Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

My Husband, Good Sam June 26, 2013

Filed under: Friends — Stephanie Rische @ 8:14 am
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One of the nicknames I have for my husband is Sam. Which is weird, when you think about it, since his name is Daniel. But in his case it’s Sam as in Good Samaritan.

 

Here’s the thing: If you ever found yourself on the side of the road with a flat tire or a skinned knee or an empty tank of gas, Daniel is precisely the person you’d want to find you. In the three years I’ve known him, we’ve given a ride to a woman who was walking home in dress shoes after her car broke down, loaned an Allen wrench to a guy with bicycle troubles, and dropped someone off at the bicycle shop to get a new part for his bike—to name just a few examples.

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It’s always a rather startling experience to be with Daniel, I mean Sam, in these situations, because before I’ve even noticed there’s a problem, he has already diagnosed the situation, pulled over the vehicle, and procured the necessary tool.

 

So it was fully in character for Daniel to stop when he spotted the two guys off to the side of the bike path poring over their map the other evening. Daniel and I were on a bike ride together, reliving our first date from three years prior—our “blind date-iversary,” as we call it. We were pedaling to the park we’d gone to on our first date when we spotted—okay, when “Sam” spotted, the pair of guys, looking weary and a little lost.

 

“Do you know where you’re going?” he asked, coasting his bicycle to a stop.

 

It turned out the duo was a father and a son, on a 540-mile trek to celebrate Will’s high school graduation. They’d started in Iowa six days ago, and they were now on the last leg of their journey, hoping to arrive at their friends’ house before dark.

 

There was just one problem: the paths had changed significantly since the last time the dad had been in the area some thirty years ago. And the map didn’t seem to be matching up with the signs around them.

 

Daniel went over directions with them, coaching them through the forks in the path and the landmarks they could expect along the way. Then, just as they were getting ready to head out, Daniel said, “Hey, we could ride with you for this leg. That would at least get you past this tricky part.”

 

Their sweat-streaked faces lit up at the offer. “Are you sure you don’t mind?”

 

But as it turned out, we were the ones who reaped the real benefits. As we rode together, they regaled us with tales from the journey—how they narrowly made it to shelter just before a spontaneous storm struck, how they pushed through the pain of the brutal Wisconsin hills, how they managed to pack light enough to carry all the belongings they needed for a week.

 

As we rode together, I thought about what a gift it is to have friends who travel with us on various legs of our journeys. No one can journey with us all the way from the start to the finish line, but God has a way of sending fellow pilgrims just when we need them . . . when we’re climbing that big hill, when we feel too weary to go one more mile, when we’re lost and in need of directions.

daniel and steph2

 

Finally we arrived at the spot where the trail diverged, and we offered our new friends some banana bread (another nod to our first date) before saying our good-byes.

 

“Bless you,” the dad said, shaking our hands warmly. The son nodded, his mouth full of another large bite.

 

But we’d already been blessed. That’s the funny thing about hanging around with the Sams of the world. You start out thinking you’re offering a blessing, but the blessings come pouring back to you a hundredfold instead.

 

Happy three years of knowing you, Sam. I’m so glad God gave us each other for the rest of this journey.

 

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Sweatpant Friends April 30, 2013

Filed under: Friends — Stephanie Rische @ 12:48 pm
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I was given an unspeakable gift last weekend: the gift of sweatpant friends.

 

We women, we feel almost constant pressure to put forth our best self…to coordinate the outfit and gloss the lips and fix the hair and don the stylish (i.e., uncomfortable) shoes. All so we can look like we have it all together, that we ourselves are all together.

 

But last weekend eight of us girls who have been friends since the days of Jars of Clay and bad perms got together and spent a few days in the rarest of settings—a safe haven where we could be our unvarnished, un-makeup-ed, sweatpanted selves.

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It’s been almost fifteen years since we were all in the same place together, and honestly I wasn’t sure how things would fall into place. Would it work to have eight women accustomed to having our own nests all together under the same roof? Would things get cliquey or competitive or catty? Would we still find common ground all these years later?

 

There were a thousand reasons not to do it—the cost, the travel arrangements, the logistics, the potential awkwardness. Not to mention the 14 collective children we have as a group, plus one on the way. Was it worth all the effort?

 

I credit our loyal, creative teacher-friend for setting the tone in the first place: You all don’t mind if I wear sweatpants all weekend, right?

And from that moment, the stage was set for things to be real, authentic, vulnerable. In a word: imperfect. Just like our cottage.

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With its turquoise and canary-yellow walls, adorned with mismatched bits of Americana, the quirky rental felt like a metaphor in itself. The kitchen sloped down on one side; the wood floors let out contented groans every time we took a step. The gaps around the window frames and the door ushered howly gusts of wind and sand into the otherwise cozy living room.

 

But something about it felt just right. Community, after all, isn’t about creating something pristine, seamless, perfectly composed. The beauty of community comes when we bring together the mismatched pieces in a delightfully quirky collage. As the eight of us sat in our mismatched chairs, sipping hot chocolate and pouring out the past decade of our lives to one another, our words tumbled out much like our attire: real, raw, unpolished.

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I know it’s unrealistic to live in beach-cottage world all the time, but still I wonder: How can I keep this sense of community even when my old friends are miles away? And how can I turn new friends and acquaintances into sweatpant friends?

 

I’m not quite sure, but I offer you the same challenge I pose to myself:

 

Reach out.

Take a risk.

Embrace the messiness of real friendship.

Find someone with whom you can ditch your makeup and your put-togetherness.

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And by all means, if you don’t have a sweatpants-level friend, do whatever it takes to become one.

 

Friendship arises…when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.”…It is when two such persons discover one another, when, whether with immense difficulties and semi-articulate fumblings or with what would seem to us amazing and elliptical speed, they share their vision—it is then that friendship is born. And instantly they stand together in an immense solitude.

—C. S. Lewis