Thursday, April 30, 2009


I love Kelly's reflection on Dorothy Sayers excellent essay "Are Women Human?" (which I commented on briefly here), in regards to mothering and homemaking.

Kerry has posted a great list of resources for those who are, like me, just starting their homeschooling journey. Thanks, Kerry!

In other news, I've decided that I need to start mindfully skimming my huge stack of books on homeschooling, instead of trying to read every word!

And this sort of post is why I appreciate the writers over at Touchstone so much. An excerpt:

What makes me nervous about movements of men that emphasize the subordination of women is that (1) how the Christian doctrine works out in practice is based upon a mystery that includes the woman's full equality to the man, so to those outside may not look very much like women's subordination in any crass or obvious sense, and (2) these operations are very much the creative province not of conferences of men, but of faithful women, not doing what they do because of the demands the law of the male places upon them--however just that law may be--but because they love the men to whom they are committed, so follow the lesser law within the greater. Christian women living near the center of their faith are simply too accomplished, too strong, too well-integrated, too wise, too fruitful, and too happy, to satisfy the expectations of either feminism or the subordinationism of those who would make them less than they are. Christian men living near the center of their faith like them that way, and trust them with their lives.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, if you don't subscribe to Touchstone, you should. I don't always agree with the editors entirely, but they think incisively and prayerfully, and their writing is always worth reading.

The owner of Get Rich Slowly interviews his millionaire neighbor. Fascinating stuff.

Here's a long one, but for anyone still in the Episcopal Church, I think it's a must-read. We're still here, but are, Lord willing, going to be out by the end of the year. (The specifics about why we're still here are complicated, but the general reason is because we're hoping we won't be leaving alone.) Anyway, this article is about "TEC 'Stayers'".

Finally, a very interesting interview with the author of the new book called "The End of Overeating". I've ordered a copy from the library, because the interview made me curious enough. Hat tip to Jen.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mortar and Pestle

We buy cardamom as whole seeds at a local small market (because at the big grocery store, ground cardamom is about $18 a bottle!), which means we have to grind it ourselves.

I'm sure it'd be faster to use the coffee grinder, but there's something so satisfying about a mortar and pestle. When we buy a new packet of seeds, the mortar and pestle usually stays out for a week or two, and we give it a few good pounds every once in a while in passing.

The kids love to help with this too . . . pounding spices is a good, aggressive activity for, say, a three-year-old boy.

And it makes the kitchen smell heavenly. Makes you realize why spices used to be subject to tithing. They're that good.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Putting Things in Their Places

After all the church year fun with St. George’ Day last week, I thought I’d write a bit about the homemaking side of things.

We’ve been in our new place for almost a year, and I think I can finally say that we’re really moved in. Everything’s unpacked that’s going to be unpacked, and though there are a few pictures yet to be hung, I feel okay saying that we’ve settled in.

Now comes what feels like the fun part: settling the things that have settled. When we moved, things all found a place, but not everything found its proper place. There are corners that attract clutter and corners that attract books; there are surfaces that attract papers and surfaces that attract craft projects. (And every place attracts toys.) So now I am working on clearing out the corners and clearing off the surfaces and beginning to make places for all the things that have settled where they shouldn’t.

It’s a lovely job, because I feel like I can take it a bit at a time. There aren’t any huge projects lying about anymore, things that must-be-done-now-or-we-won’t-have-a-surface-to-eat-dinner-on. No, these are the little things that slowly make the house feel more peaceful. The top of the piano now only has plants and candles and pictures (and a small pink matruska), rather than plants and candles and pictures and papers and hair things. The sewing desk now has the sewing machine, a few other necessary objects, and a large, clear surface on which to work. The space behind the coffee table where Things Accumulated now mostly is just home to the basket of library books and a big canvas bag of folded fabric. The bar between the kitchen and the dining room looks pretty now, because the plants on it are no longer hiding behind piles of mail and scads of errant notepads.

There’s more to do – lots – but it’s all satisfying little pieces. Now I can take a breath and think and say, “where should this go? Should it even be here? How can this space be best used?” It’s work, but it’s peaceful work, and I’m glad that we’ve gotten to this point.

I was glad for the move, too, and I’m sure the big, urgent projects will come again. But while I’m in this season, I want to notice and enjoy it.

And I'm finding that, after I really think through a certain space, and arrange in in the things that ought to be there, and take out the things that shouldn't, that it's easier to keep it clean than it used to be. I don't know if I can eventually get the whole condo that way, but I've never had a place that was all ours before - that we weren't renting and/or sharing - so maybe it's different when you have complete say over the space? I'm wondering if that will make it easier to make order and keep order. It seems to be, so far. But even if not, I'm happy with improvement; I don't need perfection.

Upon reflection, this is what my spring cleaning looks like this year. It's not deep-cleaning, it's deep organization. How about you? Have you done either spring cleaning or spring organization? And if you've ever moved from a rented home to an owned home, have you found it easier to organize after the move? I'm curious if my experience corresponds with others.

Though, the truth is, no home here is our home; we are always on pilgrimage. And we're called to be good stewards of whatever is entrusted to our care - rented or owned. So perhaps it shouldn't make so much difference after all.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, April 24, 2009

St. George's Day Cookies

I give you a battle royale:
First, the characters are created:

The battle lines are drawn:

Our hero takes up his sword and addresses his foe:

The dragon is soon vanquished:

St. George triumphant:

Thanks for the icing, Mom!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, April 23, 2009

DIY: Button-Embellished Bobby Pins

I'm sure you've seen pricey embellished bobby-pins in stores. And you might have even thought, I bet I can do that.

Well, I'm here to tell you, yes you can.

I'm not sure why we have a hot-glue gun in our house, but I'm certain that it was my husband, and not I, who brought it into our marriage. Because I'm pretty sure this was my first attempt at crafting using a hot glue gun:

And here's a shot of the back, to show you how easy it was:

A few buttons, a few bobby pins. Slide the button of your choice onto the bobby pin, and then put a dab of hot glue on there to make sure it stays in place. That's it. If you want to get fancy, slide the bobby pin onto some cardstock or wax paper first, so the hot glue doesn't glue it closed. If you're me, risk burning your fingers by holding the bobby pin apart while the glue dries (no, wait, don't do that!).

I'm so psyched at how well these turned out! If you try it, I hope you have as much fun as I did.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Thursday is St. George's Day

. . . and Kerry has some great ideas about how to celebrate!

Also, if you want some fun reading, I enjoyed this article called "Scratch That: how cost-effective is it to make homemade pantry staples?"

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

on homeschooling, part III

Well, a few weeks ago, our family went to the “kindergarten round-up” at our local elementary school, in our continuing effort to discern whether we should send our oldest to public school next year or not.

I honestly thought that once we went and heard about the programs and toured the classrooms, that our minds would be made up, and that I’d be able to send Bess there with a light heart.

“I thought this would help me know what to do!” I cried to my husband, as we left the multi-purpose room and headed towards the classrooms.

“I think it has,” he said, “it just didn’t help you the way you wanted it to.”

And that’s the truth of it. Sitting through that kindergarten round-up meeting felt like sitting through a meeting where they were trying to sell me time shares. High-pressure pushing of a product that really didn’t sound like anything I’d want to buy. “We have kindergarteners publishing stories! We have third-graders starting businesses! Does anyone need the before-school daycare to open at 6:30 rather than 7? Make sure you read to your child; make sure you give her a good breakfast and we’ll do the rest!” (I paraphrase, but indulge me.)

And then there was the assurance that being an all-day kindergarten meant that they had time “to do the fun stuff too”. Which made me wonder, what do you think we do at home?

All in all, it felt like they were trying to be everything to their students, when what I wanted them to be was just a school. I'm okay sending my kids to a school. I'm not okay sending my kids to an whole other life.

And I know that many kids probably, sadly, do need the school to be everything to them. But my kids have parents, and while I’m glad to let someone else school them, I am not willing to have someone else parent them. That is my job. More than that, it’s my vocation and my duty and my joy.

So, we are going to homeschool Bess for kindergarten.

Is this a decision to homeschool all our kids for all time? No. I still think that they will end up in the public school system at some point. I still think there is great value in learning to navigate through life among people who don’t believe what you believe or act the way you wish that they would act.

But there are two big reasons why this is not the year for that for us.

1) Bess. Much of it comes down to this one child and what would be best for her as a person, this year. While I think she would do well in a three-hour kindergarten program (like they used to have), I think that she would do badly in this high-intensity, all-day environment. She’s the sort who would get revved-up and not come down easily. Day after day after day. I think that being gone almost as long each day as her father is gone for work would wear her down. She would also be, because of her birthday, one of the younger children in the program, which is not an enviable position. Finally, because of our crazy year this last year, I think she could benefit from at least one more year at home – a year where we don’t have two infants taking up an inordinate share of her parents’ energy.
2) I’ve long believed public schooling can be done well, and can be done poorly. I’ve also long believed that homeschool can be done well, and can be done poorly. This year, I think we would do public schooling worse than we would do homeschooling. With three young children at home, I simply could not be the involved parent that I think public school parents need to be. It’s quite possible that once the twins are five or older I might put all the kids in public school, because then I will be free to volunteer in their classrooms, go to events, conference easily with teachers, etc. But I can’t do that right now. This year, I would make a better homeschool parent than I would a public school parent.

So now? Now I have a lot of research to do! I’m glad we’ve made this decision now, so that I have time to read up on all of this, to look into extra-curriculars in our neighborhood, and to think and pray about how best to do this new venture. It’s convenient that in California schooling is not compulsory till age 6, so I can make this year’s experiment without any restrictions. There are no official lines that I must toe, though I plan on making sure that Bess is competent in all the areas outlined in the California education guidelines for kindergarteners. I don’t think that will be hard, as she’s already halfway there. But it’s nice to have a year to try and get our footing, and see if this is something that will work for us, without there being any huge penalty if we fail.

So, if you have any advice for where to start (right now I’m reading Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense, and have The Well-Trained Mind also on my reading list), I’d be glad to hear it.

Also, for any of the homeschool moms who read this who are also writers, or who pursue another avocation, I’m very interested in how you find time for that avocation in the middle of homsechooling. It does seem to me like it won’t be much different from how I find time for it now (not as often as I like, and only with great self-discipline and sacrifice), since I’ll just be replacing some play time with some study time (and those two things aren’t that different at this age), but I’m aware that every time you add something to your life, something else must go to make room for it. What are the trade-offs? How do you make them? Any tips?

Thanks again to everyone who commented and conversed with me as we made this decision. I don’t know where this path is going to lead in the years to come, but I’m glad to know what we’re doing this year. I hope we do it well. I think, with God’s help, we will.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, April 20, 2009

What I've Been Reading, Part I

I’m keeping track of my reading this year; I think it’ll be interesting to see what and how much I’ve read at the end of 2009. Also, last year, with the hospital and the babies and all, I got out of the habit of reading books, preferring the easy junk food reads of Magazine and Internets.

So, keeping track of what I read is also a way of motivating myself to read more. A couple of weeks ago, I was reading about 7 books at once (no, I’m not kidding, I think that was the actual number), but now I’m down to 3 or 4 (The Lady of the Lake, Never Silent, Local Custom, Lord Valentine’s Castle, Introduction to the Devout Life, The Riddle of the Reluctant Rake, Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense and The Partner – okay, guess it’s more like 8). I thought it’d be fun to post my list here, and then update it when I have more to add, along with a short paragraph or two per read, reviewing the book.

So this first post will be a bit long, catching up with the first three and a half months of the year, but the following ones should be shorter.

First up, several books on weight loss, not all of which I actually read cover-to-cover. Some, I skimmed. Why weight loss? ‘cause I was sick of the baby weight, and I tend to lose weight when I read about losing weight. Yes, I’m weird. It’s not weight-loss-by-osmosis (I wish), but more like getting my head in the game. Feels a bit like osmosis though. Anyway, it worked: I’m happily below the weight I was when I got pregnant with my first child. Yay!

3 Fat Chicks on a Diet – Barnett, Suzanne, Jennifer and Amy
Finally Thin! – Bensen, Kim
Naturally Thin – Frankel, Bethenny (didn’t even actually finish)
The Big Skinny – Lay, Carol (skimmed recipes at end)
3 Fat Chicks was basically a bunch of reviews of various diet plans. Finally Thin! was a testimonial, more or less. Naturally Thin had lots of good ideas (most of which equaled: “eat less!”), but the author’s voice was almost unendurably mean girl (well, mean-girl-trying-to-be-supportive, which is almost worse). The Big Skinny is actually a graphic novel about weight loss. The author was just a tad obsessive, but the illustrations were great, and some of the visual gags were really funny, and the story of her journey was interesting. If you’re going to read one of these books, go with the graphic novel.

The Uncommon Reader – Bennett, Alan
Bennett’s book I heartily recommend. It’s a novella, and so short and smooth that you’re done almost as soon as you turn the first page. He’s so good that you barely notice you’re reading. Basic plot: the Queen discovers a roving library and becomes a reader, to the great distress of her family and staff. I’ve never really read anyone write about reading the way Bennett does, but if you’re a reader yourself, you’ll identify with the titular heroine (even if you are, unlike her, a reader of the common variety).

The Sharing Knife: Horizon – Bujold, Lois McMaster
Bujold is amazing. She just is. Though this one, like most of the Sharing Knife books, gave me disturbing dreams. I don’t know whether to recommend it or not: it’s a good book, but I don’t know if it’s a good book, if you know what I mean. Go read Shards of Honor instead, or give A Civil Campaign a go (for the twenty-third time).

Engaging Father Christmas – Gunn, Robin Jones
Gunn’s romance is short and sweet and, I’m pretty sure, a sequel to something I never happened to pick up.

The Children of Men – James, P. D.
I’d seen the movie, so I decided to read the book. I liked both, but they’re very different from each other, and the changes from book to movie were interesting.
The premise is that the world is hit with universal infertility. The book talks a lot more about what this would do to the human heart and hence to civil life; the movie is a bit more of a thrill ride.
The book is fascinating. Like the other James book I read, the ending left me unsatisfied. Also like the other James book I read, the writing left me awestruck. James is an absolute master of the English language.

Marrying the Captain – Kelly, Carla
Ah, I like Carla Kelly, and this is a good one. I read it back at the beginning of the year, so it’s not entirely clear in my mind anymore, but I remember that it takes place in a port town in England, near the shipyards, and that both characters and plot were compelling. (I think there were probably some sex scenes between the married characters, though I don’t remember; the author is religious, and tends toward the inoffensive in these things. But, you know, reader beware.) I loved the feel I got for the port town in Kelly’s writing, and the obstacles she put in the way of her main characters’ happiness were truly daunting. Kelly tends to be heavy on the “historical” part of “historical romance”, which to my mind is no bad thing. She’s definitely a romance author, but one who reminds me of Patrick O’Brien and Bernard Cornwell.

Agent of Change – Lee, Sharon and Miller, Steve
Carpe Diem – Lee, Sharon and Miller, Steve
Conflict of Honors – Lee, Sharon and Miller, Steve
I Dare – Lee, Sharon and Miller, Steve
Plan B – Lee, Sharon and Miller, Steve
The above five books are all part of the Liaden series by Lee and Miller, and after Bujold’s Vorkosigan books, are my favorite sci-fi books. They are not hard sci-fi, and instead tend towards the space operatic.
They are pure joys. I love that the authors uninhibitally give their heroes all sorts of wonderful skills. Our hero is a master trader, a master pilot, speaks four languages fluently, is part of the aristocracy and, oh yes, has wizardly mind powers. Of course! And did we mention he was rich?
There are fascinating new worlds, several fascinating societies, compelling plot, imminent danger, gun fights, romance, world-imperiling, world-saving and family drama. And fire-ball-throwing. And secret-agenting. Pretty much anything you could ask for in a good read.
These are the books my husband and I have been reading aloud to each other to get through the evening chores. They’re so much fun they make me want to do the dishes every night.

Betsy, Tacy – Lovelace, Maud Hart
Lovelace’s Betsy series was one of my favorite book series growing up. It starts here, with Betsy, Tacy, and follows Betsy all the way through childhood, into adulthood and marriage. A special favorite of mine is Betsy and the Great World, in which Betsy travels through Europe right before the outbreak of the Great War.
This time reading through Betsy, Tacy was on the occasion of my eldest becoming old enough to be interested in chapter books. I can’t tell you what a joy it was to share one of my favorite books with my own daughter, and have her love it as much as I did.

Writing the Breakout Novel – Maass, Donald
This was recommended to me by my writing mentor, and it is excellent. If you’re a fiction writer, you should read this. I’d read a chapter or so while helping my son fall asleep (he’s had trouble sleeping since we transitioned him out of his pack-n-play and into a regular bed, so I’ll sit beside him for ten minutes or so at naptime, and remind him to keep his eyes closed till he nods off), and then come downstairs and write down notes about what I needed to change in my novel.
I especially appreciate Maass’ thoughts on heightening the stakes for your main character, but really, it’s all good, useful stuff.
As a bonus, I’ve started reading several of the books he uses for examples of various principles, and am really enjoying them.

Are Women Human? – Sayers, Dorothy
The short answer is “yes”. The longer answer concerns what that “yes” implies. Sayers says that if women are human first, and female second, then they have vocations, or “proper work” just as men (human first, male second) do.
This essay was out of print for awhile, but is now back. I highly recommend it.

Quo Vadis? – Sienkiewicz, Henryk
This one took me a long time to read mostly, I think, because it is in translation, and though I had a good translation, translated books just don’t read very naturally (I wonder if this is part of why it’s hard to read the Bible, sometimes?).
But well worth the read. The picture that Sienkiewicz paints of the early church in Rome is enthralling and convicting. Though I did not entirely buy the romance at the heart of the story, and am not entirely sure I buy the characterizations of Peter and Paul (especially their tender feelings about said romance), I was both fascinated and horrified by the accounts of the suffering of the church under Nero. Fascinated, horrified, and humbled. Especially as I recalled that what they went through is not so different than what other Christians in the world are going through right now. A good book for fixing your mind back onto the truth of our calling, and what it costs and what it is worth.

Well, hopefully in a month or two, I'll have those other eight books finished (ha!) and have more to share. btw, this is largely inspired by Melissa Wiley's excellent blog; if you want some good ideas for reading, go there (that's where I heard about Uncommon Reader). Anyone else have ideas for making my list longer? :)

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

so, feigning madness isn't deceptive

Just another interesting tidbit as I do this chronological read-through of the Bible this year: in Psalm 34, David advises us:

Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Who is the man who desires life,
And loves many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil,
And your lips from speaking deceit.

The thing is, this psalm was written by David after he pretended madness before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed.

So . . . are there people it's okay to deceive?

Or maybe that's only if you're the anointed one of the Lord? (Not being sarcastic there.)

Just something I noticed and thought was odd. Odd in an hmm, want to ponder that further sort of a way. Is this being wise as a serpent? Is, "confusion to the enemy!" an acceptably Biblical principle?

And . . . after Christ has come, who is our enemy? Is deception of enemies a strictly old convenant okay thing?

Or, upon further thought, did "speaking deceit" mean something different to David than it does to me? And, if so, what?

I really don't know the answer to any of those questions. But it's interesting.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Star Trek, de Sales and the Passionless Life

So, I have a theory. As I wrote earlier, I’ve been reading St. Francis de Sales, and thinking about the passions, and about the very Christian idea that it’s good to live a passionless life.

That does sound odd, but a passionless life is not a life without purpose. In fact, quite the opposite. It’s a life where our toddler desires (I need! I want! Mommy!) have been quieted, and we instead listen to the voice of our Lord (what do you want? Father, your will be done). Passion is replaced by vocation and the tempests of self are replaced with the calm and peace and vastness of the Holy Spirit.

So, I have been thinking of the good life, and thence of good people. The people who live lifes of virtue, who are windows through which you can see Christ, who have quieted their passions and in the place of passion are wholly dedicated to their Lord. Whose eyes have found a fixed point at which to look and who are making steady and daily progress towards their goals.

Aren’t these the people you love best? The ones you admire? The ones who truly live, truly love, who are most admirable and most interesting? (They are interesting, I think, because they actually do things. Whether writing books or raising children or teaching or fixing things or studying. They work and they pray, and thus their lives have content.)

Okay, so, my theory. Here’s where I stop sounding pious and start sounding really nerdy. I think that this is why the best characters in Star Trek are always the “emotionless” ones. Think Spock, think Data, think the Doctor (the one likeable guy in the whole mess that was Voyager). Why are these always the guys you want by your side?

Because they are the ones in whom the self is quiet, who are focused on their goals, in whom is found virtue. Everyone else on the ship is pulled by waves of emotion, of desire, of need. They are loud, they are melodramatic, they are whiney. They are passionate. But not they are not good, not like Spock and Data are good.

Of course, it’s Star Trek, and so it is “emotionless” and not “passionless”. It is, of course, not the Christian idea at all. And so the analogy breaks down pretty quickly. (Being passionless is far from being emotionless, for instance. Spock won’t smile; a Christian will, often.) But I think that for a secular show like that, it's a good reflection of the idea.

And it shows up well. Who are the virtuous men on the Enterprise? The ones who will do the right thing in any instance, and not with a huge-force-of-will-oh-grunt-and-groan-this-is-so-heroic-of-me! ? Spock and Data. They don’t have to stop and ask, “is it good for me?” They’ve already decided that what is best for them is what is right, and so their emotions don’t come into it. In their case, the lack of emotion has made room for the growth of virtue, just as for the Christian, a lack of passion (me, me, me! want, want, want!) makes room for the growth of Christ-likeness.

Immaturity makes for good drama (Kirk: ooh, woman, want!), but it doesn’t make for a good friend. I’d even add that the second-most attractive characters in the Star Trek series are the ones who, in their humanity, come closest to the detachment of Spock and Data: people like McCoy and Picard. Men who do have their passions still, here and there, but who have largely subordinated their passions to their vocations.

It seems to be a question of asking what do I want? instead of what do I want? Not what are my small desires filling up my mind at the moment – the demands of the god of the belly – but what am I made for? How do I pursue that telos, that end? It’s the peace of having the answer and pursuing it, rather than endlessly asking the question.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Good Friday

Yesterday was Good Friday, and it was a memorable one for our family. Due to some sleep issues, our twins ended up napping in the middle of the day, which meant that we missed the Good Friday service at church. Instead, we read through the Passion Gospel (John 18-19) with our older two children. While my husband read it, I turned the corresponding pages in one their illustrated children's Bible, so they could better picture the story their dad was reading them.

And, in the middle of the day, we got news that my husband's grandfather had fallen asleep in the Lord. It came after a long battle with cancer, and there was something fitting in that this servant of the Lord, who spent his whole life bringing the gospel to people who hadn't heard it, and translating the words of Jesus into the heart-language of those who didn't have the Bible in their native tongue, would share the day of his death with his Savior.

Our older two children had been praying for their great-grandpa for months now, and when it began to look like this illness might be his last, we explained to them that he might die, so that they wouldn't be surprised or scared when and if that happened. Only a few days ago, Bess asked, "why are we praying for him if Jesus might not make him better?" And we explained about sickness and death and prayers that aren't always answered the way we wish they were answered. And about things we could pray for for him besides healing - though we would continue to pray for that.

And then that led to talk of Heaven - and I wish that Bess' great-grandpa could have seen her eyes light up as she realized that Heaven meant that someday we'd all be together and none of us would ever be sick anymore and that we'd all be with Jesus. We could tell, watching her, that she understood something she hadn't understood ever before in her short life. In that moment, she got it, and the light in her eyes was a reflection, I think, of the joy of the redeemed there in the presence of God.

I know that there was much more going on in Adam's grandfather's life and in his death than I will ever know, but that small moment was a treasure. Even as he fought his last battle, that battle was bringing one of his great-grandchildren into a better understanding and love of the Lord he served so long and so well. It is a small thing, and does not say anything to the loss, but is, I think, a testimony to the way he lived his life. Rest in peace, Pop-Pop.

O Almighty God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, who by a voice from heaven didst proclaim, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord: Multiply, we beseech thee, to those who rest in Jesus the manifold blessings of thy love, that the good work which thou didst begin in them may be made perfect unto the day of Jesus Christ. And of thy mercy, O heavenly Father, grant that we, who now serve thee on earth, may at last, together with them, be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; for the sake of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, April 9, 2009

on reading while flossing my teeth

TwoSquareMeals asked how I read while brushing and flossing my teeth. I must be weird; not everyone does this? But, here's how I do it: I put my book down on the bathroom counter and hold it open with the toothpaste. I then have to stop brushing for a moment while my husband takes the toothpaste to put some on his toothbrush. And I have to move the toothpaste up and down the page periodically, so I can see all the words.

This works better with a full tube of toothpaste. When the tube's running low, I use my glasses case, but that isn't as heavy and doesn't work as well.

Magazines (like Touchstone!) also make great toothcare reading, 'cause you don't have to hold them open with anything.

And yes, I have to stop brushing or flossing every minute or so, in order to turn pages.

But, um, extra reading time! So worth it. I think.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

"See that ye fall not out by the way"

I'm very slowly reading through St. Francis de Sales' "Introduction to the Devout Life" in the evenings when I brush and floss my teeth. I recently came across a section that's been running through my head since I read it, because it struck me that the Lord wanted me to think about it in the context of how I mother. I thought I'd share it, because all toddlers and preschooler are annoying at least part-time, and I thought there were probably other moms out there who struggle with anger when they discipline their children.

Here it is:

When the Patriarch Joseph sent his brethren back from Egypt to his father's house, he only gave them one counsel, "See that ye fall not out by the way." And so, my child, I say to you. This miserable life is but the road to a blessed life; do not let us fall out by the way with one another; let us go on with the company of our brethren gently, peacefully, and kindly. Most emphatically I say it, If possible, fall out with no one, and on no pretext whatever suffer your heart to admit anger and passion. St. James says, plainly and unreservedly, that "the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God." Of course it is a duty to resist evil and to repress the faults of those for whom we are responsible, steadily and firmly, but gently and quietly . . . Correction given in anger, however tempered by reason, never has so much effect as that which is given altogether without anger; for the reasonable soul being naturally subject to reason, it is a mere tyranny which subjects it to passion, and wherever reason is led by passion it becomes odious, and its just rule obnoxious. When a monarch visits a country peaceably the people are gratified and flattered; but if the king has to take his armies through the land, even on behalf of the public welfare, his visit is sure to be unwelcome and harmful, because, however strictly military discipline may be enforced, there will always be some mischief done to the people. Just so when reason prevails, and administers reproof, correction, and punishment in a calm spirit, although it be strict, everyone approves and is content. But if reason be hindered by anger and vexation . . . there will be more fear than love, and reason itself will be despised and resisted." (emphasis mine)

I think somewhere I picked up the idea that it was good to let my children see my anger at their misdeeds, because it showed them that their bad behavior was a serious matter. But I have been rethinking this, especially in light of what de Sales says here. Perhaps that is true of very serious things - I don't think it's bad to let them see how horrified I am when they almost run in front of a car, say (Lord keep us from that!) - but as a general rule, oughtn't I to be controlling my passions the way I want them to control theirs? What they should notice is how seriously I take doing the right thing, not how seriously I take my emotions. As de Sales says, "a calm spirit, though it be strict [and everyone] is content."

Anyone else thought about this?

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, April 3, 2009

"most blessed among women"

So, when you hear "most blessed among women", who do you think of?

I bet it's not Jael.

Okay, I haven't read any commentaries on this, so I'm not willing to venture any sure and certain thoughts on the significance of it, but that's what Jael is called in Judges, in the song of Deborah no less: "most blessed among women." Here it is with a bit more context; this comes right after Deborah has made fun of the tribes that didn't help in the battle, praised the ones who did, and noted the destruction of their enemies, with the Lord's help:

“Most blessed among women is Jael,
The wife of Heber the Kenite;
Blessed is she among women in tents.

He asked for water, she gave milk;
She brought out cream in a lordly bowl.

She stretched her hand to the tent peg,
Her right hand to the workmen’s hammer;
She pounded Sisera, she pierced his head,
She split and struck through his temple."

I've always liked the story of Jael. When I was a kid and had to find a Biblical costume for one of those Harvest Festivals some churchs have on Halloween, I went either as Lydia, seller of purple, or as Jael, with a homemade, red-stained, wooden peg.

But here's what I'm wondering now: given that such similar words are used both of Jael and of Mary, can I learn anything about Mary's obedience by studying Jael's, or about Jael's by studying Mary's? Or just something general about what obedience to the Lord looks like?

In both cases, it does seem to be a case of victory coming from an unexpected source. You don't expect an unarmed woman to kill a commander, nor do you expect the world's redeemer to be brought into the world through the coooperation of a young girl. In both cases, there isn't hesitation: both Jael and Mary are ready to pursue the Lord's will as soon as the opportunity offers. They must both have been in a constant state of readiness - not an anxious, tense, ready-for-action state, but in a place of openess, ready to hear the Lord when he called, ready to act when he wanted them to.

And though Jael's story involves much more cunning, you can almost hear Mary's question, "how can this be?" In Jael's case, she answered that question herself, there was no angel to tell her how that battle was to be won. But she, like Mary, was looking for the Lord's glory, had a searching mind that wanted to know how his plans were going to be accomplished. And it seems to me the Lord answered her all the same, even without the angel, by showing her immediately how to handle the opportunity that Sisera's arrival represented.

The rest of the song of Deborah is really interesting, and I don't think I'm done looking at it. But first I want to think a bit more about Jael and Mary. What does obedience look like? Though these are such different stories, it seems to me they both seem to say that it's important to pay attention, to listen, to keep your eyes open for ways to serve the Lord. You never know when Sisera is going to stumble by your tent, or an angel give you a strange salutation. And your answer to the question those sorts of situations represent should be that you'll do what the Lord wills.

What do you think - does that sound about right? I'm still thinking this paralell through, and I'm interested in hearing if anyone else sees this in there.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Getting Ready for Palm Sunday, and a Last Few Lenten Links

Hi folks!

I'm so excited - we get to go back to Sunday mass this week! It's been a long winter, but it's almost over. Our kids are really excited about seeing their friends again, and about processing around church with their palms.

One thing I'm doing to get ready for Palm Sunday is teaching our (older two) kids the chorus to "All Glory, Laud and Honor", which is what we sing while we process into church. There are two many verses for them to learn the whole hymn quite yet, but the chorus is only two lines long. I think it's an especially good one for children to learn, because it actually mentions children in the chorus:

"All glory, laud and honor to thee, Redeemer, King,
To whom the lips of children make sweet Hosannas! ring."

I spent some time at dinner last night explaining what some of the harder words mean to my oldest.

Is anyone else doing anything special to get ready for Palm Sunday?

Also, though Lent is almost over, here are a few more seasonal links:

-Amy at Splendor in the Ordinary talks about spring cleaning, and its liturgical meaning. I like the idea of getting everything done early, so you can concentrate on the Triduum.
-It's probably a little late for it this year, but to put in your list for next year, check out these Lenten fruit trees from On the Old Path - good idea for doing Lent with children!
-Also a little late for this year, but something I want to try next year: these annunciation shadow boxes from Chez Ouiz.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell