Sarah Rieke » Living. Loving. Pressing on.

Episode 38

Welcome to Episode 38 of the Heart Lessons Podcast. My special guest today is Nicole Jennings, the creative mind behind Color and Kindness, her online shop dedicated to providing resources to help introduce gospel concepts to kids. You can find scripture cards, coloring pages, and many other adorable and inspired resources.

We talk about the mix of motherhood and being a work-at-home mom, how she tries to expand her children’s’ worldview beyond their four walls. We also talk about Jesus meeting us where we are, not polished and presentable but right int he moment of temptation.

I know you are going to find this episode encouraging, especially if you have young children but really for anyone who has gospel influence on a little person.

Heart Lesson: Look for the ways that God has been good.

Connect with Nicole: blog // facebook // instagram // etsy shop

We Mention:

Philippians 4:6

Feed My Starving Children

Love Your Neighbor kit

Thrive Moms Prayer Journal

Susanna Wesley

You’re a Good, Good Father

Heart Lessons Episode 27 with Mary Hairston 

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I gritted my teeth, threw back my head and growled, “Ugh!” as FaceTime cut out…again.

My husband instant messaged me: “Internet is overloaded. Can’t get a good connection for FT. Want to chat instead?”

“Sure,” I typed back. It’s better than nothing.

I mentally kicked myself. In our situation, with my husband 600 miles away at Air Force Officer School, it was WAY better than nothing. I knew that many military spouses didn’t get to talk (or type) to their loved ones at all while they were away.

But that still didn’t make it easy. I hated communicating through chatting, where conversations operated on a delay, tone was difficult to decipher, and emoticons fell flat of genuine feelings.

It’s better than nothing…

But tonight, I was just plain frustrated:
Frustrated that the stupid Internet wouldn’t work
Frustrated with solo parenting our 4 kids
Frustrated with my Autistic son
Frustrated by the bills

Frustrated with my marriage

That last one surprised me. For the first time in our 11 year marriage, our relationship felt hard. Sure, we had gone through hard times before—surprise pregnancy, financial troubles, health challenges with our kids, miscarriage, an Autism diagnosis—but, all in all, we had each other’s back.
We always talked it out.
We always supported each other, seeking to communicate and understand the other’s point of view, even if our voices were raised while doing so.
He could always make me laugh, even when I was beyond irritated (usually at him!).
He always held me close when I cried.

But now? 600 miles separated?

All we had was black text in a white chat box, fragile threads of communication (if you can call it that) stretching through spotty cyberspace, holding our relationship together.

Many nights, my husband would get online, totally wiped out from the day and overwhelmed with the mental and emotional workload of Officer School.

“I don’t know if I can do this,” came the deadly refrain. “I think I’m going to fail out.”

And I would summon all my emotional strength and launch a counter attack:
“Yes, you can.”
“No, you’re not.”
“You’ve worked so hard to get here.”
“Don’t give up.”

“I believe in you.”

As weeks turned into months though, and his discouragement returned in cyclical fashion, I found myself dreading getting online at night.

I was going through my own stuff: taking care of 4 boys, end of school programs, selling our house, last minute doctor’s appointments, military paperwork, and packing for our move.

I was stressed out of my mind.

Many nights, when my husband told me about his challenges, I wanted to scream (in all caps, of course), “I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR CRAP! PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER! I’M HAVING A HARD TIME TOO!”

But I didn’t. Because we were both going through a hard time. My hard time didn’t trump his hard time.

This season was hard for both for us, as individuals and in our relationship.

So I took my finger off the CAPS LOCK key, pressed delete a million times, and breathed a prayer:

Help me to treat him the way I want to be treated (Luke 6:31).
Help me remember that
Love is patient and kind (1 Cor. 13:4).

Help me to not just look out for my own interests but to also look out for his (Phil. 2:4).

My husband did not fail Officer Training School (I knew he wouldn’t!) and we have been back together as a family for a little over a month now.

Yet the difficulty of those months on our relationship still amazes me, primarily because the tension between being selfish and selfless was so palpable. In the last few weeks, we’ve been able to examine our time apart, and the specific difficulties we faced, more thoroughly.

I’ve been Aaron’s wife for 11 years, but I’m still learning how to replace my own selfishness with a choice to love him well. Our foray into military life has just begun so there will be more separations in the future; hopefully, as we keep moving forward, we will learn new and better ways of communicating, and more importantly, loving each other selflessly.

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Connect with Brittany: personal blog // collective blog // podcast episode

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I am sitting here at my kitchen table as I type. Just ahead of me and to my left is our above-the-stove microwave. On the screen of the microwave blinks a number … 0:06 … and a single-word question: START?

I will never for the life of me understand why my husband can’t 1. Just wait six more seconds for his food and 2. Just hit the STOP/CLEAR button so that the microwave screen reads the time again. It’s not hard. It’s really. Not. That. Hard.

But do you know what else?

It also doesn’t matter. It really does not matter. But I could probably give you an entire notebook’s worth of times when this issue, and others like it (hello spot by his side of the bed that serves as his laundry pile), have caused me to go completely ballistic and cry or get all passive-agressively pouty in an attempt to change my husband’s behavior. And I can’t think of one time when it worked. Because my enneagram 8 husband is all about being all about things that really matter. And the blinking number on the microwave screen really doesn’t matter.

When you first get married you hear veteran husbands and wives encouraging you to, “Not sweat the small stuff.” You hear it and you agree. Yes, this makes sense. Don’t sweat the small stuff. But small is a relative term and when your life is relatively simple and easy, it’s hard to really see the small stuff as small. It isn’t until you’ve experienced the “big” stuff that you can truly see.

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As I look back over our eleven years of marriage I see how Josh lead me so well through the “big” stuff, including becoming parents, losing babies, enduring months apart while he was in anesthesia school, and navigating the various choices that life continues to bring our way. I look over these past eleven years and I see a fearless leader who is careful in considering his options, deliberate in seeking wisdom and information, and unwavering when it comes to accepting anything less than the best for his family. He is also incredibly driven, smart, strong, and really funny. They say a man will storm hell with a bucket full of water if he only has a woman standing behind him and believing in him. With all sincerity I can tell you that for my husband, I am that woman. He has proven himself time and time again and I have no reason to think or feel otherwise.

Now don’t get me wrong, we are not perfect. Do his funny, leave my glasses, wallet, and keys everywhere habits drive me bananas? Yes they do. Have his extremely blunt and black and white communication styles caused me to perfect my exaggerated eyeroll to olympic proportions? Why yes, yes they have. Do I sometimes wish he would grab a broom without being asked and help clean up the mountains of cheerios and rice from under the table? For sure. But all of that? That’s small stuff. That’s the stuff they were talking about when they exhorted you to not sweat it. Because I can guarantee you that those couples, more advanced in years, both life-wise and marriage-wise, knew a little something about what it meant to go through the big stuff together.

Tomorrow is our anniversary. Maybe we’ll go out to dinner. Maybe we’ll get a babysitter and come home to a house full of sleeping children. And maybe we’ll push the toys off the couch (the ones I thought he’d help the kids clean up), and maybe we’ll put our feet up on the coffee table (after moving aside his coffee cup, water bottle, and glass mason jar with traces of seltzer water and lime), grab the remote (after searching for it under all the couches, couch cushions, and throw pillows because somehow he never ends up putting it back in the proper spot), and turn on our favorite show. And he’ll pull me close and I’ll snuggle in because all that stuff is small stuff. But when it comes to the big things, the things in life that really, truly count, my guy with the Midas touch has never, ever let me down.

And that, my friends, is absolutely not small stuff.

Podcast episode with my husband.

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This month my husband and I will celebrate our eleventh wedding anniversary. To celebrate, I thought it would be fun to invite some very lovely women and gifted writers to share their love stories here on the blog. Each Friday this month you will get to read a different story of life, love, and ultimately, of Christ. 

When I was in college I wrote an essay on “The Man I Hope to Marry”.

And, contrary to dreamy lists I may have come up with in adolescent years, this wasn’t the type of piece that listed physical traits, a job title, or life accomplishments. Rather, it was an essay on the type of love I hoped to share one day. The kind of man I could respect and build a life with. A man who would share the same desire to reflect the example of love Jesus demonstrated toward all he came in contact with.

Little did I know, I would meet the man I’d marry within a year. While I was dating someone else. And then not be interested in more than friendship with him when I was single again.

Can you say, “match made in heaven”?

That first time we met was in the front rows of a late night church service. A mutual friend had saved a spot for a few of us and he and I were seated a few heads apart. He remembers saying something clever and funny at one point that night and catching my gaze as I leaned forward to appreciate his humor. And he liked it.

I don’t remember much of meeting him outside of the fact that we did, in fact, meet. But the friendship that would unfold after I moved home and became single again is something I look back on with a warm heart.

We were an unlikely pair to match, living on opposite ends of the Golden State and communicating mostly via Facebook messenger, text, and later, phone chats. But even across the miles our friendship grew. He was surprisingly honest with his feelings, challenged me when I needed to be, funny and deeply connected to his faith, friends, and identity. He made me feel valued, heard and supported.

Flash forward to our wedding day, nearly three years after we’d met that night, and I remember looking into his eyes with such gratitude. Right before we were engaged I’d been diagnosed with an illness we knew could eventually progress, but he never flinched.

He was in. All in. And neither a label nor a potential life change would change it.

But the depth of commitment and strength it would take for us to both live out our vows? I can’t speak for him, but I surely had no idea what it would take to stand with each other through whatever life threw our way.

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And life has most definitely thrown us more than confetti. As it probably has for you, too. The entirety of our five years of marriage have been infused with the challenges of chronic illness. Four of them have been spent with me barely able to function in life. Seeing me outside of the home felt as rare as spotting a unicorn.

ER visits, hospital stays, traumatic ambulance rides, SO MANY NEEDLES, pills galore, high grocery costs, an unplanned pregnancy followed by a miscarriage, Trevin watching me flat-line in the emergency room.

At any turn of this wild ride, it could have been easy for either of us to say we’d had enough. For me, having enough of seeing how my illness affected his life. And for him, having enough of living through the trauma. Of carrying all the added responsibility of being the sole breadwinner and caretaker.

In spite of it all, we have endeavored to make the most of the cards we’ve been dealt. To laugh as often as possible and hold each other when the walls felt like they were caving in. (And not just when the southern california earth shakes were rolling 😉

It hasn’t been easy or comfortable and often far from pretty. But when the tensions would rise and we’d find ourselves in another argument, neither of us wanted it to end there. So through discomfort and long talks we’d do our best to work through it. Reminding each other that we’re worth it, that we love each other, and regardless of what illness through our way we’d always be “in it to win it”.

So in the rawness of struggle as well as in the recent healing we’ve seen begin, we are learning what it means to love and be loved. A love that is patient, kind, and selfless. Accepting instead of critical. With the other, rather than against.

But that kind of love? It isn’t born overnight. It’s cultivated with small steps and with intention. Awareness of self and a sensitivity to others. It takes commitment, laughter, honesty and learning to let go of feelings and grudges that simply don’t serve us.

In this short journey we call life, that’s the love that stands the test of time and all the change that’s inevitable for all of us. It harkens back to the ultimate gift of love that Jesus demonstrated for us all. The kind of love that would lay down it’s own life, it’s own comfort, and it’s own best interest for the sake of loving, protecting or advocating for another.

For at the heart of a love that’s so deep is the message I believe to be the core of the God I love. It is the anthem that proclaims: “us” will always be better than “I”.

written by Kami Lingren

Connect with Kami: blog // facebook // instagram // twitter // podcast episode

If you’d like to share your love story, email me at sarahjrieke@gmail.com

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I confess that I am still trying to read through the Bible, a journey I started over four years ago. But the Lord has still been blessing my slow progress.

These days I find myself lost in Acts, in the stories of the early church. There is something about the unity among the early Christians that feels so good. I can’t really explain it except to say that I imagine every day feeling like the spiritual highs of a church retreat where everyone is so in awe of Jesus and so aware of how He is moving in the hearts and lives of everyone around them. What a thing to be a part of.

Chapter 9 of Acts, verses 10-19, outline the baptism of Saul. You might remember that Saul was once a major player in the persecution of the early church. Acts 8:3 says, “As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.”

Saul was not a fan of Jesus or His disciples or the early Christian church. And he made it his duty to stop the spread of anything Jesus-y, to the best of his ability. But a supernatural encounter with the Lord on the way to Damascus caused Saul to become blind for three days. And it was during this time without vision that he truly began to see.

The Lord called on a disciple named Ananias to restore Saul’s vision by laying hands on him. But Ananias did what probably any of us would do, considering what Saul’s well-known opinion of Jesus-followers had been up until that point. In Acts 9 verses 13-14, Ananias says what pretty much all of us would say, “Um, Lord, with all due respect, this man is really bad news for all of us …”

But the Lord responds, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.”

Saul was chosen by God to do great work for the kingdom. Saul soon became Paul, who authored a huge portion of the New Testament. As notorious as he was for his persecution of Christians pre-conversion, his post-conversion self became just as noteworthy as an apostle of Jesus. His is the poster story of a life made new in Christ.

The Lord knew what Saul was going to become. And as I was reading through these verses I wondered if Saul’s testimony held so much more power and influence because of who he had been. Certainly people in that day marveled at the power of Christ and were drawn to follow him because, well, if Saul the persecutor now believes then there must be some real truth to this gospel story!

Friend, I think the same is true of our testimonies.

How many people would be drawn to the truth of the gospel if we were to share where we were and what we have gone through and allow the world to marvel at the transformations the Lord has done in our lives? If someone heard our testimony and then thought, “Well if she went through that and still believes then what does that mean for me?!”

Scripture tells is that the enemy is defeated by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony. There is so much power in the words of an individual who was restored, sustained, redeemed, healed, strengthened, by our Lord. What would a Saul-sized conversion story in our day mean for the kingdom?

You were chosen by God. All of you was chosen – your story of struggle and your story of redemption. You were chosen to bear His name and bear witness to His great power. The question is not, “Does God want to use my story?” but rather, “How does He want to use my story. And what can I do about it?”

Be brave, friend. Share your story. You never know what kingdom-sized gains will be made because of your willingness to speak out.

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