Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

Happy (Thirty) Sixth Birthday to Me October 4, 2013

Filed under: birthday — Stephanie Rische @ 7:46 am
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Thirty years ago today—my 6th birthday—the Worst Birthday Disaster Ever turned into my Best Birthday Party Ever. (Because obviously, when you’re six, the world is one big superlative.)

 

When September rolled around, Mom said, “It’s time to start thinking about your birthday!” just as she did every year. So we sat down at the kitchen table and went through the annual checklist to pull off a party personalized just for me. And as always, I felt like the most special girl in the whole world.

 

What theme do you want for your party? (I must have had some undue influence from Rainbow Brite, because the theme always seemed to include some variation of rainbows and hearts.)

 

What shape do you want for your cake? (Yes, Mom made it from scratch.)

 

What flavor do you want for the cake? (Cherry. Every single time.)

 

Everything was nailed down, and I could feel my little heart fluttering in anticipation.

 

But then came the final question:

Who do you want to invite to your party?

 

I swallowed hard. “Mom,” I said, “I wish my birthday was in the spring, not the fall.”

 

She looked at me quizzically. “Why, honey?”

 

“It’s too early in the year. I don’t have friends yet.”

 Birthday 1-1

 

And it was true. I was the slow-to-warm-up kid, the shy girl, the one who stood on the outskirts at recess until she worked up the confidence to break in sometime around second semester.

 

Mom didn’t miss a beat. “No problem,” she said. “We’ll just invite all the girls in your class.”

 

There was no trace of panic in her eyes, but looking back now, I have to wonder if she was secretly hyperventilating. How on earth would she fit 16 girls in our house?

 

But at the age of almost-six, I didn’t notice. My eyes were already dancing with visions of hearts and rainbows. In an instant, through the magic of Mom’s words, I’d gone from having zero friends to having 15.

 

And when it was time to blow out the candles on my heart-shaped cake, surrounded by every single girl in my class, I felt so happy I might as well have swallowed a rainbow whole. For once, everything seemed so perfect I could hardly think of anything to wish for. I remember offering a halfhearted wish for the ultimate icing on the day: an actual rainbow in the sky.

 

But I have a hunch God gave priority to a mom’s prayers in that moment. A mom who was whispering prayers for the heart of a little girl who wanted a friend. A mom who was making a wish herself—for a day free of rain (and accompanying rainbows) so there would be room for 16 little girls in party hats at the table outside.

 

This is 30 years late, but thanks, Mom. Thanks for the Best Birthday Party Ever.

 Birthday 2-1

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A Letter to My 25-Year-Old-Self October 5, 2012

Filed under: birthday — Stephanie Rische @ 8:06 am
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Yesterday I celebrated my 35th birthday, and in honor of occasion I decided to write a letter to the ten-years-ago me, telling myself things I wish I’d known back then.

***

Dear 25-year-old me,

I have a few things I want to tell you. I know you think I don’t understand, but I do. I’ve been where you are. And I remember.

Thing #1: You know that script you have for your life—that one where you offer God your suggestions about just what will happen in your life, and when? How you’ll meet Prince Charming by the end of the year, get married, move into the white-picket-fenced house, and start a family somewhere around 28? Well, can I tell you something, as gently as I can? Maybe you should crumple up that script and throw it away. As your friends get married one by one (four this year, as I recall), it’s going to be hard. God isn’t going to comply with your script. But you know what? That’s actually a good thing. He has something in mind for you that is way better than anything you could have dreamed up. But if you’re going to embrace the story he has for you, you’re going to have to trust him. And you’re going to have to get your butt out of the director’s chair.

Thing #2: For most of your life you have been swayed by (dare I say obsessed with?) numbers—whether it’s your GPA, the number on the bathroom scale, the balance in your checking account, the age you imagined you’d be when you reached various milestones. You may not be able to hear this now, but believe me when I say that numbers aren’t as important as you think they are. Yes, you should keep giving your best effort, but do so knowing that numbers can never define you. God doesn’t quantify your worth by any set of integers—good or bad. And when it comes to those daunting odds that send tremors of panic through your soul, let me remind you that God has a pretty good track record when it comes to defying statistics.

Thing #3: I know you sometimes feel like there’s something wrong with you, like you’re somehow not good enough, not worthy enough, not lovable enough, and maybe you need to change who you are so you’ll find the love and acceptance you’re longing for. Don’t buy it. God made you the way you are, quirky parts and all. Someday a man will see you for who you are and love you that way. Not just in spite of your quirks, but because of them.

Thing #4: You’ve always been a seasonal girl, captivated by the crunch of leaves underfoot in the fall, the first snowflake on the tip of your tongue, the whiff of a fresh spring rain, the lazy warmth of a summer evening. What you need to know is that this time you’re going through, it’s a season too. I know you feel like you’re stuck on a treadmill while everyone around you is moving forward, but God is at work, even when it seems like he’s stubbornly silent. The parts of this season that seem endless, threatening to trudge on without end—they will cease. And believe it or not, there are parts of this season you’ll miss one day. So take the time to savor this season while it’s here instead of wishing it away.

Sincerely,

Your 35-year-old self

P.S. A few final tips:

Don’t take yourself so seriously.

Don’t be afraid of tears.

And by all means, buy the red couch.

***

As I write these things to my former self, I wonder what my 45-year-old self would say to me from a decade down the road—what I should stop worrying about, what I should embrace, what’s worth crying about, what deserves a good laugh.

I suppose there’s only one way to find out. So I’m going to jump into this year with both feet and try to become the person God meant me to be. One day at a time.