Friday, October 31, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Children's Books for All Saints Day

Joining in with Jen, over at Conversion Diary!
Tomorrow is All Saints Day!  I love sharing stories of the faithful Christians of the past with my kids. Here are some good books we've enjoyed over the years:

1) Caedmon's Song, by Ruth Ashby: a lovely picture book rendition of one of the earliest poems written in English.

2) Women of the Bible, by Margaret McAllister: This lovely book was a present from my mom, and my girls love it!

3) A Song for Joseph, by Mervin A. Marquardt: I grew up on this lovely, sing-song story of the foster-father of our Lord. I still love it.  It's only available used, but it's worth seeking out.

4) John the Baptist, by Ronald Klug: the wonderful thing about this book is it doesn't end right at John's death, but the final page shows his followers going to Jesus. Which is what all the saints do: point us towards the Lord.

5) Hero Tales, by Dave & Neta Jackson: This book is for older children, and introduces them to some more modern Christian heroes, like William Tyndale and Dwight L. Moody.

6) I Sing a Song of the Saints of God, by Lesbia Scott, illustrated by Judith Gwyn Brown: the text of the perfect children's hymn for All Saints Day is beautifully illustrated. Don't just read this one to your kids; sing it.

7) Saint George and the Dragon, by Margaret Hodges: yes, this is a legend. And yes, it's important that your children understand the difference between legends and history. But it's a beautiful, Christian legend, and the illustrations in this book are just gorgeous!

Which books are your favorites? I always love adding to our home library. :)

And while you're here, be sure to enter the giveaway for "Let Us Keep the Feast: Living the Church Year at Home"! This book will help you bring the rhythms of the liturgical season into your every day life.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Giveaway! "Let Us Keep the Feast: the Complete Year"

The complete edition of "Let Us Keep the Feast" comes out tomorrow!

And to celebrate, I'm giving away a free copy of the paperback version.  :)

All you have to do to enter is to leave a comment on this post, and next Saturday I'll pick a winner using a random number generator (with my apologies to my awesome international readers, I'm limiting this to the continental USA only, please).

Please enter, and share this on Facebook, Twitter, or  your blog, so others can enter too!

I can't wait to share this book with you all - it's larger than the booklets, and includes cool extras, like a scripture index and a chapter on celebrating the saints days.  And all of the good stuff about incorporating the rhythms of the liturgical season into the rhythm of your ordinary, day-to-day life is still there. There's enough information in this book that you'll be able to find a place to start, but it's organized and low-key enough that you won't feel pressured to do everything at once.

This is the resource I wish I'd had ten years ago, and I'm so glad that it's here now. :)

And if you just can't wait, "Let Us Keep the Feast: Living the Church Year at Home" is available to order now, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers.

Thanks so much for your entry!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica snell

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

Monday, October 27, 2014

Psalm 73: Talking to God About Talking to God

Psalm 73 is just a little bit meta: it's a conversation with God about the speaker's conversations with God.

I love that this is in the Bible.

I've listened to Psalm 73 several times this week during my devotional time, and I keep being struck by the simple, honest reflection, "I was as a beast before thee."

Because the psalmist isn't hiding from God. Instead, he's reviewing a time in his life that was particularly painful. It was a time when he was full of doubt and fear. And instead of hiding from God, he's laying it all open before Him.

He's reflecting on a time that was past, and trying to see what it all meant.

He's honest about his doubts; he's honest about his fears.

And he's honest about his own state: "I was as a beast before thee."

Animals are instinctual. And when we humans are at our worst, so are we.

But the psalmist doesn't hide this from God (as if God doesn't know).

Instead, he takes this hard time in his life - this time when he doubted that God would at the end make all things well - and he lays it out before his Lord.

He thinks about it. He reflects on it.

And he says, "Here I was: in despair. Until I went into your sanctuary.
"And then, I understood."

He sees the Lord's place. He sees the real place of the wicked.

And then - extra gift! extreme generosity of our Lord! - he sees his own place in the universe:
But it is good for me to draw near to God: 
I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works.

Our place is to declare the goodness of the Lord.

And He is good.
Amen, and Amen.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Weekend Links, for your reading pleasure

"What Makes for a Stable Marriage?": fascinating bunch of research-based charts.

"He Often Has to Remind Me":
It’s my stomach that always wakes me up. Whenever I’m bothered by something, invariably I end up awakened in the night with my stomach in knots. Over time, I’ve learned that the only remedy is to talk with God about it while I journal. The physical act of writing slows me down, focuses my thoughts, and allows space for God to intervene. But until I begin writing, I am often clueless as to what it is that’s actually bothering me. I wish my mind were as sensitive as my stomach! 
"Rich and Poor | The Question That Wrecked Us Both":
The last time Maureen, a child of poverty who now leads the organization in Kenya that Mercy House partners with, spent a few weeks in our home, it wrecked me. That’s what happens when you see your first world life through the eyes of someone from the third world.
When she saw five bikes hanging in our garage, she wanted to know if we sold bicycles. Why else would we have so many?
"A Christian of Integrity Resigns His Office":
Magistrate Kallam’s resignation merits deep respect and admiration. It often seems that there are few Christians in modern-day America who are willing to take a principled, moral stand that affects their professional standing and livelihood.  

Friday, October 24, 2014

Recently-tried Recipes

Here are some recipes I've tried recently and enjoyed. Thought you might like them too!

1) Faux "Orange Julius": This was very like its namesake. A delicious weekend breakfast treat.

2) Chilled Black Bean, Feta, and Cucumber Salad: a nice, healthy summer lunch.

3) Tex-Mex Chopped Salad: oh, this was so good. A party in your mouth. And a perfectly delightful dinner.

4) Greek Pasta Salad: Yummy, again. (If you haven't caught on yet, I only link to recipes I liked.) This was one that was stellar the first day, but even better the next.

Also, for what it's worth, I added a can of cooked chicken, just to up the protein content for my six-person family.

5) Garlicky Baked Shrimp: I actually made this with a frozen seafood mix from Trader Joe's - so I had more than just shrimp. Despite that, it turned out really well. I liked the crunchy topping, and the convenience of baking the seafood instead of sautéing it.

Let me know if there's any good recipes you've tried recently - I love getting new ideas for dinner!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Book Notes: "Attachments", by Rainbow Rowell

I am a sucker for epistolatory novels. I have been ever since I read the classics "Daddy Long Legs" and "Dear Enemy".

So, when my sister-in-law recommended Rainbow Rowell, and I saw that Rainbow Rowell had written an epistolatory novel, I signed right up.

I didn't even care when, a few chapters into Attachments, the epistles in question turned incredibly (and I mean that: I didn't credit it anymore) narrative.

I was already hooked on the story.

"Attachments" is a novel that alternates between the point of view of Lincoln, the technician hired to monitor a large newspaper's staff email system, and the emails of Jennifer and Beth, who both work at said newspaper.

Lincoln slowly falls in love with Beth, solely through reading her emails. Meanwhile, Beth is slowly developing a crush on the guy she occasionally sees around the office - but has never actually met.

Basically, it's a romantic comedy - and I mean the comedy part: I laughed out loud frequently. Not heartily, but frequently. :)

I really enjoyed this. Cautions for a bit of language, and secular sexual ethics. But it reallyis  a lovely little read.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Monday, October 20, 2014

Crocheted Finished Object: Altar Cloth for the Credence Table

Or maybe I should call it the Credence Table Tablecloth?  A little repetitive, that.
This was really a labor of love.

But so little labor, really, at least in terms of tiresome labor. The pattern was simple and pleasant to work, and the work itself joyous.

Someday, I want to make something better, something that uses actual Christian symbols (crosses, etc.) in the lacework, but for now, this covers a rather beat-up table that our little church plant is using out of necessity, and adds a bit of beauty to our weekly worship.  I'm so happy I got to do my little bit here.

The idea of the church-members working with their hands to deck the church is a concept I love, and one I think that goes back to the making of the tabernacle. Someday, I'd love to see a needleworker's guild at our church, to work alongside the Altar Guild.

But here's a bit of a start. I'm so happy with it.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Libation for St. Luke

Today, October 18, is St. Luke's Day, and I have a drink for you in celebration of the feast day!

Now, I fully admit that the origin of this drink is a little silly - okay, more than a little silly: the origin of this drink is a pun.

St. Luke is sometimes referred to as "Luke the physician". So he's a doctor. And he lived during the days of the Roman Empire.

The drink is a rum & Dr. Pepper. (Like a rum & Coke, but oh-so-much better.)

A rum'n'doctor.

A Roman doctor.


I know, I know, I'm so sorry.

BUT. If you do want to raise a toast to St. Luke in all sincerity, and you'd like to use a punny drink to do so, here's how you make a St. Luke:

To make a "St. Luke":
-1 can Dr. Pepper

-1 oz. rum

Mix and enjoy! (Responsibly, as a legal adult, etc.)

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica snell

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book Notes: "The Sword Bearer" by John White

I've written about the other Anthropos books by John White here and here.

This one is a little different. The Anthropos books are Christian children's fantasy. And if the first few are a sort of allegories of the New Testament, this one is definitely an allegory of the old.

And as such, it's darker. Darker, and harder to read.

Nonetheless, despite the darkness, and despite the frustrating obtuseness of John, our protagonist, who is constantly choosing to be stubborn and wrong and stupid in the face of choices for goodness and mercy and right, this is a good book. (In fact, the truth is that John's stupid stubborness is all-too-recognizable-and-familiar, at least to this reader.)

I've been reading this book to my children in the evening, before our prayer and Bible reading. They draw or play with magnet sets while they listen to the story. And this book has inspired a lot of drawings. It's that kind of very visual fantasy world - easy to picture and to sink into.

And I guess I have to go back on what I said a bit: it's not all Old Testament allegory. A big part of the plot, especially in the beginning of the book, revolves around "the wine of free pardon".   I loved the inclusion of this simple analogy to the Eucharist. It means even more to me now than it did as a kid.

I guess the highest praise I can offer to this book is this: my son, Gamgee, swears that he dislikes this book when we're not in the middle of reading it, yet every time I picked it up and read another chapter, he was open-mouthed, caught up in the suspense of what's-going-to-happen-next, and eager as any of his sisters to hear how things would go for Jon, and Mab, and everyone else on the island.

This is a great read-aloud. I loved it when I was young, and I'm happy to say that now, as an adult, my kids love it too.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Monday, October 13, 2014

scripture memorization as a type of copywork

Recently, in one of her blog posts, Melissa Wiley talked about the idea of daily doodling being "just another kind of copywork"

And aside from making me pull out my sketchbook again (no, really), it made me think about why people - artists, speakers, etc. - have classically trained by copying the greats. It's not an unusual idea, historically, to learn your craft by aping your betters. Now we might call it plagiarism - and it would be if you didn't give the person you were copying from credit - but it's not such a bad idea to learn what you want to learn by scrupulously copying folks who are really, really good at it. Yes, eventually you strike out on your own, and find your own new ideas and your own new ways, but you learn the method by copying the greats.

Think about it; it makes sense:

If you copy good writing, your brain and your hands get to experience what it feels like to write great words.

If you copy good painting, your brain and your hands get to experience what it's like to paint great work

And . . . if you memorize scripture, your brain and your heart get to experience what it is like to think like the great men of God who were directly inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Think about that. It's amazing! But anyone who has taken the time to sit and memorize scripture can tell you that it's true: if you memorize God's word, you will think in the patterns dictated by the Holy Spirit.

Read the Psalms through monthly, like monks do, and you will find yourself thinking along those lines whenever you hit a time of anxiety or stress or joy. "Blessed be the Lord!" you will hear yourself think, "who has not given us as a prey to their teeth!"

It will astonish you when it begins to happen. "Where did that come from?" you will wonder. But there it will be: the words of God, echoing in your own sinful head.

It's absolutely amazing. It's such a gift.

It's why we memorize scripture.

Because these rhythms of grace don't come naturally. But the lovely, stupid, pattern-loving structures of our very human brains thrive on memorization. They love repetition.

Like Chesterton says, it's that very childlike joy of "Do it again! Oh, do it again!" that lives down deep in our human brains.

And if your brain yells "do it again! say it again!" to the rhythms of scripture? Then you're that much further ahead when the Holy Spirit has something for you to hear.

The patterns of His own speech, His words, will already be there in your head.

It's just good training. It's just following the basic principles of good training.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Weekend Links: Letters, gospels, and more

"Pastor Saeed's Letter to His Daughter Rebekka":
I know that you question why you have prayed so many times for my return and yet I am not home yet. Now there is a big WHY In your mind you are asking: WHY Jesus isn’t answering your prayers and the prayers of all of the people around the world praying for my release and for me to be home with you and our family.
"The Gospel, the Gospels and Rome - Where Do We Draw the Line?": Such a nice, long, chewy article.

"The Food Lab: Make Your Own Just-Add-Hot-Water Instant Noodles (and Make Your Coworkers Jealous)":  My husband and I are determined to give this a try. It's exactly the kind of food we love eating and - portable! cool!

"Healthy Pumpkin Spiced Coffee":  And this one is cool because you can make the pumpkin-milk base ad keep it in the fridge for a few days. Mmmmmm . . . .

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Book Notes: "Cleaning House", by Kay Wills Wyma

I had to get this book. Of course I did. The premise was to good not to.

Teaching your kids to clean the house, in 12 easy months?  (And when, pray, did the idea of "12 months" become a manageable stretch of time in my eyes? Must have been sometime after I turned thirty . . .)

But, yes: I do want my kids to become capable adults. That's the whole point.

(Well, no. The whole point is to raise them up in the love and admonition of the Lord.

But after that? I would like them to be capable adults.)

This book did not leave me thinking that I wanted to follow the exact same schedule that the author did, but I was encouraged to give my children more responsibilities as they grow, and to remember that they can do a lot more than I assume they can.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Monday, October 6, 2014

follow-up on "Brother Ass"

Gustav Jaeger: Bileam und der Engel, PD-US, via Wikimedia Commons
This is a follow-up on my post "Brother Ass".

I ended up talking to my husband about that blog post - the one on bodies, emotions, and the prophet Balaam.  And in that conversation, and after reading comments on the original post, I realized that there was a little more that I needed to explain.

What I'm not saying
In that first post, I talked a bit about how our bodies and our emotions are inseparably tied together.  But here's the thing: when it comes to stress or anxiety or depression or the like, I'm not saying that it's all in your head. I'm not saying: make yourself feel better, and then you'll feel better.

I love traditional medicine.

I have traditional medicine to thank for the fact that my kids and husband are alive. My youngest two children were saved by modern medicine (monoamniotic twins) and so was my husband (melanoma).  My sight was restored by modern medicine (laser surgery!) and I've been grateful for antibiotics and vaccines time and time again.

And psychotropic drugs? They are a Godsend when you need them.

So I'm not saying: be happy and you'll be healthy. It's more complicated than that.

What I am saying
Our bodies, though, are more connected to our minds and our emotions than we'd like to believe that they are.

We want to believe that our feelings have nothing to do with our health. And that's just not true.

Of course, there are things we can't control, like genetic predispositions to depression. Or the brain development that results in autism. Or cancer striking out of the blue. Or so many, many other devastating illnesses, injuries, and conditions.

But what can't be denied is that our psychological states affect our bodily functions, and vice versa.

Stress results in cortisol spikes that lead to all manners of disease.

Or try going without sleep for a night or two in a row. You'll be as drunk as a sailor.  Or at least as same as makes no nevermind. You can mind-over-matter that.

God made us with bodies. Those bodies aren't something separate from us. They are part of us. They are not the whole of us, but they are us.

If you deny your body, you're a heretic. Having a body is part of what it means to be human. Your body is part of you. And it changes how you experience life and how you can experience life.

And sometimes, when you're particularly in denial, your body can be smarter than you are.

Your body might be what sees the danger before you can, like Balaam's ass was able to see the angel before he could.

Your body might warn you - by panic attacks, by back aches, by persistent lethargy - that you're living in a manner that is unsustainable.

St. Francis
St. Francis famously called his body "Brother Ass" - and that's where I got the title for these blog posts.

Because our bodies are like that. They are dumb animals - dumb until God grants them speech.

And then they tell us what we really need to know. They warn us about the angels in our pathway; they save us from death.

People used to call this sort of thing "nervous breakdowns". Now we might say "panic attack" or "depressive episode".

But it's the same thing: our bodies are no longer able to carry the burdens our minds and hearts force on them.

I like this about bodies: that they are honest. Like the animals that they are. They do their best, but some things are too much for them. Drink too much, eat too much, sleep too little . . . eventually your body will let you know about it.

Balaam's ass carried the prophet well, as far as she was able. But eventually, she was able to tell the prophet about a danger the prophet himself could not see.

Our bodies do the same thing.

And I am grateful for that.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Weekend links: Productivity, special needs, and funny Austrailians!

"How to Get Things Done": I really liked the way Tim Challies laid out a straight-forward theological argument for Christian productivity. First in a series.

"About that mom who’s not bragging about her kid":
So the next time you are having lunch with friends and the talk turns, as it often does, to what your kids are doing and the kvelling begins — one of the moms is happy that her daughter aced the SATs, the other’s son just got into law school, a third mom glows about her daughter’s engagement — and you see that one of your friends around the table is sitting silently, fiddling with her drink, just waiting for that part of the conversation to pass? Consider that quiet mom. She loves her son or daughter just as much as you do. Smile at her, and ask how her child is doing. She may need to do a different kind of kvelling.

I loved this video:

Have a great weekend!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, October 3, 2014

A New Job

I'm happy to announce that I've accepted the job of General Editor at Kalos Press, a literary imprint of Doulos Resources.

I've greatly enjoyed working with Doulos and Kalos on a freelance basis, and I'm delighted to have been offered a job on their staff!

I'll be doing work in acquisitions and in developmental editing, along with a few other tasks. We've got some great books in the pipeline and I'm excited to get to work on them.

I'll still be blogging here about books, faith, and family - that won't change!  I just wanted to share my good news with y'all. I so appreciate the fellow readers and writers, parents and bloggers, and brothers and sisters I've met through this blog.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Book notes: "At the Still Point: A Literary Guide to Prayer in Ordinary Time", by Sarah Arthur

I loved the concept of this book: a selection of poetry and prose for each week of ordinary time, given as an aid to prayer and devotion.

And I love even more that Sarah Arthur was able to pull that concept off.

I didn't read this quite as slowly as suggested, but I did read it slowly. Bite by bite, over a long period of time. (And in Ordinary Time, no less!)

It worked really well that way. I delighted in how often the author offered me up selections by authors like Rossetti and Herbert. I enjoyed the chance to read authors I hadn't heard of before. I really liked the way each week had a theme, and the way the readings fit those themes.

I have to admit that the intro didn't really do it for me (and, sadly, I read it long enough ago that I don't remember why - so you can just as well chalk it up to me being silly as to any fault on the part of the author), but I really, really enjoyed the book itself, so . . . well, ignore my reaction to the intro. The book is great, and I can see using it for many Ordinary Times to come.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Yarnalong: Knitting socks and reading "Made to Last"

Linking up with Ginny over at Small Things, who 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: Plain ol' vanilla socks, my regular pattern. What can I say? Pretty yarn, and a plain stockinette sock, and I'm in knitting bliss, because it's so easy and relaxing.

The book: The book is "Made to Last", by Melissa Tagg. I've just barely started it, but the premise is fun and the writing good, so I'm enjoying it so far. A sweet, easy romance novel sounds about right for the beginning of fall.

How about you? What have you been reading and crafting? 

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

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