Category: Personal

Welcome to the final post in my fifth-annual Goal Setting Series! Each year, I am left in awe of the leaps of faith you take as we go through this process together, and this year tops them all! I am reading every single comment and am so excited for your year ahead. You are making meaningful powerful progress! You are on fire! If you are just joining, it’s never too late to begin and you aren’t “behind” one bit. Now is the best time to get started. Dig in!

2016 Goal Setting, Part 1: What Worked and Where to Start!
2016 Goal Setting, Part 2: What Didn’t Work + What I Learned
2016 Goal Setting, Part 3: Say Yes, Say No, Choose a Word
2016 Goal Setting, Part 4: Set Good Goals

Okay, let’s do some dreaming together! Imagine it: the end of 2016. The weather gets colder, December 2016 rolls around, and you start looking back at the year you’ve just lived. What would it take for you to look back and know that you lived on purpose instead of by accident?

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What will you wish you had started today? Fill in these blanks below (get your free printable here!):

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Knowing where you want to be at the end of 2016, what do you need to cultivate today? Literally today. However many hours or minutes are left as you read this (even if you are reading this in bed), how can you make one small decision in the right direction?

My friend Lysa says that every decision we make has an arrow attached to it, pointing us in one direction or another. Your decisions have the power to fly through all the distractions and fear and aim for a clear target, OR they can float around and miss the goal.

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I want my decision arrows aimed right at Jesus. So, today, I made some decisions and finished my 2016 PowerSheets Goal Setting process. The goals I’m about to share with you may seem simple, but they are boldest scariest goals I’ve ever written. They are coming from a place of restlessness, knowing I’m not using all of my potential yet, but also knowing that the impossible is possible. I have great hope in these goals. My goals are “simple” and that’s leaving lots of room for God to change everything on my path. And you know what? His plans have always been better than mine. I’m up for it.

I’m leaning into the mess and the unknown. I’m willing to let go and not be perfect. I’m willing to sit in the restlessness and un-rushed pace of the little by little to get to the end of this year knowing I lived on purpose. Making hard and powerful decisions with focused arrows attached to them will be worth it. The tending and watering and waiting and getting messy and growing pains will be worth it to get to the flourishing harvest at the end!

I’m all in.

Maybe you are feeling the same hesitation-scary-I’mALLin feeling with me right this second! Let’s choose a new way through the fear together. I’m choosing faith over my fear and I invite you to take the leap with me. Let’s cultivate the faith part, little by little, and the fear part will dry up. We’re not going to fertilize the fear this year, friend! Are you with me?

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Like I said in my first post, you can’t do it all and do it well. Here’s what’s on my mind right now: Two sick babes (one sleeping here on my lap!), 70,000 words to finish in 7 weeks, a family group to encourage, a team of women to lead, a new baby coming in 7 weeks on February 26th (!!!) and so much unknown in adoption and all that is ahead, a home study to renew (since we’ve been in the wait for over a year, it expired), a house to prepare for a new baby, maternity leave to prep for, a business that’s about to go through a major transition period with new employees to train (one flying here on Monday!) and two going on maternity leave (Emily and me), and well… a lot of emotions about all of this. I know I cannot do all the things in front of me well. I have to decide what to focus on and let go of the rest. I have to surrender and trust.

Can you see my white flag waving from where you are? Because it’s flying high. I surrender, and I’m making decisions today to flourish in this year ahead. At the end of 2016, I won’t regret these arrows I’m sending direct to the target!

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I’m saying YES to the mess and (here goes!) no to the internet for two months. I’ll check in every so often (likely just on Periscope once a week to update you on adoption and writing, so follow me there and turn on your notifications!), but I won’t be on social media or email or text messages (sorry in advance friends) much for these eight weeks while I focus on what’s needed inside the four walls of our home: drinking in the Word, praying out my soul and all these emotions, and pouring all He gives me into Ari, my children, preparing for our littlest girl, and these book pages. I’ll still be talking to you every day, you’ll just have to wait a few months to read my words to you : )

I said YES today to trusting that my team is equipped and ready for this season of Emily and I being out. They are incredible, capable, inspiring, magic-filled women. I am so grateful.

I’ve said YES to unrushing my life and stopping each day to look my children in the eyes to tell them how special they are to God and to me. YES to cultivating a flourishing faith in them too : )

I’m saying YES to building Ari up this year in his faith and loving him well. I’m saying yes to the year of monthly date nights that I gifted the ladies in my office, and committed to enjoying with Ari too!

There’s more, and this post is so “undone” but, our adoption case manager just called and it was another reminder to choosing purpose over perfect right now. My decision arrows are cutting through all the things to get to THE thing I need to do right now: write the words He has given me.

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A sneak peek. The book is called, Cultivate: A Grace-filled Guide to an Intentional Life. It’s a guide to embracing imperfect progress and making what matters happen, little by little. It’s a book about flourishing in life and goal gardening. I’ve never been so excited to write. I’m so ready!

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I just paused in writing this to go downstairs and hug Gracie. I found a package in the kitchen with this inside from my friend Erin: a 2016 calendar full of blooms and seed packets. Oh my soul! Y’all. I’m crying typing this. Erin, I love you friend! YES to filling the pages of this calendar with flourishing faith, family, and imperfect progress this year. Yes to planting meaningful seeds today that will grow and bloom with time and tending!

A little of Erin’s story: Years ago she left the hustle and bustle of city life to pursue a slower, simpler and more intentional lifestyle. She and her family dreamed of eating fresh vegetables from their garden, tending a flock of chickens and planting a small orchard. Shortly after they moved in, a generous neighbor brought his tractor over and tilled up a new plot of ground so that she could plant a garden. “Tucked among the many vegetables in that early garden was a double row of flowering sweet peas planted in honor of my great grandmother. Grammy had introduced me to gardening and flowers at a very young age. As a child, I was her “little flower girl” and she tasked me with making bouquets for her bedside table. While my creations were far from beautiful, she always cooed over them as if they were the most precious things on earth. Flowers were a source of great joy and connection between us. So, when the first flush of sweet peas bloomed in our new garden, it felt as if she were there with me. I shared much of the gardens bounty with friends, family and anyone who crossed my path. During that abundant season, word got out and someone ordered a jar of flowers for a friend. I’ll never forget that day as I nervously knocked on her door and awkwardly thrust the bouquet into her hands. Surprised, she buried her face in the flowers and tears immediately welled up in her eyes. She was instantly transported back to her own childhood summers, to a time of great happiness and to her own grandmother’s garden… right then and there I knew I had found my calling.”  Isn’t her story encouraging!? Erin inspires me to dig in, take the leap, and live on purpose!

With that, here are my 2016 Goals for this year of cultivating what matters and flourishing in faith:

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I came up with only two goals for 2016. If I can do these two things, I know that the rest of life will indeed flourish. (Can you guess that I changed my word for the year ahead? Yep! Flourish kept popping up as I wrote my goals and went through the end of this process!)

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Goal 1: Study the Word.

Why? To know the true God. This is the way to everything good—in marriage, business, health, friendships, motherhood, all of life. THIS is the way to lead and love well and to get to where I want to be when I’m 80.

The positive effect taking action on this goal may have on my life and others: I will transform.

How I will feel at the end of this year having made progress on this goal: ALIVE! I will not regret the time I took to do this!

Action ideas:

  • Pray about and decide on a study plan. I’m thinking I will study the Old Testament this year and the NT in 2017, but it may take longer to study through the OT.
  • Use a spiral bound notebook and open it on my desk with an open Bible and a pen ready.
  • Use Jen Wilkin’s method of studying scripture, as well as Jane’s.
  • Use my Write the Word journals daily.
  • Use a journaling Bible to get creative in the Word and be inspired by the Illustrated Faith community.
  • Have a bag ready with a pen and Bible inside to be able to take my studying on the go.
  • Set up my desk to be a place of studying the Word as my main focus – open Bible and materials.
  • Invite Gracie to join me and set up supplies (colorful paper, Bible, pens) for her too!- DONE! I made her a drawer in my desk with paper, pens, and a little Bible.
  • Write this sign to post on my desk: A year of sprouting under the soil, breaking free and letting go of my outer shell, and soaking up nutrients in order to bloom! – DONE!

How I will know I accomplished this goal: By the fruit of my life (But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – Gal 5:22-23) having chosen to study the Word more than I study the world.

Encouraging words: But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. – Psalm‬ ‭1:2-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, Lordteach me your decrees. – Psalm 119:10-12

How I will celebrate at the end of 2016: Anyone have ideas here? I am not sure! 

 

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Goal 2: Pray — in my “war room.” (Read this book or watch this movie!)

Why? To meet and be transformed and INFORMED by God.

The positive effect taking action on this goal may have on my life and others: I will live a peace-filled un-rushed life, and be able to make wise decisions.

How I will feel at the end of this year having made progress on this goal: Connected. Peaceful. Joyful. Taken care of. Whole!

Action ideas: 

  • Take everything off my office walls down. – DONE!
  • Ask God what to do next and what prayers to put on the walls. – DONE!
  • Write the prayers on colorful paper to put on the walls, and write prayers in my VMP Prayer Journal. – DONE!
  • Get on my knees here in my “war room” and talk to God! – DONE!
  • Write family prayers on the kitchen bulletin board.
  • Pray with Grace at night before bed. – DONE last night!
  • Continue to pray with Ari every morning before work and at meals and whenever we feel God tell us to! – DONE this morning!
  • What helps you to pray? I’d love to know! Ideas are welcome!

Side note: Grace is now sitting here with me and she wanted me to write these exact words to you: “Prayer is a good thing. It helps you to know God. God is in the clouds with Jesus. Mommy, I want to write God is so good. (singing now —>) God is so good. He’s so good to me! God answers prayers. Hallelujah! God is so good!”

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Amen, sweet girl!

How I will know I accomplished this goal: By the fruit of my life (But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – Gal 5:22-23) having chosen to pray and talk to God more than I seek approval or comfort from the world.

Encouraging words: Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thess 5:16-18

How I will celebrate at the end of 2016: I will paint my answered prayers on Christmas Day on a big canvas for our living room with Grace. I already have the canvas. I’m teary-eyed thinking about this!

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I just let out a sign of relief. How these goals will play out over the next 12 months will be more specific as I do my monthly PowerSheets pages, but I am so grateful for this process and clarity! I know where I’m going. 

Also, here are my business goals from doing our company PowerSheets together:

    • Lead team WELL and cultivate a culture of WELL.
    • Write Cultivate in January and February and release well in December.
    • Start a movement of making a mess and embracing imperfect progress. Goal setting with open hands.
    • Prepare for and enjoy a joyful adoption maternity leave.
    • Hand off company finances and back-end business this year so I can transition to a part-time role, focusing on writing and big-picture creativity.
    • Lead teaching on new PowerSheets site to help people make meaningful life goals happen and embrace imperfect progress.
    • Create meaningful small collection of shop products.
    • Write and release Couples PowerSheets.
    • Create meaningful new 2017 PowerSheets.
    • Create meaningful Write The Word content throughout the year.
    • Meaningful speaking and teaching through MTH and online conferences.
    • Lead big picture team vision and mission-centered decisions.
    • End the year knowing we lived and created from filled wells, and experienced beautiful team unity doing the good work we were given to do.

Whether you came up with two goals or twenty, I hope you feel more focused on what matters most having done each step alongside me! I am excited to check in with you here on the blog throughout the year to see how you are doing and encourage you. Tell me in the comments: what are your 2016 goals?

Lastly, thank you! Thank you for joining me on this journey. I am still going to be reading every blog comment here and cheering you on. Taking this little by little has been worth it and I am praying you find the same is true for you. Choose to focus on progress—little by little progress—not perfection. Your seemingly small steps forward today will add up, and a year from now, you will be so grateful you started today! Get messy and make it happen, friend!

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Thank you, Lord, for this new year of life. Thank you for my little redheads and for loving us with blooms and bees and all the marvelous things you grew in 2015. My heart feels a little unkempt going into this new year. Help me to let go of control, fear, worry, comparison, and anything that will hold me back from the unique assignment you have for me. I ask you to multiply my trust and relationship with you like never before. Let this be the year that my faith flourishes, and the dry parched areas become blooming fields. Lord, maybe there is someone reading this that wants that too. Help my friend. Help us to let go of what’s behind, experiencing grace and healing in anything left unresolved. Help the soil of our hearts to become rich with You. Life-giving healing You. Help me to begin this new year with an open, repentant, ready heart. But most of all, help me to let go of the belief that I can do anything on my own in the year ahead. I flounder around without you. I lose my way. But, with you I am found. I am content. I trust. I do not fear. You made this little boy sleeping next to me, and he is a miracle. Our rainbow baby. You made her too. Our littlest girl. I’m so excited to meet her in 7ish weeks. Lord, you are so good to us. Life is going to radically change this year and I want to choose you. Over worry. Over anxiety. Over pride. Over unbelief. Over the world and all the things. Help me remember the story you’ve already written in my life – that the impossible is possible. You can change broken imperfect people like me. You are the author of life change. May I use my days and minutes ahead well for you. Passionately. Quietly. Joyfully. – But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Phil 3:13-14

Comment with your answers from each step as we go through this series and enter to win these goodies via the Rafflecopter box at the bottom. One person who comments with answers to every step in this series will win a bonus prize: A (spiral bound) One-Year PowerSheets Workbook. I’m determined to motive you to dig in with me on these powerful steps!

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1. A set of 2016 PowerSheets with a Make It Happen binder and colorful tab stickers
2. Five prints of your choice from the Lara Casey Shop
3. The Finishing School by Valerie Metrejean
4. The Make it Happen audio book, recorded by yours truly!
5. A Journaling Bible (NIV)
6. Five Make it Happen journals
7. Artist’s Loft Fundamentals Watercolor Set
8. Two tubs of Vega Protein and Greens + a Vega shaker cup. Bonus: sign up for a free Vega account to get $15, and I’ll get $15 too!
9. Ashley Brooke Too Legit water bottle
10. ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?! 10 2016 Simplified Planners (pineapple daily edition). Yes, TEN of them! Lots of chances to win!
11. What good shall I do this day? sign from Best Made Co
12. Five Make it Happen books
13. Jonathan Adler Grapefruit Candlelara-casey-new-year-fresh-faith-giveaway

 

– (Not pictured, but so fun!) $25 Amazon gift card for books. Some suggestions: AnythingRestlessEditThe Best YesEditA Confident HeartThe Fringe Hours, or anything on Nancy Ray’s Book Club list.

14. The Write the Word journal collection – volume 1, 2, and 3!
15. Val Marie Paper Prayer Journal
16. Naptime Diaries print of your choice
17. In the Wait study by Holly Holt
18. Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin
19. How to Study Scripture E-Book by Jane Johnson
20. Make it Count 2016 Bible journaling kit from Illustrated Faith

Updated! Winners below!

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WINNERS:
1. A set of 2016 PowerSheets with a Make It Happen binder and Colorful Tab StickersJenna Gilbreath
2. Five prints of your choice from the Lara Casey Shop: Ronda (comment from Jan 6), Angela of Eat Spin Run Repeat, Amanda Paige, Tanika (comment from Jan 5), Lynn Aronson
3. The Finishing School by Valerie Metrejean: Katie Wilkin
4. The Make it Happen audio bookLisa Gilbert
5. A Journaling Bible (NIV): Monica T Smith
6. Five Make it Happen JournalsSiena (comment from jan 7), Kathleen Sullivan, Megan Lewellyn, Charmaine (comment from Jan 8), Michelle Bills
7. Artist’s Loft Fundamentals Watercolor SetDeborah Hailey
8. Two tubs of Vega Protein and Greens + a Vega shaker cupHannah CrainEm Enockson
9. Ashley Brooke Too Legit water bottleKara-Anne
10. 10 2016 Simplified Planners (pineapple daily edition).  Sarah (comment from Jan 2), Katie of A Place to Dwell, Amanda C., Anna Campbell, Faythe (comment from Jan 1), Stephanie F (comment from Jan 1), Kristi (comment from Jan 1), Lauren D’OrazioMyra of The Marvelous Mess, Michelle Bills
11. What good shall I do this day? sign from Best Made Co: Beverly V
12. Five Make it Happen booksJoanna Hyatt, Courtney KirklandLauren D.Becky BrunnerCortney Jones
13. Jonathan Adler Grapefruit Candle: Janet K
14. The Write the Word Journal collectionKatie Mac
15. Val Marie Paper Prayer JournalBethany (comment from Jan 5)
16. Naptime Diaries print of your choiceCarrie Beth
17. In the Wait Study by Holly Holt: Lauren DeVries
18. Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin: Madeline (comment from Jan 1)
19. How to Study Scripture E-Book by Jane Johnson: Dana Hartness of Happy Little Lovelies
20. Make it Count 2016 Bible Journaling Kit from Illustrated Faith : Ashley Terry
21. Amazon Gift Card: Jessica P.
PowerSheets Workbook: Terri Cook!
Please email Stephanie – orders@laracaseyshop.com with your mailing address and she will get your goodies to you! : ) Congrats, everyone!

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P.S. The e-book of Make It Happen is on sale for 3.99 this week only! Get it here!

P.P.S. After starting this series, need more direction? Three places to start:

1. Grab a copy of my book, Make it Happen.

2. Pre-order your PowerSheets.

3. Join me in person for the Making Things Happen Conference in March. See you there!

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If you are just joining us for this series, welcome! It’s never too late to begin. February 1 could be your January 1 if you like, so feel free to dig in anytime!

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2016 Goal Setting, Part 1: What Worked and Where to Start!
2016 Goal Setting, Part 2: What Didn’t Work + What I Learned
2016 Goal Setting, Part 3: Say Yes, Say No, Choose a Word

Welcome to Part 4!

Maybe you have ideas about what your goals might be this year (or maybe not yet and that’s okay too!)–and you are already overwhelmed and anxious about HOW to make them happen. You want all of your goals to have been tackled yesterday. Because here we are at the start of the year and you have to do it all right away, right? False. I know the feeling though. Lean into that restlessness and let it unlock one of the greatest freedoms you’ll ever discover: the power of little by little.

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Photos in my garden by Emily March.  I told y’all my tomatoes were huge this year (this was even taken early in the growth season) and I love zinnias! : ) 

We’re about to plant some good seeds as we uncover goals that have meaning. And then we’re going to take action on them. Making good things come to life requires physical action. And another action. And another. Over time, goals that were once leaps of faith you took on a blog post here, turn into new lives! The process of cultivating—breaking the soil, planting, tending, and waiting for the harvest—is where life happens. It’s where change and growth happen. The journey to making it happen is where the good stuff lives. 

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I know you overachievers want to have done everything yesterday (me too), 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! You are starting to see clearly, and it’s happening little by little. 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. Little by little these beautiful zinnias in my garden grew this year from the tiniest seeds. Little by little babies grow. Can you imagine if you got pregnant and then the next day gave birth?? Oh my stars! You wouldn’t be ready. No time to prepare. No time to buy diapers or mull over a name or assemble the crib or celebrate. You would have missed the time of preparation and ripening that happens over nine-ish months.

It is the same with our goals. And friend, I’m preaching this to myself right now too: trust that your goals matter enough to make them happen well. They matter enough to take little steps forward every single day, and some big leaps long the way too. Your goals matter enough to tend to them like a garden.

I wish I could have you come to my garden this summer. When these zinnias are in full bloom, and the bees and butterflies and goldfinches are fluttering and buzzing about, it’s just magical. I can’t help but stop and remember that it all started with tiny seeds. I broke through the hard soil of winter, planted good seeds, watered and tended to them little by little. There was so much joy in the journey. The process was the real gift. It was worth the planning Grace and I did in the winter, restlessness and risks and leaps of faith we took in planting, the hot days of pruning and weeding, and all the bug bites and dirty white pants : )

It was worth getting messy.

Your good goals will be with it too.

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A year from now you will wish you had started today. – Karen Lamb

Welcome to your start. 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.

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Let’s get messy and start to pick out some good seeds to plant this year! You ready for this? It’s going to feel scary and SO GOOD when you take a leap of faith and just start writing what comes to mind. You can do it!

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Four Goal Setting Tips:

1. First, review everything again! Remember, this is goal uncovering. Uncover one more layer and get to the good stuff! 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 once more 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 2016 Pinterest board. Take pins out that don’t fit well. Use extra paper if you need to. Get messy and dig a little deeper before moving to the final exciting step…

2. Yeah, yeah, yeah! You’ve made it! Make a list of the first goals that come to your mind for this year when right after you review everything you’ve written. Call them “Goal Ideas” for now to help you get them out! I suggest taking a big deep breath and putting on a favorite inspirational song as you start writing goals. These don’t have to be perfectly written — just write what first comes to mind.

3. Check your goal ideas to make sure they are rooted in what matters. 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. How you spend your time is how you spend your life.

Do a GOAL CHECK and ask these questions:

- Will this goal help me to cultivate what matters most?

- Where do I want to be when I’m 80 years old, and will this goal help me get there? 

- Does this goal also help other people?

- WHY do I want to make this goal happen? Am I desiring this goal for the right reasons, or am I striving for “perfect”—or whatever I’ve been chasing?

(If you are a believer, read this goal check from my friend Moriah here too!)

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.

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Photo above with our little peach tree by Nancy Ray.

Life is to short and too meaningful to coast through. 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. Otherwise, you may spend your time lost in distractions. Lost in Instagram. Lost in the chase for perfect, or significance, or approval, or whatever it is that has been holding you back from really living. You may find yourself restless, knowing deep down that there’s more to this life. If that’s you right now, you are in the right place! I know that feeling well, and I don’t know about you, but I do not want to live my days by accident. I want to live on purpose, and use all the gifts I’ve been given to help others do the same! Join me.

Take a big breath in (really do it) and a big breath out. Think of where you want to be when you’re 80. What will be important to you then? Whatever it is, act like it today. Take some bold leaps of faith and write out goals that are outside of your comfort zone. Powerful goals don’t need Miracle Grow. Purpose-filled goals that are aimed at the big picture are 100% organic goodness. Soak them in sunshine, water them little by little, and get ready for a flourishing garden full of blooms–and a harvest to share!

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I’m going to share my 2016 goals in the next post. When you are ready, leave yours here in the comments on this post, or the final post coming Tuesday. If you aren’t sure of your goals yet (like me!), I want to hear from you. As you reviewed all you’ve written so far, what stands out to you? What themes are you seeing? Tell me in the comments and let’s encourage each other as our goals begin to take shape.

Comment with your answers from each step as we go through this series and enter to win these goodies via the Rafflecopter box at the bottom. One person who comments with answers to every step in this series will win a bonus prize: A (spiral bound) One-Year PowerSheets Workbook. I’m determined to motive you to dig in with me on these powerful steps.

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1. A set of 2016 PowerSheets with a Make It Happen binder and colorful tab stickers
2. Five prints of your choice from the Lara Casey Shop
3. The Finishing School by Valerie Metrejean
4. The Make it Happen audio book, recorded by yours truly!
5. A Journaling Bible (NIV)
6. Five Make it Happen journals
7. Artist’s Loft Fundamentals Watercolor Set
8. Two tubs of Vega Protein and Greens + a Vega shaker cup. Bonus: sign up for a free Vega account to get $15, and I’ll get $15 too!
9. Ashley Brooke Too Legit water bottle
10. ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?! 10 2016 Simplified Planners (pineapple daily edition). Yes, TEN of them! Lots of chances to win!
11. What good shall I do this day? sign from Best Made Co
12. Five Make it Happen books
13. Jonathan Adler Grapefruit Candlelara-casey-new-year-fresh-faith-giveaway

 

– (Not pictured, but so fun!) $25 Amazon gift card for books. Some suggestions: AnythingRestlessEditThe Best YesEditA Confident HeartThe Fringe Hours, or anything on Nancy Ray’s Book Club list.

14. The Write the Word journal collection – volume 1, 2, and 3!
15. Val Marie Paper Prayer Journal
16. Naptime Diaries print of your choice
17. In the Wait study by Holly Holt
18. Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin
19. How to Study Scripture E-Book by Jane Johnson
20. Make it Count 2016 Bible journaling kit from Illustrated Faith

Enter below and be sure to leave your answers to each step as you go through the series with me!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends January 13th. Winners will be announced on January 15th here on the blog. Shipping some of these items can get costly, so hard goods are for US entrants only. Lots of digital prize options though for my international friends! If you don’t claim your prize within 48 hours, another winner will be selected, so mark your planners and stay posted! : ) Also, this post contains some Amazon affiliates links. No extra cost to you, but it helps us raise funds for Love One Another Project!

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Before I share anything ahead, know this: I am so grateful! I am going to share some of the challenges of the postpartum period, but I know these are so small in the big picture. I praise God for my family, and at the same time, the weeks after baby were (and still are) challenging. I know the same is true for many women! We are so grateful for our families, and yet feel like we can’t talk about the hard times. Let’s not feel isolated and alone. Let’s see God at work, even in the messy stuff, and not feel like we have to keep the hard things bottled inside. So, as you read my experiences, know that I recognize that these are light and momentary troubles. The Lord is good. Okay, onto the mess!

A timeline: The first four weeks after Joshua’s birth were rough, as they are for most women. I was in survival mode. Between the lack of sleep and my body and hormones, it felt… well, the only word I can think of is “yuk.” Very descriptive, right? ; ) Weeks five and six were equally messy, but my body started to heal and hormones began to figure out where they belonged. Weeks seven and eight, while I had some complications (more on that in a minute), I began to come out of the woods. Today, at week nine, while sleep hasn’t changed much (I’m feeding J 3-5 times a night), I don’t feel the “yuk,” and for that I am grateful! In this post you’ll find more on recovery from the “yuk,” life with my two little redheads, postpartum emotions, the time I thought I ran over a bunny (get ready for this one—Ari said I had to share), maternity leave blunders, and a few helpful tips! Even if you aren’t expecting, I hope this post encourages you. We’re going to go in chronological order, but feel free to jump to any section that interests you.

I wrote this during several quick nap breaks, so forgive typos and short sentences!

Marriage matters most: One quick thought before we move on to life after baby! It is wise to prepare for birth through classes and great books, but the number one thing that will prepare you well–besides a close relationship and trust in the Lord–is a close relationship with your husband. Spending intentional time together, having fun, sharing your deepest heart longings, and praying together about you birth experience (so helpful) before baby comes is the best advice I can give you. When labor begins and your expected “birth plan” goes out the window, what you will have left is your trust in the Lord and the strength of your marriage bond. Do whatever it takes to love your husband and cultivate that connection. This will also help postpartum in the sleepless nights ahead! Pray together a lot, even when you’re so tired that you feel like you can’t make complete sentences (happened a lot here!).

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Recovery in the Hospital: Our time in the hospital after J was born was better than our experience with Grace because we knew to expect several things: little sleep, lots of night time interruptions from hospital staff, and all kinds of humility-inducing experiences for mama. (One word: padsicles.) I knew this time that my body would feel broken and weak. I knew nursing would wear me out for the first days. And I knew it wouldn’t be that way forever, though. Some tips below.

– What I didn’t expect: being SO hungry! I could have eaten the entire buffet at Whole Foods. The morning after J’s birth, my mom brought me a huge sandwich. Ate that. Ate oatmeal. Cookies. More cookies. Tons of water. Another sandwich. I. Was. Hungry! I had the workout of my life pushing a baby out, but wow. Ladies, if you get that hungry too after birth, don’t fear. Just eat! Your body needs good fuel, so listen to it.

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J’s first bath : ) 

– Bring comfortable but “normal” clothes to the hospital! I brought a shirt from Walk in Love and some comfortable cotton pants from Walmart. With Grace, I brought clothes I could have tossed had they gotten soiled, but this time it was so helpful for me to wear clothes that made me feel good postpartum. I certainly wouldn’t bring anything you wouldn’t be okay with getting dirty, but bring clothes that make you feel good. Oh, and you’ll still be in maternity clothes for several weeks. I still don’t fit into regular pants yet at 9 weeks postpartum and I’m okay with that!

– Bring snacks! Refer back to the previous point about being so hungry : ) On that note, your tastebuds may completely change postpartum. Mine have with both kids. I craved very specific things before birth, and then after I wanted totally different things.

– I brought my own pillows and a giant beach towel. Hospitals have small towels and hospitals are cold, so bring a big towel. Be sure your pillows are in a case other than white so the hospital doesn’t mistake them for theirs.

– Don’t commit to visitors in the hospital until after baby comes as you may not be up for it! We had Grace, my mom, Rhiannon, and a couple friends stop by. That was plenty.

– Bring a sleep mask and ear plugs. For real. Just do it. Nap when you can in the hospital.

Postpartum recovery in a hospital is different for everyone, but we knew from previous experience that we wanted to be discharged as soon as possible. All those nighttime nurse visits and hospital personnel and lactation consultants and a photographer selling newborn sessions and various non-medical things can leave you weary. So, we prayed that God would let us just stay one night and then go home. He answered. We did all the things—testing and more testing, blood samples, birth certificate–and went home after 24 hours. This was taken right when we arrived home from the hospital. I was so happy to be home!

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Maternity leave: I naively thought I wouldn’t need much maternity leave. I don’t know what made me think this! I think I even said to Emily at one point that I might just take a few days. !?!???  Apparently, it’s easy to forget how hard the early days are with a baby. The week after J was born, I came to my senses and knew I would need as much as possible. We changed the work schedule here (our office is the second story of our house) so the ladies were here minimally in the first weeks, and I changed my email auto reply. I followed Nancy’s example and decided to not answer business email for the entirety of my 12 week leave. It gets deleted unless it’s from my team or something urgent. I’m on maternity leave until November and then on “book leave” after that to write book 2, which is due February 1. And then… on maternity leave again for our adoption that will, Lord willing, happen shortly after. So, my inbox won’t be getting a lot of attention for the next 6-8 months!

Social media: Along with this, I intentionally decided to delete the social media apps on my phone. It’s too easy to scroll through mindlessly when you are exhausted, and all that scrolling somehow leaves you more unsettled, so I have chosen to read a book or pray instead. This is good for me and my family, so it hasn’t been hard to do. Selfishly, I want to delete my accounts altogether. But, I feel that the Lord has purposed them for something. I don’t know exactly what yet. I’m still praying on it all.

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On to physical recovery at home!

Sleep: First, (and please don’t tune this advice out because you have heard it before) sleep when the baby sleeps. Get help from friends to watch your older child if you have one. Ask someone else to load the dishwasher. Be humble and ask for help so you can sleep. Now, this advice is coming from someone who did none of these things the first time around. And if you remember what my doc said to me about my postpartum depression with Grace, it rhymes with sheep. This was hard for me to do this time but I knew it would affect everything else. So, I would let grandma or a friend or Rhiannon take Grace out somewhere and I attempted to nap. I’m not a very skilled napper but earplugs, a sleep mask, letting J nap right next to me, and a lot of prayer helped. Even if I didn’t actually fall asleep (happened often), laying down to let my body rest for a few minutes was good. Do whatever you can to rest when baby rests during the day.

Diastasis NOT rectified: This time around, I have diastasis recti (abdominal separation). This is caused by the stretching of my abs during pregnancy and also likely because I did zero abdominal exercises for the last four years before I had J. The former personal trainer in me is hanging her head low on that one. So, I still look pregnant. I am currently wearing an abdominal binder and waiting to see if this heals.

Uterine pain: I had a lot of uterine pain postpartum and regularly took Motrin. A mama friend here warned me about the second baby uterine pain before I had J, and she was right! It felt like painful cramps. This lasted for about 4 weeks and then tapered off completely at 6 weeks.

Night sweats: The worst recovery symptom of all for me (which I also had with Grace) was night sweats. Oh, night sweats! This started at 4 days postpartum and lasted for three full weeks. It. Was. Awful. I slept on towels and had to change my pillowcase every day. I would wake up in the middle of the night most nights and have to change my clothes. But, it did go away. To my friends going through menopause, I want to hug you!

IMG_1681In my nursing chair above, where I spend about six hours a day : ) 

Breastfeeding: I had a hard time feeding Grace in the early days. Nursing was painful. So painful I would cry every time. With Grace, I switched to pumping exclusively when she was about two weeks old. The Medela Symphony and I were BFF’s (Breastfeeding Friends for what felt like Forever) for 15 months. Grace took to bottles easy, which helped in a busy year with work. She took to the paci easily, which helped calm her. Every child is different, though. Joshua doesn’t like bottles or pacis. He won’t take them at all. He just likes mama. And, I’m okay with that right now. I read a great book called The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding that helped take the pressure of of nursing and gave confidence to nurse exclusively. (Great book to read before baby too. Highly recommend! I wish I had read it before Grace.) Now, is exclusively nursing convenient for me? Yes and no. I do not miss the pump one bit, but exclusively nursing means I am with J all the time, and feeding when he is hungry. But, I believe this is exactly where God wants me right now. Grounded at home. In my nursing chair. Reading my Bible and some great books I’ve been learning from lately (more on that in a sec) praying a lot. I believe God has put me in a new season.

Nursing has had two challenges of note so far that I thought I’d share some thoughts on: protein intolerance and mastitis.

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Dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, I’m hun-gry!: First, protein intolerance, also known as blood in J’s diapers because of something in my milk that he can’t digest well. After weeks of wondering why he had an awful rash on his face and wasn’t sleeping well—and then discovering the blood—the doc asked if I ate dairy. Yep. Lots of dairy. I’ve eaten the same breakfast for the last 15 years. For real. With the exception of maybe five mornings, I’ve had Jay Robb chocolate whey protein powder and oatmeal. Well, turns out that dairy is the #1 protein that babies can have trouble digesting. So, I cut out dairy. His rash went away, but the blood didn’t stop, so she asked if I ate soy.  Yep. Love my Luna Bars. But, I had to give up soy too. So, now I am on a soy-free, dairy-free, egg-free (just in case!) diet and so far we have seen great improvement in him. It’s not the easiest diet to follow as there is soy and dairy and eggs hiding in tons of foods, but I’m making it work. If you have recipes, please share. This diet of just chicken and the occasional bite of fish gets old after a while!

Mastitis: This and the night sweats. I’ve had it three times in two months. It starts as tenderness in one breast and then suddenly I have a fever for 48 hours and can’t get out of bed. I have it right now, actually, but thanks to immediately taking antibiotics, I have passed the fever stage. My mom had it a lot while nursing me and my brother, and I already know I inherited her dense chest tissue and fibroids… an easy way to get a clogged milk duct and infection. I don’t have a whole lot to say about mastitis except it’s humbling and I am grateful for prayerful friends.

What I love about nursing: Being close to J all the time. Knowing that the Lord has me in this place for a reason. And I’ve been spending time praying and reading. Read: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It was, indeed, life-changing. We donated a garage full of stuff and the book changed my perspective. However, it’s wise to read it with a strong faith filter. Some of the book is not Biblical, so check your Bible as you read! Currently reading (and loving): FerVent, What Happens When Women Walk in Faith, and Women of the Word. The latter is excellent!

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Postpartum depression: I had the baby blues on the expected days: day three and day seven postpartum. I cried a lot and felt very low on those days. There have been a lot of tears on tired days, and there have been lots of tired days. But, I did not experience the same postpartum depression feelings that I had with Grace. There were times I felt angry about life being such a mess and exhausted beyond words, but I was still able to see God at work. It has been refining. Like metal being shaped and refined in a fire to be used for something good. And it is good. I know that full well. This postpartum period has been a time of being humbled and surrendering.

IMG_2038Napping on daddy. Ah, the life of a newborn. 

Some advice for helping with all the feelings postpartum:

– If you feel hopeless, talk to God right away, and call your doctor. (Postpartum depression is very different than the baby blues.)

– Sleep when you can. Make that top priority.

– Get some exercise when your doc says it’s okay. I would just walk up and down my stairs a couple times at first, or walk around my culdesac. It wasn’t much but it made me feel better.

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– Eat healthy food. You will need good fuel. I made the mistake of having jelly beans around late at night. Don’t do that. Sugar will slow you down. Stock your fridge with tons of fruit. I’ve also been drinking a lot of yummy herbal tea.

– Talk to friends. I am so grateful for the friends who have let me talk about not sleeping and kept my perspective on the right place: being grateful anyway.

– Take it easy. We have had to stop outings at night. This has been hard, as we love getting dinner with friends and spending time with church family. But, right now, for this short season, we try to be home by 7:30 at the latest. Otherwise, meltdowns ensue and we are all more tired because of it.

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Life with two: Grace’s transition was a lot harder than we expected. She loved having a little brother, but it was hard to have her normal life routines shaken up. She was used to having lots of sweet quality time with me in the mornings to talk and play, and now I had to feed the baby and was a zombie. This was hard for both of us. The first couple weeks I was very sad about it. I mourned the loss of that sweet time and could tell Grace did too. But, we have found new ways to get time together. One thing we did it move some of her favorite toys into the living room so I could engage with her in conversation while she played and I nursed. That has been a huge help.

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Tips on life with two:

– Get help with the older sibling, whether from grandma, friends, or professional childcare if you are able. Even a couple hours can make a world of difference and you will all be happier for it. Both my mom and Ari’s mom came to visit on weekends and that was huge to have a few days where someone else (who wasn’t sleep-deprived) was loving on Grace so that Ari and I could get a couple minutes together.

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– Keep the older sibling busy in the early weeks. Grace happened to start preschool a few weeks after J was born and that was a lifesaver! She felt like she had her own thing and looked forward to time out of the house. It has been so good. I am still planning to homeschool her in the near future, but for now we love her new teachers and classmates and what she’s learning. Can you tell she was excited about her first day of school above? And can you tell we all love our Walk in Love shirts!? : )
– Let the older sibling have individual quality time with everyone in the house, including the baby.
– Some great advice from my friend Emily Hansel: help the older sibling voice their feelings of frustration. I tell Grace often that sometimes being a big sister is hard and that’s okay. I was a big sis once too and it was hard at times, but then it got fun!

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– See that beautiful smiling lady above? This gal. I praise Him for her! She doesn’t just help me with Grace and Joshua, but she has become one of my closest friends. We pray together, laugh together, nurture together, and she even helped me create the Write the Word journals! Growing closer with Rhiannon during these nine weeks has been a blessing. I am no super mom. It takes a lot to run our household with an office of women inside of it too, so I need this gal. Right now, Rhiannon takes care of shuffling Grace around to preschool and various activities during the week, and I’m with Joshua full time and with Grace too in the afternoons. I’m not totally sure how I’m going to write a book with a baby in my arms all day, but I’m putting that in the Lord’s hands!

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I love this picture Rhiannon took of Grace more than words!

That time I thought I ran over a bunny: So, this was not funny at the time it happened. There is an adorable little bunny that has visited our garden all summer and fall. He’s so cute. One night, Ari and I were in separate cars because he went to get his mom from the airport and I had to bring G + J to meet them for dinner. Joshua does not like the car, so on the way home, he wailed the entire time. I have a hard time focusing when he is upset, so I was trying my best to drive carefully and not have a meltdown myself. I prayed and God said, “Don’t be anxious, Lara.” I didn’t listen, and pulled into my driveway faster than usual. I saw my bunny friend dart in front of the car. Thump. I instantly started crying. I didn’t care what the neighbors thought of me and my son wailing together. I felt awful. Ari pulled up into the driveway just as I got out of my car with J. I didn’t want to see the bunny so I ran inside. I cried and cried. This was four weeks postpartum and I sat there a mess of emotions.

The next morming, I didn’t even want to look out the living room window. “Ari, you go. Go see if it’s there.” Bless his soul, he walked outside and returned to inform me that there was no sign of the bunny. He must have been hurt and limped off into the bushes.

Three days later, we pulled in from being at church and, low and behold, out hops my little bunny friend–happy as can be, injury-free! It was a clear message from the Lord: do not worry, Lara. No matter what. Do not be anxious for anything. I cried again in relief and praised Him!

Why do I tell you this story? Because that’s what God has been teaching me. In the sleepless nights and fevers and times I didn’t think I could do another day on two hours of sleep, He whispers: Do not worry, for I am with you. Do not worry, for I have better plans than yours. Do not worry about your momentary troubles. They are so very small. Eternity is where I want your focus. Do not worry, little one. I have you in my arms always. I am in this.

I have so much more to share that God is doing in my heart, but I want to live it before I talk about it.

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Up next: Baby things we have appreciated, and more on my next book and our adoption. I’m currently typing this last paragraph with one hand and it’s time to go feed the little guy again! Hi, friends!

Your turn! Have any dairy/soy/egg free recipes to share? Have you felt similar things postpartum? Any advice on writing a book with a baby in your arms? What has God been teaching you lately? I’d love to hear from you!

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

This post contains some Amazon affiliate links. Any proceeds will go to Love One Another Project!

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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.

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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:

Yes.

Not yet.

I have something better in mind.

There were better things hiding in the waiting.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!? 

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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!).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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And then…

I stopped shaking.

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Rest.

For a moment.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

Gone.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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 : )

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

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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.

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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…

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

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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.

 

 

 

Show Comments (19)

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…

let.

it.

go.

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.

But…

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.

Show Comments (22)

Hi! So, yes… I’m still pregnant. Twelve days past my due date. These twelve days, as short as that may sound in the big picture, have been some of the longest days. They have been challenging and yet good and prayer-packed. It’s hard to describe what it’s like to wait on a baby to come. You want to take note of labor symptoms and get excited and prepare well, yet you have to completely let go as each day passes. You can’t plan for anything and yet you have to keep going, because sitting and thinking about it too much is perhaps the worst thing to do in waiting. And I’ve done a lot of that. Lots of tears and fears and they have all brought me back to a deeper TRUST and surrender. I’ve been learning that this is not waiting time; it is living time. God created these days on purpose, for a reason, and each day has revealed so many beautiful reasons why He has said, “Not yet…”

These photos were taken right before my due date by my sweet friend, Emily.

Photo by Emily March Photography // www.emilymarchphotography.com

God’s three answers to prayer:

Yes.

Not yet.

And…

I have something better in mind.

Photo by Emily March Photography // www.emilymarchphotography.com

What’s new: My mom has been here the last couple weeks, which has been a blessing. She and Grace have painted birdhouses, played restaurant, baked, gone swimming, puttered in the garden, and told more than a few funny kitty stories. This has been sweet time for them and us. Ari and I have had little windows of time to read together and have been loving You and Me Forever by Francis Chan. Highly recommend this book! This time has been a blessing for our marriage as we’ve supported each other in the many emotions that have come in waiting. With my mom here, we’ve been able to talk more and prepare for baby. That is such a gift. Also new: we released the Write The Word journals (so excited about them!), new desk cards, and revealed the 2016 PowerSheets options. Read all about them here.

Photo by Emily March Photography // www.emilymarchphotography.com

What’s ahead: Well, at some point in the next 72 hours, I will, Lord willing, have a baby. If he doesn’t come on his own by tomorrow morning at 8am, the docs want to induce me because my fluid is getting a little low. I am already 4cm though, so I pray he comes on his own before then! It’s all in the Lord’s hands.

Photo by Emily March Photography // www.emilymarchphotography.com

July PowerSheets Goals updates:

  • Soak in the Word – Yes! In this time of waiting I have definitely been soaking in the Word and it has sustained me and changed me. I am so grateful!
  • Transition to maternity leave – Yes! 
  • Love Ari and Grace well – Yes. Having this extra unexpected time with just the three of us has been a huge blessing. 
  • Pray, surrender, listen – I didn’t know how much I would have to do this when I first wrote these goals for July, but this has been the biggest one. I have leaned into this and found peace in the very hard moments of waiting and uncertainty.
  • Listen and lead well through an encouraging last Bible Bunch before baby – Yes, the July Bible Bunch was so wonderful!
  • Love our family group + friends well before baby – Yes, and I’ve gotten such sweet “extra” time to be with them before baby.
  • Release the Write the Word journal series - Yes! And I have been LOVING my own journal the last two weeks. I’m so grateful that y’all are as excited as I am about the Write The Word journals!
  • Pray about labor + post-partum – Well, this is an answered prayer. Before this time of waiting for baby, I was plain scared of labor. Now, I crave it. More than I can express. I can’t wait! God sure knows what He is doing in changing our hearts!

Photo by Emily March Photography // www.emilymarchphotography.comI love this photo that Grace took with Emily’s camera! : ) 

August PowerSheets Goals:

  • Have a baby : )
  • Glorify God in it all
  • Pray over and decide about Gracie’s school plan. I’ve been praying often about whether or not to keep Grace in pre-school for this fall or go ahead and move to homeschool. Still praying!

Weekly goals:

  • Continue to encourage others and build them up spiritually, even when baby comes
  • “Praise Him in the sanctuary!” The artist who sings this song escapes me right now, but I love it. The goal: be with God and praise Him in all things!

Daily goals:

  • Prayer—deep prayer
  • Write The Word
  • Read and soak in the Word
  • Love Grace and Ari well

If you are in a season of waiting–for whatever it may be–I’m with you today and praying for you now. Maybe this challenging time or place is meant for your good. Maybe this season of waiting is really a season of preparation, getting you ready for something better. Something you never expected. : )

“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.” Psalm‬ ‭130:5‬

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Ten days till my due date. Every night I get in bed and think, “This could be it.” I’ll be honest, these nine months have been a blur. I kept this at a slight distance from my heart. I didn’t want to go through loss again and I didn’t want to make those who might be grieving or longing feel sadness. This all felt different than before. More private. More sacred. More still. We didn’t decorate a new nursery. I didn’t read any books. But soon, Lord willing, there will be a little person laying on my chest.

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When I had Grace, life was turned completely upside down and it changed everything. Our marriage. Our faith. We began to learn what surrender means. And now… all I know is we are about to be beautifully broken again. Anticipating that is so hard to put into words. Before Grace I thought about baby announcements and newborn pictures. Now all I can think about is the story God is writing.

Photo by Emily March Photography // www.emilymarchphotography.com

I have no idea what to expect, but I know for sure that God is real and He is in this. Finding out we were pregnant the day we finished our adoption paperwork was just one of the thousands of little clues along this path that have shown us there is a bigger picture.

Photo by Emily March Photography // www.emilymarchphotography.com

We don’t know what that is but we are willing and ready and so imperfect and we just feel so small. I don’t know if any of this makes sense, but that’s my heart lately. Expectant. Surrendered. (A little nervous to experience labor again.) And Grateful. Up next, Lord willing, I’ll be sharing his name when he arrives… whenever the Lord decides that it’s time : )

I welcome your encouragement and any helpful scriptures as I move into this new season and get closer to labor. What has helped you?

Last two photos by Emily March from our recent session in the garden.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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! tinyurl.com/fruitfulsummer

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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.

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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. 

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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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