Author: Lara

When one woman chooses to cultivate what matters, do you know what happens?

Let me tell you about April (the month, not a person 🙂 ).

I decided to make room.

I didn’t know exactly what making room would look like; I just knew I needed it! I sometimes felt emotionally overwhelmed. Too much to process. Not enough space to sort it all out, or help the little hearts in this home do the same.

But, making room would require a radical shift, right? I thought the radical shift would be my schedule. My schedule did change in some ways, but what changed the most in April was me.

Let me set the scene for you: April was full. From training two new team members, to leading our team summit, to our summer product shoot, to podcast interviews and live webinars, interviewing potential candidates, homeschool, family fun, and right into our summer launch at the end of the month, it all could have been too much.

At times it was a lot. But in the midst of it, something started to change…

This may sound funny at first, but I started thinking about thinking.

How what we tell ourselves about our circumstances or situations or people or ourselves informs our actions.

Here’s what I discovered:

Thoughts > Emotions > Actions > Results

Our thoughts about any given circumstance influence our hearts, which results in emotions.

Our emotions directly inform our actions.

And our actions inform our results—our future.

Hmmm.

If I could chase down my thoughts, perhaps I could expose the holes in my thinking that were causing me to feel overwhelmed, even in the times my schedule was just fine!

It sounds simple in theory, and, well… it is. The challenging part is having the courage to stop and get curious about our feelings long enough to see where they come from–and let ourselves feel them first in order to do something with them.

What was I telling myself (thinking) about each situation that led to my emotions?

And this led to the golden question that changed my life: Were my thoughts facts or stories?

Truth or lies?

Because there is no half-truth. It’s either truth or not.

(A great book that talks about Stories vs. Facts: Crucial Conversations. Kaylee, Emily, and I just completed the two-day training today too and it was AWESOME!)

I started noticing when lies crept into my head and heart that were directly influencing my emotions and therefore my actions:I’m not good at xyz. I feel like so-and-so doesn’t like me. I’ll never xyz, etc., etc.

These thoughts suck the life out of me (you too?) and can leave me emotionally drained and overwhelmed. I had often blamed circumstances, but it was more what I thought about my circumstances.

Making room isn’t about empty space; it’s about intentional truth-filled space. This kind of space has given my heart and soul room to flourish!

In choosing less noise, less distractions, less control, less believing every thought that entered my mind, the truth finally got a word in! Day by day, decision by decision, it has continued to add up even when it seemed like it never would.

Over the last five weeks, I have wasted far much less time and emotional energy fighting battles that were all about stories I was telling myself. Replacing time lost in comparison, fear and narrow thinking—THIS has given me so much time and heart-space back.

If I just focus on the weeds in my garden, I miss the garden itself.

If I focus on stories instead of facts, fear instead of faith, I miss my life.

I saw in April how believing the truth brought near-immediate joy. And my joy sets off a domino effect in those around me. I saw how wasting emotional energy believing stories I’ve told myself about people or circumstances can distract me from cultivating what matters. And I’m just getting started!

My sweet boy bringing me handfuls of sunshine. If you have read Cultivate, you know dandelions are extra special to me!

I had two “thinking choices” in April:

Choice 1: “My schedule is too full and it’s impossible for anything to be cut or changed. If I do, everything will fall apart! This is impossible! Life is chaotic! Nothing will ever change and I feel hopeless. I will do nothing because I can’t.”

Choice 2: “My schedule is full and I can make some decisions to change it—even if they are hard! I can say yes or no. I may disappoint people and some things may not get done. But, I am hopeful that the hard decisions I make will be worth it. And there are many circumstances I cannot change, but I can change how I think about them. I can pray through them and let God’s truth illuminate the path forward. I am taking the first step to ignite this change, even if I don’t know what the second step will be yet. I’m stepping out on faith to make room!”

I chose option 2. And then I chose it again. And again. And I got up the next day and chose it again. And when Option 1 would try to creep back up, I chased it away again. And now I’m here in May and life is, in fact, different in many ways. Was it easy? No. I’m still learning! Changing our thinking is like trying to untangle a necklace chain. If you just yank it and pull it real quick, hoping for instant results, you’ll end up worse than when you started. Take it slowly and intentionally, and little by little you will untangle that mess.

There is great value in small things done over time.

What about you? What have you been telling yourself lately about a circumstance or relationship or challenge? Is it truth or a story you’ve told yourself about that situation?

My encouragement for you this month: Tell yourself the truth.

Plant it. Plant it everywhere!

Tend it. Tend it often. Nurture it. Enjoy it.

And consistently pull the weeds around it.

In Cultivate, I confront 10 common lies we believe (sometimes unknowingly). Life is too short and too valuable to waste it telling ourselves (or listening to) lies about who we are, or what we can or cannot do. Let’s expose them and bring them into the light where we can do something about them!

As you read each one, mark in your mind which stands out to you the most:

Lie 1: I have to do it all.
Truth: I can’t do it all and do it well.
Cultivators pay attention to what matters.

Lie 2: I have to be perfect.
Truth: It’s in the imperfect that things grow.
Cultivators dig into the season they’re in.

Lie 3: My life needs to look like everyone else’s.
Truth: I have a life to grow that is as unique as I am.
Cultivators think big picture to uncover their unique path.

Lie 4: It’s impossible to start fresh or move forward.
Truth: I can move forward by digging in and breaking up the lies.
Cultivators nourish their soil with truth and let God redeem their dirt.

Lie 5: I have to know all the details of the path ahead.
Truth: Forethought is important, but faith is essential.
Cultivators have faith, believing in what they can’t yet see.

Lie 6: Waiting is not good or productive.
Truth: Waiting is a time of ripening.
Cultivators ripen in the wait.

Lie 7: Small steps don’t make a difference.
Truth: Little-by-little progress adds up.
Cultivators tend to what matters, embracing little-by-little progress.

Lie 8: I will be content when I have it all.
Truth: I will be content when I live grateful.
Cultivators intentionally savor the fruit.

Lie 9: I can do life by myself.
Truth: I need meaningful relationships.
Cultivators embrace awkward and grow in community.

Lie 10: The past isn’t valuable; it’s all about the future.
Truth: Remembering God’s faithfulness helps us cultivate a meaningful legacy.
Cultivators preserve what matters for future seasons, and future generations.

I’d love to hear from you! Which lie and which truth stood out to you the most?

It’s hard work to let go and make room for the truth to flourish. To turn down the noise to even be able to hear it. But it will be worth it. Fighting fear or negative self-talk will help you make room for new things to grow!

This month, I’m keeping this thought-chasing going, and I’m inviting you to join me.

Lord, help us make room. Help us choose less to make room for life. Help us to number our days that we might gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:10). Help us to let go so we can hear Your life-giving truth and walk by faith this month and always. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

And now, a look back at my April goal progress (read April’s goal post here):

Choose less. A radical move to less so there’s room for life. As I wrote about here, there are inevitable times of overload that will creep up in our lives. These times are not cause for guilt or worry; they are opportunities. I’ve found myself in one of those little-margin seasons and my top priority in April is pruning. Choosing less to make room for life! — Well, as you can see above. Yes. Progress has been made here. The photo below was taken a few days before our summer launch.

— Read Emotionally Healthy Spirituality  — Yes! I am half-way through and excited to finish in May. This book has been so instrumental in me changing my thinking!
— Plant the garden. — Yes! We finished planting this weekend! Hooray!!!
— Decide on office space. — No movement here, but we have bigger fish to fry right now and there has been no clear leading from the Lord here yet. I’ll wait on Him.
— Lead a prayerful summit and shoot. — It was the best week! Lots of prayer, digging into our vision, and helping each other cultivate what matters so we can give the same to you.
— Lead a prayerful summer launch. — What a JOY this has been! See a recap of the launch here.

Our new Write the Word for Kids journal is here!!! See any familiar faces above? : )

April Weekly Goals:

— Praise + rejoice! — Yes! I practiced this often as a way to chase my thoughts and bring them back to Him!
— Prayer journal dates — Yes.

April Daily Goals:

— Bible — Yes!
— Pray over the kids — Yes!
— Exercise hard — Yes!

Also in April, I taught two live webinars that you can see for free:

How to Cultivate Faith with Kids

How to Cultivate Wellness

On to May! 

May brings warmer weather and I am soaking up the garden and the back porch! My encouraging words this month are: Walk by faith in the Spirit. I’m stretching myself to pray big and a lot and to beleive in the “impossible!”

These goals make me so excited and grateful!

May Monthly Goals:

— Be a Woman of the Word instead of the world
— Set our summer homeschool plan
— Finish and implement Emotionally Healthy Spirituality 
— Q2 rocks prayer time (we call our quarterly work goals “rocks”)
Prayer journal date
— Start Write the Word Wednesdays (I know this should be a Weekly goal. I messed up and wrote it in the monthly section—ah well!)

We enjoyed a round of Twister the day before our summer launch. It all came down to Grace and Kaylee. Grace won! : ) 

May Weekly Goals:

— Praise! with the kiddos. At first, I just wrote “Praise!” but after reading back through my Quarterly Goal Refresh, I realized I needed to tend this area with the kiddos too. I LOVE MY POWERSHEETS!!!
— Worship + church in the garden
— Celebrate others!

May Daily Goals:

— Bible
— Pray over the kids
— Exercise hard

I already love this month!

Your turn! Do you have goals for May? 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 April’s winner, Bess!

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Friends!!! We are THRILLED to introduce The Cultivate Summer Collection, and overjoyed at the response to our launch already! Turns out, you are just as excited as we are—if not more!

You believe in the power of little by little progress.

You know that good things grow slow.

You want to live on purpose, instead of by accident.

And you are SO PUMPED about getting started!

I am too!

Let’s do a little cultivated dreaming together for a minute, shall we? The kind of dreaming that points to what matters in the big picture.

When you think of summer, what do you see?

Family vacations? Trips to the farmer’s market? Evening walks through the neighborhood?

Often we think of summer as time off.

Here’s a crazy question for you: what if we turned summer into intentional “time on”?

Now, not to worry. We’re not adding MORE things to our to-do lists (no way!).

Quite the opposite.

Cultivating what matters is about doing less to make room for LIFE.

So, let’s flip the script together and live out a summer of intentional “time on,” right where we are.

We’ll start with the most important element first: uncovering what you want to cultivate this summer.

If you already know, wonderful!

If you’re not sure or feel like you have too many things you want to accomplish (so many of us feel this way!), thePowerSheets are back (YES!!!) and they will help you simplify your life, uncover your unique goals, and live them out.

Our Six-Month Undated White PowerSheets are back after we sold out in January (hooray!!) and ready to ship from our new warehouse in Kentucky. Once this batch is gone, though, they are gone till we release the 2019 versions in the fall. Now it the time to get a set to finish the year intentionally. It’s a perfect time to start a 6-month set!

Want to focus on a specific area of life that needs to be cultivated—taking your PowerSheets journey to the next level? Our NEW Wellness Goal Guide and Finance Goal Guides are incredible tools! (It’s funny how God always knows what we need—these are two areas I want to focus on this summer myself. 🙂 ) So many of you told me yesterday how excited you are to get started on these—and we are excited for you too!

The Wellness Goal Guide focuses on what we call cultivated self-care: combining fitness, nutrition and emotional health. This guide doesn’t give you a one-size-fits-all plan; it helps you uncover your unique path and needs, right where you are. Filling your well and taking care of your mind, body, heart and soul will help you fill others up, too!

Feel overwhelmed my managing finances? Don’t feel like you’re a “numbers person?” The Finance Goal Guide is already a best-seller in the shop and will help you shift your money mindset. Take control of your finances, define action steps to make progress, and start right where you are. Catch the replay of our 5 Ways to Cultivate Your Finances webinar here too!

You know what gets me excited? When we cultivate one area of our lives, it fuels the other areas too. And when one woman chooses to live differently and say yes to intentional “time on,” she is refreshed—and others around her are too. The domino effect fires me up and we see it happening already!

This may be your season of refreshment so you can refresh others too.

A season of re-energizing.

A time of re-focusing of what matters most.

A season of flourishing faith. (That’s what I want most this summer, above everything else!)

Write the Word Cultivate Prayer and Write the Word Cultivate Forgiveness are the two newest additions to our Write the Word Bible journal collection. We are so grateful for the flood of excitement about these meaningful tools!

Get them both at a discount in the Fresh Faith Bundle.

The Cultivate Faith Sticker Book is a new favorite! It’s fun and inspiring and functional. It has over 900+ amazing stickers to use in your Write the Word journal, Bible, PowerSheets or anywhere else you’d like to mark what matters.

The most popular item in the shop right now (besides PowerSheets!) happens to be my personal favorite: Write the Word for Kids is here!!! 

YESSSS!!!!

Write the Word for Kids was inspired by our popular Write the Word journals for adults and helps boys and girls ages 5-12 dive into the Word in a fun and impactful way!

Each 178-page Write the Word for Kids journal includes fun features like Bible Book Bingo, coloring pages, simple scriptures for kids to write and four pages stickers! Grace loves hers so much!

Want to see more? See inside all the new products below (the confetti canon is still making me laugh!).

Thank you SO much for a truly wonderful launch! We couldn’t do this without your genuine love and support. We have the BEST customers and I loved talking to so many of you live this week. We have already shipped orders to all 50 states and over 20 countries! 

Here’s to thriving this summer–and for the rest of our days! The best is yet to come!

Ready to get started?

SHOP NOW!

Photos by Gina Zeidler

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Have you tried gardening? Interested in starting one?

Perhaps, like me, you haven’t always had a green thumb (I have killed a lot of plants in my life!). If that’s you, my annual Gardening 101 series just might get you growing this year.

Photo in Gracie’s Garden by Gina Zeidler

I’ve updated the popular series with new info and an exciting giveaway. I’m giving away a GARDEN! Yes, a real garden, complete with raised bed kit, lots of veggies, flowers, and everything you need to get started. How fun is that!?

Read part 1: The Story of an Unlikely Gardener
Read Part 2: Seeds, Supplies, Soil, and Sunlight
Read Part 3: Garden Plans

I’m excited for you! No green thumb required! 🙂

P.S. Mark your calendars—new products are coming to the shop April 24th!

 

 

UPDATED: Congratulations to the winners of the Garden Giveaway!

Deanna — Greenes 4′ x 4′ cedar raised bed kit (how cool is this!?)                                    Robin — A collection of best-selling Burpee vegetable seeds:
Tomato, Atlas F1
Tomato, Shimmer F1
Cucumber, Bragger
Zinnia Forecast
Sunflower, Sunray Yellow                                                                                                          Sarah — Gardener’s Supply Company tool set                                                                 Lindsey — Floret’s Cut Flower Garden book and seed collection                                 Rachel — Park Seed Profusion double-flowered zinnia seed collection                   Rosanne — A Joyful Garden Planner from my friend, Amber! Amber was kind enough to donate this planner, and give you 25% your order with code “CULTIVATE” if you can’t wait for the giveaway results! The code is good through April 30.                                                Sheena — A signed copy of my book, Cultivate!                                                                  

 

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I’m going to take a wild guess that you and I have a few things in common.

We think differently.
We want to make the most of this life.
We’re cultivators.

A cultivator uncovers her own unique goal and path. Instead of looking to other people’s goals or social media feeds to define her own, she puts in the hard work of uncovering a path that fires her up.

A cultivator embraces little by little progress. She doesn’t believe in quick fixes or overnight results, and she knows it’s okay to grow slow.

A cultivator gets her hands dirty and takes action. Waiting can be good and a time of ripening, but she knows that sometimes it’s worth it to dig in right where she is with what she has.

A cultivator examines where she is in order to leap to what’s next. Instead of ignoring what isn’t working, she takes the time to intentionally evaluate and uncover the path forward.

A cultivator creates a long-term vision and gets after it. She refuses to keep going through the motions, doing the same things she’s always done. Instead, she steps forward into a new path.

A cultivator sets out on a purposeful path by uncovering cultivated goals. She’s tired of wandering aimlessly.

A cultivator finds joy in the journey instead of placing all her value in the finish line.

A cultivator doesn’t just embrace imperfect progress; she celebrates it. She’s tired of abandoning ship at the first bump in the road, and she knows that the best things in life grow slowly.

Whether you realize it or not, we just described YOU.

Ready to dig into March, fellow cultivator? Let’s do it!

February was a month of learning to trust—trusting in times of unknown, trusting in taking little steps forward without a finish line in sight, and trusting God’s crazy plans over mine!

Here’s a recap of my February progress and what I learned:

February Monthly Goals:
— First things first. My top priority for February was to spend more time with God than with the world. — This is a perpetual goal, but I did a lot of praying in February as I faced many unknowns. Some of those things are still unknown, but I have a peace and trust now in place of the worry that was there before I started praying and seeking His wisdom. Prayer changes things.
— Prayer journal date. — Done! I have a recurring task on my Things app that reminds me to prepare my prayer journal a few days before the new month.
— Prayerfully hire new team members. — I’m so grateful to share we’ve hired two new team members who start on Monday (we’ll be introducing them in the weeks to come!). We’re still hunting for two more though, including this one.
— Start seeds indoors + garden planning. — Yes! Seeds have been started and my Gardening 101 post and giveaway goes live soon! More to come here!


— Write the 2019 PowerSheets. — DONE! Eeeeee! So excited about this! We have some big changes coming, which always amazes me. Every year I can’t imagine making it better, but there’s a big process shift I wrote in this year that I hope you love as much as I do! 2019 PowerSheets will be on sale in October.
— 2017 corporate taxes completed. — Progress was made, but not done yet.
— Pray over the plan for books. — Done! I’m so so so grateful to have clarity and next steps in motion for all of the long-form projects we have had in mind. The other book may be developed for 2020, but the Gracie’s Garden book is hopefully coming your way next spring. Up next for me is writing the draft text and finding an illustrator by April!
— Set strength training plan + start. — I got this over-the-door contraption and I love it. More about this goal coming in my March goals below…
— Identify budget steps and goals. — I finally got unstuck here, and all it took was one intentional step forward that led to the next. Our budget is set and I added the Mint app to my phone. This month we’re focusing on praying together regularly about finding giving needs and meeting them. We started praying about this last week and it has already been fruitful.
— Cultivated Calendar prep. — I have been so grateful for this shift in how I prepare for meaningful celebrations and events. Get the free download at the Cultivated Calendar replay link and go through the process—so helpful!

Someone turned two this week! We now officially have two to-year-olds!

Weekly goals:
Write + study Gimel + Daleth (Psalms 119). — I only did this once this month because our Sunday afternoon times got taken up by other things.
2 Days “on.” – Yes!
Undistracted + cultivated homeschool. – Yes! This is us below doing some notebooking.
Re-creation. – Yes, we had some dance parties in the kitchen, spent lots of time outside, and we took several outings (trail walks and exploring Jordan Lake) that were a treat for everyone.
Read Traction with Emily. – Yes, we are on the last chapter and our whole team has worked hard implementing the Traction model in our company. I can’t recommend it enough!
Pray the Word. – Yes, there were several times I prayed for guidance and cried out to God using Bible verses as my prayers.

Daily Goals:
Chronological Bible reading. – I continue to love this daily reading time!
Soul care at night. This means spending time with my prayer journal, in the Word, preparing for the next day, or doing anything that doesn’t involve my phone. — This is an area I want to continue to improve.
Kiss Ari. — Yes! We went to our church’s marriage retreat in February and had several date nights as well.
SLEEP. — Another area I need to improve in (mainly going to bed earlier and turning my brain off.) Ari and I started reading Tim Keller’s Prayer which has been helpful to get my brain to unwind. Random fun fact: I used to live in the same apartment building as Tim Keller about 14 years ago and would often say hi him when we were both getting our mail. 🙂
Pray over kiddos + family worship. Family worship is new and something that I’m excited about. I watched a video series by Donald Whitney that inspired me to give it a try. So far so great! While the kids eat breakfast in the morning, I read them a super short Bible story, we say a prayer, and then we sing a song. That’s it! It takes 10 minutes and they are loving it. — Yes, morning Bible story reading has become a habit after a month and the kids love it. This is the book we’ve been reading from.

On to March!

March Monthly Goals:
Pray + Praise! These two things keep me on track for the rest of life! I marked this as my top priority for March with one of my favorite Goal Setting Sticker Book stickers.
Gardening 101 series + garden prep. I am waiting till the recommended time (after April 15th here in Chapel Hill) to plant the garden, but there’s a lot to prep in March—clearing out old plants, cleaning pots, and it’s time to replace the garden beds themselves. I discovered several critter colonies and most of them are falling apart now after the winter. I resisted replacing them before (as you know if you’ve read Cultivate), but they are not functional in places now. So, new cedar beds are in our future.
— Prayer journal date.
Celebrate 12 years of marriage! Our anniversary always falls on the weekend that the Making Things Happen conference kicks off, so we’ll be celebrating with lots of friends at dinner that night. Our vacation to Watercolor this month will be our time to celebrate with just the two of us while my mom babysits the kiddos one evening.
Lead our best-ever MTH conference. Friends, I cannot wait for this! We’re nine years into making Making Things Happen happen and it just keeps getting better! (I can’t wait to see many of you there!)
Have a meaningful Purim and Passover. I. Love. Passover! I love most of the Jewish holidays, but Passover is my favorite. The story of God delivering the Israelites from slavery and all the mess Moses and Aaron had to go through with Pharoah and the plagues… is it cheesy to say I just love the Bible!? I do! We’re having a Passover seder with our Bible study group on Easter Sunday, which is really special. There is so much meaning and symbolism in the seder that illuminates the power of the resurrection and God’s big picture plan for Jesus to be our Passover lamb. Ooooh it’s just so good!

Ari and the kids making traditional hamentaschen cookies for Purim yesterday (cookies in the shape of Haman’s hat). Grace is super into Purim and I’m so glad! The story of Esther is true “girl power”—God-led bravery!

2019 project finalization. This is exciting. As I mentioned in my updates above, I got clarity on future projects recently and we are working on many new things right now. Getting them all of to print in March is happening, Lord willing!
— Onboard new team members. 
— Spring Team Summit prep. Really looking forward to this in the first week of April! We meet about once a quarter, and I’m excited to have new team members joining us for a time of planting roots with our big picture vision.
— April Cultivated Calendar prep.

Weekly goals:
— Strength training 2x/week (using my new over-the-door contraption I mentioned earlier).
— Write + study He + Waw (Psalm 119)
— Undistracted + cultivated homeschool
— Re-creation
— Pray the Word
— Finish implementing Traction — praising the Lord for this book and all we’ve learned over the last year!
— 2 Days “on” + vacation

Daily Goals:
— Chronological Bible reading.
— Soul care at night.
— Kiss Ari.
— Pray over the kids
— Family worship.

Your turn! Do you have goals for March? 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 February’s winner, Vanessa Milner Eberbach!

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Maybe fast isn’t the goal.

Maybe cultivating an intentional life means aiming for what happens over time—like the richness of relationships—rather than getting to the finish line.

When something matters to you, you don’t focus on how slow the journey is to get there; you keep moving forward because the path forward is worth it.

The world says do more, grow fast, be big, use these tricks, analyze, do it like those people, get ahead. But that’s not how good things take root.

Maybe, despite what everyone tells you, slow is richer than fast.
Maybe a slower pace will help your roots stretch deep and wide.

It’s okay to grow slow.

– Excerpt from Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life

——

Get your copy today.

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