Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

The Knife September 24, 2013

In my role as an editor, I’ve been dubbed “The Knife” by a few select people. It may sound a bit harsh at first, especially since if you know me, you know I don’t enjoy inflicting pain. (Case in point: as much as I love bacon, I’ve been known to go vegetarian at pig roasts because I can’t bear the thought of eating little Porky once I’ve seen his face.)

 

But there’s something to the nickname, because ultimately an editor is a surgeon . . . someone who identifies the parts that are sick, decaying, or sucking the life out of a manuscript, and then ever so carefully removes them. For some manuscripts, this looks like major amputation, followed by the grafting-in of new content. Other manuscripts require the use of a smaller knife for more intricate incisions.

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As gentle and careful as a surgeon might be, there’s no getting around it: the knife hurts. It’s never pleasant to have a part of yourself sliced into or lopped off. But the alternative is worse. It’s better to have someone who cares about you do surgery than to let the infection worsen and potentially creep to other parts of the body (or manuscript) as well.

 

Lately I went through the eye-opening experience of having the tables turned. Instead of the knife being in my own hand, this time I was on the receiving end of the edits. And you know what? It hurt to be on the operating table. But in the best possible way. That’s how it feels when you hear truth from someone who loves you. Good hurt.

 

Wounds from a sincere friend

are better than many kisses from an enemy.

—Proverbs 27:6

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As in manuscripts, so it is in life. Although there’s a part of me that wants to bury my head in the sand and hide my vulnerable places in front of others, deep down I really want to know my weak spots. I want someone to gently point out my blind spots. It’s the only way I know to grow.

 

Right now I’m reading Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, and she talks a lot about the power of making ourselves vulnerable before others. “Courage,” she says, “starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”

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Maybe you don’t need a literal editor or a surgeon right now, but in what ways do you need to show up and let yourself be seen? Where do you need to let down your guard? Where do you need to allow other people speak truth into your life?

 

If we’re going to find our way out of shame and back to each other, vulnerability is the path and courage is the light. . . . To love ourselves and support each other in the process of becoming real is perhaps the greatest single act of daring greatly.

—Brené Brown

 

If we’re going to grow and dare and live brave, then we need to put ourselves on the operating table every once in a while . . . and entrust our friends with the knife.

 

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Sweatpant Friends April 30, 2013

Filed under: Friends — Stephanie Rische @ 12:48 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

I was given an unspeakable gift last weekend: the gift of sweatpant friends.

 

We women, we feel almost constant pressure to put forth our best self…to coordinate the outfit and gloss the lips and fix the hair and don the stylish (i.e., uncomfortable) shoes. All so we can look like we have it all together, that we ourselves are all together.

 

But last weekend eight of us girls who have been friends since the days of Jars of Clay and bad perms got together and spent a few days in the rarest of settings—a safe haven where we could be our unvarnished, un-makeup-ed, sweatpanted selves.

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It’s been almost fifteen years since we were all in the same place together, and honestly I wasn’t sure how things would fall into place. Would it work to have eight women accustomed to having our own nests all together under the same roof? Would things get cliquey or competitive or catty? Would we still find common ground all these years later?

 

There were a thousand reasons not to do it—the cost, the travel arrangements, the logistics, the potential awkwardness. Not to mention the 14 collective children we have as a group, plus one on the way. Was it worth all the effort?

 

I credit our loyal, creative teacher-friend for setting the tone in the first place: You all don’t mind if I wear sweatpants all weekend, right?

And from that moment, the stage was set for things to be real, authentic, vulnerable. In a word: imperfect. Just like our cottage.

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With its turquoise and canary-yellow walls, adorned with mismatched bits of Americana, the quirky rental felt like a metaphor in itself. The kitchen sloped down on one side; the wood floors let out contented groans every time we took a step. The gaps around the window frames and the door ushered howly gusts of wind and sand into the otherwise cozy living room.

 

But something about it felt just right. Community, after all, isn’t about creating something pristine, seamless, perfectly composed. The beauty of community comes when we bring together the mismatched pieces in a delightfully quirky collage. As the eight of us sat in our mismatched chairs, sipping hot chocolate and pouring out the past decade of our lives to one another, our words tumbled out much like our attire: real, raw, unpolished.

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I know it’s unrealistic to live in beach-cottage world all the time, but still I wonder: How can I keep this sense of community even when my old friends are miles away? And how can I turn new friends and acquaintances into sweatpant friends?

 

I’m not quite sure, but I offer you the same challenge I pose to myself:

 

Reach out.

Take a risk.

Embrace the messiness of real friendship.

Find someone with whom you can ditch your makeup and your put-togetherness.

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And by all means, if you don’t have a sweatpants-level friend, do whatever it takes to become one.

 

Friendship arises…when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.”…It is when two such persons discover one another, when, whether with immense difficulties and semi-articulate fumblings or with what would seem to us amazing and elliptical speed, they share their vision—it is then that friendship is born. And instantly they stand together in an immense solitude.

—C. S. Lewis