Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

Shine September 6, 2013

Filed under: Family — Stephanie Rische @ 8:15 am
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{Last weekend we celebrated the upcoming birth of my sister’s baby with a small family gathering, a few gifts, and some raspberry punch. I took advantage of the opportunity to brag a little about my kid sister, and I thought I’d share those thoughts here. She’s going to be a great mom, don’t you think?}

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Ever since Meghan was a baby, we could all tell there was something special about her. Yes, she was determined and tough and always on the go, right from the beginning. But there was something else about her too . . . a brightness and a warmth about her that attracted people to her. It was like she’d swallowed sunshine and it couldn’t help but beam out of her. As she grew up, it became clear that she reflected God’s light in a beautiful, unique way.

 

When I think about Meghan, one word that always comes to mind is shine. For as long as I can remember, she has lived out this verse:

Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
—Matthew 5:16

 

Let me tell you a story as a case in point. When Meghan was about four years old, she was very serious about her piggy bank. She saved every penny and guarded against conniving older siblings who might try to convince her to trade her measly little dimes for their big nickels (hypothetically speaking, of course). She never spent her money, even if there was a special toy she had her sights set on.

 

But then one day she overheard the rest of the family talking about kids who didn’t have enough money for basic things like food and clothing. She didn’t say anything, and the rest of us didn’t know she’d been following the conversation. But later that night, at bedtime, she went to Mom, eyes wide.

 

“Here, Mom,” she said, handing over her entire piggy bank, with every dime in it.

 

Mom looked her, confused.

 

“It’s for the kids,” Meghan said.

 

Kyle and I stared in wonder. This kid was shining already, at the age of four.

 

As Meghan grew up, her shine factor only grew brighter. She shone at school, on the basketball court, on the tennis court, with her friends, in leadership positions. She didn’t preach much, but she didn’t need to. Her actions were a winsome reflection of the God she served so faithfully and wholeheartedly.

 

One of the clearest snapshots in my mind of this shining sister of mine was before each college track meet. Mom and Dad and I attended almost every meet, and we always arrived early (largely due to Dad’s nerves). It was a fascinating study to observe the athletes in their pre-competition rituals. Each athlete’s routine was different, but there were some common threads: each person was focused and serious, and you could tell by the way they looked at their competitors that they were sizing them up to see if they should be scared of them or if they could squash them like bugs.

 

Then there was Meghan. If I ever wondered where she was before a meet, I could be sure to find her at the side of her fiercest competition. But she was neither quaking in her running spikes nor engaging in intimidation strategies. Rather, she was trying to turn her competitor into a friend. Certainly, she was focused and determined and playing to win. But she also knew there are some things that are more important than winning. As proud as I am of her athletic accomplishments, I’m even more proud of the way she shone at those meets, win or lose.

 

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Then, to our amazement and delight, Meghan met a fellow track star (pun intended) named Ted, who shone the way she did—on the track, with his teammates and classmates, with his Young Life students.

 

Meghan and Ted continue to shine now—with their coworkers, at their church, in their neighborhood. Everyone who sees them can tell there is something different about them—something that sets them apart. Even if people can’t put their finger on what it is exactly, we know that their shine comes from the way they reflect the light of their heavenly Father.

 

And now, as I think about this baby, I can’t help but think how blessed this kid will be to have parents who shine the way Meghan and Ted do. I don’t know exactly how God’s light will shine in and through this child, but I believe God will use this kid in incredible ways to bring his light into this dark world.

 

So now I’d like to share a “shine blessing” with Meghan and the baby now. These are the words that God told Moses’ brother, Aaron, to say as a blessing over the Israelites, and it’s the same words mom used to say over us at the bus stop before we went to school.

May the Lord bless you
and keep you;
May the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
May the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.
—Numbers 6:24-26

 

So please come meet us soon, Baby. Your auntie can’t wait to see the way you shine.

 

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Christmas through the Eyes of a Carpenter December 17, 2013

Filed under: Christmas — Stephanie Rische @ 8:10 am
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My family has a unanimously agreed-upon no-Christmas-gifts policy, and my dad hasn’t set foot in a mall since circa 1986, so I was surprised when he told me he had something for me in the basement—something I needed to open before Christmas.

 

Intrigued, I made my way downstairs to find a large lump sitting on the Ping-Pong table, draped unceremoniously with a black garbage bag. I raised an eyebrow at Dad before pulling back the plastic to unveil the mystery item.

 

When I realized what it was, I’m pretty sure I squealed louder than I did the Christmas I was eight and awoke to find my pink-and-purple banana-seat bike under the tree. “It’s a stable!” I exclaimed. “For my nativity set!”

 

Ever since I’d gotten a nativity set, I’d been looking for a stable big enough to fit the figures, but I’d had no success. And since I didn’t want Mary and Joseph and the rest of the crew to look freakishly disproportionate in their Bethlehem abode, thus far the crèche figurines had been without shelter. Until now. Dad, being the handyman he is, had come up with a solution to my dilemma: he’d built a custom-sized stable himself.

 

My dad, Joseph, the carpenter.

 

He pointed out all the details of the stable: the ladder that led to the loft, the perch where a bird could sit, the spotlight that would shine on Baby Jesus, the place where he’d had to cover the blood after cutting his finger. His voice grew animated as he told me that the whole thing was made of found materials—scrap wood, paint-stirring sticks, twigs he and Mom had found in the backyard, sawdust shavings from the basement floor.

 

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On my way home that night, glancing at the work of art in the seat beside me, I couldn’t help but think of another Joseph, another carpenter, another father. Why did God pick Joseph as Jesus’ adoptive father? I wondered. Mary features prominently in the Christmas story, but we don’t hear much about Joseph, and I guess I’d always pictured him as her silent sidekick. But surely God had a reason to write him into the story too.

 

As I thought about my dad pounding and sawing for months leading up to December, it struck me that at a carpenter’s very heart is the ability to believe in a crazy, far-fetched dream. A carpenter is someone who can embrace a vision before it’s a reality, someone who can take ordinary scraps and see them not as they are but as they could be one day. A carpenter is someone who believes the impossible . . . and then gets to work building it.

 

Thousands of years ago, when Joseph heard his fiancée was pregnant, an angel appeared to him in a dream:

 

“Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

—Matthew 1:20-21

 

Joseph was given a dream that day—a dream made of ordinary-looking scraps: A pregnant girl. A common laborer. A family without clout or fortune or political connections. A community skeptical of his fiancée’s claims. But somehow Joseph was able to take those found pieces and believe that the God-given vision was true: that this baby really would be the Messiah, the promised one, the one who would save the people from their sins.

 

When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.

—Matthew 1:24

 

In the face of the impossible, Joseph rolled up his sleeves and got to work, doing his part to hammer a miraculous dream into reality.

 

So every time I see that stable on my mantel, I’ll think of two Josephs. Like those dreamers, I want to see in the scraps around me the visions God is building in my life. The pieces themselves might not be much to look at on their own. But in the deft hands of the Carpenter, they just might become something beautiful.

 

God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.

—Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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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.

 

Surprise Me! October 29, 2013

Filed under: Family — Stephanie Rische @ 8:03 am
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I love going places with my sister where there is ordering of any sort involved. That’s because almost without fail, when she places her order, she drops the line “Surprise me” at some point in the conversation.

 

If she’s getting a cappuccino and the barista asks what flavor she’d like, Meghan will give her trademark dimpled grin and say, “Surprise me!” If she’s ordering a salad and is offered various dressing options, her response is the same: “Surprise me!” If I’m getting her something to drink out of Mom’s fridge, I can almost guarantee her refrain will echo once again: “Surprise me!”

 

I always stare at her, wide eyed. “What if you get something you don’t like?”

 

She just flashes a grin at me and shrugs. “That’s part of the fun of the surprise.”

 

Me, I’m a planner. I like to map it all out, write a script. I cling to the illusion of control. Truth be told, I’d rather do the surprising than the being surprised.

 

But this sister of mine, she lives with her arms wide open. She embraces life, holds out her hands to accept the surprises God has for her, just the way she does with her coffee.

 

So when the time approached for Meghan’s baby to born, I should have expected that this surprise-loving sister of mine would make room for as many surprises as possible.

 

“Girl or boy?” I asked over the phone, breathless, after her ultrasound.

 

“We’re going to be surprised!” she said, and I could hear the smile in her voice.

 

“What names are you thinking about?”

 

“We’re keeping it a surprise!”

 

And of course, the details of the birth itself were a surprise. Two days before her due date, Meghan went to the doctor. “You’re progressing right along,” he said. “It should be any day now.”

 

But the next day nothing happened. And nothing the next day either, or the day after, or the whole week after.

 

And then, ten days past her due date, just when the doctor was ready to speed things along, surprise! The baby decided to make a grand appearance. And the new mom and dad unwrapped their surprise package right there in their hospital room…a little gift of a girl named Addie Mae.

 

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And when I first looked into the face of that sweet surprise, I wondered what other surprises God might have up his sleeve. What do I miss out on when I try to make the plan and script it all out myself?

 

This little girl, this eight-pound bundle, she is teaching me already. Her life whispers, as soft as breathing, This is life! This is joy! This is a whole new world of divine surprises.

 

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So here I am, God, with my eyes squeezed shut and my arms wide open. Surprise me.

 

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A Letter to My Sister on Her 28th Birthday May 24, 2013

Filed under: Family — Stephanie Rische @ 11:44 am
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They were going to name you Fart-Dart.

 

We had a family meeting to discuss names before you were born, and Dad and Kyle formed an alliance, claiming that if you were a boy, Fart-Dart it would be. My indignant protests and sisterly outrage fell on deaf ears. They were too busy trying to figure out a middle name that would go well with Fart-Dart.

 

At seven, I was pretty sure Mom wouldn’t let that fly, but I wasn’t positive. Those two were a force to be reckoned with when they teamed up together—Dad with his “No, I mean it” expression that made it impossible for me to tell if he was joking, and Kyle with his infectious giggle that bubbled up every time bathroom humor was employed.

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And so I prayed. Every night before I went to bed, I prayed and prayed, with all the seven-year-old faith I could muster, that you would be a girl so you wouldn’t have to live your life under such a curse.

 

Sure enough, on a Friday in May all those years ago, Mom and Dad called from the hospital with the news. I was sitting on the bed in Grandma and Grandpa’s guest room—the one with the orange flowered bedspread. I could barely breathe as I waited for the announcement.

 

“It’s a girl,” Mom said.

 

I knew I was supposed to say something, but my throat was stuck. At seven, I thought you only cried when you were sad. I couldn’t figure out why tears were trying to squeeze out now, when I was so happy.

 

Finally I eked out the logical question: “What’s her name?”

 

Mom and Dad hadn’t decided yet. But it didn’t matter—I had a sister. And her name would not be Fart-Dart.

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All these years later, God has answered my prayer in ways beyond what I thought I was asking for back then. I’d been praying for a sister to avoid a name disaster, and he’s given me a sister to talk with, laugh with, whisper with, and do crossword puzzles with. He’s given me a sister who shows me what it means to shine Christ’s light in the way she cares for others and faithfully lives her life. He’s given me a sister who encourages me to try new things, a sister who spurs me to live more fully and abundantly and joyfully. He’s given me a sister who also happens to be my friend.

 

Meghan, you are the answer to my prayers and then some.

 

And now in this year of your life, baby sister, you are going to have a baby yourself. And you know what? You’re going to be such a good mom. I’m praying for your baby as we count down these months and days, just as I prayed for you twenty-eight years ago—not about the gender this time, but that this child will love God and love people. That he’ll have a big heart and a pure faith. That he’ll embrace life with his arms wide open. Just like his mama.

 

But I do have just one piece of advice for you as prepare for this baby’s appearance: please, whatever you do, don’t name this kid Fart-Dart.

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Women of Valor March 26, 2013

I don’t know about you, but every time I read Proverbs 31, I feel tired. Maybe a little incredulous too (Seriously? This woman wakes up early, stays up late, weaves blankets, cooks, works outside the home, helps the needy, makes savvy business deals, wears a purple dress she made herself, and then probably posts it all on Pinterest? Who is this woman?).

 

Mostly, though, I just feel weary. And then I skip over to the next book in the Bible (Ecclesiastes) to remind myself that everything is meaningless anyway.

 

But I’m currently reading The Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans, and she has given me a new perspective on the Proverbs 31 woman.

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Apparently this chapter was written as an acrostic poem, intended as an ode to honor women, not a bunch of to-dos. In Jewish culture, this wasn’t a checklist for women to strive for; instead, men praised women with the phrase “Eshet Chayil” (“Woman of Valor”), taken from the first line of the poem.

 

In other words, this depiction isn’t intended to describe one woman, and it certainly isn’t meant to capture a single day of her life. Rather, it’s a shout-out to all women.

So today I want to take a moment to acknowledge all of you women of valor out there. I see you, and I honor you.

 

You give of yourself—your talents, your time, your tears—and usually do it without getting much thanks. Eshet Chayil!

 

You wipe bottoms and blow noses and get up in the middle of the night. Eshet Chayil!

 

You work inside your home and outside your home, in your career and in your kitchen and in your relationships, and my guess is that you’re tired. Eshet Chayil!

 

You are fierce in your love, zealous in your protection, tenacious in your prayers. Eshet Chayil!

 

You hug well, you comfort well, you bring life and goodness and joy. Eshet Chayil!

mom and me

You don’t know it, but you shine. So here’s to you, you Woman of Valor! Eshet Chayil!

 

***

P.S. A special Eshet Chayil to my mom, Cindy, who just celebrated her birthday. Mom, you showed me when to stand up for myself and when to stay on my knees. You showed me how to how to make homemade snickerdoodle cookies and when to rip open a box of Keeblers. You taught me that sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better. You showed me how to follow through, how to clean an oven, how to knit a family together, how to giggle on waterslides, and how to fall in love with God’s Word. No woman fulfills the entire Proverbs 31 picture, but I have to say that you come pretty close. Happy Birthday, Mom of Valor!

 

Love in the Little Things February 12, 2013

Filed under: Love — Stephanie Rische @ 1:45 pm
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Sometimes love is in the big things—gem-studded jewelry, exotic trips, big promises, grandiose gestures. But more often, as I was reminded the other day, it’s the little, everyday actions that string together to make up this thing we call love.

little things

 

It was a Friday, and I’d just met a big deadline at work, so when I got home, Daniel suggested we go out to dinner to celebrate. We decided to try a new Thai place to replace “our” Thai restaurant that bit the economic dust (you can read the sad story here). When our food arrived, Daniel surprised me by pulling something out of his bag.

 

“A plate?” I asked.

 

When I looked more closely, things started to make more sense. The “Your Special Day” plate!

 

When I was a kid, Mom had a special red plate she pulled out on significant occasions—not just on birthdays, but also on days we accomplished something worth celebrating. A piano recital. A satisfactory report card. A basketball win. Shortly after I moved out on my own, my sister made me a plate like it, and now Daniel has been swept along in the tradition too.

 

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But I certainly wasn’t expecting to have the plate show up in the middle of Tusk Thai restaurant. It was a little thing, perhaps, but it meant something big to me.

 

The next day I got a card in the mail—an expected burst of yellow amid the junk mail and bills. What’s this? I wondered. Christmas is over, it’s not my birthday…

 

I tore open the envelope to find a card from my friend Sarah that said, “Thanks for being you. I’m looking forward to another year of being your friend.” A card for no reason at all, just to tell me I meant something to her. It was a series of little things, really…she picked out just the right card, she wrote words with real pen and ink, she put a stamp in the corner so it would make its way to my mailbox. Little things; big love.

 

How often am I looking to God for grand gestures to prove his love—the impossible miracle, the big answer to prayer, the parting of a proverbial sea? And to be certain, God does offer those large-scale proofs of love at times. But he also gives us undeniable bread-crumb trails of his love through the smaller things too. A ray of sunshine bursting through the cloudy sky. The provision of daily bread. The innocent laughter of a child. An unlikely burst of joy that surges despite all evidence to the contrary.

 

May my eyes ever be open to those little acts of love. Because who knows—maybe those little things are big things after all.

 

***

Epilogue: Daniel and I noticed throughout dinner that we seemed to be getting more attention than the other customers. The waiter was extra friendly, and the owner kept walking by our table—not saying anything, but obviously observing us. When we’d finished our meals and were waiting for the check, we were surprised to see the waiter coming out with a plate of sumptuous coconut custard. I looked over my shoulder, wondering if this sweet treat was missing its intended mark. But no, the waiter’s eyes landed straight on me, eagerly awaiting my reaction.

 

I fumbled out something appreciative, but I was baffled.

 

“It’s not my birthday!” I whispered to Daniel after the waiter left. And then it hit me. Of course! The plate. He must have assumed “Your Special Day” meant birthday. Hence the free dessert.

 

custard

 

I certainly wasn’t going to complain. As I looked at the last bite of custard, which Daniel had saved for me, as usual, it felt for all the world like another little piece of love, right there on my plate.

 

Two Sizes Too Small December 14, 2012

Filed under: 2 Corinthians — Stephanie Rische @ 11:57 am
Tags: , , ,

grinch1

 

There’s no way around it: I’ve been a decorating Grinch this Christmas. Every year in the past, one of my highlights for the season has been the annual Christmas tree tradition. As a kid, I loved choosing the perfect tree to chop down and then hanging all the ornaments—the white dove from Grandma, the little ballerina shoes from Aunt Mary, the now-eyeless clothespin reindeer I’d made in second grade. When I got my own place, I made it my priority—ahead of a couch and a kitchen table—to get my own artificial tree, and I’ve been putting it up faithfully ever since.

 

Until this year.

 

Mom tells me this yuletide fatigue shouldn’t set in for another 20 years or so, but for whatever reason, I’ve been prematurely struck by the grinchies. As I dug through my Rubbermaid tubs full of Christmas paraphernalia, tossing aside decorations that seemed like too much effort, I realized there was only one nonnegotiable item I simply had toput out: the Advent wreath.

 

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there is a beautiful, mysterious kind of anticipation about watching those cold, lifeless wicks burst into flame like so many miniature stars of Bethlehem. The Light of the world, intercepting our darkness.

 

I find it interesting that two of God’s most dramatic intersections into history—when he created the world and when he broke through heaven to put on human skin—are both marked by light. The very first chapter of Scripture records God’s declaration “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). Then when Jesus arrived on the scene, he was revealed as “the light of the world” (John 8:12).

 

And there is good news for those of us who still struggle to stave off the darkness, to hold at bay the terrors of the night. According to Paul, God’s light is not confined to the first day of creation or to the 30-some years Jesus walked the earth:

 

God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

—2 Corinthians 4:6

 

When the early Christians created the church calendar, they decided to celebrate Christ’s birth at the end of December. More likely, Jesus was born sometime in the spring, but the goal was to trump the pagan holiday marking the winter solstice. And really, what better symbolism could you find to mark the arrival of the Light of the World than to set aside the darkest day of the year, knowing that each day after that point will be filled with more and more light?

 

Yes, there may be a hole in the living room where my Christmas tree should be, but I do have a four-candled reminder of the Light who made his entrance that first Christmas.

 

He’s the Light that bursts through my darkness.

 

He’s the Light that grows stronger and brighter with each passing day.

 

He’s the Light that shines not only in Bethlehem, but in my heart.

 

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What Christmas decoration is a must for you to put up each year?

 

 

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.

 

 

Trashed July 31, 2012

Filed under: Isaiah — Stephanie Rische @ 7:52 am
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My husband, Daniel, has the heart of an artist. By that I don’t just mean he can turn an ordinary piece of paper into something beautiful with just a brush and some paint, or that he has an eye for what will be aesthetically pleasing. (Although he’s a master at both.) No, his true artistry shines through in the way he views his creations.

I love seeing the final product of something Daniel has made, but what brings me equal enjoyment is hearing about the entire artistic process—from the conception of the idea (often in a series of drawings in his sketch book) to the rough template to the final revision, with just the right colors. I relish watching Daniel’s eyes, bright with boyish animation, as he takes me through each stage of the process. He beholds his finished creation with an almost fatherly mix of pride and tenderness.

Daniel’s job isn’t specifically art related, but he still finds occasion to put his creative skills to work there. Recently one of his projects was to design a greeting card on behalf of his company, which was a success by all counts.

Several months later, when the office was having a clean-up day, Daniel happened to walk by the trash can. Out of the corner of his eye he spotted an unmistakable color scheme, a familiar fold of paper. He could tell immediately that it was one of his cards. Who knows how it ended up discarded—if it had been damaged somehow or if it had gotten misplaced with a stack of papers—but regardless, it had somehow been thrown away.

When Daniel saw his creation trashed, his first instinct was the same as any true artist’s: he wanted to rescue it. It grieved him to see his beloved creation tossed aside, devalued. The person who originally put it there may have thought it was trash, and everyone who passed by afterward may have considered it worthless too. But not its creator. He wanted to see what he’d made being used for the purpose it was intended for. He was ready to dig into the trash can himself—to rescue the card, to smooth out its crumpled edges. To redeem it.

As I read the book of Isaiah, I’m struck by the number of times the prophet uses the word redeem. One of the most frequent names for God in the book is Redeemer, and the word redeem shows up in some form more than twenty times.

All this redemption talk makes sense, I suppose, knowing the context—that Israel was on the cusp of defeat and exile by their enemies. The Assyrians saw them as so much trash, while the other countries around them barely batted an eyelash at their demise. If ever a people needed redemption, it was the Israelites—God’s chosen people.

Though you are a lowly worm, O Jacob,
don’t be afraid, people of Israel, for I will help you.
I am the Lord, your Redeemer.
—Isaiah 41:14

 

Maybe right now you find yourself in the trash can, like Israel did thousands of years ago. Maybe someone said something that made you feel worthless, devalued, unloved. Or maybe it was through pure neglect that you find yourself feeling forgotten, pushed aside. And perhaps along the way no one has stopped to pull you out of the rubbish, to smooth out your creases, to get you back to what you were meant to be.

But I am here to tell you that in God’s eyes you are not trash; you have utmost value. Your Creator sees you there in the trash, and it shreds his heart. And what does he do in response? He rolls up his sleeves and digs into the trash himself. He enters our world, knowing we can’t get out of this mess ourselves.

In all their suffering he also suffered,
and he personally rescued them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them.
He lifted them up and carried them
through all the years.
—Isaiah 63:9

Because of Christ, you don’t have to stay in the trash. Because of Christ, you can be used for the purpose we were made for.

He has personally redeemed you. All because he is your Creator, and you are his beloved masterpiece.

Writer’s Note: This blog was co-written with Daniel Rische.

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.