It’s a strange thing to read things I wrote just a couple years ago. Even a year ago. I feel like I’m reading someone else’s writing. Perhaps because… I truly am. That’s what grace has done to me. It has changed every fiber of my being a thousand times over in the last two years of being a mama. Reading through my pregnancy announcement, my chronicle of 9 months of pregnancy (which ended up being 10 months!), Grace’s birth announcement

This video still makes me cry every single time I watch it. Right around 3:33 I can’t help but feel completely overwhelmed with emotion. Thank you to my friends at Inkspot Crow for creating this for us.

…her birth story, weathering postpartum depression and then her first birthday post… well… friends, I’m speechless. So much has changed. Even with all this change though, I know He is just getting started with me. God is real and His amazing grace and this little Grace change my heart so fast every day that I sometimes don’t see the change until days like today when I stop to take a look back.

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Photo of Grace at 3 weeks old by Nancy Ray

Today, Grace is two.

Oh my heart.

Hello, tears.

I’m welling up with an ocean of tears because I just can’t believe I am here — the mom of a two-year-old. How did this happen!?!? I can’t believe the time flew this fast. And I am in awe of how wonderful she is. This little human He formed in me. God is good. And so, today, we celebrate her life and His grace that has made all of this possible!

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Gracie in her doctor’s outfit on Halloween!

‘But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.’ (Ephesians 2:4-10)

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Just having a sweet conversation together the other day : ) I cherish these moments.

Truth: I don’t deserve her. Her sweet auburn curls and her funny dance moves. I don’t deserve her hugs or this life at all. But, God’s love is that big. His love is so big that, no matter what we have done — no matter what — when we give our lives to Him, He takes the burden of our sins away and makes us new like a sweet new baby. He blesses us with “good” things and trials and challenges all to refine our hearts and make us more like Him. I am so grateful. I am at a loss for words large enough to describe my gratitude today, so I will just act them out instead.

Today, I will rejoice and give thanks through dozens of hugs and kisses. I’ll sing happy birthday to her probably three dozen times, if not more. This weekend we’ll celebrate at a local dairy farm with friends and family. And I will look to the Heavens and smile, knowing that all of this is from above. Not by my own merit or power. Just Him. His grace is a gift and it has changed everything.

Oh there’s so much more I could say, but I must go get those hugs and kisses now!

Happiest birthday, sweet girl. I love you with all my heart!

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  • I had a grand plan to blog all of the speaking engagements I did this year, in order. Well, although the Influence Conference falls somewhere in the middle, I must tell you about it today. Right this minute.

    Influence is on my heart today. You see, God has given each of us many ways to express our thoughts — blogs, paint brushes, cameras, music and so many more creative tools. The world tells us to use those things to make money and to be popular. To climb the ladder of the American dream that has been laid before us. Now, money is not a bad thing. It can be a powerful blessing when used well for others. We are blessed to be a blessing to others. God has truly given us these gifts to mirror His glory. For His good purposes.

    “What does that mean, exactly?” you ask.

    You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

    It’s that last part… so they will see your good deeds and praise HIM. Not us. We were created to be mirrors, bouncing the praise right back up to the One who truly deserves it. And there is no need to hide our light when it’s His light that is illuminating us. There is no need to hide period. (As an aside, this verse does not mean we should do all of our good deeds to be seen — I won’t veer off to explain that fully, but just had to note that!)

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    In our blogging and painting and photographing and music-making and wordsmith-ing, we are called to use our influence well so that the world will know the truth about where all of our goodness comes from. It’s not from us. We can’t possibly help or inspire people on our own in the same life-giving ways that only He can.

    Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

    Influence means the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something. I don’t take that lightly. Having an effect on people’s lives and marriages is a huge responsibility. One I fall short of all the time, but He humbles me and helps me grow when I lose my footing. Which is always.

    In speaking at the Influence Conference in September, I truly learned more in being there than I think I could ever give to others. Being in a room full of women who love God and are actively using their influence — no matter how big or seemingly small — for Him was truly awe-inspiring. You could feel the potential for greatness in that room. The kind of greatness that literally feeds the poor and comforts the weary. Not the kind that chases after blog comments and social rank. That’s the kind of influence I want in my life, friends. This is the kind of community that makes what matters happen.

    A few Instagram snaps from the conference…

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    Three big things I learned from Influence:

    1. You can have a business that makes what matters happen. You can have a business that literally feeds people, employs people who need it desperately and a business that takes the Good News to the nations. I met countless women who are doing just that. To name them all would take this entire blog post, but here is one to start with if you want some powerful inspiration. And another that I posted about on Instagram today : ) OK, one more! This one!

    2. Your influence matters, no matter how small you may think it is. If you have “only” ten followers on social media, think about all of those people in one room with you. That’s a lot of people. And those people have hearts. And needs. You can do a lot with what seems like a little. Numbers don’t matter – your influence and quality of relationships matter.

    3. Community changes things. I’ve known this for a couple years now in seeing the fruit of being a part of our church community. It’s not a matter of going to a church building often though; it’s truly about sharing your lives with others and living out the gospel. It’s about living the greatest commandment. I want to put this fact on a billboard: I cannot do as much on my own for God as I can in community with others who love Him and are seeking Him too. Influence grew that kind of community for me and I couldn’t be more grateful. I don’t just have new friends. This is family. Sisters connected by the one thing that matters. And friends, don’t for ONE second thing to yourself, “yeah but I am not worthy of that.” Or, “I don’t know how to be a friend like that.” I think those same thoughts all. the. time. and God has been showing me that they are not true. You are capable and worthy and you can have that community in your life. No matter what. I am praying for you right now if you are in that boat of feeling like you can’t. Ask. Seek. Knock.

    One of my favorite parts of the Bible ever, and the words I’ve been mulling in my heart all year, words that constantly challenge and encourage me to give more of myself to others:

    The Fellowship of the Believers

    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 2:42-47 NIV)

    Community matters. Community changes things. Community requires your involvement and yet it gives back 100 fold. Community literally multiplies love and life.

    Thank you to the Influence community and to the women who created it – Jessi, Hayley, Ashley and so many more — for taking a leap of faith in inviting me to be a part of this conference and this group of beautiful souls. Thank you to so many dear friends and new friends I met there. Your genuine hugs and encouragement filled my soul to the brim. I had no idea what to expect at Influence and God changed my heart completely in those 48 hours. I can’t wait for next year!

    Friends, use your influence today. Whether you have 5 followers or 5000. Whether you think anyone is listening or not. You matter. Your art matters. Your life matters. You never know how you might change someone’s life for the better!

    P.S. Amazing timing! I just saw that they released the audio recordings from Influence as I was typing this. You can get mine right here!

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    Something hit me this weekend. A full life, with all it’s nuances and challenges and little moments, can never be put into the box that is the internet. Even with a thousand photographs and ten-thousand words, the fullness of life simply can’t be poured into the confines of this little web space. And it got me thinking about how it’s so easy to assume we know people based on what they blog or post on Instagram, but that is never the whole picture. Our lives are so much richer than what can be held in 140 characters or a WordPress page or a single photograph.

    And that is frustrating. Really really frustrating sometimes. As a creative, I am compelled to create because I want to mirror back to the world God’s goodness. I want to create with every fiber of my being. I try so hard. I try to share and create what I think will help. I try to share what I hope will inspire Grace one day to know and love Him. I try, but sometimes I get really tired trying to pour the ocean of life into a little cup. Most of my favorite moments don’t get photographed because I’m completely immersed in them. And sometimes life is just too big for words. I think that someday, in eternity, we won’t need to search for the perfect words anymore. The Word will be right in front of our eyes.

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    Grace has been going through a week of waking up at 3am. I don’t know what God’s purposes are in everything at all, but sometimes I suspect He wants me to be up all night so I hear Him. Because many days get so packed that I stop listening. He teaches me in these sleep-deprived days. He teaches me, as I look at her finally sound asleep, that He is good and His mercies are made new every morning and the most meaningful creating is a direct reflection of us truly living our lives and…

    that I need Him. I need Him because I get lost and He literally is the way.

    Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 16:4)

    The last days, He keeps telling me to LIVE my life instead of trying to capture it. Like the most brilliant sunset — I could write about it or take a photograph or paint it but nothing quite feels like simply taking it in with my eyes. Some sunsets are so brilliant and make me feel God so clearly that my heart feels as if it may burst if I gaze too long. So many times I feel that about Grace too. Sometimes, the fullness of life just needs to be soaked up by our eyes and hearts. Our eyes are the windows to our souls (and to other’s souls), not our Instagram accounts. Babies soon turn into toddlers and our hairs eventually gray. This morning I even caught myself thinking, “Wow, “Head Shoulders Knees and Toes” is a workout!” Life is short. Be all there.

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    My prayer for you all is a week full of letting your eyes and hearts drink in the blessings in front of you. Put your phone down. Close your computer. (I was really set on blogging every day this month, but I’m changing my mind.) When something great happens, don’t say “I wish would have had my camera,” say, “I’m so grateful that just happened!”

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    lara casey nothing is impossiblePraying is a funny thing at first.  You may feel like you are having a conversation with the air or talking to yourself when you begin.  You may get nervous and have no idea what to say.  Know that He will help you.  In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. (Romans 8:26 NIV) If you have never prayed in your life, welcome : )  If you’ve been praying for decades and you just feel lost, you’re in the right place, too.  If you feel like you just don’t know how to pray, I feel you sister.

    Here’s the thing: it takes two to tango.  You are not alone when you pray.  When you pray, you are entering into a conversation, not a one-sided monologue.  Prayer is literally communion with God.  Communion means sharing thoughts, emotions, feelings or something in common.  

    If you’ve never prayed before or your prayers have gotten stale over the years, talking to God can feel like an awkward first date.  You don’t know what to say, but you really want to impress your date and get to know them.  God is pretty much the best date ever.  It may take time and lots more dates, but there is something to be said for simply spending time with someone.  The more time you spend with them, whether you share many words or just a few, the closer you become just by being in each other’s presence.  Give God a chance.  Give Him your thoughts.  Let the relationship grow over time.  The very best things in life come with time.  Come near to God and he will come near to you. (James 4:8 NIV)

    God is literally the only person you can tell everything to who will love you no matter what.  When you tell Him your heart and your faults and your challenges, He will guide you in what to do next.  His “answers” to you may not be as loud as trumpets and they may not come right away, but they will come.  He hears our prayers that are aligned with His heart. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:3 NIV)

    Prayer changes things.  I say this because I have seen it change everything in my life a thousand times over.  Not by my own effort, but by His grace when I pray.  When I pray, I let it all go so He can show me what to do.  When I pray, sometimes His “answers” come in the form of good thoughts.  He brings thoughts to my mind of comforting verses or people I should help or friends I should reach out to.   When I pray, I don’t use “perfect” words, just truthful words.  I don’t say what sounds good; I say what’s there.  The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. (Psalm 145:18 NIV) When I pray, God helps me get out of my narrow focus on my own worries and He helps me see the bigger picture.  When I pray, He gives me peace.  You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3 ESV)

    The Bible talks a lot about prayer.  Meaningful prayer.  Truthful prayer.  Constant prayer:  Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thess 5:16-18 ESV)  Prayer coupled with thanksgiving: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6 NIV) 

    For me, the hardest thing about praying is putting the train brakes of my life on and being STILL to pray.  I am always so grateful when I do, though.

    Note to self and everyone ever:  Be still and know that He is God.

    Be still today and talk to Him.  Give Him all of your worries.  Tell Him everything.

    Be still today and listen.

    Be still and just ask.

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

    Be still and know that He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. When we listen to Him and follow Him and trust in Him, we will see Him blow our expectations completely. out. of. the. water.

    And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. (1 John 5:14-16 ESV)

    Sometimes my own prayers are as simple as, “help me know what to say, Lord.  Please help me do the right thing.”  Sometimes my prayers are long conversations where I pour my heart out.  Sometimes I just say, “thank you.”  Sometimes I say my prayers out loud, sometimes I sing them, sometimes I write them (I love this little notebook from my friend Val and these prayer sheets we have in our kitchen), sometimes I get on my knees and sometimes I get so excited, I dance in the living room and just say, “thank you, Lord!”

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    Print above from my shop.

    What have you learned through prayer or been challenged by in praying?  What do you need prayer for that I can lift up for you?  Will you all help me pray for any requests below, too?  He is always listening.  He can make the impossible possible!

    P.S. We launched our magazine today : )  Read the whole story and see our new cover here!

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    With so much going on in my days between work and motherhood and life, I easily forget things if I don’t write them down or put my thoughts somewhere I can see them.  I’ve found a system for getting things organized and done efficiently and I thought I’d share a bit of it here with you today!  Photo below by Cyn Kain from our Everygirl feature this week.

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    Getting life organized takes stepping 20 steps backwards before you even start making lists.  Read my free e-book here to learn more about how to set boundaries, kill the mental and physical clutter and focus on clear priorities.  Next, do something about those priorities.  My system for staying organized is pretty simple.  It has to be.  I don’t have time to make my calendar look pretty every day.  I just use stuff.

    The most important thing I use to keep my things organized is… Things. : ) Things is a to-do app that syncs between my laptop and my iPhone via cloud server.  Throughout the day, I will think of tasks that need to get done and, if I’m not at my desk, I quickly add them to my Things “inbox” on my phone.  I organize my inbox later in the day.  More on that shortly.  My Things today:

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    I’ve used Things for 5 years and don’t know what I’d do without it!   I bought it for about $20 back in the day and it is quite a bit more now, but in my opinion totally worth it. There are lots of free and inexpensive programs like it, too.  For example, Wunderlist is free for the non-pro version and Reminders is also great.  Emily is also launching her Simplified Planner app soon.  It doesn’t really matter what you use, as long as you use something and it works for you.

    For scheduling, I use iCal for both personal and work items.  My “Lara” calendar is my own personal schedule with time blocked off for writing, my Bible reading schedule, etc. My “Work” calendar is our office shared calendar.  I also have Emily Ley‘s calendar (and she has mine) so we can constantly be supporting each other with what’s going on in our lives.  Each lady in my office also has a personal calendar with doctor’s appointments and vacation days blocked out.  I have Ari’s calendar and separate calendar for Grace’s activities, too, that Meredith and I share and add to.  I keep everything turned off except my own personal and work calendars most of the time, though.

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    I have several binders:  one for business financial documents and employee contracts, one for speaking engagement contract and details, one for my PowerSheets (I paste my Tending List to the front of it every month so I see it on my desk all the time and do something about it!), one for our adoption paperwork so far, and a first-generation Simplified Planner binder for special docs.  Emily Thomas gave me the blog schedule printable above and I have loved using it this month!  Emily Ley also has a great downloadable one here.  I am grateful that Em (Ley — I have a LOT of Emily’s in my life) is going to gift me one of her new Simplified Planners soon, so I may use that for personal goals and projects.  My PowerSheets Tending List taped to the front of my binder below so my daily, weekly and monthly goals are always in front of me…

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    3 tips for getting organized and getting things done:

    1. Not everything needs to be written down before you do it.  Sometimes you need to just do stuff. Lots of people say they get great satisfaction out of crossing something off of a list.  I totally get that and, at the same time, I think there is more satisfaction to be gained from actually doing things.  Sometimes I wake up with my mental to-do list and I just start doing it rather than planning it.  We do far too much planning sometimes and thinking about things and they never get done, right?

    2. Kill the “Big List“!  I only allow 5 things to be on my list each day or I get completely overwhelmed.  I used to keep my “Big List” out on my desk and I felt defeated at the end of the day, even if I crossed off 10 things.  Read more about the Big List here and how to conquer it.  Keep your daily lists small, realistic and actionable.

    Here is a screenshot of my Things list for today…

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    3. Making things “actionable” means writing your to-do’s in a way that helps you visualize yourself doing them clearly.  For instance, instead of writing “PowerSheets e-book” on my list, I changed it to read “design 2 chapters of PowerSheets e-book.”  That is do-able, realistic and specific.  Just having “PowerSheets e-book” is non-specific and overwhelming.  Re-write your to-do’s so that they are clear, actionable and you can just glance at them and have confidence that you can conquer that task!

    More on how I stay organized…

    First, to-do’s go into the Things Inbox when I’m on the go.  Later (usually at the end of the day so I get organized for the next day), I schedule all of them and re-write them to be clear and actionable.  I schedule to-do’s for specific days when I know I will be able to do them or have the resources available for them.  If I don’t have enough time for something one day, I schedule it for a day when I know I will.  Below you can see some of my scheduled to-do’s…

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    and my recurring to-do’s…

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    I use my “Notes” section for sermon notes and inspiring quotes.

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    That’s it!  A few binders, an app and a whole lot of ACTION.  Remember: done is better than perfect.

    OK, time to go do these things today!  How do you stay organized?  I’d love to learn from you, too!  Have a question?  Ask away!  Most importantly, though… go make things happen!

     

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    Two-thousand and thirteen sleeps.  Two-thousand and thirteen dreams.  One night sleep (or five small ones from the time you were born to 11 months — we were all very tired together!), two naps for a while and now just one.  About two-thirds of those, I got to rock you to sleep, close to my heart.  As close as I could get you.  That’s where you always want to be.  Close to my heart, I have sung you a thousand songs and prayed a thousand prayers.  I’ve listened to you breathe — one of the most miraculous sounds I’ve ever taken in with my ears.  Thank you, God, for ears to hear.  I’ve smelled your little head each day.  The perfume of you has changed from the magical sweet smell of a new baby — something totally unexplainable in words — to the still-sweet scent of the bubbly happy Gracie I know today.  As I’ve rocked you these last 714 days of your life, I have learned something new over time.  I am still learning this.  God brings us to that baby blue rocker to teach me to slow down and savor stillness.  But, this is a special stillness.  It’s not the absence of movement or of life.  It’s the absence of me.  God fills up the world and our hearts with Him.  And that, I am learning, is all we ever need.  Be still and know, sweet pea.  He is always here.

    Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!

    Psalm 46:10

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    I love you, sweet pea.  Sweet dreams : )

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    Big thanks to The Everygirl for sharing the Southern Weddings story and more from Nicole and me today.  I thought I’d give y’all a closer look at our day-to-day and let you hear more about our office from all the Southern Weddings ladies!

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    So, welcome to our office, friends!  Little-known fact: I have worked from home since day one!  The whole second floor of our house is Southern Weddings HQ.

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    We all love it so much!  It’s cozy and so peaceful up here.  The natural light is beautiful and we can walk right down to the kitchen to have lunch or grab fresh biscuits out of the oven.  All photos by Faith Teasley unless otherwise noted.

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    Working from home has it’s challenges too, though.  I have to make sure my kitchen is always clean and my fridge has enough room for four other lunches every day : )  When Grace is having a rough day, it’s hard to separate business from life.  You can hear her cry through the house, which pulls on my heart strings when I’m on a call or in a meeting.  I have to resist going to see her too much (i.e. 20 times a day) to avoid lots of separation-anxiety meltdowns. I’ve had to learn to make my visits with her consistently timed so she doesn’t have to say “bye bye” to me multiple times a day.  But, getting to see her during my work day is truly the biggest gift or working from home. I am SO grateful and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

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    OK, on to the tour! Because we have had eight trillion people ask, I will get our most frequently asked FAQ out of the way!  Our monogrammed office chairs were my own creation using this chair from Amazon.com + vinyl decals from Dixieland Monogram.  We love them!  Now, onto Nicole’s corner of the office.

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    It’s my favorite corner of the office – happy and bright, just like Ms. Yang!  Our Oh Happy Day and Let’s DO This prints can be found here.

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    Can you tell what Nicole’s favorite color is?

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    And her favorite snack?  I actually bought her five boxes of these when she renewed her contract with us.  I even wrote “Gobstoppers” and “ability to add goats to any Southern Weddings editorial” into her contract!  True story.

    A little more about Nicole!

    How long I’ve been at SW: Three and a half years-ish. Looking back on the past three years is crazy — so much has changed and time has really flown by.
    How I got my job: In college, I went to hear Lara speak at a campus group event and was convinced that I needed to intern with her. I applied and got the position and they stayed with SW for another year as we continued to grow like kudzu. After graduation, I was finally offered the position I’ve always dreamed of!
    What I do: I create most of the visuals associated with Southern Weddings, including blog graphics, shop and brand collateral, magazine layout (which Lara and I do together) and marketing materials. I act as the visual brand ambassador, helping boost our value and recognition.

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    What I love most about working at Southern Weddings: There’s a little bit of everything involved. One day, you could be doing manual labor, the next day you could be picking which dress you want to wear to the launch party. Though we have many of the same tasks day in and day out, we’re always trying something new and because we’re a small office, every part of the Southern Weddings machine is tended to by us. We package the magazines ourselves, we craft our own props for photo shoots, we call our hosting provider if the site goes down. Some of these things aren’t remotely glamorous or fun, but they give us a pride and ownership in what we do.
    How we work together as a team: We are truly a team effort and the best part is that we all like, respect and enjoy working with each other! We all have responsibilities that we’re solely in charge of, but we don’t make big decisions without consulting each other, which gives us all a great well-rounded view of the processes behind SW. While we can have our hands in many different projects, I think we’re all very good at playing up each other’s strengths. I always let Emily and Lisa write the text for graphics or collateral I’m working on, even if I could do it myself, because they’re amazing with words. And Emily and Lara, although they know the Adobe Creative Suite, always leave big graphic tasks to me.

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    What I love about our office: There’s inspiration everywhere! We all have big bulletin boards that we hang our favorite paper pieces and photos on, our favorite images from all volumes of the magazine are on our wall, there’s a whole closet of cute prints from the SW and LC shop and we’re constantly getting mail from amazing and creative vendors. I love that we’ve taken the time to find comfy office chairs, to paint the walls, and to make our individual spaces our own.

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    Something you might not know: Even though we’re all six feet away from each other, we send each other dozens of emails a day. It’s not because we don’t want to talk to each other, but because sometimes it’s more efficient. If it’s not urgent, it allows the other person to get to the task on their time so we’re not interrupting each other’s work flow and it keeps everything in one place if the task has different components or files.

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    We have unofficial “pairs” here in the office.  Kristin and Marissa are our remote gals and handle the advertising together.  They also share a deep love for the South and if something stops moving, they monogram it.  Photograph below by Landon Jacob.  How beautiful are these ladies!?  Their hearts are solid gold.

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    Emily and Lisa (wo)man the blog, all written editorial and one of them cries at least once a day (mainly Lisa) over a beautiful love story or wedding video.  What can I say?  We love love!

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    And then there’s Nicole and me.  We do the layout for the magazine together, design new shop products, gush over farm animals and I steal her Gobstoppers.  We make a great team!

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    Next, onto my little corner…

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    So, I have my own office downstairs and I stopped using it last year.  Can you believe Grace was ever this little!? Photo below by Nancy Ray.

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    While we were making V5 (Volume 5 of Southern Weddings), I would come upstairs constantly and never wanted to leave.  So, I stayed and set up camp in the little desk by the door.  It’s plenty of space for me and we are transitioning my old office into a guest room!

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    On my bulletin board right now (it gets changed out a lot) are desk card prints from my shop, scripture cards, a photo of Grace and I and a little piece of paper that says, “Nothing measured, nothing managed.”

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    This has been my reminder all year to stay diligent about managing finances wisely and, even when it’s hard, to stay focused on improving our weaknesses.  This has proven so fruitful.

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    A great desk must have a great stapler (a gift from my sister-in-law) and great reading material.  The Farm Anatomy book is amazing!

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    A verse that encourages me to seek what matters most sits next to me every day.  Today is Awesome and Make It Happen notepads from my shop.

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    I also have this (from our financial coach, Will Ray) taped to the wall right in front of me to stay focused on managing the resources God has given us for good things.

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    Perhaps the most gratifying part of writing this post is sharing the next two images with you.  This is our core mission statement that is taped in about five places in this little space to remind us of WHY we do what we do.

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    This is also taped on the wall right as you walk out of the office: our 2013 Goals.  I’m so grateful to say that we are in the process of completing all of these as I type this!  Our new site launches next week and we’ve had a truly blessed year.  Always being reminded of our WHY and our goals has been so valuable.

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    Having our office mascot, Henrietta, present at all times has also been valuable : )  Henrietta was a Christmas present to me from the SW ladies last year.  We all love her!

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    Now, let’s step into Emily Thomas‘ corner of SW HQ.  I say that Nicole is the Yang to my yin (hehe), and Emily is definitely the yin to my yang.  She does far more than she described in there allotted “few sentences” below.  She is one of the reasons I know God is good.  He brought EAT (by the way, if you haven’t noticed, we all go by our monograms around here!) to North Carolina 4.5 years ago!

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    How long I’ve been at SW: I have been at SW for 4.5 years.

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    How I got my job: Lara and I connected over a lovely journal through my personal blog.  I then wore her down until she hired me post-graduation :)  You can read the whole story here.

    We use the #PowerSheets here in the office to make projects happen.  Emily’s Tending List is peeking out below.

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    What I love about our office: I love the color of the walls and the angles in the ceiling — it feels cozy but also airy, kind of like a manicured tree house.

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    What I do: I conceptualize, plan, and execute editorials for our print edition.  I also field all submissions and determine the content and schedule for the blog and print editions.  I also am lucky enough to work on many of SW’s special projects.

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    What I love most about working at Southern Weddings: I love that I love what I do!  I feel so much ownership in our company and our mission, and it’s exciting to see the fruits of our work in the hearts of our readers and partners every day.

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    How we work together as a team: Though we all work very independently (setting our own schedules, priorities, etc.) we are in constant communication about projects and decisions.  Our responsibilities are also very elastic, and they overlap — on any given week, I am almost surely working on a different project with each of the other ladies.
    Something you might not know: I famously eat lunch around 3pm every day.  I tend to eat dinner around 9pm, so it works for me! :)

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    Lisa is the newest member of our team and we are so happy to have her!  Her heart is as big as her home state of Texas!  She also happens to be my neighbor and literally walks a block and a half to work every day.

    How long I’ve been at SW:  Four months.
    How I got my job:   I knew I wanted to work at Southern Weddings for most of college, so in 2010, I started my own wedding blog as a portfolio of my wedding knowledge and writing ability. At the beginning of my last semester of college, I reached out to Emily to tell her more about myself and ask her what else I could do that would make me the best possible candidate for SW, should an opportunity arise. Less than a month later, a position opened up that they thought I could be a great fit for. I interviewed for a few months, was offered the job three days after graduation, and moved to Chapel Hill from Texas a month later!

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    What I do:  My time is split between working as an editor and the shop manager. As an editor, I write and edit for both the blog and magazine, help coordinate and execute editorial shoots, and communicate with PR companies. As shop manager, I process orders from the Southern Weddings and Lara Casey shops, communicate with customers, and monitor how the products perform.

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    A peek at some of our shop goodies, our chicken collection (which has grown quite a bit since this photo was taken!) and our growing jam collection above!  

    What I love most about working at Southern Weddings:   I love the opportunity to serve our sweet readers through sharing meaningful inspiration and encouraging them to focus on what matters in their wedding planning. I also love being part of such an amazing team, helping to make editorial magic happen, and getting to write every day.

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    How we work together as a team:  We work together in a very collaborative way–a typical real wedding blog post may consist of Emily placing images, me editing the interview, Marissa writing the introduction and comments, and Nicole putting together the gallery. Because we work together closely on so many aspects of our work, we all really respect one another’s strengths and talents, and look for opportunities to help each other do our best work.

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    Something you might not know:  We are hardly ever all in the same place–in the four months I’ve been here, I have only seen Marissa in person once! Also, Emily rarely eats lunch before 3 p.m., and when Nicole and I are the only ones in the office, we play the “Country Barbecue” Pandora station all day. :)

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    What I love about our office: I love our monogrammed office chairs. They’re comfy and cute, of course, but since they roll, they also allow us to rearrange our chairs easily, in order to squeeze in front of the desktop for our weekly Google Hangout meetings or work together on different projects. It’s funny how something as basic as office chairs contributes to the collaborative environment at SW, but it absolutely does!

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    While she is currently working from Florida, we never quite know what state Marissa will be in next! Marissa has always held a special place in my heart and has encouraged me to do what matters and focus on God’s goodness so so so many times.  I am so grateful for you, MAK!  A little more from our traveling Southern belle…

    How long I’ve been at SW: 3 years and 8 months
    How I got my job: After reading a very inspiring blog post by Lara in 2009, I took a big leap and emailed her a very raw and personal email to her expressing my desire to work for Southern Weddings as the cover letter of my resume. After interviewing in the office, I was offered a very part time position working for Lara Casey Reps. Over the years, my position has transitioned and been refined to what I do now. 
    What it’s like to work remotely with SW: While I’d love to be able to work in our beautiful office with my lovely coworkers, it’s such a blessing for me to be able to work remotely. Even though, Kristin and I are not there physically, we Google Hangout during our staff meetings, and many other times throughout the week creating “face-to-face” time for creative brainstorming. For me it’s just like being in Chapel Hill, I work regular business hours, just from a different place (and without biscuits breaks!). Most importantly we make it a priority to keep a strong connection with the team in the office to ensure we all stay focuses on the same mission and goals. 

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    More from Marissa!

    What I do: I work with local and nationals brands to help grow their businesses by creating custom marketing plans that connect them with their target audience, the darling Southern Weddings readers. I am also delighted to work editorially by writing Real Wedding intros and other fun features on the blog and in print that focus on our core mission. 
    What I love most about working at Southern Weddings: Besides the amazing group of women I get to work with everyday, I love working for a company that values what matters most; family, love and marriage. 
    Something you might not know: We LOVE Google Docs! It’s true, as a team we must have over 50 docs! it’s such a great way for us to all connect on big projects and keep everything organized and in one place.

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    Last, but not least in any fashion, I introduce Kristin Winchester to you.  She is a treasure — and a really great baker, as you will read below!

    How long I’ve been at SW: 1 year, 3 months, 26 days (or ~ sixteen sweet months)
    What it’s like to work remotely with SW:  I am very grateful for technology and the ability to virtually ‘hangout’ with the SW gals whenever needed.  I am also lucky enough to get into the office every couple of months to re-charge my SW batteries.  While I can get envious of Friday Tea Service — I have learned that it is best to join in the fun so I pull put my tea (sweet or hot) on Friday afternoons and play along from the comfort of my home office!!

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    How I got my job: It started with a bold proclamation to Lara, upon a happenstance meeting at an SW event in December of 2011, that I thought we should work together some day.  I had previously applied for an open SW position in the spring of 2011.  Another position opened up in 2012 and after applying, I followed up with a promise to make the office my world-famous chocolate chip cookies or Tar Heel pie.  I guess I won everyone over with the promise of sweet treats and my savvy excel skills.
    What I do:  I get the joy of overseeing the Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory — helping to cultivate and maintain a list of the best & brightest vendors below the the Mason Dixon.  This means I get the chance to interact with and fall in love with some of the sweetest people in the South. I also tab a stab at blogging on the occasion along with helping Marissa out with the overall SW advertising goals and objectives.

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    How we work together as a team: Three cheers for DropBox, Google Docs and Google Hangout.  We work really hard to use technology to our advantage to keep us connected, to stay on the same page and to produce the highest-quality work.  Our mission statement is the foundation of everything that we do which produces an incredibly cohesive  working environment.
    What I love most about working at Southern Weddings: Is the food an acceptable answer :) ? The food is definitely a highlight but the thing I love most is the fact that I get to work with ladies that share a similar heart for marriage, a passion for what matters most and a drive to help brides cultivate a life (and wedding celebration) of love and joy.  Not kidding y’all — I work with the most talented ladies this side of the Mississippi.  Photo below by Landon Jacob on one of the few occasions we’ve all been in the same place this year!

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    Oh my stars, now can you see why I didn’t want to stay in my office alone, away from these ladies every day!?  I am so grateful for each of you!  We are just six ladies, but we have more passion than a hen has feathers.  We are passionate about our mission and truly believe that small is the new big.

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    A final peek into our world: approximately 70,000 lbs of magazines go to news stands and 15,000+ lbs go to the “Shipping Department” aka my garage : )

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    This was last Friday after we unloaded the truck into said garage. I’ve had a car in here for all of six days this year. Ah, the life of a small-but-bursting-at-the-seams business owner. The Southern Weddings Postal Service will be in full action starting next week.

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    Good gravy, that’s a lot of magazines!  You can get your copy of V6 here.  I can’t believe it launches in a WEEK.  Ahhhh!!!  I hope you enjoyed this little peek into our world.  There is so much more to our office and our hearts, though, so I hope y’all can come see us next week at our Launch Party.  See y’all there!

    Have a question about our office or for one of these sweet ladies? Have a favorite part of this post? We’d love to hear from you below!

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    Being grateful is work sometimes.  Really hard work.  I get so bogged down with email and to-dos and life moves so fast some days that I completely lose sight of the gifts right in front and inside and all around me. Let’s look at some of the gifts of this moment: I have fingers to type this.  Ten of them!  I have a nose to breathe clean air through.  I have a cup of water sitting next to me.  Clear, clean, disease-free water.  Water I didn’t have to well or purify myself.  I just turn on one of the many faucets in my house.  I have heat in my heater that I turn up and down with the push of a button.  I have a Bible I can read whenever I want without fear of persecution.  I have a phone that I can use to call anyone at any time and tell them I love them. I could go on.

    I love this page from Grace’s little book of prayers.  It says, “Hands sure come in handy for finger paint and candy.  And for counting – fingers go to ten.  Thank you God for all of them! Amen.” 

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    You see, gratitude isn’t something that happens to us when good things come.  It’s something we practice and cultivate and give.  “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more” (Melody Beattie).  It is so easy to look at the “little” things and think of them as small.  But really… they are miracles.  And the everyday miracles and gifts in our lives were meant to be shared, spread around and passed on.

    In my own life, I’m just scratching the surface of beginning to understand just how much I have and how much need there is for us to share what we have with so many who do not have these “simple” things that are really not simple at all.

    Sometimes gratitude comes unexpectedly, on the other side of challenges. I was in a car accident last week. I am physically fine, just emotionally shaken up.  Today, I am grateful for the simple yet very best gift of being alive. I will not take this day for granted.  Gratitude changes everything.  It changes the everyday into the extraordinary.  It changes the simple into the sublime.  It can change your heart from caving in to filled to the brim instantly.  Gratitude changed what was a scary experience this week into an enormous blessing.  I am praying that your challenges turn into unexpected wells of gratitude, too.

    This month, I have a special challenge for you.  Let’s take action on thanks AND giving. Share what you are grateful for on social media this month and share stories of giving (maybe highlight a friend or small business who is doing great things for others!) using the hashtag #GratefulNovember.  Let’s help each other cultivate and celebrate the profound blessings all around, within and right in front of us!  You never know how your little seed of thanks — whether a text to a friend, a love letter, an open door, a small donation, a smile, or an unexpected long hug will completely change someone’s life.

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    Feel free to steal the graphic above to start your #GratefulNovember off today on social media!

    We are starting in our office today by writing what we’re grateful for on our chalkboard wall together!   My personal project is to write out 100 things I’m grateful for every week (maybe more!).  And not in a journal, but somewhere I can see them every day.  Since I’m doing the Contentment Challenge, I worked with what I already had.  I found a roll of tan wrapping paper, a silver paint pen and a few push pins and hung this up yesterday…

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    We’ll be adding things we are grateful for to it each day so we can see them clearly and celebrate them.  Ari and I are also naming 10 things we are grateful for each night at dinner. The last three days of dong this have already been so good for us.  Such a simple thing but it has helped us to see God in everything around us and it has helped us appreciate each other more.  It has also helped me fall more in love with this little one.  I didn’t think I could love her more, but it’s happening.  Yesterday morning before church we took a walk in our PJ’s to crunch in the leaves…

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    Ari and I are also and are focusing on giving more to others in various ways.  As I wrote about in my last post, we are all blessed to be a blessing.  I can’t wait to hear and see what creative things you all do to make thanks and giving happen.

    Download this and many more iPhone, iPad and computer wallpapers here.

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    Happy November, friends!  Make thanks AND giving happen today and always.  Let’s get started right now! What are YOU grateful for?  I’d love to know.  

    P.S. Thank someone right now.  If you are reading this, you either have a phone or a computer!  Make the call, send that text or write that email.  You never know how it will change that person’s life.

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    UPDATED: Abbie is the randomly-chosen winner! : )

    I’ve felt this need to get my LIFE in order since Grace was born.  Having her made me feel this immediate need to take responsibility for the areas of my life where I felt I wasn’t so skilled and I felt like I finally had to do the things I had on my mental Life To-Do List.  This may sound strange, but I was ready to grow up.  The kind of growing up where you step into a new realm of contentment and understanding.  Adulthood 2.0.

    For instance, my finances made me s-t-r-e-s-s-e-d out.  (I know I know!  If I would have even seen the word “finances” or “money” in a blog post, I would have cringed and left for greener pastures on someone else’s blog years ago.  Stay with me.  Good stuff ahead.)  I was so tired of feeling like I wasn’t good with numbers.  So, I spent a good portion of my maternity leave — between first diaper changes and many sleepless nights — getting my finances sorted out, categorizing hundreds of charges and entering them into Quickbooks Online Pro (what I use for business) and Mint.com (what we use for personal finance tracking).  After years of saying, “I’m just not good at numbers,”  I had to learn to re-write that thought. Read my post from yesterday.  For so so so long I would get so so so frustrated when having to deal with finances.  I didn’t even know where to start!

    I had to play tricks on myself to turn working on my finances into something I genuinely looked forward to instead of dreading.  I would play great music.  I’d promise myself a reward after finishing a session of Quickbooks time.  Usually frozen yogurt.  I added that into my budget!  I’d light candles.  I would pray.  A lot.  I would literally give myself a gold star.  I was determined.  I was sick and tired of not feeling like the money I was working so hard for wasn’t being used in the very best ways possible.  I felt like, “I am a smart gal.  Why is this so hard?”  God was working deeply on my heart in all of this.

    I wanted my time back.  Desperately.  I wanted to know how much I actually needed to work.  How much money did I really need to make our lives work?  How much could I give?  How many consulting sessions did I need to take?  How many hours a week did I need to be at my desk and still pay our bills, tithe and give generously?

    I am so grateful to God to now say that I am confident in my ability to manage money wisely — with a lot of help and learning (our very own Emily Thomas writes excellent posts on personal finance here that I highly recommend reading!) and lots of growing still to go.

    If you feel like you have no idea where to start, I offer you a simple task.  First, make a list.  Where do you feel like you need to be more skilled?  What are the larger tasks you’ve had on your heart?  Write them down.  Get these Life List things down in black and white so you can just face them.  That was the hardest part for me.  Admitting I needed to make some big changes and get my life in order.  So, I started a Life To-Do List — larger long-term tasks — and have been plugging along, very slowly checking things off the last two years.  Here is my list:

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    My list is based on our own personal family goals, so your list may be completely different!  Choose what’s right for you and your family.  And please don’t for one second let my list overwhelm you.  My list two years ago just said “get our finances in order so tax time wasn’t a midnight mess on April 15th.”  That seemed like an impossible task at the time.  It was through tons of research and prayer over many months that this list has been added to, refined and worked on.

    I had to break these things down into tiny action steps to make them happen.  How many of you have tasks on your general to-do lists that have been there for months (or years!)? Things like “get teeth cleaned” or “get oil changed” can stay on our lists forever and nag at us every day that they are not checked off.  In our minds we think that getting those not-so-fun tasks done will somehow take days, when in reality they take just moments to set up and not very much time to accomplish.  Action steps have to be:

    1) Realistic.

    2) Physical.

    3) Small.

    So, to go to the dentist to get my teeth cleaned, my first action steps would be to:

    1) Open my computer and open Google.com

    2) Google the name of the dentist and find the phone number

    3) Pick up my phone, dial the number and call while I open my calendar

    Making a dentist appointment takes me less than two minutes.  Yet, I put these “big tasks” off with excuses like, “I don’t have time!”  What we really don’t have time for are the things that are taking up our mental space every day.  Going to finally get my teeth cleaned — which really only took me two hours including driving time — and finally checking that off my list made me feel oddly FREE.  Like I had a whole new realm of mental space on my list to fill with something better.  It has been the same feeling, times 100, that I’ve felt in working on my Life List.  While those action steps above may seem completely elementary, sometimes it takes us breaking things down to the smallest steps for us to take action on things because we see how easy they can be.  And many times – most times – the hardest part is taking the first steps.

    The hardest part of all of these things was taking the very first steps.  After that, things were in motion and there was no more room for fear or doubt or regret that we never took action.  

    For Ari and me, each one of these Life List tasks started with prayer.  We asked God to guide us.  We looked in the Bible for wisdom about finances and giving and responsibility. We wanted to do this well and not fight in the midst of these hard tasks and tough conversations that would follow.

    After praying, we divided up the tasks so we each felt like we had equal responsibilities that played into our strengths.  I took the book keeping for personal and business finances (I like computer programs more than Ari does) and he researched life insurance and retirement plans (he likes numbers and logistics).  I take care of the general house shopping and grocery shopping each week (and hunting for coupons!) and he takes care of writing our tithing check every week at church and keeping track of those payments.  Every Saturday, we talk about our personal budget and I update him on how we are doing.  At the end of each month, I email him the amount we have saved that month and he puts it into our emergency fund and a small portion toward his student loans.  We divide and conquer.

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    Making this list happen has not been easy.  It has involved hours of research and hard conversations.  Life insurance and wills aren’t exactly the easiest thing to talk about.  But, I’m so glad we did talk about them.  Making this list happen has required us to step into personal fears about money and talk them out together.  It has taken some tough decisions.  It has crushed my ego 8 trillion times and made me pray a lot (and kick and scream in my heart!).   But, I learned what was important to Ari and I grew to love him more in these sticky sometimes-scary talks.  We both started to feel more like a team as we stepped into every challenge together.

    But, let me just stop and say that reading this list I am very aware of how much we have. There are so many things that I have started to not take for granted anymore like health insurance and a house to even make payments on.  Having these things does not make us more blessed than others though.  It depends on your definition of blessed.  The Bible tells us that the first will be last and the last will be first.  Possessions and finances can keep us far from true contentment if they become more important than God.  Money is not the enemy; the love of money is.  ‘For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.’ (1 Tim 6:10)  While I am doing the Contentment Challenge right now, I have come to see that is just surface stuff I am fasting from.  I am now craving a deeper level of sacrificial giving.  We are blessed to be a blessing to others.    I want to be a living thank you letter to God for all He has done in our lives.  Like I said above, I have so far to go.  So far.  But, I am grateful for this refining journey and how it has strengthened our marriage and our hearts.

    OK, back to the Life List.  Ari and I met this week to go together and finally sign our wills and life insurance paperwork.  I wrote our wills using LegalZoom.com (with Ari’s input on end-of-life wishes of course!).  If you don’t have a will yet or haven’t considered one, here are two great posts to read from my friend and financial coach, Will Ray: why you need a will and how to get one.  It’s a strange thing, this life. It doesn’t last forever and, while taking an hour from work to go do this may seem like a morbid task to do… I feel grateful. Grateful that we did this for Grace. This year, one of the greatest seeds God has planted in my heart is this: do everything with great love. Do everything for someone else. Plant good seeds. I have so far to go – so very far – but every little step counts.

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    Your little steps add up friends. Even the not-so-fun ones. One thought that kept me going through this list was thinking about how I would feel when we finally had things in order.  I knew I would feel peace.  I knew I would feel joy in being able to give more because I would know where that money was coming from instead of haphazardly making financial decisions.   ”For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?’  (Luke 14:28)

    Make your Life To-Do List happen.  Little by little — perhaps over the span of years like me — you will get your Life List done and you will be so grateful that you did.  These tasks are not small or easy, but they have been worth it for us and the peace of mind we have for my family and Grace’s future.

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    Make your own Life To-Do List with this FREE PRINTABLE and one commenter will win a copy of a book that was truly life-changing for Ari and me, The Total Money Makeover.  If I could give a copy of this book to everyone I know, I would.  If you already have this great book, you can win a copy for a friend!

    So, tell me what’s on your Life To-Do List or what you have been considering/challenged by.  I’d love to hear from you!

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    One of the biggest things I learned from the Making Things Happen Conference last week was that I have been feeding myself a lot of negative mental junk lately.  I’ve been telling myself I can’t write this book.  I will fail.  I am not a good writer.  So, I am fighting to re-write that dialogue in my head and in my heart.

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    You see, we do this to ourselves.  This self-sabatoge is what holds us back from greatness.  At our cores we are more afraid of — are you ready for this?success than we are of failure.  Why?  Because realizing our fullest potential means we may have to shake things up.  We may be seen or noticed.  We might have to live up to a higher expectation.  We might fail.  We might actually do the things we’ve been put on this earth to do and… then what?  We might have to do more.  These are the things that swim in our heads and make us tell ourselves that we aren’t enough.

    You are enough.

    You were meant to do great things for God.

    You were meant to shine.

    Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. – Marianne Williamson

    Dear self (and everyone everywhere ever): your playing small and feeding yourself negative thoughts is not serving the world.

    lara casey blog

    One thing we had attendees to at the MTH Conference (full recap coming soon) is to rewrite these negative statements that hold us back.  This board is being LIVED – in tiny baby steps and giant leaps – be these alum now. (I am so proud of you all and inspired by the leaps you are taking!)  Rewriting negative thoughts is a daily, hourly, moment-to-moment fight, but a fight that is worth it.  A fight that yields good fruit.  Mine “I AM statement” is right in the middle in black: I am NOT OVERWHELMED.  I am an author and a mother of more and a missionary.

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    My friend and MTH Conference attendee, Cheyenne, shared this yesterday that really resonated with me and many others:

    One of my takeaways from the Making Things Happen conference was the idea of “rewriting my feelings”…flipping my negative feelings around to create positive ones. I have found it to be quite empowering and helpful in regaining hope and confidence: I am working hard and doing GREAT at making steady progress. There IS enough time and it WILL all get done. I am a great wife, a great mama and a great business owner. I AM worthy to come to God and worship Him. I dare you to try it if you are feeling down or stressed or doubting yourself. But, you have to say it like you mean it. :) Despite the crazy workload, tonight I chose what really matters: my sweet little family.

    Yes!  Say it like you mean it and DO something about it.

    I have been constantly saying to myself and Ari that I “have no idea what I’m doing.  I am not equipped to write a book!”  These statement, I’m learning, are excuses.   Ways to let myself fail.  Ari said to me, “Babe, you sound like Moses saying you are not equipped!” I am no Moses(!), but that hit my heart like lightning. My first post blog post this year was inspired by me reading Exodus for the first time where Moses feels unprepared to do God’s work.

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    And that post was read by the lady standing to my left in this photo above (love you Katie!), who sent the link to the lady to her left, who sent the post to the lady on my right — the acquisitions editor at Thomas Nelson — who sent me an email asking me if I would consider writing a book with Thomas Nelson. A few weeks ago, they came to Indianapolis where I was speaking at the Influence Conference (recap coming soon — lots of blogging in the wings!) to encourage me and guide me in this journey. And I am singing Moses’ words through my whole being… words God gave him to say… ‘The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still.’ (Exodus 14:14)

    Be still.

    This is not a post about how great it is that I’m writing a book. What IS great is that God takes us lowly beings — simple imperfect humans — and He does crazy things with our lives for His glory when we say YES.  Things we may not feel capable of, but He can make the impossible possible. I am not perfectly equipped, but I know the good news. And that, I am learning, is enough.

    I am a writer.

    God has given me a story to tell.

    I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.

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    Sending my book contract off last week.

    Fight the lies in your head that tell you that you are not good enough. Fight the distractions and the no’s and the false belief that you are not ready. Something Shauna Niequist said at the Influence Conference that struck me: “An opportunity dropped in my lap and so I decided to rise to the occasion for God.” Note to self: fight the fear and choose that. I am praying the same for all of you too!

    What is the negative dialogue you’ve been feeding yourself?  Let me know in the comments and rewrite it with your own “I AM” statement here too!

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