You’re not sure what to focus on right now with all that’s going on—you feel stuck, unsure of your next move. Life as you knew it has suddenly changed, and your goals need some major changing, too. You’re worried about the future—and in some ways about how you will survive this. Long-term planning feels impossible right now, so how do you move forward? How do you thrive in the midst of all of this uncertainty?
In this episode: — I guide you through three steps to thrive in the midst of uncertainty, and then how to pass that gift on to others! — We talk about what it means to take the long view, to stay focused on the big picture. This season won’t last forever, but it will have a lasting impact on our world. (I tell you about Grandma Bunny’s experience with the Spanish flu, too, and how every challenge in our lives will change us—and that’s a good thing!) — We consider what it might look like for this time to actually grow us for the better. Ugh, we kind of don’t want to go there at first, do we? The gifts we’re left with from this season will most likely be ones of perspective. — We talk about, in the words of my friend and MTH speaker Hannah Brencher, do in the dark what you know how to do in the light. Sometimes we just want to sit in the muck, yes? But this is encouragement to care for ourselves in the way we know to do when things are going well – right now, right where we are. — I take you out the garden and we talk about planting seeds (of course!). Think for a moment about what you’ll be so grateful a year from now to remember about this time. I tell you about some of the very specific things I’m doing in this season to cultivate a good, joyful, intentional life RIGHT NOW. — I share a little encouragement for my new homeschool mama friends that was shared with me three years ago. — We finish by talking about the third step to thrive in this season: helping others thrive, too. My biggest motivation for being the best I can be right now is to help the people around me—Ari, my kids, my team—live with joy and without fear even in the midst of uncertainty. I share some really simple and practical ways to do this that you can try today!
Interested in some of the things I mentioned throughout this episode? Here you go! — My PowerSheets are my home base and number one recommendation for this season – not an ad, but they are truly how I’m cultivating an intentional life amidst all the turmoil! I’m so grateful I have these and so many of you do, too! Don’t be afraid to scratch things out and get messy (and check out these great blog posts you’ve all been loving about using your goal planner right now). — I just finished the Write the Word Worship Journal and am a few days into the Write the Word Hope Journal. Both are SO good for this time! — Who would have known our Hope Journal would be so needed right now?? Truly for such a time as this. I talk a little bit about creating this journal, and if you’re curious, there’s much more here. — The Legacy Journal is what I’m using to record for our children the good and the hard in this time. — Two things we’ve enjoyed as a family recently: Heidi (the end is so beautiful!) and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, the Mr. Roger’s movie. — Found yourself suddenly homeschooling your kiddos? Here’s a joyful, simple resource that might help: our free homeschool planner download. — Listen to the April PowerSheets PrepCast! — If Team Cultivate can pray for you, we’d be honored to do that! Just fill out this form.
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Life changed more than we ever expected. Our world has changed, our daily rhythms have changed, and we’re wondering how to move forward—or if we even can. We’re grieving for life as we knew it.
As you try to adjust to this new normal, perhaps part of you doesn’t want to. This “new normal” doesn’t feel normal at all, and you want your life back!
I felt that, too. On Sunday, out in the garden with the kids, I felt a sting of unexpected sorrow as I watched them play. It came on slowly, and I couldn’t shake it. I sat in the kitchen with Ari later that day and wept for our world, for New York, for life as we knew it. The tears and sorrow bubbled over. Together, we processed through many questions you may be asking yourself right now, too:
What if I don’t survive this? Am I ready to pass my legacy on to my children? What if life never returns to normal? How do we adjust to this? How can we give and serve and rise to this occasion to be a light on a hill? How can we look back on this time in our family as a powerful and positive turning point? What will we want to remember about this time years from now?
For some of us, this grief will come in the form of tears. For some, it will come in words. For some, it will come in unexpected ways and at unexpected times, as grief does.
But, I want you to know it is good.
It’s hard—so very hard—and it’s also good. Whatever you are feeling from day to day and moment to moment, is part of this collective human experience. You are not flawed for feeling a myriad of things; you are human. And we are in this together.
From the one and only Fred Rodgers: “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable.”
In letting the tears fall and not judging my emotions or words, something welcome happened. I felt acceptance. Life has indeed changed. We’re going to be here for a while. And in that acceptance—painful as it was and will continue to be at times—I opened the gift of perspective.
If we’re going to be here for a while, what am I going to DO with this time?
Grieving life as we knew it has given me the opportunity to see life differently and God has given me the opportunity to see life with great hope!
We may be cooped up this month, but we’re not held back from cultivating what matters. Let’s lament and process and let’s live this lifewith hope—right where we are, with what we have.
Listen in for more here…
Farmers plant seeds in faith, not knowing exactly how they will grow or what the weather will bring, but taking the risk to plant them anyway, because what if they DO grow?
I’m settling in here and believing in what I can’t yet see. The good we sow here matters more than ever.
When you look back on this time, what will you want to remember?
I want to remember the resilience this grew in our kids. I want to remember learning how to cut hair for the whole family – Ari included! I want to remember how I’ll never take a loaf of bread or bananas or hugs for granted ever again. I want to remember how winter turned to spring right as this pandemic unfolded—a reminder of His faithfulness and that this season will not last forever. I want to remember the deep connections and rich conversations this experience offered. I want to remember the flowers and birds and delights in the garden—spring is not canceled! I want to remember how God led me in this time and led our team. Never have I felt His presence more. I want to remember Josh telling a friend, “God walks with you.” And Grace telling me, “Maybe God is just trying to tell us to trust Him.” I want to remember the creative meals we’ve made from frozen field peas from 2 years ago (!) and whatever we have found deep in the recesses of the freezer! I want to remember how this experience stretched us and grew us. I want to remember how this time made us number our days and spurred us to choose what matters.
I want to remember the revival, hope, and connection that began here.
Let’s look back at March with a recap of my PowerSheets progress and how things changed. My April goals are below as well.
March Monthly Goals: — Rest / I needed this more than ever this month. While I was up a lot in the night talking to God, that nightly wrestling led me here. For that, I am grateful. — Plan our summer hiking adventures / To be determined. — Make our summer homeschool plan / Calling this a win. We got online school set up yesterday and I have another goal for this in April. — Prepare the garden / I’ve never planted the garden earlier than I did this year. Every part of my soul just had to do it right now. Seeds are in and we’re excited to watch this Victory Garden grow! — Foster curiosity in our kiddos / Grace made a “Garden School” for the little ones during this time and it’s the cutest thing. My job is to simply foster time there and provide whatever odds and ends they need from the garage! — Love my family, neighbors and team extra well during COVID-19 / I am grateful for God’s power to lead me here.
March Weekly Goals: — Sabbath Our new Sabbath practice during this time is to not look at the news. We’re intentionally resting from our work and the world. — Enjoy reading We finished Heidi and now we’re on to Little Britches with the kids. This nightly rhythm is a respite for us all. — Music in our hearts and home Music has sustained me and lifted me in this time. In the first few days of this experience, I made this playlist and I hope it fills you, too.
March Daily Goals: All four of these daily goals below have been the most important things I’ve done to thrive in this time. I finished the Write the Word Worship journal early in the month and dove right into the Hope journal. It has been PERFECT for such a time as this. The verses, the space to pour out my thoughts, the gratitude and one word each day—I praise Him for this every night. — Bible reading — Run with Him — Write the Word — Physical Bible time
Onto April. I have 2 goals for 2020 (each with 4 mini goals under them) that are focused on growing something that matters to me in the big picture. Each month, I’m breaking my yearly goals down using my PowerSheets®. Here’s what’s on my Tending List for the month ahead.
April Monthly Goals: — Thrive in these days. I’m using this new planner notepad to pray on the hour and use this time well. I have LOVED this practice. — Get Grace’s homeschool + planner set – we’re using her advance copy of the Girls Goal Planner as her home base for thriving in this time, writing out her plan each day for homeschool, fun, and connecting with friends! — Celebrate Passover and the resurrection — Start our Legacy Journal for the kids – Ari and I decided to use this journal to document this time for our children. We’re writing what this time was like and how we thrived together through this, with whatever challenges are here and may come. Stories are important and this will be such a gift to them one day—their story of perseverance and overcoming an unprecedented time in history. — Finish writing notes from books I read in Q1 in my commonplace book
April Weekly Goals: — Look at the birds – this time has turned my attention to this verse and the songbirds that have been waking us each morning. We bought a couple of bird feeders last month and have been watching the cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, mockingbirds, and one very brave squirrel with awe and wonder! — Enjoy the garden and growing seeds — Sing with Ari – he plays the piano and I’ve been singing this with him – this has been a time of worship for us both! — Build up our children’s confidence and trust in Him in this time
April Daily Goals: — Write the Word — Read the footnotes — Bible reading — Run, stretch, lift!
Your turn! What are you doing with this new month you’ve been given? How are you doing? How are you redeeming this time?
May God bless you and give you His peace that passes all understanding!
I’m about to hop on a plane with Grace and my mom for a very special adventure – The Philadelphia Flower Show! – so I’ll keep this brief! I hope your March has started well. I’m excited for this new month!
The daffodils have welcomed us into this new month, bringing the hope of spring and new growth ahead. I love them so much!
Between getting a book off to print (coming this summer!), writing the 2021 PowerSheets, and getting our new office ready for move-in, it has been a full and wonderful month! Here are my February PowerSheets goals and what I learned. I can’t wait to hear about your progress, too!
February Monthly Goals: — Live into this change | I feel like I should have a more substantial update for you, but I have yet to form my thoughts. I have continued to love this new rhythm of life and will share more when the words come! 🙂 — Plan our summer hiking adventures | Moving this to March! — Make our summer homeschool plan | Moving this to March! — Get ready for the Flower Show with Grace and my mom (!) | Leaving for the airport in 10 minutes! YIPPEE!! — Pray-pare to move into our new office | WE MOVED IN!!! Ahhh!!! I am so grateful! — Get outside! — Celebrate God’s love for us
February Weekly Goals: — Shabbat — Do strength training for runners | I did this twice—counting this as progress! — Enjoy reading (books listed here) | YES! When you let go of social media, you get a lot of time back for great literature! February’s reads: I couldn’t get enough of The Call of the Wild and Free. This was a beautifully written and practical book. I highlighted this book more than any other! I felt like this book was made for me right now. Highly recommend. I also loved The Montessori Toddler and implemented some Montesorri elements in our home with great success (toy rotation, putting things on low shelves, self-directed play, etc.). I’m still continuing to mosey through The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry and Heidi (LOVE LOVE LOVE) with the kids. And I’ve saved a favorite read for last! We finished reading Understood Betsy and I could read it over and over. It was a beautiful story and made us laugh and cry – the perfect family read-aloud. We couldn’t wait to read the next chapter each night. One of my favorite books of all time! (If you read it, be sure to get the abridged version – the language has been updated a bit and it’s delightful!) — Listen to the Bema Podcastand the Bible Project Podcast (the Sabbath series is so good!) — Make music in our home | February’s favorites included listening to a lot of Bach, playing on the piano, and singing Lauren Daigle (who we saw in concert at the end of February – what a voice!).
February Daily Goals: — Bible reading. I’m going through this plan with friends each morning. — Run with Him using the Peloton app and my old Craigslist elliptical. | Well, my old elliptical decided to die on me, so I’m waiting on parts to be ordered! Till then, I’m quite literally running around my house 🙂 — Write the Word each day | Still LOVING this and I’m about to finish the Worship journal! — Interact with my physical Bible
Onto March! I have 2 goals for 2020 (each with 4 mini goals under them) that are focused on growing something that matters to me in the big picture. Each month, I’m breaking my yearly goals down using my PowerSheets®. Here’s what’s on my Tending List for the month ahead!
March Monthly Goals: — Rest — Plan our summer hiking adventures — Make our summer homeschool plan — Prepare the garden — Foster curiosity in our kiddos
March Weekly Goals: — Sabbath — Enjoy reading — Music in our hearts and home
March Daily Goals: — Bible reading — Run with Him — Write the Word — Physical Bible time
January 2020 is one for the books for me. To report on my January PowerSheets goals is just scratching the surface to tell you all that He grew in me this month—and in our marriage and children and my team. But, I hope the updates below are illuminated with this summary of my pivotal month.
Here are my January PowerSheets goals and what I learned. I can’t wait to hear about your progress, too!
January Monthly Goals: — Cultivate our calendar for 2020—looking ahead at the whole year to plan what matters. / I made a little progress here but decided to space the planning out more by quarter. You’ll see this reflected in my February goals. — Break my goals down using the action plan pages and yearly overview in my PowerSheets. / Done! — Decide on new digital boundaries to try. I want to be away from the internet more—even for good things. There are so many things I want to grow and do in 2020, and I want all the time I can get to do them! I’m not sure what my new boundaries will be, so the goal is to decide on a new rhythm of when to use my phone and other digital items—and for what good purpose. / Done! More here.
January Weekly Goals: —Sabbath / Yes! More here. —Play more music in our home to fill our souls with music / From organizing our Spotify playlists to sitting down to our old Craigslist piano with a tattered hymnal, this has been so good. —Write in my commonplace book. / Done! Progress made.
January Daily Goals: —Bible reading using this plan / Loving this pace of just a small portion a day. This is giving me time to let it really sink in. —Run with Him / YES! More here. —Write the Word each day in the 2020 Fresh Faith Challenge / LOVED it and I’ll be keeping it going in February. —Interact with my physical Bible / The Fresh Faith Challenge made this easy!
On to February! I have 2 goals for 2020 (each with 4 mini goals under them) that are focused on growing something that matters to me in the big picture. Each month, I’m breaking my yearly goals down using my PowerSheets®. Here’s what’s on my Tending List for the month ahead!
February Monthly Goals: — Live into this change — Plan our summer hiking adventures — Make our summer homeschool plan — Get ready for the Flower Show with Grace and my mom (!) — Pray-pare to move into our new office — Get outside! — Celebrate God’s love for us
February Weekly Goals: — Shabbat — Do strength training for runners — Enjoy reading (books listed here) — Listen to the Bema Podcast (Ari is leading a discussion group about this podcast, so I’m dipping my toe in, although much of it flies over my head) and the Bible Project Podcast (the Sabbath series is so good!). — Make music in our home
February Daily Goals: — Bible reading. I’m going through this plan with friends each morning. — Run with Him using the Peloton app and my old Craigslist elliptical now in the colder months. The kids play Legos while I “run!” A few tips: I listen to my own music sometimes and watch their feet in the Tread classes pacing. You can filter out classes where the music has explicit lyrics. I do NOT love all of the classes or instruction (some of the teachers are too self-help-y for me). I do, however, love taking Matt Wilpers’ classes. He is an excellent technical trainer—takes me back to my personal training days. My form and focus are improving with his coaching! — Write the Word each day — Interact with my physical Bible (this is the one I’m using each night)
To summarize January 2020 is like us looking at a masterful painting together and just talking about the frame.
To summarize is to leave out the beautiful, complex, and simple details the Lord wove together over these 31 days. (31 days that have added up to a pivotal (and by that I mean “of crucial and central importance, at a place of pivot or turn”) month for me.)
Summarizing this month means skipping over the forty years leading up to this point. Summarizing means breezing over the pieces of His Word that broke through my soul in these 31 days—and in the whole of my life.
Sometimes the things God does are unexplainable in human terms and yet so vivid in the spiritual. And many times there are stories and relationships and moments (so many of them!) best left in the sacred memory banks of the soul.
Still, I will attempt to summarize. Even a glimpse into this may help you see your own pivot point opportunity, too. In one sentence: it started in the Word.
Each night in January, I’ve put my hands on my physical Bible, writing verses about worship. And each night, I have worshiped. In the hard times, in the gifts, and in the MANY times I felt outside my comfort zone.
When you turn down the volume of the world (what everyone else is doing, what the world expects of you, even good things and worthy pursuits) and slow down enough to let God get a word in, you come to the pivotal fork in the road: stay here or go with Him.
It’s not always an easy choice. It can be humbling and faith-stretching. Sometimes we feel like we just don’t have the energy or emotional reserves for change, right? Going with God doesn’t mean it will be easy, or that the path ahead will be clear. But, you can trust a very known God to be there as you step into the unknown.
Cultivate Your Year LIVE (a day spent with 200+ women doing our PowerSheets together) was a day that inched me closer to this pivot point. As I spent that day teaching and leading, I was also being led. Because, when you spend even a single hour away from the world, focusing on what matters in the big picture of your life—you begin to see a contrast. You see new possibilities for your life and you want to LIVE THEM.
No more doing things the same way you’ve always done them—maybe there are different and better ways forward. No wasted hours lost in distractions or worry or comparison. No crowded schedules and moving too fast.
You long for the wonder of the old days, under the stars, singing with your little brother and Grampa Cecil. The days when you would listen to Handel’s Messiah on your dad’s records and you’d make phone calls on a rotary phone that you thought was just the neatest thing.
You want to make some new choices. Those choices will make your life look a little different than other people’s.
You want to delight in Him—and to help everyone around you do the same.
And it’s in these times of stepping away from the world—these pauses on the rush of the status quo—that you can look out and see clearly. You begin to see these changes are more than possible.
After CYYL, I started doing—and thinking about—life differently. Despite my conviction to change, it wasn’t easy! I like comfort. I like routine. I like assurance. I do not like the unknown. I do not like to take risks when I can’t guarantee the outcome.
But! Numbering my days tossed me right out of that comfort zone. Allowing myself to be more still than was comfortable, phone out of sight, fingers searching my Bible, He gave me insight into verses I’ve read a hundred times. (Sometimes I’d say out loud, “Ahh!! I see it!”) If you let the Word of God into your life and open yourself to change, God will change you.
As you and I spent last year exploring, our brains seek out patterns and habits. Our brains want to conserve calories, so they seek the path of least resistance. To shake them out of that, we have to intentionally choose change by spending our energy in new ways. And it will feel uncomfortable, at first, as we interrupt our brains’ patterns and allow them to be reconfigured. Knowing this from our conversations helped me push through and get to the other side—and God’s not near done with me yet! Change takes change… until it doesn’t. Now? It feels like I tasted freedom.
January 2020 has felt like a lifetime.
Our team was delighted last year when we realized the obvious pun opportunity for 2020: the year of clear vision! But, what’s more delightful is that it happened. In the process of doing my PowerSheets and starting to live out my goals in January, where I want to spend my time has, indeed, become clearer.
I did some simple math. I started this year knowing I wanted to spend more time with Him than the world. (And not just time with Him, but rich time. Like the difference between having a casual conversation about the weather plus a few meaningful moments sprinkled in vs. growing in depth and closeness with each interaction—and growing to crave that time, undistracted by anything else.) I added up how much time I was spending with the world (not thinking about Him or asking for His thoughts, distracted, worried, doing my own thing) and how much I was spending with Him (talking with Him, serving Him as I went in work and mothering and everything in between, listening to Him) —and I asked God for change.
I asked Him to help me live numbered days.
We’ve been thinking a lot about living numbered days together, haven’t we? In my life, our conversations have been fruitful. Turning 40 as 2019 came to a close ushered in a month of reminders that I am not in charge of my time. A family member awaiting medical tests. A young woman in our church leaving this earth too soon. Our neighbor across the street passing away at home. I held his wife as she sobbed on my shoulder.
Ari and I found ourselves praying each night for friends with greater hope—because, in hard things, we know the end of this story, and it’s good! We prayed with increased gratitude for the life we’ve been given, our children, our work, and our marriage. And again, here I am trying to summarize 31 days that felt like 31 years – and were filled with so much more than I can explain in a few paragraphs!
I don’t know how many days I will get in this life. That fact doesn’t deflate me, though; it energizes me! I want to use my days well, and I think you do, too. But maybe, like I felt at times, you wonder how. When will life slow down enough to give you time to live it? When will you have the motivation to make the changes you want to make? When will that all happen?
Here’s what I kept hearing in my soul as I experienced this pivot-forming month: If not now, when?
Sometimes the answer is to wait. Sometimes the answer is to listen. I’ve experienced those things this month, too. But, in His timing, sometimes the answer is now.
With each verse I’ve written, each “I see it!” experience, and each day I spend letting my brain unravel from the same way it has always operated, I am compelled more and more to say yes to living numbered days now. And the beautiful thing? The freeing thing? It’s happening little by little—the small daily decisions are adding up. All of this change I’ve experienced has happened right in the middle of my work and mothering and cleaning the house and solving problems and doing taxes. My circumstances haven’t changed; the way I see them has.
Here’s what numbering your days does. The following are not things I decided to do in order to change. They were not the impetus for change, but the result of it. These are things I couldn’t help but do because He changed my thoughts.
I stepped away from social media this month. I wanted a life reset with the internet (not a temporary break, but a totally new way of using it). I wanted to hear from Him and I did. I did the math here, too: 10 minutes a day on weekdays adds up to 65 hours a year. (It’s usually far more than that in our busier months at work—and most weeks with answering direct messages.) With answering questions and messages and comments I can easily reach 200 hours a year!
Is it time wasted? No. Each message and interaction, to me, is a connection with another heart. We’re not just pixels on screens; we’re people. But, I often think of having all those people in my living room. What would it feel like to take an hour a day and have 100 people pour through my home asking questions? (Many times, deep life questions that I’m not the best person to answer?) It would feel like a lot. I can’t do it all and do it well, but I can choose to cultivate my time for Him. And, even though I don’t like saying “no” to people by not answering all of my messages, I need to use that time differently. I need to say yes to living numbered days. And hopefully, help you do the same. You’ll see me less on social media, but, Lord willing, with more intention when I am there.
We dug deep into Shabbat. We spent a lot of time outside in the sun with the kids. I lost track of my phone. Even as unexpected challenges and meals to make and sibling squabbles continued, we found rest. We had the beautiful realization that, as we are experiencing the Sabbath, thousands of others across the world are doing the same. Something about the sharing of that gives me great joy—we are a part of something much bigger than us.
I read the Bible slowly. Sometimes I’d read the days’ reading twice (or more) to let it sink in. I did the Fresh Faith Challenge. I began listening to this with Ari and this on my own. I saw friends. We got outside. I didn’t read this book, but just the title changed my perspective and, as a result, I got the kids raincoats! I ran over 50 miles this month (thank you, Peloton app and Matt Wilpers)! It’s amazing how the body can adapt if you give it time. My emotional health starts with my thoughts and my thoughts are clearer when I take care of my body and mind! I let go of a lot of leadership at work. This has been a year+ long effort with so much fruit in January 2020. I let go of half of my closet. Ari had three weeks of back-to-back work travel in which we had long phone conversations about life. Some of the best conversations we’ve ever had. I said no to many things because they take time—time I want to use differently now. I said yes to a bucket list trip with my mom and Grace to the Philadelphia Flower Show (!). I sang hymns at the piano with the kids. If you make music, they will come! I decided to worship the Lord by myself at the piano one Saturday afternoon and I felt little bodies near me a few notes in. I did some cross-stitching that I’ve had forever (purchased from this lovely shop!). Just a few stitches felt so good. I chose seeds for our garden.
In all of it, God planted seeds in our souls. I could double the sentences above telling you about the challenges and unexpected events, the unexpected and unmerited grace in it all. There were sleepless nights and tears and crying out to the Lord. But, He always answered. And each time, the pruning and testing of our faith was for our good.
Ari and I grew closer. Our kids grew funnier. I had meaningful conversations at work. I prayed. I listened. I worshipped. I lived.
And this isn’t the half of it. To summarize this month is to leave out the kisses and the sweet words with my kids and the heartaches and the times God whispered to me through wildflowers or songbirds or that time I stood in the park and looked around at the bare trees and realized—they all look bare, but they are FULLY ALIVE. Soaking up nutrients, waiting for the turn of spring to burst forth in green buds and unfurling new leaves. Life—full, rich life—is happening under the surface. I feel like those trees!
January 2020 is one for the books for me. Thank you for reading and indulging me in so many words shared. I’m grateful you’re here, for the gift of words, and for all the intricacies that can’t be captured by them!
We will never regret choosing to cultivate what matters in each season of our lives—even when it means disappointing others or not being able to do it all. I’m cheering you on as you do the same!