Posted in Being real, New-to-me, Thoughts

Reflections on parenting

Well, here we are 5 months into 2018 and I finally have the energy/will to sit down & blog a little. It’s ironic to me that in the last trimester of pregnancy, I am finally feeling as though I can process being pregnant AND be a Jes. I’m so glad human gestation takes 9 months. It really gives all parties involved time to prepare.

I’m wrapping my brain around the myriad of changes coming to the Brookes household as we transition into parenthood. One of the ways a good Jes prepares to be a first time mother is to reflect on all the examples of parenting she has witnessed. A good Jes learns from any teacher: strangers at Half Price Books with children in the kids’ section, strangers on the bus, families in house church, relatives, friends. You have all been showing me how you do it: this parenting thing. And I’m hyper-aware that I have a lot of theoretical ideas & ideals but not so much preparedness for the new job I’m transitioning into this summer.

Because let’s just be clear: parenting is a job.

You can be unwillingly employed, unskilled and unaware. You can fail on a daily basis. You can feel like at times you want to quit. You can resent management for a lack of communication and feedback on your performance. You can doubt your ability. You can rise to the challenges. You can be physically, mentally and emotionally drained only to find out your shift is an overtime/overnight gig when you least want it to be. It can demand you work on things you are weak in for the betterment of the whole team. It can demand you show up for work when you are sick, or angry at your coworkers, or desperately needing a vacation. It can feel like it doesn’t pay enough or the benefits package sucks. Yet it can be a place of pure joy, of deep pride in the effort you’ve put in. It can be a place you love to go, alongside coworkers you truly enjoy. It can be hard AND rewarding because it IS hard.

I repeat: parenting is a JOB.

In 2008, a naive bride prepared herself to marry the man she loved, armed with ideals and a lot of blind faith. Turns out I’m also walking into this new job with relatively no skills. My resume is padded with good intentions, idealized dreams of what it “could be” and how I’ll perform. Thank God we go in that way, not fully knowing. Cause if we knew what anything would ultimately cost us, we would never risk getting off the couch to go.

And I want to go. I am thrilled to learn more about my flaws; to grow as a human as I take care of this budding new life. It will be humbling and embarrassing and I absolutely will fail this child. I will fail to see them when they need to be seen most. I will hurt them where it matters more than I know. And going into this knowing I have the best of intentions, but will still fail? Man, that isn’t an easy pill to take.

But newsflash, you warrior parents out there, with your brave hearts: failure is not the only legacy you leave your children!

Love washes over a multitude of things. Your children remember your kindness, your stories, the food you make, the ways you saw them and met their needs, the times you rose to the challenge and sacrificed without their knowledge so they could flourish. It may take awhile. And they will never know everything you gave and did, how parenting emptied you of yourself so they could be them. But your children will stand and bless you. They will give you gifts you didn’t expect, and joy you didn’t think possible to experience at moments you were bracing yourself for sorrow.

I sometimes get the feeling that parents feel like all their kids remember is the moments when they blew it. Kids (young or old) can act like that. They may be little punks and hurt you real deep, or expose your worst fears. But you have not failed 100% of the time. Love washes over a multitude of things. How your parents messed up doesn’t matter in light of the love they give you. I feel like this is what God teaches us when He gives us agape love.

We are human, and we fail each other. But when we love/agape each other, we say, “It’s okay you failed me (this one time, lots of times, whatever). I see that overall you try to love me, and you’ve successfully done that (insert specific examples). I forgive you for hurting me when you were just in human-mode. You have more than made up for this with the countless ways you have loved me. I will choose to remember those.” And then we do, until hurt is a distant memory.

My parents are some of the people I respect the most on this planet. I have been privileged to witness: their lives, their personalities engaging in their work, their struggles, their being real. That is a gift. It affects me profoundly. And that’s what parenting is: affecting other humans profoundly. What you say and do as a parent, is remembered. The wonderful moments you give your children ARE REMEMBERED. I don’t care who your kid is. They will remember some time you saw them, for real, some moment you gave them something special and interacted with them on their level. And this will be a thing they TREASURE FOREVER. It will make small & even big hurts seem less important, even miniscule. Being loved and seen and known and accepted washes over a multitude of failures.

So, brave mamas out there: on this mother’s day, DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED. You are exactly the kind of person for the unique job of parenting your kids. You have what it takes. Showing up might be all you can bring today. Bring that. Any moment you choose to be a mom is a win. Any moment you choose to love? That’s a win. No one may comment on it. No one may seem to notice, but it matters. You, being you, sharing your life with your children, matters. Every day you show up for work is another faithful testimony to your strength, courage and love.

And I have so much respect for you all. Thank you for the lessons in how to overcome your human-moments. Thank you for showing me ways to be kind and treat little humans with respect. Thank you for showing me: how to remain yourselves when the job is overwhelming, how to say no to most things and yes to a few, how to get it right and how to bounce back when you get it wrong, how to show up and stay and fight and love well. I wanna be just like you.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Posted in Being real, Thoughts

Quenching the wildfires

Hello all,

This week, my heart is burning for people that live in Northern California, some I know by name. The wildfires there are just plain crazy/scary & so many families have been uprooted. So much loss, so much fear, so much worry as the fires keep raging.

My heart is heavy as I think of you who live in the state I used to call home. Some of you share DNA with me and hearing of your distress causes me physical pain. So, you beautiful families of Northern California: I am praying for the fires to be extinguished, for you to be comfortable & safe while exiled from your homes, and for God to move hearts to give compassionately to your collective and specific needs. May you all be satisfied with every good thing in this horrible time. May you all have rest and deep peace. I am so sorry that this has happened. And it weighs on me, so I had to do something. Even if my “something” is just a prayer and a blog post.

What did Mother Teresa say? “Small things done with great love will change the world”? May so many small things done in great love change the wildfires’ waves of destruction in California.

God, please go and sit with people and meet their needs in their distress. We are waiting for You and we desperately depend on You. Come and help us! Amen


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 Being real, self-care, Thoughts

The land of the living


Been awhile, I know. One way to lose all your readers is to casually disappear. Good thing I’m not blogging “for the views”.  🙂

It’s been a summer, y’all. Actually, to be real honest, it’s been a heck of a year. But for the first time in awhile, I’m beginning to have a little hope things could change over here at the Brookes’ homestead. We’ve jumped over a couple really scary-looking what-if fences, and are on the other side with scraped legs…but we’re okay.

Nayt is now doing contract work at Code42 in downtown Minneapolis, which has many perks: proximity to home cuts his cycling commute WAY down, he has a fantastic view from his cubicle and access (once again) to a myriad of free snacks. It’s like tech companies know IT staff are super food-motivated or something.  😉  Nayt has access to all the iced tea and gummy bears he could ever long for. And after 1pm, Code42 actually lets you drink beer on the job. Yeah. Jealous much?

I’m still plugging away at Half Price Books in Roseville. We’re amping up for the Holiday season. For those of you not hip to the retail-scene, thinking “what!? it’s AUGUST!” yeah, we get ready for Holiday* in August. We already have Christmas cards in stock. And get this, people have actually bought some. This week, I imagined an alternate reality where I didn’t work in retail during Holiday. There were 15 seconds where my brain’s tires spun out. I’ve done retail for the past 4 years and the concept of experiencing the Christmas season when it actually starts was like, “wait…what?”

Otherwise, summer feels like it ended about two weeks ago. Minneapolis has been having a very balmy August. It’s been rainy and chilly…so…wonderful. Case end point: I started wearing sweaters. This Fall-baby is in love. I’m drinking my Novembre Te from Sweden, so it’s official, I declare Fall is here**.  I fully expect leaves to turn and pumpkins to magic their way to my front stoop at any moment. #AccioAutumn

As I type this, I have sleeping kitties on my lap and the back of my chair, Hem’s album “Rabbit Songs” is quietly making Nayt’s office into a calm oasis of sound and I am content. I can just be. Moments of utter freedom to be who you are becoming; truly the definition of home.

To be frank, these past 60+ days, I haven’t really felt like I wanted to live my life. I’ve been coasting, just going through the motions and escaping reality. For a long chapter, I’ve disengaged to protect myself; a friend even labeled me “poky”, like a hedgehog all rolled up. Because I’m a mature adult, I had been giving God the silent treatment. But last week, the prayers of all the saints in my life broke through the wall I had wrapped around myself. And God gave me some completely undeserved and real, actual, tangible happiness. So I started talking to Him again…because I’m a toddler and need to be reminded 1500 times/day that my Papa still loves me and is taking care of me.

Naturally, being on speaking terms with the author of my personhood & life has made a radical change in my daily experiences. Circumstances aren’t much different, but I feel like I am willing to take up my cross. Just last week, I was focused on the weight of it on my back and the splinters on my hands. But miraculously, I had a moment where I looked ahead on the path. I saw Jesus standing there with outstretched arms and a smile on His face. I can see Him now and He’s beckoning me to come after Him. What’s crazy is I really believe He means it when He tells me it’ll be worth it.

Faith makes no sense.

So, I am back in the land of the living, all. I’m sorry I forgot to rely on the God I love. I’m sorry I forgot to trust Him with the deepest needs of my heart. I had been looking for those to be met in the wrong places. It wasn’t working. Putting Him first is working. (Imagine that!) CLEARLY, I have the attention span of a 3-year-old. I want to be obedient to Him and just am not so often. To my prayer warriors, thank you and please keep praying for me!

Much love,





*”Holiday” is the hip merchandize-y word for the season during which customers request and are supplied with a myriad of choices to celebrate American commercial Christmas. Other lesser known holidays sometimes get small sections of merch as well: Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Christianity’s version of Christmas and if the store is REALLY niche, the Winter Solstace.

**Outside of the Twin Cities, Fall may not be currently available. Please check with your local stores to see if Autumn is “in stock”.


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 Thoughts


Today I’m thinking about my Dad, a man who is equally equipped for any conversation with anything from a Princess Bride quote to deep theological questions. My Dad is someone who makes me laugh, makes me think and makes me feel loved.

When I stop for a few moments and remember things he has done in our history of being related, it’s hard not to be grateful. He enabled my discovery of myself as a kid, he has supported my dreams and taught me valuable skills so that I can be an adult. But more than this, my Dad is like a comrade in arms. I always feel as though he is my friend in the best senses of the word. Dad challenges my faith and throws wit at me like a pro. He is fun to be around and while you’re busy laughing and enjoying his company, you don’t realize that you are slowly marinating in a solid example of steadfastness, truth and love. Dad is strong. And I am grateful he is my Dad.

So, Happy Father’s Day. Could I have a better dad? “Inconceivable!”

Posted in Thoughts

Mama love

Happy Mother’s Day to all you superhero moms out there. You are daily changing the world by purposefully engaging with the children you are rearing. I feel like mothers and fathers should get medals of honor after year 1 of surviving parenthood. So much sacrifice and love goes into shaping the future generations of humanity. It’s a bit overwhelming to think about.

So, let’s make it a bit more bite-size here while I focus on the particular person I get to call Mom.

One of my favorite pictures of my beautiful Mama circa July 2008…

It never really feels like enough to say thank you to the people who literally are credited for keeping you alive, clothed, fed and warm. When you are blessed with parents who also share lessons in how to create, explore, love, believe and experience God? Man, the debt I have is high…

So, for now, all I can say is this:

Mama, I am so lucky that God chose you to be my mom. I love you and have learned so much from you. I am honored that such a kind, creative and humble woman would choose to share her life with kids. I’m honored to be one of the people you are yourself around. I love witnessing your life and I love that my life is better because you are in it. Thank you for the labor of love you have given me over the 34.5 years I’ve been on the planet. Today, I have to settle for internet hugs. But Happy Mother’s Day!

Posted in Homesteading, Thoughts

Is Zero Waste Attainable?

Hey all,

Happy Earth Day! This big, beautiful planet of ours has a lot to offer us. Mainly, it provides us a home where we do minor things like breathe and eat and survive. No big deal. Except it kind of is a big deal when I stop and think about humanity’s stewardship of this planet’s resources. I’d say we as a collective group don’t seem too concerned with trashing this home of ours.

I happen to live in an urban neighborhood where I come face to face with a shocking amount of litter. What bothers me most about the litter on my streets is that the majority of it is cans and bottles that are 100% recyclable. So, I have a dirty little habit of picking it up as I walk around my hood. It’s gone so far as this: carrying reuseable bags on my person for the sole purpose of collecting trash off the street as I walk to and from the bus. I’ve started heckling coworkers who absent-mindedly throw their drink containers in the trash cans at work. And yes, I’ve dug in trash containers to retrieve recyclables, and frequently have bags full of cans and bottles in my trunk. I’ll admit, I have a “problem”. I might be a litter magnet. I literally feel like I have litter radar going 24/7.

There’s a little local coffee shop within walking distance of my home that is a zero waste business. Serendripity Spot does not have disposable cups. You have to bring your own mug or drink things in store. At first, I thought this mindset would not be a sustainable business habit. How on earth could a coffee shop garner enough profit to counteract the lost business from customers who’d prefer disposable cups? But I’m so encouraged Serendripity Spot finds that risk worth taking. The owner, Kelley, would rather make less money than contribute to the litter in my neighborhood and trash in our local landfills. That is awesome.

Zero Waste. Could it really be a thing?

I saw this Buzz Feed video and got really excited about the idea: check it out here. Who else wants to make a worm compost after watching that??? Most impactful to me was her little Mason jar of trash after a MONTH. I wanna do that! According to that video, the average person generates 4+ pounds of trash PER DAY. What!?!?!?! That is craziness!

I don’t know what it would look like for the Minnesota Brookes household to transition to a zero waste household. But I know that I want to take steps towards that. I know acquiring less stuff in general is a giant leap towards a more sustainable life. And it really annoys me that most food packaging isn’t recyclable. I guess on this Earth Day, I wanted to say…I’m less cool with forgetting my choices affect the one planet we have. And I want to make choices that are better for the extended life of this beautiful home we all share.

Are you moving towards a zero-waste home? Tell me what you do to reduce, reuse and recycle by commenting below!


Posted in Being real, self-care, Thoughts

Back to being me

Hello all,

I didn’t intend to be missing in action. Sometimes these things just happen…

In late February, I took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and rode my bicycle downtown to Core Power Yoga. Due to some absent-minded route choices, I ended up on a street choked with traffic and construction. I’m still a beginner road-cyclist; sharing lanes with cars makes me very nervous. So, I attempted to merge onto the sidewalk from a less than smooth lane. Needless to say, that attempt ended poorly (i.e. my right knee and the sidewalk became very intimate). First bike ride of 2017? First bike wreck of 2017!

The body is a miraculous thing. It can weather so much. But when I whacked the exact same spot the following week with a metal hand truck at work, my knee gave up its fighting spirit. And for the past 2 weeks I’ve been recouping from a knee sprain, contusion and strain. Crutches and knee braces and PT, oh my!

I am happy to report my knee is recovering well. Under orders from my physical therapists, I went back to yoga today. (Huzzah!) Other than some soreness that are no match for ice, medical tape and ibuprofin, I am able to move around with slightly limited function. Work has been…interesting.

To be frank, I’ve never broken or injured myself quite like this before. I know how to read the signs of fatigue when I am ill. I’m not so great at that with injury. The past 2 weeks have been more emotional and mental work than physical. Pretty sure we can call a spade a spade and just admit that I don’t do well at life when I can’t actively serve or participate. I didn’t know that by injuring my knee, I would be signed up for lessons in humility as well as banishing illusions that I can perform to earn love. I like to serve. Not being able to serve my husband, coworkers, house church family, relatives and friends in the way I am accustomed was frustrating.

But guess what? God is teaching me that I really don’t earn His love by doing stuff. I am loved. Period. Nothing I do affects that for better or worse. I don’t earn extra bonus points with God by doing good things. I am loved because He loves me. End of story. Why is that so hard for me to understand? Seriously.

Today, for the first time in awhile, I felt like I had energy to do some “Jes” things. I read some books, I went to yoga, I created with paper. My whole routine had been thrown off. My whole way of being was thrown off. And now, I feel challenged to carry forward these identity lessons as my knee gains more strength and healing.

Who is Jes? Loved.

I may need to remind myself of that a few more million times to really believe it with my soul and act accordingly! Happy God is so patient with me. And happy He is healing my weaknesses, both physical and otherwise. 🙂

Thanks for being witnesses to this crazy journey I’m on, friends,



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