Sunday, February 28, 2016

Weekly Links: Warlike Hymns, the Work-Work Balance, and more!



-"Are Our Hymns Too Warlike?" - Such a good explanation of (and defense of!) battle imagery in Christian music.

-"The Work-Work Balance" - Just Anne, being awesome again.

-"I Am Overweight":
This Lent, I decided to move my body more. I believe that God created us as whole people, not as brains-on-sticks, and I want to live into that conviction. That means taking care of my body.
-"What Could Possibly Be Wrong with Christian Masturbation?" - I don't share the author's Catholicism, and hence I don't agree with her entirely, but this is a very thoughtful take on the topic, and I appreciated reading a thoughtful take on something we don't want to usually bother being thoughtful about.

-"Lent and the Preschooler" - It's so fun to see someone using the suggestions from "Let Us Keep the Feast" (and from other awesome resources) in real life!


-"Three Views of Marriage" - good stuff.

-"On the Good of Sleeping with a New Woman Every Night" :
So there is always a new woman beside us, and one at least partially of our own making, as we are at least partially made by her. But it is naive to think that we know her, or she us, just because we live together. To find her again, you must do what you did when you found her at first: you must pay court to her. Not always and not every day, for that would be a bore of a different order and would lose the element of surprise. But from time to time, you must rediscover this woman who is both the same and different from the one you married.


-"Transitional Forms": I enjoyed this free piece of fiction from Lightspeed: it offers you a bit of the Old West with your sci-fi.

-Finally, there's a new movie about Biblical events that's just come out, "Risen", and I appreciated both of these (very different) takes on it:

     -"'Risen' Reflects the Subversive Power of the Resurrection"


    -"Risen: Movies, Faith, and the Bible".

Hope the rest of your weekend is restful and good!
-Jessica Snell

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through these links, I'll receive a small percentage of the purchase price - for my own shopping! :) (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Friday, February 26, 2016

Book Notes: "Show Your Work!", by Austin Kleon

So I'm mostly just going to talk about my favorite part of the book, which makes this really not a full review.  Good thing I call these things "Book Notes" and not "Book Reviews", huh? :)

"Show Your Work!", by Austin Kleon is about, well, doing creative work and sharing it. It feels about half illustration and half text; it was a really quick read.

Here's a quotation that illustrates the idea from it that I really liked:
Once a day, after you’ve done your day’s work, go back to your documentation and find one little piece of your process that you can share. Where you are in your process will determine what that piece is. If you’re in the very early stages, share your influences and what’s inspiring you. If you’re in the middle of executing a project, write about your methods or share works in progress. If you’ve just completed a project, show the final product, share scraps from the cutting-room floor, or write about what you’ve learned. If you have lots of projects out into the world, you can report on how they’re doing—you can tell stories about how people are interacting with your work.
To be honest, I liked this both as a writer (creative person) and as a reader (consumer of creative works). I enjoy following my favorite writers and musicians and such on Twitter, and hearing bits and bobs about what they did at work each day.

If content creation is the publicity of the present and future, well, this feels like a really honest way to go about it: just talk a bit about what you did today.

Good stuff.

Peace of Christ to you, 
Jessica Snell

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through these links, I'll receive a small percentage of the purchase price - for my own shopping! :) (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Recently-tried recipes (with reviews!)

In which I recommend (or not) recipes I've tried recently...

"Sweet and Tangy Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Red Potato Mash" - this was delicious. It's the first time I've roasted pork loin (I know!) and I loved the subtle spiciness of the thyme and garlic in the rub. If I have a fault as a cook, it's that I tend to use too much spice, and so I really appreciate recipes that help me indulge my love of FLAVOR (yes, the capital letters are warrented) w/o going overboard. This one was perfect.

One caveat: supposedly, it was possible to make this in 35 min. I did not find that to be the case (she understated). But everyone around the table agreed that it was worth the wait.

"Slow Cooker Broccoli Beef": not terribly memorable, but not a bad way to have some easy home-cooked "takeout".

"Swedish Meatballs" - the meatballs were okay (a bit too citrus-y for me - I think it was the allspice).  But the broth! Oh-my-goodness, the broth. I could drink it. I did drink it. It was wonderful.

Happy cooking!
-Jessica Snell

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

how to help your kids engage with the Bible

The Law is a Light. (photo credit: Betsy Barber)

Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage. -Ps. 119:54
An author friend asked on Facebook:  What are some different ways you have helped your kids engage with the Bible? Go.  
It's such a great question, and I enjoyed thinking through it. Here's how I answered: 

 We read many, many Bible stories to them. 

We've read various Bible story books to the kids over the years, and we've also read the text itself to them. I think both are good. These words should be the backbone of their thoughts, the beat of their hearts.

We've taken them to churches where the Bible is read aloud and preached and taught.  

One of the things I love about the Anglican church is that the Bible is read aloud - and then preached on - at every service. When our kids are in the service, they hear it. When they're in Sunday school, they hear lessons on the same Scriptures. (And, seriously, our dear priest's wife, who leads the children's chapel at our church, should be a candidate for sainthood. I've lost count of how many times one of my kids has excitedly told me about what she or he learned from "Miss Christina"!) 
Also, our liturgy in itself is suffused with Scripture. Every time our church celebrates the Eucharist, we hear Jesus' words about communion repeated and shared.

We bring the Bible and what it says into our conversations around the dinner table. 

And elsewhere of course. But talking to our kids, listening to them, answering their questions... this is more and more of the parenting task as the kids grow and begin to think about themselves and their world and their God. Being willing to be a part of these conversations - not to run away, but to engage - is a really important important part of parenting.

I let their grandma pay them to memorize Bible verses. 

Admittedly, this was a really, really easy call on my part. :)  (Thanks, Mom!)  But in all seriousness, this is how my eldest daughter discovered her love of the Psalms, and that's a love I pray will hold her in good stead her entire life long.

We read and listen to and meditate on the Bible ourselves. 

This is probably the most important point. How could we have those dinnertime conversations about life, the universe, and everything unless we had allowed God's word to sink into our own hearts? The law of the Lord is life. Let His words ring in your ears every day, day after day.

What about you? I'd love to hear how you help your kids engage with the Bible!
Peace of Christ,
Jessica Snell

Monday, February 22, 2016

Loss or Tragedy?

photo credit: Betsy Barber
Today I'm honored to be guest-blogging over at "Stitches Thru Time". Here's a snippet of the devotional I wrote for them:
Our nights—our deepest, darkest, hardest nights—are places where the Lord still sees us and still knows us. The evil of the world and its losses do not surprise Him, and they do not overwhelm Him. 
Please head over to "Stitches Thru Time" to read the rest!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Weekly Links: Lent, Empathy, and more!

Some good reading for your Sunday afternoon....

"Vegetable Stock and Easing into Lent":
We haven't stopped running since before Christmas and it is already a scorching 90 degrees in the Rio Grande Valley. The fact that we are a week into Lent seems impossible, I'm not getting any cues from my life my world that say, "it is time to slow down," and making space for quiet meditation is the last thing I have time for. 
But I suppose this is part of why we have Liturgical seasons. I may never stop hurrying and the seasons in south Texas may always feel out of sync with the rest of the country. Maybe a few times a year I need to be told to how feel because otherwise I would continue to race tripping over my own numb legs.

"They Brought Cookies: For A New Widow, Empathy Eases Death's Pain":
The pain doesn't go away; but somehow or other, empathy gives the pain meaning, and pain-with-meaning is bearable. I don't actually know how to say what the effect of empathy is, I can only say what it's like. Like magic.

"Undiscovered J.R.R. Tolkien poems found in 1936 school magazine": ooh, look, look, look!  I especially love the Christmas one.

"Sex on the Silver Screen":
Let’s begin here: What we see on the screen is both fact and fiction. When it comes to nakedness and sex in movies, we sometimes lose the fact in the fiction. What we watch is a fictional story, but one that has been acted out in real ways by real people. This has important implications when it comes to a bedroom scene. To film that scene, real people had to remove real clothes, bare real bodies, touch each other in real places, and move together in a real bed.

"And We Created Luncheon, and It Was Good"- whenever Anne writes about cooking, my mouth starts watering. A sample:
Yesterday, because I knew I needed to be about my business in a timely way, I pulled a capacious pot from the soothing cool of my fridge, placed it lovingly on my stove, and turned on the heat. Inside was half a pork roast, cubed and succulent, and half a head of cabbage, chopped and mellowed with chickpeas. Soup, in other words, and golden brown rolls ready to be heated in the oven.  The soup came back up to the boil, the bread softened and warmed, and the aromas wafted aloft to the heavens, gathering us all together for Luncheon.

Hope the rest of your weekend is restful and good!
-Jessica Snell

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

"Not Alone" giveaway and interview!

I'm honored to be a guest today over at Lena Nelson Dooley's blog, talking about "Not Alone" and how miscarriage and infertility aren't "pretend griefs".  Here's a snippet:

These can be very private griefs, which lead to people feeling very alone. As the church, it’s important to comfort one another and to be there for each other—especially because, as Christians, we know that the unborn are real people, loved and known by God. And because we value children, and so can acknowledge that infertility is a real loss—not some pretend grief that people should just “buck up” and “get over.”

Please stop by Lena's place to read the rest, and to enter the #giveaway!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through these links, I'll receive a small percentage of the purchase price - for my own shopping! :) (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

I'll be at the Orange County Christian Writers' Conference

I'm excited to be representing Kalos Press at The Orange County Christian Writers' Conference!

If you're in the southern California area and interested in spending some time learning and talking with fellow writers and other publishing professionals, you can check out the conference page here.  They've got early-bird specials available through the end of February.

Here's a short blurb on what I'll be doing, from Kalos Press' blog:

Jessica is looking forward to talking to attendees about: 
-small press publishing 
-the querying process 
-working with an editor 
-publishing with Kalos Press specifically. 

She's also willing to give feedback on your query or pitch. 

The OCCWC is a great opportunity to receive mentoring, attend classes, discuss your work with publishing professionals, and meet other writers.  There are options for those who wish learn more about fiction and non-fiction at all writing levels, as well as a more economical option for those who simply want a chance to spend time in the Resource Room attending appointments with the publishing professionals. See the full menu of options here.

I hope I see you there!
-Jessica Snell

Book Notes: "How to Make a Living as a Writer", by James Scott Bell

Okay, so this has nothing to do with the review-proper, but it was part of my experience of reading this book and so I have to note it: when I got this book in the mail, the cover looked really familiar. I thought, "Huh, that looks my friend Josh's art," and I looked on the inside cover and guess what? It was!

It's just fun to see your friends' work out in the wild. :)

Now, on to the review itself: "How to Make a Living as a Writer", by James Scott Bell is a lovely little guide. It's fairly comprehensive, covering both traditional publishing and self-publishing, and it's full of advice for both the big picture ("The 5 Biggest Fiction Writing Mistakes") and for the more nitty-gritty ("Managing Your Time").

I liked this book precisely because it took on so many different topics relevant to the modern author's world. While this breadth of topic could have led to a shallow-feeling book, it didn't. I actually got the impression that Bell could have taken each of his chapters and expanded it into a full-length book. It wasn't as if he were stretching his material to cover all the different topics. Each chapter was nicely full of information and felt pretty solid.

"How to Make a Living as a Writer" doesn't contain an in-depth examination of any of its chapter topics, and I suppose that's its weakness. But I didn't pick it up expecting in-depth examination on every single part of the writer's life. I wanted a competent, professional look at all of the different pieces, and I feel that's really what I got here.  Recommended.

Peace of Christ to you, 
Jessica Snell

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through these links, I'll receive a small percentage of the purchase price - for my own shopping! :) (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Monday, February 15, 2016

Knitted Finished Object: "Dressie Dress"

Just a short post today about a little something I made last year, but hadn't posted yet. I wanted to wait until the little girl I'd made it for had a chance to wear it. :)

The pattern (which I found on Ravelry) is "Dressie Dress". A lovely, simple knit - and it's a free pattern!

I modified it by adding extra increases at the waist, and then at the ruffle on the bottom because I wanted something a little more full.

I also added a stabilizing line of single-crochet at the neckline and the armholes, which I was very happy with.

And this was also a very happy knit, because I got to make it for a new niece. It was one of those knits where I got to pray while I made it, asking God's grace on this new baby girl who was coming into the world.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Weekly Links: Valentines, Working in the Arctic Circle, and more!

It's the weekend links! On the real weekend! Less than a week after the last installment!

I can't remember the last time this happened.

They're short this week, but nice and meaty.

First off, a writing article from Rachel Aaron: "Flavor vs. Bake". Here's a tidbit:
Just as a good chef is known for the amazing flavors she creates, a good writer is known for their incredible creativity. Food has to taste delicious and books need to be interesting. Both of these come down to flavor, the creative flourish, but in books and cooking, flavor alone is not enough. 
If I had to create a [Great British Bake Off] drinking game, I'd get everyone hammered by having people take a shot every time [the hosts] bemoaned the shame of a bake with wonderful flavor but terrible execution.
Yep. Creativity and execution: you've must have both. You can (and should!) read the rest at her website here.

And this one's a few years old, but it was fascinating: "Interview with a Lab Worker at the Arctic Circle".  Here's a snippet:
This is a remote “community,” but probably not in a manner that you envision. Generally, community implies things like houses, post offices, stores, etc.; we have none of that. We are a remote fly-in camp. We are about 22 miles from the closest town, which is the village of Noatak, Alaska. Neither the mine nor Noatak are accessible by road. None of the villages in this region are accessible by road. The only way in to the mine is by air, and Noatak is accessible by air and river in the summer, and by snow machine during the winter. Our mine facility includes a living area for about 400 persons. The best description may be a large industrial complex with an attached dormitory facility. Meals are prepared by a staff of excellent chefs/cooks, and we have a wide variety of entertainment options. There are several weight rooms, aerobic exercise facilities, sauna, craft areas, satellite TV and game rooms (pool, darts, cards, etc.).
Imagine living and working in a place like that!

And, seasonally, here are some "Theologian Valentines". No snippets, because they're a visual treat and you should just go to the site and enjoy. :)

Finally - and very appropriately for the beginning of Lent - one of the books I'm enjoying right now is Adam Johnson's "The Atonement: A Guide for the Perplexed".  This interview with him is a great taste of what's in the book, and a good listen. It's the sort of thing that goes great with an hour of knitting, or doing the dishes, or just a nice glass of wine:

I hope you all have a good first Sunday of Lent!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link; if you purchase a book from this link, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price.  (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Release day for "Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Dog"

Callie would like you to know she doesn't always look so guilty.

(Okay, so that's a lie.
But she's still very sweet, I promise.)

Today is the release day for "My Very Good, Very Bad Dog" and I have a story in it!

Or, if you like, that sheepish looking dog above has a story in it. :)

Callie is the subject of the story "Right", which you'll find on page 101 of said volume, and which starts like this:

"Hi, I'm Jessica, and I have an anxiety disorder."

I do, actually, and the story of how Callie turned out to be just the dog to help is found in the pages of this new book. If you pick up a copy, I hope you enjoy reading about that, and about all the other remarkable canines chronicled in the book.

And here's something really cool: in addition to my own excitement, it turns out that my daughter, at age 11, is a big fan of Chicken Soup for the Soul, and it was so fun to hand her a copy of this book, and see her excitement when she learned that not only had her mom had a story published here, but that she got to read it before it was even in the bookstores. 

Now that's a perk of writing I didn't see coming - but I love it! :D

-Jessica Snell

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link; if you purchase a book from this link, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price.  (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Weekly Links - gospel, wine, matchmakers, movies, and more!

photo credit: Betsy Barber
I'm still counting this post as getting my links up on the weekend, because my kids are home from school today in honor of Lincoln's birthday. That said, here is your weekly (!) good reading from around the web:

On Faith:
"Why I Don't Share the Gospel" - it's all about joy.

"Our Prayer Instincts Are Backwards" - why we start in the wrong direction when we talk to God.

"Today Is Susanna Wesley's Birthday" - Susanna Wesley is one of my favorite saints. I love reading about her!

"What My Grandmother Taught Me About Church" - a moving memorial from Russell Moore - also good reading for parents and grandparents out there who want their children to grow up loving the house of the Lord.

"When God Writes Your Story" - this testimonial about books and faith is one of the most beautiful things I've read.

"Lord, You Said There Would Be Wine" - one last good piece of reading for Ordinary Time.

General Interest:
"Interview with a Former Professional Matchmaker"

"Fiber: the least sexy weight-loss tool" - my thanks to my friend Becca for this link!

"Old Movie Review: UNBREAKABLE" - this makes me want to watch this one, and ...

"Hail, Caesar!" - and this review really makes me want to watch this one!

I hope you have a good week, and especially a good beginning to Lent on Wednesday.

-Jessica Snell

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A God Who Knows Grief

I'm honored today to be guest posting over at Sarah Ruut's blog. Here's a snippet:
Private grief is sometimes what we want. 
It's not always what we need. 
And it's never our only choice. Why? Because we serve a Lord who is familiar with suffering...
Please go read the rest over at Sarah's beautiful website! I hope it offers you a bit of encouragement for your day.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell