When I first started the Southern Weddings blog six years ago, SouthernWeddings.com wasn’t available.  So, I had to get creative.  I brainstormed and asked friends and finally put something out on Twitter to ask for help!

southernweddings.com domain lara casey

 

Drew B had come up with iloveswmag.com in a previous plea for fresh-squeezed creative juices and the votes were unanimous.  ILoveSWMag.com has been our home for the last 6 years.

But, this domain continued to nag me, like a great sweater that didn’t fit exactly right.  Spelling out my email address to people on the phone was nothing short of a circus.  I LOVE.  S as in Sam. W as in Walter. M – A – G as in Makes A Girl crazy to have to repeat her online identity a dozen times.  And then there were the folks who thought our magazine was called “I Love SWAG.”  And the folks who still call us SWS (little known fact, we used to be Southern Wedding Style before a rather painful trademark battle). People were constantly confusing us with the current SouthernWeddings.com domain.  And, most of all, I would think about all the newly-engaged brides that weren’t finding us easily.  All of these beautiful love stories we were telling were getting to a lot of people, but maybe not to everyone who needed them.

This sweater didn’t fit just right.  It was 100% organic cotton grown in Alabama and Georgia and North Carolina and Tennessee and Texas, but the tag kept itching the back of my neck.

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I could try to email the current SouthernWeddings.com owner and see if she would give it to me or sell it to me.  I could.  But, that would mean that there would be a possibility that she could say NO and all hope would be lost.

So, I did nothing.

I sat on it for over three years — three YEARS! — terrified to even send her an email for fear of rejection.

When I give workshops, I talk a lot about fear, largely because I’ve had a lot of them.  Fear and I have spent holidays, summers and long vacations together.  We go way back.  In workshops, we would inevitably come to a point where were I would ask everyone to name their fears. I always participate and would name the larger more common things first: fear of working too hard and missing my life, fear of failing and letting everyone around me down, fear of losing Ari or Grace…

And fear of writing the SouthernWeddings.com lady about buying her domain.

Why was this so important to me that I felt paralyzed at the thought of not getting it?  It’s taken me six years to figure it out.

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You see, there’s this thing that happens when God totally changes your life and then plants a big dream in your heart for His glory.  You start doing things and thinking things that are far bigger than you can fully understand at the moment.  You want to go to the ends of the earth to say THANK YOU LORD.  You just feel compelled.

When my own marriage and my husband and my family and my heart started to be transformed by the love that never fails, I started to hear a song… a song that needed to be sung and played loudly with the right instruments.  You cannot play Claire De Lune, one of my favorite sweeping pieces of music, with just drums.  Well, I guess you could, but I don’t think the swelling of the last part of the song would move me to tears as much.  Great music does that.  It changes us.  It heals us.  It compels us.

I realized I needed — NEEDED — the right instruments to play this song that God kept putting on my heart.  A song of stronger-than-oak marriages, love stories that span generations and creating a deeply meaningful beginning to married life.  This song that we hum and sing and strum daily is the song of lasting love.  And if it meant getting a domain name to help us sing this song in perfect harmony, I realized I needed to feel the fear, get over myself and just do it already.

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So, I emailed Lisa Manning one October morning in 2011, just weeks before I had Grace, after texting five friends to ask them to pray for me, shaking as I typed the email and sweating as I hit send.

And I waited.  And waited.  And she wrote me back and said “no.”  She wasn’t interested in selling the domain.  Period.

Ugh.

My heart dropped into my stomach and I just cried at my desk.  God, I don’t understand!  I have been praying so much about this and I feel like you WANT me to go after this, but she said NO??!??

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Then, I had a baby.  Life was flipped on its head.  With all I had going on having a newborn and trying to figure out how to be a mom and run a business, it would have been easier to just let it go and move on.  But, God…  There are those two simple yet life-altering words again.  But, God did not want me to give up.  He does not want YOU to give up on that thing that seems bigger than you that you know is for His glory, no matter how crazy it sounds when you tell people about it.  He kept showing me that this domain was just the beginning.  A small but vital piece of a much bigger picture.

So, months later, I sucked up my pride and wrote her again.

And she graciously said “no.” Again.

And again.

And again.  And likely by this point she was probably considering blocking my email.

Then, on January 18th of this year, at the urging of several dear friends, I sent her my final plea.   This time, I explained to her WHY I wanted the domain so badly.  I told her about how God had changed my heart and my marriage and about our mission to help couples love deeply, give abundantly and do what matters most in life.  I poured my heart out to her:

Before you immediately trash this email, I will apologize in advance for the repeat inquiry.  I fully respect you wanting to keep your domain and wanted to just check again to see if there was a possibility of us purchasing it from you.  The reason I want to purchase this domain is far beyond anything to do with business or traffic or numbers.  Our mission for the company is to be a light in this industry and in homes across the world.  That may sound grand, but we have seen how our “Love Never Fails” mission has affected so many in the last year… bringing people back to the heart of marriage.   So, if there is anything I can do to increase that mission and help couples create a meaningful beginning to married life, I am very passionate about doing everything possible.  I believe God have us this platform to help people come back to what matters most in life – love, family and honoring both in their marriages.  So, apologies again for the repeat inquiry, but I hope you will at least consider my plea.

Months passed with no reply.  I quietly prayed about it as winter turned to spring.  The flowers started to burst through the ground and the bees started buzzing again.  New life was everywhere, reminding me that God was very good and that all things are made new in time.  In His perfect timing.

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April 29th, 2013, Lisa wrote me back, but this time, she said “yes.”  It was a “yes” that was accompanied by a large price tag, understandably, but it was a YES and worth every penny. YES!  YES!!  YES!!!

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)

The verse doesn’t say, “Ask and it will be given to you immediately; seek and you will find tomorrow; knock and the door will be opened to you no matter what door it is. For everyone who asks receives everything they ask for; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

I’ve had countless people tell me “no” for things and I don’t always get my way, even when being persistent.   In fact, most of the time I don’t get my way.  Sometimes we are told “no” for very good reasons.  No’s refine us.  No’s help us to see just how passionate we are.  No’s make us resilient. And, sometimes God says “yes” after years and years of waiting for something — whether that’s a husband or a baby or an idea or a move or a new job or a domain name — and you are so much better because of the waiting.  The “yes” becomes so very sweet.

It’s in the waiting that life happens.  But, in order to even get to the waiting, we must ask first. Ask. Seek. Knock.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5:14-16)

God says that if we ask for things that are in His will, not ours, He will hear us.  I know now that God wanted me to learn the right melody before He gave me the perfect instruments to play it.

As I type this, I can hear Grace in the kitchen belting “Amazing Grace.”  Oh, sweet girl.  Amazing grace indeed.  It’s not about a domain or a magazine or blog traffic or business… it’s about Him.  It’s about being a light for Him and never stopping at NO to make that happen.  I once was lost, but now I’m found.  Was blind, but now I see.  And what I see is very good and I want to share it with the world.

And the beautiful thing about this is I made a friend, a true soul sister, in Lisa Manning.  She has since encouraged me about parenting and family and marriage.  Her grace and willingness to give up something that was her own identity for so long makes my heart so grateful and has set a wildly powerful example for me.  As we made the final domain transfer a few weeks ago, she told me, “I received your email and cried for 2 hours.  Southern Weddings was my baby.  I birthed it, grew it to adulthood and now it is going off to college.  : )”  Thank you, Lisa.  Getting to know you these last years has taught me so much about fighting for God’s glory and about giving things up for the sake of something bigger.  Thank you thank you thank you.

Friends, I don’t have all the answers here, but I do have my own path that God has paved. Some simple, but profound things I’ve learned from this:

Ask. Seek. Knock.  Ask for what you want and God will mold your heart till what you want is the same as what He wants.  That is a beautiful profound thing and the power of prayer.  We commune with Him and learn from Him when we just simply spend time talking to Him.

Knock some more.  If what you are after is for God’s glory, it’s always worth a little more knocking.  Don’t wake any babies up or bang down the door, but tenderly knock on the doors that matter.  Make it happen.

His plans never fail.  Ever.  And sometimes things take a long time because God wants to change you in the journey.  Life happens in the waiting.

And so, it is with great REJOICING that I announce our new home…

The best fitting sweater with the softest monogrammed seersucker tag…

The symphony playing our song…

SouthernWeddings.com

SW-93Amazing new photographs all by Landon Jacob.  I couldn’t wait till our next issue comes out to share them!

Hop on over to SOUTHERNWEDDINGS.COM (I had to type it in all caps because it just feels sooooo good — like hot butter on a fresh biscuit) to win the very first copy of our new issue hot off the press when it arrives. We have a shiny new brand and website coming on 11.12.13 with our magazine launch, but for now, this new home is plenty exciting!  Oh my soul is singing!!!  Thank you to so many friends who have encouraged us on this journey!

ask seek knock lara casey

So, what’s the thing you’ve been afraid to ask for?  What are you learning in the waiting?  I’d love to hear from you…

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Hello. I’ve started this post three times now and I keep erasing my words because I don’t know how to lightly transition into what I’m going to write. So, here goes.

God has put it on my heart ALL YEAR LONG to give up spending money on things I don’t need.  I’ve done a fair job at cutting back on expenses and simplifying.  We even went papertowel-less a couple months ago.  But, you know what?  That was easy.  The thing I’ve been most afraid of is saying no to shopping for stuff.  Stuff that brings me temporary comfort.  Stuff that is disguised in “I need this” clothing.  Stuff that tries to take my attention away from what matters more.  Until now, I’ve felt my stuff and the needs behind why I buy that stuff were stronger than God’s ability to be sufficient for me. I am still scared out of my mind hesitant about doing this because the alternative to spending money on things I don’t need is seeing clearly that God is enough for all of my needs and letting go of control of my happiness.  Letting Him be my happy.  And that may take work or struggle or facing how very connected to my stuff I am.  Me + stuff = BFFL.  OK, it will most definitely take all of those things.  It will take me learning a new deeper lasting happy.

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Gracie at my parents house last weekend, playing piano for the first time. : )

A few months ago, my dear friend Nancy posted that she was doing a “Contentment Challenge” where she wasn’t buying anything new — clothes, accessories and stuff — for three months.  Read her post about MTH and how God placed this on her heart here.  Right around that time, I went to a conference with her where Jen Hatmaker, author of 7, was speaking.  I sort of laughed the idea of giving up spending in my heart.  Haha!  Yeah right.  That’s too hard, I thought.  I’m just too weak.

And you know what?  I AM too weak.  And that’s exactly the point.  After months of praying and being challenged by scripture, I am seeing that God made us that way so we would rely on Him fully.  Paul’s words in Philippians have been ringing in my heart the last weeks:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.  (Phil 4:12-13)

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Grace making buttermilk biscuits with my mom last weekend.

I want God to be the only source of my strength — my true sustenence.  Not new clothes or a better bigger prettier faster ____ (whatever it is at the moment).  I want to rely on Him to make me feel whole and new again, not Target (sorry, old friend).  I want to live simply and give abundantly.  Like, actually DO it.  I want to have margin in my life to stop and get on my knees to pray rather than be surfing Amazon for lightning deals.  I want to be weak so He can be strong in me.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Cor 12:9)

But, before I tell you what I’m doing, let me preface it by saying this:  this is not about rules.  It’s about doing what God has been urging me to do.  If He puts it on my heart to buy something for a good reason, I will do just that.  Like Jesus healing people on the Sabbath, this is not about following guidelines just for the sake of guidelines.  God is bigger than rules.  It’s about fasting from something that I feel is keeping me from a deeper relationship and understanding of God’s heart.

So, if you are not doing this challenge with me, I still love you a whole lot.  With sugar on top and extra sprinkles!  I won’t judge you for making your Christmas list and checking it twice.  I still have a shop and a business that people buy things from, but I pray each purchase inspires them to what matters or somehow points them to Him.  You could certainly argue that no one needs a wedding magazine or PowerSheets.  That is true.  But, I make them because God put in on my heart to inspire people to what matters in marriage and to help people set good goals that build His Kingdom.  For me personally, filling out my own PowerSheets this month is partly what brought me to write this post.  I got my head clear, took a good look at my goal progress this year, and — with just a few months left in the year — realized it was TIME.  Time to stop worrying about taking this Challenge and just do it.  So, remember that a close relationship with God is not about spending vs not spending or being a missionary vs being a designer.  It’s about the heart.  It’s about using what you have — or don’t have — to glorify Him.  If you do join me in this #ContentmentChallenge, remember the heart of why we fast from something in the first place – to glorify Him.  To draw close to Him.  To live with less so that He can be exactly what He is – more.

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Painting for the very first time with my mama.  So many sweet firsts on our visit.

The Guidelines (modified from Nancy’s just slightly):

  • Prepare your heart, organize your closet, and make any necessary purchases that you might need during these months or plan for them. (This is not a last minute shopping spree! This is one final trip to the store for items you will need, and the opportunity for you to say your goodbyes to Target.)  I’ve already made my list of things I will likely purchase and have prayed about all of these things: family photo albums from Artifact Uprising (my pictures are useless on my computer and need to live somewhere we can see and feel them), a Christmas tree (actually counts as a donation since we get it from Trosa), business needs (needs only), and I’m not counting Grace’s needs like the obvious — diapers, wipes, warm clothes for winter and her 2nd birthday is the week before Thanksgiving so I’ll probably get her some balloons.  The rest I may make.
  • I am fasting from buying new clothes, household items, accessories and general stuff.   There’s a lot in that category and for me, it’s mostly the occasional trip to Target that gets me in trouble.  Food, items for basic living and experiences (like going to visit the zoo with Grace) are not a part of this fast for me.
  • I’m also focusing on giving during this time.  I’m trying to give something away every day.  Whether something physical, a prayer or encouragement.  Just something that is given to someone else.
  • I am hoping to do this through the New Year.  Yes, that means Christmas is included.  After organizing our whole house this weekend,  I know we have more than enough craft supplies to make gifts for family.  Also, charitable donations don’t count, so I can still do my yearly holiday purchases from Heifer.org as gifts for people.

UPDATED 12/3: After much prayer and God presenting many opportunities for us to fill needs for others, we have decided to give gifts that bless others and help them feel hope, not just donations. We’ve already started and it has been so gratifying!

  • Choose something to read during this time.  I recommend any of the following: Seven, Interrupted, and the Bible : )  (Feel free to leave additional recommendations in the comments!)  I’m trying to finish the Bible by the end of the year (in Amos right now) and also have Radical and Not a Fan to finish.
  • Gifts are okay!   Remember the heart of this.  It’s not about rules.  If someone gives you a new dress or piece of decor during that time, receive it graciously.  If you need to buy someone else a gift, by all means, do so.  The point is to learn more of ourselves and the Lord.
  • Necessities are okay!  If you lose your glasses, buy a new pair. Just don’t start justifying new purchases for items that you already have. (“I really NEED this bathing suit, even though there are 8 in my closet already.”)
  • Actively pursue something good that helps to replace your tendency to buy stuff as a source of comfort.  Something that points you back to what matters most.  For me, it may be prayer, singing hymns with Grace, reciting scripture out loud, slow dancing in the kitchen with Ari, painting,  gardening or taking a deep breath and thinking about Heaven, where we will have no stuff anyway.

I would also recommend using this as a time to become a better steward of your finances.  I know, I know!  First I tell you I’m giving up shopping and now I’m talking about budgeting. (!!!)  Stick with me here… : )  Having a financial plan has helped me to get to this point because I have been learning that all I have is not mine.  We are just stewards of what God has given us and we are to use it wisely.  We are blessed to be a blessing.  For a general primer on money management, read The Total Money Makeover and our resident Creative Director, Emily’s, Marvelous Money posts. With the help of Nancy’s husband, Will, who is also our financial coach (I highly recommend him!), we’ve outlined a budget and we now have solid goals like working to aggressively pay off Ari’s student loan so we can get to things like saving for Grace’s college and helping my parents if they need support in their later years.  Will also gave me a list of scriptures about finance that I have tacked to my office wall so I am constantly reminded of where God wants my focus.    My mind and heart can get so off-track!

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OK.  I have to get back to work, but let me finish by saying this: (as my dear friend Emily says)  grace, not perfection.  I didn’t want to blog this because I am human and fallible and I will likely mess up somewhere.  But, what makes me oddly excited about even the thought of “messing up” is the hope that God will change me in this experience.  He already has in preparing for it.

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In our garden together last week.  I love getting out with her and hunting for garden treasures. My tomato plants trees are out of control!

I am excited to get to know Him more and to rejoice in Him more.  I am excited to simplify.  I am excited to learn to be more resourceful.  I am excited to savor what I do have more.  I am excited to learn a deeper gratitude in this.

I’d love to hear from you if you are joining me in this.  I’ll be using Nancy’s #ContentmentChallenge hashtag to keep you updated on my progress and can’t wait to be encouraged by yours, too.  Here’s to living with less (even though in comparison to the rest of the world we are so rich regardless) and to learning to be content!

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