Category: Branding

Believe it or not, I am an introvert. A classic INFP by definition. I crave solitude and small intimate dinner parties to big celebrations. But, there is something that comes alive in me when I have the opportunity to teach and share my story and the mission of our company. I love transformation and have always been fascinated by it. I love seeing people step into their fears toward great pursuits. I love helping people find the heartbeat of why they do what they do. I love seeing people change and grow and use all the gifts God has given them. I love seeing people do the extraordinary. Watching Shaun White soar through the half-pipe in the Winter X Games is just as exciting to me as seeing a small business owner step into a life that really means something. I just love it.

So, I was thrilled and honored to have the opportunity to speak at many events this year, including Engage!13 (blogged here), the ISES NC event (this screen was crazy!), the March Making Things Happen Conference, the Influence Conference (blogged here), Pursuit 31 (blog post coming!), the October Making Things Happen Conference (post coming soon!), the AmericasMart VOWS event (I spoke at the Home and Gift Mart earlier this year) and at the Magazine Association of the Southeast‘s GAMA Awards. These last two events happened to be on the same day in Atlanta, so I brought our newest editor, Lisa, with me for a whirlwind day in the peach state!  Special thanks to Amy Arrington Photography for capturing all the fun.

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We started our day at the AmericasMart campus in the heart of downtown Atlanta. It was breathtaking. White carpet everywhere, gorgeous blooms and the most beautiful stage backdrop I have ever laid eyes on.

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I felt like a kid in a candy store!

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The VOWS Event is a huge bridal market, showcasing the best in new wedding dresses, bridesmaid collections and mother-of-the bride collections.

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There were floors and floors of pretty gowns and Lisa and I wanted to try them all on!

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Y’all, how about this stage!?

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And, aren’t these handmade paper flowers just incredible?! You can find more about the artist, Balushka, and her amazing creations here.

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I was so grateful to LulaKate for this lovely dress.  It was actually sent to us for this shoot but since I’m doing the Contentment Challenge and not buying anything new for myself, I borrowed it from our prop closet!

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The AmericasMart team is as warm as fresh biscuits and I have become close with their event director, Amanda, over the last year. (She has a great little Etsy shop here, by the way!) Below with Amanda and her amazing team.

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It was a fantastic morning and I was so grateful to meet many new friends!  More photos below.



Then, after a quick change and a quick lunch, we headed over to The Estate in Buckhead for the MAGS event.

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I was very nervous to speak at this event with so many magazine industry greats there including the Creative Director from Southern Living, Bob Perino.  I felt like the small fish keynoting this thing!

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But, everyone was so welcoming and made me feel right at home.  MAGS president, Tova, was so kind and Lisa Baron gave me an introduction that made me realize who I was in the room with. She was a journalist and knew everything about me.  She had done her homework and truly understood my heart.  Somehow, it surprised me that someone actually read what I wrote and could see me clearly.  It made me cry.

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Being there with these passionate writers and editors and publishers and printers, I saw just how much I am like them.  I tend to live in my own small world where we do everything from my home and feel like we are the only ones sometimes with this much passion, but I realized that day that I was one of many.  It felt so good to know I was in great company with people who wanted to tell great stories for the greater good.

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More photos from our afternoon at The Estate…


After a successful day, Lisa and I headed to the airport to catch our flight and celebrated with some Pinkberry in Terminal B!

I am taking very limited speaking engagements for 2014, so if you are interested in having me join you at your event, please see the details here and let Kristin know ASAP.  I’m so grateful for such a wonderful 2013 speaking season and for all of the new friends I met in my travels!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few Instagram snaps from the conference…

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Three big things I learned from Influence:

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

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

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

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

The Fellowship of the Believers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, I did nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ugh.

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

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

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

And she graciously said “no.” Again.

And again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best fitting sweater with the softest monogrammed seersucker tag…

The symphony playing our song…

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

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

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

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Last Friday I took a whirlwind trip to Atlanta and back in one day to share some thoughts on branding and making things happen at AmericasMart. It was my first time to “The Mart” and it was incredible.

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AmericasMart is one of the world’s largest permanent wholesale trade centers, spanning four buildings totaling seven million square feet.  It’s big y’all.  The Mart opened in 1957 and hosts several trade shows every year including Atlanta Apparel, Gift and Home Furnishings Market and the VOW Bridal Market (where I’ll be speaking again on Thursday, September 19, at 8am — come see me!). In short, it’s where stores go to find the best new products to sell.

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I was so nervous about flying to and from Atlanta all in one day, but God most definitely blessed this experience. I got through security in jiffy, sat next to a show cat on the flight there, had a great experience on the MARTA (my first time!) and got to The Mart an hour earlier than I thought. And then I started seeing my photo everywhere… which is totally completely super weird.

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I kept thinking people were looking at me funny wondering why my hair didn’t look as awesome as my photos.  My internal answer: I have toddler.  No time for hair-doing on Thursday night before I left.  Ha!

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I had prayed hard about this presentation.  Really hard.  I prayed that I would in some way be used by God to be a light.  It’s a very out-of-body experience for me to speak lately.  Meaning, I can’t believe this is my life.  My path.  My story.  I tell my story each time I speak — sometimes a short version and in Making Things Happen I tell the whole thing — and it always makes me feel awe.

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Awe because I’ve been changed and keep changing.  Awe because I am so flawed and God loves me and changes me anyway.  It’s so surreal to watch as God unfolds His plans — and boy do they unfold fast!  I have been singing this song in my head as I put this post together.  This is the same song that our whole church sang right after Ari was baptized a year and a half ago and it totally speaks my heart.

Some favorite snippets from the lyrics:

I’ve been changed, healed, freed, delivered.
I’ve found joy, peace, grace and favor.
Right now is the moment.
Today; Today is the day.
I’ve been changed.
I have waited for this moment to come
And I won’t let it pass me by…

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Like I mentioned in my last post, God is never done with me and just when I think the waters are calm, another tidal wave hits.  As I spoke in Atlanta on Friday afternoon, I was taken aback by how comfortable I felt in my own skin, how joy bubbles over at times where there used to be a dry wasteland, how passionate I am about connecting with others and helping them fulfill their greatest potential.  This is not the me I knew just a few years ago!

Reflecting on change as a way to catapult forward has been the theme around these parts lately.  I asked Emily to share some thoughts in our staff meeting this morning about her last four years with Southern Weddings and this is what she had to say:

The remarkable thing about the change is that it has all moved in a forward direction, as the mission becomes clearer, the roles become more clearly defined, and the content solidifies.  It’s not always easy — I, like most people, prefer to be comfortable rather than stretched, and it’s tempting to be satisfied “for good” every time we hit a milestone and the dust settles.  But, the incremental point just down the road has always proved to be worth reaching.  And when you get to the place where you can look back on four years, those incremental changes add up to a landscape that is truly astounding.

Change stretches us and sometimes stretching ourselves is what ignites the change.  Change doesn’t have to be a giant leap.  Even the tiniest changes add up to a completely new life — a brilliant horizon.

I am so grateful for change and our path and whatever is ahead.  My life is filled with ups and downs but more ups because I know who is in control and it’s not me.  I’ve learned that when I find out what pleases the Lord and do it, I start to see my path more clearly.  Find out what pleases Him.  Not what pleases everyone around you.  Whatever good is on your heart right this moment, don’t let that escape you.

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Above, doing a high kick to show off my teal heels as I talked about Tieks and how wonderful their client experience is. 

That’s all I have ever been able to do that has never ever failed me: Ask. Seek. Knock. My 3 tips for finding your path:  

1. Ask: Ask Him to guide you.  Talk to God.  Even if you’ve never talked to Him before ever in your life (yes, talking to “air” can be weird at first), He’s pretty much the best listener.  Ask for Him to show you what to do.  Praying and talking to Him in prayer is just like building any other relationship (except God never fails us like all humans can) so it takes time.  Give it time.  First dates can be awkward but a first date can turn into a beautiful marriage and a family after many soulful conversations.

2. Seek:  Read the Bible.  If that sounds overwhelming, just start somewhere small.  Reading Mark is a great quick way to get to know Jesus’s story.  You can also listen to the audio version, which I do a LOT (when I am walking in the morning with Grace, while I clean the house, in the car, etc).  I love the New Living Translation’s audio here.

3. Knock:  Do something.  Act on the good that God puts on your heart.  When you seek Him, he will open doors you never thought possible (and some you didn’t want Him to open), but there are amazing adventures that await you.

Adventures with God, I’m learning, usually mean that you have to give something up — OK, lots of things — so that He can fill you up to the brim with joy unspeakable.

I almost wrote that “it’s not something that can happen overnight” but that’s not correct.  Your life can change in the blink of an eye — literally — when you start choosing Him and seeking Him and saying YES to what matters and letting go of everything else.

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That means letting go of your own plans and finding out what good plans He wants you to step into.  It takes 9 parts total abandon and humility in realizing that your plans may not be the right plans and 1 part taking physical action to choose Him.  That’s not a theologically perfect formula, but that’s sure what it has felt like in my life.  And I think I’m just starting to scratch the surface myself…

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Sometimes — most of the time — God calls us to do radical, big, wonderful things with our lives for Him.  Do what He wants you to do and trust that His plans are way better than ours.  They really are.

After I finished speaking, I felt such immense gratitude and I wanted to pour that out on others.  I didn’t realize how much of a permasmile I had on my face until Anna sent me these photographs yesterday.  There were a lot of hugs (check out the slideshow below and the rest of the photographs) and I could have stayed for hours to talk to people about their hopes and dreams.  God is good.  This joy you see is not from me, it’s from Him.

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Lately I’ve been feeling a deeper awareness of my responsibility to be a light for Him and to let go of self (I have such a long way to go — more than I can explain in a blog post!) and in that crazy big heart challenge (read: tears and praying harder than ever for God to direct my steps and my words), God has been showing me that a deeper joy comes in change.  In stripping away the layers of our comfort for the sake of others.  In admitting that I am so flawed and in dire need of a guide, someone to tell me how to fly right and someone who has gone before me to show me how to serve others, because on my own I’m totally lost.  

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Thank you, Lord, for sending Jesus to show us the way.  He lived the way you want us to live — giving everything away.  Thank you Lord for joy and friends and the ability to share our lives together and learn from each other.

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I learned far more from the amazing people who joined me last Friday than I could ever teach them.  Namely, my friend Kelly.  We weren’t able to catch a great photo together, but the photo above of us hugging is plenty.  Kelly’s presence on Friday was the greatest gift.  She’s been fighting breast cancer and was as radiant as ever.  Kelly, you being there made my year.  You inspire me to no end.

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Ha!  I look like a total goof above.  And no I don’t drink coffee.  I am just grateful to not be living the life I once lived.  That’s why I always say, “God is good.”  I had 8 million doubts and questions and I made so many mistakes (and still do) but He grabbed me by my heart strings and hasn’t let go since.  And He promises that He never will.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Thank you to so many who blessed me with encouragement and your ears to listen last week.  It made a profound impression on my heart and I can’t wait to come back to Atlanta in the fall for more hugs!

View More: http://annakphotography.pass.us/laracasey

Enormous thanks to the AmericasMart team and to Amanda (above) who found me on social media somehow.  I am so grateful for this experience!

GIVEAWAY: The Instax Mini winner never claimed the prize (I wait 30 days and if it’s not claimed I give it away to someone else!), so I’m giving it away again! Simply leave a comment here telling me what you’re grateful for and how you’ve been changed in the last few years – big or small.  I’ll pick a random winner on August 1!

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Photos by my new lovely friend Anna.

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I just had a great talk with Nicole after doing three client coaching sessions this morning. I wish I would have recorded our conversation. We talked about believing in the gifts we’ve been given and how easy it is to beleive the negativity in our heads… and how VITAL it is to own your good.

All three clients I spoke to this morning are truly brilliant. Yet, in some way, every single one had a different idea of their value than I did. This is the case with all of my clients and I know God has given me the gift of seeing through the trees for people. I see what’s there. I tend to see a LOT of possibility in people. My job is to be a mirror. To reflect back to my clients what is there underneath layers of doubt and uncertainty and insecurity: brilliance, untapped potential and that they are enough. They are capable. They are far more valuable than they see.

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So much clouds our vision. Life punches us in the gut sometimes (sometimes lots of times!) and the world says we aren’t enough and somewhere along the line, we start to believe everyone else. Well, friends, everyone else is wrong. You ARE enough. You ARE capable. You ARE filled to the brim with talents and a purpose. God wouldn’t have put you on this earth if you didn’t have a great purpose. Here is one of the many things God says about our purpose and how we are to love others and ourselves:

Of all the commandments, which is the most important?

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘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 mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

– Mark 12:28-31

So, let’s break this down. First, love God. Next, love your neighbor as yourself. We tend to treat others how we treat ourselves, right? How we treat others really mirrors what’s going on in our souls. We project so many of our own feelings and problems and stresses onto others. It’s human. It’s natural. And yet, we have a choice. It all starts with filling your cup with what’s important so you can fill others, too. It starts with believing in yourself and literally stopping when you start thinking, “I’m not good enough.” Replace that thought with the truth. You ARE enough. You ARE capable. I’m going to say it a few more times here in hopes that it will start to sink in.

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For me, loving myself means loving God first and filling my heart with what is good, pure, lovely and true so that what pours out of my own heart will come from a river that never runs dry. Oh, y’all. I have been on the opposite end of this for pretty much my whole life up until the last year or so. My river was constantly dry. And I still see the drought coming from time to time, but times have greatly changed. It has taken WORK and hard decisions and facing how I cope with challenges and facing my faults and fears. It’s work I keep doing daily. But, when I love myself in the way God wants me to love myself – as a child of His, as deeply valued and cared for – then, I can love others in that same way. It doesn’t mean being perfect. It means tending to your soul so you can be your best for others. Love God, and in doing so, you will fill your own heart so you can pour that love right back out on others. This all builds a humble confidence that brings lasting joy and PEACE.

And there is a big difference between feeding our egos and true God-filled confidence. This is God-filled confidence:

‘Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.’ – Hebrews 4:16

‘But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.’ – 1 Thess 5:8

‘So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”’ – Hebrews 13:6

Good confidence is knowing our value to help others. That gives us energy and wings to soar in all we do.

Dangerous confidence is thinking we are better than others and then feeding our egos to try to fill the void created by accepting the negative things the world tells us about our worth. Sound familiar?

‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.’ – Philippians 2:3

I digress. Sort of. This all goes together.

All around me, I see so many not filling their cups with what matters. I’ve been there myself more times than I can count. Facebook, fame, money, popularity, business and bookings vie for our attention. They promise us everlasting happiness, and they give us a great high for a moment… and then it’s back to “real life”. And we keep going through this cycle: boredom, I’m not good enough, so I’m going to get on Facebook to zone out and look at other people’s lives, now I feel worse and I’m distracted and behind and I need a bigger distraction. You know this cycle. I can write about it because I know it, too. And I am on a mission to kick it to the curb and help others do the same!

I don’t know about you, but I got tired of the high highs and low lows. I wanted consistent lasting joy. And I have found it. You can too. Right now. It comes at a price. The price is letting go of control of your life and giving it to the one who created it. The price is humility and owning your imperfection and fighting the belief that the number of followers you have on social media or the number in your bank account or your beauty or your status or your ____(fill in your blank)____ somehow equate to your value in life. They do not.

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My dear client and friend, Lori, sent me this video below today and it haunted me. I hope this helps you see where my heart is today. Believe in yourself and squash that mental negative dialogue that keeps you from the greatness you were meant to step into, friends. You ARE enough. More than enough! You are EXTRAORDINARY.

P.S. I have been SO encouraged by your goal progress! The Tieks giveaway ends May 1!

P.P.S. Ari and I told the whole story of our marriage – everything – on camera last week. I hope you will join us to watch the footage this Friday night from 6:40pm EST to 8pm EST. It’s FREE to watch live and we’ll be on live to answer questions. See you Friday!

P.P.P.S. How ARE you? Really. Does anything I wrote here today ring a bell in your heart? I’d love to hear from you….

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Anyone feeling like they need a little motivation lately? Some clarity? Focus? (Hand raised!) Welcome. You are in good company. Let’s light that fire again today, shall we?

I wrote a series on Goal Setting & Setting Yourself Up for Success at the start of this year because I got really tired of NOT making progress. Yes, I have made a lot of “things” happen, but deep down in my soul, there were things I have felt God pulling me to do that I just hadn’t done. So, this year, I wanted to be more accountable. I didn’t want to end another year with regret. I wanted to make LIFE happen. Turns out, a lot of you felt the same way.

If you are just stumbling on my blog for the first time, or if you need to start fresh, below are the links to get you moving. It doesn’t matter that it’s April. It’s NEVER to late to do what matters and start LIVING. How many people need to hear that again?? (hand raised!)

lara casey blog

GOAL SETTING + MAKING THINGS HAPPEN

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

GIVEAWAY: If you started with me on your goal setting in January or even just last week, I’d love to hear about your progress, big or small. The goal here is PROGRESS NOT PERFECTION. Honest updates will help you move forward. So, weigh in below. I hope to encourage you or pray for you. And you just might inspire someone else with your comment! As motivation for you, I’m giving away gold foil prints from my shop and a pair of Tieks (since the first winner never claimed them – YAY!)! So, comment below and fill me in! We’ll check in again on July 10th and October 10th. Mark your calendars!

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First, a couple big things I learned overall. As I wrote in January, goals change! I’m listing my progress below on the goals I set in January, but I’ve recently updated my goals using my PowerSheets to mirror the change I’ve felt in my heart the last few months. More on that in a later post. It is so important to evaluate your goals and focus often. The second big thing I’ve learned is that, the more prayerful I am in my decisions, the more radically God changes my path and takes me to places I never thought possible! I’ve seen this play out countless times this year and it’s something I have really had to work hard on. For accountability, I’ve made it widely known in our office that making slower, more prayerful decisions is something I am focusing on. My staff appreciates this too, I think. It makes me a better listener, makes me seek more wise counsel and it means GOD is in control, not me! His plans never fail. I am impulsive by nature, so this has been a huge change and an enormous blessing to practice prayerful decision-making. (more…)

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So, I got this shiny new site and suddenly I felt paralyzed. I had poured my entire heart into every pixel. The new shop exploded. I had to hire a shop manager ASAP. We sold out of a lot of things way too fast (great problem, I know). There have been a lot of growing pains. Good growing pains and a whole lot of change.

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Friends, change is awesome but it’s also scary, isn’t it? Since our company’s growth (like kudzu) doesn’t seem to be slowing down, I’ve been thinking about how much change I’ve endured in my business over the last decade. From it, here are 5 Things I’ve Learned About Business Growth. I hope these little nuggets help you, too.

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1. I tell this to all of my clients, too. Be prepared for sudden growth. Streamline, simplify, automate, pre-stamp envelopes, take out the trash, clear the clutter and give yourself no excuse not to succeed when “Oprah calls”. In general, it is wiser to use your time to get your back-end organized and streamlined internally than to market yourself externally. Do one in preparation for the other. I learned this the hard way when we first launched Southern Weddings in 2008. Our brand exploded onto the market and I wasn’t prepared, so I ended up working 24/7 and my life suffered. My work suffered. I bit off more than I could chew. I kept thinking that “getting bigger” was the goal. If that is your goal, ask yourself WHY. Now I make decisions from my core – a core that is grounded in what matters most to me – and it never fails. Sudden growth still catches me off guard at times, but I’m much better at navigating those waters now with full sails!

2. Done is better than perfect. And another phrase I say to myself often: One thing at a time.

3. In times of busy business, stick to your CORE. It will guide you and help you make efficient decisions quickly. The goal in growth is not to get “bigger,” it’s to get better. You cannot please everyone. And, if you are doing things right and being very specific to your core, you won’t please everyone. That’s a very good thing. Your goal should be to capture a specific loyal audience, not the masses. We’ve had exponential success by following this model in business. When things get crazy around a launch or magazine release, we are all on the same page because we know exactly what our mission is. These are the little desk cards Nicole made for each of us as a reminder of our core and to be sure everything we do aligns with it. How cute is Henrietta? She is our office chicken mascot. Oh yes.

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I don’t have to micromanage anyone in this office ever. They know what our heart is and they are as passionate as I am about making that heart happen. Specific and small are the new big. Follow your core. Say NO to what doesn’t fit your core, and take big risks in saying YES to what does.

4. Growth is exciting, but be sure to prioritize. And “prioritizing” doesn’t mean letting things slide. It means being more efficient. When you add to your company, don’t forget the rest of your business that still has to run and run well. If your core services fall through the cracks and you spread yourself thin, your growth is pointless. So, be prepared, be efficient, get more help if you can’t do it all and grow wisely. Use your time wisely. Get off Facebook. Make things happen.

5. Don’t wait to start your big idea. Growth is scary because it can mean big life change, but isn’t that risk worth it for what you really want?? The timing will never be “perfect.” As my friend Ritchie says in his new book, The Power of Starting Something Stupid, “Don’t wait. Start stuff!” Stuff meaning the things that MATTER. Take risks. Take risks. Take risks! In the midst of huge transition and growing pains and any time you are overwhelmed, just keep choosing what’s right. One. Step. At. A. Time. But, the point is to CHOOSE. Again: Take risks. Take risks. Take risks. Don’t let fear or a state of “overwhelmed” keep you from moving forward. Don’t wait. Start good stuff!

I love this excerpt from Richie’s book: “I refuse to achieve success at the expense of my life. The two – life success and genuine fulfillment – will have to go hand in hand, because I will not keep my head down for the next forty years only to look up at the end and say, “Now I can finally start living!… Don’t wait. Start stuff.”

I use this quote a lot because it’s true: A year from now, you will wish you had started today. What do you need to start? What is your “stupid” idea that you want to make happen? Leave a comment on this post and I’m going to give away another copy of Richie’s book to a random commenter. Even if you entered on Instagram already, enter again if you didn’t win! I’m so blessed to know Natalie and Richie and to have the opportunity to share my story in this book. I hope you grab your copy before it sells out! I just bought 12 for friends, and one for the winner here : ) Can you tell Gracie loves this book, too?

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OK! Speaking of winners, there are LOTS of winners to announce! All randomly chosen. Congrats to Laura Frances, the winner of my Instagram/Facebook giveaway of Richie’s book. You will LOVE it! And congrats to the three random winners chosen to receive prints from my new shop: Annie {little&ever}, Vanessa from V3 Events and Fiona Cheng! Winners, email me and I’ll get your prizes to you!

SINCERE THANKS to everyone who commented about my launch. Your comments made my heart so full! After working so hard on this new site for a year and a half, it is so wonderful to know that you have been inspired. I hope y’all will come back often : )

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This free download and more can be found here.

And really, I want to hear from you so I can hopefully encourage you or pray for you. Don’t wait. Start stuff. Comment below and tell me what you want to start. And don’t be afraid to comment. I know some of you feel that way and you are not alone. Lurk no more and talk to me : )

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Y’all! I just got major butterflies typing this. It’s so surreal to be writing this post about my new brand and shop. Right after I had Grace, I felt a very strong calling to make a new internet home that would inspire people to live their best lives. A year and a half later, I am SO grateful for the brand that you see before you. There are so many professionals who have made this new brand possible. Ross, Alex, Sasha, Dmitri, Dima, Victor, Alina and the team at Flosites have worked countless hours with me to create a site that translated my heart clearly. (Guys, I have sweet tea and biscuits waiting for you if you ever come to NC!) I’ve never felt more at home.

This site would never have happened without the ladies I have the joy of working with daily. They have worked so hard to help me get the finishing touches together. I have the BEST team! Sincere gratitude to Emily, Nicole, Marissa, Kristin and Emily Ley. You are gooder than grits.

My NEW SHOP is filled with products that were created to inspire small creative spaces. We have so many more products yet to be listed – some are being listed as I type this! We are already almost sold out of some items even before hitting publish on this post. My dad always encouraged me to paint when I was young, so this shop is for you dad. I love you. You don’t know it yet, but I’m coming to visit you next week as a surprise : )

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And, friends, I love surprises. So, there are truckloads of fun surprises in this site! Oh, they make me so happy! Rather than tell you all about them, I invite you to experience them for yourself. Pour a tall glass of sweet tea and enjoy! I look forward to sharing this new internet home with you daily and pray that you are inspired to make things happen. Huge thanks to the Blueberry Fusion gents for creating this video that makes my heart burst with joy! A peek into my world…

To celebrate the new launch, I am giving away 3 gold foil prints from my shop and a pair of my favorite shoes. When I became a mama, I decided it was time to give away all of my uncomfortable heels in favor of something better. Tieks to the rescue!

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Win a pair of Tieks in any color you like (I want to win my own giveaway!) and gold foil prints by doing one of the following:

- spread the word about the #lclaunch on social media and link back to my site or this post
– like my new Facebook page
– blog about the new site/shop
– Pin this post or anything on this site! There’s a ton to pin : )
– leaving a comment here with your favorite part (there’s a lot to have fun with here!) of my new brand/shop and let me know about any other links or entries you made

Winners will be chosen at random on February 28th and you can enter as many times as you like. Just be sure to leave comments here with your entries!

Friends, God is GOOD. I am so grateful for this journey and for so many who have encouraged and supported me! Thank you thank you! AHHHH!!!! We LAUNCHED!!!!!!!!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

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You want it. IT keeps you up at night, rings in your heart 24/7. IT is your dream. Have you asked for IT? You heard that right… Have. You. Asked. For. IT? You want something so badly and … you want it to fall in your lap. Things do not happen. They are MADE to happen. – John F Kennedy. (more…)

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