Category: Motherhood

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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Hello, friend. I know. Where in the world has blogging gone these last months? Truth: sometimes we have to say no to one thing in order to say yes to something else. This year has taught me so much, but mostly, it’s taught me that face-to-face time matters. Relationships matter. Community right where you are matters. And so, I’ve been pouring every bit of energy and time I can into nurturing those things.

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My favorite moments — meaningful conversations, dinners with neighbors, sharing life’s challenges and joys with girlfriends over tea in my kitchen, teaching Sunday School with Ari, times of being silly with Grace and getting our hands dirty in the garden together — didn’t get photographed. Most of my favorite times this year didn’t make it to Instagram, but they happened and they have been so sweet.

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I said no to some things I love (like writing you here the last few months!) while I finished edits on my book over the summer, picked buckets and buckets of tomatoes and blueberries, and loved on this group of ladies. I’ve also said no to things that were distracting me from what matters. I’ve been doing Nancy Ray’s Contentment Challenge for over a year now (blog post coming soon on my experience not shopping for a year) in order to say YES to needed heart change. I said no to fear and comparison and so many things in order to say yes to investing in relationships. Yes to big risks. Yes to my marriage. Yes to less time cleaning my house and more time living in it. Yes to prayer. Yes to making a magazine that is about so much more than planning for just one day (V7 debuts in 3 weeks!). Yes to doing things that felt uncomfortable, but were so worth it. Living on purpose is worth saying no so you can say yes.

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What about you? What are you saying no to? What are you saying yes to? I encourage you to make a no/yes list today and see how it helps you focus on what matters. See if it helps you simplify your days and live on purpose. I am cheering you on!

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Some news: 2015 PowerSheets preorders are now open. After three years of using them myself, we took all that has helped us take big leaps and all that has helped you make what matters happen into this updated design. I can’t wait to use these in 2015! Do you need these to make what matters happen? No. The PowerSheets were created simply as a tool to help people like me who need help taking action on goals and staying focused on progress, not perfection. I pray these will help you do that too! Pre-order now for guaranteed Christmas delivery. And there’s something special my friend Emily Ley and I have cooked up for those who pre-order. See y’all in November!

Photographs of Grace and I picking wildflowers by my friend EmilyGrace couldn’t get enough of these flowers! And, I don’t usually talk about fashion, but I was gifted this dress from Shabby Apple, and I love it. Love the modest hemline and soft fabric. A treat to wear! 

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For Grace’s birthday, I could think of no better way to celebrate her life — and so many dear friends who have meant the world to us these last years — than to celebrate… with cows!  You see, Grace loves animals.  Weekly, we visit our friends, the goats and chickens, to give them some animal crackers (ironic, I know).  We go see cows a few times a week (I live right down the road from a cow pasture!).  Couple this with my own love for chickens (my mom raised chickens since I was in fourth grade) and you have a little two-year old who loves all things farm!  So, Maple View Diary Farm was the obvious celebratory location : )

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I worked with Grey Snail Press to design these adorable barnyard invitations.  (more…)

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Sometimes — most of the time — the greatest gift you can give someone is to be present with them, carrying their burdens just through a listening ear.  Being right there in that moment with your friend or loved one (or a stranger in line with you at the grocery store who really needs someone to make them feel loved), listening not just with your ears, but with your heart, you subconsciously are letting them know that they are enough. The gift of someone’s presence feels better and has more of a lasting effect than anything you can wrap in paper.

Being present helps us build stronger friendships and marriages, little by little. Stronger marriages take root and grow strong families…  and strong families – with all their ups and downs — have the potential to raise up strong children who have the potential to change the world and start the domino effect of present love again in their own families.

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You make present love grow when you simply hug a little longer.  Nicole told me that one hug increases your life span, by 3 minutes, so go get your hug on!  Being present heals people.  I remember a day when I was having a hard time and Nicole was listening — not to what I was saying, but to my heart.  She said, “Do you need a hug, Lara?”  So many times we pass those love offers off and pretend that we are “just fine,” but I happily accepted.  That simple token of love and being present hasn’t left my memory. The seemingly little things matter, friends.

When you turn off the chatter of life and stop to say “I love you” and mean it – even though he left dirty dishes in the sink again — that matters.  When you choose to put your phone down during dinner and really ask her how her day was, it matters.  When you stop to say hello to your neighbor that passes you every day on his walk, it matters.  When you do small things with great love and presence, it means something.   When you choose to fight busy and choose to be present, it changeseverything.  It changes generations.

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Being present changed my own life.  When I stopped choosing my phone and social media over my marriage, world shifted.  When I listen to Grace instead of my email, her heart grows.  When I hear my mom and dad on the phone with my heart, not just my ears, I can hear their joy bubble over. When I stop to give my neighbors and strangers the gift of my time and ears, life happens.  Photo above by Faith Teasley.

  • Being present helps us hear life.  Slow down and really listen. You might see something wonderful.
  • Being present makes life richer.  It helps us to be content with what we have instead of pining for more. Being present helps us see the blessings right in front of us.
  • Being present helps us to be more efficient and focused.  When I am fully present in my work during working hours, I get more done and done well.  When I am fully present with my family during family time, my heart is renewed and I am a better mom and wife.  This is easier said than done with all we juggle in our lives, but the pursuit of being present is worth it.
  • Being present helps us to build trust in others.
  • Being present helps us see and hear needs in others and fill them.
  • Being present helps us change people’s lives.

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Words from a great post by Shauna Niequist written above on this notepad as I was filling out my PowerSheets for December yesterday.

This December, join me in giving this gift and learning to accept it, too!  Use the hashtag #PresentDecember to help inspire others to say “no” to the hustle and bustle of the holiday rush and say a giant “yes” to slowing down and giving this gift that cannot be wrapped.  Let’s listen for needs and fill them, friends.

My prayer for you all is a holiday season full of letting your eyes and hearts drink in the blessings in front of you. Put your phone down. Close your computer. When something great happens, don’t say, “I wish I would have had my camera,” say, “I’m so grateful that just happened!”  Look people in the eyes and give them the gift that changes things.  Here’s to long conversations over family meals, strengthened relationships, and celebrating this beautiful season of hope!  Happiest holidays, friends!

Love,

Lara (and Ari and Gracie!)

P.S. I’m still going on my Contentment Challenge (not buying anything new for myself till the new year) but after much prayer and God showing us many needs, we decided to change from just giving things we make and donations to also include gifts that bring people hope.  More about the Contentment Challenge here and a GREAT post on giving and gifting at Christmas here.

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It’s a strange thing to read things I wrote just a couple years ago. Even a year ago. I feel like I’m reading someone else’s writing. Perhaps because… I truly am. That’s what grace has done to me. It has changed every fiber of my being a thousand times over in the last two years of being a mama. Reading through my pregnancy announcement, my chronicle of 9 months of pregnancy (which ended up being 10 months!), Grace’s birth announcement

This video still makes me cry every single time I watch it. Right around 3:33 I can’t help but feel completely overwhelmed with emotion. Thank you to my friends at Inkspot Crow for creating this for us.

…her birth story, weathering postpartum depression and then her first birthday post… well… friends, I’m speechless. So much has changed. Even with all this change though, I know He is just getting started with me. God is real and His amazing grace and this little Grace change my heart so fast every day that I sometimes don’t see the change until days like today when I stop to take a look back.

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Photo of Grace at 3 weeks old by Nancy Ray

Today, Grace is two.

Oh my heart.

Hello, tears.

I’m welling up with an ocean of tears because I just can’t believe I am here — the mom of a two-year-old. How did this happen!?!? I can’t believe the time flew this fast. And I am in awe of how wonderful she is. This little human He formed in me. God is good. And so, today, we celebrate her life and His grace that has made all of this possible!

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Gracie in her doctor’s outfit on Halloween!

‘But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.’ (Ephesians 2:4-10)

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Just having a sweet conversation together the other day : ) I cherish these moments.

Truth: I don’t deserve her. Her sweet auburn curls and her funny dance moves. I don’t deserve her hugs or this life at all. But, God’s love is that big. His love is so big that, no matter what we have done — no matter what — when we give our lives to Him, He takes the burden of our sins away and makes us new like a sweet new baby. He blesses us with “good” things and trials and challenges all to refine our hearts and make us more like Him. I am so grateful. I am at a loss for words large enough to describe my gratitude today, so I will just act them out instead.

Today, I will rejoice and give thanks through dozens of hugs and kisses. I’ll sing happy birthday to her probably three dozen times, if not more. This weekend we’ll celebrate at a local dairy farm with friends and family. And I will look to the Heavens and smile, knowing that all of this is from above. Not by my own merit or power. Just Him. His grace is a gift and it has changed everything.

Oh there’s so much more I could say, but I must go get those hugs and kisses now!

Happiest birthday, sweet girl. I love you with all my heart!

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Something hit me this weekend. A full life, with all it’s nuances and challenges and little moments, can never be put into the box that is the internet. Even with a thousand photographs and ten-thousand words, the fullness of life simply can’t be poured into the confines of this little web space. And it got me thinking about how it’s so easy to assume we know people based on what they blog or post on Instagram, but that is never the whole picture. Our lives are so much richer than what can be held in 140 characters or a WordPress page or a single photograph.

And that is frustrating. Really really frustrating sometimes. As a creative, I am compelled to create because I want to mirror back to the world God’s goodness. I want to create with every fiber of my being. I try so hard. I try to share and create what I think will help. I try to share what I hope will inspire Grace one day to know and love Him. I try, but sometimes I get really tired trying to pour the ocean of life into a little cup. Most of my favorite moments don’t get photographed because I’m completely immersed in them. And sometimes life is just too big for words. I think that someday, in eternity, we won’t need to search for the perfect words anymore. The Word will be right in front of our eyes.

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Grace has been going through a week of waking up at 3am. I don’t know what God’s purposes are in everything at all, but sometimes I suspect He wants me to be up all night so I hear Him. Because many days get so packed that I stop listening. He teaches me in these sleep-deprived days. He teaches me, as I look at her finally sound asleep, that He is good and His mercies are made new every morning and the most meaningful creating is a direct reflection of us truly living our lives and…

that I need Him. I need Him because I get lost and He literally is the way.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 16:4)

The last days, He keeps telling me to LIVE my life instead of trying to capture it. Like the most brilliant sunset — I could write about it or take a photograph or paint it but nothing quite feels like simply taking it in with my eyes. Some sunsets are so brilliant and make me feel God so clearly that my heart feels as if it may burst if I gaze too long. So many times I feel that about Grace too. Sometimes, the fullness of life just needs to be soaked up by our eyes and hearts. Our eyes are the windows to our souls (and to other’s souls), not our Instagram accounts. Babies soon turn into toddlers and our hairs eventually gray. This morning I even caught myself thinking, “Wow, “Head Shoulders Knees and Toes” is a workout!” Life is short. Be all there.

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My prayer for you all is a week full of letting your eyes and hearts drink in the blessings in front of you. Put your phone down. Close your computer. (I was really set on blogging every day this month, but I’m changing my mind.) When something great happens, don’t say “I wish would have had my camera,” say, “I’m so grateful that just happened!”

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Two-thousand and thirteen sleeps.  Two-thousand and thirteen dreams.  One night sleep (or five small ones from the time you were born to 11 months — we were all very tired together!), two naps for a while and now just one.  About two-thirds of those, I got to rock you to sleep, close to my heart.  As close as I could get you.  That’s where you always want to be.  Close to my heart, I have sung you a thousand songs and prayed a thousand prayers.  I’ve listened to you breathe — one of the most miraculous sounds I’ve ever taken in with my ears.  Thank you, God, for ears to hear.  I’ve smelled your little head each day.  The perfume of you has changed from the magical sweet smell of a new baby — something totally unexplainable in words — to the still-sweet scent of the bubbly happy Gracie I know today.  As I’ve rocked you these last 714 days of your life, I have learned something new over time.  I am still learning this.  God brings us to that baby blue rocker to teach me to slow down and savor stillness.  But, this is a special stillness.  It’s not the absence of movement or of life.  It’s the absence of me.  God fills up the world and our hearts with Him.  And that, I am learning, is all we ever need.  Be still and know, sweet pea.  He is always here.

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!

Psalm 46:10

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I love you, sweet pea.  Sweet dreams : )

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Being grateful is work sometimes.  Really hard work.  I get so bogged down with email and to-dos and life moves so fast some days that I completely lose sight of the gifts right in front and inside and all around me. Let’s look at some of the gifts of this moment: I have fingers to type this.  Ten of them!  I have a nose to breathe clean air through.  I have a cup of water sitting next to me.  Clear, clean, disease-free water.  Water I didn’t have to well or purify myself.  I just turn on one of the many faucets in my house.  I have heat in my heater that I turn up and down with the push of a button.  I have a Bible I can read whenever I want without fear of persecution.  I have a phone that I can use to call anyone at any time and tell them I love them. I could go on.

I love this page from Grace’s little book of prayers.  It says, “Hands sure come in handy for finger paint and candy.  And for counting – fingers go to ten.  Thank you God for all of them! Amen.” 

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You see, gratitude isn’t something that happens to us when good things come.  It’s something we practice and cultivate and give.  “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more” (Melody Beattie).  It is so easy to look at the “little” things and think of them as small.  But really… they are miracles.  And the everyday miracles and gifts in our lives were meant to be shared, spread around and passed on.

In my own life, I’m just scratching the surface of beginning to understand just how much I have and how much need there is for us to share what we have with so many who do not have these “simple” things that are really not simple at all.

Sometimes gratitude comes unexpectedly, on the other side of challenges. I was in a car accident last week. I am physically fine, just emotionally shaken up.  Today, I am grateful for the simple yet very best gift of being alive. I will not take this day for granted.  Gratitude changes everything.  It changes the everyday into the extraordinary.  It changes the simple into the sublime.  It can change your heart from caving in to filled to the brim instantly.  Gratitude changed what was a scary experience this week into an enormous blessing.  I am praying that your challenges turn into unexpected wells of gratitude, too.

This month, I have a special challenge for you.  Let’s take action on thanks AND giving. Share what you are grateful for on social media this month and share stories of giving (maybe highlight a friend or small business who is doing great things for others!) using the hashtag #GratefulNovember.  Let’s help each other cultivate and celebrate the profound blessings all around, within and right in front of us!  You never know how your little seed of thanks — whether a text to a friend, a love letter, an open door, a small donation, a smile, or an unexpected long hug will completely change someone’s life.

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Feel free to steal the graphic above to start your #GratefulNovember off today on social media!

We are starting in our office today by writing what we’re grateful for on our chalkboard wall together!   My personal project is to write out 100 things I’m grateful for every week (maybe more!).  And not in a journal, but somewhere I can see them every day.  Since I’m doing the Contentment Challenge, I worked with what I already had.  I found a roll of tan wrapping paper, a silver paint pen and a few push pins and hung this up yesterday…

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We’ll be adding things we are grateful for to it each day so we can see them clearly and celebrate them.  Ari and I are also naming 10 things we are grateful for each night at dinner. The last three days of dong this have already been so good for us.  Such a simple thing but it has helped us to see God in everything around us and it has helped us appreciate each other more.  It has also helped me fall more in love with this little one.  I didn’t think I could love her more, but it’s happening.  Yesterday morning before church we took a walk in our PJ’s to crunch in the leaves…

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Ari and I are also and are focusing on giving more to others in various ways.  As I wrote about in my last post, we are all blessed to be a blessing.  I can’t wait to hear and see what creative things you all do to make thanks and giving happen.

Download this and many more iPhone, iPad and computer wallpapers here.

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Happy November, friends!  Make thanks AND giving happen today and always.  Let’s get started right now! What are YOU grateful for?  I’d love to know.  

P.S. Thank someone right now.  If you are reading this, you either have a phone or a computer!  Make the call, send that text or write that email.  You never know how it will change that person’s life.

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I am going to try something new the next weeks: writing blog posts and not stressing over them being perfect.  DONE is better than perfect and, though I have a lot lot lot of writing to do in the next 12 weeks (more on that next), I also feel called to write a lot here.  I want to practice writing here most days and just getting the thoughts out of my head.  Done is better than perfect.  Because the good we know we ought to do and — the good we know we ought to share online — can stay in our heads or we can DO something about it. Done is far better than perfect.   So, here goes!  Photos in the post taken last week by my amazing friend, Gina.  I love you, G!  I don’t usually wear makeup often, so I wanted photos taken for Grace in the same way she would remember me every day : )

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013Sleepy gracie in our bed because she was making molars last week and up all night. And yes she sleeps sideways in our bed — very comfy for us. Ha!

I wrote a series on Goal Setting & Setting Yourself Up for Success at the start of this year because I got really tired of NOT making progress on the things that matter most.  In fact, I realized I didn’t know what truly mattered most to me.  I didn’t want to end another year with regret about things I could have accomplished if I had just taken tiny steps along the way to make them happen.  I got really tired of looking back and realizing how much time I wasted on worry and things that distracted me from my purpose.  I started this year with one main goal in mind and several that branch out from it: to know God more and walk in His ways.  I wanted to finally do the things I’ve always had on my heart to do.  I wanted to make LIFE happen. Turns out, a lot of you felt the same way.

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The big morning stretch!

I updated you with my first round of progress on April 10 and our second update was supposed to be on July 10th, but I posted on August 8th with this update.  And I am, once again, a couple weeks late to update you, but here I am.  Welcome to round three of my 2013 Goal Progress!

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If you are stumbling on my blog for the first time, or if you need to start fresh, below are the links to get you moving. It doesn’t matter that it’s almost November. It’s NEVER to late to do what matters and start LIVING. Today is the day — YOUR day to start making it happen, to get back on track, or to choose a new track entirely!

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A few updates since my last check-in!

– I spoke at 8 conferences in the last 12 weeks.  8!  And I loved every single one of them.  I would do this year all over again with speaking.  It was so gratifying.  Full recaps of my summer/fall speaking coming soon!

– We got SouthernWeddings.com!  Oh my stars, this feels so good.  Read the whole story here.

– We took a family vacation to Beaches.  More on that trip soon too.  It was so good and so needed.  We also visited the Grove Park Inn as a family and I took Grace to see my parents in Florida.

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013Morning hair is the best kind of hair : )

– My Grandma Bunny was diagnosed with mouth cancer and, at the age of 96, started radiation treatments 5.5 weeks ago.  She is not cured, but has responded well to them.  Her cancer has shrunk significantly, which is more than we could have asked for! Her final treatment is tomorrow.  Amen, hallelujah, thank you Lord!

– We did approximately 8 trillion photo shoots for the next issue of Southern Weddings

– I signed my book contract with Thomas Nelson and started writing yesterday.  More to come here.

– We completed our 6th print edition (“V6″) of Southern Weddings and sent it off to print last week.  We get the copies later this week!

– We hosted a life-changing second Making Things Happen Conference last week.  It was incredible.  Full recap coming soon!  Registration for the 2014 Conference is now OPEN and seats are already flying.

– I got to spend lots of face-to-face time with my friends, Emily Ley and Gina Zeidler as we travelled to speak at the Pursuit 31 Conference together and did the Making Things Happen Conference here together last week.  I am so blessed by them.

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In case you missed the GOAL SETTING + MAKING THINGS HAPPEN posts, it’s never too late to start now!

GOAL SETTING FOR 2013, Part 1
GOAL SETTING FOR 2013, Part 2
GOAL SETTING FOR 2013, Part 3
GOAL SETTING FOR 2013, Part 4
GOAL SETTING FOR 2013, Part 5
MAKING THINGS HAPPEN IN 2013: CLEAR THE CLUTTER
MAKING THINGS HAPPEN IN 2013: PREPARE FOR GREATNESS
MAKING THINGS HAPPEN IN 2013: TAKE A BREAK!
MAKING THINGS HAPPEN IN 2013: NAME YOUR FEAR
MAKING THINGS HAPPEN IN 2013: CREATE BOUNDARIES
MAKING THINGS HAPPEN IN 2013: ENCOURAGE OTHERS
MAKING THINGS HAPPEN IN 2013: THE BIG LIST

If you started with me on your goal setting in January or even if you’re new here (welcome!), I’d love to hear about your progress, big or small. The goal is PROGRESS NOT PERFECTION. Honest updates will help you move forward. So, weigh in below. I hope to encourage you or pray for you. And you just might inspire someone else with your comment!

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013We always go in our PJ’s to visit the garden in the morning.  PJ’s and awesome gold boots for Gracie.

— MY 2013 Goals —

Goal 1: To know God more by learning about Him in the Bible and through prayer because knowing God means I will know what is right and good and He will direct my path. Everything good comes from that. God is my compass. I want to know everything I can possibly know about God so I can align my life with His will. I want to know God so I can change for the better for everyone in my life. I want to study the Bible and pray without ceasing. That means a lot of things, namely less time in my phone and on email and on extraneous projects and more focused time without distractions, reading. My goal in short: read and pray daily. Repeat.

// YES! I finished reading the Old Testament and am plugging along with the New Testament.  This has proven challenging because the NT is so packed with goodness that I keep wanting to take it in very slowly.  But, I hope to be finished with the Bible completely by December 31.  That will be something to celebrate!

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013Morning adventures usually continue with reading and exploring the house.

Goal 2: I want Ari and I to have a more thriving joyful marriage because that will help us be our best for each other and Grace and everyone in our lives. Because we are stronger as individuals when we are stronger as a couple. Last year was truly a year of transition and miracles and this year, I want to celebrate life more together. I want to make Ari feel special and help him be his best. I want to open my heart and let him in more. I know I have a self-protecting wall up most of the time. I want to learn more about what God wants for our marriage and I want to DO those things. I want to help other couples do those things, too. I want to lead by example, in our failures and triumphs.

//  If you want to know more about our story, read here and you can hear our whole story live on camera in the Amazing Life Together recordings.  In our marriage, we have been praying a lot together and separately about what God wants for our family – adoption, more children, where to plant the seeds of our resources and how He wants us to use our time.

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013And there are always tickle parties.  Always. 

Goal 3: I want to become more physically strong so I can be full of energy to do God’s work every day and give to others. I stopped weight training last year and that is the longest time I’ve been out of the gym. I want to be physically strong so I can live a long healthy active life and be able to teach Grace about God and how to live a good life through my actions. I want to fuel my body to do good things. I want to recognize when I am tempted to use food to control my emotions and choose God instead through prayer, reading, stepping outside to take a deep breath or just by being still and having a good cry if I need to.

// I have been a bit off-track with the weather change stress of having too much on my plate the last weeks.  I learned in this season that all we can do is do what is right in front of us.  We cannot predict tomorrow.  One day at a time : )  And so, I am trying to get my fitness focus back one day at a time too.  I still get up to exercise every day, but pushing myself to workout hard has been well… hard.  I am glad I’m doing this update for accountability and to remember WHY I want to be strong in the first place!

Goal 4: I want to stop breastfeeding, Lord willing, by Valentines day (I started weaning last week) and stay emotionally fit, despite the hormonal changes. I want to keep my energy up and give thanks, despite my current feelings (imagine if you didn’t have a period for two years and your hormones decided to start creating one… that’s where I am). I want to do whatever I can naturally to regulate my hormones so that I can be my best for my family, my staff and my friends. I also really want those 3+ hours a day back to do more for God every day. And, at the same time, I don’t want to lose the beautiful thing I have learned in all of this – that taking time to be still during the day is a very good thing.

// Check!  Read my update from April for the details on how I stopped.  Done and done.

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013At the neighborhood park with Daddy.

Goal 5: I want to be humble and learn a lot this year about a lot of things so I can do what I do well. I want to learn skills that will help me be a light for other’s to know God. I want to be a better more skilled designer so I can spend less time creating graphics and so I can create inspiring products that help people focus on what is good in life. I want to learn to be a better leader so I can build my team up and equip them to do the same for others. I want to learn how to cook special dishes that make my family feel special. I want to learn how to keep plants alive more than a few weeks. I want to continue my calligraphy training so that I can write beautiful letters to special friends. I want to learn how to be a better writer so I can communicate my thoughts in a more compelling authentic way. I want to learn how to do my job in a more direct, powerful, efficient way so I can make more of an impact on everyone I meet. I want to learn more about investing and finances so I can be a better steward of our money. I want to learn so I can give more.

// Design – Nicole has continued to teach me so much through all we’ve been doing with our print magazine. Leading – I’ve focused so much on our company mission in my speaking engagements, so leading from that core has been fairly easy.  I am so grateful for a team of women who are just as passionate about our core mission as I am!  Cooking – My garden has been one of my greatest joys the last months.  We’ve harvested hundreds of tomatoes and I’ve had so much fun tending the garden with Grace. Eating straight from our garden is so satisfying!  Plants – Yes, as you can see I love my garden!  I am sad it is close to the time when my annuals will fade away, but I will have fun during the winter planning for spring goodies.  We did plant kale and lettuce for fall though and it’s looking beautiful!  Calligraphy – I stopped my calligraphy training to focus on other priorities.   Writing – Well, I have a book to write now.  A whole separate post coming on this. There is a lot of writing in my future!  Job efficiency – Yes, we had a great meeting recently about profitability and how we use our time as a team.  I do feel very efficient with my time and priorities now as compared to the start of the year! Finances – This continues to be the biggest answered prayer in this category.  We now have a clear personal budget, a savings and investment plan (with many thanks to our dear friend and financial coach Will Ray!) and I hired a new accountant for our business who has been so helpful thus far.  Guys, I can’t tell you what a relief all of this is!  Being able to know where we can invest time and resources and where we need to scale back is a huge blessing.

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

Goal 6: I want to learn how to be more efficient and reach more people with less time away from my family. I want to spend less time on the phone with clients and far less timing emailing. My goal is to find revenue streams this year that are more automated, yet help people in a profound personal way.

// Yes, our shop has done well and I’ve continued to fight for my boundaries to keep my time focused on what matters. Read more about how I set boundaries here. I’m done with consulting and branding work for the year so I can focus on getting my book done, so my time has been streamlined. I am in the process of planning my 2014 speaking calendar, too, and have only accepted one speaking engagement thus far.  Speaking gives me the opportunity to affect more people at once and therefore spend less time on the computer or in sessions.  I’m excited to be speaking at the Bliss and Bespoke retreat in Charleston in February.  If you are interested in having me come to your conference to speak, I’d love to hear from you as I’m blocking off my time for 2014 now.  You can read more info here!

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013Can you tell we are related?

Goal 7: I want to learn how to be a better mom. I currently don’t read anything on parenting. I fly by the seat of my pants. I want to learn from others who do it well and become a mother full of wisdom so that Grace can be her best under our care. I want to raise her to be giving and pure and to have a heart of grateful JOY. I want to help Grace have more play friends and be a living example of the Bible for her in our actions. I want to be much more patient and less controlling and let go of my life so I can live in hers.

// I don’t even know where to begin with this update.  I’ll just give you a little glimpse into my world with the sweetest little monkey on the earth.  Late last night as I tried to calm Grace to get her to sleep (poor thing has a bad cold right now), she suddenly starts praying:

(clasping her little hands together and squinting her eyes so she can still see) Thank you God for Daddy.  Thank you God for helping me.  Amen!

And then she proceeded to sing a mashup of Twinkle Twinkle and Old MacDonald. DJ Grace is the cutest.  Then, mid-song, she looks at me in dark room, by the light of the moon coming through the window and says, “I love you so much mama.”  Melt my soul.  It’s moments like that that make me forget the constant toddler tantrums and separation anxiety that we weather daily.  Each challenge is an opportunity to teach her to know God’s heart and — though I fail at it daily — teaching her that is one of my greatest joys.  Showing her compassion and how to love others and how to say “I’m sorry” and how to celebrate life all make my mama heart very full.  We’ve had a lot of adventures together lately and I love my time with her.  Even when she refuses to clean up her messes and hits me with lollipops (yes that happened today).

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013She loves when Ari lifts her up high to touch the trees!

Goal 8: I want to continue to build a remarkable business that is a catalyst for real LOVE. I want my clients to have better LIVES and I want our brides to have strong MARRIAGES. I want to be a centered sounding board and prayerfully guide my clients this year to their fullest potential. My goal is to always come back to our CORE and to keep refining it.

// YES YES and YES! This update continues to stay strong and I am so grateful.  It becomes clearer and clear to me by the day that, the more we focus on our core and refine it to align with God’s will, the more powerful our work is on all levels. Our core mission is to inspire brides to cultivate a life full of love – celebrating their families, the rich culture of the South and what matters most to them – and then to draw from that rich well to create a meaningful beginning to married life! Through our weekly staff meetings and all of the decisions we make, we come back to this core mission daily and it clarifies everything. We’ve had SO many great staff meetings lately centered on our core and taking action on that daily.  I am so grateful for Nicole, Emily, Marissa, Kristin and Lisa!

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

Goal 9: To learn how to take better photographs for myself so that I can remember Grace as she is in these sweet moments. I am not really sure why for this goal. It feels like a very God-centered goal, but it’s something I can’t explain. I have this connection to great photographs… they somehow speak to my soul. They change me. I think a gift God gave me was to be able to see the vision of a photograph to create. I can see moments and the big picture and a vision. I don’t have the technical skills to match that to capture the moments I see, if that makes sense. I even bought a great camera last year. It hasn’t been used yet because I get really frustrated with technology and numbers and learning new skills that I have to read a manual for. I want to learn the technical skills of how to take the photographs that I see in my heart.

// I’ve learned a lot about light and processing lately just through observing others and studying.  But, for now, I’m leaving this to the pros!

Goal 10: I want to live with less, keep a new budget based on the historical data we have from 2012, and be more frugal this year because my money is not mine. It’s God’s and I want to do more with our money for Him. I want to not only give away things I don’t need, but give away things I love. Ari is really good at this. His favorite sweater was in our charity pile this weekend and, when I asked him about it, he said he said that it wasn’t really giving unless you were giving something you didn’t want to give away for the sake of someone else. I love that. I want to be more sacrificial in my giving.

// We can’t take our stuff to Heaven with us.  I have so much growing to do here, but I am so grateful for how God is changing our family in this realm.  I read Interrupted and it further convicted me that my heart needs to change more and more to be like Him.  So, I started the Contentment Challenge at the start of September.  Not shopping for things I don’t need hasn’t been hard.  At all.  It’s giving things away and living sacrificially that has been a huge challenge on my heart.  More to come here.

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

Goal 11: I want to build other’s up in faith and give lots of tools this year for people to make that happen. I want to study the Bible with others in my home and online. Going back to goal 1, I want to know the Bible so I can share it with others. Showing people the new life that I have been given and the indescribable JOY and freedom and love and genuine purpose I have found in this new life… well, that is something I want to share. Big time. If you were to find the most beautiful island in the world, you would want to invite all your friends. That’s how I feel about being in a relationship with God. I want everyone to be able to feel this goodness. I want to equip people with basic tools to know God more.

// With my book manuscript due at the end of January, I’ve had to table the in-person Bible study.  I did, however, write to our women’s ministry leader to tell her I was interested in doing this so we are going to meet one afternoon to talk about it.  I so badly want more time to be able to learn and study more so I am better equipped to teach God’s word to others.  I have been so convicted by Bob Goff talking to us at Pursuit 31 about how we need to stop agreeing with Jesus and DO something about who He is.  I want to live that.  So much.  I want to have Bible doings instead of Bible studies.

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

Goal 12: I want to finally WRITE MY BOOK. I already have most of the content written and just need to put it together. Nicole and I started talking about the printing and technical aspects of this before the end of the year, so it’s in the works. My goal is to release it before the end of 2013, if not sooner. I want it to be timeless and done well so it will help creatives make things happen year after year. I want it to be a legacy for Grace to learn from as well.

// I signed my contract with Thomas Nelson/Harper Collins last week.  I am pretty afraid to write this book, but slowly God is giving me clarity.  This update is not wrapped up in a pretty bow yet.  Check back with me in January : )  My manuscript is due January 31, 2014 and the book debuts in January 2015!

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013Gina made us say “banana pants” really loud!

Goal 13: I want to continue to paint and create products for small creative spaces that inspire people to live better lives. God is the ultimate creator and I believe He gave all of us creative talents that are meant to be USED. I want to use my creative gifts much more this year: design, painting and singing.

// We successfully launched the Lara Casey Shop in February and sales have been very consistent with little to no marketing.  The PowerSheets have been our most popular product besides the AMEN print (my favorite), and have sold out now six times.  My own PowerSheets have been an exercise in discipline and have challenged me to take action on my goals and never tarry.  Painting – I finally painted the giant 5 foot canvas in our living room!  YES!   Singing – I love singing with Gracie and that is plenty for me right now.

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

Goal 14: An immediate goal I have is to finish my website. It’s been over a year in the making and it’s a monster. The coding is almost done, my shop is populated and I just have a lot of site content to populate now. I’m hoping we can launch it late this month!

// DONE! We launched and I still love this site more than all the Luna Bars and chickens in the world!  OK, maybe not more than chickens.

Goal 15: I want to foster my friendships is a purposeful, focused way because then I will build a stronger bond with my friends and we can do more good things for others together. I want to be more prayerful for my friends, even when they don’t know it. I want to do surprise things for them to make them feel special and build their faith and capacity to love.

//  One of my PowerSheets goals has continued to be to pray for my friends often.  Ari and I pray for friends at dinner as well.  I still long for “dear friends” (here locally) as the Bible describes them. More on my recent friendship thoughts here.

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

Goals 16: I want to support new moms more. I had a really hard time after Grace was born and several friends sent me care packages that really made a difference. I started a new moms group and my goal is to have several care packages and cards ready to go for new mamas and expecting mama friends that I can send out right away. I want to support new moms locally, too.

// I have shifted my focus to praying for friends who are going through infertility and those who are pursuing adoption.  God just has both of those things on my heart lately.

Goal 17: I want to send more real mail to build stronger connections with others, because hopefully it will help people feel God’s love.

// I sent a big bunch of cards and letters out last week and am working on some new shop products for 2014 that will help all of us stay connected the old fashioned way : )

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013The best.

Goal 18: I want to do more random acts of kindness. As often as possible because these things can help people feel hope and know that God is good. A little kindness can change someone’s life for the better.

// I want to do more of this.  That is all.

Goal 19: I want to show my family God’s love through my actions so that they will know Him more and trust in Him. My family is going through a lot right now. They need a lot of love. My goal is to be sacrificial with my time and resources so I can support them and take care of them in their distress.

// Yes!  I was able to go visit them in September and it was so good to be home.  And, like I mentioned above, my Grandma Bunny was diagnosed with mouth cancer.  At the age of 96, she started radiation treatments 5.5 weeks ago.  She is not cured, but has responded well to them.  Her cancer has shrunk significantly, which is more than we could have asked for! Her final treatment is tomorrow.  Amen, hallelujah, thank you Lord!

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

Goal 20: I want to be like Moses this year in the way he trusted and just DID what God said to do. He let God use him. I want to be open to change and trust that God always has the perfect plan. No matter what.

// I have had to step out on faith in so many arenas lately.  I keep saying that I don’t feel equipped and the truth is that I am not equipped.  But, He is.

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. - Phil 4:13

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2013

So, what is it that you want to make happen? Comment below to tell me about your progress this year, what’s been a challenge for you, and what you look forward to ahead. We’ll check in again before the end of the year!  Wow, time is flying!  I want to hear from you this week so I can hopefully encourage you and so you can also encourage each other. Make it happen, friends. No more lurking. Making things happen means taking action. So, fill me in! Remember, this is about PROGRESS, not perfection.  It’s never too late to start. Start today.

P.S. CONGRATS to the winner of the 2014 PowerSheets set (or anything in my shop up to $35 if you already ordered the PowerSheets), Sarah Lackner!  Sarah, email me and we will get your goodies to you!

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This month, I decided I needed a fresh start. I put on the train brakes and I declared August, “Intentional August.” Read all about Intentional August here (and be sure to sign up for my next newsletter that comes out on September 2).

lara casey savor september 11
We took a wonderful family vacation last week to Beaches in Jamaica. So grateful for that time with my little family.

August has been good. Re-focusing has been needed. But, when you start to peel back layers to get to your heart, more layers appear. When you start clearing the clutter of life, the water starts to turn crystal blue and start to see there is so much to explore at the bottom. I am still not where I’d like to be. My plate is still full. A huge travel schedule looms ahead of me and I wonder, “How did I get here?” Emily, Gina, Natalie and I have a group text string every day to encourage each other and ask for prayer throughout the day. Yesterday, we were all in the same place – overwhelmed with “good” things. And it hit me - too much good is still too much.

Welcome to my slightly scattered post. I am just writing this as the thoughts come because my heart feels like it’s going to overflow today. Thanks in advance for listening…

As I’ve worked hard to be more intentional — to live on purpose — God is teaching me and showing me things and a lot of it is challenging. You see, we all keep going and going, building and growing, reaching for the “next” and the “best” and even “better.” And you know what? We see some dreams realized and then it’s off to seek more more and more. We are never content because our culture tells us to keep pushing for the next level. I do think we should press forward and make big things happen, but the RIGHT things. A thought to challenge your heart today: maybe what the world tells you is “great” is actually very small in the big picture. Maybe there is a better goal.

I press on toward the goal
This and many more downloads are available here.

Maybe I am the only one who sees and feels this, but there has to come a point where you make a decision to say NO to something… even something good. It’s relatively easy to say no to things you don’t want, right? But, when lots of “good” things happen at once, things can get a little cray-zay in the decision-making department. It starts to get really hard to say no. Lots of “good” can knock on your door all at once and suddenly it’s completely and totally overwhelming. Like if all of your best friends showed up at your door at once and you only had 10 minutes to spend with all of them. You would be able to have little conversations with a few and maybe a hug or two, but 10 minutes of great conversation with ONE friend would have likely been so much sweeter and more meaningful.

lara casey savor september 111111
Our sweet class coloring together : ) Can you spot Grace?

Teaching Sunday School has been teaching me this lesson. We have between 10-15 two-year-olds each week. If I try to focus on the class as a whole, I leave feeling scattered and like I haven’t affected any of those little hearts. But, when I intentionally spend quality time with just a few sweet littles, I feel God working. I see eyes light up and the tiny conversations I have with them fill me to the brim with gratitude. We can change people’s lives when we slow down to focus on what’s right in front of us, one thing at a time.

And, so… the word “savor” keeps coming to the front of my mind. Savor: to enjoy something completely. Life moves so fast. People pass through our days so quickly. And, as much as I try — and oh do I try — I cannot be everything for everyone. I try so hard because I want everyone I meet to feel valued and taken care of. I want people to feel God’s love and grace. And yet I fail time and time again. I cannot please everyone, but I’m learning that I can savor time with a few and make it very meaningful. The same goes for sunsets and summer fireflies, ice cream and a cool breeze. I could enjoy them all at once, but focusing on savoring just one is so much sweeter and fills my soul to overflowing… which pours right back onto others.

lara casey savor september 111
This is when I told her she was going to meet Elmo!

My September calendar is jam-packed, as I’m sure many of yours are too. There is one week where I have three speaking engagements within 48 hours (!!!), two of them out-of-state. (Side note: I’d LOVE to meet many of you at the Influence Conference, Americasmart VOWS, the Magazine Association of the Southeast’s Gala, and at the local ISES NC meeting.) Oh, and this is magazine layout month. For those of you that may not know, Nicole and I do all the magazine layout for Southern Weddings : ) I could list more, but I am choosing to focus on how I can make the most of what I have in front of me and how I can be GRATEFUL for all of it. One of the things I’m so grateful for is the live webinar that Emily Ley and I are doing on September 12th. We’ll be talking about small-is-the-new-big business, authentic branding and LIFE – how we balance our time and (through many mistakes and challenges) how we’ve tried to make what matters happen over the years. Early-bird ends this Friday.

I want to savor this next month, so I am deeming it #SavorSeptember. I want to savor the things that get trampled by my multitasking: the Word, prayer, Grace singing “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” in the shower, friendships that I don’t make enough time for, my amazing sweet husband, the feeling of fall rolling in, the smell of the tomato leaves in my garden and the roses by our fence that I haven’t stopped to smell in forever. I want to savor this life God has given me so I can reflect gratitude right back to Him and pour love out onto others.

I want to be still and savor even the tiniest moments. Each moment is a gift. Each breath. And many times, God meets me there in the tiny moments. This post has been ringing in my heart all month.

“But there are moments in between life’s obligations when we are in the presence of our loved ones that can be made sacred.”

I love this and yet I and starting to long for more than moments.

lara casey savor september 1111
Great Day Plate from Emily

And so, I come to the biggest thing on my heart lately: Grace. I have prayed all year about homeschooling Grace when she gets to pre-school age. It’s been on my heart for so long. In order to do that, I would need the time. And in order to get the time, that means I need to start saying no — even to good things.

And this is where I stop. I just don’t know how to do that. I don’t have a plan yet or any clue as to how a new balance of work + homeschooling (or even another baby or an adopted child in the future) might come to life, but I trust that God has a great plan. A very good one.

He has made far bigger things happen in my life.

lara casey savor september 1
Grace on the beach last week. She didn’t want to let go of the balloons someone gave her, so we tied them to her sand toys : )

In the spirit of Intentional August and “done is better than perfect,” I leave you with this simple thought to close this imperfect spur-of-the-moment post:

When you give Him everything, you will lack nothing.

Here’s to trying my best, thought I expect to fail a hundred times over, to savor what He has given me: the big business milestones, shower songs and little moments in between. Right after I hit “publish” on this post, I’m stopping to set myself up for success and get focused on what matters as I fill out my September PowerSheets. I hope you will join me for #SavorSeptember, friends. I look forward to being inspired by you.

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