I have been half-joking lately that my next book will be called, No. Alternate titles: The Year of No, All the Things God Has Told Me to Say No To, and my personal favorite, No, No, No. 😉

This has been a year of saying yes to the things that matter in the big picture and, inherent in choosing those things, is saying no to all the rest. No to doing it all. No to distractions and negative self-talk. No to worry. No to opportunities that would take me away from my family. No to doing the same things I’ve always done and getting the same results I’ve always gotten. Yes to cultivating the hearts in this home. Yes to doing the things I was put on this earth to do.

We loved apple picking in Morganton, NC, last month!

An excerpt from Cultivate that I keep coming back to and living out:

‘It’s simple gardening math: plants need space for roots to grow, and they need adequate nutrients. If you want them to flourish, then give them these things. Untangling our lives can feel more complicated, though. Relationships, expectations of others, deadlines, and dates press on us and feel impossible to unravel and unrush. So how do you do it? How do you know what to say no to when it all feels urgent? How do you simplify? A powerful fertilizer to nourish the things that truly matter in life is the word no. We often think of no as a scary and disconnecting word, but it has the power to be one of the most loving and connecting words you use. It’s okay to let go, not keep up, and not do it all. It’s okay to disappoint people in favor of growing what God has given you to grow. It’s okay to say no. We have only so much space, energy, and nutrients in our lives. I don’t know about you, but I do not thrive in an overcrowded life. Whether it’s too many dreams planted at once or too many social commitments, work projects, family activities, or unresolved conflicts, all those things take up space. When I try to do it all, nothing grows well.’

I had a life-shifting realization a couple weeks ago: perhaps I’m not just in a “season” of say no to make room for the things God has given me to cultivate. Perhaps, this is a lifelong commitment. Letting this thought take root has given me so much freedom to say no with joy and without regret. This commitment to “no” is where the good stuff is.

Happiness at the top of Grandfather Mountain!

So, you may be wondering…how can you say no when it’s so hard?

When your yes is crystal clear, it’s actually quite easy. Get clear on the yes, and you can’t help but choose it over all the rest.

Want a free printable to help you get there? Download the Intentional Life List and name your yes’s and no’s.

August was a month of getting clear on my yeses. A trip to the mountains—looking over the green valleys and expanse of God’s creation—put a lot in perspective for me, making my narrow worries seem so small. I came back ready for change, ready to make firm decisions to say yes to the things God has given me to grow.

In the Grandfather Mountain wildflowers with my favorite buddies!

August Monthly Goals Progress:

— Trust in the Lord. Over my own efforts and abilities and plans, my top priority is to trust the Lord with it all. / Yes, this was at the forefront of my thoughts as I waded through many unknowns and challenges in August. Trusting in His power over my own is a whole lot easier than feeling like I have to be in control all the time!
— Praise-ful night away with Ari. We are going “away” for one night—right down the road to a log cabin bed and breakfast. I am hopeful this is a time Ari and I can spend remembering God’s faithfulness and praising Him through our conversations. / What a fun adventure this was. We had a great time (loved eating at Vin Rouge as per Emily’s recommendation) and yet, after being away for less than 24 hours, we couldn’t wait to see the kids again!
— Cultivate my calendar. Rather than wait until right before the holidays to make meaningful plans, and to look ahead to 2019, I’m going to take a look now and cultivate my calendar. / Yes! This was simple and so helpful! I did this in 15 minutes from my phone. I went day by day through my iCal and wrote down action steps to prepare well for events and needs ahead—and some things I did right then and there! For example, I texted a babysitter for one event and made a gift list for another. I shifted some things around that didn’t work and made sure all of our ducks were in a row. 15 minutes of cultivating my calendar saved me so much time for the future! More below…
— Teach the Cultivate Your Calendar live workshop. This was one of the most popular webinars I did last year, and I’m excited to dive in again so we can all prepare well for the months ahead! / I highly recommend watching this replay—so many tips and aha moments from everyone who has taken this workshop! 
— Prepare well for the homeschool year! Wooooo! We’ve been doing a little homeschool here and there this summer, and it’s about to ramp up. Any other mom’s feeling the back-to-school crunch too? I had a great conversation over dinner last night with some wiser-than-me mamas and it was so refreshing. Their advice: You don’t have to do it all. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be an expert. Little by little progress adds up. (Sound familiar?! 🙂 ) It was refreshing to be reminded of these truths as I prepare for the year ahead! / I may have a VERY EXCITING free download coming soon in regards to this one. I am feeling great about our year ahead!
— Record the Podcast. Yes! It’s happening! I’m a little scared typing this. I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m doing it! Any votes for the name of said podcast or for episodes you’d like to see included? I’d love to hear! / We have a name! (Thank you for all of your suggestions!) And I start recording in a few days! Ahhhh!!!! Can’t wait to share more soon. If you have suggestions on episode topics, I’d love to hear!

Teaching my buddy how to feed chickens at Spence’s Farm for his birthday!

— Celebrate Josh’s 3rd year + life! Josh is our rainbow baby (we had a miscarriage before we started our adoption process and simultaneously found out I was pregnant). His existence is a miracle and I want to intentionally take time to remember and praise God for this! / So much praise! It was simple and sweet to celebrate his birthday with friends at the farm and then in the mountains on his actual birthday to remember God’s goodness!
— Family praise-cation. I know, I know—I have a thing for making up new words with “praise” or “pray” in them to keep me focused on what matters! (Case in point: Pray-oritize. Verb. To prioritize through praying about what He wants on your to-do list!) We are taking a week-long trip to Boone and Asheville. We’re going to Tweetsie (Josh can’t wait to ride the train) and Grandfather Mountain (I have been wanting to go for two years!) and the Biltmore. I can’t wait! / This trip. It was my favorite vacation ever—and not because it was smooth and easy. We had our meltdowns (all of us!) and challenges, but what was so sweet about this trip was having the time and space to love each other through the challenges in new ways. Time was the biggest blessing. Time to talk. Time to feel all the emotions. Time to take deep breaths of mountain air. It was so good for us all.

August Weekly Goals:

— Pray on my knees. I’m feeling a need for some extra surrender this month. / Yes, there was a lot of surrender and prayer time.
— Praise with the kids. I’ve already started this—intentionally voicing praise for God’s blessings or answered prayers, instead of just thinking them to myself! / Yes! Progress here too.
— Write the Word Wednesday + Bible journaling. Every Wednesday, the kids and I do our Write the Word journals together. I’m adding Bible journaling to this so I spend time praying over Grace and writing notes to her in her Bible in prep for this new school year. / We did our Write the Word journals but I didn’t do much Bible journaling.

August Daily Goals:

— Chronological Bible. I’m continuing my number one goal with this daily Bible reading using the Blue Letter Bible Chronological reading plan on Youversion. / Yes! We are in Ezekiel.
— Strength + Joy – This is my goal to strength train. I do abs and some free weights here at home with the kiddos! / Hooray yes! I did strength training a few times and lots of mountain hikes and carrying kiddos!

On to September! 

September Monthly Goals:

— Seek Him. This is my top priority for September (and always!)—to seek the Lord in my days, moments, thoughts, actions, decisions, homeschooling, parenting, marriage, and in loving others well. Practically speaking, this means stopping to pray, to ask Him what He wants me to do, and reading His word every chance I get. I have an open Bible on my desk, an open Bible on my dining room table, and the front page of my phone has the YouVersion Bible app right where it’s easiest to click with my thumb. The easier you make it to read the Word, the less likely you’ll be to choose something else! 🙂
— Begin our cultivated homeschool year. More to come here soon!
— Record the podcast. 
— Prepare well for the 2019 PowerSheets launch
— Love Josh + Sarah and my parents well on our trip to Florida. I’m taking the two little ones to see my parents for a few days while Ari takes Grace to visit her cousins in Omaha—I’m praying for smooth travels all around and opportunities to love others well.
— Celebrate Rosh Hashana. Our kiddos love this new year celebration with apples and honey—and Ari blowing his shofar.
— Have a surrendered quarterly sabbath. Out of all the action steps I took from the Cultivated Calendar teachings, this is the one I’m most grateful for. Last fall, I looked ahead at my 2018 calendar and went ahead and blocked off 3 days once a quarter to take off. Instead of letting my calendar dictate my life, I made the intentional decision to block off these days ahead of time. This has been helpful!
— Prayerfully lead the 54th Making Things Happen ConferenceThe fall conference is sold out, and spring tickets will be on sale later this month. I can’t wait to see everyone soon!
— Savor September. Forever ago, I started a hashtag—#SavorSeptember—to help my mind and heart enjoy the change of season. I’m picking it back up again this month to slow my thoughts and praise Him at every turn!

September Weekly Goals:

— Praise! My weekly goal is simply to praise Him! In song, dancing around with the kiddos, on hikes, in conversation, in art, in words, in prayer—in as many ways as I can muster!

Out on a prayer walk with my favorite sisters. Many of us have known each other for almost a decade. We’ve prayed together, studied the Word, enjoyed many a barbecue, and shared a lot of laughs over these years. It hit me as we were out walking together last weekend that these are my people. When I was in college, I would envision who my adult friends might be—the people who would be there consistently for years and years through ups and downs. I realized during this walk, that I’m in it. These (and more not pictured) are those people. I am grateful.

September Daily Goals:

— Chronological Bible. I’m continuing my number one goal with this daily Bible reading using the Blue Letter Bible Chronological reading plan on Youversion.
— Strength + Joy – This is my goal to strength train. I do abs and some free weights here at home with the kiddos! 

Verses I’m loving for September:

‘Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
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 43:18-19).

‘But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit’ (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

A view from my first solo hike through Grandfather Mountain. It was hard and glorious, and so fun to see the kids and Ari cheering me on when I reached the end! (I have found a new passion in hiking! Any hikers out there?)

Your turn! What are your goals for September? What are you cultivating in this new month? I’ll pick one of you to send a special surprise box of goodies to from the Cultivate What Matters shop. I love sending real mail, and I love hearing your thoughts! Congrats to August’s winner, Cassie!

15 Show Comments
  1. Karlie Van Soelen

    September big goals: Grow in grace, Celebrate our 2 year old, create & start our Fall family bucket list, Update our little ones’ baby books, eat KETO & workout 3-4x a week.

  2. Katlin V.

    The September goal I’m most excited and nervous about is finally launching my website and blog! It’s been something I’ve been too nervous to do and talk about, but finally am taking the bold step of faith and doing it! Excited to have taken the first mini step to get this in the works!

  3. Emily

    Thank you for adding the verses that you are loving for September! My church recently encouraged members to take up a spiritual practice of drawing closer to the Word through memorization of a verse each month. The verses that you shared have only added to my excitement to begin this new practice!

  4. Heather

    Love those goals, Lara! Thanks for sharing with us. September will be a month to savor for sure. 🙂 A few of my big September goals are to weekly pray about ‘wants’ vs ‘needs’ to surrender spending to the Lord, and to choose stillness or a life-giving podcast (so excited for yours!) over watching Netflix!

  5. Sara

    Thank you for this post! September is focused on prayer and my relationship with God. I cannot pour from an empty cup.

  6. Brianna

    Thank you for sharing this, Lara! The verse you shared from Isaiah is especially meaningful for me this month! This month I want to cultivate REST and treating my body well. I just found out that I am expecting a baby, right when my new business starting taking off! It has been difficult to work while in the midst of first trimester hardships. I want to prayerfully navigate moving forward in my business while prioritizing taking care of myself and baby!

  7. Michelle

    I love your heart, Lara!!!

    When I opened up to the Prepare Well section of my Power Sheets,the word “surrender” practically slapped me in the face. This is not normal for me. I normally agonize over picking the perfect word for the year—lol! I also pretty much hate the idea of relinquishing control over…anything. But I finally “surrendered” my process and my goals to God, and I’m excited about September! My goals aren’t as intense or as performance-driven as usual, and there are plenty of blank lines this month. The goals that are there are focused on rest and worship and connection. Two of my favorites for September are weekly goals: weekly movie night with my daughter and a weekly nap! 💛

  8. Meghan Kelly

    Go, Lara, go, Lara, go! I absolutely love hiking. It’s an incredible reminder that God made a world that is so much bigger than me.

    After falling a MONTH behind on the YouVersion bible reading plan, I smashed my August goal of catching up and am now focused on staying the course every day this month. Grateful that God *pulled me back in* and is constantly showing me that even when I think I’m stuck, I never really am. Lots of love to you, friend.

  9. DeAnna

    I am so excited about your podcast! Thank you for taking the steps to do this, I already know that I’ll love it! Name suggestions: Grow Something New, Grow Intentionally, and Take Life Little by Little. Episode Topic Ideas: How to put God first in a busy life, How to keep perfectionism from creeping into your goals, How to ensure you do not take on too many goals, how to avoid doing goals based on enthusiasm and then quitting, how to make sure your husband is placed before your kids, and how to remember the “why” behind your goals. Thank you for all you do!

  10. Ginger

    I’m cultivating routine. We have two starting school outside our home for the first time and that will change our usual habits. Always love these round up posts from you!

  11. Courtney

    My September goal is to try and stress less. Not that life can be stressless, but I’d like to stress less. There are some challenges happening at work and I need to trust that I’m where I need to be until it’s time to move on. So I need to focus this month on the bigger picture .

  12. Rachel Nordgren

    Mmm…no is one of my FAVORITE words these days. I love seeing your commitment to staying consistent on the things that matter most. Hans and I said “nope!” to a lot of things in order to do our Europe trip, but it meant we got to say a gigantic YES to one of our biggest dreams and something we knew would be healthy and life-giving for our marriage. It’s been challenging at times, but incredibly worth it. October will be a busy travel month for us, so my goal for September is to catch up/”tune-up” some of our rhythms + systems (photo organization, journaling, some pressing projects/emails, etc.) so that they don’t get neglected next month while we’re on the go!

  13. Mhay

    This was just what I needed. I’m learning to say No. Sometimes I feel it’s so negative but so necessary. My goals for September is to get back to my routine after traveling for the first half of the month, create, and organize my room little by little. 😅

  14. Ashley

    Hey Lara! LOVE your goals for this month. I was wondering what Bible you are using for Gracie? I love how you’re leaving her notes and would love to do the same for my daughters. Thanks so much!

    • Lara

      I am using the She Reads Truth Bible to write her notes. The pages are a little thin / crinkle easily, but it’s still wonderful!