Sarah Rieke » Living. Loving. Pressing on.

I felt grossly underprepared for the road of suffering.

To be fair, even if someone had warned me I am quite certain I would not have even remotely understood what they were talking about. How can you tell someone who has never really known suffering the reality of how it will be?

I think the roots of my under preparedness reached all the way down to the beginning of my spiritual journey, to the days in Sunday School when the stories the teacher narrated from her flannel board were filled with miracles – always miracles. Noah and his family were saved, Sarah conceived after decades of barrenness, Moses led the people safely across the dry ground of the Red Sea. And the New Testament held similar stories. The lame walked, the lepers were healed, the dead child raised to life. Miracles, always miracles. It seemed that the believer’s faith, while tested, would always end with miracles.

So what was I supposed to think about my own faith journey when God made it very clear that a miracle would not be a part of my story?

All my life until Evie’s diagnosis I had believed the spirit of Romans 8:28, that all things work together for good, meant that things would always be good. Good as in, pleasant and right and comfortable for me. I have come to realize the importance of the last part of that verse which says all things work together for good … according to God’s purpose. It’s this ultimate good, this saving of much people alive, that guarantees that all things that happen to us can be counted as good. Because God, as a good Creator, calls them good and can bring good even out of the deepest pain for the benefit of His Kingdom.

But what are we to do when we can’t see the good for all the pain surrounding us?

13467339_10102652747330438_1295197752_oWhen I am struggling to find answers I look to the life of Jesus, to see what He did. And not in the cheesy, late-90s, multicolored cloth bracelets with W.W.J.D. embroidered on the side kind of way. I mean to really, truly look to the example of Jesus to see how this God-Man lived out the truth of His Father’s word while He walked in flesh among us.

Christ endured the greatest suffering the world has ever known. The wrath of Almighty God poured upon His humanity as He hung, brutalized and bloody, on the old rugged cross. And when God was satisfied that reparation had been made for every single sin, past, present, and future, Jesus took His final breath, His lifeless body placed in a tomb, and there it stayed for three whole days.

I’m sure friends and followers of Jesus who had looked expectantly for a miracle started to have some real doubts about the Father and the Son during those three emotionally daunting days.

The same was true for me as it became increasingly clear that my unborn daughter was not going to be coming home with us. I wondered why the God who could do miracles decided this particular story didn’t deserve the stamp of “miraculous.” How could this lack of a miracle situation be called good?

It was because I was still looking at day two without the full understanding of what would come on day three.

On day three Jesus’s body, once brutalized and breath long gone, was raised to new life to be seated at the right hand of Father God and live with Him in glory forever. The miracle of day three is a miracle that is for all eternity.

And so it is with my story.

The rest of my life here is like living on day two, the reality of two precious loved ones’ deaths always fresh in my mind. God chose not to give me a miracle like He does with some. Not one I can hold testament to here anyway. But my story – their stories – don’t end there.

For some the miracle happens here on earth. For some, they can give testimony to tumors disappeared, of marriages saved, of wombs opened after years of being closed. But for some, like me, we are left to hope for the miracle of day three, a miracle we cannot see here but hope and believe with all our hearts to experience one day.

I am tempted to say that the story of my babies didn’t include a miracle. It’s true their stories didn’t include a miracle I can testify to here and now. But their stories do in fact hold a miracle. A miracle of being raised to new life, of new bodies received that were unknown to them here on earth. And while that sort of miracle might look so much different than the ones I’d heard about in Sunday School as a little girl with bouncy pigtails and shiny white dress shoes, it is a miracle nonetheless and one that brings me hope and joy as I take each step of the rest of my journey here.

The hope of day three and the joy of seeing their sweet faces again because it’s coming. No man knows the exact hour, but we know it for certain.

Day three is coming.

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  • Jeanette - Sarah thank you for this, it resonates in my heart, in fact in some ways it seems you read my heart, my mind! So thankful we know that we know reunion is coming, thank you sweet Jesus! Oh how I love him! Pray for you and yours often Sarah!ReplyCancel

    • sarahjoyrieke - Thank you Jeanette. Thankful with you for the Heaven we know is coming!ReplyCancel

Episode 18

Joining me for Episode 18 of Heart Lessons is photographer, author, former missionary, and recovering perfectionist, Miah Oren. In her new book, The Reluctant Missionary, Miah talks about her experience teaching English oversees and the struggles and challenges she faced there. She talks about how she felt like God set her up to fail because she was placed in the worst school with a very distrustful staff and hundreds of students she felt she was unable to reach effectively. She returned home two years later depressed and angry with God. It wasn’t until she reconnected with a fellow English teacher back home in Dallas that she learned that she really had been used by God in the very best way. You won’t want to miss that redeeming part of her story. For any of you out there struggling with feeling like you’ve failed God and there is no way He can pick up the pieces you’ve left behind, Miah’s story will move your heart to see otherwise.

Heart Lesson:

God loves you and you are enough.

Connect with Miah: website // twitter // instagram // book

Resources Mentioned:

Celebrate Recovery

Related Material:

When I Rejected God’s Forgiveness, by Miah Oren

I’m Not Doing Enough + Other Guilt, by Sarah Ann Rogers

The Happy Hour Podcast with Jamie Ivey, Episode #90 with Lauren Chandler

Episode 18

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Five on Friday

I thought it might be fun to do a little “Five on Friday” post a couple Fridays a month of things I’m reading, listening to, loving, making, and hoping. So here’s my list for the first ever “Five on Friday”:

Reading:

Every Bitter Thing is Sweet, by Sara Hagerty. It’s the author’s story of her struggle with marriage and infertility and adoption but, most of all, her hunger to know the Lord in a deep, meaningful way. Essentially she was so starved for God’s truth that even getting to know Him through her suffering felt sweet on her lips. I’m loving the challenge to move from knowing God as rescuer of my soul to loving Father acquainted with all my ways. Such a great read.

Listening:

the Surviving Sarah podcast. I love these stories of amazing women told in such a down to earth way. I listen in the car and my kids hum along with the theme music. In this time of life when it’s difficult to coordinate coffee dates with friends, I feel like I’m connecting with women and being encouraged in my faith. So good.

Loving:

Weath-ER! It’s been a gorgeous few days here in southeastern Virginia. After a long stretch of rain we have had sun and perfectly warm temperatures. I’m not sweating yet and loving it. Surely that will end soon as summer rolls in with its 98 degree days and 874% humidity but for right now, I’m loving what my skin experiences when I walk out the front door.

Making:

This soup. Oh my word soooo good. And so summer. I omit the onions and celery just for preference and roast the tomatoes with garlic instead of boiling (450 degrees for 30-40 min.). The flavors are phenomenal! Pair with a grilled cheese or patty melt … mmmmm. I have some leftovers in my fridge I’m contemplating right now …

Hoping:

For a pleasant summer filled with many beach days. It’s Micah’s last summer before school (he heads to Kindergarten in the fall … eek!) so I’m hoping to soak in all the days and make great memories.

How about you? Any great books in your pile? Any new podcasts or songs? What are you hoping for in the next few months?

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  • Rachelen Hensler - Reading: Fierce Woman. Worthwhile, encouraging for marriage in the trenches, easy reading…
    Listening: Dr. Minnick and Dr. Moo on Romans, specifically Chapters 9-11…(Heart Lessons too <3)
    Loving: seeing and encouraging my grown children as they are striving and thriving through the realities of life…
    Making: flowers! Big, beautiful, paper ones for a dear friend…
    Hoping: that the Boi and I will enjoy some summer plans made and fulfilled.ReplyCancel

    • sarahjoyrieke - So good Rachelen. I think I’ve seen those flowers!! Beautiful indeed 🙂ReplyCancel

I entered ma classe de francais (that means French class if you never made it to French II like I did … ) and sat down at my assigned seat, pushing my massive stack of textbooks into the left hand corner of my desk. This few minutes before the teacher started class felt like torture for me.

It was always the same; every Monday my classmates would turn themselves around in their chairs to face each other and smile and giggle and speak in hushed whispers as they recounted the events of the weekend. Parties, always parties. Or hook ups. Or crazy awesome times at the oceanfront. I hated it when they finally turned their attention to me.

“What did you do this weekend Sarah?”

My face burned.  I couldn’t lie. I’ve never been any good at it.

“Babysat.” That was what I did almost every weekend. “Did homework and went to church.”

“Cool.” They would say and then turn back around to continue their chat about the amazing weekend they’d shared together. I would sigh and slink lower into my chair, willing the stupid minute hand on the clock to land on the five so class could start.

I wasn’t cool and I was ok with that. I had picked up somewhere along the way that babysitting and doing your homework and going to church on the weekends rarely made for great Monday morning stories. The thing was, it didn’t really bother me. I liked making money and having some level of financial independence at such a young age. I liked checking off the boxes when I completed assignments. And going to church was awesome, mostly because my cute boyfriend was there and we would spend Sunday afternoons together. I didn’t want to be like them, I wanted to be me. I just didn’t want to feel so awkward about being me.

Looking back, fifteen years removed from those fifteen-year old days, I see that I’m very much still the same person. I’d much rather stay home and spend a quiet evening with my family than fight traffic and crowds to go out to dinner. I feel good when I feel productive and like I’m making a dent in my mile-long to do list. And I love relishing time with my kids – pushing them on the swing or playing blocks on the living room floor together rather than packing up bags and snacks and taking them out. They’d probably end up whining 98% of the time anyway.

Sometimes this way that I am bothers me. I wonder why I’m not more outgoing, more energetic, more motivated to walk out my front door. I wonder why God didn’t make me more dynamic so I could be more influential for Him. And I wonder why He continues to ask me to add to my plate when He knows how task driven I am and stretched I already feel.

But I have to remember God created me this way. He gave me these introverted ways on purpose. And while I should never use that as an excuse to not pursue self-improvement regularly, I need to realize that He made me this way and asked me to do all the things He’s asked me to. I don’t need to be more of something or less of other things in order for Him to use me effectively. And I think I’m starting to realize these perceived gaps in my personality and personal inadequacies keep me humble and leaning on His perfect strength to compensate for my aggregate weaknesses.

God penned my story from his divine quill and ink. He used the most precious and sacred elixers to pour my mold and form all of me down to the very last DNA strand. He says I am beautiful and perfect and a wondrous creation (Psalm 139:13-14) and perfectly fit to play out the role He wrote for me in the grand Kingdom Performance. All of me, all that I am, is enough for Him. I am enough.

And you are too.

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Episode 17

Thanks for joining me for the special Father’s Day episode of Heart Lessons. Today you’ll be hearing from three of my favorite dads – my dad Pete, my father-in-law Dave, and my husband Josh. These men are all wonderful and deeply in tune with the Lord’s leading in their lives and in their fatherhood journeys. I’m so grateful to have them in my life, influencing me and influencing my kids. They speak much truth about fatherhood – how it changed them and motivated them to be better men. They offer great advice to new dads and of course, share the heart lessons that carry them through their own stage of being a dad. Happy Father’s Day to these wonderful guys … I love you all <3

Heart Lessons:

Pete: Life doesn’t always work out the way you want, God’s ways are not always our ways.

Dave: Fatherhood is the best thing and you must negotiate your relationship with your children in loving ways.

Josh: Your kids are always watching what you do so be the example you should be.

Advice to new dads:

Pete: Watch what you say and do because little eyes are always watching and always follow through when you say you’re going to do something.

Dave: Relationships are negotiated in loving ways, there is no formula. You must aim to have your children’s hearts.

Josh: Don’t think you have it all figured out in the beginning; be flexible and don’t make up your mind about the way things should be. Essentially, don’t get stuck in a parenting rut.

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