Hi. [Insert nervous pause and deep breath.]

I get nervous when something has the potential to change people for the better—when something matters to me. And this matters to me. A lot.

I’m not an expert on faith, or trained in professional ministry, or a Bible scholar. I’m just a girl who has been radically changed in the last few years. If you’ve read Make It Happen or heard the story of our marriage, you are probably wondering how in the world our change happened.

From being on the verge of divorce with Ari and our marriage transforming, to the heart of our company changing, to our family growing in a way I never expected, I have learned that grace is a real thing. It’s not just “Christian talk.” It’s very real. Friends, the impossible is possible.

Grace changed everything.

How to Cultivate Your Faith

If you are reading this and have no idea what I mean, or feel frustrated not having felt His grace, or want it more than words–I rarely say this but–I know how you feel. For a long time I thought, “Maybe I’m not good enough, or reading my Bible enough, or mature enough as a Christian. Maybe I’ve been too bad. Maybe I’ve messed up too much. Maybe God just isn’t listening.” I felt like I didn’t get it and I never would.

Then God showed me, through a series of challenges, that faith is not about my ability to perform. I don’t have to be perfect to have it. I don’t have to fix everything or have all the answers.

I don’t have to have grown up in church (I didn’t), or have done all the right things (didn’t do that either), or have quiet time every day (mine is pretty loud!).

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That is why the “Good News” is good. We don’t deserve His grace and He gives it to us anyway.

– Maybe you have no idea where to even begin with faith, and it all feels overwhelming.

– Maybe you’ve been at this faith thing for years, but you feel like something is missing.

– Or maybe things are great, and you just want to keep the momentum going.

Wherever you are, I’ve decided to do something I would have wanted when I was brand new to all of this—and needing a fresh start. I’m hosting a live webinar about faith. Join me (invite your friends, small group, and co-workers too!) on Wednesday, August 17 at noon EST for a FREE Cultivating Faith Webinar. I’ll be sharing my story with you, my top 10 keys to rooted faith, Bible 101, and simple resources for growing a real relationship with God–no perfection required!

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My hope is that this hour we’ll spend together will give you clarity, and simple practical tools to help you cultivate a relationship with the real God of the Bible. Nothing else matters.

Click here to register.

The first 500 people to join will get live access (I hope you join me live so we can chat together!), and everyone who registers—whether you can join live or not–will get a replay link when it’s over. Even if you have something planned that hour, be sure to sign up. I’ll be sending you the replay and resources to your inbox right when we’re done!

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A quick tip: With my work, and three littles running under the same roof, one thing that has helped me get into the Bible is the simple act of writing the Word. You can try it yourself with your own journal, a scrap of paper, or get one of the Write the Word journals that I created for this purpose. Try starting with these verses. Really—give it a try right now, and see if the act of writing the Word, in your own messy handwriting, doesn’t change you. I get easily distracted, so literally writing God’s Word has been faith-transforming for me, and it only takes me a few moments to make a big impact on my faith. Little by little, word by word, your faith will grow. I’ll be talking more about writing the Word, and many more simple tips next Wednesday!

See you there!

How to Cultivate Your Faith Webinar

P.S. Save the date for August 31 for our PowerSheets webinar, too!

P.P.S. Enter to win a full collection of Write the Word journals by sharing this post and leaving a comment saying you did! : )

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Yay! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Fruitful Friendship series as much as I have! This is the final post of the series, but it’s just the beginning! We have the rest of summer (and our lives!) to keep letting go of perfect, embracing awkward, and making meaningful connections happen.

Learn how to make new traditions, celebrate each other, and cultivate community with these three easy tips, and much more in the FREE Guide linked at the bottom. Let’s do this!

1. Name your summer traditions.

Traditions help us cultivate connection through meaningful shared experiences. Whether it’s something you’ve done before, or a tradition you want to start, use the traditions printable available in the Fruitful Guide (linked at the end of this post) to make your traditions happen. Need some summer tradition ideas? Try making jam, picking berries, Taco Tuesday’s, a yearly getaway, a watermelon seed-spitting contest (that’s a real thing), camping (or camping in the living room like we did this summer), or simply eating dinner on the porch outside!

2. Celebrate what matters. 

Cultivate a deeper connection by celebrating what’s important to your friend. Simple, but powerful, ask your friend her favorite holidays, her birthday, family traditions, and about special milestones she’s looking forward to. Mark them on your calendar so you remember to ask about them, prepare a gift, or celebrate alongside her. Intentionally celebrating what’s important in her life will help grow your bond for years to come. And celebrate your friendship too—“friendiversaries” are the best!

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3. Shake on it! 

Grace and I have a not-so-secret handshake. It ends by pointing at the one we love (seen below in action!). We do it every night before she goes to sleep, and it makes both of us giggle every time! This little tradition connects us together, and makes her feel loved and special. Ari and I also have a handshake that we made up when we were dating. To this day, it still makes us laugh! And, last summer, we made up a handshake with the sisters in our small group, too. I’m laughing right now thinking about it! So, my final tip is to shake on it! Make up a handshake with friend, spouse, co-worker, or your kids.

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Photo by Olivia Wolf of Nancy Ray Photography

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Get the entire Fruitful Summer Guide (FREE) in your inbox HERE! This guide is full of pages with our best tips on cultivating friendships, free downloads to help you make what matters happen, and wonderful wisdom from our amazing group of contributors.

Thank you so much for joining me for this series! Be sure to pin this post (or any in the series) to come back to next summer, and share this with your friends. You never know what connections it may spark!

P.S. We’re already thinking about Fruitful Summer for next year, and we want you in it! Submit your photos and stories for a chance to be featured in the 2017 magazine!

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A few weeks ago, Grace taught me a lesson about embracing “awkward.” Every morning, we take a walk through the retirement community near our house. One morning, after chatting with a sweet lady we’ve known for four years, Grace said, “Mom, we don’t know her name!”

Well, um…

Yes, you are right, Grace.

I never asked.

After knowing her for four years—knowing all about her husband’s health challenges, and even what she eats for breakfast on Sunday mornings (blueberry pancakes), it seemed a little awkward to ask her name.

The next morning, I decided to embrace awkward anyways. her name is Shirley, and I’m so glad I asked. The next weekend, Grace and I decided to surprise Shirley by delivering some “Berry Good” homemade jam. Listen to what happened after that!

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Fruitful friendships grow not because we don’t experience fear, but because breaking ground on meaningful relationships becomes more important than our fear. Taking big leaps of faith, embracing the awkward (lots of awkward!), and putting yourself out there to do life with others can change everything.

It’s worth stepping into the hard stuff—and stepping in again and again.

Fruitful friendships are worth embracing awkward for. Fruitful friendships allow us to celebrate our imperfections together.

Fruitful friendship is possible. Here are my three tips to embrace awkward:

1. Become a Master of Awkward.

What if awkward pauses in a conversation are actually invitations for a deeper friendship? Waiting 1-2 seconds longer than normal to reply and “fill the silence” may allow the other person to open up, and to know you are really listening. Practice the art of the pause, and let the pauses be filled with listening. It may feel awkward at first, but it’s the greatest gift we can give to others! When you try this, just keep thinking to yourself, “I am becoming a Master of Awkward!”

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2. Ask a second question.

You can practice this starting today, and it just might change your relationships forever. It did for me! Don’t stop at, “How are you?” Invite the other person to open up by asking a second question. The power of the second question is that it helps take the conversation deeper. Two of my favorite second questions:

How did that make you feel?

Tell me more about that.

Use our Fruitful Conversation Starters to help with this! Each set features 24 of our tried and true conversation starters on the front, ranging from thought-inspiring to laugh-inducing, and a fun fruit on the reverse!

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3. Ask for help.

This is a hard one, isn’t it!? But, remember that fruit grows when we tend to it, water it, and work the hard ground. Dig in! Asking for help in friendships—whether it’s advice, prayer, or a recipe—lets the other person know you value them, and beleive they can solve a problem for you. Turn this around on yourself: How would you feel if a friend asked for help? I would feel honored, and it would help me to know they trust me. Fruitful friendships are built on trust.

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Photo by Olivia Wolf of Nancy Ray Photography

This is my real-life friend, Tori! She joins our neighborhood walks almost every morning, where we get to practice all we’ve learned in this Fruitful Friendship series—asking second questions, embracing awkward, and listening well. We’re not perfect, and we don’t have to be. We’re growing a fruitful friendship, no perfection required. I’m so grateful for you, Tori!

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Sign up to receive the entire Fruitful Guide in your inbox! This guide is full of pages with our best tips on cultivating friendships, free downloads to help you make what matters happen, and wonderful wisdom from our amazing group of contributors.Stay tuned for the rest of my Fruitful Friendship tips coming the blog soon! Up next, how to tend to your friendships little by little! 

P.S. We want your help in putting together next year’s magazine. Submit your photos and stories for a chance to be featured in the 2017 magazine!

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Maybe your well-laid summer plans went sour, or you didn’t started on any of your goals or that summer bucket list you made with the kids. Guess what?

That’s okay! Welcome back to Part 2 of our Fruitful Friendship series! Be sure to check out five easy ways to grow meaningful friendships.

Your summer doesn’t need to be perfect to be meaningful, and you don’t need to be perfect either. I often feel like everyone has it all together but me. But, it’s not true. Don’t let comparison feed you the lie that you aren’t exactly where you’re supposed to be. As my friend Emily says, “Grace, not perfection.”

Here are Three Easy Ways to Let Go of Perfect! Much more to come in the next three posts too. Let’s do this!

1. Embrace the mess.

Your summer (or any season of your life for that matter!) doesn’t have to be perfect to be meaningful. Throw your expectations out the window—and keep that window open. Rather than trying to stick to the perfect plan and feeling guilty when it doesn’t go exactly as you expected, make this a grace-filled season and embrace the unexpected. Fill in the blank:

I’m letting go of ______ in order to have a fruitful season!

What’s more important: a perfect life, or a fruitful life?

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2. Define what a “fruitful” season means to you.

Whether it’s full of family time, date nights with your significant other, friend adventures, starting a new project or hobby, or embracing simplicity, write out what it means to you. Chances are, your fruitful season vision does not include mass amounts of time spent stressing over social media numbers, or striving to get ahead at the expense of what matters most. When you take time to visualize where you want to go, it helps simplify your life. You learn how to prioritize your daily decisions based on that vision. A favorite verse: ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish…’ (Proverbs 29:18).

BONUS STEP: Define one focal word for the season that helps you focus on progress, not perfection. (I’d love to hear your word in the comments!)

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You can download a great printable in the FREE PDF linked at the bottom of this post. Place it somewhere where you will see it often–your refrigerator, on your desk, or on your bathroom mirror!

3. Make room.

My arms and calendar are packed from sun up to sun down, but I also know I can waste a lot of time on distractions throughout the day. So, say yes to what matters and a firm no to all the rest. The simple act of writing out the things you are saying yes to and what you are saying no to can help give you your time back. Say no to the distractions, and yes to things that will help you live out your fruitful season—and life! It starts with writing them out, seeing the time-suckers for what they are. This helps me see let go of perfect by intentionally choosing life-giving things to fill my time with!

What’s on your yes and no lists this season?

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Photo by Olivia Wolf of Nancy Ray Photography

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Sign up to receive the entire Fruitful Guide in your inbox! This guide is full of pages with our best tips on cultivating friendships, free downloads to help you make what matters happen, and wonderful wisdom from our amazing group of contributors.

Stay tuned for the rest of my Fruitful Friendship tips coming in the next post! Up next, how to embrace awkward

P.S. We want your help in putting together next year’s magazine. Submit your photos and stories for a chance to be featured in the 2017 magazine!

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The blueberry patch near our house has been here for over thirty years, and these bushes keep making sweet fruit. Our friend, Wanda, tends to them little by little, and keeps them well-pruned.

If Wanda let the bushes grow grow grow, the fruit wouldn’t get as sweet. The nutrients would be spread thin.

Are you feeling that way lately? Are your relationships in need of revival?

We learned how to embrace awkward, and now we’re going to learn how to tend to relationships little by little, and simplify our time. When we do, sweeter fruit is going to grow.

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1. Lean In To the Power of Little By Little.

Little by little, you learned how to do what you do, whether it’s a creative skill, motherhood, or your vocation. Little by little, peaches ripen on trees. Little by little, ingredients are added into a bowl to make cake batter. It’s the same with our friendships and marriages. Little by little, meaningful relationships are cultivated. One small seed planted today can grow into a towering tree years from now. The little by little adds up. If we strive for overnight results, we might miss the good fruit that waits for us in the process—the growing part.

What one little itsy bitsy seed can you plant today in a friendship?

Maybe it’s as simple as asking a second question, or finally reaching out to set up that coffee date you keep talking about, or sending a quick text message to ask, “How are you today?”

Deeper friendships don’t have to come from huge acts of affection, but by constant little by little tending. Take little by little action today!

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2. Prune to Make It Sweeter.

We cannot do it all and do life well. Let that settle in your heart for a moment. We cannot do it all and do it all well, but we can choose a few things and grow them intentionally. Choose one area of your life to prune. Maybe it’s your schedule, your finances, your closet, or your inbox that feels overgrown. Read my blog post on simplifying for some inspiration, and write down ONE thing you are going to let go of, simplify, or cut to make room for what matters.

Simplify your focus with PowerSheets, simplify your home with my friend Emily’s Simplicity Challenge, simplify your spending with Nancy’s Contentment Challenge, tackle your inbox with Unroll.Me, and decide if you need to prune your social media accounts (I quit Periscope and Snapchat earlier this summer!)

3. Dig Under the Surface.

Vulnerability changes things. But, in order for vulnerability to happen, there rst has to be a foundation of trust. What do you think? How have you grown to trust friends in the past or how would you build trust now? Whatever your answer is, do those things for others. For me, that means listening well, praying for my friends, admitting my mistakes (and that I’m not perfect!), being willing to share my struggles, and being curious about the other person’s heart. It means being willing to take risks and ask meaningful questions. Dig under the surface and ask others what you would want them to ask you.

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Get the entire Fruitful Summer Guide (FREE) in your inbox HERE! This guide is full of pages with our best tips on cultivating friendships, free downloads to help you make what matters happen, and wonderful wisdom from our amazing group of contributors.

P.S. We’re already thinking about Fruitful Summer for next year, and we want you in it! Submit your photos and stories for a chance to be featured in the 2017 magazine!

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Stay tuned for my final Fruitful Friendship tips! Three easy ways to celebrate friendships!

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Five Easy Ways to Grow Meaningful Friendships

I spent far too long believing that I wasn’t good at friendship. I was “too busy,” too stressed, inconsistent, forgetful, and I had a lot of fear. I realized I was chasing “perfect” in friendships, and that was holding me back from making any connections at all. As my friend Em says (pictured here with me), “I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection.”

That’s what Fruitful Friendship is all about.

You don’t have to be perfect.

You don’t have to have it all together.

It’s our imperfections that authentically connect us.

Last summer, thousands of women, from Tulsa to Tokyo, joined with me from all over the world to give this Fruitful Friendship thing a try. And you know what? It worked!

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Here’s what we learned: We didn’t have to hold ourselves–or others–to a standard of perfection; we just had to do our best to love well through all our flaws and mess. Living in my imperfections and allowing others the freedom to do the same has helped me cultivate fruitful relationships. Fear of not being perfect, not fun enough, too introverted, awkward in conversation, too broken — I know these fears well. These are things we’re going to talk about openly and tackle for the next five posts together. Let’s join together to let go of “perfect” and start some real connections. I don’t know about you, but I am so ready.

So….

How do you embrace awkward and put yourself out there to find friends?

How make existing relationships more joyful and meaningful?

And how do you do this if you are forgetful, busy, and imperfect (like me!)?

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Photo by Olivia Wolf of Nancy Ray Photography

Here are Five Easy Ways to Grow Meaningful Relationships—no perfection required! Much more to come in the next four posts too. Let’s do this!

1. Let go of friendship guilt. Friends overlook our broken fences and admire our gardens. You don’t have to be perfect to have meaningful friendships. Let’s let our friends—and ourselves—off the guilt hook and start fresh. When I think of the most rooted relationships I have, those friendships grew because we let ourselves be imperfect in front of each other. We let each other into the mess. Sometimes that meant literally saying, “I am not a perfect friend, but I want to have a closer friendship with you.” Sometimes it meant choosing forgiveness and believing the best about the other person. And sometimes it meant I needed to take the friendship guilt and (hard advice here but it’s true…) do something about it. Maybe I was being neglectful in our friendship and needed to talk to my friend about why. 100% of the time, my friends are relieved when I share these feelings, because chances are they were feeling them, too! Our imperfections, come to find out, are what connect us together.

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2. Be the invitation. We all say it: “We should get together sometime.” [Insert month-long pause.] Don’t wait for the invitations to come to you; be the invitation! Whoever came to mind first when you read that, choose that person and finally get together. Send one invite to a friend—or a group of people—and keep it simple and fun. It doesn’t have to be the perfectly planned for the conversation to be meaningful. Fruitful Friendship doesn’t happen without getting together with your friend.

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3. Name your people. Ask yourself these questions:

Who do you want to grow closer with?
Which relationships do you want to grow and intentionally tend to?

Remember, real connections happen little by little.

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Use our Friendship Tending List in the Guide linked at the bottom, and be intentional about spending time with the people on your list!

4. Make a list of Fruitful goals and adventures you want to try! Use the Fruitful Goals List (available in the FREE Guide at the bottom), or create your own like I did with Grace. Hang it in a place where you’ll see it every day. We hung ours in our kitchen above the table where Grace colors and eats her breakfast each morning.

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5. Don’t let life live on a list—get out there! After you’ve filled out your list, pull out your planner and let your Fruitful friendships come to life. Write action items on your schedule: dates you’ll check in with specific friends, tending tasks, and adventure you’re going to try. Don’t let your life live on a list—make it happen!

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One of the things on our list was to have a playdate with a friend. Last week, we invited her over and baked dinosaur cookies. From start to finish, all it took was me texting her mom to schedule a time, this easy recipe, and sprinkles!

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Okay…. there’s much more to come in the next four posts! AND there’s a whole FREE Fruitful Friendships Guide that you can get below.

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It’s loaded with printables, tips, advice, and much more!

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Get the entire Fruitful Summer Guide (FREE) in your inbox HERE! This guide is full of pages with our best tips on cultivating friendships, free downloads to help you make what matters happen, and wonderful wisdom from our amazing group of contributors.

P.S. Next year, this will be a print magazine and we want you in it! Submit your photos and stories for a chance to be featured in the 2017 magazine!

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Stay tuned for the rest of my Fruitful Friendship tips. Up next, how to let go of perfect and embrace an imperfect summer!

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Hi, friends! Welcome back to my weekly series about making progress on what matters, little by little—along with a few links I think you might enjoy. In case you missed them, here are the past six weeks!

This update is short and sweet this week, since we are on staycation, and my mom is visiting!

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Ari joined me this week on Facebook Live to talk about the story of our marriage crumbling, our faith journeys, our staycation goals, how we are raising our kids, UNC basketball, and lots more. To summarize our story: the impossible is possible.

Some thoughts on waiting.

I rarely talk about Southern Weddings because my day-to-day involvement has drastically changed over the last few years. I used to do it all: the layout, shoot creation, writing, etc. And now I oversee the business and heart of what we do. More here.

One of the shifts we made at our SW Team Retreat this year was to encourage more than just brides. Emily and Lisa are hosting a live webinar next Tuesday on how to be the ultimate maid of honor and bridesmaid, and Jess shared six ways to respond to the question “When are you getting married?

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Speaking of live webinars, save the dates! I’m hosting two in August. On August 17th, I’ll be hosting a free Faith 101 webinar, where I’ll give you my ten keys to getting started with faith—or starting fresh. (And why I created Write the Word!) On August 31st, I’ll be digging into PowerSheets with you! Stay tuned for more details on how to sign up.

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Fruitful Summer is coming to a close, but we’re already planning for our 2017 print magazine! Help us create meaningful content, and submit your stories and photos!

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Okay, I told you this would be short and sweet! Time to get everyone here in the bath and ready for bed : ) For more from our week, click on my profile photo on Instagram. I love the new stories feature! For example…. these two.

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Love,

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P.S. If you have a prayer request, I’d love to pray for you. Leave it here in the comments. Remember, the impossible is possible.

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Hi, friends! Welcome back to my weekly series about making progress on what matters, little by little—along with a few links I think you might enjoy. In case you missed them, here are week oneweek twoweek threeweek four, and week five!

If you were sitting with me here on my couch, here’s what I’d tell you: This has been a week of heart pruning and choosing slow. I’ve had to call Ari every day at work to have him pray with me about Grace. She’s having a rough time with this transition, being out of her normal routine, and missing her buddy, Rhiannon. And all she sees is me taking care of the babies constantly (we’re without childcare this week and next till Sarah starts—she is wonderful, btw, and I can’t wait for you to meet her!). And I’m having a hard time missing Rhiannon, too. When you spend all day with someone, five days a week—more time than you spend with your husband—you feel an emptiness when the person is gone. Thankfully, she’s coming back to see us after her trip to Greece in a couple weeks before she officially moves!

And getting anything done with two babies has been near-impossible. Writing this post is happening only because my wonderful mother-in-law is here watching the babies and Grace is doing a sticker book : ) Working moms of the world and moms in general… hugs. Big hugs. This job is the hardest.

So, this week, I’m learning to choose slow. And “slow” isn’t bad. Slow is margin. Slow is intentional. Slow is stillness in the storm. Slow means trusting God more than my own imperfect efforts. Slow is simplified. Good things grow slow—little by little, over time.

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I turned in my draft of Cultivate last Friday. I am happy with the first few chapters and can’t wait to dig back in when I have someone here to watch the babies! : )

How do you stay motivated? I shared more in this week’s Facebook Live.

Last week, I talked about how it had been a refining week for business decisions, and we decided to surrender to slow. And I’m so grateful for that decision. God’s plan does not look like the rest of the world’s success.

Last Sunday, we enjoyed our Team BBQ.

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Thanks to some sweet friends who offered to keep the babies, Ari and I were able to have a date with Grace last weekend, too.

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We took her to Fearrington Village to get ice cream for lunch and visit the cows, chickens, and goats. It’s a pretty magical place!

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Then, I hosted Grace and her sweet friend Carter for dinosaur cookie decorating…

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We used this recipe from Ambitious Kitchen since I still can’t eat eggs, soy, or dairy with Josh’s protein sensitivities—and this mama really wanted a cookie!

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We’ve been doing some suburban foraging for breakfast all week long, and it has been so fun! There’s this great fig tree that is loaded with sweet fruit. Josh and Grace eat about 12 on our morning walks. And Ari’s mom is here visiting us this week and has loved them too.

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We also visited our friend John’s garden yesterday morning and the little redheads loved munching on his Sweet 100’s! (Hi John!)

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My friend Jane has a pretty remarkable story. One big glorious announcement.

What to do when you don’t know where to start.

I love this from my friend Hannah. Stories like this light my heart up!

This journal for kids is a favorite in our house.

Prayers for your husband and marriage from my friend Natalie.

My friend Em is about to launch a great resource for small business owners called Playbook. More here.

My mom writes a cooking column for the local paper, and this recipe for Basil Pistachio cookies is one of my favorites!

PowerSheets Sale
Sunday is the very last day to grab the PowerSheets and Gold-Foil Make It Happen Binder bundle for only $30 (Be sure to choose the Bundle with Make It Happen Binder // Gold Foil for the sale price to show up!) I asked on Instagram if any of you would be interested in a Facebook Live class on how to dig into your PowerSheets for the remainder of the year, and you responded with a resounding yes. We’re working through details of that, and we’ll announce it soon. In the meantime, go ahead and order your PowerSheets so you’ll be ready to dive in with us.

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My friend Jess wrote a great guide for fall. Get it here! My three words for fall: Word, Clear, and Nurture.

And in case you need a laugh like I did this week, Ari and I were in bed reading the Bible the other night and this is what the Tree of Life translation says in Genesis about when Rebekah saw her future husband for the first time: “Rebekah also lifted up her eyes and saw Isaac. Then she fell off her camel.” (Genesis‬ ‭24:64‬ ‭TLV‬‬) It makes me giggle every time!

This weekend we’re hosting friends for dinner on Saturday night (which means 4pm in our land with two babies’ bedtimes), and we’re having a pool date with friends on Sunday afternoon. And I’m craving time with Ari. It’s been a crazy week for us trying to keep up with everyone in the house… and laundry. With three kids, laundry is an event. We need some time together to talk about God and just be. What are you looking forward to this weekend? Next week, Ari is off work and we’re having a “staycation.” My prayer is that we use the week together to soak in the Word, and I’m hoping Ari will join me on my Facebook Live on Wednesday!

 

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P.S. Happy birthday weekend to Nicole! (July 31st was also Joshua’s due date last year, but he decided to wait an extra 13 days to make his appearance.) I am SO grateful for you, N!!!

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GrowSlow

Let me tell you about the last 24 hours. We have a new line of products that are designed, ready to print, and I love them SO much–I know they will change people’s lives. But yesterday we chose not to order them. I prayed so hard and felt God clearly telling me to not do things like the rest of the world. To surrender to slow. And I’m so grateful for that decision. I am not a numbers person, and I don’t have a business degree (music theatre BFA). I’ve run this business for over ten years, and I have learned a thing or two, but let me tell you this: God’s plan does not look like the rest of the world’s success.

The world says do more, grow fast, be big, use these tricks, analyze, do it like those people, get ahead. But, Jesus didn’t have Instagram or a megaphone. He had two feet and truth, and He sat around dinner tables and talked one-on-one with people.

New homeowners like trees labeled “fast growing” to fill in a space quickly, or provide shade to reduce the cooling bill. But fast growing trees don’t have deep enough roots to last through storms and drought. Good things grow, and take root, little by little. And pruning helps plants be more fruitful.

Maybe–despite everything everyone tells you–fast isn’t the goal.

Maybe less is okay.

Maybe a slower pace will help your roots stretch deep and wide.

It’s okay to grow slow. 

More here.

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Hi, friends! Welcome back to my new weekly series about making progress on what matters, little by little—along with a few links I think you might enjoy. In case you missed them, here are week oneweek twoweek three, and week four.

Oh what a week this has been! I’ve been writing, and loving it for the first time in a long while. Getting grounded last week was needed. Today is my first draft deadline, which feels a wee bit scary to type. I have a long way to go, but God is big and He can do impossible things. My prayer this week has been, Lord frustrate my words. If they aren’t what you want–what’s true–frustrate them. Don’t let me teach something lukewarm or popular. Please Father let me teach life-giving truth. The words are coming. I’m grateful for your prayers!

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It has been a refining week trying to make business decisions. I don’t often talk about business decisions here because I fear what I share will be alienating, or irrelevant. But, I hope this encourages someone… Most of my decisions are pretty clear cut most days: Is this going to honor God or not? Does this align with scripture or not? But, sometimes, I have to completely step out on faith and put my foot on the bevel of the shovel with no growing plants in sight. Decoded: We have designed some powerful and purposeful new products that we believe will help change lives, but we don’t have the cash sitting in the bank to buy them all. I’m a Dave Ramsey fan, so no loans or dipping into the emergency fund allowed. So, lots of adjusting happened over the last 48 hours, lots and lots of prayer, wise counsel, asking many friends to pray, and hopefully some decisions today.

Today is also Rhiannon’s last day with us. Here’s my letter to her, and to the Nannies of the World. Insert all the emotions.

Dear Nannies of the World Lara Casey

My friend, Rachel’s, mom went to be with the Lord unexpectedly this week. Please read this.

This week, I can’t stop thinking about eternal impact. About how our seemingly small actions influence our children and everyone we know. Opening our homes. Seeking to understand. Writing and saying life-giving words. Putting someone else first–really doing it. Sending that email to encourage her. Choosing to ask a second question instead of keeping conversation surface-level. Praying for friends in the way you’d want to be prayed for: Passionately. Generously. Fervently. No perfect words required. Perfect words don’t matter–your surrendered heart does. Spending our time on genuinely good things. Rejoicing in our weakness. And swimming in grace in the many many many times we mess it all up. We don’t have to be perfect to change generations. The times I mess up, get to say I’m sorry, or tell Grace about how I’m struggling and trying to rely on God in my weakness, those are gifts. Imperfection is a gift because it gives way to grace. More here.

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In this week’s Facebook Live, I talked about planning an intentional life versus planting one. Which one are you doing lately? (Be sure to listen all the way to the end for how you can win one of 10 set of PowerSheets.)

Have you told yourself that it’s too late to start fresh? Have you decided that since July is almost over, you might as well wait until 2017 to make progress on your goals? There is nothing special about January 1st. You can cultivate what matters right now, little by little.

Don’t tell yourself that you’ve missed your chance.

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We have only a few hundred sets of PowerSheets left for this year. If you’re new here, hi and welcome! : ) PowerSheets are an intentional Goal Planner. These are our undated, six-month sets, so you can start the minute you get them. And right now, while supplies last, bundling your PowerSheets with our Make It Happen Binder saves you $25. Get yours here. (We’ve also had a lot of people buy this bundle for friends over the last 24 hours.)

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I’m considering doing a Facebook Live class on PowerSheets. Tell me what you need coaching on, and I’ll do it.

My friend Jeff got a drone. His photographs inspired me this week. We are so small in this world, and God is so very big.

Mistakes happen, like when MailChimp decided to name all 25,000 of our newsletter friends <<Test First Name>>. When the email came through, I let out a big sigh and a pirate-like “argh!” But, progress not perfection! (P.S. You can get these awesome love notes below for $6 here.)

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Grace running through the community garden in her PJ’s this week on our morning walk…

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I love exploring with her. I mean, look at these sunflowers!!!

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Our homework after last week’s sermon at church was to get together with someone of a different race, and seek to understand. I was so grateful for the time I spent with my sisters, Carla and Kristy (Sarah below loving being with Kristy). I’m sharing this to pass the same fruitful homework on to you. Like we’ve been practicing in Fruitful Summer, ask questions that are far below the surface, practice asking second questions, embrace awkward, and seek to understand your friend’s fears and pains. I hope I can continue this “homework” for my whole lifetime.

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Another little tidbit from the last week at church that I had to pass on (I may have cheered when it was said!): Get off Facebook. Get your face in The BookYes!

Download this week’s Fruitful Summer guide to learn how to make new traditions, celebrate each other, and cultivate community. Plus, my fast and easy Summer Jam recipe, my secret handshake with Grace, and so much more.

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I love this clothing line for kids from my friend Hayley. Wildly Co. designs, produces, screen prints, and packages ethically made kids clothes in the USA.

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We picked blueberries with friends on Wednesday morning before work. “Mrs. Wanda” loves seeing Gracie, and we love seeing her! I still want to buy the blueberry patch (crazy, I know!), and plan to ask Wanda about it again hopefully next Wednesday. She and her husband are moving to take care of their son’s little girls, so someone needs to keep this place going!

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This week, for Southern Weddings’ Fruitful Summer, I wrote about how to celebrate marriage in the thick of it, and offered lots of advice for marriage alongside Amber.

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Read the recap and download the whole series here.

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This lady has been with Southern Weddings for 7 years, and our company is all the better for it. I love you, Em!

Susan’s wedding last weekend was amazing. Such an inspiration! See my previous post for more. And Josh was pretty dapper in his cute little bow tie…

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This video. A mom in Kentucky tried to punish her son by making him mow lawns for free. But he loved doing it, and enlisted his two brothers and cousin. Now, they’re going door to door to cut more lawns and clean up the community—and they’re still doing it for free. It’s just so awesome. Watch here.

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I was saving this canvas above for one of my 2016 goal celebrations, but Gracie asked realllllly nicely, and it’s hard to turn down nice manners. Our goal is to draw 100 smiley faces on it by the end of summer.

This post from Unveiled Wife on how to have a passion-filled marriage is good stuff. #3 is glue that keeps us together every day, despite inevitable challenges, disagreements, and anything that comes our way.

Josh has five teeth now! I can’t believe he’ll be one on August 13th! And this hair…

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I sincerely wish I could go to Influence Conference in Minneapolis. Travel is out for us though with these babies and me still nursing. But, please go for me!! Tickets are still available here. So many humble, wise women are speaking—Rach Kincaid, Moriah Sunde, Retha Nichole, Gina Zeidler, and Joy Eggerichs Reed. (Someone find Gina, and give her a hug for me while you’re there!)

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What are y’all doing this weekend?

I realized something last Saturday. Even with good things planned on our calendars, it’s the in-between that I often relish more. The hours and moments between the big events are where life happens. We’re planning to have a special date afternoon with Grace (thanks to some very generous friends coming to watch the babies), and we’re hosting the ladies and gents from my office for our annual Team BBQ. I’m excited about these things, for whatever God has for us in the in-between, and for the chance to dig in to another Sabbath. Next week, Ari’s mom is coming to visit and I’m nanny-less for a couple weeks, so Sabbath will be needed! : )

I’d love to hear from you! Do you have a favorite blog post, product, or piece of encouragement that keeps you making little by little progress? Let me know!

Okay, off to savor this last afternoon with Rhiannon and, Lord willing, write more words. I’m thinking of you, wherever you are as you read this, and praying you feel encouraged. If you need some extra love, here’s a little song from a very little Gracie…

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P.S. After the littles go to sleep tonight, I’m hoping Ari and I can watch my friend, Lysa, speak live at 8:30pm EST. You can watch her for free tonight, too, by downloading the First 5 app at First5.org (I love this app)!

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