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.

 

~Why Don’t They Like Me?~ January 13, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 11:25 am
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Book credit can be found in the comment section of this post. Thanks, Blake!*

I came across this snapshot and for the life of me I can’t recall where. I’ve tried to find the book that this exert was taken from, again coming up empty. These words from a single page have resonated with me since the first time I read them. You see, deep down I like to be liked. I want to get along with every person I’ve ever met and for them to think fondly of me and vice versa. It’s childish, really, to think that we can get along with every person who crosses our path. But that is where two short paragraphs, from a book I’ve never read, have given me a bit of freedom.

I truly believe it to be okay to not “be” for everyone. Just as we all have different taste in foods, hobbies, and the like, we have different taste in qualities that we desire in our relationships. The intricacies that define us may make us intolerable to some….but not all. Rather than spend your time trying to force someone’s affection, why not foster the relationships of the ones who do think highly of you?

While I know with assurance I am not for everyone nor is everyone for me, I am adamant that we can and should respect one another in spite of our differences. If you find yourself in the presence of someone who you’re not particularly fond of, or you know without a doubt they can’t stand you, be polite. Try to see that while they may not be your cup of tea, they mean a great deal to someone. That’s the beauty of this life we’ve been given, that we all have the ability to love and plenty of opportunities to receive. Don’t expend too much energy questioning why someone doesn’t like you. It is a far better use of time to celebrate what makes you uniquely, unapologetically you.

“Above all else, guard your affections. For they influence everything else in your life.” (Proverbs 4:23 taken from The Living Bible)

 

~Just a Mom~ December 18, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 10:59 am
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Many times over the years I’ve had people ask me what I do for a living. More often than not, my response has been, “I’m just a mom.” It never really occurred to me that I almost sounded apologetic about my decision to be a stay at home mom until my daughter completed an assignment that included the age old question, what do you want to be when you grow up? She simply wrote, a mom.

Not “just” a mom, but a mom. I was suddenly very aware that my choice of words implied that being a mom was somehow subpar to every other occupation.

One of the many definitions of the word just states “no more than.” So all these years, I’ve essentially been saying, “I’m no more than a mom,” as if I’m: 1-embarrassed by that or 2-have no identity outside of that. Neither of which are true.

I love being a stay at home mom. Even this morning my own mother and I were discussing having no regrets over the amount of time we’ve spent with our children. My mom stayed home with us, too, and reassures me often that I’ll be thankful I did when my children are grown. When I talk with working mothers, I don’t feel ashamed that I don’t help “bring home the bacon,” so why would I imply with my words that I am?

There have been seasons when I felt like ALL I was revolved around being a mom, especially in the wee baby stages when I was the food source and therefor at the beck and call of my little tapeworms. However, I know that I have more to offer this world outside of my mothering abilities.

As I’ve thought about what message I’ve unintentionally conveyed, I’m reminded of the importance of filtering our words. Countless times I’ve heard our Pastor say that every word matters when he’s hashing out a verse of Scripture, the same is true of the words we speak. It’s amazing to me how one four letter word can change the tone of your message:

I am a mom.

I am just a mom.

Do you see it?!

I am flattered that my daughter wants to be a mom when she grows up. That one statement revealed to me that my girl looks at what I do as something to strive towards, not some overlooked, unappreciated title. And while I am a mom, I am so much more and so are all of my other mom friends, those who work outside the home & those who don’t. Ladies, (and fellas too), you are not just any one thing. You are a beautifully complex individual, completely unique and vitally important…yeah, you rock!

unapologetic

“Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.”

(Psalm 139: 14 NLT)

 

~Don’t Deposit Opinions~ November 12, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 10:20 am
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“What’s the matter, Emma?”

I had just picked up the last of my school kids yesterday and my typically chatty, smiley girl was sulking.

“Nothing.”

I lowered the rear view mirror so I could quickly lock eyes with her.

“Emma, we all can tell something is wrong so just spill it.”

“Susie Q called me stupid!” (Name changed 😉)

“Well, are you stupid?”

“NO!!”

“Of course you’re not, so why does it matter what she said? Baby, just because someone said something about you doesn’t make it true.”

And that seemed to be enough for my girl. She was right back to her normal self, not giving another thought to the opinion of one of her peers. That’s when it hit me, how many times have I sulked over something someone said to or about me?

We all have had someone be the opposite of nice to us. Someone’s called you a name, spread a rumor about you, sent you a nasty-gram and in the spirit of total honesty, you’ve been the guilty party as well, I know I have. Some of you blessed souls out there genuinely seem to have the ability to let it roll right off your back while others really struggle with letting opinions take root. I’m somewhere in the middle, depending on the offender and the depth of “meanness,” I can either shrug it off or take it to heart. When it comes to what others think about you, you have a choice, save it in your memory bank or delete it.

While I do think it’s wise to give thought to what others say about you, brief thought that is, I do not believe it’s healthy to let it alter how you see yourself. My husband, wise man that he is, once shared this little nugget of truth with me when I was seriously damaged goods because of another’s words, “Who you are is defined by how you live and how God sees you. People’s opinions, although worth considering at times, are not the final definition.”

Words hurt, friends, I get that. It is impossible to control what others say so it is up to us to guard our hearts and minds from such things. smile

 

 

~People Pleaser No More~ October 6, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 10:51 am
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I have recently felt challenged in an area of my life that I have’t had to deal with for quite sometime. I’ve tried to put a word to the emotion and can’t seem to settle on one that fits. I’ve been faced with some hurt that has left me feeling “blah.” And yes, that is the best I can come up with when I think of this particular situation. I am not angry. I don’t feel unforgiveness. I’m not upset. I feel no ill will towards anyone. And yet, I also feel no desire to do anything.

This is an odd predicament to find myself in as I have spent my entire life being a people pleaser. I’ve always struggled with the thought that someone may not like me and have mastered the art of adaptation to fit into whatever mold each person expected of me. But something has changed and it is both liberating and slightly terrifying all at once.

“Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.” (1Thes 2:4 NLT)

This is where I have missed the mark up until this point. I used to believe that if someone didn’t like me or my opinions, that meant I was failing God. How could I be effective in loving people if I can’t make them love me back?!

I realize now that my thoughts were skewed and misguided. I was naive to think that I could go through life being liked by all. Friends, I’ve had people hate me in response to a choice I made but I’ve also had those who simply didn’t like to be in my company for whatever reason, no explanation. Whereas I used to let it get me down and change my attitude when confronted by someone who was not a fan, I am learning to not let those around me have that much of an impact on how I perceive myself to be. I am imperfect, my word is fallible and at times I am completely unlovable. Even in those weaknesses and the multitude that I could add to the list, I know who I am. My self-worth is no longer hinged on what others say about me or directly to me. I am confident in who God says I am and that is sufficient cause for me to find freedom in the face of adversity.

pleasing people

 

~We Are Beautiful~ April 15, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 10:38 am
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My name is Valerie Deaune Rutledge. I am 33. I am 5’5…on a good day. I weigh somewhere between 120 & 130 pounds, I think. My clothing size varies depending on the number of carbs I’ve consumed on any given day. Stretch marks decorate the sides of my hips where my body strained under the pressure of carrying my children. My cheeks are dimpled, and I ain’t talking about the ones above my neck. There is a single age spot on my face. It’s right next to the wrinkles that feather out from the corners of my eyes, proof that I smile often & laugh easily. I have deep lines across my forehead, reminders of the times I’ve lain awake at night with worry. I have knobby knees, scaly elbows & not-so-white teeth from TOO MUCH COFFEE.

Why would I share these things with you, these personal details that most would consider flaws? Because I have had it with society defining us based on what is seen on the outside. I want to free women from the negative body images that plague us and keep us from being who we were created to be. So what my body is flawed according to the standards that are spat in our faces everywhere we look? I am so much more than a body.

I am a mom, and a pretty good one at that. I am a wife who loves her husband fiercely. I am a sister & a daughter. I am a writer. I am a friend. I am sensitive & compassionate. I love hard & forgive quickly. But most importantly, I am a child of God who tells me I am fearfully & wonderfully made. The same God who doesn’t make trash so why would I allow myself to believe that I am?

I am beautiful, so are you. Even with our flabby arms, sagging bottoms, wrinkly skin or whatever else makes us cringe when we look in the mirror. Ladies, when you stare into the eyes of your reflection, stop criticizing what you see. Begin to praise yourself for all of your amazing qualities that make you unique! Your intelligence, your sense of humor, your love for others…those are the things that make you lovely.

No more body shaming! Ignore the ads that offer quick fixes to “repair” all that is “wrong” with you. LOVE YOURSELF!

Can I offer a challenge today? Compliment your friends today, not on their looks, but on some other quality that you think makes them spectacular! I’m going to blow up some Facebook pages 🙂

beauty

 

~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 

 

~Love Yourself~ July 15, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 10:06 am
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For those of you who read my blog on a regular basis, you may have noticed my posts have been a bit sporadic over the last couple of weeks. This may come as a surprise to you, but every once in a while, I get discouraged. Shocker, right?!

Ok, so I’m messing with you, of course I get discouraged, we all do! Last week was particular frustrating for me. Nothing life shattering happened, I was just irritated. So much so that during Wednesday night Bible study, I essentially tuned Pastor out and sat in the back journaling my frustrations, (sorry Pastor, it wasn’t you, it was me).

I wrote about my lack of motivation to write. Ironic? Yes. I have a desire to one day publish and yet feel completely inadequate to reach that goal. My writing is too plain & there are far too many authors better equipped than I so who would want to pay to read my material?

My voice lesson didn’t go so hot either and that had my questioning if I should be involved in music ministry. Singing just doesn’t come naturally to me, I have to work at it, so maybe that means I should quit. In all honesty, my team doesn’t need me, right?

Times like this are incredibly difficult for me to overcome. I become my own worst critic & believe me, I am relentless with the harsh things I speak to myself. But then God gave me a little aha moment in the midst of my ramblings.

Recently I have caught my oldest daughter being rather hateful to her younger sisters more often than just typical spats that siblings are bound to have. When I called her out on it, I asked “Would you treat anyone outside of this house like that?!” Of course she responded with a resounding “No.” I followed up with, “Then why are you so quick to cut down the very people you should treat the best?!”

God has this way of taking the words I speak as a parent and making me turn them around on myself. I’m not always crazy about His methods, but He knows how to get my attention!

I would never look at another woman and call her a terrible mother.

I would never lock eyes with a friend struggling in their ministry and tell them their struggles were evidence that clearly they had missed their calling & it’s time to call it quits.

I would never belittle how someone chose to express their creativity.

And yet, these are all things I have screamed at myself. I am careful to choose kind and gentle words with others but berate myself every chance I get. Perhaps I should take my own advice given to my daughter, “If you wouldn’t talk to a complete stranger with such harshness than don’t speak it over someone you love.”

Yes, we should love ourselves. Even in our shortcomings, our struggles and our epic failures, we should show ourselves the same love and grace we extend to others. If like me, you tend to be gentler with others than yourself, try putting a different spin on a well known Scripture, love yourself as you love your neighbor.affe8253f3defec8b2654eefb29c8e31

 

~Let Me Take An Unfiltered Selfie~ July 11, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 8:17 am
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Do you know that there is an app that “touches up” your photos? I logged onto Facebook the other day and I had a recommendation to use said app.

Now I’m not sure what the ole’ Facebook is trying to imply, but color me offended!

The advertisement showed a beautiful young lady’s before and after the app worked it’s magic. I was not pleased with the results. The original showed each tiny freckle, her laugh lines and sections of stray hair that fell around her face. The retouched, so-called better, picture showed a spray tanned, perfectly manicured face and each strand of hair was placed just so. No more freckles, no soft lines to reveal her personality and no playful wisps of hair floating in her eyes.

Now you tell me how that kind of phony picture is more beautiful than reality?!

Yet another problem of the world we are living in. I’d like to go back in time and slap the fool who started the whole airbrushing craze. Now thanks to this app, you too can look just like the girl on the cover of a magazine. The completely unrealistic, professionally retouched, elongated here, slimmed down there version of what a woman should look like.

No. Thank. You.

I prefer to get my standard for beauty from the Bible:

“You are altogether beautiful, my darling, beautiful in every way.” (SOS 4:7)

Those creases around your eyes…evidence that you laugh often, not a flaw.

The stretch marks that reach around your hips & creep down your thighs…reminders of the miracle of life that came from your body, not a flaw.

The wild hair that gets frizzy & unmanageable when it rains…a unique feature you inherited from your grandma, not a flaw.

The abundance of freckles, too numerous to count…yeah, I love freckles, not a flaw.

Every part of you is a lovely reminder of what an awesome, creative God we serve. All so uniquely different & yet the same- beautiful, treasured, valued, irreplacable- just as we are.

Here’s one final thought for you, my paraphrase of 1 Peter 3:3-4:

Rather than worry yourself over the latest hairdo, makeup trends & fashion faux pas. Instead of looking in the mirror in disgust at the cellulite dimples, spidery veins & bags under your eyes. Just maybe, it’d be better to concern yourself with what is on the inside making its way out. Your words, your thoughts, your service to others, the love of God pouring out of a willing vessel…these are the things that make you radiant, not the newest shade of lipstick or the hair product that cements every hair in place.

(This is not an actual translation but can be filed under Valerism should you need a reference.)2f07e870b6a1e1d9fb2ff4e39cf46f86

 

~Don’t be a Swinging Door~ April 1, 2014

We recently completed a six week study of the Song of Solomon during our Sunday morning services.  It was a powerful string of messages that elaborated on the many facets of the “Love Story,” as our pastor adequately titled the sermon series.

The final message was on lasting love.  Isn’t that what we all desire, a love that withstands the test of time and all the junk that comes with it?  Ladies, don’t you crave a relationship that uplifts, nourishes and endures?  I would venture to say that not one of us would choose to be the other half of a twosome that tears down, destroys and falls to pieces at the first sign of fleeting bliss.

One little statement was like a clanging gong in my ears and that is what I would like to elaborate on today:

  • Girls, don’t be a swinging door.

I have not shared very much of my past because it’s under the blood.  However, I do feel that sharing of oneself opens the door for others to see what a hot mess you used to be before Jesus and see that there is hope when they look at where you are now, after Jesus.

So here goes nothing.

I was not a wholesome young lady.  My daddy issues made me think that I had to do whatever, whenever to get and keep a man.  After all, when your own daddy doesn’t want you, there must be something crazy wrong with you, right?  I wasn’t a one-night-stand girl, but I did engage in premarital sex with men that I was involved with.  It still hurts a bit to say that, but again, I’ve been forgiven and redeemed so go ahead and throw your stones if you must, they won’t break this glass.

The day that I finally realized I had it all wrong was when I became involved with my now husband.  He opened my eyes to what it’s like to truly be loved and valued for who I was, not by what I could do for him.  I no longer felt like I had to lower my standards and discard my morals in order to make him want to stay.  It was a condition-less love, what I had always longed to find.

So when pastor shared this Scripture from Solomon, I teared up just a little:

“What will we do for our sister if someone asks to marry her?  If she is a virgin, like a wall, we will protect her with a silver tower.  But if she is promiscuous, like a swinging door, we will block her door with a cedar bar.” (8-9)

This is the young woman’s brothers speaking on her behalf, ready to protect their baby sister’s virtue, if you will.  I couldn’t necessarily relate to the protective older brother, but it made me think of Jamie and how he was man enough to say, “I love you enough to stop you from compromising your worth to satisfy a lustful desire.”  I really hit the jackpot with him.

The problem with today’s young people is the lack of people in their lives teaching them the importance of saving the intimacy for when they are mature, self-confident & married!  When you allow yourself to become one with someone, you are giving away a part of yourself that you will never get back, not ever.  Young people who are feeling the pressure of what this generation claims to be acceptable, take it from someone who did it all wrong, having sex or even other acts of intimacy before you are joined in marriage is damning.  It will mess with your mind, your heart and your very soul for a long, long time.  Girls, you are not junk, you deserve better than to be with one guy this week and cramming your tongue down the throat of another the next, (that’s right, I went there).  If he won’t “date” you without that stipulation, trust me when I say, he isn’t worth the waste of your breath.  Kids now are more sexually charged than I can even understand.  Middle-schoolers are making out in school and having sex….OMG!!!  I really could stroke out just typing those words.  Why do you suppose it is that 12 & 13 year old BABIES are giving away something they should treasure?  My theory, no one has told them what they are worth.  Their self-esteem is based on the opinions of others as opposed to a confidence that comes from within.  No one has made them feel that they are priceless and worthy and should be treated as such.  So in closing, please, allow me….

You are fearfully and wonderfully made.  There is no one who is just like you.  You are so loved by the Lord, that He knows the number of hairs on your head and He sings over you while you sleep.  You are more precious than the most valuable of jewels and your beauty is flawless.  You possess a greatness that isn’t hinged on what someone else says of you.  You are treasured, you are loved and you are priceless.  Stop letting others decrease your worth by using you for what you have to offer them.  Protect your moral integrity and respect yourself.  Don’t lower your standards, set the bar high and the ones who deserve your attention will rise up to meet them.  You are in fact royalty, don’t you think it’s about time you started acting like it?value