Peace of My Heart

An encouraging voice to drown out the noise

~Empathy instead of pride~ August 17, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 12:01 pm
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About a month ago, something happened that made me withdraw from posting for a bit. I was so furious that I knew if I tried to write about it, all that would come across was my complete outrage. I try to encourage with the things that I post and when the wound was fresh, I didn’t have it in me to be Miss Susie Sunshine. So I guess I should begin with “the incident.”

My girls went out for ice cream with Nana & Papa Losh. Hubs and I were out with the boys so we were unaware of what had happened until it was all said and done. All was going well with the excursion until my youngest went to throw away her trash. As they went to leave, an older gentleman stopped my mother.

“Hey, that little girl right there…”

“Yes?”

“She flipped-off my wife!”

At this point, my little Bella dissolved into tears and buried her face into my mother’s legs.

“She’s only 5! She doesn’t even know what that means!!”

“Oh, she knew what she was doing”

“Are you serious, you are making a child cry!”

So this dude was relentless. A grown man made a child cry and he was quite indignant about it. He was proud of himself even. Somehow, my mom managed to keep her composure and get the girls out before she decked the guy in their presence. Papa Losh fired off a “shut your mouth” as the bully continued his rant as they were attempting to leave. Other patrons of the restaurant sat stunned at this guy’s over the top reaction to an obvious misunderstanding. What this man didn’t know was that my girl points with her middle finger. As a matter of fact, all of my kids did when they were younger.

I’m sure every parent out there can imagine my reaction to this story as it unfolded. Every part of me wanted to race to the ice cream shop in hopes that the man was still there so I could tell him what a stand up guy he was. Quite honestly, the only reason hubs & I didn’t bolt was because too much time had passed. So instead, we all fumed about what kind of human being could be smug about making a little girl cry. We all loved on Bella and explained to her that sometimes, people are just mean.

After this, every interaction I saw online seemed to be people attacking each other. Fights were  breaking out over politics and social movements, insults were thrown around as if they were no big deal, and people’s feelings were being hurt, intentionally. Over and over again and I couldn’t deal. I couldn’t encourage because I was so completely discouraged myself.

I know without a doubt that I have hurt people. I’ve made people cry, most often the ones I love the most. In spite of this truth, I can say with complete certainty that I have never once felt good about being responsible for someone’s pain. I could not wrap my mind around the level of meanness I was seeing, first with the ice cream debacle and then online. All I could picture when watching these fights fester was my little girl’s face all scrunched up and tear streaked and the face of a stranger, grinning smugly at his accomplishment. So I withdrew. I limited my contact with the outside world and skimmed over every post that appeared inflammatory. No part of me could comprehend what would inspire satisfaction, knowing that you were the cause of another’s pain.

During this time, what I’ve come to realize is, we can’t possibly understand why people hurt each other. We are meant to be empathetic, compassionate and do our best at making the world we live in a better place. My mom could have blessed that man out. I could have weighed in on the online attacks, berating the parties for their behavior. But what good would have come from that? In either circumstance, all we would have done was add to the hurt and anger and chaos.

My blood still boils when I think of my baby hurting at the expense of another’s poor choices. I still can’t say what I would have done had it been me that he addressed. My heart still aches when I see friends become enemies over opposing views. All I can say at this point is that I think it’s sad to look around and see people feeling prideful about their ability to inflict pain. It does happen, often, but even in our anger, even when it’s justified, if we dissolve someone to tears, can we at least try to be empathetic? Just try,that’s all any of us can ever do. angelou

 

 

~Admitting Ignorance and Seeking Forgiveness~ July 11, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 9:58 am
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“She and Molly are about as opposite as it is possible to be, which would be fine if Dina didn’t take Molly’s choices as a personal affront.”

It’s been a couple months now since I finished reading Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline that my friend, Julia, sent to me. I remember reading the above excerpt and feeling an immediate check in my spirit. With the recent events in the news, I was reminded once again of this line. 
Being polar opposites would not be an issue if we weren’t so quick to take offense to one another’s choices. When I peruse social media, that’s exactly what I see. People on opposing sides berating each other in attempts to defend “their side.” I’m all for a good debate, the problem is when it gets personal and turns into a name-calling show down. Just because someone doesn’t agree with you doesn’t make them an idiot. You see this in response to all manner of topics: politics, religious beliefs, parenting styles, lifestyle choices…I could go on but I’m sure you get the picture. 
We live in a diverse nation. We have an opportunity to learn & grow from our differences or we can segregate ourselves, choosing to shut out anyone who doesn’t fit the same mold. 
I will be the first to admit that I’ve lived a relatively sheltered life. I grew up in a small, Southern town. I am NOT knocking that, I loved my small town life! However, the minority population was small and not particularly diverse as was the LGBTQ community. So it’s fair to say I’m pretty uneducated when it comes to the issues they face because I’ve not experienced it firsthand. I’m going to admit something that’s really hard to say, my lack of knowledge has at times come across as fear. Allow me to elaborate. When you grow up being the majority and having no real exposure to different cultures, all you “know” is what you watch or read. Unfortunately, there haven’t been many positive stories about Muslims, African-Americans or the LGBTQ community. I want to change that perception by doing my part to see people for who they are, not their skin tone, religious coverings, whose hand they choose to hold or any other “book covers” that would cause me to make unfair categorizations. 
I hope that my willingness to admit my own ignorance will open others to the same. I know I can never truly understand the level of discrimination others face. I can do better at being a friend to all and not making assumptions based on preconceived notions that have no real basis other than my irrational fears derived from biased news coverage.  

 For those who have been on the receiving end of my ignorance, I ask for your forgiveness & the opportunity to show I can be a better version of myself. Let’s all look for ways to love one another today BECAUSE of our differences. 

 

~When Saying Nothing isn’t an Option~ July 8, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 12:13 pm
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 It’s been quite some time since I sat down to write. I thought it was because I had nothing to say but with a little more reflection, I think it’s because I’ve been struggling with having something encouraging to say and I don’t like to add to the constant negativity that surrounds us. Then I wake up this morning and see yet another string of horrific events.

Honestly, I have yet to recover from the mass shooting in Florida and much has happened since then. I rarely watch the news. That’s probably irresponsible of me but it truly depresses me to the point that it affects my ability to function. I feel helpless and frustrated and terrified to walk out the door with my children. I did tune in once this week to see that over 60 shootings occurred in Chicago over the holiday weekend. Granted there were only 4 fatalities but among the injured were a 5 & 8 year old shot while playing with sparklers! This morning social media informs me of not one, but two officer involved shootings followed up by a sniper attack?! I have a limited knowledge of all of the above because I can’t watch the video footage circulating and of course if we aren’t present, all we know is what the media presents. But it appears to me that every single instance was driven by hate. When did it become the norm to turn to rage & murder simply because you don’t “agree” with someone? Instead of people mourning the sensless loss of human life, arguments flare up over gun control, immigration and politics. I have never claimed to be the most educated but one thing I do know for certain is hate solves nothing.

I’ve been silent since the Orlando shooting because I have no desire to engage in these sorts of arguments. The moment I read an article about a momma texting her son who was later killed in that nightclub, my whole world changed. At any moment, that could be any one of us, staring down the barrel of a gun, begging for mercy where there is none. Possibly even more sobering, it could be any one of us on the other end of the line, where someone we love is the one in peril. People, can you even imagine? One minute you’re enjoying a night out, singing in your place of worship or just going about your daily business and the next, your world is flipped on it’s side.

So I won’t be engaging in a battle over whose lives matter, because to me, they all do. Vengeance is not mine to seek, instead I choose to pray for peace & justice for all victims.   

 

~A Selfless Daddy~ June 19, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 10:03 am
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I wasn’t going to do this but I’m so humbled by my husband that I had to share. It’s Father’s Day and I’m sure, like many of you, we had plans to celebrate. We were already crunched for time because it’s hubby’s weekend to work evenings but things went downhill fast.

It started with an unexpected trip to urgent care Friday night. I was right in the middle of cooking dinner when we discovered the blisters. So Jamie kicked off his weekend by holding a squirly 8 year old whose reaction to a throat swab is equivalent to that of someone being water boarded. Yesterday we made the unfortunate discovery that our washing machine was no longer with us. Family of seven, one who is sick, you can imagine the mountain of linens piling up. After making the trip to the pharmacy, dear hubby spent the little time he had before work shopping for a new machine because he didn’t want me frequenting the laundromat. Now it’s Sunday, the day we’d planned to go to early service for a message just for dads followed by lunch with all of our kids & our precious grandson. Instead, father-of-the-year is driving across town to borrow a pickup so he can install my new washer since the earliest Lowe’s could deliver was Thursday. 

Sacrificial love. On a day that should have been all about him, my man is tending to the needs of his family first, just as he does every other day of the year. 

I hope you all are as blessed as we are to have such a wonderful daddy in your lives. To my baby daddy: Happy Father’s Day, honey. We would be so lost without you!  

 

 

~A Love Like No Other~ May 24, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 8:02 pm
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“Do you love me?”

“Yes, you know I do.”

“Well, how come?”

If you have been in a relationship for any length of time in your life, you’ve likely had some variation of this conversation. I personally like to harass my husband at random by feigning ignorance and insisting on a complete rundown. The ‘how come’ is usually followed up with a list of reasons. “The list” is probably comprised of things you do or say to make your significant other feel special along with different qualities and traits they find endearing.

But God loves you just because you exist. There is nothing you can do or say to add to or take away from His affections.

His love is everlasting, free from conditions and expectations.

People can & do stop loving you, either because of something you did or because they had a change of heart. You can’t force God’s hand on this one. You can push Him away & deny His pursuits but His invitation remains open-ended.

When God says “I love you” there’s no list of why attached or bullet points to be met. He simply does. All you and I have to do is accept it.

 

~Practice What You Preach~ May 23, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 8:07 pm
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Being an adult often puts us in awkward positions where we have to choose between how we want to act and how we should.

Recently I was upset over something I read. In the spirit of complete transparency, I was also angry. My gut reaction was to fire off an emotional response which is exactly what I was doing when I looked over to see my 14 year old daughter. And I thought of all the times she has come to me furious or crushed over something a friend said or did to her. All the advice I had given about handling  yourself gracefully and with as much dignity as possible came to mind.

  • Don’t engage in exchanging insults.
  • If you can’t seek reconciliation, don’t seek vengeance in it’s place.
  • Say how you feel without making accusations.
  • Think about what you want to say, choose your words carefully and remember once they’re out there, you can never get them back.

So I stopped my rant, deleted every word, and shut it down.

Anger is not a sin, but you can sin in your anger.

I have failed at this very thing numerous times, when I reacted without hesitation. I still carry regrets from those moments. I’m glad my girl was sitting close by, keeping me from making yet another mistake. Thankfully, her presence was enough to remind me that I’m supposed to be setting an example here. If I had responded with a hot temper, after all the things I’ve tried to instill in her about dealing with these situations, I would be the worst kind of hypocrite. Practicing what you preach, it’s heavy, but necessary if you wish to be taken seriously. I would never encourage anyone else to be hateful, regardless of whether they felt it was warranted or not, so I had to take my own advice.

You are not responsible for how others perceive you or how they react to what you say. You are, however, accountable for every word you speak.

 

 

~Lessons From The Checkout~ May 18, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 2:58 pm
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I woke up yesterday morning feeling weepy. I had been working on a personal piece before bed the night before that had me bawling so I guess you could say I was emotionally hungover.

I chatted with my brother, my hubs & my bestie. Fortified by their words, it seemed plausible that I could venture outside the house.

Bad. Idea.

I went to the big box store, the one that makes me question humanity. I had a sentimental purchase to make, but again, I thought I was good so no biggie. I managed to only sniffle a bit while shopping. And then I entered the checkout line.

When I say the cashier was salty, I’m being generous. Normally I can deal with a total stranger being indifferent, but considering the previous 24 hours, I was praying she’d hurry the heck up before I burst into tears standing right in front of her. I made it, barely. I went snottin’ & snivelin’ through the parking lot and wouldn’t you know it was a rainy day so I didn’t even have my sunglasses to hide behind. To make matters worse, I had my two little girls with me. Ugh.

Who out there besides me cries even harder when someone asks, “what’s wrong?” Add in the fact that it was my babes looking up at me with their big doe eyes and let’s just say the dam exploded.

Once I got my wits about myself, a few things occurred to me.

  • I cry a ridiculous amount, to the point of dehydration.
  • I should never set foot out the door without tissues.
  • Rainy days & Mondays always bring me down.

Ok, seriously. What was really nagging at me was my interaction with the cashier. She was oblivious to the hot mess before her. Just as I had no way of knowing what she’d been through to make her react to me the way she did. Y’all know how I like to tell you to be nice always? This is why.

I really needed someone to be sappy, sugary, overbearingly sweet to me. But maybe she did too, and neither one of us could deliver. Both of us were looking to the wrong source for comfort.

“He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Had I taken the time to be comforted before I left the house, I might have been able to try a little harder to make that cashier smile. But I didn’t and an opportunity was wasted. IMG_4096

We are all going to have bad days, when the last thing we should do is head out into the world without our “Does not play well with others” sign. It’s imperative that we take time to nurture ourselves if we intend to be of any use to anyone else. When your heart hurts, pray for peace, seek out the people who love you most and let their words & God’s comfort wash over you. And be healed. It’s really hard to shine your light through a cloud of hurt, bitterness, anger or the like.