Peace of My Heart

An encouraging voice to drown out the noise

~Today is your last day~ January 31, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 7:53 am
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should havesWhat if today was really your last day?

Would you have regrets?

Would you be content with the life that you have lived to this point if it suddenly came to a screeching halt?

While today might not be your last day, it very well could be.  So, ask yourself this….knowing that your time here is limited, would you change anything about your life right now?  Is the change something within your means to make?  If so, what are you waiting for? 

I am painfully aware that this post is nothing  more than a series of questions with no real answers which goes against everything I’ve written up to this point.  For whatever reason I have found myself in a perpetual state of what ifs.  I can’t say that I am lost, but confused and searching, yes.  Time for some me time.  A time of refreshing, where no one is looking to me to meet their needs so that I can tend to my own.  While this may sound incredibly selfish, (because it is), it is also absolutely necessary.  Please forgive my transparency.  I hope that it doesn’t disappoint my readers to know that I am human and battle the same stumbling blocks as you.

I will return to blogging, soon most likely.  Maybe even in a day or two.  But if it takes me longer, just pray for me.

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat,he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”  (Mark 6:31)

Yeah, no time to eat (think, sleep, etc), I can relate.

Blessings, friends.

 

~Mourning that which you never had~ January 29, 2014

Just over a week ago, I attended the funeral of my closest cousins’ grandfather.  We grew up very close so I knew him as a child and was happy to honor his memory.  I sat behind my cousins and watched them shed tears as they made peace with the finality of the moment.

As I left the funeral home, I cried too, but for a different reason.  Watching people very close to me grieve the loss of someone dear to them made me realize I was lacking something.  I don’t have a grandfather.

I had no relationship with my biological father so by extension, no relationship with his dad.  As most of my readers know, I was raised by the man who chose to be my father, (not a step-dad,never, ever call him that, he is my dad).  His father, my Pa-paw passed away when I was young.  He was a very quiet man and difficult to get close to.  Not because he wasn’t loving, he just wasn’t expressive with his feelings, if you know what I mean.  When he passed, I don’t remember feeling sad because I was too young to really grasp what was going on and we didn’t have that closeness that some do with their grand-dads.  Then there would be my mom’s father.  I will not share personal details of my mother’s story but this man was not someone I cared to know nor was he someone we were ever around.

And that’s it.  I can’t really say why this sudden realization saddened me, but it did.  I wanted those precious memories that my cousins will now cherish.  I wanted the words of wisdom that can only come from an older, wiser, more seasoned generation.  I have no old phrases that “grandpa used to say.”  So my ride home became a time of mourning that day as my heart ached for something I would never have.

Death has a way of doing that, doesn’t it?  It makes you think on things that would normally escape your attention or that you would typically push deep down inside the safety of your heart.  A blogging friend shared this quote yesterday and it gripped me at my core:

There is a wealth of unexpressed love in the world. It is one of the chief causes of sorrow evoked by death: what might have been said or might have been done that never can be said or done.
Arthur Hopkins

“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.  Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is.  You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.  My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.” 

(Psalms 39:4-5 NLT)

I pray that it doesn’t take death to make us appreciate life.  My hope is that I will learn to cherish each moment I am given and that I will never waste an opportunity to show love.  If our lives are but a moment, wouldn’t it be a shame to waste it?

As for my hurting heart from the lack of grandfatherly love, you never know, the Lord may just place a surrogate in my life.  He loves me that much.

greatest loss

 

~What is Happy?~ January 28, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 8:04 am
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“I just want to be happy.”

So many times I have had friends look at me with tears in their eyes as they whispered those words.  And my heart broke because I could see the pain and confusion they were feeling….and I could relate.  I too have been the girl who sat crying, feeling lost and wondering where my happy went.

But what is happy?

Is it a feeling, a state of being, an action, a choice, a lifestyle?

Truthfully, I have no idea.

I did turn to google for an answer, and as always, it didn’t disappoint.  I was provided with a rather long list of synonyms for the word that made me wonder if we’ve got it all wrong.

First up was a list that dealt with your outer appearance:  smiling, beaming, grinning, radiant.  So part of happy is a choice to plaster the smile on your face and look the part.  “By all accounts, she appeared happy from the outside looking in.”  In this case, it is easy to fool others into believing you are good when truthfully you are falling apart on the inside.  This kind of happy can be deceptive.

Next was an abundance of synonyms that I would consider to be feelings:  thrilled, exhilarated, ecstatic, overjoyed.  All of these typically come as a result of something great happening to you.  In this case, your happy is dependent on outside influence & the feeling may be fleeting once the circumstances change.  “For the first time in a long time, she was happy because she was rewarded for her efforts at work.”  What happens when the initial excitement wears off, does the feeling stick?  This kind of happy is fickle.

Then it got a little deeper:  pleased, content, satisfied, gratified.  To me, these words imply a constant, unchanging foundation.  So in other words, this kind of happy is not contingent on anyone or anything, it’s an inner peace that cannot be shaken.  “She was happy with her life.  Through the successes & failures, highs & lows, gains & losses…she was happy.”  These kind of people don’t have different circumstances, they have a different attitude toward their circumstances.  This kind of happy is steadfast.

So the question is:  What kind of happy are you looking for?  Is it a feeling that comes and goes based on the world around you?  Or are you seeking a deeper sense of contentment that is firmly rooted in something that doesn’t waver?

“I have learned to be satisfied with what I have and with whatever happens.  I know how to live when I am poor and when I have plenty. I have learned the secret of how to live through any kind of situation—when I have enough to eat or when I am hungry, when I have everything I need or when I have nothing.  Christ is the one who gives me the strength I need to do whatever I must do.” (Philippians 4:11-13 ERV)

happy people

 

~Which side of the bed did you get up on?~ January 23, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 8:26 am
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Have you ever given any thought as to how you start your morning impacts the rest of your day?

This morning my youngest woke up crying.  Great.  I immediately started dreading the day because nine times out of ten, tears first thing in the morning mean a long, whiny, fit-filled day lies ahead.  However, my hubs hadn’t left for work yet so he brought her in to lay in bed with me and flipped on the cartoons.  After a few minutes, she was content watching Micky Mouse and snuggling with momma.  When it was time to rise and shine, she was as pleasant as can be.  All smiles, no tears, as we fixed breakfast and prepared for the day.

Having some time to reflect, my mind drifted to a different scene.  This one involves me and how I begin my days.  Some mornings I wake up mad at the world.  I can’t really explain why, maybe I had bad dreams or maybe it’s because I ate that brownie right before bed, could be anything really.  The point is, I am angry…at nothing…ready to tear out of bed and be the best mean girl I can be.  Picture the worst mother on earth, slamming doors, flinging lunchboxes and barking orders at her sleepy-eyed babes.  How bout that for a visual?

But, and you know there is always a but, when I wake up like that, I have learned how to ward off the hateful beast.  I thank Jesus.  I lay in my bed under my awesome blankie and talk to God.  I thank him for another day on this earth with my loved ones.  I thank him for our health.  I thank him for his provision.  And on and on I go until I can safely get out of bed with a smile on my face instead of the vicious scowl that was there when I first woke.

It’s not always easy to give thanks first thing in the morning, especially if you’ve had a rough night with little to no sleep.  Been there a time or two.  But, regardless to how bad your night was, there is always something to be thankful for.  Always.

One of my favorite songs comes to mind, and maybe it will help you too.  There is a line that comes directly from Scripture that reminds me of the hope we have each and every day:  There might be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning.

If you woke up with your mad face on, it’s not too late to turn your day around.  Sit and meditate on all that you have to be thankful for.  If you can’t think of something right off, trust me, it’s there just beneath the surface waiting for you to take notice.

 

~Hate accomplishes nothing~ January 20, 2014

“But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. ”

-Martin Luther King Jr. “I have a dream” August 28th, 1963

While Dr. King was speaking about racial injustice, I feel that we could take his words of wisdom and apply them to any circumstances in which adversity is at the forefront.

We live in a diverse country where varying beliefs, values & opinions are in abundance.  I have seen time and time again when those variances cause people groups to pit themselves against one another.  There are no peaceful talks with mutual respect.  No.  It becomes a battle of who is right and who is wrong.  Ugly words are spewed.  Hate is spread like wildfire.  And just as in Dr. King’s time, nothing is accomplished.

If we are faced with a struggle of inequality or discrimination, what good will it do to engage in dishonest practices or bitter talk?  Sometimes the most difficult thing to do is remain dignified when someone is attacking who you are.  But there is something to be said about one’s character when you can lift your head high & hold your tongue during the fiercest of attacks and let your composure speak volumes.

When differing opinions present themselves, rather than allowing our differences to divide and cause hatred among us, can we not embrace one another in brotherly love?  Because we are in fact brothers and sisters.  We are all a part of the human race.  How you dress, whom you love, where you worship, the color of your skin should not dictate the treatment that you receive from others.  Respect should not be based on commonalities.

“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.  Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”

(Romans 12:9-10 NLT)

 

~My Mom~ January 17, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 7:33 am
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Today is my momma’s 50th birthday!!!  I know, I know, hard to believe when she could still easily pass for my sister, right?

me and mom

In honor of her 50 years on this earth, I thought it would be fitting to list 50 things that she is and has been for me:

Beautiful

Courageous

Devoted

Encouraging

My Biggest Cheerleader

Kid spoiler

My BFF

All-knowing (through my teenage years)

Backstage Momma- no diva dance mom here, she was totally selfless

Hairstylist for every school dance

My confidant

Nurse…even as an adult

Shoulder to cry on

Problem solver

Babysitter-woot woot, send the kids to Nana’s!

Partner in crime

Loving

Nurturing

Understanding

Forgiving

My safe place

Towel wetter when I was in labor

On-call fixer

Bodyguard

Sounding board for all my ideas…good and bad

My how-to book on parenting questions

My voice of reason

Bold when it’s necessary

Gentle when it’s not

Generous

Thoughtful

The best Nana my kids could ask for!

Energetic…cause she’s 50! 50 years old 😉

Running partner

Short order cook because God forbid my kids have to eat something they don’t like

My “hey, can you bring this when you come” person

Faithful

Graceful

Hugger of necks

Kisser of boo-boos

2nd Mom to many of my high school friends

My right hand after the birth of my last and was forbidden to use the stairs…not easy when laundry is in basement for fam of 7

Unwavering in her devotion to our family

My “yes you can” when I’m “no I can’t”

My backup

My happy place when I’m a donkey on the edge

The glue that holds us together

Helper to many

Friend to most

Priceless to me

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOMMA!!!  You are my best friend, sister and Mom all wrapped up into one fabulous package!  Love you to the ends of the earth.

“She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.  She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.  Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:  “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” 

(Proverbs 31)

 

~Fast or Diet?~ January 16, 2014

prayer and fasting“I haven’t lost a pound since I started this fast 2 weeks ago!  My husband has dropped the weight, but not me.  So I quit.”

**little disclaimer- to my church family who is currently fasting, this was not a comment from someone in our congregation, relax**

Color me dumbfounded.

The last time I checked, fasting was not the latest weight loss craze but a means of connecting with God.

The more I thought on this comment, the more I realized that surely this is not the only person to ever use fasting as a way to reach their goal weight.  And I guess when you think about it, some diet plans do call for you to abstain from certain foods, such as sweets or high calorie beverages.  But that’s not the kind of fasting we’re talking about here.

In the simplest explanation I can think of, biblical fasting means to give something up for a set period of time and replace it with bible study and prayer.  I’ll give a couple of examples.

You decide to fast breakfast for 2 weeks.  During those 2 weeks, you would dedicate “breakfast time” to reading your Bible, talking to God or simply being still in His presence.

Maybe you opt to shut off your electronics for a week.  Rather than tune in to your fav show and tune out what’s happening around you, you decide to focus in on God and seek His face.

If I am to be totally honest, fasting is still somewhat new to me too.  I wasn’t raised exercising this particular discipline so I am learning as I go…key is, I am willing to learn.  Based on the comment stated above, I wanted to share with others who may have a desire to fast but are unsure how to proceed or maybe don’t understand the concept behind it.

I have attached two articles that our Pastor has shared with us that I feel are very informative on the ins and outs of Biblical fasting.   Again, I don’t claim to have all the answers, but if you have questions, I’m willing to help you dig through the Word to find them!  Blessings to all.

http://www.cru.org/training-and-growth/devotional-life/7-steps-to-fasting/index.htm

http://www.cru.org/training-and-growth/devotional-life/personal-guide-to-fasting/index.htm

“And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get.”

(Matthew 6:16 NLT)

 

~Hypocrite~ January 14, 2014

yellingEver found yourself living in a contradiction?

Let me paint you a not so pretty picture.

Two of my older kids have been at each others throats for the last few days.  They pick non-stop, mess with the other’s belongings, “accidentally” bump into one another, etc, etc.  Last night, I’d had enough.  They were supposed to be washing the dishes but all they were getting accomplished was a whole lot of smart alack comments back and forth.  The more aggravated they got, the louder they got.

After I had reached my limit- “STOP YELLING!!!”….I yelled.  (You can’t see me but I promise I’m hanging my head in shame.)

Well hello there pot, how bout we leave kettle alone and deal with ourselves!

I was so frustrated with them and myself that I just went to bed.  Laying there I couldn’t help but realize that I was a part of the problem in my attempt at being the solution.  Granted, there are times as a parent you have “elevate” your voice to get your child’s attention.  However, in this case, my raised voice only added to the chaos and I am fairly certain I did not get my point across so I basically yelled & made myself feel bad for nothing.  I knew there was a Scripture for my predicament but I couldn’t recall it to my memory.  So this morning, I searched “what does the Bible say about leading by example.”  What I found made me want to cry:

“Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God.  Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example.”

(1 Peter 5:2 & 3 NLT)

This verse is under the heading of “advice for elders” but can easily be applied to parenting.  Most people, including the little ones in my care, will typically be more responsive to my instruction if I do as I say.

Maybe, just maybe, they will be less likely to rip each other’s heads off if I control my tongue even in the midst of my anger towards them.  If they see me taking pause to check my emotions and speak calmly and rationally, perhaps they will start to do the same.  I believe they will learn better from that example than they will from me simply telling them that’s what they are supposed to do regardless of how I behave.

I don’t want to be a hypocritical momma.  When my kids are grown raising their own brood, I want them to think “I hope I can be for my kids what my mother was for me” and not “I hope I am nothing like my mother.”  Ouch.  Even typing that stings.

So today, how about a little prayer for all my parent friends out there:

Dear Lord, help us to be more like you and less like ourselves.  Help us to put aside our shortcomings in order to be the very best moms and dads we can be.  Let us look for ways that we can improve our parenting techniques and in so doing improve the quality of life of those in our circle.  Most importantly, remind us that we can call on you for help when we feel overwhelmed and under- equipped.  In Jesus name, amen.

 

~Miraculous Blessing~ January 10, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 7:58 am
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Our little family has had it’s share of highs and lows over the last few years.

When I was pregnant with Emma, we were told she exhibited signs of downs syndrome.

We watched helplessly as Peyton suffered with excruciating headaches.

We’ve fought the legal system to protect two of our children from a dangerous environment.

We have sat and looked at our bills only to realize the money wasn’t there.

And in all these struggles, one thing has proven true each and every time.  The moment that we decided to release our worries and cast all of our cares onto the Lord’s capable shoulders, He showed up.  I’m not talking about a little pat on the back.  I mean the kind of move of God that blew our minds and left us completely awestruck at His love for us.

With Emma, we prayed and decided to ignore the doctors urging and forgo the extensive testing.  Miraculously, the elevated numbers dropped and I delivered a healthy baby girl with ease.

Some of you know how Peyton’s story turned out.  After months of fretting and crying to God, he was healed in an instant…and I do mean an instant.  One day he was sick, the next day it was all over.

We are still in the throws of a fight over two of our children, but we know that the victory has already been given to us as the battle belongs to the Lord.

As for our financial worries, I can’t tell you how many times God has showed up in the craziest of ways.  We have been granted unmerited favor with debtors, we’ve received gifts of items we desperately needed but couldn’t possibly afford-like a refrigerator, and we’ve been showered with blessings from the most random of places just when we needed them most.

Last night was no exception.  I won’t share all the details, but I had to give God a shout out.

We had an unexpected visitor show up on our doorstep.  I was clueless to what was going on until it was all over because I was downstairs putting 2 rambunctious girls to bed.  I came up the stairs to find my husband with a look of shock on his face.  He could hardly put into words what had just taken place.  The Lord sent us a miracle through someone that we could have never anticipated.  This person handed something to my husband and said that the Lord laid it on their heart to give it to us and wouldn’t let them alone about it until they did!

There are no words to explain to you just how awestruck we all were in this house last night, we still are.  We know the Lord loves us, He’s proven it time and time again, but it still amazes me to see Him work in such a tangible way.

The moral of this story is to completely lean into God and trust that He will always give you just what you need at the very moment you need it.  Looking back over our story, how could we not trust him?!

To our guardian angel who was obedient to the Lord- I pray that you will be doubly blessed for the love and generosity that you extended to our family.

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38)

give

 

~Stay. Focused.~ January 9, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 9:11 am
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stay focusedHave you ever been so overwhelmed by the number of decisions in your life that you do one of two things:

  1. Freak out and do nothing.
  2. Start out in one direction only to get frustrated and head the opposite way.

I’ll give you a perfect, day-to-day life example.  Cleaning house.  Exciting.

I will typically start out cleaning our living room because it sees the most “action”.  I gather up a handful of toys and tote them down the stairs and start to put them away when I notice dirty clothes at the foot of Emma’s bed.  I grab the heap and head to the laundry room where I see the basket is about to overflow so I start a load of wash.  As I walk out the door, the vacuum cleaner catches my eye and I remember the mess of crumbs in the boys room so I drag it up the stairs and get to work.  What is Autumn’s i-pod doing in her brother’s room?  Distracted, I stop midstream and return it to it’s rightful place.  Guess who didn’t make their bed this morning?  I set the i-pod aside and start straightening blankets when I see the multiple dirty glasses on her shelf.  Bed half made, I head to the kitchen.  I can’t stand the sight of dishes setting in the sink so rather than go back to the previous task, I start washing.

Before I know it, I have spent half the day flitting from one room to another, accomplishing basically nothing.  Lack of focus, no direction, nothing to show for my time.  Not very productive, is it?

Now think of this same concept as it applies to life in general.  You start out with a goal, full of gusto and ready to accomplish greatness.  Then as you begin your journey, something grabs your attention and distracts you from the task at hand.  Do you panic and quit because surely if this was your purpose you wouldn’t be so easily swayed, right?  Maybe you, like me, start with one thing and realize that another requires your attention and move on to number 2 before completing number 1.

Might I suggest that this is not how the Lord wants us to live?  Confusion & frustration will almost always cause us to quit, and the Lord didn’t make us quitters.

Scripture tells us-

To stay focused:

Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. -Proverbs 4:25

Not to give-up:

And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us….Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.- Hebrews 12:1 & 3

And finish strong:

But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.- 2 Timothy 4:5

Set your mind on what God wants for your life and make that your first priority in everything you do.  Don’t allow yourself to become distracted by the numerous things around you that are fighting for your attention.  Let the Lord direct your steps and trust in His will, then you will find success in your life as opposed to wasting precious time spinning your wheels and going nowhere.