As I think back on this year, I am grateful I chose the word cultivate. It inspired me in ways that surprised me all year long.
I chose this word because I wanted to grow. I wanted to nurture in myself skills and interests that were either lying fallow or just not getting enough attention.
These are the places that benefitted from a year of cultivation:
1. Art and creativity - I took on a special project that began a month ahead and stayed with me through the whole year. I created a Liturgical Art Journal that followed the church year, from Advent through Christ the King Sunday. (Roughly November-November) I created a visual depiction of what inspired me in worship. I tried to let myself be open to whatever moved me that day: hymns, Scripture, the sermon, or just the overall mood. It was a challenge to put on the paper, mostly through the medium of collage, what I saw in my mind or felt in my being. It is a journal I will treasure and already have used it for my own devotional moments. Here are a few pictures.
Minnesota over the summer.
What I learned from all of these artistic endeavors is that the more I create art just for the sake of pure creating, the more I am creative in all parts of my life.
2. Honoring the sacredness of creation - I attempted to be more "zen" about my yard. Gardening has been a
frustration for me. It feels like a battle every growing season. This year I tried to embrace the different parts of the growing season and see the miracles that are unique to each month. I planted a small vegetable garden. This was fun even though I had limited success yielding few tomatoes and peppers. It proved to me that my yard is just too shady for these plants. As for my flower gardens, I limited the use of chemicals and tried to care for them as naturally as possible. I became more mindful of the connectedness of all life. I also began using the word soil instead of dirt. Soil is its own miraculous living organism.
I know I will continue this journey again in the spring. I highly recommend reading the book The Seasons on Henry's Farm by Terra Brockman if you are at all interested in mindful eating and food production. It has changed the way I grocery shop and now more fully support local and organic farmers.
3. Professional Leadership - This was an area I didn't expect to be affected by my word of the year or even anticipate working on improving. Beginning in June, I participated in a six month leadership development course
through my Chicago area denominational organization. This is an example of the importance of sharing your word of the year with other people. I had been asked to participate in this and said no - turned them down flat. Then when the church leadership came back and asked me again, a friend who knew of my word "cultivate" told me maybe this was a way to live out that word in another way. That advice helped me see myself and this leadership course in a new way. Of course I should say yes! I am looking to grow.
I am so grateful I did. The ideas and techniques I learned through the facilitators and my colleagues have
changed the way I work and how I live out my role as a leader in the church. I have begun mentoring a few leaders one-on-one. This has been very rewarding for everyone. In every conversation I discover more about myself and how I can do better. I also have changed how I interact with the leaders in my area of ministry at Faith. I am not sure they have noticed but I do not call them volunteers anymore. They are leaders. Each one in their own way are helping children and adults have a deeper relationship with God and others. That is leadership!
I knew the word cultivate had connotations of growing and nurturing. That is why I chose it. All year it brought to mind for me that I am like the flowers and plants in my yard. Sometimes my own personal growth feels like a battle. I am pushing against rocks and weeds in the soil trying to find the nutrients and sunlight I need. I am grateful for my own gardeners, those to help prune and tend to me so that I will grow and blossom. Just like one of those time-lapse videos of a plant growing and blooming, my year of cultivation feels like that. It has been a year full of slow steps moving forward but as I look back I see all the beauty and growth that has come from the nurture I have received.