Peace of My Heart

An encouraging voice to drown out the noise

~Choose Your Friends Wisely~ December 9, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 9:07 am
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friendsThis morning I watched as my oldest daughter ran to catch up with two of her besties to walk into school together and my eyes welled up with tears. Yes, I am a softie and at times overly emotional, deal with it!

But I am so incredibly thankful for my kids circle of friends. I have always prayed that they would be surrounded by like minded peers and once again, God has come through. This is especially important for my middle school kids. They are at the age where hormones are all over the place driving them and us crazy. Some classmates are starting to experiment with various “extra-curricular” activities.  Meanwhile, here they are trying to find where they fit in. Elementary parents, beware, your time is fast approaching! This is why it is so important to monitor who your children choose to socialize with.

“Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” (1 Cor 15:33 ESV)

Suzy Sunshine might be the most awesome, trustworthy kid on the planet, but if she surrounds herself with less than savory characters, she may buckle under the pressure to follow the crowd. Autumn tends to take after her mother and struggles with people-pleasing. Her closest friends are far more strong-willed than she and that gives her that extra support to stand firm on her convictions rather than caving to fit in.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Prov 27:17 NIV)

My girls’ friends make her better and I love em’ all!

Runner boy has maintained a workout schedule with our senior runner who intends to enter the ministry when he graduates. He looks out for my boy as an older brother would. Could a mom ask for a better role model for her son?! Both of my boys have older guy friends that are setting spectacular examples of how to live for God. When they started with the teen ministry at our church, they were given mentors with similar interests. They lead by example and have developed deeper relationships where if one of my boys were to slip up, these young men have gained their trust enough to call them on it.

“For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecc 4:10 ESV)

These guys goof off with my boys but they also give them someone to look up to and that is priceless to this momma.

So as I watched my girl and her friends huddle in close this morning, I cried out of a grateful heart. They are all blessed with fabulous friends who put this momma’s mind at ease on a daily basis. I pray these friendships last a lifetime and that as they grow closer together that they would draw near to God and rely on each others strengths to endure the hardships that come with being a teenager.

 

~Deep Cleaning~ June 3, 2014

820e0f4dfdfbd41f120fbff6652c23e4I am one of those peculiar people who thoroughly enjoys cleaning.  I realize this makes me a bit of a freak, but it’s the way God made me so I’ve come to accept my weirdness as should you.

There’s just something about taking a dirty mess and using my two hands to make it shine. Don’t even get me started on the awesomeness that is carpet shampooing.  It’s like an adrenaline rush!  First the water being sucked in is filthy & cloudy but as I continue to go over the same spot, the water becomes clean & clear.  These are the things that bring me joy.

Last night, we fixed breakfast for dinner which creates a mess of epic proportions.  Three different types of grease mingled together on our black stovetop.  Not our wisest decorating decision as it shows everything, including the egg goo that morphs into super glue when it comes in contact with a hot surface.  Let the scrubbing commence!  As I began to spray & wipe, I watched as layer by layer, my mess dissolved.  I started to feel a sense of accomplishment when it dawned on me that this must be how the Lord feels.

He sees us where we are at, a hot mess, and begins to work on us.  He cleanses our rough places over and over again until the blemish is removed.  Just as the dirty water in a shampooer eventually turns clean with enough repetition, so it is when we allow God to continually clean up the junk in our lives.  Or like the sticky grease on my stove, God removes our sin and stumbling blocks one grimy layer at a time.  His is a cleansing that goes deep below the surface, altering our insides to show transformation on the outside.  All we need to do is invite Him in and allow Him to do the tough stuff.  It’s a pretty good deal when you think about it.  God does the work yet we reap the benefits while He sits on His throne in Heaven pleased by the work of His hands.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 ESV)

 

~Immorality~ February 17, 2014

We have reached day 7 of our 31 day study of the Book of Proverbs.

On day 5, I used the term “immoral woman” as an analogy to any number of temptations that could ultimately lead to sin.  Today, I’m going straight at the literal meaning of the term.

While chapter 7 talks only of the immoral woman, I am going to broaden that to include the immoral man.  I have readers of both genders and I am aware that immorality is not exclusive to either sex.

As many of Proverbs begin, pointing us to wisdom & insight, so does chapter 7.  We are instructed to “let them protect (us) from an affair with an immoral woman (man), from listening to the flattery of a promiscuous woman (man).”  This is a verse I know a little something about.  As most of you know, I make my very best attempt at being transparent with you, not so you can throw your stones but so that we can grow and learn together in our relationship with the Lord.

Let me begin by saying I have never been unfaithful in my relationships, past or present.  I can not speak to the pain of a physical affair as I have never been on either side of that obstacle.  I am not, nor have I ever been, a promiscuous woman as that definition applies.  I can, however, relate to what happens when an emotional connection is sought from someone other than your partner.  I have been the guilty party and I have been the victim.  Yesterday our pastor made a statement that sums up the ‘why’ for both circumstances, “If you don’t speak words of affirmation to your spouse (fiance, girlfriend, boyfriend) someone else will.”  For me personally, that is precisely how I ended up on both sides of this stumbling back.  When I was the victim, in retrospect I can easily admit that I was not sewing anything positive into my relationship.  I wasn’t being outwardly destructive either which is why at the time I couldn’t understand where any of the fault lied with me.  As the guilty party, I had been dealing with multiple issues and emotions that I felt were not being validated by my partner.

When we are at our lowest point: beaten down, brokenhearted, lost & questioning-that is precisely when the devil will slip right in and do what he does best.  Confuse the ever-loving fire out of you.  As a Christian, that should have served as a waving red flag because God is not the author of confusion.  I can comfortably speak for both instances and say that the guilty party, (self included), justified their actions by leaning on the fact that there was no physical aspect to the connection made.  Want to know another interesting point Pastor made yesterday, “most affairs start with words.”  Even though I nor the person who abused my trust had ever contemplated a physical affair, by making an emotional connection with someone outside of the relationship we could have easily slipped right on down that slippery slope.

In spite of the devastation & hurt feelings that the misuses of trust caused in my relationship, loving and thriving connections were restored.  There is one practice and one alone that allowed the unforgivable to be forgiven: Confession & Repentance.  When I was hurt, forgiveness was sought first from the Lord and then requested of me.  When I acted a fool, I followed the same procedure.

1st John chapter 1 assures us that God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all wickedness IF we confess our sins to Him.  We are also given the promise that He has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west and blotted out our transgressions for His own sake and remembers them no more.  (Psalm 103:12 & Isaiah 43:25)

If the Lord himself can forgive me and the ones who hurt me, then who I am to withhold forgiveness from those who seek it?  If God removes our sins from us, than who am I to drag them back up and use them to beat others OR myself down?

Back to the point of Proverbs 7, not one of us is exempt from temptation of any kind.  We are all weak and subject to sin.  The good news that Proverbs overflows with is that God does not ask us to go at it alone.  He gives us solid teaching and words that bring about an awareness that we could otherwise not comprehend.  When facing the urge to look outside of the relationship that God has blessed us with to seek solace, let us first bury our faces in His Word for strength to resist then we will be equipped with all that we need to mend broken relationships and avoid falling into immoral ones.

This is my picture of GRACE.

This is my picture of GRACE.

*It’s not too late to join us in our 31 days through the Book of Proverbs.  If you wish to start from the beginning, the first post is “31 Day Challenge” listed in the archive section of this blog for the month of February.*

 

~Love before you speak~ December 23, 2013

When faced with adversity, how differently do you suppose the outcome would be if we stopped to ask ourselves, “is what I’m about to say coming from a place of love or condemnation?”

Oftentimes we don’t take the time to think before we speak.  We are so consumed by believing that we are right and they are wrong that we spat out our message with little to no regard to how it’s going to be received.  What is the point of speaking your mind if it falls on deaf ears?  What good does it do ramble on and on if the person you are trying to reach has built a wall between you and them so as to protect themselves from your unfiltered message?

Everyone has heard that the Bible stresses the importance of loving your neighbor as yourself.  How loving are you being when you’ve become so closed minded that you refuse to hear the other person’s feelings?  Just as you feel justified in your opinions, so does the one on the other side of the disagreement.  Why are you entitled to share your stance while you cut them off at the knees when they take theirs?

Love, people.  It’s an action word.  Loving others is the only thing that keeps people from diverse backgrounds living in harmony when society tells them that their differences should drive them apart.  Love puts the focus on the person and nothing more.

I remember when I was a bratty teenager my mom looked at me one day and said, “Valerie, I love you but right now I don’t like you very much.”  I learned a very valuable lesson from that statement.  Just because I love you doesn’t mean that I have to approve of or like everything you do and say.  Love, real love, should be free from contingencies.  My love for people is not based on what they do for me in order to deserve my affection.  It is based solely on my desire to extend the same grace that I receive on a daily basis, even in spite of my shortcomings that would dictate just how unlovable I am.worty

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.

(1 Corinthians 13:1-7 The Message)

 

~Irony With a Side of Coffee~ October 30, 2013

progressIt was 6:45 on Tuesday morning and I was attempting to get a little Jesus time.  Problem was, I have two little girls who were dead set on interrupting my quiet time.  Just when I thought I’d found my happy place, one of the intruders burst into a string of demands.

So, with my Unglued book in hand, how do you suppose I handled this invasion of mommy time?

“Will you ever stop?!”  I snipped at my chubby cheek girl.  Her response…she giggled.

And so did I.

You see, I had just that very moment sat reading about raw emotions and not allowing uncontrollable circumstances to dictate my reactions and I failed, epic fail as my children would say.  So I had a choice to make, I could let this slip up ruin the remainder of the day or I could show myself a little grace and move on with my life.

On this particular day, I chose grace.  I pushed aside my study materials, scooped Bella up and went to the kitchen to fix her a snack, a cup of juice and fired up her favorite movie.  I didn’t get to finish all that I wanted to accomplish in my bible study guide but I did get the opportunity to apply what we are studying about.  I like to think of it as life application.

I am so incredibly guilty of allowing unexpected interruptions to define how my day will go.  I am aware that this bit of information shows just how much of an OCD control freak I can be, and I am ok with that BECAUSE admitting that is a step in the right direction.  Learning to adjust my reactions when things don’t go just as I imagined is a process.

Thankfully I am not going through it alone.

“So be strong and courageous!  Do not be afraid and do not panic before them.  For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you.

He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

(Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT)

I’m not about to say that I won’t ever have a meltdown again over some random, uncontrollable glitch in my day.  I am human.  I will make mistakes.  But by God’s grace I will move forward, not backwards.  I will press on towards my goal of being a calmer, more easy-going version of myself.  I will learn to accept that I am not master of the universe and the fate of the world does not rest squarely on my shoulders.

 

~Perfection~ October 3, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 7:43 am
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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)

 

~God Is For You~ June 25, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 8:27 am
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is-god-for-youWhat do you do when you reach a point where you believe God is able, but you are not so sure that He is willing?  You stand looking at your mountain, knowing that God could hurl it into the sea, but it won’t budge.

In Matthew chapter 9, a father approaches Jesus asking him to heal his son.  He says to Jesus:

“If you can do anything, do it.  Have a heart and help us!”

Jesus said, “If?  There are no ‘ifs’ among believers.  Anything can happen.”

No sooner were the words out of his mouth than the father cried, “Then I believe.  Help me with my doubts!”

(vs. 22-24 The Message)

This father obviously believed in Jesus or he wouldn’t have asked for his help in the first place.  But something made him question whether Jesus would be willing to help him.  Maybe as we face our troubles today, we have our own set of doubts.  We’ve prayed to God to help us, so it’s not that we doubt Him, we doubt ourselves.  Could it be that we think the reason we are trapped in an endless struggle is because we’ve let Him down; that we’re not worthy of His mercy?

“That is why the Lord says,“Turn to me now, while there is time.

Give me your hearts.  Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.

 Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.”

Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate,

slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.  He is eager to relent and not punish.

Who knows? Perhaps he will give you a reprieve, sending you a blessing instead of this curse.”

(Joel 2:12-14 NLT)

God’s grace and mercy is for everyone.  Not one of us is unworthy to receive it if we will turn our hearts to Him and allow Him to shape and mold us.  Believe with your heart, confess with your mouth and know in your mind that the Lord of all lords is eager to relent today.  Be prepared to receive a blessing instead of a curse.  Walk in victory.  In Jesus name.  Amen.

 

 

~Broken-Down~ May 30, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 6:53 am
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Thankfully we, nor the truck, have reached this point of dispepair!

Thankfully we, nor the truck, have reached this point of dispepair!

“Even hauling the trash is an uphill battle.”  My husband shook his head in frustration.

Once again, my mans only means of transportation is on the fritz and has been for several weeks now.  We have put more time and money into his truck than I’d care to admit over the last few months and it’s dead, again.  As aggravating as it is for me, it is astronomically more so for him.  We are incredibly blessed to have friends who allow us the use of their vehicles for things such as hauling the trash, but as is the case with most men, my man feels trapped without his wheels.  I would gladly surrender my ride to him but as you know, 5 kids, lots of too and fro, this momma can’t go without a vehicle.

In this particular moment of “argghh” we stood in the kitchen questioning if we had missed God somewhere.  Why else would we continually face the same struggle over and over and over again?  I looked my man straight in the eyes and said to him, “I don’t know.”  Surprisingly this was not the profound wisdom he was seeking.  But it was the truth.

I don’t know why we seem to constantly run uphill against the wind.  It seems that eventually we would hit a downhill that would allow us time to catch our breath.  And I believe that one day we will, in God’s timing, not ours.

As difficult as our struggles sometimes get, we have never hit a wall of hopelessness.

“I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread.”

(Psalm 37:25 NIV)

While we may not live in the lap of luxury, we have an abundance for which to be thankful.  God has not left us to our own devices.  Because of our financial struggles, we have seen His hand move in our lives countless times through the love and generosity of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  But if we’re not careful, we’ll become like my husband’s truck: broken-down.  We’ll start to think that obviously we are not worthy of God’s blessings, that we’re not good enough to receive His love or that He is punishing us for something.  Instead of focusing on Him (ahem) we focus on the problem…bad idea.

Just think, if we never had a great need, would we fully appreciate God’s provision?

On the days when the frustration seems overbearing, it helps to remember that this is only a season.  When you look at your life and the needs don’t match up with the funds, don’t fret, it will only make the matter at hand worse.  Trust that God knows what He’s doing even if you feel like He’s left you in the dark.

“For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts.”

(Isaiah 55:9 NLT)

 

~Devoted to God~ April 11, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 6:41 am
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BabyBellaFrameToday is my baby girl’s 2nd birthday!  It seemed only fitting that my post today would be all about her.

She came into this world with difficulty.  I was mentally and physically exhausted after she made her arrival, so much so that we did not even name her until the next day!  I couldn’t wrap my mind around a single name that was appropriate for our newest, (and final), addition to our little family.

Throughout my pregnancy, I had been completely convinced that this baby would my line-backer so I had not considered any girlie names.  I had always been fond of the name Grace so that was a given, but I was coming up empty handed on first names.  Cue the hubs.  He and my mother both loved the name Isabella and having no better suggestion myself, she was given the moniker Isabella Grace.

Just recently, for Easter, I decided to look up the meaning of my children’s names to print & frame as part of their gifts.  I know this is something I should have done before I named them, but hey, lesson learned.

Very much to my surprise, we had unknowingly named our baby girl perfectly.

Isabella- Devoted to God

Grace- God’s Favor

I can’t think of a better namesake for our girl who already sings praises to Jesus and asks, “I go church?”  She is full of life & love and is the happiest child in the bunch!  She has brought me more joy just by being herself.  Her ability to make anyone laugh is not unlike that of her father.  The fact that she also is the spitting image of him has earned her the nickname, L.J. (Little Jamie), while her daddy calls her Belly Grace based on her extreme love of food.

I can not imagine my life without this girl.  I would like to think that I am molding and shaping her into the godly woman I pray she becomes but truthfully, I think she is making me the better person.  There is much to be learned from our children and my beautiful Isabella has taught me to slow down and enjoy each day for what it brings.  Whether that day be filled with non-stop requests for more of everything, fits of tears when I tell her no, shouts of joy as we run through the yard, or quiet cuddle times as we watch her favorite movie.  I am forever thankful that God has given me this precious gift in the form of a stocky, short-legged cutie-pie, who may be a girl but I haven’t completely ruled out the possibility of her future football career.

Happy Birthday, my sweet, sweet girl.  Your smiling face is a reminder of God’s abundant love for me each morning.  Why else would He trust me with the most wondrous creation of all?

“Children are a gift from the Lord;

They are a reward from Him.”

(Psalm 127:3 NLT)