Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

June Book Discussion: Carry On, Warrior June 28, 2013

Thanks to everyone who participated in our virtual book club (which I introduced here). June’s selection was Carry on, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton.


Here’s how it works: I’ll throw out some discussion topics, and you can post your comments below—about these topics or other things you want to talk about.

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Discussion #1: Authenticity

I really appreciated the author’s authentic voice—sharing the hard, real parts of life that we try to pretty up or hide from other people. Glennon’s honesty is a refreshing reminder that there is freedom in recognizing and admitting our brokenness. It’s obvious that she loves her children and finds joy in the sacred ground of motherhood, but she doesn’t pretend to have a Pinterest-perfect life. Plus, her honesty can be downright hilarious (case in point: when her daughter announced at the dentist’s office: “Mom, you smell like a bar!”).


Glennon’s insights in “Don’t Carpe Diem” are gold—especially for moms with young kids:

This CARPE DIEM message makes me paranoid and panicky. Especially during this phase of my life when I’m raising young kids. Being told, in a million different ways, to CARPE DIEM makes me worry that if I’m not in a constant state of profound gratitude and ecstasy, I’m doing something wrong.


I appreciate the insight she comes to about kairos time vs. chronos time—being able to savor each season without having to pretend that each moment of it is bliss.


Do you think Glennon overshared, or were you inspired by her vulnerability? Can you relate to her feelings about the pressure to “Carpe Diem”?


Discussion #2: Book vs. Blog

The jacket of the book admits up front that some of the content is taken from the author’s blog, But I was surprised to find how much it felt like a loosely compiled string of blogs. I often found myself disoriented in time when the order skipped around, and I kept searching for an overarching narrative arc. I would consider myself a casual reader of Glennon’s blog, and I was surprised how much content overlapped what I’ve already read from her.


Do you have different expectations for books versus blogs? Did you think the book held together with this structure?


Discussion #3: Truth-Telling

Glennon calls herself a “truth-teller,” and I think she achieves that goal. The upside of that is we get front-row seats to the work of redemption God has done and continues to do in her life. But as I read, it struck me that it’s one thing to decide to bare the skeletons in your own closet, but how much liberty does one have to raid the closets of her husband and kids? As much as I enjoyed these personal glimpses, I wondered what her children will think as they get older and the world knows about their business. (And what on earth did her husband think of her sharing that e-mail she sent him at work?!)


When it comes to sharing—whether in a blog, on social media, or in a book—how much do you think is okay to share about your kids/family/friends? Do you have any standards in place for yourself?

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I would give this book 3.5 stars for the enjoyable content but lazy structure.

35 stars

How many stars would you give this book?


Once again, there will be a FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY for one lucky commenter!




My Husband, Good Sam June 26, 2013

Filed under: Friends — Stephanie Rische @ 8:14 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

One of the nicknames I have for my husband is Sam. Which is weird, when you think about it, since his name is Daniel. But in his case it’s Sam as in Good Samaritan.


Here’s the thing: If you ever found yourself on the side of the road with a flat tire or a skinned knee or an empty tank of gas, Daniel is precisely the person you’d want to find you. In the three years I’ve known him, we’ve given a ride to a woman who was walking home in dress shoes after her car broke down, loaned an Allen wrench to a guy with bicycle troubles, and dropped someone off at the bicycle shop to get a new part for his bike—to name just a few examples.

daniel and steph6


It’s always a rather startling experience to be with Daniel, I mean Sam, in these situations, because before I’ve even noticed there’s a problem, he has already diagnosed the situation, pulled over the vehicle, and procured the necessary tool.


So it was fully in character for Daniel to stop when he spotted the two guys off to the side of the bike path poring over their map the other evening. Daniel and I were on a bike ride together, reliving our first date from three years prior—our “blind date-iversary,” as we call it. We were pedaling to the park we’d gone to on our first date when we spotted—okay, when “Sam” spotted, the pair of guys, looking weary and a little lost.


“Do you know where you’re going?” he asked, coasting his bicycle to a stop.


It turned out the duo was a father and a son, on a 540-mile trek to celebrate Will’s high school graduation. They’d started in Iowa six days ago, and they were now on the last leg of their journey, hoping to arrive at their friends’ house before dark.


There was just one problem: the paths had changed significantly since the last time the dad had been in the area some thirty years ago. And the map didn’t seem to be matching up with the signs around them.


Daniel went over directions with them, coaching them through the forks in the path and the landmarks they could expect along the way. Then, just as they were getting ready to head out, Daniel said, “Hey, we could ride with you for this leg. That would at least get you past this tricky part.”


Their sweat-streaked faces lit up at the offer. “Are you sure you don’t mind?”


But as it turned out, we were the ones who reaped the real benefits. As we rode together, they regaled us with tales from the journey—how they narrowly made it to shelter just before a spontaneous storm struck, how they pushed through the pain of the brutal Wisconsin hills, how they managed to pack light enough to carry all the belongings they needed for a week.


As we rode together, I thought about what a gift it is to have friends who travel with us on various legs of our journeys. No one can journey with us all the way from the start to the finish line, but God has a way of sending fellow pilgrims just when we need them . . . when we’re climbing that big hill, when we feel too weary to go one more mile, when we’re lost and in need of directions.

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Finally we arrived at the spot where the trail diverged, and we offered our new friends some banana bread (another nod to our first date) before saying our good-byes.


“Bless you,” the dad said, shaking our hands warmly. The son nodded, his mouth full of another large bite.


But we’d already been blessed. That’s the funny thing about hanging around with the Sams of the world. You start out thinking you’re offering a blessing, but the blessings come pouring back to you a hundredfold instead.


Happy three years of knowing you, Sam. I’m so glad God gave us each other for the rest of this journey.



Friday Favorites: June June 21, 2013

This Friday I thought I’d share a few of my recent favorite things with you.


For anyone who loves to read…

This site is fantastic—kind of like Pandora for book lovers.

What Should I Read Next


For all angsty writers (wait, is that redundant?)…

If you’ve ever felt the pain and suffering of writing (or not writing), this is for you:

Having Trouble Writing? Try This Famous Author’s Technique

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For anyone who loves a second breakfast…

I kind of want to live in (or at least visit) these Hobbit houses.

Real Life Houses That Look like They Belong in the Shire

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For anyone who knows they’ll never live up to Pinterest…

Next time you’re having a rough day, all you need to do is look at these babies in pumpkins. That’s real life.

Reasons You Should Never Reenact Pinterest Photos

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For anyone who needs a little boost of brave…

“Sometimes it’s good to let them see you sweat even when it feels awkward. Fear seems to grow in the darkness of isolation.”

Why You Need to Tell Someone How Scared You Are


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The Gift of Presence June 17, 2013

Filed under: Family — Stephanie Rische @ 1:12 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Dad #1crop


When I was fifteen, I decided to exchange my gymnastics leotard for a basketball jersey. There was just one little problem (and I do mean little): I was barely four foot eleven, with shoes on.


I practiced hard that season, but whenever game time came, I warmed the bench. With the rare exception of a major blowout, my sub-five-foot frame didn’t see any action on the court the moment the game clock started.


But my dad . . . my dad was at every game. Every. Single. Game. He’d leave work early and sit up in the bleachers with my mom, still in his dress shirt and tie. All so he could watch me warm the bench.


When I came out of the locker room with the team before each game, I’d find him in his usual spot—left side, near the back—and he’d flash our family’s secret signal, which, roughly translated, meant, “Hey, I see you. I’m here.”


He was there, even though we all knew I wouldn’t be out there shooting or dribbling or passing or doing any of the other things he’d been helping me with in our hoop out back.


And he was there after each game for his trademark “postgame talk” when I was feeling discouraged after yet another four quarters of not even taking off my warm-up jacket.


“We’ll keep practicing,” he told me. “Just wait—you’re going to be a starter one of these days.”

Dad #2crop




Right around that time, I found myself plunged into the waters of teenage awkwardness, and along the way, I started losing track of how to connect with my dad. I was self-conscious in my own skin, clumsy about hugging him, so we mostly exchanged fist bumps instead. I didn’t quite know how to talk to him about the things that made up my world either—friend drama, boys, how I was trying to sludge through this new space to figure out who I was and where I fit in. How could we show love to each other surrounded by so much awkward?


But Dad found a way. I’m sure I didn’t realize what was happening back then, but each time he showed up, each time he watched me sit the bench, he was giving me a rare gift: the gift of presence. He was there, and there said, “I love you.”




All through the next summer, Dad coached me as I relearned my basketball shot. It was brutal at first, but he was right—it paid off. My senior year, when they announced the starting lineup for my team, there was a new jersey out on the court—number ten, measuring in at barely five feet tall. When they called my name, I ran out onto there, shoes squeaking on the hardwood, my eyes scanning the stands for one face.


He was there, of course. I flashed Dad the trademark family signal and grinned to myself. I’d been wishing for this moment for a long time, but when it arrived, I realized that what I’d needed most had been there all along.


“The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.”

—Ralph Waldo Emerson


Sometimes love is complicated, multilayered. Sometimes it means having deep talks and hashing everything out. But other times love is simple. Sometimes love is just showing up.


dad and me

So Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Thanks for teaching me how to shoot a basketball. Thanks for watching all my games. Most of all, thanks for always showing up. (And by the way, I didn’t get you anything for Father’s Day, so please consider this your gift.)


On Judy Blume, Burning Bushes, and Timelessness June 12, 2013

Tiger1The first time I read Judy Blume’s Tiger Eyes, I was just a little younger than Davey, the fifteen-year-old narrator and heroine. Now, some two decades later, I’m just about the age of Davey’s mom. Interestingly, the characters on the pages haven’t aged a day since our last visit.


On Saturday I heard Judy Blume speak about the debut of the movie version of Tiger Eyes, released last Friday. At the end of her talk, she opened the floor for a Q & A with the audience. To my astonishment, dozens of young girls stood up—from grade schoolers to middle schoolers to high schoolers—to let her know how her books had connected with them. Superfudge, Freckle Juice, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret: the same books that kept me company some twenty years ago.


“We read to know we are not alone,” C. S. Lewis said. And sure enough, Judy Blume’s books were there to let me know I wasn’t the only one wrestling through the crazy-making emotions that come with the territory of growing up.


At one point near the end of the Q & A session, a teacher took the mic and asked Judy why she thought her books had held up for so many years.


Judy thought for a moment and then said, “You know, I write about people, about feelings. And as much as technology advances and the world looks different in a lot of ways than it did when I wrote the book in 1981, people are still the same. They still experience the same emotions.”




The next day in church, the message was about Exodus 3, where God shows up to Moses in the form of a burning bush. In this scene, God reveals his name to Moses, and it’s kind of a curious one—a verb where we’d expect a noun: I Am. “Say this to the people of Israel: I Am has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14).


God didn’t reveal himself as “I Was”—citing a track record of things he’d done in the past. He didn’t reveal himself as “I Will Be”—claiming what he’d do one day in the future. He was saying, in effect, Wherever you find yourself in the timeline of history, I Am there.


Generations come and go. Traditions change, culture fluctuates, technology thrusts us ever forward. But we humans, at our core, are still the same. We love and we lose, we laugh and we cry, we mourn and we rejoice. And in the midst of it all, God and his Word remain relevant, timeless.


Even more timeless and more timely, I dare say, than Tiger Eyes.




Note: For more on the burning bush artwork, visit


Tree Funerals and Other Necessary Endings June 7, 2013

Filed under: Relationships — Stephanie Rische @ 1:03 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

I’ve been to too many tree funerals lately.


First it was the big old elm tree in my parents’ front yard—the Climbing Tree, all of us kids called it.


I’d always thought the Giving Tree was a little over the top about a hunk of deadwood…until I found out my own Climbing Tree’s days were numbered.


It was the perfect tree for a kid, with its low, sturdy limbs to get you started and plenty of compact branches to perch on. After a summer day full of playing outside or helping my parents in the garden, I’d bring my book into the tree and sit in my reading spot—a “V” between branches that was cozy enough for me to be able to turn the pages of the next Anne of Green Gables book without having to hang on.




It was the first tree to turn gold in the fall, marking the commencement of my favorite season and ushering in my birthday. The tree was also my first glimpse of home when I returned from college, those sweeping branches beckoning welcome to a homesick heart.


So when my parents told me it was time to take down the old tree, I weakly argued for them to let it stand a little longer (after all, it still had six green leaves on it!). Deep down I knew it was time, but there’s inherent sadness that comes with taking an ax to something that was once so vibrant and full of life. It wasn’t just the end of the tree; it was the end of an era.


One day not long after my parents’ announcement about the Climbing Tree, I arrived home at my own place to find that all the trees lining our street had been systematically mowed down by orders of the city—casualties of the ash borer infestation. The stump of each tree had been spray-painted with neon letters that read “OK,” apparently an indication that there were no lingering signs of the guilty little vermin. But as I walked around our post-apocalyptic neighborhood inspecting each spot that had once held a tall symbol of life, I wanted to scream, “No! It’s not okay!”




I’ve been reading a book by Henry Cloud called Necessary Endings, and in it he talks about how sometimes we have to do the hard work of chopping down projects and relationships whose season has past.


“Good cannot begin until bad ends,” he says. “Endings are not only part of life; they are a requirement for living and thriving, professionally and personally. Being alive requires that we sometimes kill off things in which we were once invested, uproot what we previously nurtured, and tear down what we built for an earlier time.”


Cloud says there are three categories of things that may need to end:

1. Healthy buds or branches that are not the best ones

2. Sick branches that are not going to get well

3. Dead branches that are taking up space needed for the healthy ones to thrive


As painful as endings are, we are wise to make the tough call and end these things now, before more damage is done.


Are there some necessary endings you need to bring about in your life?

  • Do you have a vampire-friend who is slowly sucking the life out of you?
  • Is there a relationship you know you should end but you’re hanging on to it because you’re afraid to be alone?
  • Is there some commitment that was once life giving but its season is now up?
  • Has God made it clear that your time at your job has come to an end, but fear is holding you back?


Necessary Endings are painful because we know the chainsaw is going to hurt. And once the tree is gone, it will leave behind a gaping hole—one we’ll likely tumble into for some time.


But as tempting as it is to put off the pain, delaying a needed ending only makes things worse. After all, the pain is there as a megaphone, telling us something needs to change. Henry Cloud puts it this way: “Pain by its nature is a signal that something is wrong, and action is required. So pain should be driving you to do something to end it.”


Here’s the thing: there won’t be a place to plant a new, healthy tree if the old diseased one stays there.


Is there a Necessary Ending you need to bring about so you can make way for a New Beginning? If so, let me know how I can pray for you as you rev up your chainsaw.


Announcing the Book of the Month for June June 4, 2013

Filed under: Book Club — Stephanie Rische @ 11:55 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

First of all, congratulations to Nate for winning the free book for May’s book discussion! (You can check out our lively conversation about sociopaths and those who love them here.)

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And the book of the month for June is . . . Carry on, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. (You may have heard of Glennon through her blog:


Here’s the description of Glennon’s book, taken from her website:


For years Glennon Doyle Melton built a wall between herself and others, hiding inside a bunker of secrets and shame. But one day everything changed: Glennon woke up to life, committing herself to living out loud and giving language to our universal (yet often secret) experiences. In Carry On, Warrior, Melton shares new stories and the best-loved material from Her mistakes and triumphs demonstrate that love wins and that together we can do hard things.


Melton is a courageous truth-teller and hope-spreader, a wise and witty friend who emboldens us to believe in ourselves and reminds us that the journey is the reward. Carry On, Warrior proves that by shedding our weapons and armor, we can stop hiding, competing, striving for the mirage of perfection, and build better lives in our hearts, homes, and communities.

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We’ll be discussing the book at the end of June (and again, there will be a free book giveaway for one lucky commenter). Please join us!