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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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kindness

If I had only known…

I wish I would have known while my dad was alive. I only traveled home about yearly, or bi-yearly. I only called about monthly, sometimes longer. Every time I would go to his house, he would invite me into the living room and ask me to catch him up on what was going on. My parents made me nervous. I felt like I never shut up around them. I felt like no one could get a word in edgewise. I was instantly tossed back in time, just a kid struggling for attention. I wasn’t a neglected child but there were six of us, and I was not the golden child – ever.

Still, every time I called, every time I visited, dad would focus on me, and ask about the details of my life.  How was my job, my kids, and my husband? What did we do for fun? He would get me started and a year’s, or a month’s worth of data would vomit out of my brain. I even asked my husband to give me a subtle nudge if I was talking too much. I don’t talk that much at home.  Oh, I’m not completely silent, but I don’t go on and on – most of the time. When I was around my parents, I couldn’t seem to stop myself.

I worried that they thought less of me because I couldn’t shut up. I tried to ask about their lives too, but they always turned the focus back on me. I never seemed to know much about their lives. I worried it was my fault. I wish I would have known. I would have called more.

My kids are grown now, with lives of their own. Still connected to mine, but separate. It’s wonderful when we get together and just talk about what’s going on in their lives. I want to know about their jobs, their friends, their kids, and spouses. I want to know about their dreams, even if they never come true. I want to know about their struggles and heartaches. Everyone has them. I don’t think less of them for having them too. I cherish the fun we have in group texts, and out for pizza, or playing cards. I cherish family gatherings. Mostly I love hearing about their lives, even the mundane things, because I’m not there, and it makes me feel connected. I wish I would have known.

You grow apart too easily. Life slips by too fast. There are too many chores, and not enough free time. There are too many good choices, and too much life to live. I want to hear about it all. They could talk a mile a minute – I wouldn’t care. They could tell me the same story two and three times over; I like hearing their voice. I like being with them.

To those of you out there who still have your parents, call them, write them, text them, keep in touch. Never feel like you talk too much. Stay connected. I say this knowing I need to call my mom, and my step mom. I need to catch up. I say this, missing being able to call my dad. I wish I had known. We weren’t super close but we weren’t estranged either. I was blessed. I am blessed with family connections that will always be there, even after a month or two, or a year. We get together and pick right up where we left off. Catch me up. Tell me your stories. I want to hear.

You could never talk too much. I wish I would have known.

Tell Me Your Story

I want to hear your stories.
I want to hear about that time.
Tell the one that made you laugh,
The one with your partner in crime.

Tell me how you took the train,
Across these great big states.
Tell the one about Uncle Horace,
And the cows getting through the gates.

I want to hear about it all,
To live a thousand lives.
To meet one hundred characters,
Get on memory lane and drive.

I want to hear your stories,
I’m waiting patiently.
You pick the topic, I’m all ears.
Oh won’t you please tell me…

By Vicki L. Pugliese

110%: Too Narrow a View?

“I need you to give 110%!”  I just cringe when I hear that.  Even people who are not good at math have most likely been told that you can’t have more than 100%.  Percent makes it “of the whole”.  You can’t have more than a whole pie of a pie.  You can however have too narrow a view.  Perhaps you are really only considering a slice of the pie.  If you give 110% effort at work, or at a sport, what was the cost to the other pieces of your pie?  Did you give less at home, perhaps to a spouse or your children?  That will cost you in the health of your relationship slice of pie.  Did you negate your need for sleep or exercise?  Those things will eventually cost you in your health slice of pie.  Burnout is right around the corner if you ignore those.  Did you skip picking up, doing the dishes, or laundry, or other household functions?  Those will eventually catch up with you, so your ability to give 110% to whatever you are focusing on, is time limited.  Did you cut out your quiet time with God or your spirituality as a whole?  That will affect… well pretty much everything else in your life.  Somehow it’s usually the first thing we cut out, isn’t it?  Yet it’s kind of the crust to our pie. It’s what everything is built upon.

You could have been thinking about the other valid way to get 110%, though that is still an incorrect way of describing your level of effort.  You could be comparing your effort to an expectation level that is actually too low.  Did you compare your full effort to someone else’s full effort and determine you gave significantly more than they did?  The way that they slice their pie does not change how you sliced yours.  Did you expect to be able to do less and surprise yourself?  Therefore you feel like your effort was more than your ability to give?  I’m guessing you see the issue with the this immediately.  Your ability to do more than you thought you could, is either that you underestimated your time and talents, or you took from a different slice of your pie to be able to focus more fully on the task requiring your effort, thus putting it back into our “too narrow a view” idea.

Looking more closely at the estimation of our ability, that we often compare our actual effort against, can easily go both ways.  On some occasions we are proud of our selves for achieving more than we thought possible.  It was obviously possible, so our theory that it wasn’t was incorrect.  Nonetheless, we also berate ourselves when we don’t complete our self-assigned lists, or complete them to a lower standard than self-assigned as a perfect score.  My supposition is that often the second one is another piece of the pie catching up with us.  It needed our attention previously, but we stole from that piece of the pie temporarily, and now the piper needs to be paid.  Frequently the piper that shows up is the ones we can’t ignore such as poor health or need for rest.

The Bible gives us a great example where God clearly expects us to get enough rest and take care of our own needs in the story of Elijah.  Elijah had just killed all of those prophets of Baal.  He had been on the mountain top in his career, and here comes Jezebel and she’s out for blood.  She wants Elijah dead, and she’s the queen.  Being hated by those in charge, even feeling like you are disliked, is completely draining.  Elijah ran away and hid.  Good plan! I think.  God sends an angel and tells him to get up and eat, and then go rest.  A second time God sent an angel to instruct him to eat and rest.  Finally God tells him that he really needs to eat because the journey is too far.  This is where most of us think the story starts.  This is where Elijah listens for the Lord but the Lord is not in the wind, or the earthquake, but in the gentle whisper.  Elijah had to really be listening to hear him.

I often fail here because I was too busy being a storm of my own to stop and listen.  I’m also a regular steal-er from the health and rest pies, when I’m completing a different task.  It always catches up to me and then I berate myself for not meeting my own standards.

What’s your point already?  Right!

My point is we need that balanced life.  God designed us to need a balanced life.  He then made sure to give us examples in his word where He shows that He values our need to balance our lives.  We innately know that we need a balanced life, that’s not news to us.  But our need to take pride in our effort is the root of the problem.  We get unbalanced when we try to give 110%.  When we stretch ourselves in one area of our life and neglect another, we eventually pay the price.  Sometimes there can be long term consequences such as divorce or estrangement, or long term health issues that can not be resolved or can’t be resolved quickly.

I believe this pride issue, that gets us out of wack, starts with our thought process.  That need to be proud of ourselves or gain the approval of others by giving more than expected is the catalyst.  That desire to overachieve in one area of our life, without looking at the whole pie, is the first harmful action.  Comparing your slice of pie to how someone else slices their pie, on the other hand, only breeds apathy and disdain.  It is even less healthy.  Both are a battle in our minds.  Changing our thoughts to be kinder to ourselves and others is at least part of the answer.  Stopping the internal slave driver, who is fine with you skipping your exercise routine, but forces you to stay late at work.  Stopping that internal comparison to others which keeps you driven to be the best you can be, until the other parts of your pie come crashing in around you, never works out the way we want.  Instead of expecting 110% from yourself, or that you must always get an A, do your best without stealing from the rest of your pie.  Take the whole whole of your life into consideration.

You can’t sleep when you’re dead.  You need to do it now and you need to stop beating yourself up for needing to do it now.  You can’t have the best relationship with your friends and family if you neglect them now, not without taking from another slice of pie to restore it later.  So next time you feel the need to give 110%, acknowledge where you are stealing from.  Acknowledge that you are cutting into another needed piece of your life.  If you are honest with yourself about that and you choose to do that for a season, then give more.  Otherwise look at the whole whole and stop expecting someone else to divide their pie the way you do.  Then most importantly, start with your crust.  Start by listening to God.  Spending time with Him and in His word.  Look at your pie the way He does.  He’s the recipe holder after all.  Who else knows how to make your pie the best it can be?

 

By Vicki L. Pugliese

Anatomy of a Non-Hugger

There is a hidden group within our midst, the non-hugger.  I can count myself in their numbers.  We have a different anatomy than most.  You see non-huggers have a bubble.  You can’t see it unless you are very perceptive towards our body language.  Ok, that’s a lie.  Everyone notices our body language, they just respond to it differently.  You can peg a person with a bubble, or personal space issue quickly when you go to hug them.  We have our coping skills, the pup tent hug, the side hug, the three second, pat your back and let go hug, or occasionally we get a handshake in to block the hug.  If you get a wave, or the slight backup movement, sorry, that’s a defense mechanism.  We like to hide out amongst the extreme introverts and germaphobes.  They don’t want to hug either, for their own reasons.  Introverts who are huggers do exist, they just won’t hug you unless you are in their inner circle of people.  I am not in their numbers.  The germaphobe has to make a choice between touching hands or hugging, neither of which is comfortable for them.  They also can be mistaken for the non-hugger, bubble people, as they do have a bubble but their mindset is different and I can’t begin to speak to it.

Being a person with an extra sensitive bubble and need for personal space, who is not an introvert, and is very compassionate, I have had to do some soul searching on this issue.  I’m from a great small town, very safe, and very friendly.  I talk to strangers, much to my family’s dismay.  I have been a Stephen Minister at our church.  This lay person’s job is to come along side someone in a crisis and support them, for as long as they need.  You could consider it a one on one deacon.  My point being that I am compassionate, empathetic and caring.  I can be warm and bubbly, not to be confused with my personal space bubble.  Nonetheless, I am NOT a hugger.  I come from a long line of undemonstrative people, some of which are also very personable and loving.  I can’t say my personal space issue is a result of environment or just how I am designed.  I have not lived in that small town since I was a child, and there are an awful lot of huggers out here.  My intuition tells me that my bubble issue is more of a design thing.  I only call it an issue because this is a hugger’s world.  I am not broken.

First, I have to describe the hugger to the best of my observations.  The hugger shows their compassion, love and any other host of emotions via their hug.  “I haven’t seen you in a whole week”, I should hug you.  “You are upset over an event”, I should hug you.  “You just got a new job”, I should hug you.  “I just flat out love you”, I should hug you.  It’s the obligatory “passing of the peace” or “I should hug you” time in church, so I should hug you.  Additionally, huggers get their needs met via their hugs as well.  “I’m excited about something God has blessed me with”, I need to be hugged.  “I’m upset about a trying or sad event”, I need a hug.  “We just heard a horribly emotional story”, I need a hug.  “You shared with me and let yourself be vulnerable about a situation in your life which touches my heart”, I need to hug you to show you I understand and care.  “I haven’t seen you in a whole week and I love you”, I need to hug you to show you that love.  “I’m feeling a little needy or vulnerable myself”, I need a hug to know your acceptance and to receive the gift of your love and compassion.  You see, huggers freely give the gift they have in abundance, the gift behind the hugs.  Those gifts include love, compassion, empathy, acceptance and acknowledgment of an inner circle of friends.  Huggers receive those same gifts from giving a hug, it is a two-way delivery system for them.

Huggers receive energy from a hug.  It is a positive exchange for them.  It fills their tank.  That tank can become empty, and require hugs to be filled.  Hugs initiated by others, gives more energy than those initiated by themselves but most of the time they don’t realize they beat you to the punch anyway.  You even have your super huggers who hold you so tight and for so long until that gift they are giving you is fully received and returned.  It’s a super power much like Superman’s gift of flight, or Captain America’s inability to age.  The super huggers receive healing with their super powers, and are positive you will as well, if you just fully embrace the hug.  They can fill their tanks quickly but prefer a tank that is overflowing so that they can give to others freely.  We avoid you, unless you are in our inner circle. 

There are a lot of huggers in this world, or at least in America, as I have barely left this country in my lifetime.  At very least there are a lot of huggers, who hug those who are at least in their inner circles.  The degree of circle to hug intensity is often relational.  Since introverts can also be huggers, that leaves the non-huggers in the very large minority.

Let me describe the non-hugger now.  The non-hugger requires you to use your imagination to understand.  The non-hugger has a bubble of personal space that they maintain at all times.  Keeping the bubble intact requires the least amount of energy.  It’s a little like the old moat around a castle.  A non-hugger has to expend energy to allow you into their bubble.  The draw bridge has to be lowered.  It acknowledges that you are accepted or loved.  Just lowering the bubble, is a gift from the non-hugger, as well as a drain on our energy.  It does not refill our tank to hug you.  Let me repeat that, we do not get energy from hugging you.  We do receive the gift of love, compassion and empathy.  What appears to be the biggest difference from my point of view, is that we do not receive energy from it.  Much like the introvert who goes to a party and comes home drained.  They may have even had a great time, but they are exhausted, it does not build up their stores. 

The non-hugger is offering you the olive branch by simply lowering the bubble.  The longer the bubble remains down, the more energy the non-hugger has to expend.  It is a choice that we make because we live in a hugger world.  We know that huggers take the side hug, or the handshake move offensively.  We know that you can tell we hug you stiffly.  We may need that pup-tent space to keep from being completely drained.  We may only have three seconds of energy to give.  Our worst moments are when we care for someone so very dearly, who only wants to comfort us, but we do not have enough energy in our tanks to lower the bubble.  We feel your pain.  We know that you also have a need to hug us.  We have experienced this hugger world our entire life.  We are perceptive enough to know that our lack of energy feels like rejection to you.  It is not.  It is self-care.   We simply may not have the energy needed to give to you what you need.  We are used to being the giver.  That may shock you. 

It has been expected of us to choose to let down our bubble because of your needs.  We face that forced choice regularly.  No one would force a child with autism to hug them.  We understand that you are hurting that child not helping them or loving them.  We understand that to love that child, you meet them how they can receive.  Non-huggers do not get this understanding.  We get looks of hurt, judgement and dismissal when we make the choice to not expend our energy.  That choice may have nothing to do with our relationship with you, though it often takes far more energy to lower the bubble for those outside our inner circles.  Yet, the responses we get, regularly reinforces, that to make that choice we will offend you.  If we have chosen that, it was most likely not lightly.  We don’t like the judgement either.  We are perceptive enough to know, unlike the child with autism.  If we care about you, it hurts us even more.  That is a sign!  If you are in our inner circle of friends and family, and we are incapable of lowering our bubble, our tank is flat empty.  We have nothing to give you.  We will not receive the love, empathy or compassion that you are trying to give us to fill up our tanks, because we don’t have enough energy to maintain the bubble’s integrity.  It is not a positive exchange any longer for us.  That has nothing to do with our relationship with you, but with our own energy stores within our very spirit.

The East Coast has a tradition of torturing grieving families, called “Visitation Hours”.  This terrible tradition lines a grieving family up so that you can share in their grief and support them.  Which may work wonderfully for huggers, but is a lot like a nightmare for a non-hugger.  My dad was a very loved man in the small town I grew up in.  It’s a much larger town when you are forced to be in the receiving line at visitation hours.  Approximately 500 people came through those receiving lines.  Each with stories of how they knew my dad, and loved him.  Each with the offering, the gift of their shared grief in our loss; most of them huggers.  After the first ten or so people, my tank was beyond empty.  There was no longer any room for my own grief.  Luckily my oldest son arrived half way through, he was able to be light hearted and perhaps inappropriately silly with me.  I had nothing left to give those who came by that time.  It was a lot like immersion therapy.  It changed me.  My bubble was irreparably damaged, not necessarily a bad thing.  While the night itself was the worst thing I can imagine doing to a non-hugger, it has opened up an ability to receive the gift huggers have long been extending to me.  I have been known to initiate a hug since that night!  It’s quite the transformation, but only for my inner circle.  If I have hugged you, initiated the hug, that was a gift.  Not only did I lower the bubble, which still exists, but has changed, but I extended and received the gift of love, compassion and empathy that huggers intend.  Now if you aren’t in my inner circle, sorry that part of my bubble regenerated. 

So, my advice for huggers is to not immediately be offended by the pup tent hug, the side hug, the three second hug or the stiff hug.  You can go ahead and be slightly offended by the quick handshake or wave.  Instead if you know the person well, especially if you are in their inner circle, look for a deeper reason.  Maybe this person is a non-hugger.  Maybe this person’s tank is running empty for circumstances you are unaware of.  Understanding our emptiness with that overflowing compassion you can tap into, is greatly appreciated.  We know in those instances, it’s harder for you not to hug.  Choosing to help us maintain our energy stores, our depleted tank, is more loving.  Instead offer a prayer, or a simple touch on our arm or shoulder.  We will receive the intended hug.  We will appreciate, if not immediately, it will occur to us when our tank is replenished, that you respected our needs.  You see, it doesn’t happen often, so even if we are too drained to notice immediately, we will remember.  But most importantly appreciate the choice we make to show you how much we love you, when we do hug you.  You are special to us, worthy of our energy stores.  You are worthy to be given to, without a return for us.  The reasons for our bubble can be numerous.  Our anatomy remains much the same, it’s just that you can’t see part of it.  That bubble, and the energy store required to maintain it are just as real as our tears, our limbs, or our heart.  It excludes us, we wouldn’t keep it if we had a real choice.  We would choose to receive what you receive with a hug if we could.  Yet, we are not broken, we are designed differently.  We only ask for understanding and acceptance, like everyone else.  Dismissing, or making fun of our bubble is the opposite of what we would prefer, even if we acknowledge and make fun of it ourselves.  So, continue to offer us hugs.  Hug us as long as we allow, and as hard as we can return.  Nonetheless, do not take offense, we have offered all we can.

 

Signed

The Non-Hugger.

 

By Vicki L. Pugliese

Crisis of Significance

There is a disturbing trend in our country. We are losing our true sense of significance.  Oh we have a strong “false sense of confidence” and “fake bravado and brazenness”.  But what we are truly feeling is a crisis of significance.  Who am I important to?  Who knows my name?  Why do I matter?

We try desperately to fill a void that is ever increasing with social media.  How many “likes” can I get?  Does this blog have enough followers?  Is my tweet trending?  Am I relevant? It’s something that changes in the blink of an eye and that can be so elusive.  People struggle to understand how to capture and maintain the attention they seek.  They long for significance.  We believe we desire that from only one person but social media tells us that casual attention by many is just as satisfying.  Youtubers and bloggers long for more comments and followers.  Even I look for more followers.  But the numbers do not change your value.  It does not change my value.  It never had the power to do so in the first place.

Even if you are the most followed Youtuber with several viral video’s, even if your Facebook posts are constantly reshared and have dozens of “likes”, your value is no different.  It has not changed.  This blog could “blow up” and still I would have no more worth than I did before that occurred.  I would be shocked! But I would have no more value.  I am not and you are not, entitled to special treatment of any kind.  Sorry!  Perhaps you might earn payment from Youtube.  That payment does not define your worth.  It only defines your bank account.

Your worth is no greater than the mom who is raising her children quietly in her home.  Your worth is no greater than the teenager being bullied for her body shape.  You’re not more valuable than an elderly man with no one left to visit him in the nursing home or the foster kid who aged out of the system and is now living on the streets.  We are not an ounce more valuable. We are not more worthy of love and dignity than the man in prison convicted of crimes.  That one slowed you down, didn’t it!

Because we are all but one prayer away from being redeemed, just one prayer from being flawless in God’s eyes.  We are the same me, you, the wealthy man, the homeless kid, the prisoner, the terrorist.  We are all the same, just one prayer from being redeemed and forgiven.  We are all made in His image, each and every one of us.

And we should treat each other as if we have the same value.  Priceless. We should treat each other the way that our creator sees us because we are supposed to be His hands and feet. We are called to be an extension of His love.  We are His church.  We know it.

There is a crisis of significance going on out there.  We are looking at the wrong indicators to determine our worth!  There are no ordinary people.  We are all one prayer from redeemed.  That is God’s design, that the whole world be redeemed.  Acts 3:2 1 talks about restitution of all things. Since the world began.  He wants to redeem us all, each and every one of us!  Romans 5:18 sAustin  the transgressions of one man led to condemnation for all men but so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.

Just one prayer.  What greater value could there possibly be?  How much more significant could you be?  He knows your name!  How much more adored could you be?  Jesus died so you could be forgiven, redeemed, justified!  Jesus died so you could be flawless in His eyes!  Priceless!  You are worthy beyond any measure with just one prayer.  Just one.  He knows your name!  Now that’s significant.

 

by Vicki L. Pugliese

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