Monday, November 14, 2016

#sistersofinfluence: Heather Ritchie

Today I get to introduce you to Heather Ritchie of Heather's Letters. She and I met at the Influence Conference back in April. Her smile is infectious and she is a kind soul. Not only does she make beautiful things, she is a wife to a youth pastor and the mama of two precious kiddos! I loved getting to know her better through these questions and learning more about her heart and mission. You'll love her, too. :)

Tell us about yourself. Who are you?

I am Heather Ritchie, I live just outside of Charlotte in Huntersville, North Carolina and I am an artist, avid coffee drinker, I love the water, especially the ocean and am a classic extroverted introvert. For 10 years, I have been married to the only love of my life, Daniel. He is a student pastor, and writer amongst other things, and we have two awesome children, our son,Teague is 4 and our daughter, Elliott just turned 1. I stay home with my kids, full-time while also running a small hand lettering and calligraphy shop called Heather's Letters. I am also super lucky to get to spend a lot of time with our students that range in ages from middle school to college. Student ministry is all we've ever known and we love it.

How did you come to know the Lord?

I grew up in church, and came to a saving knowledge of my sin and need of a savior when I was 8 or 9. I was baptized and thought that was it, I had done it and was saved. But like many who are saved young, I didn't understand that this is a relationship, and relationships take work. So I would say I finally got serious about pursing a relationship with Christ when I was about 13 years old after getting involved with my youth group. I am thankful I don't have much memory of a time without Jesus in my life. 

{Fifth of June Photography}

What do you think it means to be a woman of influence right where you are?

Oh, this question is so good! I was just telling my high school girls this at church on Sunday! You are here, on this earth right now! That means you, here, today, have a purpose. God isn't wasting time, so we ought not to be wasting time either! We don't have to wait for someday, for that big thing in our lives to finally happen. Today is here and happening, there are people God is intersecting our lives with so we can show and share His love with them! Our little acts of everyday faithfulness to share the gospel to whomever and however God has given us an avenue matters to the kingdom of God!

For me, I feel like I live several different lives. Some days I feel like I am perpetually 17 years old, frozen in time as I am meeting with and talking to our sweet students all throughout the week. Then I have "mom mode" shuffling kids to school, making lunches, going to practice, tackling the never ending laundry, groceries and so on. And then I am this highly creative person that wants to make, create, and run a business, but buck all the lists and to-do's and just be and connect with that community of creatives. So, since I am pulled in so many very opposite directions in life I have very much accepted the philosophy that we are to be using our influence every day in every way we can.

 Some days that means pouring into the little lives of my home, folding laundry and spending extra time connecting with my husband, to the glory of God. Other days it means sending texts to students, discipling some of our girls, making intentional conversations with them and speaking truth into their lives. And sometimes it means sharing on social media whatever the Lord is laying on my heart to share. I think for very few of us our lives look exactly the same every day so we must be willing to see every opportunity that crosses our days and tackle it faithfully. 

How does the Lord allow you to shine His light through your art?

Well, that is my hope and prayer for my work. Whenever asked something like this I always think of a song by Shane and Shane, and part of the chorus is, "we've come to declare the beauty of the Lord!" I am very prayerful about all decisions made in my business and in my art. Down to "what should I make today, God?" and I don't mean that trite. Whatever I am putting out there for the world to see I want to know the Spirit led me to make it. Even the fun and silly things! I am always so humbled by emails and messages I receive from clients about my work bringing any amount of encouragement, joy, hope, or comfort. To God be the glory! I would have never dreamed I would be so blessed to make things that God used in other's lives like this. 

What is the best piece of marriage advice you've been given?

"He is not your enemy. You are on the same team." I don't remember one person in particular saying that and maybe it is a bunch of great advice I have heard and read and mushed together? Just keeping that team mentality helps me from thinking selfishly and rather how to serve our team, our family, well. Sometimes that means I have to pick up the slack and other times Daniel does. And we do a fairly good job of that. Satan loves to see marriages crumble. Especially gospel-centered ones and those in ministry. We are well aware we are under attack on the home front. And I have personally seen many marriages where everything is tit-for-tat and the spouses are always complaining about one another, they might have stayed together for 40+ years but it is not a marriage worth aspiring to or reflects the love of Christ and his church.We are determined to remain each other's best friend for the next 40 years, and that means working for that future today.  

{Cassie Helms}

How do you raise godly kids in a world that shies away from truth?

Wow, ask me in 20 years once I have actually raised those kids - just kidding. I get asked this a lot, perhaps because Daniel and I work with teenagers but we have not actually raised any of our own yet. So my advice to them and myself always comes from Scripture.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 says,"And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." 

This is what we model in our home. We try to weave conversations of God into everything we do. We look for opportunities to lay the foundation of talking about sin, the need for a Savior and God's great rescue plan in Jesus for the children He loves. Start young. Feed them scripture, read it aloud at the breakfast table, post it all over your house and most importantly, you, the parent must live this out in front of your children! For older kids this is actually crucial - teenagers can spot a fake a mile away. So be honest in living out your faith with your older kids. Tell them when you have sinned and ask for forgiveness, show them you are so very dependent on God in all areas of your life. And don't be fake, that only hurts your testimony with them and teaches them to put on the "everything is fine" church act. 

I will say this, we haven't raised our own teenager yet, but we have done life with them and their families for over a decade. And it shows in the kids lives when they come from a home that the parents spiritually disciple their own kids. We live in a culture where we outsource everything for our kids and the church is being used for their spiritual growth. Pastors that see your kids for a few hours a week cannot do for them what you can as the parent that spends every day with them. We are here to guide and support you as a parent, not do the job for you. I don't want that to sound harsh, but it grieves my heart to see kids that fall through the cracks and I know there is not much if any spiritual discipleship going on in that home. 

What is one thing you want the women of our generation to remember?

I want us all to remember, and myself included, to revisit your priorities often. As women of faith, when we do that we remember our individual callings and priorities that God has placed in each of our lives. God's will for our lives is to bring Him glory and be on mission to carry the gospel with us everywhere. We won't do either very well if we are flying through life at 100mph and flailing pitifully in all areas. Our generation was the generation of girls that were empowered as children, "you can be anything you want, dream big, be independent, be all that you can be!" With the explosion of technology in our generation too I think it was a recipe for disaster and we took all of those mantras to heart and have literally tried to be ALL that we can, all at once. And the conversation I am hearing everywhere and in my own heart is that I'm tired, beyond tired, I am suffering everywhere and most hurtfully, in the areas that mean the most to me. God is growing my heart in all of this currently, that I am not meant to do all the things all at once. So everyday I revisit and pray over my priorities God has made clear in my life. It refocuses me, makes me more intentional and I stop trying to do it all, and I don't have to end each day feeling guilty for not being enough. 

{Fifth of June Photography}

What is your favorite verse or passage of Scripture?

How do I choose? I have many favorites for many occasions. I've never been that "life verse" girl. But right now it is probably Philippians 4:6-7.

"Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation with prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."

Daniel and I are about to leave the country for a few weeks away from our kids, the holidays are upon us and I am reorganizing my personal priorities and all those things can bring a fair amount of worry and anxiety. But God is all I need and these verses set my heart right again. To depend on Jesus for every need and worry and in turn He gives me His strength to have peace. What sweet promises!

What is one truth you want others to remember and cling to?

"But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8  This is grace on display, amazing grace. It is the gospel in one verse which is why it is the first verse we had our son memorize. That verse can bring salvation, hope and love. I love that about God's word!

And last but not least: coffee or tea?

In the words of Lorelai Gilmore, "I can't stop drinking coffee. If I stop drinking coffee, I stop doing the standing and the walking, and the words putting into sentence doing."

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