At Home with the Isaacsons
Take a home tour with Lara Casey Isaacson, mom of three, grateful wife, and CEO of Cultivate What Matters, a home for grace-filled goal-getting, purpose, confidence, and community.
Who lives in your home?
My three children – Grace (10), Josh (6), Sarah (5.5) – my husband, myself, and some fish. My husband and I come from families with pets, and we thought the kids at least need one pet… so we have plenty of fish.
Where do you live, and how did you find yourself there?
We live in Chapel Hill, NC. My husband took a job with UNC-Chapel Hill and we initially lived in a small apartment, but when my first was born, we knew we needed more space. I work from home as well so we needed more space.
Can you describe your home?
At this point, it’s become very North Carolinian. NC is a very lovely state – we’re three hours from the mountains, and a hop, skip, and a jump from the beach. My son’s room is mountain themed; we love going hiking as a family. There are some beach touches as well. And then there’s the garden, where we find joy and play with our kids.
What are some of your favorite places in your home?
Our homeschool room, which takes up most of the second floor. It tends to be where our Nugget lives – it becomes a time machine and a reading couch! We also have a reading loft in my office, where it’s cozy and magical with twinkle lights. And any other place where we can gather together as a family, like the kitchen or the garden.
What types of things do you plant in your garden?
Flowers, vegetables, anything that we can watch grow! There’s such a joy to starting with a seed, which feels like nothing, and turning into something to enjoy or share or eat or pass along to someone. Some of my favorites are zinnias – we grow tons of them in hundreds of varieties every year. We also grow a lot of interesting tomatoes too, and we have a bunch of fruit trees.
How would you describe your style?
It’s really reflective of our garden, you see a lot of blues and greens with pops of color everywhere. Our style is very clean, inspiring and comfortable. Most people come in and say wow, I feel like I’m in a different place here. I love making people feel at ease.
How do you like to spend your time?
For me, the biggest thing that I love is playing with my kids. I love homeschooling with them, planting things, playing in the dirt together. Seeing my kids being who they were created to be is my favorite.
And I love hanging out with my husband. We’re big Hallmark movie fans, we love relaxing and eating good food (Mexican is our favorite), hiking, bird watching, and spending time with dear friends around the firepit.
You’re the CEO of Cultivate What Matters. Can you tell me more about the business?
We help women to focus on the things that matter most in life to them. We help them uncover their priorities and focus; we create tools and paper products to cultivate those things!
Where did the idea come from?
It really came from my own life, of feeling like I was going through the motions. There are so many things that I’m responsible for – children, my marriage, my life – and I needed to figure it out. How could I do it all? But then I started to think about… What if there are little things over time that I could tend to? Just like I tend to my tomatoes day after day, what things could add up over time.
Our main product is PowerSheets; we’re ten years in now, and over the years, it’s been a tool for women to peel back the layers to what matters, to keep top of mind the things that last longer than us and you want to grow over time. The thing I use them most for are my children, for the small little things I can do on a daily, weekly, monthly basis that creates a family narrative that builds their strength and narrative over time.
Why focus on women?
We actually started as one company – Southern Weddings – and were very successful in that. Through that, people asked me for business advice, but I had so much on my plate that I wondered how to do it all. It became not about helping women through the marriage stage but through life to grow what matters to them. Women face unique challenges, unique variables. We’re passionate about helping each other.
I read somewhere that you don’t like setting goals. Is that true?
It’s true; I don’t love traditional goal setting because it just doesn’t work. Think New Year’s resolutions. Many times we set goals that are born out of comparison or goals that aren’t connected to something that matters to us in the big picture. It can be challenging at first to think about what sets you apart from others, what makes you different, but those are the things that end up setting our legacy.
What are some of the goals you’re most proud of achieving?
Number one is cultivating my marriage. Our marriage was really rocky when we started and we were two ships passing in the night; but our marriage came back together, and that was a turning point for my personal and professional life.
Second would be letting go. Sometimes we think goals need to be big and flashy like writing a book but what I’m most grateful for and proud of is letting go of so much: what people think of me, perfection, qualities over time that have held me back from living life.
What are some goals you have for your future?
For me, it’s to spend more time homeschooling my kids. Learning is an atmosphere. It’s a natural extension of our homelife and play for us. Other goals are stewarding our business well, and doing those things I’ve always wanted to do. We only get this one life to cultivate and I want to make the most of the days I’m given.
One goal my husband and I have is going to see places together. You go through these childrearing years and, while certainly challenging at times, it has made our marriage richer. We look forward to seasons ahead together as a family and adventures in our marriage. We are considering getting an RV!
Intention comes up a lot with your work and your business. How did you set out to create a home filled with intention?
First of all, it starts with time – and that’s the trickiest thing to get over. There will never be enough time but there will always be enough time to do the next best thing. That usually means it will be small. For me, the main focus is doing small things with great love. You have to have a rhythm in your life where you intentionally stop and put your brakes on and ask big questions.
Whether it’s refreshing one of the kids’ rooms, spending time watching a seed grow in the garden together, or telling family stories that will shape them, the intentionality in the small things add up to a life well-lived — not perfect, but well lived.
How do you approach toys and kids’ items with intention?
This is a great question and I feel like it has an ongoing answer! At every stage, they want to interact with different things. For me as a homeschooler, I am acutely aware of the developmental stages my kids are in. The biggest thing we try to promote with our kids is intentionally about being outside, how lifegiving and healing that is. Their outside toys are anything they find in nature. I love when my kids tell me they are bored. That’s when I know the magic will happen.
Inside, it’s more about the spaces where magic happens, like a Nugget and a basket of books. We’re a big book family – that’s where the imagination comes to life. We really try our best to cull through the toys on a regular basis. Our philosophy is to do the culling alongside the kids and explore what toys are life-giving in that season. Books in our house, though, are always in season!
How do you structure different spaces to cultivate different intentions?
Pay attention to the rhythm of your kids’ days: they need high energy activities at moments and they need calm and soft music at others. There’s a beautiful symphony of variety to what our children need in their space, and you’ll see that in our home. Their bedrooms are spaces where they can have a private moment, whether that’s an intimacy with their thoughts or a book or rest, and then there are spaces like our homeschool room is for exploration, asking questions, really having a feast of lovely things and lovely ideas. The outdoor spaces are wild and free, with weeds in the yard, and I like it that way! Things don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.
How does your work influence your parenting and vice versa?
Very directly. They are fluid with each other. My philosophy on work is the same for parenting: Do small things with great love. Take risks for what matters. Always be willing to be the one who loves the most. I don’t feel like the way I feel about work is different from how I feel about life; it’s all the same mission.
Do your children set goals? How do you support them in that?
I act as a mirror for them, to reflect back when I see them excited about something. Rather than giving my opinion, it’s more of a “you seem to be really enjoying this” and not be so much of an influence. The most important part of our kids’ future is that they have time to find out who they were meant to be. That’s why it’s about big picture goals at these ages: we’re here to give you support and safety and encouragement and a feast of great ideas, and we’re here to help you try all the things and fail and that’s how you figure out who you are.
Our inclination is to theme their life out so quickly. Oh my kid likes soccer, everything is soccer… but give them room. We’re here to shape and to guide but not to dictate.
What are your go-to products for your kids?
Write the Word, a Bible journal we created for kids to write out the words of scripture and color, and our Girl’s Goal Planner, which focuses on building confidence, are favorites for my almost-ten-year-old.
And honestly, our Nugget! I’m so pro-Nugget; our youngest has sensory processing disorder and it has been wildly helpful for her. Especially in winter, we will use a little trampoline we love and our Nugget to get all of our energy out—or to relax and read!
You’re a published author of a few books now… Any book recommendations, for adults or kids?
Oh, one that’s been amazing for me is The Call of the Wild and Free. It’s a primer for homeschool but it’s also great for anyone who has kids. Another one that influenced me significantly is For the Childrens Sake, I love that book. A recent favorite: Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins.
We love many of the classic books. Heidi – we’ve been rolling with laughter when we read the scene where she has kittens at the dinner table – and the My Side of the Mountain trilogy was a hit with all of the kids. My husband read a series of Western books called the Little Britches books to the kids about ranch life in the early 1900’s. And we have a million favorites we read in school. A few recent favorites from our studies: Beautiful Shades of Brown about the art of Laura Wheeler Waring, Amos Fortune, Free Man, and we’re reading several Marguerite Henry books to learn the history of the horse. I’m loving it all just as much as they are!Thank you so much for inviting us into your home, Lara! For those interested in learning more about her company, visit the Cultivate What Matters website or follow them on social media.