Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

Alena’s Story July 19, 2013

Filed under: Gospel Stories — Stephanie Rische @ 10:44 am
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Two of my great passions in life are helping other people share their stories and seeing God’s extraordinary grace at work through ordinary people. So when I was given the opportunity to be part of the Gospel Stories project at my church, it felt like a beautiful collision of those passions.


Today I’d like to share Alena’s inspiring story with you.



Alena’s Story

When we experience pain—whether the pain is physical or emotional—most of us fall to our knees with the same agonizing question on our lips: Why, Lord?


At the age of 16, Alena asked the same question when she found herself in constant physical pain, battling a condition that doctors couldn’t seem to nail down and wondering if she’d ever be able to dance again. Why did she have to go through something like this at such a young age? Where was God in the midst of her suffering?


It was only when she surrendered to the Lord that she experienced a life-transforming truth: even if God never changed her pain, he was changing her heart. This is the story of how the gospel met Alena at her point of deepest pain and taught her to dance again.


O Lord my God, I called out to you for help, and you healed me. . . . You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
—Psalm 30:2, 11


Click here to watch Alena’s story in her own words.



The Gift of Pain January 11, 2013

Filed under: Unexpected Lessons — Stephanie Rische @ 12:33 pm
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The other day started out with one of those crazy mornings. I had to switch the cars to get mine out of the garage, then I had to do some interesting maneuvers to back the cars—both of them—around our neighbor’s SUV on one side and the recycling bins on the other. To add insult to injury, half the world was cozy in bed, still on winter break, while I was scraping off the car in the icy darkness. And to top it all off, I was running late.


It was in the midst of these mental distractions that I slammed my car door. With my finger still in it.




It was strange because I didn’t feel a thing at first…and that’s what made me most nervous. Surely the top of my finger had been severed at the knuckle.


My pain-free bliss lasted about ten minutes into my commute, when suddenly I felt the most intense throbbing I’ve experienced since dropping a jumbo-sized bottle of hot sauce on my big toe in the third grade. Yep, my finger was still there all right. It was also bleeding profusely into my mitten.


But in the midst of my grumbling and complaining, this thought struck me with such force that I felt compelled to say it aloud: “The pain means my finger is still there. The pain means I’m very much alive.”

In his brilliant book The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Pain as God’s megaphone.

In the past year there have indeed been moments when my heart felt like it had been slammed hard in the car door, and it throbbed like the dickens (for more on that, take a look here). For the most part I nursed my wounds, grumbling and complaining, scheming about how to anesthetize the pain as quickly as possible.


But what if Lewis was right? What if those times when we experience pain are actually God’s way of getting our attention? What if the pain is an indication not only that we are indeed alive, but also that something may be off kilter in our lives?


Without pain, we keep going through life on autopilot, utterly distracted. But pain snaps us into focus, helps us reprioritize.


We don’t have much choice about when the pain comes, but we do have a choice about what we’ll do with it. Will we numb out as quickly as possible, thereby missing what God may be trying to tell us through the pain?


Next time I get slammed in the proverbial car door, I pray I’ll listen. I pray the megaphone will get my attention.




God’s Tear Jar May 8, 2012

Filed under: Psalms — Stephanie Rische @ 8:05 am
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ImageMy husband, Daniel, has given me many gifts in the nine months we’ve been married, but one of the most gracious is the way he handles my tears.

Over the years I’ve prided myself in my ability to handle things pretty stoically, at least to all watching eyes. But somehow since saying, “I do,” I’ve found I’m much leakier than I used to be—perhaps because I’ve found in Daniel such a safe place.

One of my favorite images in the Psalms is the picture David paints in Psalm 56 of God collecting all our tears in a bottle. David was no stranger to sadness. For all that his life was charmed—what with giant killing and a promotion from shepherd to king—he still had plenty to feel down about along the way.

It seems significant that David wrote about God’s tear jar when he did: just after being rejected by two communities. First, by King Saul, whom David had served faithfully, both with his music and in battle, risking his very life only to be repaid with a spear aimed at his head. On the heels of that rejection came another one: this time from the Philistines, whom David had been fighting with side-by-side since his exile. It was in that moment of feeling alone that he cried out to God:

You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.
—Psalm 56:8

When I picture heaven, I envision one room that’s filled with shelf after shelf of jars—jars of all sizes, shapes, and colors. Each one is labeled with a name, and on the inside are all the tears that person sheds during his or her time on earth.

Something I love about the tear jar image is what it says about God’s view of our suffering. He doesn’t tell us to suck it up; he doesn’t instruct us to plaster a fake smile on our faces; he doesn’t wag his finger and rebuke us for being babies. He tenderly collects every tear, validating each stab of pain we feel. No teardrop is too bitter. No sorrow too small. Each one is lovingly guided into the jar.

When Daniel and I first got married, I found myself frequently apologizing for my tears. Especially when they felt weak or unnecessary or just plain silly. But each time Daniel would put his arms around me and find the nearest napkin or paper towel or sleeve to wipe my runny mascara. Then he’d say, “You don’t have to be sorry. The Daniel-and-Stephanie team is okay with tears.”

God’s team, gratefully, is the same. The jars in heaven with your name on it is proof.

“Where there are tears, we should pay attention.”
—Frederick Buechner


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.