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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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In the Garden

In the Garden by Charles Miles, has always been my prayer song, since I was a teenager. Most people have favorite hymns or songs that they regularly sing but each line holds such meaning for me.

I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses.

              I envision a garden at dawn. A layer of mist hovers over the ground in the distance. It’s cool but not cold. Daylight is just breaking and the sunlight sparkles on the dew. I see a large English garden with flowers blooming in rows. It is hushed – before the new day begins. Before I have accomplished anything for the day. I have nothing to offer but myself.

And the voice I hear, falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses.

              I feel the anticipation of finding Jesus in the Garden as I enter. There’s an active listening for His voice. I expect Him to meet me here. There’s no fear that He will disappoint me. I arrive searching for the Son of God knowing that He is waiting just for me.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,

              The music picks up ever so slightly here. Still, there’s a casualness and an intimacy. I see me strolling by His side. I see us talking about my day, perhaps the pain in my life or making plans for the future but enjoying the walk amongst the flowers, with Him.

And He tells me I am His own.

There is no line that strikes deeper than this. I don’t need to pretend to be anything that I’m not. There is no fear of being rejected. I am loved just the way I am today; too loud, too fat, clumsy and not articulate, not funny. I don’t need to be anything but myself for Him. I am simply enough, right here in this moment. I belong and He wants to spend time with me.

And the joy we share as we tarry there. None other has ever known.

              The lightness of the word joy and the small hesitation over the word tarry. I feel the longing to move slowly and soak in this time with Jesus. Lingering in His presence. Only I have known this time with Him because it was made just for me. It is everything I need and all that I want. It heals my soul.

He speaks and the sound of His voice is so sweet the birds hush their singing

              I am Martha at the feet of my Lord here. Hanging on every word. Soaking in all of the truth and all of the love that the world has never shown me. Rapt in the wonders of the very sound of His voice.

And the melody that He gave to me, within my heart is ringing

              His words resonate with my heart. They fill me like no other love ever has or ever will. A love that is overflowing.

But the final verse, really brings this song home for me.

I’d stay in the garden with Him, though the night around me be falling

              Suddenly the day is ending, like I’d lost track of time as we walked and talked. There’s a sadness in even thinking of leaving His side.

But He bids me go through the voice of woe. His voice to me is calling.

              He’s saddened too. It’s not just me wanting to belong, wanting to be loved. He wants my company too. It’s not yet time to spend eternity with Him. But He will be here ready and waiting tomorrow morning – all I have to do is come to the Garden.

This song lives for free in my mind. My heart sings it when I’m sad or misunderstood or lonely. And instantly I’m transported to the Garden to walk by His side again.

By Vicki L. Pugliese

I Just Need Sunshine

“I just need sunshine, Lord”. The words had barely escaped my lips, as I sat on my sun porch, when the words of the next song “Remember Me” by Mark Schultz started up.

Remember Me. In a Bible cracked and faded by the years.
Remember Me. In a sanctuary filled with silent prayer.
And age to age and heart to heart, Bound by grace and peace.
Child of wonder, child of God. I’ve remembered you…
Remember me.

In a moment only God could design, the sunshine broke free from the clouds just as the words “Child of wonder” were sung. I did remember… many silent prayers in different sanctuaries. I had recently had my childhood Bible returned by my best friend; cracked and faded by many years. I have experienced more than my share of grace and peace.

Overwhelmed and touched so deeply by such a small moment, I felt all the love from all the little moments just like this. All the sunrises and sunsets that were little hugs from God when I needed them most. All the beauty of spring babies that brought me joy over the years – baby cows, baby horses, baby ducks. All the precious moments where my husband, kids, and grandkids have shown me how much I am loved and needed. All the laughter and fun spent with my most precious relationships. The myriad of friends who God has brought into my life exactly when I needed them. Words of encouragement that stuck with me for years to come.

One little timely window of sunshine and I’m placed back on my feet to continue my walk with God. How many of these moments have I forgotten? How many have I not even realized occurred? (That’s far more likely with me. I do miss a lot.) My life has been filled with stress, troubles, trauma, and pain but when I look back – at least this morning – I see all the grace and peace. What a beautiful tapestry my life has been. No tear has been wasted. No heartache has failed to soften me. 

I can’t even imagine a life with out my Lord. My heart hurts for those who don’t have this. I have people I pray for daily, that they would choose Christ or turn back to Him. I want desperately for them to know this grace and peace.

But this morning, I remember. I am grateful for such a God who cares this deeply for me.

By 

Vicki L. Pugliese

Pray, Watch, Squirrel

My Why statement would be that God might use me to allow someone to feel His love. Which is slightly different from being His hands and feet, both in who gets credit as well as follow through. I have an issue with follow through. My little ADHD brain gets distracted easily, and if it doesn’t, my warped sarcastic sense of humor would surely jump in and muck stuff up.

All my life, as a Christian I’ve been taught to consider where I am as my mission field. God placed me there for a reason. I don’t need to go to Mexico or Africa – there are people right where I am that need to feel God’s love. At one of the churches that I attended our pastor encouraged us to wake up every morning and pray that God would show us how He could use us. Watch for His direction and step out in faith when we felt Him lead us (Pray, Watch, Step). While this sounds great on paper, let me tell you, that is way too many steps for this old girl. There are far too many squirrels in life to distract me, and at one point, this discouraged me.

I have friends that I have prayed about for a very long time. When we put up our new church building, we wrote names that God laid on our hearts on the dry wall before the walls were put up so that they would always be there and prayed over them as a church. Looking back my guess is that when I talked to those friends about Jesus, I did more harm than good. When I’m intentional – somehow it doesn’t work out for me the way I might hope. It’s not a bad practice. It’s a great practice even, for some people.

But God knew how He created me. He knew I’d wander off and say something sarcastic at just the wrong moment because it struck me as funny, and I didn’t think it through. Execution has never been my strong suit. I have great ideas, but my results usually don’t resemble what I intended – even with my words. God knows exactly how to use all my mess ups; all my miscommunications and distractions.

I have a lot of long-time friends; school, Navy, work, various churches. As I have reconnected with old friends over the last few years, what I am finding out is that the moments where God breathed His love into their lives through me, I barely remember. They’re moments when I was just being me, not even being mindful of God. They’re moments I would look at and say, “Of course I did that.” I can’t imagine not doing that.

And that’s the point. God knew.

God knew I wouldn’t even imagine not doing that in that moment. He knew what that friend needed and maybe hadn’t even communicated to me. One of my friends was diabetic and we didn’t even know. I just knew when she needed to eat, she really needed to eat. And since I was in charge of lunch schedules, I worked around that. I can’t imagine not doing that. I wasn’t trying to be kind or thoughtful – it just was the only thing to do.

I can’t take credit for any of those moments I’ve learned about recently, because it wasn’t me. It was how God designed me. I couldn’t mess it up. He didn’t need a plan B, because He wired me to do what I needed to do to show His love. He had a plan and I got to breathe His love into that friend without even being aware it was important.

I’m sure even my children, if asked, would point out moments that I would never think of. And they’ve forgotten all those moments I thought I was rocking that “Mom” thing. That’s how God has used this weird brain and really warped sense of humor of mine. He planned all of it, long before those moments arrived, and planted what I needed in my very DNA. All I ever needed was to love Him and want others to know His love the way I do.

So don’t worry if you feel like you didn’t make a difference the way you thought you were supposed to. God doesn’t have a Plan B. His plan was always going to work, and you might never even notice that it happened.

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

That’s my son

I knew the second I laid eyes on him, even though his back was to me. No doubts – none at all. I immediately started to cry. Seconds before, at the fish tank, at the entrance of the restaurant, I had just said, “Wow, that kid looks so much like Thomas.”  – our grandson.  They lived on the other side of the country, thousands of miles away. The thought that it was Thomas never entered my mind. 

My husband had decided to take me to lunch. We rarely did that because where I worked wasn’t close. I should have seen that as a clue. They had cleaned the house too. That was the big clue I missed. I wasn’t complaining. Seriously though, really clean, and that was the big clue.

My son and his family had conspired with my husband and daughter to surprise me with their visit. I had absolutely no clue. They had been coming and then there was some valid excuse that they couldn’t. I had no reason not to believe they couldn’t make it. By the time I walked into the little Chinese restaurant, it was forgotten. 

But the second I saw his frame – I knew. The clues fell into place. My son had come home for a visit. My daughter-in-law smiled up at me from across the table with her precious face. It filled my heart. It was the best surprise ever.

Our church uses a word “communitas” – not community. It signifies that deeper relationship – the idea of doing life together or serving together. A little like the way that my small home town was more like a community or the way we made our fellow veterans our family when I served in the Navy.

The type of relationship we all search for. That knowing the second you see them – there is someone I love – who loves me. The way I knew that was my son even though he was facing away from me.

It’s that kind of relationship that gets my super introverted family to go to church. They belong there and people know them and love them exactly as they are, no hidden agendas, no wish list of things they should do better at, or be better at. The smiles of those we’ve known and loved for years now, tell us that we are welcomed. Just the way we are. Just as far along in our journey as we have come. No one there sees us with a big list of how we’ve failed or let them down. They’re just happy to see us – as we are them.

I suppose it isn’t a perfect church – that was never the point. It’s our communitas. Other Christians who aren’t perfect, who love us even though we aren’t perfect, even though we make mistakes.They want us to be there. They want us to be part of their journey and to experience God’s love through the way He moves in all of our lives. It brings us and keeps us closer to Him. The one who called us by name before we ever took a breath. He knew what knuckleheads we would be. He knew the mistakes we would make and yet He loved us so perfectly. There’s no stronger desire than to be loved that way, completely loved and fully known.

We have to lay down our lists. Our lists of the wrongs others have done to us. Our list of the disappointments we have felt. Our past hurts. Our lists of how we think this person in our life “should” be. Expectations that set us up for barriers in our relationships that do exactly the opposite of what we desire. To be truly loved in spite of our mistakes and bad choices.

We have to stop judging our church services and having roast pastor for lunch. Stop the hate. The “I hate this kind of music”.  I hate when the church is too full or too empty, too dark, too loud. I hate when other Christians aren’t perfect…   because just like us, they want to be loved while imperfect. 

God put so many wonderful people in my life and none of them are perfect. What an amazing blessing that is. Others just like me, on a journey to spread the great news about how God loves them and isn’t fooled by their masks, or public faces. He knows my heart and loves me more deeply than I could ask. That’s such great news. He put a whole group of people to journey with me, so we could help each other to deepen our relationship with Him and reach out to those who are yet to believe. What a mind blowing blessing that is, don’t you agree?

I hope you find your communitas, or that you create a communitas. So that everyone can know, somewhere out there is someone who loves me so much that they’ll cry at my sight. They love me so much that they recognize me instantly from far away or with my back to them even if I was supposed to be miles away. Someone who knows what a dunderhead I am, but choses to love me anyway. Just the way our Savior does. Just the way I am.

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

Sequel to Shades of Blues Available Now

The Light and Dark of It; A Journey Back

The Sequel to Shades of Blues; Into a Fractured Mind

Available Now on Amazon.com and Kindle.

How do you convince others you’re mentally stable, when you can’t trust your own mind?

Eloise and Grant desperately want their fairytale life back. When Eloise returns home from North Warren they are filled with hope – and a little anxious. Treatments, meant to cure, have damaged her mind, and her mental stability is constantly in question.

If she’s not careful she may find herself back in the hell of North Warren. Except now there is no dying child, no sympathetic story and no one at North Warren who cares enough to save her.

 

THE LIGHT AND DARK OF IT; A Journey Back delves deep into the challenges faced once someone is released from institutional care. Set in the 1950’s, THE LIGHT AND DARK OF IT; A Journey Back is the thought-provoking, heartbreaking and heartwarming conclusion of SHADES OF BLUES; Into A Fractured Mind that will leave you cheering Eloise on as you fall in love with the small town of Titusville, Pennsylvania.

 

Don’t have your Shades of Blues copy yet? Order Now.

 

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

CEO of OurHome.Inc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

by Vicki L. Pugliese

 

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http://www.elizabethbalch.com

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