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

 

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~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.

 

 

~Don’t Be The Scary “Evangelist”~ May 12, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 11:05 am
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IMG_4028Yesterday I had to run to the grocery store for what felt like the bajillionth time this week. As I was dragging my youngest girls through the parking lot, we came up on a couple of older,(respectfully), ladies in what appeared to be an intense conversation. As we got closer, I realized it was one sided and the non-verbal party seemed totally detached, like she couldn’t wait to make her great escape. Just as we started to pass by, Chatty Cathy leans in, so close the other woman could probably smell what she had for breakfast, and hissed “Jesus is coming…” followed by Lord only knows what because I picked up the pace. The poor woman bobbled her head and cut her eyes with a silent plea of “get me out of here”. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t contemplating her salvation or where she was going to spend eternity.

On another occasion, also quite recently, we were driving down the road and passed a dude with a megaphone in one hand and a Bible in the other, shoutin’ and shakin’ that Bible like he was about to beat someone with it. He didn’t look like a man who loved the Lord, he looked angry, mean and crazy!

In both instances, I had to shake my head a little as we rushed by. What on earth about cornering someone in a parking lot and literally hissing in their face or screaming like a lunatic at a busy intersection makes someone think they’re winning souls for Jesus?! I was mortified. It is possible to share the love of Christ without trying to scare the ever-loving bejeezus out of people!

I love the way The Message translation words the following verses from 1 Corinthians, (paying special attention to the words in bold):

“Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!” (9:19-23)

In my opinion, becoming a servant as it implies here simply means to put someone’s needs above our own. I’m not of the opinion that we can never put ourselves first, doing so would seriously deplete us and prohibit us from doing any good. I do think we can all be aware of the needs of those around us and do our part to alleviate the strains and pressures that are within our means. And instead of screaming and shaking our judgy fingers at people, how about we meet them where they are and try to serve them in a practical manner. To me, trying to understand life from another’s perspective and offering hands-on assistance speaks much louder than a megaphone dripping with hellfire and brimstone. I truly believe that we can never go wrong when we choose love over criticism, judgment or hate. Seeing people who claim Christianity acting a fool in public is nothing new and there’s not a whole lot we can do about it. But what we can do is try to be a different kind of Christian, one who is more concerned with loving and helping our brothers and sisters than we are about cramming Scripture and fear down their throats. After all, not everyone will understand a Bible verse but everyone can appreciate a good deed done selflessly.

 

~Is That God’s Word or Man’s?~ April 20, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 9:33 am
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If you’re going to begin a conversation with “The Lord told me,” you’d better be dern tootin’ you heard right. Those words always put me on high alert. It’s not that I think God cannot or will not speak to us directly, but I realize the weight that comes with making such a proclamation. Either God has something He wants us to hear or the person making that statement wants to us to believe that He does, and it’s not always easily discernible which is the case.

I find it disheartening that anyone would use the name of the Lord in order to get their way. He is not a bargaining chip to be tossed on the table when circumstances are not as one desires. But His name adds a certain power that makes it tempting to use because you know if you do, people are going to listen up.

Many times I have overheard my little girls arguing over something trivial and one will yell, “but Mommy said!” They know that their best chance of winning the argument is by claiming to have someone with more authority on their side. The same case can be made when someone uses God’s name a little too frequently, especially in the midst of a battle.

I took my concerns over this to my husband and he had, yet again, an excellent idea. When someone gives you a message with the preface “God told me,” (or any variation thereof), kindly ask them if they can point you to Scripture that lines up with what they’ve just told you. God will never send you a word that doesn’t line up with His. 

When I was a baby Christian, I was horribly intimidated by people who spoke of God in this manner. I thought, surely they have a direct line to Jesus and I can never measure up so I should hang on their every word and do everything they say. Thankfully, those days are over for me and I have learned to weigh people’s “words” against God’s. I think it would do us all good to take it to prayer anytime we find ourselves in these situations. You do not have to take someone at their word simply because they brought His name into it. It is our responsibility to guard our hearts and minds and prayerfully consider what we allow in.  

 

 

~Don’t Hate The Girl Who Loves Herself~ March 20, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 3:30 pm
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“She thinks she’s so pretty.”

And what, prey tell, is wrong with that?!

When did it become a bad thing for a woman to like what she sees in her reflection? I have noticed that it tends to be other women who make this statement. As a matter of fact, I’ve never heard a dude utter those words in my entire life.

So, ladies, why would we express such hostility towards another woman simply because she feels good in her skin?

Insecurity?

Jealousy?

Hatred?

Not one of those qualities is very becoming. Regardless of the reason behind it, there is no justifiable reason to say something so harsh about anyone. So what if “she” thinks she’s pretty? Does her confidence affect you negatively in some way? Would you prefer she knit pick every feature or that she balk at what she sees in the mirror? Would it make you feel better if she thought she was hideous and undesirable, unworthy of anyone’s attention? Even if her confidence errs on the side of conceit, that’s her issue to resolve, not ours to judge.

I can remember being a teenager and having thought this about a girl or two and I know it was pure jealousy on my part. I’d catch my latest crush looking their way and rather than appreciate the beauty he saw, I’d feel angry that it wasn’t directed at me. Now when I see an attractive woman, I will point her out to whomever I’m with, even my husband. I’m not trying to trick him into complimenting another woman so I can pout about how he must not think I’m good enough, (yes, that was me in my younger years), I am simply in awe of how uniquely beautiful we all are and want others to recognize it too.

Sister-friends, we can all be beautiful, it’s not a contest where only one girl wins. Remember that more times than not, the beauty people see in us is at least partially based on that which comes from within us. Don’t let that image be tainted by belittling someone who is confidant in who they are. Love yourself. And love that woman who thinks she’s so pretty….because she is, and so are you.

“A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.” (Prov 14:30 ESV)