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 on July 5th!

34WordPress Comments , Facebook Comments ()

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.

17WordPress Comments , Facebook Comments ()

Imagine it.

December 31st rolls around. You’re sitting down to dinner with family or friends, and you talk together about the story of the last 6 months.

What story will you tell?

The stories of our lives are made up of little decisions we make each day.

Do we say yes or no?
Do we start something new or grow what we already have?
Do we move forward or stay right where we are?

We can’t predict the future—our lives are in God’s hands. But, do you know what else is true? He gives us choices. We get to decide the next best step right where we are, depending on our particular season and circumstances.

If you’re like me though, thinking about my choices adding up to a new life and direction can feel exciting and also challenging. Why? Imagining a changed life takes faith. It takes believing in what I can’t yet see. It takes putting my trust in God’s plans over my own and stepping out on faith with Him.

I have to choose faith over fear! This life is the only one we get here on this earth. Today is the only June 1, 2018, we get. The things I do today have a ripple effect—changing my story, our children’s, and potentially countless others.

My little loves talking together and eating sweet peas in the Magical Garden.

To cultivate what matters, we think big picture and take small intentional steps forward.

A whole lot can happen in 6 months of small decisions adding up!

Come December 31, what story do you want to be telling?

The story I want to tell is, We stepped out on faith. We loved God with all of our hearts and souls and strength. And in the many times we were weak and messed up, His power was made perfect in our weakness. Look at what God did! Six months from now, I want to look back and see a family rooted in the Word. In community. A family in love with the Lord and deeply connected to each other.

What about you?

4 things you can do right now to prepare well for the month ahead and the rest of this year:

1. Write out the story you want to tell on December 31st. We can’t predict the future, but we can make intentional decisions in one direction or another. Write a few sentences about what story you want to tell. There’s power in writing things down—our brains and hearts begin to make decisions about them!

2. Make a “Move Forward Summer” list. I did this last week and it was so helpful—so much so that 90% of what I wrote down has already changed! In the writing, I started making decisions on how to change those things. Write out your list starting with, “I want to move forward from…” An excerpt from my own Move Forward Summer List:

I want to move forward from always being in my head. Hearing what I think people’s motives are even if it’s a story and not a fact. The more I think about a perception that isn’t yet a proven fact, the more it becomes my reality.

I want to move forward from often feeling broken, imperfect, emotional, too much.

Honesty breeds clarity, and wow did I get some clarity writing my list!

3. Join the free Cultivate Book Club. From now till August 7th, we’re reading my book, Cultivate, together—with a virtual book club party at the end! Join the easiest book club ever.

4. Get ready for Mid-Year Goals Prep Week! Starting Monday, we’re spending 5 days intentionally preparing to make the most of the next six months. And you get to choose your adventure! What do you need most?

Need a kick in the pants? Join us for daily live coaching.
Need help getting started with your PowerSheets? We’ll be digging in with you!
Need some goal-getter friends to cheer you on? Cultivate Community Groups launch Monday.
Need some real-life examples from others? Be sure to follow us on social for inspiring stories and daily pep talks.
Need some motivation to take that action step you’ve been putting off? This is where we’re gonna get a little crazy. We’re going to take those action steps LIVE together (I have some amazing prizes that will motivate you)!

All the details are headed to inboxes first thing on Monday morning! If you’re not on the newsletter list, sign up now!

The small decisions we make today matter. And they add up.

What story do you want to tell? What decisions do you need to make today to move boldly in that direction?

I’m writing a new story in this second half of the year, and you can too.

There’s nothing magical about January 1st—June 1st has a nice ring to it though!

Pulling out the pansies and violas from the fall with my mom!

Here’s a recap of my goal progress from May and my June goals are below too!

May Monthly Goals:

— Be a Woman of the Word instead of the world – Yes, I made progress here. It was a battle some days, but I tried my best to choose the Bible over distractions.
— Set our summer homeschool plan – Yes! More below in my June goals.
— Finish and implement Emotionally Healthy Spirituality – I made progress, but haven’t finished yet. Continuing to read this in June! Have you read it? I’d love to hear!
— Q2 rocks prayer time (we call our quarterly work goals “rocks”) – Yes, and I have made big progress on all of my rocks, praise Him! 
— Prayer journal date – This is a date with God to pour my heart out and get still. I usually do this on a night Ari is working late. I light a candle and simply fill out all the prayer prompts. I pray daily throughout the month, but having one dedicated longer time alone with God has been a helpful rhythm for me this year, especially at the start of a new month.
— Start Write the Word Wednesdays – Yes! See here.

After I write the Word, I write notes to Grace in the margins of her Bible.

May Weekly Goals:

— Praise! with the kiddos. – We had some challenges in May (hashtag 2 two-year-olds), but intentional praise kept us moving in the right direction. This came in the form of talking about things we’re grateful for, praise dance parties, praising God in prayer, and expressing thanks out in the garden. More on that below!
— Worship + church in the garden – Yes, we have noticed new sprouts and marveled at the bees that God made. I also had a really special visit with my mom. We gardened late into the night one evening and it was a memory I’ll never forget. I praised Him as it was happening for our meaningful conversation as we were digging in the dirt together.
— Celebrate others! – Yes. We’re had birthdays and milestones and it’s a joy to support such wonderful and talented friends—like my dear friend Hannah launched her new book this week and my friend Sally who you will read about in my June goals!

May Daily Goals:

— Bible – Yes, even though I missed a day and got really mad about it! Hear that story here.
— Pray over the kids. Even though they get super squirmy when I pray over them and somehow the mention of, “Dear God…” makes them all want to be silly, every night and at times throughout the day, I hold them and pray over them.
— Exercise hard – I am claiming little by little progress here! I’ve done my best to do small running spurts on our morning walks. The kids love going fast in the stroller, so that’s some motivation!

Also in May, I taught a live webinar that you can see for free: Top 5 Ways to Finally Move Forward on Your Goals. This was one of my favorite live classes ever! I hope you enjoy it too!

I took Grace to get a plant she’s been asking me for forever: a red hibiscus. I blame emojis! 🌺

On to June! 

One of my new co-workers (who you will mee in a couple weeks!) shared this with me and I fell in love:

“Far up in the deep blue sky, great white clouds are floating by; all the world is dressed in green; many happy birds are seen, roses bright and sunshine clear show that lovely June is here.” – F. G. Saunders

Hello, June!

My June PowerSheets above!

June Monthly Goals:

The Lifegiving Parent Book Club with Ari. This goal makes me so happy! I had a conversation with my friend Sally Clarkson recently that inspired me in the true sense of the word (to give breath or motivate to life-giving action). I want to be like Sally when I grow up. 🙂 She sent me a copy of her new book and Ari and I started reading it together last weekend. I told my friend Emily we were doing this and she said, “It’s like your own book club!” I love that idea, so that’s what we’re doing! The ingredients? Me, Ari, and this incredibly amazing book. It’s like spending an evening with Sally and Clay by the fire with some warm tea. I love you, Sally! So very much!
Slow down. Trust in the Lord and seek Him. I’ve been in a long period of transition with a growing company and growing kiddos and homeschool—seeking new balances as the kids continue to grow. In this season, it’s necessary for me to force myself to slow my thoughts down, giving my soul space to unravel and find rest as the rest of life around me grows and changes quickly. This is my most important work because it affects everything else. Practically speaking, this means talking to God constantly and asking Him to help me bend and not break. It means nourishing my soul. It means savoring His blessings. It means slowing down more than I think is necessary. More to come here!
— Celebrate Grace’s gift of music. I prayed for months about getting a piano. Ari’s dad is a composer, I have a degree in music theatre, and Ari is pretty musically-inclined himself. I kept imagining the presence of a piano allowing our home to be filled with music—creating opportunities for the kids to worship in song and have fun. What I didn’t expect was Grace taking a fast and passionate liking to the old piano we got on Craigslist. We offered her a trial piano lesson, thinking surely it was too early and she would get frustrated. The opposite happened. She loved it and her teacher said she was surprised as well. Grace has the gift of music. She faithfully practices every day without any prompting from me. She just does it because she loves it. Her first little piano recital is tonight and I couldn’t be more excited to celebrate what God has revealed in her!
— Summer homeschool – This summer, we’re focusing on doing field trips and outings (Museum of Natural History, Patterson’s Mill Country Store, and the Museum of Life and Science are all on our list!) with a little traditional school work mixed in. We also made a theme for each day to give us a loose structure: Make it Monday (crafts), Teaching Tuesday (Grace has dreamed up what she calls “Funbabies Homeschool” for the little ones!), Take a Trip Wednesday (library, park, etc.), Thoughtful Thursday (make cards for friends, help with a house project), and Friday is a wildcard. No official schedules here, just ideas and options each day to give us the freedom to make things work depending on how everyone is feeling.
— Mid-Year Goals Prep Week is almost here! This week is all about YOU and I can’t wait to coach many of you live! I’m going to be walking through all of the PowerSheets prep step by step and refreshing my goals too. I am so excited about this week. Get a peek at what’s coming here.
— The Cultivate Summer Book Club is already bursting with fun! I’m meeting so many new friends in Book Club Facebook group. Want to join us? Get your book and sign up here! 

June Weekly Goals:

Write the Word Wednesdays as seen here. I am loving this new weekly rhythm!

June Daily Goals:

— Chronological Bible. I’m continuing my number one goal with this daily Bible reading using the Blue Letter Bible Chronological reading plan on Youversion. (It’s a year-long plan but you can start today!)
— Exercise it out!

I noticed the crepe myrtles blooming for the first time on our walk this morning!

And now for a new section I’m adding to these monthly goal posts: verses I’m loving for June! I have most of these on repeat on my to-do list. They pop up every week to remind me of His truth!

‘The steps of a man are established by the Lord when he delights in his way…’
‭‭(Psalms‬ ‭37:23‬).

‘This is the Lord ‘s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us’ (Psalms 118:23-26).

‘Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!’ (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭95:2‬)

‘From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised!’
‭‭(Psalms‬ ‭113:3‬).‬‬

‘Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you’
‭‭(Psalms‬ ‭116:7)‬ ‬‬

Ooooh those words are good! I sometimes repeat that last one to myself as I got to sleep.

Your turn! Do you have goals for June? 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 May’s winner, Aimee!

13WordPress Comments , Facebook Comments ()