Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

The Amazing Grace House February 13, 2014

Filed under: Marriage — Stephanie Rische @ 8:03 am
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I’m over at Today’s Christian Woman today, writing about what an old bed-and-breakfast taught me about the hard, beautiful work of marriage.

 July August 2013 043

 

When my husband and I went away for the weekend to mark our second anniversary, we were looking for a place that fit in our budget and could squeeze into the boxes on the already-full calendar. What we hadn’t anticipated was that we’d meet a house with a story—a house that served as a poignant metaphor of marriage. . . .

 

Click here to read the rest of the story

 

Love and Ice Cream October 15, 2013

Filed under: Marriage — Stephanie Rische @ 8:04 am
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Recently my article “Marriage Is Like Ice Cream” was published by Today’s Christian Woman. In the article I talk about the seasons of my marriage in terms of ice cream flavors:

ice cream

When I think back on the time I’ve been married, I mark the time not so much in terms of years or months or seasons but in ice cream flavors. Classic vanilla bean. Chocolate coconut. Peanut butter swirl. Cinnamon waffle. Eggnog spice. Double dark chocolate.

 

I make the claim that marriage is a lot like ice cream—how it’s not just a mixture of different ingredients but that somewhere along the way, an altogether new entity is created.

 

As Daniel and I have experimented with various ice cream recipes, I’ve pondered what an appropriate metaphor it is for marriage. These ingredients—sweet grains of sugar, rich cream, eggs whipped to froth—taste completely different individually. But combine them, heat to 160 degrees, and churn in a frozen bowl for an hour, and you get an utterly unique sensation. It’s not just five things mixed together, but something altogether new. The five melding into one.

 

After my piece was published, I had a slew of requests for ice cream recipes (okay, there were two, but still…). I wanted to comply immediately, but there were two small glitches: (1) In all the times Daniel and I have used our ice cream maker, I’ve made ice cream approximately zero times. The truth is, Chef Daniel is the culinary genius behind it all, and my self-appointed job is to wash the dishes (and, of course, do the taste testing). And (2) Daniel is so creative that he doesn’t use a recipe and he never makes the same thing twice—he just looks around the pantry for inspiration and works his dairy magic.

 

But I was finally able to pin him down to some measurements and step-by-step instructions. This recipe was a recent favorite, and we hope you enjoy it. (Even if you don’t make it yourself, Daniel’s witty asides are pretty entertaining in themselves.)

 September 2013 002

 

Confetti Cake Ice Cream

Ingredients:

1 ¾ cups heavy whipping cream

2 ¼ cups whole milk (aka the good stuff!)

¾ cups sugar

4 egg yolks

1 ¼ cups confetti cake mix (use 1 ½ cups to make it really sweet!)*

pinch of salt

Directions:

1)      In a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisk together milk, cream, half the sugar, and salt. Bring the mixture to close to a boil, but don’t let it boil over.

2)      While the cream and milk mixture is heating, mix the egg yolks and remaining sugar in a medium size bowl.

3)      When the milk and cream mixture has come close to a boil, remove from heat and scoop out 1 cup of the mixture. Slowly pour it into the egg yolk and sugar mixture and whisk it together. (Make sure to keep whisking—we’re not making scrambled eggs here, friends!) Continue scooping in the heated milk and cream mixture and whisk into the egg yolk and sugar mixture until it’s all combined.

4)      Pour the whole mixture back into the saucepan and return to stove over medium heat. Use a thermometer to check the temperature and continue heating the mixture until you reach 160 degrees F. (Salmonella is not our friend!) If you don’t have a thermometer, you can use a wooden spoon, constantly stirring the mixture until it thickens slightly and is able to coat the back of the spoon. This should only take a couple of minutes. Don’t boil, or the yolks will overcook.

5)      Add confetti cake mix and whisk in until smooth.

6)      Let the mixture cool and add vanilla extract.

7)      Place mixture in sealed container in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

8)      Place the ice cream maker’s freezer bowl into the freezer for 24 hours.

9)      Optional: 1-2 hours before you plan to make the ice cream, place cooled mixture into the freezer.

10)   Turn on the ice cream maker and pour the mixture into the freezer container. Let the mix thicken (about 20-25 minutes).

11)   Have your wife taste it so she can give it the thumbs-up.

12)   Place ice cream in freezer-safe container and place in freezer for at least 3 hours.

13)   Eat and enjoy!

 

*We were dismayed to find that when we cooked the mixture, the confetti colors disappeared. We recommend adding sprinkles to the scoops when serving.

 

Hope you enjoy the ice cream—and as you do, marvel at God’s creative work at merging two into one.

 

daniel and steph3

 

Unexpected Love Letters October 11, 2013

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

 

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.

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.

 

 

The Gift of Presence June 17, 2013

Filed under: Family — Stephanie Rische @ 1:12 pm
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Dad #1crop

 

When I was fifteen, I decided to exchange my gymnastics leotard for a basketball jersey. There was just one little problem (and I do mean little): I was barely four foot eleven, with shoes on.

 

I practiced hard that season, but whenever game time came, I warmed the bench. With the rare exception of a major blowout, my sub-five-foot frame didn’t see any action on the court the moment the game clock started.

 

But my dad . . . my dad was at every game. Every. Single. Game. He’d leave work early and sit up in the bleachers with my mom, still in his dress shirt and tie. All so he could watch me warm the bench.

 

When I came out of the locker room with the team before each game, I’d find him in his usual spot—left side, near the back—and he’d flash our family’s secret signal, which, roughly translated, meant, “Hey, I see you. I’m here.”

 

He was there, even though we all knew I wouldn’t be out there shooting or dribbling or passing or doing any of the other things he’d been helping me with in our hoop out back.

 

And he was there after each game for his trademark “postgame talk” when I was feeling discouraged after yet another four quarters of not even taking off my warm-up jacket.

 

“We’ll keep practicing,” he told me. “Just wait—you’re going to be a starter one of these days.”

Dad #2crop

 

***

 

Right around that time, I found myself plunged into the waters of teenage awkwardness, and along the way, I started losing track of how to connect with my dad. I was self-conscious in my own skin, clumsy about hugging him, so we mostly exchanged fist bumps instead. I didn’t quite know how to talk to him about the things that made up my world either—friend drama, boys, how I was trying to sludge through this new space to figure out who I was and where I fit in. How could we show love to each other surrounded by so much awkward?

 

But Dad found a way. I’m sure I didn’t realize what was happening back then, but each time he showed up, each time he watched me sit the bench, he was giving me a rare gift: the gift of presence. He was there, and there said, “I love you.”

 

***

 

All through the next summer, Dad coached me as I relearned my basketball shot. It was brutal at first, but he was right—it paid off. My senior year, when they announced the starting lineup for my team, there was a new jersey out on the court—number ten, measuring in at barely five feet tall. When they called my name, I ran out onto there, shoes squeaking on the hardwood, my eyes scanning the stands for one face.

 

He was there, of course. I flashed Dad the trademark family signal and grinned to myself. I’d been wishing for this moment for a long time, but when it arrived, I realized that what I’d needed most had been there all along.

 

“The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.”

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Sometimes love is complicated, multilayered. Sometimes it means having deep talks and hashing everything out. But other times love is simple. Sometimes love is just showing up.

 

dad and me

So Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Thanks for teaching me how to shoot a basketball. Thanks for watching all my games. Most of all, thanks for always showing up. (And by the way, I didn’t get you anything for Father’s Day, so please consider this your gift.)

 

A True Story of Love and War and 67 Years February 19, 2013

gpa planeThe year was 1946. The Nuremburg war trials had begun. Wartime price controls were being lifted in the United States. And America’s boys were slowly trickling back from the war…including the tall, dark-haired Lieutenant Voiland, having defied the odds and survived countless bombing missions on the European front.

 

His fiancée, Cay, had been waiting and praying anxiously, day by day, month by month, year by year, longing for her sweetheart to come home. She’d been planning their wedding while he was gone—the ultimate act of hope in the midst of a war in which half a million men who left never returned. With her trademark spunk, she refused to let the scarcity of silk prevent her from having a wedding dress, so she arranged to have a dress made from the unlikeliest of sources (I wrote about the remarkable story here).

 

For most of my life, I assumed Grandma and Grandpa’s February wedding date had been scheduled around Valentine’s Day. Whenever we gathered to celebrate as an extended family, we marked the occasion with red decorations and a heart-shaped cake, and I never heard anything to indicate otherwise.

 

It was only recently that I discovered their wedding date was determined not by Valentine’s Day but by Ash Wednesday.

 

“Ash Wednesday?” I asked Grandma. The dots weren’t connecting for me.

 

“Things were stricter back then,” Grandma said. “You couldn’t get married during Lent.”

g and g wedding

Of course—Lent. The church took seriously this 40-day period of sacrifice, fasting, and repentance, and it was not the time for weddings and feasts.

 

Grandma winked at me. “I’d been waiting long enough,” she said. “I wasn’t about to wait until after Easter!”

 

And so, on a Tuesday morning, just a day before Ash Wednesday, they squeezed in a simple ceremony at the campus chapel. I’ve always been enchanted by the lone black-and-white photograph of Grandma and Grandpa on their wedding day: Grandma looking beautiful and big eyed in that one-of-a-kind gown, and Grandpa, serious and handsome as ever in his classic suit.

***

This year Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday fell one day apart from each other, just a week before my grandparents’ 67th anniversary, and I was struck by the tender intersection of these sacred occasions: Valentine’s Day. A much-anticipated wedding. Ash Wednesday. Lent. An anniversary marking almost seven decades of marriage. And it got me to wondering: maybe Ash Wednesday is the perfect backdrop for a wedding after all. Valentine’s Day offers fine sentiments, of course—an appropriate reminder for us to express our love each year. But real love may be more aptly captured by a day marked by sacrifice and surrender and the choice to lay down one’s life.

 

Grandma and Grandpa know this well. The war showed them the cost of love from the very beginning: the agonizing separation—both by an ocean and by endless days, when the only threads connecting them were their love and a string of handwritten letters. And just because the war ended, that didn’t mean the sacrifices did. With the ratio of one income to 12 children, they sometimes had more month than they had money.

 

And now, as my grandparents are in their golden years, they are dealing with the sacrifices of caring for each other’s needs as their bodies and minds aren’t quite what they used to be.

 

But if you asked them about the cost of love, they’d likely look at you with a bewildered shrug. That’s just what love does. It’s the very nature of love to give, to sacrifice, to lay down one’s life for one’s beloved.

 

And that is, after all, what we celebrate during Lent. This season marks the greatest romance of all time: the Savior who sacrificed everything to show us his love. The one who fought courageous battles on our behalf. The one who laid down his life for the ones he loves.

 

Love and Lent. Perhaps they’re more connected than I realized. G&G

 

So happy 67th anniversary, Grandma and Grandpa.

 

And happy VaLENTine’s season, everyone.

***

If you’d like to read more about my grandma and grandpa’s love story, including how Grandma’s dress was passed down to two more generations, check out my aunt Annie’s story here.

 

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

Filed under: Love — Stephanie Rische @ 12:35 pm
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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.