HAPPY 2014!!!  Welcome to a brand new year, friends.  If you are just joining us, you are in the right place : )  It’s never too late to start this process and spread the word to your friends to have them join you, too.  Here are the previous posts:

Part 1: Let’s Do This!
Part 2: Get Fired Up.
Part 3: Your 2014 Vision

making things happen desk car lara casey

Photo of my Make It Happen desk card by my friend Mary Boyden.

My answers from Part 3, starting with my 2014 Vision:

Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses? Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:36-40 NIV)

My 2014 vision. OK. I’m going to walk you through my honest thoughts today as I uncover this. Honestly, my brain feels so full lately with traveling and giving my whole attention and love to family and trying to write my book and being a mama and a wife and a business owner. Those things don’t go on Christmas vacation. So, I am taking it day by day to love The Lord with all of me and through all of this.  Your instinct as you read this night be to say, “Well, Lara, take a break! Relax!”  You see, though, God doesn’t tell us to seek pleasure or a life where we just coast.  He sometimes calls us in seasons of our lives to rise up and let Him work profoundly in us to accomplish far more than we can on our own.  I’m in one of those seasons and I am praying for Him to use me. In these seasons, and always, He tells us to work hard and let Him fill us with a kind of rest that a vacation just can’t accomplish. It’s 20 levels deeper. If you read Proverbs 31, you see a woman who works hard for what matters, rising at dawn and using all she has for her family and others. And then she rests in Him. But, lately I’ve been falling into the trap of self-doubt during some of that rest time. My brain has been spinning a bit, thinking that I cannot write a great book or be a great mom or have as good of a year in business as last year. But. But! Then I remember the greatest lesson I learned from 2013: His plans are far bigger than mine.  He is bigger than me and what I can do on my own. He is in control. My job is to simply trust and obey.

(and I just took a deep breath)

Trust and obey. (Anyone love that old hymn as much as I do?) I typed this out because I don’t want you to think any of this just naturally happens. I struggle and, when I stop to have a literal “come to Jesus” moment with myself, all becomes well.  It is well with my soul. That’s what God’s peace does. My physical circumstances haven’t magically changed. But He changes my heart and that, in turn, helps me change my vision from cloudy to clear in an instant.  This is why I have to stay in the Word and focused on Him, because it is so easy to forget the truth.

LARA-2014-VISION

So, my 2014 Vision is to be clear. To see God’s heart clearly and my heart clearly — no matter how messy sometimes — and to keep aligning my heart with His. My 2014 Vision is to love my neighbor as myself by sharing the clear truth that has changed and continues to change me. My 2014 Vision is to couple boldness with tenderness, knowing I am weak and that I can’t do anything good without Him, and to speak the truth in love to others. I want to use all of the gifts He has given me and give them all away.

lara casey blog

 

To borrow a powerful phrase from my friends Jessi and Hayley, my 2014 Vision is to be “wild and free” for Him in spreading the Gospel and living in His joy.  My 2014 Vision is to see through His lenses and do something — everything — about it.

NO-LIST-LARA-CASEY

Having defined that, now here is what is NOT in my 2014 Vision and what I’m saying NO to in 2014:

  • Self-doubt.  I’m redefining that today after what God just taught me.  I should doubt my own abilities on my own, but I can have FULL confidence in His power and plan, whatever that may be.
  • Eating junk.  With the last part of 2014 being so busy, I went to sugary foods — ice cream, candy, too many Luna bars when I was on the go — to fill what needed to be filled with good fuel.  Ari and I started a modified Daniel fast today for January.  For Him it’s “no meats, sweets or alcoholic treats (which are rare for him anyway).”  For me, it’s no simple sugars (ice cream, candy), bread or large portions when I am stressed.  We are doing this fast so that, each time we crave one of those things, we look to God instead for nourishment.  It’s a way of being more spiritually mindful in taking care of the lives God has given us.
  • Comparison.  I will be writing a lot about this in my book, but comparison isn’t just the thief of joy, it’s the thief of everything.  When I compare other wedding magazines or blogs to ours, I get so far off track thinking about their numbers compared to ours and I completely forget the enormous fundamental difference that sets us apart – championing strong marriages above all else.  You can read our whole mission statement here.  I fall into comparison in so many areas, but I will work hard in 2014 to say NO to that and see what He sees.
  • Email.  I get too much of it.  Not junk, but legitimate email.  It’s hard because, every time I write a blog post or put something out into the world, I get emails.  Really lovely wonderful emails that I am so grateful for from really lovely people.  But, sometimes, they add up when I have a lot to reply to and that takes away from my time with my family.  This is such a challenge for me because I want to reply to everything and I do. So, perhaps I can say NO to feeling compelled to always give long replies.  But, friends…. just for the next month… I am kindly asking you to not email me.   I cringe even typing that because I don’t like saying no, but I have to finish writing this book! : )
  • STUFF.  This is a huge one.  I’m still going on the Contentment Challenge, but I have a long way to go.  This quote from the book Margin that Nancy Ray posted sums it up perfectly:

richard swenson

  • More: days that are filled with too many projects, getting angry instead of praying first, days where I don’t take time to study the Bible well, worrying about things I can’t control.  I will keep adding to this list as I think of things and I encourage you to do the same with your lists.

LARA-CASEY-YES-LIST

Number one: knowing that I am made new in Him.

lara-casey-change-scripture

Finishing reading the Bible (I didn’t end up completing my goal to finish by today, but I am still pressing on!), working out hard so I can be a healthy mom for Grace, more music in our lives this year, intentionally teaching Grace good things, cooking more (more on that in a bit below), and opening my heart to the possibility of having another child.  There is more, but I will keep adding to this as we go!  Done is better than perfect right now.  I want to spent time with my parents this afternoon and pick lemons from my mamas trees with Grace : )

MY-WORD-FOR-2014-LARA-CASEY

My word for 2014 is CLEAR.  I keep saying that to myself as I have gone through this process.  Clear about my purpose, clearly using my gifts to serve others, clearly giving love to others… and free from distraction and the stuff that doesn’t align with His purpose for me.

Alright, welcome to Part 4! Cue the dance party — you’ve made it to the final steps of Goal Setting for 2014 before we actually set some solid goals!

lara-casey-goal-setting-2014-plant-seeds

STEP 10: Plant Seeds. Create Legacy.

My mom gave me the most special gift last night. She gave me decades of family memories, holidays and celebrations, her heart — her greatest passions and the unique gifts God gave her to share — in cook book form.  My mom is a trained French chef and most of her happiest times have been in the kitchen and around the dinner table with us.  She spent days and days putting together two giant binders of her recipes, kitchen tips and favorite family memories for me. Now, I can relive these memories with her in my own kitchen and pass them on to Grace.  I’m crying typing this.  That’s how big this gift is to my heart.  This is her living legacy.

One of the greatest motivators I have is currently doing her farm puzzle at my feet : )  I told her I am writing things that I hope will help people.  She smiled and went back to her puzzle, happy that I am writing to you.  When Ari leaves for work in the morning, we tell her where he is going: to help people feel better.  She loves knowing that is what he does.  We know Grace understands. And telling her this makes us accountable.  It makes both of us want to use all of our time wisely and to the full to genuinely help others.  I know that she watches my every move and hears more than my words – she hears the heart behind them.  She mirrors me all day long, showing me in human form how important it is for me to plant good seeds and LIVE the way we want her to live.  Now, this is also the thing that can paralyze me and make me completely lose confidence the most.  Creating a living legacy for Grace in all I do is a lot of pressure, but it’s a good pressure. Writing to you here on this blog, I am aware that she may read it some day, too.  That makes me want to write boldly and clearly, with tenderness.  It makes me want to leave a legacy that leads her to the heart of what matters.  It makes me want to plant good seeds in really good soil.  It’s what made me create this book…

Lara Casey Shop_Life Handbook

A couple months ago, God put it firmly on my heart to leave Grace a legacy of love and wise guidance.  So, I created A Handbook for Life for her and for all mamas and anyone who wants to leave your best advice, wisdom, family memories, reasons you love them and so much more.  Ari and I can’t wait to fill this book out for Grace.  This was one of my favorite things to create ever.  Read all the details here and pre-order now for delivery before Valentine’s Day.

What little seeds can you plant in others?  What legacy can you pass on to those you love now?  What can you teach to others?  What traditions can you pass to them? What gifts of love can you sow?  Sometimes, the tiniest seeds produce the most amazing things.  The mustard seed is one of the smallest of seeds, but grows into one of the largest of trees.   For example, your seed might be starting a small savings account for a child or grandchild.  It might be teaching someone something that will help them — like volunteering for the Boys and Girls Club or teaching at your church or just writing a blog post to share your knowledge about something.  It might be writing a love letter to plant a seed of encouragement in someone else’s life.  It might be creating something — using your art and creative talents — to multiply love in the heart of another or to inspire many.  It might be starting an email account for your little one that you send love letters to daily and, when they are older, you will give them the password to let them read years of love.  I have done that for the last two years and love sending Grace special emails!  Make a list of “seeds” you can plant now — perhaps in the next few weeks — or the living legacy you want to pass to others. Leave your ideas here in the comments.  I’ll share more of my list tomorrow.

lara-casey-goal-setting-radical

STEP 11:  Do something radical this year.  For those of you in my generation, this doesn’t mean Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure kind of radical.  I mean the kind of radical that changes everything for the better.  That thing that has been set deep in your heart.  That thing that scares you.  That thing that feels impossible right now.  That thing that you know would help you and everyone around you.

Radical literally means very new and different from what is traditional or ordinary.   ‘If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. ‘ – Tony Robbins   Do something different this year, something that feels bigger than you. Imagine the possibilities if you do! You get to define what your radical means to you.  Maybe it’s big like finally getting out of debt or starting a personal budget or getting healthy.  Maybe it’s finally going on that mission trip or writing that email or starting that business.  Maybe it’s saying “no” to something or simply and profoundly choosing to be more still this year.  Before you get completely overwhelmed (I know I just dove into deep waters here with you!), here this: start small.  The core principle behind what I’ve taught at the Making Things Happen workshop for the last 5+ years is this: begin anywhere.  Little by little, make it happen.  Your task here for Step 11 is to define your very first tiny small little itty bitty action step towards making that thing happen.

If your “radical” is getting out of debt, your very first step might be as small as going to the local library and checking out a copy of Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover.  Yes, most libraries have new awesome books like that.  Or get a copy from a friend.  Or read Emily’s personal finance posts!  Or sign up for a free Mint.com account to start an online budget.

If your “radical” is strengthening your marriage, maybe your first tiny action step might be leaving your husband a simple love note in his car tonight so he gets it tomorrow on the way to work.  Just an “I love you. I appreciate you.”  Maybe your first step is to give him or her a hug just because, even if he or she left the dirty dishes in the sink again or said that thing that made you upset.  Maybe your first step is to simply listen and genuinely ask, “How are you?” even if they don’t ask the same in return.  Maybe your first step is to pray for them.  Prayer is an action step.  Perhaps one of the very best ones.

If your “radical” is learning to be content, maybe your first tiny step is to read this post.

If your “radical” is getting healthy, your very first tiny action step might be to open a trash bag and step into your kitchen.  If there is stuff in there that isn’t on your Making Things Happen Train with you (imagine all the good stuff cheering you on!), donate it to the food pantry, recycle its container and/or toss it.  I’m giving you these steps as examples — debt and finances, marriage, health — because I once took these exact same steps myself.  After college, in the thick of depression, I gained 50lbs in 6 months.  It was a long road to learn to fill my soul and body with what it really needed.  And it didn’t happen overnight or without struggle or failure or buckets of tears.  But, little by little by little, it did happen.  I eventually became a personal trainer to try to help others learn to do the same.  I trained hundreds of men and women and learned more about fear and self-doubt than I ever anticipated.   I am so grateful for my journey and how it has translated into the work I do now.

So, what is your “radical”?  Define it.  Write it in black and white and let it marinate in your big beautiful heart.  And then DO something about it.  Something very small.  Sometimes — most of the time — the hardest part is starting.  The rest of the pieces can come later.  Define your radical now.  Share it here and let’s support and pray for each other.  I will share mine tomorrow, too.

LARA-CASEY-STEP-13-GOAL-SETTING

Step 12: OK, 10 and 11 were admittedly challenging, though likely the most fruitful.  So, here’s an easy one.  Choose a song for this year! A song that lights your heart on fire and makes you feel alive and connected to what you want most.   Music has the ability to connect us to what matters most in an instant.   Music can lift us out of a slump fast.  Music can fill our should with goodness on days that nothing else seems to get to our hearts. This is most definitely my song for this year.  Share your song for 2014 here in the comments, too!

LARA-CASEY-2014-GOAL-SETTING-WIN

Remember, if you need an extra kick in the pants to make this happen, I’m going to be giving away a $20 gift code to my shop (there are some crazy amazing new Making Things Happen and inspiring goodies coming to the shop soon!) and goodies from other shops I love on EVERY POST in this series to one lucky commenter per post.

PRIZES FOR THIS POST: Read Part 1 for all the ways you can win! Randomly chosen commenters on this post will get either a $20 gift card to my shop or one of these new Life Handbooks.  YAY!

Yeah!!!  Happy NEW Year!!!

Show Comments (140)

  • Happy New Year’s Eve, friends!  Ari, Gracie and I are flying from Miami (after a wonderful visit with his family — his dad’s first time meeting Grace!) to Pensacola shortly to see my parents, brother and Grandma Bunny (who turned 97 yesterday — wow!).  I’m so grateful and excited to ring in a new year with them!  I hope your plans tonight include celebrating the great things in 2013 and that the past is behind us, giving way to a fresh new start.  Thank you, Lord!  Anyone else ready for a fresh start?

    If you just stumbled on my blog today, welcome.  This may say “Part 3” above, but you are not too late to join us.  It’s never too late to begin and there are lots of folks just getting started today, too : )  Here are the links to the previous posts below:

    Part 1: Let’s Do This!
    Part 2: Get Fired Up.  Here are my answers from Part 2 below.

    LARA-CASEY-WHAT-I-LEARNED

    What I learned from what worked:

    1. God is fully in control and He loves us all deeply.  His purposes prevailed this last year.  My selfish pursuits did not.

    2. God has a very good plan, even when I can’t see the final outcome.  I need to trust His plans ALWAYS and not try to control everything.  He has this.

    3. The Bible is truly the only source of wisdom for all aspects of life.  Nothing else compares.  I was changed more in reading the Bible and being still (so hard sometimes) and praying this year than anything else.

    What I learned from what didn’t work:

    1. All of the above  : )  And that our days on they earth are very short.  They feel shorter and shorter lately.  I learned — and am learning — that I have to keep my heart focused on Him or I get way off track.

    2. I am weak.  I am so weak sometimes.  I need Him to fill up all those places I can’t make whole on my own.  When I stay focused on His glory and not mine, He leads me so clearly.

    3. Lastly, I learned that I can’t do it all and that’s OK.  Sometimes it’s better to pass the torch so more leaders can be born and grow.  Dear self: pass the torch more!

    What fires me up:

    (just a few of the many things)

    • Writing the things above and just being real about where I need to grow — being humbled — fires me up.  I feel closest to God when I am humbled.
    • Our mission at Southern Weddings — and in all we do — fires me up beyond words.
    • Music fires me up.  I am typing this listening to Oceans on repeat again.
    • A crazy good workout where I feel my lungs burning and my muscles hot.
    • Clean air.  Clean water.  These are gifts I’m trying to learn to not take for granted.
    • A shared moment or conversation with Ari where I remember and feel our shared heart.  We’ve had a lot of those lately.  That shared heart was born of a man who died on a cross so we could be free.  So we could forgive each other.  So we could be forgiven.  So we could be completely washed in grace and made new and whole again.  That heart is the greatest gift we’ve been given. It saved our marriage and changed who we are as people.
    • Watching Grace sing any song ever, Grace looking at me right in the eyes to tell me something, Grace laughing, Grace saying new sentences or asking me silly questions…  she fires me up.
    • Doing pirouettes in my living room.  That was for you, Katie : )  The best part is that, lately, Grace asks to do them too.  She can’t quite get the mechanics, but I hold her and twirl her around.  Melt my soul.
    • Grace praying spontaneously.  Truly amazing.  This is one of my favorite images from the entire year and from, well, ever.
    • My friends who love the Lord and do things about it.  There are too many of you to name.  The fact that I know so many truly amazing women fires me up in itself.  Thank you all for loving Him and being a light in my life.
    • Getting things done, stepping into fear, saying no — that all fires me up!
    • The ocean (so I took Grace yesterday!), seeing people change, baptisms (I cry every single time), singing in church with my family, solitude, writing, creating, the ladies I work with, Meredith, my family, hugs, the smell of pine, snow, farm animals (namely chickens!), flowers, white lilies, gardening, cooking, singing to God, slow dancing with Ari in the kitchen… I could go on but I will stop there for now : )

    Speaking of what fires me up, I love surprises!  So, I made you a little something fun for your New Year’s Eve : ) The 2014 Letter to Your Amazing Self!  And haha – anyone see the typo in this letter?  That’s what I get for not having Emily Thomas around all week to proofread for me!

    lara-letter-to-self-2

    Print this out, share it, pin it — download it full size HERE — and maybe even give a copy or email one to your BFF’s to fill out, too!   Have fun.  I’ll share mine tomorrow too : )

    LARA-CASEY-GOAL-SETTING-PART-2---STEP-7

    OK! Onto the next steps!

    STEP 7: What is your 2013 VISION?  To quote my friend Mitch, “You need to have a vision for where you are as a person. Everyone ends up somewhere, but few end up somewhere on purpose. You have to have a focus. Focus helps you know what NOT to focus on. If you have a vision, when times are tough (and they will be), it gives you peace and hope and passion to move forward.”

    Where there is no vision, the people perish. (Proverbs 29:18)

    Traditional goals get forgotten and they can be overwhelming if they aren’t connected to what matters. They can make life busier. I don’t want a new to-do list for 2014, I want a PATH. Goals with a solid, well thought-out vision behind them HAPPEN. They simplify life. And, as I found out this year, the clearer my vision gets, the more good I see in life and the more good happens for other people, too.

    lara casey goal setting 2014 is the year i

    Write out your 2014 Vision.  You can do this in whatever way you feel most connected to.  A few questions you can choose from to get you writing:

    • What kind of life do you want to live this year?
    • Where do you want to be when you’re 80?
    • WHY do you do what you do?
    • What is your mission?
    • What is your CORE?
    • If you could envision your best year yet, what does that look like?
    • 2014 is the year I (fill in your blank): _______

    I will share mine tomorrow! Post your 2014 Vision here in the comments so we can inspire and cheer each other on!

    lara-casey-goal-setting-NO-list

    STEP 8: Here’s where things get fun. You now know what did work over the last twelve months, what didn’t work and what fires you up. You learned some very valuable lessons in all of this. You are starting to see the bigger picture and have a VISION for your year ahead. So, what is NOT in that vision?  Make a list of all of the things that are holding you back (or could potentially hold you back) from making this vision come to life this year. Write your list of what you are saying NO to in 2014.

    LARA-CASEY-GOAL-SETTING-YES-LIST

    STEP 9: With everything you have written down thus far in mind (I suggest reading over all of your progress again), what are you going to need to say YES to more often in order to make your vision come to life? Write your list of what you are saying YES to in 2014. Dream big, here, and write down the things you are afraid to dive into, too. There is great potential hiding in your fear. I encourage you to post your YES List publicly here and/or share it with friends to help inspire others and to keep yourself accountable. I think you will all likely NOT be writing Facebook or more social media on this list. Just a guess.

    –> PowerSheets owners, the step numbers in the rest of this series won’t match what you have in your sheets, as you have more steps! : ) Exclusive new printables just for PowerSheets friends will come in the PowerSheets webinar on January 15th, too!

    LARA-CASEY-GOAL-SETTING-WORD-FOR-2014

    BONUS STEP! Pick a core word for 2014. What one word really resonates with you for the coming year?  What word pulls together all that you want to make happen?  Think hard about this. I’ll share mine tomorrow too.  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!

    Speaking of going, we’re off to Pensacola!  Happy New Year’s Eve, dear friends!  While this is the last day of a calendar year, it has the potential to also be the START of your best year yet.  Start well.  Let’s do this!

    LARA-CASEY-2014-GOAL-SETTING-WIN

    PRIZES FOR THIS POST: Read Part 1 for all the ways you can win! Randomly chosen commenters on this post will get either a $20 gift card to my shop, a Simplified Planner

    ELSimplifiedPlanner_37-01_1024x1024

    …or a set of the NEW Encouragement Postcards from my shop!

    lara-casey-encouragement-postcards

    Winners will be announced January 31, so you have lots of time to make this happen and spread the word about this series : )

    Show Comments (244)

    Welcome back, friends!  In Part 1, I asked you to dig deep and get real about how you are, define what worked in 2013, what didn’t work and make your 2014 Pinterest Board. By the way I apparently have no idea how to use Pinterest!  My #2014GoalSetting hashtag for boards doesn’t work, so re-title your boards “Making Things Happen in 2014″  so we can find each other! : )  If you are just joining us, it’s never too late to start.  Even if you read this in February or October.  Now is the very best time to begin.

    LARA-CASEY-2014-GOAL-SETTING---A-YEAR-FROM-NOW-YOU-WILL-WISH

    Here’s the ironic thing about the titles of these posts: I don’t believe in traditional “goal setting.” It doesn’t work for me. I look back at old “goal lists” and most of those things didn’t happen. I honestly forgot about those goals because I microwaved a goal list that sounded good, but wasn’t really connected to what matters. That’s why we aren’t setting goals until the very last step of this series. Powerful goals take some slow cooking and carefully chosen ingredients and a lot of fire!

    I also look back at things I worried about and 99% of those things never happened, either! Coincidence? No. It’s a giant reminder that I am not in control. God’s plans are always better and much bigger than mine, including — and many times, especially — the challenges. We can make all the plans we want, but we never know what will happen tomorrow. Like I said in my last post, you never know how much time you have.  Don’t wait.  You can choose to see that fact as terrifying or downright exciting. I choose the latter. Let’s continue…

    First, here are my answers from Part 1.  Remember to leave yours here in the comments, too, so we can cheer each other on.  I’m giving away a $20 gift code to my shop and lots of other goodies on every post if you need more motivation to dive in.  All winners will be announced January 31!  Trust me, you don’t want to miss these surprise prizes : )  I will keep you in suspense for a little while longer…

    LARA-CASEY-WHAT-WORKED

    And before you read my list, make yours. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing lists with others. Let’s celebrate each other’s good things instead. If I read my list here as the me of five years ago, I think I might feel a little lost and fall into comparison. When I talk about good things that happened in business in 2013, know I walked in the shoes of someone who didn’t have a business at one point — and the shoes of someone who failed at a whole lot of things (and still fails constantly!) — not that many years ago. You can read my whole journey by clicking, “nice to meet you” above : ) OK, a few of the great things that happened in 2013:

    – I read a lot of the Bible.  My goal has been to finish the entire thing, from start to finish, by December 31.  I’m currently in John.  The year isn’t over yet, though! (I will report back January 1.)  I have a ways to go, but this has definitely been the biggest blessing and source of goodness in my life this year.
    – I started the Contentment Challenge in October and am still going. Aside from a couple boxes of Christmas lights, a new vegetable planter, eye liner (I’ve had the same one for likely a few too many years past its expiration), a can opener (because ours broke), and new non-nursing bras after mine literally disintegrated because I’ve had them for so long, I haven’t purchased anything outside of the Contentment Challenge for myself in four months. However, I have definitely purchased too much for Grace. Mostly clothing and books. And stickers.
    – The Southern Weddings ladies WORKED. They worked hard for what matters – to help couples plan meaningful beginnings to married life, to make our company sow good seeds in the hearts on many daily, and they all fought for love and what matters most in their own lives too. They truly walk the walk. I am so grateful to learn and grow with them daily!
    – Ari interviewed for his job at UNC in November 2012.  We waited to hear a yes or no for months and things started to look pretty discouraging.  This was perhaps the thing I prayed about the most this year, besides my dad’s health and for God to guide my steps every day.  I begged God to let us stay in Chapel Hill.  The alternative was to move somewhere really far away from our families, away from my staff, away from our church, and possibly out of the South completely.  I eventually resigned to the fact that maybe that was His plan and maybe we would have to do that.  This entire experience taught me to trust Him.  Not to trust I will always get my way, but to trust that His plans are good no matter what. Miraculously, just when we thought for sure they had given the job to someone else, Ari was told he had it! THANK YOU LORD for this answered prayer.  Ari accepted a position at UNC as Associate Professor of Interventional Radiology in April! : )
    –  I launched this new site and brand on February 13th, and I still love it more than all the Luna Bars and chickens in the world!
    – We also launched two shops, the Lara Casey Shop and Southern Weddings Shop, and I debuted my first line of PowerSheets.  The PowerSheets have gone through three redesigns and I finally feel like we have them right.  I am so excited to use my own 2014 set soon. Using the PowerSheets this last year has been a significant source of focus for me.
    – I met a lot of lovely silver-haired friends this year on our morning walks through the retirement community across the street. This gave Grace and me so much joy. We looked forward to seeing “Mr. Bill” and “Mrs. Rhetta” every morning. The weather has been cold, so we have sadly had to stop our morning path, but Gracie made ornaments for them and Mr. Bill even came over to our house to say hello last week and bring us a thank you note! It was so great. As Gracie says, “Mr. Bill is sooooooo sweet.”
    Emily and I led a lot of webinars with the goal of making MBH more accessible to a wider audience, specifically people who are just starting businesses and not in the place to do full branding.  This has been on my heart: give all of the knowledge God gives you away to as many people as possible.
    – Emily and I also worked with 22 wonderful branding clients. After lots of prayer, we have decided to hold off on taking 2014 projects during this season of growth for our businesses and toddlers!
    – I did 103 consulting sessions.  These were some of my favorite conversations of my life.  I love being one-on-one with people and helping them see life and business in new ways and I have made some lovely new friendships from these conversations.
    – One of my 2013 goals was to stop breastfeeding.  This was a really hard decision and a total lifestyle change for me that was coupled with a lot of fear.  But, after 16 months, I stopped and Grace is still a happy healthy camper… and I have THREE HOURS back in my life every day.
    – Ari and I celebrated our 7 year anniversary in style – at the Whole Foods buffet with Grace : )
    – I wrote a 46-page book proposal and it was accepted.   Totally crazy.  You can read the whole story here.  I signed my book contract with Thomas Nelson in October.  I’m currently deep in the thick of writing, with my final manuscript due in about 30 days.  Pray for me!!!  And forgive me if I don’t answer your emails for the next month!
    – I read two books that completely changed my life: Seven and Interrupted.  As a result, well… a lot of things happened as a result.  I stopped shopping in October with the Contentment Challenge. We stopped using paper towels.  I stopped buying bottled water. I bought 50lbs of oatmeal in bulk.  I started to understand how taking care of our world is directly connected to loving God.  I started to understand God’s heart more.  I started to see just how much I need Him.  We started praying about adoption.  Needless to say, God used these books to change me. I have SO far to go still, but I am grateful for the heart change so far.
    – In June, after finally knowing we were staying in Chapel Hill, we bought our house — praise the Lord!  Well, the bank technically bought it, but we are paying the mortgage : )
    – As a result, we planted a vegetable garden!  This was one of my greatest joys this year.
    – We hosted the Making Things Happen Conferences in March and October.  They were both so heart-changing for me personally and I met many new friends. The 2014 MTH is a handful of seats away from sold out already.
    – We said farewell to Susan and welcomed Meredith into our family. Meredith has been a dream come true and moved all the way from Norman, Oklahoma to be with us! Read her inspiring blog.
    – We interviewed and hired Lisa, who has been a huge blessing in all of our lives.
    – Nicole celebrated 3+ years with us and renewed her contract (with some bribing – see here), Emily celebrated 4 years, Marissa celebrated 3+ years and Kristin celebrated her first wonderful year with us.
    – Ari and I took a week of “stay-cation.”  Our stay-cation included a trip to the Piggly Wiggly — definitely a highlight ; )
    – I took 2 weeks completely off of social media. I learned so much. I didn’t miss it.
    – Ari and I started teaching Sunday School. This was a huge highlight this year and something I have always wanted to do!
    – We also shared the story of our marriage – the good and the challenging – live on camera.
    – We celebrated the one year anniversary of my dad’s baptism.  God is amazing!
    – We launched the Southern Weddings and Lara Casey monthly newsletters. These helped me connect with many new friends.
    – We celebrated five years of Southern Weddings with lots of favorites from the last wonderful years:  favorite editorials, real weddings, SW ladiesbehind-the-scenes goodness, amazing photographs and our growth.  God is good!
    – My Grandma Bunny was diagnosed with mouth cancer and, at the age of 96, started radiation treatments.  She is not cured, but has responded well to them.  Her cancer has shrunk significantly, which is more than we could have asked for!  Amen, hallelujah, thank you Lord!
    – I cooked a lot this year and really enjoyed it. Having a vegetable garden made this even more fun this year. Over Christmas, I made my mom’s famed Tunisian Couscous and a Christmas Quiche that were wonderful!
    – I spoke at 8 conferences including Engage!13, Americasmart, Pursuit 31, the Influence Conference, Atlanta VOWS, Making Things Happen, and the MAGS Gala. I loved every single one of them.  I would do this year all over again with speaking.  It was so gratifying.
    – We finally, after years of trying to get it, got SouthernWeddings.com!  Oh my stars, this feels so good.  Read the whole story here.
    – We took a family vacation to Beaches.  More on that trip soon.  It was so good and so needed.  Grace met Elmo.  Highlight of her little life ; )
    – We completed our 6th print edition (“V6″) of Southern Weddings!
    – I got to spend lots of face-to-face time with my friends, Emily Ley and Gina Zeidler as we travelled to speak at the Pursuit 31 Conference together and did the Making Things Happen Conference here together.  I am so blessed by them.
    – Our friendships grew and Gina is pregnant!  That is such a highlight of the year!!!
    – Completely out of the blue, I got an email from Southern Living and, after many meetings and much prayer, we’ve now joined in a really wonderful partnership with them.  Read the whole story here.
    – We launched a brand new Southern Weddings site and brand in November.
    I became a minivan mom!  YES!
    – We created a personal budget and I feel great about our Life List progress!  Download a free Life List printable here.
    – Perhaps the thing I am most grateful for this year, though, is my dad’s health and happiness being restored twice over. Dad, you just told me on the phone that you have been reading my blog, so this is for you: I love you so much and am so grateful for what God has done in your life this year! It is truly a testament of His goodness and care for us and how He can make the “impossible” possible : )
    – I will keep adding to this list as I think of things, and I encourage you to do the same with your list!  In fact, I encourage you to print your list out and have it in front of you as an encouragement for the start of a new year.  Frame this goodness!

    LARA-CASEY-WHAT-DIDNT-WORK

    Now, onto my list of things that were challenging or didn’t work well this year:

    – As much as I have strong boundaries with social media (read more about how I set boundaries at makeyourdreamshappen.com), social media still continues to invade my heart at times in negative ways. It distracts me from life right in front of me too often.
    – I travelled a lot for speaking in the fall. I purposely put them all back-to-back, but this was still challenging. By the time I got to Pursuit 31 in October, I was spent. I was physically and emotionally exhausted.
    – Editing the magazine and doing layout for several late nights and long days didn’t work. I’ve already talked to the SW ladies about finding someone to do layout in my place this fall so I can focus on the big picture.
    – Having a booming business in my house didn’t work at times. We verged on far too big for this space. My garage will likely never have a car in it. I’m not sure what to do about this yet, if anything.
    – We were constantly having website server issues, which are thankfully now fixed with our new private server. This was costly and frustrating.
    – There were lots of days I didn’t have time to call my mom, answer texts from friends or stop to smell the roses. There were certainly many more days than last year that I DID do those things, but I still need more of that.
    – I fell off the exercise wagon many times. I still “exercised” almost daily this year, but many times it was a slow poke workout or a brief walk, especially when it got really hot and when it got really cold outside. I feel the effects of this. I have so much more energy when I am healthy and strong. I want more of that. I want the fire to do it.
    – Although I have been doing the Contentment Challenge, we still have far too much stuff. I feel like I am CONSTANTLY getting rid of things. All I need is less. More on that later.
    – Grace has been sleeping in our bed the last couple months, which is not great for Ari and me.
    – On that note, parenting a toddler is hard. Really hard. We are blessed that she is healthy and I think of that blessing multiple times a day, but her constant resistance and tantrums can wear on a mama.
    – On that note again, I really don’t like angry me. My controlling nature in parenting has gotten the best of me several times lately as Grace’s “no’s” have increased. I don’t like it. I am praying for wisdom and God’s peace.
    – I had far too much to do in this last quarter of the year in general. I was supposed to be writing my book the whole time, but there were endless tasks that needed tending to. My goal for the coming year is to completely flip that on it’s head.
    – Having a full plate and a toddler has left little time for friends outside of church activities and occasional dinners. I need a close friend locally who I can really connect with and grow spiritually with.
    – Ari works a lot. He loves his job and we are so grateful he has it, but sometimes his call schedule makes me sad. I miss him a lot and so does Grace. We are grateful he helps so many people daily, though.
    – I worried too much and I wasn’t always the best mom, wife, boss, friend or daughter. I tried, but my failures always had a good ending — they always pointed me right back to Jesus. God’s grace makes all things new.
    – There were more but I have those on my own private list. It’s always good to remember that, while many people (including me) blog very personal things, there are still many things that aren’t shared for good reasons. I always try to remember that when reading other’s blogs. You never know what kind of battles people are facing. Overall though, I have nothing but praise for this year. God answered many prayers.

    LARA-CASEY-GOAL-SETTING-PART-2---STEP-4

    STEP FOUR: OK, next up! What are the three biggest lessons you learned from what DID work? Write them out here in the comments or somewhere. I will share my list tomorrow.

    LARA-CASEY-GOAL-SETTING-PART-2---STEP-5

    STEP FIVE: What are the three biggest things you learned from what DIDN’T work? Again, write them out. I’ll share tomorrow here, too.

    LARA-CASEY-GOAL-SETTING-PART-2---STEP-6

    STEP SIX: What fires you up? What are the things that light your soul on fire? Pretty simple, yet very profound: name them (you can download a printable list here if you want!) and then DO them. Do more of what fires you up. If dance parties, hugging your kids, laughing with your husband and doing good things for others fires you up, DO those things today (and always, but start with just today).

    LARA-CASEY-WHAT-FIRES-ME-UP

    Download a free printable of the list above here.

    Physically do some of the things you want to see more of in your life and take action on them. Not all of them, just some of them. Do what you can. We all have at least five minutes every day, even if we don’t think we do, to make what matters happen. How much time have you already spent on social media today?  How much time will you spend on it the rest of the day?  Trade that time for doing something that fires you up.  I don’t think many of us can say that lurking on Facebook fires us up, can we?

    See what happens when you physically start living the life you know you were called to.  Little by little, get connected to what matters most to you. Love on people. Write out your list and then DO something on that list.  If you love the ocean, but don’t live near it, click here.  Does the sound of rain make you feel alive?  Here you go!  If you love dance parties, pump up the jam!  If you love hugs, give one.  If you are fired up by great art, start here with my friend Otto who is moving to Nepal and leaving wedding photography.  If you are fired up by words, read these amazing quotes that were penned by my friend Kelly, who lettered something every single day of 2013!  Go, Kelly, go!   If you are fired up by creating, make something right now.  Just for the love of making it.  If you are fired up by the outdoors, close your computer or put down this iPhone and step outside.  Just do it.  Right now.

    See how making the things on your list happen starts to shape your life — and most importantly — the lives of everyone around you.  God gave us talents and gifts that are meant to be used to shine His glory brightly to the world — and He gave us sunsets and the roaring ocean likely to leave us in awe of His goodness. Note to self and everyone: It’s hard to do and see those things hiding behind a computer screen : )

    The Bible doesn’t tell us to “follow our passions” so we can be happy, but it definitely tell us to use our unique gifts to serve others. And there is a deeper happiness found in that. A peace that passes all understanding. You were created for great things, my friend. You were created to shine brightly for Him. That is definitely something to have a dance party for! Share your list here. I will share mine soon too. Making life happen in 2014, here we come!

    More tomorrow. Get to writing and DOing, friends!

    LARA-CASEY-2014-GOAL-SETTING-WIN

    PRIZES FOR THIS POST: Read Part 1 for all the ways you can win! Randomly chosen commenters on this post will get either a $20 gift card to my shop or a Simplified Life Binder set!

    ELSimplifiedPlanner_43_beee3aae-6bf4-4691-8eb8-f2511255c779_1024x1024

    Winners will ba announced January 31 so you have lots of time to spread the word about this series and make these posts happen!

    Show Comments (150)

    Lara Casey 2014 Goal Setting

    Today I turn 34 and something has struck my heart like lighting: Don’t wait.  At church this past weekend, one of our preachers told us about a memorial service he had just gone to. A 35 year-old killed was killed in a car accident last Tuesday morning. That wasn’t on the young man’s to-do list for the day or in his plans. He thought he had his whole life ahead of him. The heart of the sermon that followed: You might not have as much time as you think you have. Don’t keep what God has given you to yourself. This thought has permeated every inch of my heart, so here I am. I am fired up to not keep what God has given me to myself in this series, in the book I am furiously writing (my final manuscript is due in 30 days — pray for me!) or in any aspect of my life.

    So, the biggest rule to this entire goal setting series is don’t wait.  If God puts something good on your heart to do, DO it.  Now.  Don’t wait till you have a perfect list of 2014 goals in front of you.  Do the good you know you ought to do.  Do it with gusto.  Do it knowing that you might not have as much time as you think!

    Screen-Shot-2012-10-01-at-11.20.05-AM

     

    Prints of above available here in gold foil, on sale for $12 — originally $20.

    Maybe this isn’t how you expected I would start this 2014 Goal Setting series, but I’m done waiting.  If we face the reality that our lives are not in our control — that we don’t get to decide how long we get to walk this earth — we actually learn to live our lives to the full.  Facing the reality of life — and eternal life — makes me feel bold and clear and direct. It makes me want to use every gift God has given me and stop fearing what other people think (<—- how many of you are in that boat right now with me?) or what comforts I might lose if I give more and live with much less. It makes me want to hug tighter and teach Grace love more profoundly quit a lot of things and stop wasting so much time. Anyone feeling this way too? Welcome. I’m celebrating 34 years today — and the fact that I still have the ability to reach you today through this computer — by kicking off what will, Lord willing, be a powerful start to 2014. Let’s do this.

    Here’s the deal.  Making things happen requires action.  As we go through this series, either use the comment area here to leave your answers or write them somewhere. But, don’t just think them. Thinking them doesn’t count. Write them out and, if you want accountability, leave them boldly here in the comments. I want to cheer you on! Friends, help me out here and cheer each other on, too. You never know who you might inspire or whose life you might completely change with your words.

    2014 powersheets lara casey

    Those of you with 2014 PowerSheets will be all set, although you may need more space to write a few of these extra steps — and there will be exclusive steps just for PowerSheets owners, too! If you haven’t ordered your set yet, you can still order in time for my live 2014 Goal Setting Webinar on January 15! Pre-orders start shipping January 9. But, let me make one thing very clear: you do not need PowerSheets to make things happen. They are just a great tool. They won’t do the work for you. If you just have a notebook to do this series, use that! If you have scrap paper, that’s great too : ) It’s not about the perfect stuff, it’s about how you USE what you have.

    We’re going to take this day by day, in small powerful chunks, because there are no shortcuts to any place worth going. – Beverly Sills   For the entire series, I’ll be sharing my personal progress and goals as well.  And I have no idea what those goals will be yet.  No idea!  I know the heart of what they will be, but this is a series — a process — for a reason.  You can microwave some goals and have a pretty little 2014 list by Monday, or you can dig deeper and set goals that matter to you over the next week or so with me.  You can pray hard about them and really weigh whether or not they are the best use of your time.  You can set goals that are twenty levels below the surface, where the fiery good stuff lives.  Or you can just make resolutions that get forgotten and tossed aside come February 1.  So, steps 1-3 will happen today and we’ll continue on Monday with the rest. And, if you need an extra kick in the pants to make this happen, keep reading.  I have a little something for you at the end.

    I’ve revamped and updated my Goal Setting series from last year based on what I learned in my own process and what I’ve seen work for thousands of others who joined me. I am very excited about doing this with you and so curious to see where it leads me personally, too.  Are you in this for a quick fix or for making LIFE happen?  Awesome!  Continue…

    Before we start, a question: how are you?  No, really.  How ARE you today, friend?  Free-write (or “download” as I like to call it) for just a couple minutes.  Be honest with yourself.  You can burn your paper after if you want to, but be honest.  How are you??  If you need a place to start, write out three things that are challenging you in life today or lately and also write three things you are grateful for today.  It’s so important to start with where you are and get it out.  Your worries today can directly affect what you write next, so don’t shove them under the table.  Acknowledge them.  Write them.  Call your BFF and talk them out.  Whatever works best for you, but whatever you do, do it now.  Don’t wait.  When you are done with that, take a deep breath and let’s get started with Step One of 2014 Goal Setting.

    lara-casey-2014-goal-setting-part-1-b

    STEP ONE: Let’s take a look back at what worked in 2013. What are you grateful for in 2013?  What good things happened?  I know I’m starting with the hardest step. Most people don’t like taking the time to do this because it doesn’t seem like it will get you anywhere fast. Trust me here. It will. Why is this the most vital first step? It’s really easy to look back at an entire year and just see the yucky parts. Like when something happens to you at the end of a day and you automatically call it a “bad day,” regardless of what happened the other 23 hours. Anyone do that? [Raising my hand high!] Let’s focus on what went well first. Make your list right now. These positive things are there to guide you and you should CELEBRATE THEM! Celebrate what you want to see more of.  Gratitude changes everything and will show you just how far you’ve come… and it just might give you the energy and hope you need to press on full-force! Make your list of things you made happen and things you are grateful for.  You can list as many as you like!

    One huge thing I am grateful for is that I started this Goal Setting series a year ago and tracked my progress throughout 2013 with my PowerSheets and here on the blog for accountability. You can read my goal updates (I posted my progress every three months… or when I could!) here: April, August, October. I am so exceedingly grateful that I wrote things down throughout the year. This was new for me and completely changed things.  It gave me so much more to celebrate because I didn’t forget things or let negative things overshadow them. This helped me to have the energy and confidence to keep going when things got hard. It helped me see so much more of God’s goodness that was there all along.  I will give my final 2013 Goal update and my list of great things that happened in 2013 next week.  Gotta use every day I have left to, Lord willing, take more action on those goals!

    A few tips on how to make your list that have helped me:

    1.  Take a look back at your 2013 calendar, blog posts (if you blog) or photos you posted on social media.  Those might give you a clue into some of the highlights you’ve forgotten.

    2.  Talk to your significant other or BFF about your year and ask them to reflect some of the highlights back to you.  They may remember some that you have forgotten!  This is also a really great inspiring way to celebrate the good things of 2013 this weekend.  Make it your dinner conversation tonight : )  And remember, this isn’t all about you – ask others to tell you their highlights, too!  Goodness is contagious!

    3.  Thank people.  As you reflect on the good things this past year, say thank you to those who were a part of that.  I’m starting today, too, with some texts, emails, phone calls and physical letters and a lot of praise to God.  Gracie is doing her happy dance, too : )

    LARA-casey-2014-goal-setting-part-1---c

    STEP TWO: What didn’t work? Honesty time! And before you do this step, remember not to beat yourself up here. You are brilliant and I know you want to make this your best year yet. The past is behind you. The old has gone, the new has come! Just list some facts here. In business and life, what didn’t work well to help you live your best life this year and what needs improvement?

    LARA-CASEY-GOAL-SETTING-GET-VISUAL-665

    STEP THREE: 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 Step 3.  Make a Pinterest board of images that will inspire a brilliant year. Title your board “Making Things Happen in 2014″ so we can search for each other’s boards! Now, one word of caution.  I rarely use Pinterest because it can be the black hole of distraction and discontentment.  Pin wisely, friends.  Pick stuff that lights your hearts on fire and move on!  Here’s my board from last year and here is the one I’m starting today for 2014.  I am alone with Gracie today, so there will not be much pining happening!  Just reading books, running around and singing silly songs : )

    OK, that’s it for today and that’s plenty to work on! Take your time with this and remember: PROGRESS NOT PERFECTION.  This is not about writing the perfect list with a perfect pen or making the most beautiful Pinterest board… it’s just about honesty. To make things happen, you have to start with where you are. This is a process that will have a big payoff, but you have to commit to working through it. Be still and let your year’s vision slowly cook, like a pan of homemade hot baked cinnamon rolls fresh out of the oven. They wouldn’t be so flaky and yummy cooked in the microwave, would they? Just a big pile of mushy dough. I’m not going to hand you your 2014 goals. We’re going to do this right and get there together. Sound good? Awesome! Get to it!

    LARA-CASEY-2014-GOAL-SETTING-WIN

    If you need an extra kick in the pants to make this happen, I’m going to be giving away a $20 gift code to my shop (there are some crazy amazing new Making Things Happen and inspiring goodies coming to the shop soon!) and goodies from other shops I love on EVERY POST in this series to one lucky commenter per post.  You can win multiple times and you can increase your chances of winning by:

    – Pinning this post or any in the series
    – Instagramming – or “gramming” ? I suddenly feel old. Ha!
    – Facebooking (is that a word??)
    – Tweeting
    – Blogging or in any way sharing this post/series
    – For all entires, link back here to www.LaraCasey.com/blog and use the #2014GoalSetting hashtag. You are welcome to use graphics from my posts!
    – Lastly, leave a comment saying you did any of the above.  You can enter as many times as you like on all posts!  I’m going to choose some extra winners along the way, too, for some special surprises : )

    Why am I doing this?  I know God put me here on this earth for many reasons, and He has made it clear that one of those reasons it to motivate people to take action on what matters most.  I want you — yes YOU — to make what matters happen in your life.  So, help me spread the word and let’s get all our friends in on this for accountability!  Making things happen is always better when shared : )  “See” y’all Monday!  YAHOO!!!

    Show Comments (316)

    lara-casey-whoever-takes-the-son-gets-it-all

    Years ago, there was a very wealthy man who, with his devoted young son, shared a passion for art collecting. Together they traveled around the world, adding only the finest art treasures to their collection. Priceless works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet and many others adorned the walls of the family estate. The widowed, elder man looked on with satisfaction as his only child became an experienced art collector. The son’s trained eye and sharp business mind caused his father to beam with pride as they dealt with art collectors around the world.

    As winter approached, war engulfed the nation, and the young man left to serve his country. After only a few short weeks, his father received a telegram. His beloved son was missing in action. The art collector anxiously awaited more news, fearing he would never see his son again. Within days, his fears were confirmed. The young man had died while rushing a fellow soldier to a medic.

    Distraught and lonely, the old man faced the upcoming Christmas holidays with anguish and sadness. The joy of the season, a season that he and his son had so looked forward to, would visit his house no longer. On Christmas morning, a knock on the door awakened the depressed old man. As he walked to the door, the masterpieces of art on the walls only reminded him that his son was not coming home.

    As he opened the door, he was greeted by a soldier with a large package in his hand. He introduced himself to the man by saying, “I was a friend of your son. I was the one he was rescuing when he died. May I come in for a few moments? I have something to show you.” As the two began to talk, the soldier told of how the man’s son had told everyone of his, not to mention his father’s, love of fine art. “I’m an artist,” said the soldier, “and I want to give you this.” As the old man unwrapped the package, the paper gave way to reveal a portrait of the son.

    Though the world would never consider it the work of a genius, the painting featured the young man’s face in striking detail. Overcome with emotion, the man thanked the soldier, promising to hang the picture over the fireplace. A few hours later, after the soldier had departed, the old man set about his task.

    True to his word, the painting went well above the fireplace, pushing aside thousands of dollars of paintings. And then the man sat in his chair and spent Christmas gazing at the gift he had been given. During the days and weeks that followed, the man realized that even though his son was no longer with him, the boy’s life would live on because of those he had touched. He would soon learn that his son had rescued dozens of wounded soldiers before a bullet stilled his caring heart.

    As the stories of his son’s gallantry continued to reach him, fatherly pride and satisfaction began to ease the grief. The painting of his son soon became his most prized possession, far eclipsing any interest in the pieces for which museums around the world clamored. He told his neighbors it was the greatest gift he had ever received.

    The following spring, the old man became ill and passed away. The art world was in anticipation!

    Unmindful of the story of the man’s only son, but in his honor, those paintings would be sold at an auction. According to the will of the old man, all of the art works would be auctioned on Christmas day, the day he had received his greatest gift. The day soon arrived and art collectors from around the world gathered to bid on some of the world’s most spectacular paintings. Dreams would be fulfilled this day; greatness would be achieved as many claim “I have the greatest collection.” The auction began with a painting that was not on any museum’s list. It was the painting of the man’s son. The auctioneer asked for an opening bid. The room was silent.

    “Who will open the bidding with $100?” he asked. Minutes passed. No one spoke. From the back of the room came, “Who cares about that painting? It’s just a picture of his son. Let’s forget it and go on to the good stuff.”

    More voices echoed in agreement. “No, we have to sell this one first,” replied the auctioneer. “Now, who will take the son?” Finally, a friend of the old man spoke, “Will you take ten dollars for the painting? That’s all I have. I knew the boy, so I’d like to have it.”

    “I have ten dollars. Will anyone go higher?” called the auctioneer. After more silence, the auctioneer said, “Going once, going twice. Gone.” The gavel fell, cheers filled the room and someone exclaimed, “Now we can get on with it and we can bid on these treasures!”

    The auctioneer looked at the audience and announced the auction was over. Stunned disbelief quieted the room. Someone spoke up and asked, “What do you mean it’s over? We didn’t come here for a picture of some old guy’s son. What about all of these paintings? There are millions of dollars of art here! I demand that you explain what’s going on here!” The auctioneer replied, “It’s very simple. According to the will of the father, whoever takes the son…gets it all.”

    Puts things into perspective doesn’t it? Just as those art collectors discovered on that Christmas Day, the message is still the same: the love of a Father, a Father whose greatest joy came from His Son, who went away and gave His life rescuing others. And because of that Father’s love, whoever takes the Son, gets it all.

    – Unknown

    Show Comments (12)

    The January 2014 issue of Southern Living just arrived in the mail…

    photo

    …with 24 pages of our content, starting with an editor’s letter from Lindsay Bierman and yours truly.

    photo 1

    Having this on my coffee table right now is so surreal, mostly because it all happened so fast (read my previous post for details). Lindsay’s words about our company and our hearts are so glowing that I can’t quite wrap my brain around it. I suppose that is what God does, though. He sometimes does things that are so completely out of your realm of understanding that they must be from Him. I didn’t make this happen. The six of us Southern Weddings ladies didn’t make this happen. He did. And I hope it brings Him great joy!

    Not a subscriber to Southern Living, but want to see the special section? You can download it here (link at top right)!

    Show Comments (6)

    Well, the title of this post is something I never thought I would type.  First, y’all know my story with the SouthernWeddings.com domain.  Today we launched our new brand and site on that very web address!  We are happy as pups with two tails!

    oNKbzRD1RtzQVaSGtKWJL1bApkW2bJkYoYpzlWH3cuI

    There is more exciting news, though — the second part of that title above.  Pour yourself a tall glass of sweet tea (or hot tea, depending on where you are right now!) and let me tell you a fun story…

    Back in early May, I got an email from a gentleman at Time, Inc.  I didn’t know who he was at first as I skimmed the email.  I thought it was a Time press release or just normal correspondence.  But, as I read, my heart started to pound.  The email was from someone at Southern Living (owned by Time, Inc.).  I think at this point, I squealed and started reading the email out loud to the whole office.  Then I got to this sentence…

    We would like to meet you.

    I just sat there speechless, not knowing why or what or any details.  I didn’t know if this was a good thing or a really bad thing, whether this was an initial step in squashing us or not.  And then I thought, “Wait, maybe they don’t know we aren’t based in New York.”

    I wrote him back to clarify.

    He said he and the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher would be flying to meet me in three weeks.  They knew.  Whoa.

    SW-93

    Enter mild to medium panic mixed with massive excitement from the entire SW team.  We still had no idea why they wanted to meet us, we just knew they wanted to meet us.  And they were flying here.  To Chapel Hill.  I just couldn’t get this fact to fully sink in.  And then there was the golden question…

    What in the world were we going to serve them to eat?!

    You see, my mom and grandma and pretty much every woman close to the SW family has read Southern Living since they were tots.  Each recipe and garden how-to has been knit into the fabric of who we are today.  No matter the outcome of this mysterious meeting, simply having these gentlemen over for breakfast was a life event.  Something to clean your windowsills for (which I did).

    Not fully up to snuff with my biscuit-making skills, we begged our dear friend Chef Bedford, of the Fearrington House, to come cook a Southern breakfast of breakfasts for us.  He happily obliged and prepared a feast of pastries, fresh smoothies, Southern delicacies and the best Eggs Benedict we have ever had.  More on the Eggs Benedict in a moment.  With Chef Bedford before our guests arrived…

    2013-06-07 11.20.17-2

    Ron, Greg and Lindsay, I hope this gives you a good laugh when you read this, but we practiced greeting y’all.  Kristin knocked on the door and, like practicing a first date “hello” in a mirror, Emily and I rehearsed shaking hands and taking coats.  This was Southern royalty stepping into my living room!

    I have butterflies even typing this, remembering that day.  We all coordinated outfits.  I think I cleaned the house eight times.  It was pouring rain when their red rental car pulled up.  Lindsay had gotten stuck in Birmingham with the weather, but Ron King and Greg Schumann dashed to my front door and we may have opened it even before they could even knock!

    Dressed in their finest business attire, our greetings went off as rehearsed!  Phew!  And then, the moment came.  The “why” that we were all wondering about was revealed as Greg, in his wonderful, warm voice said, “We love what you are doing and we want to be a part of it.”

    OK, y’all.

    Now I’m crying at my desk.

    Because, you see, I wasn’t expecting any of this.  It was like a surprise proposal.  With the most lovely words that followed.  Lovely and sincere and just perfect.  I started this magazine on my little 13 inch PC six years ago and to have my dad proud of me was more than enough.  But, now, to have Southern Living loving us, too… well… I just don’t have words.  After Greg’s glowing speech to us, I think I mumbled something like, “Wow, thank you. Would you like to sit down and have a smoothie?”  It was all I could muster.

    The meeting that followed is forever etched in our hearts.  Ron and Greg mirrored back to us all we have worked so hard for: our mission to inspire couples to create a meaningful beginning to married life, our heart we have for the magical place we call home and our passion for creating timeless content that helps brides celebrate what matters most to them.  They saw all of this.  And they wanted to help us get more people to see it, too.  Our mission comes to life in this brand new film we created with Twenty-One Films — enjoy!

    Aside from a hilarious moment when Ron, trying to cut into the Eggs Benedict on his lap, spilled yellow egg yolk all over his pants, the meeting was wonderful.  We still joke with Ron about the egg incident today and have promised him never to serve it again at future meetings.

    Speaking of future meetings, remember that time Emily Thomas and I flew to Birmingham and didn’t tell y’all why?  Here I am below at the entrance to the Southern Progress Corporation building, home to Southern Living, Coastal Living and several others.

    2013-07-23 08.48.22

    The building itself is a marvel and a Southern gem.  We were greeted by Ron and the amazing “Mrs. Nellah.”  Nellah is like the SL mama, right-hand-gal to Lindsay and wearer of many hats.  She had the first copy of Southern Living in her hands to show us and proceeded to give us the grand tour.

    Friends, Emily and I were like two kids in a photo-studio-magazine-paradise-filled candy shop!  We visited the famed SL Test Kitchens (where they were prepping the Thanksgiving issue), the prop room (oh my!), and video studio where they were filming a segment for the holidays.  It was just incredible.  Warm greetings met us everywhere and we truly felt like we were at home.  The warmth was just like our office, only on a much bigger scale.

    We met Lindsay for the first time in a classic boardroom, like you see in movies when people have really big important meetings.  Only, this room was a little different, as there were individual picnic trays with beautiful sandwiches and flowers waiting for us when we arrived.  We picnicked in the board room as we talked with their editorial team about how we work, our vision and our heart for this work.  They shared the same.  We felt like kindred spirits.

    Dinner that evening at Bottega with Lindsay, Ron and Greg was magical.  Admittedly, I still felt nervous, dining with gents who know great food and business.  I still felt like the teenager tagging along with her parents on a fancy dinner.  But, they were so gracious and insisted we indulge in dessert, too — Chilton County peach ice cream.

    After a lovely “getting-to-know-you” day, the following day was set as our “business” day.  It was time to talk about what this potential partnership — or whatever it was — would look like.  I’m not sure how to explain this day, except to say it was something I’ve never experienced.  There were lots of logistics and terms I’d never heard and phone calls and so many people we met with.  It was all business.  No concrete plans were made, so we decided to go home to talk all of the options over with everyone and meet virtually again soon.

    After more prayer than anything I’ve ever prayed about in business and many more emails and advice given and phone calls and meetings, I’m so grateful to let you know what all of this produced.  It’s actually quite simple and feels just like a comfy sweater.

    WTKmSZ2Lw-5rGndAUW8JK9IwdGiZqt_tnbRsUTUDR0w,GESRqi2-guBIJjXgexpD40HtTienydwnkVYIYcogeNE

    We are simply sharing content.  We have no formal ties to SL and nothing is changing on our end except sharing what we already do with more people : )  We are still just six ladies here in my house (see our recent office tour here!), making a magazine and running a small shop and shipping orders from my garage.  For all of this, I am so grateful.

    The details on SL + SW:

    Today, we posted our first blog post on the Daily South. Going forward, you’ll see us post there a few times a month.  Have y’all read the Grumpy Gardener’s column on the Daily South?  He is hilarious, and has helped me so much with my garden!

    We have a special weddings page on the SL site here with lots of goodies.

    We also have a joint Pinterest board where you can find even more great Southern wedding content.

    Now, the most exciting part of this partnership: three times in 2014, we are providing 18 pages of Southern Weddings content for a special weddings section in Southern Living — so exciting!  We’ve already sent our first one to print.  We couldn’t say anything at the time, but we were designing TWO magazines at once this season.  This was me trying to learn the SL style guide and do layout for our section in October…

    2013-10-02 11.16.38 HDR

    You won’t be able to find the insert on newsstands, but it will go out with their January issue to about 400,000 subscribers who have been earmarked as being in the marrying (or mother of the bride!) stage of life.  If you aren’t a subscriber, there will still be a way to view it digitally.  Details coming soon!

    And that’s it! : )  We haven’t been bought by them, and have no plans to do that.  We are still producing our own gorgeous magazine once a year.  We aren’t changing a thing.  We just have new friends who believe in us, and want to help us spread the word about the beautiful, meaningful celebrations that are happening here in our neck of the woods.  For us, that is the most exciting part of all of this — we consider it a huge opportunity (and honor!) to spread our heart for strong marriages and meaningful weddings farther and faster.  THAT is something to celebrate!

    o6RhF5BAerjY3HmK3Vp-ni-hSIzkGtyAxozA_-WT-pg,9yLvjbf4saI2ltFSS41yVNmR7WvavjOvZmKT-FQKS-g

    So you can get a glimpse of why I am so grateful for the SL family, here are the words from Lindsay himself on what he loves most about weddings:

    “I’m a hopeless romantic—I get choked up over the sacred exchange of vows every time.”

    Oh my soul, I am so grateful for your heart, Lindsay Bierman. To the entire SL family, we’re so grateful to have you as a part of ours now : )

    Friends, we invite you to celebrate with us today. We’re giving away a gold foil “South” print in our first post on the Daily South and would love for you to help us spread the word about all of this great news! HOORAY!!!

    Show Comments (41)

    Believe it or not, I am an introvert. A classic INFP by definition. I crave solitude and small intimate dinner parties to big celebrations. But, there is something that comes alive in me when I have the opportunity to teach and share my story and the mission of our company. I love transformation and have always been fascinated by it. I love seeing people step into their fears toward great pursuits. I love helping people find the heartbeat of why they do what they do. I love seeing people change and grow and use all the gifts God has given them. I love seeing people do the extraordinary. Watching Shaun White soar through the half-pipe in the Winter X Games is just as exciting to me as seeing a small business owner step into a life that really means something. I just love it.

    So, I was thrilled and honored to have the opportunity to speak at many events this year, including Engage!13 (blogged here), the ISES NC event (this screen was crazy!), the March Making Things Happen Conference, the Influence Conference (blogged here), Pursuit 31 (blog post coming!), the October Making Things Happen Conference (post coming soon!), the AmericasMart VOWS event (I spoke at the Home and Gift Mart earlier this year) and at the Magazine Association of the Southeast‘s GAMA Awards. These last two events happened to be on the same day in Atlanta, so I brought our newest editor, Lisa, with me for a whirlwind day in the peach state!  Special thanks to Amy Arrington Photography for capturing all the fun.

    0007

    We started our day at the AmericasMart campus in the heart of downtown Atlanta. It was breathtaking. White carpet everywhere, gorgeous blooms and the most beautiful stage backdrop I have ever laid eyes on.

    lara casey speaking 1

    I felt like a kid in a candy store!

    0050

    The VOWS Event is a huge bridal market, showcasing the best in new wedding dresses, bridesmaid collections and mother-of-the bride collections.

    0060

    There were floors and floors of pretty gowns and Lisa and I wanted to try them all on!

    0063

    Y’all, how about this stage!?

    0065

    And, aren’t these handmade paper flowers just incredible?! You can find more about the artist, Balushka, and her amazing creations here.

    0032

    I was so grateful to LulaKate for this lovely dress.  It was actually sent to us for this shoot but since I’m doing the Contentment Challenge and not buying anything new for myself, I borrowed it from our prop closet!

    0014

    The AmericasMart team is as warm as fresh biscuits and I have become close with their event director, Amanda, over the last year. (She has a great little Etsy shop here, by the way!) Below with Amanda and her amazing team.

    0041

    It was a fantastic morning and I was so grateful to meet many new friends!  More photos below.



    Then, after a quick change and a quick lunch, we headed over to The Estate in Buckhead for the MAGS event.

    lara casey speaking 7

    I was very nervous to speak at this event with so many magazine industry greats there including the Creative Director from Southern Living, Bob Perino.  I felt like the small fish keynoting this thing!

    lara casey speaking 6

    But, everyone was so welcoming and made me feel right at home.  MAGS president, Tova, was so kind and Lisa Baron gave me an introduction that made me realize who I was in the room with. She was a journalist and knew everything about me.  She had done her homework and truly understood my heart.  Somehow, it surprised me that someone actually read what I wrote and could see me clearly.  It made me cry.

    0085

    Being there with these passionate writers and editors and publishers and printers, I saw just how much I am like them.  I tend to live in my own small world where we do everything from my home and feel like we are the only ones sometimes with this much passion, but I realized that day that I was one of many.  It felt so good to know I was in great company with people who wanted to tell great stories for the greater good.

    0083

    More photos from our afternoon at The Estate…


    After a successful day, Lisa and I headed to the airport to catch our flight and celebrated with some Pinkberry in Terminal B!

    I am taking very limited speaking engagements for 2014, so if you are interested in having me join you at your event, please see the details here and let Kristin know ASAP.  I’m so grateful for such a wonderful 2013 speaking season and for all of the new friends I met in my travels!

    Show Comments (4)

    For Grace’s birthday, I could think of no better way to celebrate her life — and so many dear friends who have meant the world to us these last years — than to celebrate… with cows!  You see, Grace loves animals.  Weekly, we visit our friends, the goats and chickens, to give them some animal crackers (ironic, I know).  We go see cows a few times a week (I live right down the road from a cow pasture!).  Couple this with my own love for chickens (my mom raised chickens since I was in fourth grade) and you have a little two-year old who loves all things farm!  So, Maple View Diary Farm was the obvious celebratory location : )

    Lara Casey Grace Birthday invitation 3

    I worked with Grey Snail Press to design these adorable barnyard invitations.  (more…)

    Show Comments (22)

    Sometimes — most of the time — the greatest gift you can give someone is to be present with them, carrying their burdens just through a listening ear.  Being right there in that moment with your friend or loved one (or a stranger in line with you at the grocery store who really needs someone to make them feel loved), listening not just with your ears, but with your heart, you subconsciously are letting them know that they are enough. The gift of someone’s presence feels better and has more of a lasting effect than anything you can wrap in paper.

    Being present helps us build stronger friendships and marriages, little by little. Stronger marriages take root and grow strong families…  and strong families – with all their ups and downs — have the potential to raise up strong children who have the potential to change the world and start the domino effect of present love again in their own families.

    lara-casey-present-december-newsletter-2

    You make present love grow when you simply hug a little longer.  Nicole told me that one hug increases your life span, by 3 minutes, so go get your hug on!  Being present heals people.  I remember a day when I was having a hard time and Nicole was listening — not to what I was saying, but to my heart.  She said, “Do you need a hug, Lara?”  So many times we pass those love offers off and pretend that we are “just fine,” but I happily accepted.  That simple token of love and being present hasn’t left my memory. The seemingly little things matter, friends.

    When you turn off the chatter of life and stop to say “I love you” and mean it – even though he left dirty dishes in the sink again — that matters.  When you choose to put your phone down during dinner and really ask her how her day was, it matters.  When you stop to say hello to your neighbor that passes you every day on his walk, it matters.  When you do small things with great love and presence, it means something.   When you choose to fight busy and choose to be present, it changeseverything.  It changes generations.

    present-december-lara-casey

    Being present changed my own life.  When I stopped choosing my phone and social media over my marriage, world shifted.  When I listen to Grace instead of my email, her heart grows.  When I hear my mom and dad on the phone with my heart, not just my ears, I can hear their joy bubble over. When I stop to give my neighbors and strangers the gift of my time and ears, life happens.  Photo above by Faith Teasley.

    • Being present helps us hear life.  Slow down and really listen. You might see something wonderful.
    • Being present makes life richer.  It helps us to be content with what we have instead of pining for more. Being present helps us see the blessings right in front of us.
    • Being present helps us to be more efficient and focused.  When I am fully present in my work during working hours, I get more done and done well.  When I am fully present with my family during family time, my heart is renewed and I am a better mom and wife.  This is easier said than done with all we juggle in our lives, but the pursuit of being present is worth it.
    • Being present helps us to build trust in others.
    • Being present helps us see and hear needs in others and fill them.
    • Being present helps us change people’s lives.

    photo-6

    Words from a great post by Shauna Niequist written above on this notepad as I was filling out my PowerSheets for December yesterday.

    This December, join me in giving this gift and learning to accept it, too!  Use the hashtag #PresentDecember to help inspire others to say “no” to the hustle and bustle of the holiday rush and say a giant “yes” to slowing down and giving this gift that cannot be wrapped.  Let’s listen for needs and fill them, friends.

    My prayer for you all is a holiday season full of letting your eyes and hearts drink in the blessings in front of you. Put your phone down. Close your computer. When something great happens, don’t say, “I wish I would have had my camera,” say, “I’m so grateful that just happened!”  Look people in the eyes and give them the gift that changes things.  Here’s to long conversations over family meals, strengthened relationships, and celebrating this beautiful season of hope!  Happiest holidays, friends!

    Love,

    Lara (and Ari and Gracie!)

    P.S. I’m still going on my Contentment Challenge (not buying anything new for myself till the new year) but after much prayer and God showing us many needs, we decided to change from just giving things we make and donations to also include gifts that bring people hope.  More about the Contentment Challenge here and a GREAT post on giving and gifting at Christmas here.

    Show Comments (4)