Friday, March 30, 2012

a little late, a hymn for the Annunciation

Or "Lady Day", as they say in England. March 25 . . . 9 months before Christmas.

You can find the lyrics here (the link also plays a short midi).

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, March 29, 2012

7 Quick Takes

I feel like I haven't been posting enough about books, and it's partly because I've been reading a lot of unpublished stuff - mine and others. Can't publicly review those yet.

But I have been reading other things! Just not finishing them. So for 7 Quick Takes today, I'm going to give you a quick take out of seven of the books I'm currently reading:

1. "Small wooden booths were set up at various points around the city in which the watchmen could sit and observe the passersby. Each booth had a single door and inebriated young men considered it a great lark to overturn the booth (with the Charley inside) or to turn it door-side to the wall so he could not get out. This was known as 'boxing the watch'." -Georgette Heyer's Regency World, by Jennifer Kloester.

2. "Is Christian salvation forgiveness, a personal relationship with Jesus, power for moral transformation, or going to heaven? It is all of these and more, but a true account of the thing itself will have to start with the living whole if we ever hope to make sense of the parts." -The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything, by Fred Sanders

3. "Then in a flash Knife understood: That was what made the other paintings in the room special too. They weren't just images, they were ideas." -Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter, by R. J. Anderson

4. "I knew nothing about these wonder drugs [sulpha] then. When our family doctor tipped that tablet into my hand and bade me crush it up I wondered how it could possibly do anything for a baby whose tiny ears were standing out from his head with the abscesses behind them. I just held my toddler in my arms, the only thing that seemed to comfort him. We walked the floor with that moaning infant for four hours. Bill was staying with his mother and she was too nervous of the dark to go home alone, but I wanted to scream out, 'Don't leave me . . . if he's going to die, I want you here,' but that would mean putting it into words." -The Essie Summers Story, by Essie Summers

5. "Now the end of life puts the longest life on a par with the shortest." -The City of God, by St. Augustine

6. "The Christian nations of our day seem to me to present a most alarming spectacle; the movement which impels them is already so strong that it cannot be stopped, but it is not yet so rapid that it cannot be guided. Their fate is still in their own hands; but very soon they may lose control." - Democracy in America, by Alexis de Tocqueville

7. “I imagine you come across a number of people who are disconcerted by the difference between what you do feel and what they fancy you ought to feel. It is fatal to pay the smallest attention to them.” -Gaudy Night, by Dorothy Sayers

The last because I am pretty much always reading Gaudy Night.

More Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

a workout you can do with kids around - no babysitter required

This won't work in the dead of winter and it'd be miserable in the heat of summer, but in this lovely spring? I have a workout for you.

Equipment: a jump-rope and a park your kids like.

The plan: Take your kids to the park. Find a spot next to the playground that's reasonably flat. Shade's a plus. Make sure you can see your kids.

Round 1: -100 jumping jacks
              -20 squats
              -jump rope 100 times
              -20 sit-ups
Go through Round 1 three times.

Round 2: -100 jumping jacks
              -20 lunges, alternating legs
              -jump rope 100 times
              -10 push-ups
Go through Round 2 three times.

This takes about half an hour, and it'll get your heart-rate up nicely, hit both your quads and glutes, which are big muscles that burn a lot of calories, and give you some ab and arm work too. And you can keep an eye on your kids the whole time (except maybe during the push-ups).

And you get to do it outside! I love exercising outside. Sun and sky and trees = happy me.

If you don't have a jump rope, you could substitute jogging or jumping in place. Easy-peasy!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Links: Prison, Books, Marriage, and more!

Nifty Doctor Who inspired glass etchings. - if you need a gift for the Anglophilic nerd in your life. (or the many Anglophilic nerds in your life, if you have my life)

My Day in Prison - on Christian fiction and prisoners.

Christians and The Hunger Games - best review of the book I've read yet.

Byron's daughter was the first computer programmer. Who knew?

Total Effect and the Hunger Games - on choosing what you read

Who Saved a Wretch Like Me - Anne, as normal, being awesome:
Being married is just like any other endeavor. If you leave the hard work aside and don't attend to it, it becomes very big hard work. If you don't teach your two year old that she may not say 'no' to you, nor run away when you say to 'come here', nor fulfill every evil and rebellious desire of her tiny black heart, you eventually have a big huge teenage toddler whose heart is just as black but now everyone can see it. In marriage, if you don't come to mutually hard won agreements on the meanings of words, if you do not work very hard to quickly forgive and let things go, if you do not practice constantly putting the other person ahead of yourself, eventually you will have a big mess on your hands and come limping into the church office.

winner of "Sanctuary for a Lady" giveaway!

And we have a winner of the giveaway!

A copy of Naomi Rawlings' "Sanctuary for a Lady" is on its way to . . . Conservative Knit Mom!


Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Quickie Review of "The Hunger Games"

Adam and I went to see "The Hunger Games" today.

It was good. Unsurprisingly, it was much less violent than the book - they were definitely aiming for a PG-13, and not the hard R the book's content would seem to imply. Sadly, part of the way they accomplished this was through very shaky camera work that kept you from seeing what was happening. Occasionally it worked (during the initial bloodbath at the Cornucopia it felt right), but often it was just nausea-inducing.

Also, without a view inside Katniss' head, it's a very different story.

However, they alleviated a lot of the potential confusion by using the gamemakers and show hosts as exposition monkeys, and the added scenes between the chief gamemaker and the president were actually solidly helpful to the story, and were the right choice, I think.

My only other complaint is that you didn't get an idea of what a slog the Hunger Games was - of the sheer length and exhaustion of it. You sort of couldn't given the time constraints, but . . . it was a loss.

But there was much more good than bad. Just seeing the Capitol, and hearing their excitement over the games, was terrifying. Every time a Capitol citizen twittered on about how wonderful it all was, the actors who played Katniss and Peeta made you remember, with the subtlest of expressions, that the Capitol citizens were excited about killing children. The juxtaposition of indulgence and bloodthirstiness was possibly even more effective on the screen than it was on the page, and if you walked out of the theatre without thinking of your own overconsumption well . . . you weren't paying enough attention.

Overall? I think it would be confusing on its own, but as a companion piece to the book, I thought it was quite good. I thought the first half was better than the second. And I now want to go and reread the second and third books again, to try to figure out how in the world they're going to film them.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Finished Object: Petals Wrap Cardigan (Kristin Omdahl pattern)

I finished it, I finished it!

I started this on Christmas Day, and I've been dreaming about it for oh-so-much longer, and now it's done!

Here's a Ravelry link to the pattern, and another to my project (with notes). You have to register to use Ravelry, but it's free.

For fun, here's what it looked like pre-blocking - very scrunchy and ruffly: 
And here it is mid-blocking, all pinned out on top of a couple of towels. You see how the lace is more defined, especially around the edges?
It's done, it's done!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, March 23, 2012

Finished Object: a Long-Expected Birthday Dress (McCall's 4285)

I'm ashamed to say I started this project, um, two years ago? Over two years ago. Bess picked the pattern and fabric herself. 

I'm just not as enthusiastic a seamstress as I am a knitter or crocheter! But I'm so glad to have finished it, because Bess is so, so happy with it.

Pics or it didn't happen! The side:
Puffy sleeves, puffy (tulle-lined) skirt, a huge bow on the back - it's a perfect, little-girl's-dream-of-a-dress:
Happy birthday, Bess! (A few years late. So glad you are a skinny enough little thing that my procrastination didn't keep you from wearing it!)

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, March 22, 2012

More than midway through Lent

We must be, because they've started the baptismal classes at our church, in preparation for Easter morning.

Already? It feels like I've barely gotten into the rhythm of this, the barest of seasons. Even at forty days long, it doesn't feel like there's enough time to truly sink into the spare, ascetic aesthetic of Lent.

But I begin to. It's funny, but for all that Lent is so simple, it's hard to write about. Or at least, it's hard to blog about. I imagine there isn't a Christian blogger out there who doesn't hear Jesus' words about hiding the fact that you're fasting whenever he or she sits down to tell the internet how Lent's going. Eep.

Lent: easy to journal about, hard to blog about.

It should be a bumper sticker, right?

But still, I think I can say this: Lent's got my attention this year. It's got my attention and is focusing that attention on how easy I am on myself most of the year. Oh, I'm hard on myself in that firstborn, Type-A I-am-never-good-enough-no-one-can-love-me way, but that way is silly and a lie, and what's more, I know it's silly and a lie, and frankly, most of the times when I do it these days, it's an indulgence and it's not truly scary, not the way it was back when I was a teenager.

This Lent, it feels like fasting is letting me hear a call to - well, what? a call to maturity. I think.

(I'm figuring this out as I type, and what I just typed is making me stop and ponder a moment.)

But, yes, maturity. I think so. I think I need to be stricter with myself, but not in the bad old adolescent ways. I shouldn't condemn myself. (Because who is He who condemns? who has the right? not me. Not me.). Neither should I force myself through whatever my fool head has convinced me is what must be done, blindly pushing through fear and pain and the clanging warning bells of my intuition. I learned that lesson back when I broke both my arms, not at once, but one after the other, because I had decided I was going to get something done and didn't stop to think. Idiot.

No, now I will think. And now I will accept God's grace (with God's help). But I want to work, and I am seeing this Lent that I have been too easy on myself.

Not too kind to myself. That's different. I was thinking yesterday that exercising, though it feels self-indulgent, isn't. Would I own a dog and not exercise it? Of course not. Should I be less kind to my own body than I'd be to the body of an animal I was responsible for? Of course not. That sort of thing, that's kindness, not indulgence. At least at this stage of my life.

But . . . but fasting has a way of pointing out all the small things I do to ease my own way through my days. That I'm not so much virtuous as indulged. (Oh gosh, I don't even want to write that, because now I'm scared all my indulgences will disappear. Can I say I'm not sure? Ay-yi-yi.) I think I'm learning from it. I think. Golly, now I want to go and rewrite this whole post. Oh well: let's just be clear that this is all thinking, and not concluding, okay?

And all this is subject to whatever I learn in Easter. Because we don't fast forever, and often what's really important lasts through the feasting times too - you need to wait and see which lessons stick. I wonder if this one will?

How are you all doing, mid-Lent?

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Yarnalong: Hummingbird Jaywalkers and "Sanctuary for a Lady" Giveaway!

First, the book (and giveaway)
Being a terrible person, I always flip through new books before I read them, risking spoilers and disappointment. But when I got Naomi Rawling's new book, "Sanctuary for a Lady", the first thing I stumbled across was this exchange:
"Why do you keep trying to kiss me?"
"I'm not trying to kiss you. I'm . . ." What? Trying not to kiss her?
That made me laugh out loud and go back to the beginning of the book in order to start the story, hopeful for good things.

And I wasn't disappointed: the story is full of incident and romance, bouncing nicely back and forth between the peril of the plot and the sweetness of the love story. It's set in one of the more exciting times of history - i.e., one of those times that's fun to read about but that you really wouldn't want to have to live through - and despite the dangers of the time period, it made me want to go and visit northern France, to see if it's still as pretty as this book makes it sound. The descriptions of the countryside in this story are lush and inviting, and the aristocrat-fleeing-the-Terror plot reminded me of the life and times of the Scarlet Pimpernel.

Since Naomi was kind enough to give me this free copy*, I wanted to pass it on so that someone else could have the fun of reading it. If you're interested, just leave a comment, and make sure I have a way of contacting you. U.S. residents only (sorry!), and I'll pick a winner randomly on Sunday.

Then, the knitting
The socks are Jaywalkers and the yarn is Knit Picks' Felici in Hummingbird. It's very satisfying to watch the sharp ripple pattern appear; I've crocheted ripples so often, but this is my first time knitting them and it's fun to feel them form under my fingers via needle instead of hook. I really like the variety of learning things in both crafts.

More yarn-y and literary fun over at Small Things.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

*The book was free; all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Editing: Some Cheese with your Whine?

March is editing month. I'm editing a full-length manuscript and, frankly, it's going beautifully.

But . . . whine, sniffle, whine, whimper . . . I'm feeling terribly, inappropriately sorry for myself.

Why? Because editing is not writing. That's why. I want to be finishing my contemporary romance, the one that's so close to done, with the characters so close to turning the corner from disaster to redemption. I want to be plotting my sci-fi trilogy, the one that keeps bubbling up in my head whenever I have a quiet moment. I want to be researching my next historical romance, the one that I'm sure is going to have a duel in it, because, well, I want to write a duel. I want to sketch a few scenes for the space-going linguist with the eidetic memory, the one who's been patiently waiting for me to follow her along on the adventure I just know is coming. I want, I want, I want.

EDITING IS NOT WRITING. I like editing. I like it so much more than I thought. The novel I'm editing is going from good to better, sentences that were muddy are now clear, and with all the tweaks I'm making the characters shine and the story sings. But all this editing is not writing. And I am heartsick for writing.

There is just not enough time in my days. Not nearly enough.

And with all these characters and plots that have nowhere to go, there is not nearly enough room in my head. I think that I am going to explode.

Editing is not writing, it is not, and I need to write. April cannot get here soon enough for me.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, March 19, 2012


I recently read Noah Lukeman's The First Five Pages, and the penultimate chapter is about setting. He begins by saying:
It is amazing how often setting is neglected, employed only as necessary. This is such a mistake because, when brought to life, good settings can add a whole new dimension to a text, a richness nothing else can.
Immediately, I realized that setting was a vital part of all of the stories I've written in the past few years. And that realization astonished me.

I've never thought of myself as a writer who was all about setting. I would have said that I was all about character or that it was the "what if" of the plot that drew me into the narrative.

Except that my "what if's" always have to do with setting. In the book I'm writing now, the dual setting of a television production camp (so busy! so modern!) that's filming in the Sierra Nevada mountains (so eternal, so grand) is the spur to much of the action.

In the novella I wrote for my husband's birthday, the action begins in the slightly claustrophobic atmosphere of a space station - an atmosphere that becomes more claustrophobic when traffic between the station and Mars is suspended - and that then spirals down (literally) to Earth, and out into the vastness of the Mojave desert, which is not vast enough for our heroes to avoid the dénouement that awaits them.

Before that? a  novel that follows the heroes across the French countryside in wartime, then over the Channel and into a sleepy English village. Before that? A story that starts in Vienna and ends in a country house party. Before that? a story where the heroine travels from the shores of Troy to Mount Olympus, and then ends up on a planet halfway across the galaxy.

Yes. I like settings. I like what interesting settings do to characters: so often putting an interesting person in an interesting situation is all you need in order to get a story going. Plot is the result of, "what happens if I put this person in this situation?" And so often "this situation" is not just an event, it's a setting.

Geography is, as they say, the mother of strategy. And that's nowhere more true than in fiction.

What's your favorite fictional setting? Which is the one you'd love to visit? (Austen's England? Middle Earth?) Which is the one you'd do anything to avoid being thrown into? (Jackson's Whole? Azkaban?)

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, March 16, 2012

Links - Forgiveness, Anglicans, Pakistan, and more

Forgiveness, Cell by Cell - "When Christ told his disciples earlier to forgive your brother “not seven times, but seventy times seven times,” I think he may very well have meant for a single offense—because that’s how forgiveness works."

Time for a Big, Big Change -  "The Stand Firm web site is about to undergo the single biggest change in its eight-year history."

A Little Proof of a Large Thing - "Our bodies, and the pattern of our lives, make a gesture which is meaningful because of the very fact that some pattern exists. There is not nothing, and there is not chaos: there are patterns, and I cannot unsee them."

Another Pakistani Christian Woman Blasphemy Trial Set for This Saturday - Martha Bibi, a 45-year-old rural villager and mother of six, was also accused of making derogatory remarks against the Koran and blaspheming Mohammed. Her final hearing is set for this Saturday, March 17. This is one to write your congressmen about, folks, because international pressure actually has a chance of keeping her alive if the verdict goes against her. It's super-easy to email your senators these days; most of their sites have a form for it, and they may not pay attention to individual letters, but they do pay attention to volume.

Quantum Marketing - Got to love marketing advice that comes down to: "write a really good story."

Father Ailill on St. Patrick's Day - "I mean to say, take some pity on the man. He's 1500 years old. Hasn't he earned a little good manners, if not respect? If you're convinced you need a day to lower yourself to the level of the beasts, call it Bacchus Day, or Falstaff Day, or Ted Kennedy Day. Even St. Olaf Day. He liked his tipple well enough."

Mystery, Marriage, and Gospel in Ephesians

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." -Inigo Montoya

In Ephesians, Paul uses the word "mystery" over and over. And, unlike poor Vezzini, I think Paul knows exactly what he means by it - but until now, I'm not sure that I did.

I've been reading Ephesians over and over again this Lent, and its message is becoming much more clear to me now than it ever did when I read it only a chapter at a time.

Mysteries Revealed
In chapter 3, Paul talks about the "mystery" of the gospel, and then in chapter 5, he uses "mystery again", this time in his discussion of marriage. After reading the whole book in a sitting many times now, I'm beginning to think that the way he uses it the first time illuminates the way he uses it the second time.

In chapter 3, he talks about his appointed task of evangelizing the Gentiles, saying that the "mystery" of the gospel has finally been revealed: salvation from God is for all the nations.

In other words, when he says it's a "mystery", he's not saying that it's an unsolved mystery. He's saying that it was a mystery. Now, of course, we know. What used to be hidden is now revealed - that God had a plan to save all the peoples of the Earth through the seed of Abraham. Salvation is from the Jews, but it's not just for the Jews - God's plan was bigger than that.

"But I speak of Christ and the Church"
So here's what I'm wondering: in chapter five, when Paul is discussing marriage and says: "this mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church", is he using "mystery" the same way he was using it in chapter 3?

That is, is he talking about another thing that was a mystery, but isn't anymore? Is he, perhaps, saying that we used to not understand marriage, but now that we know how Christ loves the church, we can really understand how husbands are to love their wives?

There used to be "hardness of heart" (think about Jesus explaining why there was a provision in the Law for divorce), but now we understand: married love is a picture of Christ and the church, and both parties are to love each other sacrificially, wholly, generously.

Is this what Paul is saying? I don't know, but I begin to wonder. It does seem to fit one of the big themes of Ephesians: that the cosmic is connected to the mundane. That God's great work is to so transform the lives of his people that their obedience becomes such a show of his power that makes the angels stand stock still in wonder. That how we love each other showcases His own love. That the way He chooses to manifest His greatness is by empowering us sad, sorry, sinful humans to love one another - something we could never do in our own strength.

It seems like a small thing: to love one another. Yet we can't do it consistently and well for even ten minutes at a stretch - try it, you'll see. It's very impossibility is what makes it such a marvel when God's Holy Spirit enables us to do it - a marvel that declares God's glory. As Paul says, he preaches the gospel, "so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places." (chapter 3, verse 10.)

We're on display, Paul makes clear in the first half of Ephesians. And then, when the book takes a turn to his familiar "therefore . . .", the practical instruction that always comes after his theologizing, the "therefore" is that we ought to love each other. In our churches and in our homes. As the prayer book says, "in our daily life and work".

This is a great mystery. But I don't think it's one we're supposed to puzzle at, scratching our heads and wondering what it means. I think it's one we're supposed to stand in awe of. Because, in the coming of Christ, in his death, resurrection, ascension, and the promise of his coming again, in the sending of his Holy Spirit, I think God showed us what He meant.

What do you think? Is what I think I'm seeing actually there?

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Managing Your Email: a Primer for INFJs

If you're an INFJ, there's one thing about email you already know: it's so much better than a telephone call.

Emails give you a chance to think about your answers before you have to give them.

But the other truth is that a crowded email box can feel just as suffocating as a crowded party, and every little line in your inbox represents a person you have to interact with and . . . and you find yourself shying away from even clicking on the tab in your browser that holds your inbox, because just the idea of looking at all those people makes you feel overwhelmed and exhausted.

How to Manage
But if you don't answer your email, well, you're being rude. And we INFJs 1) actually like people and 2) have very clear ideas about right and wrong, and ignoring people with a legitimate claim on our attention is wrong. So how to manage?

1) Give yourself a day. You don't have to answer email the instant you receive it. Read it as soon as you get it, so your brain can start mulling over your response, but don't pressure yourself to respond instantly. You'll feel better about an answer you've had time to think about.

2) Answer the easy ones first. A corollary to the above rule: do answer the easy ones quickly. Some emails are easy, and you know what you want to say. If you know what you want to say: just say it. That'll keep the crowding in your inbox down, which will keep your stress down.

3) Clear your inbox regularly. Depending on your life and responsibilities, this could be a once-a-week chore or a once-a-day chore. But do clear your inbox on a regular basis. Just sit yourself down and make yourself answer every single email (that's a day old or older) before you let yourself get up again. Pretend someone will kill you if you don't do it, and you'll find that you actually can come up with the words when you're forced.

4) It doesn't have to be perfect. Yes, this is probably the hardest rule. You don't want to answer unless you're sure you have the right answer. I understand. I'm there with you. But it's unkind not to answer just because your pride demands perfection. Be kind, and be willing to use less-than-perfect verbage and unideal answers. Just answer. It's the right thing to do.

5) Clear your inbox completely. Your email system surely has a filing system: use it. After you've answered something, file it and get it out of your inbox. The goal is to have a completely clear inbox at least once a week. The empty space will make you feel so good.

I'd love to hear both from other INFJs, to know if any of these tricks are ones they use, and to hear from other personality types, to hear what works for them!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Book Notes: "Are Women Human?" by Dorothy L. Sayers

Are Women Human?Are Women Human? by Dorothy L. Sayers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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 now is back. I highly recommend it.

View all my reviews

Okay, the above is my short review. Here's a slightly longer response:

It's hard to take any notes on this book because it is so short and so profound. My instinct is just to copy it all down and let you read it, because every word in the book is worth reading and rereading, and even if you read and reread it, it would scarcely take you over an hour.

Along with her "Gaudy Night", "Are Women Human?" is one of those books I reread periodically in order to get my head set on straight.

Sayers' main assertion in the two essays that make up this book is that the first thing that is important about women is that they are human. That they are female may be the second most important thing about them - after all, the first thing you notice about someone after you notice that he is a person is whether or not he is a he or she is a she - but the first most important thing about a person is that he is a person. In our case, a human being. We are creatures made in the image of God, and that is the first thing there is to know about us. It's the most important thing to keep in mind as we go on to look at the differences between the sexes.

The other main subject that these essays explore is work. Sayers wants to make it clear that if a person is clearly made for a specific sort of work, she ought to be allowed to do it. She doesn't insist that every woman is a genius, and admits that very few may be specially gifted for special work. But, she says, if they are good at something and the thing they are good at is worth doing, then they ought to be allowed to do it and to do it well. She's very big on people being allowed to do their "proper work" - that is, the work that belongs to them. In short, she is arguing for excellence. She is arguing for virtue - for skill to be allowed to be diligently and wisely applied to the tasks at hand.

And I would say, honestly, that this is very much along the lines of what we find in Proverbs 31, in the paean of praise to the ideal wife. That woman works. And it is intelligent, creative, organizational work. And it is hers and she does it well.

The book ends with Sayers explicating the parts of the gospel where Jesus interacts with women, pointing out that he took them seriously.

I don't insist that Sayers got it all right, or that this is anything like a comprehensive take on the issue, but it's well-worth an hour of your attention - or if you're like me, an hour of your attention about once a year.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

So I open my door and find this on my patio . . .

(skip this post if you're not a Discovery Channel sort of person)

If this is what happens when I post about sex on my blog, I'm never going to type anything remotely romantic ever again. Dear lizards, it may well be spring, but GO GET IT ON SOMEWHERE ELSE!  Ew . . .


Fernando Ortega's Trisagion

This simple prayer, "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us" is one I pray almost every night in my kids' room before I go to bed, before praying for them individually. Fernando Ortega, on his latest album, sets it to a really beautiful piece of music.

Isn't that lovely? I find myself singing it over and over again. It's such a blessing to have prayers set to music. (And if you appreciate it too, I'll make my usual "pay the artist" pitch and say: go buy it!)

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

The Song of Songs - or, What's Chastity For?

There's a verse in the Song of Songs I love for its profundity. It's in chapter 8 and comes right after a discussion of chastity in young women. It's the Bride affirming her own virtue and she says, "I was a wall, and my breasts were like towers; then I became in his eyes as one who brings peace."

I think this line sums up one of the great goods of chastity: it allows for peace and security. The Song of Song speaks of the bride as "a garden walled up". Within is all freedom and beauty and joy, but the boundaries are very clear.

In marriage, exclusivity brings peace. Our guard can come down because the guard has already been set. No one intrudes, no one watches, there's no one to judge but the lover and the beloved, and their judgment is that they find each other delightful. Who could find a garden wanting?

Married love is human love, and like all human loves, its goodness is guarded by boundaries. We're so fallible, we need the law. While we're still on Earth, law is a great gift and the boundaries are a good thing. The boundaries guard our joy.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, March 12, 2012

Links: Fasting, Prayer, and Steven Curtis Chapman

St. John Chrysostom on Fasting - "Do not let only your mouth fast, but also the eye, the ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all members of our bodies . . ."

Work and Prayer and Rest - "Don’t be mistaken. There is a difference between idleness and rest. There’s a difference between blind striving and hard work. How do we know where one stops and the other begins? We know who we are in Christ. We believe in grace and in God’s deep love for us. We work out of a healthy knowledge of our own value because we know it is not a result of our accomplishments. We work knowing that our hope is in the one who offers rest at the end of the day, at the end of the week."

What I Learned From SCC - "But if we preach our deep brokenness and Christ’s deeper healing, if we preach our inability to take a single breath but for God’s grace, then our weakness exalts him and we’re functioning as we were meant to since the foundation of the world. Steven isn’t super-human. He’s just human. But what a glorious thing to be! An attempt on our part to be super-human will result only in our in-humanness–like a teacup trying to be a fork: useless. But if the teacup will just be a teacup, it will be filled."

Enjoy the good reading!
Jessica Snell

Knitted Finished Objects: Fingerless Gloves

This time for my mom. The yarn was a pretty thick sock yarn, which is why, I think, my fingers look so odd in this picture. But very cozy FO's!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Sunday, March 11, 2012

To Valiant Hearts Triumphant

I wrote 20,000+ words on my current novel in both January and February, and now I'm taking March off to edit my previous novel, in hope of querying it soon. The current novel stands 3/4 of the way finished, so another 20,000 word month in April should see it done.

Which is good! Because I left my poor hero and heroine in the Slough of Despair. I reread the whole book yesterday, coming up abruptly to the cut-off point and practically drooling to get back to writing it because I just can't stand the tension. It's a good sign, I guess, because the trick in fiction is to make it worse and worse and worse for the protagonists up until about the 3/4 mark, and then to let them begin to beat back the advancing hordes.

I want to get to some horde-slaughtering, is what I'm saying.

Instead, tomorrow will see me back to passive-voice slaughtering in the old book, and maybe that's a good thing, because this current WIP might be the most honest thing I've ever written, and I gave myself the freedom to let my hero and heroine make real mistakes, and frankly it's going to take some work to figure how to let them meet those mistakes with real humility, real growth, and real triumph.

Not that it's a depressing story. I kept laughing yesterday while I read it. I know that it's goofy to laugh at your own jokes, but I'd forgotten most of them by the time I read them again, so that's my excuse.

And I really like the story. But it's time for it to marinate for a few more weeks, and then I'll tackle it in the Paschal season, which is the proper season for a romance anyway - spring and light and growth. I want to write the end of this one with Easter hymns in my head.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Braiding Long Hair

My hair's reaching past my mid-back now, and I've noticed that some of my old reliable updos don't work quite as well with this much hair. So I've been poking around the internet, looking for new ideas. Here's today's experiment, based on this youtube tutorial:

You divide your hair in two sections, and then French braid it, taking only from the bottom, and holding the braid out to the side so that you have lots of slack. Then you pull each braid to the opposite side of the head and pin it, hiding the ends. This lets the slack fall along the back of the head, curtain-like. Very elegant, I think.

But looking from the side, it's doesn't appear so different from a crown braid:
My hair was a bit too long to finish it the way the lady on the tutorial video did; I had to put little clips at the part to hide the tip-ends of my braids, since they reached all the way around:
But overall, I'm pleased! I think I'm going to experiment with new styles for the next week or so, to see if I can't find some other things that work.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Eep! Terrible Typo on Yesterday's Passive Voice Post!

I meant to say that "they faced each other" sounds stronger than "they were facing each other".

Editing, indeed!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Kill the Passive Voice - and Don't Worry, It Won't Fight Back

On Monday, I spent an hour combing through 200+ pages of manuscript looking for the word "were". Because which sounds better:

1) "They were facing each other"


2) "They faced each other"?

Usually the second.

Today and yesterday, I spent a few hours combing through the same 200+ pages looking for the word "was". Because "he stood" is so much cleaner than "he was standing".

Tomorrow, I take bow and arrow and go on a hunt for "had"!

And, truly, this is all much more exciting than it has any right to be. I love editing. Who knew?

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Yarnalong: Faery Rebels and the Petals Wrap Cardigan

I managed to lose the cover of the book to our living room lamp (the perils of taking photos after dark), but at least you can see the lace!

It looks scrunchy because it hasn't been blocked yet, but that's what I have so far of my Petals Wrap Cardigan. See the skinny sleeves sticking out in the middle of it and looking ugly? They'll have trim too, eventually. Right where the ball of yarn sits in this picture is where I'm currently working, forming the deep trim around the body of the sweater. And right at the top edge of the book is the spot I'm working towards. I didn't realize when I started this project that the cardigan was almost half trim!

The book you can't see is "Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter" by R. J. Anderson. It's a pity, but I don't remember which blog pointed me towards it, because I'd like to thank whoever it was whose review prompted me to try it. It's quite good. I'm reading it to my daughter and we're both enjoying it. I'm only about halfway through, so I can't recommend it unreservedly (have to see how it ends!), but so far I'm impressed. It's got a lot of depth and the quality of the writing is high. Anderson paints a vivid world, but she does it without once being verbose or letting the story drag. In the background are all sorts of interesting questions about the nature of being, and ethical dilemmas abound, but front and center is a compelling plot, colorful world, and engaging characters. It's got all the miniaturized fascination of a doll house, but all the adventure of something from Grimm.

Anyway, if you've got a daughter who likes fairy stories, or if you're an adult who enjoys well-written fantasy regardless of the age it's aimed at, this is one that's worth checking out. I'll let you know what I think of the ending when we get there!

More yarn-y and literary goodness can be found at Small Things.

Also, today over at Regency Reflections, I have a review of Jane Austen Knits up - check it out!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Links: birth control, quadruplets, tornadoes, and more!

The Bible and Birth Control - Tim Challies is starting a series on birth control and, like most of what he writes, it's serious, thoughtful, and interesting.

Quadruplet Boys Born in Bristol on "Leap Day" - and two of them were monoamniotic twins, like my girls! Naturally-conceived quads are incredibly rare, but it's very common, when they are conceived, to have at least one pair of identical twins in the set. Anyway: hooray for babies arriving safely! God bless them through the hard first stage of growth.

DIY Chic: Printed Word Scarf - neat tutorial for a fashionable and literary accessory.

Indiana Woman Loses Legs Saving Kids From Tornado - one heroic mom.

And, finally, a cool quotation from "The Deep Things of God":
"When the outlines of both [the Trinity and the gospel] are clear, we should experience the shock of recognition: Trinity and gospel have the same shape! This is because the good news of salvation is ultimately that God opens his Trinitarian life to us. Every other blessing is either a preparation for that or a result of it, but the thing itself is God's graciously taking us into the fellowship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to be our salvation." (emphasis mine.)
Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, March 5, 2012

Finished Knit Socks (Sunday Swing pattern) - and one more afghan square! (Chain Reaction Afghan)

My Juice Box Socks are done! I love 'em. I was smiling today every time I looked down at my feet and saw these crazy-bright socks peeking out under my soberly-colored trousers.
And they've got lace! (My first knitted lace.)

And upon looking at this picture of them, I am just now realizing that I probably should have mirrored the lace pattern for the opposite sock. Huh. Oh well!

In other news, I finished yet another square for the Dim Sum Afghan. Someday this will be done. Some. Day.
What's on your needles or hook?

Exercise DVD Review: "Billy Blanks: Boot Camp S.O.S." (Tae-Bo)

Another library DVD! This one was a perfect day for a fit when I had a longer time to exercise, because the DVD clocks in at just under 50 minutes.

It's funny that, although this is a much tougher workout, the instructor Billy Blanks reminds me most of is the sweet and gentle Leslie Sansone, of "Walk Away the Pounds" fame. She might be having you walk in place for 30 minutes, while Blanks has you doing kickboxing for almost an hour, but the share the same encouraging spirit. I was surprised at how often Blanks' cues included something like, "hang in there, you're doing well, take a break if you need to and go at your own pace, but then come back in and join us again, you can do it."

And that was kind of nice, especially as I didn't feel inclined to do, say, jumping back-kicks. Nothing against jumping (well, hopping, in this case) back-kicks, but I know enough about them to know that I don't want to do them in my small living room, especially when I haven't practiced karate in so long. I think this DVD is one where you need to be aware that there are some moves that might injure you if you're not careful.

But that caveat aside, I really liked "Boot Camp S.O.S." It got my heart rate up nicely and gave a good burn in the big muscles of the legs. Blanks has you run through each sequence at half-speed before turning it up full-throttle, and for all but a few of the sequences, that bit of practice was enough to let me go all out when it was time.

The back-up exercisers are hilariously into the workout. They'd be totally annoying if you were in a bad mood, but I was inclined to enjoy myself, and so I found all the yipping and high-fiving in the background funny this time around.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, March 1, 2012

"Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate."

I went over to Goodreads yesterday, hoping I could trim down my "currently reading" shelf, but after getting it down to 9 books, I took thought again, realized I'd left some out, and now my currently-reading count is back up to twelve.


In related news, I've been (very, very slowly) working on an article I'm tentatively titling "In Defense of Romance", and today I went and dug out an old lecture I gave once called "Why Dante Didn't Sleep with Beatrice". I cleverly included sex in the title, you see, because the lecture was for college students and I wanted a big audience.

It worked.

Anyway, that really is what the lecture was about. It was about the courtly love tradition that developed in France in the tenth century, and how Dante took that tradition and Christianized it, and how you can see it all happen in the Vita Nuova and the Divine Comedy - and how that all explains why there's no adultery in Dante's magnum opus. (Not between the principal characters, anyway.)

And, upon rereading my lecture, I realized that if I really want to do justice to the article I'm writing, I also need to go back and reread (at least parts of) the Vita and the Comedy, and probably also bits of The Romance of the Rose, and Tristan and Isolde, and some of C. S. Lewis' more academic works. Oh, and Books III & IV of the Faerie Queen. Because it's been awhile and I want to know whereof I speak.

I guess what I'm saying is: there is no hope at all for my "currently reading" shelf over at Goodreads.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

*The title of this blog is a quotation of the phrase Dante says is over the gate to Hell: "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."