t know all of the things that have happened in their lives.  I wouldn’t be excited that my pancreas is functioning.  It just does.  Yay pancreas!!!  I assume it will function.  I would not be happy if it didn’t, that’s for sure.  I’m sure that would be a problem.  I can’t take credit that it does.  I can’t take credit that I’m hard working, have a value on my education and family ties and love the Lord.  Those are parts of my story that just were.  I can’t be proud of that.  I am not superior to someone who did not get that leg up in life.  I am not more worthy or less worthy.  I am just who I am.

I am enough, just as I am.  I don’t need to make more money or dress better or have better friends.  I might possibly need to be more responsible with my resources but that’s another blog.  I am enough just as I am.  Stop looking at my moments, my snapshots, and think you know anything about me.  I am going to try to do the same when I see your moments.  I’m going to try to remember at least once that someone thought I was all put together and had my act figured out, when the truth is I still don’t have a solid game plan.  I’m not even sure I know what game we’re playing.

I do know if you sit on the sidelines that they aren’t sidelines and life will come along and knock you on your butt.  I have figured some things out.  I am enough, not on my own but because I know the owner, the big guy, the man upstairs.  He took my broken pieces and made a masterpiece.  Yay pancreas!  Thank you Jesus.  Thank you mom and dad for introducing me to Him!  I am enough because I found Him.  No matter what my snapshots look like, my book ends with my name written in His Book.  He knows my name.  Therefore I am a winner. I am enough.  John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believed in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

 

By Vicki L. Pugliese

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

A Log and Bifocals

God has been working on my heart through the verses Matthew 7:3-5 “Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye but do not notice the log in your own eye?” When I was younger I was adept at getting splinters out of my children’s hands and feet! Any child of mine who says differently, well, that was always my whiny kid anyway. But as I have aged, especially now that my eyes are requiring bifocals, no one is handing me a needle and asking for my services to get splinters out of their extremities. Actually my husband, who doesn’t heal very quickly decided to just let one fester instead of allowing me to attempt what I used to be very proficient at! So this verse is taking on a new depth for me.

There has been a plethora of posts and discussions lately in my life that have been disparaging while possibly attempting to assist others in their inferior discernment skill sets. For those of you who reread that sentence, they are being a little judgey! Looking back, it would appear the posts and remarks were all from one side aparently. But It’s really hard to call people out for being judgmental because you are then, in fact, being judgmental, while you are pointing out that others are being judgmental; even if you are pointing out a truth. It is a true Catch 22!

I am going to use my sister as an example; I love my sister and care very deeply for her. You know, those sisters that finish each others sentences, totally think alike, are best friends and are like two pieces of one cloth? That is not my sister and I. I tried to follow her everywhere when we were little kids. I waited for her at the window until the bus arrived each day, in a tiny stalker fashion. Our mom made her take me wherever she went, like all moms’ do. She hated it. Her best friend was very good to me. I may have followed my sister to get to hang out with her best friend.

As we grew up, I realized that even though we were raised in the same environment even though we both went through significantly difficult financial seasons in our adulthood, we ended up with very different points of view on the things that people argue over the most. Both of us are very smart women. I would never suggest that my sister is not a smart woman. We just evaluated our life situations and the information differently. We both had access to similar data. I know because we frequently send each other posts on Facebook but neither of us believes or are swayed by the other’s data, nor do we trust the other’s sources.

As a teenager I could easily be swayed to either side of a controversial topic. I could empathize with both sides depending on how well someone argued for that side. That’s why the topics are controversial! I hated that about myself. It takes me much longer to process, to pray and to ensure that I trust sources than it does most other people. I am skeptical the minute it gets controversial. I stick my feet in the mud and slow down, weighing my choices. I don’t want my decisions to be set in stone. I expect people to present their side of the topic in a light that only shows their best interests. In other words, I expect them to omit stuff that I don’t want to know about that might affect my decision. I want more time to think about it. But don’t necessarily not want to make a decision. I want to make several decisions and try them on to see how they fit. I want to test to see how your words fit your actions.

So all of those people, making all of those judgmental posts in my life, from all of those people that I love so very much, on both sides of this controversial topic you are a lot like my sister and I. My sister and I are both very smart people but we view politics and social issues and religion even, from different angles. We can find common ground easily enough, for instance we both have a heart for the homeless and want to help people. We may just go about that assistance in a different method.  We may want to solve poverty and pollution differently.

The same goes for those people who want to assist others with their faulty discernment skills. They are pointing out the splinters in each other’s eyes (and in mine I suppose) without seeing the log in their own.  For twenty years that I have known them, they have all been friends. They have had a common mission then a few issues found them divided. Actually I’m not sure those issues divided them as much as how to solve those issues.  Like my sister and I, they have more common ground than they want to acknowledge.

But there are so many stray needles in the hands of people trying to get splinters out of someone else’s eye, who have logs in their own eyes and many of them may need bifocals and a lot of good people are getting wounded.  “You aren’t following this Bible verse or this Bible verse… But please don’t bring up this Bible verse.”  And we all forgot the ones about longsuffering and forgiveness. There’s a lot of bleeding.

It’s really heartbreaking to pick a side or discern where the truth really lies on either side, if there is any at all. Because there isn’t much grace that I can discern. Between these people who loved each other just a few months ago, and for years before that. These are people who really, if they stopped and thought about it, care so much for each other and took vows to look out for each other and each others spiritual well-being. There’s just a whole lot of “we’re right” going on. And a whole lot more bleeding from those stray needles and good intentions.  The splinters are just going to have to fester their way out, I guess.

I have some praying and some healing to do. I got a little judgey myself and maybe that’s my log.  Maybe I need to use my words.  Maybe I need to use my words, down on my knees to the Great Healer because there are so many wounded.  I can best be used on His side praying for wholeness of all those people that I love and who love each other so much, that they just forgot.  I need to pray for those people on both sides and who haven’t picked a side.   Instead I’ll use my words to pray for His healing, His mission, His people, His timing… May He be glorified through our weakness.

Broken Dreams

I imagine his total devastation.  This man who was so easily the first to lend a hand, the first to do his masters will.  I imagine his total heartbreak and bewilderment.  “How could this be happening?!!”  His confusion and disappointment only surpassed by one other.  He must have stood and watched from a distance.  Scared.  Surely something miraculous is going to occur!  This can’t be how it ends!

Peter must have wept as they took his savior down off of the cross.  I imagine so wrapped up in his confusion that he must have watched.  Just in case.  But not too close!

He had denied Christ, just as he said he would.  He failed the man he loved in the garden in His last moments here on earth.  Jesus begged them to pray and they fell asleep.  They failed to see the significance.  They wanted to build an altar.  He was rebuked for cutting off an ear.  He had been so wrong.  Why was it ending like this?

Just a week ago Peter had walked beside Jesus, one of the chosen twelve as they laid palms before him.  Peter had visions of Jesus the King, the Messiah.  He had dreams of freedom from Rome.  He didn’t understand it all but he had such a different picture of Jesus coming into His kingdom!

He saw the miracles and wonders.  He knew Jesus had the power of God.  He saw Lazerus be raised from the dead!  Peter himself had walked on water. His heart must have crumbled trying to understand why Jesus allowed Himself to be beaten and hung on a cross.  Surely Jesus had the power to call down Angels!  Surely He had the power to begin His kingdom right here, right now!  Peter must have been completely lost.

Here is the man Peter adored, knows to be the Messiah.  Peter knows he betrayed and failed Jesus.  And he isn’t even present as He dies.  This horrible, painful, shame filled death and Peter is not beside Mary and John.  He isn’t strong enough.

Peter was supposed to be important.  One of the twelve.  How can they be lowering Jesus from the cross?

To be known for your epic highs, first off the boat, first to swear you’d never leave Christ.  Peter the ever willing, ever eager heart.  This is the heart that must have been most broken and afraid the night Christ died.  This is the heart that must have been deepest in despair.  Peter pained by his own shortcomings and betrayal.

How did this heart that was the lowest of lows become the man on which Christ built His church on?  How does this man become the Rock?  How does this man endure a life on the edge, willing to lay it down for his savior at any moment?  How does he become a man willing to go to prison, endure ridicule and beatings?  How does this man who is missing at the moment of Christ’s death, go on to martyrdom even upside down on a cross of his own?

Because Jesus, his Messiah, the King of Kings, his Lord and Saviour…  Came Back!

And that changed… Everything!!

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.

Just for a Moment

Like a wave washes over an unsuspecting child,

emptiness fills my heart.

Pain and loss rush in like a gust of wind,

taking over my moment without warning.

For just a second, I lose my breath,

I am overwhelmed and surprised by it all.

My life has mostly returned to normal,

moments like these come less often.

People around me no longer suspect,

that these moments even occur.

A single tear spills out over my cheek.

For just a moment I let myself feel.

For just a moment I let myself miss you.

For just a moment I let myself grieve.

For just a moment I am lost.

And then life moves on again

without warning, like the breeze moving on.

I go back to the list of normal things I must do,

do the laundry, get the groceries, go to the bank.

The kids still need baths and naps and watching,

the house still needs my attention.

But you are not here in this normalness,

I miss that you are not here for this.

But life moves me back out of this moment,

the children make me smile and laugh again.

The tear and moment forgotten as quickly as they appeared.

But just for a moment I was a little lost without you.

[In remembrance of the fathers who have gone before us]

Vicki L. Pugliese

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