Episode 026 of the Cultivate Your Life Podcast was released on November 16th, 2019. Listen here!

So you’re feeling it. The end of the year with all of its bells and whistles is coming at you like a freight train. Christmas music has been playing in stores for, I don’t know, months, and if you haven’t already purchased all of your gifts, you feel behind. Do you want to take a break from the hustle and bustle to refocus on what really matters? Me too, and today’s episode has some really good news for you. Let’s talk. You know all those things you’ve always wanted to do? You should go do them. The things that last longer than you, the things that run deeper and are more thrilling than skydiving. The things that make you come alive. Welcome to the Cultivate Your Life podcast where each week we talk about how to uncover what matters to you in the big picture and start acting like it today. Whether you’re feeling stuck, overwhelmed, or in need of some refreshing truth today, I’m Laura and you are in the right place. Let’s cultivate what matters together.

Hi. It is really good to be here with you right now because I think that both of us, we want to be intentional with this season. You’ve probably said that word, maybe out loud, maybe in your brain. You want to be intentional in this season, but being intentional sounds like maybe too much work with all that you already have on your plate right now. Have you felt that way? That you really want to, but man, being intentional brings up images of Pinterest and crafts and hard work and change and doing things differently, and maybe you’re just needing a break, needing some relief. Let’s take a break right now from the hustle and bustle, you and I, and let’s just pause and reign in the crazy and remind ourselves of the long view of the things that really matter.

Let me tell you a story. First of all, I can’t believe that we’re already coming up on a year of having these conversations here together on the podcast. It’s just so neat to think about all that we’ve explored together, living number days and living intentionally and really focusing on what matters in the big picture. And in episode one, you and I chatted about the story of a plant I had, and I think we chatted about it in episode two and three also. The story of this plant that I bought from my desk years and years ago, the infamous orchid that really changed my life, and how I had put that orchid in a dark corner in a bathroom and didn’t want to look at it because I thought I’d killed it, and how God really changed my life and changed my heart over time. And eventually I put that orchid up on a bright windowsill and started to tend to it little by little by little.

Well, what I didn’t tell you about that story is there was another orchid. There was another one. In fact, there were two other ones. The other … The third one I’m pretty sure died. I don’t know where that one is, but the second one I also attended to and it never bloomed. It never did anything, but I kept working on it. So that plant is about 11 years old now and it has had green leaves and almost died a few times in between, but it’s never bloomed. And for some crazy, miraculous reason, it decided to finally make a stalk this year. And it’s been a really … As you and I have chatted about, it’s been a really unexpected season for us and unexpected year in some ways. And this happened right in the middle of that thick, unexpected season. And I remember thinking to myself, “Oh my goodness, after 11 years this thing is finally making a shoot and it’s going to bloom.”

Like the stem that goes up to make the flowers. And we had a flood in our house as you know, and lots of reconstruction. They ripped all of our floors out, took all of our furniture out of the house. This kid slept with us for weeks and weeks and weeks, and we made it an adventure. But it was a little bit of a crazy time. I remember this one morning, several mornings, but this one morning in particular where there were nails all over the floor and there was no floor and my sweet kids, I had to carry them across the room so that they wouldn’t get nails in their feet. Yet I remember looking over at that plant and thinking, “Oh Lord, you’re so good. What a neat little spot of hope. That after 11 years and tending and imperfection and so much living in between, that plant is finally going to bloom.”

And then they finally finished all the reconstruction work. I came into the house after they were done and I looked over at the sink and I gasped, because that plant next to the sink was broken. It gives me heebie-jeebies to think about it, but somehow, some way, I don’t know what happened in the construction, but that stalk got cut into and the cut off part was just sitting there and I was thinking like, “Ah, whomever did this, at least take the part away.” So sad. And I was pretty sad. And of course I thought about you and me and our conversations before about how I have been sad about plants before. It’s just a thing that we plant ladies feel, and that’s okay. We own our plant loving emotions, but I was sad. I was sad. And I remember being in the kitchen and holding the plant and just saying out loud, “Oh, this is so frustrating.”

After all these years it was finally going to grow and I couldn’t wait to see what color the flower was going to be. And then I saw this little person walk up next to me and I heard her voice saying, “Mommy.” And big doe eyes looking up at me. Gracie said, “Rejoice always.” I say it again. Rejoice. Now I know it was just a plant and Gracie knew it was just a plant, but even she at seven and a half years old could see the waiting, the meaning behind waiting for something for so long and anticipating something for so long, and having it literally cut in half.

Now I got a better gift than a blooming flower in that moment. I got to see Grace speaking truth and faith and life into me. I wanted the flower to grow, and God had way better plans, and let us not discount the things that those who are younger than us can pour into our souls. At that moment I realized, once again, and I’m sure that you and I have both learned this lesson a million times over, his plans are always better than ours. We may think we want to grow one thing. We may be in the middle of it right now thinking, “I just want to get all this stuff done.” Or, “I’m getting close to the end of the year and I haven’t done the things that I wanted to do and I feel like a failure and I feel like I just haven’t done enough or I messed up.” Maybe God wanted to grow something different in you. Maybe it’s right there, right in front of you, giving you faith and hope and truth and life in the unexpected.

Now we’re going to do a little time travel. Can we do that together? It’s going to be pretty fun, isn’t it? We are first going to travel backwards and then we’re going to just take a look forward. First let’s rewind time. Let’s go back to where we were on, say, January 1st of this year. So go back in your mind, where were you? How were you feeling? Think about how much has happened and changed since January 1st, 2019. Now imagine. If you had a golden opportunity to go back and tell her something, what would you say to your January 1st, 2019 self? Especially in those moments where life doesn’t go as planned, and perhaps unexpected things happen, or life feels overwhelming or shattered or cut in two. What would you look up to her and say? What encouragement, wisdom, kick in the pants? What is it? What would you tell her? How would you speak truth and faith and life and hope into her?

I would tell her that everything is going to be all right, especially in the hard things. You’re going to go through some crazy hard things this year. Plot twists like you’ve never expected, and yet those twists and turns are so for a reason. They’re going to lead you to God’s feet. They’re going to lead you and your family closer to each other and to Him. They’re going to be some adventures. And I would read her a little something. We’d have little masterpiece theater. We would read some Psalm 37 verses three and four, “Trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.” Side note from me, even if your pasture doesn’t grow the way you thought it would. And verse four, “Delight yourself in the Lord.” Not Instagram, not other people’s opinions, not high expectations, and back to this verse. “And he will give you the desires of your heart.” And another side note, because he’s kind of change the desires of your heart when you delight in him.

Verse five, “Commit your way to the Lord. Trust in him and he will do this.” There you go. I’d give her a good talking to. Just say, “Just trust.” Trust that God has this. You’re going to go through crazy, hard, unexpected things this year, but you know what? They’re going to lead you to his feet. They’re going to lead you to better places than you planned. Harder places, but better places because they’re going to refine your soul, and there’s nothing more valuable than that. And here’s what some of you said that you would tell your January 1st, 2019 self.

Katrina said, “I would tell her that God is good. You are in the center of His goodness all the time.” Lydia said, “Do the hard stuff at the beginning of the year. Don’t put it off.” That’s a good reminder for all of us. Thanks Lydia. Joanna said, “Be patient. Spend your time in prayer. God has you in His hands.” Mimi said, “Your cries to God have been heard. Small daily changes are adding up.” Ah, I love that. That is awesome, Mim.i Laura F would say this to herself on January 1st, 2019, “It may not happen right away, but it will happen. Stay patient.”

What would you tell yourself? Rewind to January 1st of this year. What would you say? How would you encourage her? How would you help her to know that everything is going to be all right? It might be hard. It might be crazy. It might be unexpected, but you’re going to get here to this day, listening to this here podcast with that redhead gal, Laura Casey, and everything is going to be all right. Now let’s have a little fun and let’s look ahead to our January 1st, 2020 selves. Imagine it. The end of 2019. December 2019 rolls around and you start reflecting on the year you just lived. What would it take for you to look back and know that you cultivated what matters? What will you wish you had started today? Sometimes for me it helps to think about the opposite too. Where do you not want to be at the end of 2019? Where do you not want to be as you start this brand new year ahead? Let’s write a little letter to our January 1st, 2020 self.

Dear January 1st, 2020 self. How’s it going up there on January 1st, 2020? Can’t wait to see what it’s like, but for now, I’m here in November of 2019 and the whole world is in this crazy time of hustle and bustle, of trying to be intentional and trying to focus on traditions and making memories and doing really good things, and at the same time it feels a little overwhelming. So I’m stopping today to think about you, to think about loving my future self. Pretty cool, right? Dear January 1st, 2020 self, I’m coming for you. I’m making intentional decisions for you now to set you up for success. Success that lasts longer than us.

2020 self, I’m actually going to start setting my goals earlier for you this year so that we don’t feel crammed when we get up to that 2020 point. You’re going to be great. Better than great, because I’m going to take little by little steps forward, starting right now. Not on January 1st when I get up there with you, but right now to focus on the things that really matter, and you know what? You’re a year ahead. It may not be perfect, but it sure will be meaningful. 2020 self. I’ve got you, I love you, and I’m on it. Love, your November, 2019 self.

Here’s what’s cool. You get to choose. We get to choose to opt out of the crazy. This is your permission slip to do things differently and encouragement that you can still, no matter how you’re feeling right now, you can still have a great, fun, meaningful holiday season. If you choose to not do all the things, you and I both know after all of our time together, and I feel like I’ve learned this lesson doubly so this year. We can’t do it all and do it well, but we can choose to cultivate what matters. And that usually starts with really small steps forward. So let’s take a few steps forward to a fun place. How about right now? Does that sound good? I thought it might be fun if you and I took a quick break and hopped out into the garden. Would you like that? Do you need some fresh air? Let’s go on out there.

Oh, it feels so good to be out here with you. The air’s little chilly, but it feels so good. The sun is shining bright and the leaves have changed and fallen off most of the trees already, but it’s still glistening out here. So one of the best ways in the middle of a crazy season or a crazy moment or a time when you just feel like, “Oh my goodness, I have this huge list of meal prep to do and gifts to buy and I don’t know where to begin or if I will ever finish.” In those moments, stop. I know this is going to sound so simple, but this is your invitation to simple. Count your blessings. I’m out here and I’m looking at this garden, this place where you and I have done so much learning and proverbial and real growing together this year and wow, I count so many blessings out here of things that never grew, and lessons that grew in their place.

Gratitude matters. Counting our blessings actually does something to us. According to four different studies, gratitude reduces feelings of envy. That’s a good one. We could just stop there. Reduces feelings of envy and comparison, makes our memories happier, lets us experience good feelings and it helps us to bounce back from stress, and all of those things help us to love our people better. So is it worth it? Absolutely. Count your blessings, right in front of you. Just like that moment where I’m standing there with my plant cut in half and Gracie says to me, “Mommy, rejoice always.” I say it again. Rejoice. Now did I want to rejoice in that moment? No, I did not. And maybe you don’t either. But just give it a try. Find something to be thankful for and see if that doesn’t shift your perspective, even just a little bit, to help you push through those hard things.

In these moments of holiday rush, just think of Bing Crosby. It’s the holidays, right? When I’m worried and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings, instead of she and I fall asleep counting my bless. Thanks for that, Bing. That’s just good stuff. It’s a good reminder. In the middle of it all, let’s just count what’s good. Why is it that we don’t like to count our blessings? Sometimes though sometimes we just feel like we want to complain. We want to be mad and we want to be angry and there’s nothing wrong with that. Your feelings and your emotions were created by God too. Complaints are clues. They can lead us to a deeper reliance on God, and reveal places in our hearts that need nourishment and cultivation and gentleness and all kinds of sustenance that we might feel like we’re missing. But if you go back and think about the moments this year that you complained and times when you felt just flooded with worry or fear or whatever it is, times when you just felt like, “Oh, life is not going the way I wanted it to go.”

What would you say to her? Maybe you would be like Grace with her little childlike faith. Maybe you would say, “Rejoice always.” Doesn’t mean you have to fake it. It just means to recognize that God is bigger. He’s so much bigger, and it doesn’t mean that we’re not going to have emotions about things. Remember, God gave us emotions. It’s not going to mean that things aren’t going to be difficult. But in those moments, we always have hope. Whether we see it or feel it, it’s there. And sometimes it’s that one little flicker of gratitude that allows us to move forward and see the light through the trees.

Sometimes just that tiny little burning ember can get us through just long enough to be able to remember that God is God and we are not, and He is in control and He has a plan and we may not see the long view of it until we get to eternity and Heaven’s gates. But He is in control and he has you. Oh, hey. Hold on. So I have a little friend out here in the garden with me. This is my little farmer Joshua, hi farmer Joshua.

Hi.

Hi. So Joshy you actually have eaten quite a lot of something out in the garden this year. What has it been?

Tomatoes. I’ve ate a hundred thousand million tomatoes.

A hundred thousand million. That’s a lot of tomatoes. You must really love tomatoes. Is that right? Yeah? Now the garden is getting ready to take a big old nap because it’s about to be winter. So there are some very funny creatures right here, front of us. What is sleeping on our basil bush?

Bees.

Bees are super, super cute when they sleep. They are very silly. They sometimes sleep upside down. Many times sleep upside down underneath the flower. Or these guys right in front of us are sleeping upside down underneath these basil leaves. So they’re kind of like acrobatic sleeping bees. I think one of my favorite things in the garden is sleeping bees. So tell us about what else is out here in the garden right now.

There’s no figs.

No figs, right. But there are some very strange bugs on our fig tree. What are they called?

Stinkbugs.

You are correct. There are quite a few stinkbugs out here and all kinds of other silly creatures. But you know what? They make the gardens super fun. Kind of like you, little buddy. Now, is there anything you’d like to say to our friends or ask them about?

What’s going on in your garden people?

I really like that question, bud. Yeah. What is growing in your gardens, people? What’s going on in your lives, what is maybe growing? What’s asleep, what’s happening out there? No matter how your life is growing or not growing or how you’re feeling right at this moment in the midst of it all, guess what? There’s still a whole lot of time for unexpected good things to happen. You could give in to the end of this year feeling crazy. Feeling like you’re drained and in a daze wondering where all the days went. Or you can love your January, 2020 self well, and take the long view.

You can choose to give your time and attention right now to what really matters. You can stop to count your blessings, to take a breath to say, “Oh no, we’re not doing this season like we’ve done it before.” You can stop and choose a different way of doing things. It’s okay. There’s still time and you can take a new path. You can stop to notice the sleeping bees. So just know if you are hard pressed to find something to be grateful for, there’s a sleeping bee out there somewhere in the world, taking a good nap upside down on the flower. If that doesn’t make you smile, you need to come over to my garden and actually see them. They are really cute.

Where do you start? Where do you start when everything feels urgent and you do have a big list of things to accomplish and there’s nothing wrong with checking things off of a list and getting things done, but where do you start with turning your heart and your soul around to what’s actually going to matter at the end of this year and even at the end of your life? Did you know that prayer is an action step? It is. It’s probably one of the best ones you can take. And maybe you’ve prayed every day of your life since you came out of the womb, or maybe, maybe you’ve never tried it before. Maybe it feels a little rusty. So I thought I might just pray for us real quick. Would that be okay? Let’s do it.

God, will you help us right now? We do want to spend our time on the things that actually matter, and sometimes that’s really hard. Sometimes we feel like our to do lists and pressures of life and the expectations of others make it impossible, but we know that with you nothing is impossible, but you can break down all of those brick walls that feel like they’re in front of our faith and our family and the things that we really want to spend our time on. God, will you help us? I praise you in advance for how you are already helping us. God, please help us to love our future selves well, and God, thank you so much for how you’ve brought us through this year. Thank you so much for the lessons that you’ve taught us, and the broken flower stems, and the twists and turns, and the sweet blessings in the midst of it all. God, we want to do this life with you, and sometimes we just don’t know how? Will you help us? Will you lead the way? Show us your ways. Thank you so much. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

This was so nice to be outside with you, even on this chilly day. So good to get out in the sunshine with you, and you are the best. You’re the best encouragers, you’re so wise, and you’ve learned so many things because this year. You have grown so much this year. Here’s a few more notes of what you would say to your January 1st, 2019 self. Courtney says, “Hold on, sweet girl. Just keep going. Savor the days the hugs and the belly rubs for your dog.” Rebecca would tell herself, “My God is able.” Jubilee would say, “This year will be so much more restful than 2018 and you will see God do great things.” Melissa, I love this encouragement. She would tell herself that, “You’re not going to finish some of your goals, not at all, and that’s okay.” We all need that encouragement to focus on progress, not perfection. Haley would tell herself, “No job, body, family, or anything can give you the peace and hope that only Jesus can.”

Whew, you guys are preaching now. Beth Ann would tell herself, “To trust the path that God has laid out for her. Have faith, it’ll be a great year.” And Monica, this is good. This is really good. We all need this reminder for our 2020 selves also. Set realistic goals and she put a little heart emoji. So with love. Set more realistic goals. I just love this so much and Kim would tell herself, “You are not enough, but He is enough.” Emily would say, “The little by little progress truly does add up. Don’t diminish the small daily steps.” And Toby would tell herself to not sweat the small stuff. I love this so much. Allie would say, ‘The internal progress may not be obvious to everyone right away, but it changes everything.”

On that note, friends, the little by little that we do today is going to add up. Little by little by little, even with a million mistakes along the way, little by little does add up. And on January 1st, 2020 you’re going to be so grateful that you focused on what matters today. Until next time, get out there. Even if it’s chilly, put a cute sweater on, get out there and get your hands dirty. Smell the roses and cultivate what matters.

Focusing on the things that matter to you in your life can be really tricky sometimes, right? There are so many distractions, so many expectations, and also this huge list of things that you want to do with your time. And yet there’s not enough time. That’s just a fact. So we have a tool for this. The Power Sheets Intentional Goal Planner was created because I felt the exact same thing as you. I have so many things that I wanted to accomplish and do, and people that I wanted to love really well, and I didn’t have enough time for all of it. So how was I supposed to cultivate what matters? I made a set of guided worksheets that now, almost nine years later, have been used by over 50,000 women across the world to help us walk through a three step proven process.

So in your power sheets goal planner, you’re going to first number one, open your power sheets. Pretty simple. Step one. Number two, do the guided worksheets to uncover what matters to you in your particular season of life, and the right goals for right now. And number three, it’s the best part, is to live it out little by little by little, no matter what happens along the way, no matter what bumps pop up, because they’re going to pop up, no matter how many times you fall down, we focus on progress, not perfection. And you know what? That progress really adds up.

So get your Power Sheets Intentional Goal Planner for 2020 tip day, and here’s why you’re going to want to get it now. We have a really exciting week coming up in the first part of December, starting on December the ninth is our annual power sheets prep week where if you have your power sheets in hand, you’re going to get access to a free five part video series with yours truly. There might be a little fun in that video series, but I’m going to walk you step by step through your power sheets, and together we’re going to uncover what really matters so we can spend our time well in 2020. So buy your power sheets today at cultivatewhatmatters.com.

Ari : (singing). Is that okay babe?