Author: Lara

I started Southern Weddings magazine late one night with a husband deployed to war and no formal training in journalism or publishing. I didn’t have experience, but I did have more passion than a hen has feathers. I wanted to inspire couples to tell their unique love stories, rich with family history and rooted in the culture of this place we call home—the South. The place where my grandparents had lived out their own love story decades before—a love story that changed me and my family.

I wanted to do something with my life, using the gifts I had been given to help people cultivate what matters. But, that was the extent of my grand vision. I didn’t know where this would lead, exactly. I just knew it needed to exist. I had a tiny seed… and I took a leap of faith and planted it. I thought this would grow into a small publication. Perhaps we’d print it ourselves and put it in neighborhood grocery stores and local churches.

God had a different plan.

Dear friends, I did not expect this would be my path—our path. I sit here writing to you from my home in North Carolina with three little ones, a husband I am so grateful for, and ten issues of Southern Weddings that have brought with them a lifetime of treasured memories.

If you have known us for any length of time—from a day to a decade—you know that our heartbeat is to help women uncover what matters most and intentionally live that out. We heartily embrace the truth that we can’t do it all and do it well, but we can choose to cultivate what matters right where we are.

Many times, cultivating what matters means making hard decisions.

Sometimes, it means letting go of good things to make room for even better things to come.

It is with bittersweet expectation that I share with you what we’ve been praying about and wrestling with for a long while: the time has come for us to turn the page on the Southern Weddings story. The tenth anniversary issue was the final issue for our team. The Southern Weddings site will soon transition to a robust archive, giving our readers and future brides access to the timeless content we’ve worked so hard to create over the last decade together.

This is a bittersweet change for us, and perhaps a surprise to many of you. Southern Weddings has continued to grow: we had our best year ever in 2017, celebrated our tenth anniversary, and yet—we found ourselves at a crossroads. You see, we are a unique company with two brands under one small roof: Southern Weddings and Cultivate What Matters.

As both Southern Weddings and Cultivate have grown over these last years, we have been stretched as a team. Both companies are making an impact on people’s lives and hold so much continued growth potential. But, like I have written about in both Make it Happen and Cultivate, you can only grow so much in one space. If you grow too much—even good things—they start to take nutrients away from each other. At the rate both brands have been growing, supporting two companies would be unsustainable in the long-term.

You might be thinking, “Why not just do it all? Why can’t you hire more people? Why can’t you adjust to the growth? How can you let go of something so good?“

Therein lies the entire mission and heartbeat of what we do. Living on purpose often means making hard decisions for the greater good. We are nine women, most of whom work here in my home office in Chapel Hill. We want to have a profound impact on this world while maintaining the quality of life that is so important to our team and families. That means being all-in wherever we are.

We believe we have completed the work we were given to do with Southern Weddings. We created something that was built to last. Many of our readers have saved their issues for their children and grandchildren. I have done the same. The heart of this magazine is ever-beating. It lives on because meaningful love stories can change the world long after the stories themselves have been lived. We believe our best work is before us and we’ve had to make this hard decision to be able to give our whole selves to it.

This was an incredibly prayer-covered decision. We have met with business leaders, gotten wise counsel, and taken many months to just listen. We listened and we waited for the plan to be revealed. Times of waiting for answers can be times of ripening. In the wait, and in countless conversations, our team grew closer as we wrestled with this decision together. How can we let this go? What would that look like? How can we best serve people? Is there another publisher who could take this over? When God finally gave me clarity on moving forward with closing this chapter for our team, what gave me great peace was that He gave the same clarity to the team, too.

Everyone’s willingness to embrace change has been extraordinary. (Dearest team, I love you.) We have felt sadness in this change, but more than that, we feel gratitude for this decade—and gratitude for the opportunities we have to continue to use our gifts to change the world and help you use yours, too.

As you can imagine, letting go of something I poured my heart and soul and prayers—and over a decade of my life—into isn’t easy. As I sit here about to hit publish on this note to you, there are tears running down my cheeks. I have been overcome with emotion many times over the last months. Southern Weddings changed my life, my family, and my marriage, and thousands of others have experienced the same impact as we’ve helped couples plan meaningful beginnings to married life. We have created something meaningful and beautiful that will, Lord willing, continue to change lives long after I’m gone. I continue to stand in awe that God wrote Southern Weddings into my story. After a decade, it still doesn’t feel real! He can use imperfect people, with imperfect stories, to change the world.

Southern Weddings has changed all of us… and the best is yet to come.

Seeing Southern Weddings on the shelf this past December. After ten years, the thrill of newsstand sightings never faded!

The Cultivate brand has grown exponentially in the last few years, and we have been equipped and tasked with shepherding it well. With this change, we believe we will not only be able to continue to do the work of strengthening meaningful relationships, but we will be able to do it even more effectively, reaching not just brides, but women of varied life stages and seasons.

Our goal is to change a culture, helping women to cultivate what matters right where they are: helping women live purposeful lives. Helping all of us to embrace the power of progress, not perfection. Helping women embrace change and find confidence in their unique paths.

Perhaps you have been considering a change of your own. We hope our story will encourage you to know that…

It’s okay to let go of one dream to make room for something else.
It’s okay to not be able to “do it all.”
It’s okay to embrace change. Change is hard, but it can be life-giving for you and countless others.
You can do hard things. Good things come from hard things, and saying no to one thing means you are saying yes to something else.
You can write a new story. You can grow something that lasts longer than you. It all starts with a tiny seed.
And… endings can be new beginnings.

We believe our team has done the work we were given to do with Southern Weddings, and that is much in thanks to YOU for your passionate, generous, and enthusiastic support.

A favorite memory: laughing in the cornfield with some of the biggest hearts in the South.

The last decade of Southern Weddings has been filled with memories and stories and meaningful relationships grown. From the honor of getting to tell your love stories to magical launch parties at the Carolina Inn, countless emails from readers telling us our work changed their marriages, sending thousands of magazine orders out of my garage, my kids being a part of this amazing adventure, having a partnership with Southern Living, getting to create with incredibly gifted and generous artists, countless hours doing the layout for the magazine myself in the early years, happy dancing over weddings, enjoying the magic of the South together, and celebrating engagements and marriages and babies on our team along the way, what brings us joy in this new chapter is knowing those things have not been lost.

Dear friends—readers, brides, vendors, moms, sisters, friends, and many more—thank you. Thank you for believing in this dream that started with the hope of bringing beauty into a broken world while my husband was deployed to Iraq. I never imagined what the ten years that followed would hold, and I want you to know that your support—no matter how seemingly small or large—has changed the world.

Photo credits from top to bottom: Jose Villa, Ryan Ray, KT Merry, Landon Jacob.

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Imagine it.

December 31st rolls around. You’re sitting down to dinner with family or friends, and you talk together about the story of the last 6 months.

What story will you tell?

The stories of our lives are made up of little decisions we make each day.

Do we say yes or no?
Do we start something new or grow what we already have?
Do we move forward or stay right where we are?

We can’t predict the future—our lives are in God’s hands. But, do you know what else is true? He gives us choices. We get to decide the next best step right where we are, depending on our particular season and circumstances.

If you’re like me though, thinking about my choices adding up to a new life and direction can feel exciting and also challenging. Why? Imagining a changed life takes faith. It takes believing in what I can’t yet see. It takes putting my trust in God’s plans over my own and stepping out on faith with Him.

I have to choose faith over fear! This life is the only one we get here on this earth. Today is the only June 1, 2018, we get. The things I do today have a ripple effect—changing my story, our children’s, and potentially countless others.

My little loves talking together and eating sweet peas in the Magical Garden.

To cultivate what matters, we think big picture and take small intentional steps forward.

A whole lot can happen in 6 months of small decisions adding up!

Come December 31, what story do you want to be telling?

The story I want to tell is, We stepped out on faith. We loved God with all of our hearts and souls and strength. And in the many times we were weak and messed up, His power was made perfect in our weakness. Look at what God did! Six months from now, I want to look back and see a family rooted in the Word. In community. A family in love with the Lord and deeply connected to each other.

What about you?

4 things you can do right now to prepare well for the month ahead and the rest of this year:

1. Write out the story you want to tell on December 31st. We can’t predict the future, but we can make intentional decisions in one direction or another. Write a few sentences about what story you want to tell. There’s power in writing things down—our brains and hearts begin to make decisions about them!

2. Make a “Move Forward Summer” list. I did this last week and it was so helpful—so much so that 90% of what I wrote down has already changed! In the writing, I started making decisions on how to change those things. Write out your list starting with, “I want to move forward from…” An excerpt from my own Move Forward Summer List:

I want to move forward from always being in my head. Hearing what I think people’s motives are even if it’s a story and not a fact. The more I think about a perception that isn’t yet a proven fact, the more it becomes my reality.

I want to move forward from often feeling broken, imperfect, emotional, too much.

Honesty breeds clarity, and wow did I get some clarity writing my list!

3. Join the free Cultivate Book Club. From now till August 7th, we’re reading my book, Cultivate, together—with a virtual book club party at the end! Join the easiest book club ever.

4. Get ready for Mid-Year Goals Prep Week! Starting Monday, we’re spending 5 days intentionally preparing to make the most of the next six months. And you get to choose your adventure! What do you need most?

Need a kick in the pants? Join us for daily live coaching.
Need help getting started with your PowerSheets? We’ll be digging in with you!
Need some goal-getter friends to cheer you on? Cultivate Community Groups launch Monday.
Need some real-life examples from others? Be sure to follow us on social for inspiring stories and daily pep talks.
Need some motivation to take that action step you’ve been putting off? This is where we’re gonna get a little crazy. We’re going to take those action steps LIVE together (I have some amazing prizes that will motivate you)!

All the details are headed to inboxes first thing on Monday morning! If you’re not on the newsletter list, sign up now!

The small decisions we make today matter. And they add up.

What story do you want to tell? What decisions do you need to make today to move boldly in that direction?

I’m writing a new story in this second half of the year, and you can too.

There’s nothing magical about January 1st—June 1st has a nice ring to it though!

Pulling out the pansies and violas from the fall with my mom!

Here’s a recap of my goal progress from May and my June goals are below too!

May Monthly Goals:

— Be a Woman of the Word instead of the world – Yes, I made progress here. It was a battle some days, but I tried my best to choose the Bible over distractions.
— Set our summer homeschool plan – Yes! More below in my June goals.
— Finish and implement Emotionally Healthy Spirituality – I made progress, but haven’t finished yet. Continuing to read this in June! Have you read it? I’d love to hear!
— Q2 rocks prayer time (we call our quarterly work goals “rocks”) – Yes, and I have made big progress on all of my rocks, praise Him! 
— Prayer journal date – This is a date with God to pour my heart out and get still. I usually do this on a night Ari is working late. I light a candle and simply fill out all the prayer prompts. I pray daily throughout the month, but having one dedicated longer time alone with God has been a helpful rhythm for me this year, especially at the start of a new month.
— Start Write the Word Wednesdays – Yes! See here.

After I write the Word, I write notes to Grace in the margins of her Bible.

May Weekly Goals:

— Praise! with the kiddos. – We had some challenges in May (hashtag 2 two-year-olds), but intentional praise kept us moving in the right direction. This came in the form of talking about things we’re grateful for, praise dance parties, praising God in prayer, and expressing thanks out in the garden. More on that below!
— Worship + church in the garden – Yes, we have noticed new sprouts and marveled at the bees that God made. I also had a really special visit with my mom. We gardened late into the night one evening and it was a memory I’ll never forget. I praised Him as it was happening for our meaningful conversation as we were digging in the dirt together.
— Celebrate others! – Yes. We’re had birthdays and milestones and it’s a joy to support such wonderful and talented friends—like my dear friend Hannah launched her new book this week and my friend Sally who you will read about in my June goals!

May Daily Goals:

— Bible – Yes, even though I missed a day and got really mad about it! Hear that story here.
— Pray over the kids. Even though they get super squirmy when I pray over them and somehow the mention of, “Dear God…” makes them all want to be silly, every night and at times throughout the day, I hold them and pray over them.
— Exercise hard – I am claiming little by little progress here! I’ve done my best to do small running spurts on our morning walks. The kids love going fast in the stroller, so that’s some motivation!

Also in May, I taught a live webinar that you can see for free: Top 5 Ways to Finally Move Forward on Your Goals. This was one of my favorite live classes ever! I hope you enjoy it too!

I took Grace to get a plant she’s been asking me for forever: a red hibiscus. I blame emojis! 🌺

On to June! 

One of my new co-workers (who you will mee in a couple weeks!) shared this with me and I fell in love:

“Far up in the deep blue sky, great white clouds are floating by; all the world is dressed in green; many happy birds are seen, roses bright and sunshine clear show that lovely June is here.” – F. G. Saunders

Hello, June!

My June PowerSheets above!

June Monthly Goals:

The Lifegiving Parent Book Club with Ari. This goal makes me so happy! I had a conversation with my friend Sally Clarkson recently that inspired me in the true sense of the word (to give breath or motivate to life-giving action). I want to be like Sally when I grow up. 🙂 She sent me a copy of her new book and Ari and I started reading it together last weekend. I told my friend Emily we were doing this and she said, “It’s like your own book club!” I love that idea, so that’s what we’re doing! The ingredients? Me, Ari, and this incredibly amazing book. It’s like spending an evening with Sally and Clay by the fire with some warm tea. I love you, Sally! So very much!
Slow down. Trust in the Lord and seek Him. I’ve been in a long period of transition with a growing company and growing kiddos and homeschool—seeking new balances as the kids continue to grow. In this season, it’s necessary for me to force myself to slow my thoughts down, giving my soul space to unravel and find rest as the rest of life around me grows and changes quickly. This is my most important work because it affects everything else. Practically speaking, this means talking to God constantly and asking Him to help me bend and not break. It means nourishing my soul. It means savoring His blessings. It means slowing down more than I think is necessary. More to come here!
— Celebrate Grace’s gift of music. I prayed for months about getting a piano. Ari’s dad is a composer, I have a degree in music theatre, and Ari is pretty musically-inclined himself. I kept imagining the presence of a piano allowing our home to be filled with music—creating opportunities for the kids to worship in song and have fun. What I didn’t expect was Grace taking a fast and passionate liking to the old piano we got on Craigslist. We offered her a trial piano lesson, thinking surely it was too early and she would get frustrated. The opposite happened. She loved it and her teacher said she was surprised as well. Grace has the gift of music. She faithfully practices every day without any prompting from me. She just does it because she loves it. Her first little piano recital is tonight and I couldn’t be more excited to celebrate what God has revealed in her!
— Summer homeschool – This summer, we’re focusing on doing field trips and outings (Museum of Natural History, Patterson’s Mill Country Store, and the Museum of Life and Science are all on our list!) with a little traditional school work mixed in. We also made a theme for each day to give us a loose structure: Make it Monday (crafts), Teaching Tuesday (Grace has dreamed up what she calls “Funbabies Homeschool” for the little ones!), Take a Trip Wednesday (library, park, etc.), Thoughtful Thursday (make cards for friends, help with a house project), and Friday is a wildcard. No official schedules here, just ideas and options each day to give us the freedom to make things work depending on how everyone is feeling.
— Mid-Year Goals Prep Week is almost here! This week is all about YOU and I can’t wait to coach many of you live! I’m going to be walking through all of the PowerSheets prep step by step and refreshing my goals too. I am so excited about this week. Get a peek at what’s coming here.
— The Cultivate Summer Book Club is already bursting with fun! I’m meeting so many new friends in Book Club Facebook group. Want to join us? Get your book and sign up here! 

June Weekly Goals:

Write the Word Wednesdays as seen here. I am loving this new weekly rhythm!

June 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. (It’s a year-long plan but you can start today!)
— Exercise it out!

I noticed the crepe myrtles blooming for the first time on our walk this morning!

And now for a new section I’m adding to these monthly goal posts: verses I’m loving for June! I have most of these on repeat on my to-do list. They pop up every week to remind me of His truth!

‘The steps of a man are established by the Lord when he delights in his way…’
‭‭(Psalms‬ ‭37:23‬).

‘This is the Lord ‘s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us’ (Psalms 118:23-26).

‘Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!’ (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭95:2‬)

‘From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised!’
‭‭(Psalms‬ ‭113:3‬).‬‬

‘Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you’
‭‭(Psalms‬ ‭116:7)‬ ‬‬

Ooooh those words are good! I sometimes repeat that last one to myself as I got to sleep.

Your turn! Do you have goals for June? 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 May’s winner, Aimee!

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So, I have a few houseplants.

Just a few. 😊

28, to be exact.

Photo of “Marguerite,” the Marble Queen Pothos, and me by Gina Zeidler.

Before you call me the crazy plant lady (which I fully accept as a term of endearment!), let me explain. When you buy “one” houseplant at a store, if it has more than one stalk coming out of the pot, it’s entirely possible that it’s actually 2-4 plants in one pot. Growers want to get full-looking plants onto retail shelves, so they sometimes include several little guys in one because they fill a pot faster. If I have a plant that has some brothers and sisters, I carefully separate them when I get home from the store, turning “one” plant into many!

Also, I just really love plants.

They make a space look fresh. I would have 100 plant friends if I had space for them. The copper shelves below make a great space for a plant family portrait with room for everyone.

Source

They clean the air. Plants remove toxins from the air—up to 87 percent of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) every 24 hours, according to NASA research. Crazy!

They make you feel good. A study at The Royal College of Agriculture in Cirencester, England, found that students demonstrate 70 percent greater attentiveness when they’re taught in rooms containing plants. In the same study, attendance was also higher for lectures given in classrooms with plants. Cool, right?

“Jade” the Jade Pothos (creative name, no?) is in this pot from Wayfair. The nesting tables are from Ballard Designs.

Convinced? Want to add a few green beauties to your house but think you couldn’t keep them alive? My friend, I am an unlikely gardener. I did not come out of the womb with a green thumb. Over time, though, I’ve grown to love growing things and tending to them little by little. All this to say—if I can do it, you can, too!

But still, you have questions: How do you pick the best plants for your house? And how do you not kill them?

Welcome to Happy Houseplants 101!

Marble Queen Pothos’ pot is from Anthropologie. The Illuminated Bible (that has some beautiful plant and floral art inside!) can be found here, and this candle is my favorite!

Which houseplant is right for me? It depends on your light, space, how cold or warm you generally keep your home, and the humidity of the space. Sound complex? Here’s a great quiz on Better Homes and Gardens to help you find the right plant for your particular space and climate (the quiz requires that you to enter your email, but you can opt-out of their newsletters!). For example, it’s pretty humid here in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and my house stays at about 68 degrees most days. I have several houseplants by our kitchen sink window, so they get some added humidity from the sink and good morning light from an eastern-facing window.

My orchids, a begonia, and my two pink cyclamen , and the money tree that we moved inside from Grace’s fairy garden this winter have been really happy together in this spot (wow, I need to prune the top of that money tree up there—it’s like it is wearing a fascinator!). In my office, I get mostly diffused light and my pothos seem to like the warmer climate (my skylights make it hot in this space!). Decide where you want houseplants to live and match your space up with the right fit. I hope that quiz helps you!

And now, a special note because many people ask me about our winter citrus grove! If you follow me on Instagram or have read Cultivate, you know that come frost time, we have our annual migration of the citrus trees from outside in the garden to my living room, dining room, and wherever we can fit them. They don’t love being indoors away from the heat of summer, but it keeps them alive through the cold and snow. And the best part? Citrus tend to bloom in winter, which is the most glorious perfume at Christmas. I just love it! Having several large pots on our dining room table all winter? Totally worth it! We even decorate them for the holidays. Here is a great article on growing citrus indoors.

More plant-hunting reading:

25 Hard to Kill Plants

Choosing the Right Indoor Greenery

Where do I buy houseplants? I have found most of my houseplants at local garden stores like For Garden’s Sake and on occasion… Walmart! (Our Walmart has plants from local growers like this one near Charlotte that I reallllly want to visit for a homeschool field trip!) I’ve even found a few mail order plants on Amazon and I’ve gifted plants to friends from ProPlants and Blooming Bulb.

Look for plants that have healthy leaves with no signs of disease (yellow or browning leaves), healthy roots (pick up the pot and if there are roots growing out of the bottom, it might be rootbound), and no signs of bugs (look under the leaves for pests and eggs). Most of all, have fun plant shopping!

A very special orchid above that I wrote about in Cultivate.

How do I NOT kill them? Before you take in a new plant friend, think of this as a mutually beneficial relationship. Plants need light and tending. Even cactus and succulents and aloe need some love now and then. In exchange for your tender care, your plant will generously reward you with its presence. The good news is tending to houseplants is easy!

Some tips:

— Give your plants consistent and even watering. I have killed more plants by overwatering than by underwatering! Like my kiddos, each plant has different nurturing needs. Here are some basic tips to follow. (One note, though: my orchids don’t love sitting in water. A few teaspoons of water does the trick for us! And once a month, I spray them with this magic potion.)

Make it easy to remember to water your plants. I have a recurring reminder on my to-do app (Things) to water the plants each Tuesday. I also keep a little watering pitcher under every sink in the house to make it easy to get this task done.

Plants need light for photosynthesis to occur. I try to keep them in brighter spots, but not always. I have a beautiful plant here on my desk that doesn’t get a ton of light. Read the labels on houseplants to find the light requirements. Some need bright window light, and others like being tucked away in shadier spots. Just like you would follow the cooking directions on a recipe, read the labels and they will give you some great info on how to take care of your new plant friends.

Fertilize! A couple times a year I use these houseplant fertilizer sticks to give my indoor plants a boost.

I prune my plants when they get crazy (here’s a great article on how to prune).

More plant-care reading:

8 Clever Tips to Keep Houseplants Happy

How to Care for an Heirloom Houseplant

5 Reasons You’re Killing Your Indoor Houseplants

What about containers? I have found some at Terrain (but only if they are on sale!), on EtsyAnthropologieand Amazon has an amazing marketplace for unusual planters. Remember, you can get creative here, too. You can plant things in tea cups, Mason jars, and all kinds of containers!

A bonus tip? Make it fun! I let my kids name our plants. We even have an office mascot named Judy the Neon Pothos! : )

There you have it, friends! Houseplants 101! I hope these basics give you some encouragement and knowledge to invite some green friends into your life. You can do it! And remember, they’re just houseplants! If you lose one, try your best the next time around. Give them love, and they will give back.

Your turn! I’d love to hear: do you have houseplants? Have your eye on one? Any tips that have worked for you? Fill me in! One lucky duck who comments will get a copy of my book, Cultivate, and I’ll send you one of my favorite houseplants, too! : )

P.S. I’d love to know what new product ideas you have and how we can help you cultivate what matters in our Cultivate survey!

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I saw a sign recently that read: “Don’t count the days, make the days count!”

Let’s take a different spin on that together for a minute!

Let’s do both.

First, let’s count the days (like this):

We’re 131 days into the year. That means there are 234 days ahead to cultivate. There’s still 65% of the year left to live and fill with what matters. That’s a lot of days, friends!

 

Now, let’s make these 234 days count.

Take a look around. How are you feeling at this point in the year?

Tired? — It’s been a journey since January.

Excited? — New opportunities lie ahead in the next 234 days of this year!

Overwhelmed? —Not where you imagined you’d be by this point in 2018?

You may feel like you’ve messed up on your goals and it’s too late in the year to make progress, but here’s some truth: today can be your January 1st. Who says you can’t refresh you goals, change them, or start fresh right where you are? Not me!

See those words down there on my PowerSheets? Today could be your day. Many times, good change starts with one tiny step forward. One decision in a new direction.

(I love those flowers from my garden above that we used for this shoot in the fall. I’m planting my new zinnia seeds this weekend. Little by little, blooms will come!)

Maybe the gap between where you are and where you want to be seems wide. And maybe the thought of that gap has you stalling at the start!

Step into the garden with me. Let’s take a look around.

Good things grow little by little, and there’s magic in the middle ground.

We don’t like the middle ground though do we? It can feel incomplete, awkward, undone. We’d rather skip that part and get to the finish line.

Think about what we miss seeking instant results and overnight progress though.

If I plant a seed and the next day a full-grown plant appears, do you know what we’d miss? The best parts of gardening! We’d miss celebrating the sprout appearing out of the soil for the first time. We’d miss watching new leaves appear day by day. We’d miss the miracle of seeing blooms unfurl. We’d miss the good stuff.

It’s in the middle ground that life happens. It’s in the space from here to there that we grow too.

I’m digging in with you! Little by little progress adds up.

No matter if you are here on day 131, little-by-little you can have a cultivated rest of the year.

Want to finally move forward on your goals?

Get your Six-Month Undated PowerSheets if you don’t already have them (now is the time!) and join me next Wednesday for a FREE live workshop on How to Finally Move Forward on Your Goals. I’ll be giving you my 5 best practical steps (you are going to love step number 1!) for getting unstuck and making real progress! Save your seat here.

Your turn! Have you felt stuck on a goal or in life lately? Chances are, you aren’t the only one! I’ll share below too!

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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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