, ,

Remarkably Intact

Mom’s prescription sunglasses have been found and the story is nothing short of remarkable.

The sunglasses in question went missing five years ago. Mom’s Elizabeth Arden tortoiseshell frames vanished without a trace. To this day, the circumstances of the disappearance remain vague. It always has been a very mysterious case of missing corrective lenses.
After much futile searching Mom gave up on ever finding her beloved prescription sunglasses with the perfect tint of sun blocking protection.
In due time the lost sunglasses were replaced and the ordeal was soon forgotten.
Until yesterday.
It was underneath a bright blue sky and warm sunshine that the discovery was made. I was seated in the passenger’s seat as Mom pulled the car into the driveway. That’s when a glimmer of bright light caught my attention. Something shiny was reflecting from the bare branches of the front yard’s large fruit tree. I squinted to ensure my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me but there they were. Mom’s pair of missing Elizabeth Arden tortoiseshell frames balancing on the bare branches of the leafless tree.
The glasses that my Mother lost in 2013 survived five winters stuck in the tall tree. They were battered by winds, beaten by rains and covered by historic snowfalls yet they lost not a single lens or arm. The glasses have been found, remarkably, completely intact.

Dear friend, take heart because in Christ, the lost can always be found. By the Almighty hand of God that upholds by the power of the Risen tree of life, the lost are always found remarkably, eternally intact.

 

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Isaiah 41:10

, , ,

Prom Memories

My senior prom dress was fit for a princess. It was my fairy tale dream come to life.

The elegant ball gown was painted in pale pink and sunset hues. From the moment I put it on I knew it was the one. The lace bodice was embellished with sequins and beads stitched in a floral design. Layers of tulle floated elegantly to the floor. Every detail of the dress was perfect. Never before had I felt as beautiful as I did while wearing that breathtaking ballgown.

But the circumstances of my prom night were far from a fairy tale. Disappointments and relationship letdowns had cast a sad shadow on the end of my high school career. I wasn’t feeling much like getting dolled up or going to a dance.

But then I recalled the dream dress hanging in the closet. That dress was too gorgeous and too perfect to be left hidden away and unworn. In that moment I had a decision to make. I could choose to stay home and let defeat win the night. Or I could choose to step into that perfect princess dream dress, go to the prom and dance.

I choose to put on the dress and dance…and I’ve never regretted the decision.

A decade has passed since my senior prom and many of the memories from that night have faded away, but the lesson I learned the moment I stepped into my dress has stayed with me to this day.
Whether I’m wearing a gorgeous ball gown with matching high heels or I’m caught in stretchy pants with memory foam sneakers, I have the Spirit of the Lord residing in my heart.

Heaven’s most glorious gown that hung on the cross rose again to defeat death and conquer my every grave. The love of Christ is heaven’s gown too gorgeous and too perfect to be hidden away. United with His victorious life, the garment of His love can be mine to wear in all circumstances and on all occasions.

The Spirit of the living God compels to wear the dress of His perfect love, go forth in His joy and dance.

,

Stand Tall

All of the daffodils are covered in snow.

The first of spring’s flowers were just beginning to bloom when a ferocious storm rolled in. When I saw the snow I was sure the delicate yellow buds wouldn’t survive. Even in the best of conditions daffodils never flower for long but this year the buttercup petals barely had three days in the sunshine before they were smothered in dense, heavy snow.

After being whipped by winds and flattened by weighty precipitation, I was sure the fate of the flowers was sealed. Certainly the fragile buds would have succumbed to the storm. The beauty of their flowery display would have been cut short.

But, miracle of miracles, the daffodils are still standing tall!

The yellow baby buds of the perennial are still affixed to their thick green stems. In spite of the storm, the bulbs have remained firmly planted and the roots have not been shaken. The blooms have been upheld. The flowers have been sustained and the buds have endured.
The daffodils are alive!

Dear friend, if today you feel like a delicate daffodil being toppled by a ferocious storm, do not lose hope. Look to the daffodils and take heart.

Planted in the eternal soil of “the way, the truth, and the life” your future is secure.

The Almighty hand of God that gives life to the daffodils can uphold your delicate blooms, too. You need not fear the wind. Do not worry about being crushed beneath the snow.

In the strength of the Lord you will be upheld. Because He lives you can stand “strong and courageous” in spite of the season’s storm. 
Rejoice, precious daffodil, because you have been made truly, eternally alive with the resurrected Christ.

Rooted in His risen life, united with His eternal, you can stay strong in hope assured that, when the snow clears, you’ll still be standing eternally tall.

, ,

Surrender the Toast

The bakery bread on the kitchen counter was white but I preferred sprouted – or at least whole wheat. The offerings before me were fluffy with plain refined flour. There wasn’t a single nutty, seedy grain in sight.

For years I passed by this particular bread and reached for my own personal supply instead but on this particular morning I’d run out. I was craving eggs and toast but had yet to restock my whole wheat bread. At first I thought I’d settle for only an omelet but while beating the eggs it became clear that just an omelet would not do. They needed a side dish. As my morning eggs sizzled they begged me to give up my sprouted resistance and surrender the toast.

Once slice of white bread served as my white flag as I surrendered my toast. Under the heat of the electric element it toasted to a perfect golden brown.

In that moment of freedom my nose was met with the aroma of fresh bakery bread awhile my heart was met with the sweetness of surrender. Feasting in the glory of freedom I enjoyed my piece of simple white toast and didn’t miss sprouted grains one bit.

Even in the simplest of circumstances surrender is sweet. When the will is submitted and preferences are put aside, the spirit of Christ will always provide a bountiful feast. The most satisfying nourishment is experienced in His presence and savored in His love.

At His table, God has prepared a place for me and He has set it with surrendered toast.

, ,

Happy Birthday to…Me

Tomorrow is my birthday and it terrifies me because I have so little to show for my twenty eight years of life.
The list of my documented accomplishments ends at high school graduation but, please, don’t ask me to find the actual diploma. That record went missing long ago.
Early twenties milestones are also noticeably absent from my timeline. I passed through them without wearing a cap and gown again and I never have received another diploma. Which is no great loss since I probably would have lost the record of it anyways.

But other milestones have been harder on the heart to miss.
Missing marriage, never even having the chance to hold onto documentation of that union, left a hole in my story that I had hoped would have long ago been filled. By now I thought I’d have a baby’s birth certificate or two in my possession. And, actually, I should but I lost Pippy’s and Molly’s birth records within months of obtaining them.
At least I had hoped for a testimony by my twenty eighth birthday. A miraculous healing or miraculous book deal, perhaps? During these ten years of mysterious illness and missed milestones I had hoped God would have erected his own unique stone display upon my empty life. At the very least I had hoped that by this birthday I would have a clear, understandable diagnosis to help define my obscure, unconventional life.
But tomorrow I turn twenty eight and all I have to show for it can be found in my second grade writing journal. On February 6, 1997 I wrote “One day I was bored. I imagined I opened windows to other worlds and I found a friend.”

In Mrs. School’s 2nd grade class I wrote the story of my life. In the faded green paperback “Level One” journal that miraculously survived in my Mother’s basement for 21 years, I have the most precious documentation from my past twenty eight year. That one entry tells my entire testimony. My whole life is summed up in those simple words.
All my life I have been bored, unfilled and searching for something to satisfy me. So I have opened up windows into other world and I keep finding my friend, my Savior, my Lord.
I keep finding Jesus.

Everywhere I go, I find Jesus. At every missed milestone my Savior is there. At every closed door, I am shown greater glimpses of His glory. At every window I have opened desperately hoping to discover other worlds I have found all I will ever need. I have found my life, my friend, my Salvation. I have found Jesus and in Him my life has been found.

Tomorrow is my birthday and I have the greatest treasure to celebrate. I have Jesus and twenty eight years of God lovingly, graciously, tenderly carrying me closer to THEE.

,

Goats Gone Astray

If you ever needed assurance that the lost can be found look no further than these two goats.

goat turnpike

The dramatic and rather peculiar saga began when a farmer’s goats went missing. Escape goats on a farm are not unusual but it was where this pair escaped to that baffled the farmer.

Suspended 150 feet up in the air on the side of a Pennsylvania turnpike interstate highway bridge, a patrol officer spotted two stranded goats. Their hooves were balancing on an 8 foot wide steel beam while a river rushed below. The daring pair of barnyard animals didn’t appear to be all that alarmed by their circumstances. They appeared unaware of the deadly consequences of their highway adventure.

Imagine the farmer’s alarm when he received the telephone call from the state police. They had found his lost goats and rescue team was already on the scene to deliver them to safety.

Two hours and one crane later, both little goats were successfully off of the bridge and back on the farm. The rescue made national news headlines. The ending was a happy one. The goats made it back home safe and sound.

Little goats need not fear that they are ever too lost to be found for our Heavenly Father sees every single child who has wandered far from home. Although we all have behaved like goats and gone astray, not one is outside of God’s power to reach and rescue. He came to save us all.

God deployed His eternal Rescuer, His Son, Jesus Christ, to deliver every lost goat on His wings of infinite love and grace. Found at His Cross and redeemed with His new life lost goats are rescued and returned home safe and sound.

By the power of His amazing grace and mighty hand of deliverance, God’s precious goats are saved everyday. Don’t take my word for it, just look at the goats on the road.

, ,

Just Stay Still

“Just stay still.”

This should have been easy instruction to follow if it hadn’t been for the assaulting banging and pounding of the MRI machine. The technician’s voice was gentle and reassuring but I knew the noisy reality that was soon to come. Being still only sounded simple until the machine turned on.
After tucking me in under a blanket and fitting my ears with gigantic headphones, the technician pushed the patient table into the scanner’s tube as I mentally prepared myself to “just stay still.” I tried to move myself into a comfortable but it was an impossible task. The machine left little room for repositioning and the technician left little time. Before I knew it I could hear his voice speaking in the headphones. “Ready?” he asked. I confirmed that I was as ready as I’d ever be. “Just stay still,” he said.
I held my breath as the machine began thumping. The sound was low and steady at first, as if a drum were beating off in the distance, but within moments the thumping turned to banging. First the racket seemed to be coming from the left, then the right. Then the whole machine shook violently before it stopped.
This cycle repeated as hundreds of snapshots were taken of my abdomen and pelvis. With each scan the banging and pounding was startling and remaining motionless was a challenge. I desperately wanted to stay still, knowing that the results of the scan dependend on it, but my body’s natural reaction was to flinch at every assaulting sound.
The test was only halfway completed and my ears were already ringing. Staying still was exhuasting and I was getting weary when all of a sudden I heard a faint click in my headphones followed by a familiar voice.
“Doing alright?” the technician asked. His voice was sweet and serene, a welcomed interruption from the constant banging. “Just stay still,” he reminded me one more time.
A moment later the scans resumed. They were as loud and disruptive as ever but something was different about the sound. Inside, I had peace. The assaulting banging no longer troubled me. For the next thirty minutes the pounding continued and I didn’t even flinch. It were as if God’s voice were all around me saying, “Just stay still.”
Consumed with God’s presence, every disconcerting sound of the magnetic scanner faded away. God’s hand was keeping me steady and being still became effortless and easy. In every pounding I could feel His steadying power. Even while under the seige of the machine, I experienced rest. With His Holy Spirit, every sound echoced harmonies of His serenity and peace.

Forty-five minutes later the test ended and I exited the examination room free from the assaulting sounds of the machine but in my ear I can still hear a gentle voice speaking peace into my heart. From the voice of my beloved Savior I’m still hearing Him say, “Just stay still.”

,

The Bubble Saga: Part II

Bubble Saga - Stephanie Rice - Jesus Take the PenIf a picture says a thousand words, then here are three thousand to document the “Bubble Saga” in my left eye.

 

On December 14, 2017 the mysterious bubble on my left eye was at the height of its distress (read: about to burst).

Four days later on December 18 the bubble “reduced” and entered into a state best described as problematic, puffy and protruding.

With no medical intervention (and still no clue what that troubling bubble was really ever about) the pictures tells the amazing story. There is no denying, my eye has undergone miraculous healing.

The unfiltered, never photo-shopped “before” and “afters” give testimony to the wonderful truth that that problematic, painful, puffy protrusion is gone. The bubble that obstructed my vision and bound me to glasses for months has gone away. There is emptiness on my eyelid and it is evidence that a miracle has occurred.

It really should come as no surprise that God would reveal my healing miracle in the emptiness because that is where God revealed the greatest miracle of all.

Up from the empty grave, Jesus Christ rose again to heal with the miracle of His new, eternal life .

All the pictures in the world could never tell the story of the great suffering that Jesus endured before His resurrection. Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, was completely spotless and innocent yet He willingly took on the guilt of every sinner. Jesus died to pardon with eternal forgiveness and save with merciful grace.

Bubble Saga - Stephanie Rice - Jesus Take the Pen

But Jesus rose again. The empty tomb is the evidence that death is defeated and hell has lost its sting. Jesus is Risen with eternal healing in His wings!

For all who seek the healing of His crucifixion and unite with His resurrected life, your miracle of eternal healing has already come. The evidence is in the empty tomb of the risen Lord, the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ!

, ,

Subject to Change

It’s official.
On March 31st, with a Uhaul truck and returned security deposit, I’m hitting the road again and moving home…again.
Over the past eight years I have played relocation hop-scotch across the eastern United States. Long-time Pippy Love followers will remember that it all began in Sarasota, Florida on a 1,200 mile adventure to regain my health. At least, that was my plan until every detail of my agenda was turned upside down and changed due to declining health. Before I knew it, I was on the road again and headed back home again.
Next stop was a move to the village town of Chagrin Falls, Ohio followed by a journey back down to the Sunshine state. Both moves were made with pure intentions but neither one went according to my plan. After each failed relocation I hit the road and headed home…again.
Then, when I was absolutely sure I could not take one more ping-pong move, my plans changed. Before I knew it I was standing in the North Hills of Pittsburgh with a Lyme Disease diagnosis and a Uhaul truck to unpack. That was a year ago now and once again, my plans have changed. I’m on the road again. I’m moving home again.
To be honest, as much as I love my parents and childhood home, living at home in my twenties was not part of my plan. The broadest sketch of my plan included marriage and home ownership, not ailing health and a fixed up “apartment” in my parent’s basement. But my plans have been utterly destroyed and dramatically, fundamentally changed by the correcting, perfecting hand of God.
With every relocation and return home I have learned that every plan I make is subject to God’s perfecting change. When I plan and plot with a pure, surrendered heart He is faithful to transfigure and transform my moves by the renewing of His cleansing grace. Because He is merciful and loving, God restores my plans and sets them on the right road again. He brings them back home and back to the heart of His Son, Jesus Christ, again.

At every failed move God has furthered loosened my grip on my plans. He has weakened my hold on my will in order that I be free to grasp all the tighter to the Lord, Jesus Christ. In His infinite wisdom, God has used moving here, there and always back home again to soften my rigid heart. He has changed my plans to change my heart and transform it with the fluidity of Christ’s amazing forgiveness and grace.

I’m about to hit the road and move back home again…at least, that’s my plan.
But as you well know everything is completely subject and surrendered to God’s most good and glorious change.

, ,

For the Love of Donuts

The donuts are different. For the first time in my life the Sunday post-sermon donut selection has changed.
For the past twenty four years the church donut selection has always featured the exact same sugary delights. The “random assortment” ordered from the grocery store bakery is never random. It’s the same each week. There are always cream-filled, jelly-filled and coconut-topped donuts. There are always plenty of glazed and a few apple fritters. For the children, and those young at heart, there are always doughy treats featuring sprinkles and chocolate frosting, too .
But today the decorations on the donuts were different. On one particular donut pretzels adorned the chocolate-frosting while gigantic California walnuts were atop another. A few of the chocolate eclairs were drizzled with pink frosting.
Since I haven’t tasted a donut in years and haven’t had a single craving, you might wonder why I care so much about the church’s donut selection. Although it’s true that my appetite no longer desires donuts my heart still craves them because donuts have played a very special role in my life.
You see, church, donuts and I go way back, all the way back to my very first church memory. It was 1994 and I was a toddler, still small and short enough to hide behind my Mom’s flowing skirt, which is precisely what I did until the end of each service. After the sermon, pastor would give a word in benediction then dismiss the congregation into the fellowship room for a time of conversation, coffee and, of course, donuts.

And so it began, my love for donuts.

As a young child I reached for puffy glazed donuts and cinnamon twists. As a teen my taste buds were tantalized by the dense cake donuts that were covered in sweet maple frosting.
Over the years my choice of donut has changed countless times and now I don’t eat donuts at all. But the unconditional love and grace serviced at during the post-service fellowship hour hasn’t changed a bit. The compassion and care of my church family is as sweet as ever and as plentiful, too.
Although the decorations on the donuts are different the beautiful offering of the Savior’s love served and shared in that blessed fellowship room is still the same.