Category: News

I am writing this in the thick of it (so forgive any typos and incomplete thoughts!). I was finally able to finish writing this thanks to many nursing sessions and the WordPress app for iPhone. We are still in newborn survival mode, so not sleeping a whole lot, but it’s making us pray and rely on God more. He provides just what we need in His timing. Maternity leave may be a piece of cake for some, but for us it has been a mess at times. More to come in my next post about life with two littles and what’s been happening here lately (and about our upcoming adoption), but I just wanted to share that for any other mamas out there who may be feeling like they are the only ones who have experienced days where you get nothing done—even the simplest things—and it’s okay : ) Showering for more than three minutes is a big win around here! While I don’t have postpartum depression like I had with Grace (praise the Lord), adjusting to these sleepless days is something we take day by day. It’s wonderful and messy and hard and joyful and quiet and humbling all wrapped in one. But everyday I wake up and whether I got three hours of sleep or four, I am grateful for my children. Typing “children” is surreal still. I sincerely don’t deserve them. Little J is sweet, always hungry, always wants to see a smiling face near him, grunts like an old man, and laughs like a little boy. And he has a lot of hair : ) We are slowly adjusting and getting to know each other.

Okay, on to the birth. I wrote many of these birth day notes on my phone while we were still in the hospital so that I wouldn’t forget (highly recommend doing this as you will likely forget). I also tried to include as many details here as possible because it was very helpful for me to read other birth stories.

Joshua’s birth was far different than Grace’s, but they shared one thing in common: waiting.

I thought for sure he would come early or right on time. Grace came nine days after her due date, and I figured God would give me a different experience for having gone through that once already. Ha! I was wrong.


I was so grateful for my Write the Word journal (sold out, but Volume 2 is coming in October) during those weeks. It kept me in the Word and praying.

We waited to get pregnant and weathered a miscarriage in between. You would think waiting on a past-due baby a seemingly short few days would be nothing compared to that. I can’t compare the two though. Both were for a reason. Both were refining and good in the end.

Being past due is a unique experience. Time slows to a crawl. Every feeling and symptom throws you into “maybe this is it” mode. You make no plans and don’t go anywhere because the baby could come any time. All the waiting gives you way too much time in your head, wondering what story God is writing, wondering at times if something is wrong, begging Him for a healthy baby, and hoping for this to be the day. The family members waiting with you are also feeling this. They get tired of sitting around the house. Tired of hearing about your contractions, although that’s their most frequent inquiry. They are tired of passing the time. You are just plain tired. After one week of being past-due, the questions from neighbors and friends start to wear you down. After two weeks, it makes you throw your hands up in the air and surrender to the freeing truth that God is in control and you have to let go. Letting go of control, I believe, is exactly where God wants us in order to bring new life.

God’s three answers to prayer:


Not yet.

I have something better in mind.

There were better things hiding in the waiting.


Every day, God revealed a reason for “not yet.” Little moments with Grace, conversations and dinners with my mom, prayers, closeness with the Lord, deeper closeness with Ari. Too many things to name.


I was due Friday, July 31.

The following Monday, I went in for a non-stress test (NST). I was 4cm dilated. To try to help move things along, I had my membranes stripped and the doc assured me I would have a baby within 72 hours. Yet, nothing happened.

We waited some more. I went in for another NST at 41 weeks. Everything looked great, but since I’m over 35, and because of the risks of waiting too long, they wanted to schedule an induction. I had my membranes done again. A different doc assured me I would have a baby within 48 hours. Again, nothing happened. I just had a lot of cramps.

Another doc (at UNC you see the doc that is available that day and there are about 15 of them) recommended I come in to labor and delivery that night to get my water levels checked, and if things didn’t look good, she wanted to induce me that night. I went in, another NST, water levels were fine but she said they were reducing. Though she wanted me to stay, I chose to go home and wait some more.


I had eaten jalapeños with every meal except breakfast. Ari and Grace had done approximately 80 puzzles. I had read countless articles on labor signs. I had done a ton of walking to try to get baby boy to come. I logged over twenty miles that week. I had no appetite. I had been having regular mild contractions for several days, but nothing that felt like active labor. I knew what active labor felt like from Grace, and this wasn’t it. I had strong Braxton Hicks contractions—some made me have to pause and breathe a little more intentionally–but nothing painful.

My official induction date crept closer and fear took hold of me. I did not want to be induced for many reasons. If you are a redhead, maybe you know what I’m about to say: every doc I’ve seen has told me that redheads bleed more and feel more pain. I’m not sure if there is an official study about this, but when ten docs (and labor nurses) echo the same words, you wonder if it’s true. From my experience with Grace’s birth, I believe it is. I didn’t want to get induced with Pitocin and potentially feel more pain because of it. More so, I wanted Joshua to come on his own, and I prayed harder than I’ve ever prayed.

But, the induction day came. I prayed so hard up to that point and all that morning. I cried a lot. Ari and I packed our bags though, and headed back to labor and delivery. One of the fellows came in and checked me before getting started. I was 5cm. I expressed to her how I felt about not wanting to be induced. She was great and told us it was fine to go home and wait, but that I absolutely could not go past 42 weeks. She did my membranes again (third time by then). That was Tuesday. We re-scheduled induction for that Thursday. Two more days to see if he would come on his own—I was elated and so grateful!

But… he stayed cozy in my belly.


We woke up on August 13th and the weather was cool and crisp for once—a refreshing break from the opressive heat of summer. I went on a walk with Gracie and Grama Celia (who had already been waiting with us for three weeks by that point!) through the neighborhood and all around the park by our house.

We were set to go in at 9am for induction. I had cleaned every bit of the house by that point. I curled my hair (somehow this was soothing) and got dressed. I prayed with Grace, hugged her tight, hugged my mom and Rhiannon and off we went. I had prayed all night and prayed so much in the car on the way over for a miracle–that I wouldn’t have to be induced. I so wanted labor to start on its own in the Lord’s timing. Even though there were a mere ten minutes before we would arrive at the hospital, I fully believed that God could do anything. I knew He was listening to my prayers and had done greater things in my life before.


9:15am. We took the car to the hospital valet and walked in. I had prepared a big basket of goodies for the docs and nurses. Rather than the expected basket of cookies or edibles, I decided to gift them with encouragement – prints, books, and gifts from the shop.

I sat down to register and there was nurse Tori, who helped deliver Grace! I smiled so big and felt God was with us. I smiled at her and she smiled back at me like she remembered me. Tori was working with another delivery, so Shannon took us to our labor room and we waited on the doc to come. While we waited, I had to get an IV placed. Shannon tried three times and couldn’t get it to thread. Ari joked with her about my sensitive vaso-vagal response (I passed out a few times before) and I laughed and told her, “Oh, I’ll be fine!” Then I looked down and saw my hand covered in blood, got lightheaded, had to lay down and lost hearing in both ears for a bit. After ten years together, my husband knows me well : )

Then! Guess who came in to try to get my IV working? Nurse Tori! It was wonderful. The Lord is so good. It was a gift to talk to her and feel the comfort of a familiar face in the room. We chatted about Grace’s birth which was so sweet. She quickly got my IV in, signed it, and wished us well. What a treat and gift of comfort from the Lord.


10:00am. Ari made some patient calls (I think this was soothing for him!). We read some of You and Me Forever. I ate a turkey bacon and egg sandwich. I was super hungry all day and the docs said it was fine for me to eat, so I did!


11:00am. Dr. Steube and a resident came in to talk to me about induction options. The resident examined me. I thought for sure I was going to be getting pitocin, but they said I was 5-6 cm and Dr. Steube enthusiastically said I should walk around for a couple hours and labor on my own. “I’m a midwife trapped in an OB’s body. I didn’t want to be induced with my kids either. Go! Walk around for a couple hours and let’s have a baby!” No pitocin! You guys. I cried. This was the last thing I expected. She said if I didn’t progress in a couple hours that we could just try breaking my water. Can you tell I was excited!? 


12:00 pm. So, we walked. And sweet Nancy Ray showed up right about then and walked the halls with me too. What a gift it was to have her there. She had been such an incredible support to me during Grace’s birth (she literally held my left leg as Grace was making her way into the world!).


My contractions (strong tightening but not painful still) were 5-8 min apart and then slowed to about 8-10. Ari and I walked the halls some more, and ran into our friend Amir in the hallway. Amir’s wife is a photographer here and he and Ari had met at one of my launch parties a couple years ago. Running into him was a huge answered prayer! Ari wanted to wait to circumcise Joshua till the 8th day, as it is written in the Bible, but this had proved a bit of a challenge. The only mohel in the area was in New York that week and we couldn’t find anyone else who would do it. But, God knew the plan. We chatted with Amir and he set the whole thing up at UNC. Amazing! Again, we felt God strongly with us.


And then… now I’m getting teary writing this. My labor nurse. Eeva. She was from Finland and had a thick beautiful accent and a voice that made me feel calm and like she had everything under control. Everything. She talked about pickled herring with Ari (his favorite) as she whisked around the room getting things all ready and perfectly set as they monitored the little guy and my contractions again for 30 minutes. She told us about how in Finland, that midwives did everything from start to finish with births and doctors were only there for surgeries or complications, which rarely happened. She helped bring thousands of babies into the world. She was so experienced, and you can just feel when someone knows their stuff. It felt good to be in her care.


My contractions were now back to 5 minutes apart and starting to be mildly painful. Something was happening!

2pm. But, after my two hours of walking and intermittent monitoring, the resident checked me again and said I hadn’t progressed. This was really surprising considering what I was starting to feel. So, they wanted to break my water to get things moving. I was scared of this. With Grace, my water broke in transition and it was a loud violent burst, not a slow trickle of water like you sometimes see in movies. It was rather traumatic honestly. And I feared not progressing even with my water broken. I feared Joshua not responding well. But, I had to put fear aside and have faith.

Nancy put on music–her own labor playlist on Spotify. It was instantly calming. We prayed. I was scared but ready. We FaceTimed with Grace, who was happily eating a snack with Grama Celia and baking oatmeal almond cookies (which I later devoured an entire bag of). I missed her so much.


Anesthesiology came in while we waited on my water to be broken. I wanted to have a natural birth like I had with Grace, but Ari wanted me to at least listen to the anesthesiology options. A new thing at UNC is nitrous oxide (laughing gas). They give very low doses to take the edge off of during contractions. I knew I didn’t want an epidural, but I said it was fine for them to bring the nitrous tank in just in case. I didn’t plan to use it, but I trusted Ari and he felt I should have it there in case I changed my mind. Remember that thing about him knowing me well after ten years?

3:15pm. A special lady came in to break my water because she had the “longest hands,” according to the resident. She had brown sleek hair and beautiful posture, like a dancer. I expected immediate pain and a big gush, but it was nothing like that. I was a slow pour of tons and tons of warm water. So much water. I kept asking for more towels because it just kept going. There was much anticipation at that point, but nothing happened for about thirty minutes.


3:45pm. Then the contractions started. Real contractions. I was SO grateful! I had craved them so much. I actually laughed and smiled as the contractions started. That’s what waiting does—it makes you want the pain and all the feelings. Up till the weeks of waiting, I was afraid of labor and didn’t want to experience it again. God had a plan. I couldn’t wait to meet our little guy! I craved finally holding him and I was ready to labor.


4:15pm. And then, very shortly after, active labor began. It was all very fast.


I remember not being able to get comfortable. Suddenly, I felt severe lower back pain, which I hadn’t experienced with Grace.


I stood up and pressed all my weight into Ari. I began to get the shakes and more pain–couldn’t-talk-through-it kind of pain. Ari could tell this wasn’t normal to feel this much this fast and he offered me the nitrous. I didn’t want it but after he offered several more times I decided to try it. It helped a little but not enough to continue using it. The pain was just too intense at the point.


The resident checked me again and said I was still 5cm. This blew my mind. How could I not be progressing but feeling all these things!? Eeva and Ari looked at each other perplexed too. That’s when I knew it was time to wave my white flag. If I was only 5cm dilated, and feeling all of this pain, there was NO WAY I was going to get to 10cm. No way. I couldn’t stop shaking. My teeth chattered as I asked for the anesthesiologist and then the major pain came on like a tidal wave. In 30 minutes I went from nothing to the worst pain I’ve every experienced.


Contractions were now coming every two minutes and all in my lower back. I moaned and yelled for help and called upon the Lord and told Ari to make the anesthesiologist hurry many times. They finally came as my contractions were peaking. I was afraid of the epidural, but I just couldn’t do it anymore. Labor is humbling.


5:00pm. In between one of the intense contractions, I asked Nancy to play Selah. This song. Every birth is different, but I encourage you to play meaningful music if you can. Hearing this song in the background, with all the pain, feeling helpless, and in hearing these lyrics, I was reminded of the bigger picture. No matter what I was feeling, the Lord was with us. It gave me peace. Our son was on his way. The pain wouldn’t last forever.


I thought about Jesus dying for me. Taking on all my sin. Experiencing unfathomable pain for me–a sinner who completely didn’t deserve that kind of love. I kept thinking about “sharing in Christ’s sufferings.” What I was feeling was so small compared to what He experienced, and yet my pain was connecting me to Him. This gave me comfort.


6:00pm. I was screaming at this point as they had me sit up and lean over the bed into Ari, holding as still as possible, to place the epidural. I felt two sets of hand working on my back and Eeva with a fetal monitor pressed into my stomach to be sure Joshua was okay. I kept asking if he was alright as Ari and Eeva were glued to the monitor. Ari doesn’t flinch under pressure, but I could tell they were slightly concerned.


I begged the anesthesiologists to hurry. They didn’t tell me till they got the needle in that it would take another 10-15 minutes for it to begin working. I cried. It took about 8-10 more contractions for it to kick in, but something wasn’t right. I felt a little numb on my right side, but suddenly the pain was worse on my left side. I was weak by that point from shaking and shaking uncontrollably.


I cried and told them it wasn’t working. It felt like a knife was in my left side. There were many people in the room at that point, trying to figure out how to help me. I couldn’t stop shaking.


6:15pm. Until Nancy handed Ari scriptures to read me.

I had printed out several verses that my friend Val had given me for Grace’s birth. Ari calmly began reading the words, slowly and tenderly, close to my ear.

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9


And then…

I stopped shaking.



For a moment.

It was probably 15 seconds, but it felt like I was floating. Nancy prayed over me. Sweet relief.


Nancy and Ari were so encouraging. Ari was steadfast in his calm. And Nancy kept telling me I was doing so well and coaching me: Relax your forehead. You can do this. Breathe through it. Ari and I hadn’t taken a birthing class before but I knew Nancy had done the Bradley classes. They were both so wonderful.


Another contraction began to peak. Ari held my hand, let me press into his chest, and squeeze his hand tightly. I felt Joshua descend lower and the pain intensified even more.

6:30pm. The anesthesiologist brought in ice chips to test the pain. I was indeed still feeling everything on my left side. (Side note: For me, I felt my legs and could still move with the epidural. All it did was numb me a bit, not totally block feeling.) They were prepping to adjust my epidural to fix it, but instead it fell out. So, they were going to completely replace it…

Then I felt something warm just as they were about to place another epidural catheter. Eeva got this look in her eyes like something was up. (I didn’t know it at the time, but I was bleeding a lot.) She said “Hold on let me check her.” Everything got quiet. “Well, it’s time for you to push this baby out! You are fully dilated!” Oh my stars! What a turn of events. I was SO HAPPY and so grateful. I laughed and cheered and was overwhelmed with joy.


6:45pm. I heartily agreed to push instead of waiting to get a new epidural placed, even though they said my current epidural would wear off soon and the pain was so intense. Eeva made a phone call and suddenly there were ten people pouring into the room all at once, turning machines on and getting into position.


As my contractions continued, Ari kept telling me all the things they were doing to get ready for us to meet our baby. Table ready. Baby catching things ready! Baby warmer on! A sweet blonde resident appeared below me, ready to deliver him. I kept crying and laughing and saying “God is so good!” There had been no laughing in my last birth experience. This was such redemption.


7:00pm. Eeva took charge and got very close to my ear. “Lara, I need you to listen to every word I say.” Okay! Anything you say. I felt confident with her there. It was time to push. Intense bearing down. I was motivated wanting to see him and working against the clock with my epidural. Five women surrounded me, coaching me on. I felt like I was trying to lift a car!


Somewhat miraculously, just as they said they could see his head, all my pain left me.


I couldn’t feel the contractions coming on so I listened to my body as much as I could, and waited for Eeva to tell me what to do.

I had a moment of pure emotion in between a contraction, realizing our lives were about to change. Grace wasn’t going to be my baby anymore. I told Ari in that moment that I missed Grace and couldn’t wait to see her and for her to meet her brother.


They coached me and cheered me on. I could hear so much in their voices when to really keep going or not. I worked so hard, grabbed my legs and curled myself around him.

The delivery resident said, “Well he has lots of hair!” That was so exciting to hear! He was right there.

More pushing. And pushing. And silence and stillness between. Then there was one round that seemed to last forever and I got worried that things were slowing down. I rested for a moment and then another contraction came. I pushed again.


Ari said something about our baby’s head being there and then he said, “They are getting the baby catching things out! I see him!”

7:17pm. One last push with all my might and he made his way into the world. And now I’m crying typing this.


9 lbs, 3 oz, 21.5 inches long. 13 days after his expected due date, but right on time : )

He came out facing up to the stars, which explained the intense back labor.


They put him on my chest and I was elated. I couldn’t stop laughing and crying and praising God! “It’s a person!” I cried. “God is so good!” He was so calm on my chest and barely cried. So relaxed and calm. I couldn’t stop crying happy tears.


And then someone in the room said, “Look at all that red hair!” You guys. He was a redhead! That blew me away. I still can’t get over it! A redhead!


I couldn’t get over the fact that he has red hair! That was the last thing I expected! : )

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Only Grace knew his name before he was born, and it was a joy to finally share it with our family and friends.

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Ari held the phone to my ear so I could say hello to his mom and dad : )


The room ever so slowly got quiet as people left, and left us to skin to skin. It was magical.


This man. He is a great daddy.

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I had a permasmile as they wheeled us to our room.

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This photo above melts my soul.

I heard the sweetest little voice as they opened the doors to the recovery wing: “Mommy!!!” Grace was beaming with excitement as she rushed to us to see her little brother. That is a moment I won’t forget.


My mom and Grace greeted him with joy and we piled into our room for the first time as a family of four.

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And this really is just the beginning. The beginning of the best and hardest changes. The beginning of a new life. I have so much more to share next.

Till then, here is a peek at the little man today…


6 weeks old, and a whopping 16.5lbs (I told you he likes to eat. This is a 6 month onesie!).



I love him. And his daddy. And his sister. And all the friends who have prayed for us during this time. And the God who made them all.

Up next: The first days with a newborn, recovery, these first weeks, things I would do again, things I would do differently, and a whole lot more.

In case you missed it: Sharing the news that we were unexpectedly expecting and choosing his name. Also: Nancy’s post and perspective on Joshua’s birth.

Birth day photographs by the truly incredible Nancy Ray.




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Our son was born today at 7:17pm after a miraculous day of answered prayers. And he’s a redhead! Be still my heart. 9 lbs, 4 oz, 21.5 inches long. I wrote this while we waited on him to arrive this last week, and I’m so grateful to finally share this story. More to come on the adventure of today in a couple weeks after we settle in with this little love.. 


Joshua Cecil Isaacson. This name. Oh, this name. With Grace, we knew very quickly what her name would be. Grace was the undeserved gift we had been given in our marriage. A fresh start. New hearts. A shared faith. I prayed, and that’s what God told me we should name her. It was as clear as can be.

But, this little one. His name has been a test of faith and surrender. Sometimes God wants to change us before He gives us answers to our prayers. Sometimes that change is the answer. And if God is in your heart change, it means that there is a story that points right back to Him. A really good story.

Through waiting and loss and waiting some more, we surrendered and rejoiced in a new path: adoption. And then… the day we finished our adoption paperwork, there were two pink lines. The timing was unmistakably God’s. And there was no doubt in our minds that we should keep going with our adoption. Read the whole story here. Right now, we are waiting to be matched with our littlest girl.

On February 7th this year, something else happened. Another unmistakable God story. Pause right now here and go read this. Don’t read any further till you do. Come right back to this spot when you’re done. I’ll be here : )

So there you have it. It was a big day. Big surrender and life change in the months that have followed.

Back to that weekend for a minute…

Ari and I stood up in church the next morning during a moving song that our friend Beverly sang, grasping each other’s hand, knowing without a doubt that we had been set free. We had let go of the past and moved forward. I can’t even describe that feeling with adequate words. There is no freedom on earth that compares to the freedom of knowing that you have nothing to hide. Nothing to feel shame about. Nothing. You are completely forgiven. His grace is truly amazing.

If you are reading this and have no idea what I mean, or feel frustrated not having felt His grace, or want it more than words–I rarely say this but–I know how you feel. For so long I thought, “Maybe I’m not good enough, or reading my Bible enough, or mature enough as a Christian. Maybe I’ve been too bad. Maybe I’ve messed up too much. Maybe God just isn’t listening.” I felt like I didn’t get it and I never would. Then I had Grace. And God showed me that faith and a relationship with Him are not about my ability to perform well; faith is about surrender. It’s not about me. It’s about Him. Knowing that He is God and I am not and that is a very good thing. He has the power to change hearts and bring what feels dead to life (our marriage for starters), not because we are awesome, but because He is. That is why it’s called the “Good News.” We don’t deserve His grace and He gives it to us anyway. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. - Ephesians 2:8

So, whatever it is that has been holding you back from surrendering to Him and laying your burdens down…




Choose God. Set your foot on new ground, against all odds, as Joshua did. Step into the middle of the river and watch God make a way for you. He can.

Nothing on this earth is worth carrying a burden that is holding you back from your Maker. Nothing. For me, surrender is hard. The first chapter of my book starts with giving birth to Grace because that was the most challenging physical surrender I can remember. I had no control and had to fully rely on Him. Equal to that surrender has been surrendering my pride over these years, namely this year. Dying to myself. Times of humility and confession: “God I need you and I want you. But I know something isn’t right. Please help me turn away from all the junk that’s distracting me from what matters—from You.” I’ve prayed that many times and God always answers because He wants our hearts. All of our hearts.

Moving forward means first letting something go. What is that thing God is trying to get you to let go of? Start with prayer if this feels overwhelming or you don’t know where to start. Ask God what to do and then dive in, even and especially, if it feels hard. Surrender is worth it.

Back to February. Having laid it all at His feet, we both knew that Joshua was the name the Lord had given him. God is pretty big on names. Names carried meaning and stories of faith that helped others have faith too. If God changed someone’s heart, a new name came with that heart change many times (Saul to Paul). Ari and I felt strongly that this name of his would tell a story–His story–even if we didn’t fully understand it all yet.


Insert nine months of “but!” I began agonizing over this name in the silliest ways and battled between total surrender to God and this: “Josh” sounded too young. His first name would end in a vowel and didn’t fit with the vowel that started “Isaacson.” It was a mouthful. I couldn’t think of any cute baby nicknames that went with Joshua. Joshy? J? We also loved the name and story of Daniel. So, would he be Joshua Daniel? JD? Or Daniel Joshua? DJ? You guys. The name game in my head was a mess. I spent months debating these things in my head and with Ari, and fighting God on it. You see, God wants meaningful stories to be told that point back to Him, and the enemy really doesn’t love that. At all.

Every time I went back to God and let go of all the name game mess, He said, “Trust me. This is my story.” And, friends, His plans have always been far better than mine. This wasn’t about choosing a baby name. It was about our hearts needing to change over the last nine months.

Letting go of our plans for His. Our comforts for others. Our fear for faith.

We told no one our thoughts through this process. We just prayed. We read scripture. The story of Joshua, Daniel, and others who trusted in the Lord. In retrospect, it was very good. It was just us and God. In it all, we were changed in a million little ways. We felt God saying, “Just keep listening…”


And then Kristin walked in my door. She showed up at my house all the way from Florida to surprise me during our team summer BBQ just a few weeks ago. In true Kristin fashion, she breezed in the door with a bouquet of balloons and a freshly-cooked batch of my favorite quinoa salad.

That night, we picked corn fresh from the garden, sampled just-pulled carrots, and chatted over dinner about everything from favorite summer memories to the best doughnuts in the area. And then we talked baby names.The ladies surprised me with a little shower and gave their name “guesses.”

Lisa: Jacob Cecil Isaacson

Emily: David Cecil Isaacson

These ladies know us well. They knew the name would be Biblical. They knew how much my grandpa, Cecil Austin, influenced my faith and love of gardening. It has been a year of cultivating meaningful relationships and spending lots of time getting our hands dirty in the mineral-drenched soil, just as Cecil loved to do. He loved what mattered: God first, his wife, and his vegetable garden. He didn’t care about accolades; He cared about eternity. The first paragraph of my book is about grandpa’s love for his wife, Celeste, who passed the day after we found out we were unexpectedly pregnant. It was also the same day we finished our adoption paperwork. God was undoubtedly in all of this.

And then Kristin: Joshua Cecil Isaacson

The moment Kristin said it, we knew. We didn’t have to speak about it. Ari and I tried to play it off and not look at each other when that name was spoken for the first time. His name. Dinner continued. Kristin was the last to leave. She insisted on helping me do dishes, which turned into deeper conversation about family and our hearts.

As we walked her to the door, Ari couldn’t help it. “Kristin. The name… you were right.”

Somehow it was all confirmed. We all had tears in our eyes. I had no words. Just awe.

But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15

This journey hasn’t been about a name or a baby, it has been about God. About who He is. About His power to do what feels impossible. About Him being God and good, even in times of waiting and grief. Waiting on the Lord taught us so much. We waited for His perfect timing for this child to come. We waited nine months for this name to be confirmed. We waited and trusted and failed along the way a lot, but we kept going. And in the wait we were refined. Changed. Readied for whatever He has ahead for us.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. I have clung to these words from Isaiah for two years, in times of doubt and fear, and have seen them come true over and over again. God can do far more than we ask or imagine.

I don’t know where this post finds you. I don’t know your heart today or what’s weighing on you. What I do know: If you are in a season of doubt or fear or feeling lost, trust what you can’t yet see. God is listening. Even when you can’t feel it. He is. He makes streams in the wasteland. He makes all things new.


“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua‬ ‭1:7-9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Welcome to the world, son. The Lord will be with you wherever you go.

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My friend Rhi asked me yesterday when it finally sunk in that this was real. I told her that it still hasn’t sunk in, and I’m not sure it will till he’s here. I am nine months pregnant (something I have to repeat to myself often to wrap my head around it) and I don’t talk about our little guy much because I still remember the pain of loss and waiting and it makes me pause.


Some tell us we are crazy for saying yes to what’s ahead with two new babies around the same time, but we know without any spot of doubt that this is His plan. Sometimes His plans make no logical sense to the world, and that’s what faith is. Trusting in what we can’t yet see. That doesn’t mean I don’t have fear and moments when I forget to trust. I do. But I try to let my faith speak louder than my fear. I remember that the end of the story is already written and the best is yet to come.

IMG_8968Mini golf this weekend and a very excited Gracie.

What’s new: Throughout the Fruitful Summer series, we’ve been talking about cultivating what matters. And, so, I decided to start (semi) maternity leave now. Grace has had a challenging last couple of weeks and, after a hard weekend, God gave me this clarity: I can’t get these days back with her. To help her with this transition, I decided to stop working full time as of Monday. I still have meetings and projects to wrap up (2016 PowerSheets design, new product launch coming) in the next few days, but I’m putting my focus on her now. Spending the day with her yesterday and helping her through lots of emotions was so fruitful. I am grateful that the Lord has provided this time for me to love her well in prep for two more littles joining us soon.

IMG_8932Ari and Grace reading while we waited on the doc to come in during my check-up last week.

Baby prep: I cleaned out the nursery, finished our Amazon registry last week, and all the baby clothes are washed and ready. We have plenty of clothes from Grace since I bought her mostly neutral colors when she was born, and Emily sent us a big box from Brady and the twins — I am so grateful. I packed my hospital bag, printed out a tentative birth plan, and made a final list of other things to tackle in the next couple weeks. But, the biggest thing on the list is praying. I can plan all I want, but the Lord knows the plan and what we need most. Knowing that I went through postpartum depression after Grace, I’m also praying on that. You can read about my postpartum experience here, Grace’s birth here, and watch the announcement video here. It’s amazing to look back on these experiences and see how much God has changed in our lives since then! When Grace was born, we had very little community here. Ari had just started to come to church with me and our marriage was so different. I am so grateful for the brothers and sisters we have now who are all so supportive and excited for these babies — close dear friends!

Names, etc: We have a short list of names for baby boy, but this pregnancy has felt private and sacred. Ari and I both feel that we’ll likely wait till we hold him to name him. With Grace, I prayed and God immediately said “Mercy or Grace” — the gifts we had been given in our marriage. With this little guy, it’s been an exercise in trusting Him and waiting on His timing. So, we will wait these few more days to see him and give him a name : )

What’s ahead: Lord willing welcoming baby boy, being matched with our littlest girl, maternity leave, my parents coming into town soon, and a big update is that we’re moving our shop out of my house. It’s time. For all ten years I’ve owned my own business, the garage has always housed something other than a car: wedding planning supplies, floral vases, and right now about 20 pallets of shop products and magazines. With five employees in my house and two new babies on the way, the shop had to make a move. In the fall, I’ll be releasing the new 2016 PowerSheets options, speaking at the Influence Conference (with all the babies and Ari in tow!), leading the Making Things Happen Conference, and writing my second book about cultivating what matters. After the book is done in early 2016, I won’t go back to work full time. I’ll be part time for the future after that.


June PowerSheets Goals progress:

  • Write the words He has for me. After struggling with writing and much prayer, God gave me a new book to write. So, I took a risk and sent a brand new proposal to my editors. I am grateful to say they love it and my new deadline is after maternity leave – February 1. Still not a lot of time considering what we will have going on in our lives with two babies, but I praise Him for this new direction.
  • Cultivate fruitful relationships. YES! Fruitful Summer has been a joy to create and I hope you’ve enjoyed it too : ) If you missed it, you’ll find links at the bottom of this post.
  • Read the Word and do what it says. Trying to do this daily.
  • Deny myself and take up my cross. Again, always working on this.
  • Listen and lead well through an encouraging Bible Bunch. We will be studying through Interrupted this month and next. Yes, this was a wonderful gathering in June!


And now, my July PowerSheets Goals (assuming baby boy comes on time):

  • Soak in the Word
  • Transition to maternity leave – in progress
  • Love Ari and Grace well
  • Pray, surrender, listen
  • Listen and lead well through an encouraging last Bible Bunch before baby
  • Love our family group + friends well before baby
  • Release the Write the Word journal series - coming soon
  • Pray about labor + post-partum

Weekly + daily goals: (lots of prayer again this month, as you can see above)

IMG_8985Hosting friends this past weekend.

This may be my last update before baby, friends. Thank you for walking this journey with me and for your prayers. I treasure them. Here’s to a meaningful July!

P.S. In case you missed Fruitful Summer:

P.P.S. Get on this below! Details here. Contest ends July 15th.


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When life gives you lemons… invite your friends over for some porch sittin’, lemonade, and a do-over : ) Anyone else need one of those? And porch sittin’ is a real thing. We did it Sunday night with friends and it was so needed. We talked about everything from the Bible to favorite TV shows from our childhood (mine: Reading Rainbow and Fraggle Rock). Porch sittin’ and great conversation can cure a whole lot of things, including glitches in email sending. We had some technical hiccups getting our first-ever Fruitful Summer series out this week — and this series has my heart and soul in it — so I’m blogging Week One here for you! If you want to get in on the rest of this five-week series on cultivating meaningful friendships, click here to sign up before Wednesday, June 10. Don’t miss this. I am so excited!

Okay… on to Fruitful Summer.


Confession: writing books is not something I love doing, but I am learning to love what happens in the process. Through the long hours at my desk, pressing into the tough soil of fear, comparison, and doubt — something is happening. As my heart is being refined in writing a book about cultivating what matters, my friendships are becoming more fruitful.

But, you should know something: this is new for me. I haven’t always had close friendships. In fact, most of my life, I’ve had my foot in my mouth and felt too busy, too flawed, too introverted, too imperfect to have friends. Real friends—friends who love me in my mess and encourage me to live on purpose. I wanted close friendships so much, but it felt impossible.

I have a surprise for you.

Each season we’ll be going on an adventure together. #FruitfulSummer is all about cultivating meaningful relationships and doing life together.

9159089e-ad18-41f6-8c0e-a96c26c9485eHow? Sign up for five simple weeks of learning how to cultivate meaningful connections.

Here’s what to expect in the series — and a preview from Week One just for you:

1) A short weekly note from me with quick encouragement and free printables for you and your friends. Here is a preview from Week 1: The Fruitful Summer Guide!

Inside the Guide:

  • Beautiful printables
  • My top tips for making connections happen
  • Fruitful conversation starters
  • Insight from some of my closest friends
  • Free Fruitful Summer wallpapers for your iPhone or mobile device
  • A big shop discount code
  • Our top friendship gift picks for the summer
  • …and much more!

2) A fresh video each week. Nothing fancy (all shot on my iPhone), just a whole lot of fun. Here’s Week One for your viewing pleasure! You may spot some familiar faces in here : )

Fruitful Summer, Week One – Lara Casey and Friends from lara casey on Vimeo.

3) More intentional relationships for you! We’re going to get practical and real in this series and I can’t wait to see what new things grow in your life as a result.

Why #FruitfulSummer? Because learning that I didn’t have to be perfect to have close friends changed my life. My hope is that this series helps you discover the same!

P.S. Share this post and don’t forget about the Summer Reading Giveaway too! Encourage your friends to join you for a #FruitfulSummer. Feel free to snag this caption and use any of the graphics in this post: “I’m getting ready for a #FruitfulSummer, cultivating meaningful relationships with @LaraCasey and friends — join us!

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 1.24.42 PM

P.P.S. As if this wasn’t enough for one day, our Summer Clearance Sale is ON! Get 60% off prints, desk cards, T’s and more — no code needed — until everything sells out.

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Hello, friend! How is it almost JUNE already!? I am having a baby next month (due July 31)! This is blowing my mind a bit, but I am feeling more and more ready thanks to an unexpectedly fruitful May. It was a challenging month and, in that refining, good things are starting to grow in our garden and in our lives.


Photos by my sweet friend, Robyn Van Dyke!

What’s new: I have been intentionally away from the internet the last couple months to get my head and heart in the right place for writing. Instead of digesting Instagram and pixels, I’ve been reading more than I ever have in my life! In May, I read Interrupted, Kisses from Katie, Radical, and studied a lot of the Bible. I highly recommend each of these books. They have changed me! Up next on my reading list for June: When Helping Hurts, The Irresistible Revolution, Shepherding a Child’s Heart, and more Bible reading.

What’s ahead: Lord willing, writing book two, running our business well, gardening with Grace, cultivating meaningful relationships, and growing a baby. Also, something fun is launching Monday, June 1. Don’t miss this. Sign up here to get all the details when it launches.

garden-robynvandyke-5 copyCan you spot Hootie guarding our Big Max pumpkins?

Onto my May goals update. Here is the link to my May goals and refreshed 2015 Goals. The Refresh was SO helpful!

May PowerSheets Goals progress:

  • Write to help others move forward to God. Yes, I wrote the tiniest bit, but more than that, my heart has been getting refined and prepared. I believe this month will be full of words, Lord willing.
  • Complete the James Challenge (I’m writing out the book of James this month along with prayers related to each section — it has been awesome so far!) Yes, I completed this and LOVED it! I learned a great deal by slowly praying and writing through scripture. I plan to continue this in June with Romans 12. Writing the Word is awesome. More to come on this. Hint hint – new journals releasing in July!
  • Lead an encouraging Bible Bunch, studying Acts 1-9 this month. Yes, it was a great night learning about God together! I love these ladies.
  • Worship and please the Lord on our family vacation. Yes, this was the biggest highlight of May. Too much to say here, but this trip changed us. More here.
  • Help others move forward to God at the Creative Women’s Summit — glorify Him! I hope I pleased Him with what I shared. I was grateful to be a part of it!
  • Prayerfully introduce Write the Word in May or June. Coming this month.

Little by little, focusing on progress not perfection, I did well on my weekly and daily goals as well. 


June PowerSheets Goals:

  • Write the words He has for me.
  • Cultivate fruitful relationships. Want to join me on this one? Be sure you are signed up for Monday’s launch!
  • Read the Word and do what it says.
  • Deny myself and take up my cross.
  • Listen and lead well through an encouraging Bible Bunch. We will be studying through Interrupted this month and next.

Weekly goals: (lots of prayer!)

  • Pray for church family
  • Pray for friends
  • Pray for family
  • Pray for WORDS – truth
  • Pray for our children
  • Pray for marriage
  • Pray for team
  • Pray for Godly stewardship

Daily goals:

  • Write the Word
  • Pray earnestly
  • Exercise hard
  • Clean green eating
  • Deny myself

Fresh links:

Here’s to a fruitful June!

P.S. Surprise — a big summer reading giveaway! Share this post (feel free to use one of the graphic below), sign up for my monthly encouragement email, and be entered to win one of these books for you or a friend: The Best Yes (not pictured because it’s so good and I loaned my copy to a friend), Interrupted, Kisses from Katie, Prayers for the Dreamer and Doer, Unveiled Wife, Radical, The Fringe Hours, Let’s All Be Brave, Enough, The Power of Starting Something Stupid, Just Rise Up, or one of five copies of Make it Happen — great summer reading for friends to do together! Simply leave a comment here with the book you want to win (for you or a friend) and let me know that you signed up and shared. The more you share, the more entries you get. My hope is to get great books in your hands and encourage as many people as possible to join us for the good things coming Monday.

Winners will be announced on the @LaraCaseyShop Instagram Friday, June 12!


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Hello, friends! I know it can be challenging to connect through pixels on a screen, but I am a real person typing this and you are a real person reading this : ) So, I’m asking you a question: How are you?

When someone asks that question — and wants to know the real answer, we have a choice. We can either brush it off as casual chit chat and say, “I’m fine,” or take a leap of faith and make an intentional connection. And here’s the key: when I answer someone honestly and tenderly, it gives the other person unspoken permission to do the same. It’s a gift of time and intentional connection. So, let’s do this. Where is your heart? What’s weighting on you today? Leave a response here. I’d love to pray for you and I hope others will join me in prayer and encouragement as well! Why am I asking? Because, in order to leap to what’s next, we first need to know where we are. Know the ground you are leaping from in order to know how to move forward well!

2015-04-05_0003These photos Gina took last weekend make my heart soar!

Okay, I’m a few days late writing this goal update, but progress, not perfection. I have found such freedom in that truth this past month! I hope you have too. If not, begin now. Let go of the guilt and the chase for perfect. Hold fast to the truth and to grace. There is so much joy and peace in knowing we are not in control, but God is. His plans are far better than mine!

My March goals went well through a lot of hard work and God making things happen where I couldn’t (which was pretty much everything on my list). Here is my March update and what’s ahead for April!


What’s new: Contractions and a basketball under my shirt! Mini baby update: Braxton Hicks (happening as I type this) are revving up and I’m waddling into through the sixth month of pregnancy. I’ve found myself tired and lightheaded a lot, so I’ve been eating beef and spinach at almost every meal. We still have no names picked out, but we finally finished our Amazon registry. This little guy may not have a name, but he will have diapers : )  Other new things: We launched the Southern Wedding Project Life this month, Make It Happen Studio Calico card set, completed our eight-week Dynamic Marriage class (more on that in a minute), celebrated 9 years of marriage, had an inspiring afternoon hosting Lysa TerKeurst and team at my house, and God was so good in lots of events and Bible studies this month including the Making Things Happen Conference, Ladies Bible Bunch, IF Table, our Tuesday study group, and in our church family group that we have been leading for the last eight months. It was a March madness, indeed!


What’s ahead: Writing a book. That’s the big one — putting up my do not disturb sign and sticking to it. I need your help there too friends. I would cherish your prayers as I say no in order to say YES. Also, PowerSheets and Southern Weddings Planners arrive today (praise the Lord — we had a shipping delay that tried to throw my patience out the window, but God reined me back in!), our second annual team retreat starts this Sunday night, we’re celebrating our birthday, my mom is coming to visit for five days next week to help plant our garden, we will move into our new office space this month, and we are hosting a big Passover Seder tonight with 40 friends.

IMG_6453Same shirt and place as last month; bigger belly : ) 

March PowerSheets Goals updates:

Every time I sit and make time to work through my PowerSheets, I am so grateful I did! I said the same thing last month because it always holds true. The hard work is worth it. A peek at my progress:

  • Begin writing a powerful God-glorifying book two. This didn’t happen, but I now feel more ready. I struggled a lot on March with comparison in writing and not feeling good enough. I also had and still have a lot going on that pulls for my attention around here, making it challenging to write. But! I am ready and can’t wait to dig in now.
  • Host a meaningful MTH Conference. YES! Triple yes! This was the most peace-filled, joyful MTH experience for me — my 45th time leading this workshop. It was just awesome. If you’ve been considering joining us, take the leap and come this November. Early-Bird registration is now open!
  • Finish reading The Best Yes. No. But, I still count this as a win. What I did read was life-changing! Also, getting to spend time with Lysa and team in March was one of the biggest highlights.
  • Diligently complete our Dynamic Marriage class. Yahoo!!! God is so good! This course changed our lives as individuals and the way we do life together! We are actively working on living out what we learned. It was so good. I highly recommend this course.
  • Prayerfully lean my schedule to commit wholeheartedly to writing book two. Yes, this is a daily battle to say “no,” but I’ve made great progress here in pulling back. If I don’t answer your texts or emails for about 12 weeks, this is why! It’s so hard to say no — especially to good things — but what I learned from Lysa’s book is that you have to say a BEST yes. For me, the best yes right now is writing this book!
  • Begin final adoption paperwork. Wow, this goal review now has me wanting to dance. We have officially completed every bit of adoption paperwork and it was a lot of work. Long hours. Lots of prayer. Seemingly endless paperwork. But, knowing the “why” behind all of it made it a joy. Our next step is to submit it all to our adoption consultant and pray about the timing God desires. Whatever He says, we’ll do!
  • Complete and prayerfully move into new office space. As I type this, the finishing touches are happening. I think I’ll be able to move in sometime late tomorrow or Thursday and I CAN’T WAIT. I’ve spent the last six weeks working from Grace’s room, the dining room table, the kitchen counter — wherever I could find space. I am so grateful for how hard our worker bees have worked. More updates and pics coming soon!
  • Celebrate eight years of marriage well. I’ll give a half-yes on this one. We did have a date night for our anniversary. And hilariously enough realized we’ve been married for nine years, not eight, thanks to filling out our adoption paperwork! But, that week we had overcommitted our schedules and felt weary. This was a wake-up call month for us in learning to say no to even time with friends so we can say yes to more rest and family time.
  • Write our plans for all future Bible studies and classes I’m teaching in the next weeks. Didn’t happen as planned, but I did pray for all of them more and each class/study has gone so well, by His grace and not by my own might!
  • GIVE – meet + pray for needs. Yes. I pray to continue this forever, but I am grateful to have been more prayerful in March.
  • Fitness and weights. I started doing weights again every other day. It was hard to stick to, but it happened. I put this on pause last week with MTH making my schedule a little wonky. So, hold me accountable here friends — I plan to get back on it tomorrow morning.

IMG_6454   I took this on my morning walk with Gracie today — the dogwoods are glorious right now!

My April PowerSheets Goals: 

Monthly goals:

  • Write the book. This is my main focus for April, May, and June. If I don’t reply to your emails or texts, it’s because I have to pour into these pages in order to make time for these babies that are coming into our lives soon. I don’t want to have the book still on my list when babies come!
  • Lead a truth-filled April Bible Bunch. Update: done! Last night was awesome.
  • Enjoy a joyful team retreat
  • Be a joyful light to my mom when she visits
  • Plant our veggie + flower gardens. Seeds and bulbs are here, we just need some fresh soil and to get to digging! You can follow the garden progress here.
  • Move into my new office with a “Heaven is my Home” focus — i.e. not focusing on stuff, but rather on doing God’s work in this new space and shepherding this space well.
  • Prepare well for our family vacation next month
  • Host and worship during a meaningful Passover
  • Cultivate fields of gratitude — praise Him!

IMG_6455This is where my PowerSheets have lived the last couple months and it has been working for me — in my closet! I also put a few sheets of scripture that I’m working on memorizing (James and Romans) and a verse that gets my heart prepared for the day.

Weekly/daily goals:

  • Prayerful marriage tending, using all we learned in Dynamic Marriage
  • Sing hymns to Grace/meaningful morning walks
  • Send Encouragement Postcards
  • Heaven is our Home actions — finances (we’re working to cut our family budget in half to save for our adoption) + choices (where we choose to use our resources of time and money and heart)
  • Prayer for team, contentment, friends, and others in their faith and marriages
  • Read some of The Best Yes myself and Shepherding a Child’s Heart with Ari
  • Fitness + weights
  • Rest – sleep and soul rest
  • Get outside — yay for great weather this month!
  • And the big one: Love God’s word.

Fresh links:

  • I shared the story of our marriage crumbling and God doing “the impossible” on the Unveiled Wife
  • Step inside my office and life in Cupcake Magazine’s spring issue
  • There are more, but I’m going with done is better than perfect here! I need to go eat lunch number three : )

Lastly, some encouragement: Where you can’t, God can. I’m holding onto that truth this month!

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Happy March, friends! Welcome to a new series I’m starting where I’ll update you on my goals and what’s new around here!

What’s new: I’ve loved the first part of this year, taking my time setting good goals, growing in friendships (I’ll be teaching a Influence class on friendship this month), spreading our mission with the ladies I work alongside, and watching my book launch unfold. That last part has been surreal and yet peaceful. Many people ask me, “How’s the book doing?” I don’t know. I just pray it is encouraging others. I’ve been intentionally fixing my eyes and heart on what’s in front of me, namely these silly people below. This is normal Gracie behavior, as evidenced by Ari’s non-reaction : )


Ari and I have been taking an eight-week Dynamic Marriage class which is intense and so good. We’ve been leading several Bible studies together and trying to keep up with Gracie. How do three-year-old’s have so much energy!? 

Also new around here: lots of sawdust! (Do you like our paper runway up there in the first pic?) I work from the second floor of our house, in one room, with five other ladies. We’ve been bursting at the seams for space in our little home office, so we’re deep into attic renovations. Till then, this is where the shop is operating from: the (future) nursery.


Speaking of the shop, we launched a brand new shop last week! This has been over a year in the making and we are tickled pink. I love our little packing assistant (see the Our Story page)…

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 3.00.05 PM

What’s ahead: I’m starting to write book two this week and growing a human continues. We are also getting anxious about our adoption, but trying to be patient till the end of summer when we will begin the process in full swing. Waiting for something you want is hard, but ripening can happen in times of waiting. We are trusting in that. Also ahead this month is the Making Things Happen Conference, three shoots in Texas for Southern Weddings (I’m not going but the ladies are!), celebrating eight years of marriage (praise Him!), and hopefully getting out in the garden once the snow melts. I can’t wait! We started our seedlings this weekend : )


My March PowerSheets Goals: Every time I sit and make time to work through my PowerSheets (more coming this month — hooray!), I am so grateful I did! The hard work is worth it. A big highlight for me is this goal. More March Goals:

  • Begin writing a powerful God-glorifying book two
  • Host a meaningful MTH Conference
  • Finish reading The Best Yes
  • Diligently complete our Dynamic Marriage class
  • Prayerfully lean my schedule to commit wholeheartedly to writing book two
  • Begin final adoption paperwork
  • Complete and prayerfully move into new office space
  • Celebrate eight years of marriage well
  • Write our plans for all future Bible studies and classes I’m teaching in the next weeks
  • GIVE – meet + pray for needs
  • My weekly goals center around prayer, soaking in the Word, and learning from Godly women.


Fresh links:

P.S. CONGRATS to all the Goal Setting Series winners!

Happy March, friends! What are your goals? Trying anything new this month? 

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

But, God…

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


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:


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?


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!


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.


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.


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…


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!!!


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!


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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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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