Category: Motherhood

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.

For more, catch the video here. And this is happening! Grab a set of our undated PowerSheets for only $25 through Tuesday, July 5th. All orders placed over the weekend will come with a free set of Tab Stickers. Use the code JULYFIREWORKS for free shipping on PowerSheets orders.

Also, we’ve restocked some of our most loved desk cards, so check those out before you place your order : ) These are my favorite right now.

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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.

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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. Sign up here. 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!

Lara Casey signature

 

 

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How to overcome insecurity _ Lara Casey

Ever feel like everyone has it all together but you? I do. Lately this thought has been swirling in my head. But, here’s how I am evicting that lie out of my life, and how you can too:

1. Name it as a lie. Everyone else “having it together” is not true. I was just texting with a group of friends about our businesses, mothering, and hearts having various challenges right now. I wish I could add all of you to that text group so you could see that we are ALL in this together. Consider this post my group text to you : ) No one has it all together. They just don’t. That is freeing. And even if they did, it doesn’t mean they are more valuable than you and your unique assignment on this earth.

2. What does “having it together” mean anyway? Define the lie and the truth. The lie: I have to have the perfect plan and perfect results or I’m a failure. False. The truth: To me, having it “together” means I don’t have to do it all. It means trusting in God, doing my best to love well, and making little by little progress forward on the things that matter, even if I mess up along the way–at least I’m on the way there!

3. Consider that you are exactly where you are supposed to be, mess and all. When I really think about it, I wouldn’t trade my challenges right now because they are teaching me valuable lessons. They are refining me. They are making me closer to God and to Ari and to my family and friends and my team. If I had no struggles, I would stay the same. And I know that’s not what God wants of me. This is my season of sitting in the tension. A season of change.

You don’t have to have it all together to have value, and you are not alone.

Fruitful Summer 2016

So, with that, I’m excited to announce that Fruitful Summer is on! Last summer, thousands of you joined me from Tulsa to Tokyo to learn how to cultivate community, embrace awkward, and make meaningful relationships happen–no perfection required. Five weeks of practical and simple tips, printables, worksheets, and lots of surprises. Sign up for free at FruitfulSummer.com! Let’s do summer together!

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Photo above by WestMeetsSouth. Love seeing the Make it Happen book in there!

More thoughts on my original Instagram post here.

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My garden is in a really weird stage. There are some things growing, and some seeds never sprouted at all. Some things got way too big, and some things are oddly small. There are many little green shoots that I’m not sure are weeds or actual plants yet.

It’s awkward.

Messy.

Unbalanced.

My life has felt the exact same lately.

Unbalanced.

Unsettled.

Un-figured-out.

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There’s this thing called the “middle ground” that I don’t love so much. The middle ground is filled with in-betweens, undone conclusions, waiting, and tension. I prefer clear-cut direction. Firm yes’s and no’s. Plans with specifics and titles. I prefer flourishing and full bloom.

I’ve been in the middle ground for the last year. I’ve had no idea what to do with work and balancing motherhood. 

I prayed and prayed and PRAYED for certainty. But, instead uncertainty grew.

A year ago, I was about to have a baby and wondered how I was going to be a mom to two. I went into it blindly, trusting we would just figure it out. I was a year behind in writing Cultivate, and the direction of the book changed as many times as our lives did. Going from one child to two was rough for us. Grace’s emotions exploded. We felt helpless as parents and sleepless with a newborn. Somehow I felt like it was all my fault that Grace was having intense emotions. I blamed my work and I felt like it was too late. I felt like I had messed her up for life. This caused me great anguish. Since I work from home, this was all happening in my house, where my team works under the same roof. There was no hiding the tantrums and the hard days.

I felt like a horrible mother.

A useless leader.

I felt like a burden to everyone.

And I was tired.

There was so much good in this season too, but my heart was unsettled. Something had to change.

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Then, right before Christmas, in the middle of our busiest business season with PowerSheets and the magazine, Ari and I found out we matched for our adoption. Our adoption story is coming in a separate post soon. We were excited and grateful and terrified. There was so much unknown. I struggled through writing, preparing for a baby we might not even bring home with us, nursing Josh night and day, and Grace continuing to feel big feelings.

And I heard God telling me to quit.

Step away, Lara. 

Be small.

Nurture these children for Me.

Live a quiet life.

Over and over I heard these urgings, and every time I’d ask, How?

What does that look like exactly, God? What do I quit? Do you mean quit my business? How in the world would that work? What about all we’re doing to help people? What about my team? How do I do this??

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I had no answers. Just more questions.

So, I quit the Internet for several months, taking a hiatus from social media and email. I needed to hear from God and nothing else. And there was a lot of “else” swirling in my head as I tried to sort through it all, and write a book at the same time. I struggled with comparison and feeling isolated as a leader. I am so supported by my team, and yet they also know I’ve struggled with feeling like I’m on the “business owner island” at times. There are no fruity drinks on this island, just bills to pay and decisions to make that affect other people. I struggled feeling like I had to keep it all together all the time.

I stepped away from connectivity to get some clarity. Taking a break from social media is always good for my soul. It helps me remember Whose voice I should be listening to.

But, this time I didn’t want to come back.

I kept thinking God was telling me to quit my business, and I relished the thought. I felt elated at the idea of being able to make up for all the time I felt I had lost with Grace to a growing business. I was doing good work, but too much of a good thing is still too much.

I felt weary. Tired of telling my story. Tired of my attention being pulled from my kids. I didn’t want to be a part of it anymore, even if I was encouraging people. These were my honest thoughts friends—thoughts from the thick of it. It’s not the fault of pixels on a screen that I felt this way, though. Despite my efforts to guard my it well, I have a sensitive sponge-like heart. It was easier to be offline.

But, God doesn’t call us to easy; He calls us to follow Him. I kept wrestling with these thoughts, and praying hard.

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This fact remained and was important: our business is online. We make products that help people focus on what matters, in the mess, not despite it. We help people plant a garden right smack in the middle of the circus. I knew that was a good thing. A needed thing. With a business that lives on the internet, how in the world was I supposed to exist in that tension? How was I supposed to plant my own garden in the middle of the circus?

How was I supposed to balance the steadfast calm needed to shepherd my children’s hearts and love Ari and my community well, and the bombardment of the world I encountered when I tried to put encouragement or our products into the hands of people who might be changed by them?

How was I supposed to lead a business and a team of eight when I’ve been up all night feeding babies? How am I supposed to work on budgets and quarterly taxes when Grace really needs me to help her sort through her feelings… or show her how to draw a pterodactyl… or explain why ladybugs like to live on flowers. How do I schedule meetings when I’m pumping eight times a day and nursing every two hours to keep up with two babies? How does that all work, God??

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Then, our adoption happened in February. We stepped out on faith, saying yes to the unknown, which was beautiful and wonderful and intensely emotional. God broke us down to make us fully rely on Him, trusting Him in what felt completely uncertain.

And that’s the thing. God breaking me down over the last year was exactly what He wanted to happen. In the mess, many times, He is loving us more in what feels hard than in what feels easy.

I began making a lot of changes to spend more intentional time with our littles. I began to cultivate a new path, making little by little steps forward. The little by little started to add up. So much more to share in another post (and in my book). Consider this “Part 1.”

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I started a private blog the week of our adoption to share updates with our close friends and family, and to have a safe place to share all that we were experiencing. My team read my posts, so they knew. They knew the season we were in with our family. They knew how hard it had been emotionally. They knew the tension I felt between work and motherhood. They knew.

Two babies and two books in two years was too much. 

We had our annual Team Retreat earlier this month. I’m usually the encourager, but Marissa, Kristin, Emily, Nicole, Lisa, and our three new women, Amber, Jess, and Laura, spent the majority of the retreat pouring into me. This was unexpected, and I felt God speaking to me. They made it clear that whatever path I needed to take, they would be fully on-board. They asked me over and over how I felt, and helped me sort through my thoughts. I was weary and fearful of being in the thick of motherhood, and feeling like I had it to have it all together to lead a team of women well.

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They helped me see that I was stuck in the past, and that I didn’t have to be perfect. I just needed to be right where I was—mess and all. Friend, this is exactly why I’m sharing this with you, because maybe you are stuck too. I was stuck feeling like I couldn’t be the person I had become after such rapid life change. How would people understand? How could I tell this new story? I’m not an expert on motherhood, so how could I talk about it? How does that fit with all we are doing in our work?

I was stuck in expectations of what motherhood and business are supposed to look like.

Stuck thinking I had to keep my mouth shut about LOVING BEING A MOM because I didn’t feel perfect at it. I haven’t read all the parenting books, and I’ve made many mistakes, but you guys, I love these kids fiercely. Fiercely and joyfully.

It started to become clear.

After over a decade running a business by myself, I felt like it was somehow okay to let my team in more to the struggles I faced. They saw me in my mess and it was okay. They covered me in grace. They handed me a one-way ticket off the business owner island.

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Last Wednesday night, I cried again to Ari about it and he said something that surprised me, because for a long time he wanted me to let work go so I wasn’t stressed by it. He loves me, but he loves God more. He said “It’s not time to give up. God has given you this for a reason. I don’t think He wants you to waste it.” I countered to him that I also don’t think He wants me to waste moments with our kids. This is my struggle. I want it to be one or the other, wrapped up in a bow. But I got on my knees just now on the dining room floor and GOD MADE IT CLEAR. I’m typing that in all caps because I am so crazy grateful. Months and months of praying. Months of agonizing. Months of wanting to give up my business completely. God told me these words that I immediately wrote down in my PowerSheets:

Help other people wrestle with it and sit in the tension and not feel like they have to GIVE UP.

Sometimes, when we feel like we want to quit, it means something DOES need to change. In this season I don’t have a perfect plan or all the answers. But I know I’m not giving up (I want to insert a thousand !!!! here). This is a season of sitting in the tension of motherhood and ministry and leading and listening and business and babies. I will not “do it all,” I’ll simply do what God wants me to do every day. I’ll get my hands dirty, and the way I live this out may not look like the way the rest of the world does it. I’m excited for that.

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“She believed she could so she did” is lovely and instills confidence, but that doesn’t last. I know a deeper truth. She believed she couldn’t, so He did. If you are struggling with doing it all–if comparison is making you feel inadequate, I am with you. If you are struggling as a boss, wife, mama, you don’t have to do it all. You don’t have to fix it. There’s no shame for all those imperfections, sister. There’s just grace.

I cannot do it all, but I can do a few things well. And only with grace. Grace upon grace.

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I did need to quit my job. 

I needed to quit doing it the way I had always done it, telling the old story and not recognizing the new path I am on.

It was time to quit feeling like I had to have it all together to tell the story of motherhood in my life and work. I needed to own my new story.

It’s time to let you in, and tell you the new story too.

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All those urgings I kept hearing from God?

Step away, Lara. 

Be small. 

Nurture these children for Me. 

Live a quiet life.

Yes. Just yes.

Step away from the noise.

Step away from the “should’s.”

Step forward from the old story and into what’s happening in my life now.

Be small. Low to the ground with my children. On my knees. Hands in the dirt. Less concerned with how to do life—needing a one-or-the-other plan and title–and fully focused on why I’m doing life.

Nurture these children, because the greatest contribution I make to the kingdom of God may not be something I do, but someone I raise (wisdom from Andy Stanley).

Living a quiet life, because all the loud out there isn’t going to last.

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Do you know how this motherhood/work/internet tension works?

Imperfectly.

Awkwardly.

And yet, intentionally.

My garden is in an awkward stage, but it’s still a garden. And, even when I can’t see it or feel it, it’s growing. It doesn’t have to be in full bloom all the time for it to be meaningful. The tension of the middle ground is the path to blooming.

The garden just this morning with Grace, who is a much more fulfilled Grace now that I have let go of the old and stepped into the new. She’s learning to love her messes too : )

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Maybe you are wrestling with something similar. Sister, let me tell you something I didn’t know before sitting in this tension: there is no formula. There is no one “right” way to do motherhood and business, or one or the other.

You do what God tells you to do.

And you know what? It may not be what you do for all of your life. We were created for seasons, and seasons don’t last forever for a reason. They prepare us for what’s next. Stay open, fellow-sojourner. Stay open. I thought for SURE God was telling me to close the doors of our company, or sell it, and I’m so glad I stayed in the tension. I’m so grateful I didn’t give up. The tension—the wait and the wrestling and the mess and the endless prayers–was all for a reason. Maybe yours is too.

So, this post doesn’t have a bow tied on it here at the end, just a “…” 

I am still listening and keeping my hands open. But, I know what I’m not doing: letting the lies of mom guilt speak louder than the truth of grace. And the truth that our paths don’t have to look like everyone else’s. We can do this motherhood and work thing differently. We can do it together, and do just enough well.

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Join me this Friday live on my Facebook page at noon EST. I’m going to be talking about motherhood and work, my summer goals, what’s changing in our company soon (a lot), how we’re starting a new magazine about community, and I also believe it’s time to tell you how our company works. I want you to know our hearts and our daily story here in my home-office. What does it look like to work from home? How do we do what we do? What’s it like with three kids and lots of ladies in our house all day? How do we design and decide on our products? You’ll be seeing a lot more starting tomorrow on our Instagram and Snapchat (LaraCaseyShop).

Your turn. How are you feeling? What’s the tension you are wrestling with? Let’s talk about it, and give each-other a one-way ticket off the isolation island.

Love,

Lara the business owner who is also a great imperfect joyful mom!

P.S. If you need a new start this summer, join me Friday, and I’m giving you and your friends 40% off PowerSheets. Use code SUMMERGOALS here. Some people might say this is unwise to give this big discount, but I really don’t care. I just want you and all your friends to have them and, Lord willing, be changed by them. They are undated, six-month sets, so this is the ideal time to start fresh and finish the year well (our new designs come out in November). I am starting over with my goals this week too–a fresh new focus. Spread the word and feel free to share this code with your friends! Code ends one week from today, or until we sell out again.

P.P.S. I love you, friends. Sincerely. I know many of you have read this blog and followed my journey for years, and some of you have just stumbled on it today, and I want to tell you thank you for listening and sitting with me in this tension. I am grateful to do life with you.

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