10 Photographs That Will Make You Want to Go on a Mission Trip

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“Whether you’re throwing up or breaking up, you want your girlfriend right there! I don’t trust women who don’t go to their girlfriends.”     ~Drew Barrymore

It’s so important for women everywhere to have a group of girls they can turn to no matter what. These girls teach you about life, love, and how to connect with people around you. They’re essential throughout life for guidance, confidence, perspective, etc… the list goes on and on. And I think that importance continues to grow as you age and mature.

I have a group of high school besties that I cherish dearly. Marta has been my best friend since 8th grade (wow we’re old HA!) and she’s never afraid to put me in my place and tell me when I’m just being stupid. I also met Carley in 8th grade and in high school she became a spiritual accountability partner for me. She’s also my long lost cousin, we’re just sure of it. 😉

If you’re from the South, you’ve heard someone call another person a pistol; and my friend Savanna is a pistol for sure! A “pistol” is a person with a lot of verve and personality, and the sort you don’t forget.  Savanna is loud, fun, and apologetically herself; I admire her for that.

Victoria is the first of our besties to get married!!! EEK! V and I became friends in high school through Carley and just clicked right away. I can’t wait to celebrate her and Matt this December.

Last, but certainly not least, is my BFF, Amanda. Amanda and I have SO much in common I sometimes wonder if soulmates can be girlfriends too. We’ve been through heart break, fun times, growth & development, and the occasional football rivalry (she’s a Saints fan, but I try not to hold that against her 😉 ).

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Over the past 10 years I have developed such a strong bond with these beautiful women. We all may be in very different places in our lives but when we get together it’s as if we’ve never been apart.

When I started at Kennesaw State I never imagined I would find yet another group of girlfriends like the ones I had in high school. But God knew what He was doing when He placed these ladies in my life.

Courtney was my very first Roomie at KSU and she’s a straight shooter. She tells it like it is and I love that about her.

Sonam was one of the very first people I met after move-in. I will always remember walking into the common space of our dorm to ask about the WiFi and there sat a cute little Indian girl that helped me connect my laptop to the internet. She’s a fun little bundle of joy and we ALWAYS have the best time when we’re together.

The twins, Charnaye and Charneyce, look just alike but are two very different people. Charnaye is one of the only girl I know that I can talk sports with; and Charneyce is my go-to fashionista. She’s always down for a good sushi and shopping date.

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Jhaphia and I became friends INSTANTLY. The first time we really had a chance to hangout was at a friends lake house and I knew from then on she and I were kindred spirits. We can talk about literally any and everything.

Rachael, Rochelle, Horsey, etc. is a firecracker and Is always up for an adventure. When my parents announced their divorce last year, she became one of my closest confidantes and shoulder to cry on. She went through a similar experience and through that sad time, I gained a deeper friendship with her.

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Each and everyone of these girls has influenced and shaped me into the person I am today. Most of us met freshman year in the Suites 4th floor common room and the friendships have grown from there. I honestly don’t know if I would have been able to make it through my college years without these fierce, beautiful (inside & out), smart, spunky ladies.

Last year was really hard, and each of these girls supported and encouraged me in one way or another; and I definitely wouldn’t have gotten through it without my girls by my side.

SO, to celebrate all these wonderful ladies, I decided to throw a ‘Happy Galentine’s Day’ dinner as a way to say thank you. Unfortunately, my high school besties couldn’t make it but the KSU girls all came!

So for dinner I made spicy and sweet, bacon wrapped chicken tenders with homemade garlic mashed potatoes.

I also made cute “salads in a jar” which may be my new favorite way to make salads on the go. Bradley’s mom gave me a nice olive oil and balsamic vinegar set for Christmas so I made a honey lemon ginger vinaigrette to pair with this yummy mixed greens salad.

And what dinner is complete without a cocktail!? Prosecco Punch is super easy to make and even more delicious to drink. To make the cocktail mix 1 bottle of Prosecco with a bottle of cranberry juice (I found cran-mango juice at my local Kroger and used that) then added Ginger Ale for extra bubbliness.

Dinner was a success and I had a blast getting to catch up and have girl talk with some of my besties.

Audrey Hepburn once said “the best thing to hold onto in life is each other” and I plan to hold on to these girls for a long, longtime. Find your girl gang and hold on to them too.

XOXO,

Jess

Inspiration Comes from Everywhere

At the beginning of January, I had the opportunity to attend Professional Photographers of America’s annual convention, ImagingUSA. This is my third time attending (shout out to my sister, Jordan, for hooking ya sister up!) and the conference just gets better each year.

In case you don’t know, Professional Photographers of America is the world’s largest non-profit photography association organized for photographers, by photographers. They have resources for everything a photographer would need to grow their business. They offer educational workshops, classes, inspiration and connects photographers to an esteemed group of successful professionals to guide them.

Each year PPA hosts a 3-day conference for photographers everywhere to attend. ImagingUSA is the longest running national photographic convention, expo and image exhibition in the United States.

Check out this video to get a better understanding of what ImagingUSA has to offer.

So this year, instead of just attending programs that showed beautiful photography, I decided to attend business centered classes and they blew my mind. Everything from branding, to balancing work & play to being prepared for your financial future. This years ImagingUSA was one of the best.

The most inspiring thing I heard at the convention was that some ideas are a spring board to another idea. This resonated with me and I haven’t stopped thinking about this sense then.

So what does this have to do with Bless the Food? Well, for starters, it means I will be taking this blog in a new direction.

Hosting a party, celebration, or a simple get together doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive, and I want to show you ways to make it less scary. From easy recipes to please a crowd to quick DIY decor to bring any festivity up a notch, Bless the Food will be your go-to for being ‘the hostess with the mostest’.

For me, hosting comes from a place of love; and gathering together to eat, celebrate, reconnect, etc. is what that love is all about.

In the New Testament, the duty of hospitality was emphasized for the Christian community. Romans 12:13 says, “Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.” Literally it says, “Pursue hospitality.” And the verb implies continuous action.

The command is that hospitality not just be a once a year thing at Thanksgiving or Christmas, but a constant attitude and practice. Our homes and apartments should be constantly ready for having friends and loved ones over—a readiness to welcome people who don’t ordinarily live there.

And truthfully, the mark of a good meal is all about the people you share it with. There’s a quote from comedian Chris Rock in his episode of ‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee’ where he says “everything’s about company. A gourmet meal with an a**hole is a HORRIBLE meal… a hot dog with an interesting person is an amazing meal.” I heard that and thought ‘YES SO TRUE’.

So join me on this new journey to spread hospitality here and experience hospitality all over the world.

XOXO,

Jess

Sometimes The Answer is ‘No’

It’s been about 5 months since I last shared with y’all what’s been going on in my life. My last post was an update on me and the plans I had for myself in the months to come.

Plans I️ wanted for the semester in school, my personal life, and in a career. However, God quickly reminded me that He is in control and even the plans we have for ourselves don’t matter when it comes to His plan.

The past two semesters I️’ve struggled with my depression and anxiety. The semester that just ended was THE hardest semester of my entire college career. Tough classes and tough professors lead to anxiety attacks and negative thoughts. But I️ knew my coping skills and tried to stay on my medication consistently and for the time being, I️ was managing. But that was short-lived…

At the end of September, another bombshell went off, after nearly 30 years of marriage my parents had decided to file for divorce. My world collapsed and came crumbling down.  I️ spiraled into depression, I️ didn’t want to see any friends, talk to anyone, and some days I️ couldn’t even get myself out of bed to go to class. I️ had no drive or motivation.

I️ became so incredibly mad at God for all of it. Why was He letting this horrible thing happen to my family? Why had He abandoned us? I felt alone, isolated, and didn’t know how to keep my head above the waves that were drowning me.

I️ put on a brave face, tried to act “normal” and have a positive outlook on things but on the inside I felt like screaming. Trying to get a grasp on my depression; trying to silence the anxiety in my head telling me over and over I’m a failure and not worthy.

So I began to pray harder than I think I ever have in my entire life. In the midst of the hurricane of emotions that was giving me whiplash, I clung to God closely, at this point it was my only hope. And I was reminded of the verse in John that reads “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” I trusted in the fact that He will never abandon us.

Then God tested my trust in Him when I️ realized I wasn’t going to graduate in December like I️ originally planned. When I realized I wasn’t going to reach that goal I️ felt like a failure and a disappoint to my entire family.  But, I very clearly heard God say, “It’s not the right time, wait.” The more I prayed for His guiding hand and the more I asked Him to help me through the hell I was currently walking through, the more I heard His voice and the more I trusted His ultimate plan.

It stung a little when I saw friends posting graduation pictures, celebrating their last day, and just being so excited to end this monumental chapter of their lives. But I chose to look at the blessings the Lord has given me; and now I️ get to thrive my last semester of college (instead of just barely surviving).

I was sad I wasn’t graduating on time like I️ originally planned. But I️ try to keep in mind “God is in control; and His timing is perfect.” There’s a reason I️ wasn’t supposed to graduate this semester. I’m not sure what that reason is but I️ pray daily that God helps me see the good in not knowing, the joy in the in-between and the meaning in the meanwhile.

And now, I️ get to go to Kennesaw sporting events, enjoy my last spring break with friends, and cherish the last moments of not being an adult. I️ get to experience the joy of college one last time before I️ enter the “real world.” I️ get to have a second to stop and enjoy all the blessings that the Lord has given me throughout my time at Kennesaw State. And the best part? I️ get to do it with my boyfriend and best friends by my side! How cool is that!?!

Through all of this, I’ve learned that I️ can’t be in the driver’s seat of my life- that’s God’s job. He is in charge and has a plan for my life. Trust. Unfortunately I️ had to learn the hard way that everything is going to happen, but in HIS Time.

I thank God for unanswered prayers and for saying ‘no’ to the things I want for myself because His plan in much grander than I ever could begin to imagine.

So here’s to 2018! The year of hard work, determination, and continuing to pray for God’s guiding handin my life! xoxo,Jess

Post Ecuador Mission Trip Round Table

I want to start off by saying thank you so much to all y’all who sent my questions, this would be so difficult to do it I didn’t get good feedback, so thank you!!

Let’s get start,

What was your favorite part?

Gosh, there were so many parts of the trip that were fantastic but I think my favorite part was seeing the friendships that were planted two-years ago blossoming into these beautiful connections. I got to see my sweet friend Kimberly, whom I really bonded with last trip. It was wonderful seeing how much she had grown and changed over that short amount of time. Another friendship that completely bloomed into one of the most beautiful friendships was the one between one of our co-leaders Susie, and a sweet young lady named Naila. These two amazing women of Christ became friends during our last trip and have remained in contact via Facebook over the past two years. This homecoming between them is a perfect example of the mission of Jesus Christ. Mission work is about making those connections, making the people know Jesus loves them and so do we.

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Summer Recap & Update on Me

Hey y’all!

Oh man, how is it August already!? This summer has just flown by! And now that I’m getting back into the routine of things I wanted to give all of y’all a recap of my summer and an update on myself. OH! And I have some exciting news, keep scrolling to find out what it is! 😉

I want to first say a huge thank you to the people that have been asking about my blog and curious as to when my next post was going to be published. It made me feel like people actually read this little passion of mine. Blogging is no joke and takes serious commitment and takes a lot more work than I first thought. But I wanted to get one last summer post up and I thought what better way to end the summer than a recap of all the adventures I was lucky enough to go on.

My first trip this summer was to Washington D.C. with my family, and when I say family I mean my mom, my dad, my sister,  and my grandma & grandpa. Somehow I convinced my boyfriend Bradley to come with us too, bless his heart. I don’t think he realized what he got himself into. 😉 But it was a great time! If you’ve never been to our nation’s capitol you definitely need to put it on your bucket list because it’s pretty incredible.

Next, I got to experience my very first Bonnaroo. It was one of the most incredible experiences and I cannot wait to go again next year. If you ever get a chance to make it to the Farm you most definitely should. Everything from the people to the music to the food was outstanding.

My third trip this summer was back to a place that means so much to me- Santo Domingo, Ecuador. I first traveled to Ecuador on my first mission trip back in 2015 and I was blessed enough to have the opportunity to return this July and it was even more special the second time around. Many of y’all have asked when my post from my trip is going to go live and I am so sorry it’s taken much longer than anticipated to go up.
As soon as I returned from the trip I had to start the moving out process from my apartment and between decluttering, packing, cleaning, and many many trips back and forth from my apartment back to my parents home the end of my summer has been jammed pack. But without further ado my Ecuador trip post will go live TOMORROW! YAYYY! I want to do a lot better about posting regularly and getting new and exciting content out to y’all. So, I need y’alls input. Comment below what you’d like to see more on Bless the Food. Anything from more family recipes, more about my family or even DIY projects (another little side passion of mine), or something totally different, just let me know.

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Two years ago I went on my very first international mission trip. A group of about 20 members from my home church traveled to Ecuador to serve with the missionaries from our church, the Nichols. I was SO excited not only because I would be traveling and serving God in the process but I was also going to experience my first mission trip with my dad by my side.

While in Ecuador, I had my life truly change. I saw poverty like never before but I also saw God’s love like never before.

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One of the main projects we worked on while there was a VBS (vacation Bible school) for the children on the United Methodist Church in Santo Domingo. I became close with a few of the girls there and every single day when the kids were eating their snacks they also colored coloring pages we brought that pertained to the Bible story we taught that day. And without fail, every single day these sweet little girls gave me their pages as a gift just because they wanted US to have something from them.

Continue reading “Returning to the Place that Stole a Piece of My Heart”

Bonnaroo- The Happiest Place on Earth

Happy Hi-Five Friday to all my fellow Roovians! I dont know about ya’ll but I sure am missing the farm right about now.

This was my first time at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN. and it was magical, hot and surprisingly had really good food! Whoever said Disney was the happiest place on Earth clearly has never been to Bonnaroo.

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The Experience

The whole Bonnaroo experience is hard to sum into words. It’s more of a feeling than anything else. A feeling of acceptance, a feeling of community. I talked to total strangers and made an effort to get outside my comfort zone and be more friendly and open to everyone. And that’s just the beginning of what your experience on The Farm.

But I feel the best way to really understand what it’s like at Bonnaroo is to see a part of it for yourself. Enjoy.

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To The King of the Castle

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY TO ALL THE DAD’S OUT THERE!!!

I want to take a second and brag on how absolutely amazing my Daddy is! The first thing you should know about him is that he is one of the funniest people you will ever meet. He is just like a big kid that loves to have a good time and make people laugh.

The second thing you should know about my dad is that he bleeds orange and white. That’s right, because of him our entire family are HUGE Tennessee Volunteers fans. Additionally, because of this my sister and myself have had sports ingrained in us from a very young age and I love that! We have an annual tradition to take a trip up to Neyland Stadium in Knoxville to cheer on our Vols. This has become on of my favorite memories that we share.

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Washington D.C.

Last week my parents, sister Jordan, and grandparents, along with my boyfriend Bradley (Lord bless his heart) went to our Nation’s capitol, WASHINGTON D.C.! To say it was amazing is an understatement.

My sister planned everything out for us and she did such a fantastic job. The first night we arrived and we immediately hopped on the Metro and headed to Union Station for a night tour of all the monuments. It was breathtaking. All these historic figures, lit up like Christmas, truly beautiful.

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The next day was Smithsonian day. We toured the Natural History Museum, the National Museum of American History, and the Air and Space Museum. There were so many neat things to see and do in these museums, like the Hope Diamond, a GIANT squid that was found in the deep deep ocean, and some of the most incredible photos from the 21st Nature’s Best Photography Awards.

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Lazy Rainy Mornings

Happy almost end of the semester to all my fellow students! We’re almost done! Hooray!!

This semester has been an exhausting one for me, I’ve had a full-time class schedule, an internship with a local sports radio station, I work part-time as an after-school family, AND I tried to maintain some form of social life; although some Friday nights all I wanted to do was have a glass of wine, take a bubble bath and go to bed by midnight.

In the midst of my stress, one thing always relieves my tension; and that is baking!

I think it’s important to have a stress relief coping skill because sometimes life just gets hard and you need an escape, even if it’s only for a little bit. Whether its writing, fishing, painting, baking or any other form healthy relief, find what makes you happy and use that when life gets overwhelming. Stress can make you feel as though you have to get everything done right now, but faith reassures you that everything will happen in God’s timing.  And while you’re waiting for His timing, do what you love!

For instance, this past week I’ve been feeling very overwhelmed and stressed with all the final projects, exams, and assignments I have as finals week is rapidly approaching. So, this Monday was a rainy one (and also my mornings off) and I decided to take a step back, trust God and pray that He will get me through this stressful time. And I decided to make homemade scones and enjoy a little R&R with my boyfriend, Bradley.

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