So, I have a few houseplants.

Just a few. 😊

28, to be exact.

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

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

Also, I just really love plants.

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

Source

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to Happy Houseplants 101!

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

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

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

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

More plant-hunting reading:

25 Hard to Kill Plants

Choosing the Right Indoor Greenery

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

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

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

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

Some tips:

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

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

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

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

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

More plant-care reading:

8 Clever Tips to Keep Houseplants Happy

How to Care for an Heirloom Houseplant

5 Reasons You’re Killing Your Indoor Houseplants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s do both.

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

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

 

Now, let’s make these 234 days count.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Want to finally move forward on your goals?

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

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

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When one woman chooses to cultivate what matters, do you know what happens?

Let me tell you about April (the month, not a person 🙂 ).

I decided to make room.

I didn’t know exactly what making room would look like; I just knew I needed it! I sometimes felt emotionally overwhelmed. Too much to process. Not enough space to sort it all out, or help the little hearts in this home do the same.

But, making room would require a radical shift, right? I thought the radical shift would be my schedule. My schedule did change in some ways, but what changed the most in April was me.

Let me set the scene for you: April was full. From training two new team members, to leading our team summit, to our summer product shoot, to podcast interviews and live webinars, interviewing potential candidates, homeschool, family fun, and right into our summer launch at the end of the month, it all could have been too much.

At times it was a lot. But in the midst of it, something started to change…

This may sound funny at first, but I started thinking about thinking.

How what we tell ourselves about our circumstances or situations or people or ourselves informs our actions.

Here’s what I discovered:

Thoughts > Emotions > Actions > Results

Our thoughts about any given circumstance influence our hearts, which results in emotions.

Our emotions directly inform our actions.

And our actions inform our results—our future.

Hmmm.

If I could chase down my thoughts, perhaps I could expose the holes in my thinking that were causing me to feel overwhelmed, even in the times my schedule was just fine!

It sounds simple in theory, and, well… it is. The challenging part is having the courage to stop and get curious about our feelings long enough to see where they come from–and let ourselves feel them first in order to do something with them.

What was I telling myself (thinking) about each situation that led to my emotions?

And this led to the golden question that changed my life: Were my thoughts facts or stories?

Truth or lies?

Because there is no half-truth. It’s either truth or not.

(A great book that talks about Stories vs. Facts: Crucial Conversations. Kaylee, Emily, and I just completed the two-day training today too and it was AWESOME!)

I started noticing when lies crept into my head and heart that were directly influencing my emotions and therefore my actions:I’m not good at xyz. I feel like so-and-so doesn’t like me. I’ll never xyz, etc., etc.

These thoughts suck the life out of me (you too?) and can leave me emotionally drained and overwhelmed. I had often blamed circumstances, but it was more what I thought about my circumstances.

Making room isn’t about empty space; it’s about intentional truth-filled space. This kind of space has given my heart and soul room to flourish!

In choosing less noise, less distractions, less control, less believing every thought that entered my mind, the truth finally got a word in! Day by day, decision by decision, it has continued to add up even when it seemed like it never would.

Over the last five weeks, I have wasted far much less time and emotional energy fighting battles that were all about stories I was telling myself. Replacing time lost in comparison, fear and narrow thinking—THIS has given me so much time and heart-space back.

If I just focus on the weeds in my garden, I miss the garden itself.

If I focus on stories instead of facts, fear instead of faith, I miss my life.

I saw in April how believing the truth brought near-immediate joy. And my joy sets off a domino effect in those around me. I saw how wasting emotional energy believing stories I’ve told myself about people or circumstances can distract me from cultivating what matters. And I’m just getting started!

My sweet boy bringing me handfuls of sunshine. If you have read Cultivate, you know dandelions are extra special to me!

I had two “thinking choices” in April:

Choice 1: “My schedule is too full and it’s impossible for anything to be cut or changed. If I do, everything will fall apart! This is impossible! Life is chaotic! Nothing will ever change and I feel hopeless. I will do nothing because I can’t.”

Choice 2: “My schedule is full and I can make some decisions to change it—even if they are hard! I can say yes or no. I may disappoint people and some things may not get done. But, I am hopeful that the hard decisions I make will be worth it. And there are many circumstances I cannot change, but I can change how I think about them. I can pray through them and let God’s truth illuminate the path forward. I am taking the first step to ignite this change, even if I don’t know what the second step will be yet. I’m stepping out on faith to make room!”

I chose option 2. And then I chose it again. And again. And I got up the next day and chose it again. And when Option 1 would try to creep back up, I chased it away again. And now I’m here in May and life is, in fact, different in many ways. Was it easy? No. I’m still learning! Changing our thinking is like trying to untangle a necklace chain. If you just yank it and pull it real quick, hoping for instant results, you’ll end up worse than when you started. Take it slowly and intentionally, and little by little you will untangle that mess.

There is great value in small things done over time.

What about you? What have you been telling yourself lately about a circumstance or relationship or challenge? Is it truth or a story you’ve told yourself about that situation?

My encouragement for you this month: Tell yourself the truth.

Plant it. Plant it everywhere!

Tend it. Tend it often. Nurture it. Enjoy it.

And consistently pull the weeds around it.

In Cultivate, I confront 10 common lies we believe (sometimes unknowingly). Life is too short and too valuable to waste it telling ourselves (or listening to) lies about who we are, or what we can or cannot do. Let’s expose them and bring them into the light where we can do something about them!

As you read each one, mark in your mind which stands out to you the most:

Lie 1: I have to do it all.
Truth: I can’t do it all and do it well.
Cultivators pay attention to what matters.

Lie 2: I have to be perfect.
Truth: It’s in the imperfect that things grow.
Cultivators dig into the season they’re in.

Lie 3: My life needs to look like everyone else’s.
Truth: I have a life to grow that is as unique as I am.
Cultivators think big picture to uncover their unique path.

Lie 4: It’s impossible to start fresh or move forward.
Truth: I can move forward by digging in and breaking up the lies.
Cultivators nourish their soil with truth and let God redeem their dirt.

Lie 5: I have to know all the details of the path ahead.
Truth: Forethought is important, but faith is essential.
Cultivators have faith, believing in what they can’t yet see.

Lie 6: Waiting is not good or productive.
Truth: Waiting is a time of ripening.
Cultivators ripen in the wait.

Lie 7: Small steps don’t make a difference.
Truth: Little-by-little progress adds up.
Cultivators tend to what matters, embracing little-by-little progress.

Lie 8: I will be content when I have it all.
Truth: I will be content when I live grateful.
Cultivators intentionally savor the fruit.

Lie 9: I can do life by myself.
Truth: I need meaningful relationships.
Cultivators embrace awkward and grow in community.

Lie 10: The past isn’t valuable; it’s all about the future.
Truth: Remembering God’s faithfulness helps us cultivate a meaningful legacy.
Cultivators preserve what matters for future seasons, and future generations.

I’d love to hear from you! Which lie and which truth stood out to you the most?

It’s hard work to let go and make room for the truth to flourish. To turn down the noise to even be able to hear it. But it will be worth it. Fighting fear or negative self-talk will help you make room for new things to grow!

This month, I’m keeping this thought-chasing going, and I’m inviting you to join me.

Lord, help us make room. Help us choose less to make room for life. Help us to number our days that we might gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:10). Help us to let go so we can hear Your life-giving truth and walk by faith this month and always. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

And now, a look back at my April goal progress (read April’s goal post here):

Choose less. A radical move to less so there’s room for life. As I wrote about here, there are inevitable times of overload that will creep up in our lives. These times are not cause for guilt or worry; they are opportunities. I’ve found myself in one of those little-margin seasons and my top priority in April is pruning. Choosing less to make room for life! — Well, as you can see above. Yes. Progress has been made here. The photo below was taken a few days before our summer launch.

— Read Emotionally Healthy Spirituality  — Yes! I am half-way through and excited to finish in May. This book has been so instrumental in me changing my thinking!
— Plant the garden. — Yes! We finished planting this weekend! Hooray!!!
— Decide on office space. — No movement here, but we have bigger fish to fry right now and there has been no clear leading from the Lord here yet. I’ll wait on Him.
— Lead a prayerful summit and shoot. — It was the best week! Lots of prayer, digging into our vision, and helping each other cultivate what matters so we can give the same to you.
— Lead a prayerful summer launch. — What a JOY this has been! See a recap of the launch here.

Our new Write the Word for Kids journal is here!!! See any familiar faces above? : )

April Weekly Goals:

— Praise + rejoice! — Yes! I practiced this often as a way to chase my thoughts and bring them back to Him!
— Prayer journal dates — Yes.

April Daily Goals:

— Bible — Yes!
— Pray over the kids — Yes!
— Exercise hard — Yes!

Also in April, I taught two live webinars that you can see for free:

How to Cultivate Faith with Kids

How to Cultivate Wellness

On to May! 

May brings warmer weather and I am soaking up the garden and the back porch! My encouraging words this month are: Walk by faith in the Spirit. I’m stretching myself to pray big and a lot and to beleive in the “impossible!”

These goals make me so excited and grateful!

May Monthly Goals:

— Be a Woman of the Word instead of the world
— Set our summer homeschool plan
— Finish and implement Emotionally Healthy Spirituality 
— Q2 rocks prayer time (we call our quarterly work goals “rocks”)
Prayer journal date
— Start Write the Word Wednesdays (I know this should be a Weekly goal. I messed up and wrote it in the monthly section—ah well!)

We enjoyed a round of Twister the day before our summer launch. It all came down to Grace and Kaylee. Grace won! : ) 

May Weekly Goals:

— Praise! with the kiddos. At first, I just wrote “Praise!” but after reading back through my Quarterly Goal Refresh, I realized I needed to tend this area with the kiddos too. I LOVE MY POWERSHEETS!!!
— Worship + church in the garden
— Celebrate others!

May Daily Goals:

— Bible
— Pray over the kids
— Exercise hard

I already love this month!

Your turn! Do you have goals for May? What are you cultivating in this new month? I’ll pick one of you to send a special surprise box of goodies to from the Cultivate What Matters shop. I love sending real mail, and I love hearing your thoughts! Congrats to April’s winner, Bess!

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