Peace of My Heart

An encouraging voice to drown out the noise

~Avoid Mockers~ February 22, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 8:56 pm
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We’ve been gone from home for just at 3 months now. One thing about moving hours away from everyone you’ve ever known, you have lots of time to think…perhaps a little too much time! Now I’m not saying this is specific to me, but it is something I’ve observed having been removed from varying situations.

I’ve had a rather painful, if not obvious revelation: some people want to see you fail for no other reason than sheer malice.

Fortunately, for every one of them, there is someone who celebrates your triumphs, encourages you & truly wishes you great success…hang on to them.

You shouldn’t be overly concerned with those who wish you no good, who seem, in fact, to thrive off your misfortune. Don’t try to interpret why they have such harsh feelings for you, your efforts will likely prove futile. There is a solid chance they may not be completely aware why they have such feelings of contempt aimed squarely at you. Even those you have wronged and forgiveness seems out of their reach, don’t allow yourself to become all-consumed by it. If you’ve made your peace with them and more importantly, the Lord, let it go.

“Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul.” (Proverbs 22:24-25 NLT)

Instead be thankful for those who love you, the real you, the ones who forgive your shortcomings, shoulder your burdens and actually defend you against the cynics.

I have said this in numerous posts and I’m going to say it again, be kind always. Add to that, even when you’ve been wronged, feel misjudged or when someone shoots you the death stare….be kind always. We are all a messed up bunch of sinners and the sooner we realize that, the quicker we can get on with the business of loving one another.

 

~Annonymous Tears~ February 3, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 11:51 am
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Today started out as one of those days where the tears were just beneath the surface. It was the craziest thing because I couldn’t even pinpoint the source of my sudden sensitivity. The feeling of tension in my chest was ever present as was the constricting of my throat as I choked back the waterworks.

For those who don’t know, I’m a natural cryer, meaning I do it often and for seemingly no real good reason. I’ve been accused of being tenderhearted more than a time or two in my life, which is a blessing & a curse. Typically, even if no one else can comprehend what is causing my emotional distress, I usually know which is what had me flabbergasted this morning.

Rather than try to hash it out, I chose avoidance. I attempted to beat the weepies into submission. First I tried the death machine, (elliptical in layman’s terms), to no avail. Next up, I pounded the pavement. For a solid 2 miles my mind was jumbled & I was growing more frustrated by the minute. The release of endorphins usually works. That’s when I started talking to Jesus, nothing heavy, just a “Hey Jesus, what’s up with me today?!” There was a nice, soft breeze while I ran accompanied by the lightest of showers, and that’s when I got my answer and felt at peace.

Sometimes, it’s ok to just be sad; inexplicably, possibly even somewhat irrationally sad, because even if we don’t know the source of our sorrow, Jesus does and he knows precisely what to do with it. It could be there is someone you love going through hell and that sudden sadness you feel is a stirring in your spirit to pray for them, even when no name or specific need comes to mind. Maybe there’s something in your own life that you haven’t given much thought to and this is the Lord’s way of calling attention it so that it can be dealt with before it festers. It could be something else altogether!

My point is, when those feelings of overwhelming sadness strike, rather than run from it, (literally in my case), take a moment and pray about it. There is a verse that has always brought me comfort that comes to mind and I hope that it brings you peace as well.

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Even when unnamed, silent tears fall, they are never in vain. Not one goes unnoticed by the One who knows the number of hairs on your head. Let that sink in today.

 

~Don’t freak the freak out!~ September 23, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 10:13 am
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Some days I have these moments of clarity where all is right with the world, everything makes perfect sense and the word zen could be used to describe my state of being. So far, today has NOT been that day!

We have some changes happening in Chez Rutledge and up until this morning, I was pretty relaxed about it all. For whatever reason, I decided at approximately 8:15am on a Wednesday was a great time to freak the freak out!

How are we going to make this work?

When will everything fall into place?

Why are we not getting clear & precise direction?

What the heck made me think I could be all calm and cool about anything?

My “nature” is to worry and fret and plan ahead and know what’s happening “play-by-play” style. We are currently in a “roll with it” stage and my brain went all spastic and nearly short circuited. Then in true Jesus fashion, I had a gentle one word reminder…rest. My first thought was, “Seriously, Lord?” Then I reread my devotion about stillness and quickly pulled references on “rest”.

“And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14 ESV)

No matter where we go, what we are doing or whom we are with, the Lord himself goes with us which should give us rest in the form of peace.

“It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat;for God gives rest to his loved ones.” (Psalm 127:2 NLT)

Being a child of God gives us an assurance that we will have what we need, when we need it without fail. In these words, we find rest in His provision.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matt 11:28-30 Message)

If you’ve ever found yourself seeking counsel from a Christian during times of hardship, I am sure you’ve heard the phrase, “God never gives us more than we can handle.” Sometimes when the struggle is real and deep or even painful, those words feel empty and crass. However, there is profound truth in the verse above. God gives us rest in His promises. We will never be defeated so long as we walk according to His plan for our lives.

So don’t freak the freak out over whatever is happening in your life right now. What seems overwhelming to us is simply all in a day’s work to the one who never slumbers. Y’all, He’s got this so just rest already!season

 

~Show Me A Sign~ July 7, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 10:49 am
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Have you ever found yourself at a crossroads feeling like you haven’t the faintest idea which way to go?

You could easily continue on the same path you’ve been on, nothing wrong with that, or you could take a hard right into the unknown. The trouble isn’t so much what you should do, it’s feeling confident that it’s what you are supposed to do.

When you choose to live your life following Jesus, making any change can be intimidating. What if it’s not God’s will for your life and you do it anyway? I know I personally fear the ramifications of making the wrong choice. It’s not that I picture the Lord sitting on His throne, eagerly waiting for an opportunity to thump me on the head when I misstep. It’s more of a reverential fear of wanting to walk in His will for my life rather than chasing after my own selfish desires. This is where the real struggle begins, how can I ever be sure that it’s the Lord speaking to me?

Recently I reached out to my aunt whom I often go to for advice. She has a way of giving a different perspective and forcing me to think things through from every angle. She encouraged me to ask God for a sign and had this to add “You’ll know it when you get it. And if you think it’s a sign, but you’re not sure — ask for another one. God is patient that way. He too, wants you to be sure.”

Anytime something speaks to me, I go to scripture for a reference.

Later, the Lord sent this message to King Ahaz:“Ask the Lord your God for a sign of confirmation, Ahaz. Make it as difficult as you want—as high as heaven or as deep as the place of the dead.” (Isaiah 7:10 NLT)

Well, there that is. I am a visual learner, most assuredly, so it makes sense that I would want some sort of sign when making life changes. The Lord created me so it’s not as if this is some big shock to Him. God is not insulted by my request for signs and He is a patient God who loves me and has my best interest at heart.

If you find yourself in a place of indecision today, take the words of Psalm 37 to heart:

“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” (Psalm 37:23-24 NIV)

Delight yourself in the Lord first and foremost. Worship Him in the waiting. Ask Him for direction and watch expectantly for the signs you are seeking. He is faithful, every single time.

 

~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.

 

~Nightmares Are No Match For My Jesus~ January 14, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 11:45 am
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Could you say no to this face?!

Could you say no to this face?!

Sometime in the wee hours of the morning…I’m talking 2 or so….my little mini-me came to my side of the bed with tears rolling down her chubby cheeks.

“Mommy, I had a bad dream. Can I please sleep with you?”

We try really hard not to make it a habit of letting our little ones crawl into bed with us in the middle of the night. My husband is a cuddler and it kind of creeps him out a bit to roll over and throw his arm over the 3-foot-tall version of his wife 😉

So in my half awake, one eye open state, I started to send her back to her own bed. That is until I looked into her big doe eyes and saw the look of panic on her face. Her voice broke when she tried to talk and she was actually shaking. Sorry husband, scoot your fanny over, mini me is coming in! The moment she crawled in next to me, she snuggled as close as humanly possible with her head on my shoulder and pulled my arm over her tiny frame. And she stopped whimpering, instantly. No more tears, no more shaky shoulders, no more ragged breaths. She was comforted at the exact moment I held her close.

Without even thinking about it, I started to pray for my girl, that God would protect her impressionable mind and fragile heart from things that would wake her in such a state. Sometime mid prayer, we both drifted off to sleep.

This morning I can’t help but draw a parallel to my relationship with the Lord. No matter the time of day, He is never too worn to open His arms to me. He is never too groggy to pull me close and soothe my soul. He is always prepared with words that bring comfort in the midst of the scariest of times and when I let Him, he can replace my tears of sorrow with tears of gladness.

I am overwhelmed, folks. My momma and daddy friends will know what I mean when I say sometimes, I’m just so exhausted that I don’t know that I have anything to give my babes…physically or emotionally. And then there is our heavenly Father, with more kids than we can ever count, and yet He is forever there for me, for you and for all His precious children without fail.

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let he righteous be shaken.” (Psalm 55:22 NIV)

Snuggle in close to Him and feel His strength. Let Him drape His arm around you. Now feel the heaviness in your life lift as He takes your burdens and cares and makes them His own. And find rest. Sweet, sweet rest.

“But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.” (Psalm 73:28 NLT)

 

~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

 

~Huff & Puff, Satan~ October 20, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 10:21 am
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After a week on hiatus, I’ve decided to buckle down and get back at it! This blog was started in response to the pull I felt on my heart to speak God’s truth to the weak and weary and man have I been both of those lately!  So today, I dropped all the babes at school, grabbed the laptop & a cup of coffee and retreated to my bed to hack out some profound wisdom with my doggie at my feet.

It didn’t take long before I started to feel the anxiety well up in my chest. I’ve neglected this blog for several day so I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten how to write and if this computer zooms one more time without me touching anything, I’m gonna scream….again.  Then I catch a glimpse of the book we are reading as a praise team and remember that the rest of the team is on chapter 6 and I’m struggling to finish chapter 3.  My inbox is flooded with requests for volunteers that I have yet to respond to, so maybe I should give that my attention instead of focusing on my ministry.  And I was gone all weekend fundraising so our house is a hot mess and the laundry is up to the ceiling so it’s pretty selfish of me to sit and sip coffee and try to talk to y’all when my family needs my services.

Well, hey Satan you didn’t waste anytime showing your hideous face on this lovely Monday morning.

Why is it that at the precise moment you decide to do something for Jesus, Satan jumps in and messes with your mind?!  Does he not have anything better to do?  Apparently the answer to that question is a resounding NO!  Surely I am not the only one fighting some Hell today.  So what say you, friend? Are we going to let the enemy attack our hearts and minds at every turn or are we going to lean hard into God and renew the fire and passion we once had to serve Him with gladness?

“Give me back the joy that comes from being saved by you. Give me a spirit that obeys you. That will keep me going.” (Psalm 51:12)devil

 

~Love in a Sweatshirt~ September 22, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 8:42 am
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Early on in the football season, the boys were given discount cards to sale as a fundraiser. Isaiah brought his stack home determined to unload all 20 so as to earn a free hoody. This overextended momma let him know right up front that this year, he was on his own! Normally my shy guy bribes his social butterfly sister to do the peddling for him, but not this time. He harassed the entire neighborhood along with the majority of our church family. No one was safe, from the teenagers to the granny-mothers who hadn’t a clue what he was selling, he didn’t discriminate between his targets.

All for a sweatshirt.

Low and behold, he managed to get rid of every last one. Kudos son, on a job well done.

Last week while I was away with my cross country team, I get a text from football boy. The sweatshirt had arrived. Naturally I proceeded to pick at him about how I couldn’t wait to borrow it since we wear the same size. “No way, Mom. You’re not taking my hoody.”

The next day, gameday, brought on another opportunity to tease him about my  new attire for the game. Somewhat irritated, he adamantly refused my requests as he threw on his jersey before school. I let him be and went on to make breakfast and pack lunches. Then just before we walked out the door, he came in to the kitchen, brand new personalized hoody in hand. “Here, momma, you can wear this to the game tonight.”

Lord help me not to cry like a big sap!

Some of you may think I’ve flipped my lid. I mean, what’s the big deal, it’s just a shirt, right? Uhm, no, it’s much more than that. He worked his little tail off to earn that reward and he chose to share it with me, his super proud momma. I knew this was his way of saying, “Love you Mom.”

After he left for the day, I looked at my mom and said, “I don’t care if it’s 100 degrees tonight, I’m wearing this sweatshirt!” And I did, with a huge smile on my face that was also bittersweet. His hoody….was too big for me. So with the sleeves hanging over my hands, I waited for him at the gate post game to talk about how he’d get that missed interception next time. And as he stood looking down at me, my heart melted. My little boy ain’t so little anymore. Now every time I pull on his prized possession and it swallows my smaller frame, it will be like wrapping up in a warm hug from my oldest son who’s growing up way too fast without my permission.

“Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift? The fruit of the womb, his generous legacy? Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows are the children of a vigorous youth. Oh, how blessed are you parents, with your quivers full of children!”

(Psalms 127:3-5 The Message)

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~Seeing Grey~ July 28, 2014

6e3ef532ac671146c0756602673a4d20First the books were released and our news feeds blew up with conversation of “mommy porn.” Now that the movie is set to debut on Valentine’s, (classy move Hollywood), once again my screen is flooded with Grey.

I’m not typically one to shy away from controversial topics when it pertains to what I will and won’t write about. I’ll be honest, I have considered this off limits since the day I realized that I know a great number of women who read the books and are now anxiously awaiting the day it hits the big screen. I didn’t want to offend anyone with my opinion. But, being silent isn’t really my style & it would make me look like a hypocrite to remain close trapped on this when I have been so outspoken on other matters.

Before diving in to this post, let me preface with this, I am not condemning those of you who have chosen to consider this entertainment. It will become clear that I do not agree with you, but I don’t think less of you. Oftentimes a differing opinion is offensive & sparks heated arguments. That’s not my goal here. My only reason for breaking the silence from my side of the debate is to shed a little light as to why I think this type of material needs to be avoided.

Now, I have not read any of the books so I am aware that my opinion is based on limited information. What I have done is read book reviews, followed conversations of those who have read & most recently watched the 2 minute trailer that was aired on daytime television. I have more than enough material to state my case.

Countless women are touting this as nothing more than fantasy, a somewhat twisted romance novel, meant to bring excitement into the boring lives of stay at home moms everywhere. Surely the women making these lax comments have never been at the mercy of a man who made them feel the very real emotions that come along with this type of “relationship.”

I’m guessing those who find this type of fantasy exciting have never had a man use the weight of his body to prove his strength over you, rendering you completely helpless to fend off whatever came next. I’d say it’s safe to assume that you’ve never been in a position where your naivety and eagerness to please in order to feel loved & accepted was used as a tool of manipulation in order to fulfill someone’s selfish desires. I bet you haven’t a clue what it does to one’s self-esteem to submit to some level of degrading behavior because you’ve been made to believe that is what love is about.

Perhaps it simply hasn’t occurred to you who sing the praises of this book and others like it that you may be unknowingly condoning the horror that someone you know and care about has either walked through or worse yet is currently enduring? Kind of takes the lighthearted aspect out of, “it’s just a book.”

Friends, this is no more “just a book” than Playboy is just a magazine. It is one more way that we are becoming desensitized to what we should find offensive. There is nothing morally right about a woman’s vulnerability being exploited in order to satisfy the self-serving desires of a domineering man. It’s abusive & embarrassing to have someone claiming to love you persuade you to express that love in ways that leave you feeling ashamed and used. Why on earth would any woman, Christian or not, build up this type of behavior?

My initial thoughts were about are my girls. I would be mortified to think that my beautiful, intelligent, strong willed little ladies would grow up to believe that this sort of behavior is not only acceptable but applauded. I cringe at the possibility that one day a man would enter their lives that would play on their weaknesses and manipulate them into sacrificing their integrity in order to gain their affection.

Then there are my boys. Most days it feels like we’re fighting a losing battle as we desperately try to instill values that are rapidly being labeled as old fashioned. We encourage simple things like opening doors & surrendering your seat for ladies while their peers label women with titles I won’t dare repeat. My desire for them is to admire a woman who respects herself and has enough regard for her body & sexuality to protect it, not willingly lay down her beliefs to satisfy them.

How can we effectively teach these principles if we are a walking double standard?

That, in a nutshell, is why I personally will not read or watch anything that turns violence & degradation into a desirable quality for a mate. I prefer to keep my idea of love and intimacy in tact, where two people commit to honor the other above themselves. I refuse to allow my children to see me choose entertainment where women are objectified and dominance is regarded. I can’t get on board with the group proclaiming harmless fun for a girls night out. I won’t give the impression of indifference by keeping quiet.

I don’t expect this article to change anyone’s mind. I do hope that it makes you pause before taking such a laid back approach to what you allow yourself to be exposed to.

For those of you who are interested, these are just a few of the Scriptures I found helpful in regards to this matter & others like it.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2

“Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.” Psalms 119:37

“And so I insist-and God backs me up on this-that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can’t think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion .” Ephesians 4:19