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

But, God…

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

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

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

2015 Goal Setting, Part 1: Good Things 

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

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

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

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

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

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Here’s what I wrote in my PowerSheets:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hide Me – a favorite for years.

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

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

Here are your next steps!

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

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

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

Four helpful tips:

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

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

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

Do a GOAL CHECK and ask these questions:

- Will this goal help me live on purpose?

- Does this goal also help other people?

- WHY would I spend my time on this goal?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_4734My littlest garden helper who filled us with laughs : )

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then… I felt a little off.

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

I thought for sure there was no way.

And then there were two pink lines.

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

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

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

But, God…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some things:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Friends, it is with great joy (and butterflies) that I write this post. I don’t even know what to say here. I’ve re-written these first sentences about twenty times. Announcingrevealing… drumrollcue the confetti cannons… Nothing fits sharing the book title and cover with you quite right, so I will simply say, here it is.

Blank white book w/path I honestly can’t believe I am writing this post. I almost quit writing this book about a hundred times — no exaggeration. If you’ve been following my book-writing journey on Instagram, you know this has not been an easy one. I shared back in October about how this book came to be and about my struggle with oceans of negative self-talk. Many people think that writing a book is glamorous. This journey held a far better reward than glamour, though.

When you take a big scary leap and do that thing God wants you to do — pouring out the kind of love that leaves you spent and somehow full at the same time — you get cracked wide open. As I wrote these 224 pages, pouring my everything into pixels that formed letters that formed thoughts that formed a much bigger picture, I gave and gave and looked fear right in the eyes and battled comparison and so much junk and I let go and cried barrels of tears and though all of this, God changed me. He refined me through the writing process, and I am so grateful. I know that sounds odd — I was just writing, right? That would have sounded completely strange to me six months ago, too. It’s cliche to say that writing a book is much like giving birth, but perhaps it’s cliche because it’s true.

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Is it exciting to be done? Yes. But, it’s not done. The writing is done, but there’s so much ahead including getting these words into people’s hands. I don’t feel shy in spreading the word about this book because it’s not about me. It’s the story of how I said YES to a new life and how you can too. It’s the story of how I said NO to what doesn’t matter, and how I’m still on the journey. It’s the story of how God took my broken pieces and made them into something. It’s your invitation to be still and let your pieces shatter so He can do the same with you. It’s the story of how the Good News became really great news to me and how you can make it — an imperfect life of purpose — happen too. This book, while it may have parts of my story woven throughout to illustrate each point, is not about me at the core. I wrote this book for you. The you who has a beating heart and a longing for so much more. The you who is wanting to make something meaningful happen. The you who is struggling with comparison or in marriage or feeling like you’re never enough or trying to find purpose amidst a lot of noise and heartache. The you who wants to let go of all your fear and take a giant leap of faith. The you who feels like the word “impossible” is crushing your everything. I wrote this book for you, friend. The impossible is possible. The best is yet to come.

I wrote this book because my life was going nowhere fast and it was not by my might but by my surrender that everything changed.

Parts 1-3 of the book will walk you through a journey of surrendering fear and taking big leaps. Part 4 is a workbook-style guide that will propel you into a life of purpose, one action step at a time. Get ready. It’s going to be a challenging and yet deeply joyful journey!

I’m excited to share that Make it Happen: Surrender Your Fear, Take the Leap, Live On Purpose is available for pre-order. The official release date is December 30th (my Grandma Bunny’s birthday). Why am I telling you this in June? Because I want to be sure that whoever wants a copy gets one. The more copies that are pre-ordered now, the more Amazon and stores will stock ahead of time for others. So, I would LOVE your help spreading the word about pre-orders. Thank you in advance, friends! It’s exciting when something sells out because of demand, but it’s no fun when you want that something : )

Pre-order:

For single copies: In paperback on Amazon

If you pre-order 2+ copies or 10+ copies, please order through Barnes and Noble or ChristianBook.com. Amazon counts all orders, no matter the quantity, as one order. So, this will help us get these copies stocked correctly so they don’t sell out on launch day! : )

Kindle edition

iBooks edition

And there will be an audiobook to come. You can pre-order that through major retailers too.

This book is best devoured with friends. If you pre-order 2+ copies, I’m excited to be doing a live online class on January 15, 2015, just for you as a thank you and to help you start 2015 well. Simply pre-order your copies and register you and your friend(s) for the 2015 Make It Happen class here. (Honor system — no need to send me your receipt!) If you are doing this as a surprise gift (birthday or Christmas maybe), you can add those names later on, if you wish. I’ll be emailing class info and some fun encouragement as January gets closer. If you pre-order 2+ copies, please order through Barnes and Noble or ChristianBook.com.

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For those who pre-order 10+ copies, simply forward your receipt to me (lara at laracasey.com). I’ve had many people ask about getting larger quantities. As a thank you for helping to get these words into the hands of people who need them, you and whoever you gift these books to (or maybe your small group is getting them together) will get:

– The 2015 Make It Happen class.

– Personalized encouragement bookmarks. The bookmarks will have a personal pep-talk note on the back, so let me know in your email what you (and your friends) need a pep talk for. I’m excited to make these! The bookmarks will come to you in early December in time for the holidays, so you can wait till November to let me know each friend’s name, if you like.

–  I’m most excited about this. You and your friends will be added to the Core Coaching Group. This intimate online goal coaching group will start in January and will be a place for encouragement, accountability, and I’ll be doing a few live online coaching sessions for y’all throughout the year. I’m excited about building relationships through this coaching group and can’t wait to get to know everyone!

If you pre-order 10+ copies, please order through Barnes and Noble or ChristianBook.com and then simply forward your receipt to me (lara at laracasey.com).

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In other news, I love the book cover! Choosing the right cover was a challenging process. But, the moment this one came together, I knew it was the one! It’s a perfect mirror to how I felt in writing the last page of the book: joyful, clear, and so ready for what’s next. I have the background as a painting in my house now. I was grateful to have designed this cover with the amazing  team at Thomas Nelson. It makes this book feel all the more a part of my heart. You’ll also find over thirty handwriting pieces in these pages, which makes me giggle because I got a C in handwriting in second grade! I’ll be sharing a little more behind-the-scenes about the process of writing this book, choosing a cover, and what’s next in my newsletter soon. Sign up here.

There you have it, friends! Ahhh!!! How did the butterflies in my tummy just multiply!? Deep breaths. Surrendering my fear, taking the leap… and hitting publish on this post now! God is good. Let’s do this!

photographs by Faith Teasley

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Hi, friends! I’m a little late in getting my speaking schedule posted, because honestly I didn’t think I’d be doing much speaking this year. I had cleared my calendar to make room for other things. But, God’s plans are better than mine and He continues to pull me to equip others for what matters. My number one aim this year is to have meaningful relationships. The internet is great, but I really love meeting people in person! I hope to see you at one of these events this year:

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I’ll be speaking on branding and the heart of Southern Weddings at Stone River in Columbia, South Carolina next week! Register here.

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Photo by Amy Arrington Photographers from the Atlanta Apparel VOWS event.

I’m grateful to join the Bliss and Bokeh ladies again this year in Charleston on September 22 and 23. I love this intimate retreat and can’t wait to meet new friends!

View More: http://annakphotography.pass.us/laracasey

Photo by Anna K Photography from the AmericasMart Gift Market.

Later that week (September 25-27), I’ll be flying to Indianapolis (with Ari and Gracie!) to do a members-only event for The Influence Conference. I love this conference and the women who created it. I. Can’t. Wait. It was life-changing for me last year!

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Photo by Robyn Van Dyke (who I had a lovely dinner with last night!) from the Making Things Happen Conference this past March.

And, finally, I’ll be doing the Making Things Happen Conference for the sixth year, on October 27th and 28th, here in my home city of Chapel Hill, NC. I am very excited about the surprises we have in store for MTH this fall. We’ve learned so much in these last six years and we’re about to shake things up, combining the core principles of how to make what matters happen with key business strategy. But, most of all, MTH is about building lasting relationships. More on what I’ve learned in the last six years of leading the MTH workshop — and how I’ve changed in those years — in a post soon. For now, follow MTH on Instagram here and the #mthconference hashtag for some fun upcoming interviews with our speakers and lots of inspiring alum!

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Photo by Robyn Van Dyke from the Making Things Happen Conference.

I have been praying and planning and dreaming and working hard the last months between book edits to make these two days our most powerful conference yet. Seats are already flying and early-bird registration (save $1000 with the early-bird rate!) is open until July 1 or until we sell out. We’ve sold out six years in a row and the wait list averages 30+ people each year, so make it happen. I do this workshop to ignite change and purposeful passion in others, so I feel no hesitation in giving you a push to come! : )

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The wonderful MTH speakers who are all past MTH alum: (from left to right) Amber Housley, Emily Ley, Karen Stott, Nancy Ray, moi, Rhiannon Bosse and Gina Zeidler (who will be bringing baby Z with her to MTH, Lord willing!)

I also may be doing a webinar with Emily Ley in the summer (details TBA!) as well as a PowerSheets/business webinar later in the year. First, we need to get through magazine shoot season! A peek into our office below from Faith Teasley. You can take the full tour here.

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Having shared about all of these truly wonderful life-changing events, though, I feel compelled to offer a word of advice about conferences in general — advice I would have loved to have heard when I was just starting in business. You don’t need to go to conferences to be successful. Conferences have great value for education and building relationships, but you won’t be “left behind” or fail if you don’t or can’t go. Perhaps your resources need to be focused on another purpose right now, growing your business slowly and steadily. I talk to a lot of young business owners who are trying to figure out where to invest their money so I hope this advice is helpful. Don’t feel pressured. Grow slowly and wisely. If you can go to a great conference, go! And get the very most out of your experience by asking questions and building relationships. If you don’t go though, you are still on a great path forward. I am cheering for you, friends!

You can keep up with future speaking dates and get booking info here.

So, who am I going to see this summer and fall? : )

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Raaaaaaarrrr!!!

What’s that sound? That’s this bear cub coming out of hibernation after a long winter. I can’t say, “where did the time go?” because I know where it went. It went into the 74,000 words I poured my whole self into these last months.

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2014

My book manuscript is finally turned in. It’s in second draft format, currently in the hands of an editor, and I am waiting for my next round of suggested edits to come in. This whole book process has been a new adventure for me — new in every sense. I’m going to share a behind-the-scenes look at the process of writing this book and what I learned in my next newsletter. Sign up using the little box at the end of this post.

In my mind, May is the new January. I’m starting fresh this month. Starting new. Starting with a new heart after all I learned in writing. Spend 100+ days writing about what matters most and you’ll find yourself changed. But, I am taking my time in acting on that change. Well… some of it anyway.

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2014

May is my month to dig into new soil around here, literally and figuratively. I’m planting my vegetable garden and starting fresh with my PowerSheets. Purposeful goals take time and I hope to have a NEW, very purposeful, prayer-over, list in my PowerSheets by the end of this month. If you don’t have a set of PowerSheets, get one. We only have about 600 sets left and they have been going fast lately. Looks like y’all are feeling the need for a fresh start lately too! If you are reading this post, use the code STARTFRESHMAY for 25% off your entire order.

If anyone wants to join me in starting fresh (in any way — not just in goal setting), use the hashtag #StartFreshMay.

And, I’m trying something new…

Join me in a couple weeks, on May 14th, from 12 to 1pm EST, for a #StartFreshMay Google Hangout. This will be really casual — a time of encouragement and getting to know each other. I hope new friendships are formed from this and I can’t wait to hear how you are starting fresh! Join here (I think you have to add me to a circle or something).

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/grace2014

Let’s get intentional about how we are using our time in this busy season. Even if it feels impossible to put the brakes on, if you are reading this post, you have enough time in your day to make what matters happen. Starting fresh — in whatever needs a new start for you — will be worth it. I’m going to take time to pray (by myself and with friends on the phone — another new thing I’m trying to do more), read the Bible, and work through each of the PowerSheets steps one by one with fresh eyes. This is my month to look at how I’m doing just about everything and ask how I could do it more intentionally. I am excited and, more than that, just plain grateful.

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Whatever that thing is that is calling your heart to start new, take the leap. Whether it’s a relationship that needs your all or a creative pursuit or loving someone well or writing your soul or gutting your closet or planting your garden — do it. Dig deep into fresh soil with me, friend. I can’t wait to be inspired by your #StartFreshMay journey too.

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Join me!

– Start fresh in whatever area of life needs it most. Start today. You can do this.
Hang out with me in a couple weeks.
– Sign up for the newsletter (below) for a behind-the-scenes on my book soon.
– I’d love to hear from you here or on social media about what you are starting fresh with. Let’s encourage others too who might be feeling the need for this.

May is the new January. Let’s do this!

P.S. I’m going to release my book cover very soon, as well as some exciting pre-order news. God is good. I am so grateful. More to come. Sign up for my newsletter below to be the first to know.

Photos by my dear friend Gina



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HAPPY 2014!!!  Welcome to a brand new year, friends.  If you are just joining us, you are in the right place : )  It’s never too late to start this process and spread the word to your friends to have them join you, too.  Here are the previous posts:

Part 1: Let’s Do This!
Part 2: Get Fired Up.
Part 3: Your 2014 Vision

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Photo of my Make It Happen desk card by my friend Mary Boyden.

My answers from Part 3, starting with my 2014 Vision:

Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses? Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:36-40 NIV)

My 2014 vision. OK. I’m going to walk you through my honest thoughts today as I uncover this. Honestly, my brain feels so full lately with traveling and giving my whole attention and love to family and trying to write my book and being a mama and a wife and a business owner. Those things don’t go on Christmas vacation. So, I am taking it day by day to love The Lord with all of me and through all of this.  Your instinct as you read this night be to say, “Well, Lara, take a break! Relax!”  You see, though, God doesn’t tell us to seek pleasure or a life where we just coast.  He sometimes calls us in seasons of our lives to rise up and let Him work profoundly in us to accomplish far more than we can on our own.  I’m in one of those seasons and I am praying for Him to use me. In these seasons, and always, He tells us to work hard and let Him fill us with a kind of rest that a vacation just can’t accomplish. It’s 20 levels deeper. If you read Proverbs 31, you see a woman who works hard for what matters, rising at dawn and using all she has for her family and others. And then she rests in Him. But, lately I’ve been falling into the trap of self-doubt during some of that rest time. My brain has been spinning a bit, thinking that I cannot write a great book or be a great mom or have as good of a year in business as last year. But. But! Then I remember the greatest lesson I learned from 2013: His plans are far bigger than mine.  He is bigger than me and what I can do on my own. He is in control. My job is to simply trust and obey.

(and I just took a deep breath)

Trust and obey. (Anyone love that old hymn as much as I do?) I typed this out because I don’t want you to think any of this just naturally happens. I struggle and, when I stop to have a literal “come to Jesus” moment with myself, all becomes well.  It is well with my soul. That’s what God’s peace does. My physical circumstances haven’t magically changed. But He changes my heart and that, in turn, helps me change my vision from cloudy to clear in an instant.  This is why I have to stay in the Word and focused on Him, because it is so easy to forget the truth.

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So, my 2014 Vision is to be clear. To see God’s heart clearly and my heart clearly — no matter how messy sometimes — and to keep aligning my heart with His. My 2014 Vision is to love my neighbor as myself by sharing the clear truth that has changed and continues to change me. My 2014 Vision is to couple boldness with tenderness, knowing I am weak and that I can’t do anything good without Him, and to speak the truth in love to others. I want to use all of the gifts He has given me and give them all away.

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To borrow a powerful phrase from my friends Jessi and Hayley, my 2014 Vision is to be “wild and free” for Him in spreading the Gospel and living in His joy.  My 2014 Vision is to see through His lenses and do something — everything — about it.

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Having defined that, now here is what is NOT in my 2014 Vision and what I’m saying NO to in 2014:

  • Self-doubt.  I’m redefining that today after what God just taught me.  I should doubt my own abilities on my own, but I can have FULL confidence in His power and plan, whatever that may be.
  • Eating junk.  With the last part of 2014 being so busy, I went to sugary foods — ice cream, candy, too many Luna bars when I was on the go — to fill what needed to be filled with good fuel.  Ari and I started a modified Daniel fast today for January.  For Him it’s “no meats, sweets or alcoholic treats (which are rare for him anyway).”  For me, it’s no simple sugars (ice cream, candy), bread or large portions when I am stressed.  We are doing this fast so that, each time we crave one of those things, we look to God instead for nourishment.  It’s a way of being more spiritually mindful in taking care of the lives God has given us.
  • Comparison.  I will be writing a lot about this in my book, but comparison isn’t just the thief of joy, it’s the thief of everything.  When I compare other wedding magazines or blogs to ours, I get so far off track thinking about their numbers compared to ours and I completely forget the enormous fundamental difference that sets us apart – championing strong marriages above all else.  You can read our whole mission statement here.  I fall into comparison in so many areas, but I will work hard in 2014 to say NO to that and see what He sees.
  • Email.  I get too much of it.  Not junk, but legitimate email.  It’s hard because, every time I write a blog post or put something out into the world, I get emails.  Really lovely wonderful emails that I am so grateful for from really lovely people.  But, sometimes, they add up when I have a lot to reply to and that takes away from my time with my family.  This is such a challenge for me because I want to reply to everything and I do. So, perhaps I can say NO to feeling compelled to always give long replies.  But, friends…. just for the next month… I am kindly asking you to not email me.   I cringe even typing that because I don’t like saying no, but I have to finish writing this book! : )
  • STUFF.  This is a huge one.  I’m still going on the Contentment Challenge, but I have a long way to go.  This quote from the book Margin that Nancy Ray posted sums it up perfectly:

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  • More: days that are filled with too many projects, getting angry instead of praying first, days where I don’t take time to study the Bible well, worrying about things I can’t control.  I will keep adding to this list as I think of things and I encourage you to do the same with your lists.

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Number one: knowing that I am made new in Him.

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Finishing reading the Bible (I didn’t end up completing my goal to finish by today, but I am still pressing on!), working out hard so I can be a healthy mom for Grace, more music in our lives this year, intentionally teaching Grace good things, cooking more (more on that in a bit below), and opening my heart to the possibility of having another child.  There is more, but I will keep adding to this as we go!  Done is better than perfect right now.  I want to spent time with my parents this afternoon and pick lemons from my mamas trees with Grace : )

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My word for 2014 is CLEAR.  I keep saying that to myself as I have gone through this process.  Clear about my purpose, clearly using my gifts to serve others, clearly giving love to others… and free from distraction and the stuff that doesn’t align with His purpose for me.

Alright, welcome to Part 4! Cue the dance party — you’ve made it to the final steps of Goal Setting for 2014 before we actually set some solid goals!

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STEP 10: Plant Seeds. Create Legacy.

My mom gave me the most special gift last night. She gave me decades of family memories, holidays and celebrations, her heart — her greatest passions and the unique gifts God gave her to share — in cook book form.  My mom is a trained French chef and most of her happiest times have been in the kitchen and around the dinner table with us.  She spent days and days putting together two giant binders of her recipes, kitchen tips and favorite family memories for me. Now, I can relive these memories with her in my own kitchen and pass them on to Grace.  I’m crying typing this.  That’s how big this gift is to my heart.  This is her living legacy.

One of the greatest motivators I have is currently doing her farm puzzle at my feet : )  I told her I am writing things that I hope will help people.  She smiled and went back to her puzzle, happy that I am writing to you.  When Ari leaves for work in the morning, we tell her where he is going: to help people feel better.  She loves knowing that is what he does.  We know Grace understands. And telling her this makes us accountable.  It makes both of us want to use all of our time wisely and to the full to genuinely help others.  I know that she watches my every move and hears more than my words – she hears the heart behind them.  She mirrors me all day long, showing me in human form how important it is for me to plant good seeds and LIVE the way we want her to live.  Now, this is also the thing that can paralyze me and make me completely lose confidence the most.  Creating a living legacy for Grace in all I do is a lot of pressure, but it’s a good pressure. Writing to you here on this blog, I am aware that she may read it some day, too.  That makes me want to write boldly and clearly, with tenderness.  It makes me want to leave a legacy that leads her to the heart of what matters.  It makes me want to plant good seeds in really good soil.  It’s what made me create this book…

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A couple months ago, God put it firmly on my heart to leave Grace a legacy of love and wise guidance.  So, I created A Handbook for Life for her and for all mamas and anyone who wants to leave your best advice, wisdom, family memories, reasons you love them and so much more.  Ari and I can’t wait to fill this book out for Grace.  This was one of my favorite things to create ever.  Read all the details here and pre-order now for delivery before Valentine’s Day.

What little seeds can you plant in others?  What legacy can you pass on to those you love now?  What can you teach to others?  What traditions can you pass to them? What gifts of love can you sow?  Sometimes, the tiniest seeds produce the most amazing things.  The mustard seed is one of the smallest of seeds, but grows into one of the largest of trees.   For example, your seed might be starting a small savings account for a child or grandchild.  It might be teaching someone something that will help them — like volunteering for the Boys and Girls Club or teaching at your church or just writing a blog post to share your knowledge about something.  It might be writing a love letter to plant a seed of encouragement in someone else’s life.  It might be creating something — using your art and creative talents — to multiply love in the heart of another or to inspire many.  It might be starting an email account for your little one that you send love letters to daily and, when they are older, you will give them the password to let them read years of love.  I have done that for the last two years and love sending Grace special emails!  Make a list of “seeds” you can plant now — perhaps in the next few weeks — or the living legacy you want to pass to others. Leave your ideas here in the comments.  I’ll share more of my list tomorrow.

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STEP 11:  Do something radical this year.  For those of you in my generation, this doesn’t mean Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure kind of radical.  I mean the kind of radical that changes everything for the better.  That thing that has been set deep in your heart.  That thing that scares you.  That thing that feels impossible right now.  That thing that you know would help you and everyone around you.

Radical literally means very new and different from what is traditional or ordinary.   ‘If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. ‘ – Tony Robbins   Do something different this year, something that feels bigger than you. Imagine the possibilities if you do! You get to define what your radical means to you.  Maybe it’s big like finally getting out of debt or starting a personal budget or getting healthy.  Maybe it’s finally going on that mission trip or writing that email or starting that business.  Maybe it’s saying “no” to something or simply and profoundly choosing to be more still this year.  Before you get completely overwhelmed (I know I just dove into deep waters here with you!), here this: start small.  The core principle behind what I’ve taught at the Making Things Happen workshop for the last 5+ years is this: begin anywhere.  Little by little, make it happen.  Your task here for Step 11 is to define your very first tiny small little itty bitty action step towards making that thing happen.

If your “radical” is getting out of debt, your very first step might be as small as going to the local library and checking out a copy of Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover.  Yes, most libraries have new awesome books like that.  Or get a copy from a friend.  Or read Emily’s personal finance posts!  Or sign up for a free Mint.com account to start an online budget.

If your “radical” is strengthening your marriage, maybe your first tiny action step might be leaving your husband a simple love note in his car tonight so he gets it tomorrow on the way to work.  Just an “I love you. I appreciate you.”  Maybe your first step is to give him or her a hug just because, even if he or she left the dirty dishes in the sink again or said that thing that made you upset.  Maybe your first step is to simply listen and genuinely ask, “How are you?” even if they don’t ask the same in return.  Maybe your first step is to pray for them.  Prayer is an action step.  Perhaps one of the very best ones.

If your “radical” is learning to be content, maybe your first tiny step is to read this post.

If your “radical” is getting healthy, your very first tiny action step might be to open a trash bag and step into your kitchen.  If there is stuff in there that isn’t on your Making Things Happen Train with you (imagine all the good stuff cheering you on!), donate it to the food pantry, recycle its container and/or toss it.  I’m giving you these steps as examples — debt and finances, marriage, health — because I once took these exact same steps myself.  After college, in the thick of depression, I gained 50lbs in 6 months.  It was a long road to learn to fill my soul and body with what it really needed.  And it didn’t happen overnight or without struggle or failure or buckets of tears.  But, little by little by little, it did happen.  I eventually became a personal trainer to try to help others learn to do the same.  I trained hundreds of men and women and learned more about fear and self-doubt than I ever anticipated.   I am so grateful for my journey and how it has translated into the work I do now.

So, what is your “radical”?  Define it.  Write it in black and white and let it marinate in your big beautiful heart.  And then DO something about it.  Something very small.  Sometimes — most of the time — the hardest part is starting.  The rest of the pieces can come later.  Define your radical now.  Share it here and let’s support and pray for each other.  I will share mine tomorrow, too.

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Step 12: OK, 10 and 11 were admittedly challenging, though likely the most fruitful.  So, here’s an easy one.  Choose a song for this year! A song that lights your heart on fire and makes you feel alive and connected to what you want most.   Music has the ability to connect us to what matters most in an instant.   Music can lift us out of a slump fast.  Music can fill our should with goodness on days that nothing else seems to get to our hearts. This is most definitely my song for this year.  Share your song for 2014 here in the comments, too!

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Remember, if you need an extra kick in the pants to make this happen, I’m going to be giving away a $20 gift code to my shop (there are some crazy amazing new Making Things Happen and inspiring goodies coming to the shop soon!) and goodies from other shops I love on EVERY POST in this series to one lucky commenter per post.

PRIZES FOR THIS POST: Read Part 1 for all the ways you can win! Randomly chosen commenters on this post will get either a $20 gift card to my shop or one of these new Life Handbooks.  YAY!

Yeah!!!  Happy NEW Year!!!

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Lara Casey 2014 Goal Setting

Today I turn 34 and something has struck my heart like lighting: Don’t wait.  At church this past weekend, one of our preachers told us about a memorial service he had just gone to. A 35 year-old killed was killed in a car accident last Tuesday morning. That wasn’t on the young man’s to-do list for the day or in his plans. He thought he had his whole life ahead of him. The heart of the sermon that followed: You might not have as much time as you think you have. Don’t keep what God has given you to yourself. This thought has permeated every inch of my heart, so here I am. I am fired up to not keep what God has given me to myself in this series, in the book I am furiously writing (my final manuscript is due in 30 days — pray for me!) or in any aspect of my life.

So, the biggest rule to this entire goal setting series is don’t wait.  If God puts something good on your heart to do, DO it.  Now.  Don’t wait till you have a perfect list of 2014 goals in front of you.  Do the good you know you ought to do.  Do it with gusto.  Do it knowing that you might not have as much time as you think!

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Prints of above available here in gold foil, on sale for $12 — originally $20.

Maybe this isn’t how you expected I would start this 2014 Goal Setting series, but I’m done waiting.  If we face the reality that our lives are not in our control — that we don’t get to decide how long we get to walk this earth — we actually learn to live our lives to the full.  Facing the reality of life — and eternal life — makes me feel bold and clear and direct. It makes me want to use every gift God has given me and stop fearing what other people think (<—- how many of you are in that boat right now with me?) or what comforts I might lose if I give more and live with much less. It makes me want to hug tighter and teach Grace love more profoundly quit a lot of things and stop wasting so much time. Anyone feeling this way too? Welcome. I’m celebrating 34 years today — and the fact that I still have the ability to reach you today through this computer — by kicking off what will, Lord willing, be a powerful start to 2014. Let’s do this.

Here’s the deal.  Making things happen requires action.  As we go through this series, either use the comment area here to leave your answers or write them somewhere. But, don’t just think them. Thinking them doesn’t count. Write them out and, if you want accountability, leave them boldly here in the comments. I want to cheer you on! Friends, help me out here and cheer each other on, too. You never know who you might inspire or whose life you might completely change with your words.

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Those of you with 2014 PowerSheets will be all set, although you may need more space to write a few of these extra steps — and there will be exclusive steps just for PowerSheets owners, too! If you haven’t ordered your set yet, you can still order in time for my live 2014 Goal Setting Webinar on January 15! Pre-orders start shipping January 9. But, let me make one thing very clear: you do not need PowerSheets to make things happen. They are just a great tool. They won’t do the work for you. If you just have a notebook to do this series, use that! If you have scrap paper, that’s great too : ) It’s not about the perfect stuff, it’s about how you USE what you have.

We’re going to take this day by day, in small powerful chunks, because there are no shortcuts to any place worth going. – Beverly Sills   For the entire series, I’ll be sharing my personal progress and goals as well.  And I have no idea what those goals will be yet.  No idea!  I know the heart of what they will be, but this is a series — a process — for a reason.  You can microwave some goals and have a pretty little 2014 list by Monday, or you can dig deeper and set goals that matter to you over the next week or so with me.  You can pray hard about them and really weigh whether or not they are the best use of your time.  You can set goals that are twenty levels below the surface, where the fiery good stuff lives.  Or you can just make resolutions that get forgotten and tossed aside come February 1.  So, steps 1-3 will happen today and we’ll continue on Monday with the rest. And, if you need an extra kick in the pants to make this happen, keep reading.  I have a little something for you at the end.

I’ve revamped and updated my Goal Setting series from last year based on what I learned in my own process and what I’ve seen work for thousands of others who joined me. I am very excited about doing this with you and so curious to see where it leads me personally, too.  Are you in this for a quick fix or for making LIFE happen?  Awesome!  Continue…

Before we start, a question: how are you?  No, really.  How ARE you today, friend?  Free-write (or “download” as I like to call it) for just a couple minutes.  Be honest with yourself.  You can burn your paper after if you want to, but be honest.  How are you??  If you need a place to start, write out three things that are challenging you in life today or lately and also write three things you are grateful for today.  It’s so important to start with where you are and get it out.  Your worries today can directly affect what you write next, so don’t shove them under the table.  Acknowledge them.  Write them.  Call your BFF and talk them out.  Whatever works best for you, but whatever you do, do it now.  Don’t wait.  When you are done with that, take a deep breath and let’s get started with Step One of 2014 Goal Setting.

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STEP ONE: Let’s take a look back at what worked in 2013. What are you grateful for in 2013?  What good things happened?  I know I’m starting with the hardest step. Most people don’t like taking the time to do this because it doesn’t seem like it will get you anywhere fast. Trust me here. It will. Why is this the most vital first step? It’s really easy to look back at an entire year and just see the yucky parts. Like when something happens to you at the end of a day and you automatically call it a “bad day,” regardless of what happened the other 23 hours. Anyone do that? [Raising my hand high!] Let’s focus on what went well first. Make your list right now. These positive things are there to guide you and you should CELEBRATE THEM! Celebrate what you want to see more of.  Gratitude changes everything and will show you just how far you’ve come… and it just might give you the energy and hope you need to press on full-force! Make your list of things you made happen and things you are grateful for.  You can list as many as you like!

One huge thing I am grateful for is that I started this Goal Setting series a year ago and tracked my progress throughout 2013 with my PowerSheets and here on the blog for accountability. You can read my goal updates (I posted my progress every three months… or when I could!) here: April, August, October. I am so exceedingly grateful that I wrote things down throughout the year. This was new for me and completely changed things.  It gave me so much more to celebrate because I didn’t forget things or let negative things overshadow them. This helped me to have the energy and confidence to keep going when things got hard. It helped me see so much more of God’s goodness that was there all along.  I will give my final 2013 Goal update and my list of great things that happened in 2013 next week.  Gotta use every day I have left to, Lord willing, take more action on those goals!

A few tips on how to make your list that have helped me:

1.  Take a look back at your 2013 calendar, blog posts (if you blog) or photos you posted on social media.  Those might give you a clue into some of the highlights you’ve forgotten.

2.  Talk to your significant other or BFF about your year and ask them to reflect some of the highlights back to you.  They may remember some that you have forgotten!  This is also a really great inspiring way to celebrate the good things of 2013 this weekend.  Make it your dinner conversation tonight : )  And remember, this isn’t all about you – ask others to tell you their highlights, too!  Goodness is contagious!

3.  Thank people.  As you reflect on the good things this past year, say thank you to those who were a part of that.  I’m starting today, too, with some texts, emails, phone calls and physical letters and a lot of praise to God.  Gracie is doing her happy dance, too : )

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

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STEP THREE: As a creative, visual person, imagery really lights my heart on fire more than anything. Great photographs and colors can make my heart sing and help me clarify my vision. If you are like me, you will really love Step 3.  Make a Pinterest board of images that will inspire a brilliant year. Title your board “Making Things Happen in 2014″ so we can search for each other’s boards! Now, one word of caution.  I rarely use Pinterest because it can be the black hole of distraction and discontentment.  Pin wisely, friends.  Pick stuff that lights your hearts on fire and move on!  Here’s my board from last year and here is the one I’m starting today for 2014.  I am alone with Gracie today, so there will not be much pining happening!  Just reading books, running around and singing silly songs : )

OK, that’s it for today and that’s plenty to work on! Take your time with this and remember: PROGRESS NOT PERFECTION.  This is not about writing the perfect list with a perfect pen or making the most beautiful Pinterest board… it’s just about honesty. To make things happen, you have to start with where you are. This is a process that will have a big payoff, but you have to commit to working through it. Be still and let your year’s vision slowly cook, like a pan of homemade hot baked cinnamon rolls fresh out of the oven. They wouldn’t be so flaky and yummy cooked in the microwave, would they? Just a big pile of mushy dough. I’m not going to hand you your 2014 goals. We’re going to do this right and get there together. Sound good? Awesome! Get to it!

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If you need an extra kick in the pants to make this happen, I’m going to be giving away a $20 gift code to my shop (there are some crazy amazing new Making Things Happen and inspiring goodies coming to the shop soon!) and goodies from other shops I love on EVERY POST in this series to one lucky commenter per post.  You can win multiple times and you can increase your chances of winning by:

– Pinning this post or any in the series
– Instagramming – or “gramming” ? I suddenly feel old. Ha!
– Facebooking (is that a word??)
– Tweeting
– Blogging or in any way sharing this post/series
– For all entires, link back here to www.LaraCasey.com/blog and use the #2014GoalSetting hashtag. You are welcome to use graphics from my posts!
– Lastly, leave a comment saying you did any of the above.  You can enter as many times as you like on all posts!  I’m going to choose some extra winners along the way, too, for some special surprises : )

Why am I doing this?  I know God put me here on this earth for many reasons, and He has made it clear that one of those reasons it to motivate people to take action on what matters most.  I want you — yes YOU — to make what matters happen in your life.  So, help me spread the word and let’s get all our friends in on this for accountability!  Making things happen is always better when shared : )  “See” y’all Monday!  YAHOO!!!

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The January 2014 issue of Southern Living just arrived in the mail…

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…with 24 pages of our content, starting with an editor’s letter from Lindsay Bierman and yours truly.

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Having this on my coffee table right now is so surreal, mostly because it all happened so fast (read my previous post for details). Lindsay’s words about our company and our hearts are so glowing that I can’t quite wrap my brain around it. I suppose that is what God does, though. He sometimes does things that are so completely out of your realm of understanding that they must be from Him. I didn’t make this happen. The six of us Southern Weddings ladies didn’t make this happen. He did. And I hope it brings Him great joy!

Not a subscriber to Southern Living, but want to see the special section? You can download it here (link at top right)!

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Well, the title of this post is something I never thought I would type.  First, y’all know my story with the SouthernWeddings.com domain.  Today we launched our new brand and site on that very web address!  We are happy as pups with two tails!

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There is more exciting news, though — the second part of that title above.  Pour yourself a tall glass of sweet tea (or hot tea, depending on where you are right now!) and let me tell you a fun story…

Back in early May, I got an email from a gentleman at Time, Inc.  I didn’t know who he was at first as I skimmed the email.  I thought it was a Time press release or just normal correspondence.  But, as I read, my heart started to pound.  The email was from someone at Southern Living (owned by Time, Inc.).  I think at this point, I squealed and started reading the email out loud to the whole office.  Then I got to this sentence…

We would like to meet you.

I just sat there speechless, not knowing why or what or any details.  I didn’t know if this was a good thing or a really bad thing, whether this was an initial step in squashing us or not.  And then I thought, “Wait, maybe they don’t know we aren’t based in New York.”

I wrote him back to clarify.

He said he and the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher would be flying to meet me in three weeks.  They knew.  Whoa.

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Enter mild to medium panic mixed with massive excitement from the entire SW team.  We still had no idea why they wanted to meet us, we just knew they wanted to meet us.  And they were flying here.  To Chapel Hill.  I just couldn’t get this fact to fully sink in.  And then there was the golden question…

What in the world were we going to serve them to eat?!

You see, my mom and grandma and pretty much every woman close to the SW family has read Southern Living since they were tots.  Each recipe and garden how-to has been knit into the fabric of who we are today.  No matter the outcome of this mysterious meeting, simply having these gentlemen over for breakfast was a life event.  Something to clean your windowsills for (which I did).

Not fully up to snuff with my biscuit-making skills, we begged our dear friend Chef Bedford, of the Fearrington House, to come cook a Southern breakfast of breakfasts for us.  He happily obliged and prepared a feast of pastries, fresh smoothies, Southern delicacies and the best Eggs Benedict we have ever had.  More on the Eggs Benedict in a moment.  With Chef Bedford before our guests arrived…

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Ron, Greg and Lindsay, I hope this gives you a good laugh when you read this, but we practiced greeting y’all.  Kristin knocked on the door and, like practicing a first date “hello” in a mirror, Emily and I rehearsed shaking hands and taking coats.  This was Southern royalty stepping into my living room!

I have butterflies even typing this, remembering that day.  We all coordinated outfits.  I think I cleaned the house eight times.  It was pouring rain when their red rental car pulled up.  Lindsay had gotten stuck in Birmingham with the weather, but Ron King and Greg Schumann dashed to my front door and we may have opened it even before they could even knock!

Dressed in their finest business attire, our greetings went off as rehearsed!  Phew!  And then, the moment came.  The “why” that we were all wondering about was revealed as Greg, in his wonderful, warm voice said, “We love what you are doing and we want to be a part of it.”

OK, y’all.

Now I’m crying at my desk.

Because, you see, I wasn’t expecting any of this.  It was like a surprise proposal.  With the most lovely words that followed.  Lovely and sincere and just perfect.  I started this magazine on my little 13 inch PC six years ago and to have my dad proud of me was more than enough.  But, now, to have Southern Living loving us, too… well… I just don’t have words.  After Greg’s glowing speech to us, I think I mumbled something like, “Wow, thank you. Would you like to sit down and have a smoothie?”  It was all I could muster.

The meeting that followed is forever etched in our hearts.  Ron and Greg mirrored back to us all we have worked so hard for: our mission to inspire couples to create a meaningful beginning to married life, our heart we have for the magical place we call home and our passion for creating timeless content that helps brides celebrate what matters most to them.  They saw all of this.  And they wanted to help us get more people to see it, too.  Our mission comes to life in this brand new film we created with Twenty-One Films — enjoy!

Aside from a hilarious moment when Ron, trying to cut into the Eggs Benedict on his lap, spilled yellow egg yolk all over his pants, the meeting was wonderful.  We still joke with Ron about the egg incident today and have promised him never to serve it again at future meetings.

Speaking of future meetings, remember that time Emily Thomas and I flew to Birmingham and didn’t tell y’all why?  Here I am below at the entrance to the Southern Progress Corporation building, home to Southern Living, Coastal Living and several others.

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The building itself is a marvel and a Southern gem.  We were greeted by Ron and the amazing “Mrs. Nellah.”  Nellah is like the SL mama, right-hand-gal to Lindsay and wearer of many hats.  She had the first copy of Southern Living in her hands to show us and proceeded to give us the grand tour.

Friends, Emily and I were like two kids in a photo-studio-magazine-paradise-filled candy shop!  We visited the famed SL Test Kitchens (where they were prepping the Thanksgiving issue), the prop room (oh my!), and video studio where they were filming a segment for the holidays.  It was just incredible.  Warm greetings met us everywhere and we truly felt like we were at home.  The warmth was just like our office, only on a much bigger scale.

We met Lindsay for the first time in a classic boardroom, like you see in movies when people have really big important meetings.  Only, this room was a little different, as there were individual picnic trays with beautiful sandwiches and flowers waiting for us when we arrived.  We picnicked in the board room as we talked with their editorial team about how we work, our vision and our heart for this work.  They shared the same.  We felt like kindred spirits.

Dinner that evening at Bottega with Lindsay, Ron and Greg was magical.  Admittedly, I still felt nervous, dining with gents who know great food and business.  I still felt like the teenager tagging along with her parents on a fancy dinner.  But, they were so gracious and insisted we indulge in dessert, too — Chilton County peach ice cream.

After a lovely “getting-to-know-you” day, the following day was set as our “business” day.  It was time to talk about what this potential partnership — or whatever it was — would look like.  I’m not sure how to explain this day, except to say it was something I’ve never experienced.  There were lots of logistics and terms I’d never heard and phone calls and so many people we met with.  It was all business.  No concrete plans were made, so we decided to go home to talk all of the options over with everyone and meet virtually again soon.

After more prayer than anything I’ve ever prayed about in business and many more emails and advice given and phone calls and meetings, I’m so grateful to let you know what all of this produced.  It’s actually quite simple and feels just like a comfy sweater.

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We are simply sharing content.  We have no formal ties to SL and nothing is changing on our end except sharing what we already do with more people : )  We are still just six ladies here in my house (see our recent office tour here!), making a magazine and running a small shop and shipping orders from my garage.  For all of this, I am so grateful.

The details on SL + SW:

Today, we posted our first blog post on the Daily South. Going forward, you’ll see us post there a few times a month.  Have y’all read the Grumpy Gardener’s column on the Daily South?  He is hilarious, and has helped me so much with my garden!

We have a special weddings page on the SL site here with lots of goodies.

We also have a joint Pinterest board where you can find even more great Southern wedding content.

Now, the most exciting part of this partnership: three times in 2014, we are providing 18 pages of Southern Weddings content for a special weddings section in Southern Living — so exciting!  We’ve already sent our first one to print.  We couldn’t say anything at the time, but we were designing TWO magazines at once this season.  This was me trying to learn the SL style guide and do layout for our section in October…

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You won’t be able to find the insert on newsstands, but it will go out with their January issue to about 400,000 subscribers who have been earmarked as being in the marrying (or mother of the bride!) stage of life.  If you aren’t a subscriber, there will still be a way to view it digitally.  Details coming soon!

And that’s it! : )  We haven’t been bought by them, and have no plans to do that.  We are still producing our own gorgeous magazine once a year.  We aren’t changing a thing.  We just have new friends who believe in us, and want to help us spread the word about the beautiful, meaningful celebrations that are happening here in our neck of the woods.  For us, that is the most exciting part of all of this — we consider it a huge opportunity (and honor!) to spread our heart for strong marriages and meaningful weddings farther and faster.  THAT is something to celebrate!

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So you can get a glimpse of why I am so grateful for the SL family, here are the words from Lindsay himself on what he loves most about weddings:

“I’m a hopeless romantic—I get choked up over the sacred exchange of vows every time.”

Oh my soul, I am so grateful for your heart, Lindsay Bierman. To the entire SL family, we’re so grateful to have you as a part of ours now : )

Friends, we invite you to celebrate with us today. We’re giving away a gold foil “South” print in our first post on the Daily South and would love for you to help us spread the word about all of this great news! HOORAY!!!

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