Category: Giveaway

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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I am going to try something new the next weeks: writing blog posts and not stressing over them being perfect.  DONE is better than perfect and, though I have a lot lot lot of writing to do in the next 12 weeks (more on that next), I also feel called to write a lot here.  I want to practice writing here most days and just getting the thoughts out of my head.  Done is better than perfect.  Because the good we know we ought to do and — the good we know we ought to share online — can stay in our heads or we can DO something about it. Done is far better than perfect.   So, here goes!  Photos in the post taken last week by my amazing friend, Gina.  I love you, G!  I don’t usually wear makeup often, so I wanted photos taken for Grace in the same way she would remember me every day : )

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013Sleepy gracie in our bed because she was making molars last week and up all night. And yes she sleeps sideways in our bed — very comfy for us. Ha!

I wrote a series on Goal Setting & Setting Yourself Up for Success at the start of this year because I got really tired of NOT making progress on the things that matter most.  In fact, I realized I didn’t know what truly mattered most to me.  I didn’t want to end another year with regret about things I could have accomplished if I had just taken tiny steps along the way to make them happen.  I got really tired of looking back and realizing how much time I wasted on worry and things that distracted me from my purpose.  I started this year with one main goal in mind and several that branch out from it: to know God more and walk in His ways.  I wanted to finally do the things I’ve always had on my heart to do.  I wanted to make LIFE happen. Turns out, a lot of you felt the same way.

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

The big morning stretch!

I updated you with my first round of progress on April 10 and our second update was supposed to be on July 10th, but I posted on August 8th with this update.  And I am, once again, a couple weeks late to update you, but here I am.  Welcome to round three of my 2013 Goal Progress!

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

If you are stumbling on my blog for the first time, or if you need to start fresh, below are the links to get you moving. It doesn’t matter that it’s almost November. It’s NEVER to late to do what matters and start LIVING. Today is the day — YOUR day to start making it happen, to get back on track, or to choose a new track entirely!

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

A few updates since my last check-in!

- I spoke at 8 conferences in the last 12 weeks.  8!  And I loved every single one of them.  I would do this year all over again with speaking.  It was so gratifying.  Full recaps of my summer/fall speaking coming soon!

- We got SouthernWeddings.com!  Oh my stars, this feels so good.  Read the whole story here.

- We took a family vacation to Beaches.  More on that trip soon too.  It was so good and so needed.  We also visited the Grove Park Inn as a family and I took Grace to see my parents in Florida.

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013Morning hair is the best kind of hair : )

- My Grandma Bunny was diagnosed with mouth cancer and, at the age of 96, started radiation treatments 5.5 weeks ago.  She is not cured, but has responded well to them.  Her cancer has shrunk significantly, which is more than we could have asked for! Her final treatment is tomorrow.  Amen, hallelujah, thank you Lord!

- We did approximately 8 trillion photo shoots for the next issue of Southern Weddings

- I signed my book contract with Thomas Nelson and started writing yesterday.  More to come here.

- We completed our 6th print edition (“V6″) of Southern Weddings and sent it off to print last week.  We get the copies later this week!

- We hosted a life-changing second Making Things Happen Conference last week.  It was incredible.  Full recap coming soon!  Registration for the 2014 Conference is now OPEN and seats are already flying.

- I got to spend lots of face-to-face time with my friends, Emily Ley and Gina Zeidler as we travelled to speak at the Pursuit 31 Conference together and did the Making Things Happen Conference here together last week.  I am so blessed by them.

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

In case you missed the GOAL SETTING + MAKING THINGS HAPPEN posts, it’s never too late to start now!

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

If you started with me on your goal setting in January or even if you’re new here (welcome!), I’d love to hear about your progress, big or small. The goal is PROGRESS NOT PERFECTION. Honest updates will help you move forward. So, weigh in below. I hope to encourage you or pray for you. And you just might inspire someone else with your comment!

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013We always go in our PJ’s to visit the garden in the morning.  PJ’s and awesome gold boots for Gracie.

— MY 2013 Goals —

Goal 1: To know God more by learning about Him in the Bible and through prayer because knowing God means I will know what is right and good and He will direct my path. Everything good comes from that. God is my compass. I want to know everything I can possibly know about God so I can align my life with His will. I want to know God so I can change for the better for everyone in my life. I want to study the Bible and pray without ceasing. That means a lot of things, namely less time in my phone and on email and on extraneous projects and more focused time without distractions, reading. My goal in short: read and pray daily. Repeat.

// YES! I finished reading the Old Testament and am plugging along with the New Testament.  This has proven challenging because the NT is so packed with goodness that I keep wanting to take it in very slowly.  But, I hope to be finished with the Bible completely by December 31.  That will be something to celebrate!

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013Morning adventures usually continue with reading and exploring the house.

Goal 2: I want Ari and I to have a more thriving joyful marriage because that will help us be our best for each other and Grace and everyone in our lives. Because we are stronger as individuals when we are stronger as a couple. Last year was truly a year of transition and miracles and this year, I want to celebrate life more together. I want to make Ari feel special and help him be his best. I want to open my heart and let him in more. I know I have a self-protecting wall up most of the time. I want to learn more about what God wants for our marriage and I want to DO those things. I want to help other couples do those things, too. I want to lead by example, in our failures and triumphs.

//  If you want to know more about our story, read here and you can hear our whole story live on camera in the Amazing Life Together recordings.  In our marriage, we have been praying a lot together and separately about what God wants for our family – adoption, more children, where to plant the seeds of our resources and how He wants us to use our time.

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013And there are always tickle parties.  Always. 

Goal 3: I want to become more physically strong so I can be full of energy to do God’s work every day and give to others. I stopped weight training last year and that is the longest time I’ve been out of the gym. I want to be physically strong so I can live a long healthy active life and be able to teach Grace about God and how to live a good life through my actions. I want to fuel my body to do good things. I want to recognize when I am tempted to use food to control my emotions and choose God instead through prayer, reading, stepping outside to take a deep breath or just by being still and having a good cry if I need to.

// I have been a bit off-track with the weather change stress of having too much on my plate the last weeks.  I learned in this season that all we can do is do what is right in front of us.  We cannot predict tomorrow.  One day at a time : )  And so, I am trying to get my fitness focus back one day at a time too.  I still get up to exercise every day, but pushing myself to workout hard has been well… hard.  I am glad I’m doing this update for accountability and to remember WHY I want to be strong in the first place!

Goal 4: I want to stop breastfeeding, Lord willing, by Valentines day (I started weaning last week) and stay emotionally fit, despite the hormonal changes. I want to keep my energy up and give thanks, despite my current feelings (imagine if you didn’t have a period for two years and your hormones decided to start creating one… that’s where I am). I want to do whatever I can naturally to regulate my hormones so that I can be my best for my family, my staff and my friends. I also really want those 3+ hours a day back to do more for God every day. And, at the same time, I don’t want to lose the beautiful thing I have learned in all of this – that taking time to be still during the day is a very good thing.

// Check!  Read my update from April for the details on how I stopped.  Done and done.

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013At the neighborhood park with Daddy.

Goal 5: I want to be humble and learn a lot this year about a lot of things so I can do what I do well. I want to learn skills that will help me be a light for other’s to know God. I want to be a better more skilled designer so I can spend less time creating graphics and so I can create inspiring products that help people focus on what is good in life. I want to learn to be a better leader so I can build my team up and equip them to do the same for others. I want to learn how to cook special dishes that make my family feel special. I want to learn how to keep plants alive more than a few weeks. I want to continue my calligraphy training so that I can write beautiful letters to special friends. I want to learn how to be a better writer so I can communicate my thoughts in a more compelling authentic way. I want to learn how to do my job in a more direct, powerful, efficient way so I can make more of an impact on everyone I meet. I want to learn more about investing and finances so I can be a better steward of our money. I want to learn so I can give more.

// Design – Nicole has continued to teach me so much through all we’ve been doing with our print magazine. Leading – I’ve focused so much on our company mission in my speaking engagements, so leading from that core has been fairly easy.  I am so grateful for a team of women who are just as passionate about our core mission as I am!  Cooking – My garden has been one of my greatest joys the last months.  We’ve harvested hundreds of tomatoes and I’ve had so much fun tending the garden with Grace. Eating straight from our garden is so satisfying!  Plants – Yes, as you can see I love my garden!  I am sad it is close to the time when my annuals will fade away, but I will have fun during the winter planning for spring goodies.  We did plant kale and lettuce for fall though and it’s looking beautiful!  Calligraphy – I stopped my calligraphy training to focus on other priorities.   Writing – Well, I have a book to write now.  A whole separate post coming on this. There is a lot of writing in my future!  Job efficiency – Yes, we had a great meeting recently about profitability and how we use our time as a team.  I do feel very efficient with my time and priorities now as compared to the start of the year! Finances – This continues to be the biggest answered prayer in this category.  We now have a clear personal budget, a savings and investment plan (with many thanks to our dear friend and financial coach Will Ray!) and I hired a new accountant for our business who has been so helpful thus far.  Guys, I can’t tell you what a relief all of this is!  Being able to know where we can invest time and resources and where we need to scale back is a huge blessing.

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

Goal 6: I want to learn how to be more efficient and reach more people with less time away from my family. I want to spend less time on the phone with clients and far less timing emailing. My goal is to find revenue streams this year that are more automated, yet help people in a profound personal way.

// Yes, our shop has done well and I’ve continued to fight for my boundaries to keep my time focused on what matters. Read more about how I set boundaries here. I’m done with consulting and branding work for the year so I can focus on getting my book done, so my time has been streamlined. I am in the process of planning my 2014 speaking calendar, too, and have only accepted one speaking engagement thus far.  Speaking gives me the opportunity to affect more people at once and therefore spend less time on the computer or in sessions.  I’m excited to be speaking at the Bliss and Bespoke retreat in Charleston in February.  If you are interested in having me come to your conference to speak, I’d love to hear from you as I’m blocking off my time for 2014 now.  You can read more info here!

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013Can you tell we are related?

Goal 7: I want to learn how to be a better mom. I currently don’t read anything on parenting. I fly by the seat of my pants. I want to learn from others who do it well and become a mother full of wisdom so that Grace can be her best under our care. I want to raise her to be giving and pure and to have a heart of grateful JOY. I want to help Grace have more play friends and be a living example of the Bible for her in our actions. I want to be much more patient and less controlling and let go of my life so I can live in hers.

// I don’t even know where to begin with this update.  I’ll just give you a little glimpse into my world with the sweetest little monkey on the earth.  Late last night as I tried to calm Grace to get her to sleep (poor thing has a bad cold right now), she suddenly starts praying:

(clasping her little hands together and squinting her eyes so she can still see) Thank you God for Daddy.  Thank you God for helping me.  Amen!

And then she proceeded to sing a mashup of Twinkle Twinkle and Old MacDonald. DJ Grace is the cutest.  Then, mid-song, she looks at me in dark room, by the light of the moon coming through the window and says, “I love you so much mama.”  Melt my soul.  It’s moments like that that make me forget the constant toddler tantrums and separation anxiety that we weather daily.  Each challenge is an opportunity to teach her to know God’s heart and — though I fail at it daily — teaching her that is one of my greatest joys.  Showing her compassion and how to love others and how to say “I’m sorry” and how to celebrate life all make my mama heart very full.  We’ve had a lot of adventures together lately and I love my time with her.  Even when she refuses to clean up her messes and hits me with lollipops (yes that happened today).

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013She loves when Ari lifts her up high to touch the trees!

Goal 8: I want to continue to build a remarkable business that is a catalyst for real LOVE. I want my clients to have better LIVES and I want our brides to have strong MARRIAGES. I want to be a centered sounding board and prayerfully guide my clients this year to their fullest potential. My goal is to always come back to our CORE and to keep refining it.

// YES YES and YES! This update continues to stay strong and I am so grateful.  It becomes clearer and clear to me by the day that, the more we focus on our core and refine it to align with God’s will, the more powerful our work is on all levels. Our core mission is to inspire brides to cultivate a life full of love – celebrating their families, the rich culture of the South and what matters most to them – and then to draw from that rich well to create a meaningful beginning to married life! Through our weekly staff meetings and all of the decisions we make, we come back to this core mission daily and it clarifies everything. We’ve had SO many great staff meetings lately centered on our core and taking action on that daily.  I am so grateful for Nicole, Emily, Marissa, Kristin and Lisa!

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

Goal 9: To learn how to take better photographs for myself so that I can remember Grace as she is in these sweet moments. I am not really sure why for this goal. It feels like a very God-centered goal, but it’s something I can’t explain. I have this connection to great photographs… they somehow speak to my soul. They change me. I think a gift God gave me was to be able to see the vision of a photograph to create. I can see moments and the big picture and a vision. I don’t have the technical skills to match that to capture the moments I see, if that makes sense. I even bought a great camera last year. It hasn’t been used yet because I get really frustrated with technology and numbers and learning new skills that I have to read a manual for. I want to learn the technical skills of how to take the photographs that I see in my heart.

// I’ve learned a lot about light and processing lately just through observing others and studying.  But, for now, I’m leaving this to the pros!

Goal 10: I want to live with less, keep a new budget based on the historical data we have from 2012, and be more frugal this year because my money is not mine. It’s God’s and I want to do more with our money for Him. I want to not only give away things I don’t need, but give away things I love. Ari is really good at this. His favorite sweater was in our charity pile this weekend and, when I asked him about it, he said he said that it wasn’t really giving unless you were giving something you didn’t want to give away for the sake of someone else. I love that. I want to be more sacrificial in my giving.

// We can’t take our stuff to Heaven with us.  I have so much growing to do here, but I am so grateful for how God is changing our family in this realm.  I read Interrupted and it further convicted me that my heart needs to change more and more to be like Him.  So, I started the Contentment Challenge at the start of September.  Not shopping for things I don’t need hasn’t been hard.  At all.  It’s giving things away and living sacrificially that has been a huge challenge on my heart.  More to come here.

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

Goal 11: I want to build other’s up in faith and give lots of tools this year for people to make that happen. I want to study the Bible with others in my home and online. Going back to goal 1, I want to know the Bible so I can share it with others. Showing people the new life that I have been given and the indescribable JOY and freedom and love and genuine purpose I have found in this new life… well, that is something I want to share. Big time. If you were to find the most beautiful island in the world, you would want to invite all your friends. That’s how I feel about being in a relationship with God. I want everyone to be able to feel this goodness. I want to equip people with basic tools to know God more.

// With my book manuscript due at the end of January, I’ve had to table the in-person Bible study.  I did, however, write to our women’s ministry leader to tell her I was interested in doing this so we are going to meet one afternoon to talk about it.  I so badly want more time to be able to learn and study more so I am better equipped to teach God’s word to others.  I have been so convicted by Bob Goff talking to us at Pursuit 31 about how we need to stop agreeing with Jesus and DO something about who He is.  I want to live that.  So much.  I want to have Bible doings instead of Bible studies.

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

Goal 12: I want to finally WRITE MY BOOK. I already have most of the content written and just need to put it together. Nicole and I started talking about the printing and technical aspects of this before the end of the year, so it’s in the works. My goal is to release it before the end of 2013, if not sooner. I want it to be timeless and done well so it will help creatives make things happen year after year. I want it to be a legacy for Grace to learn from as well.

// I signed my contract with Thomas Nelson/Harper Collins last week.  I am pretty afraid to write this book, but slowly God is giving me clarity.  This update is not wrapped up in a pretty bow yet.  Check back with me in January : )  My manuscript is due January 31, 2014 and the book debuts in January 2015!

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013Gina made us say “banana pants” really loud!

Goal 13: I want to continue to paint and create products for small creative spaces that inspire people to live better lives. God is the ultimate creator and I believe He gave all of us creative talents that are meant to be USED. I want to use my creative gifts much more this year: design, painting and singing.

// We successfully launched the Lara Casey Shop in February and sales have been very consistent with little to no marketing.  The PowerSheets have been our most popular product besides the AMEN print (my favorite), and have sold out now six times.  My own PowerSheets have been an exercise in discipline and have challenged me to take action on my goals and never tarry.  Painting – I finally painted the giant 5 foot canvas in our living room!  YES!   Singing – I love singing with Gracie and that is plenty for me right now.

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

Goal 14: An immediate goal I have is to finish my website. It’s been over a year in the making and it’s a monster. The coding is almost done, my shop is populated and I just have a lot of site content to populate now. I’m hoping we can launch it late this month!

// DONE! We launched and I still love this site more than all the Luna Bars and chickens in the world!  OK, maybe not more than chickens.

Goal 15: I want to foster my friendships is a purposeful, focused way because then I will build a stronger bond with my friends and we can do more good things for others together. I want to be more prayerful for my friends, even when they don’t know it. I want to do surprise things for them to make them feel special and build their faith and capacity to love.

//  One of my PowerSheets goals has continued to be to pray for my friends often.  Ari and I pray for friends at dinner as well.  I still long for “dear friends” (here locally) as the Bible describes them. More on my recent friendship thoughts here.

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

Goals 16: I want to support new moms more. I had a really hard time after Grace was born and several friends sent me care packages that really made a difference. I started a new moms group and my goal is to have several care packages and cards ready to go for new mamas and expecting mama friends that I can send out right away. I want to support new moms locally, too.

// I have shifted my focus to praying for friends who are going through infertility and those who are pursuing adoption.  God just has both of those things on my heart lately.

Goal 17: I want to send more real mail to build stronger connections with others, because hopefully it will help people feel God’s love.

// I sent a big bunch of cards and letters out last week and am working on some new shop products for 2014 that will help all of us stay connected the old fashioned way : )

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013The best.

Goal 18: I want to do more random acts of kindness. As often as possible because these things can help people feel hope and know that God is good. A little kindness can change someone’s life for the better.

// I want to do more of this.  That is all.

Goal 19: I want to show my family God’s love through my actions so that they will know Him more and trust in Him. My family is going through a lot right now. They need a lot of love. My goal is to be sacrificial with my time and resources so I can support them and take care of them in their distress.

// Yes!  I was able to go visit them in September and it was so good to be home.  And, like I mentioned above, my Grandma Bunny was diagnosed with mouth cancer.  At the age of 96, she started radiation treatments 5.5 weeks ago.  She is not cured, but has responded well to them.  Her cancer has shrunk significantly, which is more than we could have asked for! Her final treatment is tomorrow.  Amen, hallelujah, thank you Lord!

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

Goal 20: I want to be like Moses this year in the way he trusted and just DID what God said to do. He let God use him. I want to be open to change and trust that God always has the perfect plan. No matter what.

// I have had to step out on faith in so many arenas lately.  I keep saying that I don’t feel equipped and the truth is that I am not equipped.  But, He is.

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. - Phil 4:13

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

So, what is it that you want to make happen? Comment below to tell me about your progress this year, what’s been a challenge for you, and what you look forward to ahead. We’ll check in again before the end of the year!  Wow, time is flying!  I want to hear from you this week so I can hopefully encourage you and so you can also encourage each other. Make it happen, friends. No more lurking. Making things happen means taking action. So, fill me in! Remember, this is about PROGRESS, not perfection.  It’s never too late to start. Start today.

P.S. CONGRATS to the winner of the 2014 PowerSheets set (or anything in my shop up to $35 if you already ordered the PowerSheets), Sarah Lackner!  Sarah, email me and we will get your goodies to you!

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Somewhere around November 15th, every year, suddenly I would have a panic attack thinking, “How is it almost THANKSGIVING!?  How is it almost CHRISTMAS!?  Where did the year go?  I have so much left to DO!”  Projects I hadn’t started, goals I hadn’t touched all year and friendships I hadn’t nurtured.

photo 4 copyMy little punkin’ picking out pumpkins.

Typically, October is the month we all start gearing up for the holidays, becoming more and more spread thin as the holiday rush approaches.  To fill this anxiety about all the stuff I had to do, I’d buy stuff.  Home decorations, cinnamon apple candles to make me feel like I was home, and food.  Comfort food.  There is nothing wrong with those things, but when the stuff of our lives starts to pile up faster than leaves at the end of November, it’s easy to get really overwhelmed and weighed down. Can anyone relate to this?  Can I get some virtual AMEN’s!? I don’t know about you, but I want this year to be different.  Radically different.  I want this year to be clear.

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In these last couple months — #IntentionalAugust and #SavorSeptember — I’ve been able to practice doing that thing I am really bad at: being still.  I’ve studied these ideas of being truly intentional and savoring the blessings we have.  Thousands of you have joined right along with me and it has been a JOY and an inspiration to click on these little hashtags and open up a world of people who are truly living.

photo 2 copyGracie gardening with me and eating tomatoes right off the vine.

Clarity, clear, ready, open, sure of where I am, confident in the Lord’s purpose… that’s where I want to be this month and I am SO excited to learn from you all too as we dive into the clear waters of October! Read these definitions below carefully and let me know which ones resonate with you the most. The word “clear” holds so many meanings that surprised me and made me see just how much I need to clear, to free, to settle and to make light.

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My CLEAR LIST:

- I want to be free from haze.  Haze that comes from spending too much time looking at screens and not enough time gazing into eyes.  I want to fill our days with good work, good healthy food, better exercise, great books, corn mazes, pumpkin patches, fall leaves crinkling underfoot (y’all should see Grace stomping on fall leaves – so funny!) and warm hugs.
- I want to be bright and not darkened.  I want to be a light to others and that takes me letting the light in first.  I want to take big deep breaths in of the cool crisp October air and rejoice for the gift of being ALIVE!

photo 3 copyLast Friday, right before speaking at the Influence Conference.

- I want to be transparent in my marriage and open my heart more so we can find the most fulfilling quiet love together. Last night, Ari prayed for us before bed that we would continue to grow strong together.  It was a prayer that came from a silly argument, but the best prayers sometimes come from total surrender. ”God, we don’t know how to make this better, but we fully trust that YOU do.”  I woke up so grateful for Ari’s prayers for us and so ready to keep doing the best, most fulfilling, work I’ve ever done – the work of marriage.
- I want to be free from blemish… i.e. shame.  Guilt can sometimes motivate us to be out best selves and to apologize when we have hurt someone.  Shame, however, paralyzes us.  It’s self-punishment.  I want to let go of the shame I hold onto and fully accept the grace I’ve already been given.
- I want to see a clear path to victory for Him.  Not for me.
- I want to have a clear mind and a ready heart.
- I want to be free from doubt and confusion; certain of where I am supposed to be.

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- I want to make life light (worrying is like praying for what you don’t want), clear, and bright.  Continuing to get rid of stuff I don’t need and learning to be truly content.
- I want to get rid of the distractions - comparison, unresolved conflict, fear — that hold me from really fully living and giving to others.
- I want to settle loose ends… or just let them go.
- I want to free others from tension and help them see life in a new bright way.  I just finished reading Shauna Niequist’s Bittersweet after hearing her speak last week and I am so motivated to make stronger friendships.  Her book is rich with stories of the beautiful community of friends she has and how those friendships are born from spending physical time together and giving to friends instead of waiting for them to give to you.  I want to give to friends and build a community that all works together to give right back out to others, multiplying love.

photo 5One of my PowerSheets goals has been to read the Bible this year and I am so grateful to have finished the Old Testament last week!  On to the New!

- I want to jump over obstacles.
- I want to get through this magazine and speaking season well and with intention.  Next week, I’ll be speaking at Proverbs 31 Conference with Emily and Gina and at the end of this month we’re hosting the Making Things Happen Conference here.  I am so excited about both and ready for some face-to-face friendship time.

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Lastly, and perhaps most importantly:  I want my heart, my home, my family, my work, my body, my everything to be a clear open space, ready for whatever God has planned.

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Moldable.  Teachable.  Changeable.  Ready to say YES to what matters most.

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Join me.

Make your Clear List on your blog or Facebook or Instagram or ALL of them.  Get these words and declarations engrained in your mind and soul.  Be bold.  Be tender.  Be clear.  Share your post and tag it #ClearOctober on social media (or write your list in a comment here!) so we can all support each other and cheer each other on.  I would also personally love to pray for you.

photo 4Daddy picked out this outfit : )  

Before you make your Christmas list and the rush of the holiday’s takes you a way, make your Clear List.  Make LIFE happen this holiday season by setting yourself up for success.  The kind of success that changes not only your life, but possibly countless others.

LET’S DO THIS, FRIENDS!  Three people who comment with their Clear Lists and/or tag #ClearOctober this month on social media will win a Ocean Blue Make It Happen Print. I’ll choose the winners randomly at the end of the month.  More valuable than a desk print though, is what I hope and pray each of us makes happen this month.  Time to get CLEAR.

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With my recent travels and announcing some exciting news yesterday, I am a couple days behind on filling out my October PowerSheets.  But, I’m stopping now to get clear and focused on my goals this month.  Oh, my stars, these PowerSheets have changed my year and given me so much clarity.  As the cherry on top of this post, I’m happier than a hog in slop to announce that 2014 PowerSheet Pre-Orders are NOW OPEN!  HOORAY!!!!  We sold out six times this year and are putting some extra bells and whistles on the 2014 PowerSheets.  They will ship in few weeks so you have them in perfect time to prepare for 2014 greatness.

I want you to make what matters happen, so I am also going to be doing a 2014 Goal Setting Webinar at the start of 2014.  Everyone who pre-orders (before we sell out) will have free access to this exclusive live webinar in January.  Details to come once you place your pre-order!

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We called in reinforcements : )

OK, we are closing on our print edition in 5 days, so I am bucking down to make a magazine happen. Here’s to a brilliant clear October and an intentional finish to 2013!  I can’t wait to read all of your #ClearOctober updates, friends!

P.S. I typically don’t blog my newsletters, but there was an error in yesterday’s email so I’m posting the corrected text here for all to enjoy.  Be sure to sign up for next month’s newsletter here.

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Warning: mega post packed with goodness! Grab a tall glass of sweet tea and enjoy : )

I wrote a series on Goal Setting & Setting Yourself Up for Success at the start of this year because I got really tired of NOT making progress on the things that matter most.  In fact, I realized I didn’t know what truly mattered most to me.  I didn’t want to end another year with regret about things I could have accomplished if I had just taken tiny steps along the way to make them happen.  I got really tired of looking back and realizing how much time I wasted on worry and things that distracted me from my purpose.  I started this year with one main goal in mind and several that branch out from it: to know God more and walk in His ways.  I wanted to finally do the things I’ve always had on my heart to do.  I wanted to make LIFE happen. Turns out, a lot of you felt the same way.

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This graphic above and hundreds more are available as free downloads here!

I updated you with my first round of progress on April 10 and our second update was supposed to be on July 10th.  I didn’t forget about it, but I have had a really hard time writing this post for some reason.  I started to write this update and suddenly felt stuck — like I had nothing to report on.  Then, over the last weeks, God has been breaking me down to see just how much change has happened in my heart since the start of this year.. and how much more growing I need to do.  If you read my newsletter this month, you know it’s been a crazy time!  I needed to put the train brakes on to slow down and realize that I have made a lot happen, through God’s amazing guidance, the last four months.

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Photo by Faith Teasley.  Be sure to sign up for my next newsletter to see our full office tour on September 1!

So much has happened since my last update!  A few highlights…

- We hosted an amazing Making Things Happen Conference.  We’re so excited about the next one in October.
- We bought our house — praise the Lord!  Well, the bank technically bought it, but we are paying the mortgage : )
- I wrote a book 46-page proposal and it was accepted.  More on that later…
- Ari interviewed for and started his new job.  He officially and Interventional Radiologist and Professor at UNC.  I’m so proud of him!
- We said farewell to Susan and welcomed Meredith into our family. Meredith has been a dream come true and moved all the way from Norman, Oklahoma to be with us! Read her inspiring blog.
- We interviewed and hired Lisa, who celebrates one month with us today!
- Nicole celebrated 3+ years with us and renewed her contract (with some bribing – see here), Emily celebrated 4 years, Marissa celebrated 3+ years and Kristin celebrated her first wonderful year with us!
- I spoke at Engage! and Americasmart.
- Emily and I worked with 22 incredible branding clients.
- We launched lots of new shop products.
- Ari and I took a week of “stay-cation” and had a great visit with his mom.  Our stay-cation included a trip to the Piggly Wiggly — definitely a highlight!
- I read a book that changed my life.
- I took 2 weeks completely off of social media.
- Ari and I started teaching Sunday School.
- We also shared the story of our marriage – the good and the challenging – live on camera.
- We celebrated the one year anniversary of my dad’s baptism.  God is amazing!
- We said farewell to some great friends.  We miss you Thom and Bek!
- We launched the Southern Weddings and Lara Casey monthly newsletters.
- I planted a garden and fell in love with gardening (and got stung by a poisonous caterpillar familywhat!?).
- I had the biggest business meeting of my life.  More to come on that in a few months.
- Gracie continues to make my heart so full every day.  That is definitely a highlight.
- We celebrated five years of Southern Weddings with lots of favorites from the last wonderful years:  favorite editorials, real weddings, SW ladies, behind-the-scenes goodness, amazing photographs and our growth.  God is good!

My motto as of late: nothing measured, nothing managed.  My bulletin board is below.  This phrase has stuck with me lately because I tend to operate in the opposite way — I naturally prefer to live impulsively and coast through life rather than having a solid plan.  When I have a plan and a goal, it means I have to commit to something and there is a chance I could fail, so my natural tendency has been to shy away from goals.  Anyone else ever feel this way?

You know where this whole “Make it Happen” thing came from in the first place?  Because I had to say that phrase to myself constantly to get motivated. When I was in college, my course load was 56 credit hours per semester.  I had to kick my own tail to make things happen constantly.  I still do.  Over time, I’ve gone from being a coaster to a doer.  This is not “natural” for me.  If you’re in the same boat, welcome : )

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I’ve come to see that you have to have clear goals and be able to measure your progress to keep moving forward.  I need accountability or things don’t happen.  Leave me to my own devices and I’ll get distracted.  That’s why I made the PowerSheets and have devoted a good portion of my life to learning how to make things happen and teaching others to do the same.  Life is too short to coast.

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The basics of how to make things happen (read the goal setting posts below for much more!):

1. In order to make progress on anything, you have to first be honest with yourself about where you are.  Face the reality of where you are — with a heaping dose of grace for yourself — and ask God what you need to do next.  Is what you’re doing right now to make your goals happen working?  If not, redirect and take action on a better plan.  Be honest and gentle with yourself.  Progress, not perfection.

2. Next, dig deep to define what your goals/next action steps are. The difference between a dream and a goal is that a goal has a plan.  In order to set great goals — goals you will want to accomplish — you have to get specific and get to the core of WHY you want to make them happen.

3. Then, DO something about your goals.  You must take physical action.  Physical action is different than thinking about things.  This isn’t rocket science, but making things happen takes hard work.  Your goals must be more important than your excuses.  Are they?

4. And then, finally, you must measure your progress.  Whether you use my PowerSheets or you use a journal, use something.  Nothing measured, nothing managed.

If you are stumbling on my blog for the first time, or if you need to start fresh, below are the links to get you moving. It doesn’t matter that it’s August. It’s NEVER to late to do what matters and start LIVING. Today is the day — YOUR day to start making it happen, to get back on track, or to choose a new track entirely!

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GOAL SETTING + MAKING THINGS HAPPEN

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

If you started with me on your goal setting in January or even if you’re new here (welcome!), I’d love to hear about your progress, big or small. The goal is PROGRESS NOT PERFECTION. Honest updates will help you move forward. So, weigh in below. I hope to encourage you or pray for you. And you just might inspire someone else with your comment!

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Today is Awesome Confetti notepads available here.

GIVEAWAY:  As motivation for you, I’m giving away a set of PowerSheets (if you already have a set, you can give them to a friend who needs a boost or you can have anything in my shop up to $35!)!  So, comment on this post and fill me in on your goals and/or your progress so far this year! Why am I doing a giveaway to encourage you to comment?  Because when we write things out and put them in black and white, stuff happens.  You can keep your dreams to yourself or you can be accountable and DO something about them.  I want to help you be accountable!  We’ll check in again on your goal progress on October 10th and then at the end of the year. Mark your calendars.

First, a couple big things I learned overall. As I wrote in January and in April, goals change! I’ve continued to update my goals using my PowerSheets to mirror the change I’ve felt in my heart the last few months.  It is so important to evaluate your goals and check your focus often.  The second big thing I’ve learned (I also said this in my April update and it has continued to hold true!) is that, the more prayerful I am in my decisions, the more radically God changes my path and takes me to places I never thought possible! His plans never fail. I am impulsive by nature, so this has been a huge change and an enormous blessing to practice prayerful decision-making.

OK, let’s do this update, people!  (more…)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some favorite snippets from the lyrics:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photos by my new lovely friend Anna.

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A simple reminder of what we really need in life…

Lara Casey Shop Jesus  gold foil print
Print from my shop.

P.S. Tell me what you want to make happen here and win an Instax Mini Camera and shop prints. The comments so far are SO inspiring! WOW!

P.P.S. I’m speaking at Engage!13: Biltmore Estate Tuesday, having an exciting meeting when I get back and will likely be finding out about my book this week. Heavens to Betsy! Phil 4:13 All I need is Him.

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This morning I watched Gracie sit straight up in her crib on the monitor and say, “Happy day!” Yes, Gracie, it is a very happy day. I’ve had this song and these radiant lyrics stuck in my heart and pouring out of my lips for the last week. A peek below at the brand new prints I just listed in my shop. I created the Oh Happy Day print for our living room to remind us that, no matter what, we have so much to be grateful for. The lyrics to the song say it all.

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I’ve spent the last two weeks completely off of social media and it has been good. Good in a way I didn’t expect. I thought it would be hard. It wasn’t. I thought I’d miss it. I don’t. I thought I’d only stay off of social media for a couple days. It’s been two weeks and I could keep going, but I love y’all and I wanted to say hello.

I am still letting this experience marinate in my heart, but I have one profound truth to share with you today: when you let go of something, you leave room for your heart to be filled with something else.

As I’ve shifted my focus from a frenzy of online influences to the hearts right in front of me, God has been meeting me in the sweet conversations and stillness that I now have time for. We planted a vegetable garden (pics to come!), had lots of dinners with good friends, had a big yard sale for charity (the $516 raised will go to the tornado victims in Oklahoma — all my prayers are with them today), went to visit my parents in Florida and even baked bread this weekend. I learned a blanket stitch (from Ari who is a sewing pro from his surgery training!) and repaired a quilt that has been worked on by four generations — my great grandmother, Grama Bunny, my mama and now me. I hope that Gracie will get a chance to sew love into it someday, too. She has been exploding with words lately and had her first real conversation Sunday morning with Ari before church.

Gracie - Lara Casey
Photo by the amazing Katie Stoops, who came to shoot an editorial for us a couple weeks ago. This is also my iPhone screensaver : )

Ari (walking in to pick her up from her crib when she woke up): Good morning, Gracie. How are you?
Gracie (looks up, pauses): Good! How yooooo Daddy?
Ari (stunned): Good!

It’s not all easy, though. In sitting in stillness more with God, reading His word a lot, reading other books (I’m currently reading Radical) and spending the majority of my work time writing a proposal for a book about how to make what matters happen, my heart has been challenged. Like a lion facing off with a tiger kind of challenge. Raaaarrr. God has been shaking things up in my heart, making me question everything we are doing and asking, “Is this what God really wants me to be doing, buying, thinking, focusing on? Is this what He wants me to fill my heart with?”

You see, Jesus didn’t have Instagram. He changed the world through relationships. One at a time. He didn’t have a megachurch or a megaphone. Just the powerful truth of His existence and the plan that God was going to reveal though Him. The plan of grace. The plan of salvation. The plan of freedom. I want that plan to be mirrored in all I do. So, I’m going to keep listening in the stillness and challenging what the world says is the path to success. I want to make LIFE happen.

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Another signature gold foil print up the shop now.

Social media, of course, isn’t the problem. Your work isn’t the problem. Distractions aren’t the real problem. What we need to question is our hearts in using them. I have found great fulfillment in using social media to inspire and cheer others on and try my best, through many failures, to lead by example and share God’s word whenever I can. I am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but that is the point, isn’t it? The gospel – the good news – is good news to those of us (all of us) who are imperfect and need it. It’s really good news. I want to continue to use every platform I’m given for good. Risking failure in that is worth it. Sometimes a break is necessary to step back and make sure you’re doing things in the best way possible. It has certainly been necessary for me. I needed a heavy dose of perspective and it’s pouring in like a river. I’m not leaving social media for good, but I am going to use it less and differently from now on. The last two weeks have been so sweet. I don’t have all the answers yet, but stepping back to see the horizon is certainly helping me find some brilliant sun rays of clarity that are illuminating possibilities I never knew existed.

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In the spirit of making what matters happen and making memories with those right in front of us, I’m giving away a Fujifilm Instax Mini and one of the new prints from the shop – your choice! We use the Instax Mini every day here in our house and my fridge and kitchen bulliten board are so packed with wonderful photographs of great memories that we started covering the sides of our fridge!

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TO WIN: Simply leave a comment here telling me what you want to make happen most in life. I’ll choose a random winner on June 11!

P.S. I sent my book proposal off to the publisher just moments ago! Oh my stars, this has been one of the most challenging and rewarding (46-page) PDF’s I’ve created. Thank you to so many who have encouraged me and prayed for me during this time. I’m so grateful!

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I read a book this weekend. Do you know what a monumental statement that is for me? Truly an act of God and I’m not just being funny in saying that. It really is. 7 is the first book I’ve ever read without using an audio version or skimming or stopping at chapter 2. I went with my friend Nancy to see the author, Jen Hatmaker, speak last Friday. In my heart I laughed about someone like me, who in a recent blog post professed to not be a “reader”, going to a lunch with readers of a book I never read. I had no intentions of reading it. “I’m just not a good reader.” But, God had other plans. I resisted. My resistance held out all of 24 hours until I found myself clicking “buy now” on iBooks Saturday morning. I devoured every word. In 48 hours. And friends… it has changed me profoundly. More on this later. I want to act on the change in my heart before I tell you about it. Till then, read the book.

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My friend Casey Chappell is adopting a baby this week who has downsyndrome and, while God brought them the funds they needed yesterday for the adoption fees (God is good!!), there will be so many needs for this new life ahead. Casey is one of my dearest friends and already has four beautiful adopted children. Her family inspires me to no end. My #SpreadGoodnessToday project is going to their adoption this week. Get your scripture cards and donate here.

My first draft of my book proposal is due to my agent for review on Wednesday. I have a lot of work to do.

I also have to write my engage13! presentation.

We have SOLD OUT of the Making Things Happen PowerSheets four times this year and I am so inspired the incredible progress PowerSheet owners are making, myself included. We’re putting a few fun upgrades on them and will be releasing the next batch soon. PRE-ORDER your set now before we sell out again. We expect these to ship in late May/early June. Follow the #PowerSheets hashtag for updates and to see how others are making things happen with them. Also, the fun notepads in the first image are up in the shop now, too! These are our press samples, so just one available of each for now.

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I’m so grateful that we are going to see my family in Pensacola this coming weekend. So grateful. I miss my mama and my sweet daddy and Grandma Bunny and my amazing giving brother… and I can’t wait to get Gracie in the pool : )

Our new nanny, Meredith, starts next week. We are so grateful for Meredith and at the same time I may need to attach the Kleenex to my hip for the rest of this month. Words can’t express my sadness in Susan leaving, but I know she will change the world in her work ahead. God has great plans for her.

He has great plans for you, too.

Why this random short blog post? I’m taking some time off of social media. Maybe a couple days, maybe a week. I don’t know. I do know that God wants me to focus on other things right now. It’s hard to say no to the creator of the universe. : ) I need less “stuff” and more of Him. Less mental clutter, time replying to Instagram comments and posting pictures and more focus on Him (my goal is to get through all of Psalms this week). Yes, I easily take weekends off of social media and have for the last 2 years running, but I need that same focus in my week right now in order to make the things I want to make happen. More time to write my book that I know God wants me to write. More time to pray about the big change in my heart I feel stirring like a tornado after this weekend. More Gracie hugs when I have a break from work instead of looking at other people’s kids on Facebook. More face time and less phone time. If you want to join me, feel free. The world will not end. : ) Less is more. I love you all!

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P.S. The randomly chosen winners of the Goal Setting Update giveaway are Lauren (print from the shop!), Mel (print from the shop!) and Monica (TIEKS! YEAH!). Email me your mailing addresses ladies and we’ll get your prizes to you. Everyone who entered, I can’t wait to hear your progress in July. I’ll have an equally fun giveaway then!

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