Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Why I review the books I do

Recently, the Writing Excuses cast talked about how they choose which books to review on their blogs. And they all basically said that, being writers themselves, they chose to only review books they actually liked.

And I thought, Cool. I do the exact same thing.

Because I do. The truth is, being a writer makes you slow to want to publicly criticize other writers. Partly because it might look like sour grapes. Partly because you understand well that not all books are for all audiences.

And partly because you know that there's a difference between providing a helpful critique for a friend, and providing public criticism to someone you might not even know.  It's all about context. The helpful critique for a friend might be even harsher than the public criticism, but that happens in a context where you know your friend wants the real deal, where maybe even you expect the same thing from that friend in return. Because you're both committed to making your work better.

The weird thing is, I'm really grateful for good book reviewers who honestly take on books they like and books they don't. But I think that's a hard post to hold if you're an author yourself.

And I don't write dishonest book reviews. I honestly like the ones I say I like.

And you can't even tell that I don't like a book by the fact that I choose not to review it. For instance, I just finished John Scalzi's Lock In and enjoyed it. Stayed up late to finish it, even.

I just don't feel like reviewing it. I read it for fun, had fun, and don't feel like turning it into work.

The funny thing is, the closer the book is to the stuff I write myself, the easier it is to critique it. I know the field, and I know what I like and what I don't and why.

But the further the book is from the stuff I like myself, the easier is to be public about what I don't like about the book. Probably because in that case, I'm speaking much more as a reader than as a writer.

And, in the end, it's as a reader that you need to write your book reviews.

Other writers - when they are thinking like writers - are not your end audience.

Readers are.

And in the end, it's how your book appears to the readers that really matters.

Which is why I only review books I like.  :)

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Monday, September 29, 2014

The wisdom of Abigail

Abigail Offering Bread to David, PD Art-Old, Louis de Boullogne (1654–1733), via Wikimedia Commons

I love Abigail.

The story of Abigail is found in 1 Samuel 25, and I've listened to this chapter of the Bible over and over.

Here are a few things I noticed about Abigail:

-Abigail is the sort of person other people confide in. When there's trouble in her household, one of her servants lets her know what was going on. She was trustworthy, and that saved her. (Whereas Nabal, her husband, was "such a son of Belial, that one cannot speak to him!")

-Abigail knew what to do in a crisis

-Abigail lived the sort of life that resulted to her being ready for a crisis.

-Abigail was wise about who she consulted and who she didn't. (She didn't tell Nabal what had happened till things were over.)

-Abigail was ready to humble herself when the circumstances required it.

-Abigail was ready to take consequences upon herself that weren't even her fault, for the sake of those who were in her charge. (And this is love . . .)

-Abigail was well-spoken and knew how to persuade with her words. (Look how clever she is when she talks to David - she even hints at David's famous victory against Goliath! Talk about appropriately flattering!)

-Abigail, moreover, knew how to persuade David specifically. When she faced David's wrath, she didn't give a general argument, but an argument tailored specifically to David. She referenced the LORD's promises. She spoke to David's future, and the man he wanted to be, and what David knew to be true of the LORD (that he would avenge on his beloved's behalf). She hinted at regrets David might have if he continued on his present course of action.
This was not a woman flailing about, hoping to catch on a winning argument. She was specific and shrewd in the words she chose to use.

-And moreover, Abigail asked for something for herself - in addition to just the solution of the present problem.

-Despite her humility, Abigail knew her own worth. When David eventually demanded her as a wife, Abigail went to David mounted, and with a retinue. She went as a woman of means and reputation. Because that was who she really was.

On David:
Also, just to point it out, in this chapter, that it's evident David:

1) wanted justice, but,

2) was ready to hear a reason for mercy.

I can't help but appreciate that, too.

Honestly, so much has been said about the Proverbs 31 woman that it's hard to jump into the fray. But, for my money, if you want to see a woman who was, in real life, virtuous, just, and shrewd, it's hard to find a better example than Abigail.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Also wanted to mention . . .

My interview with Michael Porter on Anglican Review is now available for download onto iTunes.

On a personal level, I wince at how often I say "um" on this interview..

But on a professional level, I'm really happy with the content. Michael did a great job asking questions that elicited a lot of interesting content, and I think you'll all be entertained and encouraged by this interview. 


Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica snell

Just wanted to note . . .

Just wanted to note, in the middle of this lovely weekend, that I'm still an avid participator and reader in/of Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books.

If you love books (and I assume most that read this blog do), Semicolon's Review of Books is a great place to find more great titles to add to your to-read list.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Weekend Links: Prayer, the Princess Bride, and more!

A little good reading for your weekend:

"Prayer, A Doctor’s Duty":
This week I ran around the lake as a cure for the stagnation I feel at work. I may see thirty patients a day, I thought, but how much ministry do I really accomplish? I pounded through my frustration each time I struggled up the hill and down around the lake . . . 
"After Paris: Meta, Irony, Narrative, Frames, and The Princess Bride":
To make a pastiche work, you have to be able to see what makes the original thing great as well as what makes it absurd, you have to be able to understand why people want it in the first place. You have to be able to see all around it. This is why Galaxy Quest works and everything else that tries to do that fails in a mean spirited way. The Princess Bride is the same, Goldman clearly loves the fairytale even when making fun of it and that makes it all work. The characters are real characters we can care about, even when they’re also larger than life or caricatures.
"Moving past the urge to truth-bomb":
Most people have gone through something painful or difficult, either in the past or in the present, and they don’t feel the need to carry a sign announcing it to everyone. Most people are not out to offend. Most people, when they make a nice comment, are just trying to be decent human beings, so why not return the favor and just be human beings together?

Finally, my sister (whose judgment I trust) let me know about some friends of hers, David and Tracy, who are trying to raise the last little bit of money they need in order to adopt Collier, a boy with Down's Syndrome who is about to age out of his Eastern European orphanage. When this happens, he'll be institutionalized and no longer eligible for adoption. David and Tracy are, according to my sister, a wonderful, Christian family, who saw Collier's picture and just knew that he was supposed to be a part of their family.

If you can help, you can donate here.

Have a great weekend!
Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, September 26, 2014

Book Notes: Working Stiff, by Judy Melinek, M.D., and T.J. Mitchell

I blogged about this book first here, and now I've finished reading it.

It went really, really quickly. I was fascinated the entire time.

Now, this is a bad book to read while you're eating. I'll just state that up front. And if you were one of those kids who was grossed out in biology class, this probably isn't the book for you either.

But I loved biology class, I'm fascinated by weird medical details, I like stories about weird jobs, and I adored this book.

Melinek gives you a good idea of what her job entails, and she does it through stories. Which is perfect. She gives you general principles, but then shows how they worked out in her day-to-day life through various case studies.

And the chapters are split up into various causes of death. There's a chapter on homicide, on suicide, on death by medical misadventure (so to speak), etc.

But the most harrowing chapter by far comes near the end, where she describes her experience of the events of 9/11. Melinek was one of the ME's who worked on the remains recovered from the site of the Twin Towers. It's sobering, and hard to read.

But I really felt like she gave articulate witness to that hard and sad chapter in our natural history. It was hard to read, but it felt like it was really worth reading.

"Working Stiff" is the story of a doctor becoming a medical examiner. Parts of it were entertaining, parts of it were intriguing, parts of it were horrifying, but it all felt worth reading. I'm glad I picked it up.

Peace of Christ,
Jessica Snell

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

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Knitted Finished Objects: Kids' Hats

This summer, a few weeks before we went camping up in the Sierra Nevada, I decided I really, really needed to knit each of my children a warm cap. Just because, well, because I needed to, that's why.

Yeah . . . I was knitting on the drive up AND at the campsite itself.

But I did it!

And it was super-fun, especially because I let each child choose the yarn for his or her own cap. I loved seeing what each of them picked! And here's how they turned out:

PINK for Lucy
Sunset colors for Anna
"Beehive" colors for Gamgee
Oceany-blues for Bess

The pattern I used for all of these is really basic (and free!), and you can find it here.

I had so much fun making my kids hats that they really, really liked. I loved letting them each choose their own materials.

I kind of want to do it again. Maybe scarves next time?  :)

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book Notes: "The Forest for the Trees", by Betsy Lerner

While I was reading "The Forest for the Trees", by Betsy Lerner, I tried to explain what it was about to my husband.

"It's by an editor," I said, "and it's about editing."

"Oh," he said, "so it's a how-to book."

"No . . ." I said, hemming and hawing. "It's sort of like a memoir? But that's not quite either . . ."

The heart of the book
What this book is is a series of sharp, insightful vignettes from the life of a very successful editor.

I loved it.

I loved her love of books, and I loved how intelligently she illuminated the work she did to make those lovely books even better.

I felt like I learned so much reading this book

Here are a few of my favorite quotations from "The Forest for the Trees":

“The writer’s psychology is by its very nature one of extreme duality. The writer labors in isolation, yet all that intensive, lonely work is in the service of communicating, is an attempt to reach another person.” –  pages 5-6

“Most writers have very little choice in what they write about. Think of any writer’s body of work, and you will see the thematic pattern incorporating voice, structure, and intent. What is in evidence over and over is a certain set of obsessions, a certain vocabulary, a way of approaching the page. The person who can’t focus is not without his own obsessions, vocabulary, and approach. However, either he can’t find his form or he can’t apply the necessary discipline that ultimately separates the published from the unpublished.” – pages 18-19.

“As with sex, some people have extremely low writing drives, while others become irritable and agitated if they can’t express themselves everyday.” – page 27.

“Absorbing [my father’s] worldview, I came to believe that people were neither lucky nor unlucky. Life was more like a game of odds in which you could increase your chances of winning simply by doing more than the next guy. It wasn’t about being in the right place at the right time but about being in a lot of places at a lot of times, showing up even when the odds seemed lousy. How this applies to writers is somewhat obvious, but I’ll belabor the point: submitting your work fifty times or revising it as many times as you have to may be what separates the sung from the unsung.” 

If you love books, and if you have any interest in the making of them, this is one to pick up.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Monday, September 22, 2014

the Gadarene Demoniac

Jesus heilt den Besessenen von Gerasa Mittelalterliche Buchillustration (PD:USA, old) via Wikimedia Commons

The story of the Gadarene demoniac is found in Luke 8:26-39, and it was in my reading for this past week.

As I listened to the story over and over, I noticed a few things.

First, I noticed that there were two undesirables in the story:

1) the demonized madman who could not be securely bound, even with chains,
2) and the Man who could command the demons to leave.

And it was the Man who could command the demons to leave that, in the end, the townspeople could not abide staying with them.

Divine Authority
The other thing that stood out to me is that Jesus commands the healed man to, "tell what great things God has done for you" . . .

. . . and that man went away telling "what great things Jesus had done for him."

And that this is exactly right. Because Jesus is God, the Son of God.

New Insights
And I'd noticed that before, but I hadn't noticed this: that the demonized man becomes an evangelist. He goes his way, telling the Good News of Christ.

Not only is his affliction taken from him, not only is he freed from his enemies, not only is the bad thing not there anymore . . . but a good thing takes its place.

He not only is not a demoniac anymore . . . he is an evangelist.

He's not left neutral. He's not defined by what he isn't.

He is an evangelist. He is a bearer of good news.

He's not only saved from damnation, but he's given a job, a role, a place in the Kingdom of God.

This is the good news.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Ordinary Time: "the work of living"

The challenge of Ordinary Time is that it doesn’t feel important. It can be difficult to sustain a sense of time as holy through the forty days of Lent, or even the twelve days of Christmas. And yet we need a season when the decorations are taken down and the work of living is done.  

- Ann Dominguez,  Let Us Keep the Feast: Pentecost and Ordinary Time

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Weekend Links: Kids who don't leave church, Knitting reviews, and more!

-"3 Common Traits of Youth Who Don’t Leave the Church":
We pray for conversion; that is all we can do, for it is entirely a gracious gift of God. But after conversion, it is our Christ-given duty to help fan into flame a faith that serves, leads, teaches, and grows.
-"SDfAoWOP: the Room":
Every once in a while, in the travails and duties of life, you might happen upon someone who is a rest and not more work, whose company is a balm for your soul and whose house is a rest for your body. You work and fret and push past the point of exhaustion. You constantly rush through to the next thing. But then, someone urges you to stop, to eat food, to rest.
“Don’t let go of it once you have it,” Marie said, over and over. Her words echoed in my head over the past few rides as Mink and I try to maintain that floating walk without her. But the other day, her words came back to me in a completely different context.

-Yay! The Samurai Knitter is doing pattern reviews again!  Fellow knitters, you'll enjoy this post where she reviews the latest Twist Collective.

-"New England Reflections 2014 (Cont.): The Platypus Travels Part LI":  This is a friend's (educated) reflection on some stained glass he saw in his travels. Interesting and edifying - and just plain pretty.

Friday, September 19, 2014

"Some of you are in dark places right now, and I want you to know that God sees you."

I had the pleasure of being present at this lecture last year, and I was glad to find that it's available to the public on YouTube now.

Here's Dr. Betsy Barber on depression and Christians:

Book Notes: "The Martian", by Andy Weir

On the day I started this book (and got completely hooked, honestly, from the first page), I tried to describe it to my husband.

And my description led him to ask, "So, it's kind of like Robinson Crusoe, but in space?"

And I agreed, Yeah, it kind of is.

But with urgency.

I picked this up on Howard Taylor's recommendation, and I was not disappointed.

"The Martian" is a story about an astronaut who is abandoned on Mars, and has to try to figure out how to survive.

It was all an accident. His fellow crewmates on the mission thought he was dead (reasonably, as it turns out) and left him behind when they bugged out.

It's set in the near-future, which adds to the fun, because all the technology described is stuff you can easily relate to.

I loved watching how he faced his obstacles, and creatively found ways around them. My husband pointed out (he ended up reading it too), that it's fascinating to see what ends up being a problem and what isn't. For instance, you think that water would be a problem, but it isn't. Food now? That's a problem.

I also loved the sense of humor. Most of the story is shown through the astronaut's log entries, and they're often hilarious. Sometimes, it's gallows humor. But that's appropriate to the circumstances.

I have to give a small caution for some language, mostly slightly crude and mostly appropriate to the situation the main character's in.

But on the whole, I highly recommend this book. It's hard science fiction, but it never forgets the importance of character and story.

I really enjoyed it.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Yarnalong: "Lock In", potholders, and dishcloths

Ginny over at Small Things says: ~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs. I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? Take a photo and share it either on your blog or on Flickr. Leave a link below to share your photo with the rest of us! ~

The knitting:
I just finished a few new potholders and I'm using the leftovers to make a dishcloth.

Knitting and crochet really are magic: you take thread and then, voila! you have whole objects. And sometimes it's magical, like lace, but honestly, the handmade objects I use most often are my dishcloths and potholders.

Both of the patterns I use are free. You can find the potholder pattern here and the dishcloth pattern here

I love both of these patterns. I've made them so many times, both for myself and others. Pretty and useful, like all the best household items. :)

The book:
I just started "Lock In", by John Scalzi. I've enjoyed some of Scalzi's other books, and this one's interesting because it's a sci fi that's written like a murder mystery.

Genre-mashing can be fun. Or really boring. We'll have to see which one this is! :)

Do you have a favorite genre-mashing novel?  The one that comes first to my mine is "A Civil Campaign", which combines science fiction and romance, and is one of my favorite books ever. Which genres have you seen combined into one book?

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Interview on Anglican Review about "Let Us Keep the Feast"

I'm really happy to be on  Anglican Review today, talking about "Let Us Keep the Feast".

The host, Michael Porter, and I talk about
 -how the church year is structured after the gospel
 -how children can celebrate the church year
 -how the structure of the church year takes away anxiety in our devotional life
 -and much more!

The interview is streaming today, Thursday, and Saturday at 11 am, 6:30 pm, and 11 pm PST (12:00 am, noon and 7:30 pm MST).

After that, it'll be available as a podcast on iTunes.

Come on over and give it a listen!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Recipe: Sweet & Sour Mango Smoothie

This is my favorite refreshment on a hot day (it's been in the 100's here in the Los Angeles basin). I especially like this smoothie because it's not sickly-sweet, but instead it's nice and tangy. The plain yogurt adds a nice hit of sour, and the mango sweetens it naturally. The result is something that's appetizing without being cloying.

Here's the recipe - and it couldn't be simpler - in a blender, put:

-1 c. milk
-1 c. plain yogurt
-1 c. frozen mango
-1 T. ground flaxseed (optional - I put it in for some healthy fat, because I tend to use fat-free milk & yogurt)

Blend it to a smooth consistency.  Enjoy!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Monday, September 15, 2014

Book Notes: "The Ministry of Motherhood", by Sally Clarkson

"The Ministry of Motherhood", by Sally Clarkson, is a gift. A pure gift. I'm so grateful for this book.

Now here, full disclosure, before I go on with the gushing, let me tell you what I didn't like about this book. Each section starts with an imaginative retelling of part of the gospels, and I disliked that part. But I think it's primarily a stylistic preference. I only mention it in case someone else like me picks this up and also dislikes that feature. Don't worry about it. Skip it if you like. Consider it a drawing illustrating the title page of each section and just flip past it. Do not let it stop you from reading the book.  Because the rest of this book is so, so good.

This book is amazing. In each chapter, it felt like the author takes my face by the chin, and turns me 'round so I can see things from a different angle, and I go "ohhhh. I get it now." It's like she says, "look at it this way. See?" And then I see, and I am so, so glad.

This book is a gift.

Sally Clarkson talks honestly and earnestly about her experience of motherhood, and easily segues into giving advice and even commands that don't sound at all presumptuous, they just sound right. Here are a few samples to give you an idea of the way she writes - things I particularly liked:
“Through his Word, God had given me all I needed to live productively through the challenging circumstances he brought my way. He will do that for my children, too, which is why the Bible must be at the center of all we do as parents. One of the central ways we give our children the gift of faith is to base everything we do on the Word of God.” –  pages 124-125.
Such a good way of reminding me of the way I need to be an example to my kids. And that even before I look to how things might be affecting my kids, I need to be looking to the Lord.

And then this part - this amazing part - where she reminds me about how my children are really in the Lord's hands, not mine:
“To me as a parent, this ‘vine’ reality has two implications. First I must do what I can to stay connected to Jesus at all costs. Only when he lives through me will I have the patience, love, faith, strength, perspective, and understanding I need to raise godly, faithful children. Spiritual fruit in the lives of our children even depends – up to a point – on my staying connected to the Lord.
“But the other side of this truth is that eventually my children must attach themselves to the Vine, not to me. Only the Lord can draw our children to himself. Only he can give salvation to our children. And only he can convict them of their sins. I can and must love my children, nurture them, comfort them, teach them. I can and must model for them what a life as a ‘branch’ looks like and show them ways to stay ‘attached’ through prayer, Bible reading, fellowship with other believers, and so on. But I cannot be their ‘vine,’ and I cannot play the role of the Holy Spirit in their lives.” –  pages 131-132.
That truth is so terrifying to me, and yet so reassuring. I can't tell you how many times I've prayed over my children at night, and come to the conclusion, "Lord, you love them so much more than I ever could. May they be yours. May they always be yours."

Because He does. And because He can.

This book reminded me of that. I loved it.

And I really want to spend some time rereading it, and journaling through the study questions Clarkson provides at the end of the first section.

Really worth reading. And rereading, I think. Highly recommended.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Weekend Links: Getting things done, being blesed, and more!

Some good reading from around the Web for your weekend:

"Face It: Your Decks Will Never Be Cleared":
The reality is: Things never clear up. They don’t even reliably settle down. Your in box is always full. The decks are always crowded. There is always more going on than you want or expect. Nonetheless, you can find ways to put your writing first, and make sure that it gets done. Otherwise, everything but your writing will get done.
"Why I don’t say 'I’m so blessed.'":
. . . God loves you. But I don’t know how, just like I don’t know how or why or how much He loves me. He makes rain fall on the wicked and the just, and woe to the just who think that they deserve the rain.
"Episode 9: Slay Your Dragons Before Breakfast So They Don’t Eat Your Lunch [Podcast]":  I really enjoyed this particular episode of "This is Your Life", on productivity.

"Jennifer Orkin Lewis": I loved this interview with an artist on her habit of sketching with paints for 30 minutes every day. (Hat tip to Melissa Wiley.)

"5 Easy Indoor DIY Succulent Ideas": Maybe it's just because I live in a hot place where succulents grow REALLY well, but I loved this post.

"Four Unexpected Benefits of a Small Church":
When I was in college and attended the big college-town churches, it was very easy to take in a sermon, get the free college kid care package, and book it back to the dorm with no strings attached. This is much harder to do in a small environment. When Isaiah has his vision of the Lord, there are lots of angels around, but Isaiah is the only human witness. When the Lord says, "Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?" there aren't really any other options. I suppose Isaiah could have refused, but doing so would have highlighted his own unwillingness as the excuse—there was no one else to hide behind. Similarly, in a small-church environment, when something needs to be done, it's much harder to trust that someone else must be taking care of it. Often my response to a need must be, "Here I am. Send me." This isn't always my preference, but it is almost always for my good.

Friday, September 12, 2014

7 Quick Takes

Yay! Quick Takes! It's been way too long since I've done this.  So, without further ado . . . .

1. Thanks to the way-too-fascinating bulk bins at Sprouts, I've made a new discovery: I love roasted pepitas. Especially in coleslaw. They add the perfect salty crunch.

2. I read it when it first came out, but I only recently got around to posting my review of "Something Other Than God", the book written by this link-up's hostess, Jennifer Fulwiler. You can read my review here.

3. This past week, I turned in the last of my edits for the complete volume of "Let Us Keep the Feast". I'm so excited to see it come out!

But reading it through again (and again - editing's intense, y'all), made me realize that I'd love to hear from anyone who's read it and tried any of the ideas the authors suggest in there. If you've incorporated any of the book's ideas in your celebration of the church year, I'd love to hear about it - I'd even love to have you write a guest post here, if you're interested. :)  Just shoot me an email (jessica *dot* snell *at* gmail *dot* com), or leave a note in the comments, and I'll get back to you.

4. I think Pinterest is really interesting, but I haven't dived in yet. I'm kind of standing on the edge, testing the water with my toe.

So, does anyone have a how-to-Pinterest tutorial they'd recommend? I'm especially interested in good how-to's about making pinnable images. I'd love to hear about any resources you've found useful!

5. Here is a pair of socks I knit. There's nothing special about them, except that they're green, and they're handknit, and they're mine. :)

6. Recently, my six-year-old twin girls decided Frozen was "too sad", so they decided to watch "Return of the Jedi" instead . . . it's wrong to be proud of them, right?


7. Speaking of Star Wars, I don't think I've ever told this story on the blog, but I have a special connection to the series:

The summer "The Empire Strikes Back" came out, my parents went to see it in theatre.  During the intermission (this is back when they had to switch film rolls, mind), my mom called the doctor . . . to get the result of her pregnancy test. :)  Result? She was expecting.  :)

My dad swears she spent the rest of the movie completely out of it. There's Darth Vader, cutting off Luke's hand, and my dad looks over to my mom, and she's sitting there, smiling beatifically, murmuring, "I'm going to have a baby . . ."  :D

Later that summer, they went back and watched the movie again. My mom didn't remember any of it! She's staring at the screen, exclaiming, "Darth Vader is Luke's father?!?!?"  :D

So, yeah. "The Empire Strikes Back" is always going to be special to me, because it was in the intermission of that film that my parents found out they were going to have me. :)

For more Quick Takes, please visit the link-up over at Conversion Diary.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Yarnalong: Credence Cloth and "Working Stiff"

Ginny over at Small Things says: ~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs. I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? Take a photo and share it either on your blog or on Flickr. Leave a link below to share your photo with the rest of us! ~

The needlework:
This is, I hope, going to be the new tablecloth for our credence table at church. I'm using this pattern from WEBS and I'm crocheting it in cotton crochet thread.  I'm happy with how it's turning out so far and I'm really curious how it will look once it's properly blocked. I expect the lace will open up a lot.

The book:
I'm reading "Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner". I've just started this, but so far it's really holding my intention.

I worked, for a brief time, at a private investigation agency. We investigated workman's comp claims, and so I got to hear a lot about what could go wrong in work places. Reading this story about a woman who investigates what can go wrong, well, everywhere reminds me of my old job, somehow.

Yet the author says that learning more about death made her less afraid. I'm really curious to see how that plays out over the course of the book.

What are you reading and making this week?

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

"Let Us Keep the Feast: Living the Church Year at Home: The Complete Year" now available for pre-order!

I'm excited to announce that the complete volume of "Let Us Keep the Feast" is now available for pre-order!

This volume combines all four mini-books that were previously published individually, along with several new features, including:

-an extended list of recommended reading
-a Scripture index for the entire collection
-and an epilogue on celebrating saints' days.

Right now, only the hard copy is available for pre-order, but it will also be available as an e-book once the publication date arrives (in November - just in time to get ready for Advent!).

If you're working on your Christmas shopping already (I know I am!), this could be an easy and delightful way to check a few people off the list!  :D

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, September 8, 2014

Knitting Finished Object: the "Everything Nice Hoodie"

I blogged first about knitting this cardigan here.

And wow, I was not wrong about this pattern: it is fantastic.  As I said before:
It buttons all the way up! And it has a hood. And it has extra-long cuffs with a thumbhole in them, so that you can pull the cuffs down over your hands and they become fingerless gloves!
I actually finished this on our camping trip. We set up our tent, and then I sat on the dirt and sewed all the buttons on to front. And then I put it on. And then I was all warm and cozy and happy.

And now, months later, I finally got pictures of it. :D

I love this sweater. It fits, it's a great color, and it kept me warm up in the mountains.

I want to make it again, maybe in a prettier wool.

But that's a project for next year. For now, I'm just going to rejoice in a project that, for once, turned out just the way I hoped that it would.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Brother Ass

Pieter Lastman, Balaam i oslica, PD, via Wikimedia Commons

I've been thinking a lot about how we carry our emotions in our bodies. We feel fear as a knot in our stomach or a race in our pulses. We feel joy in the sudden rush of adrenalin and a glow on our faces.

But so often we ignore the emotions. (Which we can't do. Not really.)  We don't want to feel them, especially the bad ones.  And sometimes we don't want to feel the good ones either, because we're scared of loving them too much before we inevitably lose them.

So instead, we run from our emotions, or fight them, or try to push them away. And where do we push them? Into our bodies.

I think. This is a theory I'm working on, anyway. I think we let our bodies carry the emotions we won't feel. (Or can't bear to feel.)

Like Balaam's Ass carrying the prophet, our bodies carry our feelings.

And sometimes the burden gets too heavy, and our bodies suddenly refuse. They stop, and fall down on their knees, and crush us against the wall.

Our bodies can carry our emotions for a while.

But not forever.

Eventually, we have to face what's in our hearts, we have to face the structure of our minds (that grew well or stunted in our youth), we have to face the formation of our souls.

And we have to begin the slow, hard work of learning what was bent in us, and how, and why, and where-do-we-go-from-here.

And it's to be hoped that we have wise counselors, mentors, psychologists, pastors, friends, spouses, etc., to help us in the process.

But you can't ask your body to bear your burdens forever. Eventually, everything you are will come out into the light.

Whether you want it to or not.

Your body can't bear it forever. It's finite. It just can't.

It will break down.

This is the way of bodies.

But these bodies are not forever.

By the grace of God, by faith in Christ, our hearts will be whole, and they will have whole bodies to bear them.

We hope for a better resurrection.
I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,  in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.  When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory? 
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
-1 Corinthians 15:50-58 

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, September 5, 2014

Ordinary Time: a chance to become integrated people

 Thus Ordinary Time is our chance to be whole people. Integrated people, for whom Christmas and Easter were not isolated holidays, but life-changing events that have transformed the very fabric of the world and our experience in it. We are to become people in whom the Living God grows and breathes and inspires work which brings Him glory. Ordinary Time is the season in which we become saints by the daily, unchanging disciplines of confession, repentance, forgiveness, celebration, and service, that our lives would reflect the glory of Christ the King.   
- Ann Dominguez, Let Us Keep the Feast: Pentecost and Ordinary Time

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Movie review: the Croods: better than you'd think!

I have to admit, I avoided "The Croods" when it first came out because it looked, well, crude.

But, I repent me.

We gave it a try once it showed up on one of our streaming services (Netflix? probably), and it wasn't half bad.

In fact, I enjoyed it.

Though, I give you this: it's a modern kids' movie. It's a bit frenetic, there are bits I don't care for, etc.

But I was impressed by how much of it I liked.

I especially liked how creative the world-building was. This is not your academic caveman. This is not a caveman who exists in any possible world. This is as fantastical as all get-out. The movie-makers took their liberty and ran with it, inventing the most far-fetched, funny, beautiful fauna and flora I've ever seen. I loved the creativity of all the plants and animals they imagine might have existed in the early days of the Earth.

I think the land-whales were my favorite.

And even though there's a typical young-girl-becoming-a-woman-knows-best sort of plot, the linchpin of the whole story is the self-sacrificial love of the main character's father. I loved that.

So, in conclusion, if you're looking for something fun for a family movie night, I think this one's a pretty decent choice.

And these days, that's saying something.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Monday, September 1, 2014

Anxiety, "The Problem of Pain", and work

So, I had a day last week that was really hard. It was hard in a parenting sense. It was hard in an anxiety sense. It was just hard.

And I decided (God's grace!) to meet the anxiety with faith and with - here's the surprise - with work.

I'm learning, more and more, that the thing to do with anxiety is to meet it square. Not deny it, not run from it, not pretend it's not there. But just to say, "Oh, there you are. I see you. I accept you're there. And now I get to choose what to do."

And so often, the right thing to do in answer to anxiety is to go to work.*

Activity, even if it has nothing to do with the worry at hand, is amazing for dismissing anxiety.**

The value of work 
Stopping, praying, journaling, and then getting actively to work . . . it’s everything. It’s the difference between despair and joy.

And that’s not running away from the fear. It’s not hiding it or denying it. It’s saying, “Here it is. I see it. And” – not but. And – “I am going to do this.”

On that hard day though, all the same, I was so glad when my husband came home.  He sanes me. And if "sanes" is not a verb, it should be.  

Also, another thing that really helped me was some quotations I'd copied down from my reading. Rereading the words of wiser Christians is terribly grounding.

Lewis on pain
Speaking of quotations from wiser Christians, I also want to copy down, oh, all of the chapter entitled “Heaven” from Lewis’ “The Problem of Pain”. But I’m not sure that’s very practical.

First Lewis talks about the jeer “pie in the sky” and observes either there is pie in the sky or there isn’t . . . and that it’s safe to talk about heaven to the pure in heart, because there’s nothing in heaven any mercenary soul would want. Those who love God are the ones who want to see Him.

And then he talks about his idea of “joy”, and oh, it’s glorious. The thing I’ve been looking for all my life . . . and I realized that that, really just that, is the reason why, in the end, I write fiction. Because it is the time I come the closest to grasping – and to expressing – that thing it is that I see
always on the edge of breaking through” – that thing that “beneath the flux of other desires and in all the momentary silences between the louder passions, night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for . . . you have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it – tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest – if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself – you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say ‘Here at last is the thing I was made for.’
Yes. That. It's what I mean when I talk about "domestic glory". It is the “home” theme that shows up in all my stories. It’s what I mean when I talk about the scent of the sea and roses against the white-and-blue sky. But . . . but it’s not quite any of them. It’s what draws me to romance, and yet also to science fiction and fantasy. It’s that boundless horizon married to the sweet comfort of a snug house. It’s . . . yes. It’s that thing.

And then Lewis points out that God put this difference in all of us – that He made us individuals on purpose, and that this secret, unique hunger in each of us is no mistake:
Be sure that the ins and outs of your individuality are no mystery to Him; and one day they will no longer be a mystery to you.
And then he points out:
For it is not humanity in the abstract that is to be saved, but you – you, the individual reader, John Stubbs or Janet Smith. Blessed and fortunate creature, your eyes shall behold Him and not another’s. All that you are, sins apart, is destined, if you will let God have His good way, to utter satisfaction.
And oh, that makes me want to let God have His good way with me! Be gone, oh sins.

And then Lewis goes on to his next point, and it really, really resonated with me after the way work seemed to be what saved me from despair, just a few days ago:
And if you will not go out of yourself to follow it, if you sit down to brood on the desire and attempt to cherish it, the desire itself will evade you. ‘The door into life generally opens behind us’ and ‘the only wisdom’ for one ‘haunted with the scent of unseen roses, is work.’ This secret fire goes out when you use the bellows: bank it down with what seems unlikely fuel of dogma and ethics, and then it will blaze.
I am reinspired by the idea to “do my work with gladness while it is day, that when night cometh, I may rejoice to give thee thanks”.

And it gives me an entirely different way to look at that hard day's difficulties. When my child's  meltdown, and the scary money costs of dental work tempt me to despair – and even less (or more) than that, to whine and pout and complain – instead, these words of Lewis show me that my troubles are actually not just difficulties or attacks.

They are part of the work God has given me to do.

How do I say this properly? Because I see it really clearly, and I want to get it down in words so that I don’t forget it in other times.

These trials, these worries, these events, these hardships . . . they’re just part of the work. They’re not threats. Because they are allowed by God, and he has allowed them to come in my way, which means that He means to help me deal with them. It’s not me cowering in a corner being hit. It’s me walking in the way my Lord has directed me to walk, ready to take care of what’s in front of me because those are the tasks he’s asked me to take care of.

Do you see? There’s such a difference there.

And, with that, I go to work.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

*Other times the right thing to do is to build a blanket fort and borrow in for the day. Just saying.
**Clinically significant anxiety is not necessarily why I'm talking about. For that, psychotherapy and medication may also be necessary and commendable and even life-giving. Really, truly.

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