Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

6 Gifts You Need This Christmas December 20, 2013

Filed under: Christmas — Stephanie Rische @ 8:07 am
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The words of the great prophecy came not in a time of triumph, trumpeted from the rooftop of a palace or on a victorious battleground. Instead, they were whispered in the dark, underneath the rumblings of an enemy invasion and a sweeping defeat. They trickled underground, slow and quiet, to a people huddled in the cold—a people whose hopes had been crushed, whose candle had all but been extinguished.

 

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.

—Isaiah 9:2

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Today Christmas meets us wherever we are, too, whether in a patch of light and joy, or stumbling along without a lantern, trying to fend off the encroaching darkness. And so this Christmas, here are the six gifts all of us need—the six gifts I wish for you, no matter how dark the night may be.

 

For those times when life is a gerbil wheel and you find yourself going through the motions day after day, wondering where the joy went . . . may you know Him as WONDERFUL.

 

For the times when you’re seeking clarity, but all the paths before you are overgrown with weeds . . . may you know Him as COUNSELOR.

 

For the times when you feel powerless, trampled down by the very ones who were supposed to protect you . . . may you know Him as MIGHTY GOD.

 

For the times when you have to say good-bye too soon . . . may you know Him as EVERLASTING.

 

For the times when you are lonely and scared and longing for someone who will love you unconditionally . . . may you know Him as FATHER.

 

For the times when your world is spinning faster than you can keep up, with your soul close behind . . . may you know Him as the PRINCE OF PEACE.

 

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder.

and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

—Isaiah 9:6

 

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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.

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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

 

The Mother-Love of God May 13, 2013

Filed under: God's love — Stephanie Rische @ 1:24 pm
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My friend Sarah had a baby shower not long ago, and I was asked to share something before gift-opening time. I found myself stymied at first, not knowing firsthand what it’s like to be a mom, but as I pondered more, I realized I do know what it’s like to have a mom. I’ve been given the incomparable gift of a mom whose unconditional love has pointed me to the love of God. So whether you are a mom or have had a mom, I’d like to share Sarah’s shower message with you.

***

When we think about God, we usually picture him as a Father, and it’s true—he’s everything a good dad should be: loving, protective, strong, fair in his discipline. But who knew? The Bible also says that God is like a mother. Apparently there’s something about the love of a mom that shows us a side of God’s character nothing else can.

 

1. Like a mom, God loves his children before they’re even born.

Sarah, when you and John announced that you were expecting a baby, the room could barely contain your excitement. We could tell how overjoyed you were about this little person, even before you met her. Even when you were so sick you could barely get out of bed, you were already forming a special connection with her. The truth was obvious to the world: you loved your little girl.

 

God feels the same way about us, his children. He knew us even before we were born, just as he knows your baby girl even now, all four pounds of her. He knows every little detail about her—what color her eyes will be, if she’ll be musical or artistic or social, what will make her giggle, what will make her cry, what will make her heart pound with passion, what will make her heart break. And God loves her, even now.

 

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body

and knit me together in my mother’s womb….

You saw me before I was born.

Every day of my life was recorded in your book.

Every moment was laid out

before a single day had passed.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.

They cannot be numbered!

—Psalm 139:13, 16-17

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2. Like a mom, God loves his children when they’re completely dependent on him.

Sarah, when that baby is placed in your arms in the hospital, the love will be a little one-sided at first. She won’t be able to pay you for taking care of her, she won’t be able to do any chores around the house to earn her keep, she won’t even be able to say thank you. But you know what? You’ll love her anyway, even though she can’t reciprocate your love.

That unconditional mother-love is the kind of love God has for us. We don’t deserve it, we can’t earn it, and we’re totally dependent on him. Yet he showers his love on us anyway.

 

Can a mother forget her nursing child?

Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?

But even if that were possible,

I would not forget you!
—Isaiah 49:15

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3. Like a mom, God loves his children as they grow up.

Sarah, as your daughter grows up and starts to spread her wings, your love for her will only grow deeper. The way you show her love will look different—you won’t be changing her diaper or feeding her mashed peas anymore—but your love won’t change. You’ll always be her mom.

 

Psalm 131 talks about the beautiful bond that takes place between a mother and a child when the child chooses to be close—not because they need something, but just because they love their mom.

 

I have calmed and quieted myself,

like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk.

Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.
—Psalm 131:2

 

Sarah, I see that in your relationship with your own mom. You talk with her, you laugh with her, you share things with her—not just when you need something, but because she’s your friend. The same is true in our relationship with God. He wants us to come to him with our needs, yes, but he also delights when we come to him simply because we want to be in his presence. Like a weaned child.

 

So, Sarah, as you enter motherhood and as your daughter goes through each stage, I pray that you will grow in your love for her. And along the way, I pray that God will give you new glimpses into his own love. His unconditional, extravagant, mother-like love.

***

Postscript: Sarah and John’s baby girl, Hannah, entered the world two months ago. Happy first Mother’s Day, Sarah!

 

SarahK

 

On the Lookout for Treasure January 25, 2013

Filed under: Real Life — Stephanie Rische @ 1:33 pm
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Daniel and I are currently on an American Pickers kick. In case you’ve never seen this History Channel series, the basic premise is that two guys, Mike and Frank, hit the road in a big van, traveling the U.S. looking for treasures amid people’s hoarded junk.

For me it’s part horror, part cautionary tale to see the piles of stuff people have collected over the span of years, decades, even generations. I find myself hyperventilating when they open the door to people’s barns or garages to find them stuffed wall to wall, floor to ceiling with junk. Rusty, grimy, decaying junk. I usually vow on the spot to clean out all my closets. And then I suggest to the guys on the screen, rather forcefully, that they might be better off getting a bottle of lighter fluid and torching the place.

 

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But the pickers are more patient than I am, and they can see something I can’t: there just may be pieces of treasure tucked in with the trash. They have different eyes than I do—eyes that can see below the surface and take in the underlying value of something.

 

One of the fascinating parts about the show is watching the price haggling being played out on the screen. How do they know what something is worth? I wondered at first. Then we watched an episode where Mike and Frank sold some of their wares to an interested buyer—a collector with moola to spare. And suddenly this realization hit me, obvious as it was: The value of something is determined by what someone will pay for it.

 

And so it is for the likes of us. We may look like junk. We may be surrounded by trash. We may feel rusty, dirty, washed-up. But God traveled great distances to seek us out, combing the earth to and rescue us from the trash heap. If you ever question your worth, wondering if you have any value, know that someone—the God of the universe, no less—was willing to pay the ultimate price for you. The life of his own Son.

 

I have swept away your sins like a cloud.
I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist.
Oh, return to me,
for I have paid the price to set you free.
—Isaiah 44:22

 

{For more musings on this topic, see my post Trashed.}

 

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