Thursday, May 27, 2010

George has a point

I woke up this morning thinking about this song, needing George Michael to remind me not to settle when it comes to my big dreams in life...

If this feels like you, too--if you could use some time to pick your heart up off the floor (and hope for something more)--come join me at my other blog, for 40 Days of Faith 2010. We'll spend some time getting in touch with our hopes and dreams, and hanging out with God to see what he has to say. Join us! I think you'll be happy you did :)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Thanks to all who've sent condolences...I so appreciate them, as does everyone in our church family. And I apologize for the radio silence. I was offline for most of the weekend, as we filmed a class I help teach called Seek at the incredible WGBH studios. My friend and pastor Dave flashed his superhero cred, giving six talks one day, eight the next (all while being filmed by 3 cameras, before an audience of 60-85 people). Then Sunday, those of us who help with Seek filmed behind the scenes commentary, as if we were on a talk show. It was super fun, and not just because for the first time I thought of Dave as Oprah :)

It's weird to have fun in the midst of mourning. It messed with my head a bit. On one of my rare moments online, I found my joy squashed by utter frustration, as a glitch/delay in Facebook's posting of my blog made it look like I commented on Andrew's death...and then immediately segued into my love of 1980s shoulder pads. I was horrified. But then I realized how closely this mirrors real life. It's rarely either/'s both/and.

Last night I wrapped up a series of talks on Relationships & Spirituality. Our conversation centered mostly around this tension--how we live each day in the balance between dreams deferred and dreams come true. It's not easy. The big temptation is to focus on our heartbreak, trying to fix it, or allowing ourselves to be pulled under and drowned by disappointment. But the primary antidote we're offered is equally unhelpful, as if a coat of "fake it til you make it" happy dust makes all bad/hard/disappointing things go away. I don't think that's the abundant life God created us for. I think God made us strong enough to live in the tension, and to embrace it all as real.

As I learned from a sitcom in my childhood, You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life...

As odd as it sounds, I feel like this collision of sadness and joy has made life bigger. And I'm not alone (as so many conversations over the past 6 days have confirmed). It makes me want to pray more, and connect with God's big plan. Later this week, I'll be sharing my thoughts on what this might look like, in case you want to join in. In the meantime, thanks for being here. It means a lot.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sad News

Our friend and pastor, Andrew Snekvik, died yesterday morning. He was surrounded by his family, loved, prayed over, and by all accounts died as good a death as one could imagine (as if there is such a thing for a young husband, son, and father?), trusting that there is life beyond this life.

Those of us here--his friends, his family--are stunned, numb, and mostly just quiet, trying to figure out what this means, how to pray, how to move forward. It's a mystery. It has me thinking about how glibly we toss out comments like death is natural, or death is part of life, making it sound like just another rite of passage. But I think there's more to it than that.

To be clear, I don't mean this in terms of eternal things, or questions of heaven and hell. I mean in terms of this life, and the glimpses we get that we live in a big, spiritual world, and that there's more going on around us than what we see.

Jesus talked about how our eyes aren't always the most trustworthy source of information. We're admonished to try a sensory shift: to keep our eyes on Him, looking away from the world around us, and to open our ears. As if somehow this creates the space for God to come through on his promise, "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know."

Today, I'm calling.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What I learned from Wife Swap

Monday the the mundane! If you've been around the blog for any length of time, you know that while my life has almost no routine at all, one constant is that if I'm at home at lunchtime, I spend a half hour or so watching reality TV. No idea why this works for me--maybe it's getting to dine with entertainingly bizarre friends without being responsible for their drama?--but it does.

So today I whizzed through a DVR of 19 Kids and Counting in about 7 minutes. (As much as I adore the Duggers, it just wasn't all that exciting watching them go to the zoo...although I appreciated Jim Bob Dugger consoling his scared 2-year old by saying, "Don't worry's just an elephant!") Which left me with 2 choices: Tyra and the wannabe models, or wives trading places.

I went with the wives because I don't quite know what to make of Tyra...

I'm so glad I did! Admittedly, these ladies were a tad on the extreme side. One played the slots from midnight to 4am everyday, while the other had her teenage sons on leashes. One was a slob, the other a clean freak. And this, my friends, was where I learned today's life lesson!

When the time came to swap rules, Mrs. Neat Freak made Mr. Slob help with the cleaning. He remarked repeatedly how much time it took. That's when the light bulb lit up over my head: this stuff takes time!

I have never, ever made time for cleaning--not even once. I can't even imagine it crossing my mind when planning my week (which explains a lot, really...) It gets done, either when the clutter reaches a critical level or we have people coming over (which happens at least once a week, thus saving us from being buried alive). Today I wondered, though: what would it be like to NOT have to scramble all over the house speed cleaning 15 minutes before guests ring the bell? Or to get dressed out of my closet & dresser, rather than out of piles of folded clothes that never quite get put away?

As romantic and exciting as this sounds (and I'm not kidding--it sounds spectacular) here's what I don't understand: how do you get to the point where you believe that cleaning is the best use of your time? How do you make it a priority? All tips welcome. Otherwise, I'll be stuck watching one of those extreme clean shows for tips...or the ones on hoarding for reassurance that our status quo isn't all that bad.

How do you handle stuff around the house?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Good news from Publishers Weekly!

I just saw the Publishers Weekly review for A MAZE OF GRACE. And it's fabulous!!! I'm shaking right now, all teared up & soggy. I hadn't realized how nervous I was about this until I read the review (and then re-read it six or seven times). The relief is unbelievable.

Here's why: MAZE was a tough book to write. It's super-personal, even more so than HE LOVES ME, HE LOVES ME NOT. It's real and raw and (in a few places) heartbreaking, even for me. But it's also--like me--fun and funny, and a little absurd. Which was a weird balance in the midst of the process. Not to mention that life while I was writing was rather tumultuous, and my editors and I were adding and deleting scenes right up until the very last moment. By the time the book was finalized, I'd sort of lost touch with whether it was "good" or not, in the big-picture sort of way: Was it entertaining and encouraging...and something you'd want to give to all your friends? I hoped (and I certainly prayed) so. I'm tearfully grateful to report that he folks at Publishers Weekly say yes:

A Maze of Grace: A Memoir of Second Chances
Ryan (He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not) returns with another spiritual memoir, bringing back her trademark wit, humor, and honesty. Her first book portrayed her journey toward love after a promise to “take Jesus seriously”; this sequel chronicles her spiritual and romantic life during the first five years of her marriage. Each chapter focuses on a unique struggle or revelation, from the joys and challenges of marriage to body image and politics; as a result, the book reads more like a compilation of short essays or long blog entries rather than one continuous narrative. Most admirably, Ryan, currently part of the pastoral staff of Vineyard Church, is able to present herself as a believing Christian who recognizes that spirituality can be both simple and complex, a universal experience that can be felt in an infinite number of ways. Ryan does not evangelize, instead humbly and humorously offering her own experience for interpretation. Readers of all faiths can enjoy this memoir for its humanity and its honest exploration of relationships and religion, showing how those two things can often intertwine. (June)

If you decide to read it, I hope you'll feel the same.
Thanks for letting me share the good news :)

Friday, May 14, 2010

There's a pony in here somewhere...

Okay, never mind my deep philosophizing about the Real Housewives of NYC. I just watched last night's episode and the reminder, "If you don't have anything nice to say..." has rendered me all but mute. But I'm a determined girl, and finding some nice amongst the crazy seems a challenge worth undertaking. So here's my attempt to dig a bit of gold from the rubble:

1. Bethenny's sense of humor is back. I'd forgotten how funny she is when she's not plugging a product. Her comment about all Hooters girls coming from Michigan (refuting Kelly's claim that her Midwestern roots keep her pure) has had me giggling for the past hour.

2. LuAnn was wearing a very pretty turquoise necklace as she launched her singing career...and taught us all a valuable lesson in how awkward it can be when we believe the people who flatter us. Thank you, Countess!

3. Speaking of valuable lessons, as an author, I noted the "above and beyond" effort by LuAnn's date to promote his book. It never even occurred to me to kiss up to a housewife to get the word out. So, um...good for him!

4. Ramona reminded me of one of Life's Great Truths: a bit of dancing (or "turtle time" as it's now known?!?) makes everything better...and helps you sweat out the Pinot Grigio so you'll look good in a bathing suit in front of the cameras come morning.

5. And finally, in the ultimate triumph: the ladies managed to stage SUCH a scene on the Hooters boat with their bickering that Bravo never had to cut to B-roll of the bimbets. Way to hold focus!

I'm off to watch something calm and soothing to recalibrate the assault on my psyche.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Life Philosophy, a la Real Housewives

Here's what I learned at lunch from the Real Housewives:

There's a qualitative difference between the ladies of New Jersey and their NYC counterparts. Basically, it comes down to aspiration. New York is a city that requires you to define yourself: Where are you going? What are your dreams? So even if you're not quite sure of the answers, it's pretty easy to find yourself making it up as you go along. Which is insanity-provoking...and the genesis of most creative greatness.

New Jersey (at least the corner we see on the show) is a different kind of place. The boundaries are clearer: you're either in or out of various groups, and once that is established, everyone is free to relax, make sauce, and talk about the state of their "chuckies." You can kind of just BE, because your eyes aren't always fixed on the next rung up on the social or artistic ladder. (Unless you're frantically shoving your children in front of talent scouts and pageant judges...that's a different post).

Now I don't mean to romanticize either perspective. But I wonder if I don't secretly long for a bit of both in my life? I'd never be happy just making sauce (okay, I'm not sure I'd ever be happy spending a whole day in the garage sorting & grinding tomatoes. Prego is fine by me...) but I love the idea that we can both strive AND relax--that life is big enough to encompass both.

My other take home from the Real Housewives? BLING IS BACK!!! I totally love the glitzy, over the top sparkly jewelry (and shoes...and tops...and children) they flash around. Oh the outfit possibilities I'd find for a lunch with these girls!

So now I'm dreaming of a day at the bead store with Dina (my fav housewife), Caroline, and Teresa. Let the sparkle and candid girl talk roll :)

Reality Clash

Thanks for your thoughts and prayers for guys are the best.

Part of the tension of ongoing illness--my sister and I have had this conversation so many times as our parents have gone through different health challenges--is how relentlessly life moves on. After dwelling in this "in between" place on so many different occasions, I think that's a good thing. One of the many graces I've found is that right there next to my big questions about life and death is a new episode of The Real Housewives of New Jersey on my DVR.

I'm off to watch it now while I eat some lunch. And if this leads me to deep thoughts of enduring significance (or a rant about botox and the unnaturalness of cats with no hair...) I'll be back to share!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Warning: Intense Post Ahead

I was at a retreat this weekend, deep in the New Hampshire woods. It was spectacular, being out there in the middle of the mountains, next to a lake, seeing the world "wake up" into spring after a long winter. Here in New England, spring feels like a miracle, every single year.

And (to be honest) we were people in need of a miracle. The retreat was for leaders of our church here in Cambridge: a time for us to hang out, connect with each other and with God. And as we were gathered in New Hampshire, talking, laughing, eating, and sharing stories, we were also getting phone updates from back home in Boston, about one of our pastor's struggles with what could be the final stages of colon cancer. He's in the hospital now.

His name is Andrew, his wife is Val. They're young parents, with three boys. They came out to Cambridge from California more than a decade ago to help start this church, and are beloved, awesome friends. That this is happening to them is somewhat unbelievable, and yet totally, unavoidably real.

And so as the news came in, bit by bit, we were stunned. It felt like we were free-falling, along with Andrew's health--like everything was moving faster than we'd thought possible. And yet in the middle of this gut-wrenching news, there we were surrounded by the miracle of Spring. It felt like God reminding us, "There's a bigger picture here...I take the long view...let me show you my perspective." And he did, a little bit. But then we'd get another update, and the panic would return. It was (and is) the strangest sort of tension.

Somehow, this juxtaposition has renewed my courage to pray, "God, please heal Andrew..." And yet at the same time to believe that if God's plans are different, he knows better than I do, and I can trust that. It's a complex feeling, one I can't really describe. But I wanted to try.

In the Gospel of John, when Jesus tells his friends he's about to be killed, he gives them some strange marching orders: "Do not let your heart be troubled," he says. Twice. I've been trying to obey this command, asking God for help. And you know what? It's kind of working. I'm still sad, and scared, and praying at odd intervals, "God, PLEASE don't let this happen!!!" But there's a core of calm inside of me--that isn't me--suggesting that even now, in the midst of this, it's safe to pray, "God, may your kingdom come, and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

If you want to add your prayers to this bowl for Andrew and Val and their sons, our church family would be so very grateful.

Thanks for reading, you guys. In tough times and in celebratory times, I'm so happy to be part of our blog community!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

A Girl After My Own Heart

I love MY FAIR LAZY. You, if you have the slightest sense of humor, will love MY FAIR LAZY too. (And yes, the double links are intentional--buy two copies, as you'll want an extra to give away by the time you reach page 13). I'm a longtime fan of Jen Lancaster, a regular tourist in the land of Jennsylvania...and I'm happy to report that this is her finest work to date.

Now I know some government agency or other now requires that we book loving bloggers disclose when we receive a free volume from a publisher, so herein lies said disclosure. But let me say that the arrival of this particular package on my doorstep was such an unexpectedly delightful gift, I was half convinced someone had forgotten my birthday and pulled some strings to get me an advance copy of MFL to make up for it. (If that's you, reader...well done! Feel free to forget any holiday you want next year ;) )

I won't belabor my effusive enjoyment of this book, except to say that it made me laugh so hard I had to declare a 5' no-beverage zone around myself while reading, lest I spurt coffee/oj/cabernet from my elegant little nose. Even now, weeks after reading the last page, I keep the book face out on my living room bookshelf. The mere sight of those leopard print slippers makes me giggle. I love me some Jen.

Looking for a fun read to chase your cares away? This is the book for you :)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

We have winners!

Thanks all for your participating in my Party/Presents Fandango last week...loved your comments about what is making you happy.

I think it will surprise no one that the winner of the ARC of A MAZE OF GRACE is...KimQuiltz! She interviewed a goatherd! What I love about this (besides the absurdity) is how in addition to making her happy, it brought a smile to every single visitor to my blog after she posted. That's spreading the love :)

The winner of the ROCK THE TOT T-shirt is...KristyWes! She lives in NYC where one must wear black, so I trust this t-shirt will be a well-loved addition to her wardrobe :) I mean, who else in the city will be wearing that t-shirt???

And the mystery present goes to...JanaGC!!! What is this gift, you ask? Let me tell you...
A few weeks back I came home to the most wonderful of sights: a package from on my doorstep. Inside was a memoir I'd won on the splendiferous site of all things bookish & good, The Diving Wand. The memoir is called FIRST COMES LOVE, THEN COMES MALARIA, by Eve Brown-White. I read it in 18 hours, totally drawn into the story of her adventures in the Peace Corps and with CARE in Uganda. To reach a reader like me (I don't even like camping, let alone multi-year adventures in the bush) this means the author did a great job of writing a compelling story. So I'll be paying it forward, sending a copy of this excellent book to JanaCG so it can inspire her, too.

Congratulations everyone! Kim, Kristy, & Jana: send your address to me at Trishryanonline AT gmail.

Let's continue the party...What's making you happy today?

For me? SUNSHINE. I'll be taking THAT DOG for a walk, so we can get our dose of vitamin D :)