I began 2014 overwhelmed about writing my book (which launches tomorrow — ah!!!). I struggled with oceans of self-doubt and often considered throwing in the towel. In January, I found out I was pregnant. I was excited but locked in my office writing, worrying about my manuscript deadline that had passed (and graciously been extended about four times by that point). In February, God took that baby home to be with Him. It was one of the hardest seasons. At the time of my miscarriage, I was in the middle of writing through some of the hardest parts of my life. That same week, I received a letter from the IRS stating I had been filing as the wrong entity type since 2010 and I had to re-do four years of business and personal tax returns thanks to an accountant’s major error years before. (Long story. God is good and praise Him it’s all over now.) Needless to say, that was a rough week. I didn’t understand why all of this was happening at once. Ari kept telling me to trust. This, like all the mess I was writing about, would be for my good. It’s hard to see when you’re in it. The winter seemed to last forever. But, ‘to everything there is a season, a time and purpose under heaven.’ I wrote in my book about how God did use that season for my good. He is faithful. I now look back and praise Him for the winter. After winter, always comes spring.

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 2.37.38 PMAbove: Writing. Writing. More writing. 

Hundreds of bulbs I had planted in the fall broke through the seemingly-dead frozen ground, giving me hope for the seasons ahead. I felt God encouraging me to plant new seeds in my life and in this soil that seemed lifeless.

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I grieved and healed through gardening. I planted hundreds of flowers and crops: twelve types of tomatoes, six varieties of peppers, 200 onions, zucchini, sweet corn, eggplant, carrots, radishes, basil, pineapple sage, stevia, okra, beans, peas, cucumbers, cabbage, kale, sweet potatoes, lots of bee attractors, wildflowers, sunflowers, dwarf zinnias (one of my garden favorites), and more.

IMG_4748My handsome garden helper above, who built and filled my new veggie beds with rich soil.

IMG_4734My littlest garden helper who filled us with laughs : )

IMG_8329Harvesting above with Ari’s mom on one of her visits from California. Don’t mind Hootie the owl : ) He was there to keep the bunnies away from the soybeans, although he ended up coming inside to live with us because Gracie loves him so much.

The year before, I had planted an Elberta peach and a fig tree. Both yielded ultra sweet harvests in the summer — best peaches I’ve ever had. To our tiny orchard we added some wildcards for fun: a grafted apple tree that produces four varieties in one tree, a “fruit cocktail” tree that has grafted branches of apricot, nectarine, and peach, and we added a potted navel orange, kumquat, and another Meyer lemon.

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I went a little over-board. Watering and tending and pruning this tiny farm was a thing, but it was awesome. Each day was an adventure in the garden. New life all around me. I started this new Instagram account to capture the growth. Every day brought new surprises.

During this season, God allowed me to connect with those who had weathered loss. I spoke with many women who had miscarried and I felt compelled to reach out and be a listening ear when a friend experienced loss. I felt that, in a tiny way, I could understand. If anything, I knew I could pray.

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During this season, God also taught me that He is in control and that is a very good thing.

So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow‘ (1 Corinthians 3:7 NIV).

I can’t grow anything good without Him. Period. He wants me to plant good seeds in good soil, tend to them, prune, and generously share the harvest. But, I need His gifts of sun and water — I need His Son and the living water of His word — to make anything good happen. That is just plain truth in my life.

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Ari and I prayerfully started trying to have a baby again. The months passed. I began to understand, in a very small way, some of what my two best friends, Emily and Gina, had gone through. And let me emphasize again in a small way. In the last couple years, I’ve become close with many girlfriends who are going through infertility or loss. Some journeys have been decades and some shorter, but all have carried with them tremendous heartache. If you are there right now, my prayers are with you as I type this. I don’t have the perfect words to offer, but I can offer prayer.

After a year and a half of trying, Ari and I felt that maybe God did have a plan and having another biological child wasn’t it.

Adoption has been a topic of conversation for several years. Last September (2013), I remember talking with Ari about it and him sharing his fears. “But,” He added, “if this is what God has for us I trust He will bring me peace.”

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In the summer, we romped through the garden beds with Casey Chappell and her crew of 5 adopted littles. We pulled up radishes and plucked tomatoes right off the vine. Jack and Ezra loved the garden, and I loved picking figs, beans, herbs, and mint for them to sample.

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I first became friends with Casey through Instagram. Nancy had posted about the Chappell’s visiting her in Raleigh, I clicked over to Casey’s account, and bam. My heart leapt out of my chest. Seeing her little loves and her passion for adoption, I knew I had to get to know this amazing woman. We became instant real-life friends. We sat on my back porch, ate hot dogs and sweet potato fries with the kids scurrying all around us, and we talked adoption. Ari’s heart started to crack open too.

It all still felt so scary though. Like why are we always talking about adoption we are not cut out for this scary. And yet we kept reading this verse in James and many others and God kept putting families in our path who had adopted. God wasn’t subtle.

We started the international adoption process, filling out a mountain of paperwork, gathering documents, and praying a lot. Our one step left was to get a letter of guardianship from another couple, stating that they would take care of our children if we were to pass away. No question, we were going to ask our friends Thom and Bek. Thom and Bek were our church family group leaders for a long while before they moved to Birmingham. They became two of our very best friends and faith mentors to us. Right before were were going to ask them, their daughter, Elizabeth Glory, went to be with the Lord shortly after she was born. It was heartbreaking. We couldn’t think of adding to our family while our dear friends were wading through such grief. Our whole hearts were with them.

One of the many things I love about God is how He uses sorrow to change our hearts for His good purposes. In that time, our hearts did change. A friend sent me this video and a million little pieces started to point us to a new path. We saw the great need right in front of us and felt God pulling us to adopt domestically. So, we started over completely.

We began to feel more urgency. There were so many children out there waiting to be loved and we felt that, with God’s help and grace, we could do that.

Ari and I ran into Courtney at the Influence Conference and both felt God saying okay, this is it. Let’s do this. Ari and I continued to pray and, after a long phone call with Casey and Courtney, we said yes.

I finished our new adoption paperwork on the eve of Thanksgiving. I thought about the cycle of life. My grandma Bunny was breathing her last breaths in the hospital with my mom, dad, brother and uncle by her side. I knew that night would likely be her last here on the earth. I don’t know if anyone else had ever felt this, but it’s in moments like that when I deeply feel God’s presence. I felt an all-consuming peace.

I felt peace about Grandma’s 97 sweet years on this earth. What courage and zest for life she had. She lived and loved well. I felt peace about our little family and totally surrender. I felt grateful for the gift of adoption and totally at peace about not having more biological children. It was the peace that transcends all understanding. I felt grateful. In awe of Him.

And then… I felt a little off.

I looked at the calendar, looked at Grace, and I nervously loaded her in the car to go to the grocery store while we waited on Ari to come home from work.

I thought for sure there was no way.

And then there were two pink lines.

I cried in disbelief on the bathroom rug with Grace and said, Gracie! There is a baby in there! God is crazy! She leaned over, pulled up my shirt, and looked as if she was going to blow a big raspberry on my belly. Her little lips got close to by belly button and with the biggest joy she squealed, “Hiiiii baby!”

Ari arrived home moments later.
Me: So I finished our adoption paperwork.
Ari: Great.
Me: And then this happened. I showed him the two pink lines.
Ari: Oh. Okay.

We were both in shock. We were in shock because this didn’t change our conviction about adopting in the least. We are still all in. And that’s all God. The peace that transcends all understanding. In our human hearts, there were (and still are) moments of complete panic and disbelief, but God…

But, God…

Those two words are true, not just in my life, but in yours too.

But, God isn’t a God of logic, He is God. He can make the impossible possible.

But, God didn’t want our marriage to fail years ago. He wanted our wholehearts. And He got them.

But, God didn’t want my business to be used just for making a living. He wanted it to be used to hopefully help many to live on purpose.

But, God had a different plan to grow our family than we expected. His plans are always far better than ours.

But, God doesn’t need us or you to be perfect, He just needs your surrendered heart and hands.

We know for sure that God is real. We also know for sure that we need Him. The year ahead will likely be crazy. We are, no doubt, going to fail a lot. But, God… can and has done greater things than help us raise three children — two infants in one year. If He brings you to it, He will see you through it. We trust Him.

We are grateful and nervous and listening and also cautious with all of this. While this is where He has us right now, He has been known to throw us some curveballs. We don’t know what God has planned for this life in my belly or for for us with adoption. We know that He could take this baby home to be with Him too, if that’s His will. All we can do is pray and trust and do what He says as each day comes.

Some things:

I’m due next summer, around August 1st.

God is so good and sweet in His timing. Grandma passed on Thanksgiving morning. After my mom told me she had gone to be with the Lord, I shared with her that there was a new life inside of me. Her tears of sorrow turned to joy.

“Morning” sickness is all day every day for me, so if you have seen me in person in the last weeks and I’ve been a little off, this is why : )

When I went in for my first ultrasound, the doc was very nice and excited for us. And then I handed her the medical clearance form that I needed for our home study. She looked at me like I was nuts for a second. Then, she expressed her excitement and told me about her sister adopting. She was awesome and is pumped for us.

I ate a turkey sandwich for breakfast. If you know me, you know that means something is up.

Grace is excited to be a big sister and we pray for the babies every day.

Between a growing business, five literal-in-house employees, and a busy three year old, we are plum out of space. With adoption costs, moving is not in the cards, though. So, we are getting creative and may be finishing part of our attic to stretch our space a little.

Needless to say, 2015 Goal Setting has been flipped on it’s head for me. I’m excited to dive in with you tomorrow with the first steps as I launch my book and walk with you in preparing for a crazy and purposeful new year. 2015 is going to be an adventure and I’m grateful to have you here to learn from your journey too! Goal Setting Part 1 is up tomorrow…

For now, thank you. Many of you have prayed for our family and I can’t thank you enough. We are so grateful. His plans are always better than ours, no matter what they may be.

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P.S. I don’t have all the answers about adoption. Far from it. I still have more questions than answers at this point. We are still so new to adoption and just trusting God with each step. So, if you are looking for a resource, I recommend reading Casey’s blog as a start. There are so many great resources out there. I am still learning and listening.

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  • If you could envision your most purposeful year yet, what would it look like? Where do you want to be when you’re eighty — or even one year from now?

    I’ve asked these questions of thousands. The answers I’ve been given typically center on relationships. When we envision ourselves at eighty years old, having lived on purpose, we typically don’t envision social media, comparison, or our stuff in the picture; we see people. We see hearts—hearts we hope to have affected in a purposeful way. We see those we have spent quality time with. We see contentment. So the big question, then, is: If that’s where we want to be, what should we be doing today?

    Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 11.25.18 AMPhoto by Katie McGihon from our recent family trip to California.

    Where do we start in the middle of what can be a hurried season, when it feels impossible to put the train brakes on? We start where all life begins—with tiny seeds.

    There is nothing magical about January 1st. We have an opportunity every day — maybe even today— to plant a tiny seed of something that matters. Something that might change everything.

    Don’t wait till January 1st to make what matters happen.
    Don’t wait till you have your perfectly typed-out goal list or even your PowerSheets filled out.
    Don’t wait till the timing is “perfect.”
    Don’t wait to take a deep breath and — even if just for a moment — relish this life we have been given.
    Don’t wait, because planting seeds — the seeds of what matters at the end of our days — can simplify our lives and give us our time back.

    I have more work on my plate as I write this to you than any day this year so far. I’m right there with you, friend. Madame Overwhelm wants to come hang out and have tea with me lately. But, last night I sat in my living room with some girlfriends and this truth splashed on my heart like fresh water: I can complain that my plate is fuller than Christmas dinner at my mama’s house, or see what’s happening through radically different eyes. I can see the many things I have coming up — with work, holiday gatherings, family travel, etc. — as opportunities to hopefully help others plant seeds, to plant seeds myself, and to cultivate what will matter when I’m eighty. I’m not going to do it perfectly, but the pursuit of living on purpose is worth it. The alternative to living on purpose is living by accident, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to use my minutes here on this earth by accident. I don’t want to wait. Done is better than perfect. I’m choosing present over perfect and am starting NOW to set the wheels in motion. Will you join me?

    Let’s walk through this together.
    Let’s finish 2014 well and start 2015 on purpose.
    I’m all in. 

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    I invite you to join me on a powerful journey over the next few weeks. I’m nervous and at the same time so ready for this. Here are some options:

    1. Order your 2015 PowerSheets by next Monday, December 15th, to get them by Christmas or by December 26th to get them by the first week of the New Year (domestic orders). We anticipate selling out before the New Year. The PowerSheets are six months of intentional goal planning and action-inspiring worksheets. I can’t wait to fill mine out! We also have a whole new line of prints that can still be ordered for holiday delivery!

    2. For those who want to kick start 2015 in a big way, grab a copy of my book as well. Make It Happen: Surrender Your Fear, Take the Leap, Live on Purpose and PowerSheets are, well, powerful when used together. The book releases December 30th, and I recommend reading it and then starting your PowerSheets when you get to Part Four of the book — the Make it Happen action guide. You can view the trailer video here to see if this book is for you! You may even see a few familiar faces in the video : )

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    3. In the book, I lay out several action steps that will help prepare you for the coming year and will help you to set good goals if you are also using the PowerSheets. If you order two or more copies of Make it Happen (maybe one for you and one for a friend), I’m hosting a live webinar for you on January 15th where we’ll discuss the book.

    4. On January 28th, I’ll be hosting my annual live 2015 Goal Setting class, exclusively for 2015 PowerSheets owners. There is nothing magical about January 1 and, whether you have already worked through your PowerSheets by then or are just beginning to figure out your goals for the year, we’re going to dig in together. We’ll talk about how to take action on meaningful goals in the coming year. Sign up here.

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    So, get the PowerSheets or the book or both — it’s up to you! My hope is that we all walk through the month of January together as a time of preparation, setting ourselves up for meaningful success.

    As a little hint to what I am making happen, in January, my family is starting the adoption journey. We will have completed our home study next week, all the paperwork over Christmas, and then we wait and pray. We are nervous, in awe of where God has taken us on this path, and so grateful. I hope to share more soon. Till then, one little seed planted at a time. Most of the best things in life come little by little, with great patience, waiting, and a whole lotta leaps of faith : )

    There’s more, but stay posted to my Instagram for some surprises coming up!

    20 days till the new year, but here’s to starting the good stuff right now, right where we are, in the mess, in imperfection, and on purpose. I am cheering you on!

    With love and excitement,

    Lara

    P.S. Early-bird registration for the Making Things Happen Conference ends December 31st at midnight! Save $1000 here.

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    Today, we give extra thanks. Grandma Bunny went to be with the Lord this morning. She was surrounded by family and singing. I am so grateful for her life. Today we celebrate God’s goodness in giving us this spunky, hilarious, loving, Southern lady. Her 97 years on this earth were joyful and adventurous! Thank you Gina for capturing this video four years ago! We laughed and cried watching it today, remembering her wit and passion.

    I am still gathering my thoughts, but Grandma Bunny was the bees knees. The very first paragraph of my book is about she and my Grandpa Cecil. They made a profound impact on my life and most of all, on my faith. My fondest memories are of Bunny (her name is Celeste, but “Bunny” became a nickname forever ago) making up stories to tell me at bedtime, singing me songs about birds, saying funny Southern-isms, hooting and hollering like only she could, and charming the dew right off the honeysuckle. She loved meeting new people and she loved her beau. I hope she and Cecil are dancing together now in their Heavenly abode, as he used to call it. God is good. All the time.

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    Photo above by Emily March.

    This video from Inkspot Crow gets me every time! You can hear Bunny’s reaction to me telling her I was pregnant with Grace. What a great memory!

    I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

    I miss you, Grandma! More than words.

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    Hello, friend. I know. Where in the world has blogging gone these last months? Truth: sometimes we have to say no to one thing in order to say yes to something else. This year has taught me so much, but mostly, it’s taught me that face-to-face time matters. Relationships matter. Community right where you are matters. And so, I’ve been pouring every bit of energy and time I can into nurturing those things.

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    My favorite moments — meaningful conversations, dinners with neighbors, sharing life’s challenges and joys with girlfriends over tea in my kitchen, teaching Sunday School with Ari, times of being silly with Grace and getting our hands dirty in the garden together — didn’t get photographed. Most of my favorite times this year didn’t make it to Instagram, but they happened and they have been so sweet.

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    I said no to some things I love (like writing you here the last few months!) while I finished edits on my book over the summer, picked buckets and buckets of tomatoes and blueberries, and loved on this group of ladies. I’ve also said no to things that were distracting me from what matters. I’ve been doing Nancy Ray’s Contentment Challenge for over a year now (blog post coming soon on my experience not shopping for a year) in order to say YES to needed heart change. I said no to fear and comparison and so many things in order to say yes to investing in relationships. Yes to big risks. Yes to my marriage. Yes to less time cleaning my house and more time living in it. Yes to prayer. Yes to making a magazine that is about so much more than planning for just one day (V7 debuts in 3 weeks!). Yes to doing things that felt uncomfortable, but were so worth it. Living on purpose is worth saying no so you can say yes.

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    What about you? What are you saying no to? What are you saying yes to? I encourage you to make a no/yes list today and see how it helps you focus on what matters. See if it helps you simplify your days and live on purpose. I am cheering you on!

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    Some news: 2015 PowerSheets preorders are now open. After three years of using them myself, we took all that has helped us take big leaps and all that has helped you make what matters happen into this updated design. I can’t wait to use these in 2015! Do you need these to make what matters happen? No. The PowerSheets were created simply as a tool to help people like me who need help taking action on goals and staying focused on progress, not perfection. I pray these will help you do that too! Pre-order now for guaranteed Christmas delivery. And there’s something special my friend Emily Ley and I have cooked up for those who pre-order. See y’all in November!

    Photographs of Grace and I picking wildflowers by my friend EmilyGrace couldn’t get enough of these flowers! And, I don’t usually talk about fashion, but I was gifted this dress from Shabby Apple, and I love it. Love the modest hemline and soft fabric. A treat to wear! 

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    Friends, it is with great joy (and butterflies) that I write this post. I don’t even know what to say here. I’ve re-written these first sentences about twenty times. Announcingrevealing… drumrollcue the confetti cannons… Nothing fits sharing the book title and cover with you quite right, so I will simply say, here it is.

    Blank white book w/path I honestly can’t believe I am writing this post. I almost quit writing this book about a hundred times — no exaggeration. If you’ve been following my book-writing journey on Instagram, you know this has not been an easy one. I shared back in October about how this book came to be and about my struggle with oceans of negative self-talk. Many people think that writing a book is glamorous. This journey held a far better reward than glamour, though.

    When you take a big scary leap and do that thing God wants you to do — pouring out the kind of love that leaves you spent and somehow full at the same time — you get cracked wide open. As I wrote these 224 pages, pouring my everything into pixels that formed letters that formed thoughts that formed a much bigger picture, I gave and gave and looked fear right in the eyes and battled comparison and so much junk and I let go and cried barrels of tears and though all of this, God changed me. He refined me through the writing process, and I am so grateful. I know that sounds odd — I was just writing, right? That would have sounded completely strange to me six months ago, too. It’s cliche to say that writing a book is much like giving birth, but perhaps it’s cliche because it’s true.

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    Is it exciting to be done? Yes. But, it’s not done. The writing is done, but there’s so much ahead including getting these words into people’s hands. I don’t feel shy in spreading the word about this book because it’s not about me. It’s the story of how I said YES to a new life and how you can too. It’s the story of how I said NO to what doesn’t matter, and how I’m still on the journey. It’s the story of how God took my broken pieces and made them into something. It’s your invitation to be still and let your pieces shatter so He can do the same with you. It’s the story of how the Good News became really great news to me and how you can make it — an imperfect life of purpose — happen too. This book, while it may have parts of my story woven throughout to illustrate each point, is not about me at the core. I wrote this book for you. The you who has a beating heart and a longing for so much more. The you who is wanting to make something meaningful happen. The you who is struggling with comparison or in marriage or feeling like you’re never enough or trying to find purpose amidst a lot of noise and heartache. The you who wants to let go of all your fear and take a giant leap of faith. The you who feels like the word “impossible” is crushing your everything. I wrote this book for you, friend. The impossible is possible. The best is yet to come.

    I wrote this book because my life was going nowhere fast and it was not by my might but by my surrender that everything changed.

    Parts 1-3 of the book will walk you through a journey of surrendering fear and taking big leaps. Part 4 is a workbook-style guide that will propel you into a life of purpose, one action step at a time. Get ready. It’s going to be a challenging and yet deeply joyful journey!

    I’m excited to share that Make it Happen: Surrender Your Fear, Take the Leap, Live On Purpose is available for pre-order. The official release date is December 30th (my Grandma Bunny’s birthday). Why am I telling you this in June? Because I want to be sure that whoever wants a copy gets one. The more copies that are pre-ordered now, the more Amazon and stores will stock ahead of time for others. So, I would LOVE your help spreading the word about pre-orders. Thank you in advance, friends! It’s exciting when something sells out because of demand, but it’s no fun when you want that something : )

    Pre-order:

    For single copies: In paperback on Amazon

    If you pre-order 2+ copies or 10+ copies, please order through Barnes and Noble or ChristianBook.com. Amazon counts all orders, no matter the quantity, as one order. So, this will help us get these copies stocked correctly so they don’t sell out on launch day! : )

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    And there will be an audiobook to come. You can pre-order that through major retailers too.

    This book is best devoured with friends. If you pre-order 2+ copies, I’m excited to be doing a live online class on January 15, 2015, just for you as a thank you and to help you start 2015 well. Simply pre-order your copies and register you and your friend(s) for the 2015 Make It Happen class here. (Honor system — no need to send me your receipt!) If you are doing this as a surprise gift (birthday or Christmas maybe), you can add those names later on, if you wish. I’ll be emailing class info and some fun encouragement as January gets closer. If you pre-order 2+ copies, please order through Barnes and Noble or ChristianBook.com.

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    For those who pre-order 10+ copies, simply forward your receipt to me (lara at laracasey.com). I’ve had many people ask about getting larger quantities. As a thank you for helping to get these words into the hands of people who need them, you and whoever you gift these books to (or maybe your small group is getting them together) will get:

    – The 2015 Make It Happen class.

    – Personalized encouragement bookmarks. The bookmarks will have a personal pep-talk note on the back, so let me know in your email what you (and your friends) need a pep talk for. I’m excited to make these! The bookmarks will come to you in early December in time for the holidays, so you can wait till November to let me know each friend’s name, if you like.

    –  I’m most excited about this. You and your friends will be added to the Core Coaching Group. This intimate online goal coaching group will start in January and will be a place for encouragement, accountability, and I’ll be doing a few live online coaching sessions for y’all throughout the year. I’m excited about building relationships through this coaching group and can’t wait to get to know everyone!

    If you pre-order 10+ copies, please order through Barnes and Noble or ChristianBook.com and then simply forward your receipt to me (lara at laracasey.com).

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    In other news, I love the book cover! Choosing the right cover was a challenging process. But, the moment this one came together, I knew it was the one! It’s a perfect mirror to how I felt in writing the last page of the book: joyful, clear, and so ready for what’s next. I have the background as a painting in my house now. I was grateful to have designed this cover with the amazing  team at Thomas Nelson. It makes this book feel all the more a part of my heart. You’ll also find over thirty handwriting pieces in these pages, which makes me giggle because I got a C in handwriting in second grade! I’ll be sharing a little more behind-the-scenes about the process of writing this book, choosing a cover, and what’s next in my newsletter soon. Sign up here.

    There you have it, friends! Ahhh!!! How did the butterflies in my tummy just multiply!? Deep breaths. Surrendering my fear, taking the leap… and hitting publish on this post now! God is good. Let’s do this!

    photographs by Faith Teasley

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    Hi, friends! I’m a little late in getting my speaking schedule posted, because honestly I didn’t think I’d be doing much speaking this year. I had cleared my calendar to make room for other things. But, God’s plans are better than mine and He continues to pull me to equip others for what matters. My number one aim this year is to have meaningful relationships. The internet is great, but I really love meeting people in person! I hope to see you at one of these events this year:

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    I’ll be speaking on branding and the heart of Southern Weddings at Stone River in Columbia, South Carolina next week! Register here.

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    Photo by Amy Arrington Photographers from the Atlanta Apparel VOWS event.

    I’m grateful to join the Bliss and Bokeh ladies again this year in Charleston on September 22 and 23. I love this intimate retreat and can’t wait to meet new friends!

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    Photo by Anna K Photography from the AmericasMart Gift Market.

    Later that week (September 25-27), I’ll be flying to Indianapolis (with Ari and Gracie!) to do a members-only event for The Influence Conference. I love this conference and the women who created it. I. Can’t. Wait. It was life-changing for me last year!

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    Photo by Robyn Van Dyke (who I had a lovely dinner with last night!) from the Making Things Happen Conference this past March.

    And, finally, I’ll be doing the Making Things Happen Conference for the sixth year, on October 27th and 28th, here in my home city of Chapel Hill, NC. I am very excited about the surprises we have in store for MTH this fall. We’ve learned so much in these last six years and we’re about to shake things up, combining the core principles of how to make what matters happen with key business strategy. But, most of all, MTH is about building lasting relationships. More on what I’ve learned in the last six years of leading the MTH workshop — and how I’ve changed in those years — in a post soon. For now, follow MTH on Instagram here and the #mthconference hashtag for some fun upcoming interviews with our speakers and lots of inspiring alum!

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    Photo by Robyn Van Dyke from the Making Things Happen Conference.

    I have been praying and planning and dreaming and working hard the last months between book edits to make these two days our most powerful conference yet. Seats are already flying and early-bird registration (save $1000 with the early-bird rate!) is open until July 1 or until we sell out. We’ve sold out six years in a row and the wait list averages 30+ people each year, so make it happen. I do this workshop to ignite change and purposeful passion in others, so I feel no hesitation in giving you a push to come! : )

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    The wonderful MTH speakers who are all past MTH alum: (from left to right) Amber Housley, Emily Ley, Karen Stott, Nancy Ray, moi, Rhiannon Bosse and Gina Zeidler (who will be bringing baby Z with her to MTH, Lord willing!)

    I also may be doing a webinar with Emily Ley in the summer (details TBA!) as well as a PowerSheets/business webinar later in the year. First, we need to get through magazine shoot season! A peek into our office below from Faith Teasley. You can take the full tour here.

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    Having shared about all of these truly wonderful life-changing events, though, I feel compelled to offer a word of advice about conferences in general — advice I would have loved to have heard when I was just starting in business. You don’t need to go to conferences to be successful. Conferences have great value for education and building relationships, but you won’t be “left behind” or fail if you don’t or can’t go. Perhaps your resources need to be focused on another purpose right now, growing your business slowly and steadily. I talk to a lot of young business owners who are trying to figure out where to invest their money so I hope this advice is helpful. Don’t feel pressured. Grow slowly and wisely. If you can go to a great conference, go! And get the very most out of your experience by asking questions and building relationships. If you don’t go though, you are still on a great path forward. I am cheering for you, friends!

    You can keep up with future speaking dates and get booking info here.

    So, who am I going to see this summer and fall? : )

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    Raaaaaaarrrr!!!

    What’s that sound? That’s this bear cub coming out of hibernation after a long winter. I can’t say, “where did the time go?” because I know where it went. It went into the 74,000 words I poured my whole self into these last months.

    View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2014

    My book manuscript is finally turned in. It’s in second draft format, currently in the hands of an editor, and I am waiting for my next round of suggested edits to come in. This whole book process has been a new adventure for me — new in every sense. I’m going to share a behind-the-scenes look at the process of writing this book and what I learned in my next newsletter. Sign up using the little box at the end of this post.

    In my mind, May is the new January. I’m starting fresh this month. Starting new. Starting with a new heart after all I learned in writing. Spend 100+ days writing about what matters most and you’ll find yourself changed. But, I am taking my time in acting on that change. Well… some of it anyway.

    View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2014

    May is my month to dig into new soil around here, literally and figuratively. I’m planting my vegetable garden and starting fresh with my PowerSheets. Purposeful goals take time and I hope to have a NEW, very purposeful, prayer-over, list in my PowerSheets by the end of this month. If you don’t have a set of PowerSheets, get one. We only have about 600 sets left and they have been going fast lately. Looks like y’all are feeling the need for a fresh start lately too! If you are reading this post, use the code STARTFRESHMAY for 25% off your entire order.

    If anyone wants to join me in starting fresh (in any way — not just in goal setting), use the hashtag #StartFreshMay.

    And, I’m trying something new…

    Join me in a couple weeks, on May 14th, from 12 to 1pm EST, for a #StartFreshMay Google Hangout. This will be really casual — a time of encouragement and getting to know each other. I hope new friendships are formed from this and I can’t wait to hear how you are starting fresh! Join here (I think you have to add me to a circle or something).

    View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2014

    Let’s get intentional about how we are using our time in this busy season. Even if it feels impossible to put the brakes on, if you are reading this post, you have enough time in your day to make what matters happen. Starting fresh — in whatever needs a new start for you — will be worth it. I’m going to take time to pray (by myself and with friends on the phone — another new thing I’m trying to do more), read the Bible, and work through each of the PowerSheets steps one by one with fresh eyes. This is my month to look at how I’m doing just about everything and ask how I could do it more intentionally. I am excited and, more than that, just plain grateful.

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    Whatever that thing is that is calling your heart to start new, take the leap. Whether it’s a relationship that needs your all or a creative pursuit or loving someone well or writing your soul or gutting your closet or planting your garden — do it. Dig deep into fresh soil with me, friend. I can’t wait to be inspired by your #StartFreshMay journey too.

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    Join me!

    – Start fresh in whatever area of life needs it most. Start today. You can do this.
    Hang out with me in a couple weeks.
    – Sign up for the newsletter (below) for a behind-the-scenes on my book soon.
    – I’d love to hear from you here or on social media about what you are starting fresh with. Let’s encourage others too who might be feeling the need for this.

    May is the new January. Let’s do this!

    P.S. I’m going to release my book cover very soon, as well as some exciting pre-order news. God is good. I am so grateful. More to come. Sign up for my newsletter below to be the first to know.

    Photos by my dear friend Gina



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    Hi. I’m still alive. Very alive, in fact. More than when I last wrote you here. For the last two months, all day every day, I have been writing a book. That doesn’t mean I’ve been just typing words, though. It has been soul-changing. I’ve been battling with my fear — so much fear — and my past failures and, stroke by stroke on this keyboard, I have been battling to say no to the lies that tell me I can’t do this and YES to what God wants me to write.

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    Photo by Faith Teasley

    I presented my book yesterday in Nashville, but there is so much more to write — many chapters and edits to go. But, I am stopping in quickly to say:

    Thank you. I am so grateful for many prayers and encouraging words that have kept me going as I write.

    Keep going. If you are feeling afraid or stuck or lost, keep focusing on what matters. Keep going.

    Lastly, I’m so behind on many things, but all for a good reason. One of those things is announcing the winners of the Goal Setting Series Giveaways from January! Winners are below and were chosen by random. Congrats to everyone who entered and high fives to everyone who participated. The real prize is making what matters happen with your goals!

    LARA-CASEY-GOAL-SETTING-PRIZES

    Walk in Love T-Shirt- Gina of My Pretty Pennies

    8 x 10 print of their choice from Naptime Diaries- Lydia of Lydia Photography

    Simplified Planner – Alyssa Kjondal

    A set of prayer journals from Val Marie Paper- Sarah Tate

    Headband of your choice from She Does Justice- Megan of Megan Elizabeth Photos

    Make It Happen coffee spoon- Elizabeth G. of Glessner Photography

    $20 Lara Casey Shop gift card- Rhiannon at Mom to Two Lovelies

    $20 Lara Casey Shop gift card – Karen at Your Stylist Karen

    $20 Lara Casey Shop gift card- Stephanie Richards

    $20 Lara Casey Shop gift card- Rylee Field

    Ladies, please email lisa@southernweddings.com and she will get your prizes to you! If they aren’t claimed within 30 days, we will give them to another entrant.

    lara casey shop

    OK, off to write more. And until I finish this book, I’m having a “Finish Your Book Already” sale. Click here to see all of our new products.  EVERYTHING in the shop is 25% OFF with code MAKEITHAPPEN : )

    And whatever good is on your heart…

    Make it happen.

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    First of all, if you are just joining us, welcome!  While we might be ten days into the new year, it’s never ever too late to begin something new, let something go, or get focused on what matters. #2014GoalSetting can happen anytime. We’re not setting fleeting resolutions for the year, we’re setting good life goals here. Good goals give you freedom and focus.

    The 2014 Goal Setting steps so far so you can get started:

    Part 1: Let’s Do This!
    Part 2: Get Fired Up.
    Part 3: Your 2014 Vision
    Part 4: Get Radical
    Part 5: Set Good Goals

    Lara Casey 2014 Goal Setting

    In my reading this morning, my 2014 goals — or goal — hit me.  Here is what I read:

    Peter speaking to a large crowd: “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. …  Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”  When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

    Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

    With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

    And this is what lights my heart on fire…

    They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:32-47 NIV)

    If you’ve been reading my blog the last couple years, you know that this section of scripture has always been like fire in my heart.  That life of giving and in community and living with just what they needed (and many times less than that) was their response to knowing Him.  They heard.  They believed.  Without hesitation, they acted.  Their lifestyle drastically changed because of knowing Him.

    You see, we (me included) like to change external things in order to change the internal things.  External changes can definitely ignite the internal at times.  A new hair cut or clean house can make us feel fresh and new.  Moving furniture around and getting new office supplies can give us a boost. But, there are deeper layers.  He can peel back all of your layers and make them new.  Belief changes our hearts and causes us to ACT on what matters.  It causes a bigger shift than new office supplies can ever ignite.

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    For me, I feel that God has put it on my heart to make this the “Year of 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.  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.  I am praying for heart change and the fruit of that heart change to multiply love and point directly to Him.

    I am so grateful that I intentionally set goals last year.  My 2014 goals are not new, per se, but they are further refined and CLEAR.  This process has been so powerful for me!  Before you dive into setting your own goals, be sure to go through all of the previous posts and steps. Make sure your goals are centered on what matters and that you has a strong WHY with each goal. For the sake of space, I didn’t wrote my WHY for you in every box below, but I wrote them for myself. My 2014 Goals:

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    This is just a start for me and I will refine these as I pray on them.  Remember that this is a process and you should be changing and updating your goals along the way. Just to keep you (and me!) accountable, do this… put these dates as reminders on your calendars as check-in points: April 10, July 10, and October 10.  I put them on my calendar too and I will check back in here to let you know how my goals are progressing and I will want to hear about yours. All of your comments in this series have been so inspiring! There is SO much greatness waiting for you in this new year! Be sure to comment here with your 2014 Goals, too! Share them and you will be more accountable and likely inspire someone else. Don’t be a lurker anymore, friends. Jump in : )

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    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 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
    – Facebooking
    – Tweeting
    – Blogging or in any way sharing this post/series
    – For all entires, link back here to www.LaraCasey.com/blog and use the #2014GoalSettinghashtag. 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 : )

    A peek at some of the prizes in this series….

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    – Winners for all posts will be selected on January 31, so you have plenty of time to spread the word and make it happen! 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 : )  YAHOO!!!

    So, tell me!  What are your 2014 Goals?

    P.S. So, you have your goals and you are asking, NOW WHAT? How do you tackle them? Where do you start? That post is up next, but you are far more capable than you think. My next post in a nutshell: begin anywhere. Tiny bold steps forward build momentum to make things happen! Get to it!

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    I don’t write about and study goal setting because I’m naturally good at it. I need accountability and some serious pants-kicking to make things happen. I remember so clearly standing on a beach in Maui with Natalie Norton years ago, telling her I just “don’t set goals.” She challenged me, waves crashing at our feet, to set some goals that mattered. “Just try it,” she urged. “God wants us to set goals that help Him shine!” Ever since, that has been on my heart. I lived for so long thinking that we should just sit back and let God make our lives happen. While there is truth to that, God calls us clearly in His word to take action for Him and for the gospel. The Bible is an action book, not a casual read. Jesus had goals. He had a single goal and a core purpose and all of his actions centered on fulfilling that purpose. While we are not Him, we are made in His image and called to walk with Him. So, that’s what I want to try to do. I want to model after the man who laid His life down for others and gave it all and didn’t care about material things and loved people so passionately. I will never come close to having a heart like His here on this earth, but I thing the pursuit of that will be worth all of my failures and shortcomings. Setting goals is good. We need direction and a path to what matters. It’s when we start setting goals that don’t include Him that things get a little (here comes my favorite Southern word!) cattywampus.

    Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)

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    So, last year, I decided things were going to be different. I started my first Goal Setting series to lay out a process that was more thoughtful than what I had done in the past. From there, I developed the PowerSheets and this whole process changed my life. With my PowerSheets, I started to be more mindful of taking action on my core purpose. I realized that I had to give myself a structure or I’d fall into my old habits and forget my goals. So, I pasted my PowerSheets Tending List to the front of my binder each month and kept it out on my desk so I saw it every single day. I prayed on my goals. I even posted my 2013 goals on my new about page for accountability. As I expected, my goals changed through the year. They got clearer. This is why the PowerSheets were only created for a 6 month timeframe. There’s no magic to 356 days. We should always be re-evaluating our goals, not just at the start of a new calendar year. I posted my progress every three months (or when I could!) here: AprilAugustOctober. 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 good 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. 2013, by the grace of God, was a really incredible year. And not because everything went well. It was a great year because I learned more about God’s heart through challenges and mistakes and triumphs and failures. I learned more about where He wants my attention and energy.  Here are what my 2013 Goals were:

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    My update for these 2013 goals is simple: God made it happen.  I made significant strides on all of these goals because of His guidance and grace. I still have a long way to go in many of these areas, but I am in awe of how He worked in my life this year.  While I didn’t finish reading the Bible completely by December 31, reading it daily this year is honestly where I found the most clear direction to make these things happen.  What I learned from all of this:  His plans never fail.  Ever.  They just don’t.  Times I pursued things for my ego or lost sight of His purpose for my life, I failed.  When I did things for the bigger picture — to build others up in love for Him — He blessed those things.  Now, when I say “blessed them” I mean He gave me clear guidance and sometimes that guidance was hard.  Sometimes it meant I had to fail at something in order to move forward on His path. But, it was all for a great reason. I also learned that tending to goals little by little is where real lasting and continual progress comes from.   I think “little by little” was my key phrase for 2013 and it still is.  My Tending List in the PowerSheets was instrumental in keeping me on track.  Little by little seeds turn into trees.  Little by little babies grow.  Little by little — and sometimes in an instant — He makes all things new.

    OK, I have 20-something days to finish my book manuscript, so I would definitely appreciate your prayers.  My 2014 Goals are up next, but I need a few more days to think on them and get into this manuscript.  Till then, post your own 2014 Goals on my last post or feel free to wait till I post mine later this week! I am praying that you all have a remarkable start to 2014 and that you keep your eye on the goal!  We can do this, friends!

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