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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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Small Town Greatness

My big sister Cris wrote a play when we were very young.  All of the kids had parts.  My parents set up a stage and seating and all of the neighbors came out to see her play.  There were rows of seats.  We ran out from the side of the house for our stage queues.  What I remember most is how much neighborhood support it got!  I know it’s easy to be nostalgic, but in comparison to the places my children have lived, my hometown rocks!

We had summer theater, high school plays with orchestras, and various odd talent shows.  We had concert bands and award winning marching bands with majorettes, flag teams and a cheer squad called the “Rockettes”.  We had multiple High School and Junior High School choirs, and barbershop!  During school hours you could take wood shop, home economics, and fine art.  You could choose between college prep with all of the advanced courses like Calculus and Physics, you could go to vocational training to learn job skills, or you could take regular general education; all of which was top notch.

In sixth grade we went to Pioneer Ranch to learn about nature and hunter safety.  You could get your hunters license if you chose.  You shot a gun or bow and arrow there.  You learned what poison ivy looked like, and how to avoid a rattle snake.  At the same time,  you had the time of your life.  It was one of the most fun things because they made it memorable.  There were songs, and talent shows and cabins.  It was glorious.

If you were part of the marching band you went back to Pioneer Ranch and had a slightly more mature and slightly less mature version, with music and a little more structure and no guns, in High School.  It was even more memorable.  The talent shows were more creative. We were sworn to secrecy!

I walked away with a love for learning, reading, the arts and the ability to speak in public with very little fear, thanks to all those talent shows.  I have a wide variety of interests and amazing memories.  I am impressed that in a town so filled with arts, theater and opportunity, our little backyard would find so much support for a first time playwright and her vagabond band of thespians all easily under the age of 10.

Bravo! small town backyard patrons, bravo!

 

 

by Vicki L Pugliese

 

And We Laughed

It was a trip where life was celebrated.  My father passed away in March 2014 and on what would have been his 85th birthday just a few weeks later a great grandchild was born!  She shares his blue eyes and wavy blonde hair as well his birthday.  My family, my husband and I, all of my grown children and grandchildren do not live in the town that I grew up in, the town my father lived in.  We had planned a big trip over Fathers Day that same year hoping they would get to see him one last time, knowing we might be celebrating his life without him; and so it was.

All of my family, my youngest sister’s family, my oldest sister and her husband and my stepmom, got together on Fathers Day.  And we laughed!  Cousins who had lived so far apart that they had never known each other, told stories, and jokes, shared YouTube videos, and they laughed.

My baby sister Julie and her husband Keith are probably the two people that are the closest to perfect on earth.  They were the perfect hosts the entire night.  I don’t know how they do it!  Their home was filled with smiles and memories and everyone held that precious new life!  We have pictures to prove it!  We sat around tables and on couches and talked.  Kids told us of their plans for their futures.  Parents bragged on the great accomplishments that their progeny had already completed.  And we bragged about the good people these kids had become, perhaps in spite of us.  And we laughed!

We laughed about everyday things, and things we remembered from days gone by.  We laughed about how great it was to see kids get to know each other.  We laughed about her enormous dog and its baby blanket.  The irony that such a big dog could have such a sensitive heart.  Unless of course, you threaten my pocket sized sister, and then that enormous dog finds every pound of its size in courage.  Later we could worry if what connected us was that great man, or the love he taught us to have for each other.  On this night we loved, and we laughed and we remained connected.

My family spent two weeks back home catching up with best friends, and old friends.  We spent time with family.  And everyone, everyone held that precious little baby!  I have the pictures!  We even took family portraits and our poor photographer could not get my family to behave.  We had a wonderful time!  Our trip was filled to the brim with laughter!

The following year or so would have its grief.  We would feel the loss of this great man.  But this one brief moment, we celebrated, his life, and new life.  And we laughed!

 

by Vicki L Pugliese

Cover media by:  CheriAnn Photography

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!

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!!

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!

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