Sunday, October 30, 2016

Weekly Links!



-"4 Keys to Kindling Your Love for the Book of Revelation": I always appreciate posts like this that give me some short, clear help to better understanding the Bible.

-"Thin Places": Especially good to read with All Saints' Day coming up on Tuesday.


-"Free Coloring Books from World-Class Libraries & Museums: The New York Public Library, Bodleian, Smithsonian & More": if you're going to color, why not color the classics?

-"Can your New Year's resolutions take the reality test? Or, my secret to straightening out your life": I was sick this week, and Like Mother, Like Daughter's house-stuff posts are lovely little comfort reads, and so I stumbled back across this one. It's not really so much about New Year's resolutions as it is about doing your normal household duties with contentment rather than shocked astonishment that you actually have to work and...and I liked it. And I needed to be reminded of it. So I thought I'd like to it, even though it is, in internet years, ancient.

Sometimes the old things are the best things.

Meditatio has been doing a month-long blogging project on being a mom of a special needs kid. I've found it interesting, and thought you might, too.

-"Looking Forward to Advent":  I am already driving my eldest to choir practice for Lessons and Carols, which is my first sign that Advent is drawing nigh. Here's a post from Annie with some good resources, and a request for more if you know of any--go on over to her place and comment!

(And, after that, here's your obligatory book-plug: "Let Us Keep the Feast" is great for helping you get your home--and your heart--ready for the season!)


-"Reading and Writing for the Glory of God- not fiction, but still writing.  I like reading Challies' thoughts because he seems to have a really good handle on the "why" of his writing.

-"This Man Memorized a 60,000-Word Poem Using Deep Encoding" - a neat story about a fellow who memorized all of Milton's Paradise Lost. If you're looking to memorize more scripture or poetry, this will give you some good advice and some inspiration.

I hope the end of your weekend is restful and good!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; 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.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


Today I'm linking up with Ginny, over at Small Things, who says, "Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading . . . 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?"

What I'm Making:

My cat, annoyed that I'm interrupting his nap on this marvelous new blanket by putting a book down next to him. 

He closed his eyes again right after I took this picture.

I'm still plugging away at Anna's afghan, but I'm within spitting distance of the end now. I've only got about four more stripes to go. (You can see the beginning of the afghan back in this Yarnalong post.) 

The book:

I'm not much of a poet, but I like writing it, and I wanted to write more of it, if only as cross-training for my fiction-writing. Sort of like a swimmer doing weights or running on her non-practice days. 

Also, poetry is just a good thing. As the author of this book points out here:

Also, it made a lovely poolside read for one of our too-hot October days:

What are you making and reading this week?

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; 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.)

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Weekly Links!



-"3 Awful Features of Roman Sexual Morality": Good context for your reading of the New Testament and the church fathers.

-"Martyrs: An Eloquent Death"

-Cover Reveal of "Nailed It!: 365 Sarcastic Devotionals for Angry or Worn-Out People": I have been working for Kalos Press for almost two years now, and while I've shepherded some very cool books to press during that time, in a month, the very first book that I myself acquired will be coming out, and I'm delighted to say that it's this amazing devotional work by Anne Kennedy. She revealed the cover on her blog this week, which prominently features a hand-painted icon of Jael-I KNOW! it is the very coolest--and you should all go take a look at it. 

To whet your appetite, here's a detail from the cover: Jael's bloody tent-peg:

You can see the whole thing at Anne's blog, or go to Kalos Press' Facebook page for larger images, and all the lovely little details..


-"A Parent's Life Experiences Can Alter Their Offspring's Genes"

-"How to Build a Happier Brain":

There’s a classic saying: "Neurons that fire together, wire together." What that means is that repeated patterns of mental activity build neural structure. 


-Odyssey Writing Workshop Podcasts: I found a lot of useful info in these podcasts on writing science fiction and fantasy.

-Reading Writers Podcast: Another recent find--and I'll admit that, for this one, I definitely enjoyed the interview episodes the most. 

-"Teaching Stuff: Vast and Cool and Unsympathetic": This is an account of a FANTASTIC editing exercise for your fiction.

I hope you have a restful Sunday, with time for worship and time for rest!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Book Notes: TERMS OF ENLISTMENT, by Marko Kloos

TERMS OF ENLISTMENT, by Marko Kloos, is a military sci-fi novel that follows the adventures of one Andrew Grayson, a young man from an impoverished welfare city, who signs up with the armed forces in hopes of escaping his dreary, dead-end surroundings.

The military has offered hope of social and economic advancement time out of mind. It still does today, even though we Americans all like to think of ourselves as middle class. But the military offers its rewards along with a clearly delineated set of risks, and it's that tension of risk-and-reward that carries along the plot of most of this novel (though there's a sharp left turn in the tension at the end, but not an inappropriate or unwelcome one).

I gulped down this novel in just a few days and it's only now, as I sit down to write this review, that I'm forced to ask, Why? I know that I liked it and found it completely absorbing, but now I'm trying to analyze, What was it that engrossed me so thoroughly?

I have a few answers:

1. Voice. Kloos gives his hero, Grayson, an engaging voice. Grayson's not a deep philosophical kind of guy (for instance, after he kills his first opponents in combat, Grayson spends some time thinking about how that makes him feel, and how he might have easily been in their shoes--but he doesn't spend a LOT of time thinking about it), but Grayson IS an intelligent guy. He's a good observer of his circumstances and of the people around him. Which leads me to,

2. World. At least half of the fun of sci-fi is the world-building, and Kloos knocks it out of the park there. His futuristic military is similar enough to the militaries of our world to feel believable, but the differences are different enough to be fascinating.

I also liked how the dreary welfare cities were an important enough part of the plot to drive our hero's action, but also normal enough to the hero (and despised enough by the hero) that he didn't spend a long, long time talking about them. I have the feeling that the political and social structure of the government will be an issue in the rest of the series (I don't see how it couldn't be--by the end of the novel it's clear that there's a serious war coming, and how a country is run has a huge impact on how it fights its wars), but the ways in which Grayson did--and didn't--care about where he came from added to the realism of the story for me.

3. Journey. Lastly, MOST of the book is spent watching Grayson learn how to be a soldier. It's clear that there's going to be more to his story than this, but this first book was all about that personal journey. Once I realized that's what we were doing, I settled in for the ride. Watching a likeable, smart Everyman character explore a new-to-him world, and grow and change in the process, is one of my favorite story structures to experience.

I do hope that at some point in the series, Grayson does become a little more philosophical. I hope the plot brings him to the place where  he's forced to think more about his world, how it's structured, and what his role in bettering it might be. But this book was about him escaping far enough away from the trap he was born into for there to be a hope for him ever doing something about the trap itself, and I found the ride from Here to There very satisfying.

Normal content warning cautions apply: this is a military sci-fi with a fair amount of violence and language and sex (though that last is implied, and not so much described). Reader discretion is, as always, advised.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; 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, October 18, 2016

Ugly corner fix, II

A few months ago, I posted about fixing an ugly corner by crocheting a cover for the beat-up cardboard box that holds our printer paper.

Today I'm writing about a much simpler fix: I didn't have to make anything for this one. I just bought stuff.

Here is our "art shelf" as it was: messy, worn, and sad:

We bought ourselves some fabric crates, and now our shelf is glad:

But no, really: having containers that are big enough to actually CONTAIN what you put in them (in this case, to contain our multitudes of crayons, markers, and colored pencils) really makes a difference.

Here's to useful, beautiful changes!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, October 17, 2016

How I Have My Daily Devotions

I’m a faithful listener to Russell Moore’s Signposts podcast, and I enjoyed the one he did last spring about how he has his daily devotions. 

Discussions like these are a lot like parenting discussions: hearing how someone else did it isn’t necessarily going to dictate exactly how YOU should do it, but it’s always helpful to get ideas from someone else in the trenches.

And in that spirit, I offer this post: here’s how I have my daily devotions.

Part One: Prayer

I’ll admit my bias from the beginning: I think I have an advantage here as an Anglican. The Book of Common Prayer is just such a rich resource when it comes to devotional instruction. It’s actually what first drew me to the Anglican church: when I first read the words of the General Confession, I thought, Here are the words I’ve been trying to say to God for my whole life.

I knew I’d found my home then.

And so, in my daily devotions, I use the structure of the BCP. When I have a lot of time, I’ll read the entire Morning Prayer service. But, happily for those of us who aren’t cloistered religious, there are shorter services in the BCP, too. I usually use the one-page “Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families.” This leads me through an opening few prayers, gives me the space to sing a hymn, gives me a place to ask my own individual requests, and closes with the Lord’s Prayer and a collect.

Moving parts: 

-I work my way through the hymnal, singing one a day, and only using the ones whose melodies I can work out with my very poor skills on the recorder. :)  I just work my way from front to back of the hymnal during Ordinary Time, and then I switch to seasonal hymns (Advent, Christmas, Lent) when appropriate.

-I say the collect of the week right after the closing collect. This is a nice link to our Sunday services, since I hear the weekly collect first at Sunday worship.

-Personal petitions: I keep track of who I want to pray for using a simple notebook. I pray for my immediate family and my parents and siblings (and their spouses and children) every day. I also pray for my extended family on Mondays, my husband’s extended family on Tuesdays, our church and church stuff on Wednesdays, ministries and missionaries on Thursdays, and specific requests from friends and family on Fridays.

I used to be overwhelmed by the number of things I meant to remember to talk to God about, and the idea of getting to them all at once was so daunting that I didn’t even start. I still have this forlorn idea that it might be perfect if I COULD remember everyone before the Lord every day of the week, but I’ve learned that it’s better to start somewhere than to let myself get so intimidated by the perfect that I lose the good. And so I divide things up.

This isn’t a strict rule, by the way: when I feel moved to pray for someone on Tuesday’s list, I don’t say, “Oh no, it’s Monday, I can’t do that yet!”  The list just gives a normal structure for normal days.

Part Two: Bible-reading

So here’s where I’m sort of untraditional: I listen to the Bible much, MUCH more than I actually read it. And I need to be honest: I’m not sure this is the IDEAL way to get the scripture into my heart and mind.

BUT, it is the way that has SUCCESSFULLY gotten the scripture into my heart and mind and so, again, it’s better than the Not Doing It At All Because I Cannot Do It Perfectly.

So here’s how I do it. I use two tools: the St. James Daily Devotional and Alexander Scourby’s complete reading of the King James Bible. (Note: I’m not a KJV-only reader. I just really like Scourby’s reading voice. He does a great job of reading the words like they actually MEAN something.)

Every weekend, I take the St. James devotional, and I make myself a playlist in iTunes of the week's readings. (I also read Fr. Reardon's commentary on the readings, because it inevitably gives helpful and illuminating context.) The devotional takes you through the OT once every two years, the NT every year, and the Psalms every month. I put the chapters for the week on a playlist, and I add in the Proverbs for the week. (As Proverbs has 31 chapters, it’s pretty easy to read it through every month, just matching the chapter number to the date.)

This playlist is usually about 2 hours long. I spend some time on the weekend listening to the OT chapters and Psalms, and deleting almost all of them as I go. If a chapter or Psalm really stands out, I’ll leave it on, and eventually I have a half hour playlist of mostly gospels and epistles (and a Proverb a day) that I can commit to listening to each weekday morning.

Then, on each weekday morning, after I’ve prayed, I spend a half hour knitting and listening to the Bible. I do this because I find that having something rhythmic for my hands to do leaves my mind free to concentrate on the words I’m hearing. It can't be anything complicated--no counting!--or else it becomes a distraction rather than a help.

I find that listening instead of reading slows me down enough to really pay attention to what’s going on in the lesson (I’m a fast reader, and skimming is a bad habit when it comes to scripture). Sometimes, I’ll stop the playback and look up something on Bible Gateway, so that I can slow down even more, and really see what the author of the book is getting at.

I can’t tell you how much this has changed my life: I’ve become a different person in the last six years or so that I’ve been doing this. Having the scripture running through my head this way…you can’t spend that much time in God’s word and NOT have it change you, I don’t think.

I have pieces of the Psalms floating though my head every day now. It’s so good.

Never, never, never give up

If there were one thing I could encourage every Christian to do, it would be to spend more time in the Word. And I know that’s probably something you hear everywhere, and maybe it’s something that makes you feel guilty, and all I can say is: keep trying. Don’t give up. Beg God for help. Ask Him to help you find whatever method is going to work for you. Try it a million different ways until you find one that sticks, and don’t forget to pray the whole way through, because you have an Enemy who will fight you every step of the way.

It took me to my thirties to make this a regular habit, and I have been a Christian since I was two. (Really. I remember.)

And admitting that it took so long makes me feel so silly. It shouldn't take a grown-up Christian decades to figure out a regular devotional habit, right? But I offer it in case it encourages someone else to keep going. PLEASE, keep going. And when you fall down, get up, and keep going again. We all stumble in many ways…

But He who is with you is greater. Ask Him for help here, and He will give it to you. He gave you this great deposit of faith already; He WANTS you to listen to Him. He wants His law to form your heart and your mind.

I’m hoping to follow this post up next week with a post about how we have devotions with our kids, because it’s really something that’s grown out of our (my husband’s and my) personal devotional practices.

Meanwhile: read the Bible any way you can. Pray for yourself and those you love. Keep going. Don’t give up. I can’t tell you how often it feels like I’m struggling through the La Brea tar pits in order to get to my prayer time, as if there were gooey stiff black ooze sucking at every movement of my legs. It can really suck sometimes, trying to fight towards that oasis of light and refreshment. And there are even times when I finish and think, “That was completely rote. I don’t feel anything but stupid and frustrated and dry. I don’t feel like I was even talking to myself, let alone to GOD.”

That’s okay. It’s like that sometimes. Keep going. Just like it matters that you kiss your children goodnight, even when you’re tired and sore and grumpy, because you LOVE them, and OF COURSE you’re going to show them so, no matter how you’re feeling; it matters that you spend time with your Lord, talking to Him and listening to His word.  You are not bad or unfaithful or rotten for having it be hard. You are a normal Christian, living in a fallen, whiny world.

It’s okay. Keep going.

Remember that, as a mother loves the least little wonderful efforts her children make towards goodness, so your Heavenly Father loves your stumbling steps towards Him.

He is good. Spending time in His presence is worth it. Keep going. Because He is good.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

The links to the Scourby recording and the BCP are Amazon affiliate links, because why not? Read full disclosure about Amazon affiliate links on the sidebar of this blog.  Other links are just normal links.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Weekly Links: Some Good Reading for Your Sunday Afternoon



-"The Courage of InterVarsity"

-"How I Found Freedom from Gender Confusion": an interesting conversion story, connected to a book I've been hearing good things about.

-"When You Say You're Not Voting":
...all those other races, further down the ticket, are very important; especially the congressional races. Here in California, I get to choose between two different Democratic candidates for Senator. Yes, that’s right, no Republican is running, so every voter gets their choice of Democrats. State rep races matter, too. And we’ve got judges, county races, and more. Also here in California, we get to vote for a bunch of strange ballot initiatives and measures, some of which cancel each other out and might both pass anyway.


-"I Took a Month Off From Being a SAHM. Here's What I Learned."


-"Friday Night Lights Democratized TV Drama": I admit that I am mostly linking to this for that absolutely stellar sentence at the end of this paragraph:
There are minor characters and major ones in all this, certainly—it would be narrative anarchy without that—but FNL, much more than most shows that preceded it, took for granted the dignity of each character in its universe. It rejected sitcomic snobbery in favor of a broader embrace of its wide array of characters. It turned empathy into an aesthetic.
-"Mini-Review: Becky Wade's Her One and Only": always refreshing to read about well-crafted inspirational romance!

I hope you have a lovely Sunday evening!

-Jessica Snell

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Weekly Links: podcasts, writing the hard stuff, and more!



-"I Used to Suppress the Truth in Unrighteousness":
We experience this particular kind of self-deception in daily life when we do things like tell ourselves we can absolutely make it through a yellow traffic light, and we keep on believing it until we see the light turn red above us, or even a few yards ahead of us. The moment when we were saying “I know I can make it” is when we were suppressing the truth. The moment when we see the light turn red while our car is still in the middle of the intersection is when we admit, “I knew I couldn’t make.” That’s when we know we were fooling ourselves.

-"Home Row: A Podcast on Writing with Writers": A new podcast find for me. This could have gone under the "fiction" heading too, but as the host is a Christian who has (so far) been interviewing Christian writers, I thought I'd put it here. I've really been enjoying this one!

-"Trump: An Icon of the Western Soul": Anne Kennedy, being brilliant again:
Is this where we wanted to be? Embarrassed by someone’s sexual chatter? No, but we wanted everything leading up to it. And God, in his justice, said have what you want. It seems kind of flat doesn’t it? Sorry, sad, boring, ridiculous. There isn’t anything scintillating or provocative about the way that Trump was talking. There isn’t anything shocking about it either. There should be, but there isn’t.


-"The Art of Condolence"

-"Spiced Quinoa": a simple vegetarian recipe that our family enjoyed this week.


-"The Book Monster: When Writing Gets Hard":
I was pushed to finish this book because of a contract and a deadline. If I’d been on my own, I might have put it away. We’ve all heard writers everywhere say, “Sometimes you have to accept that this book isn’t your book to write, right now.” Like there’s magic in that, somehow. Whenever I hear this, I want to throw my hands in the air because how do you know?

-Brandon Sanderson, "The Business of Writing": I'm slowly listening through Sanderson's writing class (free on YouTube), and I'm sharing this one because it's a particularly good explanation of how fiction publishing works--well worth listening to if you're an aspiring (or newish) author.

I hope you have a lovely Sunday evening!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, October 3, 2016

"Whatever is under the whole heavens is mine"

a small human next to one of the many, many things that are bigger than he is

In Job 41, the Lord spends a long time describing “Leviathan” - some great creature that sounds (let’s be honest) rather like a dragon.

Whatever leviathan was, it was mighty and fearsome and scary. Think of any encounters you might have had with wildlife that scared you, or left you in awe. Think of the first time you saw a polar bear up close, and of how glad you were that there was thick, unbreakable glass between you and it.

Think of that time you stood at the edge of a canyon, and pondered the long, long fall to the bottom, and the great, ancient wings of granite that rose up above the drop: impervious, invulnerable, utterly beyond your ability to climb, to destroy, to conquer.

Think of that time the ground shook under your feet as the local fault slipped just a little further under the continental plate, as the walls of your home cracked and you threw yourself on top of you children, desperate that they would make it through the cataclysm unhurt.

Think of that time you cowered in the basement as the eerie noises of the strong winds rattled the house above you. Tornadoes might be fascinating to watch from a distance, but do you dare even stand above ground when one is actually roaring through your neighborhood?

Think even of the creeping horror you feel crawling across your skin when you recognize, too late, the shape of the leaves you have been brushing past on the hiking trail. Of the silly shriek you give even at an arachnid one one-thousandth of your size—less than that, even.

Of how you will not approach a strange dog that growls at you, let alone seek out the bears or the mountain lions in the hills behind your house.

For all our skill and technology and invention, we are still dumbstruck before the power of nature. We are crushed when gravity throws us down, we are dismembered when we are foolish in front of God’s fiercer creatures, we are small before the glory of the mountains and oceans and deserts.

And these, God reminds Job, all of these, are but God’s works

They are His works. They are not even yet God Himself.

Look at these wonders. Imagine the mind that could conceive them. Imagine the hand that could bring them into being. Bring them into being out of nothing.

Think on these things.

And then put your own hand over your own mouth, and be silent. Be in awe. Be in worship.

Be astonished.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Weekly Links: this week, it's all about writing



-"How Methodists Invented Your Kid's Grape Juice Sugar High"

-"Save Your Soul: Stop Writing"

-"A Near Miss": on a good movie missing because it thinks religion isn't a legitimate part of culture.

-"On The Theology of Sleep"


-"Laws of Food and Drink; Household Principles; Lamentations of the Father": If you are a parent who knows what the King James version of the Old Testament sounds like, this will make you laugh.


-"The Glamorous Life of the Writer": One of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Moon, tells it like it is.

-"Money and the Writer"

-"Misinterpretable Words": on living with a changing language (as we all do).

-"Why Do Books Written By Women Get Such Terrible Book Covers"

-"Understanding Shakespeare" - a lovely, annotated and connected digital library, so that you can research the research to your heart's delight.

Have a great weekend!

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell