Sarah Rieke » Living. Loving. Pressing on.

A couple of weekends ago I sat in the back of an auditorium full of women to listen to Angie Smith share what the Lord had given her for us. If you know anything about Angie you know that several years ago she lost her fourth daughter, Audrey, to a condition so very similar to the one that claimed both Evie’s and Charlie’s life. Going into the weekend I was really looking forward to hearing what she had to say, especially knowing she would be speaking from a place of having lost a baby. And I was earnestly asking and seeking the Lord to show me the places in my heart that were still in pain, that still needed healing.

Angie spoke from a passage in Genesis 22, the one that tells the story of God instructing Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. As the two walk to the top of the mountain where the sacrifice is to take place, Isaac inquires of his father, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

And Abraham, knowing full well that the next moments would be so incredibly, unspeakably painful tells his son, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.”

Abraham prepared the altar and arranged the wood. He laid his precious son overtop of the pile of tinder and, hand trembling and eyes filling with tears (how could he not!), Abraham raises the knife over Isaac’s chest to kill him, his only son, the promised one.

But before the knife even touches Isaac a voice instructs from heaven, “Abraham! Don’t lay a hand on the boy …”

And after the Angel commends Abraham for his faith, his eyes are opened to see a ram caught in the thicket by his horns and this is the ram that was offered in Isaac’s stead.

Angie pointed out that initially Abraham told Isaac that God would provide the lamb for Himself. What actually happened was that He provided a ram.

The Lamb of God was promised and provided for us. But sometimes we want His provision to look a lot more like a ram.

Sometimes we are looking at a thicket for a ram instead of at the cross for a Lamb.

I sucked my breath in sharp as those words rang in my ears.

Sometimes we are looking at a thicket for ram instead of at the cross for a Lamb.

In my own life, the ram was healing for my babies. I wanted so badly for our story to end in the miraculous addition of all the parts they were missing and their development to be super-charged and doctors to marvel over these amazing little blessings that we had been told wouldn’t survive. That’s what I would have wanted. But instead of providing that ram, as God did for Abraham, He believed it was sufficient for my story to be redeemed by the Lamb.

In the end, when I climbed the proverbial mountain so the Lord could test my faith, He asked me to carry out the whole thing, the entire act of sacrifice. I looked all around and begged for a ram to sacrifice instead but He didn’t give me that particular provision. Instead He accepted my humble, painful, albeit reluctant sacrifice of living life minus two. He didn’t provide a ram. But what He had already done was provide the Lamb.

Evie and Charlie are not with me, that much is very true. But they are somewhere better. They are in a place of perfection that was only made possible by the blood of the Lamb, God’s precious and only Son.

Angie had exhorted us to pray this prayer: Lord, show me what circumstances I have closed my eyes to your provision and open my eyes to see.

Praise God He opened my eyes once again to this heart-healing truth. God didn’t provide a miracle for my babies and that grieves my heart. But how can I hold that against Him when what He did provide was eternal life for them and for me and paradise forever because of the sacrifice of His Son?

These words are so beautiful to me. I needed them so very much. God’s provision in my losses didn’t look like a miracle. Instead it looked like a temporary separation and then a forever together.

God didn’t provide a ram. He provided for us a Lamb.

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Episode 34

Hi friends! I’m so glad to introduce you today to a dear, dear friend of mine, Justina Roberts. Justina and I met in college because our boyfriends, at the time (now husbands), were roommates and so we hung out often. She is one of those friends that I don’t see very often but whenever we finally do catch up we can pick up right where we left off. I love that.

Today Justina shares about her business, Simple Farmhouse Company. She shares her favorite tips, tricks, and tools for refinishing furniture, her favorite places to find pieces, and five easy ways you can spruce up a room. And I love her heart behind the business and that even though she’s all about making living spaces beautiful, she knows it’s really all about knowing your people.

I think you’ll love my conversation with Justina and maybe be inspired to experiment on some furniture of your own. And of course, I hope this episode helped you to come away with your own heart lesson to help you draw closer to the Lord.

Heart Lesson: Trust in God’s timing.

Connect with Justina: facebook // instagram // etsy shop // antique booth

We Mention:

TJMaxx

HomeGoods

Country Living Fair

Favorite Tools and Supplies:

Baer paint

Benjamin Moore paint

Benjamin Moore: Simply White

Finishing Brush

Foam Roller/Paintbrush

Bullseye Zinzer 1-2-3 Primer

Matte Seal Polyurethane

Paint Sprayer

Favorite Places to Score an Antique Piece:

Antique Auction

Yard Sale

Tips on Selecting Pieces:

  • No upholstered pieces unless you can buy them for cheap or get them for free
  • Check each leg of chairs and tables and also underneath
  • Smell the inside of drawers and cabinets
  • Don’t worry about how beat up the piece is because paint can cover anything
  • Test each drawer and make sure they slide well and are functional
  • Look for pieces that are solid wood

Five Ways to Spruce Up a Room:

  • New paint on the walls
  • Throw pillows
  • Area rugs (maybe purchased from rugsusa.com )
  • One or two great pieces of furniture (try mixing old and new)
  • Lighting (Lowe’s has great options)

How to Find Your Style:

  • Ask yourself what you like to do as a family?
  • What do you like to look at?
  • Peruse pinterest to find your color and design preferences

Tips for Refinishing Your Own Piece of Furniture:

  • No pressure – you really can’t mess it up!
  • It is a learning process and it’s okay to experiment
  • Start on something small or thrifted (maybe not your family heirlooms)
  • Check out youtube for some great tutorials

Visit me on instagram ( sarah_rieke) on Thursday to share your heart lesson. I’d love to hear what God is doing in your life and in your heart.

Proverbs 243

 

 

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Episode 33

Hi friends! I’m so happy to be back doing this podcast with you! I took a break after my son was born in November and intended to come back in February but that did not happen. But I’m glad to be back now sharing stories with you of women doing amazing things.

My guest today in an old college friend, Brittany Meng. Brittany shares about being the mom of twins, mothering four boys, transitioning from working to being a SAHM, and the long process of uncovering her son’s autism diagnosis. And, of course, she shares her heart lesson about realizing the importance of asking for help and living in community.

I hope you listen and enjoy and find yourself encouraged and inspired to listen to the Lord’s voice in your own life and discover a heart lesson of your own.

Heart Lesson: Realizing the importance of asking for help and living in community.

Connect with Brittany: blog // facebook // twitter // Mothering Beyond Expectations

We Mention:

Modern Mrs. Darcy

The Out of Sync Child

Mothering Beyond Expectations

Why Potty Training is Just the Worst

It’s Okay About It

My Favorite Thoughts from Our Conversation:

(with regards to making a difficult decision) Do the thing that is going to bring you the most peace.

Trust your gut with your kids.

Expectations can cause us to stumble when our expectations are slammed up against reality.

Receiving takes its own type of strength.

Podcast Links:

Episode 28 // Embrace the Life You’ve Been Given // with Katie Moorman

Episode 15 // For Such a Time as This // with Lauren Casper 

Come find me over on instagram and we can continue this conversation over there! Look out for #wednesdaysword on Wednesday for a short little devotional thought centered around one word, and again on Thursday for #heartlessons where I’ll remind you of the heart lesson the guest shared that week on the podcast, unpack it a little, and invite you to share your own #heartlesson . Can’t wait to see you there 🙂

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It was mid-January, just a few months after Evie passed away. I was invited to be a leader at our church’s annual winter youth retreat, to be present for any of the girls who needed someone to pray with them or talk with them through whatever God was stirring in their heart that weekend.

But really, it was my heart God was stirring.

Or rather, maybe, my heart that God was prodding. Like a rancher using an iron prod to lead his unwieldy cattle toward the fences, God was leading me somewhere I didn’t want to go as well. He was leading me to ask a question.

It was a question that had begun to burn quite uncomfortably in my heart, a question that continued to bubble to the surface. And yet I would quickly swat it away, labeling it inappropriate and too disrespectful to bring to the Father. No I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.

Until I did.

In the safe presence of a sweet friend whose heart was also hurting from losses of another kind, I finally could no longer stand the tension of harboring this question inside. The words escaped my mouth in a single gush, like air from a popped balloon.

“God, what were you thinking as I was holding my dead baby?! What on earth was going through your mind?”

I wept. She shared some thoughts but I could hardly listen. All I could think about was getting by myself with God an crying these words out to Him, alone.

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The opportunity finally came. I escaped to the girl’s side of the cabin and hurried onto my bunk. I opened my Bible and my journal and began to write and pray.

God, what were you thinking? What was going through your mind when you saw me holding my dead baby?

Almost instantly I felt His spirit gently move inside of me with an answer in the form of a question.

Sarah, what would you have done if Micah was hurting in that way?

Tears flooded my eyes as I imagined that very scenario. My adult son, doubled over and sobbing in grief over the loss of his infant child and middle-aged me, arms around my son, sobbing equally as hard and my heart aching to know a way to take away his pain.

An excerpt from my journal from that very night:

After reading through Job and Psalm 70 and not being satisfied with what I found, I just broke down and cried. God! What were you thinking when you saw me holding my dead baby?!

A still small, very fleeting voice said, “What would you do if Micah was in such grief?”

Obviously, I would be terribly, horribly grieved for my son. 

Likewise is the Lord for me.

That night was so freeing. Bringing that seemingly taboo question before the Father removed the unrest and discomfort my soul was feeling and replaced it instead with a blanket of peace. With that one simple thought He placed in my heart I believe He gave me a small glimpse of how much He truly loves me and is involved in every nuance of my life. He cares about my pain and He cares about me. And He cares about you too.

The kingdom of God is righteousness, joy, and peace. There are no questions too big or too off-limits to bring before the Almighty. Present your questions to Him in faith and see what righteousness, joy, and peace can enter your aching heart and finally set it free.

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Rev 1211

Since learning of Evie’s fatal diagnosis in the summer of 2012 I felt a sense deep inside that this story was so much bigger than myself and the sweet baby girl I carried. And when I started blogging about my heart and what was going on inside my head as I walked this impossible road I realized that my story was indeed, bigger than myself.

As people read and were touched by how Josh and I decided to carry our broken baby and love her with all of us they saw Jesus. As people read my words of contentment amidst difficulty, of joy within pain, of tears and groaning intermingled with rejoicing, they saw Jesus. As people read how, above all else, we had the hope of heaven to carry us through, they saw Jesus. As Big Daddy Weave proclaims in their song, My Story, “To tell you my story is to tell of Him.”

Because of Jesus I was able to survive a journey that many would find completely incapacitating, and I did it twice. It was a strength completely outside of myself that I can indeed call supernatural. And because of how unbelievably life-giving that strength was I feel compelled to share it.

If you saw someone being tossed around in stormy sea water, barely able to keep their head above the waves to gasp in tiny bits of air and you held a life ring, wouldn’t you feel a sense of urgency to throw that life-saving device to them and pull them to safety? That’s exactly how I feel about what Christ did for me – I want to throw out this life ring he gave me, this device that kept my spirit and my hope afloat when everything around me seemed to be overtaken by the depths of the ocean.

So today I am doing just that. I am walking onto this online platform, standing behind the mic, and proclaiming God’s truths that were, and continue to mean, survival for me.

1. We are all fearfully and wonderfully made.

My babies, Evie Caris and Charlie Alan, were broken. On the inside they were missing some parts that are crucial for survival outside of the womb. By the world’s standards, their lives were worth less than that of a healthy infant with no developmental issues. But this is what God says about those two precious souls:

For you formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows vey well.

Psalm 139:13-14

There are so many aspects of myself that I’d love to change. I’d love a smaller nose, a less child-like voice and definitely, better hair. Sometimes I have conversations with God about why He made me so sensitive or introverted. I’d love to be bolder, friendlier, more outgoing. But this is who I am. And God says I am wonderful this way.

Maybe you have a long list of things you’d like to change about yourself too. Maybe they’re more painful though, like an inability to conceive or a true physical limitation or disability. Can I be so bold as to tell you, God says you are beautiful, wonderful, perfect, just the way you are? Can I tell you that the God of the Universe who hung the stars and spun the clouds and painted the mountains against the deep blue sky also used His gentle, loving, and creative hands to form you, just as you are? And He doesn’t for one second wish you were different. You, me, my sweet broken babies, in all our weaknesses and imperfections, are all fearfully and wonderfully made by a Master Craftsman who makes no mistakes.

2. God wrote a story for each one of us, one that was custom-made by a Creator who loves us. A little later in that same Psalm, it says this:

… and in Your book they were all written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. Psalm 139:16b

Both Evie and Charlie spent 37 weeks inside my womb. Evie lived for almost four hours before the breath left her lungs and her soul flew to Jesus, Charlie for maybe about thirty minutes. These seem like such small numbers when considering the impact a person can have on the world and what they can do for God’s kingdom. But I know that, even in the short time they were on this earth, Evie and Charlie fulfilled everything God had written for them to do. These were the days God fashioned for them, and I take comfort in His sovereignty over it all.

But not only did God write these days for my children, He wrote them for me too. He put them into my story, and me into theirs. I don’t pretend to know why, but for some reason our stories are intermingled and that’s how God wrote the grand story of the universe. And I can trust that the Author who wrote us into each other’s stories also wrote the ending. The glorious, happy, joy-filled ending.

Do you have parts of your story that you don’t understand? Parts that seem confusing or even cruel? Again, I don’t pretend to know why God wrote those awful things into your story, but I do know He did it for a purpose. He is the Author who knows what it takes to make your character exactly what it needs to be and who knows that, in the end, it will all be redeemed for those who are in Him. God can write painful things into our stories. But He can also use those things for good and to bring about good in us.

3. God is good and everything He does is good. Psalm 119:68 proclaims just that:

You are good, and what you do is good …

Certainly though this begs the question, what about bad things? What about when things are really, really bad?

Remember those logic puzzle thingies we had to learn in math class? If a and b, then c must be true? Ok let’s try one out …

When life presents us with really difficult things, we tend to think like this:

God is good and everything He does is good.

This situation is bad.

Therefore, God must be bad.

I think this logic goes all the way back to the garden when the snake malevolently hissed into Eve’s ear, “Did God really say not to eat from that tree?” And with that entered man’s deeply rooted fear that God really is not as good as He says He is.

But what if we changed things around a bit?

God is good and everything He does is good.

This situation is bad.

Maybe this situation can be called good … 

Now God will never love evil and evil will never be called good, and death included. God’s whole initial plan was that man would never die and when that one fell through, He developed a plan wherein His only Son would give His life so that man would once again have the opportunity to not die. So I don’t think God will ever call death or sin or evil good. But I do believe God can bring good from any situation.

The oft-quoted Romans 8:28 states that all things work together for good for those that love God and are called, according to His purpose. Some people use it blithely when at a loss for words over the painful situation of a loved one. I know, I’ve been there myself a time or two. But what that verse means to me as one who has endured some very fiery trials is that God is using my pain for the good of His kingdom and if I never see it this side of Heaven, I can trust that I will come to full understanding one day in Glory.

God is good and the things He does are good, even when seem bad, and one day we will see how these bad things were indeed working for our good and the good of God’s kingdom.

Some people are ablaze with the story and the message God burned into their hearts. I think this is mine. I tell you my story because it tells of Him. And I want you to know Him this way too.

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