Peace of My Heart

An encouraging voice to drown out the noise

~Word of the Year~ January 5, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 8:51 am
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In January of 2014, I accepted a challenge from a fellow Christian blogger to choose ONE word as a motto of sorts for the year. This girl right here chose “reckless.” My thought process was to live reckless for God, letting go of my need to have all the details ahead of time and just follow where He led me.

Well, that’s not how my year started. I was reckless alright but not in a good way. As is oftentimes the case, right about the time I made up my mind to follow hard after Jesus, that’s the precise moment when the devil tried to intervene. Our number one enemy is a crafty little evildoer, so he found my weakest point and went to work convincing me that all hope was lost.  I found myself floundering and confused, feeling pretty darn certain that my whole life was falling apart. For a brief, yet excruciatingly painful time, I lived reckless with my heart. I shut out my family, my friends and worst of all, my Jesus. But as smart as satan may be, God is greater. Just when my heart couldn’t take anymore, He sent His saints to pull me back up and snap me out of my funk.

In retrospect, I can see that nothing was as bad as I had made it out to be. I let my guard down and gave the enemy a foothold into my life and it could have ruined me if not for God. I spent the remainder of 2014 living reckless in the way that I had intended, leaning hard into God’s will for my life and trusting without fail that His ways, while sometimes difficult to understand, are higher than my own.

Now that a new year is here, I debated on choosing a word for fear that it would be an open invitation for the devil to come at me again. Now I ain’t scared, but I ain’t crazy either and I’m not one to go looking for trouble when things are going just fine. But I don’t want just fine. I want spectacular.

So, this year, my word is GUARDED.

Not in the way that you might think.

“But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.” (2 Thes 3:3 ESV)

I will guard my mind from thoughts that have no business occupying my time.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil 4:8 ESV)

I will guard my heart, filling it with promises from God so that I don’t find myself questioning His love for me.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:38-39 NIV)

I will guard my mouth, making it a priority to choose my words carefully.

“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” (Prov 13:3 ESV)

Lastly, I will guard my time, taking care to not overextend myself or my family to the point of exhaustion.

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12 ESV)

I am believing for a beautiful 2015, for me, my family, my church and for you, my friends. A closing bit of advice, if you decide to choose a word for 2015….remember to choose wisely 😉

be on guard

 

 

~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

 

~Separation Anxiety~ April 29, 2014

I sat down to write this morning and found myself feeling horribly intimidated.  With our hectic schedule over the last couple of weeks combined with my allergy-induced fog, I have had very little time, much less ability to focus, in order to write anything worth reading.  I finally overcome the time restraint obstacle and get slapped in the face with a new one, fear.

When I am able to write on a consistent basis, I feel confident, not necessarily in myself, but in my connection with the Lord and the ability to discern His voice to what He’d have me to share with you all.  After essentially a two week sabbatical from writing, with a post or two tossed in for good measure, my worry is that I have lost that momentum that I once had in doing what I truly feel called to do.

And I am a little freaked.

It scares me to think that I could so easily lose the feeling of intimacy that I have with the Lord.  Life is busy, most likely always will be, but too busy to fellowship with my Creator?  Yikes.

Driving my kids to school, a Scripture came to mind, seemingly out of nowhere (wink, wink):

“Remain joined to me, and I will remain joined to you. No branch can bear fruit by itself. It must remain joined to the vine. In the same way, you can’t bear fruit unless you remain joined to me.”  (John 15:4 NIRV)

I hadn’t forgotten about the Lord during my busy season but I had certainly neglected my time with Him.  I believe that is why I felt scared to post today.  My lack of communication with God had me feeling fruitless, like I had become separated from Him to the point of losing the gift that He has given me to encourage through writing.  I was looking in rather than looking up, failing to remember that my help comes from the Lord.  I can’t do this writing thing on my own.  It’s by His grace alone that I am able to share my story, combined with His word, in order to lift up the downcast and brokenhearted through the power of a multi-faceted testimony.  The very next verse in John 15 goes on to say, “…apart from me, you can do nothing.”  Rather than see this as a belittling, you are nothing without me attitude, I see it as a promise that He is always with me and gives me the strength and skills to do things that could never be done within my own ability.

One simple word, vital to our strength

One simple word, vital to our strength

 

~My Life as a Ring Master~ April 24, 2014

I have oftentimes described my life as a circus.  Having 5 kids, this is a pretty spot on description as I tend to have to be in 3 places at the same time on any given day.

These last couple of weeks have exhausted me to the point of having little to no time to write and it is seriously weighing on me!  I get a little moody & snippy when I’m run down and even more so when I feel like I have to let something I love go to the wayside to make room for yet one more thing for someone else.  Man, I sound like a selfish whiny-pants, right?!

The reality is, my right now is only a season and that simple phrase has become my mantra, “this is only a season, this is only a season, THIS IS ONLY A SEASON!!!”

Sleep deprivation, overcrowded calendars and lack of me time can bring even the “super-i make everything from scratch-have boundless amounts of energy-mom” down.  I’m sure you can imagine what it does to this “super simple-poptart slingin-my butt is draggin without my coffee-mom”!!  So this morning, before I even sat up in bed, I prayed this little prayer, “Lord, help me today to focus on you and not my hectic schedule.  Remind me that this life is a gift, even in the busyness, and I should act accordingly and not like a bratty two-year old.  And one more thing Lord, give me the strength to perform each and every task I have committed myself to with excellence as unto you for it IS you who deserves all the credit.  Amen”

To my fellow overworked, underpaid, totally exhausted, baggy eyed mommas, I salute you.  We can do this for we can do ALL things through Christ who gives us strength.  (It doesn’t hurt to toss in a pot of coffee and some nutter butters to nudge things along, just sayin’)  May today be abundantly blessed, productive and our eyes be open to the beauty of the chaos.  Now, go do this thing!being a mom

 

 

~Idol-less Easter~ April 17, 2014

For those of you who are my Facebook friends, you already know this story, but my opinions were too much to share in a comment section so here it is.

Yesterday afternoon when I picked the kids up from school, my middle school girl, Autumn, gets in the car and immediately shared the highlight of her day.  Apparently they had a substitute in one of their classes who thought it would be fun to hear what the kids had planned for celebrating Easter.  She went around the room, allowing each child a turn to speak.  When she reached my girl, Autumn said “I’m going to celebrate the love of Jesus!”

Here comes the good part…

Substitute replied, “That’s a matter of opinion,” then turned and walked away.

I started to respond, then I remembered it’s not nice to call names so I said a quick prayer, out loud, instead, “Dear Lord, please help all the misguided people in the world who haven’t a clue that Easter has nothing to do with plastic eggs and bunny rabbits.”

Aside from the fact that this “teacher” showed a complete lack of respect for my daughters beliefs, the public display of intolerance in front of a young, impressionable audience is a perfect example as to why we have a problem with freedom of religion in this country.  More than that, what exactly does the person think Easter is about?!

This morning, I was reading the responses on social media and it got me thinking about how often this sort of thing happens….

Thanksgiving has become all about the ginormous meal instead of taking pause to give thanks for all the blessings in your life for which you should be grateful.

Many people spend the Christmas season focusing on a fat, hairy man in a red suit & shiny packages, totally forgetting about the babe in swaddling clothes who was born to be the Savior of the world.

And now Easter has little to nothing to do with the death and resurrection of Jesus because a vast majority have busied themselves with fake grass, candy filled eggs & fluff-stuffed bunnies & chicks to have any time left to celebrate the true reason that the holiday exists in the first place!

Misguided people everywhere have fallen guilty to worshiping idols: the meal, the robust, red-faced man & Peter Cottontail are at the center of their family celebrations while Jesus stands at the door, awaiting His invitation to the party.  This family will be placing Him at the head of our table.  Yes, we will give our children treats and have a meal with our family.  We do allow our kids to participate in the madness that is an egg hunt but ask any one of them what Easter is about, and they’re going to tell you “Jesus.”

Don’t allow the commercialism of holidays to distract you from what is important, the meaning behind it all, is Jesus.

“He was publicly identified as God’s Son with power through his resurrection from the dead, which was based on the Spirit of holiness. This Son is Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we have received God’s grace and our appointment to be apostles. This was to bring all Gentiles to faithful obedience for his name’s sake.”  (Romans 1:4-5)

I came across this Scripture and felt it summed up precisely what my Autumn did.  My girl loves her Jesus and she wants everyone she meets to know it and, in turn, to know HIM.  If she doesn’t get anything else right in her life, I will forever be proud of the conviction & steadfastness she displays while sharing her faith.  If my middle-schooler, at the risk of ridicule, can boldly declare her plans to celebrate the love of Jesus this Easter season, then what say you?

THIS....

THIS….

NOT THIS!

NOT THIS!

 

~Chin Down, Eyes Forward, Arms Moving~ April 15, 2014

Last night I attended a track meet in which two of my children were participants.  Track meets can be fun to watch.  If you have 5 hours to spare, I highly recommend you attend one.  This particular meet was kinda rough as the skies had opened up just at the start and completely saturated the track, sand pits, runways….and bleachers.  Boo.

The kids were troopers though and went to work.  The majority of the runners participate in multiple events.  My two are distance runners meaning their events included the 1600,800 and 4 x 400 relay.  A total of 1.75 competitive miles.  As you might imagine, while the night drags on…and on….and on, they get a little run down.

Exhaustion sets in and it’s as if the weight of their heads is too much for their necks to hold up.  They give in to the pull and let their heads drop back, mouths wide open, sucking in air.

The sound of competitors feet, hard and fast behind them, tempts them to look over their shoulders to see just how much they are closing the gap.

Event after event, their bodies start to wear down and their once perfect form starts to deteriorate.  Their arms swing wildly as they approach the finish line one more time.

Myself and the fellow momma bears, (and 1 nana), scream frantically from the stands “Come on!!  You can do it! One more lap!!  You’re almost there!!”

But one coach on the infield caught my attention.  He was standing about 50 meters from the finish line and every time one of his kids would come by, this is what he would say, “Chin down, eyes forward and keep those arms moving front to back.”

Words of wisdom.  And I’m not talking about strictly for running.

Life gets tough and the burden of it all weighs you down.  You drop your head in defeat.  You start looking backwards, thinking the past was so much better than the present.  You decide you just don’t care anymore about doing things the “right way” and you start flailing.

Chin down, eyes forward, arms moving.

When you’re tired of trying and feel like giving up, that’s when you need to buckle down.

When the enemy is nipping at your heels, attacking you in every aspect of your life, keep your focus.

When it seems you’ve given your very best and it’s all for nothing, don’t lose your form.  Keep doing what you know to be right and true all the way through to the finish.

Chin down, eyes forward, arms moving.

That is how we will win the most important race we’ll ever run.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.  Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.” (Hebrews 12:1-4 NLT)

champion

One more time:  CHIN DOWN, EYES FORWARD, ARMS MOVING.

 

~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

 

~Someone Else!~ March 26, 2014

“Honey, I have to do it!  If I don’t, who will?”

“Someone else!”

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?

How many of my lady friends can relate to the above conversation?  Another project comes up and you feel obligated to say yes because you just know that if you don’t do it, it won’t get done.  Many, many times I have agreed to take on something that I really didn’t want to because I succumbed to the pressure of “everyone else has said no, we need you.”

Several years ago while I was pregnant with my Emma, I was being pulled in about 15 different directions.  I was volunteering for my kids school 4 days a week, teaching preschoolers Sunday school, singin’ in the choir & the praise team, serving on the PTA….you get the idea.  I remember vividly one Sunday morning, the praise team had just finished practicing and an elder started to approach me as I came down the stairs.  I had a sense of dread because the look on his face said, “I’m about to ask you to do one more thing….”  Keep in mind, folks, I wasn’t just pregnant, I was ginormously pregnant!  He proceeded to make his request for my assistance in another area of ministry.  As soon as I opened my mouth to give a reluctant ok, my man stood up from behind the drums, pointed one of his drumsticks at us both and said, “NO!  She says no!”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry!  Truthfully though, I was relieved.  I was about to add one more thing to my already overloaded calendar and it was something that I had zero interest in.  Initially I felt guilt-ridden because I was panicked that since I said no too, that this task was going to fall through the cracks.  Everything in me wanted to call him up and say, “I changed my mind, I’ll do it.”  But I resisted, (with the help of my voice of reason, aka, Jamie).

Here’s the deal, friends, you don’t have to do it all.  I know, I know…there are only a handful of people who do everything all the time because no one else will step up.  It’s ok, I promise you.  If it needs to get done, someone else will see to it.  It is entirely acceptable to choose where you will serve according to the gifts and talents that you have been blessed with by God.  Don’t believe me, take a look at the Truth, and let it set you free!

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you.  If your gift is serving others, serve them well.  If you are a teacher, teach well.  If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging.  If it is giving, give generously.  If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously.  And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

(Romans 12:6-8 NLT)

Kindly take note to the fact that nowhere in the above Scripture does it say that He has given all of these things to any one person.  This is why we are the body, working together not independently, to meet the needs of His people.  This obviously applies to the church and it’s various ministries, but can also be used to gauge how you book the rest of your calendar as well.  calling

 

~Shout Out!!~ March 24, 2014

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Today has without a doubt been one of the best Mondays EVER!  I had a whole blog idea worked out in my head yesterday but my computer was down so I wasn’t able to write.

Then today started to unfold and rather than share the post I originally had intended, I’m going to tell you about how awesome my God is to me!

First off, we had a PHENOMENAL worship service yesterday morning.  I wish I could put into words the overwhelming sense of victory I felt as we sang with every bit of conviction, love and gratitude we could muster: “The mountains shake before You.  The demons run and flee, at the mention of your name, King of Majesty!  There is no power in Hell, or any who can stand, before the power and the presence of the Great I Am!!”   Let me tell you folks, if you have never been in service where the Holy Spirit was moving, you are missing out.  It was incredible to feel His presence, even though we don’t live and operate by those feelings, it sure is nice when they happen.

So I was pretty much on a spiritual high already this morning with a heart so full of thankfulness that I truly thought it was going to burst.  Then I get some fantastic news in regards to my new business as a jewelry lady.  Next up came the notification that I have been blogging for one whole year-yeah me!  I never thought I would be able to keep up this writing thing, but I have enjoyed it immensely.  This blog has given me such a sense of accomplishment that I am so very thankful for my husband’s urging to pursue it.  Then I checked my mail, boy oh boy, I checked my mail.

I had not one, but two, unexpected envelopes in my box.  The first was from my “jewelry great-grandma” who sent me the most beautiful blue & white pearl bracelet…WHAT?!?!  How awesome is that?!  Behind envelope number two was a financial blessing from a family member who has showered our family with blessings more times than I could ever adequately thank her for.

Needless to say, this girl has been doing the happy Jesus dance all day long!  I’m walking around with perma-grin in complete awe at the hand of God in my life.

Let this be an encouragement to you all who may be struggling right now…DO. NOT. QUIT!!!  I promise I will elaborate later, but you won’t believe what a drastic turn around my life has taken just in the last couple of weeks.  We have gone from struggling in numerous areas of our lives to being more than conquerors in those same areas.  I’m going to give you one little piece of advice that I know has created the turning point for me, stop trying to do things your way.  Just stop it.  Let go and truly let God have the reigns.  Thank Him for His provision even before the resources arrive.  Wait expectantly to see His hand move on your behalf.  Ok, so that was more like 4 things…sorry I am so excited I just can’t shut up!

Big shout out for my Lord & Savior…Go team Jesus!!!god provides

 

~Nag, Nag, Nag~ March 3, 2014

Ladies, I hate to do this to you but if I didn’t write about the quarrelsome wife at some point during our Proverbs study then it really wouldn’t have been an accurate depiction of all that the book covers.  I’m going to make this easier on you by focusing on my own experience as a nag.

I have a happy and fulfilled marriage….now.  Let’s just say that hasn’t always been the case.  Now I was always an excellent homemaker.  My home was never dirty, the laundry was done daily, my cupboards were never bare and meals where prepared right on schedule.  I was taking very good care of my man and providing for most of his needs.  But, and you all knew the but was coming, I was not doing any of these things with a cheerful heart.  My husband was coming home to a picture perfect house with a not-so-picture-perfect wife living in it.  When it came to him, I was unpleasant.

However, I was a different kind of nag because I rarely vocalized my complaints.  I preferred the make-him-read-my-mind-method.  He knew I was agitated but I liked to mix things up by making him play a continual game of “guess what you did wrong today?!”  Doesn’t that sound like a fun time?  Even though I knew I wasn’t exactly being a good wife, I felt comfortable with the fact that I was a good enough wife by keeping up my home.

Wanna hear when my revelation came?

We had a marriage conference at our church and Joe McGee made a simple statement that was profound, convicting and freeing all at once:  “You are your husband’s wife, not a house wife.”

“It’s better to live alone in the corner of an attic than with a quarrelsome wife in a lovely home.” (Proverbs 21:9 NLT)

And all the homemakers say…OUCH!!

Here I thought I was doing a bang-up job by providing a well-kept, comfortable home when truthfully I was tearing it down little by little with my own hands.  A house is a home because of the people who live in it, not because of it’s appearance and I was neglecting my people.  Yes, they were well taken care of but my little people could see and feel the tension between me and my spouse.  What kind of example was I setting for my girls- So long as you take care of your ‘job’ then it’s ok to neglect your husband’s physical, spiritual and emotional needs?  That is not the life I desire for my kids and I realized it was no longer acceptable for me either.

Both my husband and I made some changes in how we treated one another.  Perhaps one day I can convince him to share with you but for now, I will let you in on what I did.  First, I made a conscious decision to focus less on my to-do list and make my get-to list my priority.  In other words, my chores took a back burner to conversation with Jamie, story time with the girls and rainbow tag with my older kids and their friends.  Then I decided that rather than fuss about what my husband was not doing, I would praise him for the ample things he did for which I should be thankful.  Lastly and most importantly, I stopped clamming up when I was upset.  Ladies, our guys cannot read our minds!  If you aren’t willing to speak up about what bothers you, then you really don’t have a right to be angry when it doesn’t improve.

Marriage is a gift and a treasure.  Yes, there will be times in the valley but if we nurture our relationship we will survive the trials when they come raging in.

same side

*This is day 21 of our chapter-a-day study of Proverbs.  If you wish to read from the beginning, search 31 day in the tool bar to the right and go from there!  Happy learning!