Peace of My Heart

An encouraging voice to drown out the noise

~Momma’s Gonna Need a Minute~ October 24, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 10:49 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Do you ever have one of those days where you just want to be left the heck alone?! Like no talky, no touchy, no looky, ‘get the heck out of my personal space’ kind of days?! That’s how I feel today!”

This would be the text message I sent my husband yesterday.  I wasn’t mad at anyone. No one had really done anything to upset me or make me feel ill, but I’m pretty sure it was within the spectrum of possibilities for me to physically assault someone. Grumpy doesn’t even begin to describe how I was feeling. throat punchI’m a little embarrassed to admit that I have days where I feel downright hateful to the point that I’m concerned for the safety of those who get too close. Days like that I think I need to be forced to wear a warning sign around my neck, “Danger!!  Contents may explode upon contact!!”

Anyone else ever suffer through days like that?

Take heart, I may have pinpointed the cause. Every day, all day, I have someone “all up on me,” as I like to put it. The littles tug at my clothes, using me as a human paper towel and the occasional snot rag. My boys find humor in poking and throwing stuff or hiding around corners to scare the beegeezus out of me. My man just needs a little affection at the end of the day but sometimes, THIS is not huggable!

Physical touch is a beautiful thing but if you never have a moment to yourself, you may start to feel a bit like a foreigner in your own land, so to speak. This tends to happen most often when our calendars are so full that there is no way to pencil in some “me, minus all of you” time. I’m here to help you out, friends. The next time someone asks you to do something you have zero desire to do, don’t ignore that tightening in your chest that accompanies the realization that you’re never going to have a moments rest. Smile & say “No, but thanks for thinking of me.”

Now, take a seat in your favorite chair and forget about the to-do list that is invisible to the rest of your fam. Enjoy the entire cup of coffee before it has the chance to get cold because whatever the world needs from you, can wait a dang minute.

If you feel guilty, let’s all just take a minute to remember that even Jesus had to get away from the crowds and sit in silence in order to be refreshed to fulfill his life’s purpose.

 

~No Service…Sad Day~ December 8, 2013

4.1.1I normally do not post on the weekends, especially Sunday, but I am making an exception today.  Our church services have been cancelled due to inclement weather and I am sad.  Not only because I was already up and showered so now fully awake but because I truly believe the words of Hebrews 10, verses 24 & 25:

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.  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.”

Obviously today it would have been hazardous for us to do so and the decision was made to close the building so meeting together isn’t an option.  Oftentimes though, individuals make the decision to skip out on this vital part of their Christian walk for reasons of their own.

There are four main components to our time together every Sunday that I feel validate the importance of doing so.  I realize that all of these things can be done outside of church or even alone.  But there is something special about coming to the Lord’s house every week that cannot be duplicated anywhere else.

1.  Fellowship:  Face to face interaction with other believers can work wonders for one’s soul.  You can see the compassion in someone’s eyes, feel the warmth from their embrace and find strength through their companionship.  You can’t experience these things during a phone call or email. So in a time where people find it easier to text, even while standing in the same room, this time together is irreplaceable.

2.  Worship:  My favorite.  There are no words for the closeness I feel to the Father when singing praises to his name.  As a member of our praise team, my heart wants to explode when I can look out on our congregation and see my brothers & sisters lifting their voices to God with joy and thanksgiving.  More than that, are the times when you see someone come in looking downcast, their faces hardened by the burdens they carry.  Then the Lord grips their hurts through the words of a song and you can see that barrier fall away as their countenance changes…beautiful.  So let us sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world.

3.  Bible Study:  For our church, we are incredibly blessed with a pastor who takes the Word and teaches us how to live it out today.  He doesn’t simply rattle off verse after verse from the KJV of the Bible and say amen, he gives us examples of life application that are down to earth and relatable for all.  Teaching of the Scripture is a crucial part of service for we know that all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of Godmay be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

4.  Prayer:  While this can and should be done at other places and times, the Bible clearly states that where two or three gathered in the name of the Lord, He is there among them.  We have been given a gift in prayer, that we may submit our needs to God with the promise that he hears each and every one.  When gathered together in the altar, with hands laid on those seeking prayer, we are expressing love and solidarity to the one hurting the most.  And in doing so, fulfilling the law of Christ by bearing one another’s burdens.

These are the reasons why I am missing my church family today.  They strengthen me, encourage me and fill me heart with joy.  I consider myself truly blessed to be a part of a community that honors the Lord and offers a place of refuge for his people.

I pray that each one of you are blessed to have the same on this Lord’s day.  Don’t try to convince yourself that you don’t need to attend church…we are made to be together so that one man’s strength can complement another man’s weakness.  Take advantage of the community that God has designed for us while here on this earth.  You will be amazed at the benefits you will reap from a solid church family.

 

~Strength in my Weakness~ December 3, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 7:21 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

(2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NLT)

I don’t like to struggle.

I don’t like to be uncomfortable.

And I definitely don’t like being insulted.

However, these verses have helped me to realize that if my life was always hunky-dory, then I would really never have reason to rely on God.

Our Pastor has often said, “The Bible doesn’t say we should rejoice because of our circumstances but that we can rejoice in them.”  I have to remind myself of this when life isn’t going according to my plan.  I don’t have to give thanks for troubles, but I do need to learn from them.  Every challenge we face is an opportunity for growth.  When I choose to wallow in self-pity, I’m wasting the chance to strengthen my faith, increase my endurance and deepen my reliance on God.

Speaking from lots of experience on this issue, I know how incredibly difficult it can be to find joy when a loved one is sick, the debt collectors have you on speed dial or your marriage is on a slippery slope.  How can anyone expect you to be joyful when your life is a wreck, right?

You can rejoice right where you are, no matter how bad it seems, because God has promised to never leave you nor forsake you.

You can celebrate because He has said the battle is not yours but his and that you have already been given the victory.

You can hold your head high with a smile on your face because His word assures us that he who began this good work in us will not relent until it is finished.

So as hard as it may be, shift your focus from your struggles and thank God for the character he is building in you.  Think of it as if you were an athlete in training…by the time God is done working on you and me, our strength and endurance will rival that of the elite.

humility

 

~Thanksgiving~ November 28, 2013

Gratitude

This past month, several friends have been taking part in the month of gratitude by posting each day what they are most thankful for on social media.  I have participated and listed things ranging from the people that I am most grateful for all the way to something as simple as a hot cup of coffee.

Today, I want to give thanks for what I often take for granted, my Lord.

He is Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord who provides.  When I look back over my life, there are many times when I should have hit bottom.  There have been countless times where finances weren’t just low, they were nonexistent, and God would send us a blessing by way of a brother or sister in Christ, a break from one of our debtors or an unexpected job opportunity.  As I sit here today, we may not have all we want, but God has provided us with all we need and for that I give him thanks.

He is Jehovah-Rapha, the Lord who heals.  Immediately my thoughts take me back to this time last year when Peyton was in excruciating, unexplainable pain.  I have never cried out to God like I did during those weeks, and He came through.  Just last night, both my little girls were restless because of irritating coughs that kept them from laying down peacefully.  I started to jump up and grab the cough medicine and changed my mind.  Instead I prayed and asked God to touch my girls, to take away the cough and bring them comfort that only the Great Physician can bring…and off to sleep they went without another sound.  His healing may not come in the ways we would like or in the timing we would prefer, but it is available to those who call on his name.

He is Abba, Father.  As a parent, I know the lengths that I would go to for my children.  As a Christian, I know that it still pales in comparison to what God has done and will do for me.   He is not some distant, uncaring God.  He is near to us and loves us with an unfailing love that is difficult to comprehend.  In a world where love is often hinged on meeting expectations of another, God’s love is unconditional.  When I am at my most unlovable, He still opens his arms wide and invites me to run into them.

So today, I give thanks to the one who is at times overlooked for all his goodness.  I will praise the name of the Lord, for He alone is worthy of my praise.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise.
    Give thanks to him and praise his name.

(Psalm 100:4 NLT)

 

~3 Words~ November 21, 2013

I was recently presented with the challenge of asking myself what 3 words I want people to think of in regards to my life after I have gone on to my heavenly reward.  How will I be remembered?

I decided to look at this from a different perspective and ask myself how I want people to think of me right now, before I am gone.  How do I want people to characterize me in my absence?

This proved to be somewhat difficult as I would much rather place my focus on others than look inside and do my own soul searching.  Being gut-level honest with ourselves about the person we desire to be oftentimes opens our eyes to where we may be missing the mark.  In doing this exercise in the present tense, as opposed to thinking futuristically, I am hopeful that it will allow me start making adjustments now and continue doing so until I have become all that Christ designed me to be.

Having said all that, I did manage to come up with my 3 words.

1.  Genuine

2.  Compassionate

3.  Faithful

Being genuine is not something that comes easily.  It’s not that I choose to be deliberately dishonest, that isn’t what I am referring to.  I’m talking about complete transparency about my own struggles and having a vested interest in helping others with theirs.  This requires me to leave my “mask” in the drawer and be open about things that I would prefer to keep safely tucked away behind the “I’m ok, you’re ok” mentality.  It means that I will admit fault, seek forgiveness and actually pray for others when I say that I will do so.  Simply put, I want to be known as someone who is real &  approachable not fake & standoffish.

Where compassion is concerned, I believe this is something that I have been gifted with.  I am incredibly tender-hearted and sensitive to the plight of those around me.  In a room full of people, I am naturally drawn to the one hurting the most.  I never let someone cry alone and it brings me much joy to celebrate victories as well.  My hope is to never let this attribute become insincere or robotic in nature.  I feel deeply and want to be known as someone who uses their sensitivity to love, nurture & heal.

Faithfulness is just one of the character traits that represents the Holy Spirit dwelling in me.  Building a reputation as being dedicated and loyal is vital to serving in ministry.  Not only do I desire to express this type of devotion to others, but I want them to see my unwavering hope in the Lord.  I want my life to reflect my foundation in God’s word, regardless of the difficult circumstances I am faced with.  In living my life in this manner, I hope to be known as a devoted servant to God and his people.

So there you have it, the 3 simple words that I long to be known by.  Can I ask you all to do the same today?  Will you set aside some time to reflect on your own life and who it is you feel the Lord wants you to be?  If you do this little exercise, I would love for you to come back and share it here with me.  Even if you don’t want to elaborate, I invite you to post your 3 words to uplift and encourage one another.

who i am

 

~Worth the Cost?~ November 12, 2013

This past weekend, my husband and I celebrated our 7 year anniversary…yay us!!  We were able to mark the occasion with a weekend away, just the two of us, which is something that has happened only a handful of times in our marriage.  Leading up to the trip, we went back and forth for weeks about whether or not we should actually go.  After all, we really couldn’t afford it and with Christmas so close it felt irresponsible to spend what we had saved on just us.

When it came down to the day to leave, we still had made no reservations and no real decisions on where to go but decided it was necessary and off we went.  You see, we have been so incredibly busy these last few months that we have barely crossed paths.  All of my time has been dedicated to the kids activities.  All of his time has been spent working to provide everything that the kids and I have needed to be so involved.  So the decision we made was to get away, reconnect and simply spend uninterrupted time with one another.

And you know what happened?

We did exactly that and realized just how much we had missed each other!  Yes, it cost us money to take this trip but what we gained was worth the cost.  We came back refreshed and thankful for our 7 years together with hopes of many more to come.

Just as our decision to spend this time away cost us something, nearly every decision you make in your life costs you something as well.  Let’s just say we had went the other way and chose to stay here and keep going at the breakneck pace we had been at for the last few months, allowing the space between us to widen further, that could have led to marital problems therefor costing us far more than what we shelled out for this weekend trip.

Sometimes the choices we make cost us way more than our finances.

If we choose to be dishonest in a situation, it costs us our credibility.

If we choose to act recklessly and live a “carefree” life, it costs us our integrity.

If we choose to place anything- person, place, things or activities-before God, it costs us our spiritual connection with Him.

I had to make a choice last Friday that I was going to focus solely on my man rather than all of the other stuff that keeps me so busy.  Maybe you are in a similar situation where you are faced with a decision and you are weighing the cost.  It may be something as harmless as making time for a loved or maybe it’s on the other end of the scale and you’re contemplating a very poor decision.  Know that whichever way you choose, there will be consequences…good or bad.

What if instead of dishonesty we chose the truth?  It may cost you your job, but you will gain righteousness.

“Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed.”  Proverbs 12:19

How about choosing to live according to the Word as opposed to the world?  You may lose some friends, but you will gain a family that supports you and lifts you up rather than pull you down.

“Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us.  And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.”  Romans 15:4

“Don’t copy the behaviors and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  Romans 12:2

What if we made a conscious decision to make God 1st in our lives?  It will cost us the control that we desire, but we will gain a freedom that allows us to live in peace knowing that our lives in the hands of our maker who is far more capable than us.

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’   These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”  Matthew 6:31-33

Sunset-equally breathtaking

Sunset-equally breathtaking

Another 'win' with the decision made-a spectacular view. God's marvelous creation

Another ‘win’ with the decision made-a spectacular view. God’s marvelous creation

 

~Quick Fix is not a Reality~ November 7, 2013

instant resultsI have seen an abundance of articles on super foods that reduce body fat, miracle creams that banish cellulite & one trick wonders that suddenly take your spare tire and transform it into rippling, washboard abs.  Are we really that gullible?

If we would be honest with ourselves about the amount of time it took for our bodies to get into the physical condition that it is currently in, then we would know with absolute certainty that it’s going to take time to undo the damage, so to speak.

And yet so many seem to have a similar philosophy when it comes to their Christian walk.  We spend years forming bad habits, nursing unhealthy relationships, accumulating debt and so on but expect it all to right itself when we get saved.  It’s like we’re waiting for God to snatch us up out of our old life and place us in a new one where all our baggage is checked at the door.

Just as no super food is going to miraculously cause 20 pounds to fall away without exercise, no cream is going to smooth your dimply thighs overnight & I have yet to find that ab machine that produces fitness magazine cover results without making serious diet changes.  The same is true for all the “yuck” from your old life when you make a commitment to live for Christ.  You have to put in the work!

I know this is short and simple today, but I have encountered quite a few disheartened saints lately that I feel need a reminder that life with Jesus doesn’t equal instantaneous change.  It’s a process that will have peaks and valleys.  If you find yourself in one of those valleys where the walls on either side of you seem so ridiculously steep & slick that you can’t possibly get a foothold to climb your way out, take heart in knowing that God is right there beside you, cheering you on.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

(Romans 12:12 NIV)

 

~My Lost Sheep~ October 14, 2013

Not too long ago I thought my baby girl was gone.

I had fallen asleep on the couch and when I woke, my husband had already gone to bed.  So I turned off the tv and headed downstairs.  I looked in on the little girls and realized very quickly that Bella was not in her bed.  It startled me, but I figured she had climbed into bed with her sister which she does rather often.  As I got closer, I could see that Emma was sleeping soundly…alone.  Now my heart was racing.  I checked under both beds, nothing.  I ran into our room and felt around my husband, hoping to find her curled up with her daddy.  Nada.

At this point, panic set in.  I shook my husband awake and informed him our baby was gone.  How bout that to wake you from a dead sleep?

I bolted back up the stairs, retracing my steps, checking every door and window along the way finding each one securely locked.  I flipped on every light in the house and made sure that the other children were all safe in their beds.  It brought me no comfort to find 4 sleeping peacefully because one was still nowhere to be found.

I could hear my husband downstairs checking every possible hiding place, including the dryer.  I rushed back through the dining room ready to call 911 when I caught a glimpse of a white blankie.  I hit my knees and looked under the table.  There was my little Bella, laying on her belly, booty in the air, out like a light.

As I scooped her up all I could do was thank God that she was ok.

After we got her settled back in her own bed, I was obviously wide awake.  Who could sleep after an episode like that?!  It occurred to me in the wee hours of the morning that during the frantic search, it mattered very little to me that my other kids were all ok.  All of my energy was focused on the one that was not.  That’s when a very familiar story came to mind.

“Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

lost sheep

(Luke 15:3-7 NIV)

Just as I rejoiced more over finding my “lost sheep”, the heaven’s erupt with praise when a sinner finds their way to Jesus.  It’s not that I wasn’t thankful that my other kids were exactly where they were supposed to be, nor do the righteous escape the attention of our Lord.  But something unexplainable happens when the lost are found.  Feelings of relief, gratitude and exuberance flooded my heart that night.  And so it is every single time a child is found by the Father through the act of repentance.

 

~Silent Judgment~ October 10, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 8:31 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This week has been a particularly taxing week.  Aside from the entire family being bone tired from all of our running, my husband and I had to take part in a rather uncomfortable meeting.  This isn’t the time or the place to elaborate but I will share one thing. This meeting involved several people and was called to deal with a difficult situation regarding one individual specifically.  After some discussion, this individual was given some news that she wasn’t exactly fond of.  She went from crying in hopes of receiving sympathy to feigning ignorance.  Next came the defensiveness which was followed by pointing the blame elsewhere.  All the while, my husband and I sat silently.  Out of nowhere she says, “I don’t know why ya’ll are sitting here judging me like you think you better than me!”

We hadn’t said one word.  There was nothing that could have been perceived as judgmental by us simply sitting across a table from her.

But she felt convicted.  It wasn’t necessary for us to speak.  She knew the lifestyle that we live didn’t agree with the one that she has chosen and that knowledge alone made her feel judged in our presence.

“Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume.”

(2 Corinthians 2:15-16 NLT)

In researching the topic of conviction, I came across the website Acts 17:11 Bible Study.  I felt like their words adequately described what I wanted to communicate:

It should not surprise us that as we follow Christ, people who want to remain in sin will start to get uncomfortable around us; that we will be accused of being “judgmental” before we have said a word, and that in general we are disliked and avoided for the sake of His name.  Others will be attracted to us for this same reason.  This is sure proof of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  If this does not happen, can anyone rightly claim to have a measure of the Holy Spirit?  Holiness, by its very nature, illuminates sin in sharp relief.

In light of this knowledge, should we feel guilty when unbelievers make unwarranted accusations of judgment in our company?  No.  Simply put, no.  It is the work of the Holy Spirit and who are we to intervene with His process?

If we never felt convicted of our sin we would never have that overwhelming sensation that something was missing in our lives.  Without conviction, we would have no reason to repent and seek forgiveness from our heavenly Father who is anxiously waiting to give it to us!

Conviction leads to repentance.  Repentance draws us closer to God.

I’m happy to take the insults that will likely be thrown my way again if it leads just one more person to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

forgiveness

 

~Perfection~ October 3, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 7:43 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

PerfectionistThis morning as I attempted to sneak past the girls room, I saw my sweet Bella kicking up a storm in her bed.  I ducked back around the corner and just watched her.  She sat up and fidgeted with her blankie, then she’d lay on her side and try to fix it.  Finally, she hopped up and started smoothing out her blankie as she walked around all 4 sides of her bed.

It was obvious that she was frustrated because she couldn’t get everything situated just right.  When she first sat up to adjust, she was still somewhat peaceful.  As she became more and more aware that it wasn’t perfect, she quickly became agitated and could no longer find rest.  One little wrinkle completely ruined her morning.

Sound familiar?

Maybe not to some of you, but to my fellow recovering perfectionists, this may hit close to home.

There are many areas in your life where you may be aiming for perfection.

The perfect spouse.

The perfect parent.

The perfect employee.

The perfect Christian.

If your goal is perfection, you are going to fail every single time.  When you fall short of the impossible standard you have set for yourself, not only will it destroy your day but it brings everyone else around you down too.  Because chances are, if you are a perfectionist, you’re pushing off your unattainable expectations onto those you love as well.

We were not meant to have it all together.  In 2nd Corinthians, Paul talks about the revelations he received from the Lord and his hesitation to share it because he didn’t want anyone to give him credit beyond what they could see in his life or hear in his message.

When you give off the air of perfection, people will credit you for the greatness in your life, not Jesus.  Admit your shortcomings, embrace them even, so that those around you can see the hand of God in your life that sustains you.  The Lord says “My grace is all you need.  My power works best in weakness.”

Therefor, let us have the same attitude as Paul:

“Now I am glad to boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ can work through me.  That’s why I take pleasure in my weakness, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

(2nd Corinthians 12:9-10 NLT)