Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

Unexpected Love Letters October 11, 2013

Filed under: Love,Marriage — Stephanie Rische @ 8:12 am
Tags: , , , ,

love lettersToday’s Christian Woman just posted my article about love letters…and how they’re sometimes written with something other than pen and paper.

 

Unexpected Love Letters

 

I’m a sucker for old-fashioned letters and old-fashioned romance, so I felt like a teenager at prom when I happened upon a book called Love Letters of Great Men. I waited all day before cracking it open, eager to sink my teeth into it as if it were the literary equivalent of dark chocolate.

 

At first I was savoring the letters—these epistles dating as far back as Pliny the Younger almost 2,000 years ago and capturing the words of some of the political and literary greats in the centuries since. I was taken by the beauty of the language, the permanence of the sentiments, and the artistry of the writers as they sought to capture their passion and pin it down with ink and paper. In short, I wanted to love those love letters.

 

But then something unexpected happened: I started digging up biographical information about a few of these “great men,” and suddenly their words sounded less like soaring symphonies and more like discordant clanging.

 

You can read the rest of the article here.

 

To Anyone Who Feels Underloved on Valentine’s Day February 14, 2013

Filed under: Love — Stephanie Rische @ 12:35 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

unloved4I write this with no credentials except that I’ve spent my share of Valentine’s Days solo. And I know firsthand that there’s no way around it: it stinks to feel alone on Valentine’s Day.

 

I remember being single and having nice people try to cheer me up whenever February 14 rolled around. (Which it inevitably did. Every. Single Year.) I appreciated their kindness, but it kind of felt like getting a stick of gum when you’re ravenous for steak.

 

All that to say, I won’t pretend that anything I can say will make this day easier. But I feel compelled to say it anyway, just to let you know that you are not invisible. You are not alone. And even when it doesn’t feel like it, you are loved.

 

Today, if you feel betrayed or abandoned by someone you thought would never leave, this is what God says to you:

I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.

—Hebrews 13:15

 

Today, if you feel alone in this big world, God says:

Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

—Matthew 28:20

 

Today, if you feel forgotten, like so many leftovers, God says:

I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.

—Isaiah 49:15-16

 

Today, if you feel like you got passed over when Cupid was flinging his arrows, this is what God says:

I have loved you…with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.

—Jeremiah 31:3

unloved3

Today, if you feel unnoticed, damaged, unappreciated, devalued, here’s God’s promise:

The Lord your God is living among you.

He is a mighty savior.

He will take delight in you with gladness.

With his love, he will calm all your fears.

He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.

—Zephaniah 3:17

 

As for me, my love isn’t close to God’s love. It has conditions, it lets people down, it’s forgetful, it’s self-centered and fickle and cantankerous. But my prayer this Valentine’s Day is that God will weed out my own love from my heart and replace it with his love. Love that is unconditional and pure and selfless.

 

“In God there is no hunger that needs to be filled, only plenteousness that desires to give.”

—C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves

 

It’s with that generous love that I want to love God and my husband and my family and my friends and strangers. And it’s with that love that I love you, whoever you are, wherever you are, however alone you’re feeling right now.

 

Wherever you find yourself on Valentine’s Day, know this:
You. Are. Loved.

 

Love in the Little Things February 12, 2013

Filed under: Love — Stephanie Rische @ 1:45 pm
Tags: , , , ,

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.

 

plate

 

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.

 

My Month of Dating Disasters June 13, 2012

Filed under: Love — Stephanie Rische @ 8:09 am
Tags: , ,

Today marks the two-year anniversary of my first date with the man I married, so it seems fitting to reflect on the person who has been one of the most tangible expressions of God’s grace in my life.

When I met Daniel, I was taken with him from the very beginning—“smitten,” as my sister frequently reminded me. So I wanted to do everything I could to make a good impression on this man. It quickly became apparent that wasn’t meant to be. Within the span of just a few dates, I managed to make an egregious fool of myself on three separate occasions.

 

Occasion #1: The two-smoke alarm dinner

I’m not exactly a cook, but I do have about three standby meals I feel fairly confident about whipping together. Daniel was coming over for dinner and we were still in the “under three” category, so while I was a bit nervous, I wasn’t panicking. The star of the meal was my sister’s famous focaccia bread recipe, something I’d made plenty of times before.

However, it wasn’t long before my visions of golden-brown crusty deliciousness went up in smoke—literally. Daniel and I were chatting in my kitchen when suddenly I heard the piercing beep of not one but two smoke detectors. I opened the oven to discover, to my horror, that the bread wasn’t just overcooked. It was actually on fire. So much for Betty Crocker.

 

Occasion #2: The face plant

Something you should know about me is that my footwear of choice tends to be slippers or flip-flops, depending on the season. Any heel measured in something larger than centimeters is reserved for the occasional bridesmaid duty. I’m not sure what possessed me to wear the strappy, impractical sandals on my third date with Daniel, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

That night as Daniel walked me to my car, I never saw the tree branch protruding from the grass. I was on the ground before I knew what had hit me. It wasn’t one of those graceful missteps either—it was an all-out tumble, the kind where you biff so hard you don’t have time to break the fall and the contents of your purse spill out all over the grass. Hypothetically speaking.

Occasion #3: The navigational disaster

It was the fourth of July, and Daniel was going to a picnic to meet my church friends for the first time. I’m infamous for my navigational impairments, but I hadn’t exactly mentioned that to Daniel yet. I had carefully researched and printed out directions, and I thought I was ready.

Until we got to the street where the party was being hosted…and there was no house with the specified number. After some unproductive wandering and several confusing phone calls, I finally discovered that the address was indeed correct…but the city was not. Uh, yes, minor detail.

***

As chagrined as I was for royally botching things up on each occasion, ultimately these flubs turned out to be the best thing that could have happened in our young relationship. For one thing, Daniel might as well have known from the beginning who I am: a girl who is, inherently, a mess. A girl who can’t go many consecutive dates before things go up in smoke.

And it turned out that my faux pas gave me a glimpse into the character of this man I was coming to appreciate more and more. In each situation, Daniel responded with the kind of grace that made my knees go weak. As the smoke alarms went off, he fanned the air and assured me we had plenty of food to eat. After my spill, he helped me off the ground and gently made sure I was okay. When I found myself directionally flustered, he patiently drove around a three-city radius until we finally reached our destination.

I received the gift of his grace that month, and I also had the rare window of seeing how this man would respond one day in the future, when the stakes were higher than burned bread. Two years later, I see that my hunch was right: this man is a daily reflection of God’s grace to me.

Happy two years of knowing you, Daniel Rische.

“I do not understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”
—Anne Lamott

 

The Grace of True Love February 14, 2012

Filed under: Love — Stephanie Rische @ 7:52 am
Tags: ,

“There is no surprise more magical than the surprise of being loved. It is the finger of God on a man’s shoulder.”
—Charles Morgan

As much as I denied it at the time—especially to myself—I’m pretty sure I started falling in love with Daniel by date #2.

From the very beginning, I knew he was different from other men I’d dated—men who were quickly looking more like boys in comparison. For starters, I was awed by all the planning and detail he put into our time together. After just one date’s worth of research, he’d noted my affinity for Thai food and our mutual love of peanut butter, and he lost no time making those things happen.

After picking me up for our second date—an auspicious beginning already—he took me to a cute little Thai place and surprised me later with peanut butter cookies that he’d made himself. (He also brought an envelope full of embarrassing childhood photos, sparked by something of a bet we’d made on date #1, but that’s a topic for another post.)

For the first time in my life I felt truly pursued…in awe that such a quality man would put himself out there for me and go through metaphorical fires on my behalf. I felt chosen, singled out, desired…which was all the more spine-tingling coming from someone like Daniel.

*  *  *

I’ve believed in God for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I’d lie in bed looking at the glow-in-the-dark cross on my dresser, believing with all my childlike heart that God was watching over me as my heavenly Father. In junior high, I clung to the belief that he was the Friend who would never fail me, even when my earthly friends were fickle at best. When I got my first real job and moved out on my own, I started seeing God as my Provider. Over the years, I’ve come to see God as my Lord, my Redeemer, my Rock.

But never as my Pursuer.

It wasn’t until true love snuck up on me that God unveiled his pursuing, grace-filled side in a whole new way. To have someone see inside me and love me anyway—for him to get to know the real me, ugly parts and all, and still accept me—has given me a window into the even more mind-boggling grace of God.

Wherever you find yourself today—whether you’re longing to be loved by someone or whether your heart is so full it could burst—know that you are loved. You are chosen. You are being pursued. And the One who pursues you is just waiting for you to say yes to date #2.

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life.
—Psalm 23:6