Welcome Everyone! For those who do not know I am leading a Bible study for women with chronic illnesses, and each week we read a chapter, answer chapter questions, and do a live stream on instagram about the book Cultivate by Lara Casey. For more details on the study and how to join click here.Please note that this blog post is essentially the written version of the live stream that took place yesterday and will also be available tomorrow on IGTV.
LIE: I have to do it all. TRUTH: I can’t do it all and do it WELL.
Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 21). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
I feared that everything would fall apart. I felt pressure to keep it together. I thought that everyone else had it together but me. I believed that I had to get it all done—and done perfectly. And, despite my efforts, the only thing that felt done was me.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 21). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Q Have you ever felt this way?
A I know at times I have not done things because I fear that if I can’t do it all I might as well not do anything. I have also felt pressured to keep it all together for the sake of my family and friends
Q Have you ever intentionally or unintentionally felt like you had to “keep it together” with your illness to be less of a burden to others. What is one example of that?
A When Jared and I started dating I remember feeling like if I let him into the mess I call my body that he would run for the hills. I felt like if I shared this part of my life with him that I would make him uncomfortable and burdened. Not understanding that burdens are easier to bear when more than one person (who deeply cares and wants to understand) is carrying it
Here’s the thing, God did not create us to be comfortable. Nothing about having a chronic illness is comfortable, and sharing it with others won’t be either.
Below is a list of some ideas to get you started thinking about what you want to cultivate in your life. Circle the ones that fit you best, or write your own. Practice making a mess by defining your thoughts as they are right now, even if they feel imperfect or impossible. Perhaps you want to cultivateCasey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (pp. 22-23). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
• A healthier lifestyle
• A stronger marriage
• A deeper faith
• Intentional connections with family
• Joy in your children
• Contentment in what you have
• More time in prayer
• Learning and education
• A new business venture
• Being more present
• Deeper friendships
• Confidence in your life path
• Work that allows you to use your gifts
• A life-giving home with open doors for hospitality
• Balance and rest
Q Which- out of all of these- is the area in which you want to cultivate?
A I don’t know about you but for me this one was hard to answer. When I first read through this book, being an overachiever, I circled 7 things. After three months I can tell you- you cannot cultivate all of those things all at the same time. Like, how fitting is that our truth in this chapter is about how we can’t do it all and do it well. Now I can say that the biggest area I need to cultivate is balance and rest. I have learn how to estimate how much energy (or spoons) I have that day and then how to balance it with all I hope to accomplish and how much rest I need.
Q What would your life look like if you grew these things, and how would cultivating this one area make me and those around me feel?
A I would be happier. I would be able to understand my body’s parameters and learn how to be content in that. It would relieve my husbands stress that he gets when he knows I am doing too much. It would allow us to have more intentional good days rather than “unexpected” bad days (well if I push too hard it is not really unexpected but you get my point.)
He had a joy and contentment that drew people in. He had been through a lot in his life, including multiple heart surgeries, great loss, and illness, but his faith rarely wavered. He knew that he couldn’t take any thing or accolade or dollar bill to heaven with him, so he invested in what would last—loving God and planting good seeds in people’s lives, including mine.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (pp. 24-25). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
We know that we cannot always be joyful and we will not always feel content as God says in Ecclesiastes 3:1-11, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven….” Everyday we experience new loss, new heartache, and new roadblocks, but what would happen if we could see what would bloom from these challenges in advance? I am sure we would feel that even as painful as it was having the seed planted in our hard soil, that it was worth the flower that would come out of it.
Q What is one way that you can be grateful for the times God digs up our soil?
A For me personally I remember that God has gone before me, and He will give me the grace and strength to handle everything I face because He knew what was coming.
How could I teach our daughter to do life well? How would the way I care for what I’ve been given teach her to do the same? How could I teach her that God can change what feels impossible, like He did with our marriage? If I wanted Grace to live an intentional life, I was going to have to live one myself.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 25). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Now you don’t have to think of these questions about how you impact your kids you can replace kids with family, friends, your spouse, or even your instagram followers. Let’s think about social media for a minute.
Q How can you live out the life you portray on instagram?
A I know I am making some waves but cultivating and comfort do not typically mix. We as spoonies, tend to be the first to get upset when someone gives us the positivity prescription- and rightfully so as being positive will not cure us- BUT on instagram we tend to show people how hard we are fighting and how good God still is… yet in real life we may not feel that way. I try to be very authentic on instagram and if I am having a bad day, you will hear about it, because I my life is full of hardships. Yet I work hard to find the positive in everything you will see that in my page because I am finally learning how to be grateful in all situations. I want people to see how God helps me keep my composure when life gets hard, but I will never minimize what I am going through to make others feel more comfortable.
Planting seeds is risky. It’s putting our trust in something bigger than we are. It’s optimism and faith. It requires letting go, and I don’t like letting go. I like being in control. I like efficiency, security, routine, and predictability. I like having a plan… I had a choice: risk imperfect progress to grow new life or regret not growing anything at all.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (pp. 27-28). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Trusting in God can feel risky at times. I love control. I love plans. But more than anything I love seeing the big picture, I hate being stuck seeing the current view rather than the full view. God does not always allow us to see the big picture, He asks us to be content with a corner of the photo.
Q Chronic illnesses are so unpredictable and we typically do not get a big picture plan. We tackle situations as they come, little by little. What is one thing that you want to leave in God’s hands but because you want a plan you keep fighting to leave your problem with him?
A I am in desperate need of a port and I have had to leave that in God’s hands. I struggle daily to leave it in His hands and have to continually remind myself that in His perfect timing He will make homecare accessible for me.
What have you been wanting to do or start, but you have been afraid of trying? What are your fears? Trying to cultivate an intentional life without making a mess at times is like trying to garden in white pants.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 29). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Q What have you been wanting to do or start, but have been afraid of trying?
A I have been wanting to start vlogging for a really long time but have been afraid that people don’t want to hear what I have to say, and instead of vlogging on youtube God has been using my instagram stories to help me share my life with my friends. God was able to help me accomplish my goal in a less intimidating way.
Q. Have you ever felt as if you were so focused on not messing up that you missed the joy of being fully present at that moment? If so, describe the situation.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 29). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
A When I owned a dance medicine clinic we had our first ever showcase. My mom kept telling me to take it in and relish in the joy of what I created but I was so focused on everyone else’s opinions and perfection that I look back on that day and forget about how accomplished I felt.
“You may not have room for all of these, Lara,” Scott warned as he eyed the tree and everything I had packed into my wheel-barrow. I didn’t see the problem and told him I would try to fit it all in. If I was going to do this, I wanted to do it big. I wanted the perfect garden—overflowing with all of my favorite things. I wanted the best, the biggest, and a grand start. You probably know where this is going. That first year of gardening, I learned a lot of lessons, as I am apt to do: the hard way.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 30). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Do you tend to believe you can handle more than you actually can? If so, write out a few thoughts about times you’ve experienced this, and what happened.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 31). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Q what has happened when you believed you could do more than you could do?
A For me it was a career ending bad choice. I was rehearsing the dance of the flutes from the nutcracker and I was sick. I had not been eating a lot and did not have the energy to keep rehearsing so I took off my pointe shoes and packed up to leave. Then this 5 year old girl came up to me and was so upset that she missed watching my rehearse and asked if I would dance for her one more time. Against my better judgement I put my shoes back on and plugged my ipod back into the speakers. In the final eight count I did not lift myself up enough in my boxes and I fell. As soon as I hit the floor and felt my ankle and calf in writhing pain, I knew it was over. Had I trusted my limits things could be different today. Now ultimately due to the EDS that would have ended my career anyways but who knows I might have had a couple more years dancing. This does not make me bitter or angry anymore but it goes to show how when we try to do it all- we cannot do it well.
A powerful fertilizer to nourish the things that truly matter in life is the word no… It’s okay to let go, not keep up, and not do it all. It’s okay to disappoint people in favor of growing what God has given you to grow.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 32). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Often we find ourselves saying no to things because in a way we don’t say no but our bodies do for us. Our bodies tend to dictate our plans yet even though we are doing what we need to do we feel guilty. God has given us these bodies and as Lara says it is okay to say no and not keep up.
Q When you next have to say no to something, how can you positively reframe it?
A When I have to say no to something I try to thank God for the forethought I had to tend to my body’s needs. Do I always thank God for cancelled plans- no. Do I know that He still loves me and has helped me learn my limits- yes.
We have only so much space, energy, and nutrients in our lives. I don’t know about you, but I do not thrive in an overcrowded life. Whether it’s too many dreams planted at once or too many social commitments, work projects, family activities, or unresolved conflicts, all those things take up space. When I try to do it all, nothing grows well.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (pp. 32-33). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
What in your life needs more room to flourish? What thing(s) could you say no to or spend less time on in order to make room? What fears or concerns do you have about saying no to those things?
Q What in your life needs to flourish? What things could you say no to? What concerns you about saying no to those things?
A I need to allow taking care of my body be my first priority because if I cannot flourish in where I am at, nothing in my life will. I need to say no to always helping others before helping myself. For instance I need to make doing joint corrections a daily activity not a weekly one, and in order to do that I am going to need to say no to scrolling on my phone in bed for an hour before bed. I am concerned that by saying no to time on instagram that it will make me feel more disconnected from life than I already do. BUT by saying no to that time and spending with Jared (he does my joint corrections for me) I will be able to feel better and give more of myself to him, those around me, and ultimately be able to give more of myself to my followers.
We only have a finite amount of energy, resources, and time to spend each day. When life shifts, no matter the reason, we must be willing to surrender something to make room. This is not easy, is it? But it’s necessary…. But I’ve learned since then that there is no guilt needed when times of overload press in; there’s just grace and an opportunity to shift. When life changes, which it often will as we grow, something has to shift, or overload occurs. If we resist the change, our lives resist us until we let go.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 33). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
As spoonies, we know this all too well. We only have a finite amount of energy each day, and we have to choose how we spend it. This means that we make sacrifices.
Q We are going to make a list. In the last question we focused on what we are saying no to, but now I want us to focus on what we are saying YES to.
A I am saying yes to intentional planned quality time with my husband, I am saying yes to livestreaming church in bed if I do not feel well enough to go. I am saying yes to cultivating fruitful friendships with those I am close to, and opening my heart to making new friends. I am saying yes to understanding that my health comes first despite ANYTHING going on around me
Good fruit is characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22–23). But here’s the thing we often miss: a life aimed at any one of these virtues will leave you chasing your tail because seeking to obtain the fruit of the Spirit isn’t the goal. Cultivating a meaningful life with God is the goal, and the fruit is the result.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (pp. 33-34). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition
Q Think about your life and honestly evaluate how you are spending your time, energy, and focus. Are there areas of your life or activities that you know you need to let God heal, change, or strengthen to become fruitful? CULTIVATE IT Below is a list of areas in which we usually invest our time and hearts. Feel free to tailor the categories to fit your life. Give each category a rating between 1 and 10. A rating of 1 means this area is not fruitful at all and you wish for this area to change dramatically. A rating of 10 means you are seeing God’s fruit in this area of your life.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 34-35). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
___Relationship with a significant other
Circle the area above that needs the most changing. Now write out some of the activities you do in each of these areas of your life and if they are helping you cultivate what matters. What specifically in each of these areas is fruitless?
A For me personally I find that my spiritual life needs the most changing. Things I can do to strengthen my relationship with Christ is do my devotional every morning, pray for others, and talk to God about my frustrations, hurt, and struggle FIRST meaning before I talk to others about them.
The area that right now is fruitless is the time I spend reading my bible- which means I need to do more of it. For my health I need to not overflow our schedule with appointments and make better scheduling decisions. The fruitless area in my health is how much time I spend worrying before each appointment. The final part is my relationship with my husband. It can be hard when your husband is your caretaker, there’s a lot of balancing involved. I want to get better at managing and understanding that balance. The fruitless part of our relationship would probably be that we don’t ask for help when we need it and we need to get better at that.
Maybe it’s time to let go of something. When we say no to one thing, we’re saying yes to something else.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 36). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Q Looking over all you have identified so far, what is one weed that you know you need to pull? You may have a lot of weeds on your list, but gardening teaches us an essential life skill: doing one thing at a time. I cannot multitask in the garden. Each task requires both hands and my full attention—especially weeding. Starting with just one weed will give you courage and momentum to get rid of many more. Weeds are bound to pop up, but cultivators learn over time how to deal with them swiftly and effectively. Choose one distraction you will pull, one activity you will say no to, or something that needs to end, starting now.
A The biggest weed I need to pull right now is creating margin in my schedule and saying no to back to back appointments as they run Jared and I ragged.
Whatever you need to pull out of your life to give your everything to God, don’t waste another second. But there is such a thing as over-pruning. As you pull the weeds and prune your time, remember that true faith in God is about a relationship, not about rules. It’s easy to look at our lives and see all the things we perceive we are doing wrong, prune those out, and miss the point. We can be so focused on creating a weed-free garden that we miss the big picture: the garden itself. When I do this, I live out of a place of restriction, rather than flourishing in grace and freedom.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (pp. 36-37). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
There comes a point with a chronic illness where you realize that you cannot do everything you used to be able to do. You realize that not everyone is going to be understanding or want to understand. You realize that your life is going to be different, but that DOES not mean you are worthless it means that you are making a choice to prioritize your spoons and give them to the most important things in your life.
And I made a decision: no more. I’m willing to disappoint people, delay answering messages, fall behind on e-mail, and let go of perfection in favor of cultivating a lasting love and connection with my daughter. I choose cultivating over keeping up.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 38). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Living the Chronic Illness Life is hard enough already so as Lara says, ‘I choose cultivating over keeping up.” and that is how we need to live with a chronic illness. We WILL NOT be able to keep up with what healthy bodies can do. BUT instead of chasing our old life that will just lead to brokenness, depression, and guilt I challenge you to choose to live intentionally where every spoon you use has a purpose and helps you flourish.
I still can’t do it all, but now I don’t want to. I just want to do what matters, no matter how many times I stumble along the way. The cultivated life—broken and imperfect—is far more meaningful.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 38). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
SEEDS OF GRACE AND TRUTHCasey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (pp. 38-39). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
-We can’t do it all and do it well.
-A powerful fertilizer to nourish the things that truly matter in life is the word no.
-Too much of a good thing can still be too much.
-God is the Master Gardener who makes our lives fruitful.
-You don’t have to do it all.
-If unrushing your life feels overwhelming or impossible, consider that it is impossible for you. That’s why we need God. Where you can’t, He already has.
-Choose cultivating over keeping up.
Now typically I don’t write about Grace from the Garden sections but I want to read this one quote:
While we do try our best to ward off certain pests, we have learned to embrace the company we keep in the garden. The best kinds of gardens are cultivated not for the gardener alone but also for all who wander in.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 42). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
While we work on saying no to things we also need to be mindful of our choices by making sure our choices are not unreasonably selfish. We need to set boundaries- THAT IS A NECESSITY- but we also need to open our hearts to new opportunities, friendships, and ideas.
When we cultivate an intentional life, we have plenty to share. We learn to share, not out of our excess but to purposefully grow things to bless others.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 43). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
See you next week as we explore chapter 2!