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 will be CONTENT when I have it all.
TRUTH: I will be CONTENT when I live grateful.
Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 157). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
As this chapter starts, Lara is talking about her daughter Grace’s love for dandelions. She talks about how she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pick them and admire them. Lara continues to talk about how she would avoid paths with too many dandelions because she knew they would be late to wherever they were going. Yet one day Lara stopped and began to notice that Grace was showing her gratitude through gifts of dandelions.
I had been putting my schedule over something that God was growing in her heart. It wasn’t the fault of these sunny little flowers, and Grace wasn’t trying to make us late; my life was over-crowded. God is in the small and unexpected nooks and crannies, if we are willing to unrush our pace to pay attention to what’s growing. Unrushing our lives is a risk, though, isn’t it? It means we may have to give up something- or a lot of things- in order to slow down. And often we don’t like the idea of slowing down, because it sounds unproductive.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 157-158). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Q Why does having an jam packed crazy schedule/life matter so much to you?
When I became ill, my whole life felt like it came to a complete and utter stop. I remember feeling like I was worthless. I lived such a fast paced life and slowing down felt like failure. Right before I had almost died, I felt like I was living my best life. I was in college full time, working at the studio part time, and was training full time. I felt like I had it all. What I didn’t see was that my relationships with my family, Jared, and my students were lacking. I was missing important family functions and church activities because I was consumed with myself. Then all of it stopped overnight. I have spent a lot of time asking myself why living a overscheduled life mattered so much to me and through lots of deep reflection I realized I was attributing my worth with my schedule.
Q What would happen if you let go of those lies and embraced the life you currently live?
A I know for me it enabled me to find peace. Daily God is still working in my heart to remind me of His promises and that “I can still move mountains from a hospital bed.”
In the following section, we hear from many different women about how easily we miss seeing the fruit. Two of my favorite points were:
1. When I’m too focused on comparing my life to another’s, I miss out on the unexpected God-moments.
2. When I’m rushed I forget to do the things I actually love, the things that fire me up.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 159). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Q What happens to you when you fix your eyes on what others have that you don’t?
Think about all the time we spend comparing our lives to someone else’s. I am ashamed to admit that I find myself in that pitfall far more often that I would like. Right now I am doing a contentment challenge and I did it for two reasons, 1. To not spend money as Jared and I have a tight budget. But mainly because 2. I need to be content with what I have and not just buy the next thing that I feel will help me feel content. I have SO much and I do not need more. I am using these 3 months to focus my heart on the things that matter and cultivating long lasting gratitude over instant gratification. I mean I am sure that x face mask is doing wonders for Caitie, but I am also sure that the 10 unopened face masks I already have will do wonders for me. Now that I have only 2 days left I can tell you that I have so much. I am so blessed and plan on continuing to only buy what I need.
Q What fires you up?
A This is one of the questions in the Cultivate What Matters #Powersheets and this has helped me focus on doing the things that fire me up more often for example somethings that fire me up are: mason jars, succulents, time with Jesus, colorful leggings, instagram, face masks, Jared’s Hugs, the list goes on and on. These little things matter and if I am too rushed I don’t appreciate all these little things.
What if we are missing the very source of surety and contentment- God’s voice- in all the noise and distractions around us? When I’m rushed or distracted, I miss: my relationship with Ari, my children wanting to connect with me, opportunities to love and listen to my neighbors, the gift of the garden- the birds, flowers blooming, warm sun, all that God has blessed us with.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 160). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Q Can you relate to Lara’s list?
A I know that I can. When I am rushed or overwhelmed I miss all the little victories- and I mean REALLY little victories like being excited that I can brush my teeth on my own that day or that I had the energy to write a draft of a blog post and even that I was able to move from my bed to the recliner in my room. These things are small but THEY MATTER, and you want to know why they matter? Because you matter and God wants us to celebrate the things He has allowed us to accomplish because He is with us through the big victories and the mini victories.
Contentment doesn’t come from anything I can buy, acquire, or accomplish. Contentment grows from God Himself. No matter our circumstances, stuff, or status, we have all we need in Him. But how do we live that out? How do we cultivate contentment in our lives? We harvest it…. Harvest work is intentional work…Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 161). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Contentment can be a tricky subject in the chronic illness community, but for those of us who are Christians we hold great hope in God’s promises. He promises to be all we need and to rest in Him. I have learned more about contentment through losing what I thought was the perfect life than I did attending church and doing all the christian activities when I was well.
Harvesting means noticing the fruit that God has grown in your life and doing something with it. But if you are rushed, or are constantly distracted by what isn’t growing, you’ll miss it.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 161). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Q Let’s be real, I am very quick to notice what isn’t growing rather than what is growing. Are you the same way? Why do you think we focus on what we don’t have rather than what we do?
A Because it is easier to focus on what we don’t have than what we do. Harvesting is work, and focusing on what we have and the good in our lives can be really hard- especially when we are looking at someone else’s life and/or are struggling.
Lara’s next question may make you throw you off a bit but she asks, “what do you complain about most in life?”
Q Circle the chief complaints that you find yourself saying daily:
- I’m so tired
- I didn’t get x,y,z done
- I feel out of shape
- I can’t do it all
- I’m so behind
- I don’t have enough time
- I can’t do enough
- I’m not thin, smart, beautiful, accomplished enough
- I don’t deserve this
- I’m not ready
- I haven’t done enough
- I’m never going to find peace
- I don’t feel capable
- I don’t feel good enough
- I don’t like my work
- I don’t exercise enough
- I never get enough rest
- I don’t know where to start
- I feel overwhelmed
Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 162). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Okay, now what? How do we overcome these feelings or circumstances and come to a place of gratitude? Well, here’s what not to do: ignore them. So often we are told not to feel these things at all. I’ve said the following things to myself- and to my children, husband, and friends. “Don’t feel that way; be grateful for what you have!” “You don’t really feel that way; you are just tired.” “That’s not true- you’re doing great!” When we say those things, what we are really saying is: “You shouldn’t feel anything at all.” “You don’t know what you’re feeling.” “Your thoughts aren’t valid or true.”Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 163). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
… ignoring our pain doesn’t help us move past it.
I am sure we have all said these things to others and been told these things as well. We know more than most that ignoring our pain doesn’t make it go away.
The bible says that out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks, and a complaining mouth means that our hearts need intentional and tender nurturing.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 163). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
The things that we talk about most are the things that matter to us the most. When we complain we are discreetly showing what matters to our hearts. Lara encourages us to listen to our complaints.
Q What do your chief complaints reveal to you?Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 164). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
A When I say I feel overwhelmed it’s probably because I am not leaving the situation in God’s hands- or I have given it to Him and taken it back because I don’t believe that He can handle it. When I say I’m so behind, sometimes it is because my illness has prevented me from getting things done by 90% of the time it was probably because I was watching netflix instead of being productive. When I say I’m tired, it’s because my body is tired and often I’m exhausted from trying to take care of my body BUT sometimes I’m tired because I have not done everything possible to try to make my body feel as best as it can. As Lara says,
“I don’t want to say I have no time, when I have twenty-four hours in a day. I have a lot of freedom to make different choices.”Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 165). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
What if some of our chief complaints reveal lies we are believing? Lies that God is not faithful, lies that God is not in control, lies that we are in control. Complaining clutters our minds, keeping us from noticing God at work and the fruit of the Spirit. But gratitude clears our minds and connects our hearts to the source of contentment: God Himself…. Paul wrote in Philippians 2:14, “do all things without grumbling or disputing.” Grumbling or complaining reveals the places we lack faith, doubt His ability or willingness to provide, and hesitate to rest in His love. Disputing in this verse implies an inward arguing, doubting, or hesitating.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 166). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Q In what ways, areas of your life, or situations have you found yourself grumbling- lacking faith, feeling doubt, and hesitating to rest in His promises?Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 166). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
A I used to find myself grumbling about how often I need infusions and how much better it would be if I could do home care. Every time I complain about that I am ultimately saying, “God clearly you don’t know how awful this is and I don’t think Your timing is right- I feel that You are late.” Since discovering this I work hard, when I want to complain, to say, “God I don’t understand your timing but I am grateful that I can even get these infusions.”
Complaints can sometimes be our way of saying God, I do not believe You are real. That right there hits me hard. But there’s hope, and there’s grace. Grace upon Grace.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 166). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
If that hit you hard too, know that you are not alone. Use this realization as a building block to advance your faith and harvest contentment in your life. Lara talks about how she started reminding herself that “God is good all the time” and I found this so interesting because I similarly do that except often when I am praying I add, “and if not, He is still good.” That phrase gives God the power to change my situation not me. Even if He says no to my prayer- He is still good. Lara talks about this on page 167 and says:
Even if I couldn’t feel it or see it many days, God was still good. I fought the ingratitude and complaining with truth. And let me tell you, it was a fight. Cultivating gratitude- like harvesting- is hard work. But in the thick of it, when we put praise on our lips, even and especially when we don’t feel like it, God changes our hearts.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 167). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Q What are you currently working on cultivating in your faith that seems uncomfortable or hard?
Right now I am working hard to grow my prayer life. I am working hard to pray for others and spend that alone time in conversation with God, but it is hard. There are days when I start praying and I literally say, “God I don’t feel you right now and I don’t really want to talk or pray for others because I am hurting so deeply, but even when I don’t hear you I know you are listening so here it goes…” Every time I choose to be uncomfortable and choose Him over the world, I feel refreshed and renewed. Harvesting gratitude is hard.
Getting after grateful is choosing the road less traveled- the one that leads to life. When life feels undone and plans seem unclear, we say, God, I trust You. When we’re in the wait, we say, Your will be done. When we feel lost or alone, we say, God, You are in this place. When the world presses in on us, we say, Lord You are mighty. And when we’re feeling weak and defeated, and tempted to offer words of ingratitude for the season we’re in, we say, God, You are good. All the time. You are good.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 168). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
11 for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry,whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.Phillipians 4:11-13
When we choose attitudes of gratitude we are sharing His light and it makes people stop and wonder what you have that enables that type of hope and positivity.
I was watching a movie a couple weeks ago, and a mother and her daughter were talking to a doctor and for the first time they weren’t overlooked but they were heard. I understood that feeling all too well, but I also had to stop and recognize that I am fortunate to have access to the health care I receive (even when I am not heard and have to find a new doctor.) As Lara talks about the difference between I get to and I have to, it hit my heart. If I changed all of my have to’s to I get to’s, it would change everything.
Q Let’s name a few have-to’s and change them to get-to’s
A I have to go get another infusions- I get to get another infusion; I am so grateful for my health insurance! I have to stay in bed today, I get to rest and allow my body to recover from yesterday’s activity-I am so grateful I have the freedom in my schedule to rest.
Remember how earlier I was talking about how I’m cultivating my prayer life- it is hard! A couple years ago I started by just thanking Him for one thing I was grateful for. Now I have a whole list and also pray for others needs.
Q What is one thing you are thankful for right now- and it can be as small as a grain of sand but it is a start!
Prayer cultivates gratitude, because it connects us to the Source of true, lasting contentment… In the middle of the mess, we harvest contentement by expressing our gratitude.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 171-172). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Once we have started to find our way to gratitude we have to next work on savoring it! Lara says that:
Once we have started to find our way to gratitude we have to next work on savoring it! Lara says that:
Savor means to taste or experience completely. We taste the fruit, share it, make jam out of it, and invite our neighbors and friends over to celebrate life with it. It gets consumed completely- nothing left to waste. Nothing missed. True savoring is worship. Savoring the fruit God has grown in our lives is the expression and experience of gratitude. Savoring brings us to the source and slows us down. Savoring gives way to stillness.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 172). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
We can’t savor our fruit AND live rushed, overscheduled lives- its not possible to have both. I wish it were but that is not an option. I am sure that there are things you appreciate now that before you got sick never crossed your mind. By embracing stillness we are savoring God’s promises.
Lara goes on to talk about coming undone. She explains how she hated her curly hair and came to the conclusion that if she wanted her daughter to practice self love that she needed to be that example. When I think of coming undone I think of all the independence I have lost. How by admitting I need help taking care of the body God gave me, I am practicing the art of coming undone. I am letting go of what society has told me makes me worthless or undesirable because I know the truth: that God created this body just for me- broken and all- and in order to let go I needed to embrace my situation.
Being a cultivator means being a present observer- paying attention so you can harvest what’s ripe and right in front of you… Cultivators see the positive potential in complaints, because we see that our words come from hearts that can be changed through the power of His grace- nurtured instead of neglected, loved instead of left, seen instead of ignored.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 175). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Cultivators intentionally SAVOR the FRUIT.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 176). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
SEEDS OF GRACE AND TRUTH
-We will be content when we live grateful
-We risk missing something far more valuable than our productivity in keeping at a hurried pace: life. Real life. Meaningful, rich, cultivated life.
-Contentment doesn’t come from anything I can buy, acquire, or accomplish. Contentment grows from God Himself. We are loved, and He is all we need.
-Complaints are clues. Complaints can reveal self-reliance instead of God-reliance.
-Let your complaints show you places in your heart that need cultivating- producing a harvest of contentment by His grace and power (read James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.)
-Turn your have-tos into get-tos
-Savoring is an act of worship, leading us to the Source if where all good things originate- God Himself
-An abandoned, empty field becomes something marvelous when you notice it’s dotted in humble dandelions,