Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

Love and Ice Cream October 15, 2013

Filed under: Marriage — Stephanie Rische @ 8:04 am
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Recently my article “Marriage Is Like Ice Cream” was published by Today’s Christian Woman. In the article I talk about the seasons of my marriage in terms of ice cream flavors:

ice cream

When I think back on the time I’ve been married, I mark the time not so much in terms of years or months or seasons but in ice cream flavors. Classic vanilla bean. Chocolate coconut. Peanut butter swirl. Cinnamon waffle. Eggnog spice. Double dark chocolate.

 

I make the claim that marriage is a lot like ice cream—how it’s not just a mixture of different ingredients but that somewhere along the way, an altogether new entity is created.

 

As Daniel and I have experimented with various ice cream recipes, I’ve pondered what an appropriate metaphor it is for marriage. These ingredients—sweet grains of sugar, rich cream, eggs whipped to froth—taste completely different individually. But combine them, heat to 160 degrees, and churn in a frozen bowl for an hour, and you get an utterly unique sensation. It’s not just five things mixed together, but something altogether new. The five melding into one.

 

After my piece was published, I had a slew of requests for ice cream recipes (okay, there were two, but still…). I wanted to comply immediately, but there were two small glitches: (1) In all the times Daniel and I have used our ice cream maker, I’ve made ice cream approximately zero times. The truth is, Chef Daniel is the culinary genius behind it all, and my self-appointed job is to wash the dishes (and, of course, do the taste testing). And (2) Daniel is so creative that he doesn’t use a recipe and he never makes the same thing twice—he just looks around the pantry for inspiration and works his dairy magic.

 

But I was finally able to pin him down to some measurements and step-by-step instructions. This recipe was a recent favorite, and we hope you enjoy it. (Even if you don’t make it yourself, Daniel’s witty asides are pretty entertaining in themselves.)

 September 2013 002

 

Confetti Cake Ice Cream

Ingredients:

1 ¾ cups heavy whipping cream

2 ¼ cups whole milk (aka the good stuff!)

¾ cups sugar

4 egg yolks

1 ¼ cups confetti cake mix (use 1 ½ cups to make it really sweet!)*

pinch of salt

Directions:

1)      In a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisk together milk, cream, half the sugar, and salt. Bring the mixture to close to a boil, but don’t let it boil over.

2)      While the cream and milk mixture is heating, mix the egg yolks and remaining sugar in a medium size bowl.

3)      When the milk and cream mixture has come close to a boil, remove from heat and scoop out 1 cup of the mixture. Slowly pour it into the egg yolk and sugar mixture and whisk it together. (Make sure to keep whisking—we’re not making scrambled eggs here, friends!) Continue scooping in the heated milk and cream mixture and whisk into the egg yolk and sugar mixture until it’s all combined.

4)      Pour the whole mixture back into the saucepan and return to stove over medium heat. Use a thermometer to check the temperature and continue heating the mixture until you reach 160 degrees F. (Salmonella is not our friend!) If you don’t have a thermometer, you can use a wooden spoon, constantly stirring the mixture until it thickens slightly and is able to coat the back of the spoon. This should only take a couple of minutes. Don’t boil, or the yolks will overcook.

5)      Add confetti cake mix and whisk in until smooth.

6)      Let the mixture cool and add vanilla extract.

7)      Place mixture in sealed container in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

8)      Place the ice cream maker’s freezer bowl into the freezer for 24 hours.

9)      Optional: 1-2 hours before you plan to make the ice cream, place cooled mixture into the freezer.

10)   Turn on the ice cream maker and pour the mixture into the freezer container. Let the mix thicken (about 20-25 minutes).

11)   Have your wife taste it so she can give it the thumbs-up.

12)   Place ice cream in freezer-safe container and place in freezer for at least 3 hours.

13)   Eat and enjoy!

 

*We were dismayed to find that when we cooked the mixture, the confetti colors disappeared. We recommend adding sprinkles to the scoops when serving.

 

Hope you enjoy the ice cream—and as you do, marvel at God’s creative work at merging two into one.

 

daniel and steph3

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An Ice Cream for an Ice Cream April 3, 2012

Filed under: Deuteronomy — Stephanie Rische @ 5:10 pm
Tags: ,

One of my earliest memories was something that happened when I was almost four years old, and it involves ice cream. Now before you conjure up an idyllic scene of childhood nostalgia, I should warn you that this isn’t, for the most part, a particularly sweet memory.

My family was on vacation, and we’d stopped for ice cream, a rare treat for us since at that point in my life, Mom had me pretty much convinced that fruit constituted dessert.

I remember standing on the porch outside the ice cream shop, licking my vanilla soft serve and lost in my own dream world. Meanwhile I must have been backing up, oblivious to the older gentleman behind me with a sundae in his hand, because before I knew it, I heard the sickening sound of ice cream hitting pavement. Then the man was yelling angry words, alternately at me and then at my parents. He had lost his ice cream, and he was demanding justice.

I’ve often had trouble reconciling the Old Testament’s portrayal of God’s justice with the picture of grace painted in the New Testament. The book of Deuteronomy captures the idea of divine retribution in this often quoted verse: “You must show no pity for the guilty! Your rule should be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Deuteronomy 19:21).

It makes sense that when a wrong has been done, payment is required. Things need to be made right again. But how does that jive with Jesus’ words in the New Testament that God is a God of love, that we should turn the other cheek?

But if God is immutable, constant, unchanging, then clearly his character didn’t shift somewhere between Malachi and Matthew. Maybe what’s at issue here is my understanding of grace.

Grace, upon closer examination, isn’t so much about letting other people off the hook (or getting off the hook ourselves). It doesn’t mean justice is negated. It means that the payment for a wrong is made by someone other than the one who owes the debt.

At three and a half, I never would have been able to pay for the grumpy old man’s ice cream, even if I’d had access to all the pennies in my piggy bank. Fortunately, my dad took the man by the elbow, led him back into the shop, and bought him a replacement sundae.

In doing so, Dad managed to fulfill both the law of justice and the demand of grace. The obligation for the ice cream was paid in full: an eye for an eye, or as they case may be, an ice cream for an ice cream. And I received the grace of having a debt covered on my behalf, by my father.

 

That’s just what our heavenly Father has done for us through Christ: his eye for our eye, his tooth for our tooth, his hand for our hand, his foot for our foot.

Paid in full. For all eternity.

I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.

 

Friday Favorites: August August 23, 2013

On this August Friday, here are are some of my recent favorites:

 

For introverts (and those who are mystified by them)…

I saw myself all over this list—maybe you will too. (Or maybe this will explain a lot about an introvert you love!) 23 Signs You’re Secretly an Introvert

 

ff August

 

For all productive types…
I loved Shauna Niequist’s challenge: Waste five minutes today. It’s All about the Heart Not the Hustle

 

ff August2

 

For everyone who’s feeling nostalgic about back-to-school time…

This is a rare recording of A. A. Milne reading Winnie the Pooh in 1929. Hear the Classic Winnie the Pooh Read by the Author

 

ff august3

 

For personality-type geeks…
These tongue-in-cheek prayers based on personality types cracked me up. Is it any surprise that the prayer for my INFJ type is “Lord help me not be a perfectionist. (Did I spell that correctly?)”? Prayers for Myers Briggs Types

 

ff august4

 

For all the book lovers out there
This quirky post marries two of my things: books and ice cream. My favorite book-inspired flavor: Clockwork Orange Dreamsicle. Book-Inspired Ice Cream Flavors

ff august5

 

Tuesday’s Child June 19, 2012

Filed under: Proverbs — Stephanie Rische @ 8:11 am
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When I was little, I was secretly envious of my sister. Not because she grew up eating ice cream on a regular basis or because she got to stay up late and play bridge with Mom and “the ladies” while I was in bed. No, it was all because of the day of her birth.

Meghan was born on a Friday, and according to the little nursery rhyme, that meant she was “loving and giving.” And here’s the thing: she was. Even from a young age, we had to keep a close eye on her piggy bank because she was liable to hand the whole thing over to the nearest person she deemed in need.

I was born on a Tuesday, which allegedly meant I was “full of grace.” At age ten, I took that to mean I made elegant, ballet-like movements. And while it’s true that I was enrolled in gymnastics, I had kicked way too many people while doing cartwheels in the hallway for anyone to believe there was anything akin to grace happening there. But being loving and giving—now that felt like something a little more practical.

I was watching the trials for the Olympics the other day, and I was struck by the undeniable grace of the divers in the platform event. As I watched, it hit me that maybe physical grace and spiritual grace have more in common than I realized. In both cases, whether you’re diving off the high dive or forgiving someone who has wronged you, there’s a kind of apparent effortlessness to it.

Although the one doing the gracing knows how many bruises and tears have brought them to this point, the spectators only see something beautiful. For an action to be truly graceful, there can’t be a sense of “Look at me!” or “Hey, everyone, check out how hard this is!” No, to be “full of grace” is to do something hard and make it look easy.

As with diving, grace-giving can feel a lot like standing on a 33-foot ledge, looking down into the swirling water below. That is to say, terrifying. And neither of these Olympic tasks happens automatically—they both require a lot of practice. But grace is worth the effort. It is so extraordinary, so compelling, that the watching world takes note when it happens.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this little proverb lately—so simple, but definitely not easy:

A gracious woman gains respect.

—Proverbs 11:16

So today I want to put my toes right up to the ledge and dive headfirst into grace. I’ll never be a platform diver, but with a little practice, I just may start looking more like the Tuesday’s child I was intended to be.

I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.

 

The Gift of Presence March 9, 2012

Filed under: Exodus — Stephanie Rische @ 12:51 pm
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Today marks a dubious anniversary in my life. On this date last year, I was flat on my back, having just received a one-word explanation for why I felt like I’d been run over by a Mack truck: mono.

It had been a whirlwind of a month leading up to the diagnosis. Within the span of just a few weeks, the man of my dreams put a sparkly thing on my finger and asked me to marry him; I went on a cruise with my future in-laws; and shortly thereafter I hopped into a minivan with my family for a cross-country trip to meet my new nephew. All this while in the throes of planning a wedding scheduled for less than six months away. It’s little wonder, I suppose, that I found myself unable to get out of bed one morning not long after the whirlwind subsided.

One of the worst parts about the mono (aside from the fire in my throat and the relentless teasing about how I’d contracted “the kissing disease”) was the solitary nature of it. I couldn’t go to work; I didn’t want to contaminate my friends and family; and based on the swollen state of my adenoids, even talking on the phone sounded like torture. With a warning from the doctor about a six-week recovery time, suffice it say I was feeling pretty lonely.

Enter Prince Charming.

Daniel faithfully came over to my house when I was sick, bearing gifts of throat spray, Tylenol, chicken noodle soup, and ice cream (purely for medicinal throat-soothing purposes, of course). But the best gift he gave me was his presence.

I was poor company, and I knew it. One glance at my unshowered self in the mirror, complete with my manic hair and sweatpants-of-the-week, and I wondered if this fiancé of mine was going to take back that thing he’d said about “the rest of our lives.”

But that’s not what happened. Daniel looked at me, having sacrificed his other plans for the evening to sit on the couch beside a girl with little energy and fewer coherent thoughts, and said one of the most wonderful sentences ever uttered. “I know you don’t feel beautiful right now,” he told me. “But you have never looked more beautiful to me than you do right now.”

When the Israelites were on the long road from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land, they had plenty of needs—basics like food, water, and physical safety. But they also had a need for something deeper from God: his company.

Once the thrill of freedom wore off, I’m sure it didn’t take long for them to panic and realize they were in the middle of the desert and didn’t exactly have a map to show them where they were going. They didn’t just need physical supplies; they needed God to sit with them, even when they were mopey and unshowered and in general just lousy company. They needed the comfort of God’s presence.

This need was reflected in Moses’ prayer for his people: “O Lord, if it is true that I have found favor with you, then please travel with us. Yes, this is a stubborn and rebellious people, but please forgive our iniquity and our sins. Claim us as your own special possession” (Exodus 34:9).

And that’s just what God gave them—in the form of a cloud by day a pillar of fire by night. That gift wasn’t so different from the gift I received in my sweatpantsed-state. It’s the gift of love. It’s the gift of presence.

 

I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.

 

Raspberry Harvest September 17, 2013

Filed under: Faith,Family — Stephanie Rische @ 8:13 am
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Among the mental snapshots that defined summer for me as a child were those 100-degree days at my grandparents’ house. We’d spend all day outside—playing shuffleboard, running through the sprinkler, and going boating on the river.

 

But some of my most cherished memories were the afternoons in my grandfather’s raspberry patch. I loved the sweet tang of Grandpa’s raspberries in all forms—in homemade raspberry jam, in a bowl with cream, in Grandma’s array of luscious pastries and desserts. But my favorite way to eat the raspberries was straight off the vine, under the hot desert sun.

 Grandpa 2

***

 

My grandpa’s dementia has been creeping in over the past decade or so, and his once immaculate garden has now almost entirely surrendered to weeds and grass. There are no more army-straight rows of tomatoes or cucumbers, and his herb patch is no more than a memory. But somehow his raspberry bushes are still there—still producing fruit, still offering their ripe summer gifts.

 

I went to visit my grandparents over the summer, and on one 100-degree afternoon, with the desert sun smiling down on neck just the way I remembered from my childhood, I went out to the raspberry bushes with Grandpa to fill our little green baskets.

 

Grandpa struggles with basic tasks now, and on the way from the garage to the raspberry patch, he turned to me more than once to ask, “Now what are we supposed to be doing?”

 Grandpa 1

 

But the moment we got to the raspberry bushes, his motor memory kicked in, and he started picking like the efficient gardener I remember. I’d finish a raspberry bush, feeling confident I’d gotten all the ripe ones, and Grandpa would come along behind me, quietly filling his basket with all the hidden berries I’d missed.

 

***

 

We celebrated my grandparents’ 60th anniversary while I was there, and one night at dinner, as I looked around the huge table filled with their family—all the people who wouldn’t have been possible without them—I marveled at the harvest they are reaping after more than half a century together.

 

I looked at Grandpa’s daughter and her two children who all share his love of singing and who grace others with that gift as well.

 

I looked at my cousin with the mechanically wired mind, the curiosity to take things apart and put them together again—just like Grandpa.

 

I looked at my brother—the leader with the servant-heart—and saw my grandpa reflected in another generation.

 

I looked at my sister and my cousin—the ones with the big hearts and much love for people—and felt sure Grandpa must be proud.

 

I looked at his daughters who have sacrificed much and loved their families well, just as their father before them has done.

 

And as we toasted Grandma and Grandpa with generous slices of chocolate cake, it struck me that although Grandpa isn’t able to do much sowing right now, he’s reaping a harvest of all he’s planted over these 80-plus years. All those labors of love, all the watering and tending and patience and gentle pruning—it’s paying off now in the legacy he leaves to his children, his grandchildren, and his great-grandchildren.

 

So thank you, Grandpa. Thank you for all your years of faithfulness. Because of you, future generations will keep reaping what you planted. I’m so grateful to be one of the shoots tended in that soil.

 Grandpa 3

 

Let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

—Galatians 6:9

 

The Summer Day August 27, 2013

Filed under: Prayer — Stephanie Rische @ 12:07 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Last weekend my husband and I escaped to a charming bed and breakfast along the Mississippi River to celebrate our anniversary. The town itself isn’t much to speak of—it has seen better economies, better days, better centuries even. But Ed and Sandy, the owners of the B&B, have created a little sanctuary right there in the heart of the town—a place of respite amid the busyness of life.

 

July August 2013 030

 

After a breakfast of pancakes loaded with plump blueberries, hot coffee with real cream, and fresh sweet strawberries, Daniel and I sat on the huge wrap-around front porch, serenaded by the songbirds and gurgling fountains that grace the property. Butterflies flitted from flower to flower, apparently as enticed by the aroma of the purple phlox as we were.

 

July.August 2013 038

 

Then Daniel pulled out his guitar started playing right there on the front porch, and as the morning sun filtered through the trees onto my neck, I wished I could bottle the moment and keep it all year. Summer in a jar.

 

July August 2013 018

 

At one point Daniel looked over at me and noticed that my book was uncharacteristically closed on my lap. I was just sitting there, silent, taking it all in.

 

“What are you thinking about?” he asked, no doubt concerned I’d slipped into a food coma after all those pancakes.

 

I couldn’t quite put it into words. But Mary Oliver captures the moment in her poem “The Summer Day.”

 

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

—Mary Oliver

 

Sometimes prayer is about structure and discipline and articulate words. But sometimes it’s simply learning “how to be idle and blessed.” Sometimes prayer is sitting on the front porch soaking in this wild and wonderful world God has made.

 

Sometimes prayer is just paying attention.

 

So as summer slips into September and kids don backpacks and the days start taking shortcuts toward dusk, I want to take time to seize these final summer days. I don’t want life to slip by as I rush through my busy to-do list.

 

This summer day, this gift from God—what will I do with it? What will I do with this one wild and precious life?

July August 2013 043

 

Like Amish Peanut Butter October 24, 2012

Filed under: Luke — Stephanie Rische @ 8:15 am
Tags: , ,

I have a weakness for peanut butter. On any given day, you’d likely find four jars of the stuff in our pantry: generic creamy, chunky, the brand-name “good stuff”… and a backup.

 

So when I received homemade Amish peanut butter from one of the authors my company works with, you can imagine my delight. Just one spoonful was enough for me to know I’d be ruined for all other peanut butter for the rest of time. In all my years of history with peanut butter, I’d never tasted such gooey, creamy, sweet deliciousness. The fact that it was made from scratch by a Pennsylvania woman in a bonnet only added to its divinity.

 

As I was eating my toasted peanut butter sandwich, I was reminded of the quote a friend of mine uses as part of her signature at the bottom of e-mails:

God spreads his grace thick and gloppy…the way a child spreads peanut butter.

 

It struck me as I took another bite that something like Amish peanut butter isn’t meant to be skimped on or rationed out. It isn’t meant to be analyzed for calorie count or obsessed over for exactly which spot on my hips it’s bound to end up.

 

Forgive me if this sounds a touch sacrilegious, but maybe my friend’s quote is right—maybe grace isn’t so different from peanut butter. God spreads his grace with such extravagance that it gets messy and smears all over us, until the globs rub off onto other people too.

 

When Jesus interacted with people, he was often accused by the religious folk of being too generous with grace. On one occasion when he was eating dinner with a group of people, he was approached by an “immoral woman” (Luke 7:36-50). Jesus didn’t condone the choices she’d made, but he extended forgiveness to her nonetheless. Forgiveness of the thick and gloppy variety.

 

I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love.

—Luke 7:47

 

Having received extravagant forgiveness, she responded with extravagant gratitude:

 

She brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.

—Luke 7:37-38

 

No matter how hard we try, we’ll never deserve God’s extravagant grace. But we do have a choice about how we’ll receive it. Will we clench our teeth and portion it out over so many bread crumbs? Will we nibble each bite guiltily, washing it down with the sour milk of regret?

 

Or will we take in the gift the way it was meant to be received, with joy and abundance and overflowing gratitude, the way the woman in the book of Luke did?

 

May my peanut butter communion remind me of how God intends his grace to be: thick and gloppy. Like Amish peanut butter.

 

I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.