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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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

 

Passing on the Good Story October 8, 2013

Filed under: Faith,Family — Stephanie Rische @ 8:03 am
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robin4I had the privilege of writing for Pick Your Portion recently. Here’s what I shared about my grandmother’s unexpected gift . . .

 

 

Last weekend the women in my family got together to celebrate the upcoming birth of my sister’s baby. We don’t know the name or the gender yet, and we don’t know this little one’s hair color or personality or special talents. But one thing is for certain: this baby is already incalculably loved.

 

We sat around the living room sipping raspberry punch long after the shower was over, telling stories about Meghan as a baby and retelling family lore—about sons and daughters, aunts and uncles, cousins and siblings. At one point I just sat there looking at all the beloved faces, trying to let the moment soak in. There were four generations represented in that room—my grandmother, my mom and a smattering of aunts, my sister, and the baby we were eager to meet.

 

robin1The guests had been asked to bring a book they’d loved as children, and the selections were a delightful mix of classic and modern, serious and fanciful, playful and deep. Then Meghan opened the last gift, unobtrusively tucked in a small bag at the back of the pile. As soon as she revealed the contents, the room drew in a collective breath.

You can read the rest of the story here.

 

 

 

 

Raspberry Harvest September 17, 2013

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

 

Learning to Fall September 10, 2013

Filed under: Faith — Stephanie Rische @ 8:16 am
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Daniel and I recently attended a family celebration in honor of his nephew’s first birthday. Colin himself was underwhelmed by the occasion (although he was pretty excited about the chocolate cake and the ensuing opportunity to make a mess with the frosting). Eventually, with some enticement from us grown-ups, he did start getting into the gifts (or at least the wrapping paper and boxes), but for the most part he didn’t seem to know what all the fuss was about.

walk7

 

After the birthday boy went to bed, the rest of us sat around the table reflecting on how much Colin had changed over the past year—and how much he had changed us. As we talked, it occurred to me that the celebration of the first year is as much about the people who love the kid as it is about the kid himself.

 

We went around the table listing adjectives that describe our 15 pounds of charm and came with this list: adventurous, determined, focused, sweet, flexible, curious, daring, funny, hammy, independent, cuddly. And fearless.

 

There was no question about fearless. In fact, he’d proved it earlier that day at his own party.

walk5

 

Perhaps we owe Colin’s impeccable timing to the fact that he’s a bit of a ham, but sure enough, he waited to take his first steps until there was an adequate audience. Then, right between cake and presents, he stood up on the blanket in the grass and showed off his first steps to the adoring crowd, over and over again. The more we clapped and cheered him on, the braver he became, the more consecutive steps he took.

 

As I watched him learn to walk—toppling to the side, lunging forward into his mom’s arms, or plopping backward with only his diaper for padding—I thought how smart God is to have us learn this rather treacherous skill as babies. Colin doesn’t have enough life experience yet to be afraid. He doesn’t know that falling and failing are pretty much guaranteed when you’re learning something new. And he doesn’t know how much it can hurt sometimes.

walk2

 

I have a few years on Colin, but there are some things I need to learn from him (or maybe things I need to unlearn). Because here’s the thing: when I try so hard to prevent myself from falling—to self-protect from failure and pain—I miss out on the next steps, the new adventures God has in mind for me. And I deprive myself of the thrill of lunging forward, childlike, into the arms of grace—into the arms of someone who loves me.

 

So here’s to Colin. Here’s to being one, to being fearless. Here’s to toddling—to falling and failing. If that’s what it takes to learn the next baby steps before me, then count me in.

 

But I still may look into some padding for my backside, if it’s all the same to everyone else.

 

walk3

 

We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going.

—2 Corinthians 4:9

 

Fireflies of the Soul July 30, 2013

Filed under: Faith — Stephanie Rische @ 8:14 am
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At first glance, it may seem that God sprinkled the Midwest with the leftovers when he was distributing nature’s gifts. We can’t see the purple mountains’ majesty from here, and our shorelines boast no waving palm trees. We don’t waken to the sound of crashing ocean waves or plunging waterfalls, and our rest stops don’t sell postcards of stately lighthouses.

 

But over the years I’ve come to suspect that God had a few secrets up his sleeve when he made the heartland, a few gifts to compensate for an otherwise lackluster showing. These gifts aren’t big or loud or dramatic, and only those with a discerning eye notice them. But once you discover them, like so many clues on a treasure hunt, you just may find yourself settling in and calling the place home.

 

There are the sunny daffodils that peek sleepy heads out of the ground after a long, cold winter. There’s the never-ending canvas of sky, alternately dotted with cotton-ball clouds and painted with fiery oranges and pinks as the sun dips below the horizon. There’s the beautiful dying of the trees as they explode in a final display of color before hunkering down for the winter.

 

And then there are the fireflies that make their appearance on hot summer evenings. Maybe most of all, the fireflies.

 

firefly1

 

My friend and I were walking along the trail at dusk the other night, and it was one of those evenings that succumbed to nightfall in a whisper of a second. One moment we could see the path beneath our feet, and the next we were treading into darkness.

 

Maybe the cover of evening makes it easier for truth to leak out, but it was in that sacred moment of dusk-to-darkness that my friend’s secret spilled over the edges. Her happy, surprising news that just couldn’t stay bottled up inside her anymore.

 

The words were barely off her lips when the fireflies ignited in a symphony of lights, illuminating the sky with their pulsing. Just one moment earlier they were nowhere to be found, yet with the single flip of a switch, we were surrounded by thousands of tiny flashlights, small enough to fit in the palm of our hands.

 

And I wondered: Had they appeared out of nowhere, on cue somehow? Or had they been there all along, and I just couldn’t see them without the curtain of darkness?

 

firefly4

 

Most of the time I fear the darkness, shrink away from it, attempt to push it back. But what if some of those secret bursts of light God has hidden in my heart can only show up against the backdrop of darkness?

 

I don’t want to miss anything in this ordinary, glorious landscape of my Midwestern soul. So if the darkness needs to come as a backdrop to those little divine beacons, then let it come. Let it come, so I can see the flickering light, so I can hold it in the palm of my hand. I don’t want to miss a single firefly of the soul.

 

“We do not truly see light, we only see slower things lit by it, so that for us light is on the edge—the last thing we know before things become too swift for us.”

—C. S. Lewis

 

Anxiety in High Gear May 29, 2013

Filed under: Faith — Stephanie Rische @ 12:01 pm
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I have a rather embarrassing confession to make: when I was single, I had the subconscious notion that if I got married, all my anxieties would magically disappear. Ridiculous, I know. It turns out I’m the same Anxious Annie with a ring that I was without one. Now I just have another target to worry about.

 

One year ago, over Memorial Day weekend, my worrywart tendencies showed up in full force, and before it was all over, things got downright ugly.

 

My husband, Daniel, is an avid cyclist, and anytime he sees a long stretch of pavement without cars on it, he practically starts salivating. We went out of town for the weekend, and he got the notion to ride his bicycle home. All 67 miles. As if that weren’t cause enough for worry, he didn’t have a map, it was 98 degrees with the heat index, and he was going straight into a 20-mile-an-hour headwind.

 

Sixty-seven miles. Four and a half hours. That’s a long while to worry.

dwr bike

 

Then our next-door neighbor called and said our garage door was wide open. Had we closed it before we left? I thought so, but I couldn’t be sure. The likely scenario was that we’d inadvertently left it open, not that some conniving thief had wrangled his way in and left the door open as some kind of twisted signature. But who ever said worry is rational?

 

With my anxiety in high gear already, that was all it took to put me over the edge. As I drove the 67 miles home, I created multiple disaster scenarios in my head: Daniel was on an ambulance somewhere in Wisconsin, being pumped with liquids as they tried to save him from dehydration. Or maybe he’d gotten a flat tire and hitched a ride with the very same creepy guy who had broken into our house. Or most likely the thief was still camping out behind the couch in our living room, biding his time so he could jump me the moment I walked in the door.

 

Fortunately my husband is a patient man, and he let me cry it out over the phone while my incoherent fears came tumbling out.

 

When I finished blubbering, he said, “What time will you get home? I’ll call you back, and I’ll walk you in.”

 

When I hung up, I had a flash of realization: I’d just spent 40-some miles stewing and worrying and generally getting my panties in a bunch, but I hadn’t so much as whispered a prayer. How different would the trip home have been if I’d confessed my worry to God and asked him to stand guard over Daniel’s bicycle tires instead of going around and around on my gerbil wheel of worry?

 

Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

—Luke 12:25-26

 

True to his word, Daniel called and walked me in when I arrived home. It turned out there was no crime scene, no trace of a sneaky garage thief. And several hours later Daniel arrived home in one piece, requiring no detours to the hospital.

 

God has promised to hold our hand as we go through whatever scary doors before us. But first we have to open our hand and let go of the worries we’re clinging to so tightly. Only then can he grab our hand in his and walk us in.

 

I hold you by your right hand—

I, the Lord your God.

And I say to you,

“Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.”

—Isaiah 41:13

 

***

This year Daniel made the same trek over Memorial Day weekend—all 67 miles again—only this time instead of scorching heat, there were threatening rainclouds. I still have a long way to go in the worrywart department, but this time I pictured God beside me, hanging on to my right hand as I drove. (Don’t worry, I kept the other hand on the wheel, just in case.)

 

daniel and steph