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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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struggle

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

The 11th Mile

“How is your soul?” our pastor asked us to ask each other. “Tired”, “Fine”… I heard around me. “Wounded and a bit beaten,” was my response. It was such a small moment with such a big impact. My words stuttered as they came out. Emotion caught in my throat as the truth of them hit me.

As the day wore on, flashes of five years ago kept creeping into my mind. Five years ago my husband and I trained for a Disney Half Marathon – which we completed. For some reason my mind was connecting the feelings my words had described to that day.

I am not a runner by nature, and I’m slow.  My husband said when I jog it’s more like a cross between moseying and jogging. He’s not wrong.  It took a little over a year from when I first got off the couch and prepared for my first 5K. I was diligent at training. Don’t applaud my efforts too soon. I’m an “all in” and then “quickly all out” kind of girl – I get bored easily. Injuries have sent me back to my old ways and I have gained back the weight I lost. But that day when I was “all in”, despite an injured ankle – I finished my race. The finish line is not where I felt those feelings – that was at the eleventh mile.

At the eleventh mile I stopped and soaked my sore knee and ankle in bio-freeze, as did many of the other runners.  I made a pit stop, and when I came back out, I saw her run by; the balloon lady.  For those of you who have never run a half marathon, or didn’t run it at the back of the pack, there is a pacer and she has balloons tied to her so that you know that’s who she is. For a Disney half, you end up out running on the streets near the park. So for safety reasons, if you are behind the balloon lady at a mile marker, there is a bus sitting there ready to take you to the finish line. You are not allowed to continue – it’s a hard and fast rule.

As I saw her run by, my heart sank. I was already exhausted and there was over two and a half miles left to go, and now I was behind the absolute slowest I was allowed to go. I immediately took off in an attempt to catch up with her. I caught her and fell behind her several times in the next mile.  At one point she reminded several of us that if we were behind her at the mile marker, we would be asked to stop. I remember thinking I wasn’t going to make it. I had trained so hard and yet I was going to be asked to stop. It was defeating.

Then several of us began plotting her demise as we ran just in front of her.  She would laugh and tell us that she could hear us. It helped to lighten that despair, even if it was silly. Somehow the journey took on a value of its own. I was laughing.  I was enjoying commiserating with others but knowing I wasn’t going to give up. We encouraged each other. Eventually I would pull away from her enough not to have her presence be a constant worry. Worry is exhausting. I found my second wind, somewhere deep down and finished; running into the happy arms and smiling face of my husband who had finished much sooner.

That feeling I had at the eleventh mile – that’s how my soul has felt many times recently. I suppose I’m in the eleventh mile of my career. Close enough to want it to be over but tired enough to also want to give up and get on the bus. Some days I’m not sure I’ll find my second wind.  

I lost my job a little over a year ago. I was not a match for this little company I had joined. It’s been a hard battle back for my self-esteem. I was injured in the process. Injured where it doesn’t show, if you don’t know me. I long for retirement – the finish line. But in the process, I’m missing the journey.  In the process, I’m longing for my future and dismissing the value of my present. I see the balloon lady and I’m discouraged. It’s hard to keep working when you aren’t sure you can do it. When with every mistake made or unrealistic deadline missed, I wonder if this failure will be my undoing. The voice in my head is my own worst enemy. It’s like running and trying to keep up with the balloon lady, passing her only to have her pass you again.

Our pastor told us to pray for those answers we heard. Pray for those, like me, who answered honestly from a place of less than victory. And now, after my pastor’s question – I’m looking for my pack. The one that will plot the balloon lady’s demise… and make me laugh, and make me enjoy the journey again. I need to find my “communitas” as our church calls it. I need to fight for my joy and I need their help with that.

I’m looking for them now. I’ve realized how much I need them, so I won’t end up on the bus. How much I need them to change my focus because I’ve realized I don’t want to quit. I want to finish the race. I want to finish and run into the smiling arms of Jesus. Somehow I think someone else out there is looking for their pack too. I want to encourage you to fight for your joy. Find your pack. Don’t miss out on the journey wishing for the finish line. Because the best memories are there even in the eleventh mile and you’ll miss them if you get on the bus.

 

 By

Vicki L. Pugliese

God Doesn’t Write Disney Endings

God doesn’t write Disney endings. God doesn’t write “… and they lived happily ever after.” Sometimes we wish He would but He doesn’t. In the Bible our big God moments often come in the midst of struggle! I’ll let that sink in. God doesn’t even wait until the struggle is ended. He doesn’t end the struggle, He brings His amazing grace and mercy in the midst of struggle. Now look back at your life and how many times have you just wished that things could go right at work and at home at the same time? How many times have things finally went right at home and work and then your kid’s or parent’s lives start to fall apart? Struggle is part of the human condition. We are built to have concerns for one another, to be relational, just as God himself is relational.

So let’s take an example from the Bible, Joseph. Joseph was used to save God’s people. Without him there would be no Israel, no Jews, no Jesus. Powerful right! He’s a big deal. But Joseph starts out in a family full of jealousy; one big blended family mess. And Joseph is as far from a blessing or an inheritance as you can get, but he’s dad’s favorite. Dad even gave him a fancy coat. You know things like that never go well with siblings. Favoritism is never unnoticed. Then God gives Joseph these awesome dream’s about how important he is going to be and that his brothers are going to bow down to him. Of course Joseph in his 17 year old wisdom doesn’t keep that to himself. Hindsight might have helped him here. Although in Joseph’s case I think his brother’s kind of go a little off the deep end, plotting to kill him and selling him into slavery. After all did they think he made it up? Do you really want to mess with God’s plan? Joseph went for years faithfully following this crazy plan of God’s. He even goes to prison under false accusations and serves God to the best of his abilities there. The cup bearer forgets him for two years and yet Joseph is faithful. Now would you be? I’m such a big whiner that I’m sure way back in the “sold me into slavery”, I would have messed up. Not Joseph, he is faithful until the end.

And God fulfills those dreams. Joseph saves a nation; God’s nation.  He is so important that he over sees all of the store houses. That’s his job. That’s his big happy ending. Sure he gets to save his family too and all of Egypt. But he gets his happy ending in the midst of a seven year famine! Hungry people are showing up at his door step wanting what he saved to save Egypt and his family. He is making life and death choices every day. People on forced diets. That must be a great job. Who wouldn’t sign up to turn away people on a forced diet? That’s his reward for being faithful for years and years! Well he does get to save a nation. He does get to redeem a family. He is a very important story in the Bible. God loves redemption and Joseph’s story is all about redemption and waiting on the Lord.

But there is a whole lot of “just be content with your life in the midst of your struggle” woven into Joseph’s story. God’s story isn’t written like a Disney movie. Life doesn’t work like a Disney movie. We wish it would and so we miss out. Your story connects to your neighbor’s story. Their story connects to their sister’s story and her coworker’s story and their kid’s story. All of these stories weave together in a beautiful symphony that only God truly sees the entire score. This masterpiece that still plays on, that ebbs and flows. This song that is written to glorify His name, has more depth than we can possibly be aware of. Only God can truly understand the full connections. Joseph could never understand that saving his family would lead to the birth of a Messiah and saving the world. Only God could do something that cool.

Don’t forget to celebrate all of the successes in the midst of your struggles. All of the things that you know you should be grateful for. Don’t focus on the struggles they are just a small portion of the overall symphony. Just a minor key change. God uses all of it for his glory, even the times when you are in prison or in slavery. He uses those times when you are falsely accused. He is a God of redemption and all things must be redeemed. As we move from the Garden of Eden to the great city in Revelation. All things must be redeemed. Your part of the story is important, the light and the dark. You will see there is much to be grateful for. And you will be more content with your life even midst your struggles when you do.

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