With all the forward focus on the year ahead, it’s easy to forget that 2016 isn’t over yet! There’s still time to finish this year strong, no matter how the other 350 days of the year have been. But, finishing strong to me doesn’t mean doing it all, or checking items off a to-do list. These words describe the kind of strength I want as I finish 2016. True strength doesn’t mean performing. I want to keep grace as my focus, knowing I don’t have to do it all, or do anything perfectly!

fullsizerender_1We love our Walk in Love T’s around here, and these seesters loooove each other.

Here are ten things to help you cultivate what matters, little by little, in the week ahead.

1. Listen in. If did two podcasts recently where I shared my story from this year and lots of practical advice and encouragement for hard seasons. You can listen to my interview on the Creative Empire Podcast here, and the God Centered Mom podcast here. Podcasts are a great way to make intentional use of holiday travel time.

2. Prepare well. A little forethought goes a long way. Emily, Nicole, and I shared all of our best PowerSheets and grace-filled goal setting tips this week to help you finish this year well, and prepare for the season ahead. Listen in for free here. So much good info!

3. Know that there is still time. It’s worth repeating to help it take root in our hearts: there’s still time to cultivate what matters in 2016, whether that means slowing down, changing your course, or doing something you’ve always wanted to do. My friend Nancy is most definitely making the most of these last few days of the year by tackling a big (meaningful) goal. Read all about it here.

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4. Learn from wise women. One of my PowerSheets goals from 2015 was to have wise mentors in my life. Renee Swope has been a friend and mentor to me this year, and I asked her if she would share her wisdom with you too! Listen in to our live broadcast yesterday here. And be sure to register for the final Cultivate Interview of the year with farmer-florist and author, Erin Benzakein here. See you Wednesday a noon!

5. Grow together. I never imagined I would lead a team when I first started my business in 2004. I have learned so much (and have more learning to do). I turned the mic to the ladies I work alongside to share their best tips for growing a great team here.

6. Slow down time. This post (and the article Em mentions) has stayed with me for several weeks. A great read, especially this time of year as we begin reflecting on 2016 and find ourselves saying things like, “Where did all the time go?”

img_7259Grace and I made a whole lot of orange cranberry jam this weekend for holiday gifts!

7. Have an adventure. So, this doesn’t exactly count as one of my ten items for this post, but it’s my blog and I’ll break the rules if I want to! ; ) Traveling with two babies and a Gracie is logistically challenging for many reasons. We have gone to the grocery store together, and to church—that about sums up our family travel this year. But, we really want to bring the kids to my parent’s house in Florida for the holidays. Ari does not like flying, and I really love him, so flying is out. Instead, we’re renting an RV and driving to my parent’s house (13 hours) the week after Christmas. They don’t know this yet, so shhhhhh if you know my parents or my brother. Ari has to work on Christmas weekend, so we’re starting our trek on my 37th birthday – the 27th. It shall be a memorable birthday, no doubt! Anyone else driving a long distance to see family? Or have tips for RVing with babies?

8. Write and sticker your heart out. I remember how fearful we were to add color to the PowerSheets for the first time. We loved the idea of making goal setting, and life in general, more colorful and fun, but what would everyone else think? We did it anyway, and our PowerSheets workbooks (with corresponding stickers) have been a huge hit! The sold-out Cultivate What Matters pens are back in our new PowerSheets accessories bundle, which includes the Cultivate Sticker Book. (As of me typing this, there are only 77 bundles left.) Order today for holiday delivery… and make sure you read the next tip before you order. : )

9. Don’t miss number 9 here. I am so grateful for you, and our time here on this little blog!

fullsizerender_3A page from my PowerSheets above.

10. Goal get ‘em! Mark your planners—my sixth-annual Grace-filled Goal Setting Series (how has it been six years!?) starts on December 26th! I will be sharing my PowerSheets goal uncovering process (including the challenges from this year and what I learned from them), additional goal uncovering steps that have been helpful for me, my 2017 goals, and I’ll be inviting you to do the same! Get ready for lots of inspiration and, as usual, great giveaways along the way too!

Cultivating what matters alongside you–little by little,

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P.S. Inside the Life Handbook, as requested!

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Leading a team never crossed my mind when starting my business back in 2004. But, in order to grow and be able to use my specific gifts well, I quickly realized I couldn’t do it alone. Since starting my business, I’ve learned a lot about cultivating a meaningful team culture. I’ve also made a ton of mistakes that taught me far more than my successes! But, it’s the same with hard seasons in life and mistakes along the way: they grow us.

A little bit about our team today: I work alongside eight full-time employees, three of which are remote. We also have one part-time designer, and a few part-time employees who help us in our busy seasons. We run two companies together: Southern Weddings and Cultivate What Matters. I love each of these women, and I’m turning the mic to them to tell you what they think makes a great team!

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From Emily (With the company 7.5 years. Read her story here.)Skills are important, but it’s much harder to teach integrity, passion, kindness, or tact. I think we have prioritized these “soft” qualities when adding to our team, and it has paid off tenfold. If you can surround yourself with people who genuinely care about each other and about your work and mission, the work that needs to happen will get done, and will get done well.

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From Nicole (With the company 6 years. “I first met Lara as a student at UNC, and applied to be an intern at Southern Weddings shortly thereafter. Once my internship was over, I was invited to stay on as an editorial assistant, and eventually made my way to my dream job as the Art Director!”)Instill a learning spirit and sense of adventure. Operating and growing a business is hard work, and new demands can pop up exponentially faster than you anticipated. Our team handles them not only because we have a great sense of responsibility, but because we trust each other to learn new skills that help move us forward, and because we approach challenges like exciting opportunities (at least, we try to!). Additionally, we’ve always felt the need to hire people who are smarter than us, instead of those who meet us where we are. One of our office mottos is, “make it better/do it better,” after all.

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From Marissa (With the company 6.5 years. “While working in Corporate America, I was inspired by this post, and took a chance on using my own Truth Day as a cover letter to my resume. Lots of emails, an in-person interview, and several phone calls later I actually started working as Lara’s assistant as well as running social media for SW. Through the years, my job role has shifted and evolved, but my love for our mission and my coworkers hasn’t.”)Don’t let roles or titles define all tasks. While it is important to have clear job roles and expectations, cross-brainstorming with other departments or team members that might not have the same area of expertise is not only refreshing, but so very helpful. Knowing that your colleagues are willing to jump in and help when a project gets challenging or when you need a fresh pair of eyes is invaluable. You also never know when you’ll discover a hidden talent!

From Kristin (With the company 5 years, after we met her at a SW Gingerbread Barns event!)Build in refreshment days to the yearly calendar. Having an annual team retreat, or taking an afternoon to visit a local bakery or pick blueberries does more than just give you time out of the office. It gives you a chance to connect and learn about one another. Being able to reset and refocus is a great way to establish strong team unity and commitment.

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From Amber (With the company 1 year. We featured Amber’s wedding on Southern Weddings forever ago, and became friends. She became a wedding planner and did a lot of editorial work with us, and later spoke at the MTH Conference. After a year of searching for the best fit for our marketing position, Amber emailed me one day asking if we were looking for someone. Turns out, she was the perfect fit, and it was perfect timing! More here.)Use tools like Strengths Finder or personality type resources to your advantage. Ensure that the roles and tasks for each position are a good match for the team member’s individual strengths and working style. When potentially adding new team members, you can gain insight from these test results to see how they will potentially balance the team as a whole — so you can achieve greater success!

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From Jess (With the company 1 year. “I’d known Lara for about a year when she asked me to help watch her kiddos while she finished writing her next book, Cultivate. I turned her down (sorry Lara!) and instead took a full-time job in Customer Service and Social Media with a start-up in the Triangle. When my hours at new job unexpectedly shifted a few months later, I offered my assistance to Lara with Grace and Joshua while I was job-searching. We had a few conversations about my newfound love for customer service, and she mentioned that the Southern Weddings team was looking for a Customer Delight and Shop Manager. A few whirlwind days of conversations, interviews, and prayer later, I officially joined the team and it’s only gotten better since!”)Prioritize small talk – It seems inefficient, but taking 15 minutes in the morning or before calls to catch about how your evening/weekend was will add up over time. These little by little conversations create relationship equity, and you slowly learn facts about your other team members that you wouldn’t have otherwise known.

*Lisa is on maternity leave right now, but you can read her story here.

unspecified-3Photo by Faith Teasley – one of my favorite photos! We were picking tomatoes from a neighbor’s farm for a photo shoot : ) 

Three tips from me:

1. Be very specific about what you need when hiring. Make your ultimate wish list of skills, and qualities needed, and keep interviewing till you find the perfect fit. EntreLeadership has a great chapter on hiring well. So often I see business owners scrambling in the hiring process because they don’t actively seek out employees till months after they really need them (we have done this in the past too!). Don’t let the urgency of your immediate business needs outweigh the long-term success you could have through a patient and thorough hiring process. Even if your business suffers in the short-term (like it did for us before we hired Jess and Amber in January after a YEAR of searching!), the long-term benefits will be worth your patient intentionality.

2. Know your why, and live it out yourself. This is more of a leadership tip, but if you want your team to follow your lead, be worth following. That does not mean you have to be perfect (I am certainly not); it means being humble when you mess up, and it means being excited about the core of why you do what you do. Our office motto: if you’re not excited about it, no one will be!

3. Get yourself a Henrietta! Having a team mascot—a visible figurine or item–helps you to be unified and energized together. A natural choice for us here in the South, and a unanimous selection: Henrietta the hen. She’s a two-inch tall golden hen, and each week she lays “golden eggs.” One of the hallmarks of our company culture is giving these golden eggs, or words of encouragement, out to each team member during weekly staff meetings. It’s our favorite part of the week!

4. Stare fear in the eyes together. This year has been a perfect example of this. We went through many hard times together—times we all felt fear and uncertainty. There was lots of transition, and me being largely absent in writing my book and having two new babies in the house. But good things came out of that hard season, and the sometimes-hard conversations we had. Talk about what’s not working in your business, what you’re afraid of, and what you think needs changing. Those conversations were ultimately very fruitful!

5. Get on the same page. A boat being powered by a team cannot travel smoothly if everyone is paddling in different directions. We use PowerSheets as a team to set good goals together, and create strong team unity. Last week, we did our set of team PowerSheets (so helpful!!), and this week we all dove into our own individual 2017 PowerSheets!

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Huge thanks to my team for sharing their wisdom in this post, and for ALL they do! I hope you get to meet these ladies in person one day. They are pretty special : )

P.S. Don’t know what to get our team for the holidays? Give them the gift of renewed focus, motivation, and inspiration. Gift them #PowerSheets!  TOMORROW (December 16th) is the last day to order for Christmas delivery. Get your 2017 PowerSheets here and read my last post for a special discount code (which is larger than our usual groups discount, so use that code while it lasts!).

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Well, friends, it has been a long while since I did one of these Little by Little posts, and for good reasons. To cultivate what matters, we often have to let go of one thing to make room for another. I can’t do it all and do it well, but I can choose to focus on what God wants me to do in each season and circumstance. So, I let go of writing any words that weren’t being put in the pages of my book! : )

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After two years, many life changes, and starting over completely once (see the story here), my manuscript for Cultivate is done. PRAISE HIM!!!! Y’all know this was quite a journey, but God’s timing is always perfect. I needed to live out this story in order to write the words He wanted me to write. I am grateful for having to start over and for all the imperfect progress along the way! Here’s a little update on the last few weeks, and a peek at my new book cover

Here are ten things to help you cultivate what matters in the week ahead!

1.  Don’t microwave your goals. Most of the world tries to fit 2017 Goal Setting into the few days between Christmas and New Year’s. But, we aren’t going to squish intentional planning into those sometimes-family-filled days. As I mentioned in my last post about the Cultivate Interviews, we’re excited to announce that our first-ever PowerSheets Prep Week is next week! Join us for a week of preparing for 2017 with our best practical tips each day (follow Cultivate What Matters on Instagram), and I’ll be doing a live 2017 PowerSheets webinar on Wednesday. Sign up for free here. If you can’t make it live, do not miss getting the recording to watch later. This will be a quick broadcast packed with all our best PowerSheets prep tips from the last four years! Register here.

2. Cultivate a life-giving home. I had the joy of chatting with Sally Clarkson yesterday about cultivating a life-giving home, how to weather challenging seasons, and so much more. Sally is a wealth of wisdom! Catch the replay for free here, and be sure to join for my live interview with Renee Swope next Thursday at 11am EST too. Register here.

3. Read meaningful (and fun!) words. It can be challenging to find compelling books for Grace’s age (she just turned five a couple weeks ago) that are rooted in Biblical truth, and also fun to read as an adult. Adam Raccoon has become a new family favorite! Highly recommend.

4. Cultivate a year of prayer and hospitality. I’ve got a stack of mail sitting on my desk from this last month of being sick, and locking myself in my office to finish the book. Two things I can’t wait to dig into: Val Marie Paper’s 2017 yearly prayer journal, and the new Welcome Home Guestbook.

5. Know that it’s not too late. It’s not too late to start meaningful holiday traditions with your family this year—it’s only December 9th. We keep it simple around here! We celebrate the holidays that Jesus celebrated, like the feast of Dedication, also known as Hanukkah. It’s an awesome time to remember God’s faithfulness. We also celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas time. But, we do the tree (or trees!) a little differently than most people.

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We have a lot of fruit trees in our garden: two lemon, three orange, and two kumquat. In the winter, it gets too cold for the fruit trees to live inside, so we bring them into our house. There is no room for a traditional fir tree, and Josh and Sarah would end up eating it! So, instead of decorating a big Christmas tree, we decorate two of the smaller fruit trees that spend the winter on the dining room table.

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This year, two new things we are loving are Star from Afar and the Archer Advent journal (a Gracie favorite). Let me tell you, I cried when I opened the Star from Afar set that my friend Natalie sent us. She included a dark-skinned angel to represent Sarah’s birthmother watching over us. It is so special. We’ve had so much fun placing the star in different spots, and even Ari took the lead last night and wanted to hide it! It has helped us tell the story of Jesus to Grace. This will definitely become a long-standing Isaacson tradition.

penultimatefullsizerenderFinding the star this morning!

What are your holiday traditions? Does the idea of starting new traditions overwhelm you/excite you? I’d love to hear your thoughts. I really enjoyed Emily’s post about this too.

6. Get still with God. Really. A personal holiday tradition is reading through the Amen Paper Company Advent Devotional. This was one of the most faith-centering things for me last year, and I’m grateful to be a part of this year’s devotional (day 8!) You can still get it as a digital PDF here, and it’s not too late to start.

7. Waste no time. Having sepsis was sobering for me in many ways. Among many things God taught me in that time was how my soul had become infected with an overload of junk too. So, I significantly cleared out my internet usage. I unsubscribed from all but three newsletters, installed Waste No Time and Newsfeed Eradicator (thank you, Diana, for telling me about this one!), and took a social media hiatus. Fasting from social media is always good for my soul. It helps me remember Whose voice I should be listening to. I’m grateful for the new freedom and joy I feel in these fresh boundaries!

8. Get your PowerSheets! Because people are often sad they miss the PowerSheets boat, I’m putting a reminder here for you! The last day to order PowerSheets for you or a loved one for Christmas delivery is next Thursday, December 15th.

img_6600My mom came to visit in November, and helped us plant our winter garden, including hundreds of pansies! : ) 

9. Shhhh…. this is a little surprise for you. We haven’t given a discount code for PowerSheets this year, but I am so grateful for the love and encouragement you all have given me. So, here’s a code for 15% off anything in the shop: THANKYOUFRIENDS. This code is only good till December 31st at midnight. We are getting close to sold out of the one year workbooks, and the six month undated sets will be back in stock in a couple weeks. Sticker books are also close to gone. Feel free to share this code privately with friends. A little inside info: our sold out pens are coming back next week in a special bundle! Stay tuned. Thank you so much again, friends. I am grateful for the last year here on the blog with you! *This code is only for new orders. I didn’t ask my team if I could do this discount code and I realllllly don’t want to create an email flood for Jess our customer service gal. So please know that this discount cannot be applied to orders placed previously. Thank you for honoring this special gift! If you already placed an order before seeing this, we are so grateful for your order and can’t wait for next week’s festivities with you! : )

fullsizerender_1-copyProof of God’s faithfulness above : ) I love her so much.

10. Raise your Ebenezer. These words from Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing have been ringing in my head and heart for the last four weeks:

Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by thy help I come

Here I raise my hands in praise–here by Your great help I’ve come, Lord! This year, our family, living out the pages that became a book, and so much more—all praise to God for His faithfulness.

Here’s to a great rest of 2016, knowing that we don’t have to be perfect because He is!

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Friends, I have so much to update you on—life, book, and everything in between. I’ll be doing my 2017 PowerSheets next week during “PowerSheets Prep Week” (get excited – we have lots of fun planned to get us all ready for a great new year!), and I will update you then. For now, here’s something I am over-the-moon to share with you!

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In this last year of wrestling with the tension between motherhood and business, so much life change, and writing my book, these three women above greatly encouraged me. So, I asked each of them if they would share their wisdom with you too! To help us all get inspired for a meaningful new year ahead, I’m interviewing each of these women LIVE, starting with the incredible Sally Clarkson tomorrow at 11am EST.

These are free live webinars, and even if you can’t join live, register so you get the recordings. Get practical advice and inspiration, as well as the opportunity to ask these ladies your questions during our Q & A time.

Thursday, December 8th at 11am EST with Sally Clarkson. Sally is the best-selling author of The Life-Giving Home, a book about creating a place of belonging and becoming in your home. Register here.

Thursday, December 15th at 11am EST with Renee Swope. Renee is the best-selling author of A Confident Heart, a book that gives voice to the questions, doubts, struggles, and hopes so many women have. Register here.

Wednesday, December 21 at noon EST with Erin Benzakein. Erin is a farmer-florist at Floret Farms, author Cut Flower Garden that releases in March 2017, and floral workshop teacher. Register here.

If you aren’t able to join at the time of these live broadcasts, register and you’ll get the replays to watch at your convenience. So be sure to sign up for all three! See you tomorrow at 11am EST with Sally!

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What a year this has been. We adopted Sarah in February, experienced a lot of challenges, and I almost quit my business. It was a season of pruning, but good things grew from our hard season.

Our company and products have changed right along with us this year. And today is a big day! We officially switched our company name from Lara Casey Shop to Cultivate What Matters (here’s the story), and launched the 2017 PowerSheets.

Because of all we’ve been through together as a team, and in the walls of this home, these are the most simple, truth-filled, joyful products we’ve ever created.

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There are two options for you to choose from:

One-Year Dated Workbook – White cover with colored leaves that represent the four seasons. The One-Year has additional seasonal worksheets, is dated by month, and has two full pages of stickers.

Six-Month Undated Workbook – Three cover options: white, pink, or teal. We made these for the many people who find out about PowerSheets after the new year, or are finishing out a previous set.

Check out our frequently asked questions and visit our NEW SHOP for more.

If you are new to PowerSheets, they are like having a trusted guide. Imagine a coach who gives you a combination of grace and motivation. That’s this year’s PowerSheets. They will help you uncover purpose-filled goals and plan action steps to make what matters happen.

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Flowers from my garden above and the pen that Ari gave me for five-year anniversary.

The 2017 PowerSheets are for anyone—moms, students, creatives, entrepreneurs—who needs a grace-filled system that works! This is my sixth year using them myself, and our fourth year having them in the shop. Wow, they’ve changed so much since we started, and so have we! Join the tens of thousands of women who have changed their lives with PowerSheets and made what matters happen in their own lives.

2017-powersheets-cultivate-what-matters-4Those are my favorite jelly beans that the ladies I work with gave me for Boss’s Day this year : ) 

I hope you give these new 2017 PowerSheets a try, and that they help you grow what matters—what lasts. If you are a long-time PowerSheets user, you’ll open these pages to a whole lot of NEW.

A few of the many things that are new:

– Almost every page has been changed to reflect the changed heart of our company – more joy, more simple, more intentional, more fun!
– The tending list is perforated (Yay!)
– The One-Year workbook is smaller, more durable, and a full pound lighter
– New worksheets, new stickers, so much more!

ORDER HERE.

To celebrate our 2017 PowerSheets preorders, we’re launching the biggest giveaway we’ve ever hosted this year with our 2017 PowerSheets preorders! If you preorder your PowerSheets before November 15th, you’ll be entered to win one of our 10 prizes listed below! There are no extra steps; just purchase your PowerSheets before November 15th, and you’re automatically entered to win one of the following prizes:

  1. A free ticket to the Making Things Happen Conference in Chapel Hill, NC
  2. A goal-coaching call with me!
  3. A gift card from the Nancy Ray Shop
  4. Housecleaning and a copy of Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Uninvited.
  5. FitBit
  6. $100 Amazon gift card
  7. A fresh bouquet from FarmGirl Flowers
  8. Meal delivery from Hello Fresh
  9. A one-hour massage
  10. Seed packets from Floret Flowers

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We chose these prizes to help you cultivate what matters in the coming year, and to thank you for being part of the Cultivate What Matters family with us!

Here’s our live reveal video for more details…

and our THANK YOU video with more about how our launch went and what we’re most grateful for!

Ahhhh!!! I’m so excited to cultivate what matters alongside you, friends!

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