Welcome to my new series, Little by Little! Each Friday, I’m going to wrap up the week with a quick post about my little by little progress, things I am loving right now, and a scattering of various thoughts. Here goes!

First, the most important news: my husband joined Twitter. You’re welcome.

And I joined Snapchat a couple weeks ago. I felt like a dinosaur trying to figure it out, but I have to say, I love it. It’s quick, fun, real, and I get why all you youngin’s like it so much. It took a full year for the ladies in my office to convince me to try it. Here’s a peek at life lately in “snaps.” (See, I’m even learning the lingo!) Follow along: LaraLaraCasey. A tip: I’ve been using it as accountability for my goals, namely working on my diastasis recti.

I’m making little by little progress on the goal to finally read the books that are sitting on my nightstand. Books I’m loving this week: this (finally finished reading this one), this (finished this one too via audio book and loved it), and this (so good!).

This. Made me weepy.

These. Make my belly happy.

Since we’ve moved all our shipping to our fulfillment warehouse (out of my garage!), we need a new title for our Packing Assistant, Grace. Any suggestions on a new job title for her? Let me know.

Okay, there are still a few things left in the garage, namely magazines. I had saved several boxes, but this is my summer to simplify. I can’t take them to Heaven with me, so get yours!

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Let’s talk about feeling-all-the-feelings four. Grace has had a lot of big emotions lately and I’ve been having them right along with her. More here. Anyone have wisdom for me? I’m all ears.

My mom writes a food column. I love her from my head tomatoes.

Single friends, this is good stuff.

In one word, what kind of life do you want to live? Tell me.

Truth right here.

A few practical tips on starting over that I’m learning.

Cultivate Outline

Fruitful Summer is on. With my book (re)writing, this year is simplified compared to last year, but I think it’s actually better. Five weeks of practical and simple tips, printables, worksheets and lots of grace for your friendships and to help you cultivate a meaningful summer—no perfection required. Sign up here. I’m excited for next week’s FS Guide to land in inboxes.

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It took some convincing, but Emily and Lisa are on board and I’m excited! Southern Weddings is joining the Fruitful Summer party with their own spin on the theme. The SW ladies are going to encourage you in your current season–dating, engaged, newlywed, and those that have been married awhile.

Speaking of dating, I love this and her.

We finally decided on 2017 PowerSheets covers (releasing in November)! Your feedback made it clear for us. Thank you thank you! There are still a few of the current undated 6-month sets left. Best to start in July, so I’m making it easy for you. Get free domestic shipping on remaining PowerSheets this weekend using the code PSFREESHIPPING. Feel free to share that code with friends!

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Photo by Olivia Wolf of Nancy Ray Photography

Can anyone recommend an organic soy/dairy-free formula for Sarah? I am still pumping for her and we have some amazing friends who have donated milk, but we will need to supplement with some formula soon too. Any recommendations?

This weekend we’re having some friends over, going to a pool party for one of Grace’s sweet friends, church, and a BBQ with our family group. What are y’all looking forward to?

Signing off for a #SocialMediaFreeWeekend, friends! See you on Monday!

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How to overcome insecurity _ Lara Casey

Ever feel like everyone has it all together but you? I do. Lately this thought has been swirling in my head. But, here’s how I am evicting that lie out of my life, and how you can too:

1. Name it as a lie. Everyone else “having it together” is not true. I was just texting with a group of friends about our businesses, mothering, and hearts having various challenges right now. I wish I could add all of you to that text group so you could see that we are ALL in this together. Consider this post my group text to you : ) No one has it all together. They just don’t. That is freeing. And even if they did, it doesn’t mean they are more valuable than you and your unique assignment on this earth.

2. What does “having it together” mean anyway? Define the lie and the truth. The lie: I have to have the perfect plan and perfect results or I’m a failure. False. The truth: To me, having it “together” means I don’t have to do it all. It means trusting in God, doing my best to love well, and making little by little progress forward on the things that matter, even if I mess up along the way–at least I’m on the way there!

3. Consider that you are exactly where you are supposed to be, mess and all. When I really think about it, I wouldn’t trade my challenges right now because they are teaching me valuable lessons. They are refining me. They are making me closer to God and to Ari and to my family and friends and my team. If I had no struggles, I would stay the same. And I know that’s not what God wants of me. This is my season of sitting in the tension. A season of change.

You don’t have to have it all together to have value, and you are not alone.

Fruitful Summer 2016

So, with that, I’m excited to announce that Fruitful Summer is on! Last summer, thousands of you joined me from Tulsa to Tokyo to learn how to cultivate community, embrace awkward, and make meaningful relationships happen–no perfection required. Five weeks of practical and simple tips, printables, worksheets, and lots of surprises. Sign up for free at FruitfulSummer.com! Let’s do summer together!

Lara Casey - Make it happen - westmeetssouth

Photo above by WestMeetsSouth. Love seeing the Make it Happen book in there!

More thoughts on my original Instagram post here.

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How do you start over?

Whether you are starting fresh on a goal, a project, a new city, your health, or with a relationship, starting over is hard, isn’t it? It’s not easy at first, but it can be an unexpected blessing.

Rejection can turn into rejoicing, and broken pieces can be made into something better. Much better. Here’s the story of why I have to start over on my book that I posted on Facebook last Friday, and a few tips for starting over below.

Three Tips for Starting Over:

1. First, let the dirt be dirt. Moving forward means letting go of something first. So, whatever it is that has caused you to start fresh, FEEL your feelings! Feel them and also know that feelings are real, but they do not define who we are. Feeling like a mess doesn’t mean you are one. I cried pretty much the whole weekend after I got the email from my editor. My tears were waves of grief about the time I had spent working on those words—time I could have spent working on different words, or with my little ones. I felt anger, disappointment, rejection, shock, and sadness. These emotions weren’t fun to experience, but they were needed. Little by little, the tears turned into trust and refreshment. Now, there are far deeper pains I could reference here that I’ve experienced in my life—pain that took much longer than a weekend to process (the pain of miscarriage, divorce, marriage hardships, etc.). One enemy of moving forward—a sure way to stay stuck—is to think your feelings don’t matter and should be stuffed away. Don’t compare your struggle to someone else’s, or label it “small.” Your struggle, whatever it may be, is real, and worth working through. Sometimes, moving through the “minor” struggles helps us build momentum to move forward through the big ones. Feel what you are feeling. Name it. Let it be what it is without trying to fix it. Let the dirt be dirt.

2. Step away. I don’t know about you, but when a challenge arises, I stew. I mull. I analyze. I get anxious. I want to fix it as soon as possible. Anyone else?? Stepping away to gain some perspective may seem like an inactive step, but it may be the best step you take. Mid-tears Ari told me to get in the car. He loaded up all the kids and we drove around the lake by our house. It was incredibly helpful. We prayed. We talked. In the thick of it, stepping outside for a breath of fresh air can be a turning point. It’s like planting a small common acorn that can grow into a strong oak when nestled in the mess of dirt.

3. Let grace speak louder that guilt. I realized in starting over that this book is about my weakness, not my strength. I don’t have to write powerful words, or have a stellar outline. I just need to let myself be weak and let those words hit the page. I don’t have to fix it all, do it all, or be it all. If God is in your fresh start, you can be sure He will do the heavy lifting. I trust that. If your fresh start feels impossible—too big for you to orchestrate–maybe it is too big for you. But we can always trust that where we can’t, He can. Let’s be weak, sisters. It’s so much easier than chasing perfect. Let’s let Him speak loud–over all the guilt and junk that’s trying to keep us from moving forward on to fresh new growing ground.

Are you starting over in something? What’s have you been wrestling with?

P.S. I’d love to hear from you here too!

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My garden is in a really weird stage. There are some things growing, and some seeds never sprouted at all. Some things got way too big, and some things are oddly small. There are many little green shoots that I’m not sure are weeds or actual plants yet.

It’s awkward.

Messy.

Unbalanced.

My life has felt the exact same lately.

Unbalanced.

Unsettled.

Un-figured-out.

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There’s this thing called the “middle ground” that I don’t love so much. The middle ground is filled with in-betweens, undone conclusions, waiting, and tension. I prefer clear-cut direction. Firm yes’s and no’s. Plans with specifics and titles. I prefer flourishing and full bloom.

I’ve been in the middle ground for the last year. I’ve had no idea what to do with work and balancing motherhood. 

I prayed and prayed and PRAYED for certainty. But, instead uncertainty grew.

A year ago, I was about to have a baby and wondered how I was going to be a mom to two. I went into it blindly, trusting we would just figure it out. I was a year behind in writing Cultivate, and the direction of the book changed as many times as our lives did. Going from one child to two was rough for us. Grace’s emotions exploded. We felt helpless as parents and sleepless with a newborn. Somehow I felt like it was all my fault that Grace was having intense emotions. I blamed my work and I felt like it was too late. I felt like I had messed her up for life. This caused me great anguish. Since I work from home, this was all happening in my house, where my team works under the same roof. There was no hiding the tantrums and the hard days.

I felt like a horrible mother.

A useless leader.

I felt like a burden to everyone.

And I was tired.

There was so much good in this season too, but my heart was unsettled. Something had to change.

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Then, right before Christmas, in the middle of our busiest business season with PowerSheets and the magazine, Ari and I found out we matched for our adoption. Our adoption story is coming in a separate post soon. We were excited and grateful and terrified. There was so much unknown. I struggled through writing, preparing for a baby we might not even bring home with us, nursing Josh night and day, and Grace continuing to feel big feelings.

And I heard God telling me to quit.

Step away, Lara. 

Be small.

Nurture these children for Me.

Live a quiet life.

Over and over I heard these urgings, and every time I’d ask, How?

What does that look like exactly, God? What do I quit? Do you mean quit my business? How in the world would that work? What about all we’re doing to help people? What about my team? How do I do this??

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I had no answers. Just more questions.

So, I quit the Internet for several months, taking a hiatus from social media and email. I needed to hear from God and nothing else. And there was a lot of “else” swirling in my head as I tried to sort through it all, and write a book at the same time. I struggled with comparison and feeling isolated as a leader. I am so supported by my team, and yet they also know I’ve struggled with feeling like I’m on the “business owner island” at times. There are no fruity drinks on this island, just bills to pay and decisions to make that affect other people. I struggled feeling like I had to keep it all together all the time.

I stepped away from connectivity to get some clarity. Taking a break from social media is always good for my soul. It helps me remember Whose voice I should be listening to.

But, this time I didn’t want to come back.

I kept thinking God was telling me to quit my business, and I relished the thought. I felt elated at the idea of being able to make up for all the time I felt I had lost with Grace to a growing business. I was doing good work, but too much of a good thing is still too much.

I felt weary. Tired of telling my story. Tired of my attention being pulled from my kids. I didn’t want to be a part of it anymore, even if I was encouraging people. These were my honest thoughts friends—thoughts from the thick of it. It’s not the fault of pixels on a screen that I felt this way, though. Despite my efforts to guard my it well, I have a sensitive sponge-like heart. It was easier to be offline.

But, God doesn’t call us to easy; He calls us to follow Him. I kept wrestling with these thoughts, and praying hard.

FullSizeRender_2Above: Josh this afternoon with Jess at her desk.

This fact remained and was important: our business is online. We make products that help people focus on what matters, in the mess, not despite it. We help people plant a garden right smack in the middle of the circus. I knew that was a good thing. A needed thing. With a business that lives on the internet, how in the world was I supposed to exist in that tension? How was I supposed to plant my own garden in the middle of the circus?

How was I supposed to balance the steadfast calm needed to shepherd my children’s hearts and love Ari and my community well, and the bombardment of the world I encountered when I tried to put encouragement or our products into the hands of people who might be changed by them?

How was I supposed to lead a business and a team of eight when I’ve been up all night feeding babies? How am I supposed to work on budgets and quarterly taxes when Grace really needs me to help her sort through her feelings… or show her how to draw a pterodactyl… or explain why ladybugs like to live on flowers. How do I schedule meetings when I’m pumping eight times a day and nursing every two hours to keep up with two babies? How does that all work, God??

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Then, our adoption happened in February. We stepped out on faith, saying yes to the unknown, which was beautiful and wonderful and intensely emotional. God broke us down to make us fully rely on Him, trusting Him in what felt completely uncertain.

And that’s the thing. God breaking me down over the last year was exactly what He wanted to happen. In the mess, many times, He is loving us more in what feels hard than in what feels easy.

I began making a lot of changes to spend more intentional time with our littles. I began to cultivate a new path, making little by little steps forward. The little by little started to add up. So much more to share in another post (and in my book). Consider this “Part 1.”

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I started a private blog the week of our adoption to share updates with our close friends and family, and to have a safe place to share all that we were experiencing. My team read my posts, so they knew. They knew the season we were in with our family. They knew how hard it had been emotionally. They knew the tension I felt between work and motherhood. They knew.

Two babies and two books in two years was too much. 

We had our annual Team Retreat earlier this month. I’m usually the encourager, but Marissa, Kristin, Emily, Nicole, Lisa, and our three new women, Amber, Jess, and Laura, spent the majority of the retreat pouring into me. This was unexpected, and I felt God speaking to me. They made it clear that whatever path I needed to take, they would be fully on-board. They asked me over and over how I felt, and helped me sort through my thoughts. I was weary and fearful of being in the thick of motherhood, and feeling like I had it to have it all together to lead a team of women well.

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They helped me see that I was stuck in the past, and that I didn’t have to be perfect. I just needed to be right where I was—mess and all. Friend, this is exactly why I’m sharing this with you, because maybe you are stuck too. I was stuck feeling like I couldn’t be the person I had become after such rapid life change. How would people understand? How could I tell this new story? I’m not an expert on motherhood, so how could I talk about it? How does that fit with all we are doing in our work?

I was stuck in expectations of what motherhood and business are supposed to look like.

Stuck thinking I had to keep my mouth shut about LOVING BEING A MOM because I didn’t feel perfect at it. I haven’t read all the parenting books, and I’ve made many mistakes, but you guys, I love these kids fiercely. Fiercely and joyfully.

It started to become clear.

After over a decade running a business by myself, I felt like it was somehow okay to let my team in more to the struggles I faced. They saw me in my mess and it was okay. They covered me in grace. They handed me a one-way ticket off the business owner island.

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Last Wednesday night, I cried again to Ari about it and he said something that surprised me, because for a long time he wanted me to let work go so I wasn’t stressed by it. He loves me, but he loves God more. He said “It’s not time to give up. God has given you this for a reason. I don’t think He wants you to waste it.” I countered to him that I also don’t think He wants me to waste moments with our kids. This is my struggle. I want it to be one or the other, wrapped up in a bow. But I got on my knees just now on the dining room floor and GOD MADE IT CLEAR. I’m typing that in all caps because I am so crazy grateful. Months and months of praying. Months of agonizing. Months of wanting to give up my business completely. God told me these words that I immediately wrote down in my PowerSheets:

Help other people wrestle with it and sit in the tension and not feel like they have to GIVE UP.

Sometimes, when we feel like we want to quit, it means something DOES need to change. In this season I don’t have a perfect plan or all the answers. But I know I’m not giving up (I want to insert a thousand !!!! here). This is a season of sitting in the tension of motherhood and ministry and leading and listening and business and babies. I will not “do it all,” I’ll simply do what God wants me to do every day. I’ll get my hands dirty, and the way I live this out may not look like the way the rest of the world does it. I’m excited for that.

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“She believed she could so she did” is lovely and instills confidence, but that doesn’t last. I know a deeper truth. She believed she couldn’t, so He did. If you are struggling with doing it all–if comparison is making you feel inadequate, I am with you. If you are struggling as a boss, wife, mama, you don’t have to do it all. You don’t have to fix it. There’s no shame for all those imperfections, sister. There’s just grace.

I cannot do it all, but I can do a few things well. And only with grace. Grace upon grace.

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I did need to quit my job. 

I needed to quit doing it the way I had always done it, telling the old story and not recognizing the new path I am on.

It was time to quit feeling like I had to have it all together to tell the story of motherhood in my life and work. I needed to own my new story.

It’s time to let you in, and tell you the new story too.

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All those urgings I kept hearing from God?

Step away, Lara. 

Be small. 

Nurture these children for Me. 

Live a quiet life.

Yes. Just yes.

Step away from the noise.

Step away from the “should’s.”

Step forward from the old story and into what’s happening in my life now.

Be small. Low to the ground with my children. On my knees. Hands in the dirt. Less concerned with how to do life—needing a one-or-the-other plan and title–and fully focused on why I’m doing life.

Nurture these children, because the greatest contribution I make to the kingdom of God may not be something I do, but someone I raise (wisdom from Andy Stanley).

Living a quiet life, because all the loud out there isn’t going to last.

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Do you know how this motherhood/work/internet tension works?

Imperfectly.

Awkwardly.

And yet, intentionally.

My garden is in an awkward stage, but it’s still a garden. And, even when I can’t see it or feel it, it’s growing. It doesn’t have to be in full bloom all the time for it to be meaningful. The tension of the middle ground is the path to blooming.

The garden just this morning with Grace, who is a much more fulfilled Grace now that I have let go of the old and stepped into the new. She’s learning to love her messes too : )

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Maybe you are wrestling with something similar. Sister, let me tell you something I didn’t know before sitting in this tension: there is no formula. There is no one “right” way to do motherhood and business, or one or the other.

You do what God tells you to do.

And you know what? It may not be what you do for all of your life. We were created for seasons, and seasons don’t last forever for a reason. They prepare us for what’s next. Stay open, fellow-sojourner. Stay open. I thought for SURE God was telling me to close the doors of our company, or sell it, and I’m so glad I stayed in the tension. I’m so grateful I didn’t give up. The tension—the wait and the wrestling and the mess and the endless prayers–was all for a reason. Maybe yours is too.

So, this post doesn’t have a bow tied on it here at the end, just a “…” 

I am still listening and keeping my hands open. But, I know what I’m not doing: letting the lies of mom guilt speak louder than the truth of grace. And the truth that our paths don’t have to look like everyone else’s. We can do this motherhood and work thing differently. We can do it together, and do just enough well.

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Join me this Friday live on my Facebook page at noon EST. I’m going to be talking about motherhood and work, my summer goals, what’s changing in our company soon (a lot), how we’re starting a new magazine about community, and I also believe it’s time to tell you how our company works. I want you to know our hearts and our daily story here in my home-office. What does it look like to work from home? How do we do what we do? What’s it like with three kids and lots of ladies in our house all day? How do we design and decide on our products? You’ll be seeing a lot more starting tomorrow on our Instagram and Snapchat (LaraCaseyShop).

Your turn. How are you feeling? What’s the tension you are wrestling with? Let’s talk about it, and give each-other a one-way ticket off the isolation island.

Love,

Lara the business owner who is also a great imperfect joyful mom!

P.S. If you need a new start this summer, join me Friday, and I’m giving you and your friends 40% off PowerSheets. Use code SUMMERGOALS here. Some people might say this is unwise to give this big discount, but I really don’t care. I just want you and all your friends to have them and, Lord willing, be changed by them. They are undated, six-month sets, so this is the ideal time to start fresh and finish the year well (our new designs come out in November). I am starting over with my goals this week too–a fresh new focus. Spread the word and feel free to share this code with your friends! Code ends one week from today, or until we sell out again.

P.P.S. I love you, friends. Sincerely. I know many of you have read this blog and followed my journey for years, and some of you have just stumbled on it today, and I want to tell you thank you for listening and sitting with me in this tension. I am grateful to do life with you.

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If I spend more than a couple sentences telling you how much I love our nanny, Rhiannon, I’ll soak my keyboard in tears. That post will come later! After two wonderful years with us, the Lord has called her into ministry. We are so excited for her in this new season ahead. She has cared for us with a love that could only come from a great God, and she will no doubt change the lives of many more in the years ahead.

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As you can see in these photographs, she’s pretty amazing. She works hard and loves God passionately! We trust that God will bring us another great fit for our family.

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We are seeking a full-time Nanny and House Manager, starting July 1. Please apply if you meet ALL of these requirements.

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Who you’ll care for:

Baby boy (Joshua)
Infant girl (Sarah)
Pre-schooler girl (Grace)
A handful of fishies and a bevy of houseplants : )

We’re looking for:

Joyful Caregiver
Hard Worker & Self Starter
Health-Oriented (non-smoker, etc.)

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We need someone who can commit to two years with us. Must be able to start training July 1st. If you are applying from out-of-state (our previous two nannies did this!), you must be able to relocate by July 1. We will gladly help you with finding great living arrangements. Our current nanny lives in an apartment that is two blocks away, and enjoys walking to work : )

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Must be extremely organized, energetic (three kids will keep you on your toes!), joyful (we love to be silly), and experienced in childcare. A background in early childhood education is a plus. College graduates only. In addition to caring for our three children, you would also be responsible for managing our household; laundry, grocery shopping, errands, etc. Must have own transportation, and a clean driving record.

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I run a business with multiple employees from home, so I am here all day as well, and only working a few hours a week in this season of life. We will spend a lot of time together, caring for these children alongside each other. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, with occasional date nights/Saturday hours (maybe 10 per year).

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/isaacsonfamilymarch2015

Our faith is a cornerstone in our home. We are seeking a nanny who can teach and reinforce Christian principles and lead by example. We are looking for someone who has very strong integrity, is calm under pressure, confident in thier faith, and is willing to develop a passion for shaping our children’s hearts alongside us.

Please pray about this position and only reply if you meet ALL of these requirements. We’ve had three wonderful nannies over the last five years, and know the qualifications fit our family well. We will be doing several Skype interviews with potential candidates.

Please APPLY HERE by April 29th. We will begin Skype interviews the first week of May. Please read through this post and the application thoroughly. Your attention to detail is part of the interview : ) We are praying for you as you apply!

P.S. If you know someone else who this would be a great fit for, please pass this post along. Thank you!

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There’s a whole lot of newness in the Isaacson house these days. We welcomed Sarah Celeste on February 26th (full post coming soon!), Joshua turned seven months, and, while we aren’t sleeping much, our hearts are full!

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Photo by Robyn Van Dyke

With Sarah’s arrival came a whole new “normal,” which means that this laptop hasn’t been opened in an entire month until now. I’m no super mom. There are two wonderful friends here watching the Isaacson littles. And let it be known that writing a book with two babies is not exactly easy. My editor graciously gave me another book deadline extension. I have till this Friday to finish (pray for me!). I am excited to get these words completed and in your hands next January when the book comes out.

Lara Casey Family

The ladies in my office have been working from home most days since Sarah arrived. Even scattered to their respective dwellings, they’ve created some remarkable things for our readers in the last couple weeks! I am in awe. It’s been a long while since I gave you an update on all the things that happen under this roof (besides babies) so here it is!

PowerSheets Community Site

We just launched the PowerSheets Community Site. I dreamed of this site for four years — ever since we started testing our first PowerSheets design. Community is the secret sauce to making what matters happen. Hard work is key, but friends to walk the journey with you will keep you doing the hard work—all the way to the finish line. Community means people who understand you. People who understand where you heart lies and what your purpose is. People who cheer you on when you’re feeling low, offer a sounding board for your big ideas, and who arrange playdates for your kids when you just need to take a shower. (Thank you to many of you who have done that for me in the last couple weeks!)

The PowerSheets community site is a place to cultivate meaningful relationships that help you make what matters happen. You can create a profile, share your goals with the community, encourage others in their goals, get in large online groups or small local teams, and create meet-ups to bring those relationships offline and in person.

Our Community Manager, Laura, is also on the site daily creating free downloads, helping you find community in your groups, and putting together PowerSheets tips and tricks for the blog. Oh my stars, I cannot wait for you to be a part of this with us!

How do you get access to the site? It’s free for PowerSheets users! All 2016 PowerSheets users are emailed an access code to the new community site. If you purchased PowerSheets and didn’t receive yours, email jess@laracaseyshop.com.

Clear the Clutter EBook

If you haven’t gotten your PowerSheets yet, or received yours in January but haven’t taken them out of the wrapper yet, know this: there is nothing magical about January 1. Remember, progress comes little by little. Intentional, meaningful goal setting can happen at any time, no matter how far “behind” you feel. The truth: you are not behind. You are exactly where you are supposed to be to take a leap forward!

Now through May, Nicole, Amber, Jess, and Laura are walking you through #FreshStartSpring. Many of you spent March working through the Clear the Clutter E-book to help you rid yourself of distractions so you can focus on what matters most to you — the important things you want to make happen. Just like we clear out our gardens in preparation for new seedlings and growth, take a moment to clear out the overgrown or lifeless things in the garden of your life. Friends, if there is something that is holding you back from living on purpose, download the Clear the Clutter E-book.

Lara Casey Garden
Photo by Robyn Van Dyke

Gracie and I just started planning our garden. More to come on this, but we hope to grow lots of herbs, flowers, veggies, and strawberry popcorn (this corn variety grows tiny, berry-colored ears!). We spent last week mapping out our garden beds and where everything would grow. Learning from past mistakes, we made sure to leave enough room for these tiny plants to grow into strong, tasty fruits and vegetables. The same is true of our goals. We must plan our goals based on how much room we have in our lives to grow them, and how much time we have to tend to them. In April, I’m excited that our team is walking you through goal planning and setting yourself up for success with the Starting the Seeds E-book. Just like garden planning, you’ll get the chance to map out your goals and how they’ll grow. Goals can flourish when you give them room to — I can’t wait to see what you cultivate!

To get the Starting the Seeds E-book directly in your inbox in April, sign up for my newsletter here.

Making Things Happen

We just wrapped up our most recent Making Things Happen conference, and it was such a life-giving time with old and new friends. So much about this conference has changed since it started eight years ago when I decided to hit “publish” on a blog post about how I made things happen. It’s been on our hearts to give the old Making Things Happen site a redesign so we can better share with all of our future attendees what MTH is really like — community-driven, full of honest work, joyful, peaceful, awe-inspiring. Next week, we are releasing our fall tickets for October 17-18 in Chapel Hill! Be the first to know when registration is open by signing up for the MTH Newsletter.

Write the Word Journal

This season of change has been good for our hearts. Going from two kids to three has been hard, but refining. When we go through a refining change, our hearts get refocused and strengthened. I have so much more to say about life with these littles, but my time is limited and that shower I mentioned earlier? I would like to take one of those today. : )

Southern Weddings Bow Tie Line

There has been lots of change in our office this year too. We’ve introduced two new team members, two new babies (June and Sarah), and we are seeing the fruit of having done our PowerSheets together in December. So much newness. Old prints, desk cards, and tees are coming out of our shops so that we can focus on the products that impact lives, like our Write the Word JournalsLife Handbooks, and Wedding Day Journals.

Southern Weddings Bow Ties
Photos by Anna Routh

The ladies have also been working hard on launching the Southern Weddings for High Cotton bow tie line! These bow ties look and feel like old Southern traditions — Easter Sunday, the Kentucky Derby, and spring weddings. I can’t wait to see some of our own gents wearing these to future Southern Weddings events. If you see Ari in one, give him extra encouragement as he’s not partial to bowties… yet ; )

Thanks again for all your prayers and encouragement in this new season. I’m still off social media, and working hard to get my book done in the next few days, but I hope to update you again soon. Happy spring, friends!

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Welcome to the final post in my fifth-annual Goal Setting Series! Each year, I am left in awe of the leaps of faith you take as we go through this process together, and this year tops them all! I am reading every single comment and am so excited for your year ahead. You are making meaningful powerful progress! You are on fire! If you are just joining, it’s never too late to begin and you aren’t “behind” one bit. Now is the best time to get started. Dig in!

2016 Goal Setting, Part 1: What Worked and Where to Start!
2016 Goal Setting, Part 2: What Didn’t Work + What I Learned
2016 Goal Setting, Part 3: Say Yes, Say No, Choose a Word
2016 Goal Setting, Part 4: Set Good Goals

Okay, let’s do some dreaming together! Imagine it: the end of 2016. The weather gets colder, December 2016 rolls around, and you start looking back at the year you’ve just lived. What would it take for you to look back and know that you lived on purpose instead of by accident?

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What will you wish you had started today? Fill in these blanks below (get your free printable here!):

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Knowing where you want to be at the end of 2016, what do you need to cultivate today? Literally today. However many hours or minutes are left as you read this (even if you are reading this in bed), how can you make one small decision in the right direction?

My friend Lysa says that every decision we make has an arrow attached to it, pointing us in one direction or another. Your decisions have the power to fly through all the distractions and fear and aim for a clear target, OR they can float around and miss the goal.

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I want my decision arrows aimed right at Jesus. So, today, I made some decisions and finished my 2016 PowerSheets Goal Setting process. The goals I’m about to share with you may seem simple, but they are boldest scariest goals I’ve ever written. They are coming from a place of restlessness, knowing I’m not using all of my potential yet, but also knowing that the impossible is possible. I have great hope in these goals. My goals are “simple” and that’s leaving lots of room for God to change everything on my path. And you know what? His plans have always been better than mine. I’m up for it.

I’m leaning into the mess and the unknown. I’m willing to let go and not be perfect. I’m willing to sit in the restlessness and un-rushed pace of the little by little to get to the end of this year knowing I lived on purpose. Making hard and powerful decisions with focused arrows attached to them will be worth it. The tending and watering and waiting and getting messy and growing pains will be worth it to get to the flourishing harvest at the end!

I’m all in.

Maybe you are feeling the same hesitation-scary-I’mALLin feeling with me right this second! Let’s choose a new way through the fear together. I’m choosing faith over my fear and I invite you to take the leap with me. Let’s cultivate the faith part, little by little, and the fear part will dry up. We’re not going to fertilize the fear this year, friend! Are you with me?

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Like I said in my first post, you can’t do it all and do it well. Here’s what’s on my mind right now: Two sick babes (one sleeping here on my lap!), 70,000 words to finish in 7 weeks, a family group to encourage, a team of women to lead, a new baby coming in 7 weeks on February 26th (!!!) and so much unknown in adoption and all that is ahead, a home study to renew (since we’ve been in the wait for over a year, it expired), a house to prepare for a new baby, maternity leave to prep for, a business that’s about to go through a major transition period with new employees to train (one flying here on Monday!) and two going on maternity leave (Emily and me), and well… a lot of emotions about all of this. I know I cannot do all the things in front of me well. I have to decide what to focus on and let go of the rest. I have to surrender and trust.

Can you see my white flag waving from where you are? Because it’s flying high. I surrender, and I’m making decisions today to flourish in this year ahead. At the end of 2016, I won’t regret these arrows I’m sending direct to the target!

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I’m saying YES to the mess and (here goes!) no to the internet for two months. I’ll check in every so often (likely just on Periscope once a week to update you on adoption and writing, so follow me there and turn on your notifications!), but I won’t be on social media or email or text messages (sorry in advance friends) much for these eight weeks while I focus on what’s needed inside the four walls of our home: drinking in the Word, praying out my soul and all these emotions, and pouring all He gives me into Ari, my children, preparing for our littlest girl, and these book pages. I’ll still be talking to you every day, you’ll just have to wait a few months to read my words to you : )

I said YES today to trusting that my team is equipped and ready for this season of Emily and I being out. They are incredible, capable, inspiring, magic-filled women. I am so grateful.

I’ve said YES to unrushing my life and stopping each day to look my children in the eyes to tell them how special they are to God and to me. YES to cultivating a flourishing faith in them too : )

I’m saying YES to building Ari up this year in his faith and loving him well. I’m saying yes to the year of monthly date nights that I gifted the ladies in my office, and committed to enjoying with Ari too!

There’s more, and this post is so “undone” but, our adoption case manager just called and it was another reminder to choosing purpose over perfect right now. My decision arrows are cutting through all the things to get to THE thing I need to do right now: write the words He has given me.

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A sneak peek. The book is called, Cultivate: A Grace-filled Guide to an Intentional Life. It’s a guide to embracing imperfect progress and making what matters happen, little by little. It’s a book about flourishing in life and goal gardening. I’ve never been so excited to write. I’m so ready!

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I just paused in writing this to go downstairs and hug Gracie. I found a package in the kitchen with this inside from my friend Erin: a 2016 calendar full of blooms and seed packets. Oh my soul! Y’all. I’m crying typing this. Erin, I love you friend! YES to filling the pages of this calendar with flourishing faith, family, and imperfect progress this year. Yes to planting meaningful seeds today that will grow and bloom with time and tending!

A little of Erin’s story: Years ago she left the hustle and bustle of city life to pursue a slower, simpler and more intentional lifestyle. She and her family dreamed of eating fresh vegetables from their garden, tending a flock of chickens and planting a small orchard. Shortly after they moved in, a generous neighbor brought his tractor over and tilled up a new plot of ground so that she could plant a garden. “Tucked among the many vegetables in that early garden was a double row of flowering sweet peas planted in honor of my great grandmother. Grammy had introduced me to gardening and flowers at a very young age. As a child, I was her “little flower girl” and she tasked me with making bouquets for her bedside table. While my creations were far from beautiful, she always cooed over them as if they were the most precious things on earth. Flowers were a source of great joy and connection between us. So, when the first flush of sweet peas bloomed in our new garden, it felt as if she were there with me. I shared much of the gardens bounty with friends, family and anyone who crossed my path. During that abundant season, word got out and someone ordered a jar of flowers for a friend. I’ll never forget that day as I nervously knocked on her door and awkwardly thrust the bouquet into her hands. Surprised, she buried her face in the flowers and tears immediately welled up in her eyes. She was instantly transported back to her own childhood summers, to a time of great happiness and to her own grandmother’s garden… right then and there I knew I had found my calling.”  Isn’t her story encouraging!? Erin inspires me to dig in, take the leap, and live on purpose!

With that, here are my 2016 Goals for this year of cultivating what matters and flourishing in faith:

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I came up with only two goals for 2016. If I can do these two things, I know that the rest of life will indeed flourish. (Can you guess that I changed my word for the year ahead? Yep! Flourish kept popping up as I wrote my goals and went through the end of this process!)

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Goal 1: Study the Word.

Why? To know the true God. This is the way to everything good—in marriage, business, health, friendships, motherhood, all of life. THIS is the way to lead and love well and to get to where I want to be when I’m 80.

The positive effect taking action on this goal may have on my life and others: I will transform.

How I will feel at the end of this year having made progress on this goal: ALIVE! I will not regret the time I took to do this!

Action ideas:

  • Pray about and decide on a study plan. I’m thinking I will study the Old Testament this year and the NT in 2017, but it may take longer to study through the OT.
  • Use a spiral bound notebook and open it on my desk with an open Bible and a pen ready.
  • Use Jen Wilkin’s method of studying scripture, as well as Jane’s.
  • Use my Write the Word journals daily.
  • Use a journaling Bible to get creative in the Word and be inspired by the Illustrated Faith community.
  • Have a bag ready with a pen and Bible inside to be able to take my studying on the go.
  • Set up my desk to be a place of studying the Word as my main focus – open Bible and materials.
  • Invite Gracie to join me and set up supplies (colorful paper, Bible, pens) for her too!- DONE! I made her a drawer in my desk with paper, pens, and a little Bible.
  • Write this sign to post on my desk: A year of sprouting under the soil, breaking free and letting go of my outer shell, and soaking up nutrients in order to bloom! – DONE!

How I will know I accomplished this goal: By the fruit of my life (But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – Gal 5:22-23) having chosen to study the Word more than I study the world.

Encouraging words: But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. – Psalm‬ ‭1:2-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, Lordteach me your decrees. – Psalm 119:10-12

How I will celebrate at the end of 2016: Anyone have ideas here? I am not sure! 

 

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Goal 2: Pray — in my “war room.” (Read this book or watch this movie!)

Why? To meet and be transformed and INFORMED by God.

The positive effect taking action on this goal may have on my life and others: I will live a peace-filled un-rushed life, and be able to make wise decisions.

How I will feel at the end of this year having made progress on this goal: Connected. Peaceful. Joyful. Taken care of. Whole!

Action ideas: 

  • Take everything off my office walls down. – DONE!
  • Ask God what to do next and what prayers to put on the walls. – DONE!
  • Write the prayers on colorful paper to put on the walls, and write prayers in my VMP Prayer Journal. – DONE!
  • Get on my knees here in my “war room” and talk to God! – DONE!
  • Write family prayers on the kitchen bulletin board.
  • Pray with Grace at night before bed. – DONE last night!
  • Continue to pray with Ari every morning before work and at meals and whenever we feel God tell us to! – DONE this morning!
  • What helps you to pray? I’d love to know! Ideas are welcome!

Side note: Grace is now sitting here with me and she wanted me to write these exact words to you: “Prayer is a good thing. It helps you to know God. God is in the clouds with Jesus. Mommy, I want to write God is so good. (singing now —>) God is so good. He’s so good to me! God answers prayers. Hallelujah! God is so good!”

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Amen, sweet girl!

How I will know I accomplished this goal: By the fruit of my life (But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – Gal 5:22-23) having chosen to pray and talk to God more than I seek approval or comfort from the world.

Encouraging words: Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thess 5:16-18

How I will celebrate at the end of 2016: I will paint my answered prayers on Christmas Day on a big canvas for our living room with Grace. I already have the canvas. I’m teary-eyed thinking about this!

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I just let out a sign of relief. How these goals will play out over the next 12 months will be more specific as I do my monthly PowerSheets pages, but I am so grateful for this process and clarity! I know where I’m going. 

Also, here are my business goals from doing our company PowerSheets together:

    • Lead team WELL and cultivate a culture of WELL.
    • Write Cultivate in January and February and release well in December.
    • Start a movement of making a mess and embracing imperfect progress. Goal setting with open hands.
    • Prepare for and enjoy a joyful adoption maternity leave.
    • Hand off company finances and back-end business this year so I can transition to a part-time role, focusing on writing and big-picture creativity.
    • Lead teaching on new PowerSheets site to help people make meaningful life goals happen and embrace imperfect progress.
    • Create meaningful small collection of shop products.
    • Write and release Couples PowerSheets.
    • Create meaningful new 2017 PowerSheets.
    • Create meaningful Write The Word content throughout the year.
    • Meaningful speaking and teaching through MTH and online conferences.
    • Lead big picture team vision and mission-centered decisions.
    • End the year knowing we lived and created from filled wells, and experienced beautiful team unity doing the good work we were given to do.

Whether you came up with two goals or twenty, I hope you feel more focused on what matters most having done each step alongside me! I am excited to check in with you here on the blog throughout the year to see how you are doing and encourage you. Tell me in the comments: what are your 2016 goals?

Lastly, thank you! Thank you for joining me on this journey. I am still going to be reading every blog comment here and cheering you on. Taking this little by little has been worth it and I am praying you find the same is true for you. Choose to focus on progress—little by little progress—not perfection. Your seemingly small steps forward today will add up, and a year from now, you will be so grateful you started today! Get messy and make it happen, friend!

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Thank you, Lord, for this new year of life. Thank you for my little redheads and for loving us with blooms and bees and all the marvelous things you grew in 2015. My heart feels a little unkempt going into this new year. Help me to let go of control, fear, worry, comparison, and anything that will hold me back from the unique assignment you have for me. I ask you to multiply my trust and relationship with you like never before. Let this be the year that my faith flourishes, and the dry parched areas become blooming fields. Lord, maybe there is someone reading this that wants that too. Help my friend. Help us to let go of what’s behind, experiencing grace and healing in anything left unresolved. Help the soil of our hearts to become rich with You. Life-giving healing You. Help me to begin this new year with an open, repentant, ready heart. But most of all, help me to let go of the belief that I can do anything on my own in the year ahead. I flounder around without you. I lose my way. But, with you I am found. I am content. I trust. I do not fear. You made this little boy sleeping next to me, and he is a miracle. Our rainbow baby. You made her too. Our littlest girl. I’m so excited to meet her in 7ish weeks. Lord, you are so good to us. Life is going to radically change this year and I want to choose you. Over worry. Over anxiety. Over pride. Over unbelief. Over the world and all the things. Help me remember the story you’ve already written in my life – that the impossible is possible. You can change broken imperfect people like me. You are the author of life change. May I use my days and minutes ahead well for you. Passionately. Quietly. Joyfully. – But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Phil 3:13-14

Comment with your answers from each step as we go through this series and enter to win these goodies via the Rafflecopter box at the bottom. One person who comments with answers to every step in this series will win a bonus prize: A (spiral bound) One-Year PowerSheets Workbook. I’m determined to motive you to dig in with me on these powerful steps!

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1. A set of 2016 PowerSheets with a Make It Happen binder and colorful tab stickers
2. Five prints of your choice from the Lara Casey Shop
3. The Finishing School by Valerie Metrejean
4. The Make it Happen audio book, recorded by yours truly!
5. A Journaling Bible (NIV)
6. Five Make it Happen journals
7. Artist’s Loft Fundamentals Watercolor Set
8. Two tubs of Vega Protein and Greens + a Vega shaker cup. Bonus: sign up for a free Vega account to get $15, and I’ll get $15 too!
9. Ashley Brooke Too Legit water bottle
10. ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?! 10 2016 Simplified Planners (pineapple daily edition). Yes, TEN of them! Lots of chances to win!
11. What good shall I do this day? sign from Best Made Co
12. Five Make it Happen books
13. Jonathan Adler Grapefruit Candlelara-casey-new-year-fresh-faith-giveaway

 

– (Not pictured, but so fun!) $25 Amazon gift card for books. Some suggestions: AnythingRestlessEditThe Best YesEditA Confident HeartThe Fringe Hours, or anything on Nancy Ray’s Book Club list.

14. The Write the Word journal collection – volume 1, 2, and 3!
15. Val Marie Paper Prayer Journal
16. Naptime Diaries print of your choice
17. In the Wait study by Holly Holt
18. Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin
19. How to Study Scripture E-Book by Jane Johnson
20. Make it Count 2016 Bible journaling kit from Illustrated Faith

Updated! Winners below!

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WINNERS:
1. A set of 2016 PowerSheets with a Make It Happen binder and Colorful Tab StickersJenna Gilbreath
2. Five prints of your choice from the Lara Casey Shop: Ronda (comment from Jan 6), Angela of Eat Spin Run Repeat, Amanda Paige, Tanika (comment from Jan 5), Lynn Aronson
3. The Finishing School by Valerie Metrejean: Katie Wilkin
4. The Make it Happen audio bookLisa Gilbert
5. A Journaling Bible (NIV): Monica T Smith
6. Five Make it Happen JournalsSiena (comment from jan 7), Kathleen Sullivan, Megan Lewellyn, Charmaine (comment from Jan 8), Michelle Bills
7. Artist’s Loft Fundamentals Watercolor SetDeborah Hailey
8. Two tubs of Vega Protein and Greens + a Vega shaker cupHannah CrainEm Enockson
9. Ashley Brooke Too Legit water bottleKara-Anne
10. 10 2016 Simplified Planners (pineapple daily edition).  Sarah (comment from Jan 2), Katie of A Place to Dwell, Amanda C., Anna Campbell, Faythe (comment from Jan 1), Stephanie F (comment from Jan 1), Kristi (comment from Jan 1), Lauren D’OrazioMyra of The Marvelous Mess, Michelle Bills
11. What good shall I do this day? sign from Best Made Co: Beverly V
12. Five Make it Happen booksJoanna Hyatt, Courtney KirklandLauren D.Becky BrunnerCortney Jones
13. Jonathan Adler Grapefruit Candle: Janet K
14. The Write the Word Journal collectionKatie Mac
15. Val Marie Paper Prayer JournalBethany (comment from Jan 5)
16. Naptime Diaries print of your choiceCarrie Beth
17. In the Wait Study by Holly Holt: Lauren DeVries
18. Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin: Madeline (comment from Jan 1)
19. How to Study Scripture E-Book by Jane Johnson: Dana Hartness of Happy Little Lovelies
20. Make it Count 2016 Bible Journaling Kit from Illustrated Faith : Ashley Terry
21. Amazon Gift Card: Jessica P.
PowerSheets Workbook: Terri Cook!
Please email Stephanie – orders@laracaseyshop.com with your mailing address and she will get your goodies to you! : ) Congrats, everyone!

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P.S. The e-book of Make It Happen is on sale for 3.99 this week only! Get it here!

P.P.S. After starting this series, need more direction? Three places to start:

1. Grab a copy of my book, Make it Happen.

2. Pre-order your PowerSheets.

3. Join me in person for the Making Things Happen Conference in March. See you there!

Show Comments (171)

If you are just joining us for this series, welcome! It’s never too late to begin. February 1 could be your January 1 if you like, so feel free to dig in anytime!

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2016 Goal Setting, Part 1: What Worked and Where to Start!
2016 Goal Setting, Part 2: What Didn’t Work + What I Learned
2016 Goal Setting, Part 3: Say Yes, Say No, Choose a Word

Welcome to Part 4!

Maybe you have ideas about what your goals might be this year (or maybe not yet and that’s okay too!)–and you are already overwhelmed and anxious about HOW to make them happen. You want all of your goals to have been tackled yesterday. Because here we are at the start of the year and you have to do it all right away, right? False. I know the feeling though. Lean into that restlessness and let it unlock one of the greatest freedoms you’ll ever discover: the power of little by little.

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Photos in my garden by Emily March.  I told y’all my tomatoes were huge this year (this was even taken early in the growth season) and I love zinnias! : ) 

We’re about to plant some good seeds as we uncover goals that have meaning. And then we’re going to take action on them. Making good things come to life requires physical action. And another action. And another. Over time, goals that were once leaps of faith you took on a blog post here, turn into new lives! The process of cultivating—breaking the soil, planting, tending, and waiting for the harvest—is where life happens. It’s where change and growth happen. The journey to making it happen is where the good stuff lives. 

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I know you overachievers want to have done everything yesterday (me too), but I have also been reading every single comment on this series. Taking this step by step is helping many of you make remarkable discoveries! I’m so pumped by all the lightbulbs I see going off! You are starting to see clearly, and it’s happening little by little. Your goals may change half-way through the year, or you may make them happen faster than you think if you take it day by day by day. Little by little these beautiful zinnias in my garden grew this year from the tiniest seeds. Little by little babies grow. Can you imagine if you got pregnant and then the next day gave birth?? Oh my stars! You wouldn’t be ready. No time to prepare. No time to buy diapers or mull over a name or assemble the crib or celebrate. You would have missed the time of preparation and ripening that happens over nine-ish months.

It is the same with our goals. And friend, I’m preaching this to myself right now too: trust that your goals matter enough to make them happen well. They matter enough to take little steps forward every single day, and some big leaps long the way too. Your goals matter enough to tend to them like a garden.

I wish I could have you come to my garden this summer. When these zinnias are in full bloom, and the bees and butterflies and goldfinches are fluttering and buzzing about, it’s just magical. I can’t help but stop and remember that it all started with tiny seeds. I broke through the hard soil of winter, planted good seeds, watered and tended to them little by little. There was so much joy in the journey. The process was the real gift. It was worth the planning Grace and I did in the winter, restlessness and risks and leaps of faith we took in planting, the hot days of pruning and weeding, and all the bug bites and dirty white pants : )

It was worth getting messy.

Your good goals will be with it too.

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A year from now you will wish you had started today. – Karen Lamb

Welcome to your start. Like I told you from the start of this process, traditional goal setting does not work for me. Swiftly-made resolutions get forgotten and then they linger and make you feel guilty for forgetting them. Anyone else ever experience this? Well, hopefully at this point you feel more equipped than when you started this process to write some down good goals. Goals that mean something. Goals that are very clear and will help you live on purpose.

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Let’s get messy and start to pick out some good seeds to plant this year! You ready for this? It’s going to feel scary and SO GOOD when you take a leap of faith and just start writing what comes to mind. You can do it!

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Four Goal Setting Tips:

1. First, review everything again! Remember, this is goal uncovering. Uncover one more layer and get to the good stuff! Get the big picture crystal clear in your mind and heart before you write your goals. Read through everything you’ve done so far. Read every word. Re-write or add to things once more if you need to. I added to my lists and re-wrote things after going through this process because I got more clarity. Cross stuff out, revise things, add to your lists of what did and didn’t work (I added a ton to mine!). Add more to your YES and NO lists. Refine your 2016 Pinterest board. Take pins out that don’t fit well. Use extra paper if you need to. Get messy and dig a little deeper before moving to the final exciting step…

2. Yeah, yeah, yeah! You’ve made it! Make a list of the first goals that come to your mind for this year when right after you review everything you’ve written. Call them “Goal Ideas” for now to help you get them out! I suggest taking a big deep breath and putting on a favorite inspirational song as you start writing goals. These don’t have to be perfectly written — just write what first comes to mind.

3. Check your goal ideas to make sure they are rooted in what matters. It’s so easy to make goals that sound good or goals that other people have that you think you should have, too, just to keep up. Don’t do that. The idea here is for you to SIMPLIFY your life, not to give yourself a new to-do list of random things that sound good. Be very specific and careful about what you decide to spend your time on this year. How you spend your time is how you spend your life.

Do a GOAL CHECK and ask these questions:

- Will this goal help me to cultivate what matters most?

- Where do I want to be when I’m 80 years old, and will this goal help me get there? 

- Does this goal also help other people?

- WHY do I want to make this goal happen? Am I desiring this goal for the right reasons, or am I striving for “perfect”—or whatever I’ve been chasing?

(If you are a believer, read this goal check from my friend Moriah here too!)

If the answer is NO to that first question, then it’s possible it’s not the best use of your precious time. Don’t run in circles with goals that don’t directly connect to what matters most. Get specific. Focus on what really matters to you in the big picture. Cross goals out that don’t 100% fit. Revise goals that are not clear. Be bold and take leaps of faith as you write.

4. This is the most important key to goal setting. Write down your WHY with every goal. When I was a personal trainer in New York for many years, most clients would come to me with a number and say, “I want to lose 10 pounds.” I would ask them, “WHY 10 pounds?” Usually, when we got down to it, it was just an arbitrary number, or a weight they were in college. There was no real heart connection to the goal of losing 10 pounds. But, when we dug deeper into why they became out of shape in the first place and what they wanted most in life, a picture of true fitness started to emerge. Instead of, “I want to lose 10 pounds because that’s what I weighed in college” (not very motivating and more self-defeating), we worked on goals like, “I want to be healthy and strong so that I can live long enough to walk my daughter down the aisle. I want to live a long, happy life so I can be a better husband and show my kids how to be joyful and healthy, too.” That works. That is motivating. SO, get real with WHY you want these things to happen and connect them to something that really matters to you. It will help you ACT on your goals instead of toss them aside.

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Photo above with our little peach tree by Nancy Ray.

Life is to short and too meaningful to coast through. The good you do today has the potential to change generations. You never know how long you have left here on this earth to love others and change them for the better in that love. That’s why setting good goals and having a clear focus is so important. Otherwise, you may spend your time lost in distractions. Lost in Instagram. Lost in the chase for perfect, or significance, or approval, or whatever it is that has been holding you back from really living. You may find yourself restless, knowing deep down that there’s more to this life. If that’s you right now, you are in the right place! I know that feeling well, and I don’t know about you, but I do not want to live my days by accident. I want to live on purpose, and use all the gifts I’ve been given to help others do the same! Join me.

Take a big breath in (really do it) and a big breath out. Think of where you want to be when you’re 80. What will be important to you then? Whatever it is, act like it today. Take some bold leaps of faith and write out goals that are outside of your comfort zone. Powerful goals don’t need Miracle Grow. Purpose-filled goals that are aimed at the big picture are 100% organic goodness. Soak them in sunshine, water them little by little, and get ready for a flourishing garden full of blooms–and a harvest to share!

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I’m going to share my 2016 goals in the next post. When you are ready, leave yours here in the comments on this post, or the final post coming Tuesday. If you aren’t sure of your goals yet (like me!), I want to hear from you. As you reviewed all you’ve written so far, what stands out to you? What themes are you seeing? Tell me in the comments and let’s encourage each other as our goals begin to take shape.

Comment with your answers from each step as we go through this series and enter to win these goodies via the Rafflecopter box at the bottom. One person who comments with answers to every step in this series will win a bonus prize: A (spiral bound) One-Year PowerSheets Workbook. I’m determined to motive you to dig in with me on these powerful steps.

lara-casey-goal-setting-giveaway-2016

1. A set of 2016 PowerSheets with a Make It Happen binder and colorful tab stickers
2. Five prints of your choice from the Lara Casey Shop
3. The Finishing School by Valerie Metrejean
4. The Make it Happen audio book, recorded by yours truly!
5. A Journaling Bible (NIV)
6. Five Make it Happen journals
7. Artist’s Loft Fundamentals Watercolor Set
8. Two tubs of Vega Protein and Greens + a Vega shaker cup. Bonus: sign up for a free Vega account to get $15, and I’ll get $15 too!
9. Ashley Brooke Too Legit water bottle
10. ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?! 10 2016 Simplified Planners (pineapple daily edition). Yes, TEN of them! Lots of chances to win!
11. What good shall I do this day? sign from Best Made Co
12. Five Make it Happen books
13. Jonathan Adler Grapefruit Candlelara-casey-new-year-fresh-faith-giveaway

 

– (Not pictured, but so fun!) $25 Amazon gift card for books. Some suggestions: AnythingRestlessEditThe Best YesEditA Confident HeartThe Fringe Hours, or anything on Nancy Ray’s Book Club list.

14. The Write the Word journal collection – volume 1, 2, and 3!
15. Val Marie Paper Prayer Journal
16. Naptime Diaries print of your choice
17. In the Wait study by Holly Holt
18. Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin
19. How to Study Scripture E-Book by Jane Johnson
20. Make it Count 2016 Bible journaling kit from Illustrated Faith

Enter below and be sure to leave your answers to each step as you go through the series with me!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends January 13th. Winners will be announced on January 15th here on the blog. Shipping some of these items can get costly, so hard goods are for US entrants only. Lots of digital prize options though for my international friends! If you don’t claim your prize within 48 hours, another winner will be selected, so mark your planners and stay posted! : ) Also, this post contains some Amazon affiliates links. No extra cost to you, but it helps us raise funds for Love One Another Project!

Show Comments (140)

Welcome to 2016 Goal Setting! Anyone else get the heebee-jeebees hearing the words “goal setting?” Then, you are in the right place, my friend. We’re doing this differently. We’re sifting through all the noise and distractions, and we’re doing goal uncovering. We’re taking our time. We’re taking big leaps. We’re making what matters happen, little by little. If you are just joining us, you aren’t late to the party — there is nothing magical about January 1! Here are Part 1 and Part 2, for your reading pleasure. Enjoy and have fun working through each step!

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A little recap:

STEP ONE: What have you been chasing? And how has that been making you feel?
STEP TWO: How are you? Evaluate your garden.
STEP THREE: What worked in 2016? And what lessons did you learn?
STEP FOUR: If you stopped chasing “perfect”—or whatever you’ve been chasing that is wearing you out— how would your life change? What does your perfectly imperfect “Messy 2016″ look like?
STEP FIVE: What hasn’t been working in 2015?
STEP SIX: Who helped you cultivate what matters in 2015? Who inspired you to live on purpose?

Now, onto Part 3! We have lots of fun things to cover today.

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STEP 7: Read over all of your progress so far! This is important! Circle or mark things that stand out to you as you read through. Rewrite things. Add to what you’ve written. Refine and get messy here! Dig through what you’ve written so far and see if you can find any themes.

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STEP 8: Write your list of what you are saying YES to in 2016 and what you are saying NO to. With everything you have written down thus far in mind, what are you going to need to say YES to more often in order to live on purpose in 2015, and what are you saying NO to? Think big picture here, and write down the things you are afraid to dive into, too. There is great potential hiding in your fear. Post your lists here in the comments to inspire others and keep yourself accountable. Remember: saying NO to one thing means you are saying YES to something better!

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–> PowerSheets owners and book friends, just a reminder that the steps in this series won’t exactly match what you have, as you have more steps! I’m sharing pieces of the process in hopes they spark your own progress : )

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STEP 9: Pick a core word for 2015. What one word most resonates with you for the year ahead? What word pulls together all that you want to make happen? Think hard about this.

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I shared mine yesterday on Periscope : ) Catch the replay here…

Research words that resonate with you. Pray on it. Then, write your word here in the comments (and give a virtual high five to those who might have the same word as you — we are bound to have some shared words!). Then, write that word in prominent places so you are reminded of your focus this year. Put it on a post it in your car. Put it on a post it literally inside of your fridge (I have a post-it in my fridge!). Make it your computer desktop. Write it anywhere and everywhere to remind you of where you are going!

Okay, I’ll be back later today for Part 4 for anyone who wants to take this weekend to dig in!

Need an extra kick in the pants? Welcome to the Ultimate New Year’s Giveaway! There are lots of prizes and fun ways to enter. Most of all, though, I hope you comment with your answers from each step as we go through this series. One person who comments with answers to every step in this series will win a bonus prize: A (spiral bound) One-Year PowerSheets Workbook. Yep! I have two left in the office, and one of you is getting one! I’m determined to motive you to dig in with me on these powerful steps : )

lara-casey-goal-setting-giveaway-2016

1. A set of 2016 PowerSheets with a Make It Happen binder and colorful tab stickers
2. Five prints of your choice from the Lara Casey Shop
3. The Finishing School by Valerie Metrejean
4. The Make it Happen audio book, recorded by yours truly!
5. A Journaling Bible (NIV)
6. Five Make it Happen journals
7. Artist’s Loft Fundamentals Watercolor Set
8. Two tubs of Vega Protein and Greens + a Vega shaker cup. Bonus: sign up for a free Vega account to get $15, and I’ll get $15 too!
9. Ashley Brooke Too Legit water bottle
10. ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?! 10 2016 Simplified Planners (pineapple daily edition). Yes, TEN of them! Lots of chances to win!
11. What good shall I do this day? sign from Best Made Co
12. Five Make it Happen books
13. Jonathan Adler Grapefruit Candlelara-casey-new-year-fresh-faith-giveaway

 

– (Not pictured, but so fun!) $25 Amazon gift card for books. Some suggestions: AnythingRestlessEditThe Best YesEditA Confident HeartThe Fringe Hours, or anything on Nancy Ray’s Book Club list.

14. The Write the Word journal collection – volume 1, 2, and 3!
15. Val Marie Paper Prayer Journal
16. Naptime Diaries print of your choice
17. In the Wait study by Holly Holt
18. Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin
19. How to Study Scripture E-Book by Jane Johnson
20. Make it Count 2016 Bible journaling kit from Illustrated Faith

Enter below and be sure to leave your answers to each step as you go through the series with me!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends January 13th. Winners will be announced on January 15th here on the blog. Shipping some of these items can get costly, so hard goods are for US entrants only. Lots of digital prize options though for my international friends! If you don’t claim your prize within 48 hours, another winner will be selected, so mark your planners and stay posted! : ) Also, this post contains some Amazon affiliates links. No extra cost to you, but it helps us raise funds for Love One Another Project!

Show Comments (206)

She thought that being popular would bring contentment. She never felt like she was enough. She believed the success equation was: work 24/7 + more work. She chased bigger and faster and more more more. Her marriage began to crumble. Yet, she believed she couldn’t slow down. If she missed a minute on social media, she might miss something. She didn’t think she was doing anything wrong, just what she had to do to keep up. She chased an elusive standard of perfection and she MISSED HER LIFE. She was me. I chased my tail until it all began to crash and burn. If you have been feeling restless lately, so badly wanting things to change, but believing that it’s impossible, I know one thing for sure: there is a way out. It didn’t happen overnight or without buckets of painful decisions and facing my mess in the mirror and then… having it ALL covered in grace.

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Hi, friends! Welcome back to Part 2 of 2015 Goal Setting. If you are new, be sure to read Part 1 here to get started. Today we are going to step into the imperfect to cultivate what matters together. Ready?

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STEP FOUR: If you stopped chasing “perfect”—or whatever you’ve been chasing that is wearing you out— how would your life change? What does your perfectly imperfect “Messy 2016″ look like? And… what if you stepped into this year armed with buckets of grace?

Grace upon grace.

As my friend Emily says, “I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perection.” What would that look and feel like for you? Would it be scary at first? Freeing? Both?

My Messy 2016 is about letting go of control. It will look like more listening because I won’t be so rushed–and I won’t be rushing everyone else. (A tip: Write “will” instead of “would” as you share your answers. This will help you commit to making it happen!) I will be able to hear and see more of the blessings right in front of me. Like right now. Ari and I have been up since 3am with two sick littles, which is why this post is so late getting up. But we are choosing to rejoice in the mess anyway! They may have thrown up all over the bed (and us), but they are still loving each other right now.

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My Messy 2016 looks like a family of six because I count our expectant mama as part of our forever family too. Having a child with a different skin color than us may bring questions from strangers and friends… but so many opportunities to share the gospel and His love story in this little one’s life. We are so grateful! My Messy 2016 looks like passionately loving my husband and encouraging him in his faith. It looks like praying a lot. On my knees. In the kitchen. In my office. In the car and the shower and on the floor of my closet. (Watch this movie, by the way. It changed our marriage and faith in the span of an hour. And use code MOVIE75OFF for 75% off your rental from now till Monday!) My Messy 2016 looks like stepping away from a growing business more to sow love into my family. It looks like homeschool prep, playing outside, nursing two littles round the clock, not sleeping a whole lot, giving a whole lot more, saying no, and letting go of the need to have a plan all the time. It looks like simple faith and being small (I love my friend Val’s post today.) It looks like less stuff so I have less to clean up in our house. It looks unrushed and undistracted and gloriously full of life.

“Because a messy house is better than a messy heart. And my heart was messy. Mucked up with distractions and misplaced priorities. I retreated to the back porch to be with Jesus. I let the breeze touch my skin. Let His Word fill up the rooms in my mind. Prayer pierced through my preoccupation with self and soon praise poured from my lips. And the miraculous thing? Time expanded. There was time to do the one thing needed and time to do most of the rest. And in the end, the undone stuff didn’t matter. There’s nothing wrong with a clean house—shiny sinks and sparkling toilets can speak love and hospitality when prepared unto God. But if I’m choosing between the state of my home and the state of my heart, I know the better choice.” These words from the Naptime Diaries Make Room devotional by Becky Keife have been ringing in my heart since early December.

My Messy 2016 is about giving up my PRIDE. So much pride. I like to fix things and keep things in order because I fear not being enough–or that things will fall apart. And when it comes down to it, that means I’m not trusting God. Wow, it’s freeing to do this goal uncovering work with you! The simple act of writing my honest thoughts helps me to see clearly, and I hope it does for you too. When I grasp the reins of control tightly, I edge out intentional, messy, purpose-filled, awe-filled living.

Beautiful bouquet of pink and white peonies

Do you know how you grow big fluffy beautiful peonies in your yard? You break through the soil, place the bulb in the ground with some nutrients, get your hands dirty as you cover it up, and besides watering in the hot months, you let go. You wait. You trust that God will provide sun and water and that the earthworms will aerate the soil.

You take a leap of faith. And you let God do His thing.

You trust that when the plant loses its greenery in winter, it will bloom again at just the right time. After winter always comes spring. I can’t force a peony to bloom in the winter when it’s dormant. The bulb needs to rest and transform and store up energy for spring. And when that bulb finally sprouts again and the booms unfurl, you get to drink in the ruffled petals and marvel at what making a mess and trusting can do!

Where do you need to let go in life and trust? What does your Messy 2016 look like? What if you coupled breaking new ground to plant good seeds AND letting go? Because, we can’t do it all and we don’t have to. We just have to plant good seeds, tend them well, and trust—as hard as it is! But, trying with all your soul, might, and strength to trust is worth it. It’s worth that moment when you surrender the reins and watch God cover your entire life in grace upon grace.

There is that popular phrase, “She believed she could, so she did.” I know a deeper truth. A freeing truth.

She believed she couldn’t, so He did.

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Cultivating what matters means letting go, surrendering, trusting when everything feels impossible, and knowing that you don’t have to make it all happen. God wants to do extraordinary things through our surrendered hearts and hands.

Where you can’t, He can.

Grace upon grace.

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My Write the Word journal above : ) 

Now, on to the next step! Every garden I’ve ever tended has had weeds. It’s not that I’ve planted them—they simply come compliments of the dirt. Appearing in different shapes and sizes, they will choke out what’s supposed to be growing if left unattended. So it’s important to address them. In the same way, to make things happen we must deal with the resident issues.

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STEP FIVE: What hasn’t been working in 2015? What hindered you from living on purpose? What areas of your life need to be tended, watered, or soaked in sunshine? Don’t just write or say, “Everything.” Get specific and list your greatest challenges—the places that feel overgrown with impossible weeds right now. I know you want to make this your most purposeful year yet, so don’t let negative self-talk paralyze you as you make this list. Write the facts and move forward. Each thing you write down is a potential area of your life you could surrender to make completely new.

A page from my PowerSheets:

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Three highlights for me:

Comparison. I used to get very discouraged when I looked at other wedding magazines. I didn’t have their budgets or their stylists or their prop houses. When reading other people’s blogs, I would get depressed by comparing my writing, organizing, or business acumen to theirs. I would see happy couples, and though my marriage was improving greatly at the time, I resented all the mess my husband and I had to wade through. Other people were reading large portions of the Bible while I had a hard time reading two paragraphs of an e-mail without getting distracted. Other people were better, faster, smarter, and more successful, and their lives seemed perfect. Ugh! I wanted to be like them. Well, until God shed some light on this for me—a giant million-watt spotlight. Comparison is coveting. And I can see why God felt that strongly about it and forbade it in the Ten Commandments. Comparison makes me ungrateful, which is ignoring God’s gifts to me. When I want what everyone else has, I am blinded to the blessings right in front of me. Comparison isn’t only the thief of joy; it’s the thief of everything. If you are comparing your business, work, kids, marriage, finances, spiritual maturity, smarts, or __ [insert whatever it is for you]__ to those of any other human being on this earth, you will continue to chase your tail, and you will miss your life. I chased “big” and “more, more, more” and “the best” and “more followers” and—you get the picture—for way too long. Until all those things I had worked so hard to build by comparing myself to others started to crumble. Living on purpose turns comparison and coveting into compassion and cheering on. When you are living on purpose, it doesn’t matter what someone else’s journey looks like. All that matters is that you are going to the same place for eternity. You want to help other people get there. So why not be happy for people when they find success or joy or when something comes easier to them than it does to you? If God is glorified, the success is yours, too, my friend. We are all in this together.

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Worry. Worrying is like praying for what you don’t want. Seriously, God taught me a thing or two about this in 2015. “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” Luke 12:25. When you look back at the things you worried about this year, did the worry help you, or anyone around you? Me either.

Waiting for so long to deal with unresolved feelings or hard things. When you realize how broken you’ve been, and how much grace has lavished on your imperfections, you start to overflow with a desire to give that same grace to others. If I have been forgiven of so much junk, how could I hold forgiveness from another human being? In my maternity leave with Joshua, I did a lot of praying and read a lot of scripture in the sleepless nights. In all my reading and praying, I felt a strong pull to reach out to those I didn’t have the closest relationships with, and to reach out to new friends too! It was incredibly fruitful. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Eph 4:32

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Once you have your list of what didn’t work in 2015, name three lessons you learned and an idea for what to do about it. For example, if you found yourself lost in worry a lot, perhaps the lesson is to cultivate trust more, little by little, and have a list of encouraging scriptures handy—on your desk, on your bathroom mirror, or by your bed—for times you feel worry coming on.

What about you? What challenges did you face this year and what did you learn from them? Perhaps you are still in the thick of some challenges and have no idea yet what they are supposed to teach you. That’s okay! Wherever you are, let’s share the hard things and encourage each other in them. Leave your thoughts in the comments and help encourage others as well.

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STEP SIX: Who helped you cultivate what matters in 2015? Looking back at your list of what worked in 2015, and all that you’ve written so far in this series, who helped you to live on purpose this year? Who encouraged or inspired you? Download your own free printable and make your list here!

Lara-Casey-2016-Goal-Setting---Gratitude-List

I don’t have a printer here at my parents house, so I had to type on mine. This is just one page of many for me!

Write the names of those you are grateful for and WHY. And then… do something about it. Thank them for the specific things they helped you with or inspired in you! Some examples from my list:

Gina. Gina and I have been friends for six years and I count her as my most prayerful friend. She has prayed fervently for my marriage, health, focus, family, adoption, and every aspect of my life! In that, I’ve been blessed by her genuine prayers, but also by her example as a prayerful faithful friend. She is also one of the only people who can get a genuine smile out of Ari on camera : )

Rhiannon. She loves our family generously and has become one of my closest friends. We pray, laugh, love, wipe runny noses, and change lots of diapers together. And we make each other tea on the many days that we just can’t do it all. Rhiannon, I praise Him for you every day!

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Marcia and Talia. These two wise women are in our church family group, and have become dear friends and mentors to me. What’s unique about these women is that they fiercely pursue my faith. What does that mean? When Ari and I have a challenge in our marriage and I ask them to pray, they pray… and they call, they come over, they don’t let me get away with “I’m fine.”

Jess Connolly. Jess is a wise woman and has encouraged my faith greatly this year. I love reading her truthful words each day, and I am grateful to have her as a friend. Sometimes I wish I could show up at her door just to give her a bear hug and say, “Thank you for speaking truth today.”

Nicole. She wants to know the real answer when she asks how I’m doing each morning. She is a really good listener, and even though I have overloaded her with my big crazy ideas more than once this year, she has continued to pour out grace and joy. I’ve learned from her calm, positive, innovative, giving, and passionate spirit this year. I am so grateful to do my days with you, N!

I loved hearing all the things many of you did to encourage someone else in Part 1! I’d love to hear from you here too. How are you saying thank you to the people who have helped you to cultivate what matters?

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OPTIONAL* BONUS STEP: Get visual! Let’s call this “2016 garden planning!” As a creative, visual person, imagery really lights my heart on fire more than anything. Great photographs and colors can make my heart sing and help me clarify my vision. If you are like me, you will really love this step. Make a Pinterest board of images that will inspire a purposeful year. What do you want to grow? Title your board “Make it Happen in 2016″ so we can search for each other’s boards! Now, one word of caution. I rarely use Pinterest (like, twice a year) because it can be the black hole of distraction and discontentment. The goal isn’t to have a Pinterest-worthy year, so pick images that have deep heart, not just pretty things. Here’s my board from last 2013 and from 2014 and 2015. I’ll be pinning images for 2016 here.

*I made this step optional for a reason! If Pinterest distracts you too much, skip this step! There are no rules here. Do whatever will help you to make what matters happen.

Okay, I’ll be back on Friday for Part 3. Friday’s post will be a single powerful step, and I can’t wait!

Need an extra kick in the pants? Welcome to the Ultimate New Year’s Giveaway! There are lots of prizes and fun ways to enter. Most of all, though, I hope you comment with your answers from each step as we go through this series. One person who comments with answers to every step in this series will win a bonus prize: A (spiral bound) One-Year PowerSheets Workbook. Yep! I have two left in the office, and one of you is getting one! I’m determined to motive you to dig in with me on these powerful steps : )

lara-casey-goal-setting-giveaway-2016

1. A set of 2016 PowerSheets with a Make It Happen binder and colorful tab stickers
2. Five prints of your choice from the Lara Casey Shop
3. The Finishing School by Valerie Metrejean
4. The Make it Happen audio book, recorded by yours truly!
5. A Journaling Bible (NIV)
6. Five Make it Happen journals
7. Artist’s Loft Fundamentals Watercolor Set
8. Two tubs of Vega Protein and Greens + a Vega shaker cup. Bonus: sign up for a free Vega account to get $15, and I’ll get $15 too!
9. Ashley Brooke Too Legit water bottle
10. ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?! 10 2016 Simplified Planners (pineapple daily edition). Yes, TEN of them! Lots of chances to win!
11. What good shall I do this day? sign from Best Made Co
12. Five Make it Happen books
13. Jonathan Adler Grapefruit Candlelara-casey-new-year-fresh-faith-giveaway

 

– (Not pictured, but so fun!) $25 Amazon gift card for books. Some suggestions: AnythingRestlessThe Best YesA Confident HeartThe Fringe Hours, or anything on Nancy Ray’s Book Club list.

14. The Write the Word journal collection – volume 1, 2, and 3!
15. Val Marie Paper Prayer Journal
16. Naptime Diaries print of your choice
17. In the Wait study by Holly Holt
18. Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin
19. How to Study Scripture E-Book by Jane Johnson
20. Make it Count 2016 Bible journaling kit from Illustrated Faith

Enter below and be sure to leave your answers to each step as you go through the series with me!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends January 13th. Winners will be announced on January 15th here on the blog. Shipping some of these items can get costly, so hard goods are for US entrants only. Lots of digital prize options though for my international friends! If you don’t claim your prize within 48 hours, another winner will be selected, so mark your planners and stay posted! : ) Also, this post contains some Amazon affiliates links. No extra cost to you, but it helps us raise funds for Love One Another Project!

Ready for part 3? Here you go!

Show Comments (196)