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.

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    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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    I am going to try something new the next weeks: writing blog posts and not stressing over them being perfect.  DONE is better than perfect and, though I have a lot lot lot of writing to do in the next 12 weeks (more on that next), I also feel called to write a lot here.  I want to practice writing here most days and just getting the thoughts out of my head.  Done is better than perfect.  Because the good we know we ought to do and — the good we know we ought to share online — can stay in our heads or we can DO something about it. Done is far better than perfect.   So, here goes!  Photos in the post taken last week by my amazing friend, Gina.  I love you, G!  I don’t usually wear makeup often, so I wanted photos taken for Grace in the same way she would remember me every day : )

    View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013Sleepy gracie in our bed because she was making molars last week and up all night. And yes she sleeps sideways in our bed — very comfy for us. Ha!

    I wrote a series on Goal Setting & Setting Yourself Up for Success at the start of this year because I got really tired of NOT making progress on the things that matter most.  In fact, I realized I didn’t know what truly mattered most to me.  I didn’t want to end another year with regret about things I could have accomplished if I had just taken tiny steps along the way to make them happen.  I got really tired of looking back and realizing how much time I wasted on worry and things that distracted me from my purpose.  I started this year with one main goal in mind and several that branch out from it: to know God more and walk in His ways.  I wanted to finally do the things I’ve always had on my heart to do.  I wanted to make LIFE happen. Turns out, a lot of you felt the same way.

    View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

    The big morning stretch!

    I updated you with my first round of progress on April 10 and our second update was supposed to be on July 10th, but I posted on August 8th with this update.  And I am, once again, a couple weeks late to update you, but here I am.  Welcome to round three of my 2013 Goal Progress!

    View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

    If you are stumbling on my blog for the first time, or if you need to start fresh, below are the links to get you moving. It doesn’t matter that it’s almost November. It’s NEVER to late to do what matters and start LIVING. Today is the day — YOUR day to start making it happen, to get back on track, or to choose a new track entirely!

    View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

    A few updates since my last check-in!

    - I spoke at 8 conferences in the last 12 weeks.  8!  And I loved every single one of them.  I would do this year all over again with speaking.  It was so gratifying.  Full recaps of my summer/fall speaking coming soon!

    - We got SouthernWeddings.com!  Oh my stars, this feels so good.  Read the whole story here.

    - We took a family vacation to Beaches.  More on that trip soon too.  It was so good and so needed.  We also visited the Grove Park Inn as a family and I took Grace to see my parents in Florida.

    View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013Morning hair is the best kind of hair : )

    - My Grandma Bunny was diagnosed with mouth cancer and, at the age of 96, started radiation treatments 5.5 weeks ago.  She is not cured, but has responded well to them.  Her cancer has shrunk significantly, which is more than we could have asked for! Her final treatment is tomorrow.  Amen, hallelujah, thank you Lord!

    - We did approximately 8 trillion photo shoots for the next issue of Southern Weddings

    - I signed my book contract with Thomas Nelson and started writing yesterday.  More to come here.

    - We completed our 6th print edition (“V6″) of Southern Weddings and sent it off to print last week.  We get the copies later this week!

    - We hosted a life-changing second Making Things Happen Conference last week.  It was incredible.  Full recap coming soon!  Registration for the 2014 Conference is now OPEN and seats are already flying.

    - I got to spend lots of face-to-face time with my friends, Emily Ley and Gina Zeidler as we travelled to speak at the Pursuit 31 Conference together and did the Making Things Happen Conference here together last week.  I am so blessed by them.

    View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

    In case you missed the GOAL SETTING + MAKING THINGS HAPPEN posts, it’s never too late to start now!

    GOAL SETTING FOR 2013, Part 1
    GOAL SETTING FOR 2013, Part 2
    GOAL SETTING FOR 2013, Part 3
    GOAL SETTING FOR 2013, Part 4
    GOAL SETTING FOR 2013, Part 5
    MAKING THINGS HAPPEN IN 2013: CLEAR THE CLUTTER
    MAKING THINGS HAPPEN IN 2013: PREPARE FOR GREATNESS
    MAKING THINGS HAPPEN IN 2013: TAKE A BREAK!
    MAKING THINGS HAPPEN IN 2013: NAME YOUR FEAR
    MAKING THINGS HAPPEN IN 2013: CREATE BOUNDARIES
    MAKING THINGS HAPPEN IN 2013: ENCOURAGE OTHERS
    MAKING THINGS HAPPEN IN 2013: THE BIG LIST

    If you started with me on your goal setting in January or even if you’re new here (welcome!), I’d love to hear about your progress, big or small. The goal is PROGRESS NOT PERFECTION. Honest updates will help you move forward. So, weigh in below. I hope to encourage you or pray for you. And you just might inspire someone else with your comment!

    View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013We always go in our PJ’s to visit the garden in the morning.  PJ’s and awesome gold boots for Gracie.

    — MY 2013 Goals —

    Goal 1: To know God more by learning about Him in the Bible and through prayer because knowing God means I will know what is right and good and He will direct my path. Everything good comes from that. God is my compass. I want to know everything I can possibly know about God so I can align my life with His will. I want to know God so I can change for the better for everyone in my life. I want to study the Bible and pray without ceasing. That means a lot of things, namely less time in my phone and on email and on extraneous projects and more focused time without distractions, reading. My goal in short: read and pray daily. Repeat.

    // YES! I finished reading the Old Testament and am plugging along with the New Testament.  This has proven challenging because the NT is so packed with goodness that I keep wanting to take it in very slowly.  But, I hope to be finished with the Bible completely by December 31.  That will be something to celebrate!

    View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013Morning adventures usually continue with reading and exploring the house.

    Goal 2: I want Ari and I to have a more thriving joyful marriage because that will help us be our best for each other and Grace and everyone in our lives. Because we are stronger as individuals when we are stronger as a couple. Last year was truly a year of transition and miracles and this year, I want to celebrate life more together. I want to make Ari feel special and help him be his best. I want to open my heart and let him in more. I know I have a self-protecting wall up most of the time. I want to learn more about what God wants for our marriage and I want to DO those things. I want to help other couples do those things, too. I want to lead by example, in our failures and triumphs.

    //  If you want to know more about our story, read here and you can hear our whole story live on camera in the Amazing Life Together recordings.  In our marriage, we have been praying a lot together and separately about what God wants for our family – adoption, more children, where to plant the seeds of our resources and how He wants us to use our time.

    View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013And there are always tickle parties.  Always. 

    Goal 3: I want to become more physically strong so I can be full of energy to do God’s work every day and give to others. I stopped weight training last year and that is the longest time I’ve been out of the gym. I want to be physically strong so I can live a long healthy active life and be able to teach Grace about God and how to live a good life through my actions. I want to fuel my body to do good things. I want to recognize when I am tempted to use food to control my emotions and choose God instead through prayer, reading, stepping outside to take a deep breath or just by being still and having a good cry if I need to.

    // I have been a bit off-track with the weather change stress of having too much on my plate the last weeks.  I learned in this season that all we can do is do what is right in front of us.  We cannot predict tomorrow.  One day at a time : )  And so, I am trying to get my fitness focus back one day at a time too.  I still get up to exercise every day, but pushing myself to workout hard has been well… hard.  I am glad I’m doing this update for accountability and to remember WHY I want to be strong in the first place!

    Goal 4: I want to stop breastfeeding, Lord willing, by Valentines day (I started weaning last week) and stay emotionally fit, despite the hormonal changes. I want to keep my energy up and give thanks, despite my current feelings (imagine if you didn’t have a period for two years and your hormones decided to start creating one… that’s where I am). I want to do whatever I can naturally to regulate my hormones so that I can be my best for my family, my staff and my friends. I also really want those 3+ hours a day back to do more for God every day. And, at the same time, I don’t want to lose the beautiful thing I have learned in all of this – that taking time to be still during the day is a very good thing.

    // Check!  Read my update from April for the details on how I stopped.  Done and done.

    View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013At the neighborhood park with Daddy.

    Goal 5: I want to be humble and learn a lot this year about a lot of things so I can do what I do well. I want to learn skills that will help me be a light for other’s to know God. I want to be a better more skilled designer so I can spend less time creating graphics and so I can create inspiring products that help people focus on what is good in life. I want to learn to be a better leader so I can build my team up and equip them to do the same for others. I want to learn how to cook special dishes that make my family feel special. I want to learn how to keep plants alive more than a few weeks. I want to continue my calligraphy training so that I can write beautiful letters to special friends. I want to learn how to be a better writer so I can communicate my thoughts in a more compelling authentic way. I want to learn how to do my job in a more direct, powerful, efficient way so I can make more of an impact on everyone I meet. I want to learn more about investing and finances so I can be a better steward of our money. I want to learn so I can give more.

    // Design – Nicole has continued to teach me so much through all we’ve been doing with our print magazine. Leading – I’ve focused so much on our company mission in my speaking engagements, so leading from that core has been fairly easy.  I am so grateful for a team of women who are just as passionate about our core mission as I am!  Cooking – My garden has been one of my greatest joys the last months.  We’ve harvested hundreds of tomatoes and I’ve had so much fun tending the garden with Grace. Eating straight from our garden is so satisfying!  Plants – Yes, as you can see I love my garden!  I am sad it is close to the time when my annuals will fade away, but I will have fun during the winter planning for spring goodies.  We did plant kale and lettuce for fall though and it’s looking beautiful!  Calligraphy – I stopped my calligraphy training to focus on other priorities.   Writing – Well, I have a book to write now.  A whole separate post coming on this. There is a lot of writing in my future!  Job efficiency – Yes, we had a great meeting recently about profitability and how we use our time as a team.  I do feel very efficient with my time and priorities now as compared to the start of the year! Finances – This continues to be the biggest answered prayer in this category.  We now have a clear personal budget, a savings and investment plan (with many thanks to our dear friend and financial coach Will Ray!) and I hired a new accountant for our business who has been so helpful thus far.  Guys, I can’t tell you what a relief all of this is!  Being able to know where we can invest time and resources and where we need to scale back is a huge blessing.

    View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

    Goal 6: I want to learn how to be more efficient and reach more people with less time away from my family. I want to spend less time on the phone with clients and far less timing emailing. My goal is to find revenue streams this year that are more automated, yet help people in a profound personal way.

    // Yes, our shop has done well and I’ve continued to fight for my boundaries to keep my time focused on what matters. Read more about how I set boundaries here. I’m done with consulting and branding work for the year so I can focus on getting my book done, so my time has been streamlined. I am in the process of planning my 2014 speaking calendar, too, and have only accepted one speaking engagement thus far.  Speaking gives me the opportunity to affect more people at once and therefore spend less time on the computer or in sessions.  I’m excited to be speaking at the Bliss and Bespoke retreat in Charleston in February.  If you are interested in having me come to your conference to speak, I’d love to hear from you as I’m blocking off my time for 2014 now.  You can read more info here!

    View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013Can you tell we are related?

    Goal 7: I want to learn how to be a better mom. I currently don’t read anything on parenting. I fly by the seat of my pants. I want to learn from others who do it well and become a mother full of wisdom so that Grace can be her best under our care. I want to raise her to be giving and pure and to have a heart of grateful JOY. I want to help Grace have more play friends and be a living example of the Bible for her in our actions. I want to be much more patient and less controlling and let go of my life so I can live in hers.

    // I don’t even know where to begin with this update.  I’ll just give you a little glimpse into my world with the sweetest little monkey on the earth.  Late last night as I tried to calm Grace to get her to sleep (poor thing has a bad cold right now), she suddenly starts praying:

    (clasping her little hands together and squinting her eyes so she can still see) Thank you God for Daddy.  Thank you God for helping me.  Amen!

    And then she proceeded to sing a mashup of Twinkle Twinkle and Old MacDonald. DJ Grace is the cutest.  Then, mid-song, she looks at me in dark room, by the light of the moon coming through the window and says, “I love you so much mama.”  Melt my soul.  It’s moments like that that make me forget the constant toddler tantrums and separation anxiety that we weather daily.  Each challenge is an opportunity to teach her to know God’s heart and — though I fail at it daily — teaching her that is one of my greatest joys.  Showing her compassion and how to love others and how to say “I’m sorry” and how to celebrate life all make my mama heart very full.  We’ve had a lot of adventures together lately and I love my time with her.  Even when she refuses to clean up her messes and hits me with lollipops (yes that happened today).

    View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013She loves when Ari lifts her up high to touch the trees!

    Goal 8: I want to continue to build a remarkable business that is a catalyst for real LOVE. I want my clients to have better LIVES and I want our brides to have strong MARRIAGES. I want to be a centered sounding board and prayerfully guide my clients this year to their fullest potential. My goal is to always come back to our CORE and to keep refining it.

    // YES YES and YES! This update continues to stay strong and I am so grateful.  It becomes clearer and clear to me by the day that, the more we focus on our core and refine it to align with God’s will, the more powerful our work is on all levels. Our core mission is to inspire brides to cultivate a life full of love – celebrating their families, the rich culture of the South and what matters most to them – and then to draw from that rich well to create a meaningful beginning to married life! Through our weekly staff meetings and all of the decisions we make, we come back to this core mission daily and it clarifies everything. We’ve had SO many great staff meetings lately centered on our core and taking action on that daily.  I am so grateful for Nicole, Emily, Marissa, Kristin and Lisa!

    View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

    Goal 9: To learn how to take better photographs for myself so that I can remember Grace as she is in these sweet moments. I am not really sure why for this goal. It feels like a very God-centered goal, but it’s something I can’t explain. I have this connection to great photographs… they somehow speak to my soul. They change me. I think a gift God gave me was to be able to see the vision of a photograph to create. I can see moments and the big picture and a vision. I don’t have the technical skills to match that to capture the moments I see, if that makes sense. I even bought a great camera last year. It hasn’t been used yet because I get really frustrated with technology and numbers and learning new skills that I have to read a manual for. I want to learn the technical skills of how to take the photographs that I see in my heart.

    // I’ve learned a lot about light and processing lately just through observing others and studying.  But, for now, I’m leaving this to the pros!

    Goal 10: I want to live with less, keep a new budget based on the historical data we have from 2012, and be more frugal this year because my money is not mine. It’s God’s and I want to do more with our money for Him. I want to not only give away things I don’t need, but give away things I love. Ari is really good at this. His favorite sweater was in our charity pile this weekend and, when I asked him about it, he said he said that it wasn’t really giving unless you were giving something you didn’t want to give away for the sake of someone else. I love that. I want to be more sacrificial in my giving.

    // We can’t take our stuff to Heaven with us.  I have so much growing to do here, but I am so grateful for how God is changing our family in this realm.  I read Interrupted and it further convicted me that my heart needs to change more and more to be like Him.  So, I started the Contentment Challenge at the start of September.  Not shopping for things I don’t need hasn’t been hard.  At all.  It’s giving things away and living sacrificially that has been a huge challenge on my heart.  More to come here.

    View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

    Goal 11: I want to build other’s up in faith and give lots of tools this year for people to make that happen. I want to study the Bible with others in my home and online. Going back to goal 1, I want to know the Bible so I can share it with others. Showing people the new life that I have been given and the indescribable JOY and freedom and love and genuine purpose I have found in this new life… well, that is something I want to share. Big time. If you were to find the most beautiful island in the world, you would want to invite all your friends. That’s how I feel about being in a relationship with God. I want everyone to be able to feel this goodness. I want to equip people with basic tools to know God more.

    // With my book manuscript due at the end of January, I’ve had to table the in-person Bible study.  I did, however, write to our women’s ministry leader to tell her I was interested in doing this so we are going to meet one afternoon to talk about it.  I so badly want more time to be able to learn and study more so I am better equipped to teach God’s word to others.  I have been so convicted by Bob Goff talking to us at Pursuit 31 about how we need to stop agreeing with Jesus and DO something about who He is.  I want to live that.  So much.  I want to have Bible doings instead of Bible studies.

    View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

    Goal 12: I want to finally WRITE MY BOOK. I already have most of the content written and just need to put it together. Nicole and I started talking about the printing and technical aspects of this before the end of the year, so it’s in the works. My goal is to release it before the end of 2013, if not sooner. I want it to be timeless and done well so it will help creatives make things happen year after year. I want it to be a legacy for Grace to learn from as well.

    // I signed my contract with Thomas Nelson/Harper Collins last week.  I am pretty afraid to write this book, but slowly God is giving me clarity.  This update is not wrapped up in a pretty bow yet.  Check back with me in January : )  My manuscript is due January 31, 2014 and the book debuts in January 2015!

    View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013Gina made us say “banana pants” really loud!

    Goal 13: I want to continue to paint and create products for small creative spaces that inspire people to live better lives. God is the ultimate creator and I believe He gave all of us creative talents that are meant to be USED. I want to use my creative gifts much more this year: design, painting and singing.

    // We successfully launched the Lara Casey Shop in February and sales have been very consistent with little to no marketing.  The PowerSheets have been our most popular product besides the AMEN print (my favorite), and have sold out now six times.  My own PowerSheets have been an exercise in discipline and have challenged me to take action on my goals and never tarry.  Painting – I finally painted the giant 5 foot canvas in our living room!  YES!   Singing – I love singing with Gracie and that is plenty for me right now.

    View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

    Goal 14: An immediate goal I have is to finish my website. It’s been over a year in the making and it’s a monster. The coding is almost done, my shop is populated and I just have a lot of site content to populate now. I’m hoping we can launch it late this month!

    // DONE! We launched and I still love this site more than all the Luna Bars and chickens in the world!  OK, maybe not more than chickens.

    Goal 15: I want to foster my friendships is a purposeful, focused way because then I will build a stronger bond with my friends and we can do more good things for others together. I want to be more prayerful for my friends, even when they don’t know it. I want to do surprise things for them to make them feel special and build their faith and capacity to love.

    //  One of my PowerSheets goals has continued to be to pray for my friends often.  Ari and I pray for friends at dinner as well.  I still long for “dear friends” (here locally) as the Bible describes them. More on my recent friendship thoughts here.

    View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

    Goals 16: I want to support new moms more. I had a really hard time after Grace was born and several friends sent me care packages that really made a difference. I started a new moms group and my goal is to have several care packages and cards ready to go for new mamas and expecting mama friends that I can send out right away. I want to support new moms locally, too.

    // I have shifted my focus to praying for friends who are going through infertility and those who are pursuing adoption.  God just has both of those things on my heart lately.

    Goal 17: I want to send more real mail to build stronger connections with others, because hopefully it will help people feel God’s love.

    // I sent a big bunch of cards and letters out last week and am working on some new shop products for 2014 that will help all of us stay connected the old fashioned way : )

    View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013The best.

    Goal 18: I want to do more random acts of kindness. As often as possible because these things can help people feel hope and know that God is good. A little kindness can change someone’s life for the better.

    // I want to do more of this.  That is all.

    Goal 19: I want to show my family God’s love through my actions so that they will know Him more and trust in Him. My family is going through a lot right now. They need a lot of love. My goal is to be sacrificial with my time and resources so I can support them and take care of them in their distress.

    // Yes!  I was able to go visit them in September and it was so good to be home.  And, like I mentioned above, my Grandma Bunny was diagnosed with mouth cancer.  At the age of 96, she started radiation treatments 5.5 weeks ago.  She is not cured, but has responded well to them.  Her cancer has shrunk significantly, which is more than we could have asked for! Her final treatment is tomorrow.  Amen, hallelujah, thank you Lord!

    View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

    Goal 20: I want to be like Moses this year in the way he trusted and just DID what God said to do. He let God use him. I want to be open to change and trust that God always has the perfect plan. No matter what.

    // I have had to step out on faith in so many arenas lately.  I keep saying that I don’t feel equipped and the truth is that I am not equipped.  But, He is.

    I can do all this through him who gives me strength. - Phil 4:13

    View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

    So, what is it that you want to make happen? Comment below to tell me about your progress this year, what’s been a challenge for you, and what you look forward to ahead. We’ll check in again before the end of the year!  Wow, time is flying!  I want to hear from you this week so I can hopefully encourage you and so you can also encourage each other. Make it happen, friends. No more lurking. Making things happen means taking action. So, fill me in! Remember, this is about PROGRESS, not perfection.  It’s never too late to start. Start today.

    P.S. CONGRATS to the winner of the 2014 PowerSheets set (or anything in my shop up to $35 if you already ordered the PowerSheets), Sarah Lackner!  Sarah, email me and we will get your goodies to you!

    Show Comments (18)

    Somewhere around November 15th, every year, suddenly I would have a panic attack thinking, “How is it almost THANKSGIVING!?  How is it almost CHRISTMAS!?  Where did the year go?  I have so much left to DO!”  Projects I hadn’t started, goals I hadn’t touched all year and friendships I hadn’t nurtured.

    photo 4 copyMy little punkin’ picking out pumpkins.

    Typically, October is the month we all start gearing up for the holidays, becoming more and more spread thin as the holiday rush approaches.  To fill this anxiety about all the stuff I had to do, I’d buy stuff.  Home decorations, cinnamon apple candles to make me feel like I was home, and food.  Comfort food.  There is nothing wrong with those things, but when the stuff of our lives starts to pile up faster than leaves at the end of November, it’s easy to get really overwhelmed and weighed down. Can anyone relate to this?  Can I get some virtual AMEN’s!? I don’t know about you, but I want this year to be different.  Radically different.  I want this year to be clear.

    CLEAR-OCTOBER-LARA-CASEY

    In these last couple months — #IntentionalAugust and #SavorSeptember — I’ve been able to practice doing that thing I am really bad at: being still.  I’ve studied these ideas of being truly intentional and savoring the blessings we have.  Thousands of you have joined right along with me and it has been a JOY and an inspiration to click on these little hashtags and open up a world of people who are truly living.

    photo 2 copyGracie gardening with me and eating tomatoes right off the vine.

    Clarity, clear, ready, open, sure of where I am, confident in the Lord’s purpose… that’s where I want to be this month and I am SO excited to learn from you all too as we dive into the clear waters of October! Read these definitions below carefully and let me know which ones resonate with you the most. The word “clear” holds so many meanings that surprised me and made me see just how much I need to clear, to free, to settle and to make light.

    clear-lara-casey

    My CLEAR LIST:

    - I want to be free from haze.  Haze that comes from spending too much time looking at screens and not enough time gazing into eyes.  I want to fill our days with good work, good healthy food, better exercise, great books, corn mazes, pumpkin patches, fall leaves crinkling underfoot (y’all should see Grace stomping on fall leaves – so funny!) and warm hugs.
    - I want to be bright and not darkened.  I want to be a light to others and that takes me letting the light in first.  I want to take big deep breaths in of the cool crisp October air and rejoice for the gift of being ALIVE!

    photo 3 copyLast Friday, right before speaking at the Influence Conference.

    - I want to be transparent in my marriage and open my heart more so we can find the most fulfilling quiet love together. Last night, Ari prayed for us before bed that we would continue to grow strong together.  It was a prayer that came from a silly argument, but the best prayers sometimes come from total surrender. ”God, we don’t know how to make this better, but we fully trust that YOU do.”  I woke up so grateful for Ari’s prayers for us and so ready to keep doing the best, most fulfilling, work I’ve ever done – the work of marriage.
    - I want to be free from blemish… i.e. shame.  Guilt can sometimes motivate us to be out best selves and to apologize when we have hurt someone.  Shame, however, paralyzes us.  It’s self-punishment.  I want to let go of the shame I hold onto and fully accept the grace I’ve already been given.
    - I want to see a clear path to victory for Him.  Not for me.
    - I want to have a clear mind and a ready heart.
    - I want to be free from doubt and confusion; certain of where I am supposed to be.

    Lara-Casey-Newsletter-Clear-October-3

    - I want to make life light (worrying is like praying for what you don’t want), clear, and bright.  Continuing to get rid of stuff I don’t need and learning to be truly content.
    - I want to get rid of the distractions - comparison, unresolved conflict, fear — that hold me from really fully living and giving to others.
    - I want to settle loose ends… or just let them go.
    - I want to free others from tension and help them see life in a new bright way.  I just finished reading Shauna Niequist’s Bittersweet after hearing her speak last week and I am so motivated to make stronger friendships.  Her book is rich with stories of the beautiful community of friends she has and how those friendships are born from spending physical time together and giving to friends instead of waiting for them to give to you.  I want to give to friends and build a community that all works together to give right back out to others, multiplying love.

    photo 5One of my PowerSheets goals has been to read the Bible this year and I am so grateful to have finished the Old Testament last week!  On to the New!

    - I want to jump over obstacles.
    - I want to get through this magazine and speaking season well and with intention.  Next week, I’ll be speaking at Proverbs 31 Conference with Emily and Gina and at the end of this month we’re hosting the Making Things Happen Conference here.  I am so excited about both and ready for some face-to-face friendship time.

    Lara-Casey-Newsletter-Clear-October-1

    Lastly, and perhaps most importantly:  I want my heart, my home, my family, my work, my body, my everything to be a clear open space, ready for whatever God has planned.

    photo 1

    Moldable.  Teachable.  Changeable.  Ready to say YES to what matters most.

    Lara-Casey-Newsletter-Clear-October-4

    Join me.

    Make your Clear List on your blog or Facebook or Instagram or ALL of them.  Get these words and declarations engrained in your mind and soul.  Be bold.  Be tender.  Be clear.  Share your post and tag it #ClearOctober on social media (or write your list in a comment here!) so we can all support each other and cheer each other on.  I would also personally love to pray for you.

    photo 4Daddy picked out this outfit : )  

    Before you make your Christmas list and the rush of the holiday’s takes you a way, make your Clear List.  Make LIFE happen this holiday season by setting yourself up for success.  The kind of success that changes not only your life, but possibly countless others.

    LET’S DO THIS, FRIENDS!  Three people who comment with their Clear Lists and/or tag #ClearOctober this month on social media will win a Ocean Blue Make It Happen Print. I’ll choose the winners randomly at the end of the month.  More valuable than a desk print though, is what I hope and pray each of us makes happen this month.  Time to get CLEAR.

    POWERSHEET-PREORDERS-LARA-CASEY-SHOP-2

    With my recent travels and announcing some exciting news yesterday, I am a couple days behind on filling out my October PowerSheets.  But, I’m stopping now to get clear and focused on my goals this month.  Oh, my stars, these PowerSheets have changed my year and given me so much clarity.  As the cherry on top of this post, I’m happier than a hog in slop to announce that 2014 PowerSheet Pre-Orders are NOW OPEN!  HOORAY!!!!  We sold out six times this year and are putting some extra bells and whistles on the 2014 PowerSheets.  They will ship in few weeks so you have them in perfect time to prepare for 2014 greatness.

    I want you to make what matters happen, so I am also going to be doing a 2014 Goal Setting Webinar at the start of 2014.  Everyone who pre-orders (before we sell out) will have free access to this exclusive live webinar in January.  Details to come once you place your pre-order!

    photo-1

    We called in reinforcements : )

    OK, we are closing on our print edition in 5 days, so I am bucking down to make a magazine happen. Here’s to a brilliant clear October and an intentional finish to 2013!  I can’t wait to read all of your #ClearOctober updates, friends!

    P.S. I typically don’t blog my newsletters, but there was an error in yesterday’s email so I’m posting the corrected text here for all to enjoy.  Be sure to sign up for next month’s newsletter here.

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    When I first started the Southern Weddings blog six years ago, SouthernWeddings.com wasn’t available.  So, I had to get creative.  I brainstormed and asked friends and finally put something out on Twitter to ask for help!

    southernweddings.com domain lara casey

     

    Drew B had come up with iloveswmag.com in a previous plea for fresh-squeezed creative juices and the votes were unanimous.  ILoveSWMag.com has been our home for the last 6 years.

    But, this domain continued to nag me, like a great sweater that didn’t fit exactly right.  Spelling out my email address to people on the phone was nothing short of a circus.  I LOVE.  S as in Sam. W as in Walter. M – A – G as in Makes A Girl crazy to have to repeat her online identity a dozen times.  And then there were the folks who thought our magazine was called “I Love SWAG.”  And the folks who still call us SWS (little known fact, we used to be Southern Wedding Style before a rather painful trademark battle). People were constantly confusing us with the current SouthernWeddings.com domain.  And, most of all, I would think about all the newly-engaged brides that weren’t finding us easily.  All of these beautiful love stories we were telling were getting to a lot of people, but maybe not to everyone who needed them.

    This sweater didn’t fit just right.  It was 100% organic cotton grown in Alabama and Georgia and North Carolina and Tennessee and Texas, but the tag kept itching the back of my neck.

    SW-13

    I could try to email the current SouthernWeddings.com owner and see if she would give it to me or sell it to me.  I could.  But, that would mean that there would be a possibility that she could say NO and all hope would be lost.

    So, I did nothing.

    I sat on it for over three years — three YEARS! — terrified to even send her an email for fear of rejection.

    When I give workshops, I talk a lot about fear, largely because I’ve had a lot of them.  Fear and I have spent holidays, summers and long vacations together.  We go way back.  In workshops, we would inevitably come to a point where were I would ask everyone to name their fears. I always participate and would name the larger more common things first: fear of working too hard and missing my life, fear of failing and letting everyone around me down, fear of losing Ari or Grace…

    And fear of writing the SouthernWeddings.com lady about buying her domain.

    Why was this so important to me that I felt paralyzed at the thought of not getting it?  It’s taken me six years to figure it out.

    SW-155

    You see, there’s this thing that happens when God totally changes your life and then plants a big dream in your heart for His glory.  You start doing things and thinking things that are far bigger than you can fully understand at the moment.  You want to go to the ends of the earth to say THANK YOU LORD.  You just feel compelled.

    When my own marriage and my husband and my family and my heart started to be transformed by the love that never fails, I started to hear a song… a song that needed to be sung and played loudly with the right instruments.  You cannot play Claire De Lune, one of my favorite sweeping pieces of music, with just drums.  Well, I guess you could, but I don’t think the swelling of the last part of the song would move me to tears as much.  Great music does that.  It changes us.  It heals us.  It compels us.

    I realized I needed — NEEDED — the right instruments to play this song that God kept putting on my heart.  A song of stronger-than-oak marriages, love stories that span generations and creating a deeply meaningful beginning to married life.  This song that we hum and sing and strum daily is the song of lasting love.  And if it meant getting a domain name to help us sing this song in perfect harmony, I realized I needed to feel the fear, get over myself and just do it already.

    SW-58

    So, I emailed Lisa Manning one October morning in 2011, just weeks before I had Grace, after texting five friends to ask them to pray for me, shaking as I typed the email and sweating as I hit send.

    And I waited.  And waited.  And she wrote me back and said “no.”  She wasn’t interested in selling the domain.  Period.

    Ugh.

    My heart dropped into my stomach and I just cried at my desk.  God, I don’t understand!  I have been praying so much about this and I feel like you WANT me to go after this, but she said NO??!??

    SW-76

    Then, I had a baby.  Life was flipped on its head.  With all I had going on having a newborn and trying to figure out how to be a mom and run a business, it would have been easier to just let it go and move on.  But, God…  There are those two simple yet life-altering words again.  But, God did not want me to give up.  He does not want YOU to give up on that thing that seems bigger than you that you know is for His glory, no matter how crazy it sounds when you tell people about it.  He kept showing me that this domain was just the beginning.  A small but vital piece of a much bigger picture.

    So, months later, I sucked up my pride and wrote her again.

    And she graciously said “no.” Again.

    And again.

    And again.  And likely by this point she was probably considering blocking my email.

    Then, on January 18th of this year, at the urging of several dear friends, I sent her my final plea.   This time, I explained to her WHY I wanted the domain so badly.  I told her about how God had changed my heart and my marriage and about our mission to help couples love deeply, give abundantly and do what matters most in life.  I poured my heart out to her:

    Before you immediately trash this email, I will apologize in advance for the repeat inquiry.  I fully respect you wanting to keep your domain and wanted to just check again to see if there was a possibility of us purchasing it from you.  The reason I want to purchase this domain is far beyond anything to do with business or traffic or numbers.  Our mission for the company is to be a light in this industry and in homes across the world.  That may sound grand, but we have seen how our “Love Never Fails” mission has affected so many in the last year… bringing people back to the heart of marriage.   So, if there is anything I can do to increase that mission and help couples create a meaningful beginning to married life, I am very passionate about doing everything possible.  I believe God have us this platform to help people come back to what matters most in life – love, family and honoring both in their marriages.  So, apologies again for the repeat inquiry, but I hope you will at least consider my plea.

    Months passed with no reply.  I quietly prayed about it as winter turned to spring.  The flowers started to burst through the ground and the bees started buzzing again.  New life was everywhere, reminding me that God was very good and that all things are made new in time.  In His perfect timing.

    SW-128

    April 29th, 2013, Lisa wrote me back, but this time, she said “yes.”  It was a “yes” that was accompanied by a large price tag, understandably, but it was a YES and worth every penny. YES!  YES!!  YES!!!

    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; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)

    The verse doesn’t say, “Ask and it will be given to you immediately; seek and you will find tomorrow; knock and the door will be opened to you no matter what door it is. For everyone who asks receives everything they ask for; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

    I’ve had countless people tell me “no” for things and I don’t always get my way, even when being persistent.   In fact, most of the time I don’t get my way.  Sometimes we are told “no” for very good reasons.  No’s refine us.  No’s help us to see just how passionate we are.  No’s make us resilient. And, sometimes God says “yes” after years and years of waiting for something — whether that’s a husband or a baby or an idea or a move or a new job or a domain name — and you are so much better because of the waiting.  The “yes” becomes so very sweet.

    It’s in the waiting that life happens.  But, in order to even get to the waiting, we must ask first. Ask. Seek. Knock.

    This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5:14-16)

    God says that if we ask for things that are in His will, not ours, He will hear us.  I know now that God wanted me to learn the right melody before He gave me the perfect instruments to play it.

    As I type this, I can hear Grace in the kitchen belting “Amazing Grace.”  Oh, sweet girl.  Amazing grace indeed.  It’s not about a domain or a magazine or blog traffic or business… it’s about Him.  It’s about being a light for Him and never stopping at NO to make that happen.  I once was lost, but now I’m found.  Was blind, but now I see.  And what I see is very good and I want to share it with the world.

    And the beautiful thing about this is I made a friend, a true soul sister, in Lisa Manning.  She has since encouraged me about parenting and family and marriage.  Her grace and willingness to give up something that was her own identity for so long makes my heart so grateful and has set a wildly powerful example for me.  As we made the final domain transfer a few weeks ago, she told me, “I received your email and cried for 2 hours.  Southern Weddings was my baby.  I birthed it, grew it to adulthood and now it is going off to college.  : )”  Thank you, Lisa.  Getting to know you these last years has taught me so much about fighting for God’s glory and about giving things up for the sake of something bigger.  Thank you thank you thank you.

    Friends, I don’t have all the answers here, but I do have my own path that God has paved. Some simple, but profound things I’ve learned from this:

    Ask. Seek. Knock.  Ask for what you want and God will mold your heart till what you want is the same as what He wants.  That is a beautiful profound thing and the power of prayer.  We commune with Him and learn from Him when we just simply spend time talking to Him.

    Knock some more.  If what you are after is for God’s glory, it’s always worth a little more knocking.  Don’t wake any babies up or bang down the door, but tenderly knock on the doors that matter.  Make it happen.

    His plans never fail.  Ever.  And sometimes things take a long time because God wants to change you in the journey.  Life happens in the waiting.

    And so, it is with great REJOICING that I announce our new home…

    The best fitting sweater with the softest monogrammed seersucker tag…

    The symphony playing our song…

    SouthernWeddings.com

    SW-93Amazing new photographs all by Landon Jacob.  I couldn’t wait till our next issue comes out to share them!

    Hop on over to SOUTHERNWEDDINGS.COM (I had to type it in all caps because it just feels sooooo good — like hot butter on a fresh biscuit) to win the very first copy of our new issue hot off the press when it arrives. We have a shiny new brand and website coming on 11.12.13 with our magazine launch, but for now, this new home is plenty exciting!  Oh my soul is singing!!!  Thank you to so many friends who have encouraged us on this journey!

    ask seek knock lara casey

    So, what’s the thing you’ve been afraid to ask for?  What are you learning in the waiting?  I’d love to hear from you…

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