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 be PERFECT.
TRUTH: It’s in the IMPERFECT that things grow.
Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 44). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
I didn’t want to believe it was happening—but it was. I was having a miscarriage. In the days and weeks that followed, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I wanted to stay in bed and look to distractions to try to ease my grief. I didn’t want to go anywhere or talk to anyone, much less go out in the garden. I hadn’t planned on planting much that spring because I thought I’d be taking care of a baby. And now the garden depressed me. It felt empty. But God had a purpose in this time that felt lifeless and dark. Though I couldn’t see it yet, I was about to begin a season of unexpected growth.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (pp. 44-45). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
I think we can all relate to how Lara was feeling. We don’t know why any of this happened. We all have our own distraction techniques that keep us from going crazy but nevertheless it is HARD. It is hard when we try a new treatment or medication and it does not work. We struggle to explain our pain when doctors do not understand our condition. It makes us feel empty, lost, and hopeless.
I sat in the kitchen with Grace, took a deep breath, and did the hard thing: I got still. I prayed silently, Why, Lord? I trust that You have something good in this, even though I can’t feel it right now. This was not what I had planned. We prayed and hoped and trusted. Was this my fault somehow? Is there something wrong with me? Will we ever have another child? Why do I have to experience this pain? What do I do now?… Maybe there was a purpose in this pain. In this blank slate. Maybe this season of grief was part of God’s good plan.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 45). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
I think we have all had a similar conversation with God before. What is amazing about hope though is that it thrives in what is unseen. In Ecclesiastes 3:1–2 it says, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.” Even if we are not in the place we wish were in- we are in this specific place at this specific time for a reason only God knows.
Seeds hold a lot of wisdom. They let go of their outer shell in order to move forward. They embrace their season, and do what they were created to do. Even when we can’t see it, new life is growing beneath the surface. I couldn’t see it at the time, but the days of grief following my miscarriage were a time of being transformed under the surface, in what felt bleak…. What if everything you have experienced—all the heartache and joys—has been God preparing the soil of your life for something good to grow?Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 46-47). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
As Christians we need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Remember how we talked about how cultivating and comfort not mixing last week? It applies to our walk with Christ too. It is not easy for seeds to break out of their shells to grow, and it is not easy for us to grow either. Growing at times can be exciting and joyful, but it can also be tiresome and stressful. In our moments of grief and frustration it can be hard to see God’s will, but when we surrender everything to Him and do our best to leave it in His hands- good things start to grow.
In the seasons, we find balance. The seasons allow my garden to rest and grow at just the right times, and it’s the same with our lives. The seasons teach us how to do life well, revealing a life-giving rhythm: we flourish through intentional periods of stillness, growth, hard work, and rest.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 47). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Every season of our lives are different. They all hold new challenges, victories, frustrations, and successes. I am someone who likes to embrace the season I am in whether it is decorating the house, painting my nails, or even eating special seasonal treats! As I look back on the 9 years I have spent living the chronic illness life, every season is dramatically different. Some seasons hold heartbreak and grief, others hold joy and celebration,but most of them hold times of rest and waiting.
Maybe this is your season of spring, to start something new—to break ground into fresh soil. Perhaps it’s your season to take a leap of faith or plant roots right where you are, blooming where you are planted.
Maybe this is your season of summer, watering more often and being watered. A time to prune and pull weeds, work hard in the heat, or tend to what matters most to you. A fruitful season of deepening your connections to community.
Fall:Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 47-48). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Maybe you are in a season of fall, ready to do the work of the harvest and count the fruit that has been growing. A season of savoring and gathering.
Maybe you are in a season of winter, waiting for spring and new life to come. You are resting, abiding, reflecting, and clinging to the hope of spring ahead. And maybe this season of waiting is your time of ripening—a season of preparation, getting you ready for something good ahead. Something far better than you expected.
Q What season are you in right now? There are no wrong answers. Write down a few thoughts about what you’re experiencing, learning, or feeling in your unique season.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 48). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
A When I originally went through this book I was in a winter- a season of waiting. I am currently moving into Spring as God has finally delivered me from a huge area of stress in my life. It was a 9 month long “winter” for me and the spring will still hold rainy days where I wait for the sun to come out- but I am just happy to be out of the winter.
Maybe you’re in a season of transition, grief, conflict, illness, unanswered prayers, new challenges, or just trying to get by. Maybe you can’t imagine how this particular season could be a blessing in disguise. I have a not-so-secret secret to share with you. Do you remember where seeds begin to sprout? In the dirt. We dismiss the dirt and the mess as bad, trying to keep it off our hands and out of our homes. But dirt holds a certain magic, cradling new life. Your past mistakes, your heartache, your circumstances, and the tension you feel right now in your season—every bit of it is part of your growing ground. I believe this with all of me.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 49). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
In some ways with a chronic illness I believe that grief is apart of all seasons of life. As we adapt to new treatments, new doctors, new surgeries, and even a new life altering possibilities- we have to grieve what we have lost. By digging into our dirt, we are caring for what is inside it- us. We are the seeds and every storm, frost, or heat wave that tries to keep us dormant will fail because the master gardener is taking care of us.
Growing what matters takes doing something that is counterintuitive to how we usually operate: embracing tension. We choose to embrace change, imperfect progress, and imperfect circumstances, and we trust that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Rom. 8:28 NIV)…. Life doesn’t begin when our imperfections end. Instead, a cultivated life is made richer because of our flaws and hardships. I’ve learned far more from my mistakes than any of my successes, and I’ve gained courage and confidence from seasons of challenge.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 49-50). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
“Life doesn’t begin when our imperfections end…” That hits me really hard. I was a type A, overachieving, overbooked, workaholic before having a chronic illness. Not only do I mentally battle all of the imperfections of my identity I have (because I cannot be an overbooked workaholic) but I battle the physical imperfections of my body. Now when I say that you may be thinking just superficial attributes, but I am talking about much deeper things. For example: My collagen is imperfect and until God heals me or we find a cure my joints will always dislocate. My blood sugar is imperfect as long as I still have trouble eating. My hip capsule is imperfect and will be until I decide if I want to risk the dangerous surgery. My nerves are imperfect and will be until God heals me or we find a cure. My GI system is imperfect as long as I have EDS. My blood pressure, heart rate, and blood volume is imperfect until God heals me or we find a cure for dysautonomia. My body is imperfect. That is a fact. Yet, if my body was healthy and strong I would not be doing this bible study, I would not have met amazing warriors, I would not have a blog, I would not be grateful for all the little victories in life, I would not have the amazing relationship with my husband and family that I have now, and I would not be who God created me to be. He created my imperfect body and wants me to learn how to cultivate a meaningful life with it.
Q. Now it is your turn. Write down mental identity imperfections and deep imperfections. I want to stay away from superficial physical imperfections because a lot of our perceived physical imperfections come from our illness. Now for every imperfection you write, you need to write something that you have gained from this struggle. (see my examples above)
You would not be the strong resilient person you are today if you did not have a chronic illness. Some people may feel that the exercise above is counterintuitive and can cause us to dwell on the imperfections, if that is the case for you please skip this question. Personally I found it freeing to be able to embrace my imperfections all while knowing they have made me who I am today. If I could go back and change it all I would not (well some days I might be tempted to say otherwise) because it has made me learn how to trust God and cherish every moment of my life.
If you are in a hard season, remember this: This is just a season. God is with you. He will “never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). Your season will not last forever. And maybe this season is growing something good in you.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 50). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
I promise that not every season will be earth shatteringly hard, there will be moments of joy and excitement again- it can’t rain forever. Have peace in knowing that God has gone before you and knows your struggle and He knows what he is asking you to walk through. He may not take the suffering away but he will walk you through it step by step, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, and spoon by spoon.
I have come to realize that I was created this way on purpose by a good and knowing God, who made me to grow through imperfect progress…. He intentionally created us to grow, change, and learn over time, through different seasons—not all at once. The truth is, I’m fearfully, imperfectly, and wonderfully made. And so are you.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 51). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Many spoonies talk about life BD- before diagnosis and AD- after diagnosis but in each of these phases there are unique seasons.
Q What seasons have you gone through in your life, and what has each season taught you? Write out a few of the most pivotal seasons you’ve experienced. Look over your list and ask yourself, What have these seasons taught me? How have these experiences changed and refined me?Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 52). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
A When I lost my career at 16 and a year later got to dance (just for enjoyment) again, it taught me that dreams can change they don’t have to completely die. When I went through amnesia and came out on the other side, it taught me to intentionally appreciate the memories I make with friends and family. When I walked down the aisle, it taught me- that with a good brace maker, an determined father, and a whole lot of faith- God still gives us miracles.
Your season will not last forever, but it might have something really good for you that you don’t want to miss by fighting the season you’re in, fighting the changes, or fighting what feels imperfect.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 53). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Q What feelings have you been fighting in your current season? Perhaps you’ve been fighting feelings of rejection, brokenness, loneliness, inadequacy, or fear in embracing conflict, tension, or change.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 53). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
A Lately I have been fighting the feeling of brokenness. I have worked hard to remember that my brokenness has made my life and faith a beautiful mosaic that it never would have been otherwise- and there is beauty in that.
Feelings aren’t the enemy, but sometimes they can lead us away from truth. Take your feelings and attach to each of them a life-giving truth. For example: • I may feel rejected at times, but I know whose I am. • I may feel broken, but I know I’m whole in Him. • I may feel like my heart is a mess, but I know God transforms our messes into our message. • I may feel alone, isolated, and lonely at times, but I know that God never, ever leaves me.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 53). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Q Fill in the blanks with what you know or what you want to know: I feel [Your Notes], but I know/want to know [Your Notes].Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 53). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
- I feel weak, but I know my God is strong enough to carry me.
- I feel worthless, but I know God created me for a purpose.
- I feel hopeless, but I know that Godly hope is found in the unseen.
- I feel like I don’t have the right words, but I don’t have to have the right words when they are His words
- I feel lazy, but I know I have to rest in order to stay as healthy as I can be.
I don’t have to be the perfect boss, mom, friend, leader, hostess, writer, wife, daughter, sister, woman—any of it. I don’t have to be perfect, because God is. I just have to do my best to follow Him.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 54). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Q In what ways can you embrace an intentional life right in the midst of your current season?Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 55). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
A I can embrace the life I am living now by saying yes to things that matter and no to things that take too much unnecessary energy. I can embrace life by feeling confident in my skin despite the braces, mobility aids, medical devices, and mask I always have on- people are going to stare regardless!
I’m growing my garden in the middle of the mess. When we let God’s grace lead us, instead of perfection, good things get cultivated, right where we are. Imperfect starts and awkward middles can grow into strong marriages, joyful families, deeper faith, and purpose-filled days.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 55). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Does this ring true for you as well? I have had my deepest moments with God when I am in the middle of a chaotic, messy, broken body. Whether it be my team and I disagree or a treatment is not working out how we hoped, this is when my faith grows.
Q can you think of a recent mess that has grown something good?
A I want to share with you what I wrote when I was preparing this study for you all three months ago and then I want to update you:
“Recently I have been losing vascular access points and this has lead us to a place where we are looking at alternative options. Not only has this process grown my faith, but it has helped me create strong friendships with others who have gone through what I am currently walking into. These friendships might have never been formed had I not been in this situation. Throughout this God has also revealed this promise to me, ‘Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.’ Luke 1:45”
I want to tell you that when this goes live on February 6, 2019 I will have just gotten out of port surgery. My 9 month “winter” is over, God is enabling me to get home care and not have to be bound to a hospital bed one a week. He has helped me lean on His promises and SEE that He does indeed fulfill His promises.
SEEDS OF GRACE AND TRUTHCasey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (pp. 56-57). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
-It’s in the imperfect that good things grow
-A flourishing life is possible, no perfection required
-In the seasons we find balance
-We are fearfully, imperfectly, and wonderfully made
-Coming undone is part of coming alive. Even though we aren’t perfect, God gives us new life. Read Ephesians 2:8–9. What do you learn in these verses about God’s grace?
-Your past mistakes, your story, your heartache, your circumstances, and the tension you feel right now in your season—every bit of it is part of your growing ground.
See you next week as we dive into chapter 3!