I had been so excited for the launch of Lara Casey's new book Cultivate. You could consider me a Cultivate What Matters fan girl. The content they produce always provide such great value! I try my best to not miss out on any of it. I adored listening to the audio version of Lara's first book, Making Things Happen, which I highly recommend the audio version as you get to hear Lara tell her own story. I decided to go with the print version for Cultivate, and I'm so glad I did! Reading the Introduction on day 1 of my 38 Days of Submission, it set the stage perfectly. I'm pretty confident there are more lines underlined than not.
My biggest take away from the chapter came from simply digging into the definition of Cultivate.
Cultivate: Serve. Nurture. Nourish. Prepare. Encourage. Improve. Refine. Pay Attention. Foster Growth. Loosen and break up hard ground. Care for what you've been given.
This time-off ends a very long season of survival mode. Reflecting on each of the words above, some resonate more than others. However, the level I'm doing such things as serving, preparing, improving, refining are touch and go. Maybe some days I can pour out, but it's only because I'm taking for a different area of life that will in turn suffer. The last one on the list hit me the hardest, "care for what you've been given." That right there is something I haven't done well.
On the following page it listed the opposite of cultivating is:
Abandoning. Neglecting. Disorganizing. Destroying. Ignoring.
Ding. Ding. Ding. We have a winner. This has been my life. In survival mode, these five words ring so true. It's never my intent to not care for what I've been given, yet due to the demands of life, and the things I've committed to with my "yes", I operate in a place where capacity is non-existent. Conviction hit, as I'm doing the opposite of cultivating the life God is calling me to.
I say this all knowing I'm covered with a ton of grace. While yes I still carry my regrets, I can see the ways God has carried me through one of the most complicated and challenging seasons to date. He has used the chaos to point me to grace, to point me to my cornerstone and the place I can go to find solid ground. He placed this time off of work, like a light at the end of a tunnel. It was through hope and prayer I waited to see if I would get the opportunity to get this blessing of capacity.
Now that it's here, on day one, he brought me to the pages of this book, in what is only his providential timing. As I closed out the first chapter, I decided to not go any further, even though I had only made it a few pages in. This isn't the Jena way. The Jena way would be to push. To keep reading and consuming until I reached the end, and then head onto something new. The Jena way would also work through this book until the next more exciting thing came up. However, I want this to be different. I want to slow down. I was each chapter to exist in my life like the sun tea I grew up watching my mother make. The goodness needs to sit in there and soak while being exposed to the light. A process that must not be rushed.
After getting up from my time of reading, I headed into the kitchen to take care of a couple items. I was reflecting on the story she shared on the opening page about an orchid she purchased. From a place of disappointment, I thought to myself, I would love to have a plant analogy in my life. In an almost eerie way, I related to so many of the words she shared in the introduction, including the many examples of how she strived and how each of them resulted in shame, yet I couldn't resonate with the plant analogy that kicked the book off. It's my proclivity to want to check off all the boxes, so this level of disappointment lingered, Until I looked over at the plant I brought home from my now prior office.
I looked at it and wept. This whole weeping thing God has brought me to over and over as he shows up in crazy ways that speak deeply to my heart. See, I've had this plant for six and a half years. I have yet to ever keep anything alive successfully, other than this plant. One reason for my success is the first five years of its life, a co-worker took perfect care of it for me, doing all the nurturing and tending it needed. It started in a very tiny pot as a gift after my grandmother passed away.
My grandmother was one of the most important people in my life. When she passed away it was utterly devastating. Having a plant I look at daily is a way for me to continue to have a tie to her and is a great blessing in my life. Over the five years, it upgraded pots three or four times. The person who cultivated it for me, knew the exact time it needed to be reported, the soil it needed, the watering frequency and light for it to grow just perfect. Having this perfectly tended plant in my office was a real gift.
After changing jobs a few years back, tending to this plant became my responsibility. While this plant didn't flourish as well as it could have, I did manage to keep it alive, a feat in and of itself. However, the week prior to leaving my job, I ended up being out of the office for the second half of the week. I neglected to water the plant before I left, and upon my return, my heart sank when I noticed my plant, as it appeared to be in the worse shape I had ever let it get to. It was completely wilted, which was usually the indicator I used to be reminded to water the plant, however it was different this time.
I made sure to water it right away, soaking it in the sink and praying I didn't destroy this precious gift of mine. The plant over the next few days perked back up and my hopes were high once again. One downside of my neglect was the fact many of the leaves died in the process. As I'm standing in the kitchen, taken back by this plant, I had the motivation to tend to it, and remove the dead leaves, a term called "dead-heading".
As I completed this process, I continued to weep. This is my plant. This is the analogy I didn't think I had in my life and it fits me all the more perfectly. See this plant was a gift given to me around the same time I became a Christian. For the first four years, I depended on the community around me to really hold me up when it came to my faith. The past two years, I've really grown into my own faith, and have begun to stand more firm. Yet, I still fall short when it comes to striving. This striving leads to neglect and all the other "opposite of cultivating" words.
Which at this point of the analogy, insert grace. In this new season, I get to soak myself in his living water, bringing to life what appeared dead. Cutting those dead leaves off, allows the remaining leaves to have more energy to grow stronger. This is my life.With the "dead-head" process complete, I can focus my energy on the areas God is calling me to and bring back to life. This is what I so desperately need and in God's great abundance he gave me this perfectly beautiful analogy to go along with his amazing grace!
Onto the next chapter... diging into the lie "I have to do it all". See, I told you it was perfect!