Peace of My Heart

An encouraging voice to drown out the noise

~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.  

 

 

~What is the assignment?~ January 11, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 8:31 am
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I’ve been homeschooling the kiddos for just about a month and half. While I believe we are finally beginning to navigate the new waters, every single day, Emma will inevitably ask me “what am I supposed to do?”

Each day I write out their assignments for every subject along with any special instruction needed.  I try to make it so they’re able to be self sufficient, learning to work at their own pace and be held accountable for their class schedule. Each time Emma asks the question that I know is coming, my response is always, “what is the assignment?” She hates that, by the way. She’d much rather I walked over and held her hand, so to speak, giving her direction and correction at every turn because she doubts her ability to do it alone, but I won’t. I want her to do her assignment, as instructed, and go over it with her to see where she still needs improvement and where she excels. She would prefer I do it with her to ensure she is answering each question correctly as she goes.

This morning while reading my devotion from the First Five app, I was reminded of how I do the same thing with my assignments in life. It spoke to me so loudly, I wanted to share with you but my technology-challenged self can’t seem to link it to this page. I can share the image…..

 

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In this short devotion, Lysa shares the story of Moses and his reluctance to approach Pharaoh to let the Lord’s people go. He felt inadequate to handle what felt like a huge assignment. As Lysa points out, “The resistant way Moses responds lets me know he misunderstood his assignment. Moses thought he was to bring enough power in his words to convince Pharaoh. And since his words lacked power before, it’s no wonder he thought this was a terrible strategy. But God never told Moses to bring the power. Moses was simply told to bring the words. Moses’ job was to be obedient to God. God’s job was everything else.”

Just like my Emma, it seems we often get caught up in the end result causing us to shift our focus from the task at hand. We center our thoughts around what should happen, allowing doubt to creep in making us question our ability to simply perform the task that’s been given.

I’ll leave you with one final example. Let’s say your assignment is to pray for others. Instead of focusing on the Holy Spirit and what He prompts you to pray, you worry about the impact your words will have on the one you’re praying for. “Will they receive salvation? What if this prayer goes unanswered, will they doubt God? What if my words are lackluster?” You’re assignment isn’t to save them or provide the answer to their prayer, that’s God’s part. You’re job is to pray with sincerity and allow God to speak to them through you.

“Trust the Lord completely, and don’t depend on your own knowledge. With every step you take, think about what he wants, and he will help you go the right way.” (Prov 3:5-6 ERV)

 

~Hiding~ January 1, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 8:24 am
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I’m going to begin this New Year with a confession. Don’t get too excited, nothing really scandalous, just something I’ve refrained from sharing.

I have not been to church since we moved in November. There it is.

I have my reasons, all of which can be argued as insufficient. My main reason, I miss my church and in my mind, no other group of believers can live up to their legacy. I realize how silly that sounds but for those of you who know me and how long it took me to find a church, I’m sure you understand.

Of course now that I’ve opened myself up to think about it, I can see just how unfair I’m being to any potential “new” church. I’ve been closed off to the idea of being close, family close, to another part of the body. My mindset has been like that of a toddler, “I don’t WANT a new church! I want my OLD church!!”

But here we are, looking for where we are going to settle in the next couple of months. I came across a house that on paper, looks perfect for us. In my excitement, I mapped out distances to hubs workplace, our beautiful daughter & her family, the beach….and on a whim, I searched out churches in the vicinity. Upon finding two whose beliefs and mission statements aligned with our home church, I realized just how much I missed it. The feeling of family, safety, hope & unity….I need it back in my life. So as much as I deeply miss my people, this new year needs to be a time of making new connections & finding a place to grow & serve.

So, say a little prayer for us if you will. Pray my old anxieties don’t creep back in & that we find somewhere we can all be plugged in. Thank you, my faithful friends and Happy New Year!

Church should feel like family because we are brothers & sisters in Christ.

“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.” (Heb 10:25 NLT)

 

~Cherish Today, Don’t Wait For Tomorrow~ August 26, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 9:50 am
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I’m sitting on the couch, snuggled up with my youngest, choking back tears so she won’t ask questions that I don’t want to answer. It’s taking everything in me not to rush out the door to find my husband and retrieve our other children from their schools. For those of you who live near me, I’m sure you already know precisely why I’m battling this urge. For the rest of my readers, there was a shooting during a live newscast in which two lives were lost. Details are trickling in but what frightens me isn’t the why or the who, it’s the fact that this took place in what I would consider a relatively small & quiet community, much like the one I live in.

I feel physically sick over the loss of life. To think that these people reported for work this morning, they nor their families having any idea it would be their last. I am devastated by the reality check that has sent shock waves through to my very core. Every part of my momma-bird instincts is screaming at me to protect what’s “mine” but here I sit, talking with you.

Because like me, I think you also need this reminder today. Your life, my life and the lives of every single person we love and care about, are precious. Our days are numbered and not one of us knows when or how our time will come. For me, this brings an awareness to my spirit that cannot be overlooked. Had this horrific tragedy involved someone in my circle, how would I feel about the last interaction I had with them? I’m replaying my morning in my mind, questioning whether or not my final moments with my people were good enough. Did I tell them I loved them and did they know the depths from which I said it? Did I rush them out the door in a frenzy leaving them feeling agitated or worse? I just can’t friends, I simply can’t.

Every single day we are given with the ones we love is nothing short of a gift. Even on the days when the kids won’t stop fighting, the house is a mess, the bills remain unpaid and so on, this one life can take a drastic turn in an instant. Are we cherishing it or taking it for granted, assuming tomorrow will be better? Once again, the world we live in has dealt us an ugly reminder that we are not promised tomorrow so we must make the very best of today. Please, I beg of you, love deeply, give generously and be thankful. Do it today.

“So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time.” (Matt 6:34 TLB)

 

~Show Me A Sign~ July 7, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 10:49 am
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Have you ever found yourself at a crossroads feeling like you haven’t the faintest idea which way to go?

You could easily continue on the same path you’ve been on, nothing wrong with that, or you could take a hard right into the unknown. The trouble isn’t so much what you should do, it’s feeling confident that it’s what you are supposed to do.

When you choose to live your life following Jesus, making any change can be intimidating. What if it’s not God’s will for your life and you do it anyway? I know I personally fear the ramifications of making the wrong choice. It’s not that I picture the Lord sitting on His throne, eagerly waiting for an opportunity to thump me on the head when I misstep. It’s more of a reverential fear of wanting to walk in His will for my life rather than chasing after my own selfish desires. This is where the real struggle begins, how can I ever be sure that it’s the Lord speaking to me?

Recently I reached out to my aunt whom I often go to for advice. She has a way of giving a different perspective and forcing me to think things through from every angle. She encouraged me to ask God for a sign and had this to add “You’ll know it when you get it. And if you think it’s a sign, but you’re not sure — ask for another one. God is patient that way. He too, wants you to be sure.”

Anytime something speaks to me, I go to scripture for a reference.

Later, the Lord sent this message to King Ahaz:“Ask the Lord your God for a sign of confirmation, Ahaz. Make it as difficult as you want—as high as heaven or as deep as the place of the dead.” (Isaiah 7:10 NLT)

Well, there that is. I am a visual learner, most assuredly, so it makes sense that I would want some sort of sign when making life changes. The Lord created me so it’s not as if this is some big shock to Him. God is not insulted by my request for signs and He is a patient God who loves me and has my best interest at heart.

If you find yourself in a place of indecision today, take the words of Psalm 37 to heart:

“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” (Psalm 37:23-24 NIV)

Delight yourself in the Lord first and foremost. Worship Him in the waiting. Ask Him for direction and watch expectantly for the signs you are seeking. He is faithful, every single time.

 

~Muscle Memory~ June 3, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 10:02 am
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“Smart people know how to hold their tongue; their grandeur is to forgive and forget.” (Prov19:11 The Message)

I am not always a smart people. Sometimes it would be easier for me to give a cat bath than it would be for me to tame my tongue. Like every other person on the face of the planet, I have my hot button issues. I can turn the other cheek all day long, that is until someone strikes my no zone.

I’ll give an example. As I am certain most moms will find relatable, I can show you five sides of crazy if you mess with my kids. If one of their peers causes an offense, I can calmly and rationally help them deal. However, if an adult hurts one of my babes, anger management is the last thing on my mind. I’ve come to realize in those moments that applying my voice of reason, aka hubs, is best for all involved. He sees things from a different perspective and gives me a safe place to talk it out so that I don’t let it build and fester into something nasty.

It is worth mentioning as a sidebar that anger is not a sin, it’s an emotion. It’s what you DO with that anger that can result in sin.

So, with that in mind,  what do we do when those feelings of rage come surging up from the recesses of our normally mild-mannered minds? How do we let God speak to us when truthfully we’d rather tune Him out for just a minute while we unleash the fury and repent later?

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16-17 NIV)

We have to saturate ourselves with God’s Word on the good days so that when the hard days come, we will be prepared. We won’t have to flip through the Scriptures, frantically looking for a Word to bring us off the ledge in the heat of the moment. It will already be there, pushing its way through the hurt and the anger to bring peace to our troubled hearts.

It’s what our worship pastor refers to as muscle memory. If you do anything repetitiously, eventually it becomes second nature. You won’t have to think about it, it will simply be what happens instinctively. Be proactive, don’t wait for trouble to come. You know where you struggle. I have found an excellent resource in Open Bible. Here you will find “What does the Bible say about….” and you fill in the blank. Typically you will get multiple references from God’s Word, not man’s, to help you refocus.stress

Fill your heart and mind with truth, it will crowd out the chatter and replace it with a peace beyond understanding.

 

~When Life Is Just Too Short~ May 19, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 12:07 pm
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Days ago I opened the ol’ WordPress app on my phone and typed this title. That was it, no meat, just a headline that popped into my head for no apparent reason. I didn’t know what the post would be about until I read about a horrific accident in another state.

A caravan of family members were traveling home from a wedding when a semi caused a multi car accident. The first vehicle carried a pregnant mother and her toddler son. In separate vehicles were the husband & father to the pair and a set of grandparents. Immediately the news made us aware that the young boy was tragically killed. His grieving mother had to have an emergency c-section one month shy of her due date. I, along with every other person with a shred of faith I am certain, prayed for this family and that their sweet newborn would survive. He did not.

As I read the news yesterday, I simply cried. There is no way to fathom what this family is facing. As I wept for people I have never met, this title came back to me. While this is not the first time a terrible tragedy has occurred, it is one of those instances when life was definitely just too short.

It’s an expression I’ve heard my entire life but what does it mean? Life is too short for what exactly? And why does it take a death to remind of us just how fleeting it is?

Too short to live with regrets.

Too short to hold unforgiveness in your heart.

Too short not to dream.

Too short…

“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15 NIV)

The hard truth of the matter is, we haven’t the faintest idea when our time will be up. We are not guaranteed a certain number of years with our loved ones. We are literally not promised tomorrow. So now what? What do we do with this knowledge that we’ve really always known but oftentimes choose to ignore?

Live every single day as though it is your last. Cliche, maybe, but a simple truth just the same.

Don’t hold in the sentiments, say them frequently and mean them!

Dream BIG!! Stop limiting yourself and God. Trust that He will give you the desires of your heart and allow Him access to plant them there!IMG_7245

Prayers of peace and comfort for all of those dealing with loss today, tomorrow, and everyday to come. May we not be so consumed by the what-ifs of tomorrow that we let today slip through our grasp.

 

~Nightmares Are No Match For My Jesus~ January 14, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 11:45 am
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Could you say no to this face?!

Could you say no to this face?!

Sometime in the wee hours of the morning…I’m talking 2 or so….my little mini-me came to my side of the bed with tears rolling down her chubby cheeks.

“Mommy, I had a bad dream. Can I please sleep with you?”

We try really hard not to make it a habit of letting our little ones crawl into bed with us in the middle of the night. My husband is a cuddler and it kind of creeps him out a bit to roll over and throw his arm over the 3-foot-tall version of his wife 😉

So in my half awake, one eye open state, I started to send her back to her own bed. That is until I looked into her big doe eyes and saw the look of panic on her face. Her voice broke when she tried to talk and she was actually shaking. Sorry husband, scoot your fanny over, mini me is coming in! The moment she crawled in next to me, she snuggled as close as humanly possible with her head on my shoulder and pulled my arm over her tiny frame. And she stopped whimpering, instantly. No more tears, no more shaky shoulders, no more ragged breaths. She was comforted at the exact moment I held her close.

Without even thinking about it, I started to pray for my girl, that God would protect her impressionable mind and fragile heart from things that would wake her in such a state. Sometime mid prayer, we both drifted off to sleep.

This morning I can’t help but draw a parallel to my relationship with the Lord. No matter the time of day, He is never too worn to open His arms to me. He is never too groggy to pull me close and soothe my soul. He is always prepared with words that bring comfort in the midst of the scariest of times and when I let Him, he can replace my tears of sorrow with tears of gladness.

I am overwhelmed, folks. My momma and daddy friends will know what I mean when I say sometimes, I’m just so exhausted that I don’t know that I have anything to give my babes…physically or emotionally. And then there is our heavenly Father, with more kids than we can ever count, and yet He is forever there for me, for you and for all His precious children without fail.

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let he righteous be shaken.” (Psalm 55:22 NIV)

Snuggle in close to Him and feel His strength. Let Him drape His arm around you. Now feel the heaviness in your life lift as He takes your burdens and cares and makes them His own. And find rest. Sweet, sweet rest.

“But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.” (Psalm 73:28 NLT)

 

~When Did RAPE Become Funny…And Other Middle School Shockers~ December 10, 2014

For the last week or so, our oldest daughter hasn’t really been herself. She’s been moody and quiet and has pretty much stayed holed up in her room. We’ve continually asked her what was up and were met with the typical teenager response,  “Nothing.” We figured it was the hormones raging again and tried to give her some space. That is until yesterday.

A little backstory about our girl for those who don’t have the pleasure of knowing her personally. She is madly in love with Jesus. She talks about her faith anywhere, anytime to anyone who will listen. We often joke and call her our little missionary who’s trying to save the world one middle-schooler at a time! It breaks her heart into pieces when her peers are struggling which has led to many talks about the struggles kids are facing and why sometimes there’s nothing we can do but pray for them.

Now, for the current horror that’s got this momma fit to be tied.

Autumn was terribly upset when she got in the car yesterday but refused to talk about it in front of her little sisters stating she couldn’t repeat a word that was said. I didn’t think too much of it knowing full well that kids curse in school. However, color me shocked when the story unraveled. Apparently the word “rape” is being used as an alternative to many other, far less offensive words. Some examples “OHHH, he raped you!” Someone bumps into you in the hall or gym class, so you scream “RAPE!” at the top of your lungs. They even have a storage room they refer to as “the rape closet.” Yesterday, a GIRL friend of Autumn’s used it this way, “Like how she raped you in your sleep.” (the ‘she’ mentioned being my girl)

Autumn was mortified and told her “friend” that what she said was inappropriate. This young lady told my daughter she needed to learn how to take a joke! Are you kidding me?! What in the world is funny about a word that implies sexual violence?! Before the arguments come, I am well aware that is has another meaning, that point is moot in my opinion so I won’t even argue it with you. These kids are so desensitized that they will throw around words that have horrific meanings like they are saying the word “hello.” When Autumn wouldn’t back down, this young lady proceeded to find backup to verbally attack my girl, accusing of her being a bully instead of a Christian. Perhaps what made this hurt the most…this little girl is a church-goer.

This conversation opened up to other topics as well. Kids with social media names like “MyHeartBelongsToJesus” are defending their beliefs with a string of curse words….uhm, no. Babies are having babies. Young ladies are cutting their beautiful bodies and talking about it over lunch. Serious issues….casual conversations. Wow.

I am bringing this up, not to be a gossip, but to open the eyes of parents who may not have a clue that their kids are using these phrases so flippantly. But maybe they don’t realize the horror of rape. Maybe they haven’t considered that a classmate within earshot has actually experienced the word and their casual use of the expression makes them feel that much more ashamed and isolated.

My advice, be proactive.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Prov 22:6 ESV)

After talking with Autumn, I went into the boys room to discus it with them. Peyton said, “Why are yelling at us?” Oops, I was pretty upset when I approached them. “I just want you boys to know how I feel about this that way you won’t inadvertently repeat a phrase your friends use that is highly offensive and claim you didn’t know.” taste words

“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matt 12:36 ESV) 

Friends, we are living in a world that we must deal with these issues on a daily basis. It is our job to teach our kids the power of the words they speak. If we allow ourselves or our kids to become lax in our speech, we may find ourselves on a very slippery slope. It is true that “death and life are in the power of the tongue” and “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.” (Prov 18:21 & Matt 15:18 ESV) So let us take care to guard our hearts, minds and mouths from what is detrimental to the soul.

 

~But Did You Ask?~ November 18, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 9:40 am
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My little Bella has been going through a phase lately, (Lord, please let it just be a phase), where she cries over every little thing.

Her jacket sleeve is inside out. Cry.

She can’t open her yogurt. Meltdown.

The baby doll won’t stay in the stroller. Fit.

Bubble Guppies goes to commercial break. The neighbors assume I beat my kid based on the level of screaming coming from this house.

When she is in the midst of one of these crying spells, it’s really hard to get through to her. She completely tunes me out and can only manage to focus on whatever it is that is earth shattering to her in that moment.

Yesterday, right as I was pulling out of the parking lot, she dropped her treat she had just been given at preschool. She was starting to wind it up, because let’s face it, the big meltdowns take some deep breaths to get the vocal chords all warmed up. Somehow I managed to lock eyes with her in the rearview mirror and very calmly said, “Isabella, did you drop your treat?” “YES…(complete with quivering lip and watery eyes.)” “Can I help you find it when we get home?” “OK.”

And that was it. At the moment when the intensity of her problem was at it’s peak, I got her to focus on me and the solution I could offer her rather than the problem itself.

So many times throughout our day together, I pose the question, “Did you ask for help?” The answer is always no at which point I encourage her to seek help when she can’t do something on her own as opposed to throwing herself in the floor over a stubborn foil lid or uncooperative baby doll.

What about you? What impossible situation are you facing today that has you pitching a fit as you desperately try to “do it yourself”?

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
(Psalm 121:1-2 ESV)

God has promised in His Word that He answers those who call on Him for help. He knows our needs and just like me with my Bella, He sees our struggle, but He’s waiting for us to invite Him into the situation.

” And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:13-14 NIV)

ASK God for His help. Before you struggle to figure it out on your own, before the meltdown, before you throw in the towel, simply ask Him. Get your eyes off the problem and set them on the solution, Jesus!

Just in case you doubt that God is willing or able to intervene in your situation, how about a few more promises from Psalm 1:21:

He will not let your foot slip (v.3) – He is your firm foundation!

The Lord watches over you (v.5) – You have constant supervision, you’re never alone!

The Lord will keep you from all harm (v.7) – What more do you need to be reassured of God’s love for you?!morning prayer