This is what I have to look forward to…

Picture 1Las Vegas is sunny. and I have a sunny personality, and I hate gray skies.  Las Vegas and I will begin our love affair in January. Hallelujah.

Love,

Lauren Ashley

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So Loved…

I’ve never been so bold as to consider myself a writer.  I have always gotten good grades on papers, and never been really insecure about my writing really, but I never really thought it was worth reading to anyone but those who really needed to.

This semester I have been taking a creative non-fiction writing class, and even though it was one of those need-to-graduate-don’t-really-have-a-desire-to-take classes, it has been surprisingly refreshing amidst the hundreds of pages of theology and history I read for my other classes.

and then it turns out that my Professor really kinda likes my writing, and he told me I should try to get my first piece published.

please don’t take this as me gloating, because I promise you that’s not it at all, honestly I am more surprised than anything.  And I am encouraged.  I feel like this could be a new creative endeavor for me, something to connect people and tell stories, which is really all I hope to do with anything creative that comes out of me.  I just want people to be in community, and if they do so via creativity in today’s culture, then I’m all in. create, create, create.

anyway, here’s my first piece.  I think it tells a pretty cool story 🙂

“So Loved”

She took my seat.

I had said farewell to my love to catch a 7:55 flight to Indianapolis that was, of course, delayed, and taken my trek to my perfectly cozy and particularly tight 24 F window seat only to find that she had taken it.

I was peeved at her.

Out of courtesy for the other passengers I kept my kindness and simply held up my boarding pass, “I’m…in…24 F” I said with a confused look that politely and nonverbally said, “can someone please explain to me why my seat is currently occupied?”

She was sitting there, in my seat, with her dangerously short white shorts and low-cut white tank top, scrolling through Facebook on her phone with her long fake-tipped fingernails.  Her bleach blonde hair was so damaged from being stripped of all its color that it looked as though it could break off at any moment, with any punch of turbulence from the airplane.  Her belongings were numerous, skewed all over the tiny space beneath the seat in front of her.  Shopping bags, pink fleece blanket, Coach purse, leopard print travel pillow, all crammed in a miniature space to be somewhat shared by 2 others.

She looked up, realizing the line of boarding passengers had stopped because I was standing there, and attempted to figure out why.  “What?- Ugh, which one is E?- I can’t even see the damn thing!” she spurted out as she climbed to the end of the row to see where she really belonged.  “Fine.  Ill just have to move my stuff in a minute,” she retorted as she moved herself out of the way to let me in.

I quickly curled into my cozy window seat (finally) hoping to not upset her anymore, though I was still peeved at the fact that I even had to deal with her.

I judged her.

“She thinks she’s something special doesn’t she?”

“She probably took the window thinking nobody would say anything and just give it to her, like she deserved it or something.”

“It’s freezing on airplanes, who wears shorts and a tank top?  Real classy, honey.”

I kept judging her.

To pass the time she pulled out her pink iPod to listen to music, just as I was doing with my own iPod, yet hers was so loud I could hear every vulgar word of the rap song in her ear.

I overheard another passenger talking to the woman next to her about having taken the same flight from Cabo, stopping in Dallas for the layover.  I assumed my middle-seat companion must have been there too, given the crafty Central American themed items protruding from her shopping bag.  “She’s probably on her way back home from a crazy party weekend.  How sad that that’s the kind of life she leads,” I thought.

I stared out the window at the rain, just happy to have some time to myself.  I thought about the weekend I’d had, the great church service that morning, and how blessed I was to be loved so intensely.  I put my headphones in and pressed play on the album entitled, “So Loved” by the Autumn Film.  It seemed appropriate for how I was feeling, and the tone of the songs fit the mood with the rain and the quiet attitude of the plane.  I wanted to escape into my own world.

After an hour or so, she rummaged through her multitude of belongings once more to pull out a digital camera.  I glanced over as she scrolled through her pictures from the weekend she had spent with her friends.  Images of her with her girlfriends in scandalous dresses, shots of herself kissing a variety of men.  She stalled on a photo of herself in a bikini so small it could have fit a barbie doll, posed in a seductive manner with pursed lips and high-heels.

My heart broke.

I had been so consumed with my own personal agenda, so bent on judging her without even knowing her name, that I missed the fact that she too is “So Loved.”  It hit me that maybe she didn’t know a life any different.  Maybe she had never known pure love.  She could have grown up in a circumstance where the notion of self-respect and dignity was foreign.  Maybe she had zero clue how much she is worth to Jesus.

I listened to the lyrics of the song as my heart shattered in a million pieces realizing that how I had been to her was the exact opposite of what I claim to be an advocate of- Love.

The story in John chapter 8 of the woman caught in adultery had always been one I had always resonated with.  I would read the words of scripture and identify with the woman, broken and hurting, with tears streaming down her face at her own shame.  I saw myself and my own sin in her story, and rejoiced at the fact that Jesus demonstrated love to her and offered her redemption, saying “Go and sin no more” as the Pharisees stood there judging her.

But as I sat in 24 F, I found myself as a Pharisee, ready to throw my own kind of stone at this girl sitting next to me.  I had failed to recognize that her heart could be as damaged as her blonde hair, or that Jesus offered her the chance to make it as stainless as her white rhinestoned tank top.  In my own mind I selfishly denied her the seat of redemption and grace that Jesus offered her.

I spent the next hour of the plane ride praying for her.

And asking that God would forgive me.

I felt so small.  My thoughts ran in a million directions:

“Who am I to decide where she sits? Whether she sits with Jesus or far from him?  Her seat in the Kingdom is not up to me.”

“I hope someone will one day show her she’s worth more than that.  That she doesn’t have to exploit her looks or her body to be loved.”

“I hope she knows today just how loved she is by a God she may not even know.”

I realized 30,000 feet in the sky just how far the love of Christ reaches.  Not only to the girl sitting next to me, but I realized that it could reach to someone so judgmental and self consumed as myself.  I remembered that his redemption has no limits, no constraints, no judgment.

She took my seat.  But by the time I was finished sitting there, I wished I had simply given it to her, so that she could have seen that she is “So Loved.”

Love,

Lauren Ashley

This Gig is gettin’ real

So my photography has exploded in the last few weeks.  I’ve had tons of shoots, lots of ideas running through my head and I’m having a blast with it.  So now it’s time to make it official. Lauren Ashley Photography is going legit!

I will be booking shoots from now until December-ish at the screaming deal of $100!!  This includes 1-2 hours of shooting on site plus a CD of 20-25 edited images, and also a lot of fun with me! Headshots, couples (engagement or otherwise), kids, families.  I’ll do any of it!

I’ll be posting some more shots on my flickr account from the last few weeks if you’d like to look at some more stuff i’ve done, and I’m willing to work with you on whatever look you’re desiring for the shoot.

Let me know! We’ll have fun 🙂

email: laureneese@gmail.com or just comment on here and i’ll email you back!

love,

Lauren Ashley

Marissa

Ive been waiting all week to tell you guys about Marissa- I wanted to have our photo shoot today before I posted about her so I could have some photos to go with her story- it’s incredible really.

While interning at Crossroads this summer, Marissa came to realize that she cared way too much about what people thought of her.  She was finding her worth in others’ opinions of her, a sort of bondage in its own way.  So she decided to break free, and to do so, she shaved her head.  She sat in a chair while her sweet friend took the clippers to her shoulder length, beautiful brown hair, reading scripture and lamenting a loss while looking forward to freedom ahead.  Her journey has been a tough one, but a liberating one as well.

We took these photos today to capture her beauty, regardless of the length of her hair, and I believe we truly did that.  Here’s a little preview 🙂

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I would love to hear your thoughts!

Love,

Lauren Ashley

Jared and Caitlin

Autumn has fallen in Cincinnati and it is fabulous.  My sweet friend Caitlin just got married last May, and asked me to do some family photos for their Christmas card and really just to celebrate Fall, so today we did! Here’s a preview:

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Love,

Lauren Ashley

Lucky 7 Ranch

I always feel the need to apologize for my lack of posts on here.  Mostly I find it’s just a struggle to put things into words- it means I have to internally deal with things.  I think I would rather just…not. It’s lame and a cop-out but its truth.  SO- as always, I’ll be trying to be better. You have permission to virtually kick my tush if you don’t read many posts in the coming weeks.

on another note- this is the beloved Lucky 7 Ranch (in a few photographs):

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When Justin was a kid, his parents bought a piece of land just shy of 900 acres in Uvalde, TX.  Since Justin is one of 4 Bair children, and has 3 cousins, they named it the Lucky 7 Ranch, working through all legal details to ensure that all 7 kids owned a portion of it.  It’s actually quite cool how it all happened.  Imagine a 9 year old boy learning he owns a huge chunk of land. (probably not as excited at 9 as he would be at 29 ;))

Nonetheless, this place has a nostalgia for the Bair family that’s like no other.  They hunt, they work, they get dirty, they build, they enjoy God’s creation… all TOGETHER.  It’s their place.

The first time I went, I dreaded the dirt and the bugs and whatever else you encounter on that much desert land, but after going a second time I too have grown to love it.  Not because it’s fancy, or because it’s the most aesthetically appealing place, but because it is something they have taken ownership of, something they have poured blood, sweat and tears into, and it is a place they have come to know as a second home.  The way family comes together there is beautiful.  It’s tradition and nostalgia at its best.

I think we all have our places like the Lucky 7 Ranch.  For my family it’s Tablerock Lake.  For some it’s a cabin in the mountains, others it’s a corner of sand on a beach somewhere.  These places are locations where things seem to make sense, places we retreat to away from the normal ordinary life, where our hearts find peace.  These are places we reconnect with God.  Whether the place is beautiful or not, it becomes a beautiful place because of what it does.

May you find your place if you haven’t found it yet.

Love,

Lauren Ashley

more of Meghan

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