Episode 031 of the Cultivate Your Life Podcast was released on April 2, 2020. Listen here!

You’re not sure what to focus on right now with all that’s going on: COVID-19, the economy, cancellations. You feel stuck, unsure of your next move or if you can even make one. Life as you knew it, life as we knew it has suddenly changed. Your plans, they’ve all been changed, and your goals need some major shifting, too. You’re worried about the future and in some ways about how you will survive this. Long-term planning, well, it feels impossible right now, so how do you move forward? How do you thrive in the midst of all this uncertainty? 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 Lara, and you are in the right place. Let’s cultivate what matters together.

Hello. It is really good to be here with you right now at this particular time in our lives. Life looks a little different these days, doesn’t it? I don’t know where I’m meeting you today. Perhaps you are home with children, and you are suddenly a homeschooler. Perhaps you are newly working from home. Perhaps you have faced the loss of a job or the loss of security as you know it from the economy. Perhaps you faced more fear and more anxiety in these unknowns than you ever could have thought possible. And perhaps in the midst of all of this, you have found a new perspective on life. You know more now than you ever did before what matters and what doesn’t. You want to use this life right where you are with what you have well. I’m going to guide you through the three steps to thrive in the midst of this uncertainty. My hope is by the end of our time together you will not only be able to do that yourself but you will be able to pass that gift on to the rest of the world. Let’s do it.

Number one, out of the three steps to thrive in the midst of uncertainty is to take the long view. Look to the big picture and know that this will not last forever. This time will have a lasting effect on our lives and our culture, but this acute season will not last forever. Let me tell you a story.

When my grandmother, Celeste, affectionately known as Grandma Bunny, was a young girl, she and her family of 10 lived on a farm in Alabama. In 1918 something unprecedented happened to her, too. Her family, the culture around her, the world experienced the flu pandemic of 1918 killing more than 50 million people. Her family did what they were told to do just like what we have been told to do. They self-quarantined at home. They kept the children home. They stayed together there for weeks. By God’s grace, they did survive that time. But I remember her telling me stories about how challenging that time was at first. There was so much fear, so little medical care. There was no news back then to know what was happening in the world.

Yet, there were gifts, very unexpected gifts in that painful time. She fondly recalled the family closeness they shared during that time. They were forced to work out their sibling squabbles, and they were forced to work hard. They farmed their own food and picked their own corn and did as much as they could to survive that very scary time. But what you need to know is that Grandma Bunny did go on to live her life. That season did not last forever. In fact, she lived a really beautiful life. She had so much joy, so much passion for people. She also went through even harder things in many ways, going through the Great Depression, for example.

It makes me think of a funny story about how many times I would go to her linen closet, and I don’t know if your grandma did this, maybe she still does, I would open her linen closet and find stacks and stacks of wrapping paper from every gift she ever owned. Every gift she was ever given she saved the wrapping paper. That was something that happened because of that time where you had to learn how to be resourceful. Every challenge that we weather in our lives, it will change us and many times for the better. She learned how to be resourceful in that time. Even though I would giggle when I opened that closet, I knew there was a deeper story there. Your life may take on a richness from this and a deeper story, too. One that could encourage generations to come.

Here’s a crazy thought. I’ll say I don’t like this thought at first, but it’s really good if you let it sink in. What if this time will actually grow you for the better? Uh, I know. I know. It stings for a minute because I don’t know where I’m meeting you right now. I don’t know what circumstances you’re in. All I can do is look around me at so many friends who are in seasons of complete loss of jobs, losing their companies, not sure where their next meal’s going to come from. Some friends who have tons of time on their hands and some friends who are working overtime right now trying to keep up with changes. And so much going on with children. There are so many situations. I don’t know where I am meeting you right now, but I cannot help but believe that there is some good in this for you. What if, like Grandma Bunny experienced, what if there are some good things that will come out of this if we’re willing to look at the big picture?

It’s so easy, and trust me I feel it right now. It’s so easy to get caught in narrow thinking if we are, I’m just going to speak for myself, if you are constantly reading the news, and I’ve had moments like this, constantly reading the news, suddenly I feel like the walls are closing in on me. I feel like, “Oh my goodness, what is happening in our world right now?” It definitely has taken me a few weeks to just let the sheer fact of what’s happening sink in a little bit. Are you feeling that right now, too? Even though I’m feeling all those things, when I step away a little bit and I look at the big picture and I think, “Wow, I know 20 years from now we’re going to have so many stories about this.” Lord willing, we will have some really good stories about how we all overcame this together and the strength we took it from it.

I hope these are stories of perseverance that build our family culture and build our family narrative and are things that our great-grandchildren will hear about just like I have heard about the stories from my grandparents: stories of strength, stories of perseverance, stories that include a little quirkiness with a closet full of wrapping paper. But you know what? There’s a richness there, and I am praying the same for you. That out of this hard time will come so much good fruit if we’re willing to take the long view and step away even just for a few moments a day to gain some perspective.

I walk outside my house, and the birds are still singing. Spring has not been canceled. The flowers are still blooming. There are children that are still laughing. We will get through this together. We will be changed by it. My hope is that we will, in the long view, be changed for the better. Like we talked about together in Episode 8 how to number your days, uprooting experiences can be gifts of perspective to make you look at the long view. As my friend, Christine Kane, says, you may feel like you’re being buried, but you’re just being planted to grow.

So number one is to take the long view. Look at the big picture and know that this season will not last forever. You will reap gifts from this time, most of them gifts of perspective. What are the things in your life that you will probably never take for granted again out of the season? Perhaps it is community. I cannot wait to hug my people. I cannot wait. I say that with almost tears in my eyes. I cannot wait to bear hug my people. It’s just going to be long embrace after long embrace. I will never take that for granted again. That, my friend, is a gift of perspective. What are the gifts that you are reaping out of this season?

So number one you’re going to take the long view. And number two, I love these words from my friend, Hannah Brencher. She said, “Do in the dark what you know how to do in the light. She was specifically speaking about depression there. Doesn’t that so beautifully apply to us right now? Do in the dark what you know how to do in the light. Take care of yourself in more intentional ways than perhaps you ever have before so that you can take care of other people, too. Maybe there have been times for you, though, where you feel like, “I don’t want to care for myself. I just want to sit.” That’s okay. It can be really hard. You got to fight for it, right? That’s what I keep telling myself. I have to fight to be intentional right now because there are so many things that are trying to get me down.

Maybe you’re feeling this way, too. I think that there are been times I’ve been searching for certainty in the news. Have you done that, too? You’re just searching for that one headline or that one update or something that’s going to tell you this is going to be okay. For me, I know that the only place I’m going to find that certainty ever is not in the news. I have to be more intentional about placing my attention, my heart, my eyes, my ears where I know I’m going to find real lasting fuel.

Now, there’s an alternative to this. I like thinking about alternatives because it kind of motivates me. It gets me off the couch. What if you don’t do in the dark what you know how to do in the light? You just keep going through the motions and soaking up every bit of fear-filled news. What if you keep going there? You wouldn’t be listening to this episode if you wanted to keep going there, right? But what if we do? What if we do the things in the dark that we know how to do in the light? Imagine the possibilities. Feed your mind and your body and your spirit with really good fuel right now, more than ever. In fact, let’s do that right now. Can we? I’m going to take you outside. Let’s go out in the garden.

It’s so good to get outside. Especially right now I have relished my time just standing out here by the garden. There’s not really a whole lot growing out here right now. Out of the seven raised bed boxes we have out here, I have one box that has pansies still left over from the fall. Then we have a few pots full of bulbs that are about on their last leg. But most of all, there’s dirt. There is cultivated soil that’s ready to plant. The kids and I over the weekend in an effort to completely stay away from screens and my phone and the news and to refresh my mind and fuel myself and fuel them, we got out with some shovels, and we started to cultivate the soil. Now, “to cultivate” means to prepare the soil, to turn it over, to dig it up, to pull out the old roots of the past, to break up the rocks in the hard places in order to prepare that soil for new growth ahead. Oh, hi. There’s a garden friend here. Hi, Grace.

Hi.

Well, Gracie, this has been kind of a crazy time for you, too, hasn’t it?

Yeah.

You miss your friends a lot, don’t you?

Yeah.

You know what’s cool is out here in the garden we’ve been able to do some pretty cool stuff. Tell us what’s happening out here in the garden lately.

We’ve got a swing and put it on one of our trees.

We did.

We are playing with a basketball and a soccer ball. We’re going on a lot more bike rides and climbing trees.

Yes, thank God for trees. We’ve pretty much emptied our garage of every possible activity. And we found something cool in the garage, right? We found a set of horseshoes, and that has been really fun to play.

And croquet.

Oh, and croquet, yeah, from my days as a wedding planner when we used to have lots of events where couples would want horseshoes and croquet on the lawn. It’s been stuffed away in my garage. But it’s been a lot of fun. Gracie, there’s a lot of folks out there who are really needing some wise encouragement. Do you have any words of encouragement for people during this time?

All I can think of is FaceTime your friends and eat a lot of food.

That’s some wise words. Thank you my sweet girl.

Bye.

Bye, sweetie. I love her so much, so sweet. Out of the mouth of babes, right? Back to the garden, we were talking about how there’s soil right here. I’m just standing next to the dirt and about how we took our shovels in and we cultivated that soil to get it ready for new things ahead. Now, there’s something interesting about that. When we plant seeds, there’s no guarantee that they will actually grow. We don’t know. If I plant a tomato seed, I don’t know even how many tomatoes it’s going to grow. But what I do is we cultivate the soil. We plant our seeds in faith, and we hope for the best. We take a risk for the good ahead. In the same way, let’s plant seeds of light, doing in the dark what we know how to do in the light. Let’s plant some of those seeds right now in hope, in faith that they will reap rewards in the big picture and even in the weeks to come.

Write down some of the things that you could do right now that you would be so grateful that you did a year from now. If you just even look ahead to the future for a moment and imagine yourself a year from now thinking back on this time, what will you be so grateful you did during this time? What are the seeds you’ll be so thankful that you planted?

Here are some of the very small things that I’m doing right now. First of all, I am trying my very best every day to fill my head and my heart with truth. I have been using… It was rather amazing. I finished my Write the Word Worship journal the day before all of this really escalated in our country. The next morning I thought to myself, “I have got to do our Write the Word Hope journal.” I remember choosing those Scriptures, goodness, about a year or two years ago and thinking, “I hope this helps people in times when they really need reassurance of God’s promises. Guess what? I needed them. I needed them right then. It has been so life giving to spend every night opening up my physical Bible, which is one of my PowerSheets goals for the year, opening up the physical Bible, writing out that Scripture each day, and intentionally cultivating gratitude right where I am.

In the Write the Word journal, you have one page on the left where you write out what you’re grateful for, and you write your Scripture. Then the page on the right is where you write out what’s on your heart. I’m sure that your heart has been a little bit like mine lately where there have been multiple things on my heart, a myriad, a roller coaster of emotions day-to-day sometimes. I have just poured out my fears, my worries, my anxieties. Then there are days when I know, I know that I’ve got a grumbling heart, I’ve got a fearful heart, and I need to actually pour out praise. I need to intentionally, and it feels like a sacrifice to lay down words of praise to say, “Uh, even those I’m feeling all these things, I’m so grateful for this, and I’m so grateful for this.”

And four or five lines in, I start to feel my body change. I started to feel that lightness and the peace that passes all understanding. So that has been the very best things is doubling down on my commitment that I made even at the beginning of this year but even more so of getting my head in my physical Bible and reading Scripture and reading God’s truth. There’s nothing better than that right now for me. I’ve also continued to read the Bible each morning with a group of friends. We have now turned our little chat area where we’re supposed to be talking about the Bible into the prayer area because we all really need it right now. So those things, we’ve been using these things in completely different ways.

So number one for me is filling my head and my heart with truth before the world gets a word in. Number two, I’m considering documenting this time and writing out the story of how we’re overcoming this for our children. I’m going to use one of our legacy journals. Ari and I have decided to write out the stories of this time for them, to write letters to them to say, “Here’s what you did today. Here are the things that happened in our world and the things that we did to overcome them. Here are the things that you all enjoyed together today or how you were kind to each other.” There is power in narrative. Just like I told you the story of Grandma Bunny, perhaps they will one day tell stories of our resilience and intentionality in the face of uncertainty to their children.

I’m running up and down my driveway every morning for exercise while the kids pull weeds. Pro tip, I am paying our children one penny per weed, and there are a lot of weeds. I have cleared this with our family budget, and I’m ready and willing to pay up. But that’s what I’m doing for exercise right now. I just need to get out, get some fresh air. I’m using what I have right where I am. I am listening to great music, running up and down my driveway every morning while the kids pull weeds or just poke around in the yard. I’m doing that because in this time we have to do in the dark what we know how to do in the light. It would be much easier to just sit on the couch and do nothing. But I know in order to serve my people, my family, my husband, my team, our community, our neighbors, and to be ready to serve, I need to take care of myself. So focus on the basic things: exercise, drink water, eat healthy food where you can.

Can we just stop for a minute and listen to these birds? Ah, isn’t this amazing? Sometimes I just come out here and I just stand for a minute and try to leave all the thoughts behind and just listen to the birds. I think of so many Scriptures about how the birds do not labor or toil. They do not worry. Yet, God feeds them, and it’s the same for us.

You and I have talked so much about how words have power, so something I’m doing is watching my words. I’m watching how, and maybe you’ve caught yourself doing this, too, sometimes the words of fear can come out of my mouth, and then they send this signal all throughout my body. Anyone else feel that way? So I’m watching my words. I’m trying intentionally not to hide my words, but to speak words of truth, to say, “I may feel anxious right now. I may feel scared, but in my case, I know that God has it.” So speaking words of truth over the things that I’m feeling. Ari and I are also watching our words together with our kids, trying to speak words to them of trust and hope and telling them about the times that we feel anxious and yet how God is helping us. We’re taking it day by day.

Some days we need to watch a movie together. Some days we pull away from the TVs and the phones and the screens, and we need to read a great book aloud. One of those books I’ll recommend to you that we just finished is Heidi. Uh, I cried reading the end of it. It was so beautiful.

A TV recommendation, we just watched the Mr. Rogers movie. There’s a scene in the movie that was so poignant for right now where Fred Rogers, and this is a true story, Fred Rogers is sitting in the home of a magazine writer, and the magazine writer’s whole family is there. His dad is there. His dad is essentially on his death bed. The family mentions something about traveling somewhere, and all of a sudden the atmosphere in the room just crushes. It just dies because they know, “Oh, wait. Dad won’t be here for that.” But nobody says anything. There’s this awkward silence in the room.

Of course, Fred Rogers, he speaks up in the way that only he could to help people deal with their feelings and embrace what is happening. He said something to the effect of whatever is part of the human experience, whatever we experience, emotions, feelings, interactions with people, whatever it is that we experience is human, and whatever is part of the human experience is mentionable, and whatever is mentionable is manageable. I know. Doesn’t that just make you take a deep breath? Whatever is part of the human experience is mentionable whether it’s death or COVID-19 or the economy or changes, whatever it may be, whatever you are experiencing is mentionable, and whatever is mentionable is manageable. So thank you, Mr. Rogers, for helping us in such a time as this.

Speaking of Mr. Rogers, I have to give a quick encouragement to those of you who have kids out there, kids who may be home from school suddenly. Your kids are going to be great. I know you are suddenly homeschoolers. We’re on our third year of homeschooling, so I can still count myself as a newbie. But as a third-year homeschooler, I’m going to give you the encouragement that was given to me in the beginning of this journey and even up to today that still rings true for me, you’re enough, and your kids are going to be just fine. In fact, they’re going to be better than fine. Your kids will be better for this. They will see you struggle, and they will see you rise above this.

Now, many times I say that the times that Grace really learns the most from Ari and I as parents is not when we’re perfect. It’s when we’re imperfect. It’s when I get an opportunity to show her how I’m struggling and then show her how I’m relying on God and show her that it’s okay to mess up. It’s okay to not be perfect. It’s amazing what kids can teach themselves, too. So your kids will be better for this. If you need a resource to give you some structure in this time, I’ve got it for you. We’ve got a free homeschool planner. Even if you just print out a month for right now or for whatever time period you need for your schooling, go tinyurl.com/freehomeschoolplanner. That’s tinyurl.com/freehomeschoolplanner. I’ve already had a lot of you say that you even found it by happenstance and have downloaded it for this season, and it’s been so helpful for you, so I hope that’s helpful.

Between using my Write the Word journal at night to pour out my thoughts and find peace to documenting how we’re overcoming this season and getting out for some exercise and getting those kids to pull those weeds, there are so many things that I’m trying intentionally to do every day, little by little, planting these seeds, and doing in the dark what I know how to do in the light. The tool of, of course, I’m using the most in this season is my PowerSheets Intentional Goal Planner. It’s kind of amazing. But I woke up the morning after we had to cancel our Making Things Happen conference and so many changes here at work, and I thought to myself, “Man, I’m so grateful for my PowerSheets.” I’m so grateful for making these things nine years ago during a time when life felt very uncertain, and I had too many things on my plate, and I needed to refocus. I’m doing just that now. So if you have PowerSheets, I highly encourage you to get messy in them, scratch out things or goals that do not apply anymore. Perhaps they were travel related or whatever it may be. Circumstances have changed. What an amazing opportunity to refocus right now.

As I’m recording this for you, I’m about to do my April goal refresh. It’s so right on time. I cannot wait to use this as an opportunity to double down on the things that matter most and to reshape my goals for this season so that I take the long view and do in the dark what I know how to do in the light and help others do the same. Now, I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this. I have another podcast. I have another podcast. I know, crazy right? Hop over to the PowerSheets PrepCast where I will guide you step by step through doing your PowerSheets for April including that goal refresh. It’s so right on time and hop on over and take a listen.

Also I have to also just put a plug in here for the amazing gentleman who produces this podcast, Chris. He also writes original music for so much of these episodes. I just love seeing people use their gifts and talents for wonderful things. So a collective thank you from all of us to you, Chris, for helping to encourage us in that way. You all go over to the PrepCast and listen, too. He’s got some amazing music in that also. For many more resources, and ideas for how to do in the dark what you know how to do in the light, especially using your Tending List, how to make a Tending List during this time in order to thrive, go over to cultivatewhatmatters.com. Click on the tab at the top that says COVID-19 resources, and you will find a blog post that outlines lots of amazing ideas for monthly and weekly and daily action items that are going to push you forward towards what matters most.

Lastly, we’re ending each day as a family talking more intentionally about the blessings of the day. We are fighting those fears with faith and talking about the blessings of the day. We’re taking it day by day right alongside you with the long view in mind and trying our very best with what we have to turn challenges into opportunities. So number one, take the long view. Number two, do in the dark what you know how to do in the light. Then number three, help others do the same. When you look at the big picture and take the long view and then you do those things that fuel you and fuel other people around you, you become part of the solution. You’ll feel renewed and energized even in the smallest ways to help others do the same.

Perhaps the biggest motivation I have right now to fuel myself is to be readily available for whatever needs Ari or our kids and my family and my team have. I want to be here to serve. So how do I help them thrive in this season and create a ripple effect? The one thing I can consistently do no matter my circumstances is to listen. People really need to talk things out right now and to process in whatever ways they need. That might not mean verbally. Maybe your kids, they really need to draw out how they’re feeling. Maybe you just need to run out how you’re feeling. Whatever it is, listen. We may not know what to say or what to do, but we can listen. We can listen and lend empathy with this simple question: “How are you?” Then ask a second question: “Tell me more about that. How does that make you feel? What is that like for you?” In listening, we may discover better ways to help.

Our world desperately needs hope right now. You and I, we can give hope. Right now in fact, I’d like to give it to you. I want you to know that I have a hope that does not fade or change. I am not afraid in this time. I certainly have my moments of fear, moments of anxiety, but in the big picture, I know who’s got this. I know our circumstances may change. It’s very likely that my husband could get this virus being on the front lines where he works, but I know for sure the one that does not change. God never changes. His promises never fade, no matter what. I’m trusting in that, and I’m fighting for that. I’m fighting to remember that constantly. One of the words that’s used in the Bible the most, I think 162 times, is “remember” because He knew we were going to forget, not just in the good seasons but especially in the hard seasons. So fuel yourself so that you can help others do the same and remember the truth. This season will not last forever, and there are gifts in this season when we are able to see them.

One of the things you might need to do right now in order to be able to have perspective, I cannot negate the power of a really great therapist. Highly recommend professional counseling in this time. I think we’d be remiss to say that none of us needed it. More than ever in our world, I’m pretty sure all of us could use some really great counsel right now. Whether that’s with a licensed therapist, whether that’s with a very trusted friend, a mentor in your church, whoever it may be, find someone that you can talk your thoughts out with so they don’t just stay in your head. I especially think about my friends, I don’t know why I’m getting all choked up now, my friends who are widows, friends who are living alone right now. I’m speaking right to you. You are the ones that we need to be reaching out to the most. So if you know someone who is a widow or lives alone, reach out to them to say, “Hey, I’d really just like to spend time with you. Maybe we could just fold our laundry together sitting on a FaceTime call.” Right?

We got on a Zoom call together with our family group the other night. It didn’t even matter what we said to each other. It was just the sheer fact that we were seeing each other’s faces. You all know that when this all ends, Lord willing, please let it come soon, but when this all ends, oh, we’re going to have so many hugs saved up. Gracious, I cannot wait. I just feel like that is one of the biggest blessings of this time is we are storing up so much love. There’s going to be an explosion of love and togetherness and celebrations when this passes. But until it does, we know how to thrive in this time that may feel uncertain. We know for certain that we can look at the big picture and take the long view. We know that we can do in the dark what we know how to do in the light, and we can help others do the same. So get to it. Do what you can with what you have where you are day by day. We may not know how things will change in our economy, in the world from day-to-day, but let’s focus on the things that we can change, the small things that add up to the big things.

Now, what do you do in the many moments where fear and anxiety will try to suck the life out of you? One of the things you can do is to write things down. Write out or review your big picture in your PowerSheets. Read those pages about what really matters to you in the big picture and what doesn’t. Imagine yourself many years from now looking back on the whole of your life, where will you be grateful you spent your time and attention right now? I’m going to ask you again. Just let the thoughts settle in. Imagine yourself many years from now looking back on the whole of your life, where will you be grateful you spent your time and attention right now? Write that down.

Number two, write down the things you can do in the dark. You’ll find lots of ideas on how to change your Tending List, things to do in this season to cultivate what matters at cultivatewhatmatters.com/blog. Number three, write down just one person who needs encouragement and connection right now. We may feel overwhelmed with so much need around us. There are so many people that need help right now, but just focus on the power of one. Because I want you to imagine the ripple effect if you were to even just focus on helping one person, encouraging one person deeply, imagine how they will be able to do the same. It’s a beautiful domino effect.

Now, if we don’t move forward intentionally, if we just keep letting life swirl around us, imagine the lost opportunities. You were made for such a time as this, so imagine what would happen if you do some of these things. What will happen when you take the long view, when you do the things in the dark you know how to do in the light, and you fuel yourself? What will happen when you help others do the same? Imagine it. Your small actions today can truly have a ripple effect on the world right now. The world needs hope right now, and I believe you’re about to give it.

So where do you begin? Where do you start? You start where all good things begin, with one small step. Take the long view. Grandma Bunny thrived and lived a wonderful life after the 1918 pandemic. Like her family, our families will be changed by this experience. There’s no doubt about it. But what if, what if the small steps we take today change us and generations after us for the better? It’s possible. We can thrive in the midst of uncertainty, and we’re not alone. This is one of the few times in history when we’re united against a common enemy together. We can cultivate what matters little by little, day by day, and we’re doing it together.

Oh, this has been so refreshing, so good to be out here, out with the birds. My dear friends, the birds, thank you for singing for us today. This has been such a gift of time to be with you. I wish I could be with you in person, but until then this is a very close second. Friends, we are with you, and we at Team Cultivate, we would love to hear what you’re experiencing. How are you feeling? What are you doing in this time to live intentionally right where you are? Let us know. Come on over to cultivatewhatmatters.com. Drop us a note. We’d also be so grateful to pray for you in this time. Reach out to us and let us know how we can support you, and we are here. We’re doing this together. Till next time, know this, spring is not canceled, so get out there if you can and smell the roses, get your hands dirty, and cultivate what matters.