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2017: Here’s to the ones who dream

a reflection of 2016, and the outlook it gifted me
Well, that was quite the year. Anyone else?

I think so many times, at the turn of our calendars, we reflect back and see many opportunities, responsibilities, challenges and victories that we are glad to have survived. 2016, for me, was filled with about as many “I would have never guessed” moments as I could have possibly imagined. This year granted me a freedom to turn my palms up and accept this strange, unexpected story He is writing. It’s the type of year I never want to forget, because the layers of His faithfulness are woven in a multitude of ways. So, friend, as much as this blog post will give you a glimpse of my life- I’m writing this for my heart. To remember this place I am in.

I never saw this as my life. I never dreamed entrepreneurship into my story. I’m a natural homebody. I wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom with a dashing husband and the kit and caboodle of kiddos. I have always considered my family (second to my salvation) the biggest blessing the Lord has given me- and I have longed to get to have my own chapter. Voicing that desire is strange in my position. If we’ve had coffee, you’ve probably heard parts of that journey, but I have consciously kept that conversation separate out of respect for my sweet, sweet clients. Their joy is to be celebrated, and celebrated brilliantly.

However, the past year has tugged at my heart to begin sharing more of that story. Telling others more about how He has woven such an unexpected thread into the tapestry of my life through that void. It’s been eight years. Eight years of watching your friends and family meet their spouse, get married and start families. I helped plan many of those celebrations. Can you feel the irony? It’s slaps thick on my heart, like a sticky, bittersweet molasses. But this year, I saw a peek into the lessons He has taught me in the wilderness. He stretched me to grow, learn and dream in ways I never expected.

In about a three week time-span last January, my life went about 180 degrees in a different direction. Standing in a convention center in Orlando, I received back-to-back phone calls. The first was from the lovely team at Southern Weddings asking me to be involved in an editorial for V9. It was a five year bucket list item for me, as their magazine consistently points our clients towards their marriage instead of the wedding.

And then another call—a friend calling to tell me that a simple conversation about our little town the previous September had brought my name to mind. The Community Redevelopment Agency in Lakeland was looking for someone to spearhead a brand new project. By the end of the week, I was watching blueprints roll out in front of me, mapping out the details of a dream that was far too immense for my mind to grasp. It’s still legitimately laughable to me, to be honest.

I remember chatting with my dad after the meeting, in complete amazement but also certain that I didn’t want to take on the whole project that they had proposed. I wanted to stay on my (relatively) safe, simple & comfortable path. I was following the footsteps of other successful planners & designers, as they formed their businesses and this wasn’t anywhere on that life map. Opening that door meant that I would be tied to Lakeland. That the single life that I wrestle with would be further tied to a tiny town. To be totally honest, it terrified me (still does). It also meant I would be diving headfirst into a new arena that I felt superbly under-qualified to manage. But the more I prayed about it, I realized that this opportunity was meant for me. And I pitched to a board a vision that I barely could grasp myself.

And they said yes.

Then, two weeks later, I (literally) fall down a mountain and tear my ACL (and MCL + meniscus… but who’s counting?). I conduct two weddings in a row on crutches. Surgery and then six months of rehabilitation. I couldn’t drive for two months and experienced many carpool vans. I was physically incapable in a season that I had been handed more responsibility than ever before. “How was the Southern Weddings shoot?” you ask. I wrote about the whole “I’m on crutches and meds at the biggest photoshoot of my career” moment at the bottom of this post. I learned a whole lot about imperfection, grace and mercy last year.

And life progressed.

I think I can hear Him chuckling to Himself. “Duh, Laura. You weren’t given this year so that you could learn how capable you have become over the past eight years as a single person. This year was a gift to show you how capable I am. To show you that you are only to do the next thing to the best of your ability and trust me to fill in the gaps.”

Oof.

Hot tears sting my eyes as I think about this realization. Because I doubt I would have ever heard that lesson (or at least as loudly) if I had that dashing husband to aid in my rescue.

Learning that lesson in such a big way encouraged me to start looking for Him to provide in even the smallest ways. Sometimes those gaps are just recognizing the blessing of an unexpected five minutes to get from place A to place B and serve my clients well. Sometimes those gaps are the hands He puts around you to get the job done—to remind you of the need for community. It’s freeing friends. To dream, and trust and watch.

So, you may ask- where did 2016 leave us?
For the sake of your sanity, I’ll give you a brief rundown.

  1. The most successful year yet of Ashton Events (in so many ways!)
  2. We welcomed Heather McBride into our AE team, and grew our event support staff to 15.
  3. We’re opening a brand new office + floral studio for Ashton Events in Spring 2017. (YOU GUYS!!!)
  4. I started another company which will be operating Lakeland’s newest venue (Haus 820). It’s an old, gigantic warehouse with loads of original, industrial features. It is magical in countless ways, but mainly the white brick and the fact that it can host up to 500 seated guests!
  5. Our team is shifting to help manage both companies. Sarah Nederveld (our curent lead assistant) will become Haus 820’s Director of Operations, and we’ve got a few new smiling faces joining our team in this first quarter. I cannot wait to introduce you to them!
  6. I’ve (finally) created a personal IG account. Part of this is to juggle the two companies, but also to share more my story and journey. Feel free to join me over there, just be forewarned: I sure do love my niece & nephew.
  7. I’ll be running both companies and taking more time this year to go on adventures. To create space to breathe and absorb.
  8. My goals for 2017? To be a steward of all of the above and to dream just a bit bigger every day.

I went to see La La Land with my mom and sisters over Christmas break (if you haven’t seen it yet, please go!). One of the main songs talks about being bold enough to dream, and the messiness of it. And during the movie, my mom reached over and grabbed my arm with a knowing glance. I about burst into tears. It’s when this year sunk in for me. He gave me a story that I wasn’t expecting last year. And taught me that dreaming isn’t about competency, it’s about willingness.