Category: Giveaway

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

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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Before we dig into Goal Setting, I have something encouraging to share. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to share a photograph of a plant with you (stay with me here!), and if you see me around this plant in person, I’m sure you would think I was a wee bit overjoyed about this little guy. BUT! Let me tell you why this is one of the most meaningful things I’ve ever laid eyes on. You see, six years ago, this plant was dead (or so I thought). Have you ever seen a shriveled up brown stemless orchid? Probably not, because it’s really hard to kill one of these things. But, if you’ve read my book or have known me for a while, you know that I was once really good at killing plants. That orchid I wrote about on page 143? Yep, that’s this little guy. He sat in our office bathroom for four years, only getting watered maybe once every other month, if that. There was no green in these leaves. Not a spot of life. In fact, I almost threw him away.

But, God…

Then, God got ahold of my heart. He showed me how addicted to instant gratification I had become in buying plants and things I had no intention of caring for. This wasn’t just about plants — this was how I treated my life. God began breaking me down to build me back up, new and changed. Over the last two years (!), I’ve watered, tended, fertilized, re-potted, pruned, and watched daily for any signs of life. If God could bring my marriage back to life, perhaps He could revive this neglected plant too. So, my friend, this little golden yellow and hot pink bloom is wildly exciting for me! God is real and faithful and this healthy very-alive thing reminds me multiple times a day that the impossible is possible. It’s such a beautiful symbol of how He has worked in me and our family. The impossible is possible. This is true for every part of your life too. God can take what appears lifeless and give it new life!

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Also, in jest I mention trying out a Chia pet in my book if you want to give easy plant-growing a try. I strike that thought. We got Grace a Chia kitty as a potty training prize and it looks so awkward. It’s only barely sprouting on it’s belly. I can grow a garden, but Chia pets are not my forte ; )

Okay, on to Goal Setting! 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

Welcome to Part 5. I am excited about this and double excited about the giveaways that accompany this particular post. But, first. My answers from Part 4:

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I asked myself these questions: What is the big picture? If I were to live out my most purposeful year in 2015, what would that look like? Where do I want to be when I’m 80?

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Here’s what I wrote in my PowerSheets:

My most purposeful year yet would be a year of spending all of me and being hour-to-hour refilled ALL for and by God. It will, Lord willing, be a year of SEEKING Him out of love for Him — seeking His word — His truth,  It will be, Lord willing, a year of letting go of our comforts to give sacrificially to others, trusting that all of our true treasure and reward are in Heaven.

Why? Because otherwise I’m wasting what God gave me and ignoring the leading of the Holy Spirit. I want to go and do.

When I’m 80, I want to have raised God-loving children, brought many to know God’s true heart, been a wife of noble character, and have been changed by Him into the woman He desires me to be. I want my faith to be as strong as my friends Tijuana, Thom and Bek, and Carol and Brian. I want to have given all of me in praise for Him!

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My radical is stepping into having two babies this year, one (Lord willing) through birth and one through adoption. I know that will require radical trust in God’s strength and letting go of my own life.

Another radical for me will be writing my second book. I have to finish it before I give birth, so I feel a positive pressure to get moving and get the message of this book down on paper. More to come on that in the next post.

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I have been searching high and low for a song that feels right, but I haven’t found just one. Last year my song was Oceans, because I felt so pulled to step into the deep I-must-give-all-my-trust-to-God waters of adoption. This year, I’m still seeking my song. A few that I love (worth clicking over and reading the lyrics) are:

I Love To Tell the Story – This is my heart for this year — to keep telling His story.

Victory in Jesus – We sang this at Bunny’s memorial service and I sing it almost every morning with Grace. It encourages me greatly! The victory has already been won.

Hide Me – a favorite for years.

I’ll report back when I find the one song that fits best.

lara casey nothing is impossiblea little reminder above from me to you : ) 

Here are your next steps!

How many of you have ideas about your goals as we’ve gone through this series and you are already overwhelmed or anxious about HOW to make them happen? You want all of your goals to have been tackled yesterday. This series is an exercise in patience and doing things little by little to produce lasting results. If you are feeling overwhelmed, we’re about to dive into some clear waters as we set goals that have meaning. Because, you know what? The journey to making those things happen is where the good stuff lives. 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. This is about progress, not perfection. I know you overachievers want to have done everything yesterday, 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! Little by little, babies grow. Can you imagine if we got pregnant and the next day have birth to toddlers?? We wouldn’t be ready and we would have missed so much sweetness. It is the same with our goals. They matter enough to make them happen well.

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First off, review. This is important. 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 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 2015 Pinterest board. Take pins out that don’t fit well. Refine everything and get CLEAR before moving to the final exciting step…

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Yeah, yeah, yeah! You’ve made it! 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. So, let’s do it!

Four helpful tips:

1. Review! Read through all of your progress again so you have all of it fresh in your mind.  Don’t set goals before you do that step above!

2. Make a list of the first goals that come to your mind for this year when right after you review everything you’ve written. I suggest taking a big deep breath and putting on your 2015 song as you start writing goals. These don’t have to be perfectly written — just write what first comes to mind.

3. Then, check your goals to make sure they are really good goals. 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.

Do a GOAL CHECK and ask these questions:

- Will this goal help me live on purpose?

- Does this goal also help other people?

- WHY would I spend my time on this goal?

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.

I’m going to share my final 2015 goals in the next post. When you are ready, leave yours here in the comments on this post or the final post coming soon!

Some encouragement: 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. Life is to short and too meaningful to coast through. Take your time writing down your goals. Pray on them and talk them out with people you trust. I cannot wait to hear yours and cheer you on! HOORAY!!!

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The prizes for this post are possibly the best I could ever give to you. Financial stress is one of the biggest factors I have felt myself in the past and one of the biggest things I’ve seen holding many people back. I want you to know that, no matter how deep your debt or mistakes you’ve made in the past with money, it’s possible to change things. It really is. These prizes below are tools that have brought Ari and me priceless peace. My prayer is that the winners are as changed as we have been by them. Without further ado, today’s prizes are:

1. A session with Will Ray, who has been a friend and mentor to me for several years. His financial coaching has helped us pay off more personal debt than we thought possible in a short time and Will has also changed the way I look at my business finances. I no longer feel overwhelmed by numbers. Wow, that is crazy to say! Will’s guidance equipped me to make smarter decisions.

2. A copy of Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. If you’ve read my book, you know Dave’s classic book changed the game for us. A must-read.

3. A full nine-lesson Financial Peace University online course. I wish I could gift this to everyone I know!

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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 : )

P.S. I shared some thoughts here on needing a fresh start. Do you need a fresh start? Already feeling off-track this year? This is for you.

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P.P.S. We found out this week that we are having a boy : ) We are grateful and have begun to pray about names. I share this with such a different heart than I did with Grace, though. I know baby news isn’t the easiest for many and have felt that pain in my own small way. We know this child is His, not ours. May the sharing of this little life bring Him honor. I don’t know how exactly that will play out yet, but that is my prayer. I am tearing up typing this to you. I haven’t written to him before this very moment. Son, we love you. God loves you. May your life bring Him great joy.

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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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Hi, friends! Welcome back to Part 2 of 2015 Goal Setting. If you are new, be sure to read Part 1 here to get started. And friends, remember this truth: there is nothing magical about January 1. The best day to begin is TODAY.

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In Part 1, we talked about what went well and what we were grateful for in 2014. I am so encouraged by the thoughts you shared on the last post and by the dozens of blog posts that have been written with such passion, honesty, and intentionality about the coming year. Y’all are in this with your whole hearts and that gets me fired up even more! Let’s keep going, shall we?

What didn’t work in 2014? Honesty time! And before you do this step, remember not to beat yourself up here. I know you want to make this your best year yet. The past is behind you. The old has gone, the new has come! Just list some facts here. In business and life, what didn’t work well to help you live your best life this year and what needs improvement?

For me, a lot didn’t work. I am human and I fail all the time. But! All of the challenges this year eventually pointed me back to what matters. They strengthened me. They refined me in big ways and made me more confident in my faith and purpose. The challenges showed me time and time again that I need God and that is a very good thing. Often, the challenges redirected me to a better path and a deeper trust in the only thing that never fails.

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– Going through a miscarriage and trying to have a baby was challenging, but like I shared on Monday, it was completely for my good. Read the story here.
– Many people think writing a book is glamorous. Maybe if you are writing about flowers or something light-hearted. Writing about your own failures for all to read is a different story. Writing the book was the hardest thing I did this year because it made me face myself and question where I was seeking my worth. I feared what others would think of my path. I feared never finishing my manuscript. I feared so very much. I faced my life’s mistakes as I wrote about them. I cried oceans of tears and mourned what felt like lost days chasing after the world’s idea of success instead of God’s. There was so much shame I didn’t realize I was still carrying. I felt totally inadequate as a writer. (I could write that last sentence about thirty times I felt it so much.) And you know what? It was for all my good. I felt about as tall as a grain of sand and it made me throw my whole reliance on the Lord for my strength and identity. I’m still on this journey, but in writing the book I felt like I exhaled bricks. It was like going through ten therapy sessions a day — speed therapy, if you will. I laid down the shame and baggage at His feet and found myself saying, Wherever you want me to go, Lord, I’ll go. Whatever you want me to write, help me put the pen to the paper. Less of me, all of You. I still feel a bit overwhelmed by the book being out in people’s hands. Most of me wants to close my eyes and slip away from the internet for a few weeks to let the book rush pass, but that is selfish and sheepish. Although, I like sheep : ) I told you I was going to write out my mess, and I hope it helps some of you not feel alone. I don’t write about fear because I have none. I write about it because I know it well and, by the grace of God, I am learning to understand it more so it doesn’t speak louder than my faith. Fears and all, I know for sure this book what God gave me to write, imperfect as it may be. Writing those pages was like going through the pains of labor and then feeling the joy of knowing you gave it your all and your whole heart is in it, but ultimately God is the creator of life and made it happen. He is so good.
– I had a wake-up call a few months ago when I was introduced to what is now one of my favorite marriage resources, Unveiled Wife. Jennifer is now a friend and writes about the challenges of marriage and she also has been an advocate of paraben-free products because of the harmful effects they have on the female body. Search her site for “parabens” or google it and you may have the same wake-up call I did. Quite honestly, I freaked out. Every single product I had used my entire life — face lotion, bath soap, make-up, lip gloss, hand soap, cleaning products, and even some over-the-counter medicines — was full of harmful toxins. So, we got rid of everything and started over completely. It took me six months to finally find skincare products that didn’t make my face breakout, but I think it might have been more that my hormones were adjusting to paraben-free living. I am so grateful for this wake-up call and, even though it was costly to get all new products, it is worth it for the long-term health of our family. Here are some of the products I use now:

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Clockwise from top left: Tarte concealer, Organic Bath Co. Stress Less Oil (more on this in a mount), One Love Organics Easy Does It Cleanser, Tarte Amazonian Clay blush, and Acure Sensitive Skin moisturizer. One of my favorites is this Stress Less oil from Organic Bath Co. The owner, Gianne, has become a friend and told me that she used the PowerSheets to help start her business — so encouraging! She’s generously offered a 20% discount to anyone who reads this post. Enter the code HOORAY at checkout. Enjoy!
– Parenting. Parenting. Parenting! Grace is a blessing and she is, like many three-year-old’s, strong-willed. Parenting in 2014 was hard. There were days I felt totally defeated and had to throw up the white flag. But, like all I’ve written about thus far, it has so been for my good and it made Ari and I seek advice from older parents in our church, which was so helpful. The challenging days of parenthood ultimately made me more patient and a better listener. The trials of parenting have made me slow down more so I can help Grace understand her feelings and emotions as they come. Being a parent humbles you as you realize you have zero control sometimes. God is in control and my job is to be a living example of the new testament to Grace, showing her heaps of grace, consistency, honesty, humility, and prayerful trust in action. Being a parent has grown my faith. It has brought me to my knees and made me pray, because sometimes that’s all I can do! : )
– I am very grateful for Will Ray and the sound financial guidance he has given me the last couple years. I highly recommend working with him for either your personal finances, business finances, or both. Will helped us become debt-free (besides our mortgage) last year, which was something I didn’t think would happen with Ari’s enormous student loans. But, Will helped us see that it was possible if we were willing to, as Dave Ramsey says, live like no one else so we can live like no one else. But, as much as I felt financially prepared this year, things happened. Unexpected business costs threw me for a loop, further solidifying the importance of the business Emergency Fund. From the tax mess I mentioned in this post to thousands of dollars lost on a website design that never came to fruition to unexpected product shipping costs, it was a big year for unexpected loss. There is nothing I could have done to change these things, so each situation brought me to my knees. My business is very important to me because of WHY we do what we do, so I am extra passionate about making sure we are financially sound to carry out the mission we have. But, the ultimately Lord is in control of that too and this year was a reminder that I have to trust Him with all of it.

– I struggled with ugly feelings of comparison and worrying about competition, which has rarely every been a thing for me. But, it happened and it was not fun. And once again, this was so for my good. The Lord helped me turn comparison into true compassion and cheering on!

– In general, what didn’t work was worry, stress, or anything less than the joy that I know I have no matter my circumstances. I worried too much and God always always always had a plan that was bigger than mine. I often think of Paul in prison writing these words:

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Phil 4:11-13 NIV)

There were many more challenges, but this are the ones that stand out today. Can you sense a theme in all of my challenges this year? What I learned from all of this:

I have no control.

God does.

Trust God.

: )

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What about you? What challenges did you face this year and what did you learn from them? Perhaps you are still in the thick of some challenges and have no idea yet what they are supposed to teach you. That’s okay! Wherever you are, let’s share the hard things and encourage each other in them. Leave your thoughts in the comments and help encourage others as well.

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Next step! As a creative, visual person, imagery really lights my heart on fire more than anything. Great photographs and colors can make my heart sing and help me clarify my vision. If you are like me, you will really love this step. Make a Pinterest board of images that will inspire a purposeful year. Title your board “Making Things Happen in 2015″ so we can search for each other’s boards! Now, one word of caution. I rarely use Pinterest (like, twice a year) because it can be the black hole of distraction and discontentment. Pin wisely, friends. Pick images that light your heart on fire and move on! The goal isn’t to have  Pinterest-worthy year, so pick images that have deep heart, not just pretty things. Here’s my board from last 2013 and from 2014 and here is where I’ll be pinning images for 2015 over the next weeks as I let my goals marinate.

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What fires you up? What are the things that light your soul on fire? Pretty simple, yet very profound: name them and then DO them. Do more of what fires you up. If dance parties, hugging your kids, laughing with your husband, and doing good things for others fires you up, DO those things today (and always, but start with just today).

Download a free printable of the list above here.

Physically do some of the things you want to see more of in your life and take action on them. Not all of them, just some of them. Do what you can. We all have at least five minutes every day, even if we don’t think we do, to make what matters happen. How much time have you already spent on social media today? How much time will you spend on it the rest of the day? Trade that time for doing something that fires you up, not for self-indugence, but to live on purpose and love well. I don’t think many of us can say that lurking on Facebook fires us up, can we?

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See what happens when you physically start living on purpose, instead of by accident. Little by little, get connected to what matters most to you. Love on people. Write out your list and then DO something on that list. If you love the ocean, but don’t live near it, click here. Does the sound of rain make you feel alive? Here you go! If you love dance parties, pump up the jam! If you love hugs, give one. If you are fired up by creating, make something, even if it’s small, like a card for a friend. Take photographs just for the love of taking them. If you are fired up by the outdoors, close your computer or put down this iPhone and step outside. Just do it. Don’t wait to live.

See how making the things on your list happen starts to shape your life — and most importantly — the lives of everyone around you. God gave us talents and gifts that are meant to be used to shine His glory brightly to the world — and He gave us sunsets and the roaring ocean likely to leave us in awe of His goodness. Note to self and everyone: It’s hard to do and see those things hiding behind a computer screen : )

The Bible doesn’t tell us to “follow our passions” so we can be happy, but it definitely tells us to use our unique gifts to serve others. And there is a deeper joy found in that. A peace that passes all understanding. You were created for great things, my friend. You were created to shine brightly for Him. That is definitely something to have a dance party for! Share your list here. I will share mine soon too. Making life happen in 2015, here we come!

More Monday. Get to writing and DOing, friends!

PRIZES FOR THIS POST: Read Part 1 for all the ways you can win! Winners will get either a $50 gift card to my shop or an Emily Ley Homebase Binder set! I love the Homebase Binder to keep our household things organized and I keep my PowerSheets in it too. Thanks to Emily for this great giveaway!

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Winners will ba announced January 31 so you have lots of time to spread the word about this series and make these posts happen. I’ll be back next week with more 2015 Goal Setting goodness. Happy meaningful, intentional, purpose-filled, fired-up weekend, friends!

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Leave a comment with your thoughts: What were some of the challenges from 2014 and what did you learn from them? What fires you up? And leave a link to your Pinterest board so we can follow each other : )

P.S. Need a new iPhone or desktop wallpaper, like the one above, for the new year? Check out my free downloads gallery here.

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Hello, friends! It’s been quite a week announcing our growing family, shipping a crazy amount of orders out of my garage (I have the most tolerant neighbors!), and releasing my book. All great things that have brought an exploding phone and inbox, and a grateful heart for all God has done.

Last night we completed our home walk-through for our adoption home study, handed over the final paperwork, and now we are home study ready! Typing that is surreal. I sat in the kitchen after the social worker left and felt very still. I couldn’t get any words out. I felt like I needed to cry, but the tears wouldn’t come. This avalanche of all the things in the last couple days left me emotionally overwhelmed. With our growing family comes fear of the unknown: will God take this baby home to be with Him too?  How will we raise two infants at once with a busy three-year old? How will this affect our business that means a great deal to me because of our mission? With the book release comes fear of those 240 pages not affecting anyone and fear of judgement from others for my imperfect path. A lot of fear and opportunity to draw closer to God in trusting Him more fully with all the things. I think of the father in Mark who says, “I believe; help my unbelief!

As I sat in these feelings in the kitchen, a friend called. I screened her call, feeling hesitant and selfish. She left a message saying she really needed someone to pray with. Despite my own overwhelm, God kept urging me to call her back.

It’s the times I step outside of my comfort zone and say YES to Him that life changes.

I listened to her heart. I was reminded of God’s power to transform anyone and anything as I related parts of my own story to her. I prayed for her. She listened to my heart and prayed for me. Our exchange of time and prayer was the very best gift that I didn’t realize I needed. So often I try to control instead of trust God. I felt God saying: Be still, Lara. Be still and know that I am God and I am all that matters. I am all the things. I have all of this. Just keep saying YES to me. The best is yet to come.

Jesus was often still and withdrew to pray before He made some of the most monumental decisions. In fact, He prayed all night: ‘One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. At daybreak he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles’ (Luke 6:12-13 NIV).

So, that’s where I’m starting today with 2015 Goal Setting. With stillness. With prayer. While the rest of the world rushes to set goals by the stroke of midnight tonight, I offer you an alternative: be still. Let’s do this well, with intention.

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We’re going to take this day by day, in small powerful chunks, because there are no shortcuts to any place worth going. – Beverly Sills   For the entire series, I’ll be sharing my personal progress and goals as well.  And I have no idea what those goals will be yet.  No idea!  I know the heart of what they will be, but this is a series — a process — for a reason.  You can microwave some goals and have a pretty list by January 1, or you can dig deeper and set goals that matter to you over the next week or so with me.  You can pray hard about them and really weigh whether or not they are the best use of your time.  You can set goals that are twenty levels below the surface, where the fiery good stuff lives, or you can just make resolutions that get forgotten and tossed aside come February 1. If you need an extra kick in the pants to make this happen, keep reading.  I have a little something for you at the end.

I told you I was going to be open and walk through my mess with you and that this was going to be different than the last four years. Here goes!

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A few things before we get started!

Here’s what you can expect in this series: I’m going to walk through the steps in my book and the PowerSheets together, as they were designed to be used together. I’m going to blog pieces of my journey using both. I won’t be blogging every step as many of them are exclusive to the book and PowerSheets. So, if you are using either of these tools, or both, take your time coming back to these posts as you get to each step in the book or PowerSheets. These posts aren’t going anywhere, so take your time and come back when you’re ready. More notes below for book + PowerSheets friends!

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If you are reading my book: it was written for this season of goal setting and taking big leaps of faith. There are lots of steps throughout the first three sections and exclusive book downloads. Do them. Use them. Write all over your paperback copy. This book was designed to be an action book, not just a reading book. Section Four of the book is the Make It Happen Action Guide that walks through faith-based goal setting steps. If you haven’t gotten a copy of the book, it’s not too late. Get yours here. Also, if you are blogging your Make it Happen journey, you can get lots of free downloadable graphics to use here. This is me below, working through the book steps myself!

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If you are using the PowerSheets: Everything you need is in there! PowerSheets can be used by anyone in any life stage — mama, business owner, student, anyone. While you’ll see faith mentioned in my own PowerSheets examples, they can be used by anyone, any faith. And they will make you work, friends! Expect to dig deep. More info on the PowerSheets can be found here and you can check out the #PowerSheets hashtag on Instagram to follow others’ progress too : )

If you are using both the Make It Happen book + PowerSheets together: I designed them to work together. This is the best combo. Important: start the book first and when you get to Section Four, work through the PowerSheets along with that section. I am pumped for many of you who are doing this now!

Do you need either of these to have an intentional year? No, but my prayer is that these tools help you greatly if you do use them. If you just have a notebook to do these few steps I’ll be sharing, use that! If you have scrap paper, that’s great too : ) It’s not about the perfect stuff, it’s about how you USE what you have.

Let’s do this!

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First! Here’s the deal. Making things happen requires action. (Prayer is an action step, by the way. One of the very best ones.) As we go through this series, either use the comment area here to leave your answers or write them in your PowerSheets or a journal. But, don’t just think them. Thinking them doesn’t count. Write them out and, if you want accountability, leave them boldly here in the comments. I want to cheer you on! Friends, help me out here and cheer each other on, too. You never know who you might inspire or whose life you might completely change with your words.

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An easy place to start in preparing for an intentional new year is to reflect on the good things in the last 12 months. Here were my 2014 goals:

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God made so much more good happen than I expected. I am praising Him as I type this. He guided me on each one of these goals. I didn’t write both books I’m contracted for, but I did write one and that was plenty : )

Writing this list below of the Good Things from 2014 was hard at first and then, as I went through these goals from January, my calendar, blog posts, Instagrams, and 2014 PowerSheets, I saw so much good that God did that I forgot about! It’s so easy to forget the good and only focus on the challenges, isn’t it? So, here is a little bit of the goodness this year brought. I am so grateful to have made this list — so much to celebrate that I didn’t remember till I sat down to be still and write.

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The things that stand out to me most from 2014 are all about relationships. Closer sisterhood with the women from my church family group has been so sweet. We had a lot of fun together this year, welcomed new babies, had a women’s book club, enjoyed lots of meals and prayer time, and we even hosted Sunday service at our house in July when our church decided to help us understand what the closeness of the Acts church was like. It was awesome. I am so grateful for the brothers and sisters we get to do life with.

One of those sisters, Tijuana, made a big impact on my life this year. In January, I was overwhelmed with my book writing and work. I was struggling with my packed schedule and feeling like I didn’t have time for friends or fellowship. Tijuana pursued my heart and didn’t give up. I remember so clearly one night when she said, “I know your schedule is packed, but we should pray together — even if it’s over the phone once a week.” I resisted. I got mad at God because I wanted to pray with her but couldn’t seem to find time between motherhood and work. God made me find time. I finally gave in and it changed my life. Every Monday night at 8pm for six months we prayed. I’m crying typing this. Tijuana showed me what faithful friendship is. No matter what was going on in her life, she dropped everything to get on the phone and talk to God with me.

I am grateful for closer friendships and new friendships. I could write a whole post just about this and my heart is already pouring out in thanks to God. Good friends became great friends. People I didn’t know at the start of the year have now sat on my couch with me countless times to share life. Meals have been shared, tears, fears. God blew me away with friendships after years of prayer and feeling like I didn’t have a local community that “got me.” I don’t deserve the friends I have, but that is a picture of God’s grace and goodness — He loves us that much.

If there is one word that captures 2014 for me it’s community. We felt God calling us to open our home and we hosted dozens of dinners, sometimes three or four times a week. Many of the friends who joined us at the table ended up in Instax pics on our fridge too : )

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We had the joy of teaching Bible class for the 2-year-old’s for several months this year, took a very helpful marriage and parenting class at church, and were so grateful to be asked to lead our Family Group, which we also host in our home. When things got crazy in Bible Class, Ari broke out the bubbles!

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I spoke at the Thomas Nelson Spring Sales Conference to present my book to retailers. It was an awesome experience to see a giant room full of retailers from Barnes and Noble, ChristianBook.com, Faith Gateway, and more, pray together about the books and stories they were being presented. Seeing so many honor God in prayer at a business event left me in awe.

Ari and I celebrated seven years of marriage. If you know my story, that is all God! He is so good. I haven’t spoken about this much online because it has felt so sweet and personal to me, but this year I changed my name : ) Lara Casey Isaacson. I’m not changing it for business, but in my house, I am Mrs. Isaacson and that makes me so grateful. Nancy and Will Ray have been two of the most encouraging friends in our lives and sent me this beautiful gift. They had Ari hand-write my new name and had it made into a necklace. I love it!

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I did a lot of consulting with small business owners this year. I’ve been doing consulting since 2009, but this year in particular I felt very clear about how God wanted me to lead others. Writing my book helped me to put words to many things I hadn’t been able to express in the past and this, in turn, helped others too.

The garden. If you read my last post, you know this was my joy. The garden was a daily gift! I gave plants and crops away and met many through gardening. I started the Southern Garden Club and enjoyed garden tastings and talk with local friends. It was a joy!

As of today, I’m still going on the Contentment Challenge, specifically with not shopping for clothes. I thought I would do this for three months, beginning in September 2013, but God has kept me going. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been revealing and good.

I work with some remarkable women. That is a good thing itself. I am grateful to work alongside women who share the same passion for our mission as I do, sometimes more. This year, our business got smaller and bigger — smaller in the scope of what we do (I stopped doing Making Brands Happen in January) and as a result, bigger in our mission reach. In all of this, our team created beautiful and meaningful imagery and words for our seventh annual issue, V7, that highlighted meaningful beginnings to married life.

Small is the new big. We considered and said no to office space for many reasons. The prescribed path for a growing business tends to be: start small, grow grow grow, get office space, grow more and get busier. After my miscarriage, I realized I didn’t want any part of that plan. I wanted to stay at home where I can bake biscuits for my team and go right downstairs to comfort Grace when she needs me. So, even though we are bursting at the seams in our small space, we decided to do more with less this year and it has been a blessing.

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2014 brought many changes in our office culture as we began celebrating working anniversaries, enjoyed our first annual team retreat, and decided to make this a year of relationships, hosting many in-person reader and community events. Our whole team travelled a lot too (more than me): NSS, Bridal Market, Engage, workshops, education, shoots all over the South, oh my!

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It was a big year for product design. Nicole and I spent many hours in front of the big iMac. Nicole is pretty awesome. Some of the many things she took from concept to reality this year in our office: all new 2015 PowerSheets, the new Southern Weddings Planner, new prints, new desk card sets, scripture cards, and many more products that we have yet to produce. They are meaningful and I can’t wait to use them myself. Details to come.

Our former nanny, Meredith, got married and Rhiannon joined our family. These women mean so much to me! They will always be family.

The Influence Conference with Ari was awesome. I love the Influence Network and the women who created it!

The Making Things Happen Conference this fall was just so good and life-changing — my favorite yet. We made many additions to the format and it was a joy! By the way, today is the last day to register at the early-bird rate!

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Grace turned 3 and started preschool, got her own bed, was so brave at swim lessons in the summer, and is just a fun kid. I love her : )

A huge new thing this year was something unexpected and will likely be the subject of my second book. I started talking to a lot of women about marriage. I’ve had dozens of phone calls with women I’ve never met, sharing my story and praying with them. I’ve made dear friends that have encouraged me greatly as well. God is good. I never expected to be used in this way through my own imperfect path and brokenness, but God does remarkable things with our broken pieces when we give them to Him. If you are struggling in marriage, know that the impossible is possible with God. I wrote my book for this very reason, in hopes it will encourage many to believe in what seems impossible.

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Bible Bunch (above). Oh, Bible Bunch! For years I have wanted to start a local Bible study for women to dig into Bible basics and to build community. I had no idea it would happen this year and in the way it did! My friends Carrie, Randi, and I decided to take a leap of faith and ask on Instagram if any local women would like to join us for a Bible study at my house. We had space for 15 people and over 50 replied. We now have almost 100 women in Bible Bunch! God is awesome. We meet once a month here in Chapel Hill. Leave a comment here if you’d like to join us and I’ll email you info! Our next meeting is Monday, January 5. Bible Bunch has brought more than just new friends, it has brought life-long soul friends. I am blown away by what God has and continues to do with Bible Bunch!

Writing and releasing a book goes on both the Good Things list and my Challenges list. More to come on this in the next post, but I am so grateful for God faithfully making this happen. Here is the book trailer below and you can find more info on how to purchase here.

I was also grateful to get to record my own audio book. It was two long days of hard work and so worth it. You can download it on Audible, iTunes, Amazon, and get the DVD’s at major retailers.

The first-ever Faith Retreat was a beautiful end to 2014. I love these friends (below). We decided to stop and be still in a hurried season to get back to what’s most important: Him. We prayed, shared what God has taught us this year, laughed, and celebrated His goodness together. It was so sweet!

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Up next, I’ll be sharing some of the many challenges that God used for my good and what I learned from both the good and the hard. For now though…

Your turn! Write your own list of good things. What are you most grateful for from 2014? You can write it in your PowerSheets if you have reached that section or write it in a journal. Either way, I also encourage you to share some of your 2014 gratitude in the comments to encourage others too!

And remember this: There is no room for comparison in making what matters happen. Whether you had one good thing happen or twenty, celebrate the good stuff and let’s help each other do the same. Let’s turn comparison into compassion and cheering on : )

OK, that’s it for today and that’s plenty to work on. Be still, be prayerful, and celebrate the good stuff today! I’m going to take tomorrow away from the computer and soak myself in the Word before I do anything else, withdrawing to pray and listen before I act. I’ll be back Friday with more!

Take your time with this and remember with your PowerSheets — or however you set and take action on goals this year: PROGRESS NOT PERFECTION.  This is not about writing the perfect list with a perfect pen… it’s just about honesty. To make things happen, you have to start with where you are. This is a process that will have a big payoff, but you have to commit to working through it. Be still and let your year’s vision slowly cook, like a pan of homemade hot baked cinnamon rolls fresh out of the oven. They wouldn’t be so flaky and yummy cooked in the microwave, would they? Just a big pile of mushy dough. I’m not going to hand you your 2015 goals. We’re going to do this right and get there together. Sound good? Awesome! Get to it!

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If you need an extra kick in the pants to make this happen, on every post there will be a big giveaway. Today’s is the new Make It Happen Collection Box: a Make it Happen T, gold foil notepad, calligraphy print, a set of PowerSheets for you or a friend, and our new signature sunrise stripe box with gold foil “Make it Happen” on the top. You can win multiple times 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 : )

Why am I doing this? I know God put me here on this earth for many reasons, and He has made it clear that one of those reasons it to motivate people to take action on what matters most. I want you — yes YOU — to make what matters happen in your life. So, help me spread the word and let’s get all our friends in on this for accountability! Making things happen is always better when shared.

Here’s to a meaningful, purpose-filled 2015 — I am cheering you on friends!

P.S. I didn’t proofread this post because I have to get Gracie down for a nap, so forgive typos! My life motto still holds strong: done is better than perfect : )

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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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Hi. I’m still alive. Very alive, in fact. More than when I last wrote you here. For the last two months, all day every day, I have been writing a book. That doesn’t mean I’ve been just typing words, though. It has been soul-changing. I’ve been battling with my fear — so much fear — and my past failures and, stroke by stroke on this keyboard, I have been battling to say no to the lies that tell me I can’t do this and YES to what God wants me to write.

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Photo by Faith Teasley

I presented my book yesterday in Nashville, but there is so much more to write — many chapters and edits to go. But, I am stopping in quickly to say:

Thank you. I am so grateful for many prayers and encouraging words that have kept me going as I write.

Keep going. If you are feeling afraid or stuck or lost, keep focusing on what matters. Keep going.

Lastly, I’m so behind on many things, but all for a good reason. One of those things is announcing the winners of the Goal Setting Series Giveaways from January! Winners are below and were chosen by random. Congrats to everyone who entered and high fives to everyone who participated. The real prize is making what matters happen with your goals!

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Walk in Love T-Shirt- Gina of My Pretty Pennies

8 x 10 print of their choice from Naptime Diaries- Lydia of Lydia Photography

Simplified Planner – Alyssa Kjondal

A set of prayer journals from Val Marie Paper- Sarah Tate

Headband of your choice from She Does Justice- Megan of Megan Elizabeth Photos

Make It Happen coffee spoon- Elizabeth G. of Glessner Photography

$20 Lara Casey Shop gift card- Rhiannon at Mom to Two Lovelies

$20 Lara Casey Shop gift card – Karen at Your Stylist Karen

$20 Lara Casey Shop gift card- Stephanie Richards

$20 Lara Casey Shop gift card- Rylee Field

Ladies, please email lisa@southernweddings.com and she will get your prizes to you! If they aren’t claimed within 30 days, we will give them to another entrant.

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OK, off to write more. And until I finish this book, I’m having a “Finish Your Book Already” sale. Click here to see all of our new products.  EVERYTHING in the shop is 25% OFF with code MAKEITHAPPEN : )

And whatever good is on your heart…

Make it happen.

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First of all, if you are just joining us, welcome!  While we might be ten days into the new year, it’s never ever too late to begin something new, let something go, or get focused on what matters. #2014GoalSetting can happen anytime. We’re not setting fleeting resolutions for the year, we’re setting good life goals here. Good goals give you freedom and focus.

The 2014 Goal Setting steps so far so you can get started:

Part 1: Let’s Do This!
Part 2: Get Fired Up.
Part 3: Your 2014 Vision
Part 4: Get Radical
Part 5: Set Good Goals

Lara Casey 2014 Goal Setting

In my reading this morning, my 2014 goals — or goal — hit me.  Here is what I read:

Peter speaking to a large crowd: “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. …  Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”  When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

And this is what lights my heart on fire…

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 2:32-47 NIV)

If you’ve been reading my blog the last couple years, you know that this section of scripture has always been like fire in my heart.  That life of giving and in community and living with just what they needed (and many times less than that) was their response to knowing Him.  They heard.  They believed.  Without hesitation, they acted.  Their lifestyle drastically changed because of knowing Him.

You see, we (me included) like to change external things in order to change the internal things.  External changes can definitely ignite the internal at times.  A new hair cut or clean house can make us feel fresh and new.  Moving furniture around and getting new office supplies can give us a boost. But, there are deeper layers.  He can peel back all of your layers and make them new.  Belief changes our hearts and causes us to ACT on what matters.  It causes a bigger shift than new office supplies can ever ignite.

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For me, I feel that God has put it on my heart to make this the “Year of Clear.”  To see God’s heart clearly and my heart clearly — no matter how messy sometimes — and to keep aligning my heart with His.  My 2014 Vision is to love my neighbor as myself by sharing the clear truth that has changed and continues to change me. My 2014 Vision is to couple boldness with tenderness, knowing I am weak and that I can’t do anything good without Him, and to speak the truth in love to others. I want to use all of the gifts He has given me and give them all away.  To borrow a powerful phrase from my friends Jessi and Hayley, my 2014 Vision is to be “wild and free” for Him in spreading the Gospel and living in His joy.  My 2014 Vision is to see through His lenses and do something — everything — about it.  I am praying for heart change and the fruit of that heart change to multiply love and point directly to Him.

I am so grateful that I intentionally set goals last year.  My 2014 goals are not new, per se, but they are further refined and CLEAR.  This process has been so powerful for me!  Before you dive into setting your own goals, be sure to go through all of the previous posts and steps. Make sure your goals are centered on what matters and that you has a strong WHY with each goal. For the sake of space, I didn’t wrote my WHY for you in every box below, but I wrote them for myself. My 2014 Goals:

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This is just a start for me and I will refine these as I pray on them.  Remember that this is a process and you should be changing and updating your goals along the way. Just to keep you (and me!) accountable, do this… put these dates as reminders on your calendars as check-in points: April 10, July 10, and October 10.  I put them on my calendar too and I will check back in here to let you know how my goals are progressing and I will want to hear about yours. All of your comments in this series have been so inspiring! There is SO much greatness waiting for you in this new year! Be sure to comment here with your 2014 Goals, too! Share them and you will be more accountable and likely inspire someone else. Don’t be a lurker anymore, friends. Jump in : )

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If you need an extra kick in the pants to make this happen, I’m going to be giving away a $20 gift code to my shop and goodies from other shops I love on EVERY POST in this series to one lucky commenter per post.  You can win multiple times and you can increase your chances of winning by:

– Pinning this post or any in the series
– Instagramming
– Facebooking
– Tweeting
– Blogging or in any way sharing this post/series
– For all entires, link back here to www.LaraCasey.com/blog and use the #2014GoalSettinghashtag. 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 : )

A peek at some of the prizes in this series….

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– Winners for all posts will be selected on January 31, so you have plenty of time to spread the word and make it happen! I want you — yes YOU — to make what matters happen in your life.  So, help me spread the word and let’s get all our friends in on this for accountability!  Making things happen is always better when shared : )  YAHOO!!!

So, tell me!  What are your 2014 Goals?

P.S. So, you have your goals and you are asking, NOW WHAT? How do you tackle them? Where do you start? That post is up next, but you are far more capable than you think. My next post in a nutshell: begin anywhere. Tiny bold steps forward build momentum to make things happen! Get to it!

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UPDATED: Abbie is the randomly-chosen winner! : )

I’ve felt this need to get my LIFE in order since Grace was born.  Having her made me feel this immediate need to take responsibility for the areas of my life where I felt I wasn’t so skilled and I felt like I finally had to do the things I had on my mental Life To-Do List.  This may sound strange, but I was ready to grow up.  The kind of growing up where you step into a new realm of contentment and understanding.  Adulthood 2.0.

For instance, my finances made me s-t-r-e-s-s-e-d out.  (I know I know!  If I would have even seen the word “finances” or “money” in a blog post, I would have cringed and left for greener pastures on someone else’s blog years ago.  Stay with me.  Good stuff ahead.)  I was so tired of feeling like I wasn’t good with numbers.  So, I spent a good portion of my maternity leave — between first diaper changes and many sleepless nights — getting my finances sorted out, categorizing hundreds of charges and entering them into Quickbooks Online Pro (what I use for business) and Mint.com (what we use for personal finance tracking).  After years of saying, “I’m just not good at numbers,”  I had to learn to re-write that thought. Read my post from yesterday.  For so so so long I would get so so so frustrated when having to deal with finances.  I didn’t even know where to start!

I had to play tricks on myself to turn working on my finances into something I genuinely looked forward to instead of dreading.  I would play great music.  I’d promise myself a reward after finishing a session of Quickbooks time.  Usually frozen yogurt.  I added that into my budget!  I’d light candles.  I would pray.  A lot.  I would literally give myself a gold star.  I was determined.  I was sick and tired of not feeling like the money I was working so hard for wasn’t being used in the very best ways possible.  I felt like, “I am a smart gal.  Why is this so hard?”  God was working deeply on my heart in all of this.

I wanted my time back.  Desperately.  I wanted to know how much I actually needed to work.  How much money did I really need to make our lives work?  How much could I give?  How many consulting sessions did I need to take?  How many hours a week did I need to be at my desk and still pay our bills, tithe and give generously?

I am so grateful to God to now say that I am confident in my ability to manage money wisely — with a lot of help and learning (our very own Emily Thomas writes excellent posts on personal finance here that I highly recommend reading!) and lots of growing still to go.

If you feel like you have no idea where to start, I offer you a simple task.  First, make a list.  Where do you feel like you need to be more skilled?  What are the larger tasks you’ve had on your heart?  Write them down.  Get these Life List things down in black and white so you can just face them.  That was the hardest part for me.  Admitting I needed to make some big changes and get my life in order.  So, I started a Life To-Do List — larger long-term tasks — and have been plugging along, very slowly checking things off the last two years.  Here is my list:

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My list is based on our own personal family goals, so your list may be completely different!  Choose what’s right for you and your family.  And please don’t for one second let my list overwhelm you.  My list two years ago just said “get our finances in order so tax time wasn’t a midnight mess on April 15th.”  That seemed like an impossible task at the time.  It was through tons of research and prayer over many months that this list has been added to, refined and worked on.

I had to break these things down into tiny action steps to make them happen.  How many of you have tasks on your general to-do lists that have been there for months (or years!)? Things like “get teeth cleaned” or “get oil changed” can stay on our lists forever and nag at us every day that they are not checked off.  In our minds we think that getting those not-so-fun tasks done will somehow take days, when in reality they take just moments to set up and not very much time to accomplish.  Action steps have to be:

1) Realistic.

2) Physical.

3) Small.

So, to go to the dentist to get my teeth cleaned, my first action steps would be to:

1) Open my computer and open Google.com

2) Google the name of the dentist and find the phone number

3) Pick up my phone, dial the number and call while I open my calendar

Making a dentist appointment takes me less than two minutes.  Yet, I put these “big tasks” off with excuses like, “I don’t have time!”  What we really don’t have time for are the things that are taking up our mental space every day.  Going to finally get my teeth cleaned — which really only took me two hours including driving time — and finally checking that off my list made me feel oddly FREE.  Like I had a whole new realm of mental space on my list to fill with something better.  It has been the same feeling, times 100, that I’ve felt in working on my Life List.  While those action steps above may seem completely elementary, sometimes it takes us breaking things down to the smallest steps for us to take action on things because we see how easy they can be.  And many times – most times – the hardest part is taking the first steps.

The hardest part of all of these things was taking the very first steps.  After that, things were in motion and there was no more room for fear or doubt or regret that we never took action.  

For Ari and me, each one of these Life List tasks started with prayer.  We asked God to guide us.  We looked in the Bible for wisdom about finances and giving and responsibility. We wanted to do this well and not fight in the midst of these hard tasks and tough conversations that would follow.

After praying, we divided up the tasks so we each felt like we had equal responsibilities that played into our strengths.  I took the book keeping for personal and business finances (I like computer programs more than Ari does) and he researched life insurance and retirement plans (he likes numbers and logistics).  I take care of the general house shopping and grocery shopping each week (and hunting for coupons!) and he takes care of writing our tithing check every week at church and keeping track of those payments.  Every Saturday, we talk about our personal budget and I update him on how we are doing.  At the end of each month, I email him the amount we have saved that month and he puts it into our emergency fund and a small portion toward his student loans.  We divide and conquer.

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Making this list happen has not been easy.  It has involved hours of research and hard conversations.  Life insurance and wills aren’t exactly the easiest thing to talk about.  But, I’m so glad we did talk about them.  Making this list happen has required us to step into personal fears about money and talk them out together.  It has taken some tough decisions.  It has crushed my ego 8 trillion times and made me pray a lot (and kick and scream in my heart!).   But, I learned what was important to Ari and I grew to love him more in these sticky sometimes-scary talks.  We both started to feel more like a team as we stepped into every challenge together.

But, let me just stop and say that reading this list I am very aware of how much we have. There are so many things that I have started to not take for granted anymore like health insurance and a house to even make payments on.  Having these things does not make us more blessed than others though.  It depends on your definition of blessed.  The Bible tells us that the first will be last and the last will be first.  Possessions and finances can keep us far from true contentment if they become more important than God.  Money is not the enemy; the love of money is.  ‘For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.’ (1 Tim 6:10)  While I am doing the Contentment Challenge right now, I have come to see that is just surface stuff I am fasting from.  I am now craving a deeper level of sacrificial giving.  We are blessed to be a blessing to others.    I want to be a living thank you letter to God for all He has done in our lives.  Like I said above, I have so far to go.  So far.  But, I am grateful for this refining journey and how it has strengthened our marriage and our hearts.

OK, back to the Life List.  Ari and I met this week to go together and finally sign our wills and life insurance paperwork.  I wrote our wills using LegalZoom.com (with Ari’s input on end-of-life wishes of course!).  If you don’t have a will yet or haven’t considered one, here are two great posts to read from my friend and financial coach, Will Ray: why you need a will and how to get one.  It’s a strange thing, this life. It doesn’t last forever and, while taking an hour from work to go do this may seem like a morbid task to do… I feel grateful. Grateful that we did this for Grace. This year, one of the greatest seeds God has planted in my heart is this: do everything with great love. Do everything for someone else. Plant good seeds. I have so far to go – so very far – but every little step counts.

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Your little steps add up friends. Even the not-so-fun ones. One thought that kept me going through this list was thinking about how I would feel when we finally had things in order.  I knew I would feel peace.  I knew I would feel joy in being able to give more because I would know where that money was coming from instead of haphazardly making financial decisions.   ”For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?’  (Luke 14:28)

Make your Life To-Do List happen.  Little by little — perhaps over the span of years like me — you will get your Life List done and you will be so grateful that you did.  These tasks are not small or easy, but they have been worth it for us and the peace of mind we have for my family and Grace’s future.

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Make your own Life To-Do List with this FREE PRINTABLE and one commenter will win a copy of a book that was truly life-changing for Ari and me, The Total Money Makeover.  If I could give a copy of this book to everyone I know, I would.  If you already have this great book, you can win a copy for a friend!

So, tell me what’s on your Life To-Do List or what you have been considering/challenged by.  I’d love to hear from you!

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