Peace of My Heart

An encouraging voice to drown out the noise

~God Never Wastes A Hurt~ June 22, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 8:37 am
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“God uses adversity in this life to strengthen your faith.

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (1Peter 1:6 NIV)

God never wastes a hurt.” ~from sermon “The best of times in the worst of times” Pastor Chad Dunford

It was that last line that comforted me, like a warm hug offered at just the right moment. Read it again and let it resonate, God never wastes a hurt.

I often encourage my kids to refrain from using words like “always” and “never” because of what they imply. To say someone never does such-in-such means, “at no time in the past or future; on no occasion; not ever.” Quite definitive language, wouldn’t you say? Now insert that definition into the aforementioned promise:

God, at no time in the past or future; on no occasion; not ever, wastes a hurt.

Wow.

God does not cause us pain and suffering, it is the result of living in a fallen world. And yet His Word assures us that we will never walk through any tribulation on our own.

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18 ESV)

Even when we sit alone, certain that no one cares about the tears that stain the carpet….

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” (Psalm 56:8 NLT)

Just when we allow ourselves to believe that it will always be this way…..

 “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3 ESV)

God can take your mourning and turn it into dancing. He can take that hurt that is pressing in on every side and use it to mold and strengthen you and glorify His name. When you think all hope is lost, take comfort in knowing:IMG_8085

God, at no time in the past or future; on no occasion; not ever, wastes a hurt.

 

~A Safe Life Doesn’t Require Courage~ February 3, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 9:37 am
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“Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage.” (Matt Damon in We Bought A Zoo)

Here’ the thing about courage, you only need it if what you’re about to do scares the ever-loving daylights out of you.

There are countless things we do throughout the course of a day that require little to no thought on our parts, they come naturally to us. We don’t have to weigh the pros and cons or determine the risk of that which is within our comfort zones. But you ask someone to do what is out of the ordinary for them, that goes beyond what they think they have the ability to do….that’s when the panic sets in.

That is when courage takes the stage.

It takes courage to make us step out into the unknown, especially knowing that there is a chance it will bomb.

I keep seeing a quote that says, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” I’d like to twist that a bit, “What would you attempt to do if you weren’t afraid to fail?”

Failure is not a bad thing. It is not our enemy. Oftentimes our greatest successes come after a string of hideous failed attempts. I’ll tell you what failure is…an excellent motivator. Because each time you pick yourself up and try just one more time, you prove to yourself that you have what it takes to push through in the face of a challenge.

I have seen the aforementioned movie a few times and not once had this line stuck out to me. However, this weekend it was simply playing in the background while I sat sending emails and it was like a jolt of lightening when it came through the speakers. On exceptionally difficult runs, a friend of mine has encouraged me before with the phrase, “I can do anything for 30 seconds,” and it has powered me through MANY times. I think that’s why this particular line caught my attention.

20 seconds, enough time to tell your fears to shut it and say “Yes, here I am. Send me.” Or, enough time to decide there’s no room for courage in your safe life and reply, “No, I can’t possibly do that.”

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“Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. He will see to it that all the work related to the Temple of the Lord is finished correctly.” (1 Chronicles 28:20 NLT)

 

~You Gonna Scratch That Itch?~ July 22, 2014

For just about a week now, I have been trapped in some twisted version of Hell. Sleep has evaded me night after night as I lay tormented. My mind has been clouded,  rendering me completely unable to focus. All I can think about is that itch that I desperately want to scratch.

That’s right, friends, I have quite the impressive poison ivy rash. I got you, didn’t I?!

Ok, so this may not seem like a teachable moment but stick with me.

At the peak of my hellacious discomfort, when my ability to reason was rapidly slipping away, the thought of how heavenly it would feel to scratch almost made me cave. Digging my nails into the blistered skin would have brought instant gratification. Miraculously, I managed to regain my composure and resist the temptation because I realized that the “oh that feels good” feeling would have been temporary. Had I given in to this little desire, I would have opened myself up to infection and pretty much guaranteed that my recovery time would be extended. So in the end, I was able to rationalize that one moment of “oh yeah” wasn’t worth the potential consequences.

While my choice of analogy may seem silly, you can see where I’m going with this. We all have found ourselves in this type of predicament at least once in our lives. What do you do when you’re faced with an opportunity to do something that not only would feel good but that you really want to do?!

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience.”

First off, you need to realize that you are equally susceptible to temptation as Joe Schmo who has never set foot in a church. Your life as a Christian does not protect you from being tempted. Secondly, you are not the only person to face this struggle. Regardless of what your demon is, someone else is fighting that same battle right now.

“And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.”

(1st Corinthians 10:13)

There it is, a promise from God that He won’t allow you to be overwhelmed. Not only that, but He will provide you with a means of escape. All that you & I need to do is look.

The next time you find yourself facing an itch that you desperately want to scratch, take a look at the consequences. Is that moment of pleasure worth a heinous infection that will poison other areas of your life?a53ca0f130778460c5521725ae02df3b

 

~Fight or Flight, What He Says~ July 1, 2014

*Guest blogger…my husband! After my post last week ,Fight or Flight, I asked him to share from his side of the struggle. Our transparency with you is for two simple reasons, that those who are struggling right now will see they are not alone & that if there was hope for us, there is certainly hope for you too! Now, meet Jamie.*

Recently, we have had to take a real hard look at our marriage.  For quite some time, we had been teetering on the edge of disaster.  I love my wife and I have since day one.  She is an awesome woman and a wonderful mother. As you all know, she is always putting others before herself.  So what could have possibly been the problem?  I think to put it very simply, we didn’t know how to talk to each other…especially me!  I can’t speak for her but, here is my perspective.

I realized she was an amazing person immediately.  She had some issues but, I had some pretty substantial ones myself.  I was just coming out of a really nasty marriage when I met Valerie.  I was an emotional wreck.  Betrayed, rejected, and alone with two small children….she swooped in and saved me.  Loneliness, heartache, and worthlessness were all washed away when she came into the picture.  She saved us.  She became an important part of our lives immediately, even while we were just dating.  It was like a fairy tale…only the princess saved the prince.

Looking back now, I can see that I thought she was the cure- all for my problems.  She was the answer I needed to fix my life and the lives of my kids.  She didn’t seem to have a problem with that.  She took over. Taking care of the kids, doing everything a good Mom does.  She was amazing and the kids looked to her as Mom almost immediately.  I was just awestruck at how great everything had turned out.  I really felt so blessed to have her in our lives.  I was so awestruck that I looked at her as superhuman.  I put her on a pedestal in my heart…one that she never asked to be on.  It is very good to have a high opinion of your wife but, I went a little too far.  I put way too much stock in how she treated me from one moment to the next.  I did not allow her to have a moment of weakness without somehow thinking I had done something wrong and she was upset with me.

Soon, the family started growing, she became more involved with their school, and my work schedule became ridiculously hectic.  Our time together began to dwindle, and what time we did have was spent with me watching her sleep.  I began to grow bitter.  I refused to see just how busy she was in life and focused only on the fact that she didn’t have time for me.  Caught in my selfishness, I allowed a distance to grow between us.  Eventually this distance made a major impact on our intimacy.  It was at this point that my mind began to play tricks on me…reminding me of how the last relationship went. Recalling that a lack of intimacy is a sure sign that either she is seeing someone else or that she wants to be seeing someone else.  I was still carrying so much baggage from the last go around, that I couldn’t bear the thought of it happening again….especially with this woman.  She was the best…if I couldn’t make it with her, then I was doomed to be forever alone.  I didn’t know what to do so, I did nothing.  I just locked everything up inside and hoped no one would notice.  Instead of this feeling going away, it grew into a hideous beast of anger, distrust, anxiety, and frustration.  I was mad.  I was mad at her for not being able to read my mind and know how to fix this.  I was mad at me for not having the courage to stand up and make a change.  I was just mad at life.

Eventually the anger began to work its way out.  It started small with sarcasm and mumbling under my breath.  Eventually it became worse.  I started watching programs and movies full of violence, language, and yes, even nudity.  Somehow watching this junk allowed a little release of the pressure building inside my broken heart.  I justified my actions by reminding myself that these are just guy movies…as long as there isn’t an “X” in the rating box, it’s not a problem. I was terribly wrong.  Not only was it reeking  havoc in my heart, it made a huge impact on hers.  Let me say this to all the fellas out there.  My wife is gorgeous.  She is one of the most beautiful creations God has made.  What I was watching had nothing to do with her.  I have always, and will always find her extremely attractive but, when your wife sees you looking at another woman inappropriately; it sends the same shock as you telling her she is fat and ugly!!!!   There were other explosions of anger that occurred throughout this time.  Most I was able to let out away from my family but, not all.  I have never put my hands on my wife in anger.  But, in her mind, these eruptions were just as bad.

So we were able to walk through these situations through the grace of God.  But, I wasn’t able to get over any of this.  Not only was I still dealing with the lack of affection and connection…now I’m dealing with the guilt of hurting the person I care the most about.  Once again…I was a wreck.  My self-worth had bottomed out and I began to think that maybe, just maybe she would be better off with someone who didn’t have so many issues.  I didn’t know what else to do.  Because of the mistakes I had made, I felt that I had destroyed any chance of fixing this thing.  I felt she would never forgive me, even though she said she had.  We had moments of fun, moments of joy, moments of tenderness….but, there just was a connection that was missing.

Finally, after 7 years we were able to sit down and open up.  It was a God moment.  She told me what she had struggled with and I opened up about some of my struggles…we began talking again.  For far too long, we did not take the time to share who we were and what we wanted. I just assumed she knew me and knew how to make me happy.  If one of us would have made an attempt at any time, I believe this would be a much different story.  The truth is, neither one of us wanted to be that vulnerable.  As she stated in her last post, we BOTH lived in the state of reaction.

So what does all this mean? Here is my advice to all those reading.  We all want to be loved.  The kicker is that the expression of love takes on different forms for different people.  It is important to learn who your spouse is and express your love to them in ways they can see and understand as being love.  Be understanding of each other.  Even now, looking back at all these situations we have been through, I do not see every one of them in the same light that she does.  So who is right?  If I want to help her heal, then I need to look at it from her eyes.  If she wants to help me heal, she needs to understand my perspective.  Marriage is about loving in spite of and loving through.  We may never see things exactly the same.  “No big deal” to her, may be monumental to me or vice versa.  TALK to each other.  Don’t assume to know what your better half is thinking and, likewise, do not assume that they know what you are thinking. Life is difficult. Marriage is hard. Do not make it harder by walking separately.

My final thought is this.  The entire time that we have been married, we have been surrounded by some amazing and wonderful people who would have been happy to help us at any time.  I was too embarrassed to ask!!!  God has put people in each of our lives for this very reason.  We are supposed to call on our brothers and sisters in our times of need.  And believe me, we were in need.  Your relationship is far more precious than your pride.  This is the type of situation where you have to choose one or the other because you will not be able to keep both your pride and your spouse.

There is so much more to share but, I have given all I can for now.  I am so thankful for my wife.  And the relationship we have struggled to build.  Is it perfect? Nope. Do we have it all figured out? Not hardly.  But, we are here together.  My reason for sharing this story is for this one purpose:  I hope that it will speak to someone who is at their wits end in their marriage, and maybe give a little strength to hold on.  I think that in my marriage, somehow, at some point, a wall had been constructed between us.  I don’t know who built it, when it was built, or why…but, it was there.  My prayer is that if you find yourself sitting beside a pile of bricks with a mortar trowel in your hand, stop! Ask yourself, “ am I really ready to block this path?”  Once that wall is built, it is extremely difficult to tear down.  Not every relationship can be saved ,but, maybe, if you try again, yours can.  Right now, we are tearing down some walls…brick by brick, by brick.Good Marriage

 

~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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~Not My Words~ May 1, 2014

“I use words as an expression…my words point to the Word….THE WORD has a name…Jesus Christ.”

Several times since beginning this writing thing, I have had people praise my posts.  There have been those who have reached out for counsel after feeling convicted from something I said.  I have received private messages with words like, “This post was for me.  I needed to hear this today, more than you know.”  Words of encouragement, prayers for blessing & pats on the back have not been lacking.

I don’t say these things to brag, quite the contrary.  I tell you this to give God every bit of the glory.  You see, I rarely have a moment when I sit down to write where the words that pour out are mine.  I do share life experiences, funny child-rearing stories and my testimony, one little piece at a time.  But what is reaching people, changing lives and tugging on heartstrings, has absolutely nothing to do with me.  It is Jesus.  His words, His promises, His grace & forgiveness, His love, His ever present help & strength.

When I write or talk about Jesus, my desire and hope is that I will be hidden and that He alone will be seen, heard and magnified.  Because I know that my words are weak and my mind is feeble, I long for the Holy Spirit to takeover at every ordained opportunity.

I am thankful that the Lord chooses to use me in this, my ministry.  I am also thankful for my brothers & sisters in Christ who have come alongside me and encouraged me in this gift.  And yes, that is how I view this blog, as my gift from the Lord to be used to point people to Him.  I am grateful to fellow Christian bloggers whose words have prodded me, nurtured me, brought me peace and left me in complete awe of what a beautiful Savior we live and breathe for.  I just wanted to take today to say thanks.

This song has quickly become one of my favorites.  This particular version was quite lengthy and I wasn’t sure why until midway through, a gentleman stepped up to the mic and started reading.  The quote above is what caught my attention and prompted this post.  Listen.  Let the song & his words settle deep into your soul.  Be blessed today knowing that “His perfect love could not be overcome.”

 

~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

 

~A Battle is Raging~ February 20, 2014

Saints, we are at war.

In my own personal life, in the lives of many of my friends and family, I can see the enemy hard at work.  He is attacking our hearts, our minds, our resources, our CHILDREN!  It is overwhelming to see the downward spiral that the world is on and it’s frightening to think that those we love may get swept onto the path of darkness.  We need to open our eyes and take an active role in fighting the Hell that is coming our way.  It is time we stop living like cowards, afraid to stand on the promises of God, and start living boldly for Him, shining our light so bright that people can’t help but take notice.

I don’t know what battle you are fighting today, but I do know with absolute certainty that God has given you the victory.  He has promised that we will not be shaken even by the most horrific of struggles.  He goes before us to make a way.  He stands beside us to give us strength.  He surrounds us with hedge of  impenetrable protection to keep all that is meant for our harm at bay.

Do you not see that the words of Proverbs 10:25 are screaming His truth?!

“When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away, but the godly have a lasting foundation.”  

We cannot be destroyed by anything when we place our hope in the One who created the Heavens and the Earth.  We sit safely in the palm of His hand.  Every hardship, every trial, every loss we experience passes through His knowing hands before it ever comes to us.  I truly believe that God will never give us more than we can handle.  I have heard so many people say, “God must really think I am tough for all the junk He lets come my way.”  No, he doesn’t.  He is giving us what we can handle when we invite Him into the situation.  We are not asked to overcome life’s obstacles in our volition, but with the help of our Father for whom nothing is impossible.  He is working all things together for our good.  The “stuff” that you think is going to destroy you, when submitted to Him can move you beyond anything you can possibly imagine.

I am speaking from personal experience.  I have been through some stuff, friends and God, in his infinite grace and mercy, has taken my mess and turned it into a message.

I heard this song on the radio this morning taking my kids to school.  It is my battle cry.  Hell’s coming, but I’m equipped with the armor of God to take a stand and kick in some teeth.  Suit up and join me, won’t you?

“The godly will never be disturbed, but the wicked will be removed from the land.” (Proverbs 10:30)

*This is day 10 of a 31 day study of the Book of Proverbs.*

 

~You’re an Overcomer~ November 22, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 9:17 am
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I had just dropped the big kids off at school and was headed back across town.  As always, my radio was turned to Spirit FM but I had the volume down a bit low because I had been talking to Emma just before she jumped out of the car.

All of a sudden, my 2 year old, Bella, squeals “Turn it up!!”

So I did.

The song that was playing was one that I’ve heard dozens of times but had never really listened to the words.  Clearly the Lord wanted to get my attention this morning and He used my wee babe to do so.

The song was Overcomer by Mandisa.  There is one section of the lyric that got me.

The same Man, the Great I am
The one who overcame death
Is living inside of You
So just hold tight, fix your eyes
On the one who holds your life
There’s nothing He can’t do
He’s telling You

The one who overcame death is living inside of me, what can I not do?

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”    

(John 16:33 ESV)     

I needed to hear this promise today.  Thank God that my sweet Bella wanted to crank the tunes first thing this morning.

I wanted to share the song & video with you all on this beautiful Friday.  Let me warn you, it’s a tear jerker (or at least it was for this weepy chick).