Peace of My Heart

An encouraging voice to drown out the noise

~Fight or Flight~ June 26, 2014

This morning I was flipping through my notebook that I use for note taking at church as well as ideas for my writing. I came across 3 bullet points from a recent study on the Songs of Solomon that literally took my breath away.

  • Act, not react
  • Focus on the good, not the bad
  • Talk, not walk

This little tidbit from a sermon on how to handle conflict in marriage rocked my world this morning. Why you ask?

Jamie and I have been married for 7 & a half years. In that seemingly short span of time, I have seriously considered leaving him three times. This may come as a shock to some of you & it may even make you think less of me but I’m okay with that. My realization this morning may help save someone else’s marriage, so share I must.

What rattled me about my simple notes was how our 3 major struggles lined up, in order, with these points. I won’t go into great detail about each circumstance but just enough to show you how wrong I was in how I dealt with them.

Our first real fight happened as a result of an unexpected, scary situation that caused us both to react poorly. Jamie’s response to my anger was what had me eyeballing the door. I was totally focused on what he did and my attitude towards him was a reaction to that. There was no constructive talk to help restore our marriage, only anger for what I considered unforgivable. I didn’t speak to the man for 2 months. Doesn’t that sound fun to live with? We both allowed ourselves to be controlled by our emotions, neither one of us willing to do the work. I didn’t want to “act” but rather live in a perpetual state of reaction as if that validated just how wrong he was. Somehow, in spite of ourselves, God managed to get through to us and eventually the peace talks began.

Round 2 was a bit more explosive. The “why” is not important, just believe me when I say it was an intense moment of fellowship if I’ve ever seen one! When the dust clouds settled, I found it difficult to think about anything other than this one negative. Never mind all the good qualities of our marriage, surely this one was a deal breaker.

This last scenario was far more subtle. Overtime, I had slowly stopped communicating with my man. I had developed the mindset that I was tired of talking. Why bother when the results weren’t what I desired? I had checked out. There was no one issue that could be pinpointed & therefore resolved but more like a decision had been made that I’d married the wrong man. Truth be told, I had one foot out the door.

But God. (2 incredibly powerful words when used together)

God had something different in mind for us. One little phrase snapped me out of it and reminded me of the vows I took.

You don’t have the right to say, “I’m done with this” in marriage. (Our Pastor is one smart cookie.)

I made a commitment, to my husband, our children & most importantly, the Lord, to see this thing through, come hell or high water. And you’d better believe they are both coming at your marriage!

In the midst of our marital struggles, I thought I had earned the right to quit. In retrospect, I realize that while I may have had the right to be upset, I certainly couldn’t justify throwing away the life we had built because of his shortcomings & my self-righteous anger.

Would I have handled our battles differently if I’d had these little nuggets of truth before our first showdown? Probably not. I needed to grow & learn how to be in a committed relationship, a process that is ongoing. In sharing all of this from my own personal struggles, my hope is that this message will reach the one who is where I was…weighing the pros & cons of fight or flight.

A man, (or woman), who makes a vow to the Lord or makes a pledge under oath must never break it. He must do exactly what he said he would do.” Numbers 30:2

To have & to hold, in sickness & in health, for richer or poorer, to love & to cherish til death due us part…remember those words? I’m thinking “come hell & high water” should be added to the list!

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~The Fellowship Factor~ June 23, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 9:49 am
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I don’t know about the rest of you, but this weekend was one for the books for the Rutledge fam!  And to think, we almost said no to it all.

As most of you know or could likely presume, extended vacations for our family of 7 are not in our coupon-clipping, discount-rack-shopping budget!  This is a fact that has oftentimes depressed and frustrated me.  Rather than let our restrictions keep us down, we have committed to make the best of the moments we do have this summer.  Even so, when my momma suggested we drive the hour and a half to her place then the additional 3  hours to the beach for the day, I was apprehensive.  My old self started calculating gas cost and trying to decide if it was worth it for just a few hours of sand & sun.  When I thought of how much we all love the ocean and the possibility that we’d go another summer without seeing it, I stopped calculating and started packing for our day trip.  With early mornings and long drives, the sour faces had me thinking we’d made the wrong decision.  But once we got there & buried our toes in the hot sand & felt the spray of saltwater on our tired faces, something miraculous happened….we ALL enjoyed the day.  No one complained about the PB sandwiches we ate out of the back of the car instead of heading to a restaurant for lunch.  Not a huff was heard about having to wash their hair in cold, outdoor showers or changing in cramped, sandy dressing rooms before hitting the road again.  We even managed to leave without both of the boy’s shoes & no one had a meltdown….self included! Everyone was simply thankful for the 5 hours of family fun.

Yesterday we had a cookout with friends that we had planned a couple weeks ago.  As you might imagine we were all a bit worn from our quick trip not to mention the fact that 2 of our 7 had turned a lovely shade of red thanks to fair skin & poor application of sunscreen.  On the short drive over, the grumbles and snarling faces had me on edge about how the afternoon was going to pan out.  I was working on my excuse to leave early because obviously time with friends wasn’t a good call.  But once we got there and the slip-n-slide came out, all the attitudes disappeared and we stayed well into the evening.

I’m sharing our weekend with you for one reason.  So many times we neglect the fellowship portion of our faith.  We are all so busy with our own lives that we feel there is no room for activities with “outsiders.”  When our schedules become overbooked, the first thing to go are the extras we’ve planned with friends.  This is unfortunate as time spent with family & friends is refreshing and brings encouragement to our weary souls.  We are designed to need one another yet we are quick to rely on our independence when life gets crazy.  Maybe what we all need is to swap out time spent worrying over how to solve our problems for a little more time around a campfire with good friends, gooey marshmallows & stories that make you laugh until you cry.  Or maybe you need an impromptu drive to your favorite spot to remind you what life is truly about.

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“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

Hebrews 10:25

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~The Thrill Is Gone~ June 16, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 1:36 pm
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This morning I went for a run with my usual running partner.  Initially, all was right with the world and we were settled in to a decent pace.  About a mile and a half in, my body started to resist.  Try as I might, I couldn’t will the cramps away nor could I outrun them.  At the 2.5 mark, I had to walk.

I left feeling somewhat frustrated.  It seems the more I try to do the “right thing,” the more I am met with opposition.  I try to eat healthy, for the most part.  I mean we all need to cheat once in a while!  I exercise on a regular basis & I drink enough water to hydrate a camel.  And yet I’m not reaching the goals that I have set for myself.

It’s enough to make me want to say the heck with it, grab a box of Krispy Cremes and chase them down with a 2 liter of Coke!! It’s really hard to keep at something when:

  1. It’s harder than you expected.
  2. You hit an obstacle.
  3. The outcome isn’t what you had anticipated.

While my current struggle is with health & fitness, I have been in this exact predicament in my marriage, in parenting and in my writing ministry. So what does one do when they reach a lull in life or ministry?  When the initial excitement wears off, you lose momentum & frustration sets in, do you throw in the towel?

Let me take you to my favorite chapter in the Bible, Hebrews 12.

  1. Let us strip off every weight that slows us down.  While this applies directly to sin, it can mean so much more.  What is it that you are struggling with today?  Is there something you can remove from your life that would help you to succeed?
  2. Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  Really?  One might ask how endurance is possible in the midst of fatigue and when the odds just aren’t in your favor.  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus.
  3. So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees.  Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.  Doing the right thing is rarely going to be the easy way.  It is often the path less chosen and you may even find yourself on it completely alone.  Fighting for your marriage when it seems all hope is lost; staying firm in your parenting convictions when “so-and-sos” mom let’s their kid do it; sticking with your calling when it doesn’t seem to be doing anybody any good; buckling down on your health & fitness when you plateau & the benefit isn’t clear-none of these things are easy, but they are virtuous.

It is normal to become weary at any task throughout life.  Quitting is enticing, especially when the only alternative is to plow through that which seems impossible.  Let me assure you, eyes on Jesus=nothing is impossible.6a0a33efe69987c2c803a7c5e62bcfd7

 

~Schedule Timeout~ June 9, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 9:52 am
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4bb96d984e48796a3b689df7f22a66f6Some of my faithful readers may have noticed that my posts over the last couple of weeks have been a bit sporadic.  Thanks to the several end of school year activities, I had little time to think much less put those thoughts out there to share with you! The kids are finally out of school and I woke feeling almost giddy this morning thinking of our laidback summer…that is until I walked past our calendar! I remember when summer break was just that, a break!

Now that I have active teenagers under my roof things have taken a turn. For starters, the kids break has been shortened so the amount of time we have already feels rushed. My oldest, the linebacker, has weight & agility training 3 days a week with only 1 dead week all summer. Boy 2 is playing soccer with an out of town league, and has cross-country training to prepare for the fall season. Thankfully the girls and I don’t have any commitments during the week, only the normal church activities with a couple of special services here and there. But when I looked at all the scribble across our family calendar for the next 2 months, I will admit, I had my mad face on.

All during the school year, we rush from one thing to the next. The phrase, “Hurry up, we’re going to be late!” became redundant. My naivety had me dreaming of a calm, rush-free summer and when the realization came that our time was still not our own, I was pouty.

Then it dawned on me that the only person overbooking my schedule was me! I really dislike it when I discover that blame rests solely on me, kind of makes it hard to whine & complain when the fault is your own. When did I become this nutso, schedule driven, order barkin’ momma?!

We’ve become so accustomed to the busyness of our lives that we rarely enjoy any of it! It has just occurred to me that I have been living like a “Martha” when my heart desires to be a “Mary.” Martha, always running ragged to make sure everything is “just so.” Cooking, cleaning, errand-running, carpooling Martha. No time to relish the beauty of the moment because there is always something else that must be done, right now, Martha. Meanwhile Mary sits at the feet of Jesus simply listening to the sound of his voice & enjoying the rest that comes from being in his presence. Mary always takes times to capture the sweetness of life’s little pleasures. Chores can wait, life is but a vapor, not gonna miss a thing, Mary.

Yes, that is my desire for this summer. We will honor our commitments but on a lower key, stress-less schedule. We have been given only one life. Why rush through it and miss out on all the precious opportunities to create a memory that lasts a lifetime? Will you join me in making a vow to simply relax & enjoy these next few weeks, even in spite of whatever activities you have on tap? Let the beauty of a moment resonate in your spirit each and every day and let’s see if our outlook on life looks a little less bleak.

 

~Deep Cleaning~ June 3, 2014

820e0f4dfdfbd41f120fbff6652c23e4I am one of those peculiar people who thoroughly enjoys cleaning.  I realize this makes me a bit of a freak, but it’s the way God made me so I’ve come to accept my weirdness as should you.

There’s just something about taking a dirty mess and using my two hands to make it shine. Don’t even get me started on the awesomeness that is carpet shampooing.  It’s like an adrenaline rush!  First the water being sucked in is filthy & cloudy but as I continue to go over the same spot, the water becomes clean & clear.  These are the things that bring me joy.

Last night, we fixed breakfast for dinner which creates a mess of epic proportions.  Three different types of grease mingled together on our black stovetop.  Not our wisest decorating decision as it shows everything, including the egg goo that morphs into super glue when it comes in contact with a hot surface.  Let the scrubbing commence!  As I began to spray & wipe, I watched as layer by layer, my mess dissolved.  I started to feel a sense of accomplishment when it dawned on me that this must be how the Lord feels.

He sees us where we are at, a hot mess, and begins to work on us.  He cleanses our rough places over and over again until the blemish is removed.  Just as the dirty water in a shampooer eventually turns clean with enough repetition, so it is when we allow God to continually clean up the junk in our lives.  Or like the sticky grease on my stove, God removes our sin and stumbling blocks one grimy layer at a time.  His is a cleansing that goes deep below the surface, altering our insides to show transformation on the outside.  All we need to do is invite Him in and allow Him to do the tough stuff.  It’s a pretty good deal when you think about it.  God does the work yet we reap the benefits while He sits on His throne in Heaven pleased by the work of His hands.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 ESV)