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 CAN DO LIFE BY MYSELF
TRUTH: I NEED MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS
Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 181). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Lara starts out by talking about her mailman. She talks about how his acts of kindness towards her while she was pregnant sprouted a friendship, and reminds us that we can cultivate fruitful relationships with anyone in your life.
Many times we aren’t fully convinced that we actually need other people in order to live an intentional life. We may feel it’s easier not to let others in. Why put ourselves out there, risking hurt or rejection, if we can do life along in our safe little bubbles?Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 183). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Q Do you ever feel this way?
A YES all the time. I used to feel this way especially with other chronic illness warriors. I feared friendship because after being apart of a couple really negative facebook support groups I felt like if I made friends in this community that I would end up being really bitter. I also did not want to play the comparison game or be put in that situation. We are all suffering and everyone has every right to grieve, but we can’t grow if we only grieve all the time. Here’s the thing though, once I started opening up to people and getting to know others it made me happier and healthier. Authentic fellowship can be hard to find or maintain in the CI community, but friendships make our hearts so rich and full!
Lara tells us about how she had a friend, Marcia, write her letters to encourage her in her marriage for each day of the month, and how great of a blessing that was. She continues by saying,
That’s why we take the risk: because stepping outside of our comfort zones to build meaningful connections could change not only our lives but other people’s lives too. Fruitful relationships aren’t about us; they are about something bigger than we are. The fruit of community is God Himself.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 183). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
In Proverbs 11:25 it says, “Whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” We need to tend to our friendships and relationships closely to bear good fruit. It can be hard to do that though because it requires honesty. It requires letting others into your struggles and challenges. Lara had a hard time letting Marcia in at first because she didn’t want to let anyone know how broken things were in her heart.
I was afraid to let her in and risk feeling uncomfortable in getting advice from someone else. I was fearful of someone seeing my mess.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 184). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
I can highly relate to this feeling and I am sure you can too.
Q Can you think of a time where you were fearful of someone seeing your mess?
A I refer to the mess as my body and I was terrified to let Jared in when were just friends. I pushed him away because I felt like if he saw my broken body for all it is that he would run after seeing how “unloveable” I was.
Boundaries are also important when developing friendships. I have certain boundaries with all of my friends, especially online relationships. They have helped me be more open to friendship without allowing me to feel overwhelmed.
Boundaries are good, but make sure they are also clear and purposeful, allowing for relationships and good growth…
Believing the lie that I had to have friends who were exactly like me caused me not to make any connections at all. Plus, I spent far too long believing that I wasn’t good at friendship. I felt too flawed- too controlling, too emotional, and too forgetful to have deep friendships. But I realized that I was expecting “perfect” in friendships- expecting overnight connections and believing that I had to have it all together to have meaningful relationships… The lies of perfection try to hold me back from making any connections at all.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 184-185). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Here she talks about how she didn’t have many close friends because she didn’t know people who could relate to her struggles. I know many of us with chronic illnesses struggle to maintain friendships, but I would like to think that we all have one or two close friends. Funny enough my two best friends don’t have any health challenges! Yet we all have different relatable struggles that we help each other walk through life with.
Q Do you feel as if you aren’t good at friendship?Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 185). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
A Yup. I know this feeling all too well, but one of my goals this year is to tend to my friendships. I would like to say that I think I am finally getting the hand of this friendship thing. One of the ways I do that is by writing a letter of encouragement to one friend or family member a week. I also do my best to host one friend a week at my house which allows me to have fellowship.
Q If so, why? How could letting go of a standard of perfection help you give you freedom to pursue authentic friendships?Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 185). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
A For me, in order to host one friend a week I had to change my perfectionist mindset. When people come over to visit sometimes I am not feeling well and am not up to “hosting food and tea,” but I am okay to sit on the couch and talk. This past week I had a new friend of mine come over and I was nervous. I was nervous she would think that I was a bad host because I didn’t have the energy to make or really offer anything, yet we sat down on the couch and talked for three hours. Letting go of that perfection brought about a lovely start to a new friendship.
Our flaws are the very things that deeply connect us to each other. And it’s His grace in our flaws that makes our friendships fruitful.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 185). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Whether I am talking to someone with a CI or not, when we can relate to each others struggles it bring about a sense of belonging. Sharing our flaws allow us to bond with each other… much like what you and I are doing right now!
Lara gives us a list and wants us to identify which quote resonates with you when it comes to fears and friendship:
- “I’m scared that sharing my burdens will make people run for the hills and that I amy come off as too intense.”
- “I don’t know how to start friendships. I fear the other person won’t want to be friends with me.”
- “My biggest fear about friendship is rejection. The early stages of friendship feel oddly like dating, and if a new friend reschedules or says no to an invitation, I struggle not to take it personally.”
- “I have a fear of not being thoughtful enough, not being fun enough, or not having enough time to spend with my friends.”
- “I fear that it’s too late to cultivate real, lasting friendships.”
Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 187). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Q Which one of the above expresses fears about friendship resonates with you?Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 187). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
A The first one connects with me the most, but I also fear not being fun enough because of my physical limitations. A couple weeks ago for an interview, I was asked to describe my daily life and as I did, I came to realize how not normal my life is. I have adjusted to doing life differently but most others don’t have to. It made me grateful for the friends I have that understand my limitations, and embrace my lifestyle.
Fruitful friendships grow not because we don’t experience fear, but because breaking ground on meaningful relationships becomes more important than our fear. Taking big leaps of faith, embracing the awkward (lots of awkward!), and putting myself out there to do life with others has changed our family.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 187). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
I recently found a mentor from my church when she was guest speaking at a conference I was attending. I knew from the moment I heard her talk and found out she was from my church, that she was the person I wanted to mentor me. Now mentorship relationships are very much a developmental friendship. I was so scared to go up and talk to her and ask if she would be willing to be my mentor that I waited until the final night of the conference to go talk with her. She was so kind and said that she felt the same away, and now because I took that big leap of faith and asked her, I have a wonderful mentor. I encourage you to make your friendships more important than fear.
Jesus showed us through His example how important one-on-one relationships were to Him. Though He often spoke to crowds, His focus was on one-on-one relationships. He didn’t have a megaphone or an instagram account. He had two feet and one goal. Little by little, person by person, He changed history.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 188). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
When I was younger my instagram following was extremely important to me, know yes I do still love seeing new followers but what I love more than anything else is connecting with people one on one through this account. Remember one of my yearly goals is to remember that I can move mountains from a hospital bed.. One person at a time, spoon by spoon and so can you.
I have often feared that I’ve had too much mess in my life for others to be able to handle or understand. But, many times, out of our greatest pain comes true connection… conversations were born out of these challenges that turned into connections. Fruitful friendships sprouted.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 188). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Q Can you relate to this?
A Well spoiler alert you definitely can or you and I wouldn’t be spending time together right now!
God has the same plan for the broken places in your life too. He wants to take them to do something glorious with them, turning them into seeds of hope to plant in gardens all over the world.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 189). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
This is the encouragement Lara leaves us with after sharing the story of how she cultivated a friendship with someone who was facing similar struggles to hers. Then she gives us some practical steps or ideas on how to cultivate new friendships:
1: meet and make a connection by inviting them somewhere, sending an email or dm, offer to help, join a bible study and introduce yourself, ask a question, etc.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 189-191). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
2: Then take the next step. So often we stop at step one and expect deeply rooted relationships to magically happen overnight without any more effort. Cultivators take the next step forward even if it’s awkward. Ask a second question… don’t stop at how are you, invite the other person to open up by asking a second question. The power of the second question is that it helps take the conversation deeper. Examples are: How can I pray for you? How can I encourage you? Can you tell me more about that?
If pauses in a conversation feel awkward, embrace those too… Practice the art of the pause, and let the pauses be filled with listening. It may feel awkward at first, but just keep thinking to yourself, I am becoming a Master of Awkward! Acknowledge the awkward, and do it anyway!
After that just be you and don’t be afraid to send that friend a letter of encouragement or tell them you hope to grow this friendship, celebrate each others progress, and spend intentional time together.
As the chapter goes we, we hear about how Lara and Grace changed up their normal morning walk to a new area and met lovely elderly gardeners. They ended up taking that route more often and growing relationships with these gardeners, and admiring their little community.
They take care of one another. That’s what community is all about: helping each other keep our unique gardens flourishing. We all have different garden plots and different ways of growing things yet we all keep growing as long as we do it together. We savor and share the harvest with everyone. We celebrate together, because our fruit was harvested together.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 195). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
We need community. We need to take care of one another, tend to each others gardens, and help savor the goodness that has been found.
Comparison though is a nasty thief and loves to meddle between friendships. Here are Lara’s wise thoughts on how to keep comparison out of our heads and hearts:
Comparison is the greatest killer of togetherness. I struggle with this. Just today I caught myself thinking, She’s doing it better than I am. But you know what? She should be. Because she’s doing her “it,” and I need to focus on doing mine. We each have been given a unique assignment on this earth- a garden plot all our own. And our garden plots were intentionally put in the same community garden- not isolated or alone. Our lives together tell a bigger story than we can see. We were created for community. We were created to cultivate together and share the harvest with others.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 195). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Q Do you often find yourself comparing your life to others?
A To be really honest, I compare my life to others often, but most of the time I compare my life to the life I had before my CI took over. I miss the life I used to have, but I also have to learn to love the life I currently have. As hard as that is, I promise it will be well worth it.
Lara talks about how we believe many lies and she gives us a few examples of the lies we let ourselves believe:
- I don’t have what she has
- I’m not as talented
- How does she do it all?
- I don’t look like her so I can’t
- She’s already doing my idea
- She has more energy than I do
- Her life is more valuable because she is more popular.
- Her prayer life is better than mine.
- Her finances are more in order than mine.
- Her education level is better.
- She has a tribe, and I need to find my people
Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 196). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Q Do you relate to any of these lies?
A I know I do. The example about how “she has more energy than I do” can make me quite bitter when I can’t do all of the things I want to do and I see someone else crushing it. BUT this is when it is so important for me to stop and reflect on how far I have come.
Don’t wait for community to show up at your door: be the invitation. Ask someone to come over, even if your house is a mess… God’s heart are the rewards of inviting people over, not what people think of us. Fruitful friendships are worth embracing awkward for. Fruitful friendships allow us to celebrate our imperfections together. Fruitful friendship overlooks your broken fence and admires your garden. Fruitful friendships points us to God’s heart. Fruitful friendship is possible.Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 197). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Cultivators embrace AWKWARD and grow in community.
SEEDS OF GRACE AND TRUTH
- We need meaningful relationships to grow what matters.
- The lies of perfection try to hold us back from making any connections at all. You don’t have to be perfect to grow fruitful relationships. Being vulnerable in our flaws is the very thing that connects us.
- Fruitful friendships grow not because we don’t experience fear, but because breaking ground on meaningful relationships becomes more important than our fear.
- Fruitful friendship is patient, imperfect, forgiving, humble, encouraging, trusting, and gracef filled.
- Fruitful friendship embraces the awkward and asks a second question.
- Jesus didn’t have a megaphone or an instagram account. He had two feet and one goal. Little by little, person by person, He changed history
- Good friends overlook your broken fence and admire your garden
Casey, Lara. Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (p. 198). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.