A Letter to Becky Chambers


Dear Ms. Chambers,

I do not know if I will ever find the words to adequately thank you. Even now they twist and twirl around my fingers, dancing around the keyboard, all too eager to have their say. But I will try to start with the most important ones.

Thank you! Thank you for Sibling Dex and Mosscap! I have not felt as seen as I did peering into Dex’s tender, aching soul. And I don’t mean tender as in “delicate” but as in sensitive from way too much chafing/bruising/strain. I know their struggle with their purpose versus their talent, for it is my very own. I am hip-deep in it, wrestling to figure out my steps between what I am good at and what I want to do with my life.

There were many moments in A Psalm for the Wild-Built and A Prayer for the Crown-Shy when I would read a paragraph or even single line and then have to put your lovely books down to just cry. You put words and honest yearning to a question that I have held in the depths of myself for years, fearing all it would be was misunderstood if I voiced it. Seeing that yearning and struggle embodied in Dex pierced my heart and I felt so known. This was also true when you wrote about the necessity of comfort and rest. I am a teacher. My exhaustion feels constant and bone-deep, as I am not often one to extend the gift of rest to myself. But your kind yet honest words wrung tears from me at that reassuring reprimand that without comfort and rest we cannot be successful physically (constructs) or mentally (unraveling mysteries).

For the past few months, I have held your little books close, thumbing through pages I have marked for those dear words, gentle reminders, and the kind touches of the characters. The moments of honest and encouragement between Dex and Mosscap stay with me, how they hold space for and often hold each other without ever touching. How you have held me as a friend without ever knowing who I am.

Thank you for the smiles, the tears, the laughs, and the tender touches you’ve lain upon my heart and soul through this books, Ms. Chambers. I cannot express my gratitude enough. I cannot wait for the next installment and, in the between time, I will undoubtedly return to your sweet stories to be encouraged and strengthened.

Blessings on you,

Melissa Snyder

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Book Review: Marmee by Sarah Miller


I cannot explain how happy this book makes me! Little Women is, far and away, my favorite novel and has been for the majority of my life. I have consumed this story in a myriad of different forms and have had so many surprising parallels between my own life and that of Jo March’s fictional one. But this book…oh, this book!

Here is our beloved Marmee’s soul laid out in her own journal entries. It was so brilliant to read the familiar plot points of Little Women but from Marmee’s particular perspective with all the hidden details that often fill a mother’s heart and mind. We are familiar with the Marmee who admitted to her spitting-image daughter Jo about her own struggles with her temper and indignation at the unfairness and injustices of the world. Furthermore, in this book, Miller expands upon those personal struggles and her journey through them and the life her beliefs and actions have built for her girls, her “little women”. Miller presents Margaret March as thoroughly human — loving, longing, struggling, working, and yearning. In the midst of “hoping and keeping busy”, we see the true needs of a woman, mother, wife, and friend presented in honest relief. Now a Marmee myself, I cried at portions, feeling indelibly seen and known in that particular capacity by this best of stories.

Before, I have always identified with Jo, but here in Miller’s well-researched and heartfully-rendered portrait, I blessedly saw my own heart reflected back at me in Marmee’s vulnerable humanity and the loving work of her life. I found myself yearning to be as lucky as John Brooke or Laurie or Birte Hummel, to be drawn into the warm circle of Marmee’s life.

It is also not only Marmee’s portrait that has been filled out by Miller’s pen. Grandfather Lawrence becomes a deeply-loving father figure that is sorely-needed, John Brooke a man thoroughly deserving of Meg and the Marches’ love (no matter Jo’s young protestations), and the Hummel family comes to rich life as full characters instead of a mere vehicle for lessons in kindness and sacrifice.

While Miller does indeed make some changes to this well-worn story, I found none of them to be detractors or detrimental to the effect of this gorgeous story. It is more than just a retelling, it is a new side of the much-beloved story of the March Family. Miller has drawn the stitches between the fictional Marches and the humanly real Alcotts tighter and embroidered them with stunning flourishes of growth, love, faith, hard work, and hope. I could not have asked for or even dreamed of a better novel with which to begin 2023. It has done my heart and soul unspeakable good and has become one that I will undoubtedly recommend over and over again. Thank you, Sarah Miller, for all your hope and hard work in producing a book of such feeling and skill. Thank you for giving me a story that shall find its way into my own Marmee’s hands as well as next to my childhood and anniversary editions of Little Women, in pride of place among my most cherished volumes. A place among my treasures, for that is what it is: a treasure.

Between the Years


A few days ago, a neighbor and dear friend posted about the German phrase “Zwischen den Jahren”, which translates to “between the years”. It speaks to the state of being represented by that nebulous time between Christmas and New Years. As she puts it, “Time stops at Christmas, continues in slow motion and picks back up in January. It’s a time to stay in, take off work if you can, reflect, be lazy, eat leftovers, read all the new books all day and whatever else helps you reset”. That honestly sounds pretty amazing and special right now. I rather wish we all adopted this attitude of rest, and I am grateful to have the space today and this past week for largely that.

I’ve fallen in love with the Danish concept of hygge over the past few years and the state of Zwischen den Jahren fits so beautifully as a practice that I’ve felt my heart latch onto it almost immediately. As we prepare to big 2022 farewell, I shall spend today with my blankets, fireplace, stacks of books and journals, and the quiet of stillness. I know that I deeply need time like that: moments where I can just be or indulge in lovely things that feed my soul. Yesterday morning, it was coffee and episodes of season 2 of Sanditon that I have been putting off. I am often hard-pressed, as you know, to allow myself time to rest. But learning that stopping and slowing down after the holidays to allow oneself to recover is not just wishful thinking but the practice of an entire country makes it somehow more palpable, even attainable.

I have worked hard to make this holiday special for my dear ones as I also take care of necessities and work. As 2022 ends, though, I want to see it out with gentle reflection and handling of myself, my heart, and my tender soul. I want to sink deep into Zwischen den Jahren, drawing hygge close, and giving myself the rest and comfort I deserve.

And I hope you gift yourself so, too. Happy New Year, Friendly Readers. May it be blest.

“Without constructs, you will unravel few mysteries. Without knowledge of the mysteries, your constructs will fail. These pursuits are what make us, but without comfort, you will lack the strength to sustain either.”
― Becky Chambers, A Psalm for the Wild-Built

When Advent Doesn’t Go As Expected


This year marked a break in what had become a much-enjoyed activity. Let’s just say that things have not gone to plan this Advent. Work, life, and mental health intervened and overall weariness has lain me out of late. So, in short, I have not written anything past week 1 of Advent. That is not what I had planned. Advent writings have been such a balm for me these past two Christmases. They have been a light amidst all the rush and fuss and struggle, and it makes me rather sad that I just could not make it happen this year. Along with that, I haven’t planned any holiday activities for the family — no lights viewings, no Christkindlmarkt before the big day, nothing like that. I just have not had the wherewithal for anything like that, and that honestly makes part of my Christmas-loving heart very downcast and disappointed.

Here we are…less than a week away from Christmas…and I am deeply battling the sense of not-enough. Fighting the feeling that I am not doing enough, haven’t bought enough, haven’t decorated or celebrated enough. This feeling also wars with trying to ensure that needs are met as well as desires. In the midst of all this, I am doing my best to remind myself and others that what we are doing/have done is enough. What I am doing/have done is enough. A manger was enough for the dear babe who Himself was enough for Mary and Joseph, though I can guarantee that Advent did not go as planned for them either.

So, Dear Ones, if this Advent has not been what you expected or hoped, allow me to speak truth to your tender heart. It is enough. What you are doing is enough. You are enough. As we move towards the end of Advent and the beginning of Christmas, remember and hold close that a simple, faithful teenage girl was enough. A good Godly man was enough. A manger in a stable was enough. And you, Dear Heart, are enough. You are enough for Christmas.

~

‘Maybe Christmas,’ he thought, ‘doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more!’ 

Christmas Day is in our grasp, as long as we have hands to clasp! Christmas Day will always be, just as long, as we have we! Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart, and hand in hand!

~ Dr. Seuss

Advent 2022 – Cradling the Light (Hope)


I love candles. The glow of a single flame banishing complete darkness in a single ring of light. One our way to meeting/church, I pointed out the sky to my daughter, a spot where the black rain clouds were broken and streaks of brilliant blue sky showed through. The light beyond the darkness, the sun waiting after the rain. I love a rainy day as much as the next introvert but in that moment, it was a lovely reminder of the vividness of hope, even the smallest notion of it. We can cup our hands around hope’s candle flame, feel the warmth of it, heat that could burn if one gets too close but can deeply warm if held gently.

As we enter this time of Advent, of expectation in the Christmas season, I want to take your hands, Friendly Reader, and place a bit of hope in them once more. Hope is always present, always available in whatever moment we need it, but particularly powerful in its small doses. Just enough hope to fill a candle flame is plenty, because that means that it is not totally dark. There is light. There is hope.

Our eyes hold on to light, they seek it out, even the merest pinprick of it. In 1941, vision scientist Selig Hecht, worked out that, with a clear, unobstructed view, the human eye could see a candle light flickering about 30 miles away. As long as there is light to be found, there is also hope. Hope of leaving the tunnel, hope of morning after a night of storms, hope of finding what has been lost. Our eyes cradle light, for we cannot see without it. So, in a sense, we are always on the lookout for hope, to find it, cradle it, and let its light dance in our eyes like a candle flame.

Stepping into Advent, into the beautiful chaos of the holidays, I want to cradle hope’s light, to hold it close against the darkening days of winter, against the difficult responsibilities and realities. I don’t only want to cradle it for myself but to share it with those who may also need it, those whose candle flame feels weak and sputtering. Hope and light are ultimately meant to be shared. Many little flames can create a great light, as we all know. May our cradled lights create a glow of hope that breaks up the darkness and remind us in love and faith and gentleness that everything will be okay.

No matter what holiday you celebrate, if any, hope is for you, Friendly Reader. No matter what you are expected or yearning for, hop is there for you. Here in your cupped hands, your candle flame, your light of hope is right here. Hold on to it, but keep an eye out for those whose light is low. Let’s help each other hold on to hope.

October Cherishings


This has been the most beautiful, lovely October I have experienced in recent memory — in weather, color, and activity. We have visited pumpkin patches and apple orchards, have cooked out, gone trick-or-treating, and enjoyed our fireplace. We have yet to make soup but that will be happening this week. We have oo’d and ahh’d over the gorgeous colors and dressed cozily in our hoodies and sweaters for walks and playtime. I have burned through comforting candle after comforting candle, their flames flickering along sweetly with the twinkle lights draped over the bookshelves in our small library. Yes, it’s been a lovely October. So I thought it fitting to share some things, namely…

Here is what I have cherished this October.

  1. Friday Nights — I made a firm resolve this school year that no work will be done on Friday nights. Not by anyone in the house, yes, but especially not by me. After basic cleaning is done upon getting home, then work stops for the night. No tidying, no homework, no grading, no studying, no work emails/texts, nothing. Everything can wait until Saturday or Sunday. Fridays are for rest — for snacks and movies, shows, games, or books. Friday nights are sacrosanct. Friday nights are mine. Holding this boundary has done me a world of good thus far and will continue to do me good, I am convinced.
  2. Wearing Knits and Boots – I love to dress cozily. I love my sweaters, knit ponchos, arm warmers, socks, hats, and scarves/shawls. This has been a perfect autumn for all of my cozy clothes and my favorite pairs of over-the-knee boots with even taller socks, which has made some sweet happiness for my soul.
  3. Seeing My Heart and Soul in a BookBecky Chambers‘s novella A Psalm for the Wild-Built was recommended to me by a dear one and touched my heart in so many different spots that there were many times that I wasn’t convinced that I was not indeed Sibling Dex. There were frequent occurrences of me having to put the book down to have a good cry because I’d been shown my own heart so starkly yet again upon its pages. Obviously, I enthusiastically pass on my friend’s recommendation. A Psalm and its sequel A Prayer for the Crown-Shy are sweet, patient honest little books, like the calmest of companions just waiting for you. They will sit beside you until you are ready to read them again, no pressure whatsoever. I have heard God’s gentle voice in these pages, reminding me that the space I am in right now is okay. I do not need to break myself apart to change it. It is okay to take things slowly, okay to feel the way I feel, okay to look ahead, but equally okay not to rush ahead. He is there with me, the God of small comforts and rest just as He is the God who moves mountains, brings us through troubles, and changes lives.
  4. Open Windows – There have been enough days that were just cool enough to open up the windows and doors in the house. The cat sniffs eagerly and interestedly at outside through the open screens as I let the fresh air billow through the house, chasing open window to open door. Letting it refill the lungs of my home and accenting it with the sound of leaves rustling or rain pattering on the world without.
  5. The Glow of Flame – Whether it is my candles, our fireplace, a cozy scene on YouTube, or our firebowl on the deck, I love the comforting glow of flame. In it, there is a tug back into days gone by, days before “hustle” became the watchword of our society. Nights of quiet conversations, drifting imaginations, and gently-working hands. For me flame draws me to calmness, to burn slowly, take my time and consume what I need in order to glow.

I don’t have any profound lessons that I have learned this month or secrets to impart. All I have is what I have enjoyed and how its filled my soul, and I’m realizing that that was happening even more than I realized at the time. I am really, really thankful for that. As we slip from October into November, from Spooky Season to that of Gratitude and Thanksgiving, I hope that we can keep an eye out for the things we cherish, for those things that make us glow, even if the flame is small. The sun is still there, after all, even if it is watery and weak behind the clouds. It’s still there.

And so are we, Friendly Readers. We are still here. May this fall stretch and those moments of slowing down, cozying up, and feeding our glow continue.

Ushering in October


I don’t know about you, Friendly Reader, but I am definitely feeling Fall-ish. The air has crisped a bit here, the sun is bright, the sky is blue, and I can already see some leaves starting to warm into reds and golds on the trees. Last night, I cleaned my little house a bit, sweeping September out with the wash and trash, and prepared for October’s arrival with twinkle lights, warmly-scented candles, comfiest clothes, and blanket nests on the couches with some of my favorite soul-refreshers.

I did not grow up in a world with Fall as a season and so have learned to cherish it as something beautiful and comforting and magical. It is change that fuels that feeling — though, yes, the feeling is often the opposite for me — but it is change to a quieter time. In the Fall, all start to make ready for winter, for rest, for dormancy. From the flora to the fauna to the folx, we all make preparation in Autumn, and I have come to crave it, especially in the last ten years.

I need this change. I need this preparation for wintering, for dormancy. I need the permission of Fall.

I need to know that it is okay to swaddle and start to hunker down. It is okay to hobbit inside my little home, cozy and warm and provisioned. The rapid time of the Holidays will come soon enough and then the deep quiet of winter. It is okay for me to embrace this time of change, of preparation, of movement towards quiet.

I need Fall with its cozying as much as I need Spring with its burgeoning life. I need the permission that fall gives me for warm clothes and cozy knits, for weighted blankets on my bed and a fire in the hearth, for twinkle lights and caramel-pumpkin-scented candles. I need the warmth of its colors amidst the cool of its air.

I need Fall. Autumn is a must for me now. I do not know how I might ever live without it again.

Welcome, October! You came in so beautifully, and it is so good to see you. Stay for a good long while, yeah?

Opening the Door to My Voice


I love walking before the world is awake.
When the sky is still a slate-colored marshmallow,
With just a hint of a suggestion of daylight beyond.
But not yet.
This is my chapel.
This is my serenity.
This is where I re-center.
Windows are still dark.
Walkway lights still lit.
Just enough light to see by
But not enough to push you towards wakefulness.
It’s as though the world, by silent agreement, has made space just for me and my silent steps.
I love it when even the birds are quiet.
As though the mourning doves cooed in earlier dark,
“Roll over. Sleep on.
The world is loud enough already.
Let her walk in peace.”

©️ Melissa Snyder, 8/28/21

Below, Dear Readers, you will find a link to a Voice-over Reading of the piece above. Yes, that is me. What do you think? I love doing voice-overs, read-alouds, and narration, and I’m trying to build up my chops for it. Is this something you might enjoy more of? Let me know your thoughts in the comments and we shall see what we shall see. ^_^

https://clyp.it/tyfs4vhf

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The Comfort Struggle


I have been thinking lately — why do I sometimes struggle with being comforted? Why does it feel nigh impossible to just sink into the gentleness of others and let myself fall apart if needed? I have been going through a difficult (even scary) situation of late, but I have been given overwhelming support in it, thank God. However, as I said to my husband the other night, I still struggle to be comforted by that support. I feel it. I acknowledge and am grateful for it. But I feel as though something is missing in my reaction to said comfort.

Why am I not moved to relieved tears by the succor that is being offered to and in defense of me? Why do I feel as though I recognize and appreciate this comfort on a cerebral level but it hasn’t pierced my heart? I feel somewhat heart-numb, like the comfort can come to the moat around my soul’s castle and call out its support and furtherance, but it cannot enter the inner sanctum and be welcomed there. Amidst all the comfort, I still feel alone, even though logically I know that I am not.

I never though that I would struggle with being comforted of all things, with knowing that I am loved and championed. My darling husband gently suggested that maybe the comfort I have received, while good, is not necessarily the comfort I am needing. But I do not know how to reconcile that. I do not know what comfort I do need, how I need to be poured into, how my heart needs to be ministered to. And that hurts as well: being so disconnected from myself (or at least feeling so) that I do not know what it is that would make me feel that comfort down into my bones.

If you are feeling this, too, in whatever moment you are currently standing in, I’m sorry. I don’t have an answer or a fix. But I can tell you that you are not alone in it.

I’m Still Here.


If you think I have been avoiding you…you’d be right. I’m sorry. I have been avoiding you. It’s not that I haven’t been trying to write. I have! There are any number of drafts sitting here, I promise you, but it has honestly been a real struggle this summer. A struggle to put my heart down into words. Now with the beginning of another school year looming, I am feeling way too vulnerable for my own liking. Things are spilling out way too easily, and it makes me feel even more out of control than I am in reality. I am feeling ALL the things right now.

I feel guilty for trying to rest this summer instead of doing the work to find another job. Attached to that is the sense of recklessness of even considering a different job when this one has so many “benefits” (read: life necessities). My guilt also extends into envy of those who have taken the plunge into new chapters outside of teaching. Envy of their faith, courage, attention to and action for their mental/emotional/physical health.

I am anxious as I have now entered into the enmity a small group of individuals who patently disagree with some of my stances as a teacher. I have said that I would be willing to lose my job over ensuring my classroom is an inclusive, welcoming space. Will I be indeed be called upon to do so? We shall see, I guess. So far the support and love have been loudest, but it doesn’t stop the anxiety.

I am tired from a summer that was quite busy with activity and ended with my spouse and I catching COVID and getting hit hard with it. Our vaccinations kept us out of hospital but we still had a rough time of it and are still in physical recovery mode after the fact.

I am nervous as I have new team members and a new principal to learn how to work with this year, as well as a new grade-level curriculum. So much to assimilate and implement. I am trying my best to take it one step at a time, though. Boundaries and work-life congruence have always been a struggle for me, and I have been trying to improve that. Trying not to be overwhelmed can be overwhelming in itself, however.

In some ways, I feel as though I wasted these weeks, the time I could have devoted to writing. I did serve myself by reading a fair bit, though, a good mix of new and familiar books that proved a safe hiding place for my soul. But I do miss the words flowing out of my pen and keyboard. I miss insights and contemplations blooming in my mind and then pouring out in a way that I can understand. That’s a large part of the difficulty lately, I think: understanding my own thoughts. I struggle to explain, struggle to write, struggle to understand me. So here I am, babbling on as honestly as I can even though it may not make a great deal of sense.

I haven’t given up writing, dear readers, but it is hard right now. I will keep trying, keep working to understand my own heart and mind. So much has happened and changed over the last few years that often I feel like a person I do not recognize or know, and it’s been a long time since I felt that way. It’s a struggle, yes, but I shall keep trying. Keep going. Keep stepping. Keep breathing. I’m still here.

A single rose bloom still hanging on after a fierce summer storm that broke apart entire trees.