Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

My Husband, Good Sam June 26, 2013

Filed under: Friends — Stephanie Rische @ 8:14 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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.

daniel and steph6

 

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.

 

 

Double Blessings Day December 7, 2012

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

 

double blessing

In the movie The Odd Life of Timothy Green, a young couple longs for a baby but remains unable to conceive. They dream up their ideal child, writing down descriptions of him and then burying the slips of paper in their backyard. They wake up to find a 10-year-old boy claiming to be their son, who by the looks of the leaves sprouting out of him, has grown straight out of the ground. It seemed to me a rather ludicrous premise for a movie…that is, until Double Blessings Day.

 

My friends Heather and Rick have been wishing and hoping and praying for a baby for six long years. After several miscarriages, failed infertility treatments, and adoptions that fell through (you can read more about their story here), they finally got the phone call they’d been waiting for. I’ll never forget walking into their house for a party one evening to find Heather with an irrepressible grin on her face. After leaving me in suspense for a while, she said, “Come here—I have something to show you.” She pulled out her phone, and there on the screen was a picture of a tiny baby boy wrapped in a blue blanket.

 

On cue, my eyes welled up. “Is this really…?” I could barely get the words out. After so much heartbreak, it hardly seemed possible. “Is he…yours?”

 

Heather nodded and grinned wider, but before letting me squeal and give her a hug, she said, “Wait, there’s more.” She flipped to the next picture, and suddenly I had no air left to project my squeal. There on her phone was another tiny bundle. This one wrapped in pink.

 

“Twins!” Heather’s smile broadened into a full-fledged beam. “The adoption papers won’t be final for a few months, but we can take them home from the hospital as soon as they gain a couple pounds.”

 

In that moment I had the surreal sense that even if these babies hadn’t grown out of the ground, maybe they’d been somehow been prayed into existence.

 

***

 

It’s been several months since the babies came home to Heather and Rick, and on the day they all went to the courthouse to sign the papers to make the adoption official, they threw a party for everyone who had prayed and hoped alongside them for the past several years. They called it Double Blessings Day. The day their son and daughter officially took their name and legally became theirs, although they’d loved these little bundles even before they’d met them.

 

As I held Claire and Alex on the evening of the blessings party, I thought about the significance of the names Heather and Rick had chosen for them. Claire: bright and clear. Alex: helper of mankind; defender of the people. Indeed, I saw a bright future ahead for both these little ones. I envisioned how the extravagant love of their parents would lead them on a path of serving and defending others as well. And now they officially had Heather and Rick’s last name—including a signed piece of paper that proved they belonged to them; they were their forever family.

 

It’s no wonder Paul used the metaphor of adoptive parents to paint the picture of God’s love for us:

You received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”

—Romans 8:15-16

 

When we are adopted in God’s family, he gives us a new name: Son. Daughter. Beloved child. Redeemed one. But it hadn’t occurred to me before that once our adoption is finalized, he gets a new name too. Abba. Daddy. This fierce, magnificent God, unapproachable in his holiness, humbles himself, taking on the role of our Daddy. He loosens his tie, changes out of his work clothes, and gets down on his knees to play with us.

 

That’s what kind of Daddy we have. One who not only does the work of making our adoption official and bestowing on us his name, but who also throws a party to show the world how happy he is to have us in the family. One who loves us as his very own sons and daughters.

 

Thanks, Daddy.

 

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.

 

The Upside-Down Kingdom October 12, 2012

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

 

When I babysat for a family of four as a teenager, the worst and best part of the evening was bedtime. It was the worst for obvious reasons (elaborate stalling techniques, skirmishes over which bedtime story we’d read, and the usual accusations of “You’re not the boss of me”).

 

But my favorite part was prayer time just before bed. One by one the kids would go through the litany of people they loved, asking God to bless each one: “Please bless Mommy and Daddy, bless Nana and Grandpa, bless Brother and Sister, bless Baby Doll and my Beanie Babies.” All those blessings may have been part of the kids’ grander stalling scheme, but it was charming nonetheless.

 

I like to think my prayer life has progressed a bit beyond asking God to bless a laundry list of people, but I confess I still do a similar grown-up version, asking God to bless the people I love with health, happiness, security, steady jobs, good relationships. For smooth sailing, really.

 

Our version of the Beatitudes—of what it means to be blessed—would probably go something like this:

Blessed are those with enough money.
Blessed are those who are happy.
Blessed are the confident.
Blessed are those who stand up for their rights.
Blessed are those without major problems to speak of.

 

But when Jesus came, he flipped everything upside down. His description of true blessing runs exactly opposite of what we’d expect:

Blessed are the poor…
Blessed are those who mourn…
Blessed are the humble…
Blessed are the merciful…
Blessed are those who are persecuted…
—Matthew 5

 

Jesus sees our troubles and longings here on earth, and he cares about those things. But he knows those surface-level concerns aren’t our deepest needs. While we focus on the here and now, he is looking at the eternal. He has his eye on who we’re becoming.

 

I love the words to Laura Story’s song “Blessings.” She poses the question, What if the trials we face are really God’s best blessings?

 

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things…

 

What if the trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise?

 

Thank you, Lord, for loving us too much to give us merely what we ask for. Bless us, yes, but bless us with your blessings, not the watered down version we think we want.

 

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.