Well, this week’s post is a little different, but this week has been a little different, too.

Sunday night marks the start of the Jewish new year: Rosh Hashanah. In our house, we celebrate many of the Jewish holidays, as Jesus himself had likely done. We blow a shofar, or ram’s horn, (yes we have one stored away in our closet!). And, this isn’t a part of the Biblical holiday, but it’s a long-standing tradition to eat apples and honey to signify a sweet new year. Grace likes the horn blowing and apple + honey eating : )

This year, in particular, is perfect timing for me. And perhaps for you too.


I shared this week that I have been feeling a shift. I thought the dust had settled from our year of change (having two babies, our adoption, wanting to quit my business earlier this year, and lots more), but it seems to keep settling. Even Sarah and the ladies in our office have noticed. We are feeling more like ourselves but changed. And the more the dust settles, Ari and I are seeing just how challenging this year really was. I’m still trying to make sense of the emotions we experienced.

And then Rosh Hashanah began to approach. And it got me thinking. Just as nothing is ever truly wrapped up at the end of a calendar year, I don’t feel like I have a perfect ending on this season. But, holidays and milestones can help us move forward because they make us pause.

Did you just feel that? A little pang of anxiety about the word, “pause.” Yes, I felt it too. It’s a good word, but it’s hard to do, isn’t it? We sometimes don’t want to face what’s waiting for us in the pause. And for me, I know the pause means more change. Good change. But, boy howdy there has been a lot of change this year.


But, pausing is life-giving. Pausing invites the tangled ties of tension, fear, anxiety, and worries, to have space to unravel. It gives us margin to let the dust fully settle. And in that settling and stillness, something happens. We are finally able to see clearly. We can see where we are, in order to move to what’s next. Pausing helps us stop to ask, “Is this the direction I should be going, or should I set my foot on new ground?”

And that’s why we blow the shofar. It makes us all stop and listen.

The end of a year leaves me part sad to let go, and part really grateful for the fresh start ahead. But, there’s nothing magical about January 1st. Sundown on Sunday, whether you have a shofar or not, could indeed be the start of something new for you, too.


So my first tip this week for making progress on what matters, little by little, is:

1. Pause. Even briefly. Let your dust settle a bit more, too. Let whatever you’ve been carrying settle in, and answer this question: How you are doing? I often fear answering this question. I’m afraid of burdening people, or being too much, or–even in times when I’m genuinely content and great–I sometimes fear discouraging people who aren’t feeling that way too. But, I know for sure that starting where we are allows us to move to what’s next… even if that means staying, abiding, or becoming more content in the wait for something. I want to know your real answer, and I’ll give you mine below too. Pause. Feel whatever it is. Give it words. How are you really doing?

2. Name your fear. In the same vein, what fear has been swimming in your heart lately? Often we fear success. The kind of success I fear is the bigger/more/doing it all kind. To me, right now, success means smaller, and yet more alive. My biggest fear is succeeding at things that don’t matter. What’s yours? There are no wrong answers here. Whatever it is, give it words. Get it out of your head and heart.

3. Press in. I loved my friend Jess’ “No Filter” newsletter this week about what to do when you aren’t feeling God. I said this exact phrase to Ari several times last weekend. He prayed over me, and I kept reminding myself that a lack of feeling doesn’t mean a lack of faith. This restlessness caused me to shake things up and lay all my feelings at God’s feet. It went something like this, “God, I feel like you are distant from me. I want to be close to you so much. I am here. I am willing. I want to know you more. Can you help me figure this out?” One of Jess’s tips is to reach out and tell someone if you’re feeling this way–like I did with Ari. If you don’t have an Ari, I’d love to be your listening ear, and I’d love to pray alongside you. Let me know in the comments if you are feeling this way.

4. Listen in. I didn’t know this radio interview was going to be live on air till five minutes beforehand (I am used to doing them pre-recorded), but it was refreshing to let go and recount some of the hardest parts of my story with Lynne. The hard things ended up bringing me the most joy. Beauty came from ashes.

5. Stop talking about it, and just do it. I love my friend Val’s post on creating a habit of prayer–particularly tip number 6. We often say, “I need to pray more.” Her advice: instead of saying you need to pray, just start praying right then and there.

6. Get it done, right then and there. No, I didn’t accidentally type the same tip twice. As we move into our busy season, we’re doing this with our work too. We’re trying something new: doing things in meetings. If we talk about emailing someone, we start writing the email during the meeting. Need to update out Instagram bio? Do it in the meeting. Need to write text for a video? Let’s do it together right then. Done, and done! We have re-titled our meetings “Team Doin’s.” If you don’t have a team and work solo, this still applies to you. Instead of writing everything down on a list to do later, do some of them. Up your efficiency, and skip the list.

7. What’s your one thing? On Facebook live this week, I asked what your one thing is that you’d like to grow over the next three months. I’d love to hear your answer. I’ll post mine below too. I always love reading your thoughts.

I just have seven things this week, so I’ll use the last three spots as simple reminders for both of us : )

8. Tell me how you are really doing. I’ll tell you too.

9. Name your fear—whatever it is. There are no wrong answers.

10. What’s your the one thing you want to grow over the next three months?

Here’s to our sweet new year, friends.

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P.S. I’m about to do my October PowerSheets (and Goal Refresh) live on Instagram stories. The ladies in my office are also doing theirs live on the shop account. Join us today!

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Hello, my name is Martha. I realized last night, that I’ve been spending more time trying to inspire, than being inspired. More time trying to give and do, than sitting at the Lord’s feet. This new season of life has felt lighter.


I’ve been focused on cultivating love in my kids, my marriage, my team, good work, and in moments like these–belly laughs that my body hasn’t been able to feel in a long time, but …

I don’t have the perfect words here. There’s more than belly laughs. I’m craving holiness. A more settled, devoted, alive faith. And not just for me. For our whole family.

Maybe it’s the change of season. Or maybe it’s just time. I don’t have a plan or a checklist; just prayer and trust that the Lord will direct my steps.


Here are this week’s 10 Things to Help You Make Progress on What Matters (In no particular order!)

1. Good things can come out of hard seasons. I shared yesterday on Facebook Live part of the news I’ve been wanting to share with you: we’re changing the name of our shop, and launching a community and goal encouragement site to go along with it. This is no small feat, and has been the result of huge prayer and change this year. I think about when people changed on the inside in the Bible, the Lord often gave them new names: Saul became Paul, Sarai became Sarah, Simon became Peter. It’s been a long time coming, and it was time for a new name that matched who we are, what we do, and what we hope for your life as well. I can’t wait to share it with you soon. (We are waiting on a confirmed launch date from our web developers—hoping for mid-October.) More details to come. Any guesses on the new name?

2. Shake up your to-do list. A tip for lingering to-do’s. Many times, I have a to-do on my list that is more of a to-decide. And those to-decides like to hang out on my list for a while until I shake things up. So, a tip: write your to-do’s as prayers. For example, we’re working on changing roles and titles in our company, and instead of writing “role changes” on my list, I switched it up and wrote, “Lord, what do you want the role changes to be?” Now, it’s lingering productively and prayerfully, instead of clogging up my brain space every time I look at my list. Prayer is an action step.

3. Make your move. You want to get inspired? Watch this. Phiona Mutesi, a young girl from the Katwe slums of Uganda stumbled into a chess program as a 9-year-old searching for food. Though she could neither read nor write, Phiona turned out to be a chess prodigy. Queen of Katwe was first a book written by local UNC journalism professor, Tim Crothers (Ari is an Associate Professor at UNC too : ). And now it’s is a feature film produced by Disney and ESPN Films about a dream and the drive to reach it. I haven’t been to a movie in years, but I plan on seeing this. It’s in theaters beginning September 30, 2016. The trailer has me inspired!

fullsizerender First crunch in the leaves.

4. Ask for a portion. Lisa’s wedding ceremony was one of the most meaningful I’ve been to. Emily shared this piece of marriage advice that stuck with her, and me—and no doubt many others.

5. Think small. The first three years of PowerSheets, I wrote a personal note with most orders. It took me days and days to write hundreds of notes, but it was always worth it. I loved praying over each name, imagining them recipient opening the package, and hoping that my words might encourage them. But, with more little people in my house and less time for work, I had to stop writing them. Yet, I deeply miss that connection. I’ve said many times over the last weeks, “How do we get back to small? To handwritten notes?” My friend Val launched her 2017 collection this week, and her post on launching small resonated with me.

6. Make it a great mail day. My friend Maghon sent Grace some Hooray Mail this month, and she has been loving it. Check out their Instagram to get a peek at what this great concept for kids is all about.

img_4936Pressing zinnia petals in a songbook for a project Grace and I are working on : ) 

7. Know that you are worthy of art.

8. Go from awkward to awesome. Photographer friends, this course is for you. No one has gotten Ari to smile like Gina has–the real smile I love when I know he is truly happy and relaxed. I often tell Gina that she’s my soul sister. She always knows how to calm me, call me up, and help me focus on what matters. And she’s a ridiculously gifted photographer and mentor to many.

9. Read the only review that matters: God’s. I don’t read my Amazon reviews, partly because my first book is so much of my (very vulnerable) personal story, but even more so for the good reviews. Opinions can shift our thinking away from truth—and make us believe we are something we may not actually be. I resonated so much with Jess’s post about her “Caesar salad” review.

10. Done is better than perfect. I don’t have a #10 : ) Happy weekend, friends!

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The air is getting cooler, and I’m feeling it: I’m going to have to let go soon. The cold will take these blooms in a few short weeks, and I’ll begin dreaming again of next year’s garden. It has been a beautifully imperfect year in the garden. Nothing manicured. Lots of surprises. Like the time we planted rutabagas and up came horseradish. And the time when we found termites and had to remove all the wood chip. Lots of experiments, and things that never grew, and awkward little spaces. And yet this has been my favorite year. So much life in Gracie’s Garden — goldfinches, butterflies in seven colors, hummingbirds, bees, the neighbor’s sweet cat, Gracie eating tomatoes and throwing flower petals in the air, and a few green lizard spottings. It has been real good. And I always feel a little sad when the air cools. Nothing on this earth lasts forever, and yet what we grow here matters. I’m asking myself these questions:

What good could I do with this life I’ve been given, right where I am?

What can I cultivate that will grow long after I’m gone?

img_4850Picking flowers last night, after everyone went to bed.

106 days left in the year to use well, and grow good things. Lots to think on this weekend. In-progress thoughts from my garden. : )

Here are 10 Things to Help You Make Progress on What Matters This Week (In no particular order!)

1. Make Dinnertime Matter. If you could have dinner with anyone, who would you choose? I’d love to hear your answers! Wait till you see what happens when these kids begin answering this question.  

2. Tell your story. I cried so much writing my story in Make It HappenI wrestled with God a lot about my past. I cried to Ari. I grieved. But here’s the miraculous thing about pain, tears, and grieving… in it, I healed. Although it didn’t feel so fun at the time, writing my story was one of the best gifts I’ve been given. Even if you have no interest in publishing a book, consider writing your story. Use a journal, your laptop, a voice recorder, scrap paper—anything. Writing your memories could change you, and allow you to sort through things that may be holding you back from moving forward. And if you do want to publish a book, I recommend Compel Training. Here’s a free ebook I contributed to that may help encourage you too: 7 Secrets You Need to Know as New Writer.

3. Let It Be. I haven’t submitted my writing for something before without being prompted to by someone else, and I was all sorts of nervous to do this for the first time. Last year’s Advent Devotional from Naptime Diaries (now Amen Paper Company) was life-changing for me. Many of the words still linger with me, specifically Becky Kiefe’s piece (part of which can be found here – “When Jesus Interrupts Your Cleaning“). I’m grateful to be included in the 2016 Advent Devotional this year. Preorders launched yesterday.

fullsizerender-8Last night with all the monkeys before bed. : ) 

4. Lose “Always” and “Never.” I shared a few sneak peeks from my upcoming e-book about marriage in Wednesday’s Facebook Live. A favorite tip that has helped us: eliminate always and never from your relationship vocabulary. Ari and I began practicing this after listening to a Tim Keller sermon years ago (that I can’t find the link to now), and it helped us communicate more lovingly and truthfully. As I was searching the inter-webs for that Tim Keller sermon, I happened on this great article from the Beating Fifty Percent site.

5. Choose Grace, Not Perfection. My friend Emily’s book, Grace Not Perfection, releases in one month. We used to own a consulting and branding company together, and one day, in the middle of a ver busy season for us, Emily said to me on the phone, “I want to hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection.” It was a lightbulb for both of us. We are going to create a Thunderclap to spread this message far and wide on release day. Join us.

6. Laugh. To everything there is a season. Coming out of a really hard season, I’ve noticed that I’ve been relishing the gift of laughter lately. You’ve probably noticed this, as I tend to include at least one funny video in each week’s post. Here’s your giggle for this week: This guy is a high school principal and oh my stars. Just watch. : )

7. Mark your planners. November 1 is PowerSheets launch day. Nicole and I had a flood of emails after last year (and still get them) from people who were really sad they didn’t get a PS Workbook. So, mark your planners, and we’ll be doing a livestream that day for you to follow along with our launch, and see the new products in action. This year’s PowerSheets are a new size (smaller!), new material, and every page of content has been made even more fun, meaningful, and powerful. Oh, they are so good! And yes, there are new stickers. I wish I could hand-deliver them to each of you specifically, dear friends. I’ve loved getting to know many of you here since I started this new blog series. Your comments and our conversations make my week.

img_4875Gracie found a ripe watermelon in the garden this morning! 

And these last three are words to tuck into your heart pocket, or write each of these on post-it notes for your desk so you start next week well!

8. Done is better than perfect. Get a free iPhone or desktop wallpaper of this, and many more here.

9. Busy is the enemy of peace. Busy takes us away from our purpose. Busy is not truly productive in the big picture. Busy means life’s joys and surprises can’t find a way into our lives because we’re moving too fast to see and experience them. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to move so fast that I miss my life. More here.


10. And I’ll keep reminding you, and myself:  It’s okay to grow slow. 

What are you most wanting to grow in your life right now? I believe in the power of words. Getting them out of our heads helps us take action and move forward. To encourage you to get your words out, I’ll choose a few of you to win a set of colorful inspiring desk cards. : ) I’ll share my thoughts in the comments too!

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P.S. I didn’t forget about the news I had planned to share with you, as promised in my last post. I thought we would be ready to share, but good things sometimes take extra time to grow : ) More to come.

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I often wonder if what I do everyday is helping others. Not in an “I don’t think I have purpose” way, but I genuinely don’t have the ability to know most times. After webinars (like this one and this one) or speaking, or even in writing my first book, people ask me, “How did it go?” My answer is always the same:

I don’t know. I hope it helped?


You see, it’s not about me or what I think. I may never know if I’ve made an impact till I reach Heaven. That’s where faith comes in—believing in what we can’t yet see. Dreaming of the fruit that may grow long after we’re gone. Trusting and planting seeds anyway, no immediate tangible reward in sight. I’m an imperfect boss, wife, mom, friend, sister, and writer, and I can only hope that what I share will plant a good seed in your life–all by God’s grace because of my aforementioned imperfection. But, I want you to know that your comments on my last post encouraged me greatly to keep going, keep growing, and to cultivate what matters—what lasts, little by little. I may have written a post about taking the next step forward to encourage you, but you ended up encouraging me, friends!

Thank you. Sincerely, thank you.

I’ll be sharing about some of my own steps forward in the next post. Big changes are coming : ) And I don’t love statements like that unless they are potentially true for the reader as well. I pray these changes will, in fact, be big for you too!

img_4626Speaking of big… This girl is growing so fast! Out on our morning walk : ) 

Till then, here are 10 Things to Help You Make Progress on What Matters This Week (In no particular order!)

1. Make it happen. Today is the final day to enter to win the Make It Happen Giveaway. We’re giving away 19 inspiring tools and books, including the first set of 2017 PowerSheets and our brand new sticker book. I’ve loved reading and replying to many of your comments on the post!

2. Bust a move. They were on vacation, ordered water, and just came out to dance. Right around 1:20 is when I couldn’t help but giggle out loud.

3. Encourage a student. We donated all the remaining 2016 PowerSheets from the shop (about 300 sets) to local UNC students. We’re hopeful they will encourage students to cultivate what matters in this season! Take a moment and encourage a student this week. It could make a huge impact. Just think about the encouragement you needed when you were in college.

fullsizerender-6My PowerSheets goals for September above. I talked about each goal in my weekly Facebook Live on Wednesday. I had a cute little assistant with me too : ) 

4. Write the Word. Write the Word orders now come with my NEW Cultivating Faith Mini Book. Grace kissed them all to add extra love to your packages. : ) Use the code FRESHFAITH to get 20% off your order, too.

5. Prioritize. How do I do it all? I don’t. Read my interview with Terra from Earn Spend Live about how I prioritize, and what our mornings are like here.

6. Become an Ambassador. When I was ten, my mom’s best friend was married to the U.S. Ambassador to Sweden. Crazy, right? I spent time with them there when I was little, and his passion for his work made a life-long impression on me. Being an Ambassador was a multi-faceted role that allowed him to teach, lead, serve, and create community—all of which he did with grace and joy. Our shop Ambassador/Affiliate program is tiny in comparison, but I believe it can have a powerful impact on lives. I know many of you are passionate about sharing our mission to cultivate an intentional life with others. Our Affiliate Program equips you to do that, and you’ll get the first look at all the new products in our private Affiliate Facebook group soon. Join our team here.

7. Find your money! You guys. There are millions of dollars of unclaimed money (also known as “unclaimed property”) out there. We recently got a letter in the mail that looked rather spammy, stating that they found $756 that belonged to Ari, and they wanted to help us claim it. I almost tossed the letter, but I got curious. I did some research and, low and behold, there really was $756 that Ari was owed from a student loan thing forever ago! I bypassed the company who wanted a cut, and went straight to the California Treasurer’s office to claim the funds. The check came last week. It was real! My mom did it too and got her check. Bypass the middle men, and go straight to your state’s website to see if you have unclaimed funds. Start here and search by state (try every state you’ve ever lived in too—you never know). Let me know if you find something.

8. Start fresh. Last week, we talked about taking the next best step. We’re really good at this in January, right? Then, come February 1 … you know where this is going. I’ve been right there too, making progress on some goals then weeks later, getting bogged down by inner shame: I failed. I can’t do this. I am not enough. I messed up — all hope is lost! If you need encouragement for your next step, or the one after that, or need start over completely, I wrote this for you.

fullsizerenderAfter a year of not being able to go many places because of nap schedules and feedings, we finally have 1.5 hour windows every day. It may not seem like much, but it’s huge for us. We used our 1.5 on Sunday afternoon to take a walk in the woods near our house! It was wonderful! Little by little, we are getting out more 🙂 

9. Forgive. This is a weighty one, but I’m including it because it’s one of the biggest keys to making progress on what matters: grace. Grace—being forgiven of all my junk (and there was a lot of it) compelled me to forgive Ari for all the hurt in our marriage. And grace compelled him to do the same for me. Tomorrow, I’ll be sharing our story of forgiveness as a part of Love God Greatly’s Forgiveness study. Since I’m not on social media on the weekends, I’m giving you the link now in case you want to click over and read it. : ) Join in here.

10. Don’t count the days, make the days count. Remember our code word from last week’s? Today’s code “word”is 113! 113 days left in this year to finish well, to let go, to dive in, to do less, to say no, to say yes, to embrace imperfect progress, to take the next best step—to choose what matters. A tip: define what matters to you by getting it out of your head. Leave a comment here with one thing that matters to you today, big or small. To encourage you to get your thoughts out and do something about then, I’ll give a couple of you our new Cultivate What Matters sticker books (releasing November 1). Tell me one thing that matters to you, big or small! I’ll leave my thoughts below too.

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P.S. It’s time to fly.

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The best things in life are cultivated little by little. Hello, friends! Welcome to my new weekly series. Each week, I’ll give you a quick update on life around these parts, and Ten Things to Help You Make Progress on What Matters, little by little (with some fun ones thrown in too!).


On Monday, life changed. The judge declared that our adoption is final! When we began the process three years ago (feeling terrified and excited, but more terrified), a friend offered us this advice: just take the next step forward. You can always change course, and the next step will reveal itself after that. Take it one by one. We found so much freedom in that. Whether it’s adopting a baby, growing a business, cultivating faith, or doing something you’ve always wanted to do, take the next best step forward. You have permission to change your mind along the way. But, maybe–just maybe–your little by little steps will lead you to something marvelous. For us, they led us to family.


Oh, we love you, Sarah Celeste! See photos from her first six months with us here.

Need some help uncovering your next step? Here are 10 Things to Help You Make Progress on What Matters This Week (In no particular order!)

1. Get unstuck. Let go of the fear and striving, uncover really good goals, and learn how to take action on what matters most to you. This week I shared my Top 10 Keys to Making What Matters Happen. Get the free replay and my new e-book here.

2. Cultivate fresh faith — no perfection required. Faith is taking a risk—believing in what you can’t yet see. Get my free Cultivating Faith e-book, and free live class here.

3. Stop working, start living. If you’ve been struggling with working long hours, try this tip. Set an alarm on your phone that says “Stop working, Start living” at the hour you want to stop. I did this for several months to break free of working longer hours and build better boundaries on my time. It helped!

4. Make it Happen. I asked my publisher permission, and they said yes! Here’s a free download of the first part of my book. I hope it encourages you!

5. Dance like no one is watching. This kid. Wait for the end. Oh my, I needed that giggle!

6. Come to Chapel Hill in October. If you want to get unstuck, I invite you to join me this October, in-person, for the Making Things Happen conference. Yesterday, we went live, to give you a look at what happens at Making Things Happen. See you there!


7. Have coffee on me today! A friend surprised us this week with five heart balloons—one for each heart in our new family. I’m passing on the kindness, and have loaded this with $50. I’ve never done this before, and I hope several of you enjoy a cup of coffee with this today–or buy one for a friend! UPDATED: Y’all love your coffee, and I’m so glad! I added $25 more, but this may run out fast too! : ) UPDATED AGAIN: Thank you all for the sweet messages. I’m so glad you enjoyed the coffee and tea with friends. This was fun! Looks like it may all have been used so I’m removing the card link. We’ll do this again sometime soon! 

8. Get motivated with some great new products. I’m giving away the first set of 2017 PowerSheets, one of our NEW sticker books, ten sold-out Simplified Planners, my favorite colorful pens, and much more here.

9. Remember our code word : ) We have a new code word, me and you. The number of days left in the year is our “word” to cheer each other on. Today’s code word is 120! On Facebook live this week, I shared more about this, and I got a little choked up at the end. : )

10. Lastly, tell me what your one step forward is. What’s the one (maybe scary) step you are considering or are taking today to make what matters happen? Leave a comment here telling me what your step is, and I’ll give away some fun things from the shop to several of you. And know this: the best prize is taking that step. I’m excited to hear from you, and encourage you in the comments.

Here’s to making progress on what matters, little by little!


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P.S. It’s okay to grow slow.

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