Category: Inspiration

Our son was born today at 7:17pm after a miraculous day of answered prayers. And he’s a redhead! Be still my heart. 9 lbs, 4 oz, 21.5 inches long. I wrote this while we waited on him to arrive this last week, and I’m so grateful to finally share this story. More to come on the adventure of today in a couple weeks after we settle in with this little love.. 

 

Joshua Cecil Isaacson. This name. Oh, this name. With Grace, we knew very quickly what her name would be. Grace was the undeserved gift we had been given in our marriage. A fresh start. New hearts. A shared faith. I prayed, and that’s what God told me we should name her. It was as clear as can be.

But, this little one. His name has been a test of faith and surrender. Sometimes God wants to change us before He gives us answers to our prayers. Sometimes that change is the answer. And if God is in your heart change, it means that there is a story that points right back to Him. A really good story.

Through waiting and loss and waiting some more, we surrendered and rejoiced in a new path: adoption. And then… the day we finished our adoption paperwork, there were two pink lines. The timing was unmistakably God’s. And there was no doubt in our minds that we should keep going with our adoption. Read the whole story here. Right now, we are waiting to be matched with our littlest girl.

On February 7th this year, something else happened. Another unmistakable God story. Pause right now here and go read this. Don’t read any further till you do. Come right back to this spot when you’re done. I’ll be here : )

So there you have it. It was a big day. Big surrender and life change in the months that have followed.

Back to that weekend for a minute…

Ari and I stood up in church the next morning during a moving song that our friend Beverly sang, grasping each other’s hand, knowing without a doubt that we had been set free. We had let go of the past and moved forward. I can’t even describe that feeling with adequate words. There is no freedom on earth that compares to the freedom of knowing that you have nothing to hide. Nothing to feel shame about. Nothing. You are completely forgiven. His grace is truly amazing.

If you are reading this and have no idea what I mean, or feel frustrated not having felt His grace, or want it more than words–I rarely say this but–I know how you feel. For so long I thought, “Maybe I’m not good enough, or reading my Bible enough, or mature enough as a Christian. Maybe I’ve been too bad. Maybe I’ve messed up too much. Maybe God just isn’t listening.” I felt like I didn’t get it and I never would. Then I had Grace. And God showed me that faith and a relationship with Him are not about my ability to perform well; faith is about surrender. It’s not about me. It’s about Him. Knowing that He is God and I am not and that is a very good thing. He has the power to change hearts and bring what feels dead to life (our marriage for starters), not because we are awesome, but because He is. That is why it’s called the “Good News.” We don’t deserve His grace and He gives it to us anyway. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. - Ephesians 2:8

So, whatever it is that has been holding you back from surrendering to Him and laying your burdens down…

let.

it.

go.

Choose God. Set your foot on new ground, against all odds, as Joshua did. Step into the middle of the river and watch God make a way for you. He can.

Nothing on this earth is worth carrying a burden that is holding you back from your Maker. Nothing. For me, surrender is hard. The first chapter of my book starts with giving birth to Grace because that was the most challenging physical surrender I can remember. I had no control and had to fully rely on Him. Equal to that surrender has been surrendering my pride over these years, namely this year. Dying to myself. Times of humility and confession: “God I need you and I want you. But I know something isn’t right. Please help me turn away from all the junk that’s distracting me from what matters—from You.” I’ve prayed that many times and God always answers because He wants our hearts. All of our hearts.

Moving forward means first letting something go. What is that thing God is trying to get you to let go of? Start with prayer if this feels overwhelming or you don’t know where to start. Ask God what to do and then dive in, even and especially, if it feels hard. Surrender is worth it.

Back to February. Having laid it all at His feet, we both knew that Joshua was the name the Lord had given him. God is pretty big on names. Names carried meaning and stories of faith that helped others have faith too. If God changed someone’s heart, a new name came with that heart change many times (Saul to Paul). Ari and I felt strongly that this name of his would tell a story–His story–even if we didn’t fully understand it all yet.

But…

Insert nine months of “but!” I began agonizing over this name in the silliest ways and battled between total surrender to God and this: “Josh” sounded too young. His first name would end in a vowel and didn’t fit with the vowel that started “Isaacson.” It was a mouthful. I couldn’t think of any cute baby nicknames that went with Joshua. Joshy? J? We also loved the name and story of Daniel. So, would he be Joshua Daniel? JD? Or Daniel Joshua? DJ? You guys. The name game in my head was a mess. I spent months debating these things in my head and with Ari, and fighting God on it. You see, God wants meaningful stories to be told that point back to Him, and the enemy really doesn’t love that. At all.

  
Every time I went back to God and let go of all the name game mess, He said, “Trust me. This is my story.” And, friends, His plans have always been far better than mine. This wasn’t about choosing a baby name. It was about our hearts needing to change over the last nine months.

Letting go of our plans for His. Our comforts for others. Our fear for faith.

We told no one our thoughts through this process. We just prayed. We read scripture. The story of Joshua, Daniel, and others who trusted in the Lord. In retrospect, it was very good. It was just us and God. In it all, we were changed in a million little ways. We felt God saying, “Just keep listening…”

  

And then Kristin walked in my door. She showed up at my house all the way from Florida to surprise me during our team summer BBQ just a few weeks ago. In true Kristin fashion, she breezed in the door with a bouquet of balloons and a freshly-cooked batch of my favorite quinoa salad.

That night, we picked corn fresh from the garden, sampled just-pulled carrots, and chatted over dinner about everything from favorite summer memories to the best doughnuts in the area. And then we talked baby names.The ladies surprised me with a little shower and gave their name “guesses.”

Lisa: Jacob Cecil Isaacson

Emily: David Cecil Isaacson

These ladies know us well. They knew the name would be Biblical. They knew how much my grandpa, Cecil Austin, influenced my faith and love of gardening. It has been a year of cultivating meaningful relationships and spending lots of time getting our hands dirty in the mineral-drenched soil, just as Cecil loved to do. He loved what mattered: God first, his wife, and his vegetable garden. He didn’t care about accolades; He cared about eternity. The first paragraph of my book is about grandpa’s love for his wife, Celeste, who passed the day after we found out we were unexpectedly pregnant. It was also the same day we finished our adoption paperwork. God was undoubtedly in all of this.

And then Kristin: Joshua Cecil Isaacson

The moment Kristin said it, we knew. We didn’t have to speak about it. Ari and I tried to play it off and not look at each other when that name was spoken for the first time. His name. Dinner continued. Kristin was the last to leave. She insisted on helping me do dishes, which turned into deeper conversation about family and our hearts.

As we walked her to the door, Ari couldn’t help it. “Kristin. The name… you were right.”

Somehow it was all confirmed. We all had tears in our eyes. I had no words. Just awe.

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

This journey hasn’t been about a name or a baby, it has been about God. About who He is. About His power to do what feels impossible. About Him being God and good, even in times of waiting and grief. Waiting on the Lord taught us so much. We waited for His perfect timing for this child to come. We waited nine months for this name to be confirmed. We waited and trusted and failed along the way a lot, but we kept going. And in the wait we were refined. Changed. Readied for whatever He has ahead for us.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. I have clung to these words from Isaiah for two years, in times of doubt and fear, and have seen them come true over and over again. God can do far more than we ask or imagine.

I don’t know where this post finds you. I don’t know your heart today or what’s weighing on you. What I do know: If you are in a season of doubt or fear or feeling lost, trust what you can’t yet see. God is listening. Even when you can’t feel it. He is. He makes streams in the wasteland. He makes all things new.

  

“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 ‭1:7-9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Welcome to the world, son. The Lord will be with you wherever you go.

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Hi! So, yes… I’m still pregnant. Twelve days past my due date. These twelve days, as short as that may sound in the big picture, have been some of the longest days. They have been challenging and yet good and prayer-packed. It’s hard to describe what it’s like to wait on a baby to come. You want to take note of labor symptoms and get excited and prepare well, yet you have to completely let go as each day passes. You can’t plan for anything and yet you have to keep going, because sitting and thinking about it too much is perhaps the worst thing to do in waiting. And I’ve done a lot of that. Lots of tears and fears and they have all brought me back to a deeper TRUST and surrender. I’ve been learning that this is not waiting time; it is living time. God created these days on purpose, for a reason, and each day has revealed so many beautiful reasons why He has said, “Not yet…”

These photos were taken right before my due date by my sweet friend, Emily.

Photo by Emily March Photography // www.emilymarchphotography.com

God’s three answers to prayer:

Yes.

Not yet.

And…

I have something better in mind.

Photo by Emily March Photography // www.emilymarchphotography.com

What’s new: My mom has been here the last couple weeks, which has been a blessing. She and Grace have painted birdhouses, played restaurant, baked, gone swimming, puttered in the garden, and told more than a few funny kitty stories. This has been sweet time for them and us. Ari and I have had little windows of time to read together and have been loving You and Me Forever by Francis Chan. Highly recommend this book! This time has been a blessing for our marriage as we’ve supported each other in the many emotions that have come in waiting. With my mom here, we’ve been able to talk more and prepare for baby. That is such a gift. Also new: we released the Write The Word journals (so excited about them!), new desk cards, and revealed the 2016 PowerSheets options. Read all about them here.

Photo by Emily March Photography // www.emilymarchphotography.com

What’s ahead: Well, at some point in the next 72 hours, I will, Lord willing, have a baby. If he doesn’t come on his own by tomorrow morning at 8am, the docs want to induce me because my fluid is getting a little low. I am already 4cm though, so I pray he comes on his own before then! It’s all in the Lord’s hands.

Photo by Emily March Photography // www.emilymarchphotography.com

July PowerSheets Goals updates:

  • Soak in the Word – Yes! In this time of waiting I have definitely been soaking in the Word and it has sustained me and changed me. I am so grateful!
  • Transition to maternity leave – Yes! 
  • Love Ari and Grace well – Yes. Having this extra unexpected time with just the three of us has been a huge blessing. 
  • Pray, surrender, listen – I didn’t know how much I would have to do this when I first wrote these goals for July, but this has been the biggest one. I have leaned into this and found peace in the very hard moments of waiting and uncertainty.
  • Listen and lead well through an encouraging last Bible Bunch before baby – Yes, the July Bible Bunch was so wonderful!
  • Love our family group + friends well before baby – Yes, and I’ve gotten such sweet “extra” time to be with them before baby.
  • Release the Write the Word journal series - Yes! And I have been LOVING my own journal the last two weeks. I’m so grateful that y’all are as excited as I am about the Write The Word journals!
  • Pray about labor + post-partum – Well, this is an answered prayer. Before this time of waiting for baby, I was plain scared of labor. Now, I crave it. More than I can express. I can’t wait! God sure knows what He is doing in changing our hearts!

Photo by Emily March Photography // www.emilymarchphotography.comI love this photo that Grace took with Emily’s camera! : ) 

August PowerSheets Goals:

  • Have a baby : )
  • Glorify God in it all
  • Pray over and decide about Gracie’s school plan. I’ve been praying often about whether or not to keep Grace in pre-school for this fall or go ahead and move to homeschool. Still praying!

Weekly goals:

  • Continue to encourage others and build them up spiritually, even when baby comes
  • “Praise Him in the sanctuary!” The artist who sings this song escapes me right now, but I love it. The goal: be with God and praise Him in all things!

Daily goals:

  • Prayer—deep prayer
  • Write The Word
  • Read and soak in the Word
  • Love Grace and Ari well

If you are in a season of waiting–for whatever it may be–I’m with you today and praying for you now. Maybe this challenging time or place is meant for your good. Maybe this season of waiting is really a season of preparation, getting you ready for something better. Something you never expected. : )

“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.” Psalm‬ ‭130:5‬

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My friend Rhi asked me yesterday when it finally sunk in that this was real. I told her that it still hasn’t sunk in, and I’m not sure it will till he’s here. I am nine months pregnant (something I have to repeat to myself often to wrap my head around it) and I don’t talk about our little guy much because I still remember the pain of loss and waiting and it makes me pause.

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Some tell us we are crazy for saying yes to what’s ahead with two new babies around the same time, but we know without any spot of doubt that this is His plan. Sometimes His plans make no logical sense to the world, and that’s what faith is. Trusting in what we can’t yet see. That doesn’t mean I don’t have fear and moments when I forget to trust. I do. But I try to let my faith speak louder than my fear. I remember that the end of the story is already written and the best is yet to come.

IMG_8968Mini golf this weekend and a very excited Gracie.

What’s new: Throughout the Fruitful Summer series, we’ve been talking about cultivating what matters. And, so, I decided to start (semi) maternity leave now. Grace has had a challenging last couple of weeks and, after a hard weekend, God gave me this clarity: I can’t get these days back with her. To help her with this transition, I decided to stop working full time as of Monday. I still have meetings and projects to wrap up (2016 PowerSheets design, new product launch coming) in the next few days, but I’m putting my focus on her now. Spending the day with her yesterday and helping her through lots of emotions was so fruitful. I am grateful that the Lord has provided this time for me to love her well in prep for two more littles joining us soon.

IMG_8932Ari and Grace reading while we waited on the doc to come in during my check-up last week.

Baby prep: I cleaned out the nursery, finished our Amazon registry last week, and all the baby clothes are washed and ready. We have plenty of clothes from Grace since I bought her mostly neutral colors when she was born, and Emily sent us a big box from Brady and the twins — I am so grateful. I packed my hospital bag, printed out a tentative birth plan, and made a final list of other things to tackle in the next couple weeks. But, the biggest thing on the list is praying. I can plan all I want, but the Lord knows the plan and what we need most. Knowing that I went through postpartum depression after Grace, I’m also praying on that. You can read about my postpartum experience here, Grace’s birth here, and watch the announcement video here. It’s amazing to look back on these experiences and see how much God has changed in our lives since then! When Grace was born, we had very little community here. Ari had just started to come to church with me and our marriage was so different. I am so grateful for the brothers and sisters we have now who are all so supportive and excited for these babies — close dear friends!

Names, etc: We have a short list of names for baby boy, but this pregnancy has felt private and sacred. Ari and I both feel that we’ll likely wait till we hold him to name him. With Grace, I prayed and God immediately said “Mercy or Grace” — the gifts we had been given in our marriage. With this little guy, it’s been an exercise in trusting Him and waiting on His timing. So, we will wait these few more days to see him and give him a name : )

What’s ahead: Lord willing welcoming baby boy, being matched with our littlest girl, maternity leave, my parents coming into town soon, and a big update is that we’re moving our shop out of my house. It’s time. For all ten years I’ve owned my own business, the garage has always housed something other than a car: wedding planning supplies, floral vases, and right now about 20 pallets of shop products and magazines. With five employees in my house and two new babies on the way, the shop had to make a move. In the fall, I’ll be releasing the new 2016 PowerSheets options, speaking at the Influence Conference (with all the babies and Ari in tow!), leading the Making Things Happen Conference, and writing my second book about cultivating what matters. After the book is done in early 2016, I won’t go back to work full time. I’ll be part time for the future after that.

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June PowerSheets Goals progress:

  • Write the words He has for me. After struggling with writing and much prayer, God gave me a new book to write. So, I took a risk and sent a brand new proposal to my editors. I am grateful to say they love it and my new deadline is after maternity leave – February 1. Still not a lot of time considering what we will have going on in our lives with two babies, but I praise Him for this new direction.
  • Cultivate fruitful relationships. YES! Fruitful Summer has been a joy to create and I hope you’ve enjoyed it too : ) If you missed it, you’ll find links at the bottom of this post.
  • Read the Word and do what it says. Trying to do this daily.
  • Deny myself and take up my cross. Again, always working on this.
  • Listen and lead well through an encouraging Bible Bunch. We will be studying through Interrupted this month and next. Yes, this was a wonderful gathering in June!

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And now, my July PowerSheets Goals (assuming baby boy comes on time):

  • Soak in the Word
  • Transition to maternity leave – in progress
  • Love Ari and Grace well
  • Pray, surrender, listen
  • Listen and lead well through an encouraging last Bible Bunch before baby
  • Love our family group + friends well before baby
  • Release the Write the Word journal series - coming soon
  • Pray about labor + post-partum

Weekly + daily goals: (lots of prayer again this month, as you can see above)

IMG_8985Hosting friends this past weekend.

This may be my last update before baby, friends. Thank you for walking this journey with me and for your prayers. I treasure them. Here’s to a meaningful July!

P.S. In case you missed Fruitful Summer:

P.P.S. Get on this below! Details here. Contest ends July 15th.

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When life gives you lemons… invite your friends over for some porch sittin’, lemonade, and a do-over : ) Anyone else need one of those? And porch sittin’ is a real thing. We did it Sunday night with friends and it was so needed. We talked about everything from the Bible to favorite TV shows from our childhood (mine: Reading Rainbow and Fraggle Rock). Porch sittin’ and great conversation can cure a whole lot of things, including glitches in email sending. We had some technical hiccups getting our first-ever Fruitful Summer series out this week — and this series has my heart and soul in it — so I’m blogging Week One here for you! If you want to get in on the rest of this five-week series on cultivating meaningful friendships, click here to sign up before Wednesday, June 10. Don’t miss this. I am so excited!

Okay… on to Fruitful Summer.

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Confession: writing books is not something I love doing, but I am learning to love what happens in the process. Through the long hours at my desk, pressing into the tough soil of fear, comparison, and doubt — something is happening. As my heart is being refined in writing a book about cultivating what matters, my friendships are becoming more fruitful.

But, you should know something: this is new for me. I haven’t always had close friendships. In fact, most of my life, I’ve had my foot in my mouth and felt too busy, too flawed, too introverted, too imperfect to have friends. Real friends—friends who love me in my mess and encourage me to live on purpose. I wanted close friendships so much, but it felt impossible.

I have a surprise for you.

Each season we’ll be going on an adventure together. #FruitfulSummer is all about cultivating meaningful relationships and doing life together.

9159089e-ad18-41f6-8c0e-a96c26c9485eHow? Sign up for five simple weeks of learning how to cultivate meaningful connections.

Here’s what to expect in the series — and a preview from Week One just for you:

1) A short weekly note from me with quick encouragement and free printables for you and your friends. Here is a preview from Week 1: The Fruitful Summer Guide!

Inside the Guide:

  • Beautiful printables
  • My top tips for making connections happen
  • Fruitful conversation starters
  • Insight from some of my closest friends
  • Free Fruitful Summer wallpapers for your iPhone or mobile device
  • A big shop discount code
  • Our top friendship gift picks for the summer
  • …and much more!

2) A fresh video each week. Nothing fancy (all shot on my iPhone), just a whole lot of fun. Here’s Week One for your viewing pleasure! You may spot some familiar faces in here : )

Fruitful Summer, Week One – Lara Casey and Friends from lara casey on Vimeo.

3) More intentional relationships for you! We’re going to get practical and real in this series and I can’t wait to see what new things grow in your life as a result.

Why #FruitfulSummer? Because learning that I didn’t have to be perfect to have close friends changed my life. My hope is that this series helps you discover the same!

P.S. Share this post and don’t forget about the Summer Reading Giveaway too! Encourage your friends to join you for a #FruitfulSummer. Feel free to snag this caption and use any of the graphics in this post: “I’m getting ready for a #FruitfulSummer, cultivating meaningful relationships with @LaraCasey and friends — join us! tinyurl.com/fruitfulsummer

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P.P.S. As if this wasn’t enough for one day, our Summer Clearance Sale is ON! Get 60% off prints, desk cards, T’s and more — no code needed — until everything sells out.

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Hi, friends! First of all, how are you? I prayed for each of you who left requests on my last post and am here to pray if you are reading this right now and have something on your heart. I believe that prayer can change things and that God is real and listening. I’ll ask for a couple prayers too, if that’s okay. We submitted our adoption paperwork and profile a couple weeks ago, so now we are waiting for the Lord’s timing to be matched. There are so many layers to adoption, so general prayer for the Lord to make His plans clear would be wonderful. Also, prayers for endurance and wisdom in my writing over the next eight weeks would also be appreciated, as I enter the third trimester. Thank you for praying!

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/isaacsonfamilymarch2015Photo by the amazing Gina Zeidler. This is how Grace feels about May! See more Gracie fun and my maternity pics here.

What’s new: Our gardens are planted and I am so grateful. I started writing my next book, which is very slow and very hard, but the soil has been cracked. Seeds have been planted in the garden and for these pages. Now, to tend, cultivate, and watch God make things grow, little by little — and to keep saying YES to what He has for me. To help me stay focused, I’ve taken the last week off of social media and plan to continue for as long as the Lord wants me to. It has been refreshing and eye-opening.

View More: http://katelynjames.pass.us/swteamshoot

Our recent team retreat was so fruitful (photo above by my wonderful friend Katelyn James!), our house got a little crazy with PowerSheets orders, and my mom’s visit here was also a joy. We gardened with mom and Gracie had a blast sitting on the front porch with her in the rocking chairs, telling silly stories at night.

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Also new… #TheOfficeReno is done! Full tour coming soon to Southern Weddings, but here are a few sneak peeks below from my sweet friend Robyn Van Dyke. I’ll be transparent in that I feel hesitant to share images of a “space” without telling you more of the heart behind it. It is just a space and I am grateful for it, but I also know that this world is not my home. More to come…

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What’s ahead: Writing. Writing. Writing book two. Putting my everything into these pages for the Lord. Also, we are taking a little family vacation/babymoon next week. And then more writing. I’ll also be sharing some encouragement on creativity, competition, and comparison at the Creative Women’s Summit on May 14th, which is free for Influence members — join us.

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I’ll start my April goals update by sharing that it was a challenging month for me. I was physically tired and struggled a lot as I tried most of the month to write, but I didn’t crack through the soil till this past week. All in God’s timing, but it was a tough one. I struggled with fear, doubt, trust, and all things that ultimately led me to see that I needed to mature in my faith. The struggle led me to see places where I haven’t been truly loving God and have instead let the world get ahold of me. I am grateful for the refinement of this past month and pray it continues!

My April PowerSheets Goals update:

April Monthly Goals:

  • Write the book. This is my main focus for April, May, and June. If I don’t reply to your emails or texts, it’s because I have to pour into these pages in order to make time for these babies that are coming into our lives soon. I don’t want to have the book still on my list when babies come! In progress, little by little.
  • Lead a truth-filled April Bible Bunch. Done. It was awesome.
  • Enjoy a joyful team retreat. Yes. This was so fruitful. It changed the way we plan to do everything in business and with the content we produce. You’ll see those changes roll out soon! I am grateful for the wise ladies I work alongside.
  • Be a joyful light to my mom when she visits. It was a great visit with lots of gardening time and good food. 
  • Plant our veggie + flower gardens. Done. This was a lot of work and so worth it.
  • Move into my new office with a “Heaven is my Home” focus — i.e. not focusing on stuff, but rather on doing God’s work in this new space and shepherding this space well. Yes, as I mentioned above, it’s done! I struggled along the way with material desires and prayed hard through it all. I am grateful for our new space and pray to continue to use it well to do His work.
  • Prepare well for our family vacation. Yes, all packed and ready to go.
  • Host and worship during a meaningful Passover. Yes, this was a wonderful experience and Ari did such a great job leading and teaching.
  • Cultivate fields of gratitude — praise Him! This I battled with a lot this month. Through the struggles, God taught me that gratitude in our circumstances is not what lasts. Gratitude for who He is lasts because He never changes. So, I have more of a focus on praising Him for who He is and that is a good thing.

April Weekly/Daily Goals:

  • Prayerful marriage tending, using all we learned in Dynamic Marriage. This was challenging to transition from such a focused period of marriage learning to practicing it in the “real world.” We are working on it though!
  • Sing hymns to Grace/meaningful morning walks. Yes, did this and it was a joy.
  • Send Encouragement Postcards. Yes! I sent several and loved doing this.
  • “Heaven is our Home” actions — finances (we’re working to cut our family budget in half to save for our adoption) + choices (where we choose to use our resources of time and money and heart). I put an alert on my calendar to go through our family budget and business finances each Friday morning and it has helped, but we have a lot of work to do here on the personal side to sacrifice more. A huge help this past week — I started reading Interrupted again (the new updated version) and it has ROCKED MY WORLD. Highly recommend this book.
  • Prayer for team, contentment, friends, and others in their faith and marriages. Yes.
  • Read some of The Best Yes myself and Shepherding a Child’s Heart with Ari. Didn’t happen. I am packing Interrupted and both of these books for our trip though.
  • Fitness + weights. I walked or did some cardio every morning, but weights didn’t happen. Most mornings I have felt tired from restless pregnancy sleep, so I’ve had little energy for lifting. I decided to make this easier with my May goals and aim for doing them once a week instead of every other day.
  • Rest – sleep and soul rest. By pregnancy default, I’ve gone to sleep earlier every night (i.e. – crashed around 9 with the lights still on!).
  • Get outside — yay for great weather this month! YES! Praise the Lord for the better weather!
  • And the big one: Love God’s word. Yes, especially the last couple weeks I have been loving my Bible study time in the morning before I open my laptop.

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Okay, onto May and the PowerSheets Three-Month Refresh! The REFRESH! This was a new feature we added to the PowerSheets this year to help refresh goals once each quarter and it was sooooo helpful. WOW! All the exclamation points!!! : ) My goals got refined — simplified and changed — and I feel clear about where I’m supposed to focus for the next three months (and where I’m not). The PowerSheets Refresh is a winner. So, I thought it would be helpful to show you how my overall yearly goals changed after going through the Refresh.

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Original 2015 Goals, written at the end of January and refreshed goals below:

1.  Seek (my 2015 word!) the Lord deeply above all else and before all else. Why? Because all other paths lead nowhere and because I need God to direct my steps or I get far off-track. Because I am innately selfish. Because I don’t have the answers, but He does. Because I want to do this life well and live on purpose. SO many reasons! Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always. (1 Chronicles 16:10-11)  Refreshed goal: Know the Lord deeply, above all else. Constant companionship with Him. Why? Because that’s the only way forward. All other paths lead nowhere. Matthew 7:13-14

2. Raise God-loving children who want to love and live praising Him! Why? Because Grace and these children are His and we want to honor and cherish those gifts. Because we want our children to know the freedom and joy we have in Him. Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life…” (John 16:24)  Train a child up in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6) Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deut 6:4-7) Refreshed goal: Raise God-loving children who know and love God’s true heart. Why? Because “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17). These children are from Him — a gift from the Father. 

3. Bring many to know the Lord’s heart and life-giving transforming truth. Why? Because God is life and I know what it feels like to live without Him. I am passionate about sharing His story and how He has changed us! I could choose so many scriptures for this, but will stick with Psalm 118.  Refreshed goal: Bring other’s to know the Lord’s heart and that He is the way — His truth is the only way forward to Eternity — to true transforming love. “I am the way and the truth and the life…” John 16:24.

4. Use every part of my work for Him — internally as a leader and in all we do. Why? Because He didn’t give us this business and work just for fun, He gave it to use for a bigger purpose. Because our work or encouraging marriages matters. Because, though we are imperfect, God can use our surrendered hearts and hands. Because I don’t want to waste my life or talents. Because I only have one life on this earth to encourage others to what matters! Because we are blessed to be a blessing. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col 3:17)  Refreshed goal: Use every part of my work to glorify Him and worship and love Him. Why? Because “every good and perfect gift is from above…” — every penny is His and to be used for His good work. Help me be wise and diligent in shepherding what you have given us, Lord! Colossians 3:17.

5. Live a marriage and family that deeply pleases Him. Why? Because when we are strong together, we are stronger for everyone around us. Because being strong together means first being close to the Lord. Because it’s God’s will that we would honor Him in our marriage and family. Because we love Him! A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Proverbs 31:10 But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)  Refreshed goal: Submit to the Lord and to my husband because it pleases Him! Worship the Lord together in our marriage — in our decisions and conversations and prayers and activities and closeness. Why? Because it pleases the Lord and we are compelled because of His grace and how He has transformed our lives! “Honor one another above yourselves…” + Joshua 24:15

6. Be a faithful humble leader, working heartily for the Lord in our family group, Bible Bunch, small groups, Bible studies, in our business, in leading Grace’s heart in our household — in all things! Why? Because these aren’t “responsibilities,” they are they are hearts. Because God has chosen these things for our life and we want to do them well to honor Him and encourage many! Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men. (Col 3:23)  I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Eph 4:1-2)  Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. (Romans 12:10-13)  Refreshed goal: Be a faithful humble LISTENER, working heartily in the Spirit in our family group, Bible Bunch, Tuesday study group, individual study, in the words I speak (James 3), in teaching Grace’s heart in our household, in all things. Why? Because God is alive in me and I should let it show! The goal: Matthew 28:16-20 + Romans 12:1-13.

7. Listen and learn from wiser sisters and be completely humble and gentle so that God can dig into my heart as I listen and learn. Why? So I grow closer to God. I need to keep learning and growing and practice a deep humility. Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray. (Proverbs 10:17)  Refreshed goal: (Here’s exactly what I wrote to myself and to God in my PowerSheets…) I’m stuck on this one. Lord, please give me a wise Godly sister to help disciple me. Titus 2:11-14.

8. Encourage others in truth and in love. Why? Because that is the gift I believe God has given me. I feel hesitant in owning that, but I know that not acknowledging that gift is shrinking away from potential good. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. (Romans 12:6)  Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thess 5:11)  Refreshed goal: (This was a BIG one for me in the refresh. I dug into what the Biblical meaning of “encourage” is and it changed me!) My study notes: Encourage – (Greek: parakaleo) to implore, helping to develop something in another, no fluffy “inspiration,” to call to one’s side, call for, summon, give support or advice in order to inspire continued action. “For I am not shamed of the gospel because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…” Romans 1:16, “encourage and strengthen him…” Deut 3:28, “encouraged them to remain true to the Lord…” Acts 11:23. So, my goal is to encourage as the Lord desires — to strengthen others in faith!

9. If it’s God’s will, write a book to encourage marriages — to break down barriers. Why? My why is pretty simple here and at the same time totally overwhelming and scary. Because God told me to. I feel insecure and not equipped, but God keeps bringing Moses to mind. Moses wasn’t equipped, but God gave him the words. I am putting my faith in that! My verse for in starting this process and seeking wisdom on what to write: If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)  Refreshed goal: Write a book about moving forward to God. And the scripture I keep repeating in my head a dozen times a day: James 1:5.

10. Know that ALL we have is fully the Lord’s. May we give it all away for Him! Why? This has been on my heart for the last couple years and God keeps pulling me to more fully surrender. I am praying on this and ready. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Cor 9:7  Refreshed goal: (This one turned into a prayer.) Lord, help me here. I feel you deeply calling me away from worldly things. Thank you, Lord. Help me love you more — FAR MORE. The goal: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25). Also, “Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”

My new word for this quarter: Lord.

On the heels of that great Refresh, here are my May Goals!

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May PowerSheets Goals:

  • Write to help others move forward to God
  • Complete the James Challenge (I’m writing out the book of James this month along with prayers related to each section — it has been awesome so far!)
  • Lead an encouraging Bible Bunch. We will be studying Acts 1-9 this month. 
  • Worship and please the Lord on our family vacation
  • Help others move forward to God at the Creative Women’s Summit — glorify Him!
  • Prayerfully introduce Write the Word in May or June. Well, there you have it — I sort of introduced it right there : ) More to come, but this is a something I’ve been working on for over a year and it will be live in the shop in a couple months. I’ve never been more excited about a new … I don’t even know what to call it. Not just a product or a journal or a tool. It’s a way to get into, interact with, and love God’s word, even if you’ve never done it before. I pray it helps many women grow in faith — no matter what stage of faith you are in! more to come on Write the Word soon : )

Weekly goals:

  • Marriage prayer + tending – study and pray with Ari
  • Teach Grace about God’s good heart
  • Deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Jesus
  • Weights + stretching + pregnancy exercises
  • Pray for babies + cultivate PRAISE for Him!
  • Encourage team on “Growing Marriage” mission
  • Encourage others in faith + marriage
  • Pray for team
  • Pray for friends + family
  • Live by the Spirit, not by the flesh

Daily goals:

  • Love the Word!
  • Worship Him outside
  • Work out – sweat!
  • Clean green eating
  • Worship music / generous prayer
  • Rest in Him / sleep

Fresh links:

  • Nothing new, but I’ll share this one again in case you missed it and need some encouragement: I shared the story of our marriage crumbling and God doing “the impossible” on the Unveiled Wife

Lastly, some encouragement that I’m carrying over from last month: Where you can’t, God can. I’m holding onto that truth this month too! He is able, friends. Here’s to a great May!

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Hello, friends! I know it can be challenging to connect through pixels on a screen, but I am a real person typing this and you are a real person reading this : ) So, I’m asking you a question: How are you?

When someone asks that question — and wants to know the real answer, we have a choice. We can either brush it off as casual chit chat and say, “I’m fine,” or take a leap of faith and make an intentional connection. And here’s the key: when I answer someone honestly and tenderly, it gives the other person unspoken permission to do the same. It’s a gift of time and intentional connection. So, let’s do this. Where is your heart? What’s weighting on you today? Leave a response here. I’d love to pray for you and I hope others will join me in prayer and encouragement as well! Why am I asking? Because, in order to leap to what’s next, we first need to know where we are. Know the ground you are leaping from in order to know how to move forward well!

2015-04-05_0003These photos Gina took last weekend make my heart soar!

Okay, I’m a few days late writing this goal update, but progress, not perfection. I have found such freedom in that truth this past month! I hope you have too. If not, begin now. Let go of the guilt and the chase for perfect. Hold fast to the truth and to grace. There is so much joy and peace in knowing we are not in control, but God is. His plans are far better than mine!

My March goals went well through a lot of hard work and God making things happen where I couldn’t (which was pretty much everything on my list). Here is my March update and what’s ahead for April!

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What’s new: Contractions and a basketball under my shirt! Mini baby update: Braxton Hicks (happening as I type this) are revving up and I’m waddling into through the sixth month of pregnancy. I’ve found myself tired and lightheaded a lot, so I’ve been eating beef and spinach at almost every meal. We still have no names picked out, but we finally finished our Amazon registry. This little guy may not have a name, but he will have diapers : )  Other new things: We launched the Southern Wedding Project Life this month, Make It Happen Studio Calico card set, completed our eight-week Dynamic Marriage class (more on that in a minute), celebrated 9 years of marriage, had an inspiring afternoon hosting Lysa TerKeurst and team at my house, and God was so good in lots of events and Bible studies this month including the Making Things Happen Conference, Ladies Bible Bunch, IF Table, our Tuesday study group, and in our church family group that we have been leading for the last eight months. It was a March madness, indeed!

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What’s ahead: Writing a book. That’s the big one — putting up my do not disturb sign and sticking to it. I need your help there too friends. I would cherish your prayers as I say no in order to say YES. Also, PowerSheets and Southern Weddings Planners arrive today (praise the Lord — we had a shipping delay that tried to throw my patience out the window, but God reined me back in!), our second annual team retreat starts this Sunday night, we’re celebrating our birthday, my mom is coming to visit for five days next week to help plant our garden, we will move into our new office space this month, and we are hosting a big Passover Seder tonight with 40 friends.

IMG_6453Same shirt and place as last month; bigger belly : ) 

March PowerSheets Goals updates:

Every time I sit and make time to work through my PowerSheets, I am so grateful I did! I said the same thing last month because it always holds true. The hard work is worth it. A peek at my progress:

  • Begin writing a powerful God-glorifying book two. This didn’t happen, but I now feel more ready. I struggled a lot on March with comparison in writing and not feeling good enough. I also had and still have a lot going on that pulls for my attention around here, making it challenging to write. But! I am ready and can’t wait to dig in now.
  • Host a meaningful MTH Conference. YES! Triple yes! This was the most peace-filled, joyful MTH experience for me — my 45th time leading this workshop. It was just awesome. If you’ve been considering joining us, take the leap and come this November. Early-Bird registration is now open!
  • Finish reading The Best Yes. No. But, I still count this as a win. What I did read was life-changing! Also, getting to spend time with Lysa and team in March was one of the biggest highlights.
  • Diligently complete our Dynamic Marriage class. Yahoo!!! God is so good! This course changed our lives as individuals and the way we do life together! We are actively working on living out what we learned. It was so good. I highly recommend this course.
  • Prayerfully lean my schedule to commit wholeheartedly to writing book two. Yes, this is a daily battle to say “no,” but I’ve made great progress here in pulling back. If I don’t answer your texts or emails for about 12 weeks, this is why! It’s so hard to say no — especially to good things — but what I learned from Lysa’s book is that you have to say a BEST yes. For me, the best yes right now is writing this book!
  • Begin final adoption paperwork. Wow, this goal review now has me wanting to dance. We have officially completed every bit of adoption paperwork and it was a lot of work. Long hours. Lots of prayer. Seemingly endless paperwork. But, knowing the “why” behind all of it made it a joy. Our next step is to submit it all to our adoption consultant and pray about the timing God desires. Whatever He says, we’ll do!
  • Complete and prayerfully move into new office space. As I type this, the finishing touches are happening. I think I’ll be able to move in sometime late tomorrow or Thursday and I CAN’T WAIT. I’ve spent the last six weeks working from Grace’s room, the dining room table, the kitchen counter — wherever I could find space. I am so grateful for how hard our worker bees have worked. More updates and pics coming soon!
  • Celebrate eight years of marriage well. I’ll give a half-yes on this one. We did have a date night for our anniversary. And hilariously enough realized we’ve been married for nine years, not eight, thanks to filling out our adoption paperwork! But, that week we had overcommitted our schedules and felt weary. This was a wake-up call month for us in learning to say no to even time with friends so we can say yes to more rest and family time.
  • Write our plans for all future Bible studies and classes I’m teaching in the next weeks. Didn’t happen as planned, but I did pray for all of them more and each class/study has gone so well, by His grace and not by my own might!
  • GIVE – meet + pray for needs. Yes. I pray to continue this forever, but I am grateful to have been more prayerful in March.
  • Fitness and weights. I started doing weights again every other day. It was hard to stick to, but it happened. I put this on pause last week with MTH making my schedule a little wonky. So, hold me accountable here friends — I plan to get back on it tomorrow morning.

IMG_6454   I took this on my morning walk with Gracie today — the dogwoods are glorious right now!

My April PowerSheets Goals: 

Monthly goals:

  • Write the book. This is my main focus for April, May, and June. If I don’t reply to your emails or texts, it’s because I have to pour into these pages in order to make time for these babies that are coming into our lives soon. I don’t want to have the book still on my list when babies come!
  • Lead a truth-filled April Bible Bunch. Update: done! Last night was awesome.
  • Enjoy a joyful team retreat
  • Be a joyful light to my mom when she visits
  • Plant our veggie + flower gardens. Seeds and bulbs are here, we just need some fresh soil and to get to digging! You can follow the garden progress here.
  • Move into my new office with a “Heaven is my Home” focus — i.e. not focusing on stuff, but rather on doing God’s work in this new space and shepherding this space well.
  • Prepare well for our family vacation next month
  • Host and worship during a meaningful Passover
  • Cultivate fields of gratitude — praise Him!

IMG_6455This is where my PowerSheets have lived the last couple months and it has been working for me — in my closet! I also put a few sheets of scripture that I’m working on memorizing (James and Romans) and a verse that gets my heart prepared for the day.

Weekly/daily goals:

  • Prayerful marriage tending, using all we learned in Dynamic Marriage
  • Sing hymns to Grace/meaningful morning walks
  • Send Encouragement Postcards
  • Heaven is our Home actions — finances (we’re working to cut our family budget in half to save for our adoption) + choices (where we choose to use our resources of time and money and heart)
  • Prayer for team, contentment, friends, and others in their faith and marriages
  • Read some of The Best Yes myself and Shepherding a Child’s Heart with Ari
  • Fitness + weights
  • Rest – sleep and soul rest
  • Get outside — yay for great weather this month!
  • And the big one: Love God’s word.

Fresh links:

  • I shared the story of our marriage crumbling and God doing “the impossible” on the Unveiled Wife
  • Step inside my office and life in Cupcake Magazine’s spring issue
  • There are more, but I’m going with done is better than perfect here! I need to go eat lunch number three : )

Lastly, some encouragement: Where you can’t, God can. I’m holding onto that truth this month!

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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.

lara casey nothing is impossible

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!

lara casey goal setting powersheets and homebase binder

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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