Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

Surprise Me! October 29, 2013

Filed under: Family — Stephanie Rische @ 8:03 am
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I love going places with my sister where there is ordering of any sort involved. That’s because almost without fail, when she places her order, she drops the line “Surprise me” at some point in the conversation.


If she’s getting a cappuccino and the barista asks what flavor she’d like, Meghan will give her trademark dimpled grin and say, “Surprise me!” If she’s ordering a salad and is offered various dressing options, her response is the same: “Surprise me!” If I’m getting her something to drink out of Mom’s fridge, I can almost guarantee her refrain will echo once again: “Surprise me!”


I always stare at her, wide eyed. “What if you get something you don’t like?”


She just flashes a grin at me and shrugs. “That’s part of the fun of the surprise.”


Me, I’m a planner. I like to map it all out, write a script. I cling to the illusion of control. Truth be told, I’d rather do the surprising than the being surprised.


But this sister of mine, she lives with her arms wide open. She embraces life, holds out her hands to accept the surprises God has for her, just the way she does with her coffee.


So when the time approached for Meghan’s baby to born, I should have expected that this surprise-loving sister of mine would make room for as many surprises as possible.


“Girl or boy?” I asked over the phone, breathless, after her ultrasound.


“We’re going to be surprised!” she said, and I could hear the smile in her voice.


“What names are you thinking about?”


“We’re keeping it a surprise!”


And of course, the details of the birth itself were a surprise. Two days before her due date, Meghan went to the doctor. “You’re progressing right along,” he said. “It should be any day now.”


But the next day nothing happened. And nothing the next day either, or the day after, or the whole week after.


And then, ten days past her due date, just when the doctor was ready to speed things along, surprise! The baby decided to make a grand appearance. And the new mom and dad unwrapped their surprise package right there in their hospital room…a little gift of a girl named Addie Mae.




And when I first looked into the face of that sweet surprise, I wondered what other surprises God might have up his sleeve. What do I miss out on when I try to make the plan and script it all out myself?


This little girl, this eight-pound bundle, she is teaching me already. Her life whispers, as soft as breathing, This is life! This is joy! This is a whole new world of divine surprises.




So here I am, God, with my eyes squeezed shut and my arms wide open. Surprise me.




God the Romantic May 30, 2012

Filed under: Psalms — Stephanie Rische @ 8:12 am
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It was the longest my husband, Daniel, and I had been apart since we got married—approximately 61 hours (not that I was keeping track). I’d been out of town for work, and although the conference was well worth my while, by the time my coworker dropped me off at my car, I was ready to be heading home.


As I pulled out of the parking lot, I looked to my right and saw a guy on a bicycle. Wow, I thought, that looks a lot like Daniel’s bike. I checked to see if the light had changed, then glanced at the cyclist again. Hmm, he’s built a lot like Daniel too. I did a double take. Wait…that IS Daniel!


Sure enough, he had ridden the 20 miles from our home just so he could see me at the soonest possible moment. On a pragmatic level, it didn’t make much sense. All that time and energy could have been poured into something more productive, more practical. Something that would have offered a more tangible payoff than merely the look of shock and wonder on my face.


Once we got Daniel’s bicycle loaded in the back of my car and the decibel level of my squealing came to a decrescendo, we headed home together. The sun was just starting to set, and we were driving straight toward it. It was one of those skies you’d be hard pressed to describe with definable colors, even with the help of one of those 150-crayon Crayola boxes. The clouds out the passenger window were on fire with iridescent oranges and yellows. Straight ahead, rays of light were bursting through a curtain of purply clouds.


And in that moment I was reminded that, like Daniel, our Creator is a romantic. Sure, he made this world operational and scientifically coherent, but I appreciate that he also made it beautiful. Impractically so. He could have made a perfectly functional black-and-white world…one without sunsets and 20,000 varieties of daisies and 339 species of hummingbirds.


When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
the moon and the stars you set in place—
what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
human beings that you should care for them?
—Psalm 8:3-4


I have to wonder if God, too, delights in surprising us. He must figure it’s worth all the effort to create something so breathtaking that we are jolted out of our routine, forced to double-take, compelled to look at him with fresh eyes.


That night as our car rolled westward, I found myself amazed that the Creator-God, who could have been doing anything at all in our great big universe, would choose, in that moment, to be with “mere mortals” like us.


In the presence of such majesty, we can only join with David in his psalm of praise:

O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!

—Psalm 8:9


Question: What part of God’s creation causes you to do a double-take?


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.