Category: My Books

When I started the process of creating my first book, Make it HappenI knew nothing about writing books! But, with my magazine publishing background, I knew that I’d likely have some knowledge (and strong opinions) about covers.

People often judge actual books by their covers, and a great cover is one that matches the heart of the inside pages. A great cover is an honest one, like a genuine introduction from a new friend that leads to a meaningful connection.

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/sweetlarafeb2017Photo by amazing friend Gina Zeidler

We went through many rounds of designs to get to the right fit for Make it Happen, and just as many for my upcoming book, Cultivate.

The thing is, a book stays with you. Our lives evolve and grow over time, but books rarely, if ever, get updated or altered once they are published. As a writer, this can carry with it a lot of pressure. Every few years I update my website a bit to reflect the growth that has happened in my life (we even changed our company name recently). I get to share updates on what God is teaching me here on the blog over time. I get to change my words and photographs based on what’s new and where we are in our story. A book, however, remains unchanged.

So, when I began dreaming about the cover for Cultivate, I thought about the longevity I hoped it would have over time. I wanted the cover to feel like my garden: colorful, joyful, and alive. These are the same qualities I hope my garden, and my life, have many years from now, too.

After several rounds of cover designs, some of you loyal readers may remember we came up with this design below. I painted the background like I had for Make it Happen, and my publisher even released this cover to retailers (it’s still floating around on the interwebs in a few spots!). It’s beautiful, and it matched Make it Happen well.

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This was a great fit… until I started over on my book.

As my life drastically changed in the season after our adoption, so did the pages of Cultivate. A new book took shape, and it needed a new home for the story that was unfolding.

I hesitantly emailed my editor with a new design I had mocked up, and told her that this book was shaping up to be so different from Make It Happen. It needed a cover that reflected this new story God was writing in my life.

This is what I sent her.

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She loved it.

I love it.

We all love it!

And although it’s just the cover, it so accurately and beautifully reflects the heart of this book. The four sections of the pattern represent the four seasons. And the pattern itself reminds me of seeds, changing leaves, and little-by-little progress. It reminds me to cultivate. In every season, in the mess, in the thick of it–right where I am. The suede brown letters for the title are the color of new branches and of soil–the sustainer and nourisher of life. The foundation on which we grow new life.

Readers may not pick up on these subtleties when they first encounter the book. They may only experience the feeling of joy and a colorful life like my garden. But, as they dig in, I hope these intentional design choices make the experience of reading these pages even richer. This is a book about growing a meaningful life right where you are–in every season.

I’m so grateful to also share with you a special film I’ve been working on with Anna and Phil from Twenty-One Films for over a year now. They’ve filmed me, our family, and the garden in every season, and I cry every time I watch this. I hope it encourages you!

Cultivate from Twenty-One Films on Vimeo.

Friends, thank you so much for encouraging me along this book writing (and rewriting!) journey. I’m so grateful!

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Pre-order your copy of Cultivate (releases June 27th) here!

P.S. Catch the replay of my live broadcast on Facebook today  for more behind-the-scenes of the book!

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Never in my life did I think I would be writing a series on my blog about GARDENING. What is happening here?!

nrp-olivia-swfruitfulsummer-1113In the garden with Josh by Olivia of Nancy Ray Photography.

Friends, I am an unlikely gardener. I have killed a lot of plants in my life! For the majority of my existence, I didn’t understand how people loved spending time with plants or getting their hands dirty. My mom and grandfather were always out in the dirt, but I just didn’t get it!

And then something unexpected happened. Here’s the very first peek at my upcoming book, Cultivate (comes out June 27th!):

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Gardening seemed like a gentle hobby for those who had more time on their hands. Yet here’s a sentence I never thought I’d type, much less live: God was transforming a plant killer like me into a gardener.

Gardening was not a hobby I randomly picked out of thin air; it was a craving. As my life was being changed by God’s grace, my hands followed. I began to feel an insatiable desire to nurture what I had been given—and even more than that, to grow things I never imagined wanting to grow!

One spring day, I decided to get my garden growing. I stood in the yard and opened a pack of yellow pear tomato seeds. As I unsealed the packet, I steadied my hands. If you’ve ever enjoyed an heirloom tomato in the summer, you may have noticed the seeds. They are tiny and delicate. I reached into the packet and touched one with my pointer finger. It grasped onto me as if I now held some responsibility for its life. I could choose to cultivate it or let it remain dormant.

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Inside a seed is something powerful: potential. And potential is scary, isn’t it? It calls us to grow—to take action, to become, and to step forward in faith.

Lifting the fragile seed carefully out of the packet, my breathing slowed.

Planting seeds is risky. It’s putting our trust in something bigger than us. It’s optimism and faith. It requires letting go, and I don’t like letting go. I like being in control. I like efficiency, security, routine, and predictability. I like having a plan.

As I looked down at the seeds, I knew I held possibility in my hands.

What do I do now? How do I plant this? When is the right time to plant tomatoes? How deep in the soil do I plant them? How much should I water them? How many seeds do I plant at once? What if I don’t do this perfectly and it doesn’t grow?

I had a choice: risk imperfect progress to grow new life or regret not growing anything at all.

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What do you think I chose? It will surprise you! You’ll find out what happened with that little seed in June when the book comes out. : )

But, I did, in fact, start a garden.

Or rather, it started me.

lara casey gardenGracie is so little here! Watering the pineapple sage by Faith Teasley.

I get asked a lot of questions about this gardening thing (step inside Gracie’s Garden here on Instagram) and let me first tell you: I am no Master Gardener. I’m just a gal who happens to think growing things is the greatest thing ever. I have learned a thing or two, and I love seeing friends discover that they can learn to garden–no previous green thumb required!

So, let’s start with some basics. This is part 1 in my Gardening 101 series, with much more to come!

sJEddEmZbLzsgRoIzgFSa4WrmRpB8t0uqD45jpiXg-EOur zinnias (my favorite) by Emily March

1. Define why you want to grow things. What kind of garden do you want to grow, and why gardening in the first place?

For food? If so, what do you like to eat?
For teaching? This is why I first started our garden. I wanted Grace to experience the miracle of growing things–from start to finish–and all the garden has to offer!
For fun? My grandfather loved growing the weird things: pineapple sage (we love growing it too!), huge tomato varieties, and unique hybrids.
For beauty? Maybe you love the idea of creating a garden space as an environment to enjoy.
For filling vases? We love growing several flower varieties just for cutting and sharing with neighbors.
For attracting butterflies, birds, and bees? This is why we plant zinnias–the pollinators that love them help to grow all of our veggies.

What is it for you? You may have one reason or 10–there are no wrong answers here. List your priorities and it will help you determine what to grow, and what not to grow.

Maybe you are living in an apartment and only have space for a few pots by the windowsill–that’s great! Maybe you have just enough space for containers–that’s great too. Maybe you prefer low-maintenance air plants or you only want a few great house plants–wonderful. Or maybe you don’t like to eat veggies and you just want pretty flowers–that’s awesome too! The bottom line here: use what you have, and use it in a way that’s unique to you.

‘There are countless ways to grow a garden, just as there are many ways to grow an intentional life. There are kitchen gardens, vertical gardens, cottage gardens, raised beds, roof gardens, square foot gardens, window boxes, rose gardens, wildflower gardens, container gardens, terrariums, herb gardens, water gardens, butterfly gardens—and the list goes on. No two gardens are exactly alike. Imagine your life as a garden. Unique. Purposeful. Unlike any other.’ – another little snippet from Cultivate : ) 

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2. Find out your growing zone.

Like learning your Myers-Briggs personality type, this is very helpful information. Essential, actually. Knowing your growing zone will allow you to know what types of plants might thrive in your area in each season. This is like knowing the gardening language that allows you to read seed packets and plant labels. Most plant labels and seed packets have recommendations based on each growing zone. Look yours up here!

Lara Casey GardenSpotting seedlings growing (with Josh growing in my belly at the time!) by Robyn Van Dyke

3. Find out your ideal date to plant, and put that date on your calendar.

This tip is going to help you cool your jets about gardening for a bit, and help you to plan well! Unless you live in Florida, it’s not time to plant things in most parts of the country. You are not behind if you are just getting started on your garden dreaming–you have time. If you are going to garden outdoors, you’ll need to know what the last date of expected frost will be in your city. Find out here. For us, the ideal date to begin planting is not until after Tax Day – April 15th! Now, let me tell you, I have ignored this recommendation several times. And every time I’ve regretted it. In our area, the weather gets lovely in late February and March is magical, and it makes everyone want to plant things right away. But, wise gardeners know to be patient. I’ve gotten over-eager a time or two and planted tomatoes in March only to have to dig them out before a freeze and give them a temporary abode in my kitchen. Be patient in planting, my fellow gardeners. You’ll be glad you waited. You can also find a full list of exactly when to plant different varieties in your location on the Old Farmer’s Almanac site. Here’s my list for Chapel Hill! So helpful.

img_7959My mom and Grace planting our winter garden this last year.

 4. Go ahead and do a little Garden Dreaming. Knowing why you want to garden and when you can plant things in your area and zone, it’s time to start dreaming about what you want to grow. We’ll get more in-depth on this next (what grows well with what, etc.), but for now, start browsing seed catalogs and making your dream list. Grace and I did our Garden Dreaming a few weeks ago. We broke out all the seed catalogs (I love Park Seed, Burpee, Floret Flower Seeds, David’s Garden, Renee’s Garden, Botanical Interests, and the Southern Seed Exchange Catalog), and we circled and chatted and had a ton of fun making our dream list. Later, when we sketched out the garden (coming next), we paired down our list. For now, get garden happy and write out all the things you’d love to grow–what you would love to eat, share, or cut–depending on your answers to question 1. We’ll work through our lists in the next post. I can’t wait to hear what you’re dreaming of! : )

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5. Repeat after me: you do not have to know everything about horticulture to grow a garden. Every year, some things grow and some things don’t! I still kill plants. I sometimes forget to water. I sometimes don’t weed. And you know what? My garden still grows! Even though I am imperfect, I am a gardener.

(And for some reason, I couldn’t help the tears typing those words.)

You can be a gardener, too, my friend. I’m excited for you!

Next up, we’ll tackle how to choose what to grow, some thoughts on simple garden supplies, fun with seed starting, how to make your own raised beds if you’re interested, and the five things you need to consider before finalizing your growing list: money, time, space, sun, and soil. I have some great (and simple) info coming for you!

Till then, it’s your turn! I’d love to hear your answers to what we just chatted about–and let me know what other questions you have too.

With love from my head tomatoes,
The Unlikely Gardener : )

P.S. We’re hiring!

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Here’s how this conversation went:

Me: God, what do you want me to share this week?
God: How to start writing a book.
Me: But I am not qualified to talk about that. I haven’t written perfect books, and I made such imperfect progress in writing both of them, and I DON’T KNOW ENOUGH.
God: You’re right. But, when you wrote your books I was always with you. Tell people your story and how to get started when they too feel imperfect and unqualified.
Me: Okay. But I’m afraid.
God: I am with you! Do it anyway.

I am unqualified to write this post. If you are looking for advice from someone who has written perfect words and made perfect progress in writing books, that someone isn’t me. Writing both of my books was a miracle (more of my story is in the video at the end of this post!)–something done not by my own strength, but His. Writing books is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, childbirth included. I don’t say that in jest. I haven’t written a post about this till now because that sounds dramatic if you’ve never experienced it. For me, putting my story into words–all the messy parts included–has been an act of surrender. Maybe some people find great joy in the process of writing books. I am not one of them.

Lara Casey Writign CultivateNotes I posted on my wall while I was writing Cultivate.

Now, having said that, let me tell you why these experiences have changed me in powerful ways, and why great joy–greater than I ever imagined–came through writing Make It Happen and Cultivate (releases June 27th!). How often do you get the opportunity to wrestle with your thoughts, and talk to God all day about them? As I struggled to put words on the page, there was a constant inner dialogue with God–sometimes complaining that the right words weren’t coming, sometimes crying as I relived the hardest parts of my journey, often worrying that my words weren’t perfect (and God reminding me that He didn’t call me to write perfect words!), yet in it all, drawing closer to Him. That is a gift I would never trade for easier experiences. Like spring flowers growing through the soil of winter, good things grow through hard things! I am so grateful!

I often get asked about this book writing thing, and where to start. Like I said, I’m no expert, and my book writing experiences may be totally unique to me. But, if I were to give myself advice before starting, this is it!

Here are 10 tips to get started on writing your book:

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1. Start by answering these questions:

– Why do you want to write a book? Why book format specifically versus blogging, or some other medium? Book format may seem glamorous in many ways–you may envision your book on the shelves at a bookstore, or getting to add “author” to your bio (and there’s nothing wrong with those things!), but choose the format for your message intentionally. It’s entirely possible that your message will reach more people–or more of the right people–in a different format.

– What is your message? What do you hope to communicate in your book? This may seem like a basic question, but this question is everything. I struggled to answer this question about Cultivate in the early stages of writing because it wasn’t clear to me yet. I started over on the book completely for several reasons, but one of those was because my message finally became clear. I’m so grateful I started over!

– Who are you writing this book for? I wrote Make It Happen to one specific person. Yes, I hoped it would help a variety of women in various life stages, but God kept bringing one person to mind and I wrote the majority of the book to her. It helped me to make the book a conversation, and helped motivate me to get this message out!

– Are you willing to sacrifice your time and heart and resources and pride for this message? Because, for me, that’s what it took. Writing books, just like doing anything meaningful, comes at a cost. It’s not like writing a blog post. Writing a book is an all-consuming experience from start to finish. Are you ready to dig in?

2. Learn from other writers. Reading great books is helpful to learn how to be a better writer and communicator, and many writers have excellent training resources! My friend Lysa started Compel Training, and I used it when writing both of my books. Registration is currently closed, but get on their email list and you’ll know when registration opens again. You can also read this collection of advice I contributed to through Proverbs 31 for first-time writers. There are far wiser writers in there than I who contributed, and their advice is golden!

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3. Sketch out your book. Make a detailed and clear outline of your entire book, and the key points you hope to deliver. There are millions of ways to do this, but the point here isn’t do make a perfect outline, it’s to just make an outline! I wrote the key points I wanted to deliver on paper first and brainstormed stories I wanted to tell to illustrate each point. Then, I put all those points and stories on PostIts above my desk and tried to put them in an order that made sense. This was so helpful for me! (Thanks to my friend and author Renee for helping me with this!) Later on, I typed up an outline on my laptop, and it changed a ton as I went! A note of freedom: you have permission to change your mind, start over, and re-do your outline as you go. In fact, it’s inevitable that you will. The chapters of both of my books were re-ordered at least four times. The chapter titles changed a dozen times. And the outline I started with is nothing like the one I finished with!

4. Don’t start writing with a blank page. A tip I learned from Lysa! Once you have a working outline and you open up that blank document to get started, start with something on the page. Try adding your outline text for that chapter to the page before you begin. This helps to keep you focused on what needs to be communicated, and gives you a starting point. Staring at a blank page is no fun, and doesn’t help you to get the words flowing.

5. Capture your thoughts. When you are in the thick of writing a book, it is like doing an all-consuming puzzle. Pieces may come together in the middle of the night, in the shower, on a walk, or while you’re cooking dinner (speaking from experience here). So, be prepared with something to capture your thoughts! I found it helpful to keep notes in a little notebook, and when that notebook wasn’t around, I’d jot them down on my phone or on any scrap piece of paper in sight. Evidence below.

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6. Use helpful writing software. Most publishers want your files in Word format, but writing in Word is not ideal when crafting a 60,000-word manuscript. That can be challenging to navigate between chapters. I used Scrivener to write both of my books and LOVED it. Definitely worth the $45 investment. When I was done, I reformatted everything into my publisher’s desired Word format. Everyone’s process is different, though! My friend Hannah writes her books longhand on yellow legal pads, then transfers them to type.

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A screenshot from my Scrivener file (which has drastically changed since I captured this–most of those chapter titles have been changed!). But, you can see how easy this is to navigate. Love this software!

7. Compose your words in good form. Whether you go the traditional publishing route or choose to self-publish, you will likely still have (need!) a copyeditor and proofreader. Learning to compose your thoughts in good form from the start is very helpful, though! I’ve had many editing rounds where words were changed into proper grammar, and they lost my voice in the change. So, I had to go back and change entire paragraphs to communicate my message authentically and naturally–in proper grammar. A great resource: Grammarly.com has been a great help to me in this arena. You can sign up for a free account and it checks your writing as you go.

8. Clear the clutter. I have learned to be a better writer over time by learning how to communicate thoughts more clearly–and avoid words that clutter.Here are some words to avoid. And these too. There are always exceptions to these suggestions but wow these have been helpful for me!

IMG_1440-2Have you ever used the word sagacious? ; )

9. Stop typing. : ) Yep! Try voice typing. I have used Dragon dictation software, the free voice plugin on Google Docs, and the voice-to-text feature on Scrivener. When you are working through a challenging section, this can be a great alternative to get the words out, and go back and edit them later.

10. Read your words out loud. This has been huge for me! When I read my words out loud (or use the speaking feature on Scrivener), I can hear what needs to be changed to make my message clearer. It can be helpful to read your words aloud to someone else too!

One final bonus tip: just do it. If God has told you to write a book, get to it. Don’t wait till you are “qualified,” or your circumstances are perfect, or you have it all together. As I wrote in Make It Happen, God does not need you to be a superhero in order to use you for His great purposes. He just needs your humble, willing heart. He will help you.

Here’s my writing story and more tips from Facebook live today!

P.S. Thanks to my friend Amy for encouraging me to write this post! Go write that book, my friend. (And you too, dear reader!)

P.P.S. Have you considered writing a book? What has been holding you back? I’d love to hear from you. I’ll choose a few people who comment to win copies of Make It Happen (for you or a friend!). I loved hearing your thoughts here too!

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Hi, friends! Welcome back to my new weekly series about making progress on what matters, little by little—along with a few links I think you might enjoy. In case you missed them, here are week oneweek twoweek three, and week four.

Oh what a week this has been! I’ve been writing, and loving it for the first time in a long while. Getting grounded last week was needed. Today is my first draft deadline, which feels a wee bit scary to type. I have a long way to go, but God is big and He can do impossible things. My prayer this week has been, Lord frustrate my words. If they aren’t what you want–what’s true–frustrate them. Don’t let me teach something lukewarm or popular. Please Father let me teach life-giving truth. The words are coming. I’m grateful for your prayers!

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It has been a refining week trying to make business decisions. I don’t often talk about business decisions here because I fear what I share will be alienating, or irrelevant. But, I hope this encourages someone… Most of my decisions are pretty clear cut most days: Is this going to honor God or not? Does this align with scripture or not? But, sometimes, I have to completely step out on faith and put my foot on the bevel of the shovel with no growing plants in sight. Decoded: We have designed some powerful and purposeful new products that we believe will help change lives, but we don’t have the cash sitting in the bank to buy them all. I’m a Dave Ramsey fan, so no loans or dipping into the emergency fund allowed. So, lots of adjusting happened over the last 48 hours, lots and lots of prayer, wise counsel, asking many friends to pray, and hopefully some decisions today.

Today is also Rhiannon’s last day with us. Here’s my letter to her, and to the Nannies of the World. Insert all the emotions.

Dear Nannies of the World Lara Casey

My friend, Rachel’s, mom went to be with the Lord unexpectedly this week. Please read this.

This week, I can’t stop thinking about eternal impact. About how our seemingly small actions influence our children and everyone we know. Opening our homes. Seeking to understand. Writing and saying life-giving words. Putting someone else first–really doing it. Sending that email to encourage her. Choosing to ask a second question instead of keeping conversation surface-level. Praying for friends in the way you’d want to be prayed for: Passionately. Generously. Fervently. No perfect words required. Perfect words don’t matter–your surrendered heart does. Spending our time on genuinely good things. Rejoicing in our weakness. And swimming in grace in the many many many times we mess it all up. We don’t have to be perfect to change generations. The times I mess up, get to say I’m sorry, or tell Grace about how I’m struggling and trying to rely on God in my weakness, those are gifts. Imperfection is a gift because it gives way to grace. More here.

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In this week’s Facebook Live, I talked about planning an intentional life versus planting one. Which one are you doing lately? (Be sure to listen all the way to the end for how you can win one of 10 set of PowerSheets.)

Have you told yourself that it’s too late to start fresh? Have you decided that since July is almost over, you might as well wait until 2017 to make progress on your goals? There is nothing special about January 1st. You can cultivate what matters right now, little by little.

Don’t tell yourself that you’ve missed your chance.

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We have only a few hundred sets of PowerSheets left for this year. If you’re new here, hi and welcome! : ) PowerSheets are an intentional Goal Planner. These are our undated, six-month sets, so you can start the minute you get them. And right now, while supplies last, bundling your PowerSheets with our Make It Happen Binder saves you $25. Get yours here. (We’ve also had a lot of people buy this bundle for friends over the last 24 hours.)

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I’m considering doing a Facebook Live class on PowerSheets. Tell me what you need coaching on, and I’ll do it.

My friend Jeff got a drone. His photographs inspired me this week. We are so small in this world, and God is so very big.

Mistakes happen, like when MailChimp decided to name all 25,000 of our newsletter friends <<Test First Name>>. When the email came through, I let out a big sigh and a pirate-like “argh!” But, progress not perfection! (P.S. You can get these awesome love notes below for $6 here.)

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Grace running through the community garden in her PJ’s this week on our morning walk…

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I love exploring with her. I mean, look at these sunflowers!!!

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Our homework after last week’s sermon at church was to get together with someone of a different race, and seek to understand. I was so grateful for the time I spent with my sisters, Carla and Kristy (Sarah below loving being with Kristy). I’m sharing this to pass the same fruitful homework on to you. Like we’ve been practicing in Fruitful Summer, ask questions that are far below the surface, practice asking second questions, embrace awkward, and seek to understand your friend’s fears and pains. I hope I can continue this “homework” for my whole lifetime.

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Another little tidbit from the last week at church that I had to pass on (I may have cheered when it was said!): Get off Facebook. Get your face in The BookYes!

Download this week’s Fruitful Summer guide to learn how to make new traditions, celebrate each other, and cultivate community. Plus, my fast and easy Summer Jam recipe, my secret handshake with Grace, and so much more.

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I love this clothing line for kids from my friend Hayley. Wildly Co. designs, produces, screen prints, and packages ethically made kids clothes in the USA.

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We picked blueberries with friends on Wednesday morning before work. “Mrs. Wanda” loves seeing Gracie, and we love seeing her! I still want to buy the blueberry patch (crazy, I know!), and plan to ask Wanda about it again hopefully next Wednesday. She and her husband are moving to take care of their son’s little girls, so someone needs to keep this place going!

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This week, for Southern Weddings’ Fruitful Summer, I wrote about how to celebrate marriage in the thick of it, and offered lots of advice for marriage alongside Amber.

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Read the recap and download the whole series here.

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This lady has been with Southern Weddings for 7 years, and our company is all the better for it. I love you, Em!

Susan’s wedding last weekend was amazing. Such an inspiration! See my previous post for more. And Josh was pretty dapper in his cute little bow tie…

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This video. A mom in Kentucky tried to punish her son by making him mow lawns for free. But he loved doing it, and enlisted his two brothers and cousin. Now, they’re going door to door to cut more lawns and clean up the community—and they’re still doing it for free. It’s just so awesome. Watch here.

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I was saving this canvas above for one of my 2016 goal celebrations, but Gracie asked realllllly nicely, and it’s hard to turn down nice manners. Our goal is to draw 100 smiley faces on it by the end of summer.

This post from Unveiled Wife on how to have a passion-filled marriage is good stuff. #3 is glue that keeps us together every day, despite inevitable challenges, disagreements, and anything that comes our way.

Josh has five teeth now! I can’t believe he’ll be one on August 13th! And this hair…

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I sincerely wish I could go to Influence Conference in Minneapolis. Travel is out for us though with these babies and me still nursing. But, please go for me!! Tickets are still available here. So many humble, wise women are speaking—Rach Kincaid, Moriah Sunde, Retha Nichole, Gina Zeidler, and Joy Eggerichs Reed. (Someone find Gina, and give her a hug for me while you’re there!)

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What are y’all doing this weekend?

I realized something last Saturday. Even with good things planned on our calendars, it’s the in-between that I often relish more. The hours and moments between the big events are where life happens. We’re planning to have a special date afternoon with Grace (thanks to some very generous friends coming to watch the babies), and we’re hosting the ladies and gents from my office for our annual Team BBQ. I’m excited about these things, for whatever God has for us in the in-between, and for the chance to dig in to another Sabbath. Next week, Ari’s mom is coming to visit and I’m nanny-less for a couple weeks, so Sabbath will be needed! : )

I’d love to hear from you! Do you have a favorite blog post, product, or piece of encouragement that keeps you making little by little progress? Let me know!

Okay, off to savor this last afternoon with Rhiannon and, Lord willing, write more words. I’m thinking of you, wherever you are as you read this, and praying you feel encouraged. If you need some extra love, here’s a little song from a very little Gracie…

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P.S. After the littles go to sleep tonight, I’m hoping Ari and I can watch my friend, Lysa, speak live at 8:30pm EST. You can watch her for free tonight, too, by downloading the First 5 app at First5.org (I love this app)!

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Hi, friends!! Welcome back to my new weekly series. (In case you missed them, here are Week one and week two.)

What a week this has been. It is hard to write today with the heaviness swirling around us, but I am trying to keep going—focusing on giving and loving as much as I can.

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I hope Ari and I get lots of prayer time in and closeness with the kids this weekend. Josh is on the move this week with his super-fast crawling, and we’ll be at the blueberry patch bright and early tomorrow. I also hope to make some little by little progress on my July PowerSheets goals (below). Namely, studying the 25 Character Areas (get it here), and honoring the Sabbath by trying not to clean the entire house and wear myself out on the weekend—anyone else do that? The Sabbath is a gift, a day that’s set apart for us to be refreshed. I’m trying to learn how to practice this well.

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I spent all of yesterday working my tail off on 2017 PowerSheets writing. I didn’t leave my desk except to nurse Josh and eat lunch because I just got in a zone. When I see the positive potential in something, I work heartily. You will have me as a coach and encourager through the entire process with these—I’m right there with you on every page, helping you move forward. If you’ve felt overwhelmed by setting goals, think you don’t need goals, have yet to used your PowerSheets from 2015 or before, or you have yet to try them, here’s what I have to tell you: be sure to get them for 2017. Get a six month set of the current PowerSheets now so you finish the year well, but plan to grab a Workbook for 2017 when they release. The process gets significantly refined every year, and this year–with three kids and zero time–I felt passionate about creating a tool to help women simplify, and live every day more intentionally. I pray, and trust, they will do exactly that. They’ll be released in October and I can’t wait to use them myself!

Okay, many things to share!

One of my favorite photographs (and couples).

Why we need to be careful with social media numbers and “insights.”

Two awkward’s make a normal.

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This handwriting piece I did four years ago has been shared millions of times on the internet. Get it this week in my VRSLY takeover.

Also, VRSLY is giving away a Write the Word journal!

My friend Jeane has 36 children. Really. Her blog encourages me so much.

How to embrace awkward.

Last night, Ari and my friend Joslyn and I somehow got to talking about these. Did you have one as a kid?

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We got two free cartons of this cereal and I instantly fell in love with the heart of this company and all they are doing.

This may be the strangest contraption, but it is the best. I watched this YouTube video to learn how to use it and, yes, I was grossed out at first. But, it helped our three sick kids breathe better these last two weeks.

How to simplify your life.

A song for you. Watch Sarah at the very end :)

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Ari had to work the whole 4th of July weekend, but he did get to take Grace to work with him for an hour. See Ari’s tweet here : )  Although my mom made her the cutest scrubs, complete with “Dr. Gracie” on the pocket, she has other plans for her life. Grace has decided what she wants to be when she grows up: an Olympic ribbon dancer, and a cupcake baker like our friend, Randi. Great choices in my book.

Our friend Kate (who is a brilliant writer) just found out last week that her daughter, Madeline, has leukemia. Please pray and consider donating to them here.

My favorite southern city is …

There are many weeks I don’t leave the house except to take a morning walk, and to go to church on Sunday. Family group mid-weeks have been impossible for us with bedtimes, but this week we decided to change that. I looked at Ari and said, “You just go! I’ll figure it out with all the kids!” I’m so glad he did, and everyone here survived with just me—they all eventually got fed and got to sleep. Ari texted me this picture and it made me grateful. Community so important!

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I have eaten the same thing for breakfast every morning for the last twelve years: chocolate protein (Vega is my favorite), a half a cup of oats (I buy the 50LB bag in bulk from Whole Foods and have three five-gallon buckets of oats in our hall closet—saves me $ every year to do this), a spoonful of chia seeds, stevia, and water (enough to make it soup consistency). Microwave for two-three minutes, and breakfast is done. I eat this again each afternoon. As a nursing mom, eating every couple hours (who can’t eat eggs, dairy, or soy for both babies’ protein sensitivities) that saves me from eating chicken for all my meals : )

This was a week of digital pruning. I let go of Periscope and I’m still on the fence about Snapchat. As much fun as it is, I don’t love a lot of the new sponsored content. When I joined a month ago, the sponsored content was more optional, but now there are immodest photos and sensational headlines right when you open the app that I don’t think are appropriate for youth. I know I sound like a dinosaur, but I take this seriously. I’m just not sure yet. Any thoughts?

Can you guess how big he is below?

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What’s your favorite random act of kindness? Tell us.

How to embrace awkward while planning your wedding. I love the wisdom that Lisa and Kristin offer to our engaged readers this week in Southern Weddings’ Fruitful Summer.

Every time I lead Making Things Happen, I do the work right along with the attendees. And every time I’m changed. Join us in Chapel Hill on October 17 and 18th. The early-bird rate ends July 31—or till we sell out—and we’ve sold out every conference. I hope to see you there…

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Some words that won’t leave me this week:

When you have everything, you are grateful for nothing. When you have nothing you are grateful for everything.

Okay, off to make little by little progress on my book before Josh wakes up : )

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This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which is no extra cost to you, but if you make a purchase using one of these links, we send our commissions to the Love One Another project : )

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