Friday, January 30, 2009

7 Quick Takes

I made Thai chicken soup last night. Mmmmm. I'm slowly growing my pantry staples so that I can cook Thai food regularly because, really? It's that good. (Did you know you can get tubes of minced lemongrass that last three months in the freezer, but don't quite freeze solid, so you can just squeeze out what you need without defrosting the whole tube? Awesome!)

After chopping all my hair of this summer in the midst of 90 degree heat and the craziness of twinfancy, I'm now committed to growing it long again. And I'm fascinated by webites like this. ("Fascinated" is the right word - not sure if I'm impressed or dismayed that such a thing exists!)

Every day this month has been haunted by a weird dissonance for me: I can't ever forget where I was this time last year. I eat a meal, and remember the meals I ate in the hospital. I find my hands constantly busy caring for children, and remember the days when I didn't even get to see them. I cuddle the babies, with their fluffy hair and bright eyes and toothsome grins, and think about holding the fetal monitors for hours at the right angle, so we could know that their hearts were still beating.

It's all very weird.

I love coffee.

My eldest insisted on planting a sunflower on our patio a month or two ago. It's blooming now, a little blossom no more than a couple of inches across. That's what happens when you plant a sunflower in a shady spot in a shallow pot: you get something the size of a zinnia, rather than a ten foot tall giant. There's bound to be a sermon illustration in there somewhere. Only, I'm not sure if the point is that you won't grow well without the proper environment or that it's a miracle that even outside of the proper environment, some growth is possible.

Actually, it really reminds me of Jesus' parable of the seeds. Because pretty as it is, that sunflower's not going to produce any offspring. Hmm. Chock one down for the first interpretation.

After I posted my thoughts on Judah's story in Genesis, my husband contributed his thoughts here. Very short, but powerful:

Once upon a time, Joseph - Jacob's son - brought his family to Egypt. He brought them to Egypt because there was death coming in the promised land. It took many years, but eventually they returned to the promised land. He did not live to see it, but Joseph's children went on to become a great nation, and all the nations of the earth were blessed through them.

So, again, it came to pass that Joseph - Jacob's son - took his family to Egypt. He brought them to Egypt because there was death coming in the promised land. It took many years, but eventually they returned to the promised land. He did not live to see it, but Joseph's Son went on to become the great King, and all the nations of the earth are blessed through Him.

St. Brigid's Day is coming up. Anyone know where you can get some reeds?

Thanks, as always, to Jen for hosting!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Judah and redemption

My Bible reading yesterday was Genesis 43-45, which is the beginning of the end of the Joseph story. I was amazed at the solemnity and the beauty of Judah's plea for Benjamin at the end of chapter 44. He explains that his father has already lost a beloved son (Joseph) and that to lose another would kill him, and how could he (Judah) return to his father with that news? In essence, "please take me, my lord, instead of him."

I've been used to thinking of Joseph, if anyone, as the Christ figure in this story. Joseph who saves his people, who gives them bread, who forgives. And that is surely there.

But it seemed to me on this reading that Judah (how appropriate, the one from whose line Jesus would come) is a Christ figure too. "Please take me, my lord, instead of him."

It isn't a if either Joseph or Judah is an exact representation of Jesus. But there are echoes of His grace and power just reverberating all through this story. These are - Judah and Joseph both - redeemed men. Joseph through forgiveness and Judah through repentance. Joseph forgives as he would be forgiven, and Judah (the incident of Tamar, it seems, being a turning point) knows himself as the sinful man he is, and is determined not to repeat the sins of his past. He will bear the weight of responsibility now, even to death, as he was not willing to before.

(Do you think that his experience with Tamar, his realization that she had been more righteous than he, made him think back to what he and his brothers did to Joseph, and realize that he was wrong there, too?)

A lecturer I listened to recently pointed out that the Joseph story takes up about half of the length of Genesis. I think I'm beginning to see why. It's almost as if God is saying, "Here is Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in whom I started my great work. And here are their sons, where you can begin to see my plan even more clearly. These are the fathers of the fathers of the fathers of the One who will change anything." As if He's introduced the theme of salvation, of righteousness, of being set apart in the beginning, and that the story of Joseph is a great elaboration on that theme.

Okay, I'm obviously not getting everything that's there to be gotten, but I am beginning to see just how much there might be there to get!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, January 23, 2009

7 quick takes

After a week and a half of 80+ temps, it finally feels like winter here: we have rain! My older two kids are out on the patio, dancing around with their umbrellas, and the twins are banging on the security door and vicariously enjoying the fun.

I am trying to tell myself that I have to start wearing long-sleeved shirts again. I don't believe myself yet.

I picked up our diocese's newsletter/magazine at our library - they have a used magazines for 25 cents stand, and there it was. Excepting the bishop's opening letter, there was maybe (maybe) one article that didn't mention gay and lesbian rights. I have to say, that even if I approved of gay marriage, I wouldn't want this to be my church. Shouldn't even liberals want a church that worships God, and not sex? Where's the desire for the transcendent?

I have learned to make my own underwear. No kidding. I was looking at my favorite pair, and realized that it was all of three pieces of fabric, joined with simple seams and hemmed. And I realized that for what it cost me to buy that favorite pair, I could probably make four or five on my own. So I tried. And it worked!

I might make a tutorial at some point (with drawings, I think, not pics, as I have no desire to have pictures of my undies on the internets!), but if you're comfortable with sewing knits, you can probably figure it out on your own, and I encourage you to do it. It's this wonderful part frugal, part-fashionista, part-artistic thrill to make something gorgeous that you've always had to purchase before.

(btw, to get your pattern, just take your favorite pair and trace it on some newsprint. If the resultant pattern folds in half correctly, you've probably made an accurate tracing. Make sure to leave seam allowances!)

I still carry my twins up the stairs to their naps together. That's about twenty pounds of baby in each arm. I can pick them up, sleeping, carry them up, and put them down together. I don't think I could carry and manipulate 40+ lbs. of baby weight it if I hadn't started when they were about five pounds each. But the weight gain has been so gradual . . . it's just weird to think about how that works. There are so many things you could never do unless you had worked up to it slowly. I think God grows us like that sometimes. He gradually increases the room in our heart by giving us more people to love, more work to do, more of Himself to worship and adore . . . sorry, I don't have any further profound thought there - but it's 7 quick takes after all!

I am reading two related but very different books right now: Home Comforts: the Art and Science of Keeping House and Behind the Scenes: Domestic Arrangements in Historic Houses. They are both utterly scholarly and utterly fascinating.

Is anyone else beginning to think about Lent yet? Every time I plan our menus, I think, "hmm, look at that veg. recipe. Must remember about it during Lent." The funny thing is, it was during one of our first Lents as liturgical Christians that I discovered that we like vegetarian food, and now we have veg. meals at least a couple of times a week. Not as a fast, but it always does feel a bit like a fast hangover. Strange how some disciplines stick, but not a disciplines anymore.

I really want to go to the mall. Not to buy anything, but just to wonder around it with all four kids. RSV season quarantine is doing strange things to my brain. I simultaneously really want it to be over and to get out of the house, and am scared of it ended, because them I have to stop being an introverted hermit, and I kind of like being an introverted hermit.

Thanks, as always, to Jen for hosting 7 Quick Takes. Go to her site for more great posts! (not just Friday, but every day.)

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New Year's Resolution: Devotional

I said in my last post that I was resolved to pray the hours this year, but in a modified manner.

The modification? I’m praying an Anglican rosary three times a day (sometime between 7-9 a.m., 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and 5-9 p.m.). I know, it’s REALLY not the full prayers and readings. But . . . it’s more than I was doing before.

I really liked Jen’s idea of having “hard stops” in her days. And, well, I thought about how I could modify that idea for my life. I have twins who don’t sleep very much during the day and who like to eat books, so I knew my hard stops would have to be small and, er, non-edible. (I do read books, btw, I just read them at the table or at night.) Also, I wanted to avoid the problem of the beginning exerciser – you know the old story where someone inactive resolves to become fit and goes out and runs five miles and is in so much pain the next day that she never exercises again? In times past I’ve regularly read Morning Prayer, so I know how good regular devotional hours are, but I haven’t been able to really do that since the twins came home.

I admit, getting into the habit of three-times-a-day prayer has been hard. Most days it’s been two times a day. I’m still trying to learn where the best places in those two hour segments are. I’m not sure when, for example, during the 5-7 slot, I ought to fit a hard stop. That’s the time when kids are waking up from naps and need attention and nursing, when dinner needs to be finished off, when my husband comes home and we eat. Occasionally, I’ve worked one-handed in the kitchen, with my beads in the other hand.

But it’s more prayer than regularly was in my days before. Or at least, more structured. Even if I’m cooking or nursing while I’m praying, I’m praying. In some ways, it’s a reminder that all the work I do is aimed toward pleasing my Lord, because actually saying prayers while I work brings into stark relief WHOM my duties are a duty TO. (Excuse my grammar.)

The easier resolution is the one I mentioned in a previous post: reading through the Bible again this year. That’s easily done while nursing the babies down for naps or bedtime, though it’s made much easier with this well-organized website. It’s a treat, really, to swallow whole chapters of scripture at a time and not worry about whether I’m reading the part I ought to be reading. (Anyone else ever do this? Sit down to read an epistle and wonder if your time wouldn’t really be better spent in one of the gospels? “What? can’t you ever read anything except Ephesians?” “Sure, but I LOVE Ephesians, stop guilting me . . .”)

So that’s it! It’ll be interesting to see how the Lord uses these disciplines in my life this year. Neither is terribly onerous, but that’s good, because it means it’s likely I can keep them up. I know probably everyone reading is way ahead of me on this, but if you are having trouble doing a regular devotional exercise, I encourage you to pick something really small – like saying the Jesus prayer on the way to work, or reading slowly through the gospel of John (or Ephesians!) over the course of a month, or saying the Lord’s prayer every night with your kids, or singing one hymn from the hymnal every day – and just doing it regularly. It doesn’t have to be the right thing (though you should listen to see if there is something particular He wants you to do), it just has to be something you actually do. The Lord responds to our every turning toward Him, and takes our smallest efforts as a gift of love, the same way you take the affection of your children, imperfect and silly as it is.

I always think of this sort of thing as holding a landing strip open in the jungle. You can’t bring in the cavalry, but you can keep a small section of the fields clear for the planes to land. It’s not your job to bring in the troops that save the war, just to be faithful in making room for them.

I hope that metaphor makes sense. You can’t sanctify yourself; your job is just to faithfully be open to the movements of the Holy Spirit. Pick a way, any way, to regularly do that, and He will take you up on it, as long as you are doing it out of love and obedience.

Okay, off my soapbox. I promise the sermon was as much for me as for anyone reading.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

a recipe and a few links

I was reading an article on making pasta dishes for kids, and thought I'd share what is a once or twice weekly midday meal at our house:

Jess' Mac'n'Cheese

-Bring water to boil. Add noodles from a box of mac'n'cheese. Also add 2 1/2-3 cups of mixed frozen veggies (carrots, peas, beans, corn). Return to boil, cook till, um, cooked. Drain. Add about 2 tsp. butter and a bit less than 1/2 cup milk (NOT 1/4 c. butter, 1/4 c. milk, as called for one the box). Add cheese sauce mix. Add a can of drained tuna. Add some REAL cheese (shredded Cheddar or Parmesan). Stir till mixed. Serve.

It's really pretty good. Very, very doctored mac'n'cheese. I do the butter and milk by putting a bit of butter in my 1/2 c. measure, and just filling the rest up with milk. It makes it a lot healthier. (I negate that a bit with the extra cheese, but the taste tradeoff can't be denied.)
It's pretty yummy, and even the babies snarf it down.

Okay, links:

-A Biblical Theology of the Arab Peoples. Very interesting.
-a very in-depth interview on the new lead law. Turns out thrift stores might not be so safe after all, and home artisans certainly aren't.
-a bio of Laud, along with a heartfelt prayer of his for the unity of the church. These words express the prayer of my heart better than I ever could: "O merciful God, since Thou hast ordered me to live in these times, in which the rents of Thy Church are grievous; I humbly beseech Thee to guide me, that the divisions of men may not separate me either from Thee or it . . ."
-This method of writing/plotting a novel, based on the way computer programmers write programs, is incredible. Helpful for rewriting, too!
-Following the Laud prayer above, R.A. Torrey on what to do when you're in a church where the pastor is preaching falsehood.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Sunday, January 11, 2009

from the earliest days

One of the things I've committed to doing this year is reading through the Bible. It's been awhile since I've done it. Last year I spent a lot of time reading the Psalms, which was perfect for the tumultuous year it was, but I've missed the rest of it.

I found a plan for reading through the Bible chronologically, that is, as the event occurred in real time. I've never read through it this way before, and it's very interesting. There you are, reading about Abraham being born, and all of the sudden, you're being told the story of Job. The Psalms are interspersed with the tales of the kings of Israel, and even a few of the prophets and a bit of the story of Moses.

Anyway, I'm in the middle of Job now, the oldest book of the Bible, and what's striking is how, even there, in the earliest of times, those following God longed for the resurrection of the dead. Longed for it, and connected that longing with God's love of His people. How can you read these lines and not feel heartstruck?

But man dies and is laid away;
Indeed he breathes his last
And where is he?
As water disappears from the sea,
And a river becomes parched and dries up,
So man lies down and does not rise.
Till the heavens are no more,
They will not awake
Nor be roused from their sleep.
Oh, that You would hide me in the grave,
That You would conceal me until Your wrath is past,
That You would appoint me a set time, and remember me!
If a man dies, shall he live again?
All the days of my hard service I will wait,
Till my change comes.
You shall call, and I will answer You;
You shall desire the work of Your hands.

Job was, among other things, a prophet. Because isn't this exactly what happened? God did set a time, and then remember him. And the security of Job, to be able to tell God, "You shall desire the work of your hands."

I often think of the ancient days a some entirely foreign time. Something unrelated to me, thinking that of course people were different then. But then I read the words of Job, the oldest of Biblical writers (or dictators, I suppose), and find that he expresses my heart's longing more eloquently than anyone alive today.

There is something in that continuity that expresses, not the universality of human hope, but the constancy of God's love. Because neither Job nor I would have known that we wanted life after death unless God had put it in our hearts to want it, and then answered that desire in a way that no one but Himself could have. In order to share that life after death, He became a man. A man who could die, but who also could, like no other man, rise from that death back into life, because He was also God. Because He became like us, He was able to die. And because we are like Him in sharing death (because He was willing to become like us), we're able to follow Him through that death into His own Life. He made a way, a road, where there was no way, and no road. He made Himself the road.

And to think that Job saw this, or some shadow of this, so long ago. And then saw the thing itself happen, centuries after he had died. Can you imagine? I don't understand everything about the harrowing of hell, or where the righteous dead were before Christ came to earth, but don't you think Job recognized it when it happened? Can you imagine being him, and seeing Christ rise triumphant?

"You shall desire the work of your hands."

He did. Praise Him!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, January 9, 2009


Though I don't have a moral objection to all forms of birth control (there are some obvious problems with some of them), I have to admit I have a hard time answering posts like this. Of course, there is also this wise post (hat tip to Amy's Humble Musings) that says, "I don't know how many children people should have. I do know we should pray a whole lot more about it."

Pray for the Kennedys. (And wow, what a letter.)

Today Saint Fillan's Hand Probably Glowed.

And, finally, don't you wish you could go to Ma Torg's King's Day Party? They even had a Lord of Misrule! Two of them!

Them's the links.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

7 Quick Takes

I do love listening to NPR, biased as they are, but recently I haven’t been able to help but wonder how in the world they’re going to fill their hours of programming once they’re deprived of the time-consuming, mouth-filling phrase “President-elect Barack Obama.” Seriously, if they just cut that phrase out of the last week of programming, they’d only have enough words to fill three days. Well, that phrase coupled with “slobber, slobber, slobber.”

I have winterized my patio. Here in SoCal, that means I uprooted the basil that finally died (no more fresh basil for a couple of months - yes, we're spoiled here) and replaced it with lantanas and geraniums. My excellent husband also rearranged the stuff on the patio so that we now see green plants out of our living room window rather than grill and pots. Yay! I love the view out of our window now.

The problem with 11 month old twins is there isn’t an older one to whom you can tell, “no, share with your sister; she’s younger than you, you know.”

It goes like this at our house:
Anna: yay, I’m playing with the phone. This rocks.
Lucy: ooh, phone. –snatch!-

Making a craft tutorial is hard! I never thought it wasn’t, but now that I’m actually working on one myself, I’m finding I have scads more admiration for the folks who’ve made the ones I’ve used in the past. It takes awhile to take all the pictures, just to start.

Also, I have an admiration for other folks’ photography abilities. And the quality of their camaras!

It is very hard to be in RSV quarantine when your church is in the middle of deciding what it’s going to do about being in the Episcopal Church. Our church is having a meeting this Sunday that’s going to be hours and hours long, and I can’t go. (The twins nurse about every two hours, and our church is half an hour away, which means I could be there for an hour, tops, as the twins can’t be out in crowds this winter.)

On the other hand, I get a lot of practice praying and trusting God, since I can’t do much about the situation myself!

You know the previous entry? Well, suffice it to say, that these days, I’m really, really, really wishing I could convert to Catholicism.

(I can’t in good conscience, for various theological reasons, but to my Roman Catholic readers – and Eastern Orthodox - boy I envy you both your persistent orthodoxy and your unity!)

It sounds like we might still be able to buy used kids’ clothes at thrift stores – the CPSC has further clarified the lead law going into effect in February. It still leaves small artisans in the cold, but it’s a start!

Thanks to Jen for hosting the Quick Takes - visit her site for more!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

a sinner's new year

I have a confession: I like New Year’s Resolutions. They work for me. My best one was when I resolved to either get twenty rejections or at least one acceptance letter (to article queries). I figured I couldn’t control whether or not someone wanted to publish me, but I could control how many decided NOT to, just by making sure I submitted to that many. I ended up with about five or six rejections and three acceptances, which was a dream come true.

That experience taught me that New Year’s resolutions can be practical tools, rather than misty aspirations. The key seems to be to think about it a lot first: to think, what is it I want to change? Ideally, how would I bring that change about? And then – and this is the step I think a lot of people miss – realistically, what’s a step I can take toward that change? Because you can’t, say, guarantee that you’ll lose twenty pounds. There are so many variables there. What you can do is take control of one or two of those variables, and work on them till it makes a difference.

The other piece of this method is realizing that your will is only the smaller piece of the puzzle. While it is ours to direct our wills, the primary thing we’re supposed to be doing with them is submitting them to God’s will. I think that He made me with intelligence, and means me to attack the problems in my life with my wits, but He also means me to submit all my conclusions to Him.

Practically this means:
1) praying about my resolutions.
2) realizing that trying to control my selected variable might not work.

Regarding the latter: I don’t make unbreakable resolutions, because I don’t know what God has for me this next year. I make “as-far-as-it-depends-on-me-and-oh-yeah-I’m-a-fallable-sinner” resolutions. Any number of things might happen that would keep me from keeping my resolutions, and if those unforeseen events are events over which I have no control, I don’t want to beat myself up. E.g., if I resolve to go running every day, and I break my leg while walking to the car, I’m not going to castigate myself for breaking my resolution when I’m not out jogging the next day.

So, my resolutions go like this: I want X, so I resolve to do Y in pursuit of that this year, by the grace of God, given that my life in December reasonably resembles my life in January.

And regarding the former, praying about my resolutions, well, that’s why I’m still finalizing them, even though it’s now the second week of January. I want time to really think and pray about my goals for this year, and so I’ve only made a couple of resolutions: to read through the Bible and to pray the hours (in a modified manner I’ll discuss in the next post).

I’m still pondering some ideas about fitness, writing, parenting and housekeeping, but I don’t feel any clarity on those resolutions, and I won’t make them till I’m sure.

But I do like resolutions. Anyone else, or am I the only weirdo?

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Happy Epiphany!

I hope your Christmas was good and glorious. Our was. For the first time all year, I felt like we caught up with ourselves.

Last year at this time, I was in a hospital bed, away from my oldest two children, wondering if my youngest two would make it safely home.

I am so grateful to have all six of us here now, and I am hoping that this year we can really sink into being a family of six, able to enjoy each other, now that the twinshock is starting to fade, and no one is hospitalized. God has been very, very good to us. I don't know what the next year will bring - whether joy or sorrow - but this year has taught us that whatever comes, we won't go through it alone.

Anyway, to start this year, Epiphany! I encourage you to go over to Kerry's, where she has some great suggestions for celebrating the season as a family.

While you're clicking links, also visit Emily's, where she breaks down the awful new law going into effect nation-wide in February: the lawmakers meant to protect our kids from lead, but the effect is that we won't be able to buy any secondhand children's clothing or toys at thrift stores or handmade children's clothing or toys at places like Yep. Pretty awful.

And me? I'm finishing the LAST of the handmade Christmas presents (yes, still) and beginning to work on a few of my own projects that I've been waiting to work on - and also working on a couple of tutorials that should be up in the next week or so.

And I'm praying a lot for my church, which is getting caught up in a bad way in the horrible things going on in the Episcopal church. Please pray for us.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell