Peace of My Heart

An encouraging voice to drown out the noise

~Set Your Mind~ October 22, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 10:15 am
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Yesterday, during a highly agitated moment, I text my friend Julia about my endless frustrations and she sent me the most beautiful (and timely) response: I like these lines from a prayer: “Lord, help us to be: Cheerful when things go wrong; Persevering when things are difficult; Serene when things are irritating.”

Can I get an amen?!

Seeing as how my morning got off to yet another rocky start, I quickly pulled up her message and read it again…and again…and again. Then it dawned on me that the words reminded me very much of one of my favorite verses, Romans 12:12:

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (NIV)

While I love both her message & this Scripture, some days, (most days), it is far easier said then done. Life just gets in the way! I want to be full of joy and patience and faithfulness but I’m surrounded by things that suck the happy right out of me. But is it not up to you and me to not allow joy-suckers into our lives? Doesn’t the Bible teach us to set our minds on things above instead of things of the earth? In other words, focus on the One who knows all, sees all and can handle all as opposed to focusing on the problems, struggles, negativity, bad moods and overwhelming to do lists.

Today’s message is short and sweet, I almost didn’t bother to share. But I thought, “what if they don’t have a friend like mine to help them set their mind right?” So thanks, Julia, for the prayer that I needed. I hope this message makes the way into the hearts of others, who like me, have allowed a joy-sucker into their lives far too early this morning.

Be blessed….and BE a blessing!

 

~The Heart Speaks~ July 21, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 10:21 am
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Have you ever said something and immediately thought to yourself, “where did THAT come from?!” I know I have, on more occasions than I care to admit.

Good people have good things saved in their hearts. That’s why they say good things. But those who are evil have hearts full of evil, and that’s why they say things that are evil. What people say with their mouths comes from what fills their hearts.” (Luke 6:45 ERV)

(We could probably go ahead and add….what people say with their fingers as well. Because let’s face it, we do a whole lot more talking through the written word than face-to-face.)

This Scripture hurts my heart because I know I have allowed things into my life that have caused me to act uncharacteristically.

The first thing that comes to mind is frustration. Being a stay-at-home mom, I sometimes find myself completely overwhelmed by the demands of the little people in my life. Instead of pausing and seeking direction from The Word, I allow myself to be consumed by my emotions. What flows from my heart in those moments are snippy, sarcastic words that do nothing to remedy the situation but rather cause the frustration to seep into the hearts of the ones I am dumping on.

What about hurt? This one tends to have the reverse affect on me. When I feel hurt by someone, I shut down, building a wall to protect myself from further damage. That is no more healthy than if I lashed out. Instead of talking it out and making room for healing to begin, my lack of communication keeps the hurt bottled up, allowing it to fester until it does come out in my speech. A hurting heart will change your perspective and therefor the things you say in response to any number of scenarios. It’s in those moments, when the wounds run deep, that we have to remember “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) Ask Him to heal your hurts so that the healing can begin before it takes root in your spirit.

For me, anger is probably the most dangerous of emotions that can fill my heart and come screaming out of my mouth. It’s not that I anger easily, but when I do, it’s usually a major offense that I feel cannot be ignored. Anger causes me to react with little to no thought about how my words are going to impact the person on the receiving end. Anger makes me not care about others. It makes me speak harshly, without grace, without love, without compassion. Anger makes me mean. So how are we to keep anger from getting a foothold in our lives? How do we LET IT GO when we really want to hold onto that wrong and feel justified in our madness? “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7) Pray for God’s peace to take the place of that anger that is sure to bring ruin.

There are many other things we can allow into our hearts, either good or bad, that will eventually come out of our mouths. Let’s strive to replace bitterness with forgiveness, hate with love, judgment with empathy and more of the like so that the words we speak will be helpful for building others up according to their needs, that they may benefit those who listen. (from Eph 4:29)heart

 

~Cherish Your Reward~ May 13, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 1:54 pm
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I was recently out in public with a couple of littles in tow when I saw something that truly broke my heart.

A dad was walking with his little girl who couldn’t have been more than 3 years old. She wasn’t making a scene, but softly whimpering that she wanted her mommy. Dad proceeded to berate her all the way to their car, saying things that couldn’t possibly make sense to this young mind. “Well I don’t care who you want, you’re stuck with me.” “How about we sit at home and do nothing since your life is so miserable with daddy.” There was more, but that’s enough. As we got into our cars, I could see from a distance that he had now resorted to yelling into the backseat. Even from a distance, I could see his face twisted in anger. I would have cowered from him so I can imagine how that little girl felt.

As much as I wanted to, I didn’t speak up for one basic reason: I had children with me and he seemed agitated enough that I feared what he might say in their presence. I was so upset that I texted my husband about what I had just witnessed and the horrible guilt I felt for not taking the opportunity to say something.  As is oftentimes the case, he offered some words of wisdom “Its hard to make the right call in those situations. You saying something could have caused his anger to escalate and made things worse for her once they got home. Sometimes praying for God to intervene is the best course!”

So very true.

It seems here lately the news is flooded with stories of child abuse, neglect, or worse. Now, I’m not accusing this particular dad of these things but my heart hurt for that little girl who seemingly did nothing wrong other than ask for her mommy. Sometimes I think we all need these reminders:

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him.” (Psalm 127:3 NIV)IMG_6893

“Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my Heavenly Father.” (Matt 18:10 NLT)

 “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph 6:4 ESV)

Mommies and daddies are going to get frustrated and we are all going to say things we do not mean. Sometimes the little ones we’ve been blessed with are going to wear on our frayed nerves. But just as with anything else, the more you do something the easier it becomes. So let’s make it a habit of thinking before we speak or react, especially when it comes to the tiny humans in our lives. And let’s pray for those who seem to be at their wit’s end.

 

 

~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.

 

~Teach With Grace~ September 30, 2013

teaching-wordle“I hate teaching new people stuff.”

Seriously, that wasn’t very nice.  Quite honestly I was so caught off guard by their comment that I was speechless.

Now a couple weeks later I have mastered my witty comeback, “Well, where would you be had no one taken the time to teach you the skills that you now possess?”

Ok, so maybe not so witty, but true…right?

I couldn’t help but feel bad for the guy in training that this was the “leader” he was placed under.  If he would make such a comment to me, someone simply passing by, can you imagine the attitude he put off on his pupil?

Then I thought about how “seasoned” Christians can sometimes by to the “newbies.”  Are we responding to their questions and uncertainties with an attitude of, “I hate teaching new people stuff” or are we being gracious and patient as someone once was with us?

You know, I think that so many young Christians quit because they’ve been made to feel that they had to have it all together the moment they received salvation.  Someone in a position of spiritual authority has made the life of faith seem like an instantaneous change rather than a continual growth process.  So when they slip, and we all know they will, rather than seek guidance & forgiveness, they just walk away feeling frustrated and defeated because they were unable to reach the impossible standards that were set before them.

I know that we can’t all be teachers, nor do I consider myself one, but in my opinion, once you claim to be a Christian, you have automatically become an example that people will look to for guidance.  I do see myself as a willing vessel who is happy to share what I learn from the Word as it not only helps others, it helps me as well.  It is not an annoyance to help a new Christian with their walk, it is a privilege to watch them learn and transform into a new creation.

As you encounter those who have just begun their journey, withhold the judgment and go heavy on the love.  Think of who you were when you first accepted Jesus as your Savior, if you were like me, you were absolutely clueless what to do after you prayed the sinners prayer!  Be gracious and gentle and help people.  Help them overcome the obstacles that trip them up as opposed to becoming agitated that they are still having the same problems.

Don’t be like the guy who hates teaching new people stuff, be like Jesus who lived for it.

“Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have

commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

(Matthew 28:18-20 NIV)

 

~Big Girl Pants~ August 28, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 7:12 am
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Have you ever had someone hurt your feelings and you really, really wanted to pout about it?  Then your big girl panties start digging in and it reminds you that you’re too old to be walking around with your bottom lip sticking out so far you just might trip over it.  Unfortunately, pouty face doesn’t garner the same response when you’re in your 30s as it did when you were 2.

So, what is a nice Christian to do when someone triggers that childlike reaction: pull-up your britches, wipe your nose and whip out the Word.

In Luke 6 verse 29 we are told if someone smacks us in the face, we should turn and offer them the other side as well.  But not only that, if they steal our coat we should take off our shirt and hand it over as well!  Now imagine your elementary school self, someone smacks you in the face or steals your stuff and you likely would have done one of two things: hit them back or went crying & screaming to tattle to the teacher.  Here we are in grown-up bodies and we are faced with the same issues with the same inclination to fight back.  A harsh comment gets thrown out in your direction & it feels like a slap in the face.  Your gut reaction is to offer an even more vicious counter remark or whine to God about how unfairly you are being treated.  I hate to be the one to break it to you, but that ain’t how good Christian folk are supposed to behave.

“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.”

(Luke 6:27-28 NLT)

“Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.”

(Colossians 3:13 The Message)

The next time you feel a younger, more immature version of your self trying to creep out to fight your battles for you, remember that as children of God we are called to be set apart, a holy people devoted to Him, living for Him and honoring Him with ALL of our actions.

 

~Mean Girl~ July 29, 2013

There is a mean girl living inside of me.  She looks exactly like me…until she opens her mouth.  The worst part about her is she tends to show herself to some of the most beloved people in my life, my children.

It makes no sense, but sometimes I can be incredibly hateful and short with the biggest blessings God has ever given me.  I sat and thought on it and realized that just maybe it’s because not every single moment of parenting screams “blessing”!

Allow me to paint you a picture.  It has been one of the longest mornings of mommy-hood in my life.  Everything my kids can do wrong has been done with flair.  Glorious naptime arrives and for the first time all day my butt connects with the couch.  Just as I start to truly relish the quiet, I hear rustling from the girl’s room.  I tiptoe to the door and listen….”Mooommmyyyy, I poop!”  Down the stairs I go and there stands my Bella in her crib, pant-less.  It would appear I have a little Picasso on my hands and with no crayons in sight, she has decided to improvise.  Here comes my mean girl.  As I look upon the mess that I have the privilege of cleaning up, my mind is reeling “NOTHING about this moment shouts blessing!!”

I lectured my 2 year old with enough vehemence to make a military general retreat.  Half a bottle of bleach & one bath later, the smoke clears and I realize just how foolish I would have sounded had anyone been listening in.  My daughter didn’t do anything different than nearly every other child has done at some point.  But I was so tired and frustrated from a very long morning and she made an easy target for me to unload on.

However, I refused to let my mean girl win.  Just because “she” felt justified in her response, didn’t make it right.  So I used the best weapon I have to shut her up, the Bible.  The book of Proverbs is full of wisdom when it comes to controlling our anger.

“People with understanding control their anger; a hot temper shows great foolishness.”  (14:29)

The next time one of my children, or anyone else for that matter, throws a crick into my day, I have to choose to exercise understanding over acting a fool.

“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”  (15:1)

When my knee-jerk reaction is to respond with a hot-temper, I am teaching my children to do the same.  With every harsh word I speak, I’m stirring up the “mean girl/boy” inside of them just dying to come out.

“Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs.”  (19:11)

Some wrongs cannot be overlooked when it comes to parenting, but as a wise woman once said, “You have to pick your battles.”  Thanks Mom, as always, you were right.  Respect is something that everyone craves but few work to get.  Granted it is a given that children should respect their elders, we make it far easier on them when we express grace & mercy rather than going off like a raving lunatic.

This is obviously an area where I am a work in progress.  There are days when I feel like I should be wearing a warning, “Caution: Mean girl crossing.”  It is by God’s grace that I can and will overcome.  I ain’t no quitter!  On the most difficult days when I struggle to bite my tongue, my goal is to recall the words of James 1:19:

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters:  You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry.”

Sometimes it is to my benefit to count to 100 before I open my mouth!hand over mouth