I’ve been erring on the side of sentimentality lately. Wait, is that even possible? But there is something about March that will always be special to me during our time here in Laurel. It’s when we were first introduced to this little town that quickly stole our hearts. I’m writing this blog post accompanied by the comforting aroma of the Mercantile’s “Laurel” candle. The smell is technically “sweet olive blossom,” and it reminds me of when Jim and I first began walking together in the evenings when we first moved to Laurel. I couldn’t put my finger on what the heavenly smell was when we strolled through the historic neighborhoods, but it was something perfect. And now I know: sweet olive blossom. Smells like home.
I have to be completely honest with y’all. During the second month of our marriage back in the summer of 2015, Jim and I were discussing job possibilities. He was wrapping up another summer internship with Georgia Pacific, and the probability of him working for the company straight out of college was looking promising. At the time, Jim was comfortable working at the Georgia Pacific mill out in Big Island, 30 minutes outside of Lynchburg. I, on the other hand, wanted to break ties with Virginia and start somewhere fresh. We were driving through the lovely, historic neighborhoods of Lynchburg, and Jim told me, “there is a possibility of me working at a mill with Georgia Pacific, and it’s not located in Virginia.” I remember this moment vividly. I told him, “Great! I’m willing to move anywhere, anywhere at all… oh, except Mississippi. Anywhere but there.” Jim paused for a moment, and slowly replied “… well… thing thing is… the mill is in southern Mississippi.” My heart dropped. Mississippi? Mississippi? We don’t know anything about Mississippi! Well, besides the fact that it’s far, far away, humid as an armpit, flat as a pancake, and we wouldn’t know a soul! WHY ON EARTH WOULD WE MOVE THERE?! (As it turns out, we found out we have some relatives who live here, but we hadn’t realized it at the time). The thing is, I really didn’t know anything about the state, and what I had heard about it was far from raving reviews.
That August, we moved to Atlanta, smack dab in the middle of the city. We were close to Georgia Tech so Jim could walk to school. I wouldn’t say living in the city was my favorite experience. Particularly my commute, I don’t miss it. But I think living in a big city makes me appreciate small town living that much more.
The word “reaction” has been on the forefront of my mind recently. I think about my initial reaction to Jim interviewing for a job in Mississippi. Or my reaction when he was offered the job in Mississippi. Or my reaction to moving to Mississippi. I believe I can say with confidence that these reactions were not ones of overwhelming warmth, but of disdain. I was extremely proud of Jim, it was just that… Mississippi? But I think about what my reaction would be if we were to now leave. My heart would once again drop at the sound of Mississippi, but not in the way it had before. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still as humid as an armpit and flat as a pancake, but it would be incredibly difficult to move away. We would leave a loving community and a place we’ve learned and loved to call home. It didn’t take long for Laurel to find it’s way into our hearts. It’s painfully evident to me through this journey that God knows us, our hearts and our desires, far better than we know ourselves.
I was hit by the fact that I had e-mailed Erin Napier one year ago, telling her who I was and about our upcoming move to Mississippi, and that I’d love to work at their storefront whenever it opened. We had no idea who each other was, I had just found her through Joanna Gaines’ Instagram account and thought it would be as great a start as any to work for them. When we came house hunting (in Hattiesburg, MS, where we originally thought we would live), we drove up to Laurel, ran into Erin and Ben Napier, overheard Dawn Trest talk about putting her loft up for rent at Southern Antiques, met Dawn and Michael Trest, discovered the loft, and decided to call Laurel home – all in one Saturday! And now, a year later, we are living in Laurel, loving our community, loving our occupations, loving our loft, and I have the opportunity to help out at The Mercantile. Can we just take a step back and look at God’s plan and faithfulness? You want to know my reaction to all of that? In complete awe.
P.S. Duke just beat Notre Dame to win the ACC tournament. #GODUKE