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Cultivate Book Cover Reveal

Like most of our Cultivate What Matters and Southern Weddings team members, I joined the team in a unique way. I'd known Lara outside of the creative sphere for about a year when she asked me to help her current nanny so she could focus solely on finishing her second book. I turned her down initially (I still feel a little bad about that, Lara!) and instead took a full-time job in Customer Service and Social Media with a start-up in the Triangle. When my hours at new job unexpectedly shifted, I offered my assistance to Lara with Grace and Joshua. During this, we had a few conversations about my newfound love for customer service, and she mentioned that the Southern Weddings team was looking for a Customer Delight and Shop Manager. A few whirlwind days of conversations, interviews, and prayer later, I officially joined the Southern Weddings and (at the time) Lara Casey Shop team!

All that to say, I've had a unique vantage point for the past 14 months of book writing, and I can attest to the fact that writing a book–especially a book as intimate as the book Lara has written for you–is a labor of love. It's a labor because it means pouring yourself, your time, your energy, your story in words on a screen that will one day make their way into the hands of women across the country (and hopefully world!)

Our team has been lucky to stand alongside Lara throughout the duration of our time on this team, and today we're standing a little bit taller and a little bit prouder of all the hard work she has poured into these pages. Friends, it is my distinct privilege to officially introduce you to Lara's second book, releasing on June 27th:

Cultivate Cover

These words were written for you, as an invitation to change the way your story is being written. These words were written as a reminder that you can cultivate what matters.

Right where you are.

Little by little.

In every season.

In the mess.

In the thick of it.

With lots of grace along the way.

Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life by Lara Casey, officially releases on June 27th, but you can pre-order your copy here today! Head to Lara's blog for a video she's been working on for the past year to introduce you to her heart behind this book!

Our hope is that these words inspire, encourage, and equip you to cultivate what matters, right where you are.

Cultivate_Banner

PS. Join Lara LIVE on Facebook today (Wednesday, March 22) at noon EST for more behind-the-scenes of the book!

 

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Life Lately

I'm going to confess something to you: I had editorial content lined up for this week, but it just didn't get finished! Don't worry; it's helpful and relevant content that we'll still be sharing in the coming weeks! Progress, not perfection, right?

The past two weeks have been full of fun and exciting things in the Cultivate office, and I wanted to invite you behind the scenes of some of these fun projects! If you follow us on social media, some of this might be old news to you, but we know many of our friends aren't on Instagram or have stepped back from it, so I wanted to offer a Life Lately post of sorts! Our office might not be big enough to invite each of you over for coffee, but we hope you enjoy this peek into our week!

Spring_Potluck

Most days we play Tetris in Lara's refrigerator with our individual lunches, but a spring potluck was on the calendar earlier this week! It might have been 30 degrees outside, but we enjoyed sitting around a table and soaking in the sunshine! We also learned a lot of fun new facts from Lara's Amazon Echo.

Nicole_BTS

Can I brag on Nicole for a second? She takes all the product photos you see in our shop, and I usually take photos of her taking photos. Seriously, if I scrolled through my phone I'm sure I'd come across at least 15! Luckily, she doesn't seem to mind.

Mason_Dixon_Madness

We're big college basketball fans in the office (anyone else rooting for a UNC vs. Duke championship game?), but the brackets we've printed and hung in the office aren't about basketball teams; they're about the best Southern foods! The Southern WeddingsMason-Dixon Madness is on, and we need your help voting for the best Southern food to see who comes out on top.

MTH_Prep

MTH Conference kicks off next week, and we've been finalizing the last details! We can't wait to meet these ladies!

Grace_Upon_Grace

We're launching five (!!!) new volumes of Write the Word next month, but that's not all! We've got these beautiful Faith Desk Cards coming to the shop too!

Speaking of Write the Word journals, I'm having a really hard time keeping these things a secret from you! I was able to help choose the themes and Scripture for these, and I cannot wait for you to see the full collection!

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The inside liners of the new Write the Word journals. You guys, these entire things are wonderful. Okay, no more pictures! 🙈

Gracies_Garden_Plan

Lara has been hard at work on her Gardening 101 series, and she wrapped it up earlier this week! Even if you think you have a brown thumb, this is the place to start. She offers great advice and some sweet encouragement to you! (PS. You can win a garden. A whole garden!!)

Finally, we don't have any photos yet, but if you watched Lara's Instagram stories, you saw that we decided to rearrange the entire office yesterday! We're excited to better use the space for our growing team!

What have you been up to lately? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

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Renew Breaks: what are they and why we do them

Each December, the Cultivate and Southern Weddings team crowds around a computer screen, pulls out a set of PowerSheets, and digs into some serious dreaming and planning. Why? While we each have individual PowerSheets for our work and personal goals, we know reflecting on the past year and setting goals as a team will prepare and equip us to continue to spread our missions!

Those of you that followed along last December might remember our word for 2017: RENEW. The definition of renew is to make new, fresh, or strong again, and the minute it was suggested, we just knew it would be the perfect word for our year.

We've talked at length about the importance of taking care of yourself in your personal life, but I want to share more about something we have incorporated into our company culture (thanks largely in part to Lara's personal experience and encouragement!) over the past year and half: renew breaks!

What is a renew break? A renew break can be a lot of different things! The easiest way to describe it is it's simply a time to step away from your computer and to-do list to do something different and give your brain a break. We add it to our Tending List each month, and we hold each other accountable for it, too!

If you're looking for a way to incorporate a little bit of self-care into your workday, here's a round-up of some of our renew breaks from 2017:

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Marissa took some time last month to schedule her company date night for February!

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Because Kristin works remotely and can sometimes not step outside during a workday, she prioritizes her mailbox walk each day!

renew-break-nail-painting

Ive learned that the best time to paint my nails is right before digging into my inbox because nothing will get chipped! I keep a few polish colors in my desk drawer when the mood strikes, and I'm lucky the in-office gals don't mind the smell!

renew-break-reading

Amber spent some time each day reading a new book and checking off one of her daily PowerSheets goals!

renew-break-walking

If you've been following Lara's 2017 goals, you know an active lifestyle to give her more energy is on the top of her mind! Her new FitBit encourages her to get up and get to moving if she's been still for too long!

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It's tempting to spend our lunch breaks tied to a computer, but Emily has been stepping outside to her porch for lunch ever since we've been experiencing this spring-like weather!

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This was one of my favorite renew breaks from the past month! Emily brought in her Warby Parker try-on kit and modeled some options for the in-office gals! Head to her blog to see what she chose!

As you can see, our renew breaks aren't large or extravagant affairs! They're simply an opportunity to take a break and refresh our spirits to finish the day strong!

Are you going to give renew breaks a try? What are ways you renew your mind throughout your workday? We'd love to hear from you in the comments!

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March 2017 Goals Round-Up

Happy March, friends! It's that time of the month where we share a monthly goals round-up! If you read our 2017 Goals Round-Up, you know that I'm a big fan of reading all of your goals for the year and cheering you on!

The whole reason we changed the name of our business last year was because we knew we needed a platform to tell other people's stories–YOUR stories–and the Monthly Goals Round-Up were born!

Remember, keep sharing your goals with us each month so that we can cheer you on! Whether you're posting in our PowerSheets Facebook Group, leaving us a comment on social media, or using the #PowerSheets hashtag, we love seeing what you are working towards each month!

The PowerSheets and Cultivate What Matters community has evolved into something bigger than we could have ever imagined–something bigger than us, and we are grateful for the opportunity to encourage each of you to cultivate what matter!

So, without further ado, here are some of YOUR March goals!

NAY

Photo by Cultivate's lovely Art Director @NicoleAYang

Lara's March goals are full of color and inspiration, and she also offers some encouragement on how to combine similar goals on your Tending List.

If you're looking for an encouraging word to add to the top of your March PowerSheets, look no further than Rachel's PowerSheets! It's quite appropriate for a month where we celebrate St. Patrick's Day!

Lynne's March PowerSheets recap is a great reminder that not only is it okay to step away from the routine of your everyday life each month to spend time working on your PowerSheets, it's an investment!

Erin offers a great recap of her February goals as well as her goals for March! One of our favorite things to see is how some of her goals are already turning into habits! Way to go, Erin!

If you've recently gone through a life transition, Brandi offers a lot of encouragement about how to use PowerSheets for basic needs and then shift towards some of your other goals!

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Photo by Gina Zeidler

One of the reasons the Cultivate Team sets monthly PowerSheets Prep days is because we know how quickly the days can go by! We love how Rachel has set reminders on her calendar to fill out her PowerSheets each month!

Ashley's "small and simple" goals are perfect for her because they are connected to what matters most in this season! This is a great reminder that your Tending List doesn't need to be completely full each month!

We're excited to see that Harley is tackling a Social Media-Free Weekend on her March PowerSheets!

If you're a recovering striver, Janelle's March goals offer encouragement and practical tips for you!

Courtney reminds us all that daily goals are habits we want to cultivate, and she added a few new daily goals to her PowerSheets this month! While these goals might seem simple (a 10-minute a day Pilates challenge), we know that the little by little is where good things grow!

If you've posted your goals somewhere, we'd love to see them! Feel free to drop them in the comments, too–no fancy blog required! We can't wait to take a peek into what this month holds and cheer you on!

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How to Build a Budget

Personal finance goals and questions come up so often in the PowerSheets Facebook Group that Jess and I thought it was high time we added a bit of this content into the blog schedule! And, lucky me, I'm the one who gets to write to you about it! (No, really: lucky me. I am extremely passionate about financial freedom, both in my own life and helping to equip others, so there is almost nothing else I'd rather write about!) To start, I thought I'd share a little bit about how to build a budget.

I have followed a written budget for eleven years now, and I can confidently say that it is the number one reason I feel at peace with my finances. I don’t worry about whether or not we’ll have enough money to pay our mortgage or insurance bill every month; I know we will. The headspace this surety frees up allows me to focus on my dreams and keeps me on track to reach my lifetime financial goals. There are few things better than that!

If the word budget sounds scary, shake off that fear and listen to this: a budget is not about denying yourself and cutting out everything fun, it's about making a plan. Dave Ramsey likes to say that budgeting is “telling your money where to go.” I like that image. A budget helps me be purposeful about how I spend and save instead of just closing my eyes and hoping. While there are many ways to track a budget (which we can chat about later!), building a budget is pretty standard. It’s all about two things — income and expenses — which make up your cash flow.

MakeBudget

1. Calculate your monthly net income (your gross income minus taxes). For most of us, this is simply our paycheck.

2. Add up all of your fixed expenses. Fixed expenses are difficult or impossible to change and are the same (or roughly the same) every month: rent, utilities, your electric bill, student loans, car loan(s), auto insurance, health insurance, etc.

3. Calculate your monthly contribution to your financial goals. Like the experts say, pay yourself first. Put money into an emergency fund, reduce debt with extra payments, save for a down payment, save for retirement, and/or feed an investment account. If it’s a priority for you, include charitable giving in this step. Whatever you do, do not skip this step! Treat your savings like any other budget line item, not as something optional if there’s money left over.

4. Add up all of your variable expenses. Like the name implies, these are things that are not externally set, so you could, for example, cut back here if you wanted to move faster toward your goals. Examples include groceries, dining out, clothing, entertainment, gifts, travel, gas, personal care, etc.

5. Put it all together. When you subtract your fixed expenses, your contributions to your financial goals, and your variable expenses from your net income, there are three possible outcomes: you’ll either have a surplus, you’ll break even, or you’ll have a deficit. If you come out with a surplus, you can either save more or spend more (assuming you’re already saving the recommended amounts!). If you break even, perfect! If you have a deficit, it’s time to take another look at your figures (most likely your variable expenses), and adjust numbers until you’re in the clear. By the time your budget is finished, you'll have a plan in hand, ready to be followed to financial freedom!

Easy to understand, a bit harder to follow in practice :) Your homework: walk through these steps, and start calculating! If you’ve never made a budget before and are unsure how much to allocate for certain categories, I’d suggest looking back through last month’s expenses (maybe on a credit or debit card statement) and estimating from there. It might take a few months to get the balance across categories just right.

For more, here's another post I wrote about what we take into consideration when making our yearly budget.

I'd love to hear any questions you might have about making a budget, or if there are other personal finance topics you'd like to chat about more!

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