Episode 037 of the Cultivate Your Life Podcast was released on June 24th, 2020. Listen here!

Oh friend, you’ve been through a crazy year so far. Hard things keep happening and it feels like your supply of hope is running low. There’s so much on your mind, so many new circumstances and new ways of understanding the world that you’re trying to fit together into a complete picture. You’re ready for a refresh, a breath of fresh air, some new hope and a chance to look back and look forward. To put the new perspective you’ve gained from this year to good use. Today, I’m going to lead you through three simple steps to refresh your life. Right now, right where you are, let’s chat.

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.

Okay, let’s get some fresh air, some real fresh air. Can we step out into my garden together? I’m so excited to tell you that we have a lot to go see out there. Let’s go. My friend, look at this, there are things growing. I was just telling the kids yesterday as I was making them some grilled cheeses for dinner, that there is a beautiful verse that I love from Ecclesiastes that says, “To everything there is a season.” And I was reminding them of a year ago. I was like, “Guys, do you remember where we were a year ago? And our house flooded and so many unexpected things happened and our garden wasn’t growing. Do you remember looking out here at this garden and seeing a lot of dirt?” And now here we are out here and my sunflowers, actually, I can’t even call them mine, technically their Josh’s.

Josh’s sunflowers are 12 feet tall, 12 feet tall. The pumpkin vine out here is 30 feet long. And y’all there’s a pumpkin. It’s like the size of a soccer ball right now and rapidly growing by the second. We have zinnias, we have so many flowers, in fact, there’s some out here that I planted seeds and just in the habit of thinking, “Well, who knows, are these are going grow?” So I didn’t label anything. I don’t even know what half these things are, but they’re pretty and they’re growing. Our garden isn’t perfect, it’s not weed-free but things are growing this year.

And in the midst of this tumultuous upside down year, I’m very grateful to see evidence of things that I didn’t see at the very beginning, to know that good things do grow little by little over time and one seed planted can grow into something marvelous. Put a little bit of faith and a whole lot of trust. Maybe you’re craving some of that faith and trust right now. You need to be renewed, you need your faith to be renewed. Your mind, your soul, your body, all of it needs a refresh.

Well, step one, let’s just dig right in, shall we? Step one is to refresh your mind because so much has happened this year that there has been more than ever before on our minds. Our minds have literally been filled to the brim and overflowing. And you might feel like you need to take a pause to sift through it all and to know what to do next. Let’s do that. Go to midyearrefresh.com, midyearrefresh.com. And you can download a free Mid-Year Refresh worksheet and fill this out either just in a few minutes in one sitting or you can do it a little bit over time, do this Mid-Year Refresh however it works best for you. And step number one is to renew your mind.

Now, you know this well. You felt this before that a refreshed mind is better able to make good decisions. How many times have you made some, let’s call them interesting, interesting decisions on a full mind? I know I have. We’re just going to leave it at that, interesting decisions. A refreshed mind is better able to make good decisions and better prepared to live those decisions out. First, let’s just briefly quiet the noise. Quiet the opinions and the information and the advice and whatever chatter bombards your mind every day. Let’s just give our minds a chance to rest and be restored.

Now, when we do this and we’ll have a little bit of space, even if you just do it for five minutes to step outside, just even pause this episode right now, pause and take a breath step outside. When we even do that for even just a few minutes we gain new perspective for the days ahead, we allow our minds to settle, to stop, maybe to allow ourselves to feel difficult things or process difficult things. I know for me lately there’ve been many moments where I stop and I think, “I don’t want to feel this right now,” and that’s okay. I don’t want to feel this right now, I don’t want to experience this pain right now. And yet, when I allow myself to do that in a safe space and in a safe way, I can move through it. I can move through it.

Susan Jeffers has a phrase I’ve loved for years, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” Now that doesn’t mean to just go skydive out of a plane and do all these extraordinary things that you’ve always wanted to do, that means to feel first. And sometimes again, we talk about this all the time together. That might mean inviting a professional counselor into your thoughts. But the first step is to feel, feel the fear and then do it anyway. As you renew your mind, you may have pictures in your mind about, “Oh, I want this renewal of my mind, this feels so perfect and feels so good. I feel like I’m walking on clouds.” It may not feel that way right now, but when you take a step forward and you allow your mind to start to unravel, good things can still come from that step by step by step.

There are so many ways to renew our minds and refresh our minds. It may look like breaking a habit or trying a new habit, stepping outside to just take a breath of fresh air or take a walk. Maybe it’s changing the way you think about something by filling your mind with new thoughts. Maybe it’s not watching the news, or maybe it’s taking a break from social media, switching up your environment, sitting at a different place to read a book. There are so many things we can do to break the patterns of our brains. And like you know so well now after all of our conversations, our brains seek out habits. They seek out patterns and those can be really good pieces of knowledge for you to tuck into your back pocket to use to create good habits.

But you know what? It’s also really good to know that, that you might be stuck in some bad patterns and you have the ability to break those. So, number one, refresh your mind. Use your Mid-Year Refresh worksheet to write down three very simple ways you might be able to do that today or in the next week, or over the next few months. For me, number one is stepping away from social media, stepping away from consuming so much information even if it’s just like I always do on the weekends or an extra day or whatever it may be.

Number two, always renewing my mind by filling it with good words. I’ve been loving, loving the New Blank Write the Word Journal from the Cultivate Shop and I just love how that’s allowed me to unwind and write out all my thoughts and be filled up with good ones. And number three for me, it’s being out here, it’s being out here. I can’t not feel hope looking at this little dance bumblebee. The side note, we started reading a book called Humble Bumblebee. I mean, first of all, it’s the cutest title, but it is all about the history of bumblebees and it is just fascinating. I know y’all, I’ve become the crazy garden lady. As we talked about last time, the crazy bird lady and I will 100% on being the crazy bumblebee lady, and honey bees, I love them all. Okay, I digress. I can’t be out here with you and not look around me and be delighted.

Number three for me is to step outside to remember that while I may have planted a lot of these seeds I did not make them grow. I am not the one who is in charge, and that is a very good thing. But I am, I am responsible for planting the seeds and coming back here to watch and to notice and to tend. And it’s the same thing with our lives, we do our part in faith and plant our seeds and then we get to step back and watch God do His thing. Step number one, refresh your mind before you make any plans for the second half of this year. Before you step into your 2020 2.0, first, refresh your mind. Remember go over to midyearrefresh.com, download the free worksheet and you can follow along as we go through this episode or do it whenever on your own time.

You’ll also find some really great helpful free videos there, and so much encouragement for you this week. You’ll also find a blog post with so many more suggestions on how to refresh your mind. And again, this might look like unplugging from technology or spending time outside, brain dumping all your thoughts on paper or in a journal, working or eating a meal in a new part of your house or reading or watching something that challenges you or opens you up to a new perspective. Go download that worksheet, watch those videos and I can’t wait to hear how you’re renewing your mind.

Step number two is to refresh your big picture. If you’ve been here with me for any length of time out in the garden, you’re a pro at this already. After the year of twists and turns we’ve all had it can feel impossible to plan for the next six months, right? It can feel like, “I don’t know what’s going to happen next. There’s so many unknowns, I’m not sure if I want to move forward.” But that’s where focusing on the big picture comes in. It’s your way to break free from the hesitation, the fear, the unknown and the overwhelm. When we focus on the big picture, instead of rigid plans, right? We’ve all at the beginning of this year, probably a lot of us made plans. Maybe it was travel plans or school plans and clearly a lot of those got thrown out the window.

But when we focus on the big picture, instead of getting so hung on rigid plans, we can live out what matters with and here’s that word that’s just going to give us all a big, deep breath. We can do it with flexibility. When you think about the big picture of your life, just let’s fast forward in our minds years from now. When you think about looking back at the whole of your life years from now, what will you be so glad you spent your time on? Whatever matters to you, once you know that there are always a million ways you can cultivate it no matter your circumstances.

For instance, cultivating the hearts of our children is something that matters a lot to me, especially this year, growing their faith, leading them to wonder and delight like my power sheets word of the year. Even though our circumstances changed drastically this year I’m still able to live that out day by day no matter what happens. I know what matters to me in the big picture, it allows me to be flexible about how I carry that out. I’m not so stuck on plans, I’m not so stuck on my original plan of saying, “Okay, we’re going to go on this trip here and we’re going to go to this national park and blah, blah, blah,” no. I can do it right here, right where I am.

And the best part is, as you know well, all progress is imperfect progress, and yet it adds up. Doesn’t that make you take a big, deep breath of relief? Your progress doesn’t have to be perfect and neither do you. This year more than ever you’ve gained new perspective about what matters and what doesn’t in the big picture. Now, imagine yourself, like we said years from now looking back on the whole of your life, where will you be grateful you spent your time and attention? Pull out that Mid-Year Refresh worksheet and write down your answers. And if you have your power sheets flip back to page 23, that’s going to refresh your mind right where you are.

When you take that first step of even just for a few moments, allowing your mind to be refreshed and then getting clear, writing it down in black and white or pink and purple or whatever you want, writing down what matters to you in the big picture, where are you going to be so grateful you spent your time? With those two things now you can renew and refresh your focus. Out here in the garden I have a distinct memory of the first time I planted tomatoes. And as I’ve shared with you before, as I would like to forget in my own life, the first year I planted, I don’t even know how many varieties, maybe a dozen different varieties of tomatoes because I just couldn’t control myself.

And I remember my friend Scott from the For Garden’s Sake Nursery here in Durham, North Carolina, he’s still a dear friend. I remember piling my wheelbarrow high with every tomato and herb and pepper and a peach tree, and so many things I just thought, “Okay, if I’m doing this gardening thing, I’m doing this gardening thing.” And I planted so many plants in this tiny little space. And with tomatoes, for me, they all turned out pretty tasteless. In fact, some of them didn’t even grow very well because the roots underneath the surface when you plant too many things in one small space, when you try to grow too much at once they start to suckle the life out of each other.

And you know where I’m going with this. It’s the same thing with our lives. Have you ever been so overwhelmed trying to focus on too many things at once? I know we’re all raising our hands, right? I’m raising two hands. This year, especially there have been many curve balls, curve ball after curve ball being thrown your way and it’s understandable, let’s just stop here. It’s okay, it’s understandable. Every human being alive right now is allowed to feel overloaded and overwhelmed and pulled in many different directions. Knowing what matters to you in the big picture, I want you to imagine what would it feel like to focus on just one thing over the next six months? That if you made progress on that one thing, it would move you closer to that big picture vision that you have for your life.

And now I know, I know what you’re thinking. I hear you choosing just one thing to cultivate feels impossible. We want to do it all or we feel like we have to do it all. Or we feel like one thing is just not enough, but when you choose the one thing that’s most important to you your next steps will be clearer. And you’ll actually do something about that one thing. Since they’re all pointed in the same direction your every step forward over the next six months will add up to something meaningful and you get to choose, you get to choose.

Would you rather spread yourself thin and do 50 things and maybe not do any of them well? Focus on 50 big goals that you want to accomplish by the end of this year and maybe end the year feeling defeated, I know we’ve all done it, right? You’re not going to do that though. By choosing just one most important thing, it doesn’t mean you can’t do other things too, but when you know the one most important thing, your focus will be clearer and you’ll be amazed at how much more enjoyable making little by little progress becomes for the next few months.

Now friends, as you consider where to spend the currency of your time and attention in the second half of 2020, let’s do a little math together. When you consider the need for so much more racial justice and understanding it’s easy to like your efforts, your efforts is just one person won’t add up to much, right? Now a single sunflower seed when it rose and it blooms, did you know what produces 1000 to 1400 seeds in one single sunflower? Even if let’s just say, do a little math here with me, even if say 100 of those 1000 to 1400 seeds get planted that makes 120,000 more seeds. Now in just a few seasons those numbers quickly multiply into the millions.

Are tending lists the things we decide to spend our time on in the next six months and in the rest of our lives? They are like open garden space, ready for good things to be planted and planned. If you were to even have just one conversation with a friend this month or take one step forward towards the racial justice and understanding, you might affect, let’s say two people. Now, those two people might continue what you started and affect two more people and so on and so on. I know it’s amazing, isn’t it? What we put on our tending lists and what we decide to spend our time on, even in the smallest little seeds, it matters. It really does add up.

Now there are about 100,000 of us here. There are about 100,000 of us in our Cultivate family. And let’s just imagine that that could lead to some pretty substantial change in the world if we all just took one step forward this month, just one. Imagine how that multiplies goodness in the world. If you’re looking for a place to start, we have a great host for you with tons of ideas to add to your tending list in the months ahead at cultivatingwhatmatters.com.

You’ve refreshed your mind even just for a breath. You’ve remembered and made more solid what matters to you in the big picture. You’ve gained so much perspective this year. And let’s just, can we stop for a second? And just like my garden that I’m looking out at right now, you’ve grown so much this year. There’ve been so many devastatingly difficult things that have happened, things that tried to knock you off your feet and yet you’ve grown so much this year and God’s not done with you yet. With your renewed focus and seeing what matters in the big picture, and then choosing one thing you’ll continue to focus on in the second half of the year, you’re going to end this year knowing that you cultivated what matters no matter how many steps you take backwards.

At this halfway point of the year imagine if you were to even spend, let’s say a third of the next portion of this year focusing on and taking action on some of the things that are important to you in the big picture. Will that add up? Absolutely. Just like this crazy huge pumpkin vine, it’s just enormous I can’t even see from one end to the other right now. Little by little your steps will add up, no perfection required. Now, we both know that many times it’s going to take a lot of time to truly feel refreshed, to truly allow your mind and your soul and all of you to start to feel alive again. Start somewhere, start here.

My garden, as you know for the last two seasons hasn’t done a whole lot. But now, now that I am here looking at things that are actually growing, I have to tell you I am so much more grateful and so much more in awe of God’s power because the last two seasons were empty. Take your first step wherever you are right now, renew your mind, allow your mind to focus on what is good and lovely and true. Renew your big picture, focus on what matters in the big picture to help you move through right now with that in mind to grow things that last far longer than you.

And with that in hand, renew your focus. When you say yes to what matters, you’re also saying no to what doesn’t. And trust me I know that no is hard. We’ve often joked together about how, if I ever read another chapter book it’s going to be called no, no, no, no, no, no, no, and all the ways I’ve said no. But I want you to imagine for a moment that you do this, that you refresh your mind and your big picture and your focus. How’s that going to feel at the end of this year when you look back? Oh, it’s going to feel so good, so good and that’s why I am so excited for you.

I am so excited for you and I’m ready to do this Mid-Year Refresh right alongside you so let’s do it. Let’s go over to midyearrefresh.com, download that free Mid-Year Refresh worksheet and get lots of encouragement from real life cultivators who are doing this right alongside you. I’m just so excited for you. I know how much you need this. Let me just say you deserve a medal. You deserve a trophy and a parade and a medal and another trophy, one of the really, really big ones, the ones that go like up to the ceiling. You do. You deserve a singing telegram, all of it for getting to this point in the year. You’ve overcome a lot, you are strong, you’re brave, you are wise and I’m so grateful for my time here with you.

Now, since we’re out here in the garden, I have to tell you some good news and I have to thank you alongside that. You have walked with me on this journey for so long. You’ve probably seen this on my tending list for years and it was just never the right timing but God always knows the perfect timing. I am so grateful to finally release the Gracie’s Garden children’s book. It comes out on July 14th and you can pre-order it right now wherever books are sold. You can also go over to graciesgardenbook.com on my new website, graciesgardenbook.com, and there’s the most adorable animated version of the book that Gracie herself got to do the voiceover for she’s so precious.

Go on over and I feel like you really should have your name under the author portion of this book right alongside me because so many of you have cheered me on in this in our conversations here and what inspired it. It’s a little book with a very timely message about learning to cultivate and wait, and learning that the rewards don’t just come at the end at the harvest, they come along the way if we’re willing to look around. And when we do we see miracles, daily miracles.

I always love our time out here, I love our time out here in the garden and I’m grateful there is a garden this year. I hope that encourages you. To everything there is a season and a time and purpose under heaven. And even though this year has felt like empty ground in so many ways, I pray that it is just a piece of land that is being cultivated and readied for good things ahead. Plant those seeds right where you are and don’t forget to get out there. Get your hands dirty, smell the roses and cultivate what matters. I’ll see you next time.