Category: Inspiration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is us.

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

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

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

What is God calling you to believe?

What holds you back from believing?

How do we believe?

What could happen if we believed?

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

Encouragement from Jen Hatmaker:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The truth:

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

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

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

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

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

And so, with fear and trembling, I did.

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

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

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

We don’t have time to remain in chains.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, they did.

They stepped in.

The waters parted.

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

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

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

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

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

Photographs by Nancy Ray.

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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! : )

Kindle edition

iBooks edition

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, friends! I’m a little late in getting my speaking schedule posted, because honestly I didn’t think I’d be doing much speaking this year. I had cleared my calendar to make room for other things. But, God’s plans are better than mine and He continues to pull me to equip others for what matters. My number one aim this year is to have meaningful relationships. The internet is great, but I really love meeting people in person! I hope to see you at one of these events this year:

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I’ll be speaking on branding and the heart of Southern Weddings at Stone River in Columbia, South Carolina next week! Register here.

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Photo by Amy Arrington Photographers from the Atlanta Apparel VOWS event.

I’m grateful to join the Bliss and Bokeh ladies again this year in Charleston on September 22 and 23. I love this intimate retreat and can’t wait to meet new friends!

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

Photo by Anna K Photography from the AmericasMart Gift Market.

Later that week (September 25-27), I’ll be flying to Indianapolis (with Ari and Gracie!) to do a members-only event for The Influence Conference. I love this conference and the women who created it. I. Can’t. Wait. It was life-changing for me last year!

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Photo by Robyn Van Dyke (who I had a lovely dinner with last night!) from the Making Things Happen Conference this past March.

And, finally, I’ll be doing the Making Things Happen Conference for the sixth year, on October 27th and 28th, here in my home city of Chapel Hill, NC. I am very excited about the surprises we have in store for MTH this fall. We’ve learned so much in these last six years and we’re about to shake things up, combining the core principles of how to make what matters happen with key business strategy. But, most of all, MTH is about building lasting relationships. More on what I’ve learned in the last six years of leading the MTH workshop — and how I’ve changed in those years — in a post soon. For now, follow MTH on Instagram here and the #mthconference hashtag for some fun upcoming interviews with our speakers and lots of inspiring alum!

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Photo by Robyn Van Dyke from the Making Things Happen Conference.

I have been praying and planning and dreaming and working hard the last months between book edits to make these two days our most powerful conference yet. Seats are already flying and early-bird registration (save $1000 with the early-bird rate!) is open until July 1 or until we sell out. We’ve sold out six years in a row and the wait list averages 30+ people each year, so make it happen. I do this workshop to ignite change and purposeful passion in others, so I feel no hesitation in giving you a push to come! : )

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The wonderful MTH speakers who are all past MTH alum: (from left to right) Amber Housley, Emily Ley, Karen Stott, Nancy Ray, moi, Rhiannon Bosse and Gina Zeidler (who will be bringing baby Z with her to MTH, Lord willing!)

I also may be doing a webinar with Emily Ley in the summer (details TBA!) as well as a PowerSheets/business webinar later in the year. First, we need to get through magazine shoot season! A peek into our office below from Faith Teasley. You can take the full tour here.

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Having shared about all of these truly wonderful life-changing events, though, I feel compelled to offer a word of advice about conferences in general — advice I would have loved to have heard when I was just starting in business. You don’t need to go to conferences to be successful. Conferences have great value for education and building relationships, but you won’t be “left behind” or fail if you don’t or can’t go. Perhaps your resources need to be focused on another purpose right now, growing your business slowly and steadily. I talk to a lot of young business owners who are trying to figure out where to invest their money so I hope this advice is helpful. Don’t feel pressured. Grow slowly and wisely. If you can go to a great conference, go! And get the very most out of your experience by asking questions and building relationships. If you don’t go though, you are still on a great path forward. I am cheering for you, friends!

You can keep up with future speaking dates and get booking info here.

So, who am I going to see this summer and fall? : )

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Raaaaaaarrrr!!!

What’s that sound? That’s this bear cub coming out of hibernation after a long winter. I can’t say, “where did the time go?” because I know where it went. It went into the 74,000 words I poured my whole self into these last months.

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2014

My book manuscript is finally turned in. It’s in second draft format, currently in the hands of an editor, and I am waiting for my next round of suggested edits to come in. This whole book process has been a new adventure for me — new in every sense. I’m going to share a behind-the-scenes look at the process of writing this book and what I learned in my next newsletter. Sign up using the little box at the end of this post.

In my mind, May is the new January. I’m starting fresh this month. Starting new. Starting with a new heart after all I learned in writing. Spend 100+ days writing about what matters most and you’ll find yourself changed. But, I am taking my time in acting on that change. Well… some of it anyway.

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2014

May is my month to dig into new soil around here, literally and figuratively. I’m planting my vegetable garden and starting fresh with my PowerSheets. Purposeful goals take time and I hope to have a NEW, very purposeful, prayer-over, list in my PowerSheets by the end of this month. If you don’t have a set of PowerSheets, get one. We only have about 600 sets left and they have been going fast lately. Looks like y’all are feeling the need for a fresh start lately too! If you are reading this post, use the code STARTFRESHMAY for 25% off your entire order.

If anyone wants to join me in starting fresh (in any way — not just in goal setting), use the hashtag #StartFreshMay.

And, I’m trying something new…

Join me in a couple weeks, on May 14th, from 12 to 1pm EST, for a #StartFreshMay Google Hangout. This will be really casual — a time of encouragement and getting to know each other. I hope new friendships are formed from this and I can’t wait to hear how you are starting fresh! Join here (I think you have to add me to a circle or something).

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2014

Let’s get intentional about how we are using our time in this busy season. Even if it feels impossible to put the brakes on, if you are reading this post, you have enough time in your day to make what matters happen. Starting fresh — in whatever needs a new start for you — will be worth it. I’m going to take time to pray (by myself and with friends on the phone — another new thing I’m trying to do more), read the Bible, and work through each of the PowerSheets steps one by one with fresh eyes. This is my month to look at how I’m doing just about everything and ask how I could do it more intentionally. I am excited and, more than that, just plain grateful.

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Whatever that thing is that is calling your heart to start new, take the leap. Whether it’s a relationship that needs your all or a creative pursuit or loving someone well or writing your soul or gutting your closet or planting your garden — do it. Dig deep into fresh soil with me, friend. I can’t wait to be inspired by your #StartFreshMay journey too.

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Join me!

– Start fresh in whatever area of life needs it most. Start today. You can do this.
Hang out with me in a couple weeks.
– Sign up for the newsletter (below) for a behind-the-scenes on my book soon.
– I’d love to hear from you here or on social media about what you are starting fresh with. Let’s encourage others too who might be feeling the need for this.

May is the new January. Let’s do this!

P.S. I’m going to release my book cover very soon, as well as some exciting pre-order news. God is good. I am so grateful. More to come. Sign up for my newsletter below to be the first to know.

Photos by my dear friend Gina



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

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

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

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

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

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