Category: Bible Study

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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If you are just joining us for this series, welcome! It’s never too late to begin. February 1 could be your January 1 if you like, so feel free to dig in anytime!

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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

Welcome to Part 4!

Maybe you have ideas about what your goals might be this year (or maybe not yet and that’s okay too!)–and you are already overwhelmed and anxious about HOW to make them happen. You want all of your goals to have been tackled yesterday. Because here we are at the start of the year and you have to do it all right away, right? False. I know the feeling though. Lean into that restlessness and let it unlock one of the greatest freedoms you’ll ever discover: the power of little by little.

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Photos in my garden by Emily March.  I told y’all my tomatoes were huge this year (this was even taken early in the growth season) and I love zinnias! : ) 

We’re about to plant some good seeds as we uncover goals that have meaning. And then we’re going to take action on them. Making good things come to life requires physical action. And another action. And another. Over time, goals that were once leaps of faith you took on a blog post here, turn into new lives! The process of cultivating—breaking the soil, planting, tending, and waiting for the harvest—is where life happens. It’s where change and growth happen. The journey to making it happen is where the good stuff lives. 

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I know you overachievers want to have done everything yesterday (me too), but I have also been reading every single comment on this series. Taking this step by step is helping many of you make remarkable discoveries! I’m so pumped by all the lightbulbs I see going off! You are starting to see clearly, and it’s happening little by little. Your goals may change half-way through the year, or you may make them happen faster than you think if you take it day by day by day. Little by little these beautiful zinnias in my garden grew this year from the tiniest seeds. Little by little babies grow. Can you imagine if you got pregnant and then the next day gave birth?? Oh my stars! You wouldn’t be ready. No time to prepare. No time to buy diapers or mull over a name or assemble the crib or celebrate. You would have missed the time of preparation and ripening that happens over nine-ish months.

It is the same with our goals. And friend, I’m preaching this to myself right now too: trust that your goals matter enough to make them happen well. They matter enough to take little steps forward every single day, and some big leaps long the way too. Your goals matter enough to tend to them like a garden.

I wish I could have you come to my garden this summer. When these zinnias are in full bloom, and the bees and butterflies and goldfinches are fluttering and buzzing about, it’s just magical. I can’t help but stop and remember that it all started with tiny seeds. I broke through the hard soil of winter, planted good seeds, watered and tended to them little by little. There was so much joy in the journey. The process was the real gift. It was worth the planning Grace and I did in the winter, restlessness and risks and leaps of faith we took in planting, the hot days of pruning and weeding, and all the bug bites and dirty white pants : )

It was worth getting messy.

Your good goals will be with it too.

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A year from now you will wish you had started today. – Karen Lamb

Welcome to your start. Like I told you from the start of this process, traditional goal setting does not work for me. Swiftly-made resolutions get forgotten and then they linger and make you feel guilty for forgetting them. Anyone else ever experience this? Well, hopefully at this point you feel more equipped than when you started this process to write some down good goals. Goals that mean something. Goals that are very clear and will help you live on purpose.

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Let’s get messy and start to pick out some good seeds to plant this year! You ready for this? It’s going to feel scary and SO GOOD when you take a leap of faith and just start writing what comes to mind. You can do it!

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Four Goal Setting Tips:

1. First, review everything again! Remember, this is goal uncovering. Uncover one more layer and get to the good stuff! Get the big picture crystal clear in your mind and heart before you write your goals. Read through everything you’ve done so far. Read every word. Re-write or add to things once more if you need to. I added to my lists and re-wrote things after going through this process because I got more clarity. Cross stuff out, revise things, add to your lists of what did and didn’t work (I added a ton to mine!). Add more to your YES and NO lists. Refine your 2016 Pinterest board. Take pins out that don’t fit well. Use extra paper if you need to. Get messy and dig a little deeper before moving to the final exciting step…

2. Yeah, yeah, yeah! You’ve made it! Make a list of the first goals that come to your mind for this year when right after you review everything you’ve written. Call them “Goal Ideas” for now to help you get them out! I suggest taking a big deep breath and putting on a favorite inspirational song as you start writing goals. These don’t have to be perfectly written — just write what first comes to mind.

3. Check your goal ideas to make sure they are rooted in what matters. It’s so easy to make goals that sound good or goals that other people have that you think you should have, too, just to keep up. Don’t do that. The idea here is for you to SIMPLIFY your life, not to give yourself a new to-do list of random things that sound good. Be very specific and careful about what you decide to spend your time on this year. How you spend your time is how you spend your life.

Do a GOAL CHECK and ask these questions:

- Will this goal help me to cultivate what matters most?

- Where do I want to be when I’m 80 years old, and will this goal help me get there? 

- Does this goal also help other people?

- WHY do I want to make this goal happen? Am I desiring this goal for the right reasons, or am I striving for “perfect”—or whatever I’ve been chasing?

(If you are a believer, read this goal check from my friend Moriah here too!)

If the answer is NO to that first question, then it’s possible it’s not the best use of your precious time. Don’t run in circles with goals that don’t directly connect to what matters most. Get specific. Focus on what really matters to you in the big picture. Cross goals out that don’t 100% fit. Revise goals that are not clear. Be bold and take leaps of faith as you write.

4. This is the most important key to goal setting. Write down your WHY with every goal. When I was a personal trainer in New York for many years, most clients would come to me with a number and say, “I want to lose 10 pounds.” I would ask them, “WHY 10 pounds?” Usually, when we got down to it, it was just an arbitrary number, or a weight they were in college. There was no real heart connection to the goal of losing 10 pounds. But, when we dug deeper into why they became out of shape in the first place and what they wanted most in life, a picture of true fitness started to emerge. Instead of, “I want to lose 10 pounds because that’s what I weighed in college” (not very motivating and more self-defeating), we worked on goals like, “I want to be healthy and strong so that I can live long enough to walk my daughter down the aisle. I want to live a long, happy life so I can be a better husband and show my kids how to be joyful and healthy, too.” That works. That is motivating. SO, get real with WHY you want these things to happen and connect them to something that really matters to you. It will help you ACT on your goals instead of toss them aside.

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Photo above with our little peach tree by Nancy Ray.

Life is to short and too meaningful to coast through. The good you do today has the potential to change generations. You never know how long you have left here on this earth to love others and change them for the better in that love. That’s why setting good goals and having a clear focus is so important. Otherwise, you may spend your time lost in distractions. Lost in Instagram. Lost in the chase for perfect, or significance, or approval, or whatever it is that has been holding you back from really living. You may find yourself restless, knowing deep down that there’s more to this life. If that’s you right now, you are in the right place! I know that feeling well, and I don’t know about you, but I do not want to live my days by accident. I want to live on purpose, and use all the gifts I’ve been given to help others do the same! Join me.

Take a big breath in (really do it) and a big breath out. Think of where you want to be when you’re 80. What will be important to you then? Whatever it is, act like it today. Take some bold leaps of faith and write out goals that are outside of your comfort zone. Powerful goals don’t need Miracle Grow. Purpose-filled goals that are aimed at the big picture are 100% organic goodness. Soak them in sunshine, water them little by little, and get ready for a flourishing garden full of blooms–and a harvest to share!

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I’m going to share my 2016 goals in the next post. When you are ready, leave yours here in the comments on this post, or the final post coming Tuesday. If you aren’t sure of your goals yet (like me!), I want to hear from you. As you reviewed all you’ve written so far, what stands out to you? What themes are you seeing? Tell me in the comments and let’s encourage each other as our goals begin to take shape.

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

Enter below and be sure to leave your answers to each step as you go through the series with me!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends January 13th. Winners will be announced on January 15th here on the blog. Shipping some of these items can get costly, so hard goods are for US entrants only. Lots of digital prize options though for my international friends! If you don’t claim your prize within 48 hours, another winner will be selected, so mark your planners and stay posted! : ) Also, this post contains some Amazon affiliates links. No extra cost to you, but it helps us raise funds for Love One Another Project!

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I want you to know something about this photo. These women aren’t thinking about what they look like. They aren’t thinking about this being posted on the internet two days later or about who will see it. In the eight hours before this photograph was taken, the hearts of these women were changed and so was the source of their smiles. These radiant smiles above aren’t beaming from an emotional or spiritual “high” that will one day wear off — they are beaming from a new joy, my smile included. Real work was done. Walls were demolished. God moved.

It’s not an easy thing to write about a day that changed you — a day I count as one of the most significant turning points in my life — but I am going try with the small words I have.

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Twenty-five women gathered in my living room on Saturday for IF Local. We spent a day not experiencing an event or simply watching speakers, but experiencing God’s truth. The thing about Saturday is that the work had already done two-thousand years ago — we just started to believe it and act like it.

I didn’t expect any of what happened in those eight hours.

I didn’t even know most (90%) of these women just a few months ago.

I didn’t think I would do what I did later that evening. At 8:30 that morning, I was carrying shame and guilt and broken pieces. As the day unfolded, I laid them down. All of them. More on that shortly.

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With the help of some excellent teachers (Jennie Allen, Christine Caine, Jen Hatmaker, Bianca Olthoff, Esther Havens, Ann Voskamp, and more) we studied the story of the Israelites being afraid to enter the promised land, wandering in the dessert for forty years, and then finally trusting God and setting foot on that land — Numbers 13 + 14 and Joshua.

This story quickly became our story. The Israelites were afraid to enter the promised land. They had been enslaved for generations and had finally been freed. They stood on the edge of the land of milk and honey — abundance. But, they felt the potential dangers ahead were too big. They were paralyzed by fear. They complained and wanted to go back to bondage rather than moving forward. They grumbled and didn’t trust God’s strength, so they wandered in the wilderness for forty years! Forty years. Freedom was too hard to hope for. Do you see where this became our story?

This is us.

God says go and we reply, “But, it’s too hard! We’re not strong enough!”

In a way, we’re right. We aren’t strong enough. But, God is.

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The walls and doubts and fears started to crumble as we were challenged with these questions:

What is God calling you to believe?

What holds you back from believing?

How do we believe?

What could happen if we believed?

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We stand at the edge of freedom and, rather than dive in, we don’t.  The doubts cloud our vision of the promised land: Am I enough? Are we going to be safe? What is it going to cost?

Encouragement from Jen Hatmaker:

“We struggle with faith sometimes because God asks us to do hard impossible things that only He can do. Our limits blind us to God’s abilities.”

“Real faith moves out of our heads and into our lives.”

“We live out God’s kingdom to the same fullness as we believe in it.”

“You do not have to have full confidence in yourself, just have it in God.”

And perhaps the most powerful truth of the day that sunk into all of our hearts:

“Don’t wait till you have full possession of knowledge before you take full possession of God.” Too often, we believe the lies that we aren’t good enough for God or His purposes because we don’t know enough, haven’t done enough, and we are too broken.  Does that ring true for you? It did for all of us too.

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We read Joshua 1:1-9. The core of these verses: Be strong and courageous! Move forward.

Christine Caine challenged us with this question: “What’s dead in your life that you are trying to hold onto? Sweetheart, if the horse is dead, dismount!”

And this is where my words fail to fully express what happened in my heart as the following truth sunk in: “We are so unhealthily attached to the past. Move forward.” That. That was it for me.

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I thought I got this grace thing but, I was still carrying around bricks in my heart. I felt like I deserved to carry the bricks so I kept them hidden. I didn’t even realize I was doing this, but that’s the thing about God’s word.

‘For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires’ (Hebrews 4:12 NLT).

I didn’t know I was carrying this weight until reading God’s word exposed it for what it was: carrying lies.

I had been painfully attached to the past. Chained by the shame of past mistakes, not being “perfect,” having what felt like too many broken pieces, and not understanding how God could love me in my mess.

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But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you”‘ (Ephesians 5:12-14 NIV).

It was time to wake up! When the truth gets ahold of your heart, there is no turning back. Well, you could go in circles and wander in the wilderness for a while like the Israelites, but I didn’t want to waste any more of my life.

Believing lies was holding me back from the promised land. Holding me back from doing what God put me on this earth to do. Holding me back from true heart intimacy in my marriage. Holding me back from being the mom God designed me to be. Holding me back from leading boldly. Holding me back from being fully alive.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid;do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:5-9 NIV).

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The truth:

Be strong and courageous, Lara. I am with you.

Be strong and courageous, Lara. I created you for a reason.

Be strong and courageous, sisters. I made you on purpose. You are enough and strong in me alone. Not in your knowledge of the Bible. Not in your job titles. Not in your bank accounts. Not in your good deeds. Not in your looks or your accomplishments or your past. Only in me.

Be strong and courageous, sisters. The promised land is real and good. It’s yours for the taking. Not when you “have it all together.” In me, you have it now and forever.

As Christine explained, “Courage comes from knowing God is with you. Faith comes from hearing the word of God. The call of God is inconvenient. It will interrupt your life. Get up and set your foot on the promised land. Begin to move. Set your foot on the land.”

And so, with fear and trembling, I did.

After the ladies had all gone, I sat with Ari and poured my heart out. Years of pain and unspoken shame and things I didn’t know I was still carrying poured our with my tears. I was ready to move forward and stop living with my past attached to me. Ari spoke truth to me and loved on me and forgave me for carrying this weight alone. In marriage, we are meant to be truly one. And so, in laying down all those bricks, we were.

I was finally free. Not by anything I had done, but by what Christ had already done on the cross. I finally fully stepped in the water and the river parted.

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These brave women stepped into the river too. Emails and texts and conversations have been flying since we all left Saturday night. Together, we’re going to keep stepping in to cross over to the promised land. Step by step. Little by little, and with big leaps of faith. Because our days here are short, but long enough to do something that matters — something that lasts longer than us. “We don’t have time to NOT have faith to move mountains.” – Esther Havens.

We don’t have time to remain in chains.

We don’t have time to wander in the desert any longer.

The promised land is before you. Set your foot on the land.

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Some encouragement that the women in our group wanted me to share with you:

— “As Jen said, “Don’t wait to take full possession of knowledge of God to take possession of God.” I can’t stop thinking about that! I encourage other women to stop believing the lie that we become disciples of Christ only when we enter into complete and total knowledge of God. Don’t wait! He is ours, and we are His!”

— “Before IF I had been struggling with believing I enough- I am blessed by words of each speaker. For anyone that didn’t come I would say come with and open heart and be prepared to see God change you. God did a lot of work in our hearts this weekend. God is real. You can make the change. You are enough. Keep going. Strong and faithful servants.”

— “I’m so thankful that the Lord whispered to each of us to register for IF even if we had no idea what to expect! I really feel like a beautiful sisterhood was stitched together on Saturday and he brought every last one of us to that sisterhood. Let’s also praise God for the unapologetic truth of the speakers- that God does not call us to be comfortable and his ways are not easy…that we are going to battle together as sisters, but that WE ARE ENOUGH. We do have what it takes- YOU have what it takes to do that thing God is whispering you to do, even when you can’t see how it will play out. All you have to do is put one foot in front of the other and take one step. then another. then another. Let’s say yes to letting His plans unfold in our lives!”

— “The consistent message impressed upon my heart yesterday, was not to count on my own abilities but on the power of God.  It is absolutely true that in my flesh, I am not…but God IS.  I know and trust that God can do the impossible but I don’t trust myself.  I am paralyzed with fear that I will fail my God but you know what His love, His truth, His word says to me?  “I WILL NOT FAIL YOU”  God will not fail on His promises.  He has called us all to greatness in His name and He will NOT fail on that promise. It is up to me to trust and obey. God is good.”

— “One thing I am taking with me today is that I am no longer going to be quiet. I want others to know Him. Like Jennie said, “What if God shows me a slideshow of what I missed?” That caught my attention big time!”

One of the discussion questions (the discussion times were some of the most fruitful parts of the day for us!) was, “Who is a woman who has personally shaped your faith?” I shared the story of a morning many years ago when, in the mess of my old life, I found a note on my hotel pillow from Nancy Ray. She had written out a prayer and an encouraging scripture for me. Thinking back to who I was then, I’m not sure I personally would have believed that anything could help me turn from my selfish ways. I was so lost. I would have assumed, “She’s too far gone to be rescued.”

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Nancy didn’t believe that. She believed in God’s abilities, not her own. God continued to use her to mold my faith in profound ways. I am so grateful! And here you go. Finally sharing a few bump pics from Saturday : ) She’s due with her first in May and I’m due with #2 in July.

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When I was seven months pregnant with Grace, Nancy put her hands on my belly and prayed for Grace’s little life. Right at the end of the prayer, Grace gave Nancy’s hands a swift kick, as if to say, “Amen, Nancy!” Nancy’s presence in my life so beautifully illustrated what we learned on Saturday: it’s not about us, it’s about who God is.

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We closed the day reading about Joshua and the Isrealites crossing the Jordan River. God tells them to step into the river and He promises to make a way. But, first they must step in, have faith, and trust in what seems impossible.

So, they did.

They stepped in.

The waters parted.

They crossed on dry ground in the middle of the once-rushing river.

As Joshua and the Israelites did, we marked our day with river rocks as a symbol of God’s faithfulness. We, along with thousands of women all over the world who gathered for IF Local, wrote our next step of faith on these rocks.

And, as for me, I stepped in and God parted the waters. I went back and wrote that note above to remember — February 7th, 2015 — FREEDOM!

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“Thank you” is too small to offer to the IF team. Thank you for letting God use you! If you missed IF, you can pre-order the replay here. I just ordered it myself to re-watch.

Thank you to the women who shared the day with me. I am so grateful for each of you! Be strong and courageous, sisters!

Photographs by Nancy Ray.

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I am writing this in awe! I just finished the last steps of my PowerSheets prep — reviewing everything I have written during this month of prayerful preparation and then writing my 2015 goals. This process was hard and so worth it. It took focus and checking my heart with God on every word I wrote on these pages. It took pushing myself outside my comfort zone to be bold in writing these goals — bold for a purpose that is bigger than me. It took hushing the hustle and killing the distractions (fear, insecurity, and seeking escape when I didn’t want to write the words that God had for me). It took time. It took putting my headphones on at my desk and playing some great music. Most of all, it took making a mess. Case in point….

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A tip! I’m going to add this to the 2016 PowerSheets, but wanted to share it with you to hopefully help you today. As you review all you’ve written, go through and highlight, underline, mark, star, or circle the things that really jump out to you. This was so helpful for me to identify themes and meaningful points as I moved towards writing goals at the end. I also added to what I wrote as I went along. Make a mess!

If you are just joining us for this series, it’s never too late to begin! February 1 is my January 1, so feel free to join me:

2015 Goal Setting, Part 1: Good Things 

2015 Goal Setting, Part 2: What Didn’t Work + What I Learned

2015 Goal Setting, Part 3: Saying Yes, Saying No

2015 Goal Setting, Part 4: Get Radical + Sing Loud

2015 Goal Setting, Part 5: Set Good Goals

When I got to writing my goals today, I felt surprisingly clear. It was hard work to commit to writing them down, but the things that are most fruitful in my life have come out of times of struggle. They’ve come out of hard work and stepping into the uncertain or uncomfortable. It’s in those times that I am given an opportunity to either control and restrict, or let go and let God. There is endless freedom in the latter! Finally writing these goals, after this month of working hard and doing this process more intentionally than I ever have, was an unexpected JOY. It left me here in awe — in praise! Below: where I am right now writing this to you. I love that sweet little daffodil from our floral class yesterday. I stopped about 16 times to smell it as I pushed through in writing my goals.

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Choosing to make February 1 my January 1 was a great decision. I encourage you to take time to do this well, too. But, also be encouraged to work hard and push through. As I shared in the PowerSheets live broadcast this week, give yourself a deadline. I know we don’t like that “d” word, but digging in to purposeful goals and prayerful planning has the potential to change your life. I don’t say that lightly. I am sitting here today having done the work and I am fired up about helping you move forward, too! The hard work will be worth it.

In the next post, I’ll be sharing how I plan to take action on these goals and some tips on action steps. For now, though, here are my 2015 Goals! I connected scripture to each and began each goal with an active verb, instead of “I want.”

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I got the print above (that is now hanging on my wall) from this talented artist. I love it!

1.  Seek (my 2015 word!) the Lord deeply above all else and before all else. Why? Because all other paths lead nowhere and because I need God to direct my steps or I get far off-track. Because I am innately selfish. Because I don’t have the answers, but He does. Because I want to do this life well and live on purpose. SO many reasons!

Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always. 1 Chronicles 16:10-11

2. Raise God-loving children who want to love and live praising Him! Why? Because Grace and these children are His and we want to honor and cherish those gifts. Because we want our children to know the freedom and joy we have in Him.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life…”  John 16:24

Train a child up in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Duet 6:4-7

3. Bring many to know the Lord’s heart and life-giving transforming truth. Why? Because God is life and I know what it feels like to live without Him. I am passionate about sharing His story and how He has changed us!

I could choose so many scriptures for this, but will stick with Psalm 118.

4. Use every part of my work for Him — internally as a leader and in all we do. Why? Because He didn’t give us this business and work just for fun, He gave it to use for a bigger purpose. Because our work or encouraging marriages matters. Because, though we are imperfect, God can use our surrendered hearts and hands. Because I don’t want to waste my life or talents. Because I only have one life on this earth to encourage others to what matters! Because we are blessed to be a blessing.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Col 3:17

5. Live a marriage and family that deeply pleases Him. Why? Because when we are strong together, we are stronger for everyone around us. Because being strong together means first being close to the Lord. Because it’s God’s will that we would honor Him in our marriage and family. Because we love Him!

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Proverbs 31:10

But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15

6. Be a faithful humble leader, working heartily for the Lord in our family group, Bible Bunch, small groups, Bible studies, in our business, in leading Grace’s heart in our household — in all things! Why? Because these aren’t “responsibilities,” they are they are hearts. Because God has chosen these things for our life and we want to do them well to honor Him and encourage many!

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men. Col 3:23

I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Eph 4:1-2

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:10-13

7. Listen and learn from wiser sisters and be completely humble and gentle so that God can dig into my heart as I listen and learn. Why? So I grow closer to God. I need to keep learning and growing and practice a deep humility.

Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray. Proverbs 10:17

8. Encourage others in truth and in love. Why? Because that is the gift I believe God has given me. I feel hesitant in owning that, but I know that not acknowledging that gift is shrinking away from potential good.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. Romans 12:6

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thess 5:11

9. If it’s God’s will, write a book to encourage marriages — to break down barriers. Why? My why is pretty simple here and at the same time totally overwhelming and scary. Because God told me to. I feel insecure and not equipped, but God keeps bringing Moses to mind. Moses wasn’t equipped, but God gave him the words. I am putting my faith in that!

My verse for in starting this process and seeking wisdom on what to write: If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5

UPDATED: After much prayer, I’m writing about a totally different subject! So grateful for answered prayer and clarity about what I’m supposed to write. Can’t wait to share soon!

10. Know that ALL we have is fully the Lord’s. May we give it all away for Him! Why? This has been on my heart for the last couple years and God keeps pulling me to more fully surrender. I am praying on this and ready.

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Cor 9:7

And then… right as I finished writing these goals, this song came on. It’s completely my heart for this year. This is my song for 2015 : ) I need thee every hour, indeed!

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Photo above from ZimZoomPhoto, from the Carolina Inn Bridal show last weekend.

I don’t know what the Lord has ahead for us this year, but my prayer is that in seeking Him above all else, I will have my heart wide open to what comes. I want to listen. I want to trust. I want to go and do what He has for us.

The giveaway for this post is a real good one. I haven’t done this in several years, but as encouragement for those who go through this process and complete all the steps in the series, you’ll be entered to win a seat to the Making Things Happen Conference for you or for a friend if you are already registered. YES! I am SO excited for whoever wins this! This giveaway is for a full ticket to the conference (An $1800 value), and does not include travel and accommodations. In order to be entered for this prize, I encourage you to go through all the steps and comment on each post. I’m extending all the giveaways on each post until February 16th to help you have time make some great progress! Remember, progress, not perfection : )

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You can win multiple times throughout this series and you can increase your chances of winning by:

– Commenting on this post to share your thoughts – my goal in these giveaways is to get you to make some progress on meaningful goal setting! : )
— Pinning this post or any in the series
– Instagramming any graphic with a link back here to this post or future posts
– Sharing this series on Facebook or Twitter
– Blogging or in any way sharing this post/series
– For all entires, link back here to www.LaraCasey.com/blog and use the #2015GoalSetting hashtag. You are welcome to use graphics from my posts!
– Lastly, leave a comment saying you did any of the above. You can enter as many times as you like on all posts!

Lastly, thank you! Thank you for joining me on this journey. I am overjoyed by how this process has gone for me personally! Taking this little by little has been worth it and I am praying you find the same is true for you. Get messy and make it happen, friend! More to come on action steps soon in the next post…

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Welcome back, friends! The last week has been unexpected in many ways. I blocked off time to write this post on Wednesday afternoon and, come 3pm, morning sickness knocked me out. I never know when the tiredness or nausea will hit, so it’s been humbling to let go of control. Although, with two littles joining us this year, this is a tiny foreshadowing of what will likely be a lot of letting go ahead. So, I am extra grateful for the gift of being able to write to you right now. Hi : )

If you are just joining us, you aren’t too late to get started on 2015 Goal Setting! There is nothing magical about January 1st. In fact, I’ve deemed February 1st as my January 1st. Feel free to join me in taking this time to plan intentionally, little by little. My desk right now, working through my PowerSheets and the book together…

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Dig into these posts below and have fun! There are great giveaways with each post to give you a little extra motivation.

2015 Goal Setting, Part 1: Good Things 

2015 Goal Setting, Part 2: What Didn’t Work + What I Learned

2015 Goal Setting, Part 3: Saying Yes, Saying No

Welcome to Part 4. I am excited about this! But, first. My answers from Part 3:

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These are not in order of importance, but this is the order they came to mind as I wrote, which told me a lot about where God is leading me. I’m saying NO to:

Feeling stuck. If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you know I’ve been challenged by a lot of new “normals.” I like to be prepared in life, but I was not prepared for all that comes with launching a new book + having morning sickness knock me out most days + my regular workload and parenting. So, I’ve struggled a bit with feeling paralyzed by it all, which led to some in-action and in-decision. Ultimately, it led me to me knees to ask God for help. This has taught me that only He can get me unstuck and help me navigate new waters.

STUFF. I wrote this in capital letters on purpose. My friend Joshua’s story, reading 7, being challenged by scripture, and the amount of time I spend organizing and cleaning throughout the year led me to see that the more I have, the more I have to manage. More stuff = more time. No matter how much I don’t buy or how much I seem to clear out, it still feels like too much as I grow more aware of the needs all around me. The more I have, the less someone else has. We are blessed to be a blessing and we can’t take any of our stuff to Heaven with us. For those who have read my book, you know this has been a continual process in my heart of letting go — not accumulating coupled with giving sacrificially. God’s not done with me yet here. I have a long way to go, but I’m ready to dig deeper.

Focusing any energy on self-glorifying things. Caring about likes, comments, or people liking me. I want to make Jesus famous. NO to me, YES to Him.

Believing that I can. God works all the good in me and I want to direct all the praise to Him.

Believing the lie that God can’t. He can do anything. He is God.

Wasted time. In feeling yucky lately, I’ve found myself tempted to distractions instead of going straight to the source of comfort, God alone.

Judging myself. Self-reflection is good. Aligning our lives with God’s word and being convicted by that is very good. But, condemning myself is not good. Only God can define my worth, so I want to look to Him alone, especially when I feel like I’ve “failed” or fallen short.

Comparison. I feel pretty resolute on this one, but felt the need to list it regardless, as it tries to creep up every now and then.

I want to write this one in neon. I say no to believing the lie that God is done working on my character and on our marriage. There are times I fall into the trap of believing that lie and I know that’s not from God. Ari and I had a needed conversation last week about where we feel God wants our marriage to be and it reminded me of the impossible change He has and continues to make happen in our lives. My prayer is that God keeps bringing us closer to His heart as individuals so we can continue to be stronger as a couple, and therefore be prayerful God-loving parents and an example to others of God’s grace.

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In light of all the things I’m saying NO to, here’s what landed on my YES list:

SEEKING Him in everything (more on that in a minute)— not being lazy in running fiercely after the changes God has ahead.

An abundance of open Bible time and pouring my heart out in prayer.

Sowing into friendships and supporting others generously to share God’s unselfish love. In this category are a lot of dear friends that I want to love fiercely, including our brothers and sisters in our Family Group from church that Ari and I lead together. This is us below last night. It was so good to get back together after the holidays and all commit to this being a year of deep closeness as we walk through life together. I love these people.

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Honoring all others above myself.

Deeply challenging our finances to give it all away to build His kingdom. That’s a big one this year. Perhaps the one thing I feel God pulling me most to and the one thing that feels the biggest, scariest, and most exciting all at the same time.

Gratitude. Praise. Times infinity.

Saying yes to the Holy Spirit’s leading — whether in speaking the truth in love to someone, praying for a friend even when it feels awkward at first, sharing my faith with someone I’ve never met or someone I’ve known for years, and doing the things I know He wants me to do.

Listening to the Word (I love the audio Bible’s on YouVersion — the NLT translation audio is great), worship music (I need more music in my life), and truth-filled sermons.

Yes to believing that God has done greater things than help two flawed people raise three children! This is Grace today, talking to the baby, telling it what she wants to name it. Today it was “nacho.”

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Yes to whatever you have for me, Lord.

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My word hit me as I was reading this verse in Matthew one morning:

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:34 NIV).

To give this a whole lot more context and meaning, read the verses that lead up to that. Just wow. Jesus teaches about giving to the needy, prayer, true treasure, and then He teaches about worry, telling us to seek God above all else and therefore… do not worry about tomorrow.

All of the subjects in Matthew 6 have been on my heart lately. I’ve worried about how my life will change with our growing family. I’ve worried about how our marriage will change. I’ve wondered what it looks like to give sacrificially and to truly meet others needs in the way God desires. In that, I’ve been thinking about earthly “treasure” and true treasure and trying to do something about it. I’ve been needing God’s wisdom and desiring a closer relationship with Him. And then, He gave me the answers:

Seek God. Do not worry.

So, the word I feel God putting right in front of my face for this year is SEEK.

Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. – 1 Chron 16:10-11

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. – Deuteronomy 4:29

Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. – Psalm 9:10

In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. – Psalm 10:4

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. – Psalm 27:4

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. – Psalm 61:3

But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, “The Lord is great!” – Psalm 70:4

I could go on — there are so many beautiful scriptures that point to seeking Him as the source of life.

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Now, into the next steps! Take your time and feel free to share your answers below to encourage others too. There’s a great giveaway to encourage you to get your thoughts written out! Go back and review everything you’ve written so far, then answer the following questions: If you were to envision your most purposeful year yet, what would it look like? Where do you want to be when you’re 80? Answering these was life-altering for me this year! I’ll share my answers in the next post.

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Do something radical this year.  For those of you in my generation, this doesn’t mean Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure kind of radical. I mean the kind of radical that changes everything for the better. That thing that has been set deep in your heart. That thing that scares you. That thing that feels impossible right now. That thing that you know would help you and everyone around you.

Radical literally means very new and different from what is traditional or ordinary. ‘If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten‘ – Tony Robbins. Do something different this year, something that feels bigger than you. Imagine the possibilities if you do! You get to define what your radical means to you.  Maybe it’s big like finally getting out of debt or starting a personal budget or getting healthy. Maybe it’s finally going on that mission trip or writing that email or starting that business. Maybe it’s saying “no” to something or simply and profoundly choosing to be more still this year. Before you get completely overwhelmed (I know I just dove into deep waters here with you!), here this: start small. The core principle behind what I’ve taught at the Making Things Happen workshop for the last 6+ years is this: begin anywhere.  Little by little, make it happen. Your task here is to define your very first tiny small little itty bitty action step towards making that thing happen.

So, what is your “radical”? Define it. Write it in black and white and let it marinate in your big beautiful heart. And then DO something about it. Something very small.  Sometimes — most of the time — the hardest part is starting. The rest of the pieces can come later. Define your radical now. Share it here and let’s support and pray for each other. I will share mine in the next post, too.

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Okay, those last two steps were admittedly challenging, though likely the most fruitful. So, here’s an easy one. Choose a song for this year! A song that lights your heart on fire and makes you feel alive and connected to what you want most. Music has the ability to connect us to what matters most in an instant. Music can lift us out of a slump fast. Music can fill our should with goodness on days that nothing else seems to get to our hearts. Share your song for 2015 here, too! I’m still hunting for one and can’t wait to hear yours.

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The giveaway for this post is a good one. Win a $100 home or office refresh from the shop! You get your pick of anything that’s in stock!

You can win multiple times throughout this post series and you can increase your chances of winning by:

– Commenting on this post to share your thoughts
— Pinning this post or any in the series
– Instagramming any graphic with a link back here to this post or future posts
– Sharing this series on Facebook or Twitter
– Blogging or in any way sharing this post/series
– For all entires, link back here to www.LaraCasey.com/blog and use the #2015GoalSetting hashtag. You are welcome to use graphics from my posts!
– Lastly, leave a comment saying you did any of the above. You can enter as many times as you like on all posts! I’m going to choose some extra winners along the way, too, for some special surprises : )

Speaking of special surprises, I’ll leave you with this below. (And I am doing a happy dance in my chair for being able to get through writing this post to you today!) I’m so grateful to my publisher for generously donating 500 copies of my book to the Influence Network’s next book club. Get your free copy and all the details here!

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Go make what matters happen, friends. I am cheering you on!

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Welcome back to 2015 Goal Setting! Anyone else get the heebee-jeebees hearing the words “goal setting?” Then, you are in the right place, my friend. We’re doing this differently. We’re taking our time. We’re taking big leaps. We’re making what matters happen, little by little. If you are just joining us, you aren’t late to the party — there is nothing magical about January 1! Here are Part 1 and Part 2, for your reading pleasure. Enjoy and have fun working through each step! Now, onto Part 3. We have lots of fun things to cover today.

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First, you should know this: February 1 is my January 1. Who has time to set good goals in the rush of December? Okay, perhaps some do, but I am not one of them. January is my time (and our time as a team) for preparing well, intentionally, thoughtfully, and most of all — prayerfully. Yesterday, we did the PowerSheets prep as a company and it was awesome. We modified some questions to answer collectively, but it was just what we needed to kick off this year and a month of purposeful goal setting together. We are going to work through the goal setting action plan sheets at our staff meeting next week so we take our time doing this well. A peek from our meeting yesterday…

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I’m working through the book action steps and my PowerSheets prep, as well as my inbox. I shared this on Instagram yesterday, but I was largely unprepared for a book launch. I’ve never done this before and had no idea what to expect. It has been a blessing and I am so grateful God has used the book to encourage others. My inbox has been a challenge, though. Email is just decisions that need to be made, so I’m in overdrive on decision-making over here : ) Yesterday, I had every intention to write this post, but I had to throw up my white flag and remember that the goal of this year, and every year, is progress and purpose, not perfection — letting God define my expectations. I am praying the same for you, friends! It’s so freeing to let go.

Okay, let’s do this! First up, I hope you all have enjoyed doing some of the things that fire you up from the last post. Here is my list I wrote out below (just a few of the many things), and I’d love to hear yours too!

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A few more to add:

  • Writing these posts and being real about where I need to grow — being humbled — fires me up.  I feel closest to God when I am humbled.
  • Our mission at Southern Weddings — and in all we do — fires me up beyond words. The ladies I work alongside also fire me up. They are the bees knees.
  • My editor, which is a seemingly-small term for what she really is in my life. She prayed for me and with me throughout my entire book process. She called me today just to encourage me and pray for me on the phone. She is on my list of top three women who inspire me to love Him wholeheartedly.
  • God’s power to change anything. He cam make the impossible happen.
  • Praying for others and watching God answer prayers in ways I never expected.
  • Doing pirouettes in my living room when no one is watching : )
  • A moment or conversation with Ari where I remember and feel our shared heart. That shared heart was born of a man who died on a cross so we could be free. So we could forgive each other. So we could be forgiven. So we could be completely washed in grace and made new and whole again. That heart is the greatest gift we’ve been given. It saved our marriage and changed who we are as people.
  • Grace’s joy. She sings constantly and will dance at the drop of a hat. I love that girl!
  • And a note on that last line in my hand-written list above. A friend emailed me after reading my book and asked how you know when you’ve made “it” happen. My answer, in short, is that “it” is choosing God. Every time I surrender, am humbled, and choose to act on God’s leading — no matter how hard — to me, that’s making what matters happen. And often I feel it. I feel a deep peace when I choose Him. It’s continual, not a one time event. We never arrive and then stop, we keep choosing Him. I hope that encourages someone else out there to know that chasing what the world says is success will lead you in circles, but choosing God will lead you to the very best places — to far more than we can ask or imagine. That fires me up!
  • There’s so much more, but I want to hear from you now! Leave your list in the comments so we can inspire each other. I love hearing what light people’s hearts on fire.

Onward! Here’s where things get fun. You now know what did work over the last twelve months, what didn’t work and what fires you up. You learned some very valuable lessons in all of this. So, what are you saying NO to in the coming year and starting today? Make a list of all of the things that are holding you back (or could potentially hold you back) from making your purposeful year happen. Write your list of what you are saying NO to in 2014.

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With everything you have written down thus far in mind (I suggest reading over all of your progress again), what are you going to need to say YES to more often in order to live on purpose in 2015? Write your list of what you are saying YES to in 2014. Think big picture here, and write down the things you are afraid to dive into, too. There is great potential hiding in your fear. I encourage you to post your YES List publicly here and/or share it with friends to help inspire others and to keep yourself accountable. I think you will all likely NOT be writing Facebook or more social media on this list. Just a guess.

I’ll be sharing my NO and YES lists with you in the next post. Remember: saying NO to one thing means you are saying YES to something potentially better.

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–> PowerSheets owners and book friends, just a reminder that the steps in this series won’t exactly match what you have, as you have more steps! I’m sharing pieces of the process in hopes they spark your own progress : )

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BONUS STEP! Pick a core word for 2015. What one word really resonates with you for the year ahead? What word pulls together all that you want to make happen? Think hard about this. I’ll share mine in the next post. Research words that resonate with you. Pray on it. Then, write your word here in the comments (and give a virtual high five to those who might have the same word as you — we are bound to have some shared words!). Then, write that word in prominent places so you are reminded of your focus this year. Put it on a post it in your car. Put it on a post it literally inside of your fridge (I have a post-it in my fridge!). Make it your computer desktop. Write it anywhere and everywhere to remind you of where you are going!

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PRIZES FOR THIS POST: Read Part 1 for all the ways you can win! Three randomly chosen commenters on this post (or those who share this series) will get a set of 2015 Encouragement Postcards from the shop! These have been super popular and that makes me grateful because it means a lot of encouragement is going around : )

 

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P.S. Our Flash Sale is on — now till midnight! Use the code FRESHSTART2015 for 20% off all prints and desk cards + check out our “perfectly imperfect” sale : )

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Friends, it is with great joy (and butterflies) that I write this post. I don’t even know what to say here. I’ve re-written these first sentences about twenty times. Announcingrevealing… drumrollcue the confetti cannons… Nothing fits sharing the book title and cover with you quite right, so I will simply say, here it is.

Blank white book w/path I honestly can’t believe I am writing this post. I almost quit writing this book about a hundred times — no exaggeration. If you’ve been following my book-writing journey on Instagram, you know this has not been an easy one. I shared back in October about how this book came to be and about my struggle with oceans of negative self-talk. Many people think that writing a book is glamorous. This journey held a far better reward than glamour, though.

When you take a big scary leap and do that thing God wants you to do — pouring out the kind of love that leaves you spent and somehow full at the same time — you get cracked wide open. As I wrote these 224 pages, pouring my everything into pixels that formed letters that formed thoughts that formed a much bigger picture, I gave and gave and looked fear right in the eyes and battled comparison and so much junk and I let go and cried barrels of tears and though all of this, God changed me. He refined me through the writing process, and I am so grateful. I know that sounds odd — I was just writing, right? That would have sounded completely strange to me six months ago, too. It’s cliche to say that writing a book is much like giving birth, but perhaps it’s cliche because it’s true.

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Is it exciting to be done? Yes. But, it’s not done. The writing is done, but there’s so much ahead including getting these words into people’s hands. I don’t feel shy in spreading the word about this book because it’s not about me. It’s the story of how I said YES to a new life and how you can too. It’s the story of how I said NO to what doesn’t matter, and how I’m still on the journey. It’s the story of how God took my broken pieces and made them into something. It’s your invitation to be still and let your pieces shatter so He can do the same with you. It’s the story of how the Good News became really great news to me and how you can make it — an imperfect life of purpose — happen too. This book, while it may have parts of my story woven throughout to illustrate each point, is not about me at the core. I wrote this book for you. The you who has a beating heart and a longing for so much more. The you who is wanting to make something meaningful happen. The you who is struggling with comparison or in marriage or feeling like you’re never enough or trying to find purpose amidst a lot of noise and heartache. The you who wants to let go of all your fear and take a giant leap of faith. The you who feels like the word “impossible” is crushing your everything. I wrote this book for you, friend. The impossible is possible. The best is yet to come.

I wrote this book because my life was going nowhere fast and it was not by my might but by my surrender that everything changed.

Parts 1-3 of the book will walk you through a journey of surrendering fear and taking big leaps. Part 4 is a workbook-style guide that will propel you into a life of purpose, one action step at a time. Get ready. It’s going to be a challenging and yet deeply joyful journey!

I’m excited to share that Make it Happen: Surrender Your Fear, Take the Leap, Live On Purpose is available for pre-order. The official release date is December 30th (my Grandma Bunny’s birthday). Why am I telling you this in June? Because I want to be sure that whoever wants a copy gets one. The more copies that are pre-ordered now, the more Amazon and stores will stock ahead of time for others. So, I would LOVE your help spreading the word about pre-orders. Thank you in advance, friends! It’s exciting when something sells out because of demand, but it’s no fun when you want that something : )

Pre-order:

For single copies: In paperback on Amazon

If you pre-order 2+ copies or 10+ copies, please order through Barnes and Noble or ChristianBook.com. Amazon counts all orders, no matter the quantity, as one order. So, this will help us get these copies stocked correctly so they don’t sell out on launch day! : )

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And there will be an audiobook to come. You can pre-order that through major retailers too.

This book is best devoured with friends. If you pre-order 2+ copies, I’m excited to be doing a live online class on January 15, 2015, just for you as a thank you and to help you start 2015 well. Simply pre-order your copies and register you and your friend(s) for the 2015 Make It Happen class here. (Honor system — no need to send me your receipt!) If you are doing this as a surprise gift (birthday or Christmas maybe), you can add those names later on, if you wish. I’ll be emailing class info and some fun encouragement as January gets closer. If you pre-order 2+ copies, please order through Barnes and Noble or ChristianBook.com.

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For those who pre-order 10+ copies, simply forward your receipt to me (lara at laracasey.com). I’ve had many people ask about getting larger quantities. As a thank you for helping to get these words into the hands of people who need them, you and whoever you gift these books to (or maybe your small group is getting them together) will get:

– The 2015 Make It Happen class.

– Personalized encouragement bookmarks. The bookmarks will have a personal pep-talk note on the back, so let me know in your email what you (and your friends) need a pep talk for. I’m excited to make these! The bookmarks will come to you in early December in time for the holidays, so you can wait till November to let me know each friend’s name, if you like.

–  I’m most excited about this. You and your friends will be added to the Core Coaching Group. This intimate online goal coaching group will start in January and will be a place for encouragement, accountability, and I’ll be doing a few live online coaching sessions for y’all throughout the year. I’m excited about building relationships through this coaching group and can’t wait to get to know everyone!

If you pre-order 10+ copies, please order through Barnes and Noble or ChristianBook.com and then simply forward your receipt to me (lara at laracasey.com).

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In other news, I love the book cover! Choosing the right cover was a challenging process. But, the moment this one came together, I knew it was the one! It’s a perfect mirror to how I felt in writing the last page of the book: joyful, clear, and so ready for what’s next. I have the background as a painting in my house now. I was grateful to have designed this cover with the amazing  team at Thomas Nelson. It makes this book feel all the more a part of my heart. You’ll also find over thirty handwriting pieces in these pages, which makes me giggle because I got a C in handwriting in second grade! I’ll be sharing a little more behind-the-scenes about the process of writing this book, choosing a cover, and what’s next in my newsletter soon. Sign up here.

There you have it, friends! Ahhh!!! How did the butterflies in my tummy just multiply!? Deep breaths. Surrendering my fear, taking the leap… and hitting publish on this post now! God is good. Let’s do this!

photographs by Faith Teasley

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I don’t write about and study goal setting because I’m naturally good at it. I need accountability and some serious pants-kicking to make things happen. I remember so clearly standing on a beach in Maui with Natalie Norton years ago, telling her I just “don’t set goals.” She challenged me, waves crashing at our feet, to set some goals that mattered. “Just try it,” she urged. “God wants us to set goals that help Him shine!” Ever since, that has been on my heart. I lived for so long thinking that we should just sit back and let God make our lives happen. While there is truth to that, God calls us clearly in His word to take action for Him and for the gospel. The Bible is an action book, not a casual read. Jesus had goals. He had a single goal and a core purpose and all of his actions centered on fulfilling that purpose. While we are not Him, we are made in His image and called to walk with Him. So, that’s what I want to try to do. I want to model after the man who laid His life down for others and gave it all and didn’t care about material things and loved people so passionately. I will never come close to having a heart like His here on this earth, but I thing the pursuit of that will be worth all of my failures and shortcomings. Setting goals is good. We need direction and a path to what matters. It’s when we start setting goals that don’t include Him that things get a little (here comes my favorite Southern word!) cattywampus.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)

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So, last year, I decided things were going to be different. I started my first Goal Setting series to lay out a process that was more thoughtful than what I had done in the past. From there, I developed the PowerSheets and this whole process changed my life. With my PowerSheets, I started to be more mindful of taking action on my core purpose. I realized that I had to give myself a structure or I’d fall into my old habits and forget my goals. So, I pasted my PowerSheets Tending List to the front of my binder each month and kept it out on my desk so I saw it every single day. I prayed on my goals. I even posted my 2013 goals on my new about page for accountability. As I expected, my goals changed through the year. They got clearer. This is why the PowerSheets were only created for a 6 month timeframe. There’s no magic to 356 days. We should always be re-evaluating our goals, not just at the start of a new calendar year. I posted my progress every three months (or when I could!) here: AprilAugustOctober. I am so exceedingly grateful that I wrote things down throughout the year. This was new for me and completely changed things.  It gave me so much more to celebrate because I didn’t forget good things or let negative things overshadow them. This helped me to have the energy and confidence to keep going when things got hard. It helped me see so much more of God’s goodness that was there all along. 2013, by the grace of God, was a really incredible year. And not because everything went well. It was a great year because I learned more about God’s heart through challenges and mistakes and triumphs and failures. I learned more about where He wants my attention and energy.  Here are what my 2013 Goals were:

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My update for these 2013 goals is simple: God made it happen.  I made significant strides on all of these goals because of His guidance and grace. I still have a long way to go in many of these areas, but I am in awe of how He worked in my life this year.  While I didn’t finish reading the Bible completely by December 31, reading it daily this year is honestly where I found the most clear direction to make these things happen.  What I learned from all of this:  His plans never fail.  Ever.  They just don’t.  Times I pursued things for my ego or lost sight of His purpose for my life, I failed.  When I did things for the bigger picture — to build others up in love for Him — He blessed those things.  Now, when I say “blessed them” I mean He gave me clear guidance and sometimes that guidance was hard.  Sometimes it meant I had to fail at something in order to move forward on His path. But, it was all for a great reason. I also learned that tending to goals little by little is where real lasting and continual progress comes from.   I think “little by little” was my key phrase for 2013 and it still is.  My Tending List in the PowerSheets was instrumental in keeping me on track.  Little by little seeds turn into trees.  Little by little babies grow.  Little by little — and sometimes in an instant — He makes all things new.

OK, I have 20-something days to finish my book manuscript, so I would definitely appreciate your prayers.  My 2014 Goals are up next, but I need a few more days to think on them and get into this manuscript.  Till then, post your own 2014 Goals on my last post or feel free to wait till I post mine later this week! I am praying that you all have a remarkable start to 2014 and that you keep your eye on the goal!  We can do this, friends!

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Years ago, there was a very wealthy man who, with his devoted young son, shared a passion for art collecting. Together they traveled around the world, adding only the finest art treasures to their collection. Priceless works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet and many others adorned the walls of the family estate. The widowed, elder man looked on with satisfaction as his only child became an experienced art collector. The son’s trained eye and sharp business mind caused his father to beam with pride as they dealt with art collectors around the world.

As winter approached, war engulfed the nation, and the young man left to serve his country. After only a few short weeks, his father received a telegram. His beloved son was missing in action. The art collector anxiously awaited more news, fearing he would never see his son again. Within days, his fears were confirmed. The young man had died while rushing a fellow soldier to a medic.

Distraught and lonely, the old man faced the upcoming Christmas holidays with anguish and sadness. The joy of the season, a season that he and his son had so looked forward to, would visit his house no longer. On Christmas morning, a knock on the door awakened the depressed old man. As he walked to the door, the masterpieces of art on the walls only reminded him that his son was not coming home.

As he opened the door, he was greeted by a soldier with a large package in his hand. He introduced himself to the man by saying, “I was a friend of your son. I was the one he was rescuing when he died. May I come in for a few moments? I have something to show you.” As the two began to talk, the soldier told of how the man’s son had told everyone of his, not to mention his father’s, love of fine art. “I’m an artist,” said the soldier, “and I want to give you this.” As the old man unwrapped the package, the paper gave way to reveal a portrait of the son.

Though the world would never consider it the work of a genius, the painting featured the young man’s face in striking detail. Overcome with emotion, the man thanked the soldier, promising to hang the picture over the fireplace. A few hours later, after the soldier had departed, the old man set about his task.

True to his word, the painting went well above the fireplace, pushing aside thousands of dollars of paintings. And then the man sat in his chair and spent Christmas gazing at the gift he had been given. During the days and weeks that followed, the man realized that even though his son was no longer with him, the boy’s life would live on because of those he had touched. He would soon learn that his son had rescued dozens of wounded soldiers before a bullet stilled his caring heart.

As the stories of his son’s gallantry continued to reach him, fatherly pride and satisfaction began to ease the grief. The painting of his son soon became his most prized possession, far eclipsing any interest in the pieces for which museums around the world clamored. He told his neighbors it was the greatest gift he had ever received.

The following spring, the old man became ill and passed away. The art world was in anticipation!

Unmindful of the story of the man’s only son, but in his honor, those paintings would be sold at an auction. According to the will of the old man, all of the art works would be auctioned on Christmas day, the day he had received his greatest gift. The day soon arrived and art collectors from around the world gathered to bid on some of the world’s most spectacular paintings. Dreams would be fulfilled this day; greatness would be achieved as many claim “I have the greatest collection.” The auction began with a painting that was not on any museum’s list. It was the painting of the man’s son. The auctioneer asked for an opening bid. The room was silent.

“Who will open the bidding with $100?” he asked. Minutes passed. No one spoke. From the back of the room came, “Who cares about that painting? It’s just a picture of his son. Let’s forget it and go on to the good stuff.”

More voices echoed in agreement. “No, we have to sell this one first,” replied the auctioneer. “Now, who will take the son?” Finally, a friend of the old man spoke, “Will you take ten dollars for the painting? That’s all I have. I knew the boy, so I’d like to have it.”

“I have ten dollars. Will anyone go higher?” called the auctioneer. After more silence, the auctioneer said, “Going once, going twice. Gone.” The gavel fell, cheers filled the room and someone exclaimed, “Now we can get on with it and we can bid on these treasures!”

The auctioneer looked at the audience and announced the auction was over. Stunned disbelief quieted the room. Someone spoke up and asked, “What do you mean it’s over? We didn’t come here for a picture of some old guy’s son. What about all of these paintings? There are millions of dollars of art here! I demand that you explain what’s going on here!” The auctioneer replied, “It’s very simple. According to the will of the father, whoever takes the son…gets it all.”

Puts things into perspective doesn’t it? Just as those art collectors discovered on that Christmas Day, the message is still the same: the love of a Father, a Father whose greatest joy came from His Son, who went away and gave His life rescuing others. And because of that Father’s love, whoever takes the Son, gets it all.

– Unknown

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

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

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

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

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

YOU-HAVE-INFLUENCE-LARA-CASEY

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

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

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

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

A few Instagram snaps from the conference…

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Three big things I learned from Influence:

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

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

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

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

The Fellowship of the Believers

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47 NIV)

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

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

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

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

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