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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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introspection

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

An Easter Heart

If you want me to be introspective and self evaluating,

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 a 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

Make America Kind Again

We’re expert judges. Shows like So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing With The Stars, American Idol, The Voice have given us years of experience and a feeling that we’re entitled to notice the mistakes of others. We have no problem, even though we are not in the industries discussing how a contestant is a little “pitchy”.  It’s easy to walk right on passed the line and declare a song or a dance a disaster, as if we could easily do better. Over a decade of judges like Simon Cowell and their harsh comments have desensitized us and sometimes find their way into our own words or at least our thoughts. We easily compare two dancers, singers and even songwriters now, forgetting that each person has their own gifts and strengths.

I can’t throw the first stone. As I have learned what the judges are looking for I now spot those tiny imperfections and jump to give my opinion to those watching with me. Not that I could ever dance or sing at those levels. I dismiss their hard work and dedication and the situation these reality shows have put them in as if it’s an easy undertaking.

Social media is not much different. We judge politicians, and even the general public without knowing these people at all. Sure some of us are very informed, but all of our life experiences and those things we hold dear color our perception of them. Words are taken out of context and compared with something someone else says. And for some unknown reason we have decided it’s fine for us to judge even common people we’ve never met. We make meme’s of silly pictures, ridiculing them. I can count myself among those who quickly share. I do enjoy a good chuckle. 

When social media first took off we were more careful, cautious with our words. We didn’t get into lengthy discussions with others of issues, some of which, don’t really mean that much to us. We simply get caught up in the conversation. Bullying on the internet is a well reported phenomenon and perhaps many of us have found ourselves on one side or the other of biting comments. We know better. We don’t treat each other this way in person. We’re much more apt to hold our tongue when we disagree face to face. Or maybe that’s just me. Little by little we slide. Little by little we change the line of what’s acceptable – so that we no longer expect people to be good citizens, kind and polite. We shrug off bad days and laugh when we feel like “what a B*!ch I was”. Little by little, that becomes the norm. Our language slightly looser than it was a decade ago. We’re actually impressed when someone is a decent human being. Suddenly they’re considered a hero. Someone who kindly brings a meal to the homeless, or helps a child with their bike chain. These are no longer common place and so, now, we consider them special for being so kind.

It didn’t happen all at once. The slip was slow and constant. I have seen the change in myself. In my expectations, my language and my actions. It’s easy to shrug them off instead of being saddened by the change, or embarrassed. It’s not really embarrassing anymore, if everyone around you is the same, is it? Or is that just me.

For me it’s time to turn around. Start the walk back up that slope. Be intentional about acts of kindness. Put others before myself – at least as often as I put myself first. It’s time to take my standards and place them somewhere above my expectations, not below. I’m only one. I can’t change anyone else’s mind. I can’t drag people up the hill with me. But I can openly admit I’m turning around, so at very least there are others out there who might question me if they find me heading back down. Accountability. I need that and if you find yourself on the other end of my unkindness – feel free to point that out. Because I want those standards of years gone by, and if my actions or my words might inspire you to join me – even better.

Today perhaps America or even the world is the tiniest bit kinder because I made that choice.

 

Written By

Vicki L. Pugliese

My Father’s Daughter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still I really should call to Him more…

 

Miss you Dad!

By Vicki L Pugliese

Did you know?

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

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

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

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

When wounded soldiers are left behind, angels cry.

 

By Vicki L Pugliese

What’s Wrong with Anticipation?

The act of anticipation keeps us from living our present fully.  We look forward to going to school, turning 16, graduating High School or turning 21.  We long for finding that special someone, having children.  Once we have children, we can’t wait until the crawl or walk or talk.  We look forward to them going to school finally.

We get excited about the stages of their life that are in the near future for them.  We dream about the kind of people they will become.  We invest our thoughts in a new job or promotion and how that would affect our lives.  We day dream about getting new cars or a new house.  We even get caught up in holidays.  We anticipate how the holiday will be with family and presents and what food we will eat.  We think about the conversations we will have.  Sometimes down to what we will say if we are asked an uncomfortable question, that we don’t really want to answer.  We know exactly what the other person is supposed to respond, don’t we?!  They never do respond that way though.

We fantasize about what retirement will be like, or winning the lottery even.  We yearn for “empty nest-er” days.  We worry about every little detail that “could” happen.  We refuse to believe something good actually is coming our way until there is no other way for the other shoe to drop.  We are cynical in nature some of us, believing the worst probably will happen.  Meanwhile our thoughts may give us hope but keep us from really enjoying exactly where we are now.

We don’t have any reference when we are children, but we spend less time truly thinking “What if”, when we are kids.  As adults we can spend a significant amount of time, thinking about it, day dreaming or worrying about it.  We get dissatisfied with the here and now, as we propel ourselves into the future in our thoughts.  We pray and long for God to assist us in accomplishing our dreams and hopes.  We ask if He could just help us with this one thing that we are worrying about.  We can even pray fervently for a positive outcome that will occur in the future.

Now there is nothing wrong with those prayers.  We are told to stand before Him and ask, even to ask fervently, and to be persistent.  The issue I have with all of this anticipation, with all of this day dreaming is that, at least for myself, it pulls me out of the here and now.  Sometimes that’s what I think I want.  Things get hard and I would rather dream about how it will be.  That dream is often a lot like those conversations where we give someone else their lines.  Our dream view of the future leaves out all of the things that will make that less than ideal.  We leave out all the bills that come with that great house that we want or having to work harder to earn the mortgage.  We pray, “Could I just win the lottery this once?”  We all know the math behind the lottery.  They wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t tilted heavily in their favor.  Your chances of accidental death are most likely better than your chances of winning.

What is a problem in this, even in the Christian version where you pray fervently for an outcome or to be rescued from some issue, expecting great things from God?  We forget to focus on being grateful for what you have.  Now I have been in places in my life that felt like there was no way I could be grateful for anything, it was so overwhelming.  We are instructed in the Bible to pray fervently as well, to knock on the door until it is opened.  We are told to expect great things from a God who loves us dearly.

But we forget that little part where we ask God, not my will but thine.  I think I’m not a big fan of that concept, but God has shown me over and over that his plan is better than mine.  It may be more painful in some ways but when I look back in hindsight, I can easily see where His plan far surpasses my own.

Trusting in Him is hard.  Occasionally those periods of time in my life that are extremely difficult produce blessings that later are some of the best in my life. I have been blessed by the friends I found during times of struggle; the characteristics in my personality that changed dramatically, the goals I obtained to remove myself from a situation.  All of those are blessings in disguise, where God used a struggle to produce great outcomes.  I would not have chosen that for myself but I’m glad I am who I have become.

Perhaps today, I could anticipate tomorrow a little less and just enjoy today.  I will choose to focus on the many blessings in my life instead of the strife.  I will remember they often happen in tandem.  Even some of the most memorable stories in the Bible show that struggle and blessings may occur in tandem.  He is good.  He is able.  Today though, what He has already given me is enough.  I will worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.

 

By Vicki L. Pugliese

Unabandoned

She ignored the words of others,

Accepting abandoned lots, abandoned lives.

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

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

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

She gently, and slowly transformed them.

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

She patiently oversaw tiny growth that others missed.

And now what once was fallow, no longer is.

Both gardens and lives, quite plain to see.

Vibrantly blooming beyond all promise, all we believed.

A sweet fragrance of love from her own two hands.

Now and forever Unabandoned they stand.

 

by Vicki L. Pugliese

 

 

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