We’re 3 days away from the half-way point of 2019!

Does that fact catch you a little, as it does me?
Maybe time feels like it’s flying and you aren’t where you want to be at this mid-point of the year.

You’re craving refreshment, but you feel like it’s too late.
You’re too overwhelmed to get motivated again! You just want to take a nap.

I know these feelings! Traditional goal setting would tell you to WORK HARDER, strive, wear yourself out, or try to convince you that it is too late.


Making the most of the second half of 2019 doesn’t have to be complicated or overwhelming. In fact, it’s quite simple! It starts with one small step. Then another. Then another. (And you can totally nap in between!)

This month, we’re going to focus on the power of little by little progress together—it really does add up. And taking small steps forward is FUN! Making progress on the things that matter to us feels really good!

Hehe. These words make me giggle!

We don’t need any more towels added to our laundry piles, do we, friends!? 😁 We’re going to make the most of the rest of 2019—no matter how it started. We’re going to take it slow and act intentionally, knowing we’ll be so thankful for our small steps forward come December 31!

A quick progress update from my June PowerSheets goals and what I learned. I hope this encourages you to celebrate even the tiny victories!

Little by little progress on my June PowerSheets above!

June Monthly Goals:
— Seek His wisdom, ask for His wisdom, pass on His wisdom. / Progress! From our Summer Team Summit to teaching to speaking at a conference this month, I was very grateful for the opportunity to be stretched as a leader, rely on His strength instead of my own, and pass on good things!
— Enjoy the garden. / Listen in to Episode 21 of the podcast for an update!
— Train leaders—pass on wisdom. / Yes! We made some great strides in our company this month putting people in new leadership positions. It has been hard work, but so worth it.
— Dig into summer homeschool. / Yes! We are taking it slow this summer and have enjoyed it!
— Do all of the new goal guides! / I thought I’d be able to do these in the long car rides through the mountains with Ari, but the mountains were so captivating, I couldn’t look down at anything! We did complete the Couples Goal Guide, though, and it was AWESOME! We had the best month of marriage ever in June! Praising Him for this.
— Learn to number my days (life is short—play in the sprinklers!) / Yes! We played in lots of creeks and had a ton of fun on our hiking trip!

I was so grateful to be asked to be a judge for the Children’s Business Fair in June! These young ladies and gents were SO inspiring!

June Weekly Goals:
Sabbath rest / Yes, we have loved this.
— Spread joy around like manure—encouraging things to grow! Ha! / You all laughed at this goal, but it was so fruitful! I did lots of small little things to spread joy, like getting peaches from the Peach Truck for the ladies I work with on the first day of summer and surprising the kids with ice cream on our hiking trip! I’m continuing this goal in July, too!
— Love people well. / We had many opportunities to do this in June—hosting my women’s small group, giving peaches away to neighbors, praying for friends, and small steps I took in relationships to make people feel loved.
— Simplify + systemize my work. / SO MUCH PROGRESS HERE! When you get clear about your goals (like we do with PowerSheets!), your efforts become more simple and streamlined. There’s not as much time wasted because you are using it well!
— Finish reading Letters to the Church, Rocket Fuel, and The Out of Sync Child. / I finished Rocket Fuel, am one chapter away from being done with Letters to the Church, and I’m continuing The Out of Sync Child in July.

We celebrated Emily Thomas‘ 10-year working anniversary last weekend!

June Daily Goals:
Write the Word (P.S. Brand new Write the Word journals are coming July 17 and they are so good!) / Yes, progress!
— Bible reading. / Still my number 1 goal! I can’t wait to celebrate at the end of the year with the group of women I’m reading with! I love texting with them every morning about what we’re reading.
— Run!! / I am so pumped to say I made progress here! I ran maybe 5 times this month, and I call that a big win!
— Read aloud to the kids. / Yes! Little by little progress here, too.

So many of you took steps forward on your goals at this mid-point of the year—and we loved adding you to the Goal Getters wall in our office!

Don’t miss these from June:
Two of your favorite podcast episodes launched in June: 10 Things We’ve Made Happen (And Some We Didn’t!) and How To Say No were two of the most popular episodes! Be sure to listen to them in order—they go together and they are so fun.
Learn how to make the second half of 2019 count—no matter how it started—in MY FAVORITE LIVE CLASS I’VE EVER DONE (thanks to YOU bringing the party!).
Join me for the ultimate way to set yourself up for success in 2020! Cultivate Your Year LIVE Tickets went on sale this week and close in a few hours. I can’t wait to see so many of you there!

On to July! It’s a new month and I’m so grateful for the PowerSheets summer refresh—it was right on time! I’m excited to dig into these July PowerSheet goals.

New goals for July!

July Monthly Goals:
— #GoalSettingIsFUN! — Moving forward on the things that matter feels great and it can be a lot simpler than you think! Follow Cultivate What Matters on Instagram for easy #GoalSettingIsFUN tips all month long.
— Write the book with JOY! — Yes, I’m writing a book this month! After two years, it’s finally happening. Sometimes, you just have to wait and wait and wait some more for the Lord’s timing. I’m so grateful for the waiting that got me ready for this month! Any guesses what book this is??? ☺️
— Summer fun with the kids. — We’re working through our summer bucket list from the Cultivate shop and it has been so simple and fun. Next on our list: picking blueberries today at a farm we love!
— Be a generous host. My mom AND Gina are coming to visit this month for big chunks of time and I want to love them so well! (Gina is coming to photograph our 2020 PowerSheets Collection that launches in October! Yahoo!!!)
— Finish The Out of Sync Child. We have a sweet kiddo with Sensory Processing Disorder and this book has been incredibly helpful so far.
— Release the NEW Cultivated Homeschool Planner. SO MANY OF YOU have asked about this and emailed me wondering if there’s a new one coming. We are only days away from releasing the new one and it’s so good! Stay posted—it’s coming so soon! UPDATE: The NEW Homeschool Planner is HERE!!
— Make our fall homeschool plans.
Work heartily for Q4. — I’m working ahead so I can do work with excellence and clear out my time around the holidays.

July Weekly Goals:
— Sabbath: surrender and be renewed
— Lead the kids to the Word
Write the Word for Kids with Grace (there’s a new volume coming for kids on July 17th! (Text CULTIVATEFAITH to 55222 for sneak peeks every week!) UPDATE: The NEW Write the Word Journals are HERE!
— Spread joy around like manure—encouraging young things to grow! : )

July Daily Goals:
— Bible reading
— Run! Praise!
— Slow down and soak in the summer
— Write the Word at night. — And mark your calendars, friends! The Fresh Faith Challenge (31 days of writing the Word) starts again August 1 and I can’t wait to do it with you!

Your turn! Do you have goals for July? Comment below and 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.  Now is the PERFECT TIME to start a 6-month set of PowerSheets. Buy yours today for 30% off—no code needed!

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Need a quick fix for a flooded inbox? Climbing Mount Email can be daunting—it feels at times like you’ll never actually get through it. Just when you think you’ve reached the summit, you receive a dozen more emails and have to keep climbing. Argh!

I know how you feel! We just went on an epic hiking trip in the [non-metaphorical] mountains with our kids. The one catch? No cell service. This has its great advantages, but there was one disadvantage: no way to take 5 minutes during our trip to flag things, quickly reply where needed, and delete things to make it easy for my return.

Here’s how I quickly got to 0 in my post-vacation inbox this week—and how you can conquer your inbox every week using 3 simple email hacks!

  1. Speak your emails instead of typing them. This will cut your reply time in half! The free voice to text plug-in for Gmail (for Chrome) is magical! I dictate most of my text messages and email replies on my phone (faster and hands-free) and I do the same on my desktop. It takes a short period of getting used to speaking your words and adding punctuation (“Hi comma Emily exclamation point”), but once you get the hang of it after a couple of tries, you won’t go back! I sometimes correct a couple of things or change formatting here and there manually, but using the text-to-type function cuts my typing time in half. Big win!
  2. Canned responses in Gmail. There’s nothing canned about them! When I bake, I start with a recipe and I add various things to it depending on what sounds good—or what the kids like! A little extra cinnamon, allspice, almond extract to pancake mix makes them doubly delicious. This is how I look at Canned Responses for Gmail. You start with a structure and customize it to suit the needs of the relationship or situation at hand. For example, I still get tons of press releases for wedding things from our days with Southern Weddings. I have a canned response handy to let these agencies know about our transition and thank them kindly for their note. This helps me love people well and quickly—with links and text ready to go!
  3. Give your replies a personal touch—and reply faster—by sending a voice memo. I have done this for years! I get a lot of longer-form emails from friends and readers. This is one of the joys of my work to be able to send a personal response, not just through a typed email, but using my voice. Using the voice memo app on my Mac gives a personal touch and it’s faster than typing an epic response to personal life and goal challenges. Just open Voice Memos, record, and attach to your emails!

Bonus tip: If you don’t know about keyboard shortcuts on your phone, DO IT NOW. For instance, I’m often thanking readers and telling them, “I’m so grateful you’ve been encouraged!” in comments. I made a short code. I just type in “ggg” and that sentence populates. These are words from my heart and I can spend less time on my phone by using this shortcut!

I have long said to myself in times of inbox overload that email is just a bunch of decisions to make, so make decisions! I’m passing that same encouragement to you. I hope these 3 tips help you to not just get your email done, but to love people well as you do!

Your turn! Do you have an email hack that helps you? I’d love to know!

P.S. I have a LIFE hack for you, too!

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Okay, moment of truth: Have you had a difficult time saying no lately?

Saying no is hard, so you always say yes:
Yes, I’d love to do that for you.
Yes, I’ll be there.
Yes, I’ll get it done.
Yes, yes, and one more yes.

And now you’re feeling stretched thin—like you have no control over that three-letter word that keeps slipping out of your mouth! I have been there a billion times over!

In this NEW episode of the podcast, my friend Emily P. Freeman joins me to chat all things decisions and saying yes to the right things. You’ll learn the 3 key questions to ask yourself when faced with any decision, big or small, that will help you say YES to what matters and no to all the rest—with confidence!


In this episode:

— I begin by telling you about some of my own “nos,” including to travel when my kids were younger. That one “no” made so many other decisions easy, and led to many great yeses!
— I introduce you to my friend Emily P. Freeman! She’s an author, a podcast host, and a “curious listener.” She helps women discern their next right thing in love, and she was the perfect guest to chat with about saying yes and saying no. 
— I give you three key questions to ask yourself when you’re faced with a decision. One of my favorites: “Are you being pushed by fear or led by love?” (That’s some goodness from Emily’s book!)
— Then, we chat about two very practical things to do that will help you say no, including a fool-proof phrase when you’re put on the spot!
— By the end of the episode, you’ll know how to decide if a yes or a no is the best next step, you’ll feel confident in your answers, and you’ll believe that every no can lead to a better yes!

Interested in some of the things I mentioned throughout this episode? Here you go!

— You can find Emily on her website, listen to her podcast, or read her new book, The Next Right Thing!
— I share the many ways of saying “no” from my friend Jessica N. Turners’ book, The Fringe Hours.
— Other books I love about soulful decision making: The Best Yes, Essentialism, and What’s Best Next.
— Based around the idea that we can’t do it all and do it all well but we CAN do what matters, my book, Cultivate, will help you sift through the many options in front of you as you hone in on your big picture vision.
— The PowerSheets Intentional Goal Planner is designed to help you make your best decisions and then live them out, little by little. PowerSheets are 30% off right now and going fast! Once they’re gone, they’re gone. 2020 PowerSheets release in October!

LOVE THE PODCAST? SHARE IT! Text, email, carrier pigeon—share this episode with friends however you like! This episode is really special, so I hope you’ll share it with someone you love! Feel free to grab one of these graphics to post about it, too!

WANT AN EMAIL WHEN A NEW EPISODE GOES LIVE? Enter your email address below, and I’ll send you a note when a new episode is up!

I’D LOVE TO MEET YOU! Come say hi on Instagram! I love sharing my life with you! And if you loved the outro, don’t miss the “Ari Raps” highlight on my Instagram!

SUBSCRIBE NOW to the Cultivate Your Life podcast on iTunes so you won’t miss an episode. If you love the podcast, please leave a quick review on iTunes—it helps other women find this free encouragement! Just click here to review, select “Ratings and Reviews” and “Write a Review” and let me know what your favorite part of the podcast is. I’ll be featuring some of your reviews in a future episode!

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“The mountains are calling and I must go!” – John Muir

They called and we went! I’m starting to write the post to you while we’re still on our trip, sitting here in our cabin after five days of hiking with our kids in North Carolina and Tennessee! My legs are toast. I’m listening to a rushing creek outside the open windows. And I can hear the kids talking to each other about our adventures as they drift to sleep. These five days have felt more like two weeks—packed with adventures, 90,000 steps (literally—my Fitbit got a workout this week!), and memories we’ll cherish forever.

One of the most valuable things I’ve learned in my years using PowerSheets is to consistently evaluate where you’re headed in life—and be willing to try new things as you get clearer and clearer about what matters to you in the big picture. As we grow and change over time, our goals and passions do, too! Case in point: A year ago, I had never been on a hike! We took our first trip to the mountains last August. We all fell in love with the North Carolina mountains and exploring trails and waterfalls together. And now, less than a year later, hiking feels like home to me. A lot can happen in a year, my friends! The mountain air, the hard work of the ascent, the unmistakable majesty of the Lord in seeing the world He made—something about it stirs my soul.

Roan Mountain Highlands —in the hemlock forest.

I’m no hiking expert, but Ari and I have learned a lot as beginners in the last year—and several dozen hikes under our belts with the kids now. So many of you asked me questions about our trip on Instagram, that I thought a blog post might be helpful! I’m going to share a few quick tips, favorite hikes, and things you need to know before you trot off to the mountains with your toddlers in tow!

Catawba Falls

Is it hard to hike with kids? Yes! Worth it? YES! Hiking with kids is HARD. The hikes themselves are not your biggest challenge, though—it’s having the determination and peace as parents to keep going through the whining and “Mommy, CARRY ME!!!” moments you will inevitably experience. Be prepared to put on your “Coach Mommy” hat allll day long. You can do it! Only 8,893,943 more steps to go! Almost to the waterfall and I HAVE SNACKS! For us, this has been 1000% worth it. Our kids have gained confidence, strength, perseverance, a love of exploring, and they know so much about plants, trees, rocks, mountains, and history from our adventures. Not to mention the magic of God’s creation their little souls have soaked up with every step forward—all worth it! But, I do have to warn you to set your expectations aright. Hiking with kids can be a test of endurance and patience (and physical strength), but it can also be doubly rewarding! In summary, it’s challenging. It’s worth it. Carry them a lot. SING. For real, singing somehow helped all of our kids get through longer hikes with ease! Help them over rocks. Be ready to motivate those kiddos! Best of all, you can eat a donut at the end—you will have burned up all those calories carrying your kids up mountains!

Toms Creek Falls

How old are your kids? Our kiddos are 7.5, 3.5 and 3. Everyone’s kids are different, but for our kids, a little over 3 seems to be a good age for more moderate hikes. They can follow directions more clearly (note I didn’t say easily—they are 3!), and their bodies seem better able to climb and navigate varied terrain. Grace is a champ at 7.5. If they were younger, I’d carry them in hiking packs!

Rhododendrons at Mount Mitchell

How do you get started? I don’t want to downplay the skill needed for more moderate hikes (my brother was a junior national champion rock climber and I grew up bouldering and climbing with him), but kids are naturals! They use similar skills all day long in the wild of suburbia. They are always running, climbing, jumping and have more energy than I do. Hiking is a natural and fun fit for their usual inclinations! There are just more unique things to navigate and explore around: waterfalls, giant rocks, mountain peaks, wildflowers, wildlife, and creeks. So, how do you get started hiking with kids? Pretty simple. Take them to an easy nature trail. Then warm them up to an easy short hike. Most of learning to hike with kids is teaching them safety and how to maneuver on different terrain. It’s not complicated though—just get out there on an easy trail and see how they do! We didn’t do anything fancy to get started. We just got out there with our kids and did it!

Roan Mountain Rhododendron Garden

What do you pack for the kids to eat on hikes? Okay, this is a big one. We have taken a few week-long hiking trips now and here are my best suggestions: bring all the snacks. All of them. Double what you think you’ll need. I’m not kidding! Pack enough snacks for an army—things that are easy to pass around in the car or toss in your backpack. We burn double the normal calories we usually burn on a daily basis and our snack intake proves it! We’ve gone through 6 bunches of bananas in 5 days, 3 dozen apples, 2 giant bags of chips, trail mix, granola bars, nuts, and I don’t know how many Kind bars. We also brought several large jugs of water in the car for refills! Eat a big breakfast (we had big bowls of oatmeal and fruit and tons of water) and keep those snacks comin’ all day! We had a cooler in the back of the car and it was loaded.

Linn Cove Viaduct

What do you do during all the driving? There was a lot of driving from mountain to mountain (BTW, be sure you stretch a bit between hikes before you sit in the car for hours!). We listened to audiobooks! Very important to know in the NC mountains: there is NO CELL SERVICE in the mountains for the most part. So, pre-load your Google maps and audiobooks on your phone before you head out. We loved My Side of the Mountain—perfect for this trip and the ages of our kiddos. We also started a second run through of the Little House books. My kids also need something in their hands to keep them occupied. So, I loaded a bin with books and small car activities and put it between Grace and Josh’s seats so they could serve themselves. Sarah loves baby dolls, so they came to the mountains, too!

Julian Price Memorial Park

What gear do you use? What do you wear? It’s pretty cool here during the day even in June (between 50 to 75), so we stick to long pants and long socks for everyone to avoid poison ivy and raspberry bush scrapes on the trails. I wore leggings, a t-shirt, and a long sleeve shirt over that to have some layers I could take off and throw in my backpack. The kids are all hiking in sturdy tennis shoes most of the time. They would do better in hiking shoes, but I’m not willing to spend money on feet that grow so fast yet! (Also, if you’re wondering why Sarah is wearing rain boots for a lot of the hikes, the answer is she loves them. And Josh ran out of shoes so he wore Grace’s old shoes for several hikes!) They are perfectly happy and slip-free in what they have. As for me, one of the best investments I made was in these Merrell hiking shoes and proper socks—they have made a world of difference for how long I could hike and how my knees felt after. As for my backpack, it’s cheap and great! I bought this one on Amazon for $20 and it folds up into my purse (so cool!). I also can’t recommend this Waterfly pack enough. I keep my phone and car keys handy and I end up wearing it all day. That’s it for gear! Gear tip with kids: have a bin in the back of your car with extra shoes and to throw dirty ones in. We were constantly swapping out muddy or wet shoes. This was a game-changer for us to have a bin we could toss dirty shoes into before getting buckled up into the car!

Crabtree Falls loop trail—they love love love creeks!

How do you not totally freak out hiking with younguns? Who said I didn’t freak out a few times? We were doing a lot of difficult hikes, but I also know my kiddos. I would not have done these hikes with them at 2 years old—they were ready for these hikes and more importantly, we were ready to help them with the terrain of the trails. It was all worth it! Here were our ground rules for safety (so much of hiking is learning safety and problem-solving skills!):

  • Everyone had a buddy—either I would take care of holding Sarah’s hand and Ari would take Josh or vice versa. This system was key!
  • Mommy always goes first on hard things to check it out first.
  • When we say “stop,” fully freeze where you are (this took some practice!). Ari also gave all of us a full education on military standards and how they work as a team, march in step together, and are good listeners. : ) Josh was really into this!
  • My catchphrase was “sure footing, go slow.” Which meant, step on things to test them (rocks) and be sure they are steady before you put your weight on them.
  • We carried them (Grace included) over hard parts or mud and creeks where needed.
  • Slow feet (no running). It’s just not safe in tennis shoes on rocky trails. Josh has a bevy of knee scrapes from this trip to prove it. Fields and meadows, yes—fly like the wind!
  • And last but not least, don’t touch plants unless mommy knows what they are. We were on poison ivy alert with little hands. Long socks and pants were a great solution to this, too!

What else should I know? One of my best tips is to know thy family. Do what works for you when planning a hiking trip! Our family tends to do better at this stage when we’re not making plans on the fly. If we know where we’re going, we can better manage transitions for our younger kiddos—specifically one with sensory processing disorder. Transitions and new places can be especially tricky, so having a plan allows us to make our kids feel more safe and secure knowing where they are going ahead of time. I hope all of my planning research ends up being a blessing to your family, too!

Hickory Nut Falls at Chimney Rock

Your itinerary looked amazing! Tell me all the details. You got it! Using the tips in the How to Plan Your Year podcast episode and with the help of my PowerSheets, I looked ahead at the entire year and planned trips when they made the most sense—and at (hopefully) ideal times for each locale. A little forethought goes a long way when planning with kids. To plan this trip, I looked up the best time to see the rhododendrons in the mountains—which you know as a plant lady, I had to see! I also did a lot of Googling, looking at TripAdvisor, and generally researching reviews of people’s favorite free things to do in the area we planned to go. Most importantly, though: I used AllTrails! You can search for hikes on the map view and read reviews. This is primarily how I planned this trip! See all my hike reviews and what we did last week on my AllTrails profile. (I’ve linked all of our hikes below too—just make an AllTrails account [free and so awesome] to see them!) Now, on to our itinerary!

Rough Ridge with my buddy

Sunday: We drove to the mountains after church. The naptime window is great for long car trips. We stayed at a friend’s cabin in Matney, NC, for the first 3 nights. This was a great location and we saw so many hummingbirds and even a wild turkey on the property!

Roan Mountain in the clouds!

Monday: We are early risers (highly valuable on a hiking trip!). We took a short drive to Roan Mountain in Tennessee to see the rhododendrons around 7 am. It. Was. Awesome. This was one of my favorite experiences of the trip! Roan Mountain is rich with trails, history, and the smell of the hemlocks was new to me—a little taste of heaven! The rhododendron gardens (a paved easy walk) and Cloudlands Trail were spectacular. We even got to hike part of the Appalachian Trail! I can’t wait to return here again one day. We then spent naptime driving down to one of our favorite spots: the Moses Cone Manor. We enjoyed the craft guild displays, watched a woodworker hand-turn a pen (Grace loved it!), and did a short hike around the Julian Price Memorial Park. After a long day of hiking, we finished the day at the Banner Elk Winery. The kids loved the outdoor area at the vineyard—lots to explore!

It was a little windy for Josh on Rough Ridge ; )

Tuesday: We woke up early once again to be the first on Rough Ridge. This was a favorite hike of both Ari and me! It was super hard with kids, but the views were worth it. After a big snack break, we drove a short way down the Blue Ridge Parkway to hike the Linn Cove Viaduct. After two hefty hikes, we drove home for an hour to relax, and then headed off to Grandfather Vineyard to let the kids play in the creek!

At the base of Linville Falls

Wednesday: Linville Gorge Plunge Basin was on the way to our next destination (Old Fort, NC). This was a HARD hike with kids. Ari loved it. I loved the end. We then visited an orchard and hiked Catawba Falls (be sure to read my reviews on AllTrails of these hikes!). Then, it was time to check in to our next cabin in Old Fort, NC. We stayed at this magical place Ari chose called Kibbin at Mackey Creek. It has an interesting history that was featured in Cabin Life magazine. The kids loved playing in the creek there before dinner!

Pinnacle Peak trail near Mount Mitchell — a favorite!

Thursday: Mount Mitchell was first on our list (the highest point east of the Mississippi!). Well, with high elevation comes low temps and unpredictable weather—it was 45 degrees (what!?) and totally clouded out. So, we left winter for a bit to hike our favorite of the trip: Pinnacle Peak. This was an off-the-beaten-path hike and I don’t know why more people don’t do this one. The photo above is at the top—the view was spectacular! After climbing down from the summit, we headed back to Mount Mitchell in hopes of finding clear skies, which we did! Finally, we drove the Blue Ridge Parkway down towards Asheville to Hickory Nut Gap Farm to play in the creek. Then another big driving loop to Chimney Rock State Park (it was a big day!). Chimney Rock was interesting, but the kind of place you need to spend the whole day to justify the cost (I would skip this in our itinerary next time—it was also really crowded). And, finally, we landed back at the Kibbin and I made a huge dinner or us!

The “Kibbin”

Friday: We did our favorite waterfall hike on Friday: Tom’s Creek Falls, We went around 8 am and we were the only people on the trail! The waterfall was huge (photos don’t do it justice—I could have stayed here all day) and it was just perfect for the kids. Highly recommend this one! Then, we drove back down to Lake Lure to explore the Flowering Bridge and do the Hickory Nut Falls Trail.

Toms Creek Falls

Saturday: We kicked off the last day with one more big hike on the way home: Crabtree Falls. Then, time for some non-hiking fun for the kids! We went to Rockfest and the gem mine in Emerald Village. Grace got fairy hair. Josh had a hot dog. Sarah got a balloon. Everyone was happy after a long week of adventure! A stop at Chic-fil-a on the way home and mom and dad were happy, too!

Crabtree Falls—our final hike of the trip!

Our favorite hikes of the trip: Ari loved the Linville Gorge Plunge Basin (he liked the obstacles), Pinnacle and Toms Creek. I loved Rough Ridge, all of Roan Mountain, Pinnacle and Toms Creek. Going to Mount Mitchell was also a favorite. The kids loved anything that had a waterfall at the end they could play in!

Your turn! Do you hike? I’d love to hear your tips and favorites! Where should we go next? I hope this post encouraged you to get out there and enjoy the majesty of the mountains!

Psalm 121 : )

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Have you ever said yes to something and quickly regretted it? I’m raising my hand, too, and cringing thinking about it!

Get ready to become a master of the gracious “no” over the next two episodes of the podcast!

In today’s episode, my long-time co-worker, Emily Thomas, and I pull back the curtain on some big decisions we made—and some we didn’t make on purpose. Get ready for some never-before-told stories about our partnership with Southern Living, hiring my first employee, and some surprising decisions we made about a TV show!

We had so much fun making this special behind-the-scenes episode for you. LISTEN NOW!

In this episode:

— You meet my friend and coworker of ten years, Emily Thomas! Emily is our Chief of Staff at Cultivate What Matters and served as the Creative Director of Southern Weddings for many years. We begin by chatting about how Emily came to work at SW (it’s a good story involving a certain journal!).
— You’ll learn how we decide which things to make happen – and which things to say a gracious “no” to.
— You’ll hear about the beginnings of Southern Weddings (and how my musical theater degree was actually really helpful!). You’ll be encouraged to ask, “why not?”
— You’ll hear about one of the scariest things I’ve ever done—hiring my first employee. I also share my number one tip for hiring great team members.
— I tell you how I came to write my first book (hint: it had something to do with this blog you’re reading!).
— We tell you about one of the things we did NOT make happen—a TV show!—and why.
— We talk about why we changed the format of our Making Things Happen Conference, and how to know when to adapt to a new season.
— Our WHY and mission also led us to open our shop (first the Southern Weddings Shop, then the Cultivate Shop!). We chat about the profit of people and why that led us to partner with Southern Living Magazine (plus pies!).
— Remember the Lara Casey Shop?? And the first set of PowerSheets? We talk about why we added COLOR to PowerSheets and changed the name of our shop – two of the biggest and scariest changes we’ve ever made! We talk about how we move forward when the pain of staying the same is worse than the pain of changing.
— We end by telling you one of our favorite stories of all time, about the day Southern Living came to Lara’s house. Listen until the end—it’s a good one 🙂
— You’ll end the episode fired up and believing that small decisions, made with great intention, can change the world. We believe in you!

Interested in some of the things I mentioned throughout this episode? Here you go!

— The Southern Weddings archive is still alive and well!
— My How To Make Things Happen, Volume 1 blog post was the beginning of so many good things!
Sign up to here to hear about our NEW in-person experience and about the next Making Things Happen Conference—I’d love to see you there!
— My first book is Making Things Happen. I’m so grateful for a simple way to give people my story!
— My tips for writing a book!
That handwriting piece is still going strong.
— We tell the full story of the Southern Weddings chapter in Episode 016: How to Let Go of a Dream.
— It wouldn’t be a CYL podcast episode without talking about Traction and the Entrepreneurial Operating System! 🙂 EOS is the business model we use at Cultivate!
— It also wouldn’t be an episode without talking about our PowerSheets! We talk about our WHY and our mission throughout this episode. If you’re not clear on your why, PowerSheets will help get you create a strong vision for your life and/or business and get after it.
— I end by pointing you to Emily’s own blog – one of my favorites to read! Don’t miss her Marvelous Money series.

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