Posted in Media Mondays

A little gorgeous for your day

My husband, Nayt, is a technological aficionado and has outfitted our little home with cool gadgets that I barely know how to use. It’s sad how incompetent I am with truly basic IT things. As a stay-at-home-mama, I’m slowly learning how to operate our “smart” house. Lights that dim with a phone app, HVAC controlled over WiFi, TVs that turn on via voice command: what is this modern world coming to?

And now not a day goes by without me using our Amazon toys to play music from Spotify. So, baby girl and I have been listening to a lot of music throughout our home time these few weeks. An album that’s been on constant repeat is Yo Yo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone.

One of the first real conversations I had with Nayt was about this album. That conversation revealed our mutual love for gorgeous classical and instrumental music; an important building-block in our friendship. So important, in fact, that music from this very album was played at our wedding. Yeah, there’s a bit of nostalgia going on when I soak myself in the music.

This is one of my favorite pieces from the album: listen to the gorgeousness here

Enjoy!

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Posted in Authentic joy, Foliage Fridays, Homesteading

A bit of earth

This is a long overdue photographic update on the pollinator garden! Though some sneaky grasses stuck around, we do have some flowers popping up. It brings me great joy to see them cheerfully waving in the breeze out there amongst all the green. By no means is this a finished project. The bed needs a border to indicate the chaos is purposeful (and to deter foot and bike traffic through it). And I hope to slowly purchase some larger established perennials. The fact that we have anything springing up from packets of seeds sown last November is such a thrill.

So yes, it looks like a bed of weeds (and to be fair, it is). It doesn’t look like much. But it is my little “bit of earth” and I am very happy with it. Welcome bees and butterflies!

 

Posted in marking this day, The Rori Girl

28 days later…

And just like that, she’s 4 weeks old. Crazy.

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I’m still wrapping my brain around the fact that 28 days ago was our first meeting. 4 weeks feels like such a short span of time and we’re still getting to know this brand new person. Sometimes I wish tiny humans came with instruction manuals. Wouldn’t that be so handy? Yet there is a sweetness in this blind discovery.

Thus far, Rori seems to be telling us a few essential things about herself:

  1. Sleeps – my number one priority in life
  2. Eats – you may have to wake me DURING eating because sleeping is awesome but if I’m going through a growth spurt or crabby, then all I want is FOOD! (Hmm, could Rori be a future emotional eater like her Mama?)  😉
  3. Cuddles – after I’m done eating (and you attempt to burp me), snuggle me on your chest so I can look at things while being swayed until #1 or #2 happens again

That’s it. That’s Miss Aurora’s life in a nutshell to date. It’s a simple life but keeps us real busy. I’m looking forward to discovering more about this little girl as she gets bigger.

Happy 4 weeks, Rori, may you continue to grow big and strong and show us who you are!

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Posted in Being real, Media Mondays

The Hand Song

Last week, I was a bit tipsy from the postpartum hormonal cocktail. Steeping my tired self in a hot bath did wonders. And what’s a nice bath without chill tunes?

I revisited the now-ancient, self-titled Nickel Creek album (circa 2000, seriously why am I so old?). This album came out the year I was a Junior/Senior in high school. Teenage Jes wore the album out. So it comes as no shock that I found myself reflexively singing along long before I was conscious of it. 😛

And then The Hand Song started…and I couldn’t stop weeping. (Hello, postpartum hormones!)

I highly recommend taking a listen. Here are the lyrics:

The Hand Song by Nickel Creek

The boy only wanted to give mother something
And all of her roses had bloomed
Looking at him as he came rushing in with them
Knowing her roses were doomed
All she could see were some thorns buried deep
And tears that he cried as she tended his wounds
But she knew it was love
It was one she could understand
He was showing his love
And that’s how he hurt his hands

 

He still remembers that night as a child
On his mother’s knee
She held him close and she opened her Bible
And quietly started to read
Then seeing a picture of Jesus he cried out
“Mama, He’s got some scars just like me”

And he knew it was love
It was one he could understand
He was showing His love
And that’s how He hurt His hands

Now the boy’s grown and moved out on his own
When Uncle Sam comes along
A foreign affair but our young men were there
And luck had his number drawn
It wasn’t that long till our hero was gone
He gave to a friend what he’d learned from the cross

But they knew it was love
It was one they could understand
He was showing His love
And that’s how he hurt his hands

It was one they could understand
He was showing His love
And that’s how He hurt His hands
Posted in marking this day, New-to-me, Thoughts

Birthing a River

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“Hello world, I’m Rori.”

Last week a miracle happened: a new human was coursed out into the wilds from secret depths. Aurora Riviere Brookes entered life outside her mama on July 6th, at 3:25-27am*

Over 23 hours, all 8 pounds, 15 ounces of her slowly bore down the pathway leading out of her hiding place. Mama felt the very faintest twinges and rumbles of “The Beginning” at 4:30am on the 5th. Things seemed to move slowly along until they weren’t anymore. By early afternoon there was no doubt, we were “In Labor.”

Such a bizarre thing to describe and experience as, for every woman, labor can take whatever form it needs to. Each woman’s fears and strengths are her tools to navigate what is happening to her body. And I doubt anyone is ever really prepared to face themselves in their raw, vulnerable state. Labor’s work was, for me, more mental than physical. I had to consciously choose to face myself. And then put aside judgment of what I discovered.

Easier said than done! 

Aurora (dawn, light, new beginning) was born at precisely the time she needed to be, in a moment that still comes as a surprise to her Mama. In that wee small hour, I felt no remarkable difference in the push that eventually brought her shoulders past the wall of my pelvic bone. I had no conscious knowledge that I had been actively trying to expel her through the final stages for a solid two hours. All I felt was exhaustion and weakness. I felt like there was no way I could get this River (Riviere, the French spelling) out of me. I had no more resources to bail me out at the last minute. It was just me, on a table with four women like the four winds, blowing encouragement across me: continue, stay, work, come…be vulnerable. And a subtle, unconscious hope that it would be over soon.

And then all of a sudden, the little I had brought to the table was enough. That will never not be a miracle to me.

God saw me in my raw, real, weak state and made that enough. 

And now she’s here: Aurora Riviere Brookes. A new beginning; this mighty girl who immediately taught her Mama the importance of resting after a long, long fight. And she is strong. Like a river, she knows where she is going and will bring life where she goes. 

And now we wait, and see who she becomes. And that is the greatest gift I could ever be given: to witness a journey from its source. There are no words, only (as Aslan the Lion would say),  “Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time.”

 

 

*Rori’s birth certificate will say 3:25am because that’s when the midwifery team says she arrived. However, Nayt is certain she arrived at 3:27. And I will always trust that Eagle Scout’s precision. 😉

Posted in marking this day, Thoughts

A firm foundation: 10 years

On this very date, 10 years ago, I married Nathan Andrew Brookes.

10 years ago.

Today, that feels like a solid achievement, like a concrete foundation that has set well. We have worked hard to communicate and love each other over those 10 years. And I am proud of the fact that we have stuck it out, that we are continuing to stick it out together. But mostly, I’m grateful that with God’s help, we are looking forward to new adventures down the road.

Happy Anniversary, Darlin. I am proud to be your wife.

a firm foundation
10 years of love and support matter.

 

Posted in a bittersweet goodbye, Thoughts

The last week

Well, it’s a little hard to believe, but this is my last week working for Half Price Books.

I’ve spent four and a half years of my life toiling alongside some amazing co-laborers. I’m grateful for each of them and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I’m not sure I’ve wrapped my mind around the fact that I won’t be at the Roseville HPB on a regular basis anymore. That’s giving me a bit of a brain freeze. And since I’m an external processor, here’s what I’ve been unpacking as I think about stepping away from Retail-land into Mommydom:

Firstly, no one gives retail workers the credit they deserve until they have tried working in retail; it’s the proverbial “walk a mile in my shoes” troupe. No one gets how tough it is. To work in retail is: to do your job while constantly on display, always interrupted from your tasks, receiving constant negative criticism from a varying peanut gallery, asked to put aside your own human needs to serve others, while barely making a living wage with terrible hours that affect literally all aspects of your social life. That is the ugliest description of retail work but it is 100% accurate. In no way will I miss that. But I’m walking into the exact same job “perks” by being a full-time mom. So, oh well, guess I’m not dodging THAT bullet! 😛

Secondly, no one can prepare you for the utter joy of working alongside people who don’t let “that retail BS” get them down. Rising to the challenge together cements the kind of friendships that get you through all the awful stuff. There were multiple days on the job that my coworkers literally made my day 100% better. There were MANY days where I showed up to work unable to put aside my personal life, and the 096 HPB staff listened to me complain, gave me hugs, bought me candy coffee and in general, reminded me that it’s okay to be human. Man, I just don’t deserve that kind of love.

So here’s to you: Craig, Jess, Britta, David, Aidan, Jena – you underpaid, marvelous leaders of the Roseville crew, who boldly step into your roles with everything you have. You are some of the best people I have ever met. Some personal notes for you six:

Craig – Thank you for taking a chance on hiring the weirdly blunt girl in 2014. Thank you for every time you said something nice to me about my work, even if it didn’t seem like I accepted it. I heard you. It mattered. And thank you for your sarcasm and wit, they were invaluable tools to poke holes in my heavy moods. I hope you actually visit every last park and national forest in Minnesota with Sara in that RV of yours. You deserve it.

Jess – your gentle direction and empathetic ear have been such a calming influence in my life. I sincerely respect and want to be more like you. I’m so glad you are the assistant manager. You bring something to the Roseville staff that no one else does, they are lucky to have you as a leader.

Britta – you’ve reminded me that there are other humans on the planet who take pride in a job well done because girl, YOU GET S*** DONE. I respect how you are authentic no matter where you are and I’m still sorry I ate your digestive biscuits that one time. 😉

David (DAVIIIIIIIID!) – I will never NOT think of you when I read those ridiculous David books to my kid. I’ve enjoyed laughing with you and seeing you step into leadership this last year, handling it with the skilz we all knew you brought to the challenge. You are an awesome shift leader, and make everyone feel comfortable to be themselves.

Aidan – Thanks for being my vegan-recipe guinea pig and never saying no when I offer you a bite of some random thing I’ve made. You are a steady rock of shift leader goodness and the Roseville staff is lucky to have you on their team.

Jena – (taking a moment to steady myself emotionally before I type this) I will never not miss you. Thank you for…listening to me, hugging me when I cried, constantly loving me with homemade spicy stuff, buying me hundreds of snacks and drinks from the gas station & Dunn Bros over the past 4 years, having an “open door” policy about food on your shelf (but not the Thin Mints, or she will cut you), sharing Hamilton with me, drawing that amazing comic strip for Nayt’s birthday, asking me about my life, sharing yours…for being an unexpected and much cherished perk of my job. This small paragraph barely touches on the exhaustive list of things I’m grateful to you for, my dear dear friend. You are an amazing SIM, which is stating the obvious. HPB corporate has no idea what a gem of a human they have working in 096. May all your future shipments from Texas scan in correctly and an ever-increasing quantity of books you don’t already own about Bruce Springsteen and Lin Manuel-Miranda cross your path. 🙂

And for the rest of you lovely staff members: Aaron, Grace, Kai, Ellie, Elise, Rowan, Eric, Kevin, Keith, Alec, Tom, Taylor, Carroll/Poe, Silas, Ainsley, Malika, and Christian: way to make the Roseville HPB the best Half Price in the state! 🙂 You are literally the coolest people and I’ve enjoyed worked with you. Some personal notes for each of you:

Aaron – Dude, is there anything you can’t fix?!? Thank you for sharing your homemade salsa, coming to fix our front door and making our feral kitty shelter! Your knowledge and work ethic make the Roseville HPB a better place. I’ll miss the smell of your gigantic coffee thermos, hearing about your homesteader goals and sweet cello-gig life.

Grace – I have nothing but respect for the way you ATTACK shelving. You single-handedly set the standard for efficiency at HPB, for serious. I have loved that we can simultaneously price the entire table and have a conversation about Benjamin’s and Rudi’s latest antics, because you are truly the queen of multi-tasking. You never show up to work for any other reason than to work. I have mad respect for that. 096 is lucky to have you.

Kai – Man, I don’t want to think about not being around your face 5 days/week! 😦 I’ve thoroughly enjoyed co-laboring in the kids/YA/Teen section with you and fully trust that you will direct all interested parties to the right, mind-opening portals they need from our section. 🙂 You are truly one of the kindest people I know. And if you do not text me random, cute pictures of Radar this summer, I will be sad.

Ellie – Thank GOD you came over when Crystal closed, cause man, we needed some Ellie in our store! I love your energy and how you connect with people, because you really value people. You are a beautiful person and I will never not drink an Arnold Palmer from Dunn Brothers or see Po’s face on anything Star Wars related without thinking of you. Please tell me the next time you wanna do karaoke cause I wanna be there!

Elise – (guttural moan) I don’t want to leave you! 😦 You are the bestest and greatest of bouncy, Tiggery peoples with an infectious laugh and a heart of gold. Thank you for coming over to sewing dates, for laughing over stupid cat memes, for sharing what’s under the surface with you, for real feedback and real love. You are a good bean, a good good bean. The customers at 096 don’t deserve you. I will miss seeing your face, so send me lots of pictures of it (and the cool Rey costume when it’s done).

Rowan – The LP pricing machine! We literally would have nothing good to sell without you on the team, for serious. Thank you for selflessly and single-handedly pricing all the stuff everyone else hates to price! You provide a great resource of nerdiness and niche knowledge that 096 needs. Resist the urge to buy all the sweet board games, dude. You can do it. 🙂

Eric – strong, silent and mad helpful! You, sir, I respect for your kind tone with customers and your general willingness to help anyone (staff or guest) with whatever they need. I hope that during your time at HPB, you feel valued for the great work you do. Keep on, keepin’ on, sir!

Kevin – man, that Nost section was hella sad before you came along! You do such great, focused work in there and I’m generally impressed with how you single-handedly turned that entire alcove around within a few weeks of transferring to 096. May all your future nostalgia pricing session be uninhibited by leeches like me wanting to use Jena’s computer. 😉

Keith – in the short time that you have joined our crew, you have made an irrevocable impact on me, and not just cause you constantly offer the pregnant lady your french fries! 🙂 You are genuinely kind and give amazing customer service, meeting each person you encounter where they are. If every single retail worker in the whole world were like you, the whole of humanity would feel very seen and served. Thank you for being a selfless example of what it means to be a great employee and human. And “Go Canada!”

Alec – You have a contagious smile, sir. And even the grumpiest of stoic persons would crack at your self-deprecating wit. Thank you for being you and adjusting to the chaos of HPB so quickly! You are an asset to the crew!

Tom – I can’t think of you and not smile. Your quiet humor and diligent work ethic are respectable. Thanks for the moments when you made me chuckle over something snarky you said under your breath. I’m glad you ditched stinky St. Louis Park for us. 😉

Taylor – You are a quiet and sweet addition to the staff. You work to make the register area productive and not a giant mess, which I super respect. I’m so glad that Craig hired you! 🙂 Make sure all the good Disney films get sleeved and I hope more of those Little Mermaid comics come in for you!

Carroll (or Poe) – Thank you for repeatedly calling my baby “delicious” after asking what fruit or veg size it was on a weekly basis. LOL. Your energy and personality make 096 a more fun place to be. I’ll miss seeing what color you dye your hair next time and hearing about your crazy nieces and nephews. Pet all the pups for me. ALL of them.

Silas – (sigh) This sucks. I’ve liked hearing about what you’re writing, and how much you love helping other people not suck at writing. 🙂 You are a beautiful soul and I will miss working alongside you, hearing your laugh and co-miserating about stupid retail woes. Make sure that sidelines section doesn’t look horrible, dude. Jena is counting on you. 😉

Ainsley – I just feel like I’m starting to get to know you! :/ Thanks for every time you’ve asked me about baby things. You are a big sweetheart and I’m glad the Roseville staff includes you. May all the things you secretly desire come across your path at the buy counter, until you need to resist buying all the things so you can afford groceries. 🙂 Then I hope NOTHING tempting crosses your path!

Malika – Girl, you are killin’ those history alcoves. Way to leap in and make things happen over there. And I’ve appreciated every time you’ve said something that reveals just a little bit of what’s going on under the surface with you. It’s reminded me that we ALL have things going on under the surface with us, and I appreciate the reminder to love on humans where each of us are at any given moment. 🙂

and Christian – last because you are the newest addition to the team! Welcome! May your summer at HPB be full of awesome. I know the training period can be really overwhelming (it was for me), and I know you will rise to the challenge! 🙂 Hope that during your time at HPB, you feel included and free to be yourself. This is the greatest team of people, for real. You ARE welcome.

 

So, that’s it. Just 4 more shifts with some of the greatest people alive. Hard not to be sad about that, even though my reason for leaving is to tackle a job I’ve wanted for 8 years. I’ll miss you, Half Price Books. Thank you for being a place for me to be myself, for the sweet SWEET discount and the wonderful chance to rub shoulders with other bibliomaniacs. It’s been a wonderful 4+ years.

Jes

Posted in Thoughts

A letter for the fathers

To all you dads out there:

I feel like the majority of you are quietly serving behind the scenes, not expecting much recognition, plugging away as mostly unsung heroes. Most of the dads I know are faithfully supporting their children and wives, with all the resources at their disposal. Sometimes I feel that moms get most of the credit for raising their children (which is no small feat, let me be clear!) But dads are in there too, getting dirty in the game of parenthood: and it costs them.

I’m not a man. I can’t really know what it costs to be a husband or a father. But I feel the effects when each of you actively chooses to show up. Men who love and respect the work their wives do raising their children are some of the best humans on the planet. Men who honor their kids with their presence and time get it. That’s what this is all about: seeing each other and meeting each other where we are.

So, dads out there: thank you for showing up. Thank you for the sacrifices you make, the work you do to be present and provide love. Thank you for caring for your children and wives, for serving them. You are heroes. You are all wearing invisible superhero capes. May you be recognized this Father’s Day. May you feel seen and heard and respected and known. And may you all be gifted with the love of your children and wives in a way you both understand and accept.

Blessings to you all. Happy Father’s Day.

Jes

 

Posted in Real, Good News, Things I'm reading, Thoughts

Revisiting this classic…

I recently re-read The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. By far, this is my favorite of Lewis’ works; yes, even ranked above my favorite Narnia book (which is The Magician’s Nephew, in case you were curious). It’s one of those I get a hankering to read again and again after long stretches of time away from it. There’s just so much meat to unpack in this little, dreamlike work of fiction. And if you’re at all familiar with me, you’ll remember I love hunting through stories to find the nuggets of truth. There’s a lot that resonates with me in The Great Divorce.

Let’s talk about one of my favorite character interactions:

(WARNING: semi-spoiler alert)

For those who haven’t read it, a truly stunning woman with a full entourage of children, animals and angels descends from high in “The Real” (Heaven) to talk with her shadow of a husband who’s journeyed up out of the (minuscule-by-comparison) depths of Hell. What we learn right away is that she is both “one of the great saints” and a very ordinary woman; no important person on Earth, just a man’s wife. This immediately struck me. I love the dichotomy that people can be two opposing things at once: an honored saint and an ordinary woman. It reminds me that small things done in great love really do change the world.

This woman’s entourage also stirs something in my heart. It’s made clear that the angels, children and animals that follow her around do so of their own free will. They have all of eternity to spend how they like, and they choose to be close to the woman that showed them their first glimpses of Real Love, to literally sing her praises. How stunning. The observing narrator makes the comment that her Love was like a stone dropped in water, rippling out and touching literally everyone she encountered. Man, talk about life goals! This fictional woman makes me want to be more Real, to truly Love.

She is also clearly moved by Love to meet with her lost husband, a man who doesn’t know himself and let’s a replacement speak for him. It’s both tragic and beautiful: tragic that he is so clueless and lost and unable to see the truth, beautiful that she has ventured to meet with him, that she is trying even in the afterlife to love him into his Real self. But he can choose to accept or reject that love. And you’ll have to read the story to know what happens. 🙂

I was reminded of a dear friend who’s been long laboring as “just someone’s wife”. This everyday saint knows about “The Real”; she knows Who created everything and she worships Him and tries to be like Him. When I’d finished reading the chapters about this fictional saint, I immediately imagined my friend in her honored place. And I was struck that none of us are really doing anything that doesn’t ripple out into eternity.

Seriously, think about that for a second. Life may seem mundane: a lot of work, a little play, some rest; a blip of a lifetime and it’s over. We struggle and get overwhelmed and opt out of living fully. Because after all: who’s to see when you’re all alone and you choose to love? What does it really matter if you wash those dishes so your spouse doesn’t have to? Who even notices when you choose to let a bitter root of resentment die? Certainly not a spouse or your children or your coworkers or your family. No one sees into the depths of your heart…

Except the One who created it.

And let me just tell you: not one single moment you loved goes unnoticed.

Did you catch that? Cause, no really, not one single moment you chose to love is wasted. Someone witnessed it. And not just anyone, the only Someone that matters. He witnesses when we step out of our humanity and respond with Love. Every. Single. Time. And here’s the even crazier part. Despite the fact that we can only really Love with His help, that we can only know what Love IS because He first defined it for us, because He first showed us what it was like — despite all that, the Creator of every human heart wants to radically reward each one that chooses to love.

Are you kidding me?

So, He models what Love is, teaches us how to receive and give it, empowers us to do it and then rewards us for it as if we’d done it all by ourselves???

Are you kidding me?

That seems to be some very good news. So, bravo, you beautifully broken, figuring-it-out humans; when you Love, whenever you Love, treasure awaits. And I needed that reminder. If I could thank C.S. Lewis right now, in person, for writing The Great Divorce, I would. But I can’t, so instead I’ll just thank the One who used the words Lewis wrote to stir up these coals in my heart.

Thank you, Holy Spirit. You are truly amazing. And I really want to Love like You do. Make me more like You. Amen!

 

Posted in Media Mondays

Singing about agape

This afternoon, technology afforded me the privilege to video chat with my sister, brother-in-law and nieces who live in Mozambique. Oceans and time zones cannot keep us from being family! 🙂

During our interfacing time, the girls wanted to share the Bible verses they’d memorized (!) and some songs, specifically to sing TO their unborn cousin in my belly. So, ridiculously, sweet. And after serenading me & Baby, Hannah casually asked me to return the favor and sing them a song. Uh, putting me a bit on the spot there, lady! But who am I to deny my niece when she asks for me to share her world and joyfully give her the present of a song?

I had the perfect one ready: The Love of God by Sara Groves.

Sara’s newest album, Abide with Me, is a remixing of old and new hymns. Because I live in the same metro as Sara & her family, I was present at the cd release concert last November. I was sitting in a long pew next to friends in this small church in St. Paul with the secret yet untold that I was pregnant, worshipping the God that made that miracle happen. It was a very special night for me.

I also got to hear Sara talk about the hymns she’d recorded, their significance to her, the stories behind their authorship. I love that kind of stuff. The Love of God has a beautiful origin story.  You can read about it here. Sometimes I feel like hymns are old and tired, and sometimes I am amazed that over hundreds of years, people have been singing the same songs to God. And that revelation makes the Family of God seem just a little more intimate and close, and His Kingdom all that bigger.

My favorite verse is by far this:

“Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made, were every tree on earth a quill and every man a scribe by trade; to write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry. Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.”

How beautiful! I love this way of describing the vastness of God’s love. I often forget that His love (which is also arguably His character and identity) is HUMUNGOUS. This verse gives me a good mental picture to remind myself just how mind-blowing huge Agape God is.

Do you have a favorite hymn that reminds you of something important about God? Share with me in the comments; I want to go listen to it!