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!

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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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We don’t like imperfect starts, do we?
We want perfect right out of the gate.
But all plants grow through the dirt, and so do we.
Making a mess doesn’t mean you become one. – Cultivate

Feeling guilty about not making progress on your goals or not starting them at all?

February 1 can be your January 1!

Some guilt is good—it can spur us on to make good choices. But, there’s another kind of guilt that doesn’t help you or anyone else: imperfection guilt.

You know the feeling. You mess up and immediately go into I’m-the-worst-person-in-the-world mode thinking, Why can’t I just keep it all together? Why do I have to be so flawed? Why can’t I just do it ALL and do it all well? Why can’t I just be like so-and-so? 

Here’s the thing. We are imperfect. Me, you, all of us! And the truth is that all progress is imperfect progress. Good things grow through challenges and missteps and slow growth.

My peonies literally cannot bloom in the spring unless they go through many weeks of bitter cold in the winter. They grow little-by-little, and they grow through the dirt.

So, my friend, I propose we let go of the imperfection guilt and embrace the perfectly imperfect ground we’re standing on, right where we are. This is our GROWING ground.

Goodbye goal guilt.

Goodbye, quick fixes.

Goodbye, expecting overnight change.

Goodbye doing too much at once.

Hello little-by-little steps.

Hello trying new things (and redirecting when something isn’t working!).

Hello progress not perfection.

Hello slow rooted growth.

Hello bravery. Because it takes a lot of guts to live intentionally.

Hello knowing that our worth is not based on our performance. Who made up the rule that you had to make perfect progress on everything in January?

Hello doing this differently.

Hello what actually works.

One way to give the imperfection guilt the boot is to embrace the truth and tension of “and.”


You can be a goal getter and embrace imperfection.

You can grow slowly and make significant progress.

You can make imperfect progress on a goal and still achieve your goal.

You can grow tomatoes in your garden and have weeds.

Are you with me here? What “and” do you need to embrace to move forward?

For me: I can do less and be more effective. More giving. More productive in the things that are important to me. More at peace.

January was a month of embracing these truths, digging into new habits, and setting out with a clearer direction. Anc clarity breeds action! I shared my Top 10 Tips for Getting Started on Your Goals, How to Get Unstuck, and in taking my own advice, I made some significant changes to how I use my time.

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

Monthly Goals:

Seek God first. Before seeking answers or wisdom or comfort anywhere else, I tried my hardest to go to God first this month (instead of to my phone or snacks or to complaining) and I pray that continues.
— Add 2018 goal steps to the calendar. I took 30 minutes in January and added all of my goal starting steps from my PowerSheets to my iCal and my Things app. For example, doing my Cultivated Calendar prep each month (preparing for birthdays, holidays, milestones) is important to me this year to help me grow several of my 2018 goals. I created a one-hour time block on my calendar each month to do it. I also created a yearly recurring task on Things that pops up a few days before the new month to remind me what birthdays or milestones to prepare for. A little intentional forethought has already gone a long way for me!
— Memorize Study Aleph + Bet. This is one place I redirected! I realized I bit off more than I could chew with memorizing Psalm 119 and reading the Bible this year, so I’m studying it instead. This is do-able and also challenging, which keeps me motivated! More here.
— Prayer journal date. I’m trying something new with my prayer journal this year. I’m having a longer prayer date to write out my prayers for the month and pray them right then instead of waiting for times later in the month. It’s one big prayer session to kick the month off, and the two times I’ve done it so far have been fantastic! I bring my prayer journal to church every Sunday and to our Sunday afternoon Bible study, so I check in on my prayers and add new ones (and notes about answered prayers) then as well.
— Have a day “on.” So, this is new. And this was not an easy one for me at first, but I knew it was necessary. This is something that came out of feeling spread thin in December and wanting to prevent any burnout on my part for my family and my team. In helping to write new employment contracts this year, it dawned on me that I’ve never taken all of my own allotted vacation days. I’ve certainly worked hard to not grow too much at once and to have strong boundaries, which has been wonderful, but I’ve come to a place in my life where I need more (to use my word of the year) light space. So, two Friday’s a month, I’m taking a day “on”—not a traditional day off, but a day to spend intentional time with God, the kiddos, and to step away from regular work so I can be refreshed and refueled for Ari, the kids, homeschooling, and work. I’ve done it twice so far and it has been helpful. It’s certainly tricky for me though. I am trying my best not to use these days to get one more thing done or clean or organize, but to really make it about soul care and being my best for others. I’ll keep you posted on how this goes throughout the year.
— Pray over new hires. Yes, many prayers have been offered up and I’m excited to see where God leads us.
— Pray over 2019 product development. I’m writing the 2019 PowerSheets this week and have been praying over our production process. By the way, we just sold out of all of our 2018 PowerSheets this week, but more 6-month sets will be back in May to help you finish out the year.
— Finish clearing out the attic. I made progress here, but I haven’t finished. There are two more bins of old college books that I need to go through!
— Take 1 step forward on 2018 budget. My one step was identifying my “block” on this goal. What’s been causing my inaction: I haven’t had clarity on the end goal or exactly what steps need to be taken in general! More below in my February goals.
— Cultivate Calendar prep for February. Yes! You can catch the replay of my live class about this with Emily Ley here.

Weekly Goals:
— Re-creation. Yes, progress was definitely made here. More about this goal here.
— Pray over each of our children. Yes, I’ve been praying over them out loud most mornings and evenings.
— Read Traction with Emily. Yes, we have implemented most of the book so far and are about to dig into the Process chapter to start tieing it all together. If you have employees, I can’t recommend this book enough! It has changed the way we do just about everything in our company.

Daily Goals:
— Chronological Bible reading. I am LOVING this! I decided to do this differently this year and do what’s called a “Plan with Friends” on the YouVersion Bible app. There are about a dozen of us and it has been awesome to share our thoughts with each other as we read each day. Doing this with a small intimate group has been wonderful!
— Kiss Ari. I shared a little about this here, but yes, this goal is going well and I’m so grateful for how it’s affecting not only us but our kiddos who smile so big when we kiss! Joshua has started giving me kisses too. 🙂
— #RunLiftPraise. I have exercised every day, but no weights. You’ll see an update on this one in my February goals.
— Eat clean. Yes! Every January Ari does a fast of sorts where he doesn’t eat meat or sweets as a simple way to remind him to think about God more and rely on Him for comfort. I love this fresh start in our house every January.
— Cultivate better sleep. I’ve made progress here mostly through not looking at my phone after work.

The snow melting on the pansies. These little guys are tough!

On to February! This month is a bit packed, so I spent some extra time making sure my goals were clear and do-able. I’m so grateful for my PowerSheets or I would be going into this month feeling overwhelmed already. So often what leads to overwhelm is simply the unknown, right? We have so many thoughts and to-do’s swirling around in our heads. But, when we give them a place and sort through them, the overwhelm melts as we solve problems and see what needs to be done and what doesn’t. While there’s a lot to accomplish in February, I’m feeling ready because I have a clear picture of what needs to happen. And I’m excited for lots of fun things we have planned this month, too!

Monthly Goals:
First things first. Similar to my goal to seek God first in January, my top priority for February is to spend more time with God than I do with the world.
Prayer journal date. Already done (last night)! 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.
Start seeds indoors + garden planning. More to come here!
Write the 2019 PowerSheets. Eeeeee! So excited about this!
2017 corporate taxes completed. Okay, not so excited about this, but I am staying focused on how I will feel when this is done. That motivates me to dig in and get it off my plate. Anyone have a fun way they celebrate getting taxes done?
Pray over the plan for books. I’ve been talking about the Gracie’s Garden book for a while and there’s another book we have in mind as well. I need God’s wisdom on when to start and what direction to take with both, so my goal for February is to pray about these two projects. Prayer is an action step—one of the very best you can take. 🙂
— Set strength training plan + start. If you’ve followed for a while, you know I used to be a personal trainer. I now work out at home with the kiddos in the morning. And I made some great progress on at-home strength training in 2017 using some simple free weights. I’d like to switch it up and am considering getting one of those over-the-door exercise band things. More to come here as I uncover the plan and start!
— Identify budget steps and goals. As I mentioned in my January update above, I have been stuck on this one. I realized that I have been stuck because the vision/goal and steps haven’t been clear to me. My goal this month is to identify clear goals with Ari and steps we need to take.
— March Cultivated Calendar prep.

Weekly goals:
— Write + study Gimel + Daleth (Psalms 119).
— 2 Days “on.”
— Undistracted + cultivated homeschool.
— Re-creation.
— Read Traction with Emily.
— Pray the Word.

Daily Goals:
— Chronological Bible reading.
— 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 may sound silly, but something that has helped me is turning on the digital fireplace on our Amazon firestick! Even a digital fireplace relaxes me for some reason. 🙂
— Kiss Ari.
— 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.

I’m getting so excited about garden planning!

Your turn! Do you have goals for February? 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!

P.S. Did you know that 80% of the people give up on their goals by mid-February? Not us, my friends! To help us all make little-by-little progress forward, and not jump ship when we mess up along the way, we’re excited to announce that the 2nd-Annual Cultivate What Matters week starts Feb 12th! Mark your planners for a week of grace-filled goal-encouraging goodness. It was a hit last year and we can’t wait to dig in with you! Details to come.


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Need a fresh start in these first few weeks of the year? This post is just for you!

I’ve been breaking a lot of the traditional “rules” this week with my goals, and this is my invitation to you to do the same.

Let’s get you unstuck, shall we?! 🙂

I’ve chosen to grow slowly and take January to test the waters with how I’m acting on my goals. Who made up the rule that we have to make perfect progress on our goals right from January 1st? Who says you can’t try different ways to cultivate your goals—or quit things that aren’t working? Who told us we have to follow a plan that fits in a box? Here’s the truth: there are a million ways to grow a garden, and everyone’s soil is completely unique! In the same way, how you cultivate your goals will be unique too.

But, if something isn’t working, or you aren’t feeling motivated with your goals, try one of these five things:

1. Push through and give it a fighting chance. I’m gonna pull some North Carolina history out on you: the Wright Brothers. They changed history through their persistence in failure. It takes time to move from the stage where doing something new feels hard (which most things feel like when you are just starting them!), to feeling like you’re in a groove.

2. Consider that your goal might not really matter to you. If you are feeling unmotivated, get back to your WHY. Does the pursuit of your goal fire you up so much that you are totally okay with failure along the way to the finish line? I can confidently say this about all of my 2018 goals. No matter how many times you fall along the way, you are not gonna give up because this matters to you. Your goal matters now, it matters in the in-between, and it matters in the big picture. If not, this might be the reason you aren’t motivated! If a goal doesn’t matter to you, do not pass go, do not collect your $200. Cross it out and move forward to use your energy on goals that DO matter to you. (And don’t let yourself fall into the goal guilt trap here—learn from this and move forward!) It’s easy to fall into the New Year’s trap of setting goals that sound good or setting goals out of comparison. Come mid-January we wonder why our motivation has fizzled. Wonder no more! Go back to these questions to help you set goals that fire you up for the long-haul.

3. Break out of telling the same story. A little nugget from our sermon on Sunday: People often get stuck because they are stuck telling a story about why they are stuck. I’ve experienced this countless times! For example, when I wanted to quit my business, after months of uncertainty and feeling stuck, I came to the conclusion that the only way I was going to move forward was to let go of all of my plans, my thinking, my fears, my hopes, my complaining in the wait (waiting is hard, isn’t it!?) and what I thought to be possible, in favor of listening. Maybe there was a better plan. Maybe there would be good things that would come out of my hard season. Maybe I had no idea how much I would grow and how good the changes that followed would be (I didn’t!). I was stuck telling myself the story about how I was stuck and it was blinding me from new possibilities. I finally surrendered (which is hard for those of us who like to be in control and know outcomes!) and could finally hear what God wanted me to do. I know this is easier said than done, but consider the story you are telling yourself about why you “can’t” do something or why you are stuck. Press into that a little more than is comfortable. I wouldn’t be writing you this post had I not pressed in, let go, and prayed on my living room floor that day.

4. Tell someone about your goal. Goals without accountability rarely work. Here’s what we’ve found to be true in studying thousands of women and how they make goals happen intentionally:

Community creates Accountability
Accountability creates Follow-Through/Action
and Action creates Results

If something is really important to you, remember: make sure you don’t tell a single person about it or you might DO something about it! 😉

Case in point: my goal to make 2018 The Year of Kissing. Ari peeked over my shoulder and saw this secret goal on my PowerSheets, so I had to spill the beans. I’m not too mad about it, though. He’s totally on board and helping me make it happen. He has even reminded me a couple times this week, “Wait, your PowerSheets say you need to kiss me!” I’ve been much more consistent with this goal since telling him all about it!

5. Redirect! If an action step, routine, system, or something you are doing to cultivate your goal truly isn’t working—and you know for sure that your goal matters to you—it might be an indication that you need to redirect! Redirecting is one of my favorite tactics in goal-getting. Simply try something different. A cultivated life is not about following a perfect plan; it’s about your heart. How you grow an intentional life doesn’t matter as much as WHY you do it. When you have that fact on straight, you will be willing to change and bend how you make it happen in order to cultivate your goal.

For example, my number one goal this year is to grow my faith by reading and praying through the chronological Bible again. In testing out my plan for this year, I realized I bit off more than I could chew in trying to read the Bible and memorize Psalm 119 this year. So, I changed it up! I’m still reading the Bible, but instead of memorizing Psalm 119, I’m writing each section out (just like we do in our Write the Word journals) after church on Sunday while Grace does her Bible class homework. This is a good, slow, yet intentional rhythm that I am confident I can keep this year. Because it’s do-able and also challenges me, it motivates me to dig in!

It’s okay to jump ship on things that simply aren’t working. You have permission to change things up!

Your turn! Which of these tips stood out to you the most and why? I’d love to hear!

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