This month, I decided I needed a fresh start. I put on the train brakes and I declared August, “Intentional August.” Read all about Intentional August here (and be sure to sign up for my next newsletter that comes out on September 2).

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We took a wonderful family vacation last week to Beaches in Jamaica. So grateful for that time with my little family.

August has been good. Re-focusing has been needed. But, when you start to peel back layers to get to your heart, more layers appear. When you start clearing the clutter of life, the water starts to turn crystal blue and start to see there is so much to explore at the bottom. I am still not where I’d like to be. My plate is still full. A huge travel schedule looms ahead of me and I wonder, “How did I get here?” Emily, Gina, Natalie and I have a group text string every day to encourage each other and ask for prayer throughout the day. Yesterday, we were all in the same place – overwhelmed with “good” things. And it hit me – too much good is still too much.

Welcome to my slightly scattered post. I am just writing this as the thoughts come because my heart feels like it’s going to overflow today. Thanks in advance for listening…

As I’ve worked hard to be more intentional — to live on purpose — God is teaching me and showing me things and a lot of it is challenging. You see, we all keep going and going, building and growing, reaching for the “next” and the “best” and even “better.” And you know what? We see some dreams realized and then it’s off to seek more more and more. We are never content because our culture tells us to keep pushing for the next level. I do think we should press forward and make big things happen, but the RIGHT things. A thought to challenge your heart today: maybe what the world tells you is “great” is actually very small in the big picture. Maybe there is a better goal.

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Maybe I am the only one who sees and feels this, but there has to come a point where you make a decision to say NO to something… even something good. It’s relatively easy to say no to things you don’t want, right? But, when lots of “good” things happen at once, things can get a little cray-zay in the decision-making department. It starts to get really hard to say no. Lots of “good” can knock on your door all at once and suddenly it’s completely and totally overwhelming. Like if all of your best friends showed up at your door at once and you only had 10 minutes to spend with all of them. You would be able to have little conversations with a few and maybe a hug or two, but 10 minutes of great conversation with ONE friend would have likely been so much sweeter and more meaningful.

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Our sweet class coloring together : ) Can you spot Grace?

Teaching Sunday School has been teaching me this lesson. We have between 10-15 two-year-olds each week. If I try to focus on the class as a whole, I leave feeling scattered and like I haven’t affected any of those little hearts. But, when I intentionally spend quality time with just a few sweet littles, I feel God working. I see eyes light up and the tiny conversations I have with them fill me to the brim with gratitude. We can change people’s lives when we slow down to focus on what’s right in front of us, one thing at a time.

And, so… the word “savor” keeps coming to the front of my mind. Savor: to enjoy something completely. Life moves so fast. People pass through our days so quickly. And, as much as I try — and oh do I try — I cannot be everything for everyone. I try so hard because I want everyone I meet to feel valued and taken care of. I want people to feel God’s love and grace. And yet I fail time and time again. I cannot please everyone, but I’m learning that I can savor time with a few and make it very meaningful. The same goes for sunsets and summer fireflies, ice cream and a cool breeze. I could enjoy them all at once, but focusing on savoring just one is so much sweeter and fills my soul to overflowing… which pours right back onto others.

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This is when I told her she was going to meet Elmo!

My September calendar is jam-packed, as I’m sure many of yours are too. There is one week where I have three speaking engagements within 48 hours (!!!), two of them out-of-state. (Side note: I’d LOVE to meet many of you at the Influence Conference, Americasmart VOWS, the Magazine Association of the Southeast’s Gala, and at the local ISES NC meeting.) Oh, and this is magazine layout month. For those of you that may not know, Nicole and I do all the magazine layout for Southern Weddings : ) I could list more, but I am choosing to focus on how I can make the most of what I have in front of me and how I can be GRATEFUL for all of it. One of the things I’m so grateful for is the live webinar that Emily Ley and I are doing on September 12th. We’ll be talking about small-is-the-new-big business, authentic branding and LIFE – how we balance our time and (through many mistakes and challenges) how we’ve tried to make what matters happen over the years. Early-bird ends this Friday.

I want to savor this next month, so I am deeming it #SavorSeptember. I want to savor the things that get trampled by my multitasking: the Word, prayer, Grace singing “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” in the shower, friendships that I don’t make enough time for, my amazing sweet husband, the feeling of fall rolling in, the smell of the tomato leaves in my garden and the roses by our fence that I haven’t stopped to smell in forever. I want to savor this life God has given me so I can reflect gratitude right back to Him and pour love out onto others.

I want to be still and savor even the tiniest moments. Each moment is a gift. Each breath. And many times, God meets me there in the tiny moments. This post has been ringing in my heart all month.

“But there are moments in between life’s obligations when we are in the presence of our loved ones that can be made sacred.”

I love this and yet I and starting to long for more than moments.

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Great Day Plate from Emily

And so, I come to the biggest thing on my heart lately: Grace. I have prayed all year about homeschooling Grace when she gets to pre-school age. It’s been on my heart for so long. In order to do that, I would need the time. And in order to get the time, that means I need to start saying no — even to good things.

And this is where I stop. I just don’t know how to do that. I don’t have a plan yet or any clue as to how a new balance of work + homeschooling (or even another baby or an adopted child in the future) might come to life, but I trust that God has a great plan. A very good one.

He has made far bigger things happen in my life.

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Grace on the beach last week. She didn’t want to let go of the balloons someone gave her, so we tied them to her sand toys : )

In the spirit of Intentional August and “done is better than perfect,” I leave you with this simple thought to close this imperfect spur-of-the-moment post:

When you give Him everything, you will lack nothing.

Here’s to trying my best, thought I expect to fail a hundred times over, to savor what He has given me: the big business milestones, shower songs and little moments in between. Right after I hit “publish” on this post, I’m stopping to set myself up for success and get focused on what matters as I fill out my September PowerSheets. I hope you will join me for #SavorSeptember, friends. I look forward to being inspired by you.

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Warning: mega post packed with goodness! Grab a tall glass of sweet tea and enjoy : )

I wrote a series on Goal Setting & Setting Yourself Up for Success at the start of this year because I got really tired of NOT making progress on the things that matter most.  In fact, I realized I didn’t know what truly mattered most to me.  I didn’t want to end another year with regret about things I could have accomplished if I had just taken tiny steps along the way to make them happen.  I got really tired of looking back and realizing how much time I wasted on worry and things that distracted me from my purpose.  I started this year with one main goal in mind and several that branch out from it: to know God more and walk in His ways.  I wanted to finally do the things I’ve always had on my heart to do.  I wanted to make LIFE happen. Turns out, a lot of you felt the same way.

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I updated you with my first round of progress on April 10 and our second update was supposed to be on July 10th.  I didn’t forget about it, but I have had a really hard time writing this post for some reason.  I started to write this update and suddenly felt stuck — like I had nothing to report on.  Then, over the last weeks, God has been breaking me down to see just how much change has happened in my heart since the start of this year.. and how much more growing I need to do.  If you read my newsletter this month, you know it’s been a crazy time!  I needed to put the train brakes on to slow down and realize that I have made a lot happen, through God’s amazing guidance, the last four months.

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Photo by Faith Teasley.  Be sure to sign up for my next newsletter to see our full office tour on September 1!

So much has happened since my last update!  A few highlights…

– We hosted an amazing Making Things Happen Conference.  We’re so excited about the next one in October.
– We bought our house — praise the Lord!  Well, the bank technically bought it, but we are paying the mortgage : )
– I wrote a book 46-page proposal and it was accepted.  More on that later…
– Ari interviewed for and started his new job.  He officially and Interventional Radiologist and Professor at UNC.  I’m so proud of him!
– We said farewell to Susan and welcomed Meredith into our family. Meredith has been a dream come true and moved all the way from Norman, Oklahoma to be with us! Read her inspiring blog.
– We interviewed and hired Lisa, who celebrates one month with us today!
– Nicole celebrated 3+ years with us and renewed her contract (with some bribing – see here), Emily celebrated 4 years, Marissa celebrated 3+ years and Kristin celebrated her first wonderful year with us!
– I spoke at Engage! and Americasmart.
Emily and I worked with 22 incredible branding clients.
– We launched lots of new shop products.
– Ari and I took a week of “stay-cation” and had a great visit with his mom.  Our stay-cation included a trip to the Piggly Wiggly — definitely a highlight!
– I read a book that changed my life.
– I took 2 weeks completely off of social media.
– Ari and I started teaching Sunday School.
– We also shared the story of our marriage – the good and the challenging – live on camera.
– We celebrated the one year anniversary of my dad’s baptism.  God is amazing!
– We said farewell to some great friends.  We miss you Thom and Bek!
– We launched the Southern Weddings and Lara Casey monthly newsletters.
– I planted a garden and fell in love with gardening (and got stung by a poisonous caterpillar familywhat!?).
– I had the biggest business meeting of my life.  More to come on that in a few months.
– Gracie continues to make my heart so full every day.  That is definitely a highlight.
– We celebrated five years of Southern Weddings with lots of favorites from the last wonderful years:  favorite editorials, real weddings, SW ladies, behind-the-scenes goodness, amazing photographs and our growth.  God is good!

My motto as of late: nothing measured, nothing managed.  My bulletin board is below.  This phrase has stuck with me lately because I tend to operate in the opposite way — I naturally prefer to live impulsively and coast through life rather than having a solid plan.  When I have a plan and a goal, it means I have to commit to something and there is a chance I could fail, so my natural tendency has been to shy away from goals.  Anyone else ever feel this way?

You know where this whole “Make it Happen” thing came from in the first place?  Because I had to say that phrase to myself constantly to get motivated. When I was in college, my course load was 56 credit hours per semester.  I had to kick my own tail to make things happen constantly.  I still do.  Over time, I’ve gone from being a coaster to a doer.  This is not “natural” for me.  If you’re in the same boat, welcome : )

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I’ve come to see that you have to have clear goals and be able to measure your progress to keep moving forward.  I need accountability or things don’t happen.  Leave me to my own devices and I’ll get distracted.  That’s why I made the PowerSheets and have devoted a good portion of my life to learning how to make things happen and teaching others to do the same.  Life is too short to coast.

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The basics of how to make things happen (read the goal setting posts below for much more!):

1. In order to make progress on anything, you have to first be honest with yourself about where you are.  Face the reality of where you are — with a heaping dose of grace for yourself — and ask God what you need to do next.  Is what you’re doing right now to make your goals happen working?  If not, redirect and take action on a better plan.  Be honest and gentle with yourself.  Progress, not perfection.

2. Next, dig deep to define what your goals/next action steps are. The difference between a dream and a goal is that a goal has a plan.  In order to set great goals — goals you will want to accomplish — you have to get specific and get to the core of WHY you want to make them happen.

3. Then, DO something about your goals.  You must take physical action.  Physical action is different than thinking about things.  This isn’t rocket science, but making things happen takes hard work.  Your goals must be more important than your excuses.  Are they?

4. And then, finally, you must measure your progress.  Whether you use my PowerSheets or you use a journal, use something.  Nothing measured, nothing managed.

If you are stumbling on my blog for the first time, or if you need to start fresh, below are the links to get you moving. It doesn’t matter that it’s August. It’s NEVER to late to do what matters and start LIVING. Today is the day — YOUR day to start making it happen, to get back on track, or to choose a new track entirely!

View More: http://annakphotography.pass.us/laracasey

GOAL SETTING + MAKING THINGS HAPPEN

GOAL SETTING FOR 2013, Part 1
GOAL SETTING FOR 2013, Part 2
GOAL SETTING FOR 2013, Part 3
GOAL SETTING FOR 2013, Part 4
GOAL SETTING FOR 2013, Part 5
MAKING THINGS HAPPEN IN 2013: CLEAR THE CLUTTER
MAKING THINGS HAPPEN IN 2013: PREPARE FOR GREATNESS
MAKING THINGS HAPPEN IN 2013: TAKE A BREAK!
MAKING THINGS HAPPEN IN 2013: NAME YOUR FEAR
MAKING THINGS HAPPEN IN 2013: CREATE BOUNDARIES
MAKING THINGS HAPPEN IN 2013: ENCOURAGE OTHERS
MAKING THINGS HAPPEN IN 2013: THE BIG LIST

If you started with me on your goal setting in January or even if you’re new here (welcome!), I’d love to hear about your progress, big or small. The goal is PROGRESS NOT PERFECTION. Honest updates will help you move forward. So, weigh in below. I hope to encourage you or pray for you. And you just might inspire someone else with your comment!

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Today is Awesome Confetti notepads available here.

GIVEAWAY:  As motivation for you, I’m giving away a set of PowerSheets (if you already have a set, you can give them to a friend who needs a boost or you can have anything in my shop up to $35!)!  So, comment on this post and fill me in on your goals and/or your progress so far this year! Why am I doing a giveaway to encourage you to comment?  Because when we write things out and put them in black and white, stuff happens.  You can keep your dreams to yourself or you can be accountable and DO something about them.  I want to help you be accountable!  We’ll check in again on your goal progress on October 10th and then at the end of the year. Mark your calendars.

First, a couple big things I learned overall. As I wrote in January and in April, goals change! I’ve continued to update my goals using my PowerSheets to mirror the change I’ve felt in my heart the last few months.  It is so important to evaluate your goals and check your focus often.  The second big thing I’ve learned (I also said this in my April update and it has continued to hold true!) is that, the more prayerful I am in my decisions, the more radically God changes my path and takes me to places I never thought possible! His plans never fail. I am impulsive by nature, so this has been a huge change and an enormous blessing to practice prayerful decision-making.

OK, let’s do this update, people!  (more…)

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One of my PowerSheets Weekend Tending List goals has been to bake for one of the sweet ladies who just moved into the retirement community a few weeks ago.  Her name is Phyllis and she came out one morning when Gracie and I were walking to introduce herself.  She said she loves seeing us walk by every day.  “Having a little youth in the neighborhood is such an encouragement.”  She and her husband just moved here to Chapel Hill.  Can you imagine?  Moves are hard at any age, but a cross-country move has to be a little tougher for our silver-haired friends.

To show her some Southern hospitality, I was planning to bake her a cake or my mom’s Southern Pound Cake, until I read how much butter was required.  Eeek!  I want these sweet friends across the way to live long healthy days, so I made my own Low-fat Banana Bread recipe and it is goooooood.  You’d never know this was healthy!

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I am not a big baker at all, but this was so easy.  I just mashed up the bananas in a bowl and, much to my french-chef-mother’s likely chagrin, just threw all the other ingredients in and turned on the electric mixer!  Voila!

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I made four mini loaves using cheap tin pans from Walmart, because two older love birds can’t plow through a big loaf like my family can (read: Grace loves this stuff!).  You can also use this recipe to make one big loaf or 2 medium loaves.  It comes out really moist, so you can bake a little longer if you want it more firm.  I prefer the gooey texture myself though!

photo 3 copyI also added a pinch of cinnamon that I forgot to add to my recipe card.  I love these recipe cards from our shop so much!  I’m delivering one of these mini banana delights to Phyllis tomorrow morning and I’m so excited! photo 1

I’d love to hear about your favorite healthy Southern recipes. What are your favorites? Leave me some links and info in the comments, friends.  Enjoy, y’all!

P.S. My 2013 Goal Update is coming next!

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