Search

Introspective Sojourner

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

Tag

grace

The Pruning of Me

Pruning my roses is cathartic for me. I love searching out the right spot to trim back to. I know that trimming the bushes will allow them to bloom again; fuller and stronger. I see the deep color of the new leaves. I see the thicker, heartier stems pushing through and hints of blooms to come. 

There are parallels to my life and faith. I’m not always happy when God prunes – especially when the decay goes deep. Things I’ve struggled with for a long time that I know need to be cleared away for me to grow. They are familiar and I get anxious when He says they have to go. 

I look at my childhood and see the blooms I once had. I miss them. 

“Remember when I prayed all the time and ran around singing hymns, God?” 

He tells me that He loved those blooms too, but to trust Him, the new blooms will be even better. I worry that my faith was stronger and might never be that way again. He reminds me that I needed that faith to survive the childhood ahead of me and the trauma I would go through.

I learned to go to Him at a very young age, afraid that everyone would abandon me. I would need to know to turn to Him and believe He would always be there even when my world shifted under me.  I would need that when my mom was institutionalized again. 

I learned to be grateful for my life and my wonderful friends. I have been blessed with the best friends my whole life. He shows me that I needed them to counteract the hate I experienced from my family. I needed their kind words to hear Him tell me that I was enough – that I was loveable. 

Now my faith is my own, not words of others that I believed without question. I have gone through deep seasons of doubt. My faith has been tested, and He has proven Himself faithful. I have so much to be grateful for. Even during my biggest struggles, He brought me joy. I know this without question now.

He is the author of the new growth in me. He created the new blossoms ready to bloom. I have had my share of pain – often at my own doing, avoiding the deepest cuts He needed to make. 

I find myself grateful tonight for the blooms that once were, now cut away. I see the beauty in them as they were at their peak. That beauty lets me trust in the promise of what God is yet to do in my life. I see the new leaves. I see the stronger stems. 

I’m sure there will still be whining about the cuts – after all I am still me. But I know I can trust Him because He sees the me He designed me to be.

 

By Vicki L. Pugliese

A Different View

Do not point out my flaws, my weaknesses, where you see that I have failed. I will only put up walls. Raise my defenses. See your flaws. I will not hear. I will return judgment.

Instead stand me before a mighty creator and show me the intricacies of His creation.

Let me see how small and insignificant I am before the vastness of space or at an oceans shore.

Let me struggle with how frail and fragile life can be on the top of majestic mountain, or at the moment life begins.

Instruct me on the wonders of just how similar and just how different things look under a microscope, so I can understand how little I understand.

Show me the beauty my busy life has had me missing. Let me drink in the colors of a sunset, the softness of rain drop, the sweetness of snow flake.

Let me see myself before the great I am, and I will naturally bow before Him.

Then tell me that He loves me beyond compare. That though I dare not raise my face before Him, yet He died to bridge the gap. His love so immeasurable, I can not comprehend.

Tell me the story of His life. His death. For me. Because of this love. And my heart will crumble when I take it all in. When the story seeps in, my heart will break beyond words.

When I am face down before Him, broken hearted. I am ready for Easter, for the celebration, the gratitude, to go and spread the good news.

Then may I remember to show others the great I am in all His majesty, beauty, unfathomable creativity and immeasurable wonders, and unstoppable love so that they might truly be ready for Easter too.

By Vicki L Pugliese

Lawn Chairs in the Living Room

Struggle = Desired State – Current State.   Our pastor often asks, “Who is on the throne of your heart?” There’s occupancy for one, even though I often try to one-cheek it and just help Jesus out a little bit. He is faithful to let me take control, and faithful to take control when I vacate the seat for Him too. 

Currently I am on and off that throne so much I have bruises on my soul. You see, we recently moved to Ohio. We had big plans. We’ve been so excited about this for months. My family is close to where we moved, as are all of my grandchildren, and half of my kids. We’ve been looking forward to the slower pace and less financial stress due to the cost of living differences. Step by step we prepared to move.

Now both of my realtors were amazing – and came recommended by a friend or family. That’s an important point. Our California realtor helped us secure an electrician, general contractor, section one company and we easily completed the minor repairs needed to sell our home. It sold very quickly.

Our Ohio realtor helped us find a house beyond our dreams on a two day whirlwind house hunting trip and we put in an offer that was accepted. So we began the process of packing to get ready to move.

I called several movers, as well as PODS. I had PODS all set up, along with hiring muscle on either end to lift the heavy stuff. Then PODS told us the earliest date we could receive our belongings was December 14th. We have a blue and gold macaw that would be riding with us as we crossed the country and staying with us in a large dog kennel – which is still significantly smaller than his cage. An extra week in the kennel seemed unkind, so I went back to the movers I had already researched.

One mover stood out. They were a family run business. We would be purchasing the full 26ft truck for a flat rate, so that it would be unlikely that our belonging would get lost. The same movers would show up at my California home as would deliver to my Ohio home – in uniform. They couldn’t drive more than 500 miles a day but they could deliver our belongings on the 6th or 7th of December. They were perfect – and too good to be true. I had a feeling they were too good to be true before we hired them but I wanted Rio out of that kennel as soon as we could. So I ignored my gut reaction.

Here we are on December 21st and this moving company has been everyone’s worst nightmare. They didn’t show up when they promised, or with the size truck they promised. They sub contracted out to another moving company to do the work. The new owners of our California home would arrive at 6PM on the day the movers did show up. And the cost was astronomically higher than promised. The contract had been wrong and we had asked the movers to correct it but there was so much to do between the two sales that making sure we had the right contract fell through the cracks. When the subcontractors arrived we had no choice but to sign the contract, or they would not load our belongings. The new owners were coming. We signed the contract.

We managed to get a photo of the first page of the contract but the mover would not let us take pictures of the remaining pages. They would email it to us. They did not. They took down the contract from the emails they had sent previously with the incorrect contract so we couldn’t even compare them to each other.

Every day we text, call and remind the movers that we need our stuff and that Rio is still in a dog kennel. Every day they evade, half answer and make promises they aren’t going to keep. Apparently they have 30 days, or 21 business days to deliver our belongings legally. Of course this is what they tell us – we don’t really know that for sure.

My emotions have been all over the board. Sometimes I can lay this fiasco in God’s hands – after all there is nothing I can do that is making any difference in the outcome. Sometimes my emotions push me to yell and berate the movers – which I’m sure does nothing to help our cause.

I’m definitely experiencing struggle. What I pictured as my desired state of kicking back in our new house and starting this new phase is not the same our current state of not knowing if our belongings will ever arrive or arrive in one piece. Turns out, being the only family on one truck was also a lie. They informed us we would be unloaded somewhere in California and loaded onto a much bigger truck headed for New York and then from there be unloaded and loaded on a smaller truck to deliver. So many chances to break our belongings. I find myself panicking off and on.

But when I do vacate the throne of my heart and leave this mess in Jesus’ hands, I am reminded that we made the trip without incident. It was actually a nice trip – even with a dog that gets car sick and a macaw. Rio was so good – I really am shocked. Everyone is settling in. Even though we’re sleeping on an air mattress and have borrowed lawn chairs in the living room.

Neither of us got sick, even though this pandemic was kicking into high gear as we traveled and people on both ends of our move tested positive. All of our friends are recovering, and none had severe symptoms. We have much to be grateful for.

This house will not be perfect and we will have to deal with all life throws at us. That’s not different. We expected that.

Our pipes backed up into our basement and we had to call RotoRooter out to handle it. The sewage water that soaked several carpet tiles – that’s where many of our belongings would have been stored waiting to be unpacked had things gone by plan. We got the problem fixed in just a few hours. Because our things hadn’t been delivered nothing else was destroyed.

What is different is I never expected to be sitting on lawn chairs in my living room wondering when or if my things would arrive. Already though God has proved that even though this has been unbelievably stressful – I can see He is with us. The more I turn my heart over to Him – the less stress I feel.

I’ve been through a lot in my life. God has always been faithful. There has always been struggle but when I look back, I have so much to be grateful for.

This has been a difficult year for so many – far more difficult than my stuff being delayed. After all, it is just stuff. Next year – even though it won’t be 2020 – will have its own set of struggles. As will the year after that. That’s kind of the gig. Our pastor asked what the difference was between being buried and being planted. Trusting the gardener. What a great visual.

I do trust Jesus, maybe just not enough. I know I’m not alone but perhaps my introspective journey will help you as you traverse yours. Trust Jesus – even when you are using lawn chairs in your living room. Then step back and appreciate how you grow where you were planted.

By Vicki L. Pugliese

Lessons from a Puppy

My puppy is teaching me lessons I should already know about love. She is needy. Plain and simple. And there are consequences to not filling those needs. When I’m not watching closely enough, like most puppies, she’s destructive.

She has needs, like everyone. She needs to be fed, preferably on or before 5:30 pm, in her opinion. She needs to burn off her energy and if I don’t provide that she gets needy in other ways, or she destroys things.

It’s my own fault during this shelter in place, when I don’t meet those needs, if she acts out. While I do get frustrated when she destroys unacceptable items, especially since we have provided her a plethora of acceptable ones, I believe often, her destructive ways are a response to her unmet needs.

She’s a terribly picky pup, as well. She loves to have her face kissed. She wants my full attention, and to have both hands surrounding her enormous head, while I look directly in her eye and smother her face in kisses. One handed, while I’m still looking at my phone, will simply not do. She will drown me in slobber showing me what she needs. I am trying to teach her one kiss is plenty.

Although she prefers butt rubs and belly rubs, she first needs to know that she has my undivided attention. Sometimes I’ll try to get away with rubbing her head or behind her ears while continuing what I was doing, but she is quite frankly the most persistent being I have ever met. She wants love the way she receives it, and she is patiently, or persistently, teaching me how to fill that need.

I wonder today, staring at yet another dog bed with a hole in it and fluff scattered everywhere, why it’s taking me so long to figure this out? Why do I stubbornly insist on loving her differently than how she needs? Why do I call her needy when she has plainly shown me how she wants love and asks for it repeatedly. Maybe it’s time to wonder why I stubbornly withhold what I want to give her anyway?

The parallels in my life elsewhere are easy to see. I receive love in words of affirmation and acts of service. You can bring me presents all day long and not only will I not receive the love you are showing me, eventually it will make me uncomfortable. I have a dear friend who receives love in gifts and sometimes I wonder how we’ve remained friends for so long when we struggle so much to show each other love in the manner that we each need. Yet I love her dearly.

I have this “thing” about adult birthday parties. I can’t explain how uncomfortable they make me, but I am learning to put aside that uncomfortableness to show the people I love who receive love this way, that I care.

Why is that so hard?

It took me years to figure out that I could do my own thing as long as I did it near my husband who just wants proximity and quality time. Sometimes I still stubbornly withhold even that. Why? We’ve been married thirty years, why do I withhold what he needs when he’s my person? I honestly don’t know but I am grateful he loves me anyway.

God is so patient with me. He too, wants my time. Over and over He nudges me to think of Him. Over and over He shows me such grace. His is the love that truly fills me. His is the love I receive best – I simply need to accept it. Like my puppy, God doesn’t tire of my weird obsession to do it my own way. He only needs me to be still for just a moment. Just a moment. Why is that so hard for me?

This afternoon as I sit quietly in my yard, I feel Him near. I feel His love and I feel filled.I am grateful for His persistence and His pursuit of my attention. I am grateful for the puppy He brought into my life to help me learn to love others as they receive and not begrudgingly, forcing them to receive as I do. Only God could show me through a stubborn little Pit Bull, how truly ridiculous I can be.

By Vicki L. Pugliese

God did

Just because they danced in darkness, doesn’t mean God didn’t feel their joy.

Just because they sang softly, doesn’t mean God didn’t hear their worship.

Just because they loved unnoticed, doesn’t mean God didn’t know.

Just because they laughed alone, doesn’t mean God didn’t share their joy.

Just because their heart broke in silence, doesn’t mean God didn’t feel their pain.

Just because they held their tears back, doesn’t mean God didn’t know their sorrow.

Just because they felt lost in loneliness, doesn’t mean God ever left their side.

Just because grief broke them, doesn’t mean God didn’t pick up the pieces.

Just because no one heard them scream, doesn’t mean God didn’t.

Because God did.

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

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

 

 

You Take You With You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

By Vicki L Pugliese

 

Story and characters are fiction any resemblance is purely coincidental.

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

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑