Sarah Rieke » Living. Loving. Pressing on.

Staring into the wide expanse of the ocean makes you feel small. It makes you realize how unbelievably tiny you are in comparison to this body of water that stretches around the entire globe. There is no way to take it all in, really. You just stare and watch the waterline fade into the horizon. And then you make a feeble attempt to take in the width but realize that your peripheral vision isn’t even partially capable of such a task. It is truly breathtaking, this vast ocean of ours.

13950605_10102747208025448_1229785587_oSo it is with God’s love for us.

In all of this summer ocean-staring and attempting to take it all in, my heart continues to go back to this old hymn:

Here is love, vast as the ocean
Loving kindness as the flood,
When the Prince of Life, our Ransom,
Shed for us His precious blood.
Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten
Throughout Heaven’s eternal days.

(source)

Can you imagine a love so grand? Yeah me neither. But it’s real. So very real.

But the part of that hymn that just brings chills to the surface of my skin and tears into the corners of my eyes are the last lines:

Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten
Throughout Heaven’s eternal days.

My heart falls down in absolute humble awe that even in Heaven where all the old things have passed away and the new things have come, we will still remember. Even then, even in our new bodies and new frames of mind and new states of perfection we will remember what Christ did for us on the cross. What oh what will that reality even feel like? To be walking side by side with the very reason you are living in that inexplicable paradise … what will that feel like? I think maybe my heart has had the teensiest glimpse.

I remember the process of giving birth to my firstborn like it was yesterday. Like many optimistic first-time moms I had committed to a plan of an all-natural, no intervention, non-medicated birth. I wanted midwives and not OB docs for my care and dreamed about a beautiful water-birth for my infant son, a gentle transition from womb to world as they say. They were worthy aspirations. But again, like all optimistic first-time moms, I had no idea how intense the birthing process actually was.

When we arrived at the hospital at around 6:45 am I had already been laboring all night, since about 8:30 pm the evening before. I was tired because, hello, who can sleep when they think their first baby is on the way, and also feeling exhausted from the contractions. I was absolutely certain this baby would be popping out moments after we arrived. I couldn’t imagine more intense pain or any longer amount of time laboring than what I had already done. Surely this was the end.

When the midwife checked me I was a disappointing 3 cm dilated. Let me repeat … three. After all that time my body had only dilated to a measly three centimeters. I felt defeated before I had even really started.

I remember the midwife providing a few different options for how we could get my body to dilate faster. I also distinctly remember telling her I was so tired and done and just wanted a c-section. “Just cut me open and get this baby out!” I whimpered. She smiled gently and reminded me that a c-section recovery is much harder than recovery from a natural delivery and that we should just proceed with one of the methods she had suggested. I nodded my head in reluctant agreement.

It was decided that the best thing for my body was to let it rest and see if I progressed a bit further on my own. They loaded me up on an IV dose of benadryl so I could sleep and gave me a small amount of pain meds to relax my body a bit more in the hopes that the contractions would do what they were supposed to and this baby would indeed be born later that day.

I remember waking up to the most intense contractions I had felt until that point. And then, because I was so zonked on benadryl, I would fall back asleep for about a minute only to awake to another painful contraction. It was basically the worst nap ever. But this method worked and I dilated to about 5 cm. Tara, the midwife, felt confident that this was real labor and my body was slowly but steadily working to bring this baby boy into the world.

During one contraction I tensed up so much and my natural inclination was to pull my shoulders up toward my ears and grimace through it. Tara put her hand on my shoulder and whispered softly, “Don’t tense up, just relax and breathe.” Oh how I needed her.

The day was far from over. Tara continued to coach me through many contractions, allowed me to labor in the blessed birthing tub for about an hour, and was kindly assertive in directing me through what ended up being five minutes short of pushing for two hours. Finally, at 4:25 pm, almost twenty hours since that first contraction, I held my newborn son close to my chest and marveled at what I had just accomplished. The moment was equally as euphoric as it was surreal.

A few days later as I reflected on my son’s birth story with my husband I was overcome with thankfulness for Tara and how she had brought me through the most difficult experience of my life. I remember telling him, “Josh, I know this sounds crazy but, if Tara asked me to rob a bank with her, I seriously might do it!” If course I was joking – breaking the law really isn’t my thing – but the sentiment was real. This woman had helped me accomplish my goal of all-natural childbirth and assisted in bringing forth my tiny little blessing and I felt like she deserved my loyalty.

A few months after Micah was born I actually ran into Tara at Target and was literally speechless. I stumbled and fumbled over my words trying to communicate how much I loved being a mommy and how much she meant to me, helping me through that crazy first-time birthing experience. I fought back tears as I gushed to her in a way that can only be described as starstruck; she was Justin Bieber and I was the drooling sixteen-year old girl in the front row of the concert who had “Mrs. Bieber” written on all of her school notebooks. When I needed her most this woman came through for me to help me accomplish something huge. I don’t know if she’ll ever know how grateful I truly am for what she did for me.

Tara is human and certainly the monumental task she helped me accomplish elevates her to superhuman status, at least in my eyes. But the gratefulness I felt was real and I truly don’t know if I would have been able to reach my goal without her. And I think what I felt and still feel for her is a pin-dot glimpse of what it might feel like to see Jesus and walk arm in arm with Him on the golden streets of Heaven.

Jesus rescued me from a life of sadness and despair. He gave purpose to my pain. Everyday He gives me strength to live with self-control and joy when I am so prone to losing it and living as an angsty tumbleweed of misery. His death on the cross gives me hope that my past won’t define me, my present is worthy of living, and my future has hope. And He extends this to all of my loved ones and to you as well. How can we even comprehend a love so vast?

I suppose that’s why we will never forget, even in Heaven. We will be starstruck walking next to the One whose very blood is the reason we are there. We will gush and tell Him about all the ways He helped us and transformed us while we were on earth. Old things may be gone but we will always see those scars in His hands and through His side. And they will always serve as a reminder of the great love of the Father and of the Son who was willing to die for us; love as vast as the ocean and everlasting to everlasting.

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Episode 22

My very special guest on today’s episode of Heart Lessons is my son, Micah. A few weeks ago I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts in the car and he piped up from the back, “Mom, can I be a guest on your podcast sometime?” How could I say no to such a sweet request? So today I’m chatting with Micah. We answer the questions you all submitted including what he loves about being a big brother, what he’s looking forward to about Kindergarten, and what animal he would like to be. True to podcast form, Micah even shares a heart lesson of his own. I hope you enjoy my conversation with my sweet guy and the additional little sound bytes from my other little cutie.

Heart Lesson:

Always try to obey God and do what He says.

We Mention:

Brickheadz

Cheetahs

Goliath Bird Eating Tarantulas

Scaredy Squirrel

Dragons Love Tacos

Press Here

Hulkbuster

Psalm 127-3

 

 

 

 

 

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Surviving the Wild 101 will most certainly have a class on how to survive being stranded on a life raft out in the middle of the ocean. And I’m guessing fairly early into that particular day of class you will learn how, even though water is crucial to human survival, it is so incredibly dangerous to drink ocean water. You’ll learn how, because of osmosis, drinking salt water will actually cause your body’s cells to release more water and dehydrate your body even further and you would likely die sooner than if you had chosen never to drink that salty seawater in the first place. And last time I checked, dying is the opposite of surviving.

I spent a lot of time staring at the ocean last week as my husband and I relaxed under our beach umbrella and enjoyed our little anniversary getaway. As I stared into its vast expanse I thought about how crazy it is that we can’t drink any of that water. I thought of Louis Zamperini and his forty-seven days stranded at sea in a tiny, open raft and how he wrote about his lips being so cracked and swollen from the salty sea air and sea water that his upper lip actually touched his nose. I wondered what it might feel like to be so thirsty and so surrounded by water knowing full well that ingesting any of it would lead to inevitable demise. That is irony at its very best.13932283_10102737751067268_13489745_o

Lately my soul has been feeling this pull toward small and quiet, toward seeing God and how He delights in me in the everyday moments in life rather than the huge life-altering ones. I’ve been convicted of using social media to escape these seemingly mundane moments rather than embrace them fully. I have been evaluating my life and trying to fill it with those things that pour into my soul rather than drain it.

I wonder if social media is salt water to our souls?

With just one visit to any of the social media avenues my significance and self-worth can automatically be puffed up. Two likes, oooh now seven, oooh now thirty …!! With as far as it can reach, social media might as well be the ocean. But is escaping into it in order to define my success for the day (how many likes, how many comments, how many reposts?) really doing my soul the good it seems to? Or in all actuality is it robbing me from pausing to take in the real-life, hydrating moments happening right before me?

I am in a place of building – building my family, building my dreams, building my life. In this season of building it can be so very discouraging because all I see is the wooden framework instead of the finished product and I want to get to that finished product. But I have to build. And building feels a lot less glamorous than finishing. In her book, Simply Tuesday, Emily Freeman says this:

It’s easy to fight for a cause when the stakes are high – freedom, rights, life or death. It’s way harder to fight for moments, fight to see meaning on a Tuesday afternoon around the homework table. Because at the end of it you don’t have anything to show for it beyond a kid who has a finished math worksheet and let’s be honest, who cares much about that?

Somehow checking in with social media notifications makes me feel like I have more of a cause, makes me feel like I’m somebody instead of nobody whose next big thing is that all the toilets need scrubbing. Woo stinkin’ hoo. But maybe that moment of scrubbing the pink ring off the inside of the toilet bowl can be significant for my soul. Maybe in that moment I can choose to pray for my children, choose to recite scripture, choose to magnify the Father for blessing me with this house and these lysol wipes. What if embracing those tiny moments as significant is what will actually quench the thirst for significance in my soul?

Let’s be clear here, I am not disappearing from social media. I feel like the Lord has given me a story and a cause that I am willing to go all out for. But not at the expense of the small moments where He meets me and where my children and husband need me and where I have the opportunity to fill their souls. I’m learning what that might look like.

This is not a call to burn all iphones and delete all twitter accounts. Almost every day I think about what a blessing these things are in my life and what amazing connections I’ve been able to make and how many doors the Lord has opened up for me because of them. Social media really is an amazing modern-day phenomenon. But I don’t think it is where we need to find our significance. In fact, I know it isn’t.

I want to drink deeply of the soul-significance I have in my Creator who often shows up in the moments when I feel small and humble and like no one is watching. I want to continue to pursue my cause, which requires social media, without allowing feed notifications to replace the real need I have to be fed with truth. I don’t want to be distracted from recognizing all the ways God is showing up in my life, both big and small, and realize that maybe God doesn’t define my life with those adjectives at all but instead with a love as vast as the ocean that provides my soul with a never-ending, always-present, worth-dying-for significance. And I think we can all agree that’s way better than any double tap.

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The past four-ish years of my life have been marked by painful suffering and seeing that suffering on a grand scale – me as a committed Christ follower, fellow-sufferer, and devoted Christian soldier. I’ve had to put my head down, put on my peripheral blinders, and fix my eyes dead ahead on the hope of Heaven and the healing it will bring. I’ve felt a strong sense of obligation to continue to suffer well, to reflect my heart well, and to point others to the Lord in the process. My life has felt burdened for this duty. Burdened in a good way, but burdened with duty nonetheless.

Quite frankly, my soul is tired of living in that way.

I think it is no coincidence that lately I’ve been reading books like Every Bitter Thing is Sweet, Looking for Lovely, and Simply Tuesday – books that have caused me to slow down and truly look for God in the small moments of my life. These small moments seem less significant than say, the shock of carrying to term a baby with a fatal diagnosis, but they are still of great importance and God is beginning to work in me in these seemingly small, everyday ways. He’s starting to create a shift in my heart.

I’m beginning to be hungry to see that God not only desires my obedience as His devoted soldier ready to carry out His mission against the enemy, but that He delights in me as His child and desires to give me good things and desires for me to see His beauty in the commonplace of the day to day.

I’m trying to move from a sense of duty to a sense that God delights in me.

From duty to delight.

My heart is longing to know what it looks like for God to truly delight in me as His child and not only because I am performing well as a commissioned soldier.

My heart is longing to know that worship can be refreshing for me and I don’t always have to pour out and that right now might rather be a season of me being filled.

From duty to delight.

My soul is weary from battling. I want to know the God who sees me and smiles, who sings praises over me, who created frothy ocean waves and soft white sand just for me to enjoy. I want to know that good, beautiful, soft, creative, caring God. I want to move onto something different.

From a sense of obligation to feeling free.

From the sweaty front lines to a place of rest.

From duty to delight.

The Lord God is in your midst, the Mighty One will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.

Zephaniah 3:17

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Episode 21

My guest on episode twenty-one of the Heart Lessons podcast is Kami Lingren who blogs at Living Grace: Finding Life in the Desert, where she shares her experience battling chronic illness. On today’s podcast Kami shares about her journey with Lyme Disease, from diagnosis, to treatment plans, to what it looks like to live with this disease, and the hardest part of living with Lyme. She also shares practical tips on how to support a loved one struggling with chronic illness. Her heart lesson is taken straight from the life of Jesus when He walked this earth and I know the reality of it will touch your heart just like it did for me. Kami exudes sweetness and grace and I can’t wait for you to hear all she has to share.

Heart Lesson:

It’s not unholy to be in the midst of the darkness of where your heart is sitting in response to your struggle.

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

Kami’s Favorite Resources:

International Lyme & Associated Diseases Society

Do I Have Lyme?

Grace is Sufficient: Finding Peace and Purpose after Diagnosis

Related Material:

Navigating Loneliness: Finding Community in Chronic Illness

Showing Love: Chronic and Invisible Illness

That Sounds Fun Podcast: Tim Shaw

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