Posted in Being real, Joy: 2017 Word Meditation, Media Mondays, Thoughts

Joy & Sorrow: kindred spirits

Hey all, remember Media Mondays? (dusts them off) Yeah, me too.

I’ve previously mentioned my affinity for Ann Voskamp’s words (and heart and life). And this weekend, I read a blog post on her website and started weeping. That’s right, straight up ugly crying. So, for this Media Monday, I’ll leave you with this piece of my heart:

Joy can still be found in brokenness.

To be honest, I don’t really understand why I had such an intense emotional reaction to Katie Davis Majors’ words. I deeply resonated with her book Kisses from Katie when I read it many years ago. And I had no idea that she and Ann Voskamp were connected.* But something is stirring within me as I keep living on this busted, broken planet full of busted, broken humans (of which I am one). We get it so wrong. We fall so short of God’s hopes for us. And yet…there is still very real joy to be had.

For the most part, I’d say emotions are a pendulum which swings between two polar opposites: sorrow and joy. But no. Sorrow and joy can occupy the same space. They are not extremes that come nowhere near each other. To be deeply, profoundly affected by sorrow can mean I experience real, tangible joy. Because the Author of my life is near those who are brokenhearted. And He really is.


At house church this weekend, some dear friends related their week as they engaged with a beloved family member going home. Really going home, to the Lord. And I was reminded that there is more than we see. There is so much going on behind the scenes, in the reality that is unseen, and that God is there too.

And I imagined myself, at the end of my life, turning to see Jesus literally come to meet me. And that thought wrecked me.

Right now, we see in part, but then…we will see REALLY. What I experience now on this planet is a shadow in comparison to what is to come. I forget that, cause these shadows have weight; they can hurt me, they aren’t wispy and light. But there is more. And I am not alone.

And if I’m willing to live in the place sorrow lives, sorrow will not be all I experience. Cause joy lives there too. And God is close to the brokenhearted. God is willing to be wounded to sit with those who are hurting. Wow. That is just echoing in my brain and I’m truly hearing it. If I claim to love Him and want to be like Him, I will sit in my sorrow and not run away. I will stay through the tough stuff, I will let the arrows & slings of His enemy come, because He is right beside me and there is true joy to be had, right here, right now.

Bring it on.




*I am thrilled Katie has written another book. And I am equally thrilled that two women I profoundly respect for their reckless abandon to Jesus are friends. I want Ann Voskamp, Katie Davis Majors, Sara Groves and Audrey Assad to all come over to my house for the realest, most raw worship session ever. 🙂 Hey, a girl can dream. 🙂

Posted in Media Mondays, Thoughts

The Worlds of Studio Ghibli

Way back in 2006, Nayt introduced his new girlfriend to the world of anime. And his selection for my first toe-dip into that pool was Spirited Away. It was a good choice, one I’ve seen many times since. Studio Ghibli films are now part of our personal cannon. Have you heard of Studio Ghibli*? If not, they are a Japanese animation studio. And before you dismiss foreign films for straining your eyes as you read the subtitles, calm down.  🙂  Disney has provided the American audience with many English-dubbed versions of the original Japanese films.

In general, I’m a huge fan of entertainment aimed at children when it is done well, with intention and the understanding that children are capable to grasp complex truths. The first time I saw My Neighbor Totoro, I was thrilled that the plot focused on the emotional conflict of the children. American children’s films and books don’t often focus on emotional resolution. Our books and movies focus on circumstance and action. As a highly emotional person, I think this is why I have loved each Studio Ghibli film I’ve seen.

And once I find an author or movie I like, I tend to obsess a bit. My job at Half Price Books only adds fodder to the fangirl fire. So, thanks to some amazing customers parting with their collections of Studio Ghibli films, this month I’ve been able to watch a few titles I’d not seen before: Pom Poko, Grave of the Fireflies and From Up on Poppy Hill. Each are wonderful in their own way. Pom Poko is hilarious and full of adorable animals. Grave of the Fireflies is visually stunning as it rips your heart open. From Up on Poppy Hill is engaging and honest and beautiful. Each of these films deal with real, hard truths: ecology, loyalty, pacifism, death, grief, love, work. I am thrilled movies like these exist with children as the intended audience.

Jes loves to find layers**. Motivation and complex truth intrigue me. Studio Ghibli films tell more than just stories. They are telling good stories. I like being reminded that ecology and loyalty and pacifism and death and grief and love and work are important. I like expecting to be entertained and unearthing truth.

I have seen 15 of the 20 films released to date: Castle in the Sky, Grave of the Fireflies, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Only Yesterday, Pom Poko, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, The Cat Returns, Howl’s Moving Castle, Tales from Earthsea, Ponyo, The Secret World of Arrietty, From Up on Poppy Hill, and The Wind Rises. If I absolutely had to pick one movie from the 15 I’ve seen so far to claim “my favorite”, I would stammer for awhile and then admit it’s a 3-way tie between Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle and Arrietty.  🙂

Have you seen any Studio Ghibli films? Which are your favorites?





*note, you’ll need Google to translate their website into English if you don’t read Japanese  🙂

** Thanks Shrek for making me simultaneously want onion rings, cake and parfait at the mention of the word “layers”.


Posted in Media Mondays

Ghost singer

So, I have been revisiting some of my favorite musical soundtracks over the past few days as I take the metro transit to work. And I stumbled again upon the beautiful King and I music. Remembering Deborah Kerr wasn’t much of a well-known singer, I was curious who this “Marni Nixon” is that’s credited on the soundtrack. Watch THIS!

Marni Nixon was the voice of EVERYONE

I am seriously shocked by the breadth of this woman’s vocal career! She has been the singing voice of so many versatile roles I have loved in musicals! How sad that it is so many years later that she is finally allowed to speak about her work! I mean, I understand MGM wanting everything hush-hush. I can understand actresses who don’t have the singing chops to want this kind of thing kept secret, but so sad for Marni.

Her voice is beautiful and very adaptable to so many different kinds of roles! What a wonderful talent she had. I am impressed and wanted to share it with all of you who watched all these musicals too. 🙂 Enjoy!

Posted in Joy: 2017 Word Meditation, Media Mondays

Amazing, Must-See Beauty


On this Media Monday, I want to share a video I watched yesterday. I don’t know how many of you know who Ann Voskamp is, but I am a long-time follower of her blog and books (and I got to meet her last Saturday, but more on that later…). Every weekend, she publishes a blog post with random photos, videos and thoughts to inspire joy. It’s her way to meditate on what is true and good and noble and holy (Phillipians 4:8). Usually, if I’m honest, I don’t make time to read her blog or slow down enough to meditate on joy.

But due to some unasked for circumstances, my Sunday was glacially slow. 🙂 And I visited Ann’s blog to stop and taste some goodness. And I saw this video and sat with my mouth hinged open at it. So, I thought I’d share it here too:

Amazing Must See Beauty

How about THAT???


Posted in Media Mondays, Thoughts, Word Study: "Joy"

The Red Balloon

Hello all,

I truly love one of the perks of my job at Half Price Books. Similar to a public library, we are allowed to check out merchandise to enjoy at home then bring back (or buy). Over the past 3 years at HPB, I have be able to enjoy a plethora of movies and CDs for free. This has been awesome.

So, when a double feature of The Red Balloon/White Mane came in, my child-at-heart self grabbed it right up. I was actually unsure if I’d even seen The Red Balloon in its entirety. It’s definitely a staple resource of the American education system, so I had faint recollections from my school years. But it was time to revisit the movie.

Awww, it’s so sweet; the little boy and his personality-filled balloon. But you know me, Jes’ brain is always chewing on something. At all times, the part of my brain that compelled me to study English Literature in college is working hard to find metaphor, to find the deeper meaning behind what is being presented. I’m unsure if this ever gets switched off! 🙂

The Red Balloon is exactly the type of movie you can throw a few metaphors at. And since I have been meditating on the word Joy in 2017, I saw it through that lens (as well as a few others). Follow my train of thought here…

Imagine the red balloon is a metaphor for the boy’s joy. He is comfortable with it. His mother, the principal at his school, the trolley driver and his peers do not understand it. He wants it to come with him everywhere, but has to be content to leave it behind at times to please others. (How sad!) And then the ending…when people don’t understand something precious to you and you don’t have the strength to defend yourself, they can do all kinds of things. But then the boy reaps an unexpected amount of joy. His little joy is replaced with something he could have never dreamed of. Man, that is a good metaphor right there!

Thanks, brain! Thanks, dusty old English degree! You make entertainment so much more valuable to me. 🙂


Has it been awhile since you’ve seen The Red Balloon? YouTube is here to help! Enjoy!

The Red Balloon (last 10 minutes) or The Red Balloon (full movie)




*photo courtesy of


Posted in Media Mondays

Twice as good

This “Media Monday”, I want to share a song by Sara Groves about deep friendship. She obviously wrote it about her band and I’m sure for Sara, certain memories come to mind that are dear to her as she sings this song to them and with them.

Check out the music video here.

Some lyrics stand out to me: “Every burden I have carried, every joy it’s understood, life with you is half as hard and twice as good.” What a beautiful thing to say. And the heartfelt gratitude behind it makes the words that much more meaningful.

Let’s get personal, shall we? I have been blessed with a beautiful string of big sisters, each given to me at just the right time. The love they have gifted me with feels like something I don’t deserve. I did nothing to earn it. They gave it freely. I can never NEVER repay what they have bestowed on me. All I can really do is mumble my thanks and accept their love, which continues to this day.

So, this one is for you, Lo – my first big sister, ushering me into the Kingdom with your relentless zeal and your beautiful pursuit of my friendship; your laughter, love and blatant disregard for convention still impress me. This one is for you, Bekka – you fiery, justice-oriented warrior queen, who loved me well when I was navigating what would become my marriage; you have made my life so much richer and you hold fast in ways I respect more than I say. This is also for you, Sarah – my worshipping, laughing, culinary-genius, hungry for adventure, never superficial sister; every time I talk to you I remember distance doesn’t matter. And you, my friend Amanda – your love of the Lord, your contagious pursuit of Him, your steadfastness, your hunger for truth and life; you have been an unexpected joy in my life here in the tundra. I’m so glad we moved here so I could meet you!

But I want, very much, to send this song out into the void for my friend Michele.

My dear dear friend, you have stood beside me for ten years, despite much distance and circumstance. You never fail to pray for me. You never fail to offer the right word at the right time. You have been my friend in every possible sense of the word. My little life has been so much less painful because you have chosen to be in it. And the joy I possess is more than double…because of your presence. I count myself so lucky to know you. Thank you, especially for this past week. I hope to be even one tenth of the blessing that you have been to me.


Let’s raise a glass to friendship and to knowing, we don’t have to go alone. To all my big sisters, life with you has been half as hard, and twice as good.




*image courtesy of

Posted in Media Mondays, Thoughts


It’s time for another Media Monday post…

From Sara Groves’ most recent album, this gem of a song has resonated with me deeply from the first moment it hit my brain. Have a listen…

Enough by Sara Groves

“Really we don’t need much, just strength to believe it: there’s honey in the rock, there is more than we see. And these patches of joy, these stretches of sorrow; there’s enough for today, there will be enough tomorrow…”

My frantic soul hears this and sighs with relief. God is still good. Calm down, little Jes. He is still good and He’s got you. And amazingly, if I stop long enough to watch my little world, to read the sign of the times and really get under the surface, I see…this is true. The more I slow and rest and stop striving or adding or saying yes to more things, the more I experience what I already have. And guess what? I have enough of every last thing I need. Everything my soul cries out for, every thing I literally need, I have. That is ridiculously good.

Praise be to God! He is a good Papa.

Posted in Media Mondays

Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff


I love Rachmaninoff. When I started collecting music that would lend itself to ballet classes (many moons ago), I fell in love with his compositions. I like the way his works sound light but full. Does that make any sense? Probably not. 22 year old dancer Jes was particularly fond of Rachmaninoff’s Arabesque #1, which sounds like a fairy tinkling across the piano and floating off into space.

So when this cd came across my workspace last year, I exclaimed, “oooh!” and requested it be mine. When a classical composer is long gone, and other musicians start playing his* works, I think there is something special to be gained from hearing the original composer fiddling around with the stuff he wrote.


The first piece on this album is Liebesleid and Rachmaninoff attacks it with such force and attention that I literally stood up straighter in my chair. Listening to a musician who has completely mastery over the instrument they are playing is just stunning. That can’t be faked. Hours of practice and failure are behind that kind of performance. And the hard-won confidence to play something that took you hours of time and effort to be able to get just right is…just that…hard won.

And I get to sit with my ear pressed up against the recording room for a paltry $2 thanks to Half Price Books. 😀


*the masculine pronoun is used here simply because the majority of classical composers who are dead are probably men, in my assumption 😉

Posted in Media Mondays

A Chanticleer Christmas

Dudes, run out to your local cd emporium and grab you a copy of A Chanticleer Christmas. I snagged my used copy at Half Price Books and have been absorbing the gentle waves of a cappella goodness ever since. Their version of Vom Himmel Hoch alone is worth buying the entire cd.

As I sat embroidering secret Christmas projects, I found my skin prickled with goosebumps. Something about choral music can do that, and Chanticleer gets their voices so pure it can sounds like one person is singing sometimes instead of the 12 men. I actually said aloud to my cats as the song finished, “wow, that was beautiful.”

Unfortunately, there are no stinkin’ videos on YouTube of their rendition of Vom Himmel Hoch, or of the album in its entirety. So, I’ll just leave you with this teaser of quiet peace and eeriely fantastic vocals from a different album of theirs…


Hauntingly good version of “In the Bleak Midwinter”

Posted in Media Mondays


Nayt & I have very different preferences for music, so it isn’t often he suggests an artist that ends up on my playlists. But slowly, I am learning that my rockstar of a husband likes strong female vocals. After a couple Paramore concerts and countless “ooh, listen to this!” sessions with Canadian and European bands I’ve never heard of, I should just accept that Nayt will introduce me to way cooler sounds for the rest of forever.

Last Saturday, Nayt took me to see Aurora perform at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis. She’s a Norwegian artist and has a bell-like voice and some crazy cool background vocals in her songs. Seeing her in concert is like watching Alice in Wonderland sing about deep stuff.

So, on this Media Monday, check out my favorite Aurora song: Warrior

the lyrics:

I fall asleep in my own tears
I cry for the the world, for everyone
And I built a boat to float in
I’m floating away

I can’t recall last time I opened my eyes to see the world as beautiful
And I built a cage to hide in
I’m hiding, I’m trying to battle the night…

Let love conquer your mind
Warrior, warrior
Just reach out for the light
Warrior, warrior
I am a-yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah
Warrior, warrior
I am a-yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah
Warrior, warrior of love…

I stand behind the wall of people and thoughts, mind controlling
And I hold a sword to guide me
I’m fighting my way…

I can’t recall last time I opened my eyes to see the world as beautiful
And I built a cage to hide in
I’m hiding, I’m trying to battle the night…

Let love conquer your mind
Warrior, warrior
Just reach out for the light
Warrior, warrior
I am a-yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah
Warrior, warrior
I am a-yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah
Warrior, warrior of love!

Underneath darkened sky
There’s a light kept alive

Let love conquer your mind
Warrior, warrior
Just reach out for the light
Warrior, warrior
I am a-yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah
Warrior, warrior
I am a-yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah
Warrior, warrior of love…
Warrior of love!
Warrior of love!