Called To Laurel

My husband and I were sitting in a parking lot on a Tuesday lunch break in September of 2015 when we were asked the question over the phone, “Do you feel called to Laurel?” The answer was yes. We both knew it and felt it confidently. But yes was scary. Between the two of us, we knew one person in Laurel. A move to Laurel meant a move from family and friends. And while it wasn’t an across the country kind of move, it meant committing to leave everything we knew. But the answer was yes. We felt called to Laurel.

My husband, Jay, formally accepted a position as the worship pastor at Agape Church in downtown Laurel that October. Prior to us making the decision, we visited Laurel together a few times. The first night I visited, we were touring the building around 9 p.m. as a couple passed by the floor-to-ceiling front windows of the church. Pastor James opened the door and invited them to come meet us. He introduced us to the sweet couple and mentioned they had just completed a pilot for HGTV. Little did we know…

Jay commuted for a few months while we sold our house in Jackson. During this time, we found out we were expecting our first baby. We moved the first week of December. Our parents helped us make the move, and none of them knew I was in the middle of my first trimester of pregnancy. Whew. Moving day was a memorable one to say the least. When we arrived in Laurel with the U-Haul, we were greeted by a group of men from the church, most of whom I had never met, to help us unload.

Our first official day as Laurel residents was the first Saturday in December 2015, also known as Pancake Day. We walked down from our tiny loft apartment above Lee’s Coffee and Tea, ate pancakes at the YWCO and joined some of our new friends for the parade. That day, the people, the pancakes and the feeling of community was almost as good as a warm hug from my mom. I knew we had found our home.

Over the last three years, I have experienced many things I never anticipated. The holes I expected to feel without family nearby have been filled with neighbors bringing fresh blueberries to my doorstep, invitations to Saturday morning breakfast feasts, hand-delivered snow cones when our air conditioning quit working, morning walks with a friend with coffee in hand.

I never expected to find the community of passionate creatives that I have found here. On paper, we may have moved here for my husband’s job, but I almost feel like this town was waiting for me with open arms. I’ve been honored to bring my creativity to the table in ways I never imagined, helping build a brand for one of the biggest summer events in South Mississippi, Downtown Thursday. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the most talented creatives in the world and the most dedicated small business owners you’ll find - all who live right here in this town where we feel called.

This week, I met a couple from Ontario, California and honeymooners from Missouri just passing through. People are visiting from all over, and I’m so thankful that HGTV decided to shine a light on our small town so people can know what it feels to feel called somewhere, even for a day. So, if you feel called, come. I promise, it’s worth it.



Laura Johns is a small business marketing strategist and blogger at The Small Town Creative. Find her on Instagram at @thesmalltowncreative.