Category: Personal

When I was in middle school, I was teased for my frizzy, curly red hair. With sound guidance from the early 90’s, I did what many girls did then: I permed it. You know what happened next. I came out of the salon with slightly-green, ammonia-scented, brittle, extra-frizzy hair. Add five years of braces, and being a natural introvert to the mix, and you have middle school memories that I locked away in the “do not disturb” compartment of life. The photos of this season are buried in my parents’ house somewhere.

Then Sanrio came out with the “The BFF book.” I remember the sting of rejection I felt when my name wasn’t written in a friend’s book. I started to think that something must be wrong with me. I determined to be liked. I became a people-pleaser, always seeking approval and validation from others.

In high school, I would go to the grocery store with my mom and look at the magazines at check-out. Most covers showed women with tan, perfectly smooth, freckle-free skin. I bought all the freckle-eraser creams, and lathered on the feelings of not being enough. I felt like I didn’t fit, and believed that, since I wasn’t perfect, I’d never be happy or loved.

As my friend Lysa says in her new book, Uninvited“Rejection steals the best of who I am by reinforcing the worst of what’s been said to me.”

Or not said.
Or assumed.
Or not written in a friendship book.

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Twenty years later, I got married in my hometown, and went through a painful divorce shortly after. More of my story here. I craved a new identity that couldn’t be shaken by circumstances, or what other people thought, or by the mistakes I would inevitably make along my path. As my friends Jess and Hayley say, I constantly felt like I was too much and never enough. I was deeply in debt, and got a job as a personal trainer at the local gym—-the gym where all those people in my hometown (who had come to my wedding) socialized. I didn’t have any other choices for work at the time though. I needed to make money to pay bills, and the only way forward was to step into what felt like the lions den. Instead of running from it, or trying to fix myself, I stepped right into the feelings of shame, isolation, and rejection.

In that same gym, months later, I met Ari. He didn’t judge me for my past or flinch when I told him about all the baggage I was carrying from the past; he just wanted to know me.

I learned something in that season. There was a way out of the constant cycle of living in lack, believing that I wasn’t ever going to measure up. I started seeking God more. In Christ, I’ve learned over time that I am invited. Always welcome. Always loved.

Something that has helped me is to think about what I know versus what I feel. Feelings aren’t the enemy, but many times they can lead us away from truth.
I may feel rejected at times, but I know Whose I am.
I may feel broken, but I know I’m whole in Him.
I may feel like my heart is a mess, but I know God transforms our messes into our message.
I may feel alone, isolated, and lonely at times, but I know that God never ever leaves me.
Leaning into knowing, instead of letting my feelings inform my worth, changes things.

Lysa posted recently about crushing the lies and lines we’ve believed. I woke up one day a few weeks ago and felt tired of fixing my hair. Always putting it up or straightening it. Hiding my frizz. My curls. My past pain.

So, I washed it and let it go that morning.

Grace played with my hair that night, wrapping my curls around her fingers, putting bows in my locks, and simply wanting to touch my hair. Something clicked. I woke up and let it go again. And again. Each day, I felt more free. But, it wasn’t about a hairstyle, it was about letting go of what years of feeling rejected had done to me. It was about finally expressing gratitude for the way God created me. If I wanted Grace to live loved, I was going to have to show her how, and live it myself. I had to come undone.

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Embracing my curls has been rather life-changing. Apparently I’m not alone in this desire to embrace what God has given us. It’s not about hair though; it’s about our hearts. I look in the mirror now, and I’m reminded to live loved, right where I am.

Rejection is going to happen. It happened to me just last week again and it stung. But, it reminded me to keep fighting to trust in what I know to be true. I am loved. You are too. More than we could ever imagine. Living from the place of knowing we are loved encourages others to do the same. It multiplies freedom.

More in my Facebook Live today.

Have you experienced rejection? How has that shaped you? I’d love to hear your story…

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

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

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

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

Dear Nannies of the World Lara Casey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Read the recap and download the whole series here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What are y’all doing this weekend?

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve taken this week off of social media to get grounded. After the events last week, I felt a strong pull to disconnect from social media and deeply connect with God. Listen in below for more…

In this time of drawing close to God’s truth, words for my book are finally coming. I am very grateful. A little snippet I’ll share with you here:

Redeeming the Dirt

When I was asked to speak at a Christian women’s conference for the first time a few years ago, a woman told me that she was shocked and wondered why they chose me. She knew that in the early days of my marriage, when I started growing my business, my soil was filled with jagged rocks. What she didn’t know, and what I’d never imagined happening, was that same soil being transformed and infused with new life. Like rich compost, the best soil is filled with transformed remnants of the past. In the same way, your mess can become your message.

My new release date is tentatively May 23, 2017. It seems like a long way away, but not in book land. Lots has to happen between now and then! I hope to turn in this first draft next Friday, the 22nd. I would be so grateful for your continued prayers.

A few things to share—with lots of photos since I haven’t been on social media this week! First, proof of my daughter’s career aspirations. Olympic ribbon dancing, here we come.

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So, gospel music has always been my favorite. I love this playlist right now. Do you love gospel too? I always love hearing people’s favorite songs. My friends Ed and Beverly from church recorded an album and it’s SO GOOD. On nights I was leading Bible Bunch last year, Ed would be in the studio recording. It’s a joy to see the fruit of what God created through him!

Little progress is still progress. Love this encouragement for new moms (and all of us!).

Ari and I have been reading this book, and loving it.

Grace has been helping me write this week : )

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Put on that swimsuit.

Favorite holidays in our house: Passover (Ari and I love the meaning, Grace loves the parsley), Thanksgiving, and Cow Appreciation Day. Grace and Rhiannon made their cow outfits with sticky felt, and I particularly love the heart patch on Grace’s chest : )

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I read very few newsletters, but my friend Lauren is wise. If you are a small business owner, I recommend signing up and reading her weekly tips.

My friend Jen from Unveiled Wife writes another newsletter I love.

We tried to take a family photo last Friday. Josh loves his little sister, and was very curious about her tongue.

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And then I told him not to pull on his sweet sister’s tongue.

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I love this kid. Even when he’s crying, my heart is so grateful for him. (I should submit this to Reasons My Son is Crying, a hilarious collection of true stories that will make you giggle. Here’s a favorite.)

Our friend Lauren Taylor is in NYC with her husband for the summer, and she sent Grace the coolest gift: a book of New York landmarks and pictures of the two of them at each of them! Isn’t this great?

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Learn how to dig in to the power of “little by little,” simplify your life, and dig under the surface for deeper relationships in this week’s Fruitful Summer Guide. I loved writing this–and living out these tips has helped me so much!

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I’d love to have you in the next Fruitful Summer Guide that comes out next Wednesday! What are your favorite traditions with friends? Tell me here.

These two make my day every day.

I love her blog.

I love our Fruitful Summer photos from Olivia of Nancy Ray Photography. We all had fun, but I think Grace had the most fun!

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Engaged friends, get this planner. It has a whole section on marriage and solid planning advice.

We spent last Saturday morning at the blueberry patch. I had Josh in a carrier, and Ari decided to just hold Sarah.

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I think they both enjoyed it : )

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We pulled the turnips and rutabagas from the garden. They were so good! My favorite mashed turnip recipe:

  • Peel and cut a big bowl of turnips into chunks (we had one large rutabaga mixed into ours too)
  • Boil them in chicken broth till they soften
  • Sauté a chopped onion with olive oil, thyme, rosemary, and salt and pepper
  • Combine it all in the food processor (or Ninja in our case, since we don’t have a food processor)
  • Bake for 30 minutes at about 350

We grew these from seeds that a patient of my dad had given him. I’m considering planting a fall crop too, they were so good. This is a Thanksgiving favorite, but was delightful in the heat of July as well!

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2017 PowerSheets are going to the printer next week, along with new products for both the Southern Weddings Shop and Lara Casey Shop. Our little Design Assistant had a hard time containing his excitement this week!

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We’ve celebrated a lot in the office this past week – Laura Kashner’s birthday, and Lisa and Kristin‘s work anniversaries. Up next is a certain orange-lover’s birthday on July 31st. If you want to send something orange for her, here’s our P.O. Box : ) PO Box 9090, Chapel Hill, NC 27515.

My friend Emily sent me one of her new academic Simplified Planners that starts in August, and I love it. I filled out important dates this week to get it set up. I love that Romans 12:12 is on Ari’s birthday.

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We are making little by little progress on our Summer Goals (my July Goals are here) and summer fun list (below). Get a Summer Goals list for free here.

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Marissa and Emily knocked it out of the park in this week’s FREE Fruitful Summer Newlywed Guide. Even if you aren’t a newlywed, or married at all, read this one. The list of twists on adulting is excellent! And be sure to sign up to get next week’s Guide. You’ll get a letter from me about how to celebrate marriage in the thick of it, and lots of great advice for marriage.

Scripture on Goals.

I use this website every day to look things up.

Josh is on the move this week, and getting into everything, so we had to do a little furniture re-arranging to close off the living room…

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Our friend Carla came to hang with the littles yesterday and enjoyed “Fort Joshua” too : ) Josh to escape the barricades below…

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We are often asked if we plan on releasing new editions of Write the Word. I’m excited to share that YES we are, and I made the final edits on the covers with Nicole today. They are wonderful! There are five new editions releasing for 2017 — on sale November 1st.

Now, I know you aren’t supposed to use a Bumbo on a bed, but listen in. This was Ari feeling super proud for handling all three kids by himself while I went to the grocery store. They are watching Praise Baby, and no one is crying. He did good : )

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On Wednesday night, after putting Josh to sleep, I came out of his room to a quiet house. I called Ari to see where he was. “We took a walk. We’ll be back in about ten minutes.” Grace came bounding in the door shortly after: “Mom! We found POKEMON!” Ari also succeeded this week in being captivated by the Pokemon phenomenon. I decided to join them last night and it was pretty hilarious…

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Below: “Mom, you’re stepping on him!!”

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Oops! Well, he is pretty cute : ) Gracie is too.

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We’ve got a big weekend ahead. Our first nanny from when Grace was a baby, “Miss Sue,” is getting married tomorrow! Her soon-to-be-husband is a real Irishman and we think the world of him. They met while doing mission work in Ireland together. We can’t wait to celebrate with them! Grace is most excited for cake : ) Aren’t they lovely together? Photo by my friend Emily.

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And lastly, a little Sarah love for you. She is a miracle. We’re waiting on one more report from our social worker, one more court hearing, and then we will be finalized.

Sarah from lara casey on Vimeo.

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

Lara Casey signature

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Okay, many things to share!

One of my favorite photographs (and couples).

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

Two awkward’s make a normal.

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

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

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

How to embrace awkward.

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

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

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

How to simplify your life.

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

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

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

My favorite southern city is …

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

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

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

Can you guess how big he is below?

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

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

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

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Some words that won’t leave me this week:

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

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

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

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Hi, friends!! Welcome back to my new weekly series! Can you believe we’re at the half-way point of 2016? I was reading Nancy’s goal updates this morning and they got me inspired. There’s nothing magical about January 1–July 1st can be our new year, friends.

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I’m working on my July PowerSheets today, and feeling good about the little by little progress I made in June. What a month of unexpected change!

What are y’all up to this weekend? Ari is working so I’ll be here with the three little Isaacson monkey’s. My mom was supposed to come visit, but couldn’t at the last minute. Thankfully, our friend Gabrielle and my neighbor Tori offered to lend me a hand. Two babies at totally different developmental stages, and on totally different sleep schedules… well, it’s almost impossible to do it solo. Lot’s of love to all you single moms and moms of multiples and moms of many fur babies too. We may just buy a watermelon, slice it open, and eat that all weekend, for all of our meals–but we will have fun doing it!

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Dressed up for the 4th in her outfit that used to be Gracie’s. Those leg rolls : ) 

Fun things to share this week!

First, you have to see this from my friends Addi and Lisa. I love these words, and be sure to watch the very end.

My friend Emily came to photograph our house for Smitten Magazine several months ago. Josh is so tiny in these pictures.

But, really, these allergen-free chocolate chips. I made my own protein bars with them a couple weeks ago, but more ended up straight in my mouth.

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How to embrace an imperfect summer. Sign up to get the next three weeks for free here.

Dating well matters.

I love our mailman.

If you were a holiday, which would you be?

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I wrote the forward for these wonderful watercolor books by my friend Kristy. They are so beautiful and meaningful!

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And Kristy is a fellow adoptive mama. Grace being Grace this morning below : ) 

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I have a whole post coming on this, but to potentially save a few sleepless nights for some of you in the interim, this lady was an answer to prayer for us. Josh had a horrible time sleeping. He would nurse every hour for the first eight months. Much more to say here soon, but for now, call Irene.

We successfully “Kondo’d” our house, and are trying not to acquire anything new, but I really love this from my friend Lindsay.

Building relationships when you have no bandwidth.

I really appreciate my friend Jess.

And my friend Renee.

And my friend Val, and her “Minnie-malism.

I’ve had to pass on speaking for this year and next. Except this. I would love to meet you this October here in Chapel Hill.

Last week I had one of my favorite experiences on social media. I asked you to tell me about yourself. Even if you’ve introduced yourself to me before, tell me about who you are now. I’d love to get to know you, and you never know who you might connect with!

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I got an email about this on Monday. I’m grateful to be included.

I’m working on a Faith 101 class. A tip: get this. It may have been written for kids, but adults, get it. I love reading it to Grace at night, and it’s a great metanarrative of the whole Bible. Also, be sure you have a Bible you love that is easy to read. This is a huge stumbling block for many people who feel overwhelmed by the Bible! I love this translation and this one as well. I also use the free digital versions on Bible.com. Much more to come…

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We have a new baby. (Ha!) Our intern, Rachel, suggested entering it at the fair! Check my snapchat (LaraLaraCasey) for more behind the scenes with Señor Zucchini.

It’s okay to be average.

Recording the audiobook of Make it Happen was challenging, but I’m so grateful I was given the chance to use my voice training from college! Three days in a studio, all day, lots of hot tea, and lots of do-overs. Get a copy here. I hope it encourages you.

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I love the women I work alongside. They have been so encouraging in my journey to figuring out business and motherhood. Nicole posted this note on my office door yesterday to encourage me. We have a shared love of farm animals : )

Thank you all for the formula recommendations last week for Sarah! We tried this goat’s milk formula and she is loving it. She says it’s not baaaaahh-d. (I couldn’t help myself!)

Okay, off to feed Josh and make some progress on book writing before the weekend! Happy 4th, friends!

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P.S. Our big 4th of July SALE is happening. Use code JULYFIREWORKS for free domestic shipping, free tab stickers, and PowerSheets are on sale

4th of July Sale

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

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It’s okay to be average. It’s okay to love something and not be the best at it. It doesn’t mean you or your gift are worthless because you aren’t the “best.” It’s okay if your talent or passion isn’t a business. And it’s okay if your business isn’t the “best” either!

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I caught myself comparing my business to a friend’s last Friday. I said to Ari, “Her business is probably doing better than mine…”

Re-writing a book has been [insert all the antonyms of “easy”]. I’ve been sitting here at my computer, battling with words and insecurities. “Why is this so hard for me? I wish I could write books like her… ”

How could I write about friendship when I’m not perfect at it? “I’m not an expert—why try?”

In my own kitchen, “Sorry dinner is too spicy, and that we have the same things every week. I’m not the best at doing family dinners.”

Ari stopped me:

He prayed for God to give me lots of words.

He ate every bite of dinner.

And to my comment comparing my business to someone else’s, he said this: “Lara, money envy is usually pride.

Truth.

Oh, truth!

It hits hard, and it shatters the lies.

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We miss so much feeling like we have to be an expert or better than everyone else, don’t we?

I shared in my weekly Facebook Live yesterday about the freedom found in being “average” and the lies we believe that keep us from that freedom.

We falsely believe we have to:

do it all

have it all

be an expert

be better than someone else

be the best

have it all together

And if we aren’t, or don’t, we hesitate.

We don’t move forward.

We don’t send it, say it, do it, or surrender.

We just sit in the lies.

An email landed in my inbox this morning, and It made me see I’ve been believing another one lately. I didn’t know I needed the words I’m about to share with you till they left me in a puddle of tears here at my desk. With her permission, I’m sharing an excerpt. I hope these words encourage you too.

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Dear Lara,

I know you have believed lies friend.

We all have.

You know what though?

You also have listened to truth.

Just look back.

Look at your marriage. You listened and pressed into the truth.

Look at your walk with Jesus. You listened to truth and have grown so much.

Look at Ari. He knows Jesus sweet friend.

You might have listened and operated under some lies, yet you have listened to truth as well.

You have listened to the voice of your Savior, and you have obeyed.

Goodness that is some ripe, rich, healthy fruit.

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What if…

What if Grace’s big emotions, the struggle to connect with Sarah, and massive delay and starting over on your book have nothing to do with what you have done wrong.

Friend, what if all of this is about what you have done right??!!

What if your faith and your little by little has made you braver than you think?

What if your obedience has shown God that He can trust you with more?

Satan wants you to feel naked and shamed in your exposure of humanness. Yet the Bible says something totally different.

Genesis 2:25 says, “The man and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame.”

God fully intended for us to be exposed without shame. 

Only Satan tells us to hide.

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I’ve been believing the lie that God isn’t faithful. I don’t say it, but I sure am acting like it lately. How easily I forget what He has done! I certainly don’t think I’ve listened as much as I should, or that I’ve done much right, but my friend encouraged me to see that His ways are always better than mine, and His ways lead to new life.

My marriage.

My children.

My business.

My words.

My friends.

All of it, changed by truth.

I can take zero credit for the change in my life, but we are given a choice: believe the lies, or listen to the truth and try our best—through all our imperfections and times we plain old mess up. (Allllll the time for me!)

Lord, may I keep choosing truth over lies, and surrender over striving to be the best. And when I don’t, may I remember that your grace gives me freedom. Freedom from striving, performing, or having to be the best. It’s okay to be average. Like Moses, you don’t need me to be perfect to use me. You don’t call me to be the best, you just want my surrendered heart and hands.

And I’m so glad You aren’t done with me yet.

For more, catch the video here. And this is happening! Grab a set of our undated PowerSheets for only $25 through Tuesday, July 5th. All orders placed over the weekend will come with a free set of Tab Stickers. Use the code JULYFIREWORKS for free shipping on PowerSheets orders.

Also, we’ve restocked some of our most loved desk cards, so check those out before you place your order : ) These are my favorite right now.

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How to overcome insecurity _ Lara Casey

Ever feel like everyone has it all together but you? I do. Lately this thought has been swirling in my head. But, here’s how I am evicting that lie out of my life, and how you can too:

1. Name it as a lie. Everyone else “having it together” is not true. I was just texting with a group of friends about our businesses, mothering, and hearts having various challenges right now. I wish I could add all of you to that text group so you could see that we are ALL in this together. Consider this post my group text to you : ) No one has it all together. They just don’t. That is freeing. And even if they did, it doesn’t mean they are more valuable than you and your unique assignment on this earth.

2. What does “having it together” mean anyway? Define the lie and the truth. The lie: I have to have the perfect plan and perfect results or I’m a failure. False. The truth: To me, having it “together” means I don’t have to do it all. It means trusting in God, doing my best to love well, and making little by little progress forward on the things that matter, even if I mess up along the way–at least I’m on the way there!

3. Consider that you are exactly where you are supposed to be, mess and all. When I really think about it, I wouldn’t trade my challenges right now because they are teaching me valuable lessons. They are refining me. They are making me closer to God and to Ari and to my family and friends and my team. If I had no struggles, I would stay the same. And I know that’s not what God wants of me. This is my season of sitting in the tension. A season of change.

You don’t have to have it all together to have value, and you are not alone.

Fruitful Summer 2016

So, with that, I’m excited to announce that Fruitful Summer is on! Last summer, thousands of you joined me from Tulsa to Tokyo to learn how to cultivate community, embrace awkward, and make meaningful relationships happen–no perfection required. Five weeks of practical and simple tips, printables, worksheets, and lots of surprises. Sign up for free at FruitfulSummer.com! Let’s do summer together!

Lara Casey - Make it happen - westmeetssouth

Photo above by WestMeetsSouth. Love seeing the Make it Happen book in there!

More thoughts on my original Instagram post here.

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How do you start over?

Whether you are starting fresh on a goal, a project, a new city, your health, or with a relationship, starting over is hard, isn’t it? It’s not easy at first, but it can be an unexpected blessing.

Rejection can turn into rejoicing, and broken pieces can be made into something better. Much better. Here’s the story of why I have to start over on my book that I posted on Facebook last Friday, and a few tips for starting over below.

Three Tips for Starting Over:

1. First, let the dirt be dirt. Moving forward means letting go of something first. So, whatever it is that has caused you to start fresh, FEEL your feelings! Feel them and also know that feelings are real, but they do not define who we are. Feeling like a mess doesn’t mean you are one. I cried pretty much the whole weekend after I got the email from my editor. My tears were waves of grief about the time I had spent working on those words—time I could have spent working on different words, or with my little ones. I felt anger, disappointment, rejection, shock, and sadness. These emotions weren’t fun to experience, but they were needed. Little by little, the tears turned into trust and refreshment. Now, there are far deeper pains I could reference here that I’ve experienced in my life—pain that took much longer than a weekend to process (the pain of miscarriage, divorce, marriage hardships, etc.). One enemy of moving forward—a sure way to stay stuck—is to think your feelings don’t matter and should be stuffed away. Don’t compare your struggle to someone else’s, or label it “small.” Your struggle, whatever it may be, is real, and worth working through. Sometimes, moving through the “minor” struggles helps us build momentum to move forward through the big ones. Feel what you are feeling. Name it. Let it be what it is without trying to fix it. Let the dirt be dirt.

2. Step away. I don’t know about you, but when a challenge arises, I stew. I mull. I analyze. I get anxious. I want to fix it as soon as possible. Anyone else?? Stepping away to gain some perspective may seem like an inactive step, but it may be the best step you take. Mid-tears Ari told me to get in the car. He loaded up all the kids and we drove around the lake by our house. It was incredibly helpful. We prayed. We talked. In the thick of it, stepping outside for a breath of fresh air can be a turning point. It’s like planting a small common acorn that can grow into a strong oak when nestled in the mess of dirt.

3. Let grace speak louder that guilt. I realized in starting over that this book is about my weakness, not my strength. I don’t have to write powerful words, or have a stellar outline. I just need to let myself be weak and let those words hit the page. I don’t have to fix it all, do it all, or be it all. If God is in your fresh start, you can be sure He will do the heavy lifting. I trust that. If your fresh start feels impossible—too big for you to orchestrate–maybe it is too big for you. But we can always trust that where we can’t, He can. Let’s be weak, sisters. It’s so much easier than chasing perfect. Let’s let Him speak loud–over all the guilt and junk that’s trying to keep us from moving forward on to fresh new growing ground.

Are you starting over in something? What’s have you been wrestling with?

P.S. I’d love to hear from you here too!

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My garden is in a really weird stage. There are some things growing, and some seeds never sprouted at all. Some things got way too big, and some things are oddly small. There are many little green shoots that I’m not sure are weeds or actual plants yet.

It’s awkward.

Messy.

Unbalanced.

My life has felt the exact same lately.

Unbalanced.

Unsettled.

Un-figured-out.

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There’s this thing called the “middle ground” that I don’t love so much. The middle ground is filled with in-betweens, undone conclusions, waiting, and tension. I prefer clear-cut direction. Firm yes’s and no’s. Plans with specifics and titles. I prefer flourishing and full bloom.

I’ve been in the middle ground for the last year. I’ve had no idea what to do with work and balancing motherhood. 

I prayed and prayed and PRAYED for certainty. But, instead uncertainty grew.

A year ago, I was about to have a baby and wondered how I was going to be a mom to two. I went into it blindly, trusting we would just figure it out. I was a year behind in writing Cultivate, and the direction of the book changed as many times as our lives did. Going from one child to two was rough for us. Grace’s emotions exploded. We felt helpless as parents and sleepless with a newborn. Somehow I felt like it was all my fault that Grace was having intense emotions. I blamed my work and I felt like it was too late. I felt like I had messed her up for life. This caused me great anguish. Since I work from home, this was all happening in my house, where my team works under the same roof. There was no hiding the tantrums and the hard days.

I felt like a horrible mother.

A useless leader.

I felt like a burden to everyone.

And I was tired.

There was so much good in this season too, but my heart was unsettled. Something had to change.

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Then, right before Christmas, in the middle of our busiest business season with PowerSheets and the magazine, Ari and I found out we matched for our adoption. Our adoption story is coming in a separate post soon. We were excited and grateful and terrified. There was so much unknown. I struggled through writing, preparing for a baby we might not even bring home with us, nursing Josh night and day, and Grace continuing to feel big feelings.

And I heard God telling me to quit.

Step away, Lara. 

Be small.

Nurture these children for Me.

Live a quiet life.

Over and over I heard these urgings, and every time I’d ask, How?

What does that look like exactly, God? What do I quit? Do you mean quit my business? How in the world would that work? What about all we’re doing to help people? What about my team? How do I do this??

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I had no answers. Just more questions.

So, I quit the Internet for several months, taking a hiatus from social media and email. I needed to hear from God and nothing else. And there was a lot of “else” swirling in my head as I tried to sort through it all, and write a book at the same time. I struggled with comparison and feeling isolated as a leader. I am so supported by my team, and yet they also know I’ve struggled with feeling like I’m on the “business owner island” at times. There are no fruity drinks on this island, just bills to pay and decisions to make that affect other people. I struggled feeling like I had to keep it all together all the time.

I stepped away from connectivity to get some clarity. Taking a break from social media is always good for my soul. It helps me remember Whose voice I should be listening to.

But, this time I didn’t want to come back.

I kept thinking God was telling me to quit my business, and I relished the thought. I felt elated at the idea of being able to make up for all the time I felt I had lost with Grace to a growing business. I was doing good work, but too much of a good thing is still too much.

I felt weary. Tired of telling my story. Tired of my attention being pulled from my kids. I didn’t want to be a part of it anymore, even if I was encouraging people. These were my honest thoughts friends—thoughts from the thick of it. It’s not the fault of pixels on a screen that I felt this way, though. Despite my efforts to guard my it well, I have a sensitive sponge-like heart. It was easier to be offline.

But, God doesn’t call us to easy; He calls us to follow Him. I kept wrestling with these thoughts, and praying hard.

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This fact remained and was important: our business is online. We make products that help people focus on what matters, in the mess, not despite it. We help people plant a garden right smack in the middle of the circus. I knew that was a good thing. A needed thing. With a business that lives on the internet, how in the world was I supposed to exist in that tension? How was I supposed to plant my own garden in the middle of the circus?

How was I supposed to balance the steadfast calm needed to shepherd my children’s hearts and love Ari and my community well, and the bombardment of the world I encountered when I tried to put encouragement or our products into the hands of people who might be changed by them?

How was I supposed to lead a business and a team of eight when I’ve been up all night feeding babies? How am I supposed to work on budgets and quarterly taxes when Grace really needs me to help her sort through her feelings… or show her how to draw a pterodactyl… or explain why ladybugs like to live on flowers. How do I schedule meetings when I’m pumping eight times a day and nursing every two hours to keep up with two babies? How does that all work, God??

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Then, our adoption happened in February. We stepped out on faith, saying yes to the unknown, which was beautiful and wonderful and intensely emotional. God broke us down to make us fully rely on Him, trusting Him in what felt completely uncertain.

And that’s the thing. God breaking me down over the last year was exactly what He wanted to happen. In the mess, many times, He is loving us more in what feels hard than in what feels easy.

I began making a lot of changes to spend more intentional time with our littles. I began to cultivate a new path, making little by little steps forward. The little by little started to add up. So much more to share in another post (and in my book). Consider this “Part 1.”

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I started a private blog the week of our adoption to share updates with our close friends and family, and to have a safe place to share all that we were experiencing. My team read my posts, so they knew. They knew the season we were in with our family. They knew how hard it had been emotionally. They knew the tension I felt between work and motherhood. They knew.

Two babies and two books in two years was too much. 

We had our annual Team Retreat earlier this month. I’m usually the encourager, but Marissa, Kristin, Emily, Nicole, Lisa, and our three new women, Amber, Jess, and Laura, spent the majority of the retreat pouring into me. This was unexpected, and I felt God speaking to me. They made it clear that whatever path I needed to take, they would be fully on-board. They asked me over and over how I felt, and helped me sort through my thoughts. I was weary and fearful of being in the thick of motherhood, and feeling like I had it to have it all together to lead a team of women well.

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They helped me see that I was stuck in the past, and that I didn’t have to be perfect. I just needed to be right where I was—mess and all. Friend, this is exactly why I’m sharing this with you, because maybe you are stuck too. I was stuck feeling like I couldn’t be the person I had become after such rapid life change. How would people understand? How could I tell this new story? I’m not an expert on motherhood, so how could I talk about it? How does that fit with all we are doing in our work?

I was stuck in expectations of what motherhood and business are supposed to look like.

Stuck thinking I had to keep my mouth shut about LOVING BEING A MOM because I didn’t feel perfect at it. I haven’t read all the parenting books, and I’ve made many mistakes, but you guys, I love these kids fiercely. Fiercely and joyfully.

It started to become clear.

After over a decade running a business by myself, I felt like it was somehow okay to let my team in more to the struggles I faced. They saw me in my mess and it was okay. They covered me in grace. They handed me a one-way ticket off the business owner island.

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Last Wednesday night, I cried again to Ari about it and he said something that surprised me, because for a long time he wanted me to let work go so I wasn’t stressed by it. He loves me, but he loves God more. He said “It’s not time to give up. God has given you this for a reason. I don’t think He wants you to waste it.” I countered to him that I also don’t think He wants me to waste moments with our kids. This is my struggle. I want it to be one or the other, wrapped up in a bow. But I got on my knees just now on the dining room floor and GOD MADE IT CLEAR. I’m typing that in all caps because I am so crazy grateful. Months and months of praying. Months of agonizing. Months of wanting to give up my business completely. God told me these words that I immediately wrote down in my PowerSheets:

Help other people wrestle with it and sit in the tension and not feel like they have to GIVE UP.

Sometimes, when we feel like we want to quit, it means something DOES need to change. In this season I don’t have a perfect plan or all the answers. But I know I’m not giving up (I want to insert a thousand !!!! here). This is a season of sitting in the tension of motherhood and ministry and leading and listening and business and babies. I will not “do it all,” I’ll simply do what God wants me to do every day. I’ll get my hands dirty, and the way I live this out may not look like the way the rest of the world does it. I’m excited for that.

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“She believed she could so she did” is lovely and instills confidence, but that doesn’t last. I know a deeper truth. She believed she couldn’t, so He did. If you are struggling with doing it all–if comparison is making you feel inadequate, I am with you. If you are struggling as a boss, wife, mama, you don’t have to do it all. You don’t have to fix it. There’s no shame for all those imperfections, sister. There’s just grace.

I cannot do it all, but I can do a few things well. And only with grace. Grace upon grace.

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I did need to quit my job. 

I needed to quit doing it the way I had always done it, telling the old story and not recognizing the new path I am on.

It was time to quit feeling like I had to have it all together to tell the story of motherhood in my life and work. I needed to own my new story.

It’s time to let you in, and tell you the new story too.

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All those urgings I kept hearing from God?

Step away, Lara. 

Be small. 

Nurture these children for Me. 

Live a quiet life.

Yes. Just yes.

Step away from the noise.

Step away from the “should’s.”

Step forward from the old story and into what’s happening in my life now.

Be small. Low to the ground with my children. On my knees. Hands in the dirt. Less concerned with how to do life—needing a one-or-the-other plan and title–and fully focused on why I’m doing life.

Nurture these children, because the greatest contribution I make to the kingdom of God may not be something I do, but someone I raise (wisdom from Andy Stanley).

Living a quiet life, because all the loud out there isn’t going to last.

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Do you know how this motherhood/work/internet tension works?

Imperfectly.

Awkwardly.

And yet, intentionally.

My garden is in an awkward stage, but it’s still a garden. And, even when I can’t see it or feel it, it’s growing. It doesn’t have to be in full bloom all the time for it to be meaningful. The tension of the middle ground is the path to blooming.

The garden just this morning with Grace, who is a much more fulfilled Grace now that I have let go of the old and stepped into the new. She’s learning to love her messes too : )

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Maybe you are wrestling with something similar. Sister, let me tell you something I didn’t know before sitting in this tension: there is no formula. There is no one “right” way to do motherhood and business, or one or the other.

You do what God tells you to do.

And you know what? It may not be what you do for all of your life. We were created for seasons, and seasons don’t last forever for a reason. They prepare us for what’s next. Stay open, fellow-sojourner. Stay open. I thought for SURE God was telling me to close the doors of our company, or sell it, and I’m so glad I stayed in the tension. I’m so grateful I didn’t give up. The tension—the wait and the wrestling and the mess and the endless prayers–was all for a reason. Maybe yours is too.

So, this post doesn’t have a bow tied on it here at the end, just a “…” 

I am still listening and keeping my hands open. But, I know what I’m not doing: letting the lies of mom guilt speak louder than the truth of grace. And the truth that our paths don’t have to look like everyone else’s. We can do this motherhood and work thing differently. We can do it together, and do just enough well.

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Join me this Friday live on my Facebook page at noon EST. I’m going to be talking about motherhood and work, my summer goals, what’s changing in our company soon (a lot), how we’re starting a new magazine about community, and I also believe it’s time to tell you how our company works. I want you to know our hearts and our daily story here in my home-office. What does it look like to work from home? How do we do what we do? What’s it like with three kids and lots of ladies in our house all day? How do we design and decide on our products? You’ll be seeing a lot more starting tomorrow on our Instagram and Snapchat (LaraCaseyShop).

Your turn. How are you feeling? What’s the tension you are wrestling with? Let’s talk about it, and give each-other a one-way ticket off the isolation island.

Love,

Lara the business owner who is also a great imperfect joyful mom!

P.S. If you need a new start this summer, join me Friday, and I’m giving you and your friends 40% off PowerSheets. Use code SUMMERGOALS here. Some people might say this is unwise to give this big discount, but I really don’t care. I just want you and all your friends to have them and, Lord willing, be changed by them. They are undated, six-month sets, so this is the ideal time to start fresh and finish the year well (our new designs come out in November). I am starting over with my goals this week too–a fresh new focus. Spread the word and feel free to share this code with your friends! Code ends one week from today, or until we sell out again.

P.P.S. I love you, friends. Sincerely. I know many of you have read this blog and followed my journey for years, and some of you have just stumbled on it today, and I want to tell you thank you for listening and sitting with me in this tension. I am grateful to do life with you.

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If I spend more than a couple sentences telling you how much I love our nanny, Rhiannon, I’ll soak my keyboard in tears. That post will come later! After two wonderful years with us, the Lord has called her into ministry. We are so excited for her in this new season ahead. She has cared for us with a love that could only come from a great God, and she will no doubt change the lives of many more in the years ahead.

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As you can see in these photographs, she’s pretty amazing. She works hard and loves God passionately! We trust that God will bring us another great fit for our family.

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We are seeking a full-time Nanny and House Manager, starting July 1. Please apply if you meet ALL of these requirements.

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Who you’ll care for:

Baby boy (Joshua)
Infant girl (Sarah)
Pre-schooler girl (Grace)
A handful of fishies and a bevy of houseplants : )

We’re looking for:

Joyful Caregiver
Hard Worker & Self Starter
Health-Oriented (non-smoker, etc.)

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We need someone who can commit to two years with us. Must be able to start training July 1st. If you are applying from out-of-state (our previous two nannies did this!), you must be able to relocate by July 1. We will gladly help you with finding great living arrangements. Our current nanny lives in an apartment that is two blocks away, and enjoys walking to work : )

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Must be extremely organized, energetic (three kids will keep you on your toes!), joyful (we love to be silly), and experienced in childcare. A background in early childhood education is a plus. College graduates only. In addition to caring for our three children, you would also be responsible for managing our household; laundry, grocery shopping, errands, etc. Must have own transportation, and a clean driving record.

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I run a business with multiple employees from home, so I am here all day as well, and only working a few hours a week in this season of life. We will spend a lot of time together, caring for these children alongside each other. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, with occasional date nights/Saturday hours (maybe 10 per year).

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/isaacsonfamilymarch2015

Our faith is a cornerstone in our home. We are seeking a nanny who can teach and reinforce Christian principles and lead by example. We are looking for someone who has very strong integrity, is calm under pressure, confident in thier faith, and is willing to develop a passion for shaping our children’s hearts alongside us.

Please pray about this position and only reply if you meet ALL of these requirements. We’ve had three wonderful nannies over the last five years, and know the qualifications fit our family well. We will be doing several Skype interviews with potential candidates.

Please APPLY HERE by April 29th. We will begin Skype interviews the first week of May. Please read through this post and the application thoroughly. Your attention to detail is part of the interview : ) We are praying for you as you apply!

P.S. If you know someone else who this would be a great fit for, please pass this post along. Thank you!

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