Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

Special Announcement! January 14, 2014

Filed under: Writing — Stephanie Rische @ 8:02 am
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Coming soon . . . StephanieRische.com!

 

I’m so excited that soon I will be able to introduce you to the brand-new StephanieRische.com! It is currently being designed and created by the talented Sarah Parisi. My desire is that it will be a place where you will feel welcomed and will experience God’s grace in a fresh, real way.

 

If you’d like to be one of the first to get a peek when the site is finished, you can go to the site and enter your email address here!

website

 

Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation . . . . We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.

—Anne Lamott

 

November Book Discussion: The Language of Flowers December 3, 2013

Thanks to everyone who participated in our virtual book club this month! The selection for November was The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, which I introduced here.

 

I’m going to throw out some discussion topics, and you can post your comments—about these topics or other things you want to talk about.

 Language of Flowers1

Discussion #1: Storytelling Method

One of my favorite parts of this book was the way the author wove together the two stories—the present-day narrative and the story of Victoria’s childhood. The connections between the past and the present were masterfully pieced together, and I enjoyed the slow reveal of what severed Victoria’s relationship with Elizabeth.

 

What did you think of the layered story? Did you like the author’s style, or would you have preferred one cohesive story?

 

Discussion #2: The Theme of Forgiveness

One idea that kept surfacing in this novel was the pain of unforgiveness and the redemptive power of forgiveness. We see this played out in almost every relationship: Elizabeth was able to forgive Victoria for burning down the vineyard, despite the years of hurt and distance between them. Elizabeth finally forgave Catherine for taking the man she loved, although that came too late to restore their relationship. Grant was able to forgive Victoria for leaving him and deserting their baby. Even Baby Hazel, with her innocence and trust, seems to offer forgiveness to Victoria, and she serves as a springboard for the healing of other relationships in Victoria’s life.

 

Have you ever extended forgiveness to someone who caused you great pain? Did you think the portrayal of forgiveness in the novel is realistic?

 

Discussion #3: Foster Parenting

Having known several families who have fostered children, I was intrigued by the exploration of what it takes to stitch together a family out of love but no shared genes. When I did some research about the author, I discovered that she is a foster parent herself and has founded a network to support youth transitioning from foster care.

 

Do you know any foster parents? How does this novel ring true with your experiences? Do you think Victoria will be able to overcome her past and become a good mom?

 

Discussion #4: Communicating via Flowers

It was fascinating to me the way Victoria was able to communicate her emotions through flowers when words failed her. She didn’t always have the skills to relate to people through the spoken or written word, but flowers gave her a way to express what she was feeling and thinking. I also enjoyed watching her share that gift with others at the flower shop. Some of the symbolism felt over the top to me (her name is Victoria?!), and sometimes the connections with the flower meanings felt a little heavy handed, but overall I enjoyed it.

 

Did this book make you want to find out more about the language of flowers (or wish you could visit Victoria’s shop)? Have you ever found ways to communicate with others that didn’t involve words?

 

Rating:

I would give this book 4.5 stars. Despite the occasional over-the-top symbolism, it was an enjoyable read, and I really liked the characters and the way the story unfolded (bloomed?).

4.5 stars

 

What rating would you give this book?

 

{Remember: I will give away a free book to one lucky commenter!}

 

 

9 Books Every Girl Should Read November 15, 2013

Whether you’re looking for a book for a girl you love or you missed these along the way in your childhood, here are nine of my top titles for girls.

 

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williamsgirls book1

This book offers some profound insights about how love can hurt, but how it’s also what makes you real.

 

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

 

 

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Englegirls book4

I’m not sure if this is an adult book that can also be appreciated by kids or a kids book that can also be appreciated by adults, but it holds up for any age, any generation. I remember reading it and having my eyes opened to the wonder and mystery just under the surface of ordinary life. I also felt a special kinship with Meg, who doesn’t seem to fit in with her peers but finds herself uniquely equipped to deal with another world once she arrives there—a world she never even dreamed of.

 

 

The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patersongirls book6

This was the first book I remember reading that didn’t have a happy ending. Although I felt indignant about it at the time, I grew to appreciate the beautiful picture of friendship painted in this book and how the characters’ grief prepared me to face my own losses.

 

 

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnettgirls book5

This book serves as a reminder that friendship can blossom just as surely as flowers do, that miracles are possible, and that hope is worth clinging to.

 

“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?” . . .  


“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine.”

 

 

Little Women by Louisa May Alcottgirls book9

I think every girl has a little bit of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy in her. These sisters helped me grow up and figure out who I was, and they showed me how to stay true to what I stood for.

 

 

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomerygirls book2

I read this series so many times the books are now practically falling apart. After I read each book as a kid, I’d give it to my grandmother (she of the red hair and the spunky personality, just like Anne) and we’d talk about it together. Looking back, I suppose it was my first impromptu book club.

 

 

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wildergirls book8

I must have overlooked the parts about dysentery, the lack of indoor plumbing, and the absence of central air, but I desperately wanted to go back in time so I could be Laura. This book offers a poignant snapshot of a particular era in our country’s history, and it’s rich with themes of family relationships and the tough times can help us learn and grow.

 

“There’s no great loss without some small gain.”

 

girls book 3

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

This book is pure fun. My sister and I loved wearing colorful stockings and putting our hair in pigtails, Pippi style.

 

 

Winnie the Horse Gentler by Dandi Daley Mackallgirls book7

This book came into my life when I was an adult, like a long-lost friend, but it’s a story every girl should read. Horse lover or not, every girl will connect with the ups and the downs of being a kid, the longing for friendship, and the way the funny moments of life weave together with the more serious ones.

 

 

What were your favorite books as a kid? I’d love to hear your list.

 

Announcing the Book of the Month Club for November November 5, 2013

First of all, congratulations to Rachel, the winner of the free book giveaway!

 

The selection for November is The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. Here’s the description of her book, taken from the back cover:

Language of Flowers1

The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen and emancipated from the system with nowhere to go, Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But an unexpected encounter with a mysterious stranger has her questioning what’s been missing in her life. And when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

 

We’ll discuss the book at the end of November—hope you can join us!

 

Tree Funerals and Other Necessary Endings June 7, 2013

Filed under: Relationships — Stephanie Rische @ 1:03 pm
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I’ve been to too many tree funerals lately.

 

First it was the big old elm tree in my parents’ front yard—the Climbing Tree, all of us kids called it.

 

I’d always thought the Giving Tree was a little over the top about a hunk of deadwood…until I found out my own Climbing Tree’s days were numbered.

 

It was the perfect tree for a kid, with its low, sturdy limbs to get you started and plenty of compact branches to perch on. After a summer day full of playing outside or helping my parents in the garden, I’d bring my book into the tree and sit in my reading spot—a “V” between branches that was cozy enough for me to be able to turn the pages of the next Anne of Green Gables book without having to hang on.

 

ending2

 

It was the first tree to turn gold in the fall, marking the commencement of my favorite season and ushering in my birthday. The tree was also my first glimpse of home when I returned from college, those sweeping branches beckoning welcome to a homesick heart.

 

So when my parents told me it was time to take down the old tree, I weakly argued for them to let it stand a little longer (after all, it still had six green leaves on it!). Deep down I knew it was time, but there’s inherent sadness that comes with taking an ax to something that was once so vibrant and full of life. It wasn’t just the end of the tree; it was the end of an era.

 

One day not long after my parents’ announcement about the Climbing Tree, I arrived home at my own place to find that all the trees lining our street had been systematically mowed down by orders of the city—casualties of the ash borer infestation. The stump of each tree had been spray-painted with neon letters that read “OK,” apparently an indication that there were no lingering signs of the guilty little vermin. But as I walked around our post-apocalyptic neighborhood inspecting each spot that had once held a tall symbol of life, I wanted to scream, “No! It’s not okay!”

 

ending3

***

I’ve been reading a book by Henry Cloud called Necessary Endings, and in it he talks about how sometimes we have to do the hard work of chopping down projects and relationships whose season has past.

 

“Good cannot begin until bad ends,” he says. “Endings are not only part of life; they are a requirement for living and thriving, professionally and personally. Being alive requires that we sometimes kill off things in which we were once invested, uproot what we previously nurtured, and tear down what we built for an earlier time.”

cloud2

Cloud says there are three categories of things that may need to end:

1. Healthy buds or branches that are not the best ones

2. Sick branches that are not going to get well

3. Dead branches that are taking up space needed for the healthy ones to thrive

 

As painful as endings are, we are wise to make the tough call and end these things now, before more damage is done.

 

Are there some necessary endings you need to bring about in your life?

  • Do you have a vampire-friend who is slowly sucking the life out of you?
  • Is there a relationship you know you should end but you’re hanging on to it because you’re afraid to be alone?
  • Is there some commitment that was once life giving but its season is now up?
  • Has God made it clear that your time at your job has come to an end, but fear is holding you back?

 

Necessary Endings are painful because we know the chainsaw is going to hurt. And once the tree is gone, it will leave behind a gaping hole—one we’ll likely tumble into for some time.

 

But as tempting as it is to put off the pain, delaying a needed ending only makes things worse. After all, the pain is there as a megaphone, telling us something needs to change. Henry Cloud puts it this way: “Pain by its nature is a signal that something is wrong, and action is required. So pain should be driving you to do something to end it.”

 

Here’s the thing: there won’t be a place to plant a new, healthy tree if the old diseased one stays there.

 

Is there a Necessary Ending you need to bring about so you can make way for a New Beginning? If so, let me know how I can pray for you as you rev up your chainsaw.

 

Sweet Sundays, Part 4 May 21, 2013

It’s startling how much I define my identity based on what I’ve accomplished in a day, on the tangible evidence I have to show for myself by the time I turn in for bed.

 

God designed a day of rest to be the antidote to this frenetic appeal to define our worth by what we produce. Each week I hear the Sabbath whispering in my ear, reminding me that I’m loved because I’m a child of God, not because I crossed four things off my to-do list.

 

On a Sunday a while back, my hubby was sick—the first time he’d had anything more devilish than a cold since I’ve known him. He’s the hardworking, highly active type, riding circles around me (literally! on his bicycle!), so it was disorienting to see him flat on his back for a week, ingesting nothing but Sprite and the occasional Ritz cracker.

 sunday3

 

But perhaps the bigger surprise was how I responded to the sick day. I should have seen it as a gentle nudge from on high, reminding me that this was the day to slow down. But I was antsy that the day was slipping by, that the laundry was piling up, that my in-box was filling up with unread messages. And for most of the afternoon, I confess that I did not rest. In body or in soul.

 

Later that evening, when I saw my husband piled under blankets, eyes glazed, I realized I had a chance to redeem what was left of the Sabbath. And so I pulled out the newspaper—the old-fashioned kind with paper and ink—and read it out loud to him (even those tedious NBA box scores, which flies in the face of productivity if anything ever did). Then I sat in my big comfy chair and cozied up with a cup of tea and a book I was reading—not for any of the three book clubs I’m in, but simply out of sheer delight.

 

It felt dizzying and terrifying and, to my surprise, even sacred.

 sunday

 

The church Fathers often spoke of Otium Sactum, “holy leisure.” It refers to a sense of balance in the life, an ability to be at peace through the activities of the day, an ability to rest and take time to enjoy beauty, an ability to pace ourselves. With our tendency to define people in terms of what they produce, we would do well to cultivate “holy leisure.”

Richard Foster, A Celebration of Discipline