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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2. Prune to Make It Sweeter.

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

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

3. Dig Under the Surface.

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

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

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

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

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Five Easy Ways to Grow Meaningful Friendships

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

That’s what Fruitful Friendship is all about.

You don’t have to be perfect.

You don’t have to have it all together.

It’s our imperfections that authentically connect us.

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

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

So….

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

How make existing relationships more joyful and meaningful?

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

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Photo by Olivia Wolf of Nancy Ray Photography

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

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

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

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3. Name your people. Ask yourself these questions:

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

Remember, real connections happen little by little.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some thoughts on waiting.

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

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

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

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

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

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Love,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last Sunday, we enjoyed our Team BBQ.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This journal for kids is a favorite in our house.

Prayers for your husband and marriage from my friend Natalie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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GrowSlow

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

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

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

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

Maybe less is okay.

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

It’s okay to grow slow. 

More here.

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