Our Favorite Things – March

Today is the last day of March, and we couldn't be more excited about welcoming spring! We're here to celebrate the progress that's been made, and to share a few of the things that have helped us cultivate joy, make progress on our goals, and live more purposeful days this month. We'd love for you to share what has helped you in your PowerSheets progress, too–just drop a note in the comments!

  1. Lara officially released the cover of her second book Cultivate last week, and we have been blown away by all the kind words and support from our friends! Our team has watched her pour her heart into this book, and we know her words are going to be an encouragement to many! Preorder your copy today!
  2. If you're fans of Fixer Upper, you're probably no stranger to HGTV's newest show: Home Town. Erin and Ben shared their home tour, plus lots of thoughtful insight about marriage, on the Southern Weddings blog almost three years ago. Now we couldn't be more thrilled to support the launch of their new show! We love learning more about their heart for their work and their sweet hometown, Laurel, MS.
  3. Our friend Erin from Floret Flower still has seeds available for purchase if you're looking to exercise your green thumb this year. Both Lara and Amber have planted some, and we can't wait to see what they look like when they start to sprout!
  4. Many of the Cultivate ladies own a Fujifilm Instax Camera, and we love them! I received mine for Christmas last year, and after realized I didn't carry it around as often as I'd like, I bought this case to protect it! Now I can easily throw it in my bag when I head out for a fun adventure.
  5. I never considered myself a gardener until I joined the Cultivate team, but the ladies with the green thumbs have me dreaming about the next plant I want to invest in (aka try to keep alive). One of the things Lara and Amber have taught me about gardening is the story a garden tells, and the Joyful Garden Planner is the perfect way to capture that story year after year!
  6. A recurring monthly PowerSheets goal of mine is to read three books. This month, one of my books was Love Lives Here by Maria Goff. It was a beautiful reminder of the importance of living life with intentionality, passionate purpose, and reaching outward to others. It fit perfectly with one of my 2017 PowerSheets goals to love others well!
  7. One of Nicole's PowerSheets goals for this year has been on my mind a lot recently–to purchase most of her non-consumable items from shops that have a social purpose. It has convicted me to think more closely about using my purchasing power for good. With the warm weather sticking around NC now, it's time to replace my broken summer sandals. Thanks to Nicole's recommendation, I'm adding Sseko crossover sandals to my list!
Tell us: what "things" are helping you make progress on your goals this month? We'd love to hear so we can add them to our lists!
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How to Track Your Spending

Earlier this month we tackled how to build a budget. For those of you who tried a budget for the first time, how has it been going? Budgeting is a skill that can take a while to perfect, so if you feel like you way overspent in one category while underspending in another, don't get discouraged - just look at the month of data you now have, and move forward with greater clarity in the months to come!

Once you have a budget (the amount you're planning to spend in each category, as well as amounts you'd like to give away, save, or invest), you need to figure out a system for tracking it (since that's the key to following it!). The good news is that there are many ways to do this, and almost certainly one that will be a good fit for you! I'm going to run down a few of my favorites today, but would love to hear from y'all in the comments.

A custom Google Doc | This is the system I use, and warning: it might seem a little insane on first glance. But if you use very little cash, don't mind a little upkeep, and LOVE data, it might be the right fit for you! The basic premise is that the amount in your budget accrues each day, which is a neat way of feeling like your budget is growing, not shrinking!

The envelope system | Dave Ramsey fans will be very familiar with this one! It's perfect for people who are worried about overspending, because almost everything is paid for in cash, and once the cash in each category's envelope is gone, it's gone. You can read more about this strategy on the Dave Ramsey site, and read about our friend Nancy Ray's envelope system experience here.

The EveryDollar app | EveryDollar is an online budget app created by the Dave Ramsey team and is basically a digital version of the envelope system. I haven't used it personally, but my sister is a recent convert who is loving it, and our Marketing Director Amber also uses it (see her PowerSheets above)! The app is free for 15 days then $99 for a year.

You Need a Budget | Another online budget app with rave reviews is You Need a Budget, or YNAB. I love that not only do they have a great tool for tracking your spending, but it's guided by a strong personal finance philosophy based on four rules (give every dollar a job, embrace your true expenses, roll with the punches, and age your money). YNAB is free for 34 days, then $50 for a year. | Mint promises to bring everything from budgeting to bills together - your financial life, in one place that's easy to understand. Mint has been around for awhile, and seems to be the most polarizing of the sites I've listed here - people either love it or hate it. When I used it for a few months, I felt like I was going in more often than I'd like to correct its auto-categorization. Mint is free.

I'd love to hear: Have you found a system of expense tracking that works for you? What do you use?

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How To Take Care of Your Relationships

When I look back on the moments in my life that have been the most impactful for me, it's always been the result of someone knowing and loving me deeply. One of my 2017 PowerSheets goals is to love others well. Now, anyone familiar with the SMART goal criteria is probably shaking their head at that goal. Why? They might argue that it isn't specific enough or it cannot be measured. To which I say: traditional goal-setting doesn't work for us. Goals can be overwhelming when they aren't connected to what matters, and one of the most important legacies I want to leave behind in one where everyone in my life feels known and loved by me. I would argue that my goal can be measured by the way my loved ones feel when they leave a conversation or interaction with me. My hope is they never leave a conversation feeling better about me, but they leave feeling better about themselves because I have encouraged them.

With that said, I wanted to share some tips that have worked well for me! I'm by no means an expert at this, and I'd love to hear from you in the comments, too!


My 2016 and 2017 PowerSheets goals were quite similar!

Hold yourself accountable. One of the easiest ways to do this is by adding it your Monthly Tending List. For example, on my personal PowerSheets, I add monthly goals that are specific to certain events. For March, one of my monthly goals is to finish my perpetual Google calendar where I track birthdays, anniversaries, and other big events for my friends and families! Sometimes, I'll add specific weekly goals for particular relationships. This month, I added, "call my momma!" to my weekly goals because I realized that a lot of our recent conversations have been hurried due to her new work schedule. Adding it to my weekly goals reminds me each week to cultivate that relationship!

Keep a list of your loved ones' favorite things. Our team has a document with all of our team members' favorite things that is easily accessible to everyone! It's been so helpful when I'm at the store and want to pick up a snack for one of the ladies; I can easily open our document and grab everyone's favorite treat! Replicate this for yourself. Keep a note on your iPhone (or anywhere) where you track these things. Some suggestions: favorite Starbucks drink, favorite flower, what they order from Chipotle, favorite color, t-shirt size, favorite candy. The possibilities are endless! Same goes for gift ideas. If you come up with a great Christmas gift idea in May, write it down!

Ask "what can I do to serve you?" I  heard this suggestion years ago in a sermon on marriage at my church, but I've adopted it for all my relationships. Asking "what can I do to serve you?" shows your friend or significant other you have the time to care for them and are choosing to spend your time that way. If possible, go one step further and try to be specific here. For example, if a friend is grieving a loss, offer specific and tangible ways to serve them. There's a chance she's had many people say "let us know if there's anything we can do" and she doesn't quite know how to ask for specific help. Anticipate something you can do to serve her–whether it's doing grocery shopping, running a few loads of laundry, providing childcare, or simply being a listening ear–and giving her specific things to choose from will make it easier for her to ask for help!

Never underestimate the power of snail mail. Find a pack of cards that you love or a cute postcard set (bonus that mailing a postcard is actually cheaper!) and keep them nearby. You'll have a quick way to drop a note of encouragement in the mail for someone when you are thinking of them. Add addresses to your phone's address book, or keep them online using a service such as Postable. My favorite tip: you can buy stamps on Amazon!

Listen and remember. One thing that has helped me with this is the Reminders function on my iPhone. I will often set reminders to follow up with friends after they share something with me. For example, if my friend shares that she is nervous about her doctor's appointment next week, there's a good chance you'll hear me say "Siri, remind me to text Laura about her appt next Thursday at 3 pm." At first, that felt insincere to me. Why couldn't I just remember? Then I realized it was no different than adding a note on my to-do list or writing a sticky-note, and it's helped me immensely cultivate deeper relationships with those that I care about!

I know there might be some of you thinking, "Well Jess, you make this seem so easy; it must come naturally to you." I want to offer some encouragement to you: this is something I try to practice, and it does not always come naturally (you can ask some of the people closest to me!) I often have the very best of intentions, but I don't always execute on them. In fact, sometimes I say the wrong thing or just forget something altogether, and I have to apologize and ask for forgiveness. However, knowing this is one of my goals helps keep me accountable and encouraged to continue to improve!

I want to hear from you! What would you add to this list? I'd love to learn some new tips to help my accomplish one of my 2017 goals.

Be sure to read Emily's post on her personal blog which is full of practical ways she's working on loving others well. I'm grateful to work alongside women who have similar hearts and desires to cultivate deeper relationships!

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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.


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!


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.


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.


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


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!


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


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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