Category: Personal

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. – Jim Rohn

Wow! Does that hit you like it does me? Every time we talk about this concept at the Making Things Happen Conference, it changes us.

Those five people could be family members, friends, or even people on social media you’ve never met. The people and things we allow into our lives the most have a profound effect on our thoughts—and our future outcomes. This is one of the many reasons I’m grateful to have you, the Cultivate What Matters family, as a collective one of my “five!”

I am passionate about encouraging you, but you encourage me to live out what matters a hundredfold. (Your support last week was a gift!)

You fight alongside me each day to pay attention to what matters—what lasts. You are living this out! I read every comment and message, and I love following your journeys. You inspire me to say no to distractions and keep my eyes focused on truth.

You are encouragers—helping to build women up right where they are. Case in point: how you welcomed our two new team members, Ashlea + Jordan, to the Cultivate family last week!

Get to know each of us—and what we do—here.

You are strong and capable and ready for the second half of the year, even when you feel like you have no idea what you are doing.

And you don’t mess around when it comes to taking action on goals that matter to you!

This month, you have taken first steps on mid-year goals and WOW! What a month this has been! I have loved doing live goal coaching with you, seeing so many lightbulbs go off as you continue to take those first steps.

Our Goal-Getters board and walls (!) are filled with YOUR names. And we’re still going—take a step forward on a goal that matters to you and we will put your name on the board! We want to cheer you on because little-by-little progress is worth celebrating. When one woman steps forward on something that matters to her, do you know what happens? It creates a ripple effect. You are world changers, friends!

I took my own steps forward this month too—specifically on two of my yearly goals that are related:

  1. Love the things above, not the things of the world: cultivating contentment in our children, clearing out the stuff and information overload, and generous and wise stewardship of what we’ve been entrusted with.
  2. Cultivate the fruit of the Spirit in motherhood: growing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control in their hearts by our family seeking after God Himself above everything else.

To move forward on these goals, I wanted to start “morning time” in our family: gathering the kids together at the table each morning to grow our faith and family bond.

I’ve been wanting to do this all year, but couldn’t figure out how to do it. There were a few logistical roadblocks. First, we didn’t have a table where everyone could sit together, spread out, and make a mess. We had the dining room table, but the chairs were not exactly kid-and-craft-friendly (ha!). When Ari and I moved into our house seven years ago, before we had kids, we bought white upholstered dining chairs. Not ideal for kiddos! We also didn’t have a time that seemed to work. And how could I keep all three kids’ attention for more than a few seconds together?

For months, I did nothing. I thought about it, but I couldn’t figure out how to move forward and make it work long-term. I wanted to make morning time a regular rhythm in our house, but these small logistical things seemed to stand in my way (which feels silly now looking back!). I did nothing—until I saw all of YOU making leaps forward on your goals this month, breaking through obstacles big and small.

You lit a fire under me!

I decided that, since we used our dining room table maybe once a month at most, this would be the place. Kids crafts and books would make a welcome centerpiece! : )

My first action step: I went to find a few boxes that I could use to fill with morning time supplies. I made a box for each kiddo and filled each with Write the Word for Kids journals, craft supplies, and a few books.

I made myself a box, too. Inside: my Write the Word journal, Bible, pens, and some homeschool books.

And… I bought these wipable indestructible chairs to replace the not-so-kid-friendly upholstered ones from IKEA that were falling apart anyway. Bonus: they came fully assembled.

Up next: It was time to give this morning time thing a try for the first time.

Starting new things for the first time can be tricky, right? Whether it’s starting a new routine in your family or starting a magazine, fear can try to stop us at the starting line.

What if it doesn’t work?

What if this fails?

How do you move forward on goals that matter to you when you feel fear?

First things first (and this is the key that most people miss!): break your goal down into itsy-bitsy tiny steps—the smaller, the more likely you are to DO them. Once you break your goal down, you may find that you can’t help but take action—fear has less of a hold on you because smaller steps aren’t as daunting. (For more on breaking goals down into mini goals, read here.)

In the big and small things, you get to choose: fear or faith.

Breaking it down helps you move from fear to I’m doing this!

I gathered all the kiddos at the table with some snacks (a tip I learned from my friend, Sally Clarkson—snacks make new things more appealing!), I prayed for us, and I read them a book while they colored.

That was it.

It lasted for 15 minutes and it. was. awesome.

This may seem so simple, but that’s exactly the point. Our first morning time at the table together, with the sun peeking in, was simple and beautiful and life-giving for all of us. One day led to two, two led to a week, and now we’re three weeks in. This daily rhythm has changed our family!

You know all those things you’ve always wanted to do?

Big or small, you should go DO them.

Starting morning time was important to me because I see how it will have a ripple effect in our family—and hopefully their own families—for years to come. Learning has happened at the table. Conversation has happened here. Togetherness has happened here. And it didn’t take any grand planning. Just a few intentional steps forward.

Cultivating what matters means doing small things that add up to the big things.

Thinking big picture, and taking small intentional steps forward.

I don’t have an agenda each time I sit down with them; I do what is best for that day and each of thier nurturing needs at that moment. Some mornings we read, some mornings we paint, some mornings we color, and on homeschool days, the other kiddos do whatever they like at the table while Grace and I work through reading, handwriting, and other activities. Sometimes the younger two end up playing legos on the floor, and sometimes we have music. We just go with it!

There are often interruptions and tantrums and challenges, too, but the “imperfections” are part of the blessing of this time. Part of the learning is working through big emotions and “I wanted the yellow crayon!” moments together. : )

This time (usually from 7:30-8-ish before I start work) lasts anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. How long we do it doesn’t matter as much as doing it with the right heart: to seek Him and delight in the creative gifts God has given each of us.

And it all began with one small step forward: I went to find boxes.

Sometimes, the hardest part of starting something is proverbially “putting on your shoes,” right? Once you take the first step, the momentum grows.

Our first day above—I was still waiting on the chairs to arrive, but we dove in anyway! 

Your turn! What one step forward have you taken—or plan to take—on a goal that matters to you? Leave a comment here with your one step and I’ll add your name to our office Goal Getters Board!

I hope my story encourages you to dig in and take the first step. You never know how that one step forward might change everything!

Up next, I’ll be sharing more practical ways I’ve taken action on these goals: 8 Ways to Infuse Scripture into Your Home. Look for that next week!

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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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Do you know what it feels like to rely on your own strength?

Yep. It’s fleeting.
Frustrating.
Exhausting even.

I stood on this beach last week and my thoughts felt tangled as I tried to fix everything on my own. Worries. Fears. A mess of various thoughts.

Then Ari asked the kids, “Do you know who made this ocean?”

It was simple and it was powerful.

If God made this vast beautiful teeming-with-life body of water, surely my small challenges were easy. Light. A delight for Him to help me with, just as I delight in helping these three.

Something I’ve been chewing on lately: how these three fully rely on Ari and me. For direction, for food, for comfort, for safety, for love. And how often I fail to rely on my Father who gives me 1000x as much.

Taking care of my tangled thoughts and fears and worries was already done before I even asked.

Before my kids ask, I know they need food. Before they rub their eyes, I know they need rest. And before I put my feet in this sand, He knew I would need the simple reminder that God is big and I can LET GO.

These three had fun together on vacation last week!

Lord, in this new month of April, help me to rely on Your voice over the world. Your strength over mine. Your power over my total inability to calm my inner storms on my own. Thank you. Thank you thank you thank you for loving us right where we are. And thank you for never giving up on us, even when we are a teeny weeny bit stubborn!

A look back at my March goal progress (read March’s goal post here!):

Monthy 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. — Yes! There was a lot of both that happened.
— 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. — Yes! The garden has been cleared out, the Gardening 101 series has been a huge success (the giveaway ends Monday!), and new cedar garden beds from Gardener’s are waiting for me on my front steps. I can’t wait to dig in!
— Prayer journal date. — Yes!

Photo above by Gina!

— 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.  — Well, the best friends in the world surprised us big time! Cards, balloons, a gorgeous bouquet from Rhi (!), and best of all, prayers for our next twelve years together. I love you all so much! What a blessing this was!

If you need encouragement in your marriage, download my free marriage guide that includes links to read our story. We’re two imperfect people who know for sure that grace is a real thing and that the impossible is possible.

— Lead our best-ever MTH conference. — We’re nine years into making Making Things Happen happen and it just keeps getting better! It was our best conference yet, and we have so many ideas for the fall conference to make it even more impactful. So grateful for this time and all the women who joined us!

Photo from MTH above of me and my friend Shunta by Rachel Coffey.

— Have a meaningful Purim and Passover. — Purim was great and Passover was not what I planned, but it was good in the end! We had come home from an exhausting travel marathon the night before and the kids were tired. Really tired. We showed up to a beautiful Passover meal that Ari was leading and I couldn’t keep the two little one’s quiet or still, so I took them home and put them in a bubble bath. It was needed quiet time for all three of us! Ari and Grace got a ride home and everyone was happy. : )
— 2019 project finalization. — Here’s where my April priority comes in. We got a lot of new products off to print in March, and now it’s time to cut some projects ahead. More in April…
— Onboard new team members. — Yes, we have welcomed two new team members and they got thrown right into the good stuff: MTH, a team summit, a big shoot, and more! Why do we wait 90 days to announce them? We want to fully equip each new team member and give them time to settle in before they do forward-facing tasks. This has been so helpful and much-appreciated on their end so they feel confident in their roles when they are announced. We can’t wait to introduce them in a few weeks!
— Spring Team Summit prep. — Yes! The Cultivate Team Summit this week was all about digging into our vision, our heartbeat, and cultivating what matters in our own lives so we can give the same to you.
— April Cultivated Calendar prep. — I missed a lot of this but I don’t feel bad about it. I did what mattered most!

Weekly goals:
— Strength training 2x/week — I did this twice and definitely got my strength workout in other ways the last two weeks (carrying kiddos while traveling, paddling a boat, biking a LOT!).
— Write + study He + Waw (Psalm 119) — Now that the weather is getting warmer, I’ve been outside after church instead of inside trying to stay warm. So, I’m scrapping this for this season to make room for garden time.
— Undistracted + cultivated homeschool — We missed a lot of school this month with travelling and spring break, but when we did school, it was great.
— Re-creation — Yes. Biking a lot in Watercolor was really helpful time to sort though my thoughts.
— Pray the Word — Yes, I prayed the Word several times.
— Finish implementing Traction — praising the Lord for this book and all we’ve learned over the last year! — Almost there! So close!
— 2 days “on” + vacation — I ended up having to work on my days “on” but we did complete our vacation.

Daily Goals:
— Chronological Bible reading — Yes!
— Soul care at night — A little. There were a lot of busy nights this month with MTH, our Summit, and shoot!
— Kiss Ari — Yes.
— Pray over the kids — Yes.
— Family worship — We realized that we would love for this to be the focus of future family trips. We’d love to take a trip with another believing family and make it more of a retreat to be with God together! It really doesn’t matter where we go as long as that’s the focus.

On to April! 

This week has been a turning point for me. A new season of letting go. Letting go of control to make room for life! What generally precedes a turning point for me isn’t hard work on my part or big events or great achievements or perfect timing or circumstances; it’s surrender. Weakness. Being broken down so God can build me back up again—new and different.

It was a perfect month for a goal refresh! Every three months in the PowerSheets, we refresh our goals, and I LOVE what I uncovered. Here’s a peek:

And here are my refreshed goals for the next three months. A certain little kindergartener helped me add the stickers!

These goals make me so excited and grateful! Next, I filled out my April Tending List to start bringing these goals to life…

April Monthly Goals:

— Choose less. A radical move to less so there’s room for life. As I wrote about last week, 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!
— On that note, I’m reading Emotionally Healthy Spirituality this month.
— Plant the garden.
— Decide on office space.
— Lead a prayerful summit and shoot. — I can already update you on this and tell you 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 (coming April 24th!).

We loved our time together at the Carolina Inn this week!

April Weekly Goals—keeping it simple here!:

— Praise + rejoice!
— Prayer journal dates

April Daily Goals:

— Bible
— Pray over the kids
— Exercise hard

I already love this month of making room!

Seeing these kiddos using one of our new products at the shoot yesterday with Gina made me cry. You see, I don’t see these as just products, they are seeds. We are seed planters, sowing hope and joy and what lasts longer than us. So very grateful for this work we do and for this week of cultivated change.

Mark your planners: the new products release April 24th at 10 am ET!

Your turn! Do you have goals for April? 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 March’s winner, Tara Verrico!

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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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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.”

Ready?

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.
— SLEEP.
— 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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