Friday, June 29, 2007

summer joys

yellow current tomatoes

strawberry-orange smoothies

sunflowers taller than my husband

letters from teacher friends that make me laugh out loud

my son running across the yard with his tongue stuck out and his hand raised over his head, clutching a fistful of dirt

cheap honeydew melon

cool evening air

the hammock

pasta margherita

my daughter jumping into her wading pool with a happy yell

hair that's long enough to pin up off of my neck


box fans

real tomatoes, good tomatoes

verbena and sage, in their infinite varieties

For all these things, thanks be to God.

Monday, June 25, 2007


In thinking about ordinary holiness, what's come to mind again and again is that a great part of virtue is just doing it. Whatever "it" is in that moment. Just do the dishes, just read the book to your children, just go out and water the garden. Don't give yourself time to dread doing your duty, just do it.

Well, in thinking about this, I've realized that blogging is not often one of those duties I need to just do. It's something optional in my life, and while I've enjoyed it very much, I am not enjoying it now, and since it's not necessary (and is taking time and energy and joy from things that are necessary), I'm going to put it on a back burner for awhile.

I'll still post sometimes, but I'm going to stop trying to post regularly. I might get back to it someday, but I won't know until I get there and it's right again.

So, I guess what I'm saying is: leave me on your Bloglines, but don't check back every day if you don't do RSS. :)

May you have a good summer, blessed by our Lord.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, June 21, 2007

books, not blogs

I just finished "Our Tempestuous Day: A History of Regency England" by Carolly Erickson, and then promptly forgot to bring it with me to return to the library. Still, it was a triumph to have finished. I like histories, and this was a good one, but they just don't pull me in the way novels do. I don't have to stay up late finishing them and, frankly, that's the way I'm most likely to get a book read.

And I am reading books again. For awhile, in love with the novelty of having a laptop, I just surfed the Web. It was bad for me. I love blogs, don’t get me wrong, and I have no compunction about reading the ones I’ve bothered to put on my Bloglines account. I wish more of my friends and family had blogs. But from blogs, I go to clicking links, and finding forums, and pretty soon an hour’s gone and I’m frustrated to find that I spent it doing, as Screwtape said, neither what I ought nor what I like.

So I’ve been making a point to read real books again. Even the ones that are just ripping good yarns, and not high literature. Although, honestly, name me a novel that is high literature and not a ripping good yarn. You could write a dozen dozen dissertations on the themes of Jane Eyre and not come to the end of your material, but isn’t it, first and foremost, a page-turner? I think it was Susan Howatch that said, when asked about her intentions in writing, that her first intention was to write well enough that the reader wanted to turn the page and read what happened next. All great themes and deep thoughts must bow to that discipline, the discipline of writing the readable.

As I said, I want to write this summer about ordinary holiness. And for me, part of ordinary holiness is being selective about how I spend my time, including my reading time. “Our Tempestuous Day”, “Christ in His Saints” and even the Star Trek novel I devoured last week (which had the virtue of having a classic good-vs.-evil plot) are better for me than blankly clicking links without actively deciding to read next what I’m going to read next. A book takes commitment, so I’m more likely to consider whether I should read it or not than I am to consider the virtue of reading the next webpage.

Again, there sure are websites worth reading. I’m not giving up the internet. I’m just returning to books. Especially the readable ones.

(And if you want a readable history of Regency England, “Our Tempestuous Day” is one. Even if it’s title prompts me to sing “Hail thee, Festival Day” over and over and over without realizing why.)

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Ordinary Time

I’m still enamoured with the idea of blogging through the church year, but only a few weeks into the long, green season of Ordinary Time, and I’m wondering what exactly to blog about.

But I’ve discovered the answer, I think: ordinary holiness.

So, for the long green season, barring the occasional high holy days that crop up (All Saints and All Souls, anyone?), I’m going to be blogging more about the homemaking part of homemaking through the church year. Stuff about housework, gardening, and especially parenting, both the practical stuff and the abstract stuff. For me, homemaking encompasses both the physical care of my family and house, and the spiritual, relational work there is to be done in a family and home. Ordinary Time (which means “counted” or “ordinal” time, not “normal” time) is, I think, a good time to work on ordinary life, on the day-to-day duties, honing our ability to live in a way that is pleasing to the Lord.

So that’s what I expect this blog to be about during these next few (hot, hot, hot, swelteringly hot) summer months. Ordinary holiness for Ordinary Time. And if you can keep the different uses of the word “ordinary” straight, you’re more on top of it than I am. ☺

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Sunday, June 17, 2007

in the garden

Well, my sunflowers (yet without flowers) are touching the patio roof, but what I'm really excited is what's in that picture above: beans and tomatoes. I steamed those beans, tossed them with a little butter and was in culinary heaven. Tender and meaty and just perfect. And tomatoes aren't tomatoes unless you picked them two minutes ago. Mmmmm, summer.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

"as in the pains of childbirth"

I'm taking a week's break from reading Morning Prayer daily in order to read through the book of Romans (and to just take a break. I figure a vacation from MP will be the sort of vacation that makes me realize, once it's over, how happy I am to be back home). It's the moody time of month, which is annoying (I hate being mad or weepy at every little thing), but today I discovered that though the downside of PMS is that it makes me more sensitive, the upside of PMS is that it makes me more sensitive. Reading Romans 8 this morning, I was tearing up reading over how I'm allowed to call God "Abba, Father" because of Christ's great act of love for us.

Anyway, the other thing I noticed, and not for the first time, is how commonly "the pains of childbirth" or "like the pains of a woman in labor" is used as a metaphor in the scriptures. When I was pregnant, I'd read these words with forboding. Instead of making me think that the tribulation must be pretty horrible if you could compare it to childbirth, I'd sit there thinking that childbirth must be pretty horrible if you could compare it to the tribulation. (And I was right. Ha!)

But, on reading Romans 8 today, and not being pregnant (as far as I know), the idea of creation "groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time" struck me differently. It struck me less as terror-inducing metaphor, and more as kindly explanation. The "pains of childbirth" are - know ye all - really, truly awful. Terrible, horrible, entire body-wrenching pain. And I see how you can compare life in this present world to that and be completely right. I mean, have you read the news recently? Heard about Sudan? the persecution of Christians in North Korea? Closer yet, heard recently of murders, suicide, abuse? Homelessness, cancer? Yes, terrible, horrible, entire-life-consuming pain.

So here's why I find Romans 8:22 a kindly explanation. Because it lets you know that the pain will have a purpose. Yes, it's fallen and messed up that there has to be pain to produce a child. But since we live in a fall and messed up world, it's nice to know - when you're in labor - that the pain is going to have a good result. Given that you're in the middle of it, and that's just so and you don't have any choice at this point but to be in the middle of it, isn't it nice to know the ending? Isn't it hope that lets us endure? It is kind, I think, of Paul, to let us know that it's not going to be pain, pain, pain, death. Or even just pain, pain, pain, pain ad infinitum. (Anyone here every give birth and not, at some point, a) think you were going to die and/or b) think it was never going to end?) No, it is to be pain, pain, pain, life.

And, as we learned in The Princess Bride, "Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something."

Paul's not selling something. He's not lying about the pain. He's saying that this world is constantly in pain as bad as a woman in labor, and boy-howdy, that's pain. But he is giving us the hope that the pain is going to be as productive as that of a woman in labor. And, boy-howdy, that's hope. Thanks be to God.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

the answer to everything

"We should pray about it."

That's been the answer to all dilemmas around this house recently.

We first learned the "we should pray about it" mantra a year ago, when we took a summer vacation without praying about it beforehand, hit disaster in the form of a vomitting toddler, and realized that we might have noticed the Lord's hints that the trip was a bad idea if we'd been actually, you know, listening to Him. (And they were there to be seen, when we looked back at it.)

(I must interrupt to say, though, that there was one extraordinarily good part of our trip, and that was the chance to see friends who lived on the route to our destination. And my definitive vision of hospitality is now the picture of my friend, Cyndi, who, when we pulled up with said vomitting toddler, met us in her driveway with paper towels. That's it. Cyndi in the driveway with paper towels = the epitome of hospitality. (And since the paper towels were followed up with laundering, feeding, housing, entertainment and lots of good time together, I don't think I'm wrong in this. Hi, Cyn!))

Anyway, ever since then, Adam and I have reminded each other, "we should pray about this" whenever we come up against a decision, or find ourselves fomenting any new scheme. (Can you foment a scheme? You can foment a rebellion, right?)

There's one particular decision we're looking at right now that feels particularly troubling to me. But, eventually, one of us (I think it wasn't me) pointed out, "we sould pray about this." And I found myself, a few days after we had started praying about it together, talking to the Lord about it on my own, during my morning prayer time. And I said something like this: "Father, I'm still apprehensive about this, and I don't know quite what to do yet, but I have to tell You, ever since talking to You about it, I've felt better about it. Because I know it's in Your hands, and that makes me feel safe."

So, yes. There are oh-so-very-many things that I don't know. And almost more numerous than the things I don't know are the things that scare me. But that's okay. I'm ignorant and small, so that's to be expected. But my Father is wise and big and good. And talking to Him is never a bad idea.

So, whatever it is, pray about it. And then listen for His answer and His comfort.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Sunday, June 10, 2007

an anniversary

My husband and I got to go camping, just the two of us, this weekend, to celebrate our the fourth anniversary of our wedding. God blessed us, and gave us, all to ourselves, an entire live oak-covered hillside, all green and golden. If you can remember the forest where Boromir died, in the film version of the Lord of the Rings, you'll have an idea of what the mountains we were in looked like. On our trip we saw golden eagles and mountain blue jays, lizards and coyotes (the coyotes both wandering through our camp and loping unobtrusively past it). It was just glorious. Praise God for marriage, for marriage between me and this man in particular, and for parents who are generous enough to babysit their grandchildren for over 24 hours! :) Here's some pictures of our trip:

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

cutting teeth

Yesterday was miserable. I usually love Mondays; they are the best stay-at-home day of the week. The day that I get the most housework done, and somehow also spend the most purposeful time with my kids. The day I'm full of energy, feeling restored after the weekend, blessed after Sunday's mass, well-loved from hours of time with my husband.

But yesterday, Monday, was miserable. My son screamed all day, and it took me all day to figure out why. For a long time I thought it was his temper tantrums coming back, the temper tantrums that we'd carefully taken time to train him out of, and that he'd mostly dropped in response to our training. "No throwing fits," we'd say sternly, and then make him sit still on the corner of the loveseat until he was done fussing. In fact, one of the last times he threw one, I merely looked at him, and he toddled himself over to the loveseat, heaved himself up and then sat there looking at me, lower lip quivering.

But it wasn't temper, it was teeth. One tooth, actually. His first canine, that was not there in the morning, but was broken through the gum by the time dinner was over. By the end of the day it was clear that it wasn't pique, it was pain. I came close to crying myself as I watched him during dinner. When a bite of food touched the tender part of his gum, he'd squint his eyes closed and crinkle up his face, tears silently streaming down his cheeks. It reminded me of the helpless pain of a woman in labor. I just am going to be in pain; I can't do anything to stop it. Oh, I hurt, I hurt. And what he wanted was to be held. Everytime he squinted up his face in pain, he also reached out his arms to be held, and once in my arms, he clung like a limpet until it stopped hurting.

When we figured it out, of course, we gave him Tylenol. And it helped some, and sleep held more, and the tooth actually breaking through the gum helped most.

The old song says it best: "What cannot be cured, love/Must be endured, love." But how I hate it. How I hate this brokeness, this world that makes us learn that truth at the tender age of one, before it can be explained. Shakespeare claimed that no philosopher can endure a toothache patiently. But do you know who can? My Gamgee, at the end of a whole day of toothache. Silently and with tears streaming down his face. I am glad that I was there all day, to hold him.

Oh Lord Jesus, come back soon.

Monday, June 4, 2007

a surprise of pomegranates

It's surprising what comes up when you water your lawn.

I've got two kids, but I still haven't been an adult all that long, and there's a lot I'm still learning. Especially about responsibility. Especially, especially about responsibilities I don't like.

For instance: it is my responsibility to water my lawn. Well, my landlord's lawn; we're renters. Now, the more I learn about SoCal, the more convinced I am that most front lawns (which are seen but not played on) are a waste of water. If it was my house, I'd pull up all the grass and plant a big, sunny-happy herb garden. I'd keep the back lawn, 'cause the kids like it. But the front? Again: it's a waste of good water.

But it's still my responsibility to water it. It's not my house, so it's not my choice. And I have been terrible about watering it. But I've been working on doing so regularly for the last month or so, and it's turning respectably green.

The sprinkler doesn't just water the lawn though, it waters the front flower beds (which were inhabited by a glorious sago palm, but not much else), and they've started sprouting all kinds of interesting vegetation, sprung from who knows where.
I am amazed at how long some plants can stay dormant, but still lively enough to spring up once the water returns.

And one thing springing up were a couple of busy-looking maybe-trees with orange flowers. Kinda pretty, and I'd contemplated bring the flowers inside to occupy a vase or two. But yesterday my dad came over, and with his visit, all my desire to gather the pretty orange flowers fled.

"Those? Those are pomegranates," he said, "See? You've got fruit forming already."

Pomegranates! It my yard! Ya-HUM. Yum.

It's amazing what comes up when you water.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell