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 know all the details of the path ahead
TRUTH: Forethought is important, but FAITH is ESSENTIAL
Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 99). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
“Just take one step forward. That’s it. Just one step forward.” One step forward. That was doable. We would see how the next steps unfolded after that.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 100). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Q What is God asking you to step into in order to move forward? Just one step could change the course of your life- and the lives of others- forever.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 100). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
A When I read this question I think back to November 2014 when I had a near death trauma. When I woke up the next morning, I was so angry that God didn’t take me home because I felt I was ready. I went into a very deep depression after that and it was not an easy road. I did not want to live anymore and felt purposeless, have you ever been there? I remember my psychologist telling me that she just wanted me to find 3 small things to be grateful for everyday. That felt like a mountain of a step, and I wasn’t cooperative. Little by little with her biweekly encouragement I started taking small steps. Some days I was just grateful that the sun came out, or that I brushed my teeth, LITTLE THINGS started to add up. I had quite a steep mountain to climb out of in order to recover and the process took me 1.5 years. Opening back up to God took 2 years from that experience. But I started with one little step. That one step changed my whole life.
Those single steps forward added up, like individual seeds being buried deep into the soil, gradually transforming and beginning to grow below the surface. We kept moving forward, even in the many times it felt so scary we couldn’t sleep… Yet if God was in this- which we had realized He clearly was- then so were we.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 100). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
When God is for us nothing can stand against us, but sometimes it takes us a little while to see God working in us. Sometimes I feel like I cannot withstand the storms that my body creates. I am sure you have felt the same way. Once I understood that God was with me and will fight my broken body alongside me, the load became a little bit easier to bear.
We had prayed for so long to have another child, and I finally felt like I had an answer. I surrendered. I felt grateful. And then… I felt a little off…. This turn of events was so surprising and so God. In all we had gone through, He had been preparing us.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 100). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Do you ever feel this way? There have been multiple times that shortly after I finally surrender my heart and whatever I am wrestling with that God tends to respond once I have peace and clarity. It is not always this way, right now God is working on my heart to remain faithful to what He has promised me. Whenever I get stressed out and worry that God “isn’t working fast enough” I surrender and try to cultivate gratitude for what He already has done.
… Many people thought we were crazy and cautioned us to reconsider the timing. But Ari and I held fast to an unexplainable, unwavering faith that this was God’s plan. This plan didn’t have to make sense to anyone else. We just had to have faith in what we couldn’t yet see and trust that God was going to take care of us. Cultivating means coupling faith with action. Out of our gratitude for His grace, we are compelled to do something about it. We often take uncharted paths, letting go, surrendering, trusting, and knowing that we don’t have to do the heavy lifting.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 102). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
This story of crazy faith makes me think of when Jared and I reconnected in high school. God had told me that Jared would be my husband, but Jared did not know that. Jared actually turned me down when I told him I was interested in him. Now I did not tell him that God told me I was going to marry him because that would have completely freaked him out, so when He turned me down, we remained friends. To this day Jared still talks about my response when he turned me down, I said, “Well I want what God wants and if we are meant to be together at some point we will be, so let’s just remain good friends.” I wasn’t worried because I knew that it would work out… and after I almost died and walked away from God and Jared, Jared fought for me and for my faith because he knew God called him to be my husband. We both had times through this relationship, and our faith, where we had to surrender what we wanted or thought was best to watch Him do the impossible.
In a sense, faith is action is a lot like working in my garden, my efforts alone don’t force the plants to grow. I do my part by carefully planting, watering, fertilizing, and pruning- and then I wait and trust that God will do His part to cause the growth… Do you know how to grow big, fluffy, beautiful peonies? You dig into the soil, place the bulbs in the ground with some nutrients, and besides watering in the hot months… you simply wait. You take a leap of faith- and you let God do His thing.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 102). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Q What are you growing in your spiritual garden? What can you do to help your seeds grow without forcing things to grow out of God’s timing?
Right now my spiritual garden has many planted seeds, one specifically is focused on praying for home health care currently to decrease the amount of time I spend in the hospital. It is my job to advocate for myself, go to appointments, and continue to take care of my body the best way I can- even if it’s not the way I desire to. God has promised me that He will take care of me and that I don’t need to worry- if He takes care of the birds, He will surely take care of me. I cannot force anyone to start my home health care, so as I am finding new people to add to my team, I am seeing God’s plan come to light. It has not bloomed yet, but I am faithfully watering, nourishing, and pruning this sprout that is growing, and I am trusting that God will cause it to grow. What is so neat about this is that when I prepared and wrote that, I was faithfully waiting… and as I type to you now I am infusing on the couch because God gave us home care. He is so good and always faithful.
We can’t do it alone, but we have an important role to play. We plant and trust. It’s a choice we make- a combination of action (planting) and faith (trusting)- that moves the results out of our hands and into God’s.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 103). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
He makes grass grow for the cattle,Psalm 104:14
and plants for people to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:
Q Read Psalm 104:14. What do you learn from this verse about God’s role in the process of cultivating? What is our role?Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 103). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
A Our role is to prepare for Him, by planting and then doing something with the gifts or plants He has given us
“First define what your ‘all’ is. Then run from that. God does not call us to that.” You do not have to be Superwoman! You likely have heard the popular phrase: “She believed she could, so she did.” Those words are lovely and instill confidence, but that doesn’t last. I know a deeper truth: She believed she couldn’t, so He did.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 104). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
This is the part of the book that struck the greatest chord with me. It was what has stuck with me everyday since. She believed she couldn’t so He did. This past year, I was planning our wedding, and I struggled with control, because I wanted to control everything- that is not attainable for any bride- let alone one who is fighting a chronic illness. The one thing I wanted more than ANYTHING was to walk down the aisle. My ortho team is amazing and they did everything in their power to help me succeed, but two weeks before the wedding when we were going to see if I could use crutches to enable me to walk, we found that I could not support my body weight. The injections failed. I cried for days. I was going to have to be wheeled down the aisle. I believed all hope was lost, but God knew that this was NOT the end. He gave my father all the skills he needed to be able to come up with a way to tailor my brace to enable him to support the weight of that leg… and I walked down the aisle on April 29, 2018. She believed she couldn’t, so He did. I get emotional just thinking of this because He gave me a miracle. The greatest miracle.
Q In which areas of your life are you struggling to let go of control? Fill in the blanks, She believed she couldn’t _________, but God _______.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 104). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
A She believed she couldn’t walk down the aisle, but God made a way and gave her the greatest miracle.
… but God carried me. He carried all of us. This is grace. The great exchange of our weakness for His strength, our unbelief for His very real love, our inadequacy for His power, and our mess for His message.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 104). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.2 Corinthians 12:9
Grace healed my marriage where there was no love remaining. Grace set me free from shame and striving. Grace made me a gardener. Grace carried us when we didn’t have the faith or strength to walk on our own.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 105). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Q What has His grace done for you?
A Grace allowed me to walk down the aisle and fulfill my lifelong dream. Grace healed my relationship with Jared after I lost my memory. Grace gave me the resilience to stay alive when I wanted to die. Grace has given me the ability to wait on God’s promises.
In John 15, Jesus reminds us that we need Him in order to cultivate and be fruitful.
Friend, this is a powerful truth. We can’t grow anything good without God, and there is freedom in knowing we don’t have to grow good things on our own. And there’s a freedom to take leaps of faith because we know who is lifting us up as we leap!
Cultivating an intentional life is also faith in action. It means planting dreams in faith, even when we don’t know exactly how those dreams will grow- or if they will grow at all. But the possibility is worth the planting.
Q In which areas of your life, or circumstances, do you need farmer’s faith?Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 106). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
A Right now I need to continue to leave my health in His hands. Now this does not mean that I can stop taking care of my body- remember seeds need to be nurtured and sprouts need pruning, but I need to lean on His promises. The specific circumstance I need to leave in His hands is getting home health.
When we plant something, we can’t predict exactly how it will grow. When I plant tomatoes in my garden, I trust I’ll get tomatoes, but I don’t know exactly how many or which direction the vines will grow. I don’t know from the start the exact amount of water that will be needed over the entire season to keep them happy until harvest. I don’t know what the weather will be like everyday. I can’t tell you the exact date that the tomatoes will be perfectly ripe or how many I will harvest in total. I just know I’m growing tomatoes. If I pay attention to them along the way, caring for them little by little, then I can trust that my plants will be fruitful. Many times we want to have the perfect path to the dreams God has given us and to know all the details of how we will achieve those dreams from the start. We want to know the plan.
Q Why do you crave certainty of solid and predictable plan?Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 107). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
A When I was healthy I think I would answer this question a bit differently, but I specifically love my plans because my body is so unstable that I like to take control any chance I get. Anyone who lives the chronic illness life knows, in more ways than most, that the road to success is not a straight line… our health for sure isn’t a straight line. It is full of highs and lows. By knowing the plan, I can see the end result and don’t really need faith. At that point faith becomes optional.
God’s grace compels us to take our greatest and most powerful leaps of faith- the ones that change everything- even when we can’t see the exact outcomes or what we can see feels impossible. In Joshua 3, we see this come to life. It was harvest season, and the Jordan River was overflowing its banks. Joshua and all of the Israelites needed to cross over. How in the world would this happen… He promised them that the moment they set their feet in the rushing waters, it would dry up… There is no logical or predictable path forward, and your own strength would surely fail. The only option: a literal step of faith… His plan may not always be predictable, but it is solid…. And as you step out in faith and continue along the path of following God, you will inevitably come to a point when you realize that- no matter what path He puts you on- the ultimate reward is a relationship with Him.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 107-108). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
I don’t know how long you have been following my life, but I used to own a business- a dance medicine clinic to be exact. After I lost my career I dedicated all my time to studying, earning my coaching certification, and helping dancers careers outlast their injuries. Last year when we had our summer intensive. The college we partnered with backed out 3 weeks before we started and ⅞ dancers pulled out of the program. I didn’t know what to do, so I called the family of the one daughter who didn’t pull out and said I was willing to coach their dancer all summer if they still wanted to come. I only offered this because God told me to not cancel the summer intensive. I didn’t know why but I decided to just go with it even though people thought I was crazy. Long story short they came down and I got to coach the most amazing dancer who had a chronic illness. I originally wanted to coach just dancers with chronic illnesses because that is where my heart is. Don’t get me wrong I love all my dancers, but I have a heart for those going through what I went through as a teen. I had no idea that this would be the last dancer that I would train for the foreseeable future. He allowed me to fulfill the goal I had when I started OST.
If God plants a dream in your heart, you can trust Him to walk alongside you- cultivating you and causing growth- until the harvest. Don’t know where to start? One of the most powerful action steps we can take as we evaluate our growing ground and get ready to plant new seeds is prayer. Prayer couples action with faith… Prayer changes things things. Prayer isn’t just asking for things; it’s an act of surrender. We place our worries, fears, dreams, and questions in God’s hands and let go. We cultivate trust in the ultimate CultivatorCasey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 109). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
How crazy is that?! It makes me think of when I started my blog. I felt God was calling me to do it, but I didn’t know where to start or what would come of it… and now He has grown a spoonie study out of it! That is crazy, I had no idea a year and a half ago when I started that blog that it would turn into a bible study, but I took a leap of faith, put myself out there, and now I know all of you!! I prayed for months over my blog and my followers and God whispered in my heart that I would still be able to make an impact even if it wasn’t the way I planned.
The secret to having fearless faith in planting seeds, embracing the imperfect, and growing what matters is God himself. Not a new organizational system, a planner, a clean closet, or new storage bins. Staying connected to the Source of life gives us life.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 110). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Cultivators have FAITH- believing in what they can’t SEE.
SEEDS OF GRACE AND TRUTH
-Forethought is important, but faith is essential
-Considering my friend Casey’s wise advice: “Just take the next step forward. That’s it. Just one step forward.”
-Instead of the popular phrase “She believed she could so she did,” consider this truth: She believed she couldn’t, so He did.
-Having farmer’s faith means cultivating something bigger than we are. We step forward in faith to cultivate things that really matter, believing in what we can’t yet see
“Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” Heb 11:1
-Are you planting an intentional life or just planting one?
-Prayer changes things. Prayer isn’t just asking for things; it’s an act of surrender. We place our worries, fears, dreams, and questions in God’s hands and let go. We cultivate trust in the ultimate Cultivator