10,000 Women of Joy!

Well, I’m trying to think of a more eloquent way to put it, but all that comes to mind is, “we did it!”

By “it,” I mean performing for 10,000 women at The Women of Joy Conference in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee last weekend. I was told there’d be 9,000 women at the event, which was already enough to make me squirm a little, but upon arrival I was corrected, “it’s actually about 10,000 women, only about a 1,000 more, so no big deal!” 😂.

When I first walked in and saw the venue space, I could not wrap my head around it, the chairs spread so far and so wide that not even a picture could capture it all. Surely the whole place won’t be full, I thought, but I thought wrong. The whole place packed out, women from all over the southeast and midwest, hungry for a girls’ weekend, a spiritual encounter and hopefully, a few laughs.

So that’s the “it” that we did: a show that size, for an hour, laughing all the way. And when I say “we,” I mean I absolutely could not have done it alone. We did it. First, my husband, Josh, who was with me every step of the way from the booking process to the week leading up to as I tried to prepare mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. After all, it takes a lot of work to make it look easy on stage!

Along with Josh goes a handful of people like my sister, Betsy, who joined us for the whole weekend, helped at the merch table and provided an overall sense of fun in the midst of what felt like a lot of pressure. She loved meeting all the ladies and by the end of the night she was signing copies of my book 🤣.

I’d never seen anything like it before, women and girls of all ages waited in line to get a copy of my book signed, grab a picture or just thank me for the laughter. Some waited more than an hour, many of whom met Josh and Betsy and enjoyed their company while waiting. By the time women reached me for a signature, Betsy and Josh had both signed the inside front cover… it was like signing a yearbook with some of my favorite people.

People kept thanking me for staying around, but I was the one who was grateful people would even want to wait to talk to me, let alone get a picture with me. My middle school self was thriving! “See kiddo,” I whispered back to her, “you’ll be alright, middle school is tough, hang in there!” The show ended at 9:30pm and we didn’t leave the venue until 11:45pm when the last person left. I was absolutely floored.

We went back the next day to sell more books and meet more people, we spent another four hours just talking with women and girls from all over, each with their own stories; some of struggle, some of triumph, all grateful to have had a break from it all just to laugh. “You inspire me to be myself,” one girl said, and that right there was worth it all.

Along with Betsy and Josh was my mom, who had been praying for me everyday since she first found out about me performing at Women of Joy. “I’m praying twice a day now, and so are my girls,” she said the week of the show (her girls are the ladies she prays with), “see, it’s not so bad to be on a southern lady’s prayer chain!” It was a clever jab at one of my jokes about prayer chains being a righteous way to gossip.

Other friends and family members joined in with encouragement and prayer as well. My dad and my mother-in-law often sent messages of encouragement or GIFS of love. Friends sent me voice memos and videos with words of support. Debbie, the woman who booked me and organized the whole weekend encouraged me like no other event planner/booker I’ve encountered. She cared, and she wanted me there, which made all the difference in the world for any amount of anxiety or nerves I might have felt leading up to it… I belonged there, and starting from a place of belonging versus trying to fit in is a game changer.

It’s not to say other comedy shows, producers and organizers haven’t been great, many have, but the spiritual piece is not something I’ve often encountered in the comedy world. I am neither a church comedian nor a club comic. I enjoy parts of both, but don’t fully resonate with either. I’m still in the middle of both my spiritual journey and my comedy journey. Social Media traps people into thinking they can’t grow any more, at least not in a public space. People think they need to find their audience and present their stance on everything they’ve “figured out.” While Comedy requires an audience, my goal in life is not to have an audience, and I certainly don’t have it all figured out. It’s an odd place to be… to still be growing, especially in public.

In some ways I still have a lot of healing to do from the church, unfortunately many people do, but unlike a number of “90s Christians” who’ve had some kind of awakening and decide to throw the baby out with the bath water, I simply can’t throw it all out. The church is still a wound for me, but I also still ache for the heart of Jesus and how He loves us. I still look for Him… in clubs, in churches, in theaters and bars… I’ve seen Him in all of the above, sometimes in the most unassuming of places. I’ve also wondered where He was, sometimes especially in the church.

Are you there, God? It’s me, JJ!

I’ve been welcomed into churches and welcomed into clubs. I’ve also been “not a favorite” at churches and “not a favorite” at clubs. That’s life, some people will get ya, and some people won’t, and it’s okay. Even in my attempts to look for one, I’ve always had a hard time “finding my audience,” I just enjoy making people laugh, I don’t care who they are (I am a marketer’s worst nightmare). But, whether making fun of my own insecurities, oddities about the church, or just overall awkwardness of life, it’s like my sister Betsy said after my weekend with Women of Joy, “well, looks like you found your audience: 10,000 recovering Baptist women!”

The best part was I never went looking for that particular audience. Through the ebb and flow of life we all just found ourselves there, relating to each other, perhaps not about everything, but enough to see the good and enjoy each other’s company.

And so, another part of the “we” would have to be all the women who were there at Women of Joy (not all of whom were Baptist, I loved hearing one woman claim her Catholicism while able to jokingly add, “who else was going to bring the crippling guilt?” 🤣🤣. People who can laugh at themselves, I guess that’s my audience.

Hearing that many women laugh in unison was electric, almost unworldly. It was the first time it ever occurred to me that I hope Heaven has a comedy club. Maybe I will actually get to see Robin Williams perform one day, Gilda Radner too. I’m still unlearning a lot about church and relearning a lot about God, so I can’t claim to know much, but I do know that God has a sense of humor, and I think He gave me a dash of it, or at least lets me use it from time to time.

Even if I never get to experience anything like this past weekend again, I will forever be grateful that I got to experience it on this side of life.

“Thank you, God,” is something I mutter from time to time, whether as a sigh of relief or finally finding a parking spot. But as the last (not least) part of my “we,” I mean it sincerely when I say, thank you, God, that I did not go it alone, nor did I lose my sense of self, in the vastness of it all.

We did it.

Deleted Pages: Childhood Home

In the same way that movies have deleted scenes, so do books have deleted pages and passages that got rifled out through the editing process. I want to occasionally share some thoughts that lingered for a while in between the pages of my book “it’s called a spade,” but for one reason or another, didn’t quite make it to publication.

Today’s passage is about my childhood home, and while I was able to process some of it in my book, I think perhaps I found a better way to say it than this original copy that felt more like being much too old for pouting. Perhaps that’s okay though, perhaps now that I’m five years older, I can let my younger self have the permission she felt she needed to pout… even if that younger self was actually 32.

I think we’re always in the process of growing, even once we’re “grown up,” and I think that’s okay as life throws us curve balls we aren’t always prepared for. I think 2020 is a great example of a curve ball for which none of us were prepared for.

For now, a deleted page that remains a memory I am finally at peace with.

The Barrows Bunch (Please note the matching tee shirts! Ahh to be naive again!)

It feels like my childhood home is being ripped right out from under me. It is only now at 32 that I am beginning to accept I won’t get my childhood back. I’ve realized it long before now, but accepting it is a whole different ballgame I wasn’t prepared to play. In many ways I don’t want my childhood back, perhaps parts of it, like the innocence, the pizza parties, the beach games and make believe worlds in the woods behind our house, but other parts of it I’m quite glad I don’t have to relive. And even though I know time travel to be as silly as Kanye being president, part of me deep down has always hoped I could go back and do things differently.

“If only I had known then what I know now,” who hasn’t thought this? I’m sure there’s a country song or jazz ditty with this line in it. I’ve held onto this thought so tightly that for quite some time I have always thought things were going to be different. I’ve always thought I would get a second chance, not realizing adulthood was my second chance. I pay my own bills and drive my own car and complain about the government and do all the things that adults do now, but outside of engaging in those adult responsibilities, I don’t feel like an adult. I don’t know what an adult is supposed to feel like. It is safe to say that up until this morning I have been functioning very much like a child, waiting for everything to turn out right, wanting someone else to do everything for me and hoping for a better ending to the story.

I’m helping my mother pack up the place we called home for over 30 years and it dawned on me this morning as I laid on the couch that we weren’t playing pretend and we weren’t going to get our house back. Much like my childhood, the place I called home for so long is going to be a thing of the past.

Perhaps I only just now realized I wasn’t going to get my second chance at doing things all over again because my house was the last thing left from my childhood still lingering in the present. I knew I could always go back home no matter where I was or how hard things got, and home was the physical location of the house I grew up in.

Some people and plaques say that home is where the heart is, or where you park it, or where you make it. Some people say home isn’t a place but a people. I agree with all of those things, sort of, but mostly because I know it in my head to be true, not because I feel it. Home has always been the house at the end of Gray Mans Loop in Pawleys Island, SC because it is the only home I have ever lived in. And while it might be the people inside the house who make up the home, what do you do when the people split up and go live different places?

My siblings all grew up and moved away, which is to be expected of siblings, but when my mother and father split up after 30 years of marriage, my family didn’t feel like home anymore, mostly because none of it was familiar to me. The only thing that remained stable after my parents split was the house I grew up in, and so it remained home even after the people in it came and went. 

Even though I moved out of the house after high school, it was always there, always an option, always a safe place to retreat to. I could always run home. Knowing it would always be there also meant I never actually went there. It was more of a last resort, especially after my parents split up. It’s weird to walk into a familiar place with a new vibe. It’s confusing to look around and recognize everything but feel nothing. It’s confusing to be at home and not feel at home no matter where you go. 

—————————–


To be honest, that was as far as I got in that thought process, and I’m still not sure I have resolve for it. I am at peace with it, but I don’t necessarily have any more answers now than I did then.

Time has allowed me to adjust to my new normal and it no longer hurts the way it used to. There are still moments that sting from time to time, but I’ve realized that’s okay. Nothing in this world is as it was intended to be and sometimes we will feel the sting of it… some worse than others. I have no remedies or how-to solutions. I have no motivational quotes for you or I to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. Perhaps there’s a time for that, I honestly don’t know. I just know that sometimes life kinda sucks. It’s still beautiful, but it doesn’t always feel that way.

Today, I’m good (I think I’m technically supposed to say “well,” but I like using “good,” I hate when people correct that!). And I suppose that’s all I need for right now. My hope is that you are good too, and that you recognize that simple state of being good as a gift.

And if you aren’t, I hope good times are ahead… trust that they are. This life isn’t all bad (even if it feels that way sometimes).

“it’s called a spade” can be purchased at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com