Hey friends!

 The Summer is full of family commitments, adventures (near and far), work obligations and many more things.  It’s easy to look at the Summer and want to accomplish everything and do ALL the fun things.  And honestly I have been a bit overwhelmed by it all.


Then I heard this quote from Mother Theresa ” Do Small things with great love”.  I was reminded that it’s the love that matters, not just accomplishing something off the to-do list or checking a box on my Powersheets.  If I want to end the summer refreshed, refocused and reenergized I need to simplify.   I want to do a few things and do them well.


Summer Goals-Simplified




Shepherd Zachariah’s Acres team towards a fruitful Summer

  • Pray, plan and delegate
  • Joyful attitude towards fundraising events.
  • Rejoice in the harvest!



Invest in relationships

  • Schedule weekly friend date
  • Prayerfully participate in Elmbrook-Lake Country launch
  • Family Dinners
  • Have adventures with friends & family (NYC, Pictured Rocks,…)



Practice Regular Self-Care

  • 30 Minutes daily “Write the Word”
  • Hike, jog or kayak 3X per week
  • Eat nourishing food (fresh from the garden!)
  • Write for 3 hours per week.
  • Media Free evenings 3X a week.


That is it.  I’m saying YES to these few things and no to all the rest.  I’m choosing to savor the simple this Summer and I can’t wait to see how God works.


Grace Notes:

*A few resources to carve out a simplified Summer


Summer to Thrive Worksheets by Jess Connolly




Crafting a Rule of Life by Steven Macchia





FullSizeRender (19)Spring is a time for preparation; in the garden we spend hours tilling up the earth, carefully removing rocks & debris and adding quality nutrients all in preparation to plant good seeds that we’ll harvest in the future. Its the same in our lives. Before new, good seeds can be planted we need to remove what could inhibit growth.

Last month I spend time focusing on removing old habits. Journaling before bed with a cup of tea has replaced Netflix.  I still enjoy a good binge now & then (hello…Fixer Upper Season 3!) but getting my thoughts & worries out on paper have helped me sleep better and wake up rested and ready to take on the day.

Grabbing a latte & cruising the isles of Target used to be one of my favorite ways to unwind after a busy week.  However, I could never leave without spending $100 on things I frankly didn’t need. The Contentment Challenge has encouraged me to pursue other interests than just shopping. Now, after a stressful day I hit the local Y to swim a few laps in the pool or take a walk outside with a friend. These habits are tiny steps towards a purposeful and intentional life.

This month I’m keeping my goals simple, clear and focused. I want to continue to build upon the momentum from last month and start powerful habits that are rooted in what matters most.


April_Share_Graphics-04April Goals

Read 168 Hours with Nancy Ray Book Club

Contentment Challenge Month #2 (no new clothes, home decor or books)

Plant my flower & veggie beds at home & Zachariah’s Acres.

Sketch out a rough outline for Flourish Devotional.

Follow monthly cash flow. (use envelope system for food, entertainment and pocket money)


Weekly Goals

Visit the YMCA (3X a week)

Social media free Sunday

Tuesday evening writing time at Mission Cafe or Stone Creek. (spend at least 1 hour on Flourish)

Schedule one office day per week.  (budget review, weekly task list, e-mail clear out…)



Daily Goals

P.R.E.S.E.N.T. Morning Routine

No screens after 9:30 p.m. (Sunday-Thursday)

Use cash for “fun” spending

Daily download at 4:30 p.m.

Write down 3 “grace & gratitude” in prayer journal.


How about you friends, what are some of the goals or dreams you have for this new month?


Earlier this month, at the suggestion of my amazing life coach Diana I began a time diary.  Using the method from the book 168 Hours I diligently tracked my life in 15-minute increments. It was a lot of work, but the “aha” moments I had towards the end of the week were completely worth it.

One of the major themes I saw was a lack of structure in the morning. Every morning began drastically different and I saw a rhythm that how I spent my mornings influenced the rest of the day.

Over the past few years I’ve developed a strong habit of getting up every morning to spend time in God’s word. I’m so grateful for these quiet mornings of coffee & Jesus for fueling my day. But, there are other things I wanted to incorporate or get rid of to make my mornings intentional and focused.


After my time tracking study, I decided to commit to waking up an hour earlier Monday-Friday and refining my morning routine.  I needed was a routine that could be flexible, something that could be savored, simplified, incorporated throughout the day depending on my schedule.  I read a few articles, tried several methods and finally landed on this simple and flexible routine from “The Better Life” by Claire Diaz-Ortiz.


P.R.E.S.E.N.T. Mornings


Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12


Pray or Pause


This is the most important step, to begin the day with what matters most. I recently switched my alarm off my phone to a traditional alarm clock so I had one less temptation to scroll through Instagram or check e-mail first thing. Sometimes I just sit in the stillness, go through my Val Marie Prayer Journal, list daily gratitude or I take a prayer walk around the lake. The important thing is to start the day with truth!




I brew a cup of coffee and pull out my Write the Word Journal, favorite devotional or a non-fiction book and spend sometime reading. Most mornings I read a few passages of scripture and a devotional.  Lately I’m loving Pricilla Shrirers “Armor of God” and Savor devotional.



Journal my prayers, bible study thoughts or write out concerns & to-dos for the day. Journaling and getting my thoughts out on paper has been one of the most life transformative habits I’ve incorporated into my day. I often wait until the end of the day for this step and get the fears, worries, challenges out of my head before I hit the hay.  I especially love Emily Ley’s Grace not Perfection Journal for this step.



Spending a few minutes on my schedule and preparing for the day allows me to refocus on the important and prioritize the urgent. I spend a few minutes reviewing my vision board and Powersheets tending list and my 3-most important things list that I wrote out the night before.




If I don’t have time to take a walk or go to the YMCA first thing in the morning, I make it a priority to schedule it in. I keep a stocked gym bag in my car and that way if I find I have some unexpected time I’ll go swim on my lunch break or visit my favorite hiking trail at the end of the day. Incorporating fun & intentional exercise into my morning routine has provided so much more energy for me to accomplish what the day brings.



When we take time to invest in our self-care, we are able to pour into others. I made a list of things that bring me joy and tapped it to my refrigerator and each day I try and incorporate one of those things into my schedule. Simple joys like heading out to the garden for fresh flowers, sending happy mail, making a green smoothie, painting my toenails or reading a fiction book on the porch restores me.



Don’t forget to track your progress!!! I use my Powersheets tending list to track my goals and recommend them for anyone who is looking for some added purpose and intention in their life.


The best thing about this routine is it’s more of a rhythm than a highly structured to-do list. The steps don’t have to be done in order or even in the morning, the important things is to figure out what bring joy into your day and make time for that. I share my routine not to give you “one more thing to do” but to encourage you to stop and consider how incorporating one or two of these items into your mornings may bring some extra grace & purpose into your daily life.






IMG_7268I can’t believe another month has flown by!  To be honest this month was a bit of a blur.  Life was full of family obligations, work, meetings and just general life.  Honestly, I did not get as much time to spend on my goals as I wanted.

But, here is the thing–there was still such sweet fruit in the month of March and so so much to be grateful for.  I attended InspireU with some amazing friends, spent time with extended family, planned my home garden and the garden for Zachariah’s Acres, attended Art in Bloom and ended the month with a long weekend at the cabin.


This month I’m starting fresh with a goal refresh and simplifying my monthly goals to focus on a few, intentional areas of growth.


Goal Refresh

  1. Cultivate a spirit of contentment through not spending money on books, home decor and clothes the months of April/May/June and completing the Joy Dare every day.
  2. Save X towards my home downpayment.
  3. Find a budget tool that works for me and apply it to my REAL life and goals.
  4. Refine my job description so it reflects my gifts/skills and delegate other things to qualified team-mates.  Let go of control!!
  5. Clear the clutter, get rid of excess and simplify my stuff so I can focus on living not just cleaning.
  6. Live an active, flourishing life in every season.  Take daily prayer walks around the lake, visit the YMCA with a friend and enjoy “me time” with purpose.
  7. Write for 30 minutes, 5 days a week about what God is teaching me.  (Journal, blog, devotional or social media)
  8. Schedule weekly “friend dates” to explore and invest in relationships
  9. Eat more fresh, seasonal produce. Take time to plan and prepare nourishing meals and snacks to give me energy to live out my calling.



Image: Elmbrook Church

April 2016 Goals

Teach us to number our days, so that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  – Psalm 90:12

“Sometimes you need to quit the mediocre things to experience the amazing!” – Anon


Monthly Goals:

  1. Read Boundaries with Nancy Ray Book Club.
  2. Develop a budget system that works for me.
  3. Save X towards home downpayment.
  4. Make a list of easy, healthy meals for those busy days.
  5. Track my time for one week using Laura Vanderkam’s method.
  6. Schedule a spring cleaning sale for Mary Kay products.

Weekly Goals:

  1. Visit the YMCA 2X a week with a friend.
  2. Sign off social media 2 days each week.
  3. Clear the clutter in one area.

Daily Goals:

Joy Dare

Prayer Walk

Write for 30 minutes

Continue morning/evening routine


Cheers to a fruitful fresh start!!


Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. Psalm 116: 7

The days are getting longer, the sun is shining, & birds are chirping happily. Springtime will soon be here. I’ve been reflecting this past week on the importance of rest and a season of stillness. In the past few years I have come to appreciate the beautiful stillness that accompanies the long Wisconsin Winter.

Now, don’t get me wrong my heart longs for days filled with sunshine, digging in the dirt, picnics, farm markets and fresh cut flowers.  But there is a deep contentment and purpose in a season of rest.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.  Exodus 20:8-11

We were simply not created to go, move and make it happen twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year.  Yes, we were created to work hard, but we were called to rest well.

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27

A regular rhythm of rest is a reflection of a flourishing life.  True rest allows us to serve wholeheartedly and use our gifts to bring God glory.

But, real rest is more than knitting on a quiet afternoon with a cup of tea at hand, it’s a sabbath of the soul.

So, the big question is, How can we rest well? In this crazy, beautiful life we have been given?  How can we let go of busy and embrace beautiful rest?

I wish I had an easy answer, perhaps “5 simple steps to embracing rest”.  But friends, true, soul giving rest can only beg with surrender.  It begins with the confession that you are not in control.  When we put aside our to-do list and replace it with rest, we take a step of faith.   Rest reminds us that we are not in control and draws us closer to the one who is.


Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10


Be still sweet friend, let go of control and embrace the true rest that can only come from our amazing God.


Grace Notes:

*Incorporating rest into the rhythm of your daily life.

  • True rest begins with a quiet, surrendered heart. Take a moment to pause and be still. Confess any fears, worries and struggles you are facing.
  • What brings you rest?  Make a list and incorporate a few of these items into your schedule next week.  Sign up for the cooking class, go for that hike, or read that novel you have been looking forward to.
  • Are you in a particularly full season?  Embrace it friend, lean on His grace and know that it won’t last forever.  Consider scheduling a long weekend trip (or staycation), make a priority to have extended time of rest in your schedule.

IMG_5207I can’t believe another month of 2016 has passed.  February was a beautiful month of restoration, peace, stillness, daily grace and hope in the faithfulness of God.  There was much to be thankful for last month: heart to heart chats with friends, our amazing volunteer team at ZA, weekend adventure at the Opera with my mamma, garden planning and resting in the truth that God is ALWAYS at work for His glory and my good.  It has been a sweet month but Springtime is right around the corner and I’m itching for what is to come.



February Goal Update: 


  1. Read “Ordering Your Private World” by Gordon MacDonald and “Culture Making” by Andy Crouch.

I am taking a class at Elmbrook Church and this month we were discussing faith and culture this month, as part of out discussion we read Andy Crouch’s “Culture Making”.  I didn’t agree with 100% of what Andy said, but the overall theme of creating culture instead of just consuming stretched my point of view.  We aren’t just supposed to passively participate in this life, but create grow and flourish.

Ordering Your Private World by Gordon McDonald has been a game changer you all!  At the end of the year I felt frazzled, overwhelmed, empty and completely disorganized.  I though that the slower season of “Winter” would be the solution to all my struggles. But peace doesn’t just happen overnight, we have to choose it, act on it and live it out during every season.   If you are looking for a practical book full of wisdom and advice I would heartily recommend “Ordering Your Private World”.

2. Consistent, weekly writing time at Mission Cafe.

Well, this month I had several work meetings in the evening and struggled to find time to write. In March I hope to get back into a rhythm of writing each Tuesday evening before bible study, but until then I’ll take the stolen moments on a quiet Saturday afternoon to share a bit of my story and reflect on what God’s been teaching me.  I’ve learned through this that God’s ways and timing are far better than our own.  He’s refining me through this process and helping me depend on Him more.


3. Contentment Challenge Month #2.

I had a few unexpected purchases this month (replacing my camera) and also chose to purchase a few items that supported some amazing shops and makers.  It’s all about grace friends.  However, I do plan to jump back on in March and keep focusing on saving for some bigger goals.


4. Turn off my phone on evenings off and read, rest, bible journal, pray.  Find TRUE rest in Him.

Intentional rest fuels purposeful work.  I love a good Netflix binge (Unbreakable Kimmy Smidt and Fixer Upper are a few of my current faves) but rest begins by quieting out heart and soaking up the presence of our Savior.  This month has been full of work, family and volunteer commitments but when I find myself with an evening off (or Saturday afternoon with no plans) I’ve been having fun creating, coloring and painting in my bible journal.  I’ve also begun the evening rhythm of reading a passage of scripture and writing in my Write the World Journal before bed and ending my day with thoughts of peace & truth instead of anxiety and my to-do list.

5. Prayerfully consider how to increase my saving and giving.  GIVE. SAVE. LIVE.

Yes!  Some amazing organizations that I’ve been so blessed to support.

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40

Hands and Feet Project

Hope for Justice

World Vision

Zachariah’s Acres


6. Delegate tasks to qualified volunteers who are passionate about using their unique gifts to serve.

WOW-God has answered this prayer abundantly more than I could ever ask or imagine.  It’s a humbling process learning to lead and encourage a team, but He is at work.

7. Visit the YMCA on Tuesday/Thursdays with my workout buddy.

I’ve fallen back in love with lap swimming. It’s been the perfect end of the day to clear my head.  Plus our YMCA has a hot tub and sauna, so it’s like a mini vacation 😉

8. Encourage a friend over coffee or a meal weekly. Speak truth in love.

I wasn’t perfect on this one, but I’ve made more intentional steps towards deepening relationships.  I work the majority of the time from home, and with a friend over lunch, coffee or just a phone call can be a much needed day brightener. Springtime is drawing near and already people are coming out of hibernation. I’m looking forward to walks around the lake, last minute trips to the taco trip and lingering bonfires.


March Goals


img_0028-1Theme Verse: 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. Isaiah 43:19

  1. Read Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence & Steadfast Love by Lauren Chandler
  2. Contentment Challenge.
  3. Be quick to listen, slow to speak.
  4. Swim for 30 minutes X2 a week at the YMCA.
  5. Create task lists for major 2016 fundraisers.
  6. Weekly writing time at the mission cafe or local coffee shop.
  7. Schedule summer vacations, weekends at the cabin, and other fun!
  8. Turn of the radio in the car and PRAY.




Hi friends,

wholehearted-lady-pic-emily1-940x940Just popping in to share a recent interview I did with Natalie Metrejean for her Wholehearted Ladies series.  I met Nat (and her twin sister Val) at The Influence Conference last September and she is an absolute treasure.


Natalie’s mission to encouraging women in every season is near and dear to my heart and it was fun to share a little of my story and a lot of my heart for her blog.  She is an encourager, cheerleader and authentic writer. Natalie’s Wholehearted devotional has been a huge blessing in my season of singleness.  It’s just like sitting across the table from a dear friend listening, chatting and learning from each other.  I would completely recommend it to all my single sisters.

Now grab a cup of coffee and head over there to read the full  post.  


FullSizeRender (14)My church is currently walking through a series that focuses on our refreshed vision to be “Rooted in Jesus and released to His mission”. Over the last several weeks the entire church has been studying what it means to be rooted & released through weekly sermons, personal study and discussion in our life groups.  The series is especially encouraging because my word of the year is Flourish and my theme verse (Psalm 1: 1-3) is also our main focus for the sermon series. I’ve learned that when God is trying to teach me something, he shows up in countless ways.

So dear friends, instead of just letting all that knowledge sit in my head, I want to share it with you. My heart is to encourage women (and men too!) to flourish in every season, so let’s begin by looking at Psalm 1 and learning what it looks like to be rooted in Jesus.

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.

Psalm 1:1-3


This verse reminds me of the trees surrounding our cottage in Northern Michigan. Last year, my uncle planted several oak saplings (baby trees) and during the heat of the summer he spent countless hours watering them, providing shelter and encouraging them to grow. It took so much effort for those young trees to thrive and flourish in that season. Then there are the majestic oaks that line the riverbed, whose roots run deep and thrive no matter the temperature. They have withstood years of storms, heat, and cold and continue to thrive.




Like those trees, a life that flourishes begins with being planted by streams of LIVING water.  If we desire to flourish in every season we need to start with a firm foundation in our identity as His children.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9

We are created and called for a greater purpose, and if we are going to live that out we need to be rooted in truth. For a tree to establish deep roots its take time and a whole lot of patience.  It’s the same with our study of His word. We need to be students of the bible; reading it, studying it and uncovering the truth.

A deep knowledge of the scripture isn’t going to happen over night.  But we can start somwhere.  Today we can commit to spending time dwelling in His truth and getting into His word. Maybe it’s for the first five minutes of the day or for 30 minutes on your lunch hour. The time of day isn’t the most important thing, what matters most is to seek Him.


Grace Notes:

*Some of my favorite resources to learn, grow and study scripture


She Reads Truth 

First 5 App by Prv.31 Ministries

Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin 

How to Study Your Bible by Kay Arthur

Blue Letter Bible 

Give me Jesus Journal by Life Lived Beautifully

ESV Journaling Bible




Winter can feel especially long in the Midwest and I’ve learned that scheduled breaks and weekends away bring joy to my soul.   True rest begins by putting aside your daily routine for quiet, soul filling moments.

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“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31

At the end of January I hosted a small, intimate retreat for my bible study at our cozy cabin in Michigan.  We spent time together exploring the topic of rest, knitting, coloring, snow shoeing and cooking fabulous food.

I am blessed beyond measure by this group of ladies and their hearts for the Lord, here are a few snap shots and reflections of the weekend.


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Giving gifts is totally my love language.  I’m currently doing the Contentment Challenge to save for some big goals and cultivate a heart of gratitude.  But, grace not perfection friends.  For a few dollars in the Target Dollar Spot I picked up some cute notebooks, pens and used craft supplies I had on hand to create a little treat. Sometimes we can focus to much on getting “the perfect look” that we miss out on the joy of the moment.  I had a blast assembling little goodies for the girls and wanted them to feel pampered and welcomed from the moment they entered the cottage.



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“Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come away with me.” Song of Songs 2:10

My favorite part of spending time at Koselig Cottage (a swedish word for “cozy”) is our morning routing of digging into the scripture.  The early morning light on the river, cozied up by the fire with coffee in hand.  We spent time digging into the theme of rest over the weekend and it was just the reminder my heart needed.  In Winter it feels easy to rest, to set aside time to be still and pause, but one of my goals for 2016 is to claim a spirit of rest, in the midst of every season.






Snow shoeing has become one of my favorite Winter activities.  It’s a great workout and way to explore God’s beautiful creation.  We took several hikes through the surrounding area.  I collected pinecones and birch bark for crafts and we talked and laughed the whole way.  For several of the gals it was their first time snow shoeing and they had a blast.  I’m constantly reminded by these ladies about the necessity of community.  Authentic community pushes you out of your comfort zone, it gives you courage to try new things and encourages you the whole way.




It was a life-giving weekend with dear friends.  Winter can be a beautiful time, if we purposefully include times of quiet, refreshment and community. I’m looking forward to Spring but for now, I’ll take joy in the rest, coffee and beauty of this season.







cultivate-gratitude-lara-casey-goal-settingHi friends!

I can’t believe we are a month into 2016!  I’ve deemed 2016 the year of flourishing.  Keeping that word front and center (along with my theme verses Psalm 1:1-3) has been the encouragement I’ve needed to thrive in every season.  God is teaching me so much lately but a theme that keeps coming up is the idea that “You can’t do it all, and do it all well.” or as my friend Lara says “If it matters to you, cultivate it”.

An abundant, flourishing life begins with taking a hard look at what is in your life and letting go of the control. Digging deep into what matters most to me makes room for others to use their gifts and shine.



January Goal Update


  1. Join #NancyRayBookClub and read “How to Win Friends and Influence People”

-I’ll be honest, out of the 12 books “How to Win Friends and Influence People” was the one I was least excited to read.  Boy, was I in for a shocker.  Dale Carnige’s quick with and tell it like it is point of view is refreshing.  My number one take away has been to notice people & be truly present.  We are ALL in the business of people, and a little bit of thought and kindness goes a long way.   If you want to learn more about Nancy’s book club, visit nancyrayphotography.com

2. Contentment Challenge-Month One

This is my second time doing a contentment challenge.  I’ve learned that having a larger goal (saving for a home of my own) does wonders to help with my discipline.  There are countless small things I’m now willing to sacrifice to save for a bigger reward.  God is doing a work in my heart teaching this target-loving girl that joy and contentment is found in Him not in things.

One thing though, giving gifts are my love language and I’ve allotted an amount in my budget to support hand-made businesses and love on my friends. It’s all about grace not perfection friends!

3. Fill out prayer journal.

Preparation is key here.  My small group shares prayer requests every week but I’ve set a reminder in my planner at the end of each month to purposefully text/call friends and family to see how I can pray for them.

I’ve also began doing an “Alphabet Prayer” (using the alphabet as a prompting on what/who to pray for), it has been a great way to keep my mind free of distractions. Praying in the car and while washing dishes has become a new favorite habit.


4. Create a “Beat the Winter Blues Bucket List”

-This has been a life saver during our Wisconsin winter.  See this post for more information :-) 

5. Plan Come Away Retreat for Small Group Ladies

We had an absolute blast playing games, exploring the woods, learning to knit and drinking countless cups of coffee. We ended the weekend with a heart to heart talk about the real meaning of rest and what it looks like to rest in Christ during the busyness of each day.  More to come as God spoke to my heart through these ladies.

ZA Goals:

Create a daily and weekly workflow for ZA. (This habit has been life transforming!)

Intentional plan ZA garden with volunteers and team. (Yes, we involved the kids this year and it made the planning time that much more fruitful…Spring is coming friends)

Create a list of podcasts to listen to while I do administrative work. (Done, Nancy LeighDemoss’s series on Prayer has been a great encouragement to me)




IMG_4630February Goals: 


  1. Read “Ordering Your Private World” by Gordon MacDonald and “Culture Making” by Andy Crouch
  2. Consistent, weekly writing time at Mission Cafe.
  3. Contentment Challenge Month #2.
  4. Turn off my phone on evenings off and read, rest, bible journal, pray.  Find TRUE rest in Him.
  5. Prayerfully consider how to increase my saving and giving.  GIVE. SAVE. LIVE.
  6. Delegate tasks to qualified volunteers who are passionate about using their unique gifts to serve
  7. Visit the YMCA on Tuesday/Thursdays with my workout buddy.
  8. Encourage a friend over coffee or a meal. Speak truth in love.

Cheers to a fruitful month!