Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

On the Brink of a Miracle November 26, 2013

Filed under: Faith — Stephanie Rische @ 8:00 am
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I’m privileged to be over at Pick Your Portion today, writing about a beautiful mystery: how Jesus could pull off miracles all on his own, but how he invites us to join him anyway. Here’s a sneak peek…

 

PYP 11-13

 

When I was little—much too little to know the rules of the road, let alone reach the gas pedals—my dad would sneak me onto his lap when he was driving so I could “help.” As soon as we reached the dead-end road leading to our house, he’d put my chubby fingers on the wheel and cover them with his own big hands. I’d squeal in delight as we made our way past the old barn, past the palomino horse’s pen, past the neighbors’ house on the hill, and finally into our driveway.

 

At some level I knew that Dad was the one operating the vehicle, not me, but I thrilled to think he would want my help. And I loved being in such close proximity to him as we embarked on this daring (and unsanctioned-by-mom) adventure. . . .

 

You can read the rest of the story here.

 

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Gospel Story: A Story of Hope November 22, 2013

Filed under: Gospel Stories — Stephanie Rische @ 4:31 pm
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Two of my great passions in life are helping other people share their stories and seeing God’s extraordinary grace at work through ordinary people. So when I was given the opportunity to be part of the Gospel Stories project at my church, it felt like a beautiful collision of those passions.

marino

Today I’d like to share Ken and Sally’s remarkable story with you.

 

Have you ever felt like life had you around the neck and then started squeezing? You want to cling to hope; you want to believe that God has good plans for you, but all your circumstances seem to indicate otherwise.

 

Ken and Sally Marino know what it’s like to be hit with one blow after the other. But it has been precisely in the midst of some of those challenges that they’ve experienced the depths of God’s faithfulness in keeping his promises.

 

If you are in need of a breath of hope today, we invite you to watch the Marinos’ story. It’s a story of God’s goodness in hard times, a story of laughter and joy where you might expect tears. And ultimately, it’s a story of hope.

 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
—Jeremiah 29:11

 

To watch their story in their own words, see the video here.

 

 

9 Books Every Girl Should Read November 15, 2013

Whether you’re looking for a book for a girl you love or you missed these along the way in your childhood, here are nine of my top titles for girls.

 

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williamsgirls book1

This book offers some profound insights about how love can hurt, but how it’s also what makes you real.

 

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

 

 

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Englegirls book4

I’m not sure if this is an adult book that can also be appreciated by kids or a kids book that can also be appreciated by adults, but it holds up for any age, any generation. I remember reading it and having my eyes opened to the wonder and mystery just under the surface of ordinary life. I also felt a special kinship with Meg, who doesn’t seem to fit in with her peers but finds herself uniquely equipped to deal with another world once she arrives there—a world she never even dreamed of.

 

 

The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patersongirls book6

This was the first book I remember reading that didn’t have a happy ending. Although I felt indignant about it at the time, I grew to appreciate the beautiful picture of friendship painted in this book and how the characters’ grief prepared me to face my own losses.

 

 

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnettgirls book5

This book serves as a reminder that friendship can blossom just as surely as flowers do, that miracles are possible, and that hope is worth clinging to.

 

“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?” . . .  


“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine.”

 

 

Little Women by Louisa May Alcottgirls book9

I think every girl has a little bit of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy in her. These sisters helped me grow up and figure out who I was, and they showed me how to stay true to what I stood for.

 

 

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomerygirls book2

I read this series so many times the books are now practically falling apart. After I read each book as a kid, I’d give it to my grandmother (she of the red hair and the spunky personality, just like Anne) and we’d talk about it together. Looking back, I suppose it was my first impromptu book club.

 

 

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wildergirls book8

I must have overlooked the parts about dysentery, the lack of indoor plumbing, and the absence of central air, but I desperately wanted to go back in time so I could be Laura. This book offers a poignant snapshot of a particular era in our country’s history, and it’s rich with themes of family relationships and the tough times can help us learn and grow.

 

“There’s no great loss without some small gain.”

 

girls book 3

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

This book is pure fun. My sister and I loved wearing colorful stockings and putting our hair in pigtails, Pippi style.

 

 

Winnie the Horse Gentler by Dandi Daley Mackallgirls book7

This book came into my life when I was an adult, like a long-lost friend, but it’s a story every girl should read. Horse lover or not, every girl will connect with the ups and the downs of being a kid, the longing for friendship, and the way the funny moments of life weave together with the more serious ones.

 

 

What were your favorite books as a kid? I’d love to hear your list.

 

Do You Want to Get Well? November 12, 2013

Filed under: Faith — Stephanie Rische @ 7:59 am
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My nemesis has always been the easy question, the short answer.

 

In school, I despised true/false questions on tests. I’d have been happy to write you an essay, but heaven forbid I had to nail it down to one lousy word. I always managed to overthink it—agonizing over nuances, seeking out potential loopholes, and doing mental gymnastics until my mind (and my eraser) wore thin.

 

When I’m taking opinion surveys, I get equally stressed by number rankings. On a scale of 1 to 5, how would you rate the service? Out of five stars, how much did you like the book? On a scale of 1 to 10, how are you feeling? Again, I could give you a full narrative, brimming with details, but for the love, please don’t make me commit to a cold, hard number.

 

Now that I’m married to a man who is economical with his words, I’ve noticed this pattern of mine rearing its head in less than flattering ways. He’ll ask me a simple question requiring a one-word answer (Yes? No?) and I’ll tell him a story instead, leaving him adrift to translate my answer into checkboxes.

 

The problem seems to be the worst when it comes to admitting I need help. My servant-hearted husband asks things like:

 

Do you need me to run any other errands?

Would you like me to parallel-park the car?

What else needs to be cleaned?

Can I help you?

 

And what should I do in these situations? I should whip out my short answers of YES PLEASE and THANK YOU. But instead I make excuses, give explanations, try to pretend I can handle all of it, all the time.

 healing3

 

I’m sure I’ve read the account of Jesus healing the blind man a bunch of times since my Sunday school days, but something new struck me when I recently read it again.

 

When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?”

 “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”

—John 5:6-7

 

Did you catch that? Jesus asks him a simple question—Would you like to get well?—and the guy answers a different question altogether, explaining why it’s impossible.

 

The answer is YES, dude. Yes, you want to get well.

 

Take it from someone who tends to get it wrong: if Jesus asks you if you want to be healed, don’t make excuses. Don’t tell him why it’s impossible. Don’t list all the reasons it won’t work. Don’t go on and on with a story. Just say yes, and let him figure out the rest.

 

So what about our own ailments? Not all of us are battling physical blindness, but there’s no doubt something we need healing from.

 

Do you want to be healed from the worry that plagues you when the clock is stuck at 2 a.m.?

 

Do you want to be healed from the fear that chokes you from spreading your wings to do the very thing you were made to do?

 

Do you want to be healed from the unforgiveness that’s gnawing away at your gut?

 

Do you want to be healed from the wound that was left by the betrayal, the unkind words, the severed relationship?

 

YES. The answer is yes—you want to be well, and so do I. That doesn’t mean all our prayers will magically be answered just the way we want them to. But Jesus is asking. He is ready to heal.

 

Will you say YES?

healing1

 

Friday Favorites: November November 8, 2013

Filed under: Friday Favorites — Stephanie Rische @ 8:14 am
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Here are a few of  my favorites from this month that I wanted to share with you.

 

For anyone who needs a laugh…

In this hilarious collection of tweets, a word has been added to each title to completely change the meaning. Cases in point: I Kissed Carbon Dating Goodbye, The Taco Shack, Blue Like Jazz Hands. I promise you’ll laugh. Add a Word, Ruin a Christian Book. Plus, here’s a link to some mocked-up covers with new titles: Add a Word Covers

 ff oct6

 

For all romantics—practical and otherwise…

Ann Voskamp says, “True love isn’t found. It’s carved.” Why There Really Are No Blurred Lines

 ff oct2

 

For people who love an actual book…

This artist has created one-of-a-kind bindings for classic books. They’re not so much books as works of art, or in his words, “literary artifacts.” Bindings for Classic Books

 ??????????

 

For lovers of nature and/or photography…

These are the contest winners for National Geographic’s traveler photo contest. Breathtaking. Outdoor Scenes Contest

ff oct4

 

For anyone who thinks the English language is hard…


Why say it in a sentence when you can squeeze it all into a 63-letter word? Here’s a list of really long German words and their definitions: Eight Ridiculously Long German Words

 

ff oct5

 

Announcing the Book of the Month Club for November November 5, 2013

First of all, congratulations to Rachel, the winner of the free book giveaway!

 

The selection for November is The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. Here’s the description of her book, taken from the back cover:

Language of Flowers1

The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen and emancipated from the system with nowhere to go, Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But an unexpected encounter with a mysterious stranger has her questioning what’s been missing in her life. And when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

 

We’ll discuss the book at the end of November—hope you can join us!

 

Book of the Month Club: Bread and Wine November 1, 2013

Thanks to everyone who joined our book of the month club for October! Our selection was Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist, which I introduced here.

breadandwine

 

Here’s how it works: I’ll throw out a few discussion topics, and you can respond about these topics or anything else you’d like to talk about in the comment section below.

 

Discussion #1: A Call to Hospitality

I love the way Shauna reclaims eating together and sharing meals with others as not just something we do to sustain our bodies, but something that feeds the soul as well. “Food is one of the ways we love each other,” she says, “and the table is one of the most sacred places we gather.”

 

Having grown up with a grandma who can do a hundred magical things with a pie crust and her bare hands, and a mom who made every person who crossed the threshold of her home feel welcomed and loved, I have always understood at some intuitive level that the intersection of food and home is where relationships are cultivated and love takes root. But I appreciate the way Shauna puts those feelings into words and affirms the sacredness of hospitality in a world that is increasingly busy and fragmented.

“While it’s not strictly about food, it doesn’t happen without it. Food is the starting point, the common ground, the thing to hold and handle, the currency we offer to one another.”

 

What are your experiences with hospitality and making food for other people? Was that a priority in your family when you were growing up? How have you done things the same or differently in your own home?

 

Discussion #2: A Place for Vulnerability

One of the highlights of the book for me was the way Shauna emphasized that making food and inviting people into your home isn’t a performance; it’s an opportunity to create space for authenticity. When we break bread together, we can slow down, be real, let down our guard.

 

I loved her tradition of sharing toasts on someone’s birthday—saying something that person has brought to your life in the last year or a prayer for the year ahead: “The heart of hospitality is creating space for these moments, protecting that fragile bubble of vulnerability and truth and love. It’s all too rare that we tell the people we love exactly why we love them—what they bring to our lives, why our lives are richer because they’re in it.”

 

I also appreciated the way she made peace with things not going according to her own plans and being open to what God had ordained for the gathering:

“It was just as it should have been, and nothing close to what I could have planned. And that’s what makes a good party—when the evening and the people and the conversation and the feeling in the room are allowed to be whatever they need to be for that night.”

 

Have you ever hosted a party that didn’t go at all the way you planned or expected? Were there any unexpected blessings in that experience?

 

Discussion #3: Embracing a Healthy Relationship with Food

Shauna’s perspective on having a healthy relationship with food was very refreshing, and I especially appreciated her take on how there are some seasons to fast and other seasons to feast.

“I’m learning that feasting can only exist healthfully—physically, spiritually, and emotionally—in a life that also includes fasting. . . . The very things you think you need most desperately are the things that can transform you the most profoundly when you do finally decide to release them.”

 

Do you agree that we all need seasons of both feasting and fasting in our lives? What does that balance look like for you?

 

Discussion #4: Recipes

If I had one complaint about the book, it’s that I sometimes felt like a kitchen slouch when I read it. I know that wasn’t the author’s intent, and I realize the principles apply whether you’re whipping up homemade risotto or making Kraft macaroni and cheese, but sometimes I felt like I couldn’t relate to her stories about dinner parties with lobster and steak au poivre with cognac sauce.

 

That said, I did attempt a few of the recipes, and I appreciated the author’s conversational tone as she talked readers through the recipes. I felt like I had a sister in the kitchen, coaching me through the steps. I made the lentil soup, which wasn’t too hard, even for the likes of me. When my husband tried his first spoonful, he said tactfully, “It tastes like it’s good for me.” But to his credit, he ate it all. I also attempted the blueberry crisp (I made mine it peaches), the scrambled eggs with goat cheese (pretty good, but I prefer my eggs more solid than the recipe calls for), and the toffee (which I’m pretty sure I botched somehow because it just may crack your teeth). There are several others I’d still like to try.

 

Did you try any of the recipes? How did they turn out? Which one should I attempt next?

 

Rating

I would give the book 4.5 stars. I loved the bits about relationships, hospitality, faith, and the sacredness of the table. Maybe I just needed the “for dummies” version for the recipes.

 

4.5 stars

 

How many stars would you give the book?

{Remember: I’ll send a free book to one randomly selected commenter!}