"There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind." C.S. Lewis
 A year of stewarding a vision well (or trying to). A year of learning balance. A year of tremendous triumphs and trip-up trials. My first full year of sole ownership at this little shop. My year of white hair. As I sit here, just days away from 2018, I reflect and share a little bit of this shop girl life.
Last year, just a few months into my sole ownership journey, I wrote a raw, honest year in review for 2016, and in doing so, I realized how important it is to share your story - the good and the bad. Re-reading that year in review in preparation for this year's post, I remembered how deeply trying last year was for me - personally and with the business. It was year of immense growing pains, and beautiful surrender. And now, looking at 2017, I can see chapters of celebration and of mourning, of loneliness and of community, of success and of failure. But in each chapter, in moment, I can also see God's hand on it all.
While I've never been one for New Year's resolutions, I've always been a deep feeler, a slow processor, and an over-sharer. But this year, I've learned to seek wisdom while sitting in grace. (I've learned unspeakable amounts about grace this year.) And that means not always sharing every thought or feeling, but discerning the sharing, the expression, and the timing. So here at the end of many months of discerning, processing, and listening, here I go.
2017 Praise Dances
In my first full year of solo lady boss-ness, I’ve been blessed with tremendous triumphs, and here are just a few noteworthy praises:
The shop won Best of C-VILLE for a 3rd consecutive year for Best Consignment Shop, AND was Runner-Up for Best Female-Owned Business, which was a HUGE affirmation for me in this lady boss journey.
I stepped out more in my passion for styling and collaborated with two Virginia bloggers - Carrie of Dream Green DIY and Megan of Sweet Sauce. Looking forward to many more style collaborations and stylist opportunities in 2018!
Darling Boutique now hosts over 40 local artisans, doubling 2016's numbers and bringing the shop to almost half consignment (secondhand) and half new (handmade locally).
This year has been the biggest yet for local collaborations, from almost weekly pop-up shops with local artisans to regular photo shoots with my main squeeze, Tristan Williams, to helping foster a community of fellow boss babes called Boss Babes Cville.
I'm humbled by this shop's growth, record sales and affirmation after affirmation, and how, even when I've stumbled, strayed, forgotten, forced, God has always been 100 trillion steps ahead of me. He's brought me attitude adjustments just when I need it most, in the form of kind customers or friendly faces (the amount of treats I've had dropped off at the store this year is staggering and my waistline thanks all those friends for keeping me fed and caffeinated). He's brought me helpers, interns, shop girls --- wonderful darlings to run this shop alongside me, and be dear community in what the enemy often wants to paint as isolating work (shout out to Meredyth, Savannah, Abby, Abbi, and Jillian --- the latter 2 who I still need to introduce on the blog!). He's reminded me that it's not in the long hours of hard work, and especially NOT in the striving, that reaps the greatest rewards. It's in the slowing down, the letting go, the surrendering. It's in less of me and and what I want and more in trusting Him and what He has for me.
I had a regular consignor and customer ask me earlier this year was accounts for the growth of the business - specifically, from her point-of-view, the high quality of consignment. She suggested advertising and word-of-mouth or aesthetic changes to the business, but all I could think of was this: consistency. In a year of storm after storm in the cultural climate of our country, our city, and among my brothers and sisters, I've learned much about humble, quiet consistency. Steadfastness. That was my word for 2017. And while I most certainly wasn't steadfast... He was.
2017 Lessons Learned
And here's where the grace comes in. It's okay to celebrate. It's okay to be proud of accolades and accomplishments and record-breaking sales. But as with every season, there's a time and there's a place. And thankfully, a crap ton of grace.
Grace allows us to learn. To process. To change. To grow. Without grace, we stay the same. And this year, I needed A LOT of grace. Here are some lessons I learned while seeking wisdom, sitting in grace.
I'm not meant to do this alone.
Phew. This one. I may be a sole owner, but I am not meant to do this alone. I am not alone. I am not alone. I am not alone. I am surrounded. I'm partnering in this vision with GOD. I mean, come ON. And not only has God smacked me in the face with that truth again and again and again this year, but He's also told me to delegate - to understand the value of my time and how He wants me to spend it. And how to let others in to the shop and the business so I can start rearranging what is on my plate. He needs me to do this to be available and ready to do what He has next.
"Work from a place of rest, not for rest."
This is a quote my dear friend Lauren Stonestreet shared with me over a year ago. And it's a concept I have chewed on like a cow in a field for-ev-er. God's taught me much about rest this year, and I've failed time and time again at living a life well-rested and ready. But it's a lifestyle I hope to continue to grow in in 2018. And thankfully, have amazing friends like Lauren to share wisdom and truth along the journey. For more of her wisdom on rest, check out her blog.
Stay Present in the Work.
Too often I let the work distract me from being present in the shop - especially with customers. Too often I wasn't sensitive enough to what God was doing until it smacked me in the face, or it slipped right past me. This is one I pray about often, and struggle with almost daily. Pay Attention, Stay Present. Stay Awake. A reminder as I look ahead to 2018.
For me, finding work-life balance was a huge challenge in 2017. Ask my boyfriend. Ask any friend or family member. Finding balance between the shop, the work, the to-do's and "life" was not easy. But I'm happy to say, here at the end of 2017, I'm in a better place than I was a few months ago. I have a better handle of balancing the business ownership with the rest of my life. Because I've learned that I am so much more than just a shop owner. That's just part of my identity. God doesn't know us by our accolades, our titles, or the words that surround our names. He knows us by our name. To him, I am Linnea - daughter. And God has so much for me in this rich, beautiful life.
The importance of self-care.
More on this in January, as I have been learning and processing much on this topic, and want to share what self-care means to me. But first, let me go reset for the new year with a mini-vacay in Asheville next week for my 2nd Annual Girl Boss Rest, Reset, and Renew for the New Year trip. I'll be back with much to say on the topic, I'm sure.
Duh, right? Wrong. In a social climate of sharing every-little-thing, with every opinion and voice louder than the next, listening is hard. Really hard. This year challenged me greatly when it came to listening. I was challenged more than ever to fight for stillness, for silence so I could hear the voice of God speak louder. I was challenged to quiet my own opinions and thoughts in the racially charged climate of Charlottesville and our country this year to learn, to understand, to change. I had to listen before I could speak. And I'm so used to just speaking, the gift-of-gab gal that I am. I had to re-learn to listen, and how to listen well.
August 12, 2017 was my one year anniversary of sole ownership. It was also a day that shook Charlottesville with horrific violence and hatred. And I had a front seat at my shop's door. The normal rhythm of rest that comes with Labor Day and the late Summer lull never happened - at least for me. Instead, a charged energy triggered by the disturbance in our city carried over into my Holiday season. And it's taken me months of processing, praying, and listening to feel a reset in my rhythm. And I still haven't fully. August 12 changed me, in ways I still don't even know how to express or comprehend. All I know is this: "Be still. And know that I am God." Because even still, He is God, and He is good.
I've been slow to speak, to act since the events in Charlottesville. But in my listening, especially to my heavenly Father, one thing has been made crystal clear: God is elevating the store. After August 12, I realized I spent my first year of sole ownership looking in - inside the four walls of this shop as I made changes and focused on growth, and inside myself as I was challenged in this new chapter of my life. And God has made it clear: it's time to look outward, to see Darling as a piece of this greater community.
My shop is in the heart of Downtown Charlottesville. I've known since He placed this vision on my heart 3 years ago this shop will be a beacon of light and love in this community. This year, He deepened the call on my heart to sew into this city, through this shop. He's refining my purpose, bit-by-bit, piece-by-piece, giving me just what I need, and who I need, when I need it. I'm awake. I'm listening.
There's so much untapped light breaking through the cracks of our wounds in Charlottesville. There's so much love breaking through, community yet unreached, ways He wants to use this shop - and me - to do His work of healing and restoration. What He has next may not look like "success" in the world's eyes or win any accolades. But I'm expectant of the work He has next for this shop, this community, for me to do.
And I know - I've learned - I won't be alone in the work. I'll be partnering with people in the community. I'll be reaching out, building bridges, collaborating - and I'll just be one of many. The shop will be a piece of a much bigger puzzle. And even if I can't see the final image on the puzzle, I'm so grateful to know and trust the puzzle-maker.
What He has for Darling, and for me, is longterm. It's a life's work, and He is the sole way to sustain the work, to build the vision. It's not a bandaid or a cast - it's an entirely new body. And that brings me a thrill of Hope.
A friend spoke to me recently about the sacredness of our individual stories, our journeys, and I realized in that moment, I could never have planned to be where I am today. Heck, I didn't even dream it. God did. He planned it. He planted the seed, the vision, the dream in my heart. He created it for me, and me for it. And He's equipping me to do it.
So here's to our sacred stories, darlings, to our journeys, to our dreams, to our hopes, to wisdom and to grace. Here's to 2018.