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

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

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.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"Be at peace then"

"Do not look forward to what might happen tomorrow;
The same everlasting Father, who cares for you today,
will take care of you tomorrow and everyday-
Either He will shield you from suffering,
or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it.

Be at peace then,
and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations."
-St. Francis de Sales

Sunday, October 7, 2012

a quick follow-up on my TV post: "Parks and Rec" and "Grimm"

I got lots of recommendations on this post, and I've not managed to try all of them yet, but I tried a few, and wanted to give feedback:

1. Parks and Recreation - I'm sorry, I'm not feeling it. The couple of episodes I watched had a few laugh-out-loud moments, but mostly just felt really sloooooow. Though I liked the mustachio'd dept. head. Maybe the problem is that I've actually done my time working for the government?

2. Grimm - love it! So glad I gave this one a second try. I'm still not loving the parts that detail the squickier crimes (but really, I don't think you're supposed to), but the characters have completely won me over.

I love that it's a fantasy where the heroes are not angsty. There's no, "oh woe is me, no one understands my specialness and my pain". No, you've got some normal, decent people in extraordinary circumstances who act like . . . well, like normal, decent people would act in extraordinary circumstances. They're grown-ups, not teenagers. That's fun to watch.

And I love Monroe, especially. What a great character!

Oh, one caveat to the "how-normal-people-would-act": why hasn't the hero just sat down and memorized the books his aunt left him? If you're given a guide that explains how to kill the monsters who are out to destroy you, why don't you study it so you don't have to stop and look up how to do your job every time a new monster shows up? (I know, I know, it's so there's a chance to exposit the characteristics of the new monster-of-the-week to the viewer. But still.)

Anyway, anyone who reads this blog knows I'm a sucker for entertaining spec. fic., and this show definitely fits the bill. Thanks for the recommendation!

-Jessica Snell

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Knitted Finished Object: Gryffindor Scarf

For my own little Hermione-ish book-lover:

I have to say, after all the hexipuffs I've been knitting with skinny sock yarn, this scarf in worsted weight wool was a very quick and satisfying project.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, October 1, 2012

I am so happy right now

This isn't even close to a proper blog entry. But I am so happy right now.

My computer was gone for almost three weeks (poor baby desperately needed the attention of the awesome technicians over at Dell), and I spent the three weeks decluttering the whole house. Seriously, there's only one room I didn't get to, and the one I didn't get to is the least messy room in the house. So the housework has gotten substantially easier, just because there's less stuff to pick up.

AND, I spent the weeks doing prep. work for a variety of writing projects - editing hard copies, writing outlines, etc. And now my computer's back and I can WRITE. And I am. And I have projects and stories I'm so excited to work on, and with three weeks thinking behind me, I know EXACTLY what I want to do on them.

And I'm doing it. And I'm so happy.

And I'm listening to Jonathan Coulton's "Still Alive", which is pretty and funny and horrifying, but somehow exactly the right song for my mood right now.

Anyway. I'm happy. And who's ever happy without wanting to share?  :D

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell