Category: Motherhood

Sarah turned one a couple Sunday’s ago. Her birthday was a little different than any we’ve celebrated for Josh or Grace. While there were cupcakes and Grace made the sweetest decorations, there was also a different feeling of awe. We celebrated Sarah’s birthmom, her life, and God’s faithfulness to lead us into adoption in the first place. For God to entrust this child to two imperfect people is a reflection of His love and grace. This little girl is something special, and her story is too. We are so grateful!

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I haven’t done a family post like this in a long while, so I thought it might be sweet to capture the memory of her first birthday—and a few thoughts on our adoption a year later–here on the blog in words and photographs.

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Before we adopted Sarah, I scoured the internet for adoption stories. At the time, I didn’t understand why some blogger friends didn’t post about their adoption stories, or if they did, it was months–and sometimes years–later.

Now, I understand.

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Adoption is often private in many ways. There are many details of Sarah’s story and her birthmom’s story that are sacred and private. I wrote a bit of the story in Cultivate, but only the portions God told me to share to encourage others.

Adoption is hard and beautiful at the same time. We experienced so many emotions in the adoption process and after. For me, having just had a baby a few months before Sarah’s birth (Josh and Sarah are six months apart) gave me heightened feelings of tenderness for our birth mom. We were blessed with unexpected time—hours and hours of beautiful time–to be with her in the days after Sarah’s birth. I carry her with me often, thinking of her selfless love for Sarah, and genuinely missing her. She chose to make our adoption closed, asking that we send letters and photos through our agency every few months. But, our agency told us throughout this year that she hadn’t contacted them to get the letters. We prayed and prayed that she would one day ask for the letters, and feel encouraged by reading our prayers for her, and how much we all love her and think of her. I kept sending the letters anyway. Maybe at a year she would request them. But, when I emailed the morning of Sarah’s birthday to see if she had made contact, she hadn’t. (I have an update on that at the end of this post…)

Adoption is refining. Nothing has drawn us closer to each other and to God than the experience of the last year. The season of having a newborn and adopting another was unexplainably challenging, and it is in the hard moments that our faith grew. Good things came out of the hard things!

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Adoption is a gift. We get to see God’s miracles unfold in ways we couldn’t have imagined. We get to watch Josh and Grace pour love into Sarah. We get to watch our neighbors and family pour love into Sarah. We get to watch our friends pour love into Sarah. And all of this love feels like God pouring love on our whole family. It’s like God is saying, I see you. I love you. I am with you all.

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Grace spent two weeks making decorations and asking me about Sarah’s party. Every day she sat and made crafts and banners and cards for her.

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She wanted balloons for her and lemonade and purple plates and cups (Sarah’s birthmom’s favorite color is purple).

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We decorated with jasmine vine and daffodils from the garden.

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And as per our new yearly tradition (started at Sarah’s Sip n See last year that I have yet to blog!), we put a board of seed packets up.

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We asked guests to put their names on the seed packets and we’ll be naming each plant after them! This was such a meaningful touch for our garden last year. Here are a few of last year’s garden markers, lettered by my good friend Lauren

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We used some of our favorite Floret seed packets for this year’s board.

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Guests loved this! We’ll send them a pic of their special plant when things start sprouting.

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Grace begged me for this lemonade stand, and I am glad I said yes. She had so much fun serving everyone pink lemonade.

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Sarah loves our long-time friend Joslyn (who has been helping me pick out a few new classic wardrobe staples after several years of being on a clothes-buying hiatus – more on that soon)!

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And Josh loves his sister… and strawberries (the red stuff all around his mouth).

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There’s something magical about a house full of friends who have poured so much into your daughter’s life.

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Josh’s little legs in the bottom right of this pic make my heart smile.

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We kept this super simple since it was 2pm on a Sunday afternoon. We served cookies, cupcakes, strawberries, and some crackers for the kids. Oh, and lemonade of course!

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At the end of the party, Ari offered a prayer for Sarah, and in thanks to God for our friends. It was a special moment.

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After the party, these two were sufficiently filled with love and sugar, which made for an extra enthusiastic bathtime!

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It was a sweet day celebrating a very sweet girl and the God who made her!

Like I mentioned, I haven’t written much here about our adoption because it’s not just our story. It’s Sarah’s story. It’s her birthmom’s story. It’s also a story I don’t quite have words for. It’s beautiful and messy, but God is in it all. I’ll share a little more in Cultivate in a few months, but I hope this little post was encouraging. Here is a video I put together of her first year and her birth. I cry every time I watch this!

2016: The Year Our Family and Hearts Grew from lara casey on Vimeo.

And remember how I emailed our adoption agency on Sarah’s birthday and they said our birth mom still hadn’t contacted them? Well, an hour later she did. She asked for all of our letters. I’m tearing up typing this. Her message to us: “I am well and I love you guys so much!” God, you are good! 

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This morning, Grace came in early (4:45am-ish) and snuggled in our bed.

Me: Hi, sweet pea. Are you okay? 
Grace: I came to snuggle with you because I knew you were all alone. 

Ari was gone speaking at a conference, so this unexpected wake-up call was a welcome gift. I checked the time and decided to read the Bible to us till we had to get up and open Cafe Isaacson for breakfast at 5:30. (We have hungry growing kids. Breakfast around here is quite a production!) Grace snuggled into me and peeked at what I was about to read to us. The first thing that came up on my YouVersion Bible app was the verse of the day in this picture format…

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Grace: Mommy, why is that picture there?
Me: It’s a way to share about God with other people, like in a message or on a blog.
Grace: Well, then why don’t you share it on your blog?
Me: Well, I don’t know. (I didn’t have plans to today) You know what, that’s a great idea. I’ll do that! 

To all who may read this impromptu post, here is my prayer for you today: May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. With love from me and Grace. : )

IMG_9781Outside this morning with my very energized crew. Our peach tree bloomed early!

P.S. Get my free Cultivating Faith Guide here.

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Dear Nannies of the World,

I want you to know a few things.

Some people may pass your job off as insignificant. Temporary. Something college graduates do for a little while to make money. Or a job taken by people who don’t know what they want to do with their lives. And maybe you are only nannying for a summer, or to make money for school, and maybe it is temporary.

But, your job, dear friend, is big.

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You have something that most people don’t: direct shaping influence.

You may be watching our children, but our children are watching you.

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When Susan put a dollar on the kitchen counter with a note saying, “I accidentally spilled some of your spinach,” in that seemingly small action, Grace saw integrity. When she would leave after long days of nannying to volunteer at the women’s shelter most evenings, Grace saw humble service. When she prayed for Grace and taught her about God’s love, little seeds of faith were planted. And last weekend, when Susan married Donal, and they shared their very first kiss on their wedding day, Grace saw a holy, pure marriage. She saw true joy.

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When Meredith cared for me when I was sick and unable to get out of bed (cleaning up my throw up despite me insisting that she let me do it), Grace saw sacrifice and love in action. When Meredith’s kind words and compassion poured out on others, it poured right onto Grace’s little heart too. When Beau proposed to Meredith, and washed her feet, Grace was watching. She saw him serve and love her. And when they married, Grace stood up next to them as their flower girl and saw a God at work once more.

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And oh Rhiannon. Today is her last day with us before she goes off to YoungLife ministry. In these two years, she has done far more than take care of our children. She’s prayed oceans of prayers over our family, and not just talked about her faith–she’s walked it. She dove into the mess of everyday life with us–the thousands of diapers, tantrums, and big emotions (mine included). Everything has been a teachable moment. Everything.

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Walking up the stairs to preschool became a counting steps game. Going to the grocery store with Grace became a time to practice connecting with others through hellos and genuinely asking how people are doing. Fred at Trader Joes is one of Grace’s best buds. Play dates were times to learn how to be a friend. Neighborhood walks were times to explore and celebrate all that God creates. Car rides were opportunities to stop on the way home to offer our homeless friend Neal food and water. And meltdowns were moments to learn about grace, prayer, and God’s goodness. There’s so much more. I could write books about the day-to-day ministry that Rhiannon has grown in our home.

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But, the event that stands out most was adopting Sarah. When we said our crazy YES to adoption in the first place, Rhiannon was the first to pray over us. When we matched with a birth mom, Rhiannon cried tears of joy right alongside me. In the weeks of unknown, as we prepared for our two week trip to adopt Sarah, she kept scripture and prayer as a constant in this house. And when we all travelled together as a family, not knowing if we would bring Sarah home with us for sure, Rhiannon was there. When Sarah’s birthmom said goodbye and handed her to us. When I sobbed feeling inadequate as a mother, holding two babies, unable to feed them. When none of us had slept more than an hour. Rhiannon kept pouring out grace. In the throw-up, baby poop, meltdowns, and so much. There’s just too much to name.

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But you know what? I’m really not telling you about Rhiannon. Or Susan. Or Meredith. I’m telling you about a powerful God at work in them who continues to change us. This hasn’t been a temporary, insignificant, mundane job any of these women–it has been their calling for a season. They have shown us Jesus.

And that. Is. Not. Small.

Rhiannon’s actions–not just her words–have shaped Grace, Josh, Sarah, Ari, the ladies who work here in this house alongside me, and me. We’ve laughed, cried, prayed, and she’s become my closest friend in this season.

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/isaacsonfamilymarch2015

Nannies of the world, you’re not just shaping children; you’re shaping mothers. As a mother, to not only trust someone to watch your kids, but to trust them to teach your kids… well, that is a gift unlike any other.

I am a better mother because of these women. Women who knew this was much more than a “job.” When Grace would have meltdowns, a text from Rhiannon in the other room, telling me she was praying and encouraging me… those were seeds planted. Every time she listened to me, allowing me to confide in her and ask for spiritual guidance, she listened with grace and without judgement. Seeds planted. In the countless times she left a note of prayer on my desk or surprised me with flowers on particularly hard days… seeds planted.

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Nannies of the world, you are Cultivators. You have the opportunity to plant seeds directly into hearts, and grow the future generations–and mothers.

Whether your job is for a short season, or for two beautiful messy grace-filled wonderful years like it has been for Rhiannon, know that it matters.

Your job is everything.

___

Please share this post with your nanny friends. I hope it encourages you!

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It’s okay to be average. It’s okay to love something and not be the best at it. It doesn’t mean you or your gift are worthless because you aren’t the “best.” It’s okay if your talent or passion isn’t a business. And it’s okay if your business isn’t the “best” either!

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I caught myself comparing my business to a friend’s last Friday. I said to Ari, “Her business is probably doing better than mine…”

Re-writing a book has been [insert all the antonyms of “easy”]. I’ve been sitting here at my computer, battling with words and insecurities. “Why is this so hard for me? I wish I could write books like her… ”

How could I write about friendship when I’m not perfect at it? “I’m not an expert—why try?”

In my own kitchen, “Sorry dinner is too spicy, and that we have the same things every week. I’m not the best at doing family dinners.”

Ari stopped me:

He prayed for God to give me lots of words.

He ate every bite of dinner.

And to my comment comparing my business to someone else’s, he said this: “Lara, money envy is usually pride.

Truth.

Oh, truth!

It hits hard, and it shatters the lies.

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We miss so much feeling like we have to be an expert or better than everyone else, don’t we?

I shared in my weekly Facebook Live yesterday about the freedom found in being “average” and the lies we believe that keep us from that freedom.

We falsely believe we have to:

do it all

have it all

be an expert

be better than someone else

be the best

have it all together

And if we aren’t, or don’t, we hesitate.

We don’t move forward.

We don’t send it, say it, do it, or surrender.

We just sit in the lies.

An email landed in my inbox this morning, and It made me see I’ve been believing another one lately. I didn’t know I needed the words I’m about to share with you till they left me in a puddle of tears here at my desk. With her permission, I’m sharing an excerpt. I hope these words encourage you too.

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Dear Lara,

I know you have believed lies friend.

We all have.

You know what though?

You also have listened to truth.

Just look back.

Look at your marriage. You listened and pressed into the truth.

Look at your walk with Jesus. You listened to truth and have grown so much.

Look at Ari. He knows Jesus sweet friend.

You might have listened and operated under some lies, yet you have listened to truth as well.

You have listened to the voice of your Savior, and you have obeyed.

Goodness that is some ripe, rich, healthy fruit.

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What if…

What if Grace’s big emotions, the struggle to connect with Sarah, and massive delay and starting over on your book have nothing to do with what you have done wrong.

Friend, what if all of this is about what you have done right??!!

What if your faith and your little by little has made you braver than you think?

What if your obedience has shown God that He can trust you with more?

Satan wants you to feel naked and shamed in your exposure of humanness. Yet the Bible says something totally different.

Genesis 2:25 says, “The man and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame.”

God fully intended for us to be exposed without shame. 

Only Satan tells us to hide.

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I’ve been believing the lie that God isn’t faithful. I don’t say it, but I sure am acting like it lately. How easily I forget what He has done! I certainly don’t think I’ve listened as much as I should, or that I’ve done much right, but my friend encouraged me to see that His ways are always better than mine, and His ways lead to new life.

My marriage.

My children.

My business.

My words.

My friends.

All of it, changed by truth.

I can take zero credit for the change in my life, but we are given a choice: believe the lies, or listen to the truth and try our best—through all our imperfections and times we plain old mess up. (Allllll the time for me!)

Lord, may I keep choosing truth over lies, and surrender over striving to be the best. And when I don’t, may I remember that your grace gives me freedom. Freedom from striving, performing, or having to be the best. It’s okay to be average. Like Moses, you don’t need me to be perfect to use me. You don’t call me to be the best, you just want my surrendered heart and hands.

And I’m so glad You aren’t done with me yet.

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Welcome to my new series, Little by Little! Each Friday, I’m going to wrap up the week with a quick post about my little by little progress, things I am loving right now, and a scattering of various thoughts. Here goes!

First, the most important news: my husband joined Twitter. You’re welcome.

And I joined Snapchat a couple weeks ago. I felt like a dinosaur trying to figure it out, but I have to say, I love it. It’s quick, fun, real, and I get why all you youngin’s like it so much. It took a full year for the ladies in my office to convince me to try it. Here’s a peek at life lately in “snaps.” (See, I’m even learning the lingo!) Follow along: LaraLaraCasey. A tip: I’ve been using it as accountability for my goals, namely working on my diastasis recti.

I’m making little by little progress on the goal to finally read the books that are sitting on my nightstand. Books I’m loving this week: this (finally finished reading this one), this (finished this one too via audio book and loved it), and this (so good!).

This. Made me weepy.

These. Make my belly happy.

Since we’ve moved all our shipping to our fulfillment warehouse (out of my garage!), we need a new title for our Packing Assistant, Grace. Any suggestions on a new job title for her? Let me know.

Okay, there are still a few things left in the garage, namely magazines. I had saved several boxes, but this is my summer to simplify. I can’t take them to Heaven with me, so get yours!

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Let’s talk about feeling-all-the-feelings four. Grace has had a lot of big emotions lately and I’ve been having them right along with her. More here. Anyone have wisdom for me? I’m all ears.

My mom writes a food column. I love her from my head tomatoes.

Single friends, this is good stuff.

In one word, what kind of life do you want to live? Tell me.

Truth right here.

A few practical tips on starting over that I’m learning.

Cultivate Outline

Fruitful Summer is on. With my book (re)writing, this year is simplified compared to last year, but I think it’s actually better. Five weeks of practical and simple tips, printables, worksheets and lots of grace for your friendships and to help you cultivate a meaningful summer—no perfection required. I’m excited for next week’s FS Guide to land in inboxes.

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It took some convincing, but Emily and Lisa are on board and I’m excited! Southern Weddings is joining the Fruitful Summer party with their own spin on the theme. The SW ladies are going to encourage you in your current season–dating, engaged, newlywed, and those that have been married awhile.

Speaking of dating, I love this and her.

We finally decided on 2017 PowerSheets covers (releasing in November)! Your feedback made it clear for us. Thank you thank you! There are still a few of the current undated 6-month sets left. Best to start in July, so I’m making it easy for you. Get free domestic shipping on remaining PowerSheets this weekend using the code PSFREESHIPPING. Feel free to share that code with friends!

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Photo by Olivia Wolf of Nancy Ray Photography

Can anyone recommend an organic soy/dairy-free formula for Sarah? I am still pumping for her and we have some amazing friends who have donated milk, but we will need to supplement with some formula soon too. Any recommendations?

This weekend we’re having some friends over, going to a pool party for one of Grace’s sweet friends, church, and a BBQ with our family group. What are y’all looking forward to?

Signing off for a #SocialMediaFreeWeekend, friends! See you on Monday!

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