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: Small Steps don’t make a difference
TRUTH: Little-by-little PROGRESS adds up
Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 132). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Imagine there is a hundred-dollar bill tucked between the next two pages. You can keep it today and spend it however you like/ Or…. wait thirty days, and each day that you wait, the hundred dollars will double. I’ll do that math for you. Are you ready for this? At the end of thirty days, you would have over $107 billion. Which option would you choose? It seems obvious, right? Of course we would choose to wait and take the larger sum. But how often do we choose instant gratification in our lives over what could grow over time? Every day. All day long.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 132-133). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Q What instant gratification have you chosen in the past?
A I know at times I have chosen medications over physical therapy. When I was younger and in a stage of life where I was depressed and unmotivated loathed exercising because I felt like it didn’t matter because everytime I made progress something else fell apart. In a less medical way, I think of this even with my plants. I love to grow plant but they take too long so I would rather buy flowers that have bloomed rather than growing my own. I have also chosen using bible verse a day apps rather than digging into my own Bible.
Look at the ways you have chosen gratification over slow growth. Why do you think you choose instant success over slow success? Here’s what Lara thinks:
Why do we choose instant gratification most of the time? Here are three possible reasons:Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 133). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
The big picture isn’t clear. We don’t have a cultivated vision of the big picture and a clear understanding of how our choices today add up to the life we want to grow
Our soil is in need of nourishment. We are so depleted, worn-out, overwhelmed, overcommitted, and in need of nourishment that we grab whatever temporary fix we can get that day. Choosing instant seems easier.
We have a fear of success. We think such things as, What would happen if I actually lived intentionally most days? What would that call me to do? What would people expect of me? I’m not ready!
Where do you fall in those descriptions? For me It’s a bit of all three, but number 2 is the most accurate. I don’t have a lot of control in my life as my body holds me hostage most days, so any chance I get to grab control I take it. Some nights when I am tired and worn and feel like I am falling short, instead of going to Jesus the ultimate comforter, I do a face mask and scroll endlessly through instagram. Now there is NOTHING wrong with self care, we just need to make sure that when we do acts of self care, we are balancing them with acts of spiritual health.
Let’s talk about fear of success for a minute. I tend to find that I fear hope more than success. I become fearful that if I put my hope in a treatment or procedure that if it falls through it will leave me crushed. Sometimes I fear success with a treatment or therapy and get so hung up on what others will think, expect of me, and the what-ifs. What-ifs like to take over my mind and heart space. What if this injection works but only for a couple months- people won’t understand that. What if all my hard work ends up being for nothing? What if Jared eventually decided this is all too much? What if I can never work again? I am sure you have fallen into the what-if pit before. Let’s continue on page 134 and see what Lara has to say:
It’s okay not to be ready for something you really want to do. In fact, it’s normal to feel that way because, perhaps, we aren’t ready. But flowers don’t get planted and bloom overnight.Thankfully, cultivating a garden takes time, and during that time God can prepare and equip us. When we have a fear of success, we often choose distractions as a delay. But remember, once it has been planted, a seed doesn’t stop it’s metamorphosis. The seed knows it’s meant to sprout into something beautiful and nourishing, and it will be equipped to do just that when the time is right.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 134). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Q Can you think of a time where you didn’t feel ready to do something?
A That’s how I feel before almost every procedure. But with my husbands strong hands and Jesus’ grace we always make it through, because God knew what we were going to face before we have faced it ourselves. How exciting is that?! Knowing that He the maker of the universe preparing the way for each of us. Knowing that He has gone before me gives me the strength to keep planting my roots.
Then Lara continues to tell us the story about how her dad came to know Christ through the actions He called her to. And it wasn’t a quick process either, but little by little progress is still progress.
Maybe cultivating an intentional life means aiming for what happens over time- like the richness of relationships- rather than getting to the finish line.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 135). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
I don’t know about you but that sentence rocked my type A personality to pretty good. I love knowing the goal or purpose to everything. I wasn’t the type of kid that did things for fun I did them with a purpose. I’m not kidding when I say that in college most of my friends had a goal to get me to do something solely to just enjoy it and not think about how there isn’t some divine purpose behind it.
Q Do you feel that in order to have a cultivated life that you need to see the finish line first or do you believe that in order to have a cultivated life you need to be present and mindful of the place you are currently in?
A This is kind-of a trick question because God wants us to set goals and accomplish the things He has placed on our hearts, but He also calls us to be present and embrace each day He gives us!
Good things grow and take root, little by little. Maybe, despite everything everyone tells you, slow is richer than fast. Maybe, despite everything everyone tells you, slow is richer than fast. Maybe a slower pace will help your roots stretch deep and wide. It’s okay to grow slowly.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 135). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Q have you been a situation where you have had to grow slow?
A After I had almost died, it took quite some time to talk with God again. Little by little though my faith grew and once my roots were planted again they started nourishing me and the growing felt more natural and as I grew and “sprouted” my roots kept growing deeper. This took 1.5 years, but if I had grown too fast my faith would have been easily shaken.
As Lara continues on she talks about her daughter and how cleaning can be overwhelming. She says,
“When she takes it one day at a time, the impossible becomes possible. She takes the first small step, and that builds confidence to follow through on the rest. Her ‘I can’t’ turns into ‘I can.’ The same goes for you and me… Imperfect progress is still progress. Little by little, word by word, I am cultivating these words and growing a book for you… I used to come to the end of the year and think, I could have made progress if I would have cultivated what I wanted to grow a little bit at a time. But I didn’t like the idea of it. How would that get me anywhere fast?”
Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 136-137). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Q Have you felt frustrated by not making fast progress on something in your life?
A That’s what I felt like with this Bible study. God had been pressing on my heart to lead a study for almost a year and once the opportunity came about (in a very unexpected way) I wanted to jump all in. I wanted to start the study that week, thankfully I have learned from my previous mistakes and gave myself a 3 month timeline to work on, pray for, and grow this study. Think back to chapter 1- we can’t do it all and do it well. Everyday I struggle with having margin in my life, but since becoming ill I have learned from lots of trial and error that it is more than okay to take things day by day and spoon by spoon.
God’s glory shines in the little by little just as much as He shines at the big and unexpected.
30 Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.Exodus 23:30
If God did it quickly, they wouldn’t be ready. Instead, He does it little by little so they will be prepared and readied overtime! What a powerful story for our lives. Little by little progress adds up and, in the wait, we are ripened and readied. It is the same with our lives. Trust that what you want to cultivate matters enough to allow it to grow over time as you take small steps forward- and some big leaps along the way too. Your cultivated life matters enough to tend it like a garden and trust that the effort invested over time will add up. But do you know what’s hard to do? Remember any of this when life seemingly falls apart.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 137-138). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Q Do you experience this when life gets tough?
A I don’t know about you but when my life starts to crumble the last thing on my mind is taking things spoon by spoon. I mentally spiral and feel so lost and broken, thankfully I have a support system who is quick to remind me that I need to deal with what is going on and not jump the gun.
I felt like a horrible mother. A useless leader. I felt like a burden to everyone. And you know what lie crept into my heart? The lie that my pain wasn’t enough… I felt shame for my overwhelming emotions and sudden depression… I felt like I should just keep my mouth shut and suffer in silence. And I was tired.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 139-140). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Q Do you ever experience feeling like a burden?
A I think we can all cohesively say that at one point or another we can all felt like a burden. Let me share a story with you, when we were staying with my in-laws for a week, my MIL washed special sheets and towels for me to use that didn’t have dryer sheets in them because I am extremely allergic to them. Now I cannot shower on my own anymore and need significant help so Jared was with me as always. Now all of my MIL’s towels are white, but she put mine in a specific spot and when I asked Jared to grab the towel on the left hook he was looking at a different set of hooks- I know you know where this story is going- so I dried off with that towel and within 20 seconds I started itching all over and getting red itchy hives. I tried getting back in the shower and washing off but it did not help. I went to our room to change and I just broke down into tears. I knew Jared felt horrible about the mistake and I didn’t want to make him feel worse- but I was suffering. I was so tired. Tired of dealing with all these allergies, tired of being a burden, and tired of living the chronic illness life. I felt stupid for crying over an allergic reaction, but my MIL ended up checking in on me and I told her everything that happened and she helped me for the next 45 minutes until my rescue medications kicked in. She reminded me not to apologize when I was because she cared about me and was happy to be able to help. If I had stayed in silence the whole situation would have been much worse. Jared and I also talked after and I made sure that he knew that I wasn’t upset.
I felt God calling me to quit. Step away Lara. Be small. Nurture these children for Me. Live a quiet life. Over and over I heard these urgings, and every time I’d ask, How? What does that look like exactly, God? What do I quit? I had no answers. Just more questions. How was I supposed to cultivate what mattered in the middle of this upheaval?… ‘God has given you this work for a reason. I don’t think He wants you to waste it.” I took a leap of faith and did the hard thing: I began cultivating. Right where I was. Right in the thick of it. Little by little, in the middle of the night as I nursed, and in the tantrums and the in between, I tended my feelings and all my questions through prayer.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 140-141). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
When I became really ill, I remember asking, “God, how could You still use me with a broken body like this?” I wanted to be done and just like what Ari said to Lara, Jared said something along the same lines to me. In this time, I just devoted my time to loving Jesus and waiting to see what he could do with me. Well that was how Living the Chronic Illness Life started. Little by little he worked on my heart and gave me clarity. Little by little He started reminding my heart that He called me to do great things- and that did not change because my body was failing me because He knew my body was going to fail me when He made me. I don’t know why He allowed us all to go through these afflictions, but we are going through them.
Q What do you think God wants you to do or learn in this season of life?
A Currently God has been teaching me about what it means to be present and how to walk when I can’t see and trust He will get me to where I need to be
We spend so much energy trying to control our lives- until one day the gate breaks, and those dark forgotten places come into the light… The weight I was carrying, trying to keep it all together, eventually became too much. Before a seed can sprout, it first has to break through its outer shell and leave it behind. It has to embrace change. I didn’t want to change. We had taken so many leaps of faith already. I didn’t think I could handle any more change in that season. And I was right. I couldn’t handle it. But God could, and He wanted me, once again, to let go.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 141-142). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Q Do you try to control everything? Why do you think that is?
A For me I try to control everything I can, because I can’t control my body so I go to ridiculous strengths to control the rest of my life. I hate change. I like schedules and consistency- basically everything a chronic illnesses makes somewhat impossible. Taking my day spoon by spoon is hard and is a constant intentional choice I have to make. I have experienced the craziest 9 years living through all that I have, and I never feel like I can embrace more change, but thankfully God can.
Lara proceeds to tell us about her breaking point and how once she broke, God stepped in so miraculously that she knew this type of freedom could only come from God Himself. She talks about how after months of praying and waiting God called her to help others through her experiences. She chose to embrace each day for whatever it help and simply just did what God asked her to do rather than trying to do it all. She embraced being small.
It is so hard to embrace being small. It is so hard to be grateful that you can brush your teeth by yourself or that you changed from pajamas into sweatpants, but those small tasks can hold some of your greatest victories.
Cultivating what matters means relishing what feels undone and imperfect. My garden is in an awkward stage, but it’s still a garden. And even when I can’t see it or feel it, it’s growing. It doesn’t have to be in full bloom all the time for it to be meaningful. The tension of the middle ground is the path to blooming. And tending- whether through prayer or attention or little by little steps forward- adds up.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 145-146). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Q Are you wrestling with something that feels undone and Imperfect?
A I know that I am. I am waiting on God’s promises while stepping forward in faith that I am prepared for what He has called me to do.
The action steps that Lara encourages you to do is make a tending list which is a list of the things I want to nurture, ripen and grow. You can do this on a regular piece of paper or use the powersheets made by Lara. Now If you decide to get powersheets please feel free to message me because I have had to do a lot of trial and error in finding success with powersheets because of the extra grace I need to give my body.
My tending list in the season after I experienced that heart pain was pretty simple: pray and read the bible. That’s it. If I could focus on those two things, I trusted that everything else would fall into place. And it did. What truly mattered got cultivated. There’s no room for fluff when you’re cultivating what matters, especially in a season of sleepless nights. You dig right into the essentials, and let go of the rest.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 148). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Click here to learn more about tending lists (I post my tending list each month, but here is January’s)
When Lara created these powersheets, she did not intend for the tending lists to overwhelm you or make you feel defeated. Here is some tending list encouragement from her:
That’s the thing about a tending list- it allows you to see progress. It allows you to celebrate more often because you can see what God is doing in the little-by-little. And remember: growing an intentional life doesn’t happen by following a checklist or making perfect progress. It happens by His grace and power. Day by day, decision by decision, step into the dirt with Him, and He will do the rest…. It’s in the choosing- in the moving forward in faith, believing in what we can’t yet see or feel sometimes- that good things take root.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 148-149, 150). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Cultivators tend to WHAT MATTERS, embracing little-by-little PROGRESS.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 150-151). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
SEEDS OF GRACE AND TRUTH
-Little by little progress adds up
-Good things grow over time. It’s okay to grow slowly.
-Trust that what you want to cultivate matters enough to allow it to ripen over time as you take small steps forward- and some big leaps along the way.
-Tending through prayer helps us grow what matters.
-We weren’t made to stay in our shells. We were made to grow- to break through, let go, and press toward the Light.
-If it matters to you, tend it.
-A tending list is a clear reminder of your priorities and the areas of your life in which you’d like to make little-by-little progress over time.
-Day by day, decision by decision, step into the dirt with Him, and He will do the rest
Also this week in grace from the garden, Lara talks about celebrating little victories. I can tell you that this essential to living with a chronic illness. Celebrating imperfection (like washing the same laundry twice) or celebrating what to others would seem like miniscule achievements- MATTER. You will learn more about victory in the little details than in the triumphant finish line.