Peace of My Heart

An encouraging voice to drown out the noise

~Seeing Grey~ July 28, 2014

6e3ef532ac671146c0756602673a4d20First the books were released and our news feeds blew up with conversation of “mommy porn.” Now that the movie is set to debut on Valentine’s, (classy move Hollywood), once again my screen is flooded with Grey.

I’m not typically one to shy away from controversial topics when it pertains to what I will and won’t write about. I’ll be honest, I have considered this off limits since the day I realized that I know a great number of women who read the books and are now anxiously awaiting the day it hits the big screen. I didn’t want to offend anyone with my opinion. But, being silent isn’t really my style & it would make me look like a hypocrite to remain close trapped on this when I have been so outspoken on other matters.

Before diving in to this post, let me preface with this, I am not condemning those of you who have chosen to consider this entertainment. It will become clear that I do not agree with you, but I don’t think less of you. Oftentimes a differing opinion is offensive & sparks heated arguments. That’s not my goal here. My only reason for breaking the silence from my side of the debate is to shed a little light as to why I think this type of material needs to be avoided.

Now, I have not read any of the books so I am aware that my opinion is based on limited information. What I have done is read book reviews, followed conversations of those who have read & most recently watched the 2 minute trailer that was aired on daytime television. I have more than enough material to state my case.

Countless women are touting this as nothing more than fantasy, a somewhat twisted romance novel, meant to bring excitement into the boring lives of stay at home moms everywhere. Surely the women making these lax comments have never been at the mercy of a man who made them feel the very real emotions that come along with this type of “relationship.”

I’m guessing those who find this type of fantasy exciting have never had a man use the weight of his body to prove his strength over you, rendering you completely helpless to fend off whatever came next. I’d say it’s safe to assume that you’ve never been in a position where your naivety and eagerness to please in order to feel loved & accepted was used as a tool of manipulation in order to fulfill someone’s selfish desires. I bet you haven’t a clue what it does to one’s self-esteem to submit to some level of degrading behavior because you’ve been made to believe that is what love is about.

Perhaps it simply hasn’t occurred to you who sing the praises of this book and others like it that you may be unknowingly condoning the horror that someone you know and care about has either walked through or worse yet is currently enduring? Kind of takes the lighthearted aspect out of, “it’s just a book.”

Friends, this is no more “just a book” than Playboy is just a magazine. It is one more way that we are becoming desensitized to what we should find offensive. There is nothing morally right about a woman’s vulnerability being exploited in order to satisfy the self-serving desires of a domineering man. It’s abusive & embarrassing to have someone claiming to love you persuade you to express that love in ways that leave you feeling ashamed and used. Why on earth would any woman, Christian or not, build up this type of behavior?

My initial thoughts were about are my girls. I would be mortified to think that my beautiful, intelligent, strong willed little ladies would grow up to believe that this sort of behavior is not only acceptable but applauded. I cringe at the possibility that one day a man would enter their lives that would play on their weaknesses and manipulate them into sacrificing their integrity in order to gain their affection.

Then there are my boys. Most days it feels like we’re fighting a losing battle as we desperately try to instill values that are rapidly being labeled as old fashioned. We encourage simple things like opening doors & surrendering your seat for ladies while their peers label women with titles I won’t dare repeat. My desire for them is to admire a woman who respects herself and has enough regard for her body & sexuality to protect it, not willingly lay down her beliefs to satisfy them.

How can we effectively teach these principles if we are a walking double standard?

That, in a nutshell, is why I personally will not read or watch anything that turns violence & degradation into a desirable quality for a mate. I prefer to keep my idea of love and intimacy in tact, where two people commit to honor the other above themselves. I refuse to allow my children to see me choose entertainment where women are objectified and dominance is regarded. I can’t get on board with the group proclaiming harmless fun for a girls night out. I won’t give the impression of indifference by keeping quiet.

I don’t expect this article to change anyone’s mind. I do hope that it makes you pause before taking such a laid back approach to what you allow yourself to be exposed to.

For those of you who are interested, these are just a few of the Scriptures I found helpful in regards to this matter & others like it.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2

“Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.” Psalms 119:37

“And so I insist-and God backs me up on this-that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can’t think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion .” Ephesians 4:19 

 

~You Gonna Scratch That Itch?~ July 22, 2014

For just about a week now, I have been trapped in some twisted version of Hell. Sleep has evaded me night after night as I lay tormented. My mind has been clouded,  rendering me completely unable to focus. All I can think about is that itch that I desperately want to scratch.

That’s right, friends, I have quite the impressive poison ivy rash. I got you, didn’t I?!

Ok, so this may not seem like a teachable moment but stick with me.

At the peak of my hellacious discomfort, when my ability to reason was rapidly slipping away, the thought of how heavenly it would feel to scratch almost made me cave. Digging my nails into the blistered skin would have brought instant gratification. Miraculously, I managed to regain my composure and resist the temptation because I realized that the “oh that feels good” feeling would have been temporary. Had I given in to this little desire, I would have opened myself up to infection and pretty much guaranteed that my recovery time would be extended. So in the end, I was able to rationalize that one moment of “oh yeah” wasn’t worth the potential consequences.

While my choice of analogy may seem silly, you can see where I’m going with this. We all have found ourselves in this type of predicament at least once in our lives. What do you do when you’re faced with an opportunity to do something that not only would feel good but that you really want to do?!

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience.”

First off, you need to realize that you are equally susceptible to temptation as Joe Schmo who has never set foot in a church. Your life as a Christian does not protect you from being tempted. Secondly, you are not the only person to face this struggle. Regardless of what your demon is, someone else is fighting that same battle right now.

“And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.”

(1st Corinthians 10:13)

There it is, a promise from God that He won’t allow you to be overwhelmed. Not only that, but He will provide you with a means of escape. All that you & I need to do is look.

The next time you find yourself facing an itch that you desperately want to scratch, take a look at the consequences. Is that moment of pleasure worth a heinous infection that will poison other areas of your life?a53ca0f130778460c5521725ae02df3b

 

~Love Yourself~ July 15, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 10:06 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

For those of you who read my blog on a regular basis, you may have noticed my posts have been a bit sporadic over the last couple of weeks. This may come as a surprise to you, but every once in a while, I get discouraged. Shocker, right?!

Ok, so I’m messing with you, of course I get discouraged, we all do! Last week was particular frustrating for me. Nothing life shattering happened, I was just irritated. So much so that during Wednesday night Bible study, I essentially tuned Pastor out and sat in the back journaling my frustrations, (sorry Pastor, it wasn’t you, it was me).

I wrote about my lack of motivation to write. Ironic? Yes. I have a desire to one day publish and yet feel completely inadequate to reach that goal. My writing is too plain & there are far too many authors better equipped than I so who would want to pay to read my material?

My voice lesson didn’t go so hot either and that had my questioning if I should be involved in music ministry. Singing just doesn’t come naturally to me, I have to work at it, so maybe that means I should quit. In all honesty, my team doesn’t need me, right?

Times like this are incredibly difficult for me to overcome. I become my own worst critic & believe me, I am relentless with the harsh things I speak to myself. But then God gave me a little aha moment in the midst of my ramblings.

Recently I have caught my oldest daughter being rather hateful to her younger sisters more often than just typical spats that siblings are bound to have. When I called her out on it, I asked “Would you treat anyone outside of this house like that?!” Of course she responded with a resounding “No.” I followed up with, “Then why are you so quick to cut down the very people you should treat the best?!”

God has this way of taking the words I speak as a parent and making me turn them around on myself. I’m not always crazy about His methods, but He knows how to get my attention!

I would never look at another woman and call her a terrible mother.

I would never lock eyes with a friend struggling in their ministry and tell them their struggles were evidence that clearly they had missed their calling & it’s time to call it quits.

I would never belittle how someone chose to express their creativity.

And yet, these are all things I have screamed at myself. I am careful to choose kind and gentle words with others but berate myself every chance I get. Perhaps I should take my own advice given to my daughter, “If you wouldn’t talk to a complete stranger with such harshness than don’t speak it over someone you love.”

Yes, we should love ourselves. Even in our shortcomings, our struggles and our epic failures, we should show ourselves the same love and grace we extend to others. If like me, you tend to be gentler with others than yourself, try putting a different spin on a well known Scripture, love yourself as you love your neighbor.affe8253f3defec8b2654eefb29c8e31

 

~Let Me Take An Unfiltered Selfie~ July 11, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 8:17 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

Do you know that there is an app that “touches up” your photos? I logged onto Facebook the other day and I had a recommendation to use said app.

Now I’m not sure what the ole’ Facebook is trying to imply, but color me offended!

The advertisement showed a beautiful young lady’s before and after the app worked it’s magic. I was not pleased with the results. The original showed each tiny freckle, her laugh lines and sections of stray hair that fell around her face. The retouched, so-called better, picture showed a spray tanned, perfectly manicured face and each strand of hair was placed just so. No more freckles, no soft lines to reveal her personality and no playful wisps of hair floating in her eyes.

Now you tell me how that kind of phony picture is more beautiful than reality?!

Yet another problem of the world we are living in. I’d like to go back in time and slap the fool who started the whole airbrushing craze. Now thanks to this app, you too can look just like the girl on the cover of a magazine. The completely unrealistic, professionally retouched, elongated here, slimmed down there version of what a woman should look like.

No. Thank. You.

I prefer to get my standard for beauty from the Bible:

“You are altogether beautiful, my darling, beautiful in every way.” (SOS 4:7)

Those creases around your eyes…evidence that you laugh often, not a flaw.

The stretch marks that reach around your hips & creep down your thighs…reminders of the miracle of life that came from your body, not a flaw.

The wild hair that gets frizzy & unmanageable when it rains…a unique feature you inherited from your grandma, not a flaw.

The abundance of freckles, too numerous to count…yeah, I love freckles, not a flaw.

Every part of you is a lovely reminder of what an awesome, creative God we serve. All so uniquely different & yet the same- beautiful, treasured, valued, irreplacable- just as we are.

Here’s one final thought for you, my paraphrase of 1 Peter 3:3-4:

Rather than worry yourself over the latest hairdo, makeup trends & fashion faux pas. Instead of looking in the mirror in disgust at the cellulite dimples, spidery veins & bags under your eyes. Just maybe, it’d be better to concern yourself with what is on the inside making its way out. Your words, your thoughts, your service to others, the love of God pouring out of a willing vessel…these are the things that make you radiant, not the newest shade of lipstick or the hair product that cements every hair in place.

(This is not an actual translation but can be filed under Valerism should you need a reference.)2f07e870b6a1e1d9fb2ff4e39cf46f86

 

~Weakened By Grace~ July 3, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 8:19 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Over the last few weeks, our praise team has been sitting down in between services and sharing bits of our testimonies with the group. It’s been incredible to hear the diversity in our backgrounds and yet God has placed us together to serve Him in one accord.

During this process, I’ve been reminded once again of the importance of sharing your story with others.

aa656b0df16cf04f58ca212c0ba41bcdFor just a moment, think of your church from the perspective of a newcomer. When they come through the door, they’re met with smiling greeters & a hospitality team 
serving up a delicious cup of coffee. From there, they enter the sanctuary where the worship team leads the congregation in songs about God’s grace & redemptive power followed by the Pastor bringing a word that is simultaneously corrective & uplifting. Service draws to a close and the altars open for prayer. They watch from their seat as people kneel to pray and the prayer team moves in to intercede on the behalf of others.  As they leave the building, their mind fills with insecurities. “I can’t fit in here, everyone has it all together & I am a mess.”

But when you share your testimony, people are allowed to see where you came from to reach where you are right now. It shows the hand of God in your life & gives a new hope for theirs. 

I will say this, sharing your testimony can be exhausting.

This last Sunday was my turn to speak to the table and after 10 minutes, I was spent. Not because I am still bound by my past, quite the contrary. When I share what God has brought me through, the realization of His restoration in my life makes me weak, every single time. I am overwhelmed at the number of times He protected me, before I knew Him or had any desire to seek Him.

“This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”- and I am the worst of them all. BUT GOD had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:15-16 NLT)

 

~Fight or Flight, What He Says~ July 1, 2014

*Guest blogger…my husband! After my post last week ,Fight or Flight, I asked him to share from his side of the struggle. Our transparency with you is for two simple reasons, that those who are struggling right now will see they are not alone & that if there was hope for us, there is certainly hope for you too! Now, meet Jamie.*

Recently, we have had to take a real hard look at our marriage.  For quite some time, we had been teetering on the edge of disaster.  I love my wife and I have since day one.  She is an awesome woman and a wonderful mother. As you all know, she is always putting others before herself.  So what could have possibly been the problem?  I think to put it very simply, we didn’t know how to talk to each other…especially me!  I can’t speak for her but, here is my perspective.

I realized she was an amazing person immediately.  She had some issues but, I had some pretty substantial ones myself.  I was just coming out of a really nasty marriage when I met Valerie.  I was an emotional wreck.  Betrayed, rejected, and alone with two small children….she swooped in and saved me.  Loneliness, heartache, and worthlessness were all washed away when she came into the picture.  She saved us.  She became an important part of our lives immediately, even while we were just dating.  It was like a fairy tale…only the princess saved the prince.

Looking back now, I can see that I thought she was the cure- all for my problems.  She was the answer I needed to fix my life and the lives of my kids.  She didn’t seem to have a problem with that.  She took over. Taking care of the kids, doing everything a good Mom does.  She was amazing and the kids looked to her as Mom almost immediately.  I was just awestruck at how great everything had turned out.  I really felt so blessed to have her in our lives.  I was so awestruck that I looked at her as superhuman.  I put her on a pedestal in my heart…one that she never asked to be on.  It is very good to have a high opinion of your wife but, I went a little too far.  I put way too much stock in how she treated me from one moment to the next.  I did not allow her to have a moment of weakness without somehow thinking I had done something wrong and she was upset with me.

Soon, the family started growing, she became more involved with their school, and my work schedule became ridiculously hectic.  Our time together began to dwindle, and what time we did have was spent with me watching her sleep.  I began to grow bitter.  I refused to see just how busy she was in life and focused only on the fact that she didn’t have time for me.  Caught in my selfishness, I allowed a distance to grow between us.  Eventually this distance made a major impact on our intimacy.  It was at this point that my mind began to play tricks on me…reminding me of how the last relationship went. Recalling that a lack of intimacy is a sure sign that either she is seeing someone else or that she wants to be seeing someone else.  I was still carrying so much baggage from the last go around, that I couldn’t bear the thought of it happening again….especially with this woman.  She was the best…if I couldn’t make it with her, then I was doomed to be forever alone.  I didn’t know what to do so, I did nothing.  I just locked everything up inside and hoped no one would notice.  Instead of this feeling going away, it grew into a hideous beast of anger, distrust, anxiety, and frustration.  I was mad.  I was mad at her for not being able to read my mind and know how to fix this.  I was mad at me for not having the courage to stand up and make a change.  I was just mad at life.

Eventually the anger began to work its way out.  It started small with sarcasm and mumbling under my breath.  Eventually it became worse.  I started watching programs and movies full of violence, language, and yes, even nudity.  Somehow watching this junk allowed a little release of the pressure building inside my broken heart.  I justified my actions by reminding myself that these are just guy movies…as long as there isn’t an “X” in the rating box, it’s not a problem. I was terribly wrong.  Not only was it reeking  havoc in my heart, it made a huge impact on hers.  Let me say this to all the fellas out there.  My wife is gorgeous.  She is one of the most beautiful creations God has made.  What I was watching had nothing to do with her.  I have always, and will always find her extremely attractive but, when your wife sees you looking at another woman inappropriately; it sends the same shock as you telling her she is fat and ugly!!!!   There were other explosions of anger that occurred throughout this time.  Most I was able to let out away from my family but, not all.  I have never put my hands on my wife in anger.  But, in her mind, these eruptions were just as bad.

So we were able to walk through these situations through the grace of God.  But, I wasn’t able to get over any of this.  Not only was I still dealing with the lack of affection and connection…now I’m dealing with the guilt of hurting the person I care the most about.  Once again…I was a wreck.  My self-worth had bottomed out and I began to think that maybe, just maybe she would be better off with someone who didn’t have so many issues.  I didn’t know what else to do.  Because of the mistakes I had made, I felt that I had destroyed any chance of fixing this thing.  I felt she would never forgive me, even though she said she had.  We had moments of fun, moments of joy, moments of tenderness….but, there just was a connection that was missing.

Finally, after 7 years we were able to sit down and open up.  It was a God moment.  She told me what she had struggled with and I opened up about some of my struggles…we began talking again.  For far too long, we did not take the time to share who we were and what we wanted. I just assumed she knew me and knew how to make me happy.  If one of us would have made an attempt at any time, I believe this would be a much different story.  The truth is, neither one of us wanted to be that vulnerable.  As she stated in her last post, we BOTH lived in the state of reaction.

So what does all this mean? Here is my advice to all those reading.  We all want to be loved.  The kicker is that the expression of love takes on different forms for different people.  It is important to learn who your spouse is and express your love to them in ways they can see and understand as being love.  Be understanding of each other.  Even now, looking back at all these situations we have been through, I do not see every one of them in the same light that she does.  So who is right?  If I want to help her heal, then I need to look at it from her eyes.  If she wants to help me heal, she needs to understand my perspective.  Marriage is about loving in spite of and loving through.  We may never see things exactly the same.  “No big deal” to her, may be monumental to me or vice versa.  TALK to each other.  Don’t assume to know what your better half is thinking and, likewise, do not assume that they know what you are thinking. Life is difficult. Marriage is hard. Do not make it harder by walking separately.

My final thought is this.  The entire time that we have been married, we have been surrounded by some amazing and wonderful people who would have been happy to help us at any time.  I was too embarrassed to ask!!!  God has put people in each of our lives for this very reason.  We are supposed to call on our brothers and sisters in our times of need.  And believe me, we were in need.  Your relationship is far more precious than your pride.  This is the type of situation where you have to choose one or the other because you will not be able to keep both your pride and your spouse.

There is so much more to share but, I have given all I can for now.  I am so thankful for my wife.  And the relationship we have struggled to build.  Is it perfect? Nope. Do we have it all figured out? Not hardly.  But, we are here together.  My reason for sharing this story is for this one purpose:  I hope that it will speak to someone who is at their wits end in their marriage, and maybe give a little strength to hold on.  I think that in my marriage, somehow, at some point, a wall had been constructed between us.  I don’t know who built it, when it was built, or why…but, it was there.  My prayer is that if you find yourself sitting beside a pile of bricks with a mortar trowel in your hand, stop! Ask yourself, “ am I really ready to block this path?”  Once that wall is built, it is extremely difficult to tear down.  Not every relationship can be saved ,but, maybe, if you try again, yours can.  Right now, we are tearing down some walls…brick by brick, by brick.Good Marriage