Category: Motherhood

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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Ten days till my due date. Every night I get in bed and think, “This could be it.” I’ll be honest, these nine months have been a blur. I kept this at a slight distance from my heart. I didn’t want to go through loss again and I didn’t want to make those who might be grieving or longing feel sadness. This all felt different than before. More private. More sacred. More still. We didn’t decorate a new nursery. I didn’t read any books. But soon, Lord willing, there will be a little person laying on my chest.

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When I had Grace, life was turned completely upside down and it changed everything. Our marriage. Our faith. We began to learn what surrender means. And now… all I know is we are about to be beautifully broken again. Anticipating that is so hard to put into words. Before Grace I thought about baby announcements and newborn pictures. Now all I can think about is the story God is writing.

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

I have no idea what to expect, but I know for sure that God is real and He is in this. Finding out we were pregnant the day we finished our adoption paperwork was just one of the thousands of little clues along this path that have shown us there is a bigger picture.

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

We don’t know what that is but we are willing and ready and so imperfect and we just feel so small. I don’t know if any of this makes sense, but that’s my heart lately. Expectant. Surrendered. (A little nervous to experience labor again.) And Grateful. Up next, Lord willing, I’ll be sharing his name when he arrives… whenever the Lord decides that it’s time : )

I welcome your encouragement and any helpful scriptures as I move into this new season and get closer to labor. What has helped you?

Last two photos by Emily March from our recent session in the garden.

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

But, God…

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

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

Okay, on to Goal Setting! If you are just joining us for this series, it’s never too late to begin! February 1 is my January 1, so feel free to join me:

2015 Goal Setting, Part 1: Good Things 

2015 Goal Setting, Part 2: What Didn’t Work + What I Learned

2015 Goal Setting, Part 3: Saying Yes, Saying No

2015 Goal Setting, Part 4: Get Radical + Sing Loud

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

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

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Here’s what I wrote in my PowerSheets:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hide Me – a favorite for years.

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

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

Here are your next steps!

How many of you have ideas about your goals as we’ve gone through this series and you are already overwhelmed or anxious about HOW to make them happen? You want all of your goals to have been tackled yesterday. This series is an exercise in patience and doing things little by little to produce lasting results. If you are feeling overwhelmed, we’re about to dive into some clear waters as we set goals that have meaning. Because, you know what? The journey to making those things happen is where the good stuff lives. Your goals may change half-way through the year or you may make them happen faster than you think if you take it day by day by day. This is about progress, not perfection. I know you overachievers want to have done everything yesterday, but I have also been reading every single comment on this series. Taking this step by step is helping many of you make remarkable discoveries! I’m so pumped by all the lightbulbs I see going off! Little by little, babies grow. Can you imagine if we got pregnant and the next day have birth to toddlers?? We wouldn’t be ready and we would have missed so much sweetness. It is the same with our goals. They matter enough to make them happen well.

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First off, review. This is important. Get the big picture crystal clear in your mind and heart before you write your goals. Read through everything you’ve done so far. Read every word. Re-write or add to things if you need to. I added to my lists and re-wrote things after going through this process because I got more clarity. Cross stuff out, revise things, add to your lists of what did and didn’t work (I added a ton to mine!). Add more to your YES and NO lists. Refine your 2015 Pinterest board. Take pins out that don’t fit well. Refine everything and get CLEAR before moving to the final exciting step…

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Yeah, yeah, yeah! You’ve made it! Like I told you from the start of this process, traditional goal setting does not work for me. Swiftly-made resolutions get forgotten and then they linger and make you feel guilty for forgetting them. Anyone else ever experience this? Well, hopefully at this point you feel more equipped than when you started this process to write some down good goals. Goals that mean something. Goals that are very clear and will help you live on purpose. So, let’s do it!

Four helpful tips:

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

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

3. Then, check your goals to make sure they are really good goals. It’s so easy to make goals that sound good or goals that other people have that you think you should have, too, just to keep up. Don’t do that. The idea here is for you to SIMPLIFY your life, not to give yourself a new to-do list of random things that sound good. Be very specific and careful about what you decide to spend your time on this year.

Do a GOAL CHECK and ask these questions:

- Will this goal help me live on purpose?

- Does this goal also help other people?

- WHY would I spend my time on this goal?

If the answer is NO to that first question, then it’s possible it’s not the best use of your precious time. Don’t run in circles with goals that don’t directly connect to what matters most. Get specific. Focus on what really matters to you in the big picture. Cross goals out that don’t 100% fit. Revise goals that are not clear. Be bold and take leaps of faith as you write.

4. This is the most important key to goal setting. Write down your WHY with every goal. When I was a personal trainer in New York for many years, most clients would come to me with a number and say, “I want to lose 10 pounds.” I would ask them, “WHY 10 pounds?” Usually, when we got down to it, it was just an arbitrary number, or a weight they were in college. There was no real heart connection to the goal of losing 10 pounds. But, when we dug deeper into why they became out of shape in the first place and what they wanted most in life, a picture of true fitness started to emerge. Instead of, “I want to lose 10 pounds because that’s what I weighed in college” (not very motivating and more self-defeating), we worked on goals like, “I want to be healthy and strong so that I can live long enough to walk my daughter down the aisle. I want to live a long, happy life so I can be a better husband and show my kids how to be joyful and healthy, too.” That works. That is motivating. SO, get real with WHY you want these things to happen and connect them to something that really matters to you. It will help you ACT on your goals instead of toss them aside.

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

Some encouragement: the good you do today has the potential to change generations. You never know how long you have left here on this earth to love others and change them for the better in that love. That’s why setting good goals and having a clear focus is so important. Life is to short and too meaningful to coast through. Take your time writing down your goals. Pray on them and talk them out with people you trust. I cannot wait to hear yours and cheer you on! HOORAY!!!

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

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

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

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

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You can win multiple times throughout this post series and you can increase your chances of winning by:

– Commenting on this post to share your thoughts
— Pinning this post or any in the series
– Instagramming any graphic with a link back here to this post or future posts
– Sharing this series on Facebook or Twitter
– Blogging or in any way sharing this post/series
– For all entires, link back here to www.LaraCasey.com/blog and use the #2015GoalSetting hashtag. You are welcome to use graphics from my posts!
– Lastly, leave a comment saying you did any of the above. You can enter as many times as you like on all posts! I’m going to choose some extra winners along the way, too, for some special surprises : )

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

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

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Welcome back to 2015 Goal Setting! Anyone else get the heebee-jeebees hearing the words “goal setting?” Then, you are in the right place, my friend. We’re doing this differently. We’re taking our time. We’re taking big leaps. We’re making what matters happen, little by little. If you are just joining us, you aren’t late to the party — there is nothing magical about January 1! Here are Part 1 and Part 2, for your reading pleasure. Enjoy and have fun working through each step! Now, onto Part 3. We have lots of fun things to cover today.

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First, you should know this: February 1 is my January 1. Who has time to set good goals in the rush of December? Okay, perhaps some do, but I am not one of them. January is my time (and our time as a team) for preparing well, intentionally, thoughtfully, and most of all — prayerfully. Yesterday, we did the PowerSheets prep as a company and it was awesome. We modified some questions to answer collectively, but it was just what we needed to kick off this year and a month of purposeful goal setting together. We are going to work through the goal setting action plan sheets at our staff meeting next week so we take our time doing this well. A peek from our meeting yesterday…

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I’m working through the book action steps and my PowerSheets prep, as well as my inbox. I shared this on Instagram yesterday, but I was largely unprepared for a book launch. I’ve never done this before and had no idea what to expect. It has been a blessing and I am so grateful God has used the book to encourage others. My inbox has been a challenge, though. Email is just decisions that need to be made, so I’m in overdrive on decision-making over here : ) Yesterday, I had every intention to write this post, but I had to throw up my white flag and remember that the goal of this year, and every year, is progress and purpose, not perfection — letting God define my expectations. I am praying the same for you, friends! It’s so freeing to let go.

Okay, let’s do this! First up, I hope you all have enjoyed doing some of the things that fire you up from the last post. Here is my list I wrote out below (just a few of the many things), and I’d love to hear yours too!

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A few more to add:

  • Writing these posts and being real about where I need to grow — being humbled — fires me up.  I feel closest to God when I am humbled.
  • Our mission at Southern Weddings — and in all we do — fires me up beyond words. The ladies I work alongside also fire me up. They are the bees knees.
  • My editor, which is a seemingly-small term for what she really is in my life. She prayed for me and with me throughout my entire book process. She called me today just to encourage me and pray for me on the phone. She is on my list of top three women who inspire me to love Him wholeheartedly.
  • God’s power to change anything. He cam make the impossible happen.
  • Praying for others and watching God answer prayers in ways I never expected.
  • Doing pirouettes in my living room when no one is watching : )
  • A moment or conversation with Ari where I remember and feel our shared heart. That shared heart was born of a man who died on a cross so we could be free. So we could forgive each other. So we could be forgiven. So we could be completely washed in grace and made new and whole again. That heart is the greatest gift we’ve been given. It saved our marriage and changed who we are as people.
  • Grace’s joy. She sings constantly and will dance at the drop of a hat. I love that girl!
  • And a note on that last line in my hand-written list above. A friend emailed me after reading my book and asked how you know when you’ve made “it” happen. My answer, in short, is that “it” is choosing God. Every time I surrender, am humbled, and choose to act on God’s leading — no matter how hard — to me, that’s making what matters happen. And often I feel it. I feel a deep peace when I choose Him. It’s continual, not a one time event. We never arrive and then stop, we keep choosing Him. I hope that encourages someone else out there to know that chasing what the world says is success will lead you in circles, but choosing God will lead you to the very best places — to far more than we can ask or imagine. That fires me up!
  • There’s so much more, but I want to hear from you now! Leave your list in the comments so we can inspire each other. I love hearing what light people’s hearts on fire.

Onward! Here’s where things get fun. You now know what did work over the last twelve months, what didn’t work and what fires you up. You learned some very valuable lessons in all of this. So, what are you saying NO to in the coming year and starting today? Make a list of all of the things that are holding you back (or could potentially hold you back) from making your purposeful year happen. Write your list of what you are saying NO to in 2014.

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With everything you have written down thus far in mind (I suggest reading over all of your progress again), what are you going to need to say YES to more often in order to live on purpose in 2015? Write your list of what you are saying YES to in 2014. Think big picture here, and write down the things you are afraid to dive into, too. There is great potential hiding in your fear. I encourage you to post your YES List publicly here and/or share it with friends to help inspire others and to keep yourself accountable. I think you will all likely NOT be writing Facebook or more social media on this list. Just a guess.

I’ll be sharing my NO and YES lists with you in the next post. Remember: saying NO to one thing means you are saying YES to something potentially better.

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–> PowerSheets owners and book friends, just a reminder that the steps in this series won’t exactly match what you have, as you have more steps! I’m sharing pieces of the process in hopes they spark your own progress : )

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BONUS STEP! Pick a core word for 2015. What one word really resonates with you for the year ahead? What word pulls together all that you want to make happen? Think hard about this. I’ll share mine in the next post. Research words that resonate with you. Pray on it. Then, write your word here in the comments (and give a virtual high five to those who might have the same word as you — we are bound to have some shared words!). Then, write that word in prominent places so you are reminded of your focus this year. Put it on a post it in your car. Put it on a post it literally inside of your fridge (I have a post-it in my fridge!). Make it your computer desktop. Write it anywhere and everywhere to remind you of where you are going!

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PRIZES FOR THIS POST: Read Part 1 for all the ways you can win! Three randomly chosen commenters on this post (or those who share this series) will get a set of 2015 Encouragement Postcards from the shop! These have been super popular and that makes me grateful because it means a lot of encouragement is going around : )

 

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P.S. Our Flash Sale is on — now till midnight! Use the code FRESHSTART2015 for 20% off all prints and desk cards + check out our “perfectly imperfect” sale : )

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have no control.

God does.

Trust God.

: )

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

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

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

Download a free printable of the list above here.

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

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

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

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

More Monday. Get to writing and DOing, friends!

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

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

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

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

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I began 2014 overwhelmed about writing my book (which launches tomorrow — ah!!!). I struggled with oceans of self-doubt and often considered throwing in the towel. In January, I found out I was pregnant. I was excited but locked in my office writing, worrying about my manuscript deadline that had passed (and graciously been extended about four times by that point). In February, God took that baby home to be with Him. It was one of the hardest seasons. At the time of my miscarriage, I was in the middle of writing through some of the hardest parts of my life. That same week, I received a letter from the IRS stating I had been filing as the wrong entity type since 2010 and I had to re-do four years of business and personal tax returns thanks to an accountant’s major error years before. (Long story. God is good and praise Him it’s all over now.) Needless to say, that was a rough week. I didn’t understand why all of this was happening at once. Ari kept telling me to trust. This, like all the mess I was writing about, would be for my good. It’s hard to see when you’re in it. The winter seemed to last forever. But, ‘to everything there is a season, a time and purpose under heaven.’ I wrote in my book about how God did use that season for my good. He is faithful. I now look back and praise Him for the winter. After winter, always comes spring.

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 2.37.38 PMAbove: Writing. Writing. More writing. 

Hundreds of bulbs I had planted in the fall broke through the seemingly-dead frozen ground, giving me hope for the seasons ahead. I felt God encouraging me to plant new seeds in my life and in this soil that seemed lifeless.

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I grieved and healed through gardening. I planted hundreds of flowers and crops: twelve types of tomatoes, six varieties of peppers, 200 onions, zucchini, sweet corn, eggplant, carrots, radishes, basil, pineapple sage, stevia, okra, beans, peas, cucumbers, cabbage, kale, sweet potatoes, lots of bee attractors, wildflowers, sunflowers, dwarf zinnias (one of my garden favorites), and more.

IMG_4748My handsome garden helper above, who built and filled my new veggie beds with rich soil.

IMG_4734My littlest garden helper who filled us with laughs : )

IMG_8329Harvesting above with Ari’s mom on one of her visits from California. Don’t mind Hootie the owl : ) He was there to keep the bunnies away from the soybeans, although he ended up coming inside to live with us because Gracie loves him so much.

The year before, I had planted an Elberta peach and a fig tree. Both yielded ultra sweet harvests in the summer — best peaches I’ve ever had. To our tiny orchard we added some wildcards for fun: a grafted apple tree that produces four varieties in one tree, a “fruit cocktail” tree that has grafted branches of apricot, nectarine, and peach, and we added a potted navel orange, kumquat, and another Meyer lemon.

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I went a little over-board. Watering and tending and pruning this tiny farm was a thing, but it was awesome. Each day was an adventure in the garden. New life all around me. I started this new Instagram account to capture the growth. Every day brought new surprises.

During this season, God allowed me to connect with those who had weathered loss. I spoke with many women who had miscarried and I felt compelled to reach out and be a listening ear when a friend experienced loss. I felt that, in a tiny way, I could understand. If anything, I knew I could pray.

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During this season, God also taught me that He is in control and that is a very good thing.

So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow‘ (1 Corinthians 3:7 NIV).

I can’t grow anything good without Him. Period. He wants me to plant good seeds in good soil, tend to them, prune, and generously share the harvest. But, I need His gifts of sun and water — I need His Son and the living water of His word — to make anything good happen. That is just plain truth in my life.

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Ari and I prayerfully started trying to have a baby again. The months passed. I began to understand, in a very small way, some of what my two best friends, Emily and Gina, had gone through. And let me emphasize again in a small way. In the last couple years, I’ve become close with many girlfriends who are going through infertility or loss. Some journeys have been decades and some shorter, but all have carried with them tremendous heartache. If you are there right now, my prayers are with you as I type this. I don’t have the perfect words to offer, but I can offer prayer.

After a year and a half of trying, Ari and I felt that maybe God did have a plan and having another biological child wasn’t it.

Adoption has been a topic of conversation for several years. Last September (2013), I remember talking with Ari about it and him sharing his fears. “But,” He added, “if this is what God has for us I trust He will bring me peace.”

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In the summer, we romped through the garden beds with Casey Chappell and her crew of 5 adopted littles. We pulled up radishes and plucked tomatoes right off the vine. Jack and Ezra loved the garden, and I loved picking figs, beans, herbs, and mint for them to sample.

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I first became friends with Casey through Instagram. Nancy had posted about the Chappell’s visiting her in Raleigh, I clicked over to Casey’s account, and bam. My heart leapt out of my chest. Seeing her little loves and her passion for adoption, I knew I had to get to know this amazing woman. We became instant real-life friends. We sat on my back porch, ate hot dogs and sweet potato fries with the kids scurrying all around us, and we talked adoption. Ari’s heart started to crack open too.

It all still felt so scary though. Like why are we always talking about adoption we are not cut out for this scary. And yet we kept reading this verse in James and many others and God kept putting families in our path who had adopted. God wasn’t subtle.

We started the international adoption process, filling out a mountain of paperwork, gathering documents, and praying a lot. Our one step left was to get a letter of guardianship from another couple, stating that they would take care of our children if we were to pass away. No question, we were going to ask our friends Thom and Bek. Thom and Bek were our church family group leaders for a long while before they moved to Birmingham. They became two of our very best friends and faith mentors to us. Right before were were going to ask them, their daughter, Elizabeth Glory, went to be with the Lord shortly after she was born. It was heartbreaking. We couldn’t think of adding to our family while our dear friends were wading through such grief. Our whole hearts were with them.

One of the many things I love about God is how He uses sorrow to change our hearts for His good purposes. In that time, our hearts did change. A friend sent me this video and a million little pieces started to point us to a new path. We saw the great need right in front of us and felt God pulling us to adopt domestically. So, we started over completely.

We began to feel more urgency. There were so many children out there waiting to be loved and we felt that, with God’s help and grace, we could do that.

Ari and I ran into Courtney at the Influence Conference and both felt God saying okay, this is it. Let’s do this. Ari and I continued to pray and, after a long phone call with Casey and Courtney, we said yes.

I finished our new adoption paperwork on the eve of Thanksgiving. I thought about the cycle of life. My grandma Bunny was breathing her last breaths in the hospital with my mom, dad, brother and uncle by her side. I knew that night would likely be her last here on the earth. I don’t know if anyone else had ever felt this, but it’s in moments like that when I deeply feel God’s presence. I felt an all-consuming peace.

I felt peace about Grandma’s 97 sweet years on this earth. What courage and zest for life she had. She lived and loved well. I felt peace about our little family and totally surrender. I felt grateful for the gift of adoption and totally at peace about not having more biological children. It was the peace that transcends all understanding. I felt grateful. In awe of Him.

And then… I felt a little off.

I looked at the calendar, looked at Grace, and I nervously loaded her in the car to go to the grocery store while we waited on Ari to come home from work.

I thought for sure there was no way.

And then there were two pink lines.

I cried in disbelief on the bathroom rug with Grace and said, Gracie! There is a baby in there! God is crazy! She leaned over, pulled up my shirt, and looked as if she was going to blow a big raspberry on my belly. Her little lips got close to by belly button and with the biggest joy she squealed, “Hiiiii baby!”

Ari arrived home moments later.
Me: So I finished our adoption paperwork.
Ari: Great.
Me: And then this happened. I showed him the two pink lines.
Ari: Oh. Okay.

We were both in shock. We were in shock because this didn’t change our conviction about adopting in the least. We are still all in. And that’s all God. The peace that transcends all understanding. In our human hearts, there were (and still are) moments of complete panic and disbelief, but God…

But, God…

Those two words are true, not just in my life, but in yours too.

But, God isn’t a God of logic, He is God. He can make the impossible possible.

But, God didn’t want our marriage to fail years ago. He wanted our wholehearts. And He got them.

But, God didn’t want my business to be used just for making a living. He wanted it to be used to hopefully help many to live on purpose.

But, God had a different plan to grow our family than we expected. His plans are always far better than ours.

But, God doesn’t need us or you to be perfect, He just needs your surrendered heart and hands.

We know for sure that God is real. We also know for sure that we need Him. The year ahead will likely be crazy. We are, no doubt, going to fail a lot. But, God… can and has done greater things than help us raise three children — two infants in one year. If He brings you to it, He will see you through it. We trust Him.

We are grateful and nervous and listening and also cautious with all of this. While this is where He has us right now, He has been known to throw us some curveballs. We don’t know what God has planned for this life in my belly or for for us with adoption. We know that He could take this baby home to be with Him too, if that’s His will. All we can do is pray and trust and do what He says as each day comes.

Some things:

I’m due next summer, around August 1st.

God is so good and sweet in His timing. Grandma passed on Thanksgiving morning. After my mom told me she had gone to be with the Lord, I shared with her that there was a new life inside of me. Her tears of sorrow turned to joy.

“Morning” sickness is all day every day for me, so if you have seen me in person in the last weeks and I’ve been a little off, this is why : )

When I went in for my first ultrasound, the doc was very nice and excited for us. And then I handed her the medical clearance form that I needed for our home study. She looked at me like I was nuts for a second. Then, she expressed her excitement and told me about her sister adopting. She was awesome and is pumped for us.

I ate a turkey sandwich for breakfast. If you know me, you know that means something is up.

Grace is excited to be a big sister and we pray for the babies every day.

Between a growing business, five literal-in-house employees, and a busy three year old, we are plum out of space. With adoption costs, moving is not in the cards, though. So, we are getting creative and may be finishing part of our attic to stretch our space a little.

Needless to say, 2015 Goal Setting has been flipped on it’s head for me. I’m excited to dive in with you tomorrow with the first steps as I launch my book and walk with you in preparing for a crazy and purposeful new year. 2015 is going to be an adventure and I’m grateful to have you here to learn from your journey too! Goal Setting Part 1 is up tomorrow…

For now, thank you. Many of you have prayed for our family and I can’t thank you enough. We are so grateful. His plans are always better than ours, no matter what they may be.

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P.S. I don’t have all the answers about adoption. Far from it. I still have more questions than answers at this point. We are still so new to adoption and just trusting God with each step. So, if you are looking for a resource, I recommend reading Casey’s blog as a start. There are so many great resources out there. I am still learning and listening.

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Today, we give extra thanks. Grandma Bunny went to be with the Lord this morning. She was surrounded by family and singing. I am so grateful for her life. Today we celebrate God’s goodness in giving us this spunky, hilarious, loving, Southern lady. Her 97 years on this earth were joyful and adventurous! Thank you Gina for capturing this video four years ago! We laughed and cried watching it today, remembering her wit and passion.

I am still gathering my thoughts, but Grandma Bunny was the bees knees. The very first paragraph of my book is about she and my Grandpa Cecil. They made a profound impact on my life and most of all, on my faith. My fondest memories are of Bunny (her name is Celeste, but “Bunny” became a nickname forever ago) making up stories to tell me at bedtime, singing me songs about birds, saying funny Southern-isms, hooting and hollering like only she could, and charming the dew right off the honeysuckle. She loved meeting new people and she loved her beau. I hope she and Cecil are dancing together now in their Heavenly abode, as he used to call it. God is good. All the time.

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Photo above by Emily March.

This video from Inkspot Crow gets me every time! You can hear Bunny’s reaction to me telling her I was pregnant with Grace. What a great memory!

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

I miss you, Grandma! More than words.

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