Spoonie Study- Cultivate Chp 3

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: My life needs to look like EVERYONE ELSE’S.

TRUTH: I have a life to grow that is as UNIQUE as I am.

Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 61). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

In the thick of wading through the grief of a miscarriage, Ari and I felt the sting of disappointment over and over. It was heavy. It was real. And it was private. We knew many people who were going through greater struggles than we were, so we kept our feelings close to us. We didn’t know it at the time, but our hearts were being prepared and changed for what was to come.

Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 61). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

As I read this I couldn’t help but think about how in different times of our lives, while living with a chronic illness, we deal with different aspects of grief. We unfortunately can feel the sting of disappointment after most appointments and treatments. We get used to keeping these copious disappointments to ourselves as everyone ignorantly seems to remind us “that is could always be worse.” Now, it is important to remember that it could be worse, because, if we don’t think about that truth, we run the risk of being so self consumed that we ignorantly hurt someone else in the same way. It is in these heavy moments though, when keeping our feelings “close to us” that we feel the most alone. I honestly feel that it is in these heavy times that God is preparing us for the next chapter.

I sensed that God was telling me to step forward in faith and cultivate something good in the emptiness I felt. So I made a decision to take one small step forward.

Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 61). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

It was just planting a garden. But it was my decision to move one step forward in faith, trusting that something good would grow out of this season of grief.

Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 62). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Q When has there been a time in your life where God has helped you cultivate something good out of emptiness? Fill in the blank for yourself: It was just _________________, but it was my decision to move one step forward in faith, trusting that something good would grow out of this season of grief.

A for me, it was just an instagram account. I felt so empty when I lost my career, and didn’t know what to do with my life, so I decided to document my medical journey, which turned into a website, a blog, and a youtube channel. Now it has lead me to an online bible study. This online bible study- with each of you which is definitely guided by our God.

Grace and I took a bucket of crayons and used the brown paper that had been wrapped around a seed catalog to sketch out possibilities for our spring garden. But it wasn’t easy for me. Every mark of waxy pigment was painful at first. They were marks of forward motion, but I didn’t want to move forward. I didn’t want to imagine a spring without that precious life still growing inside me.

Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 62). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

When I started documenting my journey it was painful. Every post was hard. Trying to stay positive was hard. I didn’t want to keep documenting because it was proof that this was my life. Did it stay like this, of course not.

This next line really hit me:

I wanted to rewind to when our baby was nestled in my belly. I didn’t want loss to be my reality.

Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 62). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

That was exactly how I felt. I wanted to rewind. I wanted to go back to driving, teaching, taking college classes, and dancing- oh how my heart yearned to dance again. I didn’t want loss to be my reality.

Sometimes, allowing ourselves to dream about the future is an exercise in faith. It stretches us to let go. We shed layers of grief, fear, insecurity, or doubt in favor of the possibility of hope.

Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 62). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Q What emotions do you experience when you allow yourself to dream about the future? Are you anxious? Eager? Reluctant? Excited? Why do you think you feel that way about moving forward into the future? Write out your thoughts.

Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 62). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

A I become scared. Scared of Hope. I feel like the further I dream the harder it will be to watch when life doesn’t turn out that way. When I think about this concept I think about Zechariah and Elizabeth. To sum up the story Elizabeth was barren and in her very old age God told Zechariah that He had heard their prayers and was going to give them a son. I imagine that even as Elizabeth saw that baby growing that she was scared. Scared that the pregnancy would fail. Scared that she wouldn’t be a good enough mom. Scared that God would allow her to get all the way to the end but not be able to cross the finish line. That’s how I felt too. Yet what is amazing about this story is that when God told Zechariah that they would have a son He said, “Do not be afraid, your prayers have been heard.” (Luke 1:13) God waited until there seemed to be no chance of hope to showcase His answer to their prayers.

Uncultivated dreaming often got me into trouble and left me feeling like a failure when my lofty dreams—which all largely centered around me—didn’t pan out… Cultivated dreaming isn’t about picking a path or goals out of thin air; it’s about connecting directly to the Source of life, the Giver of grace, and the One who never fails… Instead of trying to make our lives look like everyone else’s, let’s uncover cultivated dreams—as gardeners do…
Gardeners evaluate their land, carefully planting just enough of the things that are appropriate for the season they’re in.

Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 63). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Q What would happen to your self esteem and your heart if you started dreaming like a GARDENER?

A I know for me personally I would have more peace and less pressure on myself.

-Gardeners know that the plants, soil, and weather in every garden are unique, creating a truly distinctive landscape and produce.
-Gardeners plan what to grow in their gardens using a combination of logic and whimsy. They intentionally choose the things that they will eat, enjoy, and be able to share with others.
-Gardeners evaluate their land, carefully planting just enough of the things that are appropriate for the season they’re in.
-Gardeners know that good things grow over time, not all at once.
-Gardeners use what they have, right where they are.
-Gardeners dream using all five senses.
-Gardeners look forward to getting out in the dirt, because growing things is fun!
-And most of all, gardeners know that they don’t have to do any of this perfectly.

Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (pp. 63-64). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Q Which of the above descriptions strikes you the most? Circle the description of a gardener’s way of dreaming that you most want to incorporate into your own life right now.

Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 64). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

A For me there are three that distinctly hit my heart:

  • Gardeners know that the plants, soil, and weather in every garden are unique, creating a truly distinctive landscape and produce.

This example reminds me that it is okay that my life will be a bit different and won’t be exactly like everyone else’s life or the way I thought it would be.

  • Gardeners evaluate their land, carefully planting just enough of the things that are appropriate for the season they’re in.

Goal setting with a chronic illness is hard, and that is its own topic of discussion, but, when I carefully plan and plan just the right amount of tasks I am more likely to succeed. I need to think about my own personal obstacles and make sure that my goals line up with the current place I am in.

  • Gardeners use what they have, right where they are.

I fall into the trap of, ‘You need these pens to be more successful”, or “this planner will bring your life into alignment.” Do you ever fall for this? The tools you buy won’t help you if you don’t have the right mindset. When I fix my eyes on Jesus, I find I can do a lot with what I have where I’m at.

A seed doesn’t burst through the earth and decide to hop to another spot because it looks better, easier, or more comfortable in someone else’s garden. It grows right in the dirt where it has been planted…. Remember that one of the meanings of cultivate is to prepare land for growth through hard work and attention.

Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 64-65). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

We each have the opportunity to grow in our current dirt, in our broken bodies. Our bodies are hard work, they require hours of our time, attention, energy, and more often than not our money. In order to successfully start cultivating different areas of our lives, we first have to cultivate our bodies.

Q What, if any, influence have the opinions of others had on your dreams and decisions? If you sense that your current dreams are shaped more by what other people think than by what God wants for your life, take some time to pray and ask God to reveal to you what His unique dreams for you are.

Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 66). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

A My dreams and decisions have been greatly influenced on what others think- which isn’t always a bad thing, but it can make your clear path become cloudy. For instance, I get recommendations from everyone about how I can “cure my illness” or input on “what I need to do reduce symptoms.” Sometimes people’s suggestions are helpful, but more often than not they leave me worn down, discouraged, and sometimes even hostile. When I focus on God’s plan for me and stop wasting time on quick fixes, life becomes so much brighter.

We don’t have to fix our lives; we just have to fix our eyes on Him. And not because we have to, but because His grace makes us want to. He will help us. God is going to lead us, one step at a time. And maybe, just maybe, that mess we’re making along the way is no surprise to Him. He knew we would fail and sin and often get distracted. He knew we would need a Savior, and so He sent us one.

Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 66). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

How great is this?! We don’t have to be pressured to do everything perfectly, we just have to fix our eyes on Him and let him guide us.

Despite our great loss, in the garden—and in our home—God was growing hope. To everything there is a season and a reason—a glorious, beautiful reason that sometimes we cannot see. As waves of grief would continue to come, I would step outside into the zinnias and then smell the tomato leaves. I took deep, undistracted breaths. The garden smelled like a slice of heaven. I was reminded that God is good and continually making all things new, in His time. God used that season to grow our capacity as a family to love and tend.

Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 68). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

When I look out from my desk there is a huge bay window that showcases the glorious oak tree in our front yard. Now I love this tree and anyone who knows me well has received snapchats of this tree in all seasons. I can’t help but admire its beauty. Despite all the loss I have faced that tree doesn’t stop growing. It doesn’t stop blooming. Even when life seems like it has ceased to move this tree still changes with each passing season.  This tree reminds me that God is still moving and it helps remind me to take a breath. Most importantly it reminds me that I can take things spoon by spoon if that’s what it takes to keep moving forward.

It doesn’t matter if your garden is unconventional as long as you are growing good things.

Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 69). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

How I accomplish goals and go about my day is not necessarily how an abled bodied person goes about their goals – but that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that somedays instead of checkmarks for a job well done there is R there for rest. It doesn’t matter that it takes me four days to write a blog post that should only take me one day. It doesn’t matter that my life looks different- what matters is that I am doing what God has called me. He knows my restrictions, He knows exactly how many challenges I will face with each task, but as long as I give myself grace and continue advancing His kingdom- that’s all that matters.

Gardens can be cultivated under highways and on top of skyscrapers. Seemingly useless areas can be made alive again. There are countless ways to grow a garden, just as there are many ways to grow an intentional life.

Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 69). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Our lives do not suddenly lose purpose because we cannot work or because we are stuck in a hospital bed. We can grow an intentional life wherever Jesus is – and that is wherever we are.

Q What is one way you can cultivate your life while in a hospital bed?

A Spend more quality time with Jesus! Up until a couple months ago I felt like I was never able to make the time to pray for others. Now everyday after my morning devotional I spend about 30-45 minutes in prayer. If I wasn’t stuck in bed or in the hospital all the time, I don’t know that I would have been able to dedicate my time to intentionally praying for others.

Dreams become decisions when you cultivate them.

Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 73). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Q As Lara talks about building a cultivated life what was something that stands out to you?

A The area that stood out to me the most was when she talked about not letting our job title define our identity. I often felt defeated knowing that I went from owning my own company to barely being able to get out of bed. Just like I don’t let my illness define me – my job title or lack thereof does not define me either.

As you think about your cultivated life vision, here’s a little grace and truth: we have permission to change our minds and change course if that’s what God says to do. Just because you set a goal at the beginning of the year doesn’t mean you have to take that path forever. Who says goals have to be for a year? Your goals may change halfway through the year—or halfway through the month!

Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 73). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

There is so much freedom in this paragraph! You are allowed to change your goals! I mean, imagine if we were stuck having to accomplish the goals we set when we were at our healthiest! I would heavily struggle if that were the case. Just like our bodies change in different seasons and even by the weather – our goals are allowed to and should change with us!

One year from now, I want to know I celebrated little victories and given myself space to grieve moments of defeat. I want to look back and see less doubt and more Hope. I want to have chosen Grace over Guilt. I want to have cultivated a life that embraces my weaknesses and allows God’s light to seep in.

Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 74). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

There is power in a single seed. A kind word spoken. A leap of faith taken. A goal cultivated. And in the simple yet profound act of taking one step forward. You have no idea how the seeds you plant today will sprout and grow long after you are gone. Cultivators think big picture to uncover their UNIQUE path.

Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 74). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

I think back to when I started my instagram. There was power in that first post. It was the first step in God showing me that there is life with a chronic illness.

SEEDS OF GRACE AND TRUTH
-God has given you a unique life to cultivate, unlike any other.
-Sometimes, allowing ourselves to dream about the future is an exercise in faith.
-It’s not about what we do; it’s about whose we are. We don’t have to fix our lives; we just have to fix our eyes on Him.
-Dreams become decisions when you cultivate them.
-We have permission to change our minds and change course if that’s what God says to do.
-It doesn’t matter if your life feels like a vacant lot, a highway plot, or a forgotten patch. You can cultivate new life.
-Good goals are about stewarding well what you’ve been given: your relationships, your money, your possessions, your work, your home, your health, and your time. A little intentional forethought goes a long way!

Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (pp. 75-76). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Lara leaves us some questions to answer on our own, so, please, make sure to answer these questions once we have finished

Q CULTIVATE IT What can you do with the little bit of earth you’ve been given? Write your answers to the questions below
-What can I do with this little bit of earth I’ve been given?
-How does God want me to use my unique challenges and experiences that have shaped me to grow something good?
-Where and how can I sow love and grow good fruit?
-How can I cultivate what I’ve been given—choosing, nourishing, and paying attention to what matters?

Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 70). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Now reread pages 71-73 then answer the following questions:

Q What would a cultivated life look like and feel like for your? Be specific with what you write. The more details you add, the more helpful this will be!

Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 73). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

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