Summer Refresh

For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

James 1:3-4 NLT

We are halfway through 2020- I feel like we should be ringing cowbells to celebrate that we have made it this far. Being at the halfway point means that we are ready to do our summer refresh in the 2020 powersheets, and I have mixed feelings about it. (Don’t know what powersheets are? Click here to see how I use them!)

A lot has happened in the last 90 days.

This is what my garden looked like at the beginning of Spring

The first 30 days in, what was my “normal” changed drastically health wise in ways we never saw coming.

Around 60 days in we said goodbye to Foxy, and celebrated 2 years of marriage.

Over this past month, I have been working to unlearn unintentional, yet biased, stereotypes with the hope to aid the church and our community in racial reconciliation and equity.

In the last 90 days, we repurposed the sunroom and I delight in the the garden! SO much has grown and so have I. Those times in the soil were times where God was teaching more than I could have imagined.

Over the past 90 days I thought I would be focusing on cultivating holy habits, consistent unscheduled routines, and listening and accepting where my body is at. Yet the past 90 days have held mostly bedrest, tears, honest + hard prayers, blank boxes, unfolded baskets of laundry, tough medical + social conversations, ice packs (so many icepacks), and ultimate reliance on my amazing care partner/husband and Jesus.

Nothing looked how I thought it would in the best and worst ways, and that’s okay.

April started out pretty decent, and I reached a fair amount of goals while cherishing the final weeks of Foxy’s life. Honestly, after Foxy died life got really messy. A few days later, the start of May rolled around and I had a massive injury. I fainted and fell, which led to multiple dislocations and subluxations. What I thought was a blip in the road turned into a long month of pain and recovery. When June was rolling around, I assumed that I would be back to “my” version of normal (similar to April), but I couldn’t have been more wrong- aka there are very few check marks and progress bar marks. I didn’t even have the strength to record a victory each day, if that helps put in perspective how this month has been.

Which brings me here at the end of June, figuring out what this next season will hold.

There is a quote that I have been mediating on over the past 90 days, which reads:

I asked God to help me grow, and it started raining

author unknown

For those that don’t know my word of the year is grow, and boy has that not gone how I expected. Over the last couple years, I have become a very unlikely gardener, but it has become my favorite hobby and way to worship. I used to feel closest to God when I danced, and after years with that hole feeling not entirely fulfilled, I have found Him in the garden.

He has used the garden, whether that be my original (and still faithful) windowsill garden to now a full garden, to bring scripture and how He care for us to life in a new way.

Garden 60 Days later

One thing I have learned about plants is that too much of anything is bad. Too much sun, too much rain, too much food- there has to be a balance. The “too much” that has stuck out to me lately is the rain. As a bit of backstory I am very allergic to mold. This means I have to be careful how I water my indoor plants. I have learned how to use ground cinnamon and to just water at the center of the pot, but the greatest lesson was to not water until the soil had dried out. Staying wet just created molding and rotting…and, that’s how I feel lately, like I am molding and rotting.

Now you may say, “Cassie, I think you are over exaggerating a bit,” but hear me out. In this past season of life, I have felt drenched and far past being “well-watered.” Quite frankly I have had many a conversation with God about how this isn’t how to take care of me. I need more sun. During May, I was really leaning in to that quote and as frustrated as I was, I tried to keep the growth mindset. Once June came and my health didn’t change, my attitude and mindset felt overwhelmed and broken.

My body is failing me and getting progressively worse, we have no more treatment options that I am a candidate for to try. I have been on bedrest and barely clear headed enough to be in the Word, on the podcast or here consistently. Due to clinic precautions, I am still in full quarantine as I am immunocompromised so I cannot have anyone over inside the house. It feels like it is pouring. So where do we move forward from here? How do we goal plan in such uncertainty? How do we worship through this storm?

We go to the Word.

One night in sheer frustration, after God and I had a “discussion” about how I felt He should be growing me, I opened up my Bible app. I searched the word grow in multiple translations to see every verse I could find with the word grow. I truly had no idea what I was looking for, but I knew I needed to hear Him. I knew I needed to quiet the storm of my emotions so I could hear Him, because the rain was too hard and too loud to think. Then after about 45 minutes, I came to James 1:3-4 NLT.

Now this verse is one that many know, it talks about how we should, “consider it a joy to face trials of many kind…” but this translation had a unique transition from verses 3-4:

“3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow…”

SO LET IT GROW

I got chills and had tears to my eyes. I heard Him. I heard Him loud and clear. I needed to just let it (me) grow. Rather than focusing on the rain, I needed to fix my eyes on the Son. Yes my body is failing me, and I need to process and work through that, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t grow or enjoy the sun. It awakened me to realizing I need to cherish the times of sun- just like my plants I need to soak it ALL up! Soaking up the sun can be done in the smallest of rays. Yes, I have spent 38/60 days recovering, but in that time my marriage has grown stronger and because of quarantine Jared has been here for it- that is a ray. Yes, I have not been as active in ministry as I had hoped, but in that time God allowed others to pour into me and gave me a season to be quiet and listen hard- that is a ray. Yes, I am still in full quarantine protocol, but because we have a deck off the sunroom, people can still come over and visit outside on the deck (while I am in the sunporch)- that is a ray! Are you catching on?

It will still rain. It might even still pour, but that is when I need to trust that He’s got it.

That’s what faith looks like! Taking the good and the bad, but cherishing the good! When I plant seeds, I never expect the perfect amount of rain or sun. I know that in this lifetime while on earth nothing will be perfect, I just do the best I can, with what I’ve got, and give it all to Him. I can’t promise a life full of answers for me or for you, but I can cling to His promises. I can soak up all the sunshine and endure all the winters in Him because of grace. That is my word for this season: grace.

This will not be an easy season. I am learning how to use my powersheets and goals in a new way. Right now, God has called me to worship Him by taking care of my body, so that is what I will do. I will make that my number 1 priority. It will hurt. I will grieve the losses as I adjust to a new normal, I will get frustrated through that trial and error and probably have some more “discussions” with God; but I am going to let it grow me.

My goal setting is going to look very different this season. I will brave leaving lots of lines blank and even the well intended boxes unchecked. I will soak up and be intentional with the time that He gives me, and work on showing myself more grace than guilt in this time.

I don’t know what you are growing through right now. I don’t know if you are in a rainy season too, but I encourage you to let “it” grow. For the next season ahead these are my goals. They are simple, they are not time-specific or really specific at all, but after much prayer this is what they are. My scores on my evaluation were “lower” than they have ever been and I am okay with that. I’m okay with that because trying to compare myself to what my body could do 90 days ago is not fair to me.

My body is in a very different place, and I can’t change that or my genes, but I can grow in it.

Here is a picture of the garden now! Look at all that has grown!!!

In these few goals, I hear God encouraging and whispering the truth I have clung to over the last few years, “her collagen may be weak, but her God is strong.”

So in conclusion, your life doesn’t have to grow as you planned to be fulfilling. God will meet you right where you are- He will meet you anywhere you invite Him! I’m going to choose His Word before the World, grace over guilt, play “Braver Still” on repeat, and soak up the rays of sunshine He blessed me with.

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Cassie Nolin is a married spoonie who lives the chronic illness life with EDS + Co. (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and it’s comorbid conditions.) She challenges others to choose grace over guilt in goal setting, and is in ministry part time serving the online community through The Spoonie Study. She loves planting, hand lettering, and sharing the hope she has found in Jesus. Her blog, Living the Chronic Illness Life, is in the top 100 chronic illness blogs and her podcast, Chronically Cultivating, is produced by Speaking to the Heart Network. Cassie encourages women to live authentic and intentional lives through their diagnosis’ not in spite of them. You can learn more about her at www.livingthechronicillnesslife.com

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