The LORD will greatly bless his people.
Wherever they plant seed, bountiful crops will spring up.
Their cattle and donkeys will graze freely.”  Isaiah 32:20

In the quiet hours each Sunday morning, a livestock barn transforms into a peaceful place of worship.  As the sun rises over Tadlock Stockyards in Forrest, Mississippi, heads bow in prayer, and cowboy church begins.

Cattlemen and women face long, hard Sundays at the livestock sale barn, which has been in business for nearly a century.  David Tadlock has passionately and faithfully run the barn for over forty years.  “We started cowboy church because the boys don’t have time to go to their church.  It’s just something special that we do for them and some of our customers that want to come,” says David. 

Dressed in jeans, boots and cowboy hats, worshipers gather together in the lobby of the barn for the quaint service.  Though it is simple, it has had a great impact on the employees of Tadlock Stockyards.  Jamie Laird says with awe, “I really love cowboy church.  It just gives all of us the opportunity to worship our Lord and Savior since we are away from our family on Sundays.  After all, some of my greatest wounds have come from this barn (in injuries) and so my greatest healing has happened here, too.”

A special thank you to Barrett Photography for the beautiful black and white photographs.
 
 
{Name}  Blythe Wallace
{Hometown} Jackson, MS
{Event Site} Brett and Terri Matthews House (Poppa and Birdie) :)

{Tell us about the occasion for the event?} My daughter, Nora’s, second birthday party.

{What inspired your event location and theme?}
We went back and forth on a couple of different themes for Nora’s birthday party. It was a toss up between doing a cowgirl/horse theme or her favorite show, Peppa Pig. At the time, we were getting ready to move across the country, and it dawned on me that I needed to take advantage of having horses at my finger tips, since my mother in law has horses that Nora adores.

{What inspired your color scheme/flowers?} I like things to be simple and not over the top. I wanted her party to be a rustic/modern but girly take on a cowgirl party.

{What’s your favorite event detail? Is there a story behind it?} It is so hard to pick just one. I LOVE the way the boards with her name spelled out in rope turned out. Also, the boot cookies from Campell’s Bakery were exactly what I had imagined!

{What was your favorite part of the event planning process?} I get EVERYONE involved with the birthday parties. I come up with most of the ideas, but I am not the best at executing them. This is where my family comes into play. They are the perfectionists, not me. My mother is the anchor to all of our birthday parties with always doing the flowers and making the delicious and beautiful cakes. She also made the adorable stick horses, felt horseshoes, and painted the horse backdrop piece. She pretty much made it all happen.  My sister, Molly, helps with ideas and executing them. My brother in law, Lou, designs the invitations. My husband became a pro at a hot glue gun by the end of it. My favorite part is being able to spend that time with each other, having the ideas and seeing it all come together perfectly.

{What was your favorite moment of the event day?}
Since this was her second birthday, it was fun to see her understand what was going on this year. That we were celebrating her and all of her “people” were in the same room at the same time.

Photographer: Blythe Wallace
Event Planner: Blythe Wallace, Terri, Matthews, Molly Frascogna
Venue: Brett and Terri Matthews
Florist: Terri Matthews
Cake: Terri Matthews
Any Additional Vendors: Campbell’s Bakery for Cookies
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
 
 
River Hills Club recently held the USTA Pro Circuit Women’s Challenger - Mississippi’s only professional tennis tournament!  Dave Randall, Tennis Director and Head Tennis Pro at River Hills, says, “This is the 18th year we have hosted the Challenger.  We are proud to partner with the Catholic Charities Diocese of Jackson as our beneficiary.  Girls travel from all over the world to compete in the Challenger; we had at least twelve to fifteen countries represented this year.”

Several outstanding players in this year’s Challenger have strong Mississippi ties!  We had the great privilege of interviewing a couple of these athletes and learning more about their training, what drives them and what it’s like competing at home.  We are thrilled to share their stories with you today:

Julia Jones

Did you grow up in Mississippi?
“I spent most of my childhood and high school years in Florida, but lived in Jackson from ages 5-8.  I started playing tennis at River Hills Club.  My family now lives in McComb, MS.”

Did you play tennis in college? 
“I played four years for Ole Miss and graduated in May 2015.”

Do you prefer playing singles or doubles?
 
“I prefer singles and focus mainly on it, but love doubles as well and try to play whenever I can.”

Tennis is such an individual sport.  What are the pros of playing an individual sport vs. playing a team sport? 
“Tennis is so different from other team sports because it’s only you out there.  You don’t have teammates to fall back on when things aren’t going well for you.  The game is so mental because unlike other sports, coaching isn’t allowed during competition; so you have to find ways to win on your own.”

What makes the River Hills Challenger such a special event?
“I love playing the River Hills Challenger because it’s close to home so my entire family gets to come up and watch.  I also train at River Hills with TJ Middleton so I know the courts and conditions well.”

How often do you travel for tennis matches?

“I travel probably 30-40 weeks out of the year.  I have been all around the U.S. as well as Australia, Mexico, Egypt and Canada.  Traveling around the world is great because I get some time to do some touring.  I also stay with host families often so it is fun to see what life is like in their country.”

How often do you practice? 
“A typical practice day for me is about 3-4 hours total of tennis and then an hour of fitness and then some rehab/massage or a yoga class.”

How does tennis inspire you? 
“Tennis inspires me because it teaches you how to overcome adversity.  Like I mentioned earlier, you have no one to fall back on when things aren’t going your way during a match.  You have to figure it out on your own and control the ups and downs of a match.  The ability to adapt and handle adversity is a skill that can be used off the tennis court as well and I hope to be able to transfer that to my every day life.” 

Sylvia Viljoen

Where are you from in Mississippi?
“I am 17-years old, live in Jackson, MS and train here as well.”

When did you start playing tennis? 
“At age 4 at the Country Club of Jackson.  My mom was a Teaching Pro on staff at that time.”

Tennis is such an individual sport.  What are the pros of playing an individual sport vs. playing a team sport?
“You have to take responsibility for how you practice, play and the results of a match. Doubles is like a team sport. Each player has to do their part to make things work on the court.”

What makes playing in the USTA Women's Challenger at River Hills so special? 
“It is an honor to play in the same tournament as up and coming stars of College and Professional tennis. You also see a lot of players who have competed at the tennis Slams.” How does the game of tennis inspire you?  “My results in a tournament - win or lose - inspire me to improve aspects of my tennis game.”

Thank you, Julia and Sylvia!  We wish both of you talented ladies the best of luck in your tennis careers! 

For more information on River Hills Club, please visit their website here!  All photos courtesy of the River Hills Club USTA Facebook page, found here.
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
 
 
Happy Earth Day!!  Celebrate this glorious spring weather by getting outside and enjoying all that Mississippi has to offer.  One of our favorite spring outings is visiting a pick-your-own farm!  Your friends and family will love tasting blueberries, peaches and cucumbers fresh from the farm. 

After a beautiful day outdoors, treat yourself to a dish filled with the flavors of spring.  We highly recommend the Halibut Crudo, created by Jesse Houston at Saltine Oyster Bar!

We hope you all have a wonderful weekend! 
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
 
 
Oxford's Double Decker Arts Festival needs no introduction.  For over twenty years, Oxford has welcomed thousands of people to the the historic Courthouse Square for an unforgettable celebration.  Talented vendors line the streets, and guests nosh on amazing food while rummaging through art and listening to live music.   As Kinney Ferris, Assistant Director of Visit Oxford, says, "Double Decker celebrates Food, Music and the Arts.  All three are vital to what makes Oxford a special place to visit and live."

This year's Double Decker will be held this weekend, April 22-23!  We wanted to know what makes this event truly memorable.  Today, several Oxford residents tell us what they love about Double Decker!

“As the Double Decker Coordinator, It is very gratifying at the end of the day on Saturday being able to look out from the main stage and see the crowd and think, 'We planned this!' I also love to hear all the success stories from the art vendors, food vendors and store merchants.  It truly makes my job rewarding to have people in the community come up to me before and after Double Decker, telling us what a great festival we put on each year and how special and unique the festival is to our community."  Lee Ann Stubbs, Double Decker Coordinator with Visit Oxford

"Double Decker is truly one of my favorite weekends of the year. The whole event is such a celebration of what makes Oxford and Mississippi special -- great music, delicious food, amazing artistic talent, and friends & families. It's like a giant reunion. So many people come back to Oxford for the weekend so you never know who you'll run into or meet!"  Emily Ferris, Oxford Resident

"It always fun to see the festival come to fruition after months of hard work by our entire Visit Oxford team and particularly our Double Decker Coordinator, Lee Ann Stubbs. Our office has a great partnership working with other City of Oxford departments and it’s always fun to collaborate on the festival as the festival is a loved event by citizens and visitors alike!"  Mary Allyn Hedges, Director of Visit Oxford

"Double Decker is such a special Oxford tradition. There is no better place to experience an arts festival than Downtown Oxford - the atmosphere makes it such a fun event. Whether you come for the music, the art or the food, or a little bit of everything, it's hard to argue that is isn't one of the most fun days to be in Oxford."  Mary-Kathryn Herrington, Oxford Resident

"As a team member at Visit Oxford my favorite part of the festival each is hearing the success stories from Art Vendors, Food Vendors and Store merchants.  We work hard to make the festival enjoyable for visitors and the community but hearing the economic impact is truly gratifying."  Kinney Ferris, Assistant Director of Visit Oxford

We hope to see all of you in Oxford this weekend!  For more information on Double Decker, please visit the website here!  To learn more about the charming city of Oxford, we encourage you to view the Visit Oxford website!
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
 
 
"I receive so much joy in the challenge and growth of a project.  You go from a blank piece of ground to someone's dream home, where they may host a family gathering on Thanksgiving, a wedding, or a new child's birthday party.  I was inspired to start Iron Point Construction because of a desire to create something special for someone or a family." Nick Bradshaw, Owner of Iron Point Construction

Are you dreaming of building the perfect home for you or your family?  Imagine working with a kind, smart and humble builder, who will guide you through the entire process.  Nick Bradshaw, the impressive owner of Iron Point Construction, designs innovative, functional and exceptionally beautiful homes.  We had the pleasure of speaking with Nick, learning more about his business and what sets him apart from other companies around the state:
Describe your style for us!
"If I could select a style it would hopefully be 'timeless,' but I think the reality of that is almost impossible.  Trends in the building industry change as often as clothing styles, so with that in mind, my style would tend to be more along the current trends of building.  I do really love the rustic yet contemporary feel with white/bright and airy kitchens with accents of darker features.  The houses I prefer to build would be anything that I stand back and feel proud about the end product.  I know it seems so cliche, but that really is it.  I do really enjoy houses that feature specialty architectural features that bring a lot of character.  I guess with that in mind, I really enjoy houses that include originality and a lot of character!"

What can a client expect from you personally when they hire Iron Point?
"
A client can expect a personal and direct relationship with me from the very beginning to the very end (and beyond).  They can expect honesty and transparency, which in this industry is an absolute in my opinion.  I hope to think a client will be catered along with way and made to feel special.  Each project is treated with the utmost importance and I believe it is reflected in the workmanship and also in the manner the client is treated."

What's a typical day like for you?"
Lots of phone calls, texts and emails haha!  Thankfully, its a lot more than just that.  A normal day is very difficult to even describe because there just doesn't seem to be a 'normal day,' which is great.  Every day is exciting and different, which is one of the reasons I love what I do.  It may consist of any and all of the following: site visits, checking on work or maybe even picking up trash, spending time with clients discussing plans, wishes, and budgets, meetings with banks, suppliers, architects, and designers, creating cost estimates and proposals, internal design work where I draw out house plans, layouts, or interior design aspects and of course, business related items such as paying invoices and labor.  I was talking with a friend of mine the other day and actually was describing all of this and even suggested he do a 'ride-a-long' with me one day just to take it all in!"

How does your family inspire your work? With children do you focus more on function or style? Or a marriage of both?"
From a design standpoint the family most definitely inspires me.  As you mentioned, I think I would naturally draw more towards function as opposed to style, but the key is to try and create the function without compromising the style and I believe that is possible.  Having my own growing family I understand how important spaces are for each child, whether that be a young girl's closet, a large shared bathroom space, or a bunk room in a playroom." 
What sets you apart from other builders?"
I believe what sets me apart from other builders is that I genuinely care about people and try to make them happy.  It starts there, before we even move to the actual building or design aspects.  I am very easy to get along with and often act a little like Chip from Fixer-Upper.  In fact, I'd like to think I am a healthy blend of JoJo and Chip...wow, that's weird for me to be a blend of a girl, but whatever, she has great design ideas implementation!  I am easily accessible and always answer my phone or texts and am constantly checking on the quality of work on site.  Along with this, I am constantly looking for ways to better the project, create more uniqueness for the client and push them to be more daring." 

Nick adds, "I would say more than anything, that my family and faith are of the utmost importance to me.  With that in mind, I am not looking to become a mass producing builder, as it would take away from those two items.  I put a lot of effort and time into each project and am therefore selective in which ones I choose.  I would love to discuss any ideas with individuals who may be interested in building and see if it is a partnership worth pursuing.  One thing I have learned - it's never to early to begin those discussions!  You can call or email me anytime.  Ideally, I want to spend as much time with my family and participate in church events such as mission trips where feasible.  I am even starting a non-profit organization in which the program assists people in participating in a camping/hiking/adventure trip where the goal is to establish relationships, share the gospel, and experience God's wonderful creation in nature."

Thank you, Nick, for sharing more about yourself and Iron Point Construction with us today!  To learn more about Iron Point and view their incredible portfolio of homes, visit the Iron Point Construction website here!
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
 
 
“Twins are just precious.  And when they finally begin to understand what having a twin means, it melts your heart.  I think Avery and Campbell were starting to realize how special it was to have that forever playmate,” says Jill Meacham Dale, pondering the adorable relationship between her six-year-old twins.  

Avery is a gorgeous, gregarious little girl.  With golden bangs gently sweeping her bright eyes, her long wavy hair seems to glisten, much like her personality.   Avery’s closest confidant was her brother, Campbell, who shared the same expressive eyes and wide, happy smile as his twin sister.  Though Campbell said he adored being a twin because he “loved having someone to play with,” Jill admits that Avery is the only one who truly understood Campbell.  And more importantly, “for him, having Avery by his side was a life saver.”
On a cold February day in 2014, life unexpectedly turned for the Dale family.  “We really had not noticed any glaring signs that something was wrong, even the weekend before we entered the hospital.  On Monday, February 10, Campbell went to school like normal, but was upset because he was having trouble going to the bathroom,” recalls Jill.  Over the new few days, Campbell developed a slowly climbing fever, and his tiny stomach began to tighten and swell. 

A CT scan revealed devastating news: Campbell had cancer.  Surgeons rushed to remove a four-and-a-half inch mass from Campbell’s abdomen and after reviewing pathology reports, doctors diagnosed him with Stage IV Rhabdomyosarcoma, a very rare and aggressive form of cancer.  Jill says, “Rhabdo is a fast-growing tumor.  It responds well to chemotherapy, but at the same time, it tends to come back.” 

Amidst the shock and confusion of the diagnosis, Jill and her husband, David, looked at each other and wondered, “How do we tell our children what is going on with Campbell?”  Their golden-haired boy was barely four-years-old, and he and Avery were truly Jill and David’s “miracle babies.”
Jill says, “I remember sitting in the conference room with David on one side of the table, and a team of doctors on the other.  When we received Campbell’s diagnosis, I told them, through tears, our twins’ story.”  Jill suffered a miscarriage early in their marriage, and struggled to conceive.  Convicted about her prayer life, she committed to praying for 28 days about a specific need.  “I remember pleading and asking God to bless us with a child,” says Jill.  A month later, she found out she was expecting two sweet blessings!   

Jill’s pregnancy was considered high-risk, and her babies were born at 33 weeks.  “They were both so tiny.  Our miracle babies went to the NICU, needing oxygen and time to grow.  But when we were able to bring them home, they thrived.  God had answered our prayers and He continued to show His healing power in our lives.  And in my mind, we had already faced our struggle.”
Cancer introduced a new battle, and Campbell was admitted to Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children in Jackson.  It was a rough time for the twins. Jill says, “I remember sending Avery home with my parents and telling them they might have to sleep upstairs with her.  She had never been without Campbell and he had never been without her.”  Avery says, “I did not like that he had to spend the night at the hospital, because I didn’t get to see him a lot.”  

Campbell finally returned home, a bit more fragile and with a tender scar.  Avery, just one minute older than Campbell, immediately took on the role of caretaker. The protective four-year-old hauled her sleeping bag into Campbell’s room, and spent every night on the floor beneath him.  Jill says, “When he came home, all was right in the world.  Avery was so happy to have all four of us under the same roof again, and Campbell was always glad to come home with her waiting there for him.”  Campbell even lovingly said his favorite thing about being home was “that I sleep in my bed and I can look down on the floor and Avery is sleeping right beside me.”
Every night, Jill and David snuggled with Avery and Campbell and read a Bible Story.  Jill says, “We love to read the Bible and talk about all of the different miracles God has performed.”  Avery is enchanted with one particular story.  The Book of Mark tells the story of a man who approaches Jesus, falls at his feet, and begs him to heal his dying daughter.  Mark 5:41 says, “Taking her by the hand He said to her, ‘Tal’itha cu’mi;' which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise.’  And immediately the girl got up and walked, and they were immediately overcome with amazement.”  Jill marvels, “Avery would always say, ‘I hope God will heal Campbell just like He healed the little girl.’” 

After 54 weeks of intense radiation and chemotherapy, it appeared Campbell’s cancer was in remission.  However, his final scan showed a two-centimeter growth in the same vicinity as the original tumor.  Jill says, “That was so hard for us when it came back.  I had two weeks of nonstop crying, not understanding.  I was hyperventilating.  David and I worried so much about how we were going to tell him and explain it to him.”  But Campbell’s trust in God blew them away.  “He did say a few times, ‘I thought my boo-boo’s were gone!”  We simply told him we would keep praying for God to make them go away.  And that was it. He never asked again.  Campbell did not question God like David and I had done.” 
On a flight home from one of his last treatments, Campbell and Jill saw four glorious rainbows shining through the clouds.  Jill says with awe, “From the beginning of creation, a rainbow has always been a sign of God's covenant with us. A covenant to never flood the world again, but also a covenant that HE will always take care of us, sustain us, provide for us, comfort us and love us in the midst of great storms. I love what God's rainbow represents.  As I saw it out the plane window and watched Campbell point to it, I felt a peace like no other.” 

Heaven gained a most beloved angel, just weeks shy of the twins’ sixth birthday.  Jill’s faith shines through in her beautiful description of their tragic loss: “Our sweet Campbell finally caught his rainbow…he ran through Heaven’s gates into HIS Daddy’s arms and is sitting at the feet of Jesus.  What a sight to behold!  Praising Jesus that HE blessed me with the most precious blue-eyed, blond haired boy almost 6 years ago…the joy he has brought into our lives is unbelievable. Our hearts are breaking, but we are home rejoicing that he is healed and he is finally HOME!”

Thank you to Leigh and Ken Johnson with HiLeigh Kentagious for providing the hot air balloon and an afternoon of fun for the Dale family.  Also, a special thank you to Adam + Alli Photography for capturing the beautiful family photographs. 
{Blog by MItchell Walters}
 
 
Sometimes the tastiest foods are served fresh from a truck.  Whether you are craving chocolate, savory BBQ or simply a hot dog, our Mississippi Food Truck Trail has you covered!  Here are a few of our favorite spots across the state.
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
 
 
Happy National Zoo Day!  Mississippi is home to the beloved Jackson Zoo, nestled in the heart of the capital city.  Many Mississippians carry fond memories of the zoo, and it is hard to believe the Jackson Zoo will celebrate 100 years in 2019! 

EJ Rivers of the Jackson Zoo says, “Our focus this year is really trying to spotlight the connection between the planet and the people on it.  We are teaching about conservation, animal extinction, and recycling.  We want to reconnect people with little things they can do at home to better our world!”

The Jackson Zoo has several incredible events coming up that you will not want to miss!

Saturday, April 9th – JSU Day!  From 10:00am until 1:00pm, the Jackson Zoo will be celebrating everything about Jackson State University!  JSU adopted the zoo’s Sumatran Tigers, and students, alumni and families will be enjoy visiting the JSU Tiger Exhibit, a pep rally for JSU including the JSU band and mascot, and kids will love a bounce house and activities! 

On the evening of April 9th, the Jackson Zoo staff will be at the Mississippi Braves game!  The first 250 people to enter the game will receive two free passes to the zoo!! Plus, the MS Braves players will sign their limited edition Jackson Zoo jerseys, which will be auctioned off during the game.

Saturday, April 16th – CU at the Zoo!  Join the Jackson Zoo and the Credit Unions of Mississippi for a fun day filled with crafts, activities, giveaways and of course, animals!  The first 2500 guests will receive free admission! 

Saturday, April 23rd – Party for the Planet and Zoo Day Celebrations!  Sponsored by United Healthcare Community Plan of MS, this will be a wonderful day at the zoo!  Crafts, bounce houses, face painting, special animal encounters, and keeper talks are just part of the fun.  Organizations around the state will share their resources about living more sustainably within our communities. 

“We are about to hit our centennial in 2019.  For almost 100 years, the Jackson Zoo has represented the entire world right here off of 220 and West Capitol Street.  We have been caring for animals and people in the community for a long time,” smiles Rivers.  “We bring the joy of people, animals and the world close to home.  We have never stopped.”

We highly recommend following the Jackson Zoo on social media!  Click here to view their Instagram account.  It features impressive animal photographs taken by the zookeepers themselves!  Click here to “Like” their Facebook page, or follow them on Twitter here!  You can also visit their website at www.jacksonzoo.org

All animal photos courtesy of the Jackson Zoo's Instagram account!  We hope to see you at the Jackson Zoo!
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
 
 
An Evening to Remember:  Dinner Inspired by a Sunset Flight

Aviation is a passion for Daniel Wile.  His mother, Sissie Wile, says, “It is so important to our family.  It started with my husband, Fred, whose favorite hobby is flying airplanes.  My son, Daniel, spent a lot of time at the airport with my husband and earned his pilot’s license at a very young age.”

When it came time to plan Daniel’s rehearsal dinner the evening before marrying Anna Allred, Daniel chose the perfect location:  an airplane hangar in his hometown of Meridian.  

The talented team behind Pretty Presentations converted the hangar into an enchanting venue. Guests were greeted by two of the family’s planes, beautifully adorned with flowers.  Sissie says, “We stayed outside and watched a gorgeous sunset. As we moved to dinner, the hangar became very romantic after dark.  The planes had floor lights beaming from them, and it was completely magical.”

Inside, the hangar was dressed with blue flowers, inspired by the sky on a spring evening.   “We draped the entire hangar, adding a touch of softness against the concrete floor,” reflects Sissie.  Tables were assigned according to airport codes throughout the state of Mississippi, and guests were seated near airports meaningful to them.  Family and friends also feasted on tiny chocolate planes after a delicious dinner.  

“Our rehearsal dinner was incredibly unique.  I was immediately captured by the idea of using the hangar, knowing how important flying is to Daniel and his family,” gushes Anna.  “The hangar was transformed into a truly spectacular setting.”

Vendors:
Venue: Southern Cast Products, Inc.
Photography:  Gamble Martin Photography
Rentals:  Pretty Presentations Rentals
Florist:  World of Flowers
Catering & Bar:  Pretty Presentations Catering
Lighting:  Davaine Lighting
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}