Posts in Diary
Our Morning at La Brioche

La Brioche is the cutest and most delicious French patisserie definitely in Mississippi and I would go so far to wager that it's the best in the South. Every time I walk through the orange doors my eyes light up at the swoon-worthy display case overflowing with treats. Oh and the smell. It smells AMAZING. It's definitely a treat for all the senses when I get to go to La Brioche. 

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Before I continue, yes, I eat Keto and do Intermittent Fasting. Everything I'm going to show and share with you about our experience is NOT Keto. But, because I'm a human and not a robot, I fully enjoyed every bite of food I ate and did not let this experience derail me from my progress and commitment to the Keto Way of Eating. 

Having a healthy relationship with food doesn't mean that you demonize food and can never consume anything that's off plan. It means that you are in control over yourself and your cravings and are able to enjoy occasional delicacies without taking 5 steps back. 

Luke was leaving that afternoon for a weekend work trip/visit to one of our greatest couple friends, Chandan and Laura Bangar, and get a behind-the-scenes look at how Production operates at their church. So, we were making the most out of our morning together! 

To me, this display cabinet of goodies is the ultimate splurge food. Everything is carefully made with such care and you CAN TELL. I ordered a ham and cheese soufflé,  Luke ordered a ham and cheese croissant, and we split a chocolate almond croissant. It was pure heaven. 

Even better than the delicious treats was our conversation. When you're at home in your everyday routines, it's easy to talk about the same things over and over or not really talk about anything. It's always a good move for us to break up our patterns, go somewhere out of the ordinary, and get into a new setting. For Luke and me, that's when we have the best conversations! We talked through what God has been showing us individually, checked in with each other and how we're doing with our Adoption waiting, and shared dreams of our our future family will be like. It was the perfect way to send him off, connected together on a soul level where he knew everything I was thinking and feeling and I knew the same about him. 

Even though we can't have a La Brioche date every week, it's somewhere special we can go to get out of our ordinary, indulge in perfect pastry, and have soul-deepening conversation. I hope that you have places like that with the people you care about the most. 

2 New Places to Check Out on an Alabama Beach Trip

If you are planning to squeeze in one last beach trip before school starts or the summer is over, I've got 2 new places that you MUST try! 

A couple of weeks ago we went on our annual Family Vacation to Orange Beach, AL. We've traveled to Orange Beach every summer for the past 5 or so years and have a list of our favorite restaurants. We heard of a new restaurant called Playa and found out it had been opened up by the people who own our top favorite restaurant, Fishers, so we knew we had to try it. I'm so glad we did! 

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The atmosphere and interiors are PERFECT. It's got a modern, light, and colorful vibe with colors focusing on pinks, greens, whites, and light wood tones. I flipped out when I walked in. I think I said at one point, "If I had a beach house, I'd want it to look like this." 

The cuisine is slightly upscale Mexican. My table ordered Fish and Shrimp Tacos, Mexican street corn, chips and queso, and a pulled chicken plate. Everything was delicious, super flavorful, and colorful! We definitely had not had any food like this at the beach. 

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We loved it and we can't wait to go back! Plus, they have a great outdoor dining set up that overlooks a marina. Boats and Tacos? Yes please. 

Switching gears to coffee. If you know Luke and me, you know that coffee isn't just a drink. It's a whole experience. One day soon I'll share Luke's coffee set up in our home. He's a live-in barista and I'm not mad about it. Currently, he's experimenting with homemade syrups... it's awesome. 

Anyways, a couple of years ago our friends Christian and Courtney Hilley opened up a coffee shop in Mobile, AL. Since then, Luke and I always make it a priority to stop at their shop on our way in and out of our beach travels since we travel straight through Mobile. Their shop, Chaleur Coffee, has been awesome from day one, but they just moved to a brand new location! 

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Their new shop has such a great vibe, yummy treats, delicious coffee, and friendly baristas behind the bar. They've just started roasting their own coffee and making their own chocolate. You heard me. They have a chocolatier! I sampled the Pistachio Chocolate and it is heavenly! They make their own coffee syrups and bake their own treats! It's seriously mega impressive. 

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We're so proud of these guys! They're killing it in Mobile and who knows what they are going to do next?! The next time you're in Mobile, or close to Mobile, go check out their new shop and tell them that you're our friends! 

Happy 4th of July!
Photo by Aaron Burson on Unsplash

Happy Independence Day friends! 

4th of July is one of my favorite days! This is the day where we specifically celebrate freedom. Even though it's a national holiday and not a faith based holiday like Christmas or Easter, it always reminds me of our great hope in Jesus. 

As Christians, we know that true freedom is the redemption from a life of sin. We know that true freedom is Christ extending his love to us and offering us grace when we never deserve it. I am forever thankful for God and his never ending love. I just wanted to share that with you! 

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Today, you won't find me on social media. I am going to be with my family celebrating our freedom together. We celebrate our freedom by grilling out! Also, I hope I see some fireworks tonight. I need to make that happen...

Hope everyone has a special day! 

Happy Birthday, Luke!

Today is Luke's Birthday! 

Luke, I love celebrating you! Your care for me and others runs so deep. Your passion for Christ and the local church runs even deeper. You show me every day how to work hard and play hard! There is no other person on this earth who I want to do life with more than you. You're my person. You're my encourager. You keep me grounded, but at the same time, your belief in me lets me know that I could do anything. You're such a gift! I am so proud of you and I'm so proud to be your wife. 

Happy Birthday, dear. I hope it's the best one ever. Buddy and I love you so much!

Crochet Lovers Gift Guide 2017

You know what I love? GIFT GUIDES! They really do help you think creatively when it comes to getting the perfect gifts for the people in your life. I put together a quick Gift Guide for Crochet Lovers. Check it out! 

1. Yarn Bowl

2. Cute Tote for all your supplies

3. Molla Mills, the Queen of modern Crochet, latest book

4. Leather Stamp Set for making custom labels for your work

5. Leather Punch for making the labels.

6. Crochet Hook Organizer. You know mine are rolling around in a drawer... 

7.  A Cute Mug that describes all you need in life. 

8. These super cute enamel pins. You can put them on anything! 

9. Gift Cards because we like to pick out our own yarn. I like yarn from Joann's, Michaels, and Hobby Lobby

There are so many more things that I could've put on here, but I wanted to keep it simple. Happy shopping! And if any one of these products end up in my mailbox, I'll be a happy lady! lol. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Shopping!

 

 

Holidays, DiaryJJ Campbell
My Favorite Christmas Albums

I am DEFINITELY an early Christmas advocate. Put up that tree and decorate after Thanksgiving. After all, I've been celebrating Fall with pumpkins and other fall decorations since September, so Christmas starts early in the Campbell house. 

Also, the Christmas season goes by SO FAST. I want to enjoy it as much as I can. 

With the decorations early, I also turn on some Christmas tunes a little early! I'm not talking about the mainstream radio Christmas music, either. I mean, I can only handle the original "I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" so many times. I'm talking Christmas songs and albums that you don't hear on the radio! I want to share my favorites with you guys.

The Christmas Albums that are on repeat in the Campbell House:

Holidays, DiaryJJ Campbell
Your Brokenness is Beautiful

First off, thank you for all of the kind words, messages, comments, etc. on the blog post I shared earlier this week. You guys are incredible. The way everyone has rallied around and encouraged us has been phenomenal. It's a beautiful thing when honesty is reciprocated with kindness, encouragement, and a real sense of "me too". 

I am truly grateful. 

Now, here is my response to the responses I've received since last Wednesday. 

My brokenness is beautiful.

That phrase has been rolling around in my head for the past few days. I think it's been so prevalent because of public and private messages from people who responded with things like, "you have no idea how much I needed to hear this" and those who shared bits of their own stories dealing with infertility. It's more common than you expect. Beauty in brokenness doesn't mean that when you're going through issues you have to "happy your way through it." It means that big things can happen when we bring our broken state to God, expect him to help, and are willing to share our struggles with one another. 

As someone who's been a Christ follower for a long time, the idea of brokenness is not anything new. Type in "bring your brokenness before God" into Google and countless blogs and articles pop up about how God redeems our brokenness and makes us whole. 

I think about the old Shane and Shane song "Beauty for Ashes" (an incredible song on an incredible album that got me through high school). 

And then, there are so many beautiful scriptures about brokenness. 

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." - Psalm 51:17

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

I could go on.

But the thing is, I know this stuff, but do I believe it? Do I carry myself in a way that reflects the phrase "your brokenness is beautiful"? It's easy for me to see others that way, but what about myself? 

Do I truly believe that my brokenness is beautiful and wanted by God? Do I know deep down that I'm not counted out or disqualified because something about me is off? This is one of those phrases that's easy to say, but hard to believe day in and day out. It's one thing to know something, but actually believing it is where it counts. 

This is something I really struggled with months ago when I was coming to terms with my fertility issues. I can confidently say that there are more days I believe it and live it out than there are days that I don't. It's also easier to extend that grace to others than to myself. I think that saying one thing to someone, but not really believing it for yourself is pretty normal for people though.

I don't want to be contradictory in this area, or anything really. If I talk and counsel someone about how their brokenness is beautiful (I work at a church and get to hear people's stories all the time and I love it so much), but then don't do that for myself, the truths don't line up. Why would they believe me?

So here I am now believing that my own brokenness is beautiful; that I can be used; that God can and will be glorified through my story; that I am not discounted or disqualified from a life filled with joy and purpose; and most importantly I'm letting God remind me that my brokenness is beautiful. He reminds me daily that I can trust Him and that He wants to do more in my life than I can imagine. I tell him back that I'm up for the challenge. That I am willing to put forth more effort, trust harder, share more, listen more, and ultimately being willing to believe His truth about how much he loves me. 

And now, I say the same thing to you. 

Your brokenness is beautiful. 

It is! You might not be able to see it yet, but it is. The beauty is there. The beauty lies in your response. Will you invite God in and let him start chipping away at your broken state? Will you let him use it for His glory? Will you see your brokenness as a diving board instead of a roadblock? Will you let him use you to spread His message of hope? I think you can. I know you can. 

It's easier to throw a pity party, call yourself a victim, and stay stuck. Belief and change take real effort. Don't take the easy way when it comes to your own brokenness. Let the disappointments be jumping off places for you and God. You never know what can happen when you decide to believe God's truth that he really does "heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3). Believe that we really do have a high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. (Hebrews 4:15-16). It's going to take work and time, but you can do it. We can do it together. 

If you have a story you'd like to share about your brokenness, I would love to hear it. Encourage someone today like you've encouraged me. 

Grieving Infertility

The other day I was sitting in a coffee shop and a grandmother walks in with a little blond boy, her grandson.  He was probably 2 years old and smiling from ear to ear as he toddled around in the main room.  

And I lost it. 

That's what grief is like. It comes out of nowhere, steals your joy, derails your thoughts, and makes you cry in public. 

So I'm sitting there pretending to focus on my computer and letting the tears sting my eyes as I grieve the thought of the child we have not been able to conceive. 

In the initial post announcing our adoption, I slipped in this little bit of information,

"Q: Were/are you dealing with infertility?
A: Yes, but that's another story for another time." 

Now feels like a great time to share that part of the story. 

We started trying to get pregnant 2 years ago. We started talking adoption a year ago. Our road to adoption started out like many others, infertility issues. It took not being able to conceive to actually open my heart and mind up to adopt, and I am very thankful for that. 

I always thought adoption was cool and thought that other people's adoption stories were so beautiful, but I honestly never thought about adopting in my context, in my family. After a time of prayer and a series of God-sized confirmations, Luke and I knew that our family would include adopted children (1, 2, or however many God wants us to have).

As excited as I am about adopting (and you can trust that I am outrageously excited, we both are), grieving your own infertility is a beast of an issue that must be dealt with.

Coming to terms that a biological part of you is "broken," or "messed up" is hard and oftentimes lonely. It's not something you want to talk openly about. If you're anything like me you want to avoid feeling the painful things at all costs, so another reason not to talk about it. Everyone has an opinion about what you should do and to be 100% honest, I didn't want anyone's opinion on this subject. More importantly, I didn't want anyone to feel sorry for me or be disappointed with me. So I kept it to myself.

Before letting our families in on our adoption plans, when it was just Luke and me dreaming about what our adoption journey would look like, I gave myself MONTHS of time to grieve my infertility. I gave myself time to come to terms that I might never conceive a child. 

I invited Jesus in to help me face the worst thoughts about myself, help me "release" desires and plans, and grow in my faith. 

Together, we released the desire to have a child that naturally acts or looks like me.

Together, we released the desire to have a child that's blessed with Luke's natural musical talents.

Together, released the desire to have a child that has both of our family's genes.

Even though I'm writing the phrase, "released the desires" those desires have not magically gone away. What's different is the hold that those desires had over me and what they mean to me now. I'm not paralyzed with sadness or shame anymore, but instead channeling those desires into a deep commitment to teach our child the best things we know. After all, an adopted child is not a replacement. All children are worthy of love and a family no matter where they come from or what they look like. 

So yeah, I've come a long way. Jesus and I have done a lot of work together, healing this deep shame, protecting my optimism for the future, and blowing my heart wide open for this child who is going to come in and change our lives forever.

I'm happy to report that the grief doesn't sneak up on me that much anymore, hardly ever really, but I let it happen when it does. I let the sadness and grief come in because I KNOW that in a short while those grief feelings (sadness, anger, disappointment, shame, etc.) will be replaced with the peace that passes all understanding. I know it won't be long until Jesus confirms that adoption is a part of his plan for our lives, that we'll get to love and raise a child and point others to Him throughout the whole process. Even right now as I'm sharing this part of my life with you my desire is that you get an overwhelming sense that God is capable of big things and wants to work in your life like he's working in mine. And yes, that comforts me. 

So how is infertility Affecting me now?

I'm not completely hopeless in the fertility department. I do have PCOS (hormone imbalance) and that alone makes getting pregnant difficult, the excess weight isn't doing me any favors either. For the better part of 2017 I was working with a doctor, and taking fertility medication, but have recently decided to press pause on the medication and take a more natural approach to healing my body and get healthy. 

I know that sometimes it takes a long time to get pregnant. It's a miracle for it to even happen it all. I can confidently say that we are not giving up on the hope of getting pregnant, and that does not affect our desire or plans to adopt.

We will adopt even if I get pregnant. Our agency's policy is that if we get pregnant during the adoption process, we have to wait until our child is one year old, then we can pick the adoption process back up. And if that happens, that's what we'll do. Adoption will shape our family and I am confident that it will happen in God's timing.  

That might be too much information, but it's a big part of our story, and who I am as a woman. I've grown up in a lot of areas this year because of walking through infertility and it's what led my heart to the possibility of adoption. For that, I will always be grateful. 

 

 

Adoption, DiaryJJ Campbell
Figuring Out My Plan

I recognize a major tension in my life is effort vs sloth as well as extreme avoidance. It's hard for me to self-motivate and stick to something long term. I'm ready to alter that pattern and ready to commit to something. 

With that, I need to find a lifestyle that's going to work for ME. The unfortunate reality of the "diet" world is that there are A MILLION different paths to choose. Each diet showing science to back it up its claims (whether it's authenticated or not). Each plan has glorious success stories with the almost unbelievable before and after pics. It's difficult to know what to do, whose voice to trust, and what plan to follow.

My diet past consists of Weight Watchers, Low Carb, Ideal Protein, one and a half Whole 30s, and stab at clean eating. Low Carb, Ideal Protein, and Whole30 are kind of similar in the no grains and sugar platform but are still vastly different in methodology. 

Even just with the small handful of "diets" and programs that I've tried, there are a million voices to wade through. 

Something else to consider is the motivation for food plans.

There's eating certain ways to be trendy and there's eating for specific health issues. 

If I choose a plan to help my Hypothyroidism (I have a mild case of Hashimoto's), then my personal research suggests going Gluten Free. 

If I choose a plan to help lower my cholesterol, then my personal research suggests going vegetarian or flexitarian (a flexitarian is a vegetarian with benefits). 

If I choose a plan strictly for weight loss, then, based on my prior experiences limiting carbs would be an effective move for me. 

If I choose a plan to manage my PCOS, then its KETO, clean eating, and/or no dairy. 

If I choose to focus on NOT contracting Diabetes, then it's a no sugar plan. 

I'm overwhelmed even just trying to pick a lane! How is someone who doesn't have a degree in nutrition supposed to know which direction to go?! Are you sensing my frustration? The truth of the matter is that any plan I pick is going to benefit me. I just have to choose something to commit to.  

I've deduced that one of the biggest reasons why I haven't just picked a lane and started is fear.

I'm afraid I won't be full. 

I'm afraid I'll want more. 

I'm afraid I won't be satisfied. 

I'm afraid to preach the changes I'm wanting to make because my track record is TERRIBLE.

I'm afraid of the inconvenience I'll bring to my family and friends. Those concerns are easy for me to dissolve because I know that my family and friends want me to be healthy and they will support me during this process. 

Yes, committing to a different way of eating causes me to feel fear and you know what? That's silly. 

Now what?

The first thing I need to do is figure out what I want to do and make a realistic plan. Let's start with picking a lane. There's gluten free, dairy free, low carb, clean eating and flexitarian. What's common in all of these methods? Heavy on the Vegetables, limited to no processed food, and avoiding sugar. I can start there and pick a plan that's going to fit for my body. 

What's important in choosing your plan is knowing yourself. Truly Knowing your tendencies and patterns is the only way that you're going to know what's right for you. 

My impulsive/spontaneous side is ready for something new and my lazy sloth side is the equivalent of the face emoji with the x's over the eyes. You know the one. 

So what did I choose? I'm not ready to share that yet. Everything is still so new and fresh. I'm getting used to new habits and a new mindset. I want this to be very normal way of life before I share what I'm up to!

If anyone has struggled or is struggling with the confusing and contradicting information on what to eat, how to eat, what's good, what's bad, etc. just know that I feel you and I completely understand all of those feelings. It's hard to know what the right path is, but I'm confident that we can all figure out what's best for each of us! 

The Enneagram, Being a Number 7, and Moving the big Rocks

A few years ago (2013 maybe) I was introduced to something called the Enneagram. Luke and I were listening to the Relevant Podcast and Shauna Niequest was talking about the Enneagram and how it's changed her life. Naturally, I immediately wanted to know everything about it because I'm a personality test junkie. 

Give me any personality test or quiz I'll I'll take it 3 times! I'm just one of those people. 

I got my feet wet with a few books and started learning the basics about The Enneagram and the 9 types. I immediately knew that I was a number 7, so I really only focused on my seven-hood and didn't pay attention to anything else. 

Fast forward to this past summer and I dove back into The Enneagram with this book, "The Road Back to You." This book is amazing! The other Enneagram books I had were pretty scientific-y and kind of hard to digest, but "The Road Back to You" is hands down the most comprehensible book out there about The Enneagram. If you can't tell, I'm a big fan. 

So I picked up "The Road Back to You" this summer and my obsession with The Enneagram turned up to 11. It came at the right time for me because, even though I didn't realize it, there were big rock things that God was showing me in my life, unhealthy things that needed development and change.  Reading this new to me Enneagram book, it lined up perfectly with what God was showing. Isn't it crazy when things like that happen? When it seems like you can't get away from a particular thought or message?

So there's my long backstory about how I was introduced to The Enneagram, what I'm reading, and why it's suddenly become so important to me. 

One of the most important things about The Enneagram and "The Road Back to You" is that it's not just about recognizing these habits, underlying fears, and motivations about yourself. It's an avenue for real change and personal development. It's not enough to just know this stuff about yourself, but you have to be willing to actively improve on the weak areas and lean into the strengths. 

I'm a number 7, no question about it. It took me a little while this second time around to really accept my seven-hood. I could've easily slipped into a few other numbers/types, but when I really dug my heels in, did the reading and a little honest soul searching, there's no other number for me.

Before I continue on if you want to figure out your number and dip your toe into the ocean of The Enneagram, there are a few ways you can get started. 

1. Purchase "The Road Back to You." There's not an actual quiz in this book, but there are assessment type questions in each chapter giving you an idea if you're that type or not. Again, the best way to know is by reading the actual chapters. 

2. There is a good assessment in this book that will point you in the right direction as to what number you are. There are also weighted assessments before each chapter that confirm or deny your initial assessment results. Again, it's all about reading the chapters to really know. 

3. There are free online quizzes that are okay. You have to pay for the good online assessments. I've never done it, but if you have you can let me know what's a good one! 

4. When taking the assessments, be gut level honest. It's not about who you want to be or who you are at work. It's about the motivation behind your actions. The Enneagram is all about the underlying issues, why we do what we do, and what's made us who we are. 

5. Remember that there's no bad number. Every number has negatives and positives. 

Some of the main things that I've taken away from my reading are helping me recognize deep patterns and habits about myself that need to be changed at the root level. Learning and recognizing all of these things has actually been quite freeing. Just knowing that I'm not alone in how my mind works and how I'm not the only one who feels the way I feel helps me to know that I'm not crazy. That I'm not past help. That I'm capable of changing for the better. I know that with God's help and new knowledge about myself, I can make the necessary changes to be a better human and take care of myself. 

Here are the top 3 things that I'm learning about myself and how I am addressing these areas.  

1. It's normal for a 7 try to avoid pain.

I'm such an avoider it's hilarious. I'm not an avoider when it comes to conflict resolution and other people. I'm an avoider when it comes to myself. This mostly comes out in my health. I've avoided some pretty serious issues for a while now: High cholesterol, high weight, low tolerance for physical activity, and my PCOS diagnosis. 

Some days I beat myself up about not doing enough to work on these issues. "Stop eating ice cream 4 nights a week." "Stop eating cheeseburgers and fries." That's easy, right? WRONG. I've never understood how people can just completely cut out food groups (for longer than a month, I'm really not sure how I survived my Whole30). It's like my mind can't even fathom long term limits. Being a 7 is all about wanting more and more experiences to deflect dealing with any type of pain. Limiting ice cream, burgers, and fries robs me of experiences with other people. 

Now, it makes sense why other people can stick to food plans and I just can't. 

2. It's normal for a 7 to fear commitment.

I never thought I was a commit-o-phobe. Most of the time we give that title to people who can't stay in a relationship with another person. That's not the case for me. Committing to Luke was and is easy because he's amazing and I love him. I never feared commitment with another person; however, it's hard for me to commit long term to anything. Obviously, jobs and big purchases (think house and car) are different.  This is about a constant need for variety and options because there's always something else out there. How can I commit to just one thing??

Admitting that I have a fear of commitment was one of the most freeing things for me. Luke literally had to tell me and then make me say it out loud. I didn't want to!  It helped me realize why I can't stick to an eating plan, diet, or exercise program. I get bored! Then I want to go have EXPERIENCES (ice cream, burgers, splurges, you get it) because I don't want to miss out on anything. It's a crazy cycle or is it a cycle of crazy? 

3. 7s are good planners and dreamers, but terrible executers.

One of the major 7 things is the joy of anticipation. In fact, anticipating something is actually better than the present moment and that's so true that it's scary. I like making grand plans, setting big goals, and figuring out how I'm going to do something. When it comes around to actually doing it....... I. Just. Don't.

Armed with the information that this is normal and doesn't make me a bad person is a gives major relief. 

Realizing all of these big rocks doesn't mean that I never have to work on them. I'm now responsible to make the right kind of changes and put new, realistic, expectations on myself. It's just comforting to know that these are my issues, they're real, and they don't make me less of a person. It's so easy to discredit yourself when you see other people excel in your weakest areas. I admitted here that I struggle with comparison. Reading "The Road back to You" has shown me that e v e r y o n e deals with real, hard issues. Even though I knew that, it was really important for me to learn what other types of people deal with on a daily basis. 

To sum it up, the Enneagram is a helpful tool for self improvement and helps you play well with others. If you dig into it, it will help you understand other people and how to relate to them, which I think is really cool. I'm always happy to talk more about the Enneagram. Leave a comment or send me a message and we'll chat! 

2017 Summer Bucket List Updates

At the beginning of June, I published a blog with my 2017 Summer Bucket List. I listed out all of the things I wanted to do this summer. I'm happy to report that I've done about half of them! This is a big step for me because I am a love it and leave it kind of gal. I love something, make big plans, declare those plans, then I never go back and finish whatever I started. I'm a list maker, but I'm not a list completer. It's something I'm working on. 

Below I'm including my original list and I'll update if I've completed it. 

"Go to the beach -- obviously. We've already got a trip planned and are looking to add another one)"

We're headed out for a beach trip this week!! Praise Hands!

"Stay at an Airbnb  -- we've never done an Airbnb before! We've got a place booked for Nashville this weekend and I'm super excited!"

I'm happy to cross this one off the list! A few weeks ago, we took a mini vacation up to Nashville for a wedding. We stayed in the cutest little cottage. You should totally rent it if you're going up for a weekend! 

"Go Blueberry Picking -- check! I've already been twice! I've got a freezer full of delicious, plump, blueberries."

Like I said originally, I went twice! 

"Clean Out and Organize our "stuff" room -- We've tried to get this stuff room under control since we moved into our house. We clean it out, get rid of things, and then a few weeks later, it's somehow WORSE. I don't know how it happens *insert laughing emoji and the crying emoji*"

WE DID IT! Last weekend, we emptied the infamous stuff room. We loaded everything up to our local Gateway and I'm happy that we now have a usable space. Now, what to do with it so it doesnt become the stuff room again....

"Finish my 2016 Scrapbook -- Yep. I'm a scrapbooker! I subscribe to the A Beautiful Mess Messy Box and I get the CUTEST scrapbook stuff."

Haven't gotten there yet, but I did make a Shutterfly book for my mom with pictures from last summer... so it kind of counts right?

"Start my 2017 Scrapbook"

Not yet. Maybe August?

"Experiment with new cake flavors, icings, and decorating techniques -- I'm a hobby baker and really enjoy trying out new creations! I really want to master colored ganache and piped flowers."

Haven't gotten to this yet, but I have a couple of cake orders scheduled. Maybe they'll let me experiment!

"Update Bedroom Decor -- I haven't really focused on styling out our bedroom. Since moving into our house my priorities were the dining room and the living room. Now it's time to work on our bedroom." 

We bought a new bed spread and totally changed our bedding. I also cleaned off my chest of drawers. That made a big difference! There's a lot more that I want to do, but I've started! 

"Host a Flamingo Party -- When I say "Flamingo Party" I just mean that I'm going heavy on the Flamingo decor.  Essentially I just want to host a summer party!"

The Flamingo Party is on the books for the end of July! I've invited a handful of girls to come over to my house for brunch and I've been buying Flamingo decorations. Can't wait! 

"Make no churn ice cream -- I keep seeing all of these recipes for no-churn ice cream and sorbets. Maybe I'll try it out at my Flamingo Party!"

I definitely need to do this soon! 

"Read 3 Books -- I'm not a big reader, but I'd like to be. 3 might seem like a small goal, but it's two more books than I read last summer..."

I fully plan on reading my little heart out while I"m at the beach. I'm going to the library today to stock up! 

"Go Kayaking"

Hmm... I wonder when I could squeeze that in?

"Have Unplugged Days - A few times a month I want to go unplugged. No technology. No phone, no TV, no computer."

This is going to be harder than I thought it would be. 

"Eat a Snow Cone -- One of my biggest regrets from last summer was not getting a snow cone! Not happening this year."

DONE! Luke and I got Snow Cones last weekend after our big clean out. Peach flavor forever!

"Get a big lemonade -- last year at my local farmers market, they had a vendor who sold really delicious lemonade. Not only was the lemonade delicious, but he sold it in  HUGE cups. I'm not sure why, but my sister, Becca, and I really loved it!"

We were in the car driving to Fresh at Five (our local farmer's market) and a flood came out of nowhere, so we turned around and went back home. Maybe next week!

"Go to a Farmers Market and make an entire meal out of fresh produce -- I will obviously buy the meat and produce and cook it at home!"

Planning to go next week! 

"Make a ridiculous milkshake"

Maybe instead of making it myself, I'll just buy one. And I want to buy one here when I'm at the beach! 

"Play Tennis -- Last summer Becca and I instituted Tennis Tuesdays. We played for a few weeks and then I pulled a muscle. But I'm ready to bring it back! Now I just need to find my tennis racquet..."

We did it!! Becca, our friend Blaire, and I went out to the courts last week. It was hot, but it felt good to swing the ole racquet. I can't wait to go play again! We're currently looking for a fourth! 

"Go to a Midnight Movie Premier -- sometimes it's fun to stay up extra late!"

We should've done that for Wonder Woman. I still haven't seen it! 

"Stay for the Fireworks at MS Braves Game -- The MS Braves stadium is about 20 minutes from our house. We try to go to at least one game a year, but we never stay for the whole game. This year, we're doing it!"

I need to look at the schedule. Anyone wanna come with me?

I'm adding "Eat Watermelon" to this list because you can't have summer without a Smith County Watermelon! 

It's been a super fun summer so far! Really rainy and humid, but fun! Have you marked things off your summer bucket list, yet?

Today is a Special Day!

You know how on Facebook they'll give you a notification with old memories to look back on? Well, I think it's genius and has become a highlight of my morning. Today's memories to look back on were so special. 

On this day, four years ago, back in 2013, the ring was put on the finger! 

It's hard to believe that we got engaged four years ago and have been married for 3 and a half years. So much has changed and so much has stayed the same. We're still goofy, still love watching The Office, and will make ourselves sick eating popcorn at the movies. But I will say that our tastes have improved, literal tastes. We love to cook and try new food and flavors.

It's crazy to think about what have now vs what we have then. Now, we get to go to work together every day, doing things that we're passionate about. We live in a house that we love. We have a great dog to spoil. We're surrounded by family and an incredible community.  

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I think back to this day often. We were at the place in our relationship where we knew we wanted to get married, but I had NO IDEA when it would actually happen. I was completely caught off guard with the when, but never unprepared to say YES! I never want to lose the giddy feelings or forget the emotions of that day.

Right after he proposed, we had a celebration after party! I walked into Luke's parents home to find everyone I loved in one room there to celebrate our big news. After the party ended and people were on their way home, Luke and I sat back on the couch, looked at each other, stared at my left hand, and sat in the most content silence, processing the day and archiving every minute. 

Thankfully, we had a family beach trip scheduled a couple of days after we got engaged because there was NO WAY that I could focus on work! I mean, I had to immediately plan the wedding! lol. I remember sitting in the pool planning the whole wedding and reception with my mom and sister. Luke chimed in a little too (insert laughing emoji). 

Thanks for reading and celebrating one of our special days with us! I can't wait to celebrate this day again next year! *This morning Luke mowed the grass and then got donuts for breakfast. Our plans for the day include cleaning out our kitchen.  My kind of party! 

What would happen if you tried?

Currently, I'm halfway through with the Present Over Perfect study (read more about that here) and it's seriously so good and my group is awesome!! It's actually a difficult study. This isn't lightweight material. If you do it correctly, and by correctly I mean actually do the work and let it affect you,  then it forces you to dig down realllly deep. Like, the internal places you don't normally go to unless provoked by a really good speaker or the Holy Spirit. You know what I'm talking about?

Through Shauna's videos and question prompts, you pinpoint your personal struggle area or "besetting sin." Even though I wasn't surprised at what I determined to be my major problem area, the discussion and work that followed was really revealing. 

My big sin in sloth. 

Gah, I even hate writing it! It's such an unpleasant word unless you imagine a cute little sloth, then it's not so bad....  But back to my point. 

SLOTH

habitual disinclination to exertion; indolence; laziness.

Blah.

I get myself in trouble when I take on the attitude of, "Meh. I'd rather not." It comes out in everything from going to the grocery store, to declining leisurely walks with Buddy and Luke, to finishing projects.

It gets me in trouble spiritually because a slothful attitude is kind of the opposite of being a Christ follower. Following Jesus is all action and adventure. Following JJ is "meh. I'd rather not." 

It gets me in trouble with my health because instead of putting forth effort into doing (minimal) exercise, cooking healthy food, and making healthy choices, I say, "not this time" and do whatever is easiest. 

It gets me in trouble financially because I spend money to start something and then never complete it. 

It gets me in trouble with the people in my life because I don't follow through. Not doing what you say you're going to do doesn't make you a good friend to have. 

It gets me in trouble in my marriage because I choose to watch tv or stare at my phone when I could be making memories with my family. I'm very thankful for an extremely graceful husband who is willing to lovingly have hard conversations and encourage me! 

You see my pattern here? It all goes back to a lack of effort. Why? Why don't I want to put effort into things? Maybe on some level, it's because of my size. It's physically easier to sit and do nothing instead of being in low-level pain from activity. Maybe on another level it's because I'm fearful of failing. Whatever the case may be, it's a terrible way to live and I don't like it. 

Luke and I were having a tough conversation the other day. I made the comment, "Some days I win against sloth. Other days I don't. I give into it and say, 'there's no sense in trying because things will never change.' I've been giving in a lot lately." 

That conversation plus the Present Over Perfect study plus the India Trip plus the past two messages at church are doing a real number on me right now. I know it's God pushing me forward. I know I'm capable of making changes and I'm ready to do something about it. 

What is the opposite of sloth? Effort. 

All of this has culminated to asking myself the questions, "what would happen if you tried?" What would happen if you committed to SOMETHING for even just a short period of time? What would happen if you went on a walk every day for a month? What would happen if you tracked the foods that you consumed? What if you actually tracked your calories and worked within a calorie deficit? What would happen??

I don't know! Maybe something awesome! 

So. I'm going to try. I'm going to try to be mindful of my choices. I'm going to try to be that person I want to be. Here's to effort. 

My Summer Bucket List!

You know when you were in high school, and college and Summer were this magical dreamland? It was hot, sure, but summer meant staying up late, sleeping in, hanging by a pool, going on trips (youth camp, mission trips, summer camp, family vacations, etc.reverts back) and being a camp counselor. 

Well, post-college/real world Summers are a little different. It's like normal times, but you sweat more. I'm talking about sweating when you walk from your car to your place of employment --- looking at you Mississippi. Even though I've been out of college for years now, a little bit of that summer magic still lingers. I catch myself in April and early May dreaming up summer plans and goals. Part of me reverts to 16-year-old JJ where all she cared about was driving to a friends house or the mall on her own.

My priorities as a 28-year-old are a little different from just-got-her-license-JJ, but the magic is still the same. On that note, I have some Summer projects/plans that I'm excited to work on over the next few months. There are some things on this list that I've already done, but I'm including them anyway! 

  • Go to the beach -- obviously. We've already got a trip planned and are looking to add another one)
  • Stay at an Airbnb  -- we've never done an Airbnb before! We've got a place booked for Nashville this weekend and I'm super excited!
  • Go Blueberry Picking -- check! I've already been twice! I've got a freezer full of delicious, plump, blueberries. 
  • Clean Out and Organize our "stuff" room -- We've tried to get this stuff room under control since we moved into our house. We clean it out, get rid of things, and then a few weeks later, it's somehow WORSE. I don't know how it happens *insert laughing emoji and the crying emoji*
  • Finish my 2016 Scrapbook -- Yep. I'm a scrapbooker! I subscribe to the A Beautiful Mess Messy Box and I get the CUTEST scrapbook stuff. 
  • Start my 2017 Scrapbook
  • Experiment with new cake flavors, icings, and decorating techniques -- I'm a hobby baker and really enjoy trying out new creations! I really want to master colored ganache and piped flowers. 
  • Update Bedroom Decor -- I haven't really focused on styling out our bedroom. Since moving into our house my priorities were the dining room and the living room. Now it's time to work on our bedroom. 
  • Host a Flamingo Party -- When I say "Flamingo Party" I just mean that I'm going heavy on the Flamingo decor.  Essentially I just want to host a summer party! 
  • Make no churn ice cream -- I keep seeing all of these recipes for no-churn ice cream and sorbets. Maybe I'll try it out at my Flamingo Party! 
  • Read 3 Books -- I'm not a big reader, but I'd like to be. 3 might seem like a small goal, but it's two more books than I read last summer... 
  • Go Kayaking 
  • Have Unplugged Days - A few times a month I want to go unplugged. No technology. No phone, no TV, no computer.
  • Eat a Snow Cone -- One of my biggest regrets from last summer was not getting a snow cone! Not happening this year. 
  • Get a big lemonade -- last year at my local farmers market, they had a vendor who sold really delicious lemonade. Not only was the lemonade delicious, but he sold it in  HUGE cups. I'm not sure why, but my sister, Becca, and I really loved it! 
  • Go to a Farmers Market and make an entire meal out of fresh produce -- I will obviously buy the meat and produce and cook it at home! 
  • Make a ridiculous milkshake
  • Play Tennis -- Last summer Becca and I instituted Tennis Tuesdays. We played for a few weeks and then I pulled a muscle. But I'm ready to bring it back! Now I just need to find my tennis racquet...
  • Go to a Midnight Movie Premier -- sometimes it's fun to stay up extra late! 
  • Stay for the Fireworks at MS Braves Game -- The MS Braves stadium is about 20 minutes from our house. We try to go to at least one game a year, but we never stay for the whole game. This year, we're doing it!

That's a pretty full list! Honestly, I'm surprised and thankful that they aren't all food based! Does anything on this list sound appealing to you? Anything you want to add to your own Summer Bucket List? What are you looking forward to doing this summer?

 

My India Adventure Part 1

I'm fresh off the mission field of India and I have so much to share! I'm pretending like you and I are sitting down for a cup of coffee and I'm sharing my stories one-on-one with you. Cool?

I can't emphasize enough that prior to going on this trip, I was not a "missions" person. I wrote a little bit about my decision to go on this trip here. It's been nine years since I've traveled internationally for a mission trip! I'm pretty much a different person now, so I'm categorizing myself as a beginner mission trip traveler. 

I really can't emphasize how big of a deal it was for me to even go on a trip like this. I'm a little, how do you say..... high maintenance. I was very nervous about being away from my comforts. When I say comforts I mean - air conditioning, electricity, comfy beds, my husband, cozy sheets, air conditioning, western toilets, food I'm used to eating, and air conditioning. Did I mean to say air conditioning three times? Yes. That's what I was most concerned about. 

I'll go as far to admit that I even tried to get out of going on this trip a few times. I was coming up with every excuse in the book to back out. I'm VERY thankful that I pushed through, stuck with my commitment, and actually WENT. 

I see things very differently now. I said earlier that I wouldn't have called myself a "missions" person. I think that's the wrong way to look at it. Now, I don't think there's a "missions" person and "non-missions" person. We're all called to GO. The going may look different and it might not mean that everyone travels internationally and sleeps on cots. It might mean that you serve your community by knowing your neighbors, inviting people into your homes and lives, and/or volunteering in your church or community. I'm excited to explore this new mindset and hopefully help bridge the gap of "missions" being overseas work. You can do missions in your own house. 

First, I want to brag on my team. We all had a total blast together! I couldn't have picked 5 better people to go on this journey with. From airport shenanigans to Indian dance parties, these people will always be so special to me. I saw each and every person take huge steps, put themselves out there and trust God a little more. We all came back a little different. 

Have you ever seen those people in an airport who have lost their minds? They're sprawled out all over the terminal seats, cackling out loud without a care in the world, and they look a little disheveled. You know those people I'm talking about? That was totally us. I now have a special empathy for people who are like this in airports. It doesn't mean that they don't have any pride or self-awareness. it means that they've been delayed multiple times and have spent the majority of their time sitting in airports. They've lost it! I've lived it.

You can't tell the story of our India trip without sharing all of our travel drama. One missed flight put us in a tailspin of waiting, hurrying, begging (for hotel rooms!) and praying for 3 days. Where it's supposed to take you 24 hours to get to India (24 hours is a LONG time to travel, btw), it took us 90. Here's how it went down: 

Day 1 - Jackson --> Chicago / delayed in Chicago --> Toronto / because we were late getting to Toronto, we missed our big flight to India. Spent the night in Toronto. 

Day 2 - Toronto / they lost my luggage and planned to send us to Newark to catch the big flight to India, oh yeah, and we were delayed... again --> Newark / missed the big flight to India. Spent the night in Newark.

Day 3 - Newark / bought new clothes and gear, finally caught the flight to India! Flew all night. 

Day 4 - India / found my luggage! --> 5-hour bus ride to the villages

Pretty outrageous right? Thankfully no one listened to me after we missed our second big flight. I was ready to call it and go home. I think an important attitude and perspective to have when going on a mission trip, is to be ready for anything. Even if that anything means sitting in airports dealing with customer service reps. To be able to handle frustrating situations with a positive outlook and not crumble out of boredom or anger, is an important part of travel that training sessions might not prepare you for (hah!), but it's important nonetheless.

Long story long, if you see a group of delirious people wearing disheveled 2 or 3 day old clothes, have a little empathy. They're probably a group of people trying to go on a mission trip *joy/laughing emoji* By the way, we no issues with anyone in the airport, but I'm sure we were a sight to behold!

Once we finally reached the villages and split off from the other team (our team of six was broken up into two teams of three), we hit the ground running. We met our translators and dropped our things off at our host home and immediately started visiting homes. We were DRAGGING because #jetlag, but we were so relieved and excited to finally BE THERE, that we pushed straight through. Usually, I'm an 8-9 hours of sleep kind of gal, so it was only by energy from God that I was able to make it through *insert laughing emoji*! 

This is a straight up evangelism trip. We weren't there to give supplies or medicine, physically build anything, or dig wells (those are all amazing things, just not part of this trip). We were there to pray, encourage believers, and share the Gospel. Before we could blink we were sitting in people's homes praying over families.

I was nervous during our first couple of home visits. I'm generally a very chatty person and comfortable engaging with new people, but I was really nervous! What was I supposed to talk about? How do I work with a translator? What if the translator doesn't know what I'm trying to say? What if I don't like the food or drinks? What if I say something stupid? What if I offend someone or the whole family? I wish I could say that I had this magnetic gusto from God and said everything perfectly, but it was quite the opposite, especially during the first few visits. I sat very quietly, drank my drink, ate some snacks, and waited for someone to address me.

But you know what? That was okay. It was only after the first couple of hourse that I finally loosened up and started praying bigger. I was seeing first hand what pavement pounding evangelism was really like. I was carrying around a message that people were eager to hear and receive. It was after praying specific things over specific families that I realized what was really going on. 

These people were expecting God to do something. Even if they weren't believers yet, they still had hope that God could heal ailments, mend relationships, bring customers to their businesses, and provide. It was a magnificent thing to witness. It made me question the depth of my faith. Did I really believe that God could heal this woman's tumors in her throat? Was I really expecting God to do something miraculous? Do I pray like this in my everyday life? Why not?

That first day visiting people's homes opened my eyes to big, weighty prayers. Unfortunately, we were on a tight schedule. We didn't have all that much time to spend in people's homes. Maybe 15 - 30 minutes per house. It was enough time to drink a beverage, have a snack, share a quick message, and pray.

It's customary when you enter someone's home that they serve you a drink and a snack. The drinks were either fruit juice (mostly mango juice, which I liked the best!), Coke, Mountain Dew, or Orange Fanta. The snacks ranged from almonds, cashews, crackers, cookies, Gulab Jamun (look it up, they're SUPER sweet), chips, and milk candy (don't know the actual name of it, but I liked it). It was truly humbling to be served in this way. We knew that we were nothing special, but they essentially rolled out the red carpet for us. We could all learn a thing or two about hospitality from their example. 

Our main purpose for going on this short term mission was to share Gospel through Bible stories at Compassion Kit Parties. For months local pastors work within their villages, build relationships with people, and share the Gospel. For weeks leading up to the trip, my team and I learned and practiced how to share the Gospel through stories to best fit the culture we dropped into. 

The Compassion Kit parties were amazing! During our time there, we had 3 CK Parties in 3 different villages. People would come from all over, cram into a small courtyard and listen intently to the local pastor and then to us as we shared. The CK Parties are so well thought out and structured specifically for the oral traditions of the culture we dropped into. The Gospel is kind of amazing like that. It can reach anyone. No one is too far gone or too different to respond to the Gospel. It was amazing to see people respond with such hope. You know what? People genuinely responded. I know that as soon as we left those people are being discipled by the network of pastors and leaders stemming from our mission partners. Incredible! 

When we came back together on Friday as a large group (there were other groups there serving beside the six of us), we debriefed with stories and celebration! Our mission partners gave us a report on the week's work. Yall, this is crazy: 4,000+ people heard the Gospel through 43 Compassion Kit parties; 2,000 Compassion Kits were distributed, and over 600 people gave their lives to Christ....

Isn't that incredible! There is a movement happening and it is amazing to be a part of it. I seriously cannot wait to go back. I've taken so many valuable lessons back home with me. At the risk of sounding cliche, I've come home a different person. Your worldview totally changes when you experience a new culture and see God move in huge ways. 

I've got pages and pages of my travel journal filled with things that God showed me about myself. I can't believe that I've been home for almost a week! I'm already recruiting for next years trip. Go ahead and start saving. $10 here. $20 there. Everyone needs to Go. I'd love to talk with you one on one about my experiences and new convictions for missional living. - JJ 

Your Guide to Laurel, MS (Part 1)

With the premiere of HGTV's newest show, Home Town (Tuesday nights!), my humble hometown has become the center of attention. 

I see article after article highlighting not just the show and the hosts, Erin & Ben (who are amazing!), but the town as a whole. It's crazy to watch your hometown be revitalized on national tv! I'm so thankful for all of the new businesses popping up around downtown and the energy and love that's filling the previously abandoned buildings. 

Because people know that I'm from Laurel, I get a few messages a month asking for recommendations of what to do in Laurel for a day trip. If you're planning to make a pilgrimage to the quaint little town, here are a few of my favorite stops: 

The Laurel Mercantile

The flagship store of, Home Town, is quickly becoming one of our favorite places in all of downtown. Every piece of inventory and every display is perfectly styled to be cozy, homey, and friendly (my three favorite feelings!). Luke and I love looking through the displays and smelling the candles. We have the Laurel Candle and it's the perfect scent for springtime! Luke ALWAYS has to look at the Scotsman products. I shared in an earlier blog that he wears the Scotsman cap every day. He now has 2! 

The Southern Antique Mall

The Southern Antique Mall is a long-time favorite shop. There are SO many beautiful things in this 2 story shop. Everything is beautifully styled and thoughtfully arranged. It's an inspiring place to walk in! FYI - this is not an actual antique store. Don't come here planning to go junkin' for thrift store pieces and prices. It's an actual shop with beautiful things for your home, clothes, accessories, kitchen items, and pretty much everything else. 

They ALWAYS have the most beautiful Christmas displays! 

Adam Trest Home

Adam Trest Home

I LOVE popping into Adam Trest Home to see long-time friends, Adam and Lily! Their store is perfectly curated with drool-worthy home goods for every room in your home. Adam and Lily have flawless taste and it's on display in their magnificent store. Adam is an incredibly talented artist and his designs are simply stunning! Also, this building has insanely beautiful floor tile.

Lee's Coffee and Tea

Far and away the best cup of coffee you can get in Laurel. I was in college when Lee's opened downtown. It's so cool to see a business start and thrive! I had to snag this photo from the Lee's Facebook page. The picture I took, didn't turn out super well #notaphotographer. Anyways, the food here is great, the coffee tastes good, and it's in a prime location for downtown walking! 

PDI's

PDIs

While you're downtown, drive over a couple of miles to go to PDI's for a cheeseburger and fries. PDI's was my Papaw Alvis' favorite burger place. Actually, it's everyone's favorite burger place. It's been around for forever and there's nowhere to sit, but you don't care because the food is that good!

Sweet Somethings Bakery

Sweet Somethings Bakery

Go here for Cinnamon Rolls and Sticky Buns. No need to elaborate. They're amazing. 

The Laurel Wall

The Laurel Wall

Be a tourist and take your picture in front of this awesome wall! There are really great murals all over town, too! 

I'm going to break this up into a few different posts. There are some new to me places, that I want to learn about and try and there are new businesses popping up all over the place! Stay tuned for Part 2! 

Priscilla Shirer Simulcast 2017 Recap

A couple of Saturdays ago, I along with thousands of other women, tuned into the 2017 Priscilla Shirer Simulcast. I've heard Priscilla speak at least once (Propel Women's Conference 2016 ) and even though she only spoke for an hour, it was POWERFUL! So, I was looking forward to spending the whole day with Priscila. In all honesty, I actually wasn't looking forward to giving up my whole Saturday, but I'm so glad that I did. 

Priscilla was BRINGING IT. I filled up pages and pages of notes and could barely keep up! The worship was on point and the prayer experiences were so moving and personal. She delivered three solid sessions that not only encouraged and challenged us but equipped us for when we go home. I really like Priscilla's teaching style. She's a very engaging and dynamic speaker. She keeps your attention well and has a way of sharing hard truths in a kind and compelling way. 

I've been to simulcast events before, but this was different. I want to share a few of the things I learned and what God is showing me! I don't want to give too much away from the simulcast event. If you would like to listen and watch (or watch again) you could get a digital pass for only $20. 

First off, I've got a lot going on personally right now. I'm preparing to go on a mission trip in May and along with that I just feel God calling me to big things. I'm not sure what those things are just yet, but I'm excited to find out! 

She taught out of the Old Testament pulling SO MUCH out of a story that, I know for me, had been overlooked. We talked about being honest with ourselves; presenting the areas of our lives that we want to ignore, those secret sins, to Jesus and offering them up for healing; and being responsible for working where God has placed us RIGHT NOW. We focused on the idea of how we try to frame our lives where we only let people see the pretty and shiny stuff.

Authenticity in public (online and in front of people) and in private (at home) is key. It's easier to ignore major issues and pretend like they don't exist instead of doing the hard work to acknowledge it, shine light on it, and actually do something about it. This is a culmination of what I've been learning for the past two years. Share the truth about yourself and what you're going through, even if it's embarrassing or hard to admit because in sharing truth we take the first step in releasing its hold over us. 

I'm looking back over my notes and I see a place where I've written down 5 major weak points, or in the case of what we were specifically talking about my internal leprosy (The story she taught off was about a man being healed of leprosy). I'm going to share them with you. These are the areas of my life that trip me up and cause me to question my worth and whether I can actually be obedient to what God is calling me to. 

1. You have no self-control
2. You don't care about your body
3. You're too lazy to work hard and see things through
4. You're not smart enough to have your own thoughts and your ideas don't matter
5. You're not good enough to do anything

Let me pause for a second. These 5 sentences are LIES. They're hard to read and they were really hard to write. I don't like admitting these things about myself. Why do I do it? Because this is me presenting my leprosy. Even though they are only thoughts that creep in, they still have the power to completely paralyze me and keep me from moving forward and trusting God. 

Unfortunately, these are very common feelings for people. Not feeling like they have control over their choices, not feeling like they are smart enough to have opinions or anything to share, not feeling like they are capable of putting the effort forth to actually do something and then that the effort won't be good enough. Complicated, normal feelings that I think we ALL feel. Just because something is common doesn't mean it's easy to cure.  

I remember sitting there listening to Priscilla talk about giving these things over to Jesus to let Him heal and redeem. I SO badly want that. I don't think that the healing/cleansing she was talking about means that I'll never struggle with them again, but more likely thoughts I'll have to battle every day until they don't ring out the loudest.  I don't think that healing means that I'll magically forget these feelings exist and never feel them again. I think the healing/cleansing of the areas I struggle with in private will be healed along the way when I'm willing to acknowledge them and give them to Jesus. They'll start to heal when I trust him to take care of them. 

So how do I move beyond these feelings? How do I let Jesus heal them? How do I take responsibility for where I am right now? It starts with perspective. This was my favorite point that she made all day, "You have not been cheated, you've been chosen."

I am not cheated by my genetic makeup and metabolism, I have been chosen to clean my life up in a God-honoring way, that draws me closer to Him in ways that I would've never experienced. 

I am not cheated because I feel those feelings and think those thoughts, I'm chosen to work through them God's way and experience true freedom. 

I think a lot of women really resonated with this truth statement because when you wrap your mind around it and flip your perspective, it helps you remember your purpose. 

That's just the tip of the iceberg of what we talked about that day. I just keep repeating, "You haven't been cheated, you've been chosen." It's a very empowering statement! I'm definitely still mulling over everything else we talked about. It was a great momentum shift for me as we prepared for Easter! 

DiaryJJ CampbellComment
Breaking the Comparison Habit

I'm not here to give a diatribe against the destructive habit of comparison. It's been talked about before. We all know that we aren't supposed to compare ourselves others. We're supposed to stay in our own lanes and focus on our patch of grass ("the grass is greener where you water it" mindset). But what happens when you don't know how to stop comparing yourself to others? Unfortunately, there's no on/off switch. 

If you're anything like me, then you've thought about this a lot. You know that comparison is wrong. You wish you didn't struggle with it. You would rather not spend your mental energy browsing through someone else's life thinking about how easy things are for them.

"If I had a body like ______, then life would be so more fun." 

"If I was more disciplined like _______, then my life would be so much easier." 

"If I had the genetic makeup like _____, then I would never struggle." 

"If I were more talented like ______, then everything would come so easily." 

"Why is ________ succeeding in getting healthy and I'm not?"

"How can _______ make changes and see results and I can't?"

These are real thoughts that cycle through like mental slideshow more than I'd like to admit, especially those last two. 

So, how do we break it? How do we break the comparison cycle? Honestly, I don't know because it's something I struggle with daily.  In the spirit of habit change, I've come up with 3 strategies to use whenever I feel comparison creeping up on me. 

When I catch myself thinking, "Why is ________ succeeding in getting healthy and I'm not?" and "How can she make changes and see results and I can't?" or any other comparison thought in the bouquet, here's what I'm going to do. 

Pause and Talk to Myself. 

Remind myself that I am capable of doing hard things, that I am capable of implementing self-control, and that I am in control of my actions. 

Personally, I like to quote/meditate on scripture. Right now, this verse helps me deal with my comparison emotions. It shifts my perspective from being the victim to using it as an opportunity to grow my faith. This verse tells me that I can give my emotions to Jesus and receive peace. 

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Phil 4:6-7

I can also dive deeper and ask, "Why am I responding like this? Why is comparison my immediate reaction?" The answer is always the same. I'm responding that way because I'm struggling to make the hard choices and leaning into laziness and convenience over self-discipline. 

Change Directions.

If I leave the room and distance myself from whatever is causing the comparison feelings to rise up, I'm more likely to not cave in. If I'm scrolling through social media, then I can put my phone down or close the laptop. Then, I could go for a short walk, unload or load the dishwasher, quickly tidy my house, or read a chapter of a book. Over time, I want to build the habit of quickly shutting down those feelings of comparison. 

If I'm actually talking with someone when the feelings arise, then I can change the subject or end the conversation.

By changing directions whether that's literally or figuratively, I'm telling myself that I don't have to emotionally dwell on these feelings of comparison. 

Practice Gratitude.

Gratitude brings perspective and shifts focus. When I actively think through things I'm grateful for, the emotions that comparison brings seem to melt away. I think that the gratitude piece is the most important strategy that we can implement when coming face to face with comparison. 

It will take time to remember to use these strategies, but I'm confident that if I commit to practice one or all of these strategies, that my reaction time will decrease over time. Meaning, that it won't take as long to process through these feelings.

Now, I turn the question to you. Do you struggle with comparison? How do you deal with it?

My Favorite Mississippi Products + Makers

Not only is Mississippi home to the friendliest people, but some of the most talented makers! I love the "do-it-yourself" attitude of the creative community in my favorite state. Today, I wanted to share some of my favorite products that I've purchased (and LOVE) or want to purchase from local businesses. 

1. The Day Dreamer by Thimblepress (Jackson, MS). I love basically everything that comes out of Thimblepress. Kristen Ley is a true visionary and one of the kindest ladies I've ever met. I have a TON of Thimblepress products that I love and use (daily!), but the Day Dreamer is my favorite. It's like a mega to-do list that totally fits my scattered brain. And it's the perfect size -- HUGE! 

2. Mississippi Magnolia State Flower Print by Thimblepress (Jackson, MS). I would LOVE to see this beauty every day. Putting this on my wishlist! 

3. Harlem Hollywood Jackson Mississippi print by Edward Moak Designs (Clinton, MS). I smile every time I see this print. We forever thankful to Bruno Mars for giving us a shoutout in Uptown Funk!

4. Aztec Mississippi T-shirt by Edward Moak Designs (Clinton, MS). I definitely own this shirt in both colors. Edward is super fun and creative! 

5. Borderland Candles (Brandon, MS). We met the couple behind the company at one of the local vendor markets. They're so kind! We've owned a few different scents and they are all amazing. They last a long time and the scents are perfect!

6. Capri Blue Volcano Candle (Starkville, MS). These are the best smelling candles in the whole world. No debate. 

7. Scotsman Cap by Laurel Mercantile (Laurel, MS). Luke wears this hat everyday. He swears it's the best hat he's ever worn. (BTW, I still can't believe that there's an HGTV show about my actual, real life home town, Laurel, MS. I'm working on a post highlighting all of my favorite Laurel spots!)

8. Floral Paintings by Kate Freeman (Jackson, MS). Kate Freeman is my favorite local artist. Her paintings are full of color and are perfection on a canvas. I own one of her paintings and I stare at it for at least 5 minutes every day (It's the cover photo of this post!). 

9. Succulent planter by the Prickly Hippie (Ridgeland, MS). I LOVE plants, but have a hard time taking care of them and planting them. Thankfully, I can look to my friend, Jenni, to help me out! I got my first Prickly Hippie arrangement at a local market a couple years ago! 

There are SO many creative and talented people in our great state! I love supporting local vendors and makers. Hopefully, you do too! I plan to continue exploring Mississippi Makers and hopefully this post is volume 1 of many! 

What are your favorite Mississippi-based products? I'd love to know! 

Exciting News! I'm going on a Mission Trip!

Local and Global Missions are a huge part of the DNA of our church (I don't just attend, I work there too!). We're constantly taking groups to our mission partners all over the world. Prior to only a few months ago I was happy to support others go on trips and promote trips but never felt the need to go myself. 

A few months ago at one of our regular staff meetings, our Lead Pastor encouraged all staff to go on one of our mission trips. Honestly, I was not excited. Yes, I believed in missions and supported the mission partnerships we work with, but never saw myself going on a trip.

So I started praying. I started praying for the desire to go on a mission trip and for the faith to be obedient when the time came for me to go. Over time, I would pray about it as I thought about it. Over the past couple of months, I started thinking about it more. 

The church sent a team to India over spring break. Even in January, I knew that I was supposed to go to India. I didn't speak up. I didn't say anything, but just kept telling myself that I would go later. Finally, I decided that I would start slow and take one of our "easier" trips (When I say easy I mean less time traveling and less jet lag). In my mind, I had already signed up for a Haiti trip in November. 

But I knew that wasn't right. I just knew that I needed to go to India and I needed to go SOON. 

Yesterday some people on our staff were talking about our upcoming trip to India and whether they should cancel it or not. They needed one or two more people to sign up so we would have enough people to go. Before I knew what was happening, I blurted out that I wanted to go! 

I can't believe that I did that! Honestly, I felt a huge sigh of relief after I said I would go. On the outside, I was jittery and nervous, but on the inside, I knew that going on this trip is something God is leading me to. 

The train has left the station and I'm now preparing for my upcoming trip. I need a little help raising funds for travel expenses, so I created a YouCaring page. If you'd like to make a donation and help me get to India, I would be very appreciative! Click the button below to help me go! 

Also.... I'm blogging again. Welcome to my new blog. I've published a few "just for fun" posts to so my site isn't empty!