Peace of My Heart

An encouraging voice to drown out the noise

~Make It Stop~ November 4, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 9:04 am
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I am sick to death of bullying!! I considered adding a few colorful words to embellish on that opening line to grasp your attention, making sure my point was clear because I am absolutely disgusted!

I know some of you may read into this and question who ruffled my feathers this morning. Allow me to clarify that while there have been some instances where the bullying has hit my own home, this goes far beyond the reaches of my little corner of the world.

It seems no one is off limits from the grasp of a bully. The workplace, the classroom, the ball fields, the canned goods aisle at the grocery store…all prime locations for the bully to strike. Under no circumstances is it ever ok to assert your dominance over another’s perceived weakness! Not ever. All bullying is wrong but for me personally, the worst is when someone in authority abuses their power, especially in the case of adult/child relationships. Can we just stop it already?! I would rather EARN someone’s respect than scare them into submission.

This is about more than just one specific offense. It’s the day after day reports of kids taking their lives over bully assaults. It’s the social media posts attacking everyone who doesn’t think like you or look like you. It’s the constant negativity in general that is simply exhausting. Words, said face to face or behind ones’ back, can be damning. Hateful stares leave lasting impressions. Physical altercations can instill fear and mistrust for a lifetime.

Maybe we should all step up to the challenge to intervene when we see bullying firsthand or at the very least, ensure we aren’t part of the problem. BE the change. Speak up amongst the silence. Fight for the underdog. And for the love of all that is good and holy, when you can not say something nice, than please just be quiet.image

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~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. 

 

~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.

 

 

~Practice Active Listening~ January 27, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 9:53 am
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Growing up, reading was one of my favorite pastimes. I would get a new book, and within hours, I’d be finished and looking for the next. I always had the ability to tune everyone and everything out and become totally engrossed in the words on the page, becoming a part of the story. I loved discovering the idiosyncrasies of each character, picturing their mannerisms and imaging how they would react to any given situation.

Now with 5 kids under foot, reading has become more of a luxury. The days of tuning out the noise with ease have long since left me. However, the leniency of the last couple of months has afforded me the opportunity to get lost in a good book far more frequently and I think I’ve discovered a little something about myself.

First off, it is worth mentioning that I never just read anything. Anytime something speaks to me, I take notes and revisit it later. I don’t skim past new words, I take the time to stop and look them up (and occasionally send them to my word-nerd friend for her blog). I want to learn as much as I can, in non-fiction & fictional settings alike, because even fiction is riddled with hidden truths.

I have always felt that I am fairly good at reading people. I believe I owe this particular trait to my voracious appetite for reading. I am rarely satisfied with surface feelings, and can usually dodge the pretense that all is well. Prior to my loving Jesus days, I never realized the value of this gift. Now that I’ve served in various areas of ministry, I can see the depths of how it’s helped me to reach out to people. In the same manner that I make notations while reading, when I’m engaged in conversation, I’m tucking away little reminders, noticing facial cues and trying to soak in as much as I can about the other person. I think it’s vital that we are able to tune out any and all distractions when someone is sharing with us, even if the topic of conversation seems insignificant.

I challenge you to ask yourself, are you a good listener? Do your friends have your undivided attention or do they walk away from their time spent with you thinking that there were about a million other places you would have rather been in that moment?  Never underestimate the healing that comes from simply listening. Not everyone is looking for a solution to their problems, sometimes all they need is to be heard.

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Don’t be like the fool.

*A little something extra…be on the lookout for posts inspired my most recent readings.*

 

 

 

~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