How do you start over?

Whether you are starting fresh on a goal, a project, a new city, your health, or with a relationship, starting over is hard, isn’t it? It’s not easy at first, but it can be an unexpected blessing.

Rejection can turn into rejoicing, and broken pieces can be made into something better. Much better. Here’s the story of why I have to start over on my book that I posted on Facebook last Friday, and a few tips for starting over below.

Three Tips for Starting Over:

1. First, let the dirt be dirt. Moving forward means letting go of something first. So, whatever it is that has caused you to start fresh, FEEL your feelings! Feel them and also know that feelings are real, but they do not define who we are. Feeling like a mess doesn’t mean you are one. I cried pretty much the whole weekend after I got the email from my editor. My tears were waves of grief about the time I had spent working on those words—time I could have spent working on different words, or with my little ones. I felt anger, disappointment, rejection, shock, and sadness. These emotions weren’t fun to experience, but they were needed. Little by little, the tears turned into trust and refreshment. Now, there are far deeper pains I could reference here that I’ve experienced in my life—pain that took much longer than a weekend to process (the pain of miscarriage, divorce, marriage hardships, etc.). One enemy of moving forward—a sure way to stay stuck—is to think your feelings don’t matter and should be stuffed away. Don’t compare your struggle to someone else’s, or label it “small.” Your struggle, whatever it may be, is real, and worth working through. Sometimes, moving through the “minor” struggles helps us build momentum to move forward through the big ones. Feel what you are feeling. Name it. Let it be what it is without trying to fix it. Let the dirt be dirt.

2. Step away. I don’t know about you, but when a challenge arises, I stew. I mull. I analyze. I get anxious. I want to fix it as soon as possible. Anyone else?? Stepping away to gain some perspective may seem like an inactive step, but it may be the best step you take. Mid-tears Ari told me to get in the car. He loaded up all the kids and we drove around the lake by our house. It was incredibly helpful. We prayed. We talked. In the thick of it, stepping outside for a breath of fresh air can be a turning point. It’s like planting a small common acorn that can grow into a strong oak when nestled in the mess of dirt.

3. Let grace speak louder that guilt. I realized in starting over that this book is about my weakness, not my strength. I don’t have to write powerful words, or have a stellar outline. I just need to let myself be weak and let those words hit the page. I don’t have to fix it all, do it all, or be it all. If God is in your fresh start, you can be sure He will do the heavy lifting. I trust that. If your fresh start feels impossible—too big for you to orchestrate–maybe it is too big for you. But we can always trust that where we can’t, He can. Let’s be weak, sisters. It’s so much easier than chasing perfect. Let’s let Him speak loud–over all the guilt and junk that’s trying to keep us from moving forward on to fresh new growing ground.

Are you starting over in something? What’s have you been wrestling with?

P.S. I’d love to hear from you here too!

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My garden is in a really weird stage. There are some things growing, and some seeds never sprouted at all. Some things got way too big, and some things are oddly small. There are many little green shoots that I’m not sure are weeds or actual plants yet.

It’s awkward.

Messy.

Unbalanced.

My life has felt the exact same lately.

Unbalanced.

Unsettled.

Un-figured-out.

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There’s this thing called the “middle ground” that I don’t love so much. The middle ground is filled with in-betweens, undone conclusions, waiting, and tension. I prefer clear-cut direction. Firm yes’s and no’s. Plans with specifics and titles. I prefer flourishing and full bloom.

I’ve been in the middle ground for the last year. I’ve had no idea what to do with work and balancing motherhood. 

I prayed and prayed and PRAYED for certainty. But, instead uncertainty grew.

A year ago, I was about to have a baby and wondered how I was going to be a mom to two. I went into it blindly, trusting we would just figure it out. I was a year behind in writing Cultivate, and the direction of the book changed as many times as our lives did. Going from one child to two was rough for us. Grace’s emotions exploded. We felt helpless as parents and sleepless with a newborn. Somehow I felt like it was all my fault that Grace was having intense emotions. I blamed my work and I felt like it was too late. I felt like I had messed her up for life. This caused me great anguish. Since I work from home, this was all happening in my house, where my team works under the same roof. There was no hiding the tantrums and the hard days.

I felt like a horrible mother.

A useless leader.

I felt like a burden to everyone.

And I was tired.

There was so much good in this season too, but my heart was unsettled. Something had to change.

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Then, right before Christmas, in the middle of our busiest business season with PowerSheets and the magazine, Ari and I found out we matched for our adoption. Our adoption story is coming in a separate post soon. We were excited and grateful and terrified. There was so much unknown. I struggled through writing, preparing for a baby we might not even bring home with us, nursing Josh night and day, and Grace continuing to feel big feelings.

And I heard God telling me to quit.

Step away, Lara. 

Be small.

Nurture these children for Me.

Live a quiet life.

Over and over I heard these urgings, and every time I’d ask, How?

What does that look like exactly, God? What do I quit? Do you mean quit my business? How in the world would that work? What about all we’re doing to help people? What about my team? How do I do this??

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I had no answers. Just more questions.

So, I quit the Internet for several months, taking a hiatus from social media and email. I needed to hear from God and nothing else. And there was a lot of “else” swirling in my head as I tried to sort through it all, and write a book at the same time. I struggled with comparison and feeling isolated as a leader. I am so supported by my team, and yet they also know I’ve struggled with feeling like I’m on the “business owner island” at times. There are no fruity drinks on this island, just bills to pay and decisions to make that affect other people. I struggled feeling like I had to keep it all together all the time.

I stepped away from connectivity to get some clarity. Taking a break from social media is always good for my soul. It helps me remember Whose voice I should be listening to.

But, this time I didn’t want to come back.

I kept thinking God was telling me to quit my business, and I relished the thought. I felt elated at the idea of being able to make up for all the time I felt I had lost with Grace to a growing business. I was doing good work, but too much of a good thing is still too much.

I felt weary. Tired of telling my story. Tired of my attention being pulled from my kids. I didn’t want to be a part of it anymore, even if I was encouraging people. These were my honest thoughts friends—thoughts from the thick of it. It’s not the fault of pixels on a screen that I felt this way, though. Despite my efforts to guard my it well, I have a sensitive sponge-like heart. It was easier to be offline.

But, God doesn’t call us to easy; He calls us to follow Him. I kept wrestling with these thoughts, and praying hard.

FullSizeRender_2Above: Josh this afternoon with Jess at her desk.

This fact remained and was important: our business is online. We make products that help people focus on what matters, in the mess, not despite it. We help people plant a garden right smack in the middle of the circus. I knew that was a good thing. A needed thing. With a business that lives on the internet, how in the world was I supposed to exist in that tension? How was I supposed to plant my own garden in the middle of the circus?

How was I supposed to balance the steadfast calm needed to shepherd my children’s hearts and love Ari and my community well, and the bombardment of the world I encountered when I tried to put encouragement or our products into the hands of people who might be changed by them?

How was I supposed to lead a business and a team of eight when I’ve been up all night feeding babies? How am I supposed to work on budgets and quarterly taxes when Grace really needs me to help her sort through her feelings… or show her how to draw a pterodactyl… or explain why ladybugs like to live on flowers. How do I schedule meetings when I’m pumping eight times a day and nursing every two hours to keep up with two babies? How does that all work, God??

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Then, our adoption happened in February. We stepped out on faith, saying yes to the unknown, which was beautiful and wonderful and intensely emotional. God broke us down to make us fully rely on Him, trusting Him in what felt completely uncertain.

And that’s the thing. God breaking me down over the last year was exactly what He wanted to happen. In the mess, many times, He is loving us more in what feels hard than in what feels easy.

I began making a lot of changes to spend more intentional time with our littles. I began to cultivate a new path, making little by little steps forward. The little by little started to add up. So much more to share in another post (and in my book). Consider this “Part 1.”

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I started a private blog the week of our adoption to share updates with our close friends and family, and to have a safe place to share all that we were experiencing. My team read my posts, so they knew. They knew the season we were in with our family. They knew how hard it had been emotionally. They knew the tension I felt between work and motherhood. They knew.

Two babies and two books in two years was too much. 

We had our annual Team Retreat earlier this month. I’m usually the encourager, but Marissa, Kristin, Emily, Nicole, Lisa, and our three new women, Amber, Jess, and Laura, spent the majority of the retreat pouring into me. This was unexpected, and I felt God speaking to me. They made it clear that whatever path I needed to take, they would be fully on-board. They asked me over and over how I felt, and helped me sort through my thoughts. I was weary and fearful of being in the thick of motherhood, and feeling like I had it to have it all together to lead a team of women well.

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They helped me see that I was stuck in the past, and that I didn’t have to be perfect. I just needed to be right where I was—mess and all. Friend, this is exactly why I’m sharing this with you, because maybe you are stuck too. I was stuck feeling like I couldn’t be the person I had become after such rapid life change. How would people understand? How could I tell this new story? I’m not an expert on motherhood, so how could I talk about it? How does that fit with all we are doing in our work?

I was stuck in expectations of what motherhood and business are supposed to look like.

Stuck thinking I had to keep my mouth shut about LOVING BEING A MOM because I didn’t feel perfect at it. I haven’t read all the parenting books, and I’ve made many mistakes, but you guys, I love these kids fiercely. Fiercely and joyfully.

It started to become clear.

After over a decade running a business by myself, I felt like it was somehow okay to let my team in more to the struggles I faced. They saw me in my mess and it was okay. They covered me in grace. They handed me a one-way ticket off the business owner island.

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Last Wednesday night, I cried again to Ari about it and he said something that surprised me, because for a long time he wanted me to let work go so I wasn’t stressed by it. He loves me, but he loves God more. He said “It’s not time to give up. God has given you this for a reason. I don’t think He wants you to waste it.” I countered to him that I also don’t think He wants me to waste moments with our kids. This is my struggle. I want it to be one or the other, wrapped up in a bow. But I got on my knees just now on the dining room floor and GOD MADE IT CLEAR. I’m typing that in all caps because I am so crazy grateful. Months and months of praying. Months of agonizing. Months of wanting to give up my business completely. God told me these words that I immediately wrote down in my PowerSheets:

Help other people wrestle with it and sit in the tension and not feel like they have to GIVE UP.

Sometimes, when we feel like we want to quit, it means something DOES need to change. In this season I don’t have a perfect plan or all the answers. But I know I’m not giving up (I want to insert a thousand !!!! here). This is a season of sitting in the tension of motherhood and ministry and leading and listening and business and babies. I will not “do it all,” I’ll simply do what God wants me to do every day. I’ll get my hands dirty, and the way I live this out may not look like the way the rest of the world does it. I’m excited for that.

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“She believed she could so she did” is lovely and instills confidence, but that doesn’t last. I know a deeper truth. She believed she couldn’t, so He did. If you are struggling with doing it all–if comparison is making you feel inadequate, I am with you. If you are struggling as a boss, wife, mama, you don’t have to do it all. You don’t have to fix it. There’s no shame for all those imperfections, sister. There’s just grace.

I cannot do it all, but I can do a few things well. And only with grace. Grace upon grace.

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I did need to quit my job. 

I needed to quit doing it the way I had always done it, telling the old story and not recognizing the new path I am on.

It was time to quit feeling like I had to have it all together to tell the story of motherhood in my life and work. I needed to own my new story.

It’s time to let you in, and tell you the new story too.

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All those urgings I kept hearing from God?

Step away, Lara. 

Be small. 

Nurture these children for Me. 

Live a quiet life.

Yes. Just yes.

Step away from the noise.

Step away from the “should’s.”

Step forward from the old story and into what’s happening in my life now.

Be small. Low to the ground with my children. On my knees. Hands in the dirt. Less concerned with how to do life—needing a one-or-the-other plan and title–and fully focused on why I’m doing life.

Nurture these children, because the greatest contribution I make to the kingdom of God may not be something I do, but someone I raise (wisdom from Andy Stanley).

Living a quiet life, because all the loud out there isn’t going to last.

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Do you know how this motherhood/work/internet tension works?

Imperfectly.

Awkwardly.

And yet, intentionally.

My garden is in an awkward stage, but it’s still a garden. And, even when I can’t see it or feel it, it’s growing. It doesn’t have to be in full bloom all the time for it to be meaningful. The tension of the middle ground is the path to blooming.

The garden just this morning with Grace, who is a much more fulfilled Grace now that I have let go of the old and stepped into the new. She’s learning to love her messes too : )

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Maybe you are wrestling with something similar. Sister, let me tell you something I didn’t know before sitting in this tension: there is no formula. There is no one “right” way to do motherhood and business, or one or the other.

You do what God tells you to do.

And you know what? It may not be what you do for all of your life. We were created for seasons, and seasons don’t last forever for a reason. They prepare us for what’s next. Stay open, fellow-sojourner. Stay open. I thought for SURE God was telling me to close the doors of our company, or sell it, and I’m so glad I stayed in the tension. I’m so grateful I didn’t give up. The tension—the wait and the wrestling and the mess and the endless prayers–was all for a reason. Maybe yours is too.

So, this post doesn’t have a bow tied on it here at the end, just a “…” 

I am still listening and keeping my hands open. But, I know what I’m not doing: letting the lies of mom guilt speak louder than the truth of grace. And the truth that our paths don’t have to look like everyone else’s. We can do this motherhood and work thing differently. We can do it together, and do just enough well.

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Join me this Friday live on my Facebook page at noon EST. I’m going to be talking about motherhood and work, my summer goals, what’s changing in our company soon (a lot), how we’re starting a new magazine about community, and I also believe it’s time to tell you how our company works. I want you to know our hearts and our daily story here in my home-office. What does it look like to work from home? How do we do what we do? What’s it like with three kids and lots of ladies in our house all day? How do we design and decide on our products? You’ll be seeing a lot more starting tomorrow on our Instagram and Snapchat (LaraCaseyShop).

Your turn. How are you feeling? What’s the tension you are wrestling with? Let’s talk about it, and give each-other a one-way ticket off the isolation island.

Love,

Lara the business owner who is also a great imperfect joyful mom!

P.S. If you need a new start this summer, join me Friday, and I’m giving you and your friends 40% off PowerSheets. Use code SUMMERGOALS here. Some people might say this is unwise to give this big discount, but I really don’t care. I just want you and all your friends to have them and, Lord willing, be changed by them. They are undated, six-month sets, so this is the ideal time to start fresh and finish the year well (our new designs come out in November). I am starting over with my goals this week too–a fresh new focus. Spread the word and feel free to share this code with your friends! Code ends one week from today, or until we sell out again.

P.P.S. I love you, friends. Sincerely. I know many of you have read this blog and followed my journey for years, and some of you have just stumbled on it today, and I want to tell you thank you for listening and sitting with me in this tension. I am grateful to do life with you.

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If I spend more than a couple sentences telling you how much I love our nanny, Rhiannon, I’ll soak my keyboard in tears. That post will come later! After two wonderful years with us, the Lord has called her into ministry. We are so excited for her in this new season ahead. She has cared for us with a love that could only come from a great God, and she will no doubt change the lives of many more in the years ahead.

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As you can see in these photographs, she’s pretty amazing. She works hard and loves God passionately! We trust that God will bring us another great fit for our family.

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We are seeking a full-time Nanny and House Manager, starting July 1. Please apply if you meet ALL of these requirements.

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Who you’ll care for:

Baby boy (Joshua)
Infant girl (Sarah)
Pre-schooler girl (Grace)
A handful of fishies and a bevy of houseplants : )

We’re looking for:

Joyful Caregiver
Hard Worker & Self Starter
Health-Oriented (non-smoker, etc.)

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We need someone who can commit to two years with us. Must be able to start training July 1st. If you are applying from out-of-state (our previous two nannies did this!), you must be able to relocate by July 1. We will gladly help you with finding great living arrangements. Our current nanny lives in an apartment that is two blocks away, and enjoys walking to work : )

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Must be extremely organized, energetic (three kids will keep you on your toes!), joyful (we love to be silly), and experienced in childcare. A background in early childhood education is a plus. College graduates only. In addition to caring for our three children, you would also be responsible for managing our household; laundry, grocery shopping, errands, etc. Must have own transportation, and a clean driving record.

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I run a business with multiple employees from home, so I am here all day as well, and only working a few hours a week in this season of life. We will spend a lot of time together, caring for these children alongside each other. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, with occasional date nights/Saturday hours (maybe 10 per year).

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/isaacsonfamilymarch2015

Our faith is a cornerstone in our home. We are seeking a nanny who can teach and reinforce Christian principles and lead by example. We are looking for someone who has very strong integrity, is calm under pressure, confident in thier faith, and is willing to develop a passion for shaping our children’s hearts alongside us.

Please pray about this position and only reply if you meet ALL of these requirements. We’ve had three wonderful nannies over the last five years, and know the qualifications fit our family well. We will be doing several Skype interviews with potential candidates.

Please APPLY HERE by April 29th. We will begin Skype interviews the first week of May. Please read through this post and the application thoroughly. Your attention to detail is part of the interview : ) We are praying for you as you apply!

P.S. If you know someone else who this would be a great fit for, please pass this post along. Thank you!

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There’s a whole lot of newness in the Isaacson house these days. We welcomed Sarah Celeste on February 26th (full post coming soon!), Joshua turned seven months, and, while we aren’t sleeping much, our hearts are full!

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Photo by Robyn Van Dyke

With Sarah’s arrival came a whole new “normal,” which means that this laptop hasn’t been opened in an entire month until now. I’m no super mom. There are two wonderful friends here watching the Isaacson littles. And let it be known that writing a book with two babies is not exactly easy. My editor graciously gave me another book deadline extension. I have till this Friday to finish (pray for me!). I am excited to get these words completed and in your hands next January when the book comes out.

Lara Casey Family

The ladies in my office have been working from home most days since Sarah arrived. Even scattered to their respective dwellings, they’ve created some remarkable things for our readers in the last couple weeks! I am in awe. It’s been a long while since I gave you an update on all the things that happen under this roof (besides babies) so here it is!

PowerSheets Community Site

We just launched the PowerSheets Community Site. I dreamed of this site for four years — ever since we started testing our first PowerSheets design. Community is the secret sauce to making what matters happen. Hard work is key, but friends to walk the journey with you will keep you doing the hard work—all the way to the finish line. Community means people who understand you. People who understand where you heart lies and what your purpose is. People who cheer you on when you’re feeling low, offer a sounding board for your big ideas, and who arrange playdates for your kids when you just need to take a shower. (Thank you to many of you who have done that for me in the last couple weeks!)

The PowerSheets community site is a place to cultivate meaningful relationships that help you make what matters happen. You can create a profile, share your goals with the community, encourage others in their goals, get in large online groups or small local teams, and create meet-ups to bring those relationships offline and in person.

Our Community Manager, Laura, is also on the site daily creating free downloads, helping you find community in your groups, and putting together PowerSheets tips and tricks for the blog. Oh my stars, I cannot wait for you to be a part of this with us!

How do you get access to the site? It’s free for PowerSheets users! All 2016 PowerSheets users are emailed an access code to the new community site. If you purchased PowerSheets and didn’t receive yours, email jess@laracaseyshop.com.

Clear the Clutter EBook

If you haven’t gotten your PowerSheets yet, or received yours in January but haven’t taken them out of the wrapper yet, know this: there is nothing magical about January 1. Remember, progress comes little by little. Intentional, meaningful goal setting can happen at any time, no matter how far “behind” you feel. The truth: you are not behind. You are exactly where you are supposed to be to take a leap forward!

Now through May, Nicole, Amber, Jess, and Laura are walking you through #FreshStartSpring. Many of you spent March working through the Clear the Clutter E-book to help you rid yourself of distractions so you can focus on what matters most to you — the important things you want to make happen. Just like we clear out our gardens in preparation for new seedlings and growth, take a moment to clear out the overgrown or lifeless things in the garden of your life. Friends, if there is something that is holding you back from living on purpose, download the Clear the Clutter E-book.

Lara Casey Garden
Photo by Robyn Van Dyke

Gracie and I just started planning our garden. More to come on this, but we hope to grow lots of herbs, flowers, veggies, and strawberry popcorn (this corn variety grows tiny, berry-colored ears!). We spent last week mapping out our garden beds and where everything would grow. Learning from past mistakes, we made sure to leave enough room for these tiny plants to grow into strong, tasty fruits and vegetables. The same is true of our goals. We must plan our goals based on how much room we have in our lives to grow them, and how much time we have to tend to them. In April, I’m excited that our team is walking you through goal planning and setting yourself up for success with the Starting the Seeds E-book. Just like garden planning, you’ll get the chance to map out your goals and how they’ll grow. Goals can flourish when you give them room to — I can’t wait to see what you cultivate!

To get the Starting the Seeds E-book directly in your inbox in April, sign up for my newsletter here.

Making Things Happen

We just wrapped up our most recent Making Things Happen conference, and it was such a life-giving time with old and new friends. So much about this conference has changed since it started eight years ago when I decided to hit “publish” on a blog post about how I made things happen. It’s been on our hearts to give the old Making Things Happen site a redesign so we can better share with all of our future attendees what MTH is really like — community-driven, full of honest work, joyful, peaceful, awe-inspiring. Next week, we are releasing our fall tickets for October 17-18 in Chapel Hill! Be the first to know when registration is open by signing up for the MTH Newsletter.

Write the Word Journal

This season of change has been good for our hearts. Going from two kids to three has been hard, but refining. When we go through a refining change, our hearts get refocused and strengthened. I have so much more to say about life with these littles, but my time is limited and that shower I mentioned earlier? I would like to take one of those today. : )

Southern Weddings Bow Tie Line

There has been lots of change in our office this year too. We’ve introduced two new team members, two new babies (June and Sarah), and we are seeing the fruit of having done our PowerSheets together in December. So much newness. Old prints, desk cards, and tees are coming out of our shops so that we can focus on the products that impact lives, like our Write the Word JournalsLife Handbooks, and Wedding Day Journals.

Southern Weddings Bow Ties
Photos by Anna Routh

The ladies have also been working hard on launching the Southern Weddings for High Cotton bow tie line! These bow ties look and feel like old Southern traditions — Easter Sunday, the Kentucky Derby, and spring weddings. I can’t wait to see some of our own gents wearing these to future Southern Weddings events. If you see Ari in one, give him extra encouragement as he’s not partial to bowties… yet ; )

Thanks again for all your prayers and encouragement in this new season. I’m still off social media, and working hard to get my book done in the next few days, but I hope to update you again soon. Happy spring, friends!

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Welcome to the final post in my fifth-annual Goal Setting Series! Each year, I am left in awe of the leaps of faith you take as we go through this process together, and this year tops them all! I am reading every single comment and am so excited for your year ahead. You are making meaningful powerful progress! You are on fire! If you are just joining, it’s never too late to begin and you aren’t “behind” one bit. Now is the best time to get started. Dig in!

2016 Goal Setting, Part 1: What Worked and Where to Start!
2016 Goal Setting, Part 2: What Didn’t Work + What I Learned
2016 Goal Setting, Part 3: Say Yes, Say No, Choose a Word
2016 Goal Setting, Part 4: Set Good Goals

Okay, let’s do some dreaming together! Imagine it: the end of 2016. The weather gets colder, December 2016 rolls around, and you start looking back at the year you’ve just lived. What would it take for you to look back and know that you lived on purpose instead of by accident?

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What will you wish you had started today? Fill in these blanks below (get your free printable here!):

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Knowing where you want to be at the end of 2016, what do you need to cultivate today? Literally today. However many hours or minutes are left as you read this (even if you are reading this in bed), how can you make one small decision in the right direction?

My friend Lysa says that every decision we make has an arrow attached to it, pointing us in one direction or another. Your decisions have the power to fly through all the distractions and fear and aim for a clear target, OR they can float around and miss the goal.

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I want my decision arrows aimed right at Jesus. So, today, I made some decisions and finished my 2016 PowerSheets Goal Setting process. The goals I’m about to share with you may seem simple, but they are boldest scariest goals I’ve ever written. They are coming from a place of restlessness, knowing I’m not using all of my potential yet, but also knowing that the impossible is possible. I have great hope in these goals. My goals are “simple” and that’s leaving lots of room for God to change everything on my path. And you know what? His plans have always been better than mine. I’m up for it.

I’m leaning into the mess and the unknown. I’m willing to let go and not be perfect. I’m willing to sit in the restlessness and un-rushed pace of the little by little to get to the end of this year knowing I lived on purpose. Making hard and powerful decisions with focused arrows attached to them will be worth it. The tending and watering and waiting and getting messy and growing pains will be worth it to get to the flourishing harvest at the end!

I’m all in.

Maybe you are feeling the same hesitation-scary-I’mALLin feeling with me right this second! Let’s choose a new way through the fear together. I’m choosing faith over my fear and I invite you to take the leap with me. Let’s cultivate the faith part, little by little, and the fear part will dry up. We’re not going to fertilize the fear this year, friend! Are you with me?

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Like I said in my first post, you can’t do it all and do it well. Here’s what’s on my mind right now: Two sick babes (one sleeping here on my lap!), 70,000 words to finish in 7 weeks, a family group to encourage, a team of women to lead, a new baby coming in 7 weeks on February 26th (!!!) and so much unknown in adoption and all that is ahead, a home study to renew (since we’ve been in the wait for over a year, it expired), a house to prepare for a new baby, maternity leave to prep for, a business that’s about to go through a major transition period with new employees to train (one flying here on Monday!) and two going on maternity leave (Emily and me), and well… a lot of emotions about all of this. I know I cannot do all the things in front of me well. I have to decide what to focus on and let go of the rest. I have to surrender and trust.

Can you see my white flag waving from where you are? Because it’s flying high. I surrender, and I’m making decisions today to flourish in this year ahead. At the end of 2016, I won’t regret these arrows I’m sending direct to the target!

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I’m saying YES to the mess and (here goes!) no to the internet for two months. I’ll check in every so often (likely just on Periscope once a week to update you on adoption and writing, so follow me there and turn on your notifications!), but I won’t be on social media or email or text messages (sorry in advance friends) much for these eight weeks while I focus on what’s needed inside the four walls of our home: drinking in the Word, praying out my soul and all these emotions, and pouring all He gives me into Ari, my children, preparing for our littlest girl, and these book pages. I’ll still be talking to you every day, you’ll just have to wait a few months to read my words to you : )

I said YES today to trusting that my team is equipped and ready for this season of Emily and I being out. They are incredible, capable, inspiring, magic-filled women. I am so grateful.

I’ve said YES to unrushing my life and stopping each day to look my children in the eyes to tell them how special they are to God and to me. YES to cultivating a flourishing faith in them too : )

I’m saying YES to building Ari up this year in his faith and loving him well. I’m saying yes to the year of monthly date nights that I gifted the ladies in my office, and committed to enjoying with Ari too!

There’s more, and this post is so “undone” but, our adoption case manager just called and it was another reminder to choosing purpose over perfect right now. My decision arrows are cutting through all the things to get to THE thing I need to do right now: write the words He has given me.

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A sneak peek. The book is called, Cultivate: A Grace-filled Guide to an Intentional Life. It’s a guide to embracing imperfect progress and making what matters happen, little by little. It’s a book about flourishing in life and goal gardening. I’ve never been so excited to write. I’m so ready!

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I just paused in writing this to go downstairs and hug Gracie. I found a package in the kitchen with this inside from my friend Erin: a 2016 calendar full of blooms and seed packets. Oh my soul! Y’all. I’m crying typing this. Erin, I love you friend! YES to filling the pages of this calendar with flourishing faith, family, and imperfect progress this year. Yes to planting meaningful seeds today that will grow and bloom with time and tending!

A little of Erin’s story: Years ago she left the hustle and bustle of city life to pursue a slower, simpler and more intentional lifestyle. She and her family dreamed of eating fresh vegetables from their garden, tending a flock of chickens and planting a small orchard. Shortly after they moved in, a generous neighbor brought his tractor over and tilled up a new plot of ground so that she could plant a garden. “Tucked among the many vegetables in that early garden was a double row of flowering sweet peas planted in honor of my great grandmother. Grammy had introduced me to gardening and flowers at a very young age. As a child, I was her “little flower girl” and she tasked me with making bouquets for her bedside table. While my creations were far from beautiful, she always cooed over them as if they were the most precious things on earth. Flowers were a source of great joy and connection between us. So, when the first flush of sweet peas bloomed in our new garden, it felt as if she were there with me. I shared much of the gardens bounty with friends, family and anyone who crossed my path. During that abundant season, word got out and someone ordered a jar of flowers for a friend. I’ll never forget that day as I nervously knocked on her door and awkwardly thrust the bouquet into her hands. Surprised, she buried her face in the flowers and tears immediately welled up in her eyes. She was instantly transported back to her own childhood summers, to a time of great happiness and to her own grandmother’s garden… right then and there I knew I had found my calling.”  Isn’t her story encouraging!? Erin inspires me to dig in, take the leap, and live on purpose!

With that, here are my 2016 Goals for this year of cultivating what matters and flourishing in faith:

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I came up with only two goals for 2016. If I can do these two things, I know that the rest of life will indeed flourish. (Can you guess that I changed my word for the year ahead? Yep! Flourish kept popping up as I wrote my goals and went through the end of this process!)

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Goal 1: Study the Word.

Why? To know the true God. This is the way to everything good—in marriage, business, health, friendships, motherhood, all of life. THIS is the way to lead and love well and to get to where I want to be when I’m 80.

The positive effect taking action on this goal may have on my life and others: I will transform.

How I will feel at the end of this year having made progress on this goal: ALIVE! I will not regret the time I took to do this!

Action ideas:

  • Pray about and decide on a study plan. I’m thinking I will study the Old Testament this year and the NT in 2017, but it may take longer to study through the OT.
  • Use a spiral bound notebook and open it on my desk with an open Bible and a pen ready.
  • Use Jen Wilkin’s method of studying scripture, as well as Jane’s.
  • Use my Write the Word journals daily.
  • Use a journaling Bible to get creative in the Word and be inspired by the Illustrated Faith community.
  • Have a bag ready with a pen and Bible inside to be able to take my studying on the go.
  • Set up my desk to be a place of studying the Word as my main focus – open Bible and materials.
  • Invite Gracie to join me and set up supplies (colorful paper, Bible, pens) for her too!- DONE! I made her a drawer in my desk with paper, pens, and a little Bible.
  • Write this sign to post on my desk: A year of sprouting under the soil, breaking free and letting go of my outer shell, and soaking up nutrients in order to bloom! – DONE!

How I will know I accomplished this goal: By the fruit of my life (But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – Gal 5:22-23) having chosen to study the Word more than I study the world.

Encouraging words: But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. – Psalm‬ ‭1:2-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, Lordteach me your decrees. – Psalm 119:10-12

How I will celebrate at the end of 2016: Anyone have ideas here? I am not sure! 

 

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Goal 2: Pray — in my “war room.” (Read this book or watch this movie!)

Why? To meet and be transformed and INFORMED by God.

The positive effect taking action on this goal may have on my life and others: I will live a peace-filled un-rushed life, and be able to make wise decisions.

How I will feel at the end of this year having made progress on this goal: Connected. Peaceful. Joyful. Taken care of. Whole!

Action ideas: 

  • Take everything off my office walls down. – DONE!
  • Ask God what to do next and what prayers to put on the walls. – DONE!
  • Write the prayers on colorful paper to put on the walls, and write prayers in my VMP Prayer Journal. – DONE!
  • Get on my knees here in my “war room” and talk to God! – DONE!
  • Write family prayers on the kitchen bulletin board.
  • Pray with Grace at night before bed. – DONE last night!
  • Continue to pray with Ari every morning before work and at meals and whenever we feel God tell us to! – DONE this morning!
  • What helps you to pray? I’d love to know! Ideas are welcome!

Side note: Grace is now sitting here with me and she wanted me to write these exact words to you: “Prayer is a good thing. It helps you to know God. God is in the clouds with Jesus. Mommy, I want to write God is so good. (singing now —>) God is so good. He’s so good to me! God answers prayers. Hallelujah! God is so good!”

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Amen, sweet girl!

How I will know I accomplished this goal: By the fruit of my life (But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – Gal 5:22-23) having chosen to pray and talk to God more than I seek approval or comfort from the world.

Encouraging words: Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thess 5:16-18

How I will celebrate at the end of 2016: I will paint my answered prayers on Christmas Day on a big canvas for our living room with Grace. I already have the canvas. I’m teary-eyed thinking about this!

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I just let out a sign of relief. How these goals will play out over the next 12 months will be more specific as I do my monthly PowerSheets pages, but I am so grateful for this process and clarity! I know where I’m going. 

Also, here are my business goals from doing our company PowerSheets together:

    • Lead team WELL and cultivate a culture of WELL.
    • Write Cultivate in January and February and release well in December.
    • Start a movement of making a mess and embracing imperfect progress. Goal setting with open hands.
    • Prepare for and enjoy a joyful adoption maternity leave.
    • Hand off company finances and back-end business this year so I can transition to a part-time role, focusing on writing and big-picture creativity.
    • Lead teaching on new PowerSheets site to help people make meaningful life goals happen and embrace imperfect progress.
    • Create meaningful small collection of shop products.
    • Write and release Couples PowerSheets.
    • Create meaningful new 2017 PowerSheets.
    • Create meaningful Write The Word content throughout the year.
    • Meaningful speaking and teaching through MTH and online conferences.
    • Lead big picture team vision and mission-centered decisions.
    • End the year knowing we lived and created from filled wells, and experienced beautiful team unity doing the good work we were given to do.

Whether you came up with two goals or twenty, I hope you feel more focused on what matters most having done each step alongside me! I am excited to check in with you here on the blog throughout the year to see how you are doing and encourage you. Tell me in the comments: what are your 2016 goals?

Lastly, thank you! Thank you for joining me on this journey. I am still going to be reading every blog comment here and cheering you on. Taking this little by little has been worth it and I am praying you find the same is true for you. Choose to focus on progress—little by little progress—not perfection. Your seemingly small steps forward today will add up, and a year from now, you will be so grateful you started today! Get messy and make it happen, friend!

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Thank you, Lord, for this new year of life. Thank you for my little redheads and for loving us with blooms and bees and all the marvelous things you grew in 2015. My heart feels a little unkempt going into this new year. Help me to let go of control, fear, worry, comparison, and anything that will hold me back from the unique assignment you have for me. I ask you to multiply my trust and relationship with you like never before. Let this be the year that my faith flourishes, and the dry parched areas become blooming fields. Lord, maybe there is someone reading this that wants that too. Help my friend. Help us to let go of what’s behind, experiencing grace and healing in anything left unresolved. Help the soil of our hearts to become rich with You. Life-giving healing You. Help me to begin this new year with an open, repentant, ready heart. But most of all, help me to let go of the belief that I can do anything on my own in the year ahead. I flounder around without you. I lose my way. But, with you I am found. I am content. I trust. I do not fear. You made this little boy sleeping next to me, and he is a miracle. Our rainbow baby. You made her too. Our littlest girl. I’m so excited to meet her in 7ish weeks. Lord, you are so good to us. Life is going to radically change this year and I want to choose you. Over worry. Over anxiety. Over pride. Over unbelief. Over the world and all the things. Help me remember the story you’ve already written in my life – that the impossible is possible. You can change broken imperfect people like me. You are the author of life change. May I use my days and minutes ahead well for you. Passionately. Quietly. Joyfully. – But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Phil 3:13-14

Comment with your answers from each step as we go through this series and enter to win these goodies via the Rafflecopter box at the bottom. One person who comments with answers to every step in this series will win a bonus prize: A (spiral bound) One-Year PowerSheets Workbook. I’m determined to motive you to dig in with me on these powerful steps!

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1. A set of 2016 PowerSheets with a Make It Happen binder and colorful tab stickers
2. Five prints of your choice from the Lara Casey Shop
3. The Finishing School by Valerie Metrejean
4. The Make it Happen audio book, recorded by yours truly!
5. A Journaling Bible (NIV)
6. Five Make it Happen journals
7. Artist’s Loft Fundamentals Watercolor Set
8. Two tubs of Vega Protein and Greens + a Vega shaker cup. Bonus: sign up for a free Vega account to get $15, and I’ll get $15 too!
9. Ashley Brooke Too Legit water bottle
10. ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?! 10 2016 Simplified Planners (pineapple daily edition). Yes, TEN of them! Lots of chances to win!
11. What good shall I do this day? sign from Best Made Co
12. Five Make it Happen books
13. Jonathan Adler Grapefruit Candlelara-casey-new-year-fresh-faith-giveaway

 

– (Not pictured, but so fun!) $25 Amazon gift card for books. Some suggestions: AnythingRestlessEditThe Best YesEditA Confident HeartThe Fringe Hours, or anything on Nancy Ray’s Book Club list.

14. The Write the Word journal collection – volume 1, 2, and 3!
15. Val Marie Paper Prayer Journal
16. Naptime Diaries print of your choice
17. In the Wait study by Holly Holt
18. Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin
19. How to Study Scripture E-Book by Jane Johnson
20. Make it Count 2016 Bible journaling kit from Illustrated Faith

Updated! Winners below!

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WINNERS:
1. A set of 2016 PowerSheets with a Make It Happen binder and Colorful Tab StickersJenna Gilbreath
2. Five prints of your choice from the Lara Casey Shop: Ronda (comment from Jan 6), Angela of Eat Spin Run Repeat, Amanda Paige, Tanika (comment from Jan 5), Lynn Aronson
3. The Finishing School by Valerie Metrejean: Katie Wilkin
4. The Make it Happen audio bookLisa Gilbert
5. A Journaling Bible (NIV): Monica T Smith
6. Five Make it Happen JournalsSiena (comment from jan 7), Kathleen Sullivan, Megan Lewellyn, Charmaine (comment from Jan 8), Michelle Bills
7. Artist’s Loft Fundamentals Watercolor SetDeborah Hailey
8. Two tubs of Vega Protein and Greens + a Vega shaker cupHannah CrainEm Enockson
9. Ashley Brooke Too Legit water bottleKara-Anne
10. 10 2016 Simplified Planners (pineapple daily edition).  Sarah (comment from Jan 2), Katie of A Place to Dwell, Amanda C., Anna Campbell, Faythe (comment from Jan 1), Stephanie F (comment from Jan 1), Kristi (comment from Jan 1), Lauren D’OrazioMyra of The Marvelous Mess, Michelle Bills
11. What good shall I do this day? sign from Best Made Co: Beverly V
12. Five Make it Happen booksJoanna Hyatt, Courtney KirklandLauren D.Becky BrunnerCortney Jones
13. Jonathan Adler Grapefruit Candle: Janet K
14. The Write the Word Journal collectionKatie Mac
15. Val Marie Paper Prayer JournalBethany (comment from Jan 5)
16. Naptime Diaries print of your choiceCarrie Beth
17. In the Wait Study by Holly Holt: Lauren DeVries
18. Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin: Madeline (comment from Jan 1)
19. How to Study Scripture E-Book by Jane Johnson: Dana Hartness of Happy Little Lovelies
20. Make it Count 2016 Bible Journaling Kit from Illustrated Faith : Ashley Terry
21. Amazon Gift Card: Jessica P.
PowerSheets Workbook: Terri Cook!
Please email Stephanie – orders@laracaseyshop.com with your mailing address and she will get your goodies to you! : ) Congrats, everyone!

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P.S. The e-book of Make It Happen is on sale for 3.99 this week only! Get it here!

P.P.S. After starting this series, need more direction? Three places to start:

1. Grab a copy of my book, Make it Happen.

2. Pre-order your PowerSheets.

3. Join me in person for the Making Things Happen Conference in March. See you there!

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