Peace of My Heart

An encouraging voice to drown out the noise

~Bah Humbug!~ December 3, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 7:21 am
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“Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it.” (1 Peter 4:8 The Message)

Earlier this week, Mom & I took the kids out to run a few errands. Because of the randomness that was our shopping list, we decided to hit the nearest big box store as opposed to making several stops. In case any of you have lost count, I have five kids at home, so as you can imagine that brings a whole other level of good times to venturing into public.

What I can say about this particular experience is that it wasn’t my kids that tainted my mood, it was the grownups we encountered. Aisle after aisle we were met with people glaring at my not loud, but not quiet, brood. Then there were those with buggies planted firmly in the center of the row, refusing to budge when my son politely said “excuse me.” There was one highlight, locking eyes with the momma who’s four littles were engaged in a wrapping paper sword fight ūüėā We made our way to checkout where I met my match, the sour faced cashier. I’m a stubborn woman, y’all, so I made it my life’s mission to get this woman to smile or at least speak! I tried everything, and she never even looked up…ouch! I will admit, it frustrated me. What on earth could make someone be so rude?!

This morning I was thinking about this little shopping trip and I believe I’ve pinpointed why it irritated me so much. We are in the midst of the Christmas season and yet a vast majority of people seem far from jolly. This is not a recent development, I’m sure you’ve seen it year after year as well. If you’ve ever been out on “Black Friday” then you’ve seen the worst of the worst…one time & never again! Perhaps what bothered me even more was how¬†I allowed others’ attitudes to effect my own. So I’m determined to make it my goal this holiday season to be the light even when surrounded by sour faced, non-budging, disapproving faces.

Just keep smiling, friends, and chat up that cashier. Offer well wishes and be sincere! (I believe I just channeled my inner Dr. Suess for those lines.) You may not get the reaction you’d prefer but we don’t do life like we do to get a response, we do it to show the love of Christ. And the truth of the matter is, we have no clue what the strangers we meet are going through to make them interact with others the way they do. I don’t ever want to become so insensitive & hard-hearted that I can’t see past someone’s stern expression to offer a warm smile in return. If you are one of the ones struggling to find a reason to smile, think of just one thing you have to be thankful for and let that become your focus today.

Be kind always.

I am thankful for a toasty fireplace to write beside while getting lost in twinkling lights <3

I am thankful for a toasty fireplace to write beside while getting lost in twinkling lights ‚̧

 

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~Eyes Open, My Love~ August 27, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 10:04 am
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303db061470732e00637018689917ac8When things get real, my first thought is to shut my eyes tight, plug my ears & sing “Jesus loves me” at the top of my lungs. It’s not very practical, but my inner child just wants to avoid the unpleasantries of this life. Then again, I am a grown-up now and as nice as it would be to pretend I’m a princess living in an elaborate castle, the reality is I’m a mother of 5 who scrubs toilets daily in a humble brick house with scuffed up floors.

I know it would be easier if we could close our eyes. We wouldn’t have to see the horror that plays on the news every single day. We wouldn’t be able to read the collection notices that keep coming in the mail, further evidence that our financial situation is in a rapid decline. We wouldn’t have to watch our loved ones suffer with life threatening illness that makes us wonder if there is a God and if so, why won’t he intervene.

You know what else happens when we shut our eyes to life? We miss the ‘aha’ moments, when God shows up and miracles happen.

For every violent war story that fills the tv screen, there’s another of love in the midst of turmoil that restores our faith in humanity. When the numbers don’t make sense and it would seem that all hope is lost, God takes what we would call financial ruin and uses it as a testament of His provision for His children. As we watch sickness ravage the body, God brings healing in one of two ways: he calls his child home where pain & suffering cease or he does what only he can as the ultimate physician and makes the body whole again.

There is a song by Need to Breathe that inspired this post, “Keep Your Eyes Open.” Take a look at my favorite verse:

Just past the circumstance,

The first light, a second chance

No child could ever dance the way you do

Tear down the prison walls

Don’t start the curtain call

Your chains will never fall until you do

We could close our eyes to the world around us and avoid all the ugliness but in doing so we will also miss the beauty of God’s hands at work. No matter how bleak your circumstances, it ain’t over til God says it’s over. Focus on that instead of your worries for a change.

 

 

 

~Weakened By Grace~ July 3, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 8:19 am
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Over the last few weeks, our praise team has been sitting down in between services and sharing bits of our testimonies with the group. It’s been incredible to hear the diversity in our backgrounds and yet God has placed us together to serve Him in one accord.

During this process, I’ve been reminded once again of the importance of sharing your story with others.

aa656b0df16cf04f58ca212c0ba41bcdFor just a moment, think of your church from the perspective of a newcomer. When they come through the door, they’re met with smiling greeters & a hospitality team¬†
serving up a delicious cup of coffee. From there, they enter the sanctuary where the worship team leads the congregation in songs about God’s grace & redemptive power followed by the Pastor bringing a word that is simultaneously corrective & uplifting. Service draws to a close and the altars open for prayer. They watch from their seat as people kneel to pray and the prayer team moves in to intercede on the behalf of others. ¬†As they leave the building, their mind fills with insecurities. “I can’t fit in here, everyone has it all together & I am a mess.”

But when you share your testimony, people are allowed to see where you came from to reach where you are right now. It shows the hand of God in your life & gives a new hope for theirs. 

I will say this, sharing your testimony can be exhausting.

This last Sunday was my turn to speak to the table and after 10 minutes, I was spent. Not because I am still bound by my past, quite the contrary. When I share what God has brought me through, the realization of His restoration in my life makes me weak, every single time. I am overwhelmed at the number of times He protected me, before I knew Him or had any desire to seek Him.

“This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”- and I am the worst of them all. BUT GOD¬†had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:15-16 NLT)

 

~Fight or Flight~ June 26, 2014

This morning I was flipping through my notebook that I use for note taking at church as well as ideas for my writing. I came across 3 bullet points from a recent study on the Songs of Solomon that literally took my breath away.

  • Act, not react
  • Focus on the good, not the bad
  • Talk, not walk

This little tidbit from a sermon on how to handle conflict in marriage rocked my world this morning. Why you ask?

Jamie and I have been married for 7 & a half years. In that seemingly short span of time, I have seriously considered leaving him three times. This may come as a shock to some of you & it may even make you think less of me but I’m okay with that. My realization this morning may help save someone else’s marriage, so share I must.

What rattled me about my simple notes was how our 3 major struggles lined up, in order, with these points. I won’t go into great detail about each circumstance but just enough to show you how wrong I was in how I dealt with them.

Our first real fight happened as a result of an unexpected, scary situation that caused us both to react poorly. Jamie’s response to my anger was what had me eyeballing the door. I was totally focused on what he did and my attitude towards him was a reaction to that. There was no constructive talk to help restore our marriage, only anger for what I considered unforgivable. I didn’t speak to the man for 2 months. Doesn’t that sound fun to live with? We both allowed ourselves to be controlled by our emotions, neither one of us willing to do the work. I didn’t want to “act” but rather live in a perpetual state of reaction as if that validated just how wrong he was. Somehow, in spite of ourselves, God managed to get through to us and eventually the peace talks began.

Round 2 was a bit more explosive. The “why” is not important, just believe me when I say it was an intense moment of fellowship if I’ve ever seen one! When the dust clouds settled, I found it difficult to think about anything other than this one negative. Never mind all the good qualities of our marriage, surely this one was a deal breaker.

This last scenario was far more subtle. Overtime, I had slowly stopped communicating with my man. I had developed the mindset that I was tired of talking. Why bother when the results weren’t what I desired? I had checked out. There was no one issue that could be pinpointed & therefore resolved but more like a decision had been made that I’d married the wrong man. Truth be told, I had one foot out the door.

But God. (2 incredibly powerful words when used together)

God had something different in mind for us. One little phrase snapped me out of it and reminded me of the vows I took.

You don’t have the right to say, “I’m done with this” in marriage. (Our Pastor is one smart cookie.)

I made a commitment, to my husband, our children & most importantly, the Lord, to see this thing through, come hell or high water. And you’d better believe they are both coming at your marriage!

In the midst of our marital struggles, I thought I had earned the right to quit. In retrospect, I realize that while I may have had the right to be upset, I certainly couldn’t justify throwing away the life we had built because of his shortcomings & my self-righteous anger.

Would I have handled our battles differently if I’d had these little nuggets of truth before our first showdown? Probably not. I needed to grow & learn how to be in a committed relationship, a process that is ongoing. In sharing all of this from my own personal struggles, my hope is that this message will reach the one who is where I was…weighing the pros & cons of fight or flight.

A man, (or woman), who makes a vow to the Lord or makes a pledge under oath must never break it. He must do exactly what he said he would do.” Numbers 30:2

To have & to hold, in sickness & in health, for richer or poorer, to love & to cherish til death due us part…remember those words? I’m thinking “come hell & high water” should be added to the list!

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~Soul Pep Talk~ May 20, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 9:53 am
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Does anyone besides me pay particular attention to people’s faces as you cross paths? ¬†Whether it be driving past on the roads or brushing by in the grocery store, I am always drawn to people’s expressions…more specifically, their eyes.

It is quite true that the eyes are the window to one’s soul. ¬†Someone may plaster on the most convincing smile but if you look beyond the pearly whites, you see something else entirely. I know personally that when I am attempting to “hide” my emotions, I won’t make eye contact for too long for fear that someone will see the truth. ¬†Allowing people to see what’s behind that smile would mean having to deal with the junk that you are trying desperately to repress.

I often pass people in close proximity in our town because the roads are narrow and the traffic moves relatively slow. ¬†This morning, as I neared an intersection, a lady coming from the opposite direction caught my attention. ¬†I didn’t know her, didn’t recall seeing her before, but her face gripped my heart. ¬†You could see the anguish in her expression. ¬†I locked eyes with her as we passed and tossed her a smile. ¬†She made a halfhearted effort to smile back but the truth was still in her eyes. ¬†Immediately the words of Psalm 42 came to mind, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? ¬†Why so disturbed within me?” ¬†This lady was hurting. ¬†It is highly unlikely that I will ever know what was causing such distress in her life but how many times have I seen a similar look in the eyes of someone I can¬†reach and chose to look the other way? ¬†How many times have I been the one attempting to hide behind a phony grin?

The next verse from Psalm 42 speaks directly to the soul, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my savior and my God.” ¬†How I wish I could have conveyed that message to the unknown woman at the intersection of 4th & Monroe. ¬†But since I cannot, let me speak to your soul & mine.

Regardless of what is causing the sadness in your eyes, we have a hope that surpasses all understanding. ¬†Let your soul find rest in the peace that comes from knowing that the God of angel armies is always working towards your best interest. ¬†He will make a way in the wilderness. ¬†He will provide when the resources have run dry. ¬†He will bring clarity when your mind has you frustrated & confused. ¬†He will take the shattered pieces of your heart and make it whole again. ¬†He longs to see your soul restored and the glimmer return to your eyes, that’s how deep His love for you runs.

Be kind to yourself today and if the opportunity presents itself, share a soul pep talk with someone who may need it even more than you or they may realize.4037a947ef493dca6300b14eb9eb0fe7

 

~My Testimony is More Powerful than Yours~ April 4, 2014

We all know at least one person who had the seemingly perfect childhood and that idealistic life has apparently followed them into adulthood.

  • Their parents have been married all their lives.
  • Growing up, they went to church every time the doors were opened.
  • They did things in the right order-marriage then sex and babies.
  • No substantial loss has ever crossed their paths.

Basically, they’re life would be described as smooth sailing.

So how is it, exactly, that someone who has walked through this life to date completely unscathed supposed to be able to effectively minister to someone? ¬†Because our testimony should be more about the glory of God and His hand in our lives than it is about the struggles we’ve been through, or lack thereof.

Yes, I came from a “broken” home. ¬†Yes, I had a child out of wedlock. ¬†Yes, I struggled with an eating disorder.¬† Yes, I lost a baby and it broke my heart. ¬†Yes, I was a hot, hot mess and this is only a couple of highlights from a long list of issues.

All of this may be true of the life that I have lived, but when I share with others about my trials, my focus is on God and how He walked me through each and every one and ultimately gave me the victory.  Here is my point:

Don’t discredit someone else’s testimony just because their story doesn’t seem as traumatic as yours.

Each and every one of us has a unique story that when told will minister to different people. ¬†A lot of people can’t possibly relate to what I’ve overcome because they can draw no parallels to my life. ¬†Those people need to hear from you. ¬†Even if you feel as if you have nothing to offer because for the most part, your life has been sunshine & roses, maybe that’s exactly what someone needs to hear….that you don’t have to come from brokenness to live a life on fire for God. ¬†By sharing our individual stories, together, we can reach the far corners of the world for Jesus. ¬†single testimony

“Make sure in your hearts that Christ is Lord. Always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you about the hope you have. Be ready to give the reason for it. But do it gently and with respect.” (1Peter 3:15)

“My hope is, in you Lord, all the day long. ¬†I won’t be shaken by, drought or storm. ¬†A peace that passes understanding is my song and I sing, my hope is in you Lord.” -Arron Shust lyrics, My Hope Is In You

 

~ABCs of Christian Life~ July 16, 2013

abcAccept without alterations
Believe without barriers
Care without caution
Dream without doubts
Encourage without envy
Follow without fear
Give without gain
Hope without hesitation
Invest without interest
Journey without judging
Kneel without knowing
Love without limitations
Minister without manipulation
Nurture without notoriety
Obey without omission
Pray without prerequisites
Question without quarrel
Respect without restrictions
Serve without selfishness
Testify without timidity
Understand without umbrage
Volunteer without vanity
Worship without waning
X-emplify without x-piration
Yield without yearning
Zig without zagging

¬†Being a follower of Christ is so much more than just going to church on Sunday.¬† Hopefully this fun format will help us to remember how we should live daily as we interact with others.¬† Do you have any ABCs you’d like to add?

(By the way, I am well aware that exemplify and expiration don’t actually start with ‘x’ but that’s a hard letter so I had to get creative!)