Monday, December 31, 2012

Books Read in 2012

Just the highlights:

Favorite new-to-me novelist: Megan Whalen Turner, by a landslide. Her Thief books, especially The King of Attolia, are absolutely the best new stories I found this year. 

Favorite new Christian fiction: Wish You Were Here, by Beth Vogt. Pretty as the city it's set in (Colorado Springs), and just as invigorating. A sweet, good romance.

The classics revisited: This year I reread Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy, and several of Lewis' works, including Till We Have Faces and The Great Divorce.

The classics for the first time: As far as I can recall, this year's read of Persuasion, by Jane Austen, was my first. I trust it won't be my last!

The Greeks: this year also include some research on the ancient Greeks. My world was broaded by Barry Cunliffe in The Extraordinary Voyage of Pytheas the Greek and by Lord William Taylor in  The Mycenaeans.

Memoir: Margie Haack's The Exact Place: a Memoir rang a clear, pure note.

Christian non-fiction: a trio of excellence here: Mathewes-Green's The Jesus Prayer: The Ancient Desert Prayer that Tunes the Heart to God Redmond's The God of the Mundane, and Sanders'  The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything. Oh, and Peterson's Keeping House: the Litany of Everyday Life! The faithful are still out there providing new encouragement, folks. And that in itself is an encouragement.  

The fantastical: Moon got better and better with Echoes of Betrayal and so did Sanderson, with  The Emperor’s Soul and Legion.

Best premise: Not my favorite ever of his, but if you're a Star Trek fan, you'll enjoy the fun experiment of Scalzi's Redshirts.

Favorite romances: And a year that includes both Heyer's Sylvester and Sayers' Gaudy Night could never be a wholly bad one. These two are still the best of the best.

In all, I read 66 books in their entirety this year (not counting numerous picture books - read over and over in their entirety), which is more than last year, but not more than the year before that.

I also wrote and edited a huge amount of words, but I don't know how to go about counting those books in this tally, so I'll leave them out. All in all, it was a great year for reading. And next year, I bet, will be even better.

My Operation Read Those Books experiment ends today. Final tally? During December I added four new non-fiction books to my Currently Reading shelf and finished up five. So . . . I came out ahead? I guess?

Either way, I think it restarted the habit of regularly reading non-fiction, so I'm considering it a success.

What about you? What were your best reads of 2012?

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, December 27, 2012

another rambley Christmas post

Hi! I'm still doing (but not blogging) the reading project. Still sick and trying to recover.

I spent today lazing around with Adam and the kids. There was more playing with new Christmas toys, more reading, more Battleship and Spot It! and coloring and such.

Last night my brother and his wife came over and we stayed up much too late, having much too much fun. It was lovely.

I'm ready for my ears and throat and nose to work properly again, but I'm just not going to complain about a day spent with the people I love best, in safety and plenty. Not every day can be like that, but this one was, and I'm grateful for the kindness of the Lord. He gives us days like this, too.*

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

*This reminds me of one of the reasons I love the Psalms: there is a Psalm for you, no matter what kind of day you're having. The Psalms will give you the words to thank, to curse, to cry, to triumph, to laugh, to mourn - whatever you need, the Psalms will help you know how to pray about it. Which shows that God is always ready to hear us, no matter what our feelings at the time. I'm glad of that, too. Because there are also days that are today's opposite, and his kindness isn't absent from them, either.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

St. Stephen's Day Musings

1. I'm still doing Operation Read Those Books. Augustine before Christmas, Eugene Peterson today. But . . .
2. I got sick. So I'm not blogging my book reading.

3. Despite being sick, I dosed up on helpful meds and made it to Christmas morning mass (so good!) and to our family's Christmas celebrations (also so good).

4. Now I'm trying very diligently to get better. Soup, tea, and rest.

5. Recuperation during Christmas week is not too shabby. Kids have lots of new toys to play with, my husband is home and kindly taking care of me . . . not too shabby.

6. Hope all of you dear readers are having a lovely holiday. Christ is born! Glorify him!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Sunday, December 23, 2012

the Magnificat . . . and a postscript on "The God of the Mundane"

Today's gospel reading included the Magnificat as recorded in Luke, and our bishop preached about Mary's obedience.

It was a good sermon, and he made it very clear that our job was to answer God the way Mary did, to say, "May it be to me according to your will," or, as our bishop put it, "Whatever you want, God."

As I listened, I thought, "this is what I wish had been touched on a bit more heavily in The God of the Mundane." Because I absolutely agree with Redmond that God loves ordinary people - and uses them, too! But the reason there is a God of the mundane is that there is a God who gives his people various callings: some ordinary, and some extraordinary. And it's not our business to decide which one we want to have; it's our business to say "yes" to the one God gives us.

Again, I don't think Redmond would disagree with me. But I wish there'd been a chapter just about this, to make it very clear. Maybe it could be in that sequel I hoped for. :) God decides not just how to use us - he decides what we are. He's not just our boss, he's our very creator, and so he knows what we're best suited for.

And so we don't have to worry. We just have to follow. Ready, waiting, and - when called - acting. Like Mary.

(And Lord, have mercy on us, because that's such an example to be trying to emulate!)

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Book Review: "The God of the Mundane" by Matthew B. Redmond

The God Of The MundaneThe God Of The Mundane by Matt B. Redmond
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the last chapter of this book the author, Matthew Redmond, points out, "This little book is not a call to do nothing. It is a call to be faithful right where you are, regardless of how mundane that place is."

It's a theme you can find elsewhere in classic Christian literature; the two works that came to mind again and again as I read were Brother Lawrence's "The Practice of the Presence of God" and Milton's powerful sonnet "On His Blindness". As Milton said, "God doth not need either man's works, or his own gifts. Who best bear his mild yoke, they serve him best."

In "The God of the Mundane", Redmond takes up that theme for a contemporary audience, asking if there's a God for the mother who's not changing the world, but only changing diapers. Or for the father who toils day after day in a job he dislikes because he loves his family and wants to support them.

Redmond's answer is that, yes, God is still God to those who live ordinary lives. And God finds us while we're doing our ordinary duties. Redmond even maintains that doing those ordinary duties is a way of "pushing back against the Fall". Feeding, clothing, and caring for our fellow humans is doing what we were created to do and a part of fixing the things that are broken in our world (he points out that the first job Man had was as a gardener).

I came away with the clear message that I ought not to feel guilty for not following a calling that was never mine in the first place, but ought instead to set my mind and heart to serving God in my current circumstances, the circumstances that He Himself gave me.

And I agree, but I do wonder if this would be a dangerous book for someone who was called to an un-ordinary, radical field of ministry - for the Jonah who was trying to run away. Occasionally, I also wonder if Redmond waxed a little too poetic about the ordinary - what is the role in the Christian life for those with the desire to do great and beautiful things to the glory of God?

But I never came away from this book with the feeling that Redmond wouldn't be able to handle those questions and quibbles. In fact, this book feels more like the start of a conversation than anything else; I want Redmond to write a sequel, dealing with all of the fascinating ideas he so successfully raised!

In the end, this is a heartening book. It's easy to read because the quality of the writing is so high, but also because the ideas are so interesting, and the kindness and intelligence of the author lights up every page. Recommended.

(This book was an Advance Review Copies (ARCs) sent by the publisher — common practice in the industry. No payment was accepted in exchange for a review or mention, and the reviewer was in no way obligated to review the book favorably.)

View all my reviews

Operation Read Those Books, Days 21-22

(You can read more about Operation Read Those Books here.)

For Day 21, I finished reading The God of the Mundane, by Matthew B. Redmond (final review coming soon).

For Day 22, I finished reading The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. Again. (It's still good.)

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, December 21, 2012

Links - Children, Christmas, and December

And I told my son something I tell everybody, all the time, when they run into something confusing or disheartening about the way the Catholic Church is run: Honey, what did you expect? This is what it looks like when you have a universal church, a church that lets everyone in -- a church that wants everyone to come in. And that includes sticklers, ad libbers, scowlers, memo-missers, chiders, and the generally clueless. I guarantee you, it's just as chaotic and nutty behind the scenes at St. Peter's as it is in the sacristy of your typical shoestring parish.
But it can be frustrating, never knowing what to do, and never seeming to do it right, no matter how hard you try -- to the point where you might just say, "I don't want to do this anymore." I don't want to be a part of this. You can do it without me; I'm going to go back to my seat. This is what my son told me.
"A Mixture of December Thoughts":
My December wasn’t busy when I viewed it from the safety of Thanksgiving weekend. I could look at the calendar–mostly empty–and hope that in between the holiday shipping there would be time for some peace. If I look back at the calendar days I’ve just been through, they still look pretty empty, but I know that they were not. December is always like this, or at least it has been for the last several years. It is the unrelenting list of things to do, each one small but important.
"Killing Jesus: All Sins Are Not Equal":
Child killing is so bad all analogies fail and become foolish. Children are the closest humanity unredeemed can come to the Edenic state: as close to innocence, hope, and possibility as we can see in this mortal flesh. God placed it deep in our beings to protect and defend them at any cost.
Christmas this year is a season where children died, just as children died two-thousand years ago. A sick and twisted man killed the innocent in Connecticut in 2012 as a depraved and broken man killed them in 0.
Herod is dead, but his spirit lives: violent, hateful, twisted. Knowing it was Messiah, Herod wanted to kill Jesus. He was not mistaken or deceived: he heard glad tidings and decided to silence them.
"Little Joys" - This one is written by the father of quintuplets:
We're celebrating our babies and baby-ish things in this household (I admit, there are times when I just hold my head in frustration and think about crying). These babies are sure giving me a more intimate and raw perspective of the Christ story. The almighty God of this world bent so low as to incarnate Himself in the body of a tiny, helpless baby like one of my three little boys. What? Why? They can't talk! They can't really do anything without our help!
 Oh, the strange and awesome wisdom of our Lord. This Jesus experienced a full life just as we each do. He knows firsthand a stubbed toe, an incredible sunset, the joy of family, the smell of baked bread, the painful loss of a friend. He knows temptation to sin.
How amazing and humbling to know that He lived His whole life without sin, yet was tempted just as any of us. Can you imagine how incredibly hard it would be to successfully resist every time you are tempted to sin? Sinning is easy-- resisting temptation, that's when things get tough. Jesus had a tough life.

Operation Read Those Books, Day 20

(You can read more about Operation Read Those Books here.)

What did I read? Chapters 7-13 of Matthew Redmond's The God of the Mundane.  Yep! Ate up quite a few chapters!

What stood out? Well, when I read chapter 7, I thought, "I'm going to start tomorrow's blog by saying that chapter 7 is the real jewel of the book." But then I read chapter 9, and I knew I couldn't let chapter 7 hog the limelight, because chapter 9 was amazing.

So instead of going chapter by chapter - because there's so much good stuff! - I'm just going to excerpt a few of my favorite quotations.

Chapter 7 talked about St. Paul's command to the Thessalonians that they should "aspire to live quietly". I liked this observation:
This living quietly is not only ignored in the Church, it is rarely if ever seen as faithfulness. Not in this culture where the quiet is anathema. We Christians need to reckon with the fact that our tendency to not see a quiet/mundane life as legitimately spiritual comes from pride, a pride betrayed when we cannot be quiet about what we have done, and suffered, and seen. Ever.
Also, this:
Living quietly is a life so happy with the attention of God, that the attention of the world is not needed, and rarely enjoyed.
It is grounded in the assurance of the notice of the Creator. 
Then there's chapter 9, which is a sort of extended analysis of It's A Wonderful Life. Redmond points out that everyone loves that movie, but no one actually wants to be George Bailey, toiling in obscurity, never living out his dreams. George Bailey had no idea of the actual worth of his life and actions. Redmond says:
Christians could learn a lot here. We are guilty of not knowing what all we have done. But actually, that is not where the real guilt lies, even if it is where we feel it. The actual guilt lies in our thinking because we do not know all that we have done, we must have done nothing. We assume some kind of godlike posture as if we know the ends and implications of all our actions, and then we make judgments based on them. Foolish, isn't it - this idea we have no significance because we have not seen it? We wallow in some kind of faux humility, never realizing that it is really ego that thinks, "If I cannot see it, it must not be here."
And I think I'll stop there, because I don't want to end up excerpting the whole book! But it reminded me of Christ's admonition to, "watch, therefore," because we don't know at what day or hour an accounting will be demanded of us. If we are always doing our regular duty, we'll always be ready to say "yes" when some more extraordinary duty is demanded of us. Redmond points out that Scripture is full of people who were called to something extraordinary, but that their calls found them while they were going about their ordinary duties: tending sheep, trying to have children, bringing lunch along with them when they went to hear a preacher, etc.  A good reminder.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

(This book was an Advance Review Copies (ARCs) sent by the publisher — common practice in the industry. No payment was accepted in exchange for a review or mention, and the reviewer was in no way obligated to review the book favorably.)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Operation Read Those Books, Days 18 & 19

(You can read more about Operation Read Those Books here.)

Again, I'm not behind on my reading, just on my blogging! Here's the report from Days 18 & 19:

What did I read? Chapters 3-6 of Matthew Redmond's The God of the Mundane.

What stood out to me? In these chapters, Redmond begins to argue that we all "push back against the Fall" by doing our given work. Plumbers by fixing pipes, doctors by treating the sick, etc.

I like this idea. With all the death and destruction and sin in the world, making things right and neat and whole again is a step in the fight against evil. Good food, clean homes, fertile farmland . . . this is the stuff of life. And the product of faithful living.

My one quibble - and this isn't the author's fault - is that this might be a dangerous book for a Jonah. You know, for someone who is called to dangerous, radical ministry and who is inclined to run away. Redmond's very clear that there are people called to missions and such, but I think if you have that call and find that call hard, this isn't the book for you.

But I don't think he's writing to those people. For people like the rest of us, who are called to serve God in very ordinary circumstances? This book presents exactly the discussion we need to hear. I'm really enjoying it and, I think, profiting from it.

btw, I noticed my friend Michelle, over at Liturgical Times just reviewed The God of the Mundane, too. Check it out!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

(This book was an Advance Review Copies (ARCs) sent by the publisher — common practice in the industry. No payment was accepted in exchange for a review or mention, and the reviewer was in no way obligated to review the book favorably.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Operation Read Those Books: Day 17

(You can read more about Operation Read Those Books here.)

(Parenthetical note #2: This is actually yesterday's entry - I'm not behind on my reading, just my blogging!)

Yesterday I began reading The God of the Mundane, by Matthew B. Redmond. First off, I love the cover! Especially the tag:
A Breath-Taking Escape from the Fantastical!

And now that I've remarked on the wrapping, let's go on to the content.

What did I read? The intro and the first two chapters.

What struck me? The questions Redmond asks. Here's the heart of it:
Is there a God . . . for those who are not changing anything but diapers? Is there a God for those who simply love their spouse and pour out rarely-appreciated affection on their children day after day? Is there a God for the mom who spends what feels like God-forsaken days changing diapers and slicing up hot dogs? Is there a God for the men who hammer out a day's work in obscurity for the love of his wife and kids? Is there a God for just and kind employers? Generous homemakers? Day-laborers who would look at a missons trip to Romania like it was an unimaginable vacation?
It's a really good set of questions. It's also, as the author points out, the kind of questions most of us ask at some point. What if we're not doing something spectacular for God? What if we're just . . . ordinary?

Redmond confesses to having been a preacher who preached the kind of sermons that made people feel guilty for not going on the mission field, for not doing something extraordinary and crazy and radical for Christ. And, he observes now:
It never felt right but it preached well.
That was the line that struck me the most. Because I know exactly what he means. Those calls sound exactly right, but they never feel right.

Reading that made me wonder: why? I think it's because the message is half-right: we are called to live completely committed lives, radically devoted to the cause of Christ, but we are also all called to serve different roles within the church.

I think the kind of sermon Redmond is talking about misses the second part. If everyone was a missionary, where would the support be? Or, even more close to home, if everyone was a preacher, where would the vestry be? (And the nursery workers, and the altar guild, and the choir members, etc.?)

I do think we are all supposed to say, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord: let it be to me according to your word." But that word is going to be different for each of us.

Takeaway? I really appreciated the opportunity to think about the question of where God is to be found in our day-to-day lives. It reminded me a bit both of The Practice of the Presence of God, and Milton's sonnet, "On His Blindness" (i.e., "They also serve who only stand and wait").

I'm interested to see what conclusions he reaches further on in the book. And I think there might be a hint in his words near the end of the second chapter:
We think the small, mundane, ordinary things we do each and every day are worth nothing before God because they are worth nothing before the gods of this world.
A hint that we might be wrong? I think so.

Peace of Christ,
Jessica Snell

(The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued new rules that went into effect on December 1, 2009. These rules state that product reviewers on blogs must disclose whether they received review products for free or received monetary payment for such reviews.

This book was an Advance Review Copies (ARCs) sent by the publisher — common practice in the industry. No payment was accepted in exchange for a review or mention, and the reviewer was in no way obligated to review the book favorably.)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Operation Read Those Books: Days 12-15

(You can read more about the Operation Read Those Books project here.)

I meant to write a catch-up post yesterday, but ended up just listening to the news out of Connecticut and crying. Lord have mercy on those poor families.

So . . . today I caught up and finally finished reading about Pytheas. Now my mind is spinning with images of amber and Iceland and the library at Alexandria.

What did I read? Chapters 5-8, which covered:
-Pytheas' exploration - by boat and on foot - of Britain
-the likelihood that Pytheas made it to Iceland
-the amber trade
-what happened to Pytheas' manuscripts after he wrote them

I enjoyed this book. It got a little tedious at times only because I didn't share the author's interest in mathematics and astronomy, but my shortcomings are hardly his fault. My only other criticism is that this book could have been vastly improved by more and better maps. The illustrator/cartographer produced really sloppy, impressionistic maps rather than accurate, well-lettered ones, and that made it harder than it should have been to follow the author's detailed descriptions.

I was struck by how following just one subject - in this case, Pytheas - in detail can illuminate a score of other topics. This book covered geography, burial customs, sailing ships, map-making, astronomy, archeology, the nature of scholarship both in modern and ancient times, and many other subjects, all because the author was trying to illuminate the life of one man.

The project
In other news, I'm really enjoying this Operation Read Those Books project. I'm going to have to continue it on past December, especially as I keep adding new books to my currently-reading shelf. But regularly reading non-fiction feels like it does good stuff to my brain, and I want to keep up the habit. 

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, December 13, 2012


"Guns, Football, and Fornication":
Perhaps, society should discourage sex outside of marriage and making babies outside of marriage as ideals. We all admit that many will not live up to the ideals, but that would not make them worse. Social pressure does have some impact after all.
"Semiannual Gluttony Retrospective, Pt. I":
Because one thing I've learned through the past four years is that there are eating disorders that keep you fat and eating disorders that keep you thin, but they're still disorders. There are gluttonies that keep you fat and gluttonies that keep you thin, but both are no good way to live.

"Editing the Soul":
In a way, examining your conscience is very much like being a good editor. Editors are trained to spot and ferret out what is objectively unacceptable in a manuscript. But the best editors do more than just mark up the page with red ink, noting all the errors. This is only helpful in the most limited way, and it may very well lead the writer, especially if they're the delicate genius type, to despair. Instead, a good editor will try to figure out what the author was actually trying to say when they went astray; and they help them to make corrections and draw out something better.
"Of Women and the Freedom to be Holy":
. . . but there is, at least, here in her masterpiece work, an appreciation of what Christianity alone provided women in the 18th and 19th centuries: the freedom to be human. Safie is, after all, seeking only to be allowed to pursue virtue, to learn, to deepen her soul, and to marry a man she loves. She knows that it is only a Christian nation that can provide that freedom for her.
This is a part of the Christian story, a part of the Bible itself, that I think we’ve too often forgotten to tell, bowing, in our own way, to the common modern idea that Christianity is, at its core, oppressive to women. Instead of fighting back tooth and nail we most often answer only that Christian wives and mothers are very happy, or that women want the strong manly leaders our churches encourage. And that’s really not the story we need to be telling.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Operation Read Those Books: Day 11

(You can read about Operation Read Those Books here.)

What Did I Read Today? Chapter 4 of Pytheas the Greek: "The Lure of Tin".

Tell us something interesting about it: Apparently the tin near Britain formed when a massive batholith cooled and became granite, and the cooling process altered the sedimentary rocks around it, producing tin, wolfram, copper, lead, and zinc, in ever-widening circles around it.

See? I'm learning things I never knew.

That's pretty cool, actually, the idea of a giant molten hunk of rock, hundreds of kilometers long, forcing its way up through the earth and sending up spikes of even more molten rock, then cooling off gradually, and the heat and material radiating off it creating these layers and layers of metals that man would then mine for centuries. Such a gigantic, important, completely unobservable process. It's amazing to think about.

But what did the author seem to find interesting? Okay, the charming thing about Cunliffe is how much he seems to love imagining his hero Pytheas observing, in real-time, all the sites he himself has researched through painstaking archaeological methods. He's scholar enough to always remind himself, "I can't be sure he was actually here, that he actually saw this," but I love how enchanted he is by the idea. It gives me a real feeling for why people go in to the field of archeology: they've got great imaginations and they're people-fascinated.

Or at least that's what I'm getting from his narration.

Tomorrow: Pytheas reaches the mysterious realm of Britain! I can't wait.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, December 10, 2012

Operation Read Those Books: Day 10

(You can read about Operation Read Those Books here.)

Today I dug back into the tale of The Extraordinary Voyage of Pytheas the Greek, by Barry Cunliffe, about a Greek explorer who managed to make it all the way to Britain around the year 325 B.C.

I picked this up as research for a book set in ancient Greece, and put it down once I actually started writing said book.

But it's a well-researched look into an interesting time: a time when you might be able to buy exotic goods in your city market - but also a time when no one in your city might have ever been to the lands those exotic goods came from - they might even not be quite sure where those exotic lands were. Merchant passed item on to merchant across trade routes hundreds of miles long, but no one merchant necessarily made the journey from one end of the trade route to the other.

But Pytheas . . . Pytheas decided to go as far as he could go, and maybe ended up getting as far north as Iceland, making discoveries all along the way.

Today, I read Chapter 3, "Escape from the Mediterranean". Apparently it was actually easier and faster to get to the Atlantic overland than through the straits.

That's it for today!

-Jessica Snell

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Operation Read Those Books: Days 6-8 of 21

I missed my reading on Thursday and Friday, but made up for it today by reading to the end of "Raising Great Kids" by Cloud and Townsend - 6 chapters!

So, that's 2 books down, 7 to go!

I liked the whole book, but chapter 9, "Connecting to God: Worship and Spiritual Life", was worth the price of the whole book. Wow. This whole book is clear and practical and brilliant (and being clear and practical are about the surest signs of brilliance I know), and I appreciated it nowhere more than in this chapter. Here are a few of my favorite sections:
As a parent, you may feel a tension . . . You have a deep desire to foster your child's spiritual life, but you wonder where to begin. This chapter resolves this tension by dealing with two aspects - being involved and having a structure in which to operate.
I read that and thought: showing up and having a plan? It's like liturgy! You can't make God show up, right? And you can't make your kids love God, right? (Most terrifying part of parenting ever.) But you can have a structure and you can show up. That . . . that's comforting.

And remembering that God loves them even more than you do. That's the biggest comfort of all. Anyway - more quotations:
Your task is to do the background work for your child's encounter with God. All relationships, including one with God, have a structure to them. Creating that structure is something you can do. In other words, you can create a context that fosters connectedness to God. If you wish to start a garden in your backyard, you need to prepare the soil, add fertilizer, water, and sunlight, and remove weeds and pests. You have maximized the optimal conditions for plant growth in your garden. In the same way, you want to create optimal conditions for your child to meet and love God.
I'm encouraged by the idea of thinking of my children's spiritual life this way.

And I really liked this short observation:
As one parent told me, "We are working on helping our son learn that God is a better parent than we are."
One of the things they emphasized was modeling your own faith in front of your kids. They wrote:
More than in any other character capacity, spiritual development is "caught" more than taught. Spiritual growth involves many conceptual understandings, so your child will internalize more of what you are with God and her than what you teach.
Your own alive, defined, active, and honest faith is critical as your child seeks to understand and attach to a vague, invisible God. Do not spare her the struggle of faith, however, to the extent that she can developmentally understand it. Let her see that a relationship with God, just as a relationship with anyone, takes time, has conflict, and requires work. 
I also liked how, at the end of the chapter, they pointed out that while you as a parent are trying to work yourself out of a job - i.e., end your child's dependency on you - your child's dependency on God is never going to end. Instead, they said:
You are . . . helping your child make a shift from immature dependency to mature dependency on God the Father.
Hear, hear.

Great book. I want to reread it every year or two, because it seems like the kid of book I"ll get something different out of each time, depending on what stage my kids are at when I read it. Very basic, very good. Fives stars!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Links: Domestic Monasteries, Dark Personalities, and More!

"The Secret of a Domestic Monastery":
It doesn’t have to do with getting the kids to walk around in silence (though, boy, that’d be nice if I could pull it off), nor is it about observing the exact same prayer times as consecrated religious. Boiled down to its core, the hallmark of the monastic schedule is that the way you use your time reflects your true priorities. Your daily life is one of constantly pushing back against the world’s expectations, making real, sometimes difficult sacrifices so that your time is not swept away by the current of the world’s priorities.
"Psychology Uncovers Sex Appeal of Dark Personalities": this is a fascinating study (hat tip to my friend, Roland, for the link!):
 . . . In other words, people with dark personality traits are not seen as more physically attractive than others when you take away their freedom to wear their own clothes and makeup. People with dark personalities seem to be better at making themselves physically appealing.
"Saying Stuff (about the Lord's Supper)":
And the stuff God says is totally different from the stuff we say. He says LITERAL STUFF. He speaks, and worlds come into being. He says, “let there be,” and it is. Stuff is, because God says for it to be. Of course I’m referring to Genesis 1, but it’s all through the Bible. For instance, look at Psalm 33:6 “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.” He says “let there be stars,” and all the stars come out. They obey before they exist. They exist by obeying the word of the Lord.
"Learning to Trust the Instruments":
In the aftermath, investigators found that almost everything that had gone wrong had been the fault of the pilots. When the plane encountered significant turbulence the pilots should have responded according to their flight training and according to the plane’s manual. Instead, they relied on instinct. And then, when the plane began to experience further complications, the pilots ignored the instruments that should have directed them to the source of the problem and the straightforward solution. They swung the plane violently from side to side attempting to right it because they ignored the aircraft’s instrument that told them where the horizon was and how to keep the plane level. They ignored the instruments that told them that their engine problem was not as serious as they thought. Blinded by the stress of the situation, they ignored the manual and did things their own way. It very nearly cost them their lives and the lives of hundreds of passengers.

And, finally, an advertisement that absolutely succeeded in making me want to give my money to the people who are asking for it - but they're not gonna take my money till . . . May? C'mon!! Why isn't this a Christmas release? Boo.
But, without further ado, Kirk, Cumberbatch, and . . . Khan?  Sorry, I mean: Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

St. Nicholas' Day is tomorrow!

A reminder for all those with kids. :)

Though, in my case, my kids reminded ME. It's only 1:30 p.m., and they already have their shoes lined up in the hall, waiting for the good bishop to fill them.

And we've had our annual discussion of the really good St. Nick, the priest who loved the Lord Jesus, who gave to the poor, and fought the heretics (my son was charmed by the story of Arius' ignoble demise, as only a six-year-old boy can be).

Fwiw, I've always had good luck finding gold chocolate coins at my local Trader Joe's, if you're looking for shoe-filler. :) But any small gift will do. Make sure they put carrots or cabbage or straw in the shoes for the saint's horses!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

"Good Poems", collected by Garrison Keillor (Operation Read Those Books: Day 5 of 31)

Good PoemsGood Poems by Garrison Keillor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So, I started this book by reading the introduction. And as Keillor talked about poems that tell stories, I had trouble remembering why I disliked him. And then I read:

"And then there is T. S. Eliot, the great stuffed owl whose glassy eyes mesmerized the English profs of my day. Eliot was once a cultural icon, the American guy so smooth he passed for British . . . but you look at his work today and it seems rather bloodless . . . Eliot didn't get out of the house much . . ."

and I remembered, Oh yeah, that's why I dislike him. Talk about reverse snobbery! Eliot sucks because he's not earthy enough. Heaven forbid poetry talks about, well, heaven.

Yes, there are some amazing poems in here. Keillor's intro isn't the fault of any of the poets he collected here. But, sigh. What an intro.

And yet - it's not all bad. Keillor has a lot of really good points, too, of course he does! The man is brilliant. And frustrating in his prejudices. And brilliant . . . I could go back and forth forever. But enough of that. The volume as a whole is more worth reading than not, so pick it up if you're in the mood for poetry, and feeling patient enough to sift out the chaff.

View all my reviews

(And this counts as my Operation Read Those Books! entry for the day. And also counts as the first Currently Reading book off my Goodreads shelf for this project - yay!)

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Yarnalong: socks and Grace!

I have a lace scarf on one set of needles, and cabled kilt hose on another, but what I've found myself turning to during this busy December is the calming rhythm of a plain ol' set of vanilla socks, knit in a pretty yarn (KnitPicks Stroll Tonal in "Winetasting" - though it looks more like Lambic Framboise to me - yum!):
And I'm also spending December doing a reading project: attempting to actually finish the ten or so non-fiction books I'm "currently reading" (according to Goodreads). Right now, I'm on "Raising Great Kids: Parenting with Grace and Truth" by Cloud and Townsend, and really enjoying it.

This is turning out - so far - to be a good way of getting through all those books I sincerely meant to get through when I started them, but somehow forgot about. Anyone else have a pile of those sitting on their shelves, or is it just me? Good books, interesting books, just books without the narrative drive of fiction, and so books that are easier to put down.

Here's to picking them up again! :)

More yarn and literary goodness over at Small Things.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Operation Read Those Books!: Day 4 of 31

Well, yesterday's headache turned into today's mild flu, but I was feeling better enough by tonight to read another chapter of "Raising Great Kids: Parenting with Grace and Truth".

Today's chapter was titled "Developing Gifts and Talents: Competence", and it was all about teaching your children how to work, and helping them develop and grow the talents God's given them.

Pretty simple and straight-forward, but a good reminder: let your kids succeed. Require effort, encourage exploration, praise success, let them know they're loved regardless of accomplishments, but help them develop real skills and abilities and a good work ethic. I like it!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, December 3, 2012

Operation Read Those Books! Day 3 of 31

Yes, I'm skipping Sundays. :)

Today I read from "Good Poems", which is such a mixed bag of an anthology, let me tell you.  No awesome excerpts because, frankly, I have a headache and need to stop looking at my computer screen and get myself off to bed. I'll try to post a bit of one of the poems tomorrow, though.

But I kept on with my project! getting those bookshelves clear!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Operation Read Those Books: Day 1 of 31

My Advent project this year is to shrink my currently-reading list. I plan to read a chapter a day from one of the books on my currently-reading shelf or, in the case of the poetry, five pages a day. Will this see them all read by the end of December? Probably not, but it'll make a decent dent in the pile.
(A fuller description of this blog challenge can be read here.)

What did I read? Chapter Six of "Raising Great Kids: Parenting with Grace and Truth" by Cloud and Townsend.
What was it about? As the title of the chapter states, it's about helping your kids as they're "Living in an Imperfect World".
Gives us a good quotation! Okay, here you go:
A better way than seeing ourselves as good is seeing ourselves as loved. A child who is loved as herself, both good and bad, does not need to see herself as positive or negative. She sees herself as loved, and the whole issue goes away. A loved self is stronger than a positive self; the child doesn't need to worry about losing her "good self." She doesn't need to hide or deny what she does. No matter how she performs, she will be loved.
So true, it made me want to cry.  Good book; I'm glad I'm reading it!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, November 30, 2012

Knitted Finished Object - Big, Comfy Hat

See, it's not that this hat is so pretty - it's just serviceable stockinette stitch - but it's big enough for me!

I have a big head (stop snickering!) and waist-length hair (yes, I do! finally!) that I like wearing pinned up. In that picture up there? I have all my hair braided around my ginormous head in a coronet braid, and that hat STILL FITS!

Which is why I'm smiling so happily in the picture. :D

(Yarn is Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Tonal, in the Canopy colorway.)

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Interview with Regina Scott

Today I'm over at Regency Reflections, interviewing Regina Scott. Here's a snippet:

Was there any fun fact about the Regency period that you stumbled across in your research for this book that really fired up your imagination? Any little tidbit that prompted a plot point or a cool character moment?
I stumbled across an article written just after the Regency that laid out the specific rules for duels, contrasting them to those of the French. Because my hero, Vaughn Everard, has a reputation as a duelist, knowing some of the rules he could choose to keep or break really helped me write the main dueling scene in the book and keep it in his character. I learned to fence when I was in college, so I really wanted to get that scene right!

Go here to read the rest!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Happy Christ the King Sunday!

It's the last Sunday of the church year, when we celebrate Christ as King. It's my favorite Sunday of the entire year. In the words of the Te Deum:
Thou art the king of glory, oh Christ!
Thou art the everlasting son of the Father!
When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man,
thou didst humble thyself to be born of a Virgin.
When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death,
thou didst open the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
Thou sittest at the right hand of God, in the glory of the Father.
We believe that thou shalt come to be our judge.
     We therefore pray thee, help thy servants,
     whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood.
     Make them to be numbered with thy saints,
     in glory everlasting.

And, to accompany that, here's some properly apocalyptic music, both heartening and sobering - because he will come, and he will surely come soon:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Links - Advent, God, Amos, Tolkien, and more!

"Advent's Coming: Keep It Simple!":
One of the great things about any kind of Advent preparation is that, by definition, you have to keep it simple and spare. A lush, lavish, complicated Advent makes about as much sense as a simple, understated fireworks display on the Fourth of July.

"J.R.R. Tolkien and the Great War":
Tolkien's experiences in the Great War had a profound effect on his writing and stories. He left the war with most of his friends dead, and a personal view of the horrors that war wrought on the soldiers who fought it. Years later, Tolkien felt that the Great War "had come down like winter on his creative powers in their first bloom.” These views would translate into his writing, with his experiences on the front lines informing the epic conflicts between good and evil in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. His characters form close parties and alliances as they go off to face terrible adventures together, much like he did with his friends when evil arose in the world.
"God's Conduct" (on Romans 12):
But he is not really changing the subject. In fact, all of the commands he gives flow from the teaching he has just done. Any number of good commentaries can help you trace the connection, and any expositor who asks what 12:1′s “therefore” is there for is likely to come up with good answers.
"The Prophet Amos":
We do not know who wrote down the prophecies preached by Amos, though it may have been the prophet himself. The fact of it, however, is of enormous significance, because it implied that the prophet’s message was perceived to bear dimensions of meaning transcendent to the original circumstances in which he preached it.
"Pilgrim's Regress vs. Firefly":
 In other words, we all need to believe, but there is no ultimate basis for belief. Belief is a lie we tell ourselves to keep going in a world that is without objective meaning or purpose. There is thirst, and ways of pretending to drink, but no water.
Now this is simply a philosophical bias. Why believe that to be the case?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Operation Read Those Books: a December Project

There's something nice about starting the new year with a clean slate.

Now, for liturgical Christians, the New Year starts in about a week and a half, with the coming of the Advent season. And then, since liturgical Christians are ordinary citizens, too, we get a second New Year on January 1st.

So, I want to use the time in between my first New Year and my second to clean up a very important area of my life: my bookshelf.

Here's my Currently-Reading shelf on Goodreads.  See the problem? Yep: I am currently reading 11 books.

There are only two novels on there right now, and there's a reason for that: I read novels quickly. The narrative tension pulls me through, and I often finish them in a day or two. But non-fiction books don't have the same urgency-of-plot, and so I'll start one, put it down, and forget to pick it up again.

Yet, I still want to read them.

So, my Advent project this year is to shrink my currently-reading list. I plan to read a chapter a day from one of the books on my currently-reading shelf or, in the case of the poetry, five pages a day. Will this see them all read by the end of December? Probably not, but it'll make a decent indent in the pile.

And I'd love to have you join me. If you're interested, just leave a comment here - and on future Operation Read Those Books posts - linking to your blog. I'm hoping to post a note or a quotation from my day's reading each day of Advent, and I'd love to see what treasures you find, too.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Daybook for Wednesday, November 14, 2012

outside my window . . . a beautiful, 80 degree California day. I know, 80 degrees. It's finally gotten cold out here. ;)

I am listening to . . . "Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day". Yes, it's a Christmas carol, and it's not even Advent yet. But it's so pretty! I can't help myself.

I am wearing . . . pants! Like I said, it's gotten chilly. Bye-bye, shorts. See you next year.

I am so grateful for . . . coffee. And many other things. But right now? Mostly coffee.

I'm pondering . . . How to make my two main character stop flirting and get on with finding out who the killer is.

I am reading . . . The last chapter of The Elements of Style. My favorite quotation from the last chapter: "Prestigious. Often an adjective of last resort. It's in the dictionary, but that doesn't mean you have to use it."

I am creating . . . kilt hose. Very, very slowly. Cables and I are still not the best of friends.

from the kitchen . . . Last night we had roasted butternut squash soup, crusty bread, cheese, and wine for dinner. So simple, so good.

real education in our home . . . My son has figured out that he knows how to read. I mean, he's been able to read for awhile now, but I don't think he was really aware of the fact. But now he lays on the floor next to our library book basket and devours everything in there. It's pretty awesome watching that part of him wake up. :)

the church year in our home . . . This one deserves a blog post all to itself. For one thing, I'm thinking of very little other than the church year, as I edit this book about it. For another thing, we're part of a church plant that's launching in under three weeks (seriously, I so owe you all a blog post about this . . . suffice it to say: it's Anglican, it's in our city, we've been working towards it for years, and God (and our bishop!) seem to have said, "Okay, NOW", and so we're all scrambling to obey. I'm still sort of in shock about all of it - we're going to have a church home near our home. God is so good.).

recent milestones . . . I realized that my hair now reaches my waist. It only took four years! (I feel weird being happy about this - it's a goal reached, sure, but all I had to do to get there was not cut it. Pretty passive - how do you feel properly triumphant  about successfully not doing something?)

the week ahead. . . I don't know, but next week is Thanksgiving! Next week! How'd that happen?

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, November 12, 2012

new counter!

A new finished object - this time not made by me, but by my husband! See?
That's handmade butcher block counter. Adam cut and pieced every block of wood in there. Look at the pretty!
It's finished with spar varnish, used for boats. So smooth, so shiny - everything else in our kitchen looks grubby by comparison. 

I told Adam that now I'm dreaming of living in a little jewel-box of a house, filled with detailed, handmade wooden appointments. 

He grinned and said that was fine with him. I think the man likes wood-working.

Just a bit. :D

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica snell

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Links: prayer, American Catholics, "The Casual Vacancy", and more!

"Praying With Children":
Its so important to pray with children, just like it is to do other hard things with them like Cook and Eat Dinner, Carry on a Conversation, Fold a Single Solitary Basket of Laundry, Pick Up the Blocks, Remember What It Was You Came Into This Room For Will You Stop Screaming So I Can Think For A Minute. And so on and so forth. Prayer, as many of us might remember, is a foundational part of the Christian Life and children should be included in it, even if it kills you.
"Where I'm Coming From":
But now the shadows of the past are looming large over Catholics in America again, and the battle to redefine marriage has become the weapon of choice for those who would really prefer it if Catholics went back to their little Catholic ghettos and didn't mix much with the "real" Americans, or expect to be able to hold certain public offices (anything pertaining to marriage, for instance) or jobs (anything where you have to sign a "diversity statement" that is actually a denial of your faith) or own businesses (anything where you have to maintain the fiction that two men or two women are a "marriage") or run adoption agencies or charities where they will be forced to repeat the lie that it is bigoted and hateful to claim that marriage is one man and one woman or that children need a mother and a father...
...and pointing any of this out at all is "uncivil," or so I'm told.
 "J. K. Rowling's 'The Casual Vacancy'":
The catalyst of the story is the death of a good man. He leaves a vacancy. His death is the casual vacancy, which is a phrase used to describe the opening created by the death of a local councilor. The book is about the void left by the death of a man who was his brother’s keeper, and the story shows that the main reason others can’t fill the void he leaves is because they don’t love like he did.
"10 Questions a Pro-Choice Candidate Is Never Asked by the Media":
4. If you do not believe that human life begins at conception, when do you believe it begins? At what stage of development should an unborn child have human rights?
5. Currently, when genetic testing reveals an unborn child has Down Syndrome, most women choose to abort. How do you answer the charge that this phenomenon resembles the “eugenics” movement a century ago – the slow, but deliberate “weeding out” of those our society would deem “unfit” to live?
"A Beautiful Testimony from a Christian About His Wife’s Death":
Was this a good life, NO. But this is what God had prepared for us to go through together. 
"How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day":
When I told people at ConCarolinas that I'd gone from writing 2k to 10k per day, I got a huge response. Everyone wanted to know how I'd done it, and I finally got so sick of telling the same story over and over again that I decided to write it down here.
So, once and for all, here's the story of how I went from writing 500 words an hour to over 1500, and (hopefully) how you can too

"Beer for beginners, part VII: Stouts and other British stuff":
I tried Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout and liked that very much. It seemed almost thick and viscous. "It's not, and you should know better," scolded Mark, "the viscosity of beer can't possibly be much different from water. It's not like it has a significant fraction of polymer suspended in it or something."
"Then what makes it that way?" I asked. "I can see when I pour it that it's not obviously viscous, but it feels that way in the mouth. Like cream." I took another pull and thought. "Could it be the bubbles?" I asked, beginning to ponder the Stokes-Einstein equation, but mostly I just wanted to drink the beer.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Christine kindly sent me a Sunshine award - thank you, Christine!

I have to answer these 10 questions and then nominate some of my favorite bloggers to do the same.

What is your favorite Christmas/Holiday movie? "White Christmas". No, it's not really about Christmas qua Christmas, but it's warm and sweet and so funny ("45 minutes, all to myself!") and I try to watch it every year.

What is your favorite flower? White roses. They look like clouds, floating above their green leaves.

What is your favorite (non-alcoholic) beverage? I'm with Christine: coffee!

What is your passion? Writing fiction.

What is your favorite time of year?  Spring.

What is your favorite time of the day?  Right after the sun goes down, the cool of the evening.

What is your favorite physical activity?  Besides the obvious one? :) Probably walking, preferably in the mountains. (Mountains! Mountains!) To stay fit? Plyometrics and weights, because it's uber-efficient.

What is your favorite vacation?  to the Sierra Nevada, with my family.

What song is stuck in your head right now? "Trisagion", by Fernando Ortega. Such a beautiful, beautiful setting of that essential prayer.

What are you reading right now? "Troll Valley", by Lars Walker. Ignore the ugly cover: a new book by Walker is always a treat.

Aaaaand, I'm nominating:
-An Undercurrent of Hostility
-At A Hen's Pace
-Laundry and Lullabies
-On A Joyful Journey
-The Joy and the Care

Thanks again, Christine!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, November 2, 2012

Revolution on NBC - how can such a good show be so bad?

"Revolution", a television show set post-apocalypse, is so enjoyable.

And sometimes it's even enjoyable for the right reasons. But it's also so, so terrible . . . though only in two ways.

First, why is it good? Well, it's got a fun premise: what happens to the world if everything electrical suddenly stops working? No computers, no powered farm equipment or transportation or medical devices or anything like that, at all, ever. Disaster. Our society is dependent on these things, and so chaos follows.

Another of the good choices the series made was to set the show about 15 years post-apocalypse. This means we get to skip the really gory and depressing part of the story, where millions and millions of people starve and/or kill each other, and we take up the narrative when things have more or less stabilized.

Another of the good choices was casting Billy Burke (a.k.a "Mustache Dad" from the terrible Twilight series) as one of the main characters. He does a great job playing the world-weary, reluctant hero. Every time he's on the screen, I'm having fun watching the show.

And the best thing the show has done has been to handle its backstory well. They use flashbacks to tell some of what happened in the first few days/months/years post-apocalypse, and they interweave the flashbacks with the current-time narrative in ways that illuminate why the characters are they people they are today. I don't want to get too spoiler-y, but my favorite backstory flashback showed the moment that changed one character enough that he eventually formed a military dictatorship, and it was enlightening and believable and NOT what (or, rather, WHO) I had expected, and I just loved it.

The bad? Well . . . mostly, it's Charlie, the petulant, unreasonable and unreasoning main character. The phrase "too stupid to live" was invented for fictional characters like her. Moments after a gang of thugs attack her and her friends, she's found arguing that her friends shouldn't think the worst of humanity. If her uncle (the aforementioned awesome Billy Burke) saves her life, she yells at him for being too violent. If her uncle shows mercy, she yells at him for being too soft. Nothing any of her friends - all of whom are risking their lives to help her on her mission to save her brother - do is good enough for her. She's pouty and perfect and they all just have to deal.

And . . . the thing is, you could have a character like this and use her well. Self-righteous teenagers are pretty common in real life, after all. But instead of letting her be disillusioned and learn from it, or court disaster and learn wisdom, or anything like that, the narrative seems to insist that we admire her for her pluck.

And, argh. I just can't.

So I watch the show, enjoying its far-fetched premise and rooting for all the secondary characters, and hoping against hope that the writers fix the heroine.

Oh - I said there were two things wrong with the show. The second is that some of the plot twists and setting elements strain my credulity. Where are the characters getting all these new, clean clothes? How is our intrepid band finding food? If society has completely fallen apart, why haven't all of the hard-won women's rights completely disappeared, or at least been significantly damaged? Sans birth control, why aren't there a lot more toddlers running around?

But they address enough of the problems their apocalypse poses that I can pretend to ignore the gaps they missed. I'd like something a bit more consistent, but the show's interesting enough that I'm going to watch it despite the things they've missed.

If you do watch it, I recommend starting at the beginning, and not with the latest episode, because it's not really episodic - the plot builds on previous revelations. Also, because the latest episode was probably my least favorite. ;)  

But, again, only watch it if you're enough of a spec fic fan that you'll enjoy the story despite the frustrations. Because the frustrations? They abound.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, October 29, 2012

celebrating the church year - a book

I mentioned in my review of "The Exact Place" that I was under contract to Doulos Resources, but I don't think I've explained why here on the blog, and it's really very exciting.

I'm editing a book on celebrating the church year in the home. It's a book that will gather, in one place, all the information you need in order to match the rhythm of your home life to the rhythm of the church year. Is it Advent? Open the book to the chapter on Advent, and find seasonal prayers, recipes, and crafts, as well as the history of the season, and ideas for extending your celebration to include friends and neighbors. And the same for Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter . . . there's not a season in the year we're not covering!

Like many evangelicals, I've spent the last decade or two realizing that my heritage as a Christian includes more than just the past five centuries of Christian history. Cranmer and Calvin are mine, but so are Augustine and Anselm.

And the feasts and fasts of the church year are ours too, but sometimes it's hard to know how to celebrate them in daily life. This book will tell you how. I'm so pleased and excited to be part of bringing it into existence.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, October 26, 2012

7 Quick Takes

1. Is it bad that the two reasons I like our cat are: 1) because he's pretty, and 2) because he's nuts? The pretty part makes him aesthetically pleasing and the nuts part makes him funny.

I'm pretty sure I'd be upset if those were the two reasons someone liked me.

2. My son asked me this week if "things" is "spelled with an F."  As I tried not to laugh, I realized I'm going to be very sad when he loses that last bit of baby-lisp.

3. Last night, after the marathon of teeth-brushing, bathing, and bedtime prayers, as Adam and I were making the rounds amongst the kids' four beds, kissing and doing the last tucking-in rituals, we caught each other's eyes and I mouthed, "we're almost there!" and he nodded excitedly back, "I know!"

Seriously. Those two hours between when the kids go to bed and when we do? Gold. Pure gold.

4. I think I need to take the presidential elections more seriously, but it's really hard to do when you not only don't live in a swing state, you live in a state that doesn't even know what a swing is. I keep reading all these very serious articles, and I know the election matters, but it's so hard to take them seriously because all of them seem to be trying to convince me of something and you know what? Convincing me of something will make no difference whatsoever in the course of the election. I live in California. My senators could paint themselves pink and walk into the next session of Congress on their hands, and I still wouldn't be able to vote them out of office.

So, I have my opinions, but they don't feel very real.

5. It's almost Advent! And it's less than a month till Christ the King Sunday! Which is my very favorite Sunday in the whole church year. Yay!

6. I like Christ the King Sunday so much because it's our yearly reminder that everything turns out okay in the end. There's such security in knowing the end of the story. I don't know how we get there, I don't know what we're going to have to endure, but I believe the Lord's promise that He will return and judge the earth. And so, trusting in that promise, I have absolute safety in following Him. He is in control, and obeying him is the path to life, and life abundant, and life eternal.

7. In the much shorter term, it's almost the weekend. Which means the six of us in our family get more time together than apart, and that is a very great blessing indeed.

For more Quick Takes, head over to Jen's place at Conversion Diary.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, October 25, 2012

on being part of "the middle class"

I'm hearing lots about "the middle class" this election cycle, and I can't help thinking: Doesn't just about everyone in the States think they're middle class? Seriously. You could be making a just-above-the-poverty-line salary, living frugally and wisely, and feel middle class. Or you could be making a million or two a year in a high-cost-of-living area, and feel middle class. But the day-to-day options and margins in those two situations aren't anything close to the same thing.

Anyway. I don't buy "middle class" as a terribly useful economic term . . . but the solidarity implied by its frequency of use among people in such diverse situations might mean that its a terribly useful social term.

It says something about Americans that we all want to claim the term "middle class". I'm not sure what it says, but it says something.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Links - Beowulf and Tolkien, Electoral Craziness, and more!

"Seeing Beowulf Through Tolkien":
If ancient pagans could die for order and light knowing that those things would lose out in the end, how much more should Christians die heroically . . . when they know that Good and Truth will win out in the end.

"If There’s an Electoral College Tie, Things Will Get Even Crazier Than You May Know": - the punchline makes this super-short article worth a read.

"What the Bible Says About Anger": I found this short, organized summary very helpful.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Book Notes: "Legion" by Brandon Sanderson

LegionLegion by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sanderson's known for his huge, symphony-like epic fantasy, but this novella proves he can play a mean little jig too. He's doing about five different things at the same time in this novella - it's a mystery, it's a speculation on the nature of faith and science, it's a study of a fantastical psychological ailment, it's a sci-fi (or is it fantasy?), it's a character (characterS?) study - and it reads really, really fast.

It's just fun to read something so well-executed and engaging that you can gulp down in an hour - fast enough that you can hold all the different aspects of the story in front of your eyes at once and enjoy how well they play off each other. I liked it!

View all my reviews

-Jessica Snell

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Links! - sonnets, chocolate, TEC, and more!

"Call for submissions: essays on infertility, miscarriage, and/or adoption" - this is from Kalos Press, and if it sounds like something you might be interested in, I encourage you to follow the link to view the whole description of the planned book.

"A New Creation": - I'm not quoting from this one because it's a sonnet, and I don't want to ruin the shape of it by excerpting. But if you've ever been discouraged about the state of modern Christian art, well, go read this and be encouraged that God's people are still writing beautiful things!

"the inconvenient truth about your halloween chocolate and forced child labor":
A report from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture about cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast estimated there were 284,000 children working on cocoa farms in hazardous conditions. Some of them have been taken from their families, or sold as servants. U.S. chocolate manufacturers have claimed they are not responsible for the conditions on cocoa plantations since they don't own them. This includes Hershey, Mars, Nestle, and the US division of Cadbury . . . who collectively represent pretty much every snack-size candy bar that will be available in stores this Halloween. 
"Ideas for an Ethical Halloween":
For our family, the response to learning this has been to limit our chocolate purchases to fair-trade chocolate. Buying fair-trade is the best way to ensure that chocolate has been ethically sourced . . . 
(Hat tip to my friend Lindsay for the preceding two links.)

And, in news that's not really news, the Episcopal Church is still doing its best to rid itself of every orthodox cleric it can (but leave the property, please):

"TEC Moves Against South Carolina Bishop and Diocese; Special Convention Called"

"The Earth Shifted: Rage, Revisionists & Responses for The Diocese of South Carolina"

What interesting links have you found lately?

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Finished Object: Flowers in the Snow Afghan

I don't even know how many back episodes of Writing Excuses I listened to while I worked on this, but I do know that it contained approximately 1536 yarn ends. All of which I had to weave in.


Which is enough to say: I'm thrilled with how it turned in and I am never, ever doing it again. ;P

But the little girl who requested it is very happy with her flower garden blanket, and sleeps under it every night - and it's big enough she'll be able to sleep under it even when she's not a little girl anymore.

This wasn't my favorite project to work on, but it was one of the most satisfying.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, October 15, 2012

Book Notes: "The Exact Place" by Margie L. Haack

If you've ever heard the late Rich Mullins' excellent song "First Family", you'll have an idea of the tone of Margie' Haack's memoir, "The Exact Place". Her clear-eyed prose is kin to Mullins' simple and profound lyricism.

Haack grew up on the swampy, lakeside land just on the American side of Minnesota's northern border, oldest in a large farming family.

To be honest, I usually avoid books about country life, because I find they tend to be either much too depressing or, the exact opposite, much too sickly-sweet.

But to my delight, Haack's book falls into neither trap. Walking with a firm step that tilts neither towards despair nor nostalgia, Haack's book tells the story of her childhood in one of the most fully-realized settings I've ever read.

I loved the descriptive botanical details of the unique environment around her home, and the funny stories about her escapades with her siblings, and the touching stories of her summers on the lake with her grandfather. All of these fascinating components buoyed me effortlessly along in my reading.

But the theme that Haack circles around to again and again is the feeling that dogged her throughout her childhood: the feeling that she had to work to earn both God's love, and the love of her stepfather.

She circles around to it over and over - she never stays on it very long, but every time she touches on the theme, she goes a bit deeper. It's like hearing a musical phrase repeated and elaborated on here and there in a fugue, until you realize that every single note - no matter how seemingly unrelated - is there to support this one statement.

And then, in the penultimate chapter, the phrase is answered and resolved. I've rarely read anything more satisfying, or anything that rang truer.

You know how we Christians love to tell stories about answered prayers and the extraordinary moments when we're absolutely sure God acted or spoke? And the stories are wonderful, but out of context they seem odd or unlikely or just . . . just like something other than the wonders that they are? I think what I loved best about this book is that Haack gave the context to God's answer of her one, most personal, most compelling question. If she'd told less of her story, I wouldn't have fully understood the wonder of the moment when God finally met her. But by the end of the book, I was so immersed in the world of her childhood, that when God finally met her and assured her of his love, I understood why what he said to her meant so much.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

(Full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book for free from the publisher, Kalos Press, which is an imprint of Doulos Resources, to whom I am under contract. I was not paid for my review, and all opinions expressed here are my own.)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

a cool giveaway!

Not here, but over at Regency Reflections, where they're giving away a gift basket complete with tea, biscuits, a mug, and an Amazon gift card, in order to celebrate the release of Laurie Alice Eakes' new book, A Flight of Fancy. Today's the last day to enter, so head on over!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


"Fan Mail. A Bit of Advice":
Getting back to work, when your work is creative, isn't like reaching for the next part in an assembly line, comfortingly close to hand. Creativity demands both a calm state of mind and a bloody great amount of self-confidence. Shake those? The cost is hours. Maybe days. Maybe more.

"Hope Stems Eternal From the Cell of Man":
 The New York Times, in covering the Nobel Prize story, grants a nod to those quaint “people who fear, on ethical or religious grounds, that scientists are pressing too far into nature’s mysteries” -- an observation designed to conjure up images of a fearful, ignorant mob persecuting what they don't understand. What they mean is, “Some of you object to making human beings so you can kill them and use pieces of them.” 

"The Casual Vacancy: J. K. Rowling's Profoundly Biblical Worldview":
 I am not saying that J.K. Rowling has written a Christian allegory; The Casual Vacancy is far more complex than that. Neither am I saying that she was thinking of the Gospels when she devised her plot; it seems unlikely. On her website she says, "I love nineteenth century novels that centre on a town or village. This is my attempt to do a modern version." Perhaps religious themes sneaked in through her deep acquaintance with Victorian authors and biblical literature. Perhaps she included them intentionally. However they got into the novel, they are hard to miss once you go looking for them.
(Hat tip to Brandywine Books.)

"Two kinds of atrocity: an ethical thought experiment":
And when they bring up the Spanish Inquisition (you know they will), the most efficient answer is to point out that it took the Inquisition nearly a century and a half to kill 3-5,000 people while the atheistic Reign of Terror under the French Revolution murdered about 40,000 in less than a year.
Still, at least for me, that’s not entirely satisfactory. Saying, “We’re not as bad as you guys,” isn’t quite enough when you’re talking about killing people in the name of Christ, whether in the Inquisition, or during the Crusades, or under a pogrom. The deeper problem, in my view, is how to think about Christians who act like the worst kind of atheists (for of course most atheists are perfectly decent people), and how to judge their acts. 
 "In Which the New York Times Suggests I Am a Pretentious Git":
I see we’re confronting the simultaneously existential yet provincial terror of someone choosing to use the whole of the English language when it suits them.
Yes, indeed, I used “A nice piece of kit” to describe the iPad, because it was an apt phrase for how I felt about the machine, and I like to use apt phrasing from time to time. Because, you know, I am a professional writer. I have also been known to use “all y’all” even though I am not from Texas, “no worries,” even though I am not from Australia, and “le mot juste,” even though I am not from France. I once invented something called the “schadenfreude pie” although neither it nor I am German. I ALSO EAT TACOS.