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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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waiting on God

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

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

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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