Lancia E. Smith
The story of how Cultivating and The Cultivating Project came to be is a story probably best started in the middle. As is often the case, however, the seeds were planted many years ago. (To read more about this, follow here.)
What grew to become something involving many people was first begun by one person starting something small with no idea where it would lead. Isn’t that the way it so often works? This is a case surely of Loaves and fishes.
Cultivating started as a one-person blog in 2007 to do two things. One, to try to develop my very small voice in a very loud world; and two, to offer encouragement and inspiration to others, especially to those creatively inclined and struggling with depression and difficulty.
That struggle was, and is, personal to me. The choice to fight for the light instead of surrendering to the darkness is the choice between life and death, the blessing and the curse – the choice offered to us by God and recorded for us in Deuteronomy 30.19.
What we choose to cultivate is what comes to fruit in our life, for good or ill, and we all choose, one or the other. I understand this in context of my life as a follower of Christ, and as someone in long recovery.
During its first 10 years, Cultivating the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, was run personal blog and website site. However, eventually I began inviting guest writers to join me. Some of those guest writers became beloved friends and are still with Cultivating to this day. Through those early years, we practiced our crafts and learned how to find our footing in the tremendous arena of online publishing. Our relative anonymity was a gift during that time! We could practice the basics again and again, with few judging eyes on us while we worked for mastery. It was a protected time!
Yet, as tended and persistent things are inclined to do, we grew. We grew in number as I invited others were invited to join us, we grew in reach to readers around the globe, we grew in depth of how we function as a fellowship, and we grew in understanding our purpose.
I was given opportunity to serve with two organizations during these years of establishing and planting the work, which deeply influenced our growth: first, the C.S. Lewis Foundation, the organization I’ve had the honour to serve with since 2006; second, the Anselm Society, an organization that I was blessed to become involved with in 2014. These organizations gave me a place to heal, to develop restored identity, and to offer my gifts for the blessing of others. In both organizations, I was given unreserved welcome, a place to belong, and the priceless gift of fellowship. And I was given something I was almost completely lacking - confidence. Confidence to speak, teach, serve, and build. Without the friendship of the C.S. Lewis Foundation I doubt that Cultivating would have ever come into being. Without the friendship of the Anselm Society, Cultivating would not have been sustained long enough to establish roots and flourish. While Cultivating is not directly tied to or stemming out of either of these good organizations, both of them have encouraged and inspired the work we do in The Cultivating Project, and with their friendship have given us wind beneath our wings.
One of the true wonders of The Cultivating Project is watching fellow members change through the years of being engaged in this work and this community. Individuals are carefully chosen and invited to join the project for a three-year term and to participate in the life of our work together during that time. Many have come in shy and uncertain; some have joined us already published but feeling isolated. One thing that happens in common though is each of us becomes both softer and stronger. We grow more into our own skin as human beings bearing the likeness of our Maker, and we grow more courageous and capable in our making. This is the joy and grace of doing this work of restoration together.
Before launching the site in its then new form in 2018, I asked the Lord what the purpose was / is for this website. What was its telos? The answer that was given to me wasn’t at all what I expected. He said, "To give My people courage."
The Lord didn’t say to ‘remind My people of goodness, truth, and beauty.’ He didn’t say to give them a beautiful resting place or even to offer them comfort. He said to give one thing – courage. The original meaning of the word ‘courage’ from which we derive our word today of Courage means heart – the seat of deep emotions and temper, the wellspring of our being. Courage in its original context means more than bravery in battle or the face of difficulty. It is the driving force behind living an outward, whole, unintimidated, fully committed life. To act out of a whole heart.
“Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life.”
C.S. Lewis wrote in The Screwtape Letters, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.”
That is still the core of my hope for Cultivating: to give courage to beleaguered believers to choose life. Courage to live into the calling to be writers and makers, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, friends, and fellows. Courage to love bravely and whole-heartedly. Courage to cultivate hope and defend it. Courage to shine faithfully and twinkle brightly in a darkening world. Courage to believe there is light on the horizon because that Light is the Son of God coming to set up His Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven. This is the life of courage that we are called to.
We have traveled a hard distance already and given our loaves and fishes. After four years together in this endeavor, instead of our work getting easier for us or having mastered all, The Cultivating Project is invited to step across a threshold into a new unknown. We are asked now to take another step of faith, a more courageous act of trust and obedience.
This step of obedience is for the launch of a new website and our steady path to becoming a print publication. It is also about how we grow as fellows with each other, how we serve the world of need before us, how we bear a stronger, brighter witness to our Maker. None of us can say what will come of this new website, this new effort of our merry band of makers offering our gifts and courage. We only know that our High King, our Captain, calls us forward to follow Him. We know He is Faithful and Good. As our elder brother in Christ said it years ago,
“Meanwhile the cross comes before the crown, and tomorrow is a Monday morning. A cleft has opened in the pitiless walls of the world, and we are invited to our great Captain inside. The following Him is, of course, the essential point.”
C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
If you feel so called, come join us, and may every grace be yours!
Goodness carries us,
Truth upholds us,
Beauty makes us
A Field Guide to Cultivating ~ Essentials to Cultivating a Whole Life, Rooted in Christ, and Flourishing in Fellowship
Enjoy our gift to you as our Welcome to Cultivating! Discover the purpose of The Cultivating Project, and how you might find a "What, you too?" experience here with this fellowship of makers!