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. ūüôā 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 Kitten dramas

Rudicat -satellite & clown

Over here at the Brookes’ homestead, we have one sad little furry. Last week, we discovered a sore on Rudi’s hind leg. After some advice from our fantastic veterinarian’s office and a few jokes that this cat will bleed our bank account dry, we purchased a soft e-collar for him.

My friend Sara says “e-collar” is short for Elizabethan Collar, as it resembles the costumes worn during that time period. Elizabethan cats. So regal! So ridiculous! And so smelly!

It’s amazing how quickly cats turn into big smelly greaseballs when they aren’t consistently grooming themselves. We have been giving him 10-15 minute respites from his “cone of shame” so he can take a daily bath. But his leg would be healing faster if he didn’t keep ripping the scab off this sore every time we do so.¬†Punk cat!

Meanwhile, Rudi has made a reluctant peace with his e-collar. On his own, he figured out how to get it from “satellite” mode into “clown” mode. We now have a couple more nicknames for this crazy furry of ours: “radio cat”, “circus cat”, etc.

Thought I’d share some silly pics so you can laugh too…


Poor Rudi.
I could not stop laughing the first night we put this on him. He kept bumping into walls and leaping to try to escape the cone.
If he can’t reach his fur, he’ll settle for the next best thing…
Rudi is annoyed but easily pacified by rubs to the head.
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! ūüôā

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. ūüôā


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 New-to-me, self-care

Yogahhhhhhh – a love letter

Let’s take a journey, shall we? Imagine you are an extroverted, externally-processing, people-pleasing, retail worker. It’s December. Life is…well, “busy” doesn’t quite cover it. You have yet to discover you have boundaries issues and stink at self-care. You are juggling about a hundred¬†emotional plates. You are simultaneously trying to be realistic with your expectations: what can you reasonably do this holiday season? You want to do it all. That pull is strong.

Are you feeling exhausted yet? ¬†ūüôā

This is where I was before we went to Ohio for Christmas. Now add the legit joys of family time and what that might mean for the above described person: another 50 plates.

It became too much. I know you might be thinking, “yeah, DUH!” ¬†ūüôā

In the Fall, a friend of mine from my house church community invited me to visit her yoga studio for a free week of classes. Nothing like “free” to enable me to try out a new thing! And post-Christmas, post-self-care-revelations, we agreed to meet for my first class.

There is nothing sweeter than a right thing at the right time.

When I was a “young & fresh” college student, I had the privilege to be part of a community that used ballet as a tool to worship Jesus. I had no previous dance experience, just a general affinity for dance as many young girls do. I remember my ballet teacher, Michele, told me after my first class she assumed I was an ex-dancer. Dance fit my body like a glove; there were things about the movements I intuitively understood. Ballet¬†was also very good for me. It disciplined me in a way that encouraged me. I wanted to work hard because I wanted to be able to move better. Taking ballet, using it as a tool for strength and expression, felt like coming home. It was the right thing at the right time.

So when novice-yogi Jes stepped into the Core Power Yoga studio in Northeast Minneapolis, aspects of the space felt like my ballet home. This put me at ease. I knew my first yoga class would be difficult physically;¬†I haven’t “worked out” in probably 3 years! For the first time in awhile, I gave myself grace to try. While sitting in the unheated studio space, beside my beautiful hippie friend whom I love to bits, I opened a dialogue with my friend Jesus, thanking Him for the free class and the space in my schedule to try this. I felt like He responded, “Yeah, you and yoga are gonna be buds.” I laughed and class began.

Dudes, He was SO RIGHT.

My body understood what yoga was asking it to do. And it challenged me to work hard without judgment. I felt free, able to focus on just my breath and my body, to cultivate stillness & peace while stretching and twisting and working hard. Sweat was pouring off me. ¬†ūüôā ¬†And then, mid-class, the teacher said, “Whoever said you have to do cardio to sweat was never a dancer.” I chuckled, mid-pose, and thought, “My people!”

After the main body of the class was over and we were laying in “corpse pose” (morbid but profound), I felt no ounce of stress. It was as if the plates I’d been juggling had evaporated into the puddles of sweat around me. I was so grateful for the peace. I dialogued with Jesus again, and felt like He responded, telling me He’d make a way for this to become a new tool for me. And I took Him at His word.

So, with little expertise and much faith, I am stepping forward into the practice of yoga. For those of you outside traditional western religions, who already understand the benefits of deliberate slowness, meditation, holistic care of the self and intentionality, thank you for sharing what you know with me. I am broken and you are teaching me how to do life better. For those of you in the Church who fear eastern traditions corrupting me, I see your hearts. I know what you are worried about. Please be assured I am using this as a tool to cultivate the relationship I have with the God we love. And pray for me!

I began working for Core Power Yoga last week so as to reap the benefits of their generous discount/perks. In exchange for¬†6 hours of studio cleaning/month, I basically get to take unlimited yoga classes for the foreseeable future. (That is QUITE the deal.) For now, I am practicing once/week. My lazy muscles are sore and unhappy with me. I will tune out their protests, and drown their lactic acid in water and¬†epsom salt. ¬†ūüôā

Me and yoga are gonna be buds.


Meanwhile, the cats are intrigued with “their” new toy…




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 Thoughts

How do you define “self-care”?

Apparently, “self-care” is all the rage. ¬†This may be the only “hip and now” post I write in¬†2017. ¬†Savor this moment, all, Jes is trendy!

I’ve been thinking about self-care a lot over the past 3 weeks. ¬†I had no idea it was an “it phrase” until a conversation with my awesome mother-in-law revealed that fact. ¬†Our Christmas trip provided me with many examples in the importance of self-care. ¬†It’s been marinating in my brain since then.

During our 14-hour drive back to Minnesota, I had begun to process all my emotional, high-feeler responses to our 5 days in Cincinnati. ¬†But, we walked into our house & my mind shifted gears from “process all the feels” to “do all the things!” ¬†I began attacking the to-do list that accompanies trips ending: unpacking, laundry, cleaning, all the cat petting. ¬†Driving a car overnight, vacuuming the house, scrubbing a toilet: these are the perfect kind of mindless tasks that really let you think. ¬†There was a moment for me where¬†I shifted into auto-pilot on the chores while my brain took over on¬†evaluating¬†my emotions again.

It became too much.

I sat down 4 hours into “do all the things!” mode. ¬†A cat immediately took advantage of the available free lap and almost instantly fell asleep.* ¬†In that moment, I felt like God was putting an emphatic exclamation point¬†on a loud sentence, “Yeah! Sit down!” ¬†Like He was sitting up in Heaven wondering how to get His kid to stop & slow and thought, “I know! I’ll put a cat on her so she won’t get back up again!”

Needless to say, it worked.  And I am learning I suck at self-care.

There are people I know that are fluent in it.  They speak the lingo, they experience it daily, they can read the signs of their own bodies and know when to say no.  I am not one of those people.

My pathology passionately screams, “Who can I serve now!?!?!?!” or “What should I be doing now!?!?!” ¬†All. ¬†Day. ¬†Long.

I’m tired.

To some extent, there can be beauty in self-forgetfulness. ¬†And to some extent, self-care can be twisted and selfish. ¬†Let’s all acknowledge those possibilities¬†to be true. ¬†Got it? ¬†Moving on.

I wonder; if you react to the phrase “self-care” with, “sounds pretty selfish” (like I did), does that reaction reveal weakness? ¬†We cannot serve water without…wait for it…water. ¬†I literally offer the world NOTHING if I am empty. ¬†My ability to correlate self-care with service is flawed. ¬†Because self-care does not always mean¬†selfish. ¬†It is not “me first, no other humans matter!” ¬†It can be, “me first so I can serve you without me in the way.

Does the thought of spending money and time on yourself for no other beneficiary than yourself make you cringe?  Cause I am so bad at self-care that the very thought of saying no to someone/something in order to take care of myself feels wrong.  Not just selfish.  Wrong.

The Holy Spirit has so much work to do with my crazy brain!

Needless to say, the process of changing years of habit and pattern that reinforce a flawed understanding of self-care will not be easy. ¬†In many respects, I don’t feel like I’m allowed to serve myself. ¬†To want something that I would define as self-serving is selfish. ¬†I need a brain overhaul!

What does a self-denying, people-pleasing, extroverted girl do to take first steps in self-care?  She unapologetically goes to yoga.**  She buys things at the grocery store that she likes, even if no one else in the household will eat them.  She does less. She practices saying no.  She makes space that others will have to fill.  She admits that she is flawed and never could do it all.  She prays, a lot.  She relies on Jesus.

This is what my January has looked like so far: baby steps in self-care. ¬†I want to be able to offer every human I interact with a deep drink of water. ¬†That means I need to be full first. ¬†(Are you listening, Jes?) ¬†I’m a finite human. ¬†I need moments of slow to just be.

Thanks for listening…

*Even the cats are better at self-care than me.  LOL.

**I recently tried yoga for the first time and have so much to say about the experience that there will most certainly be an entire post dedicated to it later. ¬†Stay tuned. ¬†ūüôā

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. ūüėÄ


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

Posted in Exploration and travel, Thoughts

“Holi-day-i! Cele-brate!”

I know all of you are on pins and needles wanting the update from me on how my Christmas went. You just can’t handle that you had to wait, I’m sure. Well, never fear, your post-holiday update is here!

After working on the 22nd, the hubs and our housemate picked me up and we drove through the night to arrive in Cincinnati, Ohio for a long weekend of family time. We stayed with my too-wonderful-to-deserve in-laws. They are just so hospitable and showed us the kindness & love that true hospitality means over and over again during our short time there.

Almost upon immediate arrival, I had the joy of getting a mother-daughter date with my Mum. She took me to see the Nutcracker performed by the Dayton Ballet! Such a treat and MAN, that Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra is super professional. I was duly impressed. The costumes were also stunning. (As was one of the lead dancer’s massive thighs, but we won’t go there.) ūüėČ

Sorry for the blurriness! I think we took it from the “selfie” side. ūüė¶

Other favorite parts of the time with family include*:

  • Laughing so hard with my parents that my abs hurt afterwards and my throat was wheezing
  • That awesome conversation about evangelism with my Dad
  • Seeing my parents ongoing reaction to their Christmas present (a trip together next Fall), the excitement is high & I am glad it is catching!
  • So many real and deep conversations with my favorite in-laws EVER
  • A hug that went where words could not with Traci in her kitchen
  • Donn freaking out over the drone he got for Christmas from Lauren & Chris, and then generously sharing his toy with his kids
  • Countless moments where people intentionally included our housemate, Abdullah, in the Christmas celebrations
  • Lego (a 25 pound cat) choosing to sit on my lap
  • Seeing Meagan & Dave’s home, the peace they both have in being themselves there, and the conversation in the kitchen while Meg baked a pie.
  • Cutting to the deep in the kitchen with Meg & Lou, revealing a bit of my emotional state and the understanding & recognition in their eyes.
  • And most certainly not last: so many hugs from Nayt throughout the days in Ohio, his unswerving devotion to understand his strange extroverted wife and the space he gifted me with to be me, even at his own expense.
I’m not crying, I’m so happy cause Dave (my secret Santa) chose to replace my sentimental & much loved/used teapot that I broke earlier this year. In this moment, I might have been retelling the epic tragedy: “Breaking The Most Glorious of Teapots”.

We could stop right there and just say I had a good Christmas. BUT WAIT, there’s more!

There were moments with friends that were so good, it seemed like I was just reaping a ridiculous amount of heartfelt joy**:

  • Hugging my friend Bekka and meeting her amazing boyfriend who totally gets that he got the sweet end of that deal (but seeing that my friend is happy and at true peace with him and in general, which is NO SMALL FEAT!)
  • Celebrating 20+ years of friendship with my two best friends from high school¬†by sneaking in a long overdue coffee date, getting updates on their worlds and feeling their sweetness & acceptance of who I have been and am trying to be now. I am so lucky.
  • Unexpectedly getting to connect with my brilliant friend, Amanda, who will change the lives of so many people by being a light in the medical program at UC (not to mention “and beyond!”).
  • Random texts from friends out of the state at just the right low moments, as if they knew they were being used by God to step in and see me.

And then, we came home and the cats stole all the attention & love I had leftover to give them. ūüôā (Alright, I may have done other things besides pet my cats over the past 4 days…maybe…)

So, while it could be easy to dwell on the busy-ness and the craziness and the emotional stress that I think most people feel around the December holidays, I am choosing to opt out of remembering them. Instead, I am recording for posterity’s sake, that the good moments FAR outweighed any bad. That God is so good, and blesses us with so many things that it sometimes takes even extroverted, externally processing, quick-thinking me a few extra days to really absorb all that was really given me.

I am beyond blessed. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

*this list is by no means exhaustive

**this list is also, by no means, exhaustive

Posted in Homesteading

Winter is trouncing us…

Well, here in the tundra, we’ve been experiencing some of Winter’s opening act. She started off mild and then flipped her switch into Canadian. Here at the Brookes homestead, we are excited to report the 6+” of snow from Sunday’s storm are sticking around real nice. This could be why…

Uhhh, I think I’ll stay in Saturday…

With temps hovering in the single digits all day, our snow should be around for a good while. Minnesota tends to accumulate snow in December that has no chance of melting til the Spring. Usually, the snow trumps my whining about the bitter cold. But this year, all I want to do is this…


And I’ve got extra reasons to hibernate, as I am now experiencing two different types of cold…

Cepacol and Throat Coat vs. Winter.

I still think the snow is beautiful…


But maybe I’ll just enjoy it from inside buildings and cars, cause…