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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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Relationships

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

A Vow of Respect

I vowed to “Respect” in my wedding vows.  My husband vowed to “Cherish”.  We went with those traditional vows.  We actually fought to keep them more traditional.  That was nearly 27 years ago. Perhaps God saw the people we would become and tried to assist us by making us promise!  Back then it didn’t seem like any big deal to either of us.  It was just who we were.  It also was important.  Not as important as it would become, as we became more strong willed or stubborn, if you will, after nearly 27 years.

People in general, tend to try and show our love and affection for each other in our own love language.  The five love languages being Affection, Quality Time, Gifts, Acts of Service and Words of Affirmation.  That last one is not the same for men as it is for women, so it is misleading.  Then my husband and I went and put that last one in our vows and promised to do so!  Both my husband and I have different love languages.  I know, that’s shocking, right!  He likes quality time.  I like acts of service.  Those can be directly opposing.  It’s hard to do something for someone if you are just sitting there spending time with them.  My little A.D.D. brain feels like I am monopolizing the quality time, which I probably am.  Then I want to show him that I love him by running off and doing something for him; MY love language.  Then I get hurt when he doesn’t reciprocate.  He got hurt because I left while we were having quality time.  You see how this works.

God tried to help.  Both of us have a second love language of Words of Affirmation.  Here is where there’s a wrench in the system.  No one told me that the expression of love that men need is different from that expression needed by women.  I’m a slow learner.  How you show Words of Affirmation to a man is different from how you show Words of Affirmation to a woman.  For years my husband would complain that I didn’t respect him.  I didn’t understand.  There it was in our vows all along.  God tried to help me.  I just wasn’t paying attention.  Neither was my husband because that whole cherish thing had been borderline at times too.  Not paying attention, that’s normal for me, but a little surprising for my husband.  He usually misses nothing!

Here is my new truth.  I wish I had learned this years ago.  Men need words of affirmation that include respect.  Ephesians 5:33 says “let the wife see that she respects her husband.”  Telling a man that you love him, cherish him or adore him is like the wind.  He doesn’t hear it.  He thinks, “Of course you do we are married!”  What he needs to hear is words of respect.  Those words he craves and his soul needs for growth and strength.  Instead tell your husband, “I’m proud of you.” “I admire that.” “I respect that.” “Thank you.” Also you should throw in those occasional “You’re hot” (especially after all these years, he needs to know he’s still hot) and “What a stud muffin you are.”  Those are the language that men, my husband included, craves.  He wants me to see his accomplishments and to be proud and grateful for all his efforts.

I said I would in our vows 27 years ago.  He needs that to be his full self as God created him to be.

Here is the rub, to support him fully, I need him to cherish me like I am fine china, beautiful but fragile.  It’s hard sometimes to be respectful and admiring when I have been treated like paper plates or everyday wear that’s chipped and stained.  When he starts noticing my appearance and not my heart or who I am inside then I get chipped a little more, because I am fragile.  I am just like fine china, I chip and crack easily.  Those chips and cracks do not repair well, it may take years to heal.

But when he does treat me like fine china and care for me, then it is easy to respect and natural to reciprocate.  What a terrible Catch-22.  When we are careful to go back to our vows, others outside of our marriage always notice how well we are getting along.  It only took me 25 years or so to figure it out!  I’m a slow learner.  I can still be stubborn.  If you haven’t been told the secret, I hope I saved you 25 years!

Guys if you want her to care about her appearance, cherish her.  Cherish the person she is inside.  Love her with all that you have like she is fine china, fragile and precious.  She will respond and before you know it, you really won’t care about the outside, but maybe she will.  1 Peter 3:3 says “Do not let your adorning be external – the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear – but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.  For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves by submitting to their own husbands.”

Girls respect him, even if sometimes he doesn’t earn it.  God told you to do so.  He will become the leader of your home that you are looking for.  Even if that isn’t his love language, he still needs those words of affirmation as well.  His soul needs it.

It’s just a truth, like women all need to be cherished.  Marriage makes us stronger, better when done the way God intended.  That’s why we say vows before Him.  That’s why we ask Him for his blessing on our union.

 

By Vicki L. Pugliese

 

Media by @agphotographysd

 

A Unique Playground

My kids are the best.  They are individually awesome. Yet collectively they are the cats meow. You may have great kids too.  You may even think your kids are the best that’s just because you haven’t met mine!  My kids are all smart, like wicked smart in different ways.   They can be really philanthropic and kind too.  They are hard workers and yet have balance to their lives.  They are all fiercely loyal, faithful and have strong family ties.
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Oops. Fell off my brag box.

What I love most about my kids is we have our own playground.  If you have been invited in, you know that we are good at the games here.  It’s a playground of wit, humor and sarcasm.  Well, my kids are darn good at it.  They will send out a test fire to see if you want to play in their playground.  If you do not have the skill set for whatever reason; you weren’t born with a sense of humor, you are too naive or you will get hurt in their playground, then they will leave you alone.  That last one is kind of “iffy”, depending on your persistence.  If you don’t have the skills, they will leave you alone, as a cat walks away from a dead mouse.  Your hold no interest to them,  that’s not fun to play with.

I’ve been told my kids are “mean” and I take exception to that word.  Webster defines “mean” as “unkind, spiteful or unfair”.  My kids are smart.  Don’t go into their playground unarmed and without an armor of thick skin.  They are just showing you “love”.  They don’t play unfairly.  They are not spiteful.  I’m sure that the first word is where I have to defend, but I don’t think they are unkind, not deliberately.   There are rules on the playground.  I would say that those rules keep them away from being unkind.  We assisted in building this playground and put the rules in place.  It can be fun to play in.  Actually I am their favorite target.  I don’t mind.  Usually.  I do have a good sense of humor.  You have to be really good at wit and sarcasm to play in their playground, especially if there is more than one of them.  I’m not very good.  They think randomly.  They are uniquely designed to play well with each other in that playground.  They expanded on the original design.  I think possibly into a different dimension.  Ok, it’s possible if you get the oldest two together there may be cheating.  Your sides will hurt from laughing if you get three or more together.  The boys are more unruly, but let’s face it, it’s a family trait.  It’s good to be family at that point.

Although everyone will be laughing in no time, family or not.  That is their favorite goal in the playground.  Never to pick on anyone.  They aren’t spiteful or unfair.  Their goal is to have the entire group having as much fun on their playground as they are.  Somehow they always do it.  People adore my kids.  If they didn’t manage to play nice on that playground, in the end no one would like them at all.  No one would come to play on the playground a second time!  And what fun would that be?  People adore my kids.  They make life long friends of all ages.  They are really great kids and you will laugh until your sides hurt.
#^><~?!@&&!
Oops. Fell off my brag box again!

It’s an excellent playground.  Unconventional for sure.  We enjoy it nonetheless.  Some of us are “better” or have logged more hours on the playground than others.  Some of the kids move the walls occasionally and I have to reconfigure them to be careful of that “mean” line.  You will know if my kids love you (and you have a sense of humor) because you will walk away smiling!

My kids really are the best.  I know yours are probably awesome, they should come to play with mine.  We will all leave laughing as we collectively fall off our brag boxes.  I need to be more careful!  I’m going to break an ankle.

 

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

CEO of OurHome.Inc

Young man do you have big dreams of being the next Steve Jobs, Mark Zukerberg or Bill Gates?  Do you dream of being CEO or captain of industry or even a local manager at your own firm?  Leadership skills are often thought to be natural traits, one God wrote in the very fabric of the design of natural leaders.  Perhaps those potential leaders  naturally utilized  those God given talents.  Possibly those natural leaders took advantage of a training ground provided by God and learned to hone their leadership skills like any other skill you might learn instead.  Possibly you have been provided this same training ground on which you can learn leadership skills but you have not taken advantage of this supportive atmosphere.  Perhaps God actually expects you to step up and lead this little band of people that look just like you.  He expects nothing less than your best everyday.  Generations of people count on your abilities and performance actually!

Now if He gave you this training opportunity, He gave you a “second in command” who gives you a lot of input.  Are you wisely taking this input into consideration and utilizing the gift that is your second in command to the best of your ability, or are you shutting down this gift?  You took vows, you know her well.  Are you ensuring that your second in command is fully fed spiritually, nurtured and loved by you so that she is capable of passing on those qualities to the rest of your company, your children?  Are you praying daily for your second in command so that she is built up to fight any battle that comes her way?  You know there will be germs, hormones, trials and everyday things.  She needs all that support to keep her safe and spiritually filled.  She needs that support to be ready to help you lead that family of yours.

Many young men come home and have a need to talk about their day.  They need to unpack the events.  They go to work all day.   Jobs can be frustrating.  They just want to come home, have a moment or two to themselves and eat dinner.  They like to unpack their day and then after dinner just go and play a game on their cell phone or computer and let their attention disappear into the game.  They like to unwind that way.

They fail to see that their second in command who has been stuck at home alone with their children with little or no adult interaction also needs to unpack her day.  She spent her day prepping the meal, doing laundry, picking up after the kids for the hundredth time, assisting with homework, breaking up fights and helping with melt downs.  She also had a need to unload her day.  That young man may fail to see she needs to be filled up emotionally and spiritually.  He may miss signs that she is starting to run on empty and is in desperate need of prayer and his spiritual leadership.

God gave him this wonderful practice company, practice ground if you will, for him to learn excellent people skills, and leadership skills, all in an environment where everyone wants him to succeed! The problem is that the company of home wants him to succeed at leadership and not in any way shape or form at selfishness, that’s where it gets a little stickier.

God gave man a company of tiny people to manage.  Man just has to look up from his phone.  He has to remember that God gave him that responsibility but that he also chose them and to that end he should begin on his knees. He should remember that his wife and children have that same need for validation, connection, intimacy and love that he does.  Their needs being met are his responsibility even if he needs to delegate some of it. He, as their tiny tribal leader needs to monitor that this is completed, especially for his wife.

His family is a true practice ground.  He loves them perhaps more than he loves himself. They will be his legacy and a testimony to the skills he acquired.  They will also be more patient than any corporation ever would as he learns and fine tunes his skills.

It’s up to him to view it as a leadership opportunity and directive from God. A chance to prove to God he is grateful for the blessings that God gave him when God gave him his beautiful family.

Will he start each day on his knees?  Will you?  Will he put his phone down or put away other distractions ?  Will you?  Turn your TVs off and plug back into your family!  Make sure your second in command’s needs are met.  Make sure her spiritual cup is filled because those children feel like a spiritual battle some days!  Make sure she is fully ready to support you in your leadership mission and goals.  Use the gift of a second in command wisely! Listen to her, God may be speaking through her.  The best leaders work as a team.

Put your pride away, it has sharp edges and you’ll poke someone’s eye out.  Use every resource you have and train every day!    Use this great opportunity given to you by the great provider!  Learn to be the best leader you can be.  Soon someone outside the home will notice your skills, how could they not?!  There are so few truly good leaders out there.

Be a great leader.  The one God designed you to be.  Then go do something really awesome!

 

by Vicki L. Pugliese

 

media by Elizabeth Balch
http://www.elizabethbalch.com

A Need for More Stories

So I wrote a book.  Mostly I told my own story but to tell my story in some places I had to tell the stories of others.  In our home that’s kind of a rule.  It’s not your story, you don’t get to tell it.  When I asked my kids to read my book, so they would have that opportunity to say, “Mom! If you tell that story, I will never speak to you again!”  Then I could know if I had gone a little too far, turn around and bargain with them, and tell at least part of the story.  Instead I got responses like “I didn’t know that.”  or “Where was I when that happened?”  There seemed to be an overall desire for more of the story.  They wanted more of my story, more of my parents stories and more stories of themselves from when they were too young to remember.

Its more than just nostalgia.  I remember wanting more stories myself from my dad who had a million stories but they never seemed personal enough.  It was like I have a hundred funny stories about people and places that I don’t know, or don’t know well.  What I don’t have is a hundred funny stories about things my dad did as a kid with his siblings or parents or friends. What I don’t have is the story of how my parents met and fell in love.

I know my father broke his arm in a car accident that was bad and that it required surgery.  He lost some teeth in that accident too.  I loved my dad’s partial plate.  I guess I loved that he would take it out and smile to make me laugh.  My dad’s smile was gorgeous when he got a full plate, but it made me a little sad.  But I don’t know anymore about that accident that could have killed him.

I thought I had been different with my kids.  I thought I was always telling and retelling my same old stories; my mom and dad’s stories, and my sister’s stories. I feel like I’m always repeating the same old stories but apparently I’ve missed a kid or two, or a story or two.

It was a good idea for me to write that book just for me.  It was an excellent journey that I needed.  God used that book and that process in so many ways.  I learned a lot about myself in the process. Maybe it was just a start.

Maybe there are more stories to capture for the kids and grandkids.  After all I won’t be here forever and someone ought to pass them on.  We’re a very entertaining family, full of joy and laughter!  We may border on demented but only if you don’t have a good sense of humor.  We love to play.  There are so many stories.

Its so easy to forget the details, forget to tell the stories.  We all seem to long for it!  We long for that connection to our story.  How the ripples in the pond affected us.  So we can understand why we do what we do.  We have a need to connect to it all.  I do.  That’s why I loved that “the rest of the story…”  I want to understand and connect.  And I want to laugh, at myself and at life, don’t you?  We want to remember the laughter.  “We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy.  And the other nations said, ‘What amazing things the Lord has done for them!'”  Palm 126:2.

That He has indeed.  Go write your stories!

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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